Tag Archives: the 80s

Rampage

dimsI didn’t know what to make of this movie after seeing the trailer but I had a bad feeling this would be one of those movies that Jay uses as leverage against me. But I knew I would drag her to anyway. You see, when I was a kid one of my favourite quarter-munching arcade games was Rampage, because it let me be Godzilla, smashing buildings, eating army guys, and grabbing helicopters out of the air. So when I did not realize this movie was based on that videogame until the title popped up at the very end of the trailer, I was more than a little skeptical.

After seeing the movie, I can confim my skepticism was totally warranted. Rampage is just another middling entry in the Rock’s mindless action movie portfolio. It’s not a standout as an action film generally, and not even noteworthy when compared to the Rock’s other action films. At least Rampage knows it’s dumb and has some fun at its own expense (a Rock specialty), and it actually feels quite a lot like the videogame once the action starts.

images (1)Where Rampage fails is that it takes FOREVER for the action to start, which is the worst thing a dumb action movie can do. That plodding pace is particularly egregious when the video game version is as light on exposition as anything ever made, while the movie wants to include a lentghy origin story for the monsters. I didn’t care how the monsters came to be (“radiation” has always been a good enough reason) and I definitely didn’t care to spend time with a sociopathic brother-sister team who made this DNA modifying thingamajig that fell from the sky. Three city-destroying monsters fighting the Rock would have been enough. No more was needed.

So Rampage manages to be too dumb for someone like Jay, who doesn’t like dumb action movies, and not dumb enough for someone like me, who just wanted to see an old mindless videogame become a new mindless blockbuster. If you liked the game you could do worse when Rampage is available on Netflix (but probably also do better), and if you didn’t know Rampage was a game until reading this review then you should probably skip this one altogether.

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Ready Player One

ready-player-oneThere are very few immutable truths in this world, but here’s one: if you don’t like Steven Spielberg’s movies, then you don’t like movies. The brilliance of Ready Player One (and it is brilliant) is that it’s a Spielberg movie through and through, only because its source material references Spielberg repeatedly, the result is something exponentially more Spielberg than you could ever have though possible.  Ready Player One is a true blockbuster and a worthy addition to Spielberg’s list of classics.

All the references contained here, not just to Spielberg’s past work but to every pop culture thing ever, are essential for this movie to work, and Spielberg clearly knows it. Moreover, he embraces it without reservation. After all, the book (which should be read immediately by anyone between ages 30 and 50 who grew up playing videogames) is the perfect vessel for 80s nostalgia. The movie clearly is trying to top the book’s reference count, and it may have succeeded (the totals are way too high to accurately count).

What is great about the book remains great in the movie. And yet, the movie and book tell significantly different stories, which is greater still because there are all sorts of some amazing surprises to be found in the film even if you’ve read the book repeatedly. At tonight’s SXSW world premiere, Spielberg introduced the film by stating he approached it as pure fan service and his mission was to give the people in the seats exactly what they wanted, and I can confirm he accomplished exactly that. Oh, yes, that’s right, WE GOT TO WATCH READY PLAYER ONE WITH STEVEN SPIELBERG. It was every bit as mindblowing as it sounds.

Also mindblowing: one particular sequence in the movie that pays homage to a classic film (incidentally, it’s not an homage to a Spielberg film; rather, it’s to a film directed by someone who influenced Spielberg – and it’s not something that was in the book).  I do not think I am exaggerating to say it is one of the finest sequences that Spielberg has given us, which obviously is a big deal because we are talking about STEVEN FUCKING SPIELBERG. You will know this sequence when you see it, and as soon as you do you will want to immediately see it again. And again. And again.

That amazing sequence is a standout but it’s not alone. There are several other incredible set pieces in Ready Player One, containing some of the best visual effects we’ve ever seen. Of course, the effects are only window dressing. What makes the scenes so great is Spielberg. As the camera swerves and dodges, and as avatars fight monsters, drive cars through obstacle courses, and traverse epic battlefields by leaps and bounds, the viewer is never lost for a second, because we are being guided through the chaos by a master. I loved this movie and I bet you will too. I’m just sorry to have to wait two weeks before I can watch it again.

 

Blade Runner

Jay provides an excellent litmus test anytime I’m unable to separate nostalgia from quality.  It happened with Star Wars, it happened with Indiana Jones, and it has now happened with Blade Runner.  As I write this, it occurs to me that Jay may just hate Harrison Ford, but let’s leave that aside for now.

