Merry Movie Mayhem: Eggnog (Round 2)

Following up just a bit on the Christmas Movie Marathon I wrote about a few years ago, I must admit that such an idea doesn’t appeal to me as much now as it did back then. First of all, I work on the weekends these days, so I’d have to do my marathon during the week. That wouldn’t be a big deal I suppose, but there are other issues. I’ve felt for awhile now that my attention span has gotten shorter as I’ve gotten older. I’m just not sure that I could watch more than two movies back to back. A couple of years ago I did attend a special showing of the Back to the Future trilogy at the local movie theater, but that was a once in a lifetime event. Even in the comfort of my own home I think I’d need to do something else after a few hours. I’d probably be into a weeklong marathon where we’d watch a couple of movies each evening. That feels like it’d be more my speed nowadays. At any rate, if you need to catch up on second round action in the North Pole Division please take a few moments to do so. The rest of us are moving on to second round competition in the Eggnog Division. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Story

Quotes

Life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us. – Narrator

I triple dog-dare ya! – Schwartz

Some men are Baptists, others Catholics. My father was an Oldsmobile man. – Narrator

“Fra-GEE-leh!” It must be Italian! – The Old Man

I want an official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot-range model air rifle! – Ralphie Parker

We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice. – Narrator

 

Factoids

Jack Nicholson was given the script and was very much interested in the role of Mr. Parker, “The Old Man”. However, Clark didn’t learn of this until later and the studio didn’t want to pay Nicholson’s fee, which would have doubled the budget.

The model rifle as described by Ralphie in the film is a mistake. The weapon did not have a compass or “this thing which tells time” (As Ralphie refers to the sundial). Those features were a part of another BB gun model made around the same time. No one realized this mistake until it came time to produce the gun for the film and they were informed by the Daisy Rifle Company of the error. So the gun in the film is actually a custom made hybrid.

An elaborate fantasy sequence in which Ralphie joins Flash Gordon to fight Ming the Merciless was filmed but cut from the film.

Mrs. Parker’s memory is correct. The Lone Ranger’s nephew, Dan Reid, rode a horse named Victor. He was the son of the Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver.

When Scut Farkas first appears the Wolf music from Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf plays in the background. The name Farkas is derived from the Hungarian word for wolf.

 

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Serendipity

Quotes

You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”. – Dean

If we’re meant to meet again, we’ll meet again. It’s just not the right time now. – Sara

I just meant I had a really nice time. You know, maybe you should give me your phone number. Just in case. – Jonathan

 

Factoids

A gap of 12-15 years was originally intended for the time between the main characters’ first meeting & eventual reunion, and the characters were initially written to be in their early 20’s. Audiences felt that both Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack were not ‘fresh faced’ enough to pull off early twenties and that the time line had been too poorly established to tell that the characters met in the late 1980s. Eventually the film was edited and establishes a seven year gap between the initial meeting of the characters and their reunion.

 

The Verdict:       A Christmas Story. I threw Serendipity a bone in the first round, with good reason. However, at its heart it is simply a charming rom-com. There’s not a thing wrong with that, but it doesn’t come close to measuring up to the competition.

 

 

 

White Christmas

Quotes

“When what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.”…” When I figure out what that means I’ll come up with a crushing reply.” – Phil Davis & Bob Wallace

If there was one thing I learned in the army it was to be positive, especially when you don’t know what you’re talking about.  – General Tom Waverly

You shouldn’t mix fairy tales with liverwurst and buttermilk. – Betty Haynes

“How can a guy that ugly have the nerve to have sisters?”…”Very brave parents, I guess.” – Phil Davis & Bob Wallace

“We wouldn’t be any good as generals.”…”You weren’t any good as privates.” – Phil Davis & General Tom Waverly

 

Factoids

Ed Harrison was played by Johnny Grant, who did not have a long acting career but was the honorary Mayor of Hollywood, CA who officiated over unveilings of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame from the early 1960s until his death in 2008.

White Christmas was intended to reunite Crosby and Fred Astaire for their third Irving Berlin musical. Crosby and Astaire had previously co-starred in Holiday Inn & Blue Skies. Astaire declined the project and Donald O’Connor was signed to replace him. Just before shooting was to begin O’Connor had to drop out due to illness and was replaced by Danny Kaye.

Percy Helton, who plays the railroad conductor, also appears in another holiday movie, playing the drunk Santa Claus at the beginning of Miracle on 34th Street.

