80’s Movie Mania: Radical Round 3

Before we move forward it’s time to make a tough decision. Throughout this process I have attempted to minimize my own bias as much as possible, although it is an undeniable factor. I ask myself several questions. How popular is the movie?? Is the movie actually good?? Is the movie a worthy representation of 80’s cinema?? Has the movie held up well over time?? Is it shown on TV a lot?? Is it accessible & enjoyable to a wide audience?? Critics’ reviews can be instructive, but don’t always accurately reflect the attitude of the masses and can’t comprehend the status a film may have achieved in the subsequent decades after its release. Not to sound like a broken record, but all of these things are why I really wanted substantial involvement from The Manoverse. However since that isn’t happening I am forced to ask & answer these questions myself. Therefore, in what may be considered an upset by some, I am giving  Airplane! the 3rd Round victory over Top Gun in the Gnarly Division. Sorry Tom Cruise. So now that that’s done let’s move on.

 

 

 

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Dead Poets Society    vs.     The Naked Gun

Robin Williams received his second Academy Award nomination for playing a kindhearted yet unconventional professor at a stodgy prep school in dps21950’s New England. The professor becomes very influential to a group of young lads, but when one of those boys gets so frustrated by his domineering father’s demands that he commits suicide it is the professor who receives the blame. Williams’ performance as Professor Keating is extraordinary, mostly reserved yet with hints of the actor’s well-known humor. There are a plethora of literary & poetic references, and the script is well-written. Dead Poet’s Society was the 10th highest grossing film of 1989, behind flashier fare like Batman, Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, Back to the Future Part II, & Ghostbusters II, but ahead of solid competition like The War of the Roses, Steel Magnolias, Christmas ngVacation, & Field of Dreams. 1989 was a VERY good year indeed. The Naked Gun overcame challenges by Dragnet and Splash to make it this far. It has an 86% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 2012 Empire magazine poll ranked it the 7th best comedy of all time. Two sequels were made in the early 90’s, but neither recaptured the magic of the original. Word on the street is that a reboot is in the works, with Ed Helms possibly…or maybe not…taking over the lead role. We’ll see.

 

The Verdict:      Dead Poets Society. It’s just a damn fine film. There’s a sober tone, but enough humor is thrown into the mix to lighten the mood. Driving Miss Daisy won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1989, besting both Dead Poets Society AND Field of Dreams. In what sane universe does that kind of absurdity occur??

 

 

 

 

Big    vs.     Fast Times at Ridgemont High

bigTom Hank’s is a huge movie star now, with a couple of Academy Awards and numerous Golden Globes, Emmys, Peoples’ Choice, & other trophies sitting on his mantle. In 1988 his success was just hitting its stride, with memorable hits like Splash and Bachelor Party, as well as misses like Volunteers, The Money Pit, Nothing in Common, & Dragnet (although I really liked Dragnet). Hanks wouldn’t realize his full potential until the early 90’s, but Big gives us an early glimpse of his talent for gingerly straddling the comedy/drama line. He plays 12 year old Josh, whose wish to a carnival fortune telling machine to be “big” is mystically granted. The boy wakes up the next morning in the body of a 30 year old man. While trying to figure out his predicament Josh somehow ends up with an office job and a girlfriend. The charm of Big is watching Hanks never forget that he is portraying a young kid. His performance is charming and sneakily mesmerizing. Josh kind of likes playing in the grown-up world, but at the same time he misses his mother and yearns for the simplicity of childhood, a plight many adults can understand. Big earned ftTom Hanks his first Oscar nomination, although he ultimately lost the trophy to Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man). Fast Times has defeated Brighton Beach Memoirs and Spaceballs to make it to this point. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe, who ranks right up there in John Hughes territory and tells similar character based stories devoid of the violence & CGI induced odiousness that seems to be standard operating procedure these days. Crowe hasn’t been as prolific as Hughes, but he’s had a handful of hits, with Fast Times being his first success. The fantastic cast and pitch perfect soundtrack are ingredients for a triumphant recipe of 80’s pop culture.

 

The Verdict:      Fast Times. This is a decision that is very similar to the Top Gun vs. Airplane! matchup, though with differing results. You’ve got a quintessential 80’s film that went a long way toward defining the decade versus a definitively “better” film that doesn’t necessarily represent the 80’s in any meaningful way. Since this is 80’s Movie Mania I am inclined to give weight to movies that are more representative of a certain vibe, but I cannot overlook quality. Big is a good film and a pre-cursor of great things ahead for Tom Hanks, but if I am being honest Hanks is more of a star of the 90’s. Fast Times at Ridgemont High hits all the right 80’s notes and is a well-written film that has aged well.

 

 

 

Rain Man  vs.     E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

After receiving a first round bye Rain Man beat Night Shift in Round 2. It not only dominated awards season in 1988 but was the top grossing movie of the year. Director Barry Levinson is one of my favorites, with a filmography that includes Diner, The Natural, Good Morning Vietnam, History of the World Part 1, Tootsie, Disclosure, Quiz Show, The Perfect Storm, & Donnie Brasco. Levinson certainly isn’t afraid of being eclectic. Rain Man has a 90% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Siskel & Ebert both gave it a thumbs up, with Siskel calling Hoffman’s role “risky & thankless” and Cruise’s performance “the strength of the film”, while Ebert said the film “is about acceptance” and praised both Cruise & Hoffman’s performances. E.T. had a first round bye then upended Sixteen Candles in Round 2. To say that it dominated the box office in 1982 is an ET2understatement of epic proportions, as it more than doubled its closest competition. It is rare to find a big summer blockbuster that also has a heart and a well-written story, but history has shown that when Hollywood produces such greatness the masses respond. E.T. won four Oscars, but none of the “major” ones, a mystery that not even Sherlock Holmes could solve. E.T. has a remarkable 98% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and upon its release pretty much every critic on the planet showered it with praise.

 

The Verdict:      E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. This was a REALLY difficult decision, but you want to know why Rain Man lost?? I pondered a simple question. If people were randomly asked when each film was in theaters I can virtually guarantee that most folks would peg E.T. as an 80’s film, whereas Rain Man could just as easily have been a product of the early 90’s. It’s a metric that probably could be utilized for many matchups in this competition, but one that I use only as a last resort when no other flaws can be found.

 

 

 

This Is Spinal Tap       vs.     Wall Street

stMockumentary classic Spinal Tap received a first round bye then eliminated Flight of the Navigator in Round 2. It barely registered at the box office in 1984, ranking 117th for the year. Financial success & popularity came later, after the movie was released on home video. However, critics loved the film right out of the gate. Ebert gave it 4 stars, opining that it is “absolutely inspired in a subtle way” and “the satire has a deft, wicked touch”. Wall Street received a first round bye then proceeded to defeat Revenge of the Nerds to make it here. It ranked a modest 26th at the 1987 box office, behind bona fide classics like wallstreet2_560Moonstruck, Lethal Weapon, Dirty Dancing, and Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, but ahead of decent completion like Spaceballs, Summer School, The Princess Bride, & Ishtar. Okay, you got me…I’m obviously joking about that last one (Ishtar is considered one of the biggest bombs of all time).  I think it is Charlie Sheen’s best work, and of course Michael Douglas won the Oscar for Best Actor in his role as Gordon Gekko. A sequel was made in 2010, but it doesn’t measure up. I blame Shia LeBeouf.

 

The Verdict:       Spinal Tap. Wall Street is a fine film. I never thought a movie about stocks & bonds could keep me on the edge of my seat, but it achieves that difficult task. Having said that, This Is Spinal Tap is so well written and performed, plus it actually spawned an entire sub-genre of films. Rob Reiner may be a raging liberal lunatic, but I’ll give him credit for creating a really great movie.

 

 

80’s Movie Mania: Radical Round 2

Today we finish up second round action for 80’s Movie Mania. Please feel free to go back and check out Round 2 results for the Gnarly, Tubular, & Bodacious Divisions. I haven’t been posting polls much lately because it seems like an exercise in futility. Maybe someday I’ll figure out what I’m doing wrong, but until then we’ll just forge ahead. As always feedback is appreciated. Tell your friends & family about the site. Let’s grow The Manoverse into a force to be reckoned with in the blogosphere!!

 

 

 

 

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Rain Man   vs.     Night Shift

More Tom Cruise?? Yep, I’m afraid so. In 1988’s Rain Man Cruise plays Charlie, a down-on-his-luck NightShift-Still2shyster whose estranged father dies and leaves him nothing but an old car and some rose bushes. The old man left millions of dollars to an older brother that Charlie didn’t even know existed. That brother, Ray (in an Oscar winning performance by Dustin Hoffman), is an autistic savant residing in a mental institution. Charlie impulsively decides to take Ray away from the facility and get legal custody thereby gaining access to the inheritance. The ensuing road trip is full of fun & poignant moments as the two brothers bond and Charlie matures. Rain Man not only got Hoffman his second Oscar but also won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, & Best Original Screenplay. Night Shift defeated Fletch in Round 1. It ranked 36th at the box office in 1982, behind clunkers that no one remembers like Things Are Tough All Over, Best Friends, & The Dark Crystal, but ahead of notable competition including The Thing, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Diner, & Grease 2. It might be an overstatement to say that Night Shift launched the careers of Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, & Shelley Long, but it definitely counts as a prominent catalyst for them, especially the directorial trajectory of Howard and Keaton’s stellar filmography. Winkler’s portrayal of a character that is the polar opposite of Happy Days’ Fonzie showed his range even if he never became a huge movie star.

