Throwback Thursday: “Movie Monsters From Outer Space,” 1983

This was another book during my grade-school days that really fed my excitement about monsters — Jerry A. Young’s 1983 children’s book, “Movie Monsters From Outer Space.”  (Why does the author’s name sound so much like a pseudonym to me?)

I’m sure it’s obscure by now.  If memory serves, this was another title I ordered from those classroom bulletins put out by Scholastic Book Clubs.  (I was in the third grade, I think.)  It gave kids a brief, fun run-down of a bunch of space-based baddies — those are the Cylons from the original “Battlestar Galactica” (1978) on the cover.

It featured a bunch of older B-movies too.  I remember really wanting to see “Forbidden Planet” (1956) after seeing a picture of its monster there.

I also seem to remember reading about Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” (1979), although I suppose that I could be recalling another book.  (It would be odd if Scott’s masterpiece were described here, because it was … kinda not for kids.)

 

51vNHayotEL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_

 

d53a39702c7db300584e2bcf0c167bf5

 

Throwback Thursday: “Rappin’ Rodney” (1983)!

Rodney Dangerfield actually was pretty damn funny, even if I was too young to appreciate his humor when I was a kid.  Not everything he touched turned to gold … I seem to remember a cheesy movie or two.  But this 1983 single was great.  It’s catchy, and its humor still holds up today.

There are a couple of 80’s-tastic cameos in the video, too.  One is Pat Benatar as the leather-clad prison executioner.  (Totally not my thing.)  The other Saturday Night Live’s chain smoking priest, “Father Guido Sarducci” (Don Novello).

 

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) is actually slow and will leave you feeling low.

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) is a pop-culture sacred cow that needs to be skewered.  I’d rate it a 2 out of 10 for being a surprisingly inept and poorly scripted 1980’s “classic.”

I just don’t understand the fervent popular reverence for this movie among people in my age bracket.  It was a minor legend when I was growing up.  I was a fourth grader in 1982, and gradeschool boys could be divided into two groups: 1) those who had seen the “Phoebe Cates pool scene” and 2) those who had not, but wished they had.  When I mentioned on social media a couple of months ago this year that I’d never actually gotten around to seeing this movie, my friends were roundly astonished.

Why do they think this film is indispensable viewing?  Maybe there’s something I’m missing.  I’m tempted to group “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” together with other beloved 80’s films that just don’t resonate with me — like the understandably campy “Tron” (1982) or the unexpectedly sleep-inducing “The Big Chill” (1983).  (I couldn’t even finish the latter.)  But I can’t compare, because I know those movies are objectively good in a lot of ways, even if they weren’t to my taste.

Nor am I squeamish about raunchy sex comedies.  (C’mon.)  I pretty fondly remember “Porky’s” (1981), “Porky’s II: The Next Day” (1983), and “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984).  I mentioned “Porky’s” to the friend with whom I watched “Fast Times” — I told her that it wasn’t highbrow entertainment, but I still remember it being crudely, blasphemously funny.

This movie was just a thinly scripted small collection of vignettes, with no overall plot outside of teenagers having sexual encounters that are … awkward and bluntly sad, for the most part.  (Sean Penn’s character does drugs.)  The dialogue is terrible.  None of the characters are likable — even the story’s nerdy, well-meaning protagonist is grating.

I didn’t really laugh once at anything the director intended — I only laughed at the haircuts and the clothes.  I just can’t believe that the screenwriter here was Cameron Crowe, who also wrote what is possibly my favorite movie of all time — the widely but unfairly maligned “Vanilla Sky” (2001).  (Crowe apparently adapted the screenplay from a novel he wrote.)

There is some enjoyment to be had in watching Penn’s stoner character.  It was fun seeing a well known serious actor in an early comedic role.  Penn is a decent character actor, and it looks like he was having fun.  I do get why kids in the 80’s found him funny.

It’s also fun seeing the handful of other young actors who would go on to great careers (Judge Reinhold is always funny) but, again, this is something that the filmmakers can’t take credit for.

Hey, if you want a slice-of-life dramatic comedy about teenagers in the 1980’s, then go rent “The Breakfast Club” (1985).  It wasn’t perfect, but it was damn good movie that tackled many of the same issues as this movie, but with intelligence and effective humor.  Or, try the oddball “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986).  Both movies portray teenagers in the 80’s who are smart, likable and emphathetic, in varying degrees.  I myself went to high school in the 1980’s, and I assure you they were around.