Yes, because Blade Runner 2049 is on the horizon, I was able to convince Jay to watch Blade Runner with me earlier this week.  Anytime I can get Jay to watch what I will call nerd-fi, a category that includes most movies I saw in the 80s and 90s, it feels like a major brunner4victory.  But only until the movie starts, because so far, about 5 minutes into each movie I proudly show to Jay, she wonders why I bothered to beg her to watch this one, asking things like, “Do you remember it being this bad?” when the flying cars first come into view.

Maddeningly, I can’t even argue against her assessments.  In 2017, Blade Runner is not a great movie.  It’s not really even a good movie.  It’s a movie with vision, it’s beautiful to look at (though the flying cars do look as horrible as Jay pointed out), it brought dystopian futures and particularly Philip K. Dick to mainstream cinema, and it has an ambiguous ending that becomes even more so with every new cut issued by Ridley Scott.  But it’s also a movie with cornball acting, disposable characters that we are barely introduced to, and a ton of sequences that are beautiful but: (a) extremely repetitive (how many times do we need to see a car fly by a Coke billboard or the offworld blimp ad);  (b) essentially silent (like Ford’s visit to a food cart/open air diner); and (c) do nothing to advance the plot (which, let’s be honest, is probably about 35 minutes worth of movie without being padded by all the beautiful shots of futuristic Los Angeles).

brunnerStill, there is something to be said about Blade Runner and something reassuring about its continued relevance.  A big reason that the movie feels thin today is because it has been so influential.  We’ve seen so many films build on what Blade Runner started, and in comparison, Blade Runner is like a wheel made out of stone.  In that way, it’s important but if choosing between the original or the best that the genre has to offer today, the modern film is going to be the better one.  But there is still room in my heart for the rickety original, the one that was ahead of its time (and ahead of ours, as Blade Runner is set in the “distant” future of 2019).

And in some distant future of our own, maybe I will find a movie that I feel nostalgic for that also stands up to Jay’s critical eye.  Your suggestions are welcome!

The Abyss

Rewatching the original Star Wars trilogy seems to have made me nostalgic for the 80s.  And when the latest Star Wars instalment recently sailed past Avatar and Titanic to become the highest grossing movie ever in North America, I couldn’t help but think of James Cameron’s other work, the stuff that he made before appointing himself the king of the world.

Aliens, Terminator and Terminator 2 are all wonderful and all high on my list of movies to make Jay watch (a list that has shrunk considerably in the last few weeks), but the first James Cameron movie that comes to my mind is The Abyss.  To me, that’s the true precursor to Avatar and Titanic, the movie that hinted at what James Cameron was capable of (both good and bad).

The Abyss is near and dear to me, mainly because it provided one of the first signs that I was destined to become an Asshole Watching Movies.  In the early 90s I became really obsessed with letterboxed movies even though we had a 30 inch (at best) tube television.  This was before DVDs so my options

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LaserDisc on the left, DVD on the right.  I have enough trouble finding shelf space for my DVDs, thank you very much.

were either letterboxed
VHS (few-and-far-between) or LaserDisc (too-expensive-for-an-unemployed-teenager).  But my parents, seeing my interest, indulged me by renting a LaserDisc player on a few occasions, and The Abyss was the first movie I ever watched on that strange format (on two 12″ discs!).

 

 

As for the movie itself, The Abyss is an underwater odyssey that is a bit of a mess, both on screen and behind the scenes.  Again, it seems obvious in hindsight given James Cameron’s later works, but at the time it seems to have been a surprise that The Abyss’s production went way over time and way over budget.  Filming consisted of 15-18 hour days and lasted 140 days total.  Total cost: a reported $70 million, which if accurate would make it the most expensive movie ever at the time (surpassed by Terminator 2, which was surpassed by True Lies, which was surpassed by Waterworld, which was surpassed by Titanic).  It is not a coincidence that all but one of those movies was made by James Cameron.  He clearly has a talent for spending money.abyss13

When you watch the Abyss, though, you can see where the money went.  All the diving scenes are practical effects and the movie looks amazing for it.  The underwater scenes were shot 30 feet deep for up to five hours at a time in 40 pound helmets.  There were
other costs than money that resulted from this underwater mayhem.  Complaints from cast and crew were rampant.  Ed Harris refuses to ever talk about the film to this day.  James Cameron almost died when he lost track of time and ran out of air at the bottom of the 7,000,000 gallon water tank, and then on his way to the surface was given a broken emergency regulator, so when he thought he would finally get a much needed breath of air, he got a lungful of water instead.  Knowing all that makes me wonder whether the end product, as beautiful as it is, was worth the trouble.  Watch it and tell me what you think.  In my view, the climactic visit to the “aliens” is a bit of a letdown and the ending seems rushed (which is particularly problematic for a movie that’s this long).