 

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A Christmas Carol (1999)

Quotes

Can you forgive a stupid old man who doesn’t want to be left out in the cold anymore? – Ebenezer Scrooge

Oh God, to hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing there is too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust! – The Ghost of Christmas Present

He’ll be about as merry as a graveyard on a wet Sunday. – Mrs. Cratchit

 

Factoids

This production includes the scenes of the lighthouse, coal miners, and sailors on a ship at sea in which the Spirit of Christmas Present shows Scrooge different groups of people celebrating Christmas singing Silent Night in particular sections of the United Kingdom after departing from Bob Cratchit’s house. Almost every other film adaptation omits them.

During the 1990s, Sir Patrick Stewart wrote and starred in a one-man play based on A Christmas Carol, performing it in various places in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the play, he performed over forty different characters.

The word “humbug” describes deceitful efforts to fool people by pretending to a fake loftiness or false sincerity. So when Scrooge calls Christmas a humbug, he is claiming that people only pretend to charity and kindness in a scoundrel effort to delude him, each other, and themselves. In Scrooge’s eyes, he is the one man honest enough to admit that no one really cares about anyone else, so for him, every wish for a Merry Christmas is one more deceitful effort to fool him and take advantage of him.

This is one of the very few adaptations to include a short scene when Scrooge is with the Spirit of Christmas Future: Bob Cratchit visiting Tiny Tim’s body lying in repose in an upper bedroom. In the book, this takes up only one paragraph.

 

The Verdict:       White Christmas. While Holiday Inn introduced the song it was this retooled rehash that really established its place in pop culture. And rather than spanning an entire year of holidays it is set solely around Christmas. I love Patrick Stewart, and his version of Carol is dandy…but the competition is just too good.

 

 

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Quotes

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way what I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents, and sending Christmas cards, and decorating the trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed. – Charlie Brown

You need involvement. You need to get involved in some real Christmas project. – Lucy Van Pelt

All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share. – Sally Brown

Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know that can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest. – Linus Van Pelt

 

Factoids

Kathy Steinberg, who did the voice of Sally Brown, had not yet learned to read at the time of production, so she had to be fed her lines, often a word or syllable at a time, which explains the rather choppy delivery.

Bill Melendez tried to talk Charles Schulz out of using Biblical references. Schulz reportedly won him over by saying, “If we don’t do it, who will?” As it turned out, Linus’ recitation was hailed as one of the most powerful moments in the highly acclaimed show.

The program is the second longest-running Christmas special on U.S. network television (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer premiered one year earlier).

Producer Lee Mendelson wrote the lyrics for Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time is Here music, and his son Glenn & his 6th grade class classmates sang the vocals.

When they first saw the show CBS executives were horrified at the idea of an animated Christmas special with such a blatant message, strongly objected to the fact that the show had no canned laughter, and greeted Vince Guaraldi’s jazz score as an intrusion that audiences would never accept. However, upon learning about the spectacular ratings the show earned on its initial broadcast and the glowing reviews the network promptly contracted the producers for more specials.

During his famed speech, Linus, who is well known to be dependent on his security blanket, actually lets go of it when he recites the words “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10).

 

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Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Quotes

Poor, misguided folks. They miss the whole point. Lot’s of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give: of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men. – SD Kluger

Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, unlawful, AND anyone found with a toy in his (or her) possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon. No kidding! – Burgermeister Meisterburger

Stop, in the name of the law! You brats are under arrest! – Burgermeister Meisterburger

 

Factoids

There were fewer commercials on network television when this special was made. When shown on Freeform the special is edited in order to accommodate more commercials. The songs If You Sit on My Lap Today and My World is Beginning Today are cut, as well as a scene deemed “traumatizing” for younger viewers when Burgermeister Meisterburger burns all of the toys belonging to the children of Sombertown.

A burgermeister is chairman of the executive council in many towns & cities in Germany.

 

The Verdict:       Charlie Brown. Amongst the plethora of Rankin-Bass Christmas specials Town tends to be undeservedly overlooked. When I was a kid it was shown on network television (ABC I believe), but for the past couple of decades it’s been relegated to ABC Family/Freeform. It has been edited over the years as well, which is a no-no in my book. Thank God for streaming. Conversely, A Charlie Brown Christmas still airs annually on ABC. Sometimes it is even shown twice, which is awesome. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels like the stature of this particular special has actually grown over the years, which is rare.

 

 

 

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Quotes

“More gravy than of grave?”…”What a terrible pun. Where do you get those jokes?”…”Leave comedy to the bears, Ebenezer.” – Robert & Jacob Marley

It’s all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I am sure that we shall never forget Tiny Tim, or this first parting that there was among us. – Bob Cratchit

Christmas is a very busy time for us, Mr. Cratchit. People preparing feasts, giving parties, spending the mortgage money on frivolities. One might say that December is the foreclosure season. Harvest time for the money-lenders. – Ebenezer Scrooge

 

Factoids

Before production began, Sir Michael Caine told Brian Henson, “I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role, and there are no puppets around me.” Henson replied “Yes, bang on!”.

