It’s always fun to watch some movies you haven’t seen in a while, so I thought I’d share my thoughts about some of them, plus a few movies I’ve never seen before!
This past Monday, my lovely wife and younger daughter went to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (known to mouth-breathing gringos as Rocky Point), for a short vacation during Fall Break. I stayed home because it’s very hard to travel with my older daughter, and she wouldn’t have enjoyed it too much anyway. With the wife away, I had plenty of time to watch a bunch of movies I have recorded over several months on our DVR that I figured she wouldn’t want to see because she’s either seen them and doesn’t want to see them again or has no interest in seeing. Plus, recently we watched a few movies that we thought my younger daughter would dig. So let’s see how some movies from my adolescence stand up!
1. Predator. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Predator completely unedited (which is why I’ve been DVRing a lot of movies I’ve already seen – I usually end up seeing them on basic cable, where a lot gets edited). Man, I love 1980s action movies. A while back I watched Commando unedited, and that’s amazing, and recently I watched Beverly Hills Cops I and II, also unedited. I mentioned in a post not too long ago that my daughter was reaching the age where she didn’t want to have anything to do with me, which includes watching movies I recommend, and Predator was one that I kept telling her she should watch with me but she kept saying she didn’t want to. So I just started watching it. About halfway through (right after Jesse Ventura gets killed, if I recall correctly), she came downstairs and watched the rest and LOVED it. The wife and I always tell her that we actually do know a thing or two about what we’re doing, so maybe she should listen to us a bit. I know she won’t, but it’s fun to think “I told you so” without saying it (because that would piss her off). Damn, this is a fun movie. The 1980s were full of almost perfect action movies, and this is in the top tier of those.
2. Stand By Me. I’d never seen this before last weekend. Why, you ask? Beats me. Everyone has things that fall through the cracks in their pop culture knowledge, and this is one of mine. Anyway, this was not a good movie, and I’m not sure why everyone thinks it is. It’s fairly boring, and it feels too short. Wesley Crusher’s parents are laughingly one-dimensional, cartoon characters who even feel out of place in this movie’s version of 1959, and it makes Wesley’s arc feel unreal, and as it’s the heart of the movie, the movie suffers for it. Corey Feldman’s craziness is also ridiculous, so his character becomes a cartoon as well. The boys cry at the drop of a hat, which is a bit bizarre for 1959, during the era of the “tough guy,” but even if we accept them crying, they seem to cry at weird moments, which rob them of any emotion. The scene with Wesley feeling bad because John Cusack is dead when he sees the body is well done, though, but not enough to rescue the movie. And even at such a young age, River Phoenix acts circles around the other boys, highlighting their deficiencies. Man, River Phoenix was a good actor. (Yeah, he’s crying in the scene below, but damn, he’s good.)
2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. We thought my daughter would like this, and she did. I always forget how this is almost the perfect movie (and no, I don’t believe that everything is in Cameron’s head – stop overthinking things, people!). The script is hilarious, the situations are great, the cast is perfect (even down to some random teen like Kristy Swanson, who nails her part as Simone wonderfully in the few seconds she gets), and Cameron’s speech at the end about standing up to his father is magnificent. I DVRed it from VH1, which inexplicably cut a few odd seconds (like the extreme close-up of the Seurat painting, which was disappointing). WHY?!?!?! This is one of those movies, like Casablanca (yes, I just compared this to Casablanca), that anyone would be foolish to remake (unlike the next movies, which is ripe for a remake), because it relies so much on the perfection of the cast. Some movies can get remade because they’re dependent on the story, and the actors don’t matter quite as much. This movie’s cast is so amazing that it would absolutely suck if they tried to remake it.