The original theatrical cut (which I have never seen) was released in 1989 and was 145 minutes long.  The Abyss is one of the first forays into CG but the technology was not quite there yet so a climactic scene had to be cut because Industrial Light & Magic just couldn’t get the world-The-Abyss-Water-Facedestroying waves to look right.  Technology had advanced significantly by 1993, and so a special edition was released with 25 minutes more footage, including the ending as it was originally conceived.  The CG effects hint at what is to come from Cameron and ILM (or, by the time the special edition was released, what had already come).  The tentacle water effects in particular are very close relatives of the T-1000’s liquid metal goodness in T2 and they seem to hold up a lot better than most early CG (maybe because CG is used so sparsely in The Abyss).

Interestingly, we’ve kind of come full circle, moving away from CG in favour of practical effects (Mad Max: Fury Road being a prime example).  Kwame Opum of The Verge calls practical effects, “vinyl for cinema”, and as someone with a large record collection, that comparison feels right.  It makes me wonder where James Cameron, formerly a practical effects adherent, stands on the issue today since Avatar was so CG-heavy.  Perhaps we’ll get a sense of that if Avatar 2 ever gets made, but that’s a long way off as it’s been delayed again and will not come out until 2018 at the earliest.

In the meantime, dust off your LaserDisc copy of The Abyss and enjoy!

 

Over the Top

Strange things are happening lately.  Sylvester Stallone won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Oscar.  I’ve made Jay return to George Lucas’ glory days and watch the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time, which is something she swore would never happen.  And since these sorts of things come in threes, I like my chances of convincing Jay to watch Over the Top, whiover the topch I just found out is on Netflix.  Especially because Jay is still on oxycontin recovering from her back surgery.

Over the Top is a hidden gem in the same way as a lump of coal.  It was a very 80s attempt to reboot Rocky: take Stallone, put him in another salt-of-the-earth role where his muscles do the talking, give him a wholesome never-quit attitude, and add in Robert Loggia as the villain for good measure.  The ingredients are all here but this movie is absolutely awful.  So awful I can’t help but love it.

First, Robert Loggia.  This is exactly how I feel when I see him in anything.

He was the best (RIP, Mr. Loggia) and he really chews the scenery here.  Which is fortunate because in Over the Top, Stallone shows absolutely no charisma, the arm-wrestling bad guy is the most boring villain you could think of, and the kid Stallone is fighting for is so annoying, spoiled and entitled that you think all the way through that Stallone would gladly take $500,000 to never have to see him again.

over-the-top-poster

Second, trying to get us to cheer for Stallone’s down-on-his-luck arm wrestler is so misguided it hurts.  Is there even such a thing as an up-on-his-luck arm wrestler?  Are any of these guys in good financial standing?  I don’t know how legitimate the World Armwrestling League is, but the champion only gets $20,000.  So that was probably like $10,000 in 1987 dollars.  If you’re driving a semi across the country like Stallone does in Over the Top, I guess you can save money by sleeping in the cab, but how much are you left with at the end of the day even if you are good/lucky enough to win?  Just one more reason you wonder why Stallone wouldn’t take the $500,000 [SPOILER ALERT] rather than selling his truck (HIS ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME) so he can pull a Pete Rose and bet on himself to win the contest [END SPOILERS].  See how much you are going to love this movie?

Third, the music is the worst thing imaginable.  Any song that was cheesy to make the cut for Rocky IV can probably be found on Over the Top’s soundtrack.  No Easy Way Out is literally too good a song to be in this movie.  I didn’t think that was even possible but it’s true.  The featured ballad is a Kenny Loggins wuss rock gem, and the soundtrack also features songs from Sammy Hagar, Eddie Money and Asia.  It is probably the perfect music to arm wrestle to, if you have the urge.  And after watching Stallone [SPOILER ALERT] rock his way to victory [END SPOILERS], I predict that you are going to have that urge.

I give Over the Top a score of one man against the world out of the world.  But since the one man is 2016 Golden Globe winner and 2016 Academy Award nominee Sylvester Stallone, that’s actually a very good score.