Jacob and Robert Marley surrounded by wailing cash boxes is a nod to Bob Marley & The Wailers.

Fan, Scrooge’ s late sister, does not appear in this film. Instead she is replaced by Scrooge’ s old headmaster played by Sam the Eagle.

 

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Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Quotes

Kevin is so much stronger and braver than I am. And I know Kevin’s fine. I’m sure he is. But he’s still all by himself in a big city, and he doesn’t deserve that. He deserves to be at home, with his family, around his Christmas tree. – Kate McCallister

“What kind of idiots do you have working here?”…”The finest in New York.” – Kevin McCallister & Desk Clerk

If I had my own money, I’d go on my own vacation. Alone. Without any of you guys. And I’d have the most fun in my whole life. – Kevin McCallister

Your heart might still be broken, but it isn’t gone. If it was gone, you wouldn’t be so nice. – Kevin McCallister

“What store is going to make the most cash on Christmas Eve that nobody’s gonna think to rob?”…”Candy stores!”…”Nine year-olds rob candy stores, Marv.” – The Sticky Bandits

It’s Christmas Eve. Good deeds count extra tonight. Think of an important thing you can do for others, and go do it. Just follow the star in your heart. – Bird Lady

I’m 10 years old. TV is my life. – Kevin McCallister

 

Factoids

Entertainment Weekly had a doctor analyze what the actual effects of the injuries to Harry and Marv would be. Bricks to the face would have caused “at best, brain damage, at worst, death.”

Brat Pack alumnus Ally Sheedy has a cameo as an airport ticket agent.

The carpet was removed from The Plaza lobby for one scene so that Macaulay Culkin could slip and slide on the floor. Plaza owner Donald Trump liked it so much, he never had it refitted.

In the scene where Kevin visits various landmarks in New York City, the part where he visits the World Trade Center was removed from television broadcasts after 2001, out of respect for the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Kevin’s room service bill indicates that he ordered two chocolate cakes, six chocolate mousses with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream topped with M&Ms, chocolate sprinkles, cherries, nuts, marshmallows, caramel syrup, chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, whipped cream, and bananas, six custard flans, a pastry cart, eight strawberry tarts, and thirty-six chocolate-covered strawberries.

 

The Verdict:       The Muppets. I am tempted to point out the distinctiveness of The Muppets, while Lost in New York is a sequel that essentially tells the same story as the first Home Alone, just in a different setting. But to be fair, The Muppet Christmas Carol is another adaptation of a story that’s been told numerous times. So the question that must be asked is what does each movie bring to the table that its predecessor(s) do not?? In the case of Lost in New York the answer is…not much. I don’t mean that to sound harsh because it’s still an entertaining film, but it really does follow almost the same exact template as the original only in a different location. The Muppet Christmas Carol successfully pulls off the difficult trick of remaining more faithful to the source material than one might expect while still being fresh & imaginative.

Merry Movie Mayhem: Eggnog (Round 1)

Welcome back to the continuation of Round 1 of Merry Movie Mayhem. If you have not yet checked out the exciting competition from the Candy Cane Division please be sure to do so. Today we focus on the Eggnog Division and a wide-ranging group of entertaining holiday stories. I hope everyone in The Manoverse has gotten their Christmas shopping started and are keeping warm while the temperatures are frigid & the snow flies outside. Here in West Virginia it has been unseasonably pleasant with no sign of snow, although I’m sure that’ll change soon enough. Stay safe, have fun, & never forget the reason for the season, that being the celebration of the glorious birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Story

Released                               11/18/83

Starring                                  Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon

Director                                  Bob Clark (Black Christmas, Porky’s, Rhinestone, Turk 182)

Rotten Tomatoes                  89%

A young boy in 1940s Indiana desperately wants a BB gun for Christmas, but his mother, teacher, & even Santa Claus himself all seem to be deadset against the idea. When A Christmas Story hit theaters in 1983 it wasn’t that successful. As a matter of fact it was released before Thanksgiving and quietly disappeared before the holiday it is named for even rolled around on the calendar. Three decades later, thanks in large part to a 24 hour television marathon that has become a Christmas Eve/Day tradition, it is adored by almost everyone who likes Christmas movies. I have ran into a few detractors here & there, but the marathon has been going strong for about 20 years, which seems to indicate that any negativity is negligible.