 

The Verdict:       Rain Man. The pedigree cannot be denied, and unlike many Best Picture winners it is the kind of lighthearted popcorn flick one can enjoy anytime it may pop up on television.

 

 

 

 

This Is Spinal Tap       vs.     Flight of the Navigator

After receiving a first round bye the ultimate mockumentary makes its Mania debut. Presented as a faux documentary of a supposedly real rock band, 1984’s Spinal Tap is a satirical look inside the zany world of rock n’ roll. It stars Michael McKean (Laverne & Shirley’s Lenny Kosnowski), Harry Shearer (the voice of Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, & others on The Simpsons), & Christopher Guest (the real life husband of Jamie Lee Curtis) as members of a goofy British band that sings songs like Hell Hole, Sex Farm, & Gimme Some Money. Written & directed by Rob Reiner, the movie features cameos & early screen appearances by stars like Bruno Kirby, Ed Begley Jr., Fran Drescher, Dana Carvey, Billy Crystal, Howard Hesseman, Paul Shaffer, & Anjelica Huston and contains many memorable scenes & quotable lines. Actual rock stars like Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, U2’s Edge, & Dave Grohl allegedly love the film and praise its accuracy. Flight of the Navigator upset The Goonies in Round 1. I can be a rebel on occasion. Navigator ranked a lowly 48th at the box office in 1986, behind idiocy like Friday the 13thnavigator Part 6, Wildcats, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, & The Golden Child (a film that nearly killed the career of Eddie Murphy). However it did fare better than decent flicks like Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Best of Times, 9 ½ Weeks, Highlander, & Maximum Overdrive. A quick look back reveals that Flight of the Navigator was released in early August of 1986 and faced stiff competition from summer blockbusters Aliens and The Fly as well as 80’s mainstay Stand By Me.

 

The Verdict:       This Is Spinal Tap. I adore the whole mockumentary genre, and this is the one that started it all. Great characters, well-written script, superb cast, fun cameos…there’s a whole lot to appreciate here.

 

 

 

 

Wall Street           vs.     Revenge of the Nerds

wallstreet2_560Michael Douglas, son of legendary 20th century actor Kirk Douglas, has had a fine career. He co-starred with Karl Malden in the 1970’s TV cop show The Streets of San Francisco. He won an Oscar for producing 1975 Best Picture One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’s starred in notable films like Basic Instinct, The China Syndrome, & Falling Down. But he reached the pinnacle in 1987 with his portrayal of Gordon Gekko, a dodgy business tycoon who famously opines that “greed is good”. Charlie Sheen is also along for the ride as an inexperienced but ambitious stockbroker who first admires Gekko before eventually turning against him. The world of stocks, bonds, & corporate raiding is a tricky one to translate to film, but Wall Street pulls it off, keeping things accessible to the viewer and creating a level of suspense, intrigue, & drama normally reserved for more action based movies. Revenge of the Nerds defeated Twins in the first round. It was the 16th highest grossing movie of 1984, behind hits like Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, Footloose, & Thenerds2 Karate Kid, but besting pretty solid competition, stuff like The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, & Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Well okay, that last one sucked, but I had to sneak it in somewhere because thirty years later the title, as well as the concept of break dancing in general, cracks me up. The powers-that-be squeezed all they could out of Nerds, with three sequels in the course of the following decade. The original still pops up on TV occasionally and is always good for a few chuckles.

 

The Verdict:       Wall Street. Gordon Gekko may be one of the most unforgettable characters in the history of cinema. He has become the icon of a certain fragment in time, a symbol of arrogance, materialism, & yes…greed.

 

 

 

 

Splash       vs.     The Naked Gun

splashEveryone remembers Ron Howard when he was a little kid starring as Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, and then as a teenager playing Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. However, Howard knew from an early age that he wanted to become a director. He left Happy Days after its 7th season to concentrate on directing and has strung together an impressive list of well-received & entertaining hits. One of his early triumphs is 1984’s Splash, about a NY City businessman who falls in love with a mermaid. The cast includes Tom Hanks (in his breakout role), Daryl Hannah, John Candy, & Eugene Levy. It was the 10th highest grossing film of 1984 and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. The Naked Gun beat out Dragnet in Round 1. It was the 8th highest grossing film of 1988, behind really good films like Rain Man, Big, Coming to America, & Die Hard, but besting some pretty good flicks like Scrooged, Bull Durham, & Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Alright, I’m joking again about that last one, Anyway, as far as the parody/spoof genre goes The Naked Gun would be on its Mount Rushmore…if such a thing existed.

 

The Verdict:       The Naked Gun. I suppose this is kind of an upset. Splash is definitely the more critically acclaimed film, and with names like Howard, Hanks, & Candy its pedigree is indisputable. However, one of the benchmarks I hold in highest esteem is repeat viewings, and I don’t think I’ve seen Splash in atleast 20 years. It’s just not shown on television that much for some reason. And to be honest if it were on but The Naked Gun was also on at the same time I have a feeling I’d choose the latter. Splash is mostly remembered as a springboard for the careers of Howard & Hanks (who have both done better work in the ensuing years), not necessarily for the movie itself. Meanwhile, The Naked Gun epitomizes an entire category of films and is just plain old funny. Poor Tom Hanks…beaten by Leslie Nielsen & OJ Simpson two rounds in a row.

 

 

 

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial    vs.     Sixteen Candles

One of the earliest moviegoing experiences I remember is going to see Coal Miner’s Daughter at the sixteendrive-in with my parents & sister, which was likely sometime during the summer of 1980 or 81 when I was 8 or 9 years old. The other experience I remember is going to see E.T.. Our local mall opened in 1982, the same year that E.T. was in theaters, and it was there that I saw it. Produced & directed by the incomparable Steven Spielberg, E.T. tells the story of a cute, friendly little alien botanist who is inadvertently left behind by his compatriots when their peaceful mission to collect samples of Earth plant life is interrupted by government agents. E.T. is discovered by a 10 year old boy named Elliot, and eventually his younger sister Gertie (a 5 year old Drew Barrymore in one of her earliest roles) and older brother Michael. The kids decide to keep E.T.’s existence a secret from their mother and formulate a plan to help the alien get home to his own world. Drama ensues. E.T. quickly overtook Star Wars as the highest grossing film of all time and held that title for over a decade. To this day it is still in the Top 10 on that list when the numbers are adjusted for inflation. It won four Academy Awards, though it lost Best Picture to Gandhi. Sixteen Candles got the decision over Red Dawn in Round 1. It ranked a humble 44th at the box office in 1984, behind head scratchers like Cannonball Run II, City Heat, All of Me, & Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. But hey, it beat horror classic Children of the Corn, so that’s…something. I guess America hadn’t gotten the John Hughes/Brat Pack memo quite yet.

 

The Verdict:       E.T.. I’m going to contradict myself. It’s probably been even longer since I’ve watched E.T. than Splash. In that time I’ve seen Sixteen Candles plenty of times. I was initially prepared to hand Sixteen Candles the upset victory, but I just can’t pull the trigger. E.T. was the highest grossing movie OF ALL TIME for 11 years!! How do I overlook that?? This is a great example of why Manoverse participation would be helpful. I’d love to take the temperature of the masses, but I have no faith that delaying the decision with a poll would accomplish anything.

 

 

 

Fast Times at Ridgemont High     vs.     Spaceballs

fast2Fast Times beat Brighton Beach Memoirs in Round 1. It was the 29th ranked film at the box office in 1982, space2behind classics like Poltergeist & First Blood as well as not so great movies like The Toy, Young Doctors in Love, and The Sword & The Sorcerer. The good news is that it did better than some impressive competition like Pink Floyd: The Wall and re-issues of The Empire Strikes Back, Bambi, & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Fast Times isn’t the kind of movie that wins awards, but it meant something to those of a certain age. I’m not sure how modern teens view it…if it speaks to them on some level or seems completely lame & outdated. I really hope it is the former rather than the latter. Spaceballs won a tossup over Summer School in Round 1. It ranked 31st at the 1987 box office. One would think a Star Wars parody might do better, but atleast it bested solid competition like The Lost Boys, Can’t Buy Me Love, Raising Arizona, Some Kind of Wonderful, & Over the Top. A sequel would seem to write itself, but for some reason it just never happened.

 

The Verdict:       Fast Times. Easy call. Spaceballs is a great parody film, but it isn’t better than an archetypal 80’s film that helped define the decade and an entire generation.

80’s Movie Mania: Radical Round 1

Annnnnd we’re back!! Today we finish up our first round matchups, but before we go forward there let’s go back and tie up some loose ends as usual. I posted two polls that absolutely no one voted on. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I’ll just go with the flow. So in the Gnarly Division it’s gonna be Weird Science taking out Raising Arizona and Biloxi Blues defeating Parenthood. Now let’s move on to the first round in the Radical Division. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Radical – Round 1

 

 

Fast Times at Ridgemont High               vs.              Brighton Beach Memoirs

fasttimesFast Times is the quintessential high school movie. Released in 1982, it was the first directing effort for bbmAmy Heckerling, who would go on to direct films like Clueless, European Vacation, & Look Who’s Talking, as well as the first screenplay written by Cameron Crowe, who has since had a solid career writing & directing movies such as Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, & Vanilla Sky. That’s already a pretty impressive pedigree for Fast Times, but then we must consider the cast, featuring the earliest work of some very talented performers…Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forrest Whittaker, Eric Stoltz, & Anthony Edwards. Oh, did I forget to mention the soundtrack?? It has great 80’s songs from folks like Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Don Henley, The Go-Gos, Sammy Hagar, Jimmy Buffett, Poco, Donna Summer, & Stevie Nicks. Not to be outdone, 1986’s Brighton Beach Memoirs features Jonathan Silverman, Blythe Danner, & Judith Ivey in the cast and is based on a Tony Award winning play by Neil Simon. It is the first entry in Simon’s Eugene Trilogy about his youth in Depression era Brooklyn. The movie is well written & acted, but I suspect that the theater production is even better.

