In anticipation of Top Gun: Maverick coming soon to a theater near you it seems appropriate to enjoy a Weekend Movie Marathon featuring one of the biggest box office draws of my youth in the 1980s. To opine that Tom Cruise in “real life” seems a bit enigmatic would be an understatement, but I have become pretty good at separating the person from the entertainer, and one cannot deny that he is the textbook definition of a movie star (whether one considers that positive or negative is a matter of personal preference). Perusing Cruise’s filmography of over fifty movies I can confidently say that there are atleast a dozen that I have enjoyed on some level, and as many that aren’t my cup o’ tea but are generally considered pretty good by the masses. That’s a batting average any baseball player would envy. So, while my taste may not align with yours, I believe what is presented here would be a rather entertaining weekend for most.
Imagine the pitch…”high school kid runs a brothel out of his house while his parents are away on vacation”. I feel like that would’ve only been greenlit in the 80s. Cruise had been a supporting player in a few notable films (Taps, Losin’ It, The Outsiders), but this was the movie that made him a star. The iconic scene when he makes us all reminisce about the days of old with Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock n’ Roll is still parodied four decades later, and I’d sacrifice a limb to ride the El train with Rebecca DeMornay (that scene is seared into the memory of many men my age). Risky Business was the eighth highest grossing film of 1983 (behind Return of the Jedi & Trading Places but ahead of National Lampoon’s Vacation & ET: The Extra-Terrestrial), and it has a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In other words, it appeals on some level to nearly everyone.
Rock of Ages
Large ensemble casts are tricky. While most films tend to provide a spotlight for one or occasionally two big stars, every once in awhile a movie will come along with such a stacked lineup of well known performers that we’re immediately intrigued before we even step into the theater, but that doesn’t guarantee quality. Rock of Ages was actually a Broadway play that premiered in 2005 before being adapted for the big screen seven years later. Is it a good movie?? Not really. The cast includes Dancing with the Stars alum Julianne Hough, goofball Russell Brand, highly underrated Paul Giamatti, lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones, 90s hip-hop legend Mary J. Blige, controversial Alec Baldwin, SNL alum Will Forte, Bryan Cranston before he became famous, and of course our guy Tom Cruise, none of whom, despite being an intriguing potpourri of actors, would prompt me to watch. No, for me it’s the music…covers of a plethora of 80s hits from the likes of Journey, Foreigner, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, and many more. The plot is dumb & the performances are cheesy, but that’s not even important. Aside from the music the best part of Rock of Ages is Cruise’s scene chewing Axl Rose/Jim Morrison cosplay. If you love 80s music you won’t hate this movie.
Well, it is the reason we’re here, right?? It remains to be seen if making a sequel more than three decades later was a wise decision, but the original is inarguably legendary. Somewhere on this site I believe I once called Top Gun an 80s time capsule movie, and I stand by that assessment. I recently watched it again for the first time in many years, and was still entertained.
The book is better, as is usually the case. However, an adaptation starring the likes of Cruise, Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter, Ed Harris, & Hal Holbrook stands pretty good on its own merits (plus, where else have we ever seen Wilford Brimley & Gary Busey in the same place??). I seem to recall that there was a bit of controversy because the ending of the film differs from that of the book. I usually get pretty riled up about such things, but in this case I am willing to overlook it.
I feel like Cocktail is vastly underappreciated. The love story is pretty formulaic, but that’s not a deal breaker. There’s a fun supporting performance from Aussie Brian Brown (who is rather amusing in Along Came Polly as well), and Elisabeth Shue as Cruise’s love interest is at peak loveliness. “Flair bartending” is the term for what you see in the film, and I guess it’s a real thing. I don’t know…I don’t get out much. At any rate, Cocktail is a really interesting story for a couple of reasons. It won the 1988 Golden Raspberry for Worst Film, while that same year Rain Man (also starring Cruise) took home the Academy Award for Best Picture (there’s a reason that movie isn’t featured here). Also, while Rotten Tomatoes scores Cocktail at 7% (which, despite being atrocious, doesn’t even land it on the site’s list of 100 lowest rated films), it was the 9th highest grossing film of the year, ahead of great stuff like Beetlejuce, Scrooged, Bull Durham, and the aforementioned Oscar winning Rain Man. The dichotomy is fascinating & hard to explain. All I know is the cast is cool & the music (especially Kokomo by The Beach Boys) is delightful. Popcorn cinema doesn’t always need to be great.