 

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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Released                               11/14/64

Starring                                  Pia Zadora

Director                                  Nicholas Webster

Rotten Tomatoes                  25%

Regularly considered one of the worst Christmas films ever produced, SCCTM became a “so bad you’ve got to see it” classic after being featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the early 90’s, thirty years after its initial release. The plot involves Martians kidnapping Santa Claus so he can help their children loosen up & have some fun, which is exactly as terrible as it sounds. I suppose Christmas film aficionados ought to see it atleast once “just because”, but it really is an hour & a half of your life that could be better spent doing literally almost anything else.

 

The Verdict:       A Christmas Story. I’m tempted to say that this isn’t a fair matchup, but I can’t imagine that Martians would fare well against any competition, so it may as well go down against what has to be considered one of the heavy favorites.

 

 

 

 

White Christmas                                              

Released                               10/14/54

Starring                                  Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen

Director                                  Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood)

Rotten Tomatoes                  76%

 

Two WWII Army buddies become a successful song & dance act. They meet up with two sisters in the same business. The foursome heads to Vermont to put on a Christmas show at a cozy country inn that just happens to be owned & operated by the guys’ former commanding officer. Romance, hijinks, and…most importantly…plenty of singing & dancing ensue. White Christmas was conceived mostly to cash in on the success of the wonderful song, first introduced by Crosby twelve years earlier in the film Holiday Inn (which featured romance, hijinks, singing, & dancing at a cozy Connecticut country inn), and whether one views it as sort of corny or wistful reminiscence of a bygone era probably depends on your age and perception of what entertainment should be. I think it is really interesting that the same man directed both White Christmas and Casablanca.

 

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Serendipity

Released                               10/5/01

Starring                                  John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale

Director                                  Peter Chelsom (Hannah Montana: The Movie)

Rotten Tomatoes                  58%

I love rom-coms, and when you combine that genre with a Christmas film you theoretically should have a winner. The story involves two people who meet each other while Christmas shopping and hit it off, spending a delightful evening together in New York City. They don’t exchange contact information and leave it up to fate as to whether or not they’ll meet again. In a film like this the conclusion is inevitable, but the journey is what’s important, and Serendipity has its charms. John Cusack is an underrated actor that has had a sneaky good career, and this is his wheelhouse.

 

The Verdict:       White Christmas. Now THIS is an unfair matchup. Serendipity would win against many other films in this competition. It is a perfectly enjoyable movie with engaging actors in the two lead roles. But White Christmas…a rom-com before rom-coms were cool…is a masterpiece that is a must watch in my house every December, and on the random occasions when it’s on TV at other times of the year I’ll put aside anything I’m doing if at all possible and watch.

 

 

 

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas                          

Released                                           12/9/65

Starring                                              Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus Van Pelt

Director                                              Bill Melendez

Rotten Tomatoes                              92%

Charles Schulz began writing the Peanuts comic strip in 1950, providing over 2000 newspapers with more than 18,000 strips for a half century. Numerous animated Peanuts television specials were produced over the years, with A Charlie Brown Christmas being the first and probably the best. The story centers on Charlie Brown’s struggle to find the holiday spirit, with pals like Lucy, Snoopy, & his little sister Sally being absolutely no help at all. It is sweet, guileless Linus, in one of the more elegantly profound moments in TV history, who finally explains to Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas.

 

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Christmas with the Kranks

Released                                           11/24/04

Starring                                              Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis

Director                                              Joe Roth

Rotten Tomatoes                              5%

Tim Allen hit a home run…mostly…with his Santa Clause trilogy, so it is logical that he would return to the land of Christmas movies seeking further success. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work. Allen & former Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis star as Luther & Nora, a middle aged couple whose daughter has joined the Peace Corps. They decide to skip all the usual Christmas hubbub & expense and spend their money on a Caribbean cruise. Things don’t go as planned though, thanks in large part to a group of neighbors who are way too creepy & intrusive. The movie is based on a John Grisham novel called Skipping Christmas. I’ve never read it and doubt I ever will. It is difficult for me to wrap my head around a Grisham book being as bad as this movie.

 

The Verdict:       Charlie Brown. Peanuts is a heartwarming classic, while Kranks is a sardonic & sad commentary on what the masses deem entertaining these days.

 

 

 

The Muppet Christmas Carol    

Released                                           12/11/92

Starring                                              Kermit the Frog, Michael Caine, The Great Gonzo

Director                                              Brian Henson

Rotten Tomatoes                              69%

I tend to favor more traditional adaptations of the beloved Dickens novella, but there have been a couple of unique versions that really work. This is an unusual yet surprisingly authentic interpretation, with Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. Those of us of a certain age who grew up with The Muppets as an integral part of our childhood can’t help but get a kick out of it.