 

The Verdict:       Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This is 80’s Movie Mania, right?? It only seems right that one of THE signature 80’s films makes it out of Round 1.

 

 

Fletch                            vs.              Night Shift 

Aside from blundering family man Clark W. Griswold, Chevy Chase’s most famous role is that of L.A. nightshiftTimes journalist Irwin Fletcher, aka Fletch. Based on a series of novels written in the 70’s, 1985’s Fletch follows the reporter as he investigates a drug ring on an L.A. beach. He is approached by a wealthy businessman offering him a big wad of cash to kill him because the businessman is ostensibly dying of cancer anyway. Things get complicated from there. The supporting cast includes Tim Matheson, George Wendt, Geena Davis, & Joe Don Baker and the VERY 80’s score was written by master of the synthesizer Harold Faltemeyer. Fletch isn’t really a traditional comedy…it’s more of a mystery/action flick with funny moments provided by Chevy Chase being…well…Chevy Chase. 1982’s Night Shift has an impeccable pedigree. It was written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, who have gone on to write such fantastic films as Splash, Parenthood, City Slickers, A League of Their Own, The Money Pit, Liar Liar, Fever Pitch, & Parental Guidance. It was the first film directed by Ron Howard that anyone remembers. And it stars Henry Winkler as a decidedly un-Fonzie-esque character, as well as Michael Keaton in his first leading role and Shelley Long right before Cheers made her famous. The story has a straight-laced morgue employee, his wild & crazy co-worker, & a “hooker with a heart of gold” team up to start their own escort service. Hilarity ensues. It was an indication of great things to come from Keaton.

 

The Verdict:       Night Shift. I don’t quite get the love for Fletch. It’s mildly amusing I suppose, but mostly quite forgettable. Meanwhile, Night Shift has a solid cast doing some of their best work supported by a really fun script and a director who was just beginning to demonstrate his immense talent.

 

 

 

Spaceballs                   vs.              Summer School

Spaceballs is a rather amusing Star Wars parody from the mind of the legendary Mel Brooks. Made in ssc1987 and starring Bill Pullman, John Candy, Brooks, Daphne Zuniga, Rick Moranis, & Dick Van Patten, it is chockful of amusing word play and funny sight gags that any Star Wars fan will appreciate & enjoy. A sequel has been discussed for many years, but half of the original cast is dead now so who knows what’ll happen with that. 1987’s Summer School is a lightweight yet sneakily entertaining comedy starring Mark Harmon (from NCIS) as a slacker gym teacher who gets roped into teaching remedial English to a group of less than stellar students during the summer. The cast also includes Kirstie Alley and a young Courtney Thorne-Smith. Word on the street is that a remake is in the works, which is a shame.

 

The Verdict:       I like both of these films and really don’t want to make a choice, so let’s see if we can get enough votes to take the decision out of my hands.

 

 

 

 

Sixteen Candles                              vs.              Red Dawn

16CJohn Hughes strikes again!! In 1984 Hughes wrote & directed Sixteen Candles, about a girl whose family  reddawncompletely forgets her 16th birthday. Molly Ringwald stars as Samantha, whose sister is getting married so she kind of gets lost in the shuffle. On top of that Samantha has a thing for the hottest hunk in school but her existence doesn’t even register on his radar…or so she thinks. Anthony Michael Hall is around too as a geek who has a thing for Samantha (he has NO shot). The supporting cast, including Samantha’s grandparents, their foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong, & the sister who becomes gooned on tranquilizers to calm her wedding day jitters are all quite humorous additions. Conversely, 1984’s Red Dawn is a very sobering action flick about a group of Colorado teens who go on the lam after their town is invaded by the Soviets in the midst of World War III. The movie is notable for its star-studded cast of youngsters, including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Leah Thompson, & Jennifer Grey. A remake was produced in 2012 but I’ve never seen it and likely never will.

 

The Verdict:       This one completely depends on a person’s taste in movies. Do you prefer teen comedy or violent war?? I have my preferences but I’m going to be generous and leave the decision in the hands of The Manoverse.

 

 

 

 

The Naked Gun           vs.              Dragnet

It’s police spoof vs. police parody!! 1988’s The Naked Gun is an alleged continuation of a long forgotten dragnetTV show from a few years earlier called Police Squad. No one remembers it because it only lasted six episodes on ABC. At any rate, Naked Gun follows inept police detective Frank Drebin (portrayed by the hilarious Leslie Nielsen) as he tries to prevent the assassination of England’s Queen Elizabeth while she visits Los Angeles. The film is wall-to-wall sight gags, word play, & slapstick comedy and features an intriguing supporting cast, including George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley (before she got too out of control with the plastic surgery), Ricardo Montalban, & O.J. Simpson (before he started murdering people). 1987’s Dragnet is a comedic big screen take on the legendary 1950’s/60’s TV show and stars Dan Aykroyd as the ultra-serious Sgt. Joe Friday (allegedly the nephew of the original) who is saddled with a quick-witted yet lackadaisical partner named Pep Streebeck (a GREAT name), played by Tom Hanks in one of his more underappreciated funny roles. Together the duo investigate a bizarre rash of thefts committed by a weird cult (which is a redundancy I know). The plot is silly and the reviews weren’t great, but I rather enjoyed the Aykroyd/Hanks chemistry and wish they would have gotten an opportunity to do a sequel with a better script.

 

The Verdict:       The Naked Gun. I probably enjoyed Dragnet more than the average person, but it is admittedly a flawed film. Meanwhile, The Naked Gun, for people who enjoy these kinds of movies, is a classic that spawned two sequels and ranks as one of the funnier flicks of the 80’s.

 

 

 

 

Revenge of the Nerds          vs.              Twins

nerdsIt’s a story as old as time…David vs. Goliath, unsophisticated vs. cool, ugly vs. good-looking, ostracized TWINS_320vs. popular, geeks vs. jocks. In 1984 it was presented as a battle between two fraternities…one full of socially awkward computer geeks, the other comprised of cocky football players. The hows & whys of their rivalry are unimportant…all that matters is that there is an abundance of conviviality, with an undertow of social commentary about discrimination & pride in being true to one’s self. The cast consists of second tier performers like Ted McGinley, Curtis Armstrong, Timothy Busfield, & James Cromwell, although Anthony Edwards would go on to brief moments of stardom and John Goodman has a small part as a football coach. A few sequels followed over the next decade, but none are as fun as the original. 1988’s Twins pairs diminutive Danny DeVito with brawny Arnold Schwarzenegger as long lost fraternal twins. DeVito’s Vincent is a hardened ne’er-do-well who was raised in an orphanage. Schwarzenegger’s Julius was raised on a small Pacific island by the professor who conducted the genetic experiment that resulted in the two men’s birth. Julius learns of Vincent’s existence and seeks him out. The two then go on quite the adventure in search of their long lost mother. Hilarity ensues.

 

The Verdict:       Revenge of the Nerds. It’s not the most unique concept but it works really well. Twins relies on a one-note joke about the obvious physical differences between its two stars, but that gag runs out of steam. Schwarzenegger is better than one might assume in comedies, yet it is very much a meta idea that it’s supposed to be hilarious seeing a muscle-bound tough guy doing comedy. Sorry…I need more.

 

 

 

 

Flight of the Navigator          vs.              The Goonies

navigatorFlight of the Navigator still flies under the radar three decades after its release. Made in 1986 and gooniesstarring Howard Hesseman (WKRP’s Dr. Johnny Fever) and Sarah Jessica Parker in one of her early roles, the story is an intriguing time travel tale about a young boy who falls into a ravine and wakes up the next morning to find that eight years have passed, though he hasn’t aged at all. It turns out that he was abducted by aliens. Folks, trust me…this is a seriously entertaining film. It strikes the perfect balance of action, drama, & whimsy. Meanwhile, The Goonies is a much celebrated film starring a group of youngsters (including Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, & Josh Brolin) who go on an adventure in search of a long lost treasure map. The film’s pedigree is first rate, with the script being written by Chris Columbus (who would go on to write and/or direct stuff like Mrs. Doubtfire, the first two Home Alone movies, Only the Lonely, the first two Harry Potter movies, & Jingle All the Way), directed by Richard Donner (Superman, Scrooged, Lethal Weapon), & produced by the iconic Steven Spielberg.

 

The Verdict:       Flight of the Navigator. This will probably be considered a pretty big upset by many. However, I’ve just never understood what the big deal is about The Goonies. Several 80’s films had ensemble casts with kids that would end up having memorable careers, but that’s not enough. The movie has to be engaging, with a plot that makes me want to enjoy repeat viewings. The Goonies isn’t that…atleast for me. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay. I happen to believe that Navigator is a superior entertainment experience…escapism at its finest.

80’s Movie Mania: An Introduction

80sCowabunga dudes!! Citizens of The Manoverse should know your Humble Potentate of Profundity pretty well by now, and two things you should have figured out are that I am a) a movie buff and b) a child of the 80’s. So I began pondering…what are the films from that decade that I enjoy?? Which ones are considered the best by the masses?? Which ones may be a bit overlooked or completely forgotten with the passage of time?? This train of thought sparked an idea: a March Madness-like tournament to decide the ultimate 80’s movie!!