3. Highlander. Another movie that I often forget how good it is. I also forgot about the totally gratuitous nude scene in this (it’s an Eighties movie – of course there’s a totally gratuitous nude scene!), because it’s been so long since I’ve seen it unedited. I know it’s not a big surprise that I like this, because a ton of people my age love this movie, but it’s worth seeing after some years of not seeing it, because it’s impressive how good it is. The sword fighting isn’t great, but it’s pretty good. Russell Mulcahy, working on his second feature-length movie (after Razorback!), shows his music video roots, as the entire movie (at least the present-day parts) is incredibly stylish. Connery does a nice job, of course, as he’s far and away the best actor in the cast, and the love story between Connor and Heather is remarkably effective despite not taking up much of the running time. Clancy Brown is terrific, too, and while Christopher Lambert will never be accused of being that great an actor, he plays “mysterious foreigner” quite well (he barely knew any English when he took the part, apparently, so that helps his weird accent, too). Plus, of course, Queen’s soundtrack is amazing. (I read that my favorite band, Marillion, was in talks to do the soundtrack, which would have been very cool, but they turned it down because they were on tour, something their guitarist says was a stupid move). This is a movie I think could be remade really well today. The story, not the cast, is the hook, and the story is darned neat. Connery might be hard to replace, but they could do it, and no one else in the cast is that remarkable – Brown is terrific, as I noted, but there are a lot of good actors who would love to play the villain, and Lambert and Roxanne Hart are easily replaceable (I like Lambert’s magnetism, but still). The special effects would be a lot better, and while the run time is slightly under two hours and is probably fine, there are some weird things in the movie that could be dropped or re-arranged to make the main characters (especially Brenda, who is kind of a thankless character) a bit better. Still, the original is great, and probably has one of the biggest gaps between an original and a sequel in terms of quality in movie history, as the second movie is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.
4. Revenge of the Nerds. Once again, it’s been years since I’ve seen the unedited version of this movie, so I had to watch it! It’s certainly not a great movie, and the creepy rape-y scene in the Fun House is still creepy and rape-y (plus the implication that Betty falls for the dude who is best at sex is wildly juvenile, too), but I was struck again by how little the movie cares the Lamar is gay – yes, he’s a ridiculous stereotype, but everyone is a ridiculous stereotype, and nobody singles out Lamar for special ridicule, which I thought was weirdly … progressive? of the movie. He’s picked on because he’s a nerd, not because he’s gay. Anyway, this is a dumb, fun, movie, and like Stand By Me, it’s almost embarrassing to watch Anthony Edwards act circles around Robert Carradine. It’s like they’re in two different movies. And even in a wildly insulting movie like this, I challenge you not to get a bit choked up at Gilbert’s speech at the end.
5. Black Rain. I’d never seen this Ridley Scott movie, so why not now? It’s all right – it’s a standard “fish-out-of-water” cop story, with Michael Douglas as the quasi-dirty New York cop (hey, his kids need braces!) heading to Osaka to escort a prisoner back to Japan, where all hell breaks loose. It’s perfectly fine. The most fun is wondering when exactly Andy Garcia, as Douglas’s partner, is going to die, because from the moment he appears on screen, he might as well have a big target painted on his fancy suit. He lasted a lot longer than I thought he would. Also, Kate Capshaw is in this movie. For some reason, I thought she married Spielberg much earlier than she did (they got hitched in 1991) and basically quit acting because why the hell would you when you’re married to Spielberg. But I guess she didn’t!
6. Sucker Punch. This is by far my favorite Zack Snyder movie, because it’s not an adaptation or a remake and it’s just so, so stupid that it becomes genius art (to be fair, I haven’t seen Dawn of the Dead and I haven’t seen all of 300 – most of it, but not all of it – and I know he made some weird owl movie, but yeah, I haven’t seen that either). It’s idiotic and glorious, from the ridiculous action scenes that might as well be video games to the attempts by Emily Browning to make us care about her character (Browning isn’t a bad actor – see this year’s excellent American Gods television series – but she is pretty lousy in this movie). But Poe Dameron is in it, so that’s all right. What I love about this movie is it’s pure style, and Snyder actually has a decent eye for stylish movies, when he’s not drenching them in darkness so we can’t see anything. Snyder is the spiritual successor to Adrian Lyne, and if Lyne can make one great movie (the brilliant Jacob’s Ladder), maybe Snyder can, too!
