80’s Movie Mania: Gnarly Round 3

So let’s clean up some leftovers from the last installment, the Tubular Division’s Round 3. I posted a couple of polls, but unfortunately I am still not getting any response. Not poor response. Not underwhelming response. Not disappointing response. ZERO response. HEEEELLLLOOOO…Manoverse…are you there?!?!?!?? I allegedly have a couple hundred followers. Does ANYONE read this stuff?? I would really like to know. At any rate, I am now forced to make a couple of extremely tough decisions. I am giving When Harry Met Sally the victory over WarGames. It’s a purely personal preference for one of the preeminent rom-coms of all time, with a charming cast and a fun story. Also, I am awarding Dirty Dancing the win over Lethal Weapon. Dirty Dancing is one of the time capsule movies of the 1980’s. Meanwhile, Lethal Weapon had a few sequels that maybe didn’t match the originality of the first film, but they certainly came very close in quality. This is a franchise that we liked better with each passing film because of the comfort level we had with the characters. I’m definitely splitting hairs, but unfortunately that is the task being forced upon me. Anyway, let’s move on to the Gnarly Division. Enjoy.

 

 

 

Gnarly 3

 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan    vs.     The Outsiders

khanAllow me to reiterate my philosophy about something. You are not seeing trilogies in this competition. Specifically you aren’t seeing the Back to the Future trilogy oroutsiders the Star Wars trilogy. In both cases two of three films were produced in the 1980’s. However, it is my belief that trilogies need to be looked at as one unique entity. Sure one can break each film down individually, but essentially the whole is greater than each single entry. Conversely, when a film series evolves into four or more parts then all bets are off. There were six Star Trek films made with the original cast from 1979-1991. Of the four films made in the 1980’s two appear in this competition. 1982’s Wrath of Khan is considered by most Trekkies to be the best of the bunch. It is based on a 1967 episode of TOS called Space Seed, in which Khan Noonien Singh, a product of 20th century genetic engineering that is discovered after 200 years in suspended animation and  banished to a faraway planet after trying to hijack the Enterprise. In this film Khan escapes from that planet and is hellbent on revenge. He also seeks to gain control of a terraforming device capable of creating new planets. Ricardo Montalban might be most remembered for his role as Mr. Roarke on ABC’s Fantasy Island, and for Chrysler advertisements in which he trumpeted the vehicle’s “soft, rich Corinthian leather”, but I think it is safe to say that the role that best showcased his acting chops is than of Khan. The Outsiders defeated My Tutor and Weird Science to make it to this point. Everybody knows about the near legendary cast… Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, & Ralph Macchio. However, did you know that other actors that were considered include Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Timothy Hutton, Mickey Rourke, Brooke Shields, Adam Baldwin, Heather Langencamp (Nightmare on Elm St.), & Glen Scarpelli (One Day at a Time)?? The casting director certainly had an embarrassment of riches from which to choose.

 

The Verdict:      Wrath of Khan. It’s all about repeat viewings. Plus, I wonder if The Outsiders gets a lot of love simply because of the stellar cast and what they went on to become?? Is the quality of the film obscured or falsely elevated by their star power?? At any rate, this is an easy decision.

 

 

 

 

Footloose            vs.     Say Anything…

footlooseFootloose received byes thru the first two rounds. Released in 1984, it tells the story of a Chicago teenager who moves with his mother to a backwards SAOklahoma town. That alone would be a decent setup, but then add in the fact that the town has banned any kind of rock music & all dancing because of an auto accident that killed the local preacher’s son. That minister (brilliantly played by John Lithgow) is kind of the unofficial ruler of the town for some strange reason. Complicating matters even further…the troublemaking city boy falls for the preacher’s daughter. Footloose made Kevin Bacon a star, a wave he’s still riding three decades later. It was also the big break for Sarah Jessica Parker. And personally I like the character played by Christopher Penn, who is the younger brother of the infamous Sean Penn. Chris Penn died way too soon at the age of 40 in 2006, but his performances in Footloose and All the Right Moves live on in our memories. Say Anything… defeated 48 Hrs. in Round 2 after receiving a first round bye. It was the 52nd ranked film at the 1989 box office, behind…well…pretty much everything, although it did better than notables like Prancer, The Fabulous Baker Boys, & My Left Foot…the film that earned Daniel Day-Lewis his first Academy Award. Say Anything…was Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut, and it has a cool soundtrack with songs by Cheap Trick, Living Colour, Joe Satriani, Depeche Mode, and of course Peter Gabriel, whose song In Your Eyes is inextricably linked to the film. It has a stunning 98% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and upon its release Roger Ebert called it one of the best films of the year.