80s2Now I must first set a few ground rules. Contrary to what one may believe, the 1980’s produced a plethora of memorable films. There were some critical darlings of course, and then there were a number of movies that may not have been “good” in the traditional sense but have just the right…je ne sais quoi…for inclusion in this competition. In order to pare down the pool of entrants I was forced to make some editorial choices. First of all…no sports films. I have already given love to Raging Bull, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Caddyshack, & Vision Quest on a previous occasion, so in the interest of fairness I am not including them here. Secondly…and this is a big one…no trilogies. I am of the opinion that film trilogies should be considered as80s3 one entity, and I don’t think it is fair to include such juggernauts against single entity competition. Plus, the Star Wars trilogy (2/3 of which was made in the 80’s) and the Back to the Future trilogy are so awesome that they’d probably run away with this thing, so why not make it just a bit more interesting?? As you may recall, I think of series differently, so anything with 4 or more films is fair game, although generally it’s hard to beat the original (there are exceptions).


80s4Even with those limitations in place I couldn’t narrow the field to 64, so I’m going to ask for some help from y’all. There are a dozen “vote-ins” pitting two films of some similarity head-to-head. Please click on your choice. I am going to wait for atleast a week and hope to get 10 or more votes on each of these, with the winners moving on to the tournament. Tell your friends!! Let’s grow The Manoverse and have some fun doing it!!

 

 

 

For about 5 minutes in the 80’s Steve Guttenberg was one of the bigger movie stars around. Lately though he’s kind of fallen off the face of the Earth, with his last notable role coming in…the mid-90’s if I’m being generous. However, we’ll always have these two Guttenberg gems. Police Academy spawned about a bazillion crappy sequels, but the original was hilariously stupid (and I mean that as a compliment). Three Men & A Baby had Guttenberg starring alongside Tom Selleck and Ted Danson as bachelors suddenly given the task of caring for an infant.

Michael Keaton is still one of the best in the business, but these days he wants to win awards and be taken seriously as an actor. I think I liked him better when he was making lightweight yet rather funny comedies. Mr. Mom is a role reversal kind of deal (atleast it was unique in the early 80’s) where Keaton becomes a stay-at-home father while his wife (portrayed by the lovely Teri Garr) tries to climb the corporate ladder. Gung Ho has Keaton as an auto executive trying to keep his Pennsylvania plant from being shut down by its Japanese owners. In Night Shift Keaton co-stars with Henry Winkler (Fonzie from Happy Days) and pre-Cheers Shelley Long as a NY City morgue employee who uses his workplace as a front for a prostitution ring,

Neil Simon is best known for his award winning plays, but several of those stage productions have been made into movies. This head-to-head battle pits 2/3 of the “Eugene Trilogy” against one another. It is said that the character of Eugene Jerome is an autobiographical representation of Simon and his youth in Brooklyn during The Great Depression. In Brighton Beach Memoirs Eugene (portrayed by Jonathan Silverman) is a teenager dealing with the ups & downs of family life. In Biloxi Blues Eugene (portrayed by Matthew Broderick) has been drafted into the Army near the end of World War II and endures basic training in Mississippi.

Only one police dog shall make it into the tournament…which one will it be?? Will you choose Jerry Lee, a german shepherd that helps Jim Belushi escape a drug kingpin?? Or do you prefer Hooch, a French mastiff that aids Tom Hanks in bringing down…well…another drug lord??

I’m a big fan of comedy, but within the genre there are different kinds of comedy. Airplane! is a spoof of dramatic disaster flicks and has plenty of sight gags and fun wordplay. It takes multiple viewings to really consume all the goodness the film contains. This Is Spinal Tap gave birth to the mockumentary…a movie that is presented as a documentary, usually in hilarious fashion.

Dragnet isn’t strictly a spoof, but it takes the old 1960’s TV show and turns it into a comedic parody starring Dan Aykroyd & Tom Hanks. The Naked Gun is a spoof of police procedurals based on a 1982 TV show called Police Squad that lasted only 6 episodes.

Tom Cruise did Cocktail immediately after Top Gun and just before Rain Man. He stars as an ambitious young man who is bartending to put himself thru college on the way to fulfilling his dreams. As usual a woman comes along and complicates things. Tom Hanks did Bachelor Party the same year he starred in Splash and four years before Big would really solidify his career. The title pretty much says it all, and its as funny as one would expect.


Films in the 1980’s oftentimes chronicled young men’s dogged chase of nookie, a theme that would continue to be popular into the 90’s and beyond. Porky’s is the story of a group of high schoolers in 1950’s Florida and their…misadventures. My Tutor is a bit more…subtle…in telling the story of a wealthy young man’s need to pass an exam in French to get into Yale. His father hires a beautiful female tutor and…well…the lad gets an education in more than just French.

I’ve never been much of a gamer, but the dudes in these films sure are. In War Games a precocious high school computer enthusiast (i.e. hacker) inadvertently starts WWIII. In The Last Starfighter a young man finds out the game he loves is real when he is whisked away to outer space to join the battle.

Hollywood likes to promote the idea that war is like sports…a game for young, good looking people. In Iron Eagle Lou Gosset Jr. leads a ragtag group of teenagers into a battle to rescue one of the youngster’s fathers, an Air Force pilot that has been captured by Arabs. Red Dawn, the story of high schoolers who fight back when their Colorado town is invaded by Russians, has a more well-known cast, including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, & C. Thomas Howell.

Molly Ringwald was an 80’s It Girl, but I can only allow one of these two films into the tournament. In Sixteen Candles Ringwald plays a girl whose family forgets her 16th birthday amidst the chaos of her older sister’s wedding. Pretty in Pink has Ringwald in the middle of a love triangle and dealing with other typical high school issues.

High school geeks were a staple of 80’s classics. In Teen Wolf Michael J. Fox plays an average teenager who suddenly becomes the cool guy at school when he discovers an ability to transform into a werewolf. Weird Science is about two young nerds who use technology to create the perfect woman.

Sports Films: The 25 Best (IMHO) – The Top Ten

film-crewOne thing that almost all great sports films have in common is an intense final act. The concluding installment of this venture might not be all that dramatic, but hopefully it’s a good read. If you haven’t done so already please catch up by checking out Part 1 and Part 2. After all, a good ending is meaningless without the enjoyment of the preceding crescendo.

 

 

 

 

10 We Are Marshall
I fully admit my extreme prejudice in overrating this film. I am a proud alumnus of Marshall muUniversity, and the 1970 plane crash that killed the entire football team is a deeply emotional event for anyone who has ever attended Marshall and lived in Huntington, WV. There is a wonderful 2000 documentary called Ashes to Glory that tells the story of the plane crash & its aftermath best, but We Are Marshall is a pretty good fictional account that has grown on me thru repeat viewings. Matthew McConaughey’s performance as head coach Jack Lengyel is somewhat quirky, but not too distracting. Englishman Ian McShane is grossly miscast as a West Virginia steel worker, but again it’s no big deal. Matthew Fox’s heartbreaking portrayal of assistant coach Red Dawson is superb and perhaps should have received an Oscar nomination. It is difficult for me to gauge how this movie is viewed by the general public because of my personal connection, but I think it is deserving of a spot in this particular cinematic potpourri.

 

 

9 Happy Gilmore
For many people of a certain generation it is Happy Gilmore, not Caddyshack, that is the golf happycomedy of record. This is Adam Sandler in his goofy mid-90’s prime. It isn’t going to win any awards or garner critical acclaim, but it’s a really fun way to spend a couple of hours vegging on the couch. Happy is a hockey player wannabe with anger issues who must find a way to raise money to pay his grandmother’s back taxes so she won’t lose her house. Enter Carl Weathers as the clichéd mentor/guru, a golf pro with a hilarious wooden hand after an unfortunate run-in with an alligator. Happy ends up on the pro tour challenging top dog Shooter McGavin (a fantastic name), with the two ending up in a climactic battle on the course. Along the way Happy romances a pretty girl, gets into a hysterical fistfight with Bob Barker, & becomes the talk of the golf world due to his unconventional style. If you’ve seen Happy Gilmore once I’m willing to bet you’ve watched it dozens of times.

 

 

8 Major League
What would happen if the Bad News Bears were adults and played on a MLB team?? That’s Major-Leaguepretty much the idea of this movie. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a World Series since Harry Truman was President, and at the time Major League was in theaters in 1989 hadn’t even won a league pennant since the 1950’s. They are perfect fodder for a loveable loser story. The setup here is that the owner has died and his bimbo widow has inherited the club. She devises a scheme to sabotage attendance so the team can be relocated to sunny Miami. The devious plot involves putting together a hilariously ragtag motley crew, including a pitcher who just got out of prison and is as likely to reach the bleachers as the strike zone with his fastball, an outfielder who practices voodoo, a speedy center fielder that couldn’t hit water with a baseball bat if he was sitting in a boat, & a bunch of old, washed up veterans with personality conflicts. Of course we know how it ends, but the journey is engaging and the characters are unique & funny, so the sports movie clichés aren’t at all bothersome. It is interesting to note that the film climaxes (spoiler alert) with the Indians winning a one game tiebreaker to capture the division and get into the playoffs. We learn in 1994’s Major League II that they lost the ALCS. In that inferior sequel Cleveland wins the ALCS but we still never see them in the World Series.