 

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (An Extremely Non-Spoilerrific Review)

Sean’s from the 70s.  Jay is an 80s chick. Sean is kind of a nerd.  Jay, not so much.  Sean saw Star Wars: A New Hope (though he still just calls it, “Star Wars”) at least 20 times before his eighth birthday.  Jay had never seen any Star Wars movie until this past weekend.  So what did they think of Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Sean: As a kid, I always loved Star Wars.  I’m at the younger end of the Star Wars generation since I never knew a world without it.  Too young to see the first two in theatres, I caught up by Return of the Jedi thanks to the miracle of VCRs and HBO showing Star Wars around the clock in 1983 (and I kept watching it over and over every chance I got).  Star Wars felt like it belonged to me since it was happening just as I was growing up and learning what movies were.  And because of my age I was still young enough to not be at all cynical about product placement or Ewoks by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around.  To my seven year old self, it was all positive that Return of the Jedi served firstly as a mechanism to manufacture more toys and second as a conclusion to my favourite movie series.

luke skywalker return of the jedi

My two favourites: Luke in his Jedi robe (though I kept losing the lightsaber)…

leia return of the jedi

…and Leia as a bounty hunter (though I always was looking for that goddamn helmet too)!

The only negative was that I had to convince my parents to buy all those action figures and vehicles, but fortunately I was a very spoiled kid so I got more than my share (but sadly, not the amazing Imperial Shuttle, though I’m over the disappointment, I swear).  It helped that I was willing to do pretty much anything to “earn” more toys, whether it was mowing the lawn or painting the deck or saving my proofs of purchase from other toys so I could send away for the Emperor!

The prequels were a whole other matter.  I was so disappointed to see how boring Darth Vader’s backstory was on screen, as opposed to how awesome it had been in my head, having patched it together through whatever references were offered by the original trilogy.  And I don’t think it was the 16 year gap in between, since even in university I was perfectly happy to watch the original trilogy over and over (and I wasn’t alone, my roommates and I would often spend Saturday afternoons watching all three back-to-back-to-back).   Anyway, even though I was still am mad about the prequels’ wasted potential, I watched all three, even seeing the last one in theatres.

Which leads us to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Having really enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, and since chronologically we could sort of forget the prequels ever happened, I have had high hopes for The Force Awakens ever since it was announced.  And Jay was nice enough to track down tickets even though she could not have been less excited to see it.

Jay: The only exposure I’ve had to Star Wars was a set of sheets I inherited from my cousin Tim, who’s a decade or more older than I am.

The infamous Star Wars sheets. I also had a flannel blanket but we buried my dead dog in it.

The infamous Star Wars sheets. I also had a flannel blanket but we buried my dead dog in it.

I guess he grew out of his single bed so I got his sheets, and spent a good deal of my youth sleeping with Harrison Ford. Plus, I exist in the world. I haven’t seen the movies, but I’ve seen plenty of stuff that references them, so I almost didn’t have to. I can never remember if C-3PO is the big gold robot or the little blue and white one, but I know it’s a robot. It’s just that the Star Wars universe never appealed to me. Science fiction will always have to work harder to convince me, and so will movies with talking animals, green aliens, and make-believe weapons.

So no, I hadn’t seen Star Wars, and I really didn’t care to. My life felt perfectly complete without it, and to be honest, I think 2015 is already way too inundated with movies that are meant for young boys but consumed by grown men (I’m looking at you, Marvel). But I could see that this movie meant something to Sean. It was a revival of his childhood, a tribute to his youthful imagination, and a chance for the franchise’s redemption after the last trilogy sullied things up. Kevin Smith said he cried when he visited the set of the Millennium Falcon because it reminded him of that feeling he’d had for it as a child. And how many times do we really get to recapture those magical feelings once we’re grown up? Not too damn many. It did nothing for me, I wasn’t even curious about it, but I resolved to be by Sean’s side when the portal to his boyhood opened up on the big screen before him.