7. Stripes. Here’s yet another movie I haven’t seen unedited in years, which basically means you miss out on a few seconds of Bill Murray’s girlfriend’s boobs, mud-covered boobs, and what John Larroquette sees through his telescope, and that’s about it (those are crucial seconds, though!!!!!). This is another classic, a movie that should not be remade because the story is kind of weak, but the cast is perfect. Murray and Ramis are fine, but their fellow soldiers, from John Candy to Judge Reinhold to John Diehl to “Francis,” could not be replicated, and Warren Oates is the living embodiment of a drill sergeant (sure, R. Lee Ermey could play the role in his sleep, but the dude’s kind of old), John Larroquette (so young!) is amazing as the unctuous captain, and even though Sean Young and P.J. Soles don’t have a ton to do (although it’s certainly nice that a movie made in 1981 shows women as completely capable at their jobs, far more so than the male leads), they have amazing chemistry with Ramis and Murray (Murray apparently hated Young, so it’s probably good they weren’t paired up) and Young, especially, always has that weird “I’m slightly crazy vibe” that came out during her Batman Returns audition, which gives the movie a tiny edge whenever she’s on-screen. Plus, Timothy Busfield (who shows up as Poindexter in Revenge of the Nerds) made his film debut in this movie, as the dude who fires the mortar that takes Hulka out of action. Go, Timothy Busfield!
8. All the Right Moves. I’m not entirely sure why I DVRed this movie, but what the heck. It’s not very good, but you can just see how magnetic Cruise is in this movie and why he became one of the biggest stars in the world. He is a bit whiny in this movie, though, and I noticed that even when he became a bigger star, he had a tendency to whine a bit more than you’d expect. So it’s not a very good movie, but it does have Terry O’Quinn in a cameo before he lost all his hair, Chris Penn looking more baby-faced than he usually does (because he’s closer in age to a baby, of course), the worst coaching decision in movie history that somehow got Craig T. Nelson a better job (take the safety, you moron!), and Lea Thompson gets naked, which is nice.
9. Suicide Squad. I was thinking about seeing this in the theater last year, but I rarely go to movies in the theater anymore, and I never got around to it. I knew it would show up on HBO or Starz or Showtime eventually, and so it did! Here’s the thing: I really liked this movie. Yes, it was still a bit too dark (in terms of lighting, not in terms of tone), but it’s a DC movie, so it’s in the contract you sign with Satan – I mean Dan DiDio – that the movie has to be dark. Yes, the Enchantress was kind of a boring villain, but she wasn’t in the movie as much as I thought she’d be, so there was that. I really liked the characters – I thought Will Smith and Margot Robbie were very good, Joel Kinnaman isn’t going to remind anyone of Robert DeNiro but he was fine, Jai Courtney’s craven Captain Boomerang was decent, Viola Davis was very good as someone who’s pretty much as bad as the villains but because she’s in the government she gets away with it, and the rest of the cast was pretty good, too. The story, until the final showdown, was a neat, gritty war story, almost, and I was surprised by how down-to-earth it was for most of the run time. I believed the bonding between the team, and I thought they pushed Will Smith toward redemption a bit too quickly, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. Finally, I know this is heretical, but I think I like Jared Leto’s Joker more than Heath Ledger’s. I wrote about Heath Ledger’s Joker at the old blog almost ten years ago (sheesh, tempus fugit) and how it was a flawed character played wonderfully by Ledger, but Jared Leto’s Joker is just a better character. He’s crazy, sure, but not completely unhinged like Ledger’s Joker, and his plans are clever but not beyond the realm of reality like Ledger’s (which, if you think about for more than a second, fall apart). He’s amazingly stylish, which I always like in the Joker (the Joker should not look like a bum, which is what he looks like in The Dark Knight), and he doesn’t kill haphazardly, which is probably the worst thing Frank Miller ever did to a character. Plus, his twisted romance with Harley is actually pretty well done – I don’t buy the Joker ever really loving anyone, which is why Harley never made sense to me, but if he did love someone, it would probably be the way he loves her in this movie. So, yeah – Jared Leto, better than Heath Ledger? I say … probably? (Yes, I’m taking an ambivalent stand!!!!)
Now it’s Thursday, and the wife is coming home today, so I can’t cram-watch some of the other movies I have DVRed because she won’t want to. We have to go back to watching the Vietnam documentary (we’ve only watched the first chapter so far, but it’s riveting) and the other new shows of the season (Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, Speechless, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and saving Outlander for some binge-watching when the entire season is done. Yeah, we watch a lot of television. But those are just some of the movies I’ve watched in the past few days. Isn’t the modern world wonderful?!?!?!? And if you want to pick some of these up on DVD or Blu-Ray, click the link below. Even if you don’t get the movie below (Highlander), if you use that link and buy something, I get a teeny-tiny bit of it!