The last time I watched a bunch of movies, it was because my wife and daughter were away and I got a chance to sit around and watch things my wife wouldn’t necessarily want to re-watch. This time, I’ve just been watching these over a few months, and I watched enough of them to have a good, solid post. So let’s take a look at some movies we’ve probably all seen and about which I have nothing interesting to say!
1. Johnny Dangerously (1984). As far as spoof movies go, Johnny Dangerously isn’t one of the best. It doesn’t compare to Airplane!, obviously, or even Top Secret! But it’s fun, getting by on Michael Keaton’s charm and its inherent goofiness. This might be the only time Joe Piscopo was tolerable (my wife and I still say stuff like “My father hung me on a hook once. ONCE!”) and the rest of the cast is good, too, from Marilu Henner in the thankless role of “girlfriend” to Griffin Dunne as Johnny’s clueless brother (remember back in the early 1980s when it seemed Dunne would be the next big thing?). Everyone is having fun, and it’s infectious, so even though the movie isn’t nearly as sharp as those movies I noted above (and, let’s be honest, Top Secret! isn’t even that sharp, so for this to fall short of that is saying something), it’s still fun to watch it every once in a while.
2. Witness (1985). Peter Weir is a terrific director, and the fact that he hasn’t made a movie since 2010 is annoying, because I’m not sure why he doesn’t do more. Maybe he’s officially retired on some ranch in Australia? If you don’t know Weir’s name, you should: He made The Cars that Ate Paris, for crying out loud! His breakout film was Picnic at Hanging Rock, which I’ve still never seen (but I really want to!), but then look at this Murderer’s Row of movies: Gallipoli (1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), Witness (1985), The Mosquito Coast (1986), Dead Poets Society (1989), and then, after Green Card in 1990 (???), we get Fearless (1993) and The Truman Show (1998). That’s, in order: a classic, a classic, a very good crime thriller, a weird psychological drama, an overrated but still powerful film with killer performances, Green Card (to be fair, I’ve never seen it, but it can’t be good, can it?), another classic, and another very good movie. Then he made Master and Commander, which I’ve never seen but seems pretty darned good. That’s a great 20-year run, and Weir doesn’t get enough credit for being a top-notch director. Witness is a good crime drama, with Ford doing his Ford thing, one of the more erotic and female-empowering female topless scenes you’re going to see (McGillis is superb in that scene, and it’s far more erotic than their sloppy kissing a few scenes later), and Danny Glover going full asshole (1985 was Glover’s break-out year, with this and Silverado – an excellent movie, by the way – coming out in that year). I didn’t realize that Viggo Mortensen is in this movie, but he’s there – he’s Alexander Godunov’s brother, and in the scene in town where Ford decks the mouth-breathing asshole, thereby drawing attention to himself and leading to the final showdown, Mortensen is in the wagon (he’s in other scenes, too, but he’s most prominent there). It was his movie debut, but even then, it reminds me that Mortensen is a lot older than you might think (he turned 59 this year). Dude looks good for his age. Check him out!
3. The Goonies (1985). Growing up, I never saw The Goonies, which I admit is a big gap in my adolescent movie-watching experience. I have no idea why I didn’t – I was 14 when it came out, which would make me the perfect age, but I didn’t see it in the theater nor on videotape or television in the years following. I finally saw it a few years ago and … was not terribly impressed. It was okay, but nothing special. Recently, we watched it again because after we watched Stand By Me, my daughter became obsessed with Corey Feldman. Seriously. She has Corey Feldman as her wallpaper on her phone, she follows him on Instagram, she’s drawn him a few times … she’s 12 years old, by the way. We’re not completely against her Corey Feldman obsession, but it is a little bizarre. Anyway, this was better the second time I watched it, even though I still don’t love it. I think it’s partly because Sean Astin is really, really annoying in this movie, so the fact that he’s the central character is frustrating. Also, I know it’s a kids’ movie, but the whole thing with them losing their house never really feels real, as it’s the driving force of the movie but doesn’t seem to have much substance to it. Richard Donner’s casting (beside Astin) is great, though – Feldman is good, Brolin is good, Kerri Green is … all right, Martha Plimpton is great (and she and Feldman hated each other, which makes their friendship at the end fun to watch), Ke Huy Quan is good, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, and Anne Ramsey are good as the bad guys. It’s a fun movie, but not a classic. Sorry!
4. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). A while back, Pretty in Pink was showing at a movie theater here in town, and my wife took my daughter to see it. I don’t mind Pretty in Pink, but I told my daughter that if she wanted to see the “real” version, she should watch this. It was on not too long ago, so we watched it. I adore this movie, from the great script to the great acting to the excellent casting. Molly Ringwald was going to be in this, but she didn’t want to do it, so Lea Thompson stepped in, and she is absolutely radiant in this movie, and she sells Amanda’s pain far more than Ringwald ever could (I like Molly Ringwald, but Thompson’s a better actor). Eric Stoltz’s goofy vulnerability serves him very well (whenever he tries to play a hard-ass, it comes off a bit odd), and his and Thompson’s conversation at the Hollywood Bowl is amazing. Mary Stuart Masterson is brilliant, although I do wish she hadn’t wanted the earrings so much. Still, her role is the trickiest, because she has to be in love with Stoltz without becoming a wuss, and she handles it perfectly. It’s just a wonderful movie, and it ends on a killer rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Lick the Tins.
5. The Lost Boys (1987). This was also part of my daughter’s Corey Feldman obsession, so of course we had to watch this! She liked this more than The Goonies, mainly because Feldman is more awesome in it. I’ve always loved this movie, as ridiculous as it can be. My wife and I always called Edward Herrmann “King of the Vampires” whenever we saw him in anything (well, we still do, even though he’s acting in the Big Theater in the Sky these days), and my wife, in particular, always dug Jason Patric and she and her friends always dug Jamie Gertz’s fashion (that flouncy dress she wears when Patric first sees her always gets a “Ahhh, that peasant dress!” out of the wife). Once again, the casting is impeccable: Patric is broody, which is all he needs to be (he’s usually whiny when he opens his mouth, so just sit there and brood, Jason!), Gertz is all right, but Corey Haim is good as the Phoenician fish out of water, while the Frog brothers are excellent, Keifer rules, and Dianne Wiest (who won her Oscar before this came out, although she had probably filmed it before) is brilliant as always. The soundtrack is amazing, too. And Oiled-Up Shirtless Sax Player should have been in every movie in 1987:
(Fun fact: I mentioned Oiled-Up Shirtless Sax Player on Facebook once, and one of my Facebook friends – a comics artist, actually – said that the dude played at a wedding he attended once. He was not, unfortunately, oiled up and shirtless. Still, that’s awesome.)
6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987). After we watched Some Kind of Wonderful (see above), I was looking for more John Hughes movies to watch with the daughter, and of course we had to watch this one! Hughes was on fire in the mid-1980s – he directed and/or wrote National Lampoon’s Vacation (w), Mr. Mom (w), Sixteen Candles (w/d), The Breakfast Club (w/d), National Lampoon’s European Vacation (w), Weird Science (w/d), Pretty in Pink (w), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (w/d), Some Kind of Wonderful (w), and Planes, Trains and Automobiles (w/d) between 1983 and 1987. That’s amazing. Of course, this is a superb movie, although it’s one of those movies where you say “God, just do THIS!” or “Just do THAT!” and everything would have worked out. Still, Steve Martin is hilarious, John Candy is brilliant, and, of course, we get this absolutely amazing scene:
Plus, if the ending doesn’t get you, you might be dead inside. You should get that checked out.
(The lack of an Oxford comma in the title really bugs me, too. Damn it, John Hughes!)
7. Beetlejuice (1988). Hey, remember when Tim Burton made good movies? Beetlejuice is one of my favorites by him, and I hadn’t seen it a long time, and we thought my daughter would like it, so we DVRed it and watched it with her. She did like it, which is nice. Such a fun movie, back when Burton wasn’t as concerned with being too weird and still cared about making sure the characters were engaging. Good times! Plus, of course, it gave us one of the most amazing long-running gags in television history:
8. Bowfinger (1999). Eddie Murphy should have won the Best Actor Oscar in 2000 for his dual role as Kit and Jiff Ramsey (Jiffrenson, technically) in Bowfinger. You know who won the Best Actor Oscar in 2000? Fucking Kevin Spacey for American Beauty, that’s who. Okay, I like American Beauty, but it’s a bit overrated. Fucking Sean Penn was nominated for Sweet and Lowdown, as was Russell Crowe for The Insider and Denzel for The Hurricane. Could any of those pikers give us a perfect satire of Murphy’s action movie persona (along with any other random action movie persona in Hollywood) and nail his unbelievably nerdy brother, too? Fuck no, they couldn’t. The movie is hilarious, with Steve Martin trying to make a movie without Kit Ramsey’s knowledge, and his little troupe of actors (including the hammy Christine Baranski) tries to keep up. Heather Graham is brilliant as the girl from Ohio who’s not really “from Ohio” (meaning she sleeps her way to the top without even thinking about it), and Terence Stamp as the head of a weird cult that’s definitely not Scientology is superb. The Academy Awards don’t go to comedies very often, and that’s a shame, because this might be Murphy’s best acting work. HE WAS ROBBED, I TELLS YA!!!!