And you know what? I didn’t hate it. I was enchanted by John Boyega’s Finn and the arc of his character. I had fun slotting together the puzzle pieces of Star Wars trivia I’ve picked up over the years (mostly from The Simpsons, I think) and seeing how they translated 30 years later. I was charmed by Harrison Ford’s rapport with the furry beast Chewbacca. And I felt the momentum of the piece really drove me forward and kept .facebook_1450656563309me interested despite the fact that I was jumping in blind for movie #7. So I was feeling pretty juiced about it, squeezed Sean’s hand during all the parts I thought he must be loving, and had plenty of follow up questions for our car ride home. But you know what? When the credits rolled and I looked over at Sean expecting to see rapture, he shrugged his shoulders. It was okay, he thought, but not great. Not even as good as Creed – not even as good as “The Avengers” he said – “Wait- there was an Avengers movie this year, right?” He couldn’t even remember if there was an Avengers movie this year, but if there was, it was better than this.

Ladies and gentlemen: Sean’s lacklustre response FUCKING BROKE MY HEART. Here I had drummed it up as this Big Fucking Deal and it’s not even going to crack his top ten this year.

Sean: I had no idea Jay was so invested in this, for my sake.   And she’s invested in everything I’m interested in, she’s amazing like that.  I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  My complaints about it are minor and spoilery so I won’t get into them here, but it’s a solid movie and objectively I would rank it third out of the Star Wars movies, behind A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (yes, ahead of Return of the Jedi as a standalone movie).  That seemed like a ringing endorsement but Jay was expecting more and after reading her thoughts above, I understand why.

let's blow this thing and go home

“You’re all clear, kid. Now let’s blow this thing and go home.” BEST. SCENE. EVER.

This should have been my thing, it should have taken me back to my childhood, it should have sucked me in and made me talk about it for days, and it didn’t.  As a gateway/jumping on point for the next generation of fans/consumers, The Force Awakens works really well.  As fan service, it ticks all the boxes and I don’t think that anyone who anticipated like I did will leave the theatre disappointed, exactly.  But you know what?   This all felt like something I’ve seen before (twice) and I’ve seen it BETTER before (twice).  I’m not trying to be a contrarian asshole (just a regular asshole) when I say that if J.J. Abrams was shooting for greatness, he missed the mark here.  Paying tribute to the feelings I had as a kid is not enough to give me those feelings all over again.  And if you pay tribute by imitating something beloved, the fact the script includes ironic acknowledgements of the imitation does not help make the imitation great.  It only tells me that the imitation was a conscious decision and you went this way rather than coming up with something new.  That’s not reassuring to me in any way and it didn’t invoke nostalgia within your movie.  It just made me wish I was watching the original trilogy and that took me completely out of what was happening on-screen in yours.

second death star explodes

Not quite as epic but still awesome, and the afterparty made it a classic (original footage of the afterparty not found and there will be no Hayden Christensen cameo here).

Maybe it wouldn’t have been enough for The Force Awakens to take a new path.  Maybe my expectations were too high.  Because again, The Force Awakens is a good movie and I enjoyed the ride, but I couldn’t truly love it when it felt so much like a remake.  To quote Jimmy Johnson for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life, “Do you want to be safe and good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?”  The Force Awakens is safe and good, but it’s not the great movie I was hoping for, and that’s why I can’t put it in my top ten for the year.

I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens a score of seven Kessel Runs out of ten.  Seeing that score is as painful for me, Jay, as it is for you.

Jay: What the fuck’s a Kessel Run?

Sean: Oh Jay, we absolutely have to watch the original trilogy.  Something tells me I still hold all those magical feelings from my youth, but the path to them is through the greatness of Episodes IV, V and VI rather than trying to recapture those feelings through something “new”.  There will always be room for new Star Wars stories, but for me I don’t think the originals will ever be topped.

Jay: I think you of all people should be a little more open-minded about sequels. You are, after all, husband #2, and you’d better hope I don’t court warm fuzzy feelings toward “the husband of my youth.”

 

 

 

Flashback Friday – Rocky Edition

One of the things I loved most about Creed (as mentioned in my review) was how nostalgic and referential (even reverential) it was about the previous Rocky movies.  I’m still thinking about the references I caught and wanted to spend a little more time with them here.

Lots of spoilers follow, so with that said, once you’ve seen the movie come inside and let me know what you thought!

Continue reading

Creed

This is shaping up to be a rough movie season for Jay.  First, she got dragged to SPECTRE (which by all accounts is a spectacular movie).   Second, she’s been dreading Star Wars: The Force Awakens since it was a twinkle in J.J. Abrams’ eye.  And third, a whole other Sean-approved franchise makes a return and potentially gets rebooted into a whole new series of movies.  Dun Na NAAAAAA, Dun Na NAAAAAA!