 

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Four Christmases

Released                                           11/26/08

Starring                                              Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon

Director                                              Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief)

Rotten Tomatoes                              25%

Countless movies & TV shows have embraced…even celebrated…the evolving definition of “family” due to contemporary issues like divorce and the…fluid…characterization of marriage. Hollywood likes to be hip & cool like that. Here we have Vince Vaughn & Reese Witherspoon as a couple whose failure to successfully skip town for Christmas means that they are forced to visit all four of their divorced parents for the holiday, with each part of these families being dysfunctional. The movie isn’t without its charms, mostly because of the appealing charisma of the two leads, but despite a star studded supporting cast (Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, Jon Favreau, Kristin Chenoweth) it just falls flat.

 

The Verdict:       The Muppets. I like Vince Vaughn, and I know family chaos is a favorite holiday film trope, but I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be laughing. The Muppet Christmas Carol puts a new spin on a classic that is fun for kids of all ages…even the grown up ones.

 

 

 

 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Released                                           11/20/92

Starring                                              Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern

Director                                              Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire, Night at the Museum)

Rotten Tomatoes                              24%

After the monster success of Home Alone a sequel was inevitable, and honestly the set up isn’t that far-fetched (or atleast it wasn’t in the pre-9/11 era). Lost in New York finds little Kevin…a bit older & wiser than in the original yet still a bemused child…all alone in The Big Apple while his family has jetted off to Florida. There he runs into his old adversaries The Sticky…nee Wet…Bandits, and must stop them from robbing a toy store on Christmas Eve. The subplots aren’t as engaging as in the first film, but the follow-up does actually work to a surprisingly entertaining degree.

 

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Free Birds

Released                                           11/1/13

Starring                                              Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, Woody Harrelson

Director                                              Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!)

Rotten Tomatoes                              17%

I’ve become a fan of animated feature films in recent years, although the quality is admittedly inconsistent. Free Birds is a time travel yarn about two turkeys going back to 1621 in an effort to prevent their brethren from ever becoming the traditional main course for Thanksgiving. It’s a fun story, but hasn’t had the…stickiness…of other holiday movies. I saw it once at the theater and have never watched it again.

 

The Verdict:       Lost in New York. It may not retain all the magic of its predecessor, but the second Home Alone film is more than adequate entertainment. Repeat viewings are a big part of what makes these holiday classics so special, and in the few years since its initial release Free Birds has shown no signs of becoming the kind of film we’ll still be watching in a decade or two or three.

 

 

 

 

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Released                                           12/14/70

Starring                                              Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney

Director                                              Rankin/Bass

Rotten Tomatoes                              81% (a)

1934 saw the release of a song that has been messing with the fragile psyches of young children ever since. Whether one considers telling kids that Santa “sees when you are sleeping & knows when you’re awake” a little creepy or an effective Jedi mind trick is a matter of personal opinion, but it’s a tune that has long since become an ingrained part of secular Christmas tradition. A few decades later Rankin-Bass borrowed the title for this charming origin story explaining how everyone’s favorite jolly old elf came to exist, including his battles with the surly Burgermeister Meisterburger and romance with schoolteacher Jessica, the future Mrs. Claus. Town might get a bit lost in the shuffle amidst the abundance of animated holiday specials, and its outdated “technology” certainly seems quaint nowadays, but they still show it on TV every single year, so that says a lot.

 

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 The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

Released                                           11/3/06

Starring                                              Tim Allen, Martin Short

Director                                              Michael Lembeck

Rotten Tomatoes                              15%

The third leg of the Santa Clause trilogy finds Scott Calvin, aka Santa, expecting a baby with Mrs. Claus, dealing with the in-laws, & battling Jack Frost for control of the North Pole. The cast is amiable & talented, but they just don’t have good material from the screenwriters. Escape Clause is a little too…manic…for my taste and isn’t nearly as good as its two predecessors.

 

The Verdict:       Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. Despite the ample talent of its cast and a premise that isn’t that terrible The Escape Clause tries to pack too much zaniness into one movie. Conversely, Town presents a low-key, entertaining, & delightfully plausible Santa Claus origin story.

 

 

 

A Christmas Carol (1999)                         

Released                                           12/5/99

Starring                                              Patrick Stewart

Director                                              David Jones

Rotten Tomatoes                              no score

It isn’t a feature film. It isn’t animated. It isn’t modernized. 1999’s made-for-TV presentation of A Christmas Carol is a straightforward, somber, mostly faithful telling of the tale…just as Dickens would have wanted. The attraction here is Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. Stewart had finished his run as Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation a few years earlier, and has mostly escaped being typecast in the years since. TNT still shows this version of Carol a few times each December, and I recommend giving it a whirl.