9. Basic (2003). I know Basic doesn’t have a terribly good reputation, but I love it. It has to be the greatest movie in which John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson share screen time, right? I can’t think of anything else. Basic is a fun twisty movie, with Travolta getting called in to investigate the disappearance of Jackson and some Army Rangers in the jungles of Panama. He and Connie Neilsen (who is on active duty and doesn’t like Travolta’s ex-soldier coming in) interview Brian van Holt (who will always be Bobby Cobb to me), who tells them a story about what happened, but when they realize he’s lying about some things, the whole narrative is called into question. The bad guy is pretty obvious, but it’s still a fun story, and the cast is good – Tim Daly is Tim Daly, which is all right, Giovanni Ribisi does a completely hilarious and inexplicable Southern-ish accent (I think it’s supposed to be Southern!), and Roselyn Sanchez does not walk around in lingerie like she does in Rush Hour 2, but that’s all right. Fun stuff.
10. EuroTrip (2004). The only people who don’t like EuroTrip are the people who haven’t yet seen EuroTrip. If you like raunchy 1980s-style sex comedies, you should watch this, because not only is there plenty of nudity (including, quite possibly, the most penises ever seen in a mainstream movie), but it’s hilarious from start to finish. There’s a little bit of homophobic stuff, but it’s very minor and is part of the movie’s attempt to mock pretty much everyone it can find. It begins with the main character, Scott, getting dumped by Kristin Kreuk at his high school graduation, who is then later revealed to have been fucking Matt Damon every chance she can get, something Scott finds out when Matt Damon (in the best role of his career?) sings about it:
Scott then thinks that his German pen pal is a dude and wants to come to the States and hook up with him, so he gets angry and tells “him” to get lost (he’s really drunk when he does), but his little brother points out that he got her name confused with “Mike” when it’s really “Mieke,” and of course she’s blazingly hot. So Scott heads off to Berlin with his best friend, Cooper (Jacob Pitts, who years later was the coolest character on Justified, which is kind of tough because every character on Justified was cool), but of course they get sidetracked and spend the movie wandering all over Europe. They meet up with their friends Michelle Trachtenberg and Travis Wester, playing the worst twins ever (they end up making out while drunk one night), and they have many adventures. Vinnie Jones shows up as a hilarious football hooligan, Lucy Lawless is a brothel madam with some interesting devices, and Fred Armisen is a super-creepy Italian (that’s where most of the gay panic stuff comes in, but the movie is mocking Italians more than anything, and Armisen does go after Trachtenberg a bit, too, so he’s a non-discriminatory creep). Rade Serbedzija even shows up, and you know it’s a good movie when Rade Serbedzija shows up! The movie mocks the English, the French, the Dutch, the Germans, the Italians, the Slovakians, the Catholic Church, and its four main characters relentlessly. It did poorly at the box office, but it’s a perfect cult classic. It’s so freakin’ funny.
11. Stick It (2006). I wrote on Facebook the other day that if loving Stick It is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Yes, it’s a movie about gymnastics starring Jeff Bridges, or all people, and it’s awesome. Missy Peregrym (that can’t be her real last name, can it?) is phenomenal as the gymnastics wild child who has one more chance to stay out of jail by going to Bridges’s academy, where he’s trying to regain some past glory. I thought of this while watching it, but it’s basically a Tom Cruise movie from the first decade or so of his career. He was always playing rebels who were great at what they did but didn’t play by the rules and had daddy issues, and they were tempered by a male mentor who took the father role and turned their rebelliousness into something good. Peregrym takes a stand against the ridiculous and arcane system of judging gymnastics, and it’s brilliant. The actual gymnastics are great, it’s a great commentary on people who try to live vicariously through their children and what that does to the kids, both mentally and physically (there’s a great moment when some of the gymnasts wonder why the boys are paying attention to other girls, and Peregrym says “Boobs – they have boobs”), and it’s actually quite funny. If you liked Bring It On (and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love Bring It On?), then you’ll probably dig this. I will fight anyone who picks on me for loving a teen movie about gymnastics! Do you really want to fight over that?!?!?!
That was fun, wasn’t it? I still have a bunch of movies on my DVR, so I’m not done yet! But now it’s time to catch up on our shows again, so it might be a while before I can get to the movies. On the other hand, I don’t work, so I always have some time. Risky Business isn’t going to watch itself!