 

 

7 The Karate Kid
I’ve written on previous occasions about time capsules. If one were to open an 80’s time kkcapsule full of movies I suspect that The Karate Kid would be among the treasured loot, alongside The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Back to the Future trilogy, & two of the first three Star Wars films (the original came out in 1977). Kid stars Ralph Macchio as a high school student (Macchio was 47 years old at the time) who has relocated from New Jersey to Los Angeles and is being bullied in his new school. He turns to martial arts for assistance, with guidance from a sagacious old Japanese building super. Kid paints inside the lines of the sports movie blueprint, but the characters are so interesting and the martial arts setting is different enough from the usual football/baseball/basketball scenario that this film has become an indisputable modern classic. There were a few tepid sequels, but none can hold a candle to the original. Oh, by the way, I was just kidding…Macchio was only 23 when he played Daniel Laruso. He is now 53 years old.

 

 

6 All the Right Moves
Am I crazy or does this movie fly way under the radar?? Tom Cruise is a megastar who has made a plethora of notable films, some that are popular with the masses and others that are critical darlings. One must give Cruise credit for being a versatile performer even if it seems like he might be kind of an out-of-touch crackpot diva in real life. ATRM was one of Cruise’s earliest efforts, released in 1983 (the same year as Risky Business). It is the quintessential high school football movie. Cruise is a talented player whose goal is to use his skills to score a movescollege scholarship and escape his dreary Pennsylvania hometown, rising above a dead end life in the steel mills. Being trapped in a small town and yearning for something more is hardly an original plot, but it works really well in a sports movie because it rings so true. Many athletes that fans watch on TV almost daily come from working class families in economically challenged neighborhoods. What we view as a fun way to relax on the weekend is, for a lot of young men, their ticket to a better life. ATRM captures the essence of that struggle really well, and portrays just how important a game can be to a town that has nothing else to look forward to. Craig T. Nelson is well known for his role in the 90’s sitcom Coach, but here he plays an entirely different kind of coach, the type of guy who is way too intense and has just a bit too much power. ATRM holds up really well after three decades and provides much food for thought while also being quite entertaining.

 

 

5 Tin Cup
My father loved to play golf until he got older and his knees went bad. Once he gets them replaced I am hopeful he can get back out on the course and knock a few balls around with my eldest nephew, who has inherited Dad’s fondness for the game. At any rate, even though I am physically unable to play I too love golf. Many people find it kind of boring on TV, but I have spent many a Sunday afternoon watching the entertaining final round of a tournament. There aren’t a lot of golf-centric movies, but a couple stand out amongst the crowd, including this 1996 Kevin Costner rom-com in which he simultaneously romances a shrink while also trying to qualify for the U.S. Open. He’s a failed professional golfer who now owns a rundown tin-cup-560driving range, lives in a camper, & drinks a lot. He’s kind of given up and just doesn’t give a damn. What motivates him to get his act together?? A woman of course. Don Johnson is great as a smooth talking pro golfer. I mean he’s no Shooter McGavin, but there’s got to be a bad guy, right?? And of course there is a faithful sidekick played by one half of Cheech & Chong. I believe it is Cheech. Anyway, like a few other flicks you’ve read about here the plot leans a lot more toward romantic comedy than sports, but there is an appropriate amount of golf action, including the requisite climactic showdown. This one has a fantastic twist. Anyone who’s ever watched Tin Cup knows what I mean and I won’t spoil it. The combination of Costner’s charm, a solid supporting cast, a well written script, & the always reliable sports movie playbook make this one that is likely to stand the test of time.

 

 

4 Hoosiers
Youngsters in The Manoverse may not be familiar with Gene Hackman, an award winning actor whose career peaked in the 70’s with classics like The French Connection, The Conversation, The Poseidon Adventure, & Superman. However, since then he has had a few notable crusty old man roles in films like Mississippi Burning, Unforgiven, The Firm, & Hoosiers…one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Here Hackman is a disgraced former college basketball coach who lost his job after hitting a player. He’s given a second chance by an old friend, a high school principal in Indiana. Most sports fans know how significant basketball is there, and the small town of Hickory is no exception. It’s the kind of dead end hoosierstown where folks toil too hard for too little and don’t have much hope for a better future. You know…like we’ve seen in a hundred other sports films. But my philosophy has always been that things become formulaic because the formula seems to work. The townsfolk don’t understand the new coach’s ways and aren’t shy about offering input. The team…like all great underdogs…is outmatched & undermanned, but somehow they pull together and win. The wildcard is an enigmatic lad named Jimmy Chitwood, a basketball prodigy who doesn’t know whether he wants to play basketball. Of course he does play, and he hits the last second winning shot that we all know is coming. Sports films are usually David vs. Goliath. David almost always wins. That is the accepted norm. What separates the wheat from the chaff is the quality of the writing and the performances. Hackman adds necessary gravitas to Hoosiers. The 1950’s setting is quaint & nostalgic. A solid supporting cast doesn’t hurt. It’s the total package, and that’s why we love it.

 

 

3 Bull Durham
Stop…collaborate & listen…Costner is back with another edition. Okay okay…I’m sorry…I just couldn’t resist. Anyway, as Forrest Gump might say, Kevin Costner and sports films go together like peas & carrots. Here he plays a veteran catcher who has spent most of his time in baseball meandering in the minor leagues. His career is nearing its conclusion, but instead of getting one last cup of coffee in The Show he’s sent down a couple of rungs on the ladder to the lowest of the minors to mentor a young pitcher whose arm is superb but isn’t mentally or emotionally mature enough to be taken seriously. Hilarity ensues. And yes, there is a bdrom-com element, with Susan Sarandon as a philosophical baseball groupie who tries to have her cake & eat it too with the older catcher & the younger pitcher. Bull Durham is a really fun look inside the world of minor league baseball, where the players aren’t making a bazillion dollars, there’s very little if any TV coverage, and there aren’t any perks like first class flights or luxury hotel rooms. The script is sharply written and Tim Robbins, in one of his earliest roles, is hysterical as the goofy pitcher. I had an opportunity a few years ago, while hanging out with my friend The Owl in Columbus, OH, to see a game involving the real Durham Bulls, and scenes from this movie kept flashing thru my mind. It holds up really well after nearly three decades, and I suspect that’ll continue to be the case for many years.

 

 

2 Field of Dreams
Back to back Costner!! The dude has three films in the Top 5. That’s amazing!! And it’s not like I’m a hardcore Kevin Costner fan. Outside of the plethora of sports films he’s starred in there are a lot of snoozers like Waterworld and The Postman. But sometimes one finds their niche and it’s just a perfect fit. I heaped about as much praise as possible on Field of Dreams a few years ago when I named it 3rd amongst my 100 Favorite Movies, and one of the things I said was that calling it a sports film is an “epic oversimplification”. It is much more than that. I even stated that Field of Dreams “is not about baseball”. I stand by that declaration. However, FieldofDreams_1636642cin hindsight I realize that most sports films aren’t only about whatever sport they feature. Sports themselves are about more than winning or losing a game. Due to my disability I was never able to play competitive sports which is unfortunate because I believe that many valuable lessons can be learned thru involvement with such activities. Teamwork. Responsibility. The importance of following rules. Dedication. Focus. Work ethic. Respect. Honor. Tact. Diplomacy. The value of fitness & physical well-being. Integrity. Leadership. How to win & lose graciously. Overcoming obstacles & failure. I could go on, but you get the point. Field of Dreams is about things even more metaphysical than any of that, and it uses the backdrop of baseball to perfection. It’s a beautiful story that I’ve probably watched a hundred times over the years, and I’ll probably watch it a hundred more. It just never gets old.

 

1 Rocky
This list could reach its epic conclusion no other way. There were sports films produced before 1976, but Rocky re-wrote the rulebook and redefined the genre. It is THE classic David vs. Goliath story. Everything else that has come afterward is a derivative variation on the theme. But have you watched it recently?? Everyone remembers the big picture…the broad strokes. Characters like Rocky, Adrian, Mickey, & Apollo Creed. Rocky pounding on raw meat or running up the steps of a Philadelphia museum. That theme song!! Yet Rocky has been copied & parodied so much that people forget that it is a REALLY great movie. Stallone was a 29 year old struggling actor when he wrote the screenplay. Yes that’s right…Sylvester Stallone created Rocky!! He had to fight the suits to star in the film though. They wanted a big name like Burt Reynolds, James Caan, or Robert Redford to play the titular role. What would that rockyBhave been like?? Obviously we’ll never know, but, though now the masses couldn’t imagine anyone else as Rocky Balboa, the truth is that the script is so good that it likely would have worked anyway. Were there too many sequels made?? Probably, although I think the only one that was really terrible was Rocky V (the one with the late Tommy Morrison as a bitter former Balboa protégé). The rest were sufficiently entertaining popcorn cinema…they just lacked the heart & depth of the original. Rocky won the Academy Award for Best Picture, overcoming competition from Network, Taxi Driver, & All the President’s Men, and is a rare film that is beloved by both critics and normal people. Stallone became only the third person to ever be nominated for Best Actor & Best Original Screenplay in the same year. The other two were Charlie Chaplin & Orson Welles (since 1976 Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Billy Bob Thornton, Roberto Benigni, & Matt Damon have all had similar double nominations). As much as I love sports movies I must admit that they rarely have this kind of elite pedigree. Not even Raging Bull or Field of Dreams, though nominated, won Best Picture. That’s not what this is about though. Awards are merely icing on the cake and just mean that a bunch of other people agree with my assessment. Good for them. The world would be a better place if more people acknowledged my wisdom.