 

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Rise of the Guardians

Released                                           11/21/12

Starring                                              Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman

Director                                              Peter Ramsey

Rotten Tomatoes                              73%

What happens when a few of childhood’s most cherished characters team up to save the world?? Guardians presents Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, & The Sandman as a group of ass kicking superheroes who recruit Jack Frost to help them stop The Boogeyman from ruining childhood…or something like that. For those that are paying attention there is a bit of almost profound social commentary about childhood, dreams, fear, & feeling invisible, but it doesn’t feel preachy. Guardians hasn’t latched onto the pop culture consciousness in the years following its release, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching.

 

The Verdict:       A Christmas Carol. This is actually a tough decision. It’s not the best Carol adaptation, but it does remain faithful to the book and it does have Patrick Stewart. That’s enough for me.

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Released                                           12/8/74

Starring                                              Joel Grey, George Gobel

Director                                              Rankin/Bass

Rotten Tomatoes                              no score

A century & a half after the poem from which it borrows its title was written came this animated tale about an anthropomorphic mouse who ticks off Santa Claus by publishing a letter stating that the townspeople don’t believe in him anymore. An idea is hatched to placate ol’ Kris Kringle by having the clock in the town square play him a tune on Christmas Eve. Chaos ensues. The story has very little…if anything…to do with the beloved poem.

 

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Prancer

Released                                           11/17/89

Starring                                              Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda

Director                                              John D. Hancock (Bang the Drum Slowly)

Rotten Tomatoes                              67%

Anytime you can get Sam Elliott, Abe Vigoda, & Cloris Leachman in the same cast I’m intrigued. The story is about a little girl who befriends a reindeer that she believes is one of Santa’s famous flock. Drama ensues. Honestly, Prancer is a bit of a downer in comparison to other holiday entertainment. I feel like the story had possibilities but is dragged down by poor directing & cinematography.

 

The Verdict:       Serendipity. Wait…what?!??? What just happened?? Well, this is my concept and I make the rules, so I’m calling an audible and giving a wildcard victory to Serendipity. I can count on one hand the number of times in almost 30 years that I’ve watched Prancer. I just find it visually unappealing and tedious on a variety of levels. TTNBC is pleasant enough, but amongst all of the greatness that Rankin-Bass produced it just doesn’t measure up. It isn’t easy to find on television, and if I miss it I don’t really notice or care. You’re welcome John Cusack.

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.

80’s Movie Mania: Bodacious Round 1

So now we move forward with 80’s Movie Mania. I will post a few more polls along the way, but there will also be head-to-head matchups that are rather easily decided with no poll necessary. Each film has been put into one of four divisions: Tubular, Gnarly, Radical, & Bodacious. Let’s begin with the first round matchups in the Bodacious Division.

 

 

 

Bodacious – Round 1

Stand By Me   vs.   K-9

Stand By Me, in addition to being an excellent song originally recorded by Ben E King in the 60’s, is a 1986 coming-of-age film k9based on a Stephen King novella called The Body. The movie, in which four young lads go on a quest in search of the body of a presumed dead child, is notable for its superb cast, including Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack, & Casey Siemaszko, all of whom would go on to have varying levels of success in their careers. K-9 is a 1989 action comedy in which Jim Belushi plays a cop who gets partnered with a german shepherd to bring down a drug lord.

The Verdict: Stand By Me. It’s not that K-9 is a bad film…it’s just that Stand By Me is one of the preeminent movies of the 1980’s that has stood the test of time mostly due to a cast of youngsters that grew into fine performers and well regarded Hollywood personalities.

 
Weekend at Bernie’s   vs.   Bachelor Party
wabNot every movie has to be an Oscar contender chockful of gravitas & profound life lessons. Sometime it’s okay to just sit back bpand have stupid fun. Weekend at Bernie’s is a goofy 1989 comedy starring Andrew McCarthy & Jonathan Silverman as bean counters at an insurance company whose boss has been embezzling money. After the boss ends up being the victim of a mob hit the two minions must convince everyone he’s still alive to save their own skins. It’s all rather silly yet enjoyable, highlighted by the physical comedy of actor Terry Kiser as the ill-fated corpse. A sequel was made a few years later but the humor was kind of played out. 1984’s Bachelor Party is one of the earliest triumphs in the storied career of Tom Hanks. The title says it all, with the story revolving around a wild stag party and all the associated hijinks.

The Verdict: I’m going to let The Manoverse decide which film moves on. If I can’t get atleast 20-25 votes in the poll I will decide the victor.

