Wednesday, December 24, 2014

1984 Turns 30! A Retrospective: 30th Birthday Moviethon Madness!

While writing my last post I noticed my next would be my 100th (yup, it certainly took me long enough!), so of course I felt compelled to mark it with something special. Anyone following this blog or that knows me via Facebook will know that to celebrate my 30th birthday in early October, I watched an insane amount of movies from 1984... well, 30 to be precise and over a period of 8 days (much as I was loath to, I had to go to work during some of those days!). So for this centennial post, it seemed entirely apt to give y'all a run down of the birthday moviethon shenanigans. As I've a lot of ground to cover, I'll be as brief as possible r.e. each film, especially if I've talked about it elsewhere on the blog. I'll offer a TV guide synopsis for the more obscure ones but I'll presume that's unnecessary for the more famous famous films. Without further ado then!

Friday 26th September 2014

20:00 - Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman)

I've spoken about this movie a couple of times before (here and here) so not much to say here but I knew I just had to kick of the moviethon with this one, it being, as I've said repeatedly, the gateway horror movie for me. Yup, I'm blaming Reitman, Ackroyd, Ramis, Murray et al for the sorry state I'm in today. Okay, so that's not really fair... there are many parties responsible for that and most of them are called Simon!

I was watching the old Blu Ray on this on the day in question, which I always thought was serviceable enough... I mean, this viewing alone I noticed one or two things I hadn't before... e.g. how the hell did I never notice Murray taking his Chinese food down the fire pole with him?! But a more recent viewing of the much more recent Blu (scanned in 4K no less) has revealed to me how much the old Blu and other prior home video incarnations left to be desired. If you love this movie, or are lukewarm about it and fancy reappraising it, buy this Blu Ray.

I've nothing to add for now but there'll be more Ghostbusters action on the blog before we leave 2014...

22:00 - Beverly Hills Cop (Martin Brest)

It's probably a good time to tell y'all I was basically winging it with regards to sequencing these movies. I had a start point, a vague idea of what to end with, and a huge stack of stuff I wanted to get to in between. But even this early in the 'thon, I was encountering dilemmas r.e. what to watch. So thanks to anyone who helped nudge me in the right direction here or there... case in point, my good friends Brad and Steve for convincing me to finally watch Beverly Hills Cop...

Yup, this is one of those movies that had somehow slipped through the cracks. I've always been a bit hit and miss with Eddie Murphy (probably because, well let's face it, he generally has been!) but I'll be the first to admit, when he's on, he's really on. And thankfully for me, this is one of those movies where he was!

Aside from bringing it on the comedy level, Murphy also displays a lot of charm and heart in this film... in fact those two words sum up a lot of what I liked about it. I mean, this is basically a buddy comedy movie and (despite the fact Axel Foley is something of a lone wolf) seems to be largely about the importance of loyalty and friendship.

And I realise that already I'm running the risk of getting too deep into these movies (for our present purpose I mean of course)... if I try taking my usual rambling approach we'll all be here till 2016 (or y'all won't see this till then more likely!) so let's start blasting through this, almost bullet point style.

Lastly r.e. Beverly Hills Cop, I frickin' loved the soundtrack, from the songs included (especially "Neutron Dance" by The Pointer Sisters and "Stir it Up" by Patti Labelle) and the synth-tastic score by Harold Faltermeyer.

And all the gritty street vibes and vehicular shenanigans lead us nicely to our next movie...

01:00 - Repo Man (Alex Cox)

Synopsis for the uninitiated - in one possible near future Emilio Estevez gets semi-shanghaied into being a repo man. Then him, Harry Dean Stanton and a whole other assortment of oddballs all end up hunting for a car with very curious contents (it neutralises a cop in the opening scene)...

This is a bone fide cult classic so I'm sure many of you are familiar with it. If you aren't I'd say check it out if you wanna see what an authentically punk satirical science fiction film circa '84 looks like.

And if you do love this film and don't own the Blu-Ray by Eureka - Masters of Cinema, do yourself a favour and buy it... frickin' gorgeous it is. Who knew this was such a colourful movie in places?

Again, as with the last few films (and many more to come) this has an awesome soundtrack, featuring the likes of Iggy Pop, Suicidal Tendencies, The Plugz, and many more!

03:00 approx - time to call it a night... to be continued tomorrow!

Saturday 27th September 2014

10:59 - Starman (John Carpenter)

Synopsis - A visiting alien takes on the form of Jeff Bridges, who was a recently deceased husband, in order to not freaking out said husband's wife. And yes, there's a fair bit more to it than that...

John Carpenter took a bit of a kicking commercially and critically when The Thing was released in '82. It's generally agreed upon as a classic now but in the wake of E.T. from the same year, people apparently weren't up for something so apocalyptically bleak and mindbendingly gruesome. Or perhaps they just weren't ready...

The reason I mention the above is simply to say, Starman was seemingly Carpenter's response to the aforementioned flak, showing us he could be warm and cuddly too... and that this movie is I'd say... I certainly found it life affirming anyway.