The Sammy Awards 2011 – Episode I: There Is No Hope

In producing the 2nd Annual Sammy Awards, I began to imagine the choices I would make if this were to become a televised awards show. I would want it to be taken a bit more seriously than MTV’s awards shows, but not be quite as demure as The Academy Awards. The telecast itself would certainly have a brisk pace, because anything over 2 hours loses the audience’s attention and reeks of self-important ostentatiousness. There would be no acceptance speeches because A) a few of these categories have far too many nominees to have in the audience, and B) there are some awards where the winner might not be especially proud of the victory. The host of the show would be actor Paul Giamatti. I believe him to be one of the more talented yet underrated actors in Hollywood, with just the right mix of gravitas, low-key sense of humor, and beleaguered animosity simmering just below the surface that I appreciate tremendously. We would be live on HBO, which would eliminate commercial interruptions, allow for abundant repeats, and create a sense of freedom that should minimize any kind of politically correct pomposity inherent in dealing with the broadcast networks. So without further ado, let us take an introspective look back at the year that was 2011 and reward the people & stories that made it another memorable ride.

To present our first award, The Manofesto is proud to introduce the cast of the classic 1985 teen dramedy The Breakfast Club: Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, & Molly Ringwald. And the nominees are:

Favorite Movie (That I’ve Seen)

Little Fockers

I loved the original, and the sequel benefited from the addition of Dustin Hoffman & Barbara Streisand to the cast. However, this third battle of wills between patriarch Robert Deniro and son-in-law Ben Stiller is lacking something. It feels like it was written & produced in a hurry and unfortunately not very well. It’s an example of going to the well one too many times and trying to extract one last drop out of something that is already empty.

Bad Teacher

I really thought this movie had potential, but outside of Cameron Diaz being smoking hot it has few redeeming qualities. Diaz stars as a teacher who absolutely hates her job, but is forced to keep it after her wealthy fiancée dumps her. It is never explained why such a shallow, mean spirited malcontent chose teaching as a profession in the first place, which is a question that can’t help but baffle any viewer with a working brain as we see this 30-something woman smoke pot at school, drink like a fish, and let her students watch movies while she sleeps. I am assuming it is supposed to be funny, but I did not find myself laughing. I kept looking for a reason to root for the character (who spends much of the movie scheming to raise enough money for an expensive boob job), but there just isn’t any. Justin Timberlake (who I’ve rapidly come to really like as an actor) is decent in a supporting role, and I really enjoyed newcomer Lucy Punch as Diaz’ goody-two-shoes rival teacher. The real crime is the underutilization of very talented actor Jason Segal (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), who is barely an afterthought.

No Strings Attached

This is the first of two nominees where the story revolves around two pals who decide to enter into a purely physical relationship without the messy complications of romance. Starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, it’s not a bad little film, but it ain’t Shakespeare either. I was sort of surprised at the rather dramatic turn it took toward the end, and Portman has potential as a comedic actress although it clearly is not her comfort zone.

The Muppets

One might think that a 30-something year old man going to see a movie with The Muppets is kind of odd or maybe even a bit sad. I am sure all the soccer moms in the theater with their crumb crunchers might have thought it strange as well, but thank goodness I was clean shaven and not wearing a Penn St. hoodie. At any rate, there aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe what a wonderful experience this film is. Is it corny?? Sure, but that’s okay. For those of us that grew up in the 70’s & 80’s when Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear, and the rest of the gang were a ubiquitous part of pop culture it’s like being a kid again. And the angle that is taken…acknowledging that The Muppets are forgotten relics and that the world prefers edgier entertainment nowadays…is absolutely brilliant. There are wonderful cameos, smartly written in jokes about movies, and of course goofy song & dance numbers. Jason Segal (he who did not receive enough screen time in Bad Teacher) is awesome, which is a surprise because I never figured him as a musical kind of guy. Amy Adams is her usual perky self and perfectly cast.

The Hangover 2

It’s not that it’s not a funny movie…it is. The drug dealing monkey elicits some chuckles, and Zack Galifinakis is still hilarious. It’s just that the folks in charge got really really lazy…or were just afraid to take any chances…and so what we get is almost a replica of the first film, only set in Bankok instead of Vegas. The original was unique, but the sequel is just predictable and safe.

Friends With Benefits

Two decades ago the Billy Crystal/Meg Ryan classic rom-com When Harry Met Sally asked the question “Can men & women ever just be friends??”. In 2011 this was the second film to turn that question on its ear and ponder the implications of two friends having casual sex without dating or falling in love. I enjoyed this take on the situation a lot more than the aforementioned No Strings Attached, which I think can be owed to the winning charm of the two leads, Justin Timberlake & That 70’s Show’s Mila Kunis. Sure we can all see the ending coming a mile away, but it’s a fun trip.

Bridesmaids

I presume it is supposed to be The Hangover for ladies, but it falls short of the mark. SNL’s Kristin Wiig stars as a down-on-her-luck baker whose best friend is getting married. Wiig is the maid of honor and an eclectic group of ladies round out the wedding party. We see this group of women gather for several events that I guess women get into when planning the festivities. Hilarity ensues, atleast theoretically. There are some funny moments in the film, but it is a mixed bag. Wiig’s character is such a pathetic and, at times, unlikeable loser that it’s really difficult to become invested in her journey. Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy steals the show as one of the bridesmaids and is the best thing about the movie.

Hall Pass

Two guys get a week long “vacation” from marriage from their frustrated wives. It’s a fresh twist on the relationship genre, and it sorta kinda works, doing so in a way one does not see coming. The two guys…Owen Wilson & SNL’s Jason Sudeikis…are okay, and the wives…Christina Applegate and The Office’s Jenna Fischer…are quite fetching. The funny twist is that the men, when given this tremendous opportunity that many middle aged dudes would kill for, totally whiff and realize just what complete losers they are, while the ladies are the ones who find out they still got it even if they are unsure they want to use it. This is a less funny, less cool version of Old School, but it isn’t a bad way to spend an evening. I could have done without that idiotic shrew Joy Behar besmirching the screen, but I got over it.

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

The Muppets. Honestly, toward the end when Kermit breaks out into Rainbow Connection I became so swelled with happiness & emotion that if I could have jumped out of my wheelchair and given a standing ovation I swear to God I would have (obviously that did not happen cause if it did you might have read about it in your local newspaper). I sincerely hope more Muppet movies are made and that a whole new generation grows to love them as much as their parents did. 2011 was kind of a down year for movies in my humble opinion, with the vast majority of films being crap that I had no interest in seeing and several of the ones I did see being somewhat disappointing, but The Muppets was a fine way to end the year.

There’s always time for a little comic relief, and to provide that please welcome America’s foremost conservative Christian comedian Brad Stine.

Regrettably Vice President Joe Biden had to decline our invitation to participate, but to present the next award we found a “man” who is certainly a clown and apparently knows a lot about ass. Please give a tepid welcome to soon-to-be former (thank God) U.S. Congressman Barney Frank. And the nominees are:

Assclown of the Year

Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen has had what most would call an above average acting career, starring in a handful of decent movies like Red Dawn, Platoon, Major League, & Wall Street, as well as two pretty good TV shows: Spin City & Two and a Half Men. But he’s also long had a reputation as a party animal, and that reached a crescendo in 2011. Sheen apparently lost his damn mind back in the first quarter of the year, becoming a media sensation after doing a few interviews and posting some YouTube videos in which he appeared to be batshit crazy. He told the masses that he was “tired of pretending like my life isn’t perfect” and said that he was indeed using a drug called Charlie Sheen. That drug, according to Sheen, is made of “tiger blood’ and “Adonis DNA”. Whether it was all an act or Charlie is genuinely nuts, eventually his behavior got him canned from his sitcom, after which he went on a nationwide tour doing a one man show called Violent Torpedo of Truth. You can’t make this stuff up.

Rep. Anthony Weiner

The ironically named & very married Weiner…a 46 year old, 7 term U.S. Congressman…not only made the absolutely idiotic mistake of putting a picture of his junk on Twitter, but he then gave a very weak denial in which he acted like he couldn’t recognize his own penis. He was only able to run from his own stupidity for about a month before being forced to resign. Where have you gone John Adams??

Terrelle Pryor

Back when Pryor was a highly recruited high school QB he was being courted by my WV Mountaineers. That all ended when then head coach Rich Fraudriguez bolted for Michigan, and I opined at the time that the Mountaineers had dodged a bullet. I was right. Pryor is very talented, but he is an egotistical prima donna who, to the surprise of no one who’d been paying attention, managed to do significant damage to the fabled Ohio State program. Sure there were other players who got suspended for trading memorabilia for tattoos (which is asinine), but the red hot spotlight shined down on Pryor, who should have shown better leadership qualities. Instead he seemed to scoff at the NCAA investigation, publicly driving a sports car that no uncompensated college football player could possibly afford. I’m not sure we will ever know how much money & other illegal benefits Pryor received as a Buckeye, and it’s a damn shame that his former coach Jim Tressel’s career is effectively over and the team will be suffering under NCAA sanctions for a few years, all while this ghetto thug is making quite the comfortable living in the NFL.