 

 

Cocktail   vs.   Stripes
cocktailCocktail is a 1988 romantic dramedy starring Tom Cruise as a young Army veteran who bartends at night to put himself thru college. He has an entrepreneurial spirit and big plans, which get derailed when he falls in love with a rich girl while working at a beachside club in Jamaica. Cocktail is a bit more style than substance, but that’s okay because the style part is so much fun. Cruise has rarely been cooler or more charismatic. The supporting cast is solid and the soundtrack…featuring songs from The Beach Boys, Starship, The Georgia Satellites, & John Cougar Cougar Mellencamp Mellencamp…is really enjoyable. Stripes is a military comedy (a very popular theme in the 80’s) and was among a string of hits (along with Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, & Tootsie) that Billstripes Murray did in the early 80’s after his departure from Saturday Night Live. Stripes has an impressive cast full of folks that would go on to have respectable careers…names like John Candy, Judge Reinhold, Sean Young, PJ Soles, John Larroquette, Timothy Busfield, Bill Paxton, Joe Flaherty, & Dave Thomas. The film is directed by Ivan Reitman and stars Murray & Harold Ramis as guys who join the Army more or less because they have nothing else good going on in their lives. Hilarity ensues. It is undoubtedly one of Murray’s best efforts.

The Verdict: This one is up to you Manoverse. I assume votes will be sharply divided along generational lines so maybe we’ll see just how diverse this reading audience is. Please vote…don’t make me make this decision myself.

 
Eddie & The Cruisers   vs.   A Fish Called Wanda
ecThe one thing I cannot figure out about Eddie & The Cruisers is why a band that had its success in the early 60’s sounds so wandamuch like a Springsteen/Bob Seger/Bon Jovi hybrid. Probably because the film was produced in 1983. At any rate, the idea is fantastic, with a framing story of a VH1 style documentary being made about a band who had one big album two decades ago before the enigmatic lead singer died in a tragic car crash. We meet the surviving members of the band and see flashbacks about their rise & fall. The final scene isn’t necessarily shocking, as it is hinted at throughout the film, but it is a well done surprise that sets up a tepid sequel that would come six years later (about 5 years too late). A Fish Called Wanda is a critically acclaimed heist comedy starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Cline, & Monty Python’s John Cleese. The group of crooks continuously try to double-cross each other and gain sole possession of the loot, with things becoming even more complicated when a lawyer gets involved. Cline won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The Verdict: Eddie & The Cruisers. This would probably be considered a significant upset by many. Eddie & The Cruisers is viewed by most as a forgettable missed opportunity…a great story poorly executed. Conversely, A Fish Called Wanda has big stars and a strong pedigree. However, I believe that Eddie & The Cruisers does enough to be celebrated as the kind of solid popcorn entertainment that one would happily watch on a rainy Saturday afternoon whilst lazily keeping the couch warm. Meanwhile, A Fish Called Wanda contains a brand of Python-esque humor that has never been my particular cup o’ tea.

 
St. Elmo’s Fire   vs.   Romancing the Stone
sefSt. Elmo’s Fire finds members of the infamous Brat Pack (in this case Judd Nelson, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, rsAndrew McCarty, Rob Lowe, & Mare Winningham) as recent graduates of Georgetown University who must now put the halcyon days of collegiate frivolity behind them and face the harsh realities of the real world. Haven’t most of us been there in one form or another?? Romancing the Stone is a 1984 rom-com/adventure flick starring Michael Douglas as an exotic bird smuggler (how’s that for a profession??) who gets roped into aiding a romance novelist who has ventured to Columbia to rescue her kidnapped sister. There is hidden treasure, drug lords, rogue military, & romance…everything one could ask for in an adventure quest film. It was director Robert Zemeckis’ first big success as well as one of Douglas’ first big films.

The Verdict: St. Elmo’s Fire. The question I ask myself is this: If I am flipping thru the channels late at night and both of these films just happen to be on TV which one am I going to watch?? Romancing the Stone is a fun ride, but the cast & the soundtrack of St. Elmo’s Fire give it a photo finish victory.

 
Iron Eagle   vs.   An Officer & A Gentleman
ieHey…it’s Lou Gossett Jr. vs. Lou Gossett Jr.!! 1986’s Iron Eagle has Gossett as a retired Air Force pilot who is recruited by hisog young friend Doug to pull off a daring rescue mission. Doug’s father is an Air Force pilot who has been captured by Arabs and who will be executed in a few days because the U.S. government has decided not to intervene. It’s up to the retired colonel, Doug, & a group of Doug’s friends to rescue ol’ Dad. Gossett co-stars with Richard Gere & Debra Winger in the more celebrated 1982 film An Officer & A Gentleman. Gossett won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a hardass drill sergeant who comes into conflict with a troubled young grunt played by Gere, a man who is trying to balance military life and a budding romance with an employee at a local factory.