 

The Verdict:      Footloose. It saddens me because Say Anything… deserves a better fate, but it just ran into heavyweight competition.

 

 

 

 

Top Gun    vs.     Airplane!

tgTop Gun shot down Crocodile Dundee in Round 2 after receiving a first round bye. It was the #1 box office draw in 1986, making nearly $177 million. It airplanehas a 55% Rotten rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but an 83% Fresh rating from the moviegoing public…quite a disparity. Our old pal Roger Ebert loved the special effects and all the scenes in airplanes, but had nothing good to say about the rest of the story. I think this is one of those classic popcorn flicks, meant to thrill the audience with smoke & mirrors, convincing us to overlook a thin & unconvincing plot. Most of the time I hate that sort of thing, but on rare occasions it works. Airplane! received a first round bye then took out Beetlejuice in Round 2. It was the fourth highest grossing film of 1980, bested only by The Empire Strikes Back, 9 to 5, & Stir Crazy, but beating out the likes of The Blues Brothers, The Shining, Urban Cowboy, Caddyshack, Mad Max, Raging Bull, & Honeysuckle Rose. That’s quite impressive. Airplane! has a 97% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has ranked as the best comedy of all-time in multiple lists & polls.

 

The Verdict:      I’m going to give The Manoverse advanced warning. If you have a strong opinion about either of these films please express it. Make this choice for me, because if it is left in my hands people are going to be unhappy one way or another.

 

 

 

 

Uncle Buck                   vs.     Good Morning Vietnam

buckAfter receiving a first round bye Uncle Buck defeated The Last Starfighter in Round 2. It ranked 18th at the box office in 1989, behind inferior sequels gmvlike Ghostbusters 2 and Lethal Weapon 2, but ahead of worthy competition like Field of Dreams, Do the Right Thing, & Major League. As mentioned previously the film spawned a TV show in 1990 but it didn’t last long. Now they’re trying it again in 2016, trying to appeal more to “urban” viewers. I’m not a big fan of taking a perfectly good concept and making it black, gay, or female just to appease the PC Police, and I’m guessing this latest attempt will fail miserably.  Good Morning Vietnam beat out Biloxi Blues in Round 2 after receiving a first round bye. Director Barry Levinson had already had much Hollywood success by 1987, writing the screenplay for Tootsie and directing Diner, The Natural, & Young Sherlock Holmes. He has since gone on to win the best Director Oscar for Rain Man and helm notable films like Bugsy & Wag the Dog, as well as produce stuff like Donnie Brasco & The Perfect Storm. Although Good Morning Vietnam is said to be based on the life of real life DJ Adrian Cronauer, he has stated that it is really only about “45% accurate”. The screenplay was changed significantly to highlight the comedic talents of Robin Williams, who did a lot of improvisation.

 

The Verdict:      Uncle Buck. What’s that phrase I keep using?? That’s right…repeat viewings. I love Robin Williams, but if I am sitting at home chilling out and in the mood to watch a movie, I am quite sure I would choose Uncle Buck over Good Morning Vietnam 9 out of 10 times.

80’s Movie Mania: Gnarly Round 2

Welcome back to Round 2. Surprisingly enough I posted no polls for the Tubular Division so we have no loose ends to tie up.  That may change today…or it might not. So, without further ado…let’s roll.