 

fast-times-at-ridgemont-high-poster

Throwback Thursday: Indiana Jones action figures!!

I was thrilled when these Indiana Jones action figures arrived for me under the Christmas tree in 1983.  I loved “Raiders of the Lost Ark” more than I loved “Star Wars.”  I was truly surprised, too — I didn’t even know that they existed.

Why was that, I wonder?  Was Kenner just not advertising them much?  The company sure wasn’t shy about advertising its “Star Wars” figures.

That very last figure you see is the German mechanic that Indy fought at the desert base, when he and Marion were trying to hijack that plane.  (Dear God, was that one of the greatest movie scenes of all time.)  Anyway, the German mechanic toy had a spring-activated arm for clobbering action, and he came with a little plastic wrench.  Good times.

 

599 (1)

IndianaJonesSallahLoose1a

$_57

315

indiana-jones_german_mechanic-raiders-of-the-lost-ark-action-figure

Throwback Thursday: “Airwolf” (1984-1987) and “Blue Thunder” (1984)

“Airwolf” (1984 – 1987) and “Blue Thunder” (1984) were part of the decade’s fad of building TV shows around incredibly high-tech vehicles — sports cars, helicopters … even a preposterously conceived “attack motorcycle.”  (Does anyone else remember 1985’s lamentable “Streethawk?”)

“Airwolf” was a decent techno-thriller produced by CBS.  (It was revamped in its final year and relaunched on the USA Network.)  It had great action sequences, a likable star (Jan-Michael Vincent) and seemed written to appeal to an older audience, with a fairly sophisticated and morally ambiguous overall story setup.  And goddam if it didn’t have a kickass theme — even if it’s a bit of an earworm and leans heavily on  the snythesizers.  (It was an 80’s thing.)  You can check it out in the first clip below.

“Blue Thunder” was ABC’s putative competitor, I suppose.  It was an adaptation of what I remember to be a pretty respectable 1983 feature film with Roy Scheider, but the show only ran for a single season.  I hardly remember it.  (As you can see from the second clip below, though, it had a pretty interesting cast, including Dana Carvey, Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith.)  I’ve never heard anyone bring up “Blue Thunder” nostalgically either.  I do remember that my friend Keith was a fan — he and I got into a spirited debate once about which could defeat the other in an aerial battle.

If Hollywood wants to recycle everything from the 1980’s … how the hell did “Airwolf” escape its radar?  (No pun intended.)  I would love to hear Ki: Theory update that killer theme.

 

 

A very short review of “Spectre” (2015)

[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FILM.]  “Spectre” (2015) was an impressive James Bond film, if not an unforgettable one.  I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.  It’s got style, terrific action sequences and absolutely gorgeous shooting locations.  Daniel Craig is still a decent Bond, too, even if I always find him a little understated in the role. And Dave Bautista makes a sufficiently intimidating henchman.  (The man looks gigantic, too.)

It brings little new to the franchise, however, and it doesn’t rise above being a standard action film in the same manner as its predecessor, 2012’s nuanced and surprisingly emotional “Skyfall.” (I’ve gained a greater appreciation for that movie after having watched it a second time.)

It occurs to me, too, that “Spectre” seems a little easy to nitpick — at least to someone who’s enjoyed a lot of spy films and novels that are intended as procedural thrillers.  We watch Bond gain easy access to a super-secret meeting of the titular cabal, for instance — he just kinda bluffs his way in.  Then the organization’s Big Bad calls him out, after apparently feeling his presence, as Darth Vader felt the presence of Luke on a passing ship in “Return of the Jedi” (1983).  Later, we watch Bond employ incredibly risky and haphazard tactics to rescue a kidnap victim — it seems to me that the consequent random vehicle crashes, explosions and gunshots could just as easily kill her as they might free her.

Still, this was a fun movie.  I’d recommend it if you’re looking for an enjoyable action flick.

 

1$_V?_Job Name

Throwback Thursday: “Manimal” (1983)!

“Manimal” (1983) was an infamously bad TV show.  It was so bad that it became a routine punchline on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” about a decade later.

I dunno.  I remember being pretty keen as a kid to watch this dude turn into a panther.  (Panthers, by the way, were kind of a thing for a while in the 1980’s — on posters, stickers, notebooks, etc.  The girls had their unicorns and the boys had their panthers.)