Carpenter fans should definitely give it a go and anyone else who isn't averse to sci-fi and isn't a complete cynic might enjoy it too I think.

13:07 - Brunch break!

14:22 - The Terminator (James Cameron)

I've covered this classic on the blog before (back here) and besides, what else can be said about The Terminator that hasn't already? Not a huge amount I'd imagine...

There's a link between this film and the last in the form of Stan Winston, who contributed effects work to both... 

And I always smile to myself when I see the credit "Acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison" at the end... there's a whole saga behind that one, which I won't go into here. 

Inspirations aside, I don't think this movie is wholly derivative... not by far. As I've said before, I like that it's basically a slasher movie in action/sci-fi clothing and in that sense, it seems fairly unique... perhaps even now...

16:09 - Another break to pick up a few things here and there... got visitors joining me later!

17:17 - Revenge of the Nerds (Jeff Kanew) 

For those unfamiliar, the title really tells you all. Although having said that, for some reason, I always imagined this would be like a slasher movie when I saw the VHS case back in the day... and perhaps before I even knew what a slasher film was!

I've always loved this movie (and its sequel) since I first watched it and every subsequent re-watch has done nothing to harm it either. It might seem a bit adolescent for some tastes but I think a healthy injection of heart helps it rise well above par. 

Bonus points for excellent use of Michael Jackson's "Thriller", Queen's "We Are the Champions" and some very catchy original music (sorry I forgot who to credit for that and don't have time to look! Hit up IMDb y'all!).

Towards the end of the movie my friends Paul and Sebastian arrived. I had a stack of possible stuff for them to pick from (all from 84 of course) and the following two are what they picked.

19:05 - Top Secret! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker)

As with many of the films we're looking at here, I really need to take the time to explore this in depth at a later time... and this is one near the top of that list.

Seb had never seen this and Paul hadn't watched it in years so it seemed the ideal one to start with.

I love Airplane! but I think I prefer this... an opinion which is cemented with each revisit. For one thing, and from a horror fans point of view, this has both Michael Gough AND Peter Cushing in it... and Airplane! has neither. But both movies are similar in that the gags per minute ratio is very healthy indeed... and at the moment I find Top Secret! the funnier of the two.

Suffice to say r.e. this viewing, it went down gangbusters. I find comedy generally works best when watched with other people and this was no exception... I nearly bust a gut at one point from laughing. It was the giant phone that nearly killed me. Everyone who has seen this should know what I mean... and everyone else needs to watch it to find out!

21:20 - Friday the 13th Part IV (Joseph Zito)

This one was Paul's choice as he'd never seen it... and I don't think Seb had either. Bonus!

I covered this earlier this year (here) so there's little to add. Again, we had a blast watching it... and I was a little disturbed how much the guys enjoyed seeing a certain person getting hacked up at the end... though I must admit I sort of get a kick out of that too. Again, the initiated will known what I'm talking about... and the rest of you will think me and my friends are sick and weird! You need to see the film to appreciate the context!

22:50 - Paul and Seb depart and there begins an extended break apparently as the next movie starts at...

00:20 - A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven)

Again, I don't have time to do this seminal slasher justice right now. This was a formative horror film for me and something that exuded a fearsome reputation back when I was a kid. 

30 years after its release and following numerous repeat viewings, I still find it to be entertaining and effective. And even after numerous knock offs, it stands out somewhat from the majority of slashers. Like The Terminator (my aforementioned honorary sci-fi slasher), it shows that film makers were starting to expand the parameters of the sub-genre by the time the Golden Age was coming to an end.

One trivia tidbit for now... if my notes are correct, there's a credit that reads "Special Thanks to Sam Raimi, Sean Cunningham & Sam Raimi"... I really hope I read that right. And if so, why does Raimi get thanked twice. Or are there really two of them?!

02:00 approx - Good night! To be continued tomorrow...

Sunday 28th September 2014

21:00 - This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner)

Had to work today so starting later than I'd like but first up, perhaps the greatest comedy film of 84, if not exactly my favourite.

This is another stone cold cult classic and one of the most quotable films I can think of. And anyone who has ever been in a band will identify with a lot of what happens... it's a damn funny movie but I'll admit some of the jokes are born out of recognition of the inherent absurdity of being a rock musician. 

If you haven't seen this, you really owe it to yourself to rectify that... especially if you're a muso!

22:28 - Rocktober Blood (Beverly Sebastion)

Synopsis - executed heavy metal singer comes back to exact revenge on the person who wronged him.

Yup, the rocking continues folks! I'll confess I really can't recall a huge deal about this one but I do remember enjoying it. I liked the music in it and and the general premise. There's a blonde haired manager type like in Spinal Tap (spooky!) and, if my notes are to be believed, it contains an amazing aerobics/workout dance scene. I can't remember what the hell I was referring to there. Needless to say, needs a rewatch!

00:30 - Murder Rock (Lucio Fulci)

Synopsis - New York dance school plagued by string of murders. Victims all top candidates for sought after scholarship. Everyone a suspect!

I said my piece on this earlier this year and I really have nothing to add. Check