 

 

 

 

Gnarly 2

 

Top Gun                                 vs.              Crocodile Dundee

topgun2Once upon a time, before Tom Cruise became a couch jumping whackjob, he was the epitome of cool. And hecroc2 just so happened to make some really good movies…something he hasn’t done with regularity for about 15 years. At any rate, in 1986’s Top Gun Cruise portrays a cocky pilot given the opportunity to train at the elite U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, more popularly known as Top Gun. Once there he annoys just about everybody with his arrogance, but his immense talent cannot be ignored. Oh, he also happens to get romantically involved with one of his instructors. The cast includes Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Kelly McGillis, Tom Skerrit, Meg Ryan, & Tim Robbins, and the soundtrack is amazing. With songs by Kenny Loggins, Cheap Trick, Berlin, Loverboy, Miami Sound Machine, Jerry Lee Lewis, & The Righteous Brothers it epitomizes the 1980’s while also giving a nod to the past. Crocodile Dundee did not receive a first round bye, narrowly defeating Purple Rain, a decision I feel slightly guilty about after the untimely death of rock legend Prince. Ah well…what’s done is done. Dundee was the 2nd highest grossing film of 1986…Top Gun was #1. What we must ponder is which film has aged better and I think the answer is obvious.

 

The Verdict:       Top Gun. As crazy as Cruise may be in real life credit must be given where it is due. While lots of movies get made every year the fact is that the vast majority of them are forgotten about five minutes after we leave the theater. And just like music’s “one hit wonders” there are a ton of actors who may get lucky enough to do one decent project and then they fall off the map. Tom Cruise has hung around for over thirty years and made atleast a dozen or more movies that people remember with varying degrees of affection. Top Gun is amongst his best work and holds a special place in the collective pop culture consciousness of a certain generation.

 

 

 

 

Uncle Buck                                      vs.              The Last Starfighter

buckJohn Candy passed in 1994 at the age of 43…far too soon. Fortunately he left behind a plethora of starfighter2unforgettable work, including 1989’s Uncle Buck. Candy portrays a slovenly bachelor who is called upon to babysit his brother’s children for a few days due to a family emergency. There are a handful of recognizable faces in Uncle Buck, including 8 year old MacCaulay Culkin in his first significant role, but make no mistake…Candy carries the film and does it well. Written, produced, & directed by the incomparable John Hughes, Uncle Buck spawned a short-lived TV show the following year, but without Candy it was doomed. The Last Starfighter upended Police Academy in Round 1 and is a criminally underrated sci-fi adventure. It ranked 31st at the box office in 1984, way behind more celebrated films like Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid, Footloose, Splash, & The Terminator. Admittedly its appeal is probably limited to sci-fi nerds like myself, but that’s okay. It is quirky & inspired and deserves more appreciation than it gets.

 

The Verdict:       Uncle Buck. John Hughes ruled the box office throughout the 1980’s, and John Candy was an underrated actor with a remarkable filmography. They made a great team and this is their best work together.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Morning Vietnam                  vs.              Biloxi Blues

gmvIt’s Vietnam vs. WWII! I have been effusive in my praise of the late Robin Williams and it makes me sad that we’ll never see any more new specimens of his genius. One of the first indicators of the immensity of his talent came in 1987’s Good Morning Vietnam. Williams portrays Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrien Cronauer in a film based on a true story. As with many of Williams’ films that would follow the subject matter is at times dramatic but always tinged with the star’s unique brand of humor. He received his first Academy Award nomination for the role. The cast also includes Forest Whitaker (who would win his own Oscar two decades later), Bruno Kirby, & JT Walsh, and a solid soundtrack has songs by The Beach Boys, Frankie Avalon, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, & The Supremes. Biloxi Blues edged out Parenthood in Round 1. It was the 23rd highest grossing film of 1988, ahead of competition like Mississippi Burning, The Accidental Tourist, & Mystic Pizza in what was a particularly strong year at the box office.

 

The Verdict:       Good Morning Vietnam. As much as I like the combo of Christopher Walken & Matthew Broderick I like Robin Williams 1000x more. It’s a different kind of war film that doesn’t completely ignore the violence & turmoil but doesn’t wallow in it either. This marks the moment Williams segued from legendary comedian to movie star.