That’s right, Rocky is back again, for the seventh time.  It seemed over after IV, V, and VI, but some studio exec decided we could handle more!  And it was clearly the right decision because I think MGM/Warner Brothers now has a whole new franchise on its hands, featuring Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (Apollo Creed’s son).

I have always loved this franchise.  From the moment I saw Rocky III, I was hooked (yes, I started with III and have never regretted it – as recently discussed in my defence of SPECTRE, plot and character are pretty much unnecessary in franchises and here’s more proof that’s a good thing).  Based on my love for the franchise, I had high hopes for this movie but I was also nervous at how this would all turn out.  After seeing Creed, I am happy to report that this franchise’s record is still unblemished as long as we agree that Rocky V never happened.

One of my favourite things about Rocky VI (a.k.a. Rocky Balboa) was how much love it showed to the franchise as a whole.  Creed takes the same approach.  There are a number of nods to the past and they’re great to see.  The best part is that Rocky, as trainer, takes all that history and imbues Adonis with the style of boxing we’ve grown to love in these movies, namely trading head shots until both boxers’ faces look like ground beef.  Head trauma be damned, these boxers just have so much heart that they have to leave it all in the ring.  And do they ever!

As for the cast, Michael B. Jordan is great as Creed and Stallone is better than ever as Rocky.  The two characters come together naturally and it’s a great relationship to see play out, as uncle and nephew take on the world together and give us some classic Rocky moments along the way.  Especially Stallone, who really plays the old man well the whole way through (although at this point he’s almost 70 so it may not even be acting).  Either way there are some very funny moments to be found as the two leads interact with each other.
CARL

Overall, the only way this movie could have been any better is if they had worked in some Carl Weathers flashbacks where he got his stew on. I can see how that was tricky to work in to Creed since Apollo died before Adonis was born, but still, it would have been a nice touch.

Rocky-III

Want to know who won this fight?  Creed has the answer!

Other than that one shortcoming, Creed is perfect.  It delivers a great story, feels like a natural extension of the Rocky franchise, gives us a ton of nice call-backs to past events, and even answers some burning questions (including who wins the fight at the end of Rocky III).  Those fan-service moments were definitely my favourite aspect of the movie and they added so much to it.  They’re not just winks and nods, they are tools used successfully to remind us of Rocky’s mindset as he tries to pass on his winning ways to a new contender.

As the credits rolled, I reminisced about all the other great Rocky moments (see my list HERE but be warned, it contains tons of spoilers) and at the same time was excited for Creed II.  And mark it down, there will be a Creed II.  The seeds are sown here for at least two more movies and I hope they come to pass, because Creed is not just a great addition to the Rocky franchise, it is an excellent movie in its own right.

Creed scores a knockout: ten triumphant underdogs out of ten.

 

Hits & Misses

Steve Jobs: This movie is underperforming at the box office right now so my expectations were tempered, but the truth is, I was the-intense-first-trailer-for-aaron-sorkins-steve-jobs-movie-paints-a-picture-of-an-egotistical-and-difficult-manriveted. Yes, riveted, for the entire 2 hours. Aaron Sorkin has crafted a film in 3 acts, all three covering the moments before big product launches and pivotal times in Jobs’ life. 1984: the Macintosh is launched just days after that historic Superbowl ad while Jobs is angry at having lost Time magazine’s Man of the Year to a computer in part because of his vehement denials of paternity to 5-year-old Lisa. 1988: after the failure of the Macintosh, Jobs has left Apple and is launching the NeXTcube with his eye on the bigger picture. 1998: back at Apple, he’s launching the iMac, computer of tomorrow. Jeff DBildschirmfoto-2015-07-03-um-11_47_44aniels plays the Apple CEO and Kate Winslet plays Jobs’ right hand woman; both exactly as brilliantly as you’d expect. Michael Fassbender is of course Jobs himself, and I have no qualms about his portrayal of an extremely complex man. He’s an egomaniacal dick, and yet we still see his humanity. The surprise for 11730-4866-2536097E00000578-0-image-a-27_1422709812751-2-xlme was Seth Rogen who plays Steve Wozniak, who is a very interesting character. He’s very much the affable, humble counterpart to Jobs’ mad genius, but is also the one who actually knows how to design and build computers (Jobs being more of an idea man). Rogen manages to strike a balance between being second banana, and also being the only one who can truly stand up to Jobs. Colour me impressed, Seth Rogen. Danny Boyle has a well-crafted beast on his hands – maybe a little too rigidly structured, but admirably made. I didn’t expect to love this, but I really did.