Harold Camping

It was the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine. On May 21, 2011 the California based (well there you go…that explains it) “Christian” radio broadcaster predicted that Jesus would return to begin The Rapture, which would then culminate in the end of the end on October 21st. Needless to say neither event occurred. This wasn’t Camping’s first rodeo, as he had also predicted The Apocalypse in 1988 & 1994. I guess if one keeps blindly throwing darts long enough eventually…maybe…you might hit something. Any genuine Christian…and even the ones who have successfully faked it long enough that all the fundraisers & public displays of phony religiosity make them SEEM authentic…knows that The Bible, in the book of Matthew, says that we “know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh”. But I guess Camping has shucked that pesky Bible stuff in favor of numerology. How’s that workin’ out for ya there Harry??

MLB Umpire Jerry Meals

My Pittsburgh Pirates, after nearly two decades of frustrating futility, finally seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough in 2011. They were actually in first place after 100 games near the end of July. On July 26 the Pirates battled the Atlanta Braves into the wee hours of the next morning. After 19 innings of all even baseball home plate umpire Meals made what might be the single worst call in the history of baseball, declaring Braves runner Julio Lugo safe at home plate when he was clearly out by a country mile. The Pirates completely crumbled following the crushing loss, going 19-42 the remainder of the season and finishing in 4th place, 24 games out & 18 games below .500. Both Meals & MLB later acknowledged the colossal mistake, but a lot of good that did.

Kim Kardashian

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I consider marriage sacred. I realize I am in the minority nowadays since the divorce rate in America is somewhere around 50%, but I’m betting that the overwhelming majority of marriages still last a lot longer than 72 days, which is how long this mental giant’s union with NBA bench warmer Kris Humphries lasted before she decided she was bored. Kardashian was already worthy of a nomination simply by being herself…an obnoxious, out of touch, airheaded attention whore who is only famous because she made a sex tape. However, having her head stuck so far up her own ample posterior that she decided to give up on marriage less than 3 months in makes her even more worthy of consideration.

Questlove

First of all, what a stupid nickname. His actual name is Ahmir Khalib Thompson, which figures. He is the drummer for The Roots, a band so successful & popular that they had to resort to taking a gig as the house band on a late night TV show. Back in November this idiot had the band play a song called Lyin’ Ass Bitch (how classy) as Presidential candidate and U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann made her way onto the stage of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He even tweeted beforehand about what he was going to do. Now if a conservative entertainer would have perpetuated such a sophomoric gag on a liberal politician, the outcry would have been loud & forceful. But since Bachmann is a Republican Mr. Thompson faced no penalty and was only halfheartedly reprimanded by his network bosses. The situation, as well as Rep. Bachmann, was treated like one big joke.

Penn St. Fans

As late as Halloween no one would have ever predicted that legendary Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno would be fired before the end of the season. However, less than two weeks later he was ousted, buried under a mountain of criticism that he had not done enough after being told that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was molesting young boys in the locker room showers. Thousands of the school’s students (and I suspect a considerable number of adult non-students) took to the streets in protest, acting as if Paterno had been canned because he’d lost a bowl game or not won a conference championship. It was completely backassward (as my Grandma might have said) and a total failure to recognize the seriousness of the charges, not to mention utterly disrespectful to the alleged victims of the abuse. I am a passionate sports fan and can appreciate such fervor, but there are things that are far & away more significant than sports, a fact the folks in Happy Valley, PA don’t seem to grasp.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Commandant Fidel Goodell isn’t fooling me. He has consistently abused the power of his position by handing out arbitrary fines & suspensions. It’s all under the guise of “player safety”, which has caused Goodell to crack down on “helmet to helmet” and other bone crushing hits that not that long ago were highlight reel fodder. I realize that modern medical advancements and research have revealed alarming information about concussions & their long term effects. No one wants to see players suffer brain damage or any other calamity. But neither do fans want to see the game we love watered down & wussified to the point that it is unrecognizable. At best Goodell and his minions need to develop some structure & consistency in the rules and the way players are disciplined.

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

Charlie Sheen. Duh. Still WINNING!!

This seems like the appropriate place to take a break.

Please join us tomorrow for Part II of the 2011 Sammy Awards!!

Superfluous 7…..Celebrity Death Watch 2012

The recent tragic death of alleged singer Amy Winehouse elicited a variety of reactions from the masses, from sadness & regret to complete unsurprise and “I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner.” Here at The Manofesto, where we are only interested in quality music, it served to get the creative juices flowing as I began to wonder “Who’s next??” Now these things tend to happen in threes, so another celebrity or two may kick it before this is even published, but I thought it would be interesting in a macabre, dark comedy, Stanley Kubrick/Tim Burton sort of way to ponder the possibilities. I do want to make a few things clear. First of all, I am in no way wishing harm on these individuals. I am not like that, no matter what kind of smart ass remarks I may make. I was recently accused of being like a member of the Westboro Baptist Church and it royally pissed me off because anyone who has known me for any length of time (like 20 years for example) should know better. Secondly, even though I am calling this piece Death Watch 2012 it goes into effect now, just past the halfway point of 2011. Also, as always…please…no wagering. I don’t condone gambling and do not claim to have any particular aptitude for the prognostication arts. And finally, there are two names you will not be seeing on this list: Lindsay Lohan & Charlie Sheen. That’s like predicting water is wet or a Michael Bay movie will have explosions & special effects. I can do better. So with tongue planted firmly in cheek (kind of), I give you…..

 

 

from the home office in Tombstone, AZ (where it is currently a balmy 153 degrees)…..

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Celebrity Death Watch 2012:

 

 

7       Jerry Lewis

Just about one month from now Jerry will host his final Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, something to which he has dedicated his life for over a half century. Not to mention that the traditional 20+ hour telethon is being cut down to a one night, 6 hour prime time special, which pretty much removes any sort of singularity it had anyway. My Dad’s name is Jerry and I am “physically challenged”, nee crippled if you prefer, so I always flippantly have said I really am one of Jerry’s Kids. Jerry (Lewis…not my Dad) is 85 years old and has battled a variety of health problems such as multiple heart attacks, diabetes, and prostate cancer so I am not exactly going out on a limb here.

 

6       Abe Vigoda

For those that may be confused at this moment, yes, Abe Vigoda, at present, is still alive. He has only looked like a corpse since the 80’s. We know & love him from his roles in The Godfather as caporegime Sal Tessio and in the 70’s cop sitcom Barney Miller as Sgt. Fish. In recent years he has made a variety of appearances on talk shows & sitcoms and in commercials. I always find it remarkable when a 90 year old person does anything more than make it out of bed in the morning, so kudos to ol’ Abe.

 

5       Eddie Van Halen

My first roll of the dice. I am a huge Van Halen fan. It doesn’t matter to me who the lead singer is…David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, even Gary Cherone wasn’t that bad. Van Halen is real rock n’ roll. Alex Van Halen may be the best drummer in the history of music, and it is my contention…with all due respect to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, and a host of other legendary axe men…that Eddie Van Halen is the best guitarist that has ever lived. However, it is undeniable that Ed is also a wee bit unstable. He has feuded with both Roth and Hagar, and a few years ago threw long time bassist Michael Anthony out of the band. Most of EVH’s issues have been due to rampant drug & alcohol abuse, and he has been in & out of rehab even more than Lindsay Lohan. In addition he has had a host of physical issues, had a hip replaced, and battled cancer. Eddie may only be 60 years old, but he has packed about 95 years into those six decades. Supposedly the band (with Roth as the front man) is working on a new album, which I hope is true. I want Van Halen to continue kicking ass until I’m in my 60’s…but I wouldn’t put any money on that happening.

 

4       Jimmy Carter

Well…I had to throw a former President in here, and there are only 4 to choose from. The smarter pick may be George H.W. Bush, but I’m going with the peanut farmer from Georgia. He is nearly 87 years old and probably a skosh too active for a man that age, flying to all corners of the globe as an emissary for the United States to bring peace, love, and stagflation to the world. Come on Jimmy…let Bill Clinton do that stuff now. There are still nations in which he hasn’t received extramarital oral sex yet.

 

3       Some Random Rapper

I don’t like rap. I don’t consider it music. I probably couldn’t name more than 3 rappers if my life depended on it. But it certainly isn’t beyond the realm of comprehension to assume that some quasi-famous rapper will bite it in a drive-by in the coming months, boosting his album sales beyond anything they were when the dude was alive.

 

2       Betty White

Boooo. Okay okay…I know I’m going to get pummeled for this one. But think about it for a minute. Who has enjoyed a bigger career renaissance over the last few years?? While the other Golden Girls…Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, & Estelle Getty…have all died in relative obscurity in recent years Betty White would be going out on top.

 

1      Tara Reid

Everyone talks about Lohan, Paris Hilton, and the Kardashian twits, but the biggest, skankiest party gal in Hollywood may be Tara Reid. “Who??” you ask. Reid is an actress who has been riding the tasty wave of fame for 12 years after the only role anyone remembers her for, one of the horny high schoolers in American Pie. She was also once engaged to talk show tool Carson Daly but broke it off. That was a smart move because I am guessing that if she would have married Daly she wouldn’t be alive to be on this list, she would have offed herself years ago. At any rate, Reid kind of flies under the radar because she isn’t quite as flamboyant in her partying as some of young Hollywood, but she is known to still be out & about and on the scene. I am 38 years old and I can say with certainty that if I were still out doing the things I did when I was 19 I would either be dead or atleast feel like I was, so if 35 year old Tara Reid is trying to keep up with her 20-something counterparts it could be a huge mistake.