 

 

 

 

Airplane!                                 vs.              Beetlejuice

airplane1980’s Airplane! received a first round bye and now enters the arena as the second oldest film in the beetlejuice2competition. It was inspired by a 1957 disaster flick called Zero Hour, but turns the idea on its ear by making it a hilarious parody. Four tough guy actors who had never before done comedy…Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, & Lloyd Bridges…were cast in lead roles. It’s the kind of thing Robert DeNiro has done with some regularity in the past decade. At any rate, the movie is loaded with sight gags, silly wordplay, & amusing cameos to the point that the plot sort of takes a back seat. Shakespeare it is not, but Airplane! does the yeoman’s work of making its audience laugh, which is sort of the point. Beetlejuice got the decision over Turner & Hooch in Round 1 even though it isn’t the kind of film normally in my wheelhouse. There is some buzz about a Beetlejuice sequel, especially since Michael Keaton is an even bigger star now than he was in 1988. Winona Ryder hasn’t had much career success in the past decade (or two) so she’s got to be praying hard that it happens.

 

The Verdict:       Airplane!. Say the words “parody film” and Airplane! almost immediately comes to mind. It set the standard for a genre that has seen its share of success with films like The Naked Gun, Spaceballs, the Austin Powers series, & Robin Hood: Men in Tights. They all surely owe a serious debt of gratitude to Airplane!.

 

 

 

Say Anything…                     vs.              48 Hrs.

sayanything1989’s Say Anything is in the mix after receiving a first round bye. It is a romantic dramedy that’s just a little…different…from the typical high school films that were so in vogue in the 80’s. John Cusack stars as Lloyd Dobler, a recent high school graduate with absolutely no plans for his future. He is hit by the thunderbolt at his graduation ceremony and becomes focused on pursuing Diane Court, the beautiful valedictorian who seemingly has it all together. Miraculously the quest works and the two begin dating during the summer before she intends to take off for a fellowship in England. There is a solid supporting cast, including Joan Cusack as Lloyd’s sister who is a single mother herself, the sublime John Mahoney (now better remembered as Frasier Crane’s Dad) as Diane’s overprotective and somewhat shady father, and smaller roles for folks we know better now than we did back then: Lili Taylor, Bebe Neuwirth, Eric Stoltz, Jeremy Piven, & Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson). At the end of the day though this is John Cusack’s show and he knocks it out of the park. 48 Hrs. narrowly beat out Teen 48-hrs_592x299Wolf in Round 1. The 80’s were very good to Eddie Murphy. He was THE star of Saturday Night Live before jumping into movies like Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, & Coming to America. Since then his career feels like it’s been two decades of mediocrity. One cannot help but wonder how the dominoes would have fallen if Richard Pryor had been cast as originally planned. A sequel…imaginatively titled Another 48 Hrs….was made in 1990, but no one remembers it even exists.

 

The Verdict:       Say Anything…. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s just something about this movie that has allowed it to remain in the 80’s pop culture consciousness. Maybe it is the performance of Cusack, who should have become every bit the superstar that contemporaries like Cruise, Swayze, & Michael J. Fox did but never quite got there. Perhaps it is the charm of Ione Skye, a beautiful lass that, much like fellow 80’s hotties Phoebe Cates, Mia Sara, & Jennifer Grey, shot to fame and then just as quickly fell off the map. Or possibly some credit should be given to the fact that every time we hear Peter Gabriel’s hit In Your Eyes we STILL picture Lloyd Dobler in a trenchcoat, boombox held high above his head, trying desperately to win back the love of his life. It’s probably all of the above.

 

 

 

 

The Outsiders                        vs.              Weird Science

outsiders2Both of these films overcame stiff competition in Round 1. Well okay, The Outsiders beat My Tutor, wswhich isn’t exactly stiff competition, while Weird Science got the nod over Raising Arizona, a film that a lot of people really enjoy. The Outsiders was only the 28th highest grossing film of 1983, behind two James Bond movies, something called Blue Thunder (????), and a bunch of bad sequels like Psycho II, Porky’s II: The Next Day, & Jaws 3D. However it did better than A Christmas Story, All the Right Moves, and re-issues of classics Rear Window & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hindsight is 20/20, and thankfully we have home video to help us catch up with good things we may have foolishly disregarded the first time. Weird Science did even worse in 1985, ranking only 38th in a very competitive year at the box office, although the fact that it made less money than forgettable schlock like Spies Like Us, White Knights, Jagged Edge, & Agnes of God should embarrass somebody…mainly the viewing public. I know which way I lean here, but I’m going to throw a bone to The Manoverse. You’re welcome.