Truth: An icon playing an icon – Robert Redford portrays Dan Rather as he becomes embroiled in the journalistic snafu that would end his enviable career. In 2000, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) was about to break the story of George Bush’s spotty military career. You may remember the highlights: that he pulled strings to be admitted to the National Guard in order to avoid service in Vietnam, then went AWOL and never really completed even that much. It was going to be a big deal inrather an election ultimately decided by just 500-odd votes, but that summer Mapes’ mother died and the story never aired. Four years later, though, the story is revived when someone comes forward with documents. Mapes and her team (Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid) bust it wide open after a lot of teasing and research and legwork, and Dan Rather presents the case on 60 Minutes. But of course Republicans were never going to let this 75story sit, and pretty soon the internet trolls are working feverishly to discredit whatever they can. Truth becomes not just a story about journalism, but about government corruption at the highest level. 60 Minutes is on CBS. CBS was owned by Viacom, a conglomerate that relied on government tax breaks. Can they afford to upset the presidency? Truth, the actual truth, gets lost somewhere in the shuffle. Sean felt it made a better story than a movie, and he may be right. Blanchett is note-perfect, and Redford surprised me – he doesn’t do an impression of Rather, but he does capture his cadence and persona in a way that felt convincing but not mimicky. The film, though, is pretty conventional, and it’s oddly paced. I absolutely believe that a journalist’s job is to ask questions,b ut that doesn’t mean I needed 18 different soliloquies on the topic. I have a headache from being hit over the head with this message. Relax, James Vanderbilt; your premise is solid and the movie is good if not great. No need to be so sanctimonious.

Jem: A complete defilement of my childhood, no 80s baby is going to have anything to do with this travesty. They’ve ruined everything that made the cartoon of our innocence great: the look is wrong (she used to be outrageous!), the sound is wrong, they’ve traded in a talJemMovie00-630x420king, hologramming computer for Youtube. I spent years as a little girl putting on Jem concerts in a neighbour’s garage, so I think I know what I’m talking about. Even the earrings were botched, for crying out loud. And where was the awesome rival band, the Misfits? Jem and the Holograms weren’t just rockstars, they were businesswomen, philanthropists, crime fighters, and foster mothers. While it aired during the mid-80s, it was in the top 3 most watched kids’ cartoons. Why then did the studios spit in the eye of the franchise by making a movie that was sure to fail? And isn’t even good enough to attract a new audience? How would jemaudiences have felt if the same was done to Transformers, a movie that, according to IMDB, had an estimated budget of $150M in 2007. A couple of years later, GI Joe was given $175M and even though the first one didn’t do all that great, they found another $130M to throw at the sequel. Jem, on the other hand, was given an estimated budget of just $5M. So let’s sit with that for a minute and ask ourselves why. Yes, the 80s version was goofy and over the top, but that beats the bland, paint by numbers crap this remake is offering. It’s trying so hard to appeal to millennials it completely denigrates any nostalgic appeal and alienates the people it was first made for. Epic fail.

Celebrate Good Times – Come On!

1981, year of my heart: 700 MILLION people tuned in to watch Princes Charles marry the Queen diwedof puffy sleeves, Lady Diana; President Ronald Reagan nominates the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, to the Supreme Court of the United States; MTV, the first 24 hour music video channel, is launched with Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles; the Boeing 767 makes its first flight; the Dodgers won the World Series over the Yankees after a shortened baseball season due to striking players; Simon & Garfunkel perform their Concert in Central Park to half a million fans; the Edmonton Eskimos win their record 4th consecutive Grey Cup by the skin of their teeth; Donkey Kong makes its delaurawedbut; Eli Manning, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Justin Timerberlake, Pitbull, Beyonce, Roger Federer and Georges St-Pierre are born; the first DeLorean rolls off the production line; the Raiders became the first
wild card playoff team to win a Super Bowl after defeating the Eagles; Walter Cronkite signed off the air; the first heart-lung transplant is performed at Stanford’s Medical Center; the original Model 5150 IBM PC with a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 processor was released in the U.S. at a base price of $1,565; the Islanders took home the Stanley Cup; Luke and Laura got married on General Hospital. It was a banner year.

On the radio

1981 sounded super cool, of course. Disco was reluctantly loosening its grip on the mainstream, making way for radio hits like:

Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl

The Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up

davidbQueen ft David Bowie’s Under Pressure

Rick James’ Superfreak

Air Supply’s The One That You Love

Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’

Kool & The Gang’s Celebration

Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes

On TV

Dynasty, Hill Street Blues, The Smurfs, and Entertainment Tonight made their debuts.