The Verdict: It is tempting to make this choice myself because I definitely have a preference. However, I am going to be fair and give The Manoverse an opportunity to weigh in.

 
Pretty in Pink   vs.   Broadcast News
PPKPretty in Pink is one of a plethora of Brat Pack films that permeate 80’s cinema. It is written by John Hughes and tells the newsstory of a gal from (literally) the wrong side of the tracks who falls for the rich guy at school while the requisite best friend has unrequited feelings for the girl. Formulaic?? Sure…but it works. Broadcast News has a love triangle as well, with Holly Hunter as a neurotic TV news producer who is attracted to a pretty boy reporter but whose best friend is a less attractive reporter with a secret crush on his gal pal. More formula…but it also works really well.

The Verdict: Pretty in Pink. This is a hard one. Broadcast News is a great movie with a tremendously entertaining performance from Albert Brooks as the dowdy best pal. But I can’t overlook one of the iconic films of its generation, with solid performances from Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, James Spader, & Jon Cryer. Pretty in Pink benefits from a well written script by Hughes and a generation defining soundtrack featuring songs by INXS, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, & The Psychedelic Furs.

80’s Movie Mania: The Combatants

80sOkay, I gave y’all a fair opportunity and, to be blunt, The Manoverse let me down. According to WordPress I have 238 followers. I’d love to have thousands, but until now I was rather content. Then I published the Intro to 80’s Movie Mania, an idea that I thought would be lots of fun. Within that little ditty there were some polls to vote on. Nothing big. Not time consuming. No deep introspection needed. I told myself that I’d go with the decisions of The Manoverse conservatively hoping each poll would receive 10-20 votes…not even 10% of presumed readership. Yet a few weeks later every one of those polls have only a couple of votes. So out of 238 “followers” hardly anyone could be bothered to simply click on a button?? I’ve spent some sleepless nights wondering if I should just forget the whole deal and delete The Manofesto altogether. Over the years I’ve written on a vast array of subjects, from serious to funny, about hot topics and fun frivolities. There is something here for everyone, yet I can’t get folks to spend five minutes of their time to vote on a simple set of polls?? It is extremely frustrating. However, I have decided to forge ahead. I enjoy what I do even if no one else gives a hoot, and I have learned in life that the person in the mirror is the only one that’ll never let you down.

 

So without further ado we will dive into 80s Movie Mania. I decided to forget the play-in idea altogether and make this a 80s5comprehensive super tournament. I’m generous like that. These selections heavily reflect my own entertainment sensibilities as well as previously noted omissions that have been purposely made for one reason or another (sports films, trilogies, Christmas movies). If you feel like there are glaring oversights tell me and let’s discuss it. The Manofesto is interactive and thoughtful opinions are appreciated.

 

80s6Sadly I am unable to utilize actual brackets within the limited WordPress format, so we’re just going to improvise. For now I am revealing the field for the competition broken down by years. For the tournament each film will be placed into one of four divisions: Tubular, Gnarly, Radical,& Bodacious. Five entrants in each division will receive a first round bye, an additional two films will receive byes thru the first & second rounds. The first round shall commence shortly. Enjoy!

 

 

1980
The Blues Brothers – Airplane!

1981
History of the World Part I – Stripes

1982
Porky’s – The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – 48 Hrs. – E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Fast Times at Ridgemont High – Night Shift – An Officer & A Gentleman

1983
WarGames – Scarface – Flashdance – Mr. Mom
The Outsiders – My Tutor – National Lampoon’s Vacation
Risky Business – The Big Chill – Eddie & The Cruisers

1984
Footloose – Purple Rain – Police Academy – The Last Starfighter
This Is Spinal Tap – Ghostbusters – Splash – Sixteen Candles
Revenge of the Nerds – Red Dawn – Romancing the Stone
Bachelor Party

1985
The Breakfast Club – European Vacation – Weird Science
Teen Wolf – Fletch – The Goonies – St. Elmo’s Fire

1986
Three Amigos! – Top Gun – Crocodile Dundee
Flight of the Navigator – Brighton Beach Memoirs
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Stand By Me – Iron Eagle – Pretty in Pink

1987
Lethal Weapon – Wall Street – Dirty Dancing
The Princess Bride – Three Men & A Baby – Moonstruck
La Bamba – Good Morning Vietnam – Raising Arizona
Spaceballs – Dragnet – Summer School – Broadcast News

1988
License to Drive – Beetlejuice – Biloxi Blues – Big
Rain Man – The Naked Gun – Twins – Coming to America
Cocktail – A Fish Called Wanda

1989
When Harry Met Sally – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Uncle Buck
Say Anything… – Turner & Hooch – Dead Poets Society
Batman – Weekend at Bernie’s – K-9 – Parenthood