 

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…..26-30

We’re moving full steam ahead toward the Top 25, but we’ve got one more stop to make before we get there. Going forward there will be atleast one Christmas film in each group we examine. Today’s entry also looks at a couple modern classics that were made in my childhood but appreciated by me as an adult, yet another George Clooney flick (even though I really do TRY to dislike him), and one more ode to the 80’s from the late John Hughes. Enjoy…and remember that you can find the previous 70 films broken into 14 entries in the archives.


 

 

30 Rocky

The only underdog more famous that Rocky Balboa is The Holy Bible’s David, who felled the giant Goliath. 1976’s Rocky is synonymous with the unknown who takes advantage of his one shot at success and shocks the world (even though he actually doesn’t win until the sequel). In the 34 years that have passed since the film’s debut, it’s thematic arc has been used countless times, some successfully (Rudy, Remember the Titans, Hoosiers, Seabiscuit, The Karate Kid, Dodgeball), some not so much (The Replacements, Summer Catch, any Rocky sequel past 2). Face it…the formula works if the writers, actors, and directors are halfway talented and put forth a little effort. By now though you know my mantra…it is nearly impossible to surpass the original. What is funny about Rocky is that it is remembered as a sports film and for its boxing sequences and some scenes of the titular character in training, when in reality it is a well written film with tremendous performances and really good development of the main players. Burgess Meredith and Talia Shire are probably not given enough credit for their roles, but their support is the backbone of the movie’s success. Sly Stallone actually wrote the script, but was an unknown commodity at the time and had to beg the powers-that-be to let him star in his own story then ended up giving the best performance of his career. Rocky went on to be nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning 3 of them including Best Picture. Not bad for a movie that was made on a shoestring budget and shot in under a month. I am sure that films will continue to “borrow” the formula in perpetuity, but I am also confident that we will still be talking about Rocky in another 34 years.

 

29 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The movies need more people like John Hughes. While so many teen flicks these days seem to be all about sex and gross out jokes (American Pie, Road Trip, Superbad), Hughes wrote and/or directed a whole slew of teen comedies in the 80’s that had an element of pathos and just enough of a message to make them cool but not preachy. Ferris Bueller, on its surface, is about a precocious high school senior skipping school. But look a little closer because I think it’s a lot more. Matthew Broderick stars as Ferris, the kind of loveable schemer it’s almost impossible not to like and nearly as difficult not to envy. He convinces his clueless folks that he is too sick to go to school and then proceeds to drag his gorgeous girlfriend and his morose best friend to accompany him on a day long adventure. The only people who seem to see through his BS are his caustic sister and the school principal, who seems quasi-maniacal in his efforts to bring down the teenager. Ferris is wise beyond his years. He understands that soon enough he and his friends will be in the “real world” and wants to take advantage of one last opportunity to be carefree and have some harmless fun. I suppose it is possible that the modern tradition of Senior Skip Day owes something to Ferris Bueller…but no one has ever done a Skip Day with quite the panache as Ferris. The film is Hughes’ ode to Chicago, as our trio of truants visit many of the city’s landmarks. They take in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, go to the top of The Sears Tower, eat at a fancy restaurant (where Ferris passes himself off as Abe Frohman: Sausage King of Chicago), visit The Art Institute, and quite memorably “crash” the annual Von Steuben Day Parade with Ferris hopping up on a float and belting out Danke Schoen and Twist & Shout. I am 37 years old and I have never had such a fun and interesting day in my life…in high school, college, or beyond. Alan Ruck, who now is best known for his supporting role in the television show Spin City, is hysterically sympathetic as Cameron, the best friend with Daddy issues. A pre-Dirty Dancing Jennifer Grey is outstanding as the jealous sister who is tired of seeing her brother get away with everything. I don’t know why Grey didn’t become a bigger star. She did Red Dawn, Ferris Bueller, and Dirty Dancing all within 2 years of one another and then dropped off the map…or atleast has never done anything else anyone gave a damn about. Charlie Sheen has a quick cameo. The always reliable Edie McClurg is funny as the school secretary. And who can forget economist Ben Stein’s droll, tedious call of “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…..”. There are so many iconic scenes and lines in Ferris Bueller that it has to rank as one of the most quotable films of the last 30 years. My affection is undoubtedly due in large part to being a child of the 80’s. I was 14 years old when this movie came out, so I embodied the target demographic. But I have seen Ferris Bueller many many times in the ensuing 24 years, and in my humble opinion it ages well, like a fine wine. It will still be relevant to high school kids for generations, and that isn’t a feat to which the majority of films in its particular genre can lay claim. Its relevance can be germane to adults too, if we pay attention. Look at Cameron, whose Dad loves his classic Ferrari more than his son. Or look at Ferris, who doesn’t take himself too seriously and advises us all that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That is some pretty sage advice from a 17 year old boy.

 

28 The Ref

I have warned you repeatedly that I LOVE Christmas movies. And while you have seen or will see many of the usual suspects that have shown up on our television screens every December for decades, here we have a criminally overlooked holiday treat. Somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my mind I vaguely recall seeing this for the first time in The Original Bachelor Palace back in my college days with a few good friends. It may have even been the same night we rented Trapped in Paradise. Or I could be totally off base. If my memory isn’t playing tricks on me it would partially explain my affection for The Ref. At any rate, whatever the particular circumstances may have been initially, I have seen this movie multiple times in the past 16 Christmas seasons. It is required holiday viewing in my household. Denis Leary…an excellent stand-up comedian who is now known primarily for his TV show Rescue Me…stars as a crook who, after a robbery has gone awry, is forced to hold a haughty Connecticut couple hostage in their home on Christmas Eve. The problem for Gus is that Lloyd and Caroline have some major issues. They are in marriage counseling because Caroline had an affair, Lloyd hates his life, and both blame each other for their son’s troubles. Now I know that doesn’t sound funny, but trust me…it is h-y-s-t-e-r-i-c-a-l. The bickering couple really tests Gus’ patience. Things get more complicated when Lloyd’s even snootier family shows up for dinner and then the conniving son comes home from military school. Hilarity ensues. Kevin Spacey makes almost anything instantly better…he’s such a great actor. The Ref isn’t as easy to find on your television as many of the better known holiday classics, but Comedy Central usually shows it once or twice. It is well worth the rental if you cannot find it on the ol’ tube though. For anyone who has never seen it, I assure you…you won’t be disappointed.

 

27 Ocean’s Eleven

Even though I am a huge fan of The Rat Pack and their music, their movies aren’t exactly high art. So I am not referring here to the 1960 original but rather to the 2001 remake starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. It’s bad enough that Clooney movies keep showing up on this list, but now I am adding Pitt and Damon?? What in the world is wrong with me?? I suppose there’s no accounting for taste. I am just going to blame it on my love for anything and everything Vegas. Anyway, Ocean’s Eleven is the textbook definition of popcorn cinema, and I =guess that’s not a bad thing. Danny Ocean is fresh out of prison and has his sights set on robbing not one…not two…but three Las Vegas casinos all at the same time. He recruits his best wingman and they assemble a team to pull off the job. We eventually learn that Ocean’s real beef is with the owner of said casinos, played by the always superb Andy Garcia. The evil casino owner has hooked up with Ocean’s ex-wife, played by Julia Roberts. The crew that is to pull off this massive heist is a ragtag group of con men, played by guys like Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Elliot Gould, and Carl Reiner. They all have their key roles to play in the masterful plan, and for the most part the plan goes off without too much consternation. As a viewer I advise against trying to figure out details or attempting to apply logic. There are some holes…like: they are supposed to be robbing three casinos, but really they’re just robbing one vault that holds the money from three casinos. But it’s all good. The cast is very Rat Pack-esque in their breezy delivery and cool demeanor. There’s a little action, a little romance, a little comedy. The performances are very good. Don Cheadle is an underrated actor, and it is nice to see old timers Gould and Reiner in a big time flick with the younger, hipper It Guys. Two sequels were made, and as per usual the second was a subpar money grab while the third rebounded nicely with the addition of Al Pacino to the cast. I am tempted to point out that it is another case where the original is the best, but technically it is a remake of an original.

 

 

26 The Blues Brothers

When one is in college and joins a fraternity a few songs and a few films kind of come along with the package. I am not sure why this is so, but it is what it is. I am sure things have changed in the 15 years since I last graced a college campus…or a fraternity house… with my presence, but in my heyday The Blues Brothers was one of those beloved films. It is also one of the two movies (the other being Animal House) that made Saturday Night Live alumnus John Belushi a superstar. I have often wondered what other treasures Belushi would have offered us and how his career would have evolved had he not tragically left us far too soon. He stars as Jake, who along with his brother Elwood (played by Dan Aykroyd) formed a successful blues act before he landed in prison for armed robbery. Upon Jake’s release, the duo gather up the rest of their old band so they can do a benefit show and help the orphanage where Jake and Elwood grew up pay its property taxes. Along the way they manage to tick off the police, a group of neo-Nazis, Jake’s ex-fiancée, and a country band called The Good Ol’ Boys, all of whom chase The Blues Brothers and cause mayhem and destruction. Our heroes make the gig, pay off the taxes for the orphanage, and are ultimately sent to prison for all the havoc they have wreaked. The soundtrack is spectacular if you like blues music, and I do. There are alot of fun cameos…Ray Charles, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, John Candy, Chaka Khan, John Lee Hooker, Paul Reubens/Pee Wee Herman, Joe Walsh, and Steven Spielberg, among others. The Blues Brothers is just a lot of mindless fun, and it continues to be a unique classic thirty years later.