The Incredible Hulk was suddenly cancelled. Charlie’s Angels, The Waltons, and Eight is Enough also ended their series.

selleckChuck Woolery hosted his last episode of Wheel of Fortune after a salary dispute, and Pat Sajak took over.

Tom Baker made his final appearance as the Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who, and Peter Davison stepped in as the Fifth.

MASH, The Jeffersons, Dallas, The Dukes of Hazard, Taxi, Diff’rent Strokes, Laverne & Shirley, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Facts of Life, and Magnum P.I were the finest in television.

At the movies:

Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Natalie Portman were born in 1981, along with Chris Evans, Amy Schumer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba, Hayden Christensen, Josh Gad, and Tim Hilddleston.

indyIndiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark debuted in 1981 and was the highest-grossing movie that year. Other popular films included:

Stripes

Chariots of Fire

For Your Eyes Only

The Cannonball Run

Superman II

Blow Out

My Dinner with Andre

Natalie Wood drowned in a boating accident. We also lost Beulah Bondi (actress, It’s A Wonderful Life), William Holden (actor, Sunset Boulevard), William Wyler (director, Ben-Hur) and Paddy Chayefsky (screenwriter, Network).

The Oscars in 1981 looked like this:

Chariots-Of-Fire-2Best Picture: Chariots of Fire

Best Director: Warren Beaty for Reds

Best Actor: Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond

Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn, also for On Golden Pond

Several actors made their film debuts in 1981, including:

Ben Affleck – appeared in a local independent called The Dark End of the Street at the age of 7, directed by a family friend. He meet 10 year old Matt Damon later this year.

jason-alexanderin-the-burningJason Alexander & Holly Hunter – both appear in The Burning, a slasher film written by Bob Weinstein. This low-budget horror flick is about a summer camp caretaker, horribly disfigured from a prank-gone-wrong and newly released from the hospital with severe deformities, who seeks revenge on those he holds responsible, starting with the kids at a nearby summer camp. The film is notable for being Miramax’s first.

MCDHACO EC001Kim Basinger – she makes her first appearance in a forgotten drama called Hard Country where she had a starring role as a young woman longing to escape small-town Texas to pursue her dreams, but held back by a factory-working boyfriend.

Tom Cruise – Brook Shields and Martin Hewitt star as star-crossed teenaged lovers torn apart when bad advice from his buddy Tom Cruise (age: 19) lands Martin in jail. Watch Endless Love carefully and you’ll spy some other soon-to-be-famous faces. You might also know the Oscar nominated song of the same name, performed by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. Tom Cruise would have a larger supporting role this year, in Taps.

atapsSean Penn – speaking of which – Sean Penn makes his acting debut in Taps alongside him. Taps stars Timothy Hutton as a cadet in military school who is aided by fellow student cadets Sean Penn and Tom Cruise in taking over the school in order to save it.

Kathleen Turner – she stars with William Hurt as a cheating wife in this “erotic thriller” directed by the writer of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. It launched her career, established her as one of the sexiest stars in film history, and identified her as frankly sexual and…rather robust.

James Cameron – he got to sit behind the director’s chair for the first time, and his stunning debut: Piranha II: The Spawning, a shameless low-budget horror sequel. He was originally hired cameronas the special effects director, but took over when the the original director, Drake Miller, was fired. But Cameron isn’t comfortable with this credit. He claims “I was replaced after 2 and a half weeks by the Italian producer. He just fired me and took over, which is what he wanted to do when he hired me. It wasn’t until much later that I even figured out what had happened. But when I saw what they were cutting together, it was horrible. And then the producer wouldn’t take my name off the picture because [contractually] they couldn’t deliver it with an Italian name. So they left me on, no matter what I did. In actual fact, I did some directing on the film, but I don’t feel it was my first movie.” Good thing James, since critics called it one of the world’s worst movies, belonging on “anyone’s list of all-time horror turkeys”, the piranhas resembling “haddock with dentures.” Cameron, however, maintains it’s “the best flying piranha film ever made.” So there.

So this is why 1981 will always be quite precious to my little heart. And it just so happens that on this day, back in 1981, one of the funnest Assholes I know, and one of my best friends in the world, was born. Happy Birthday.

Do you have any particular memories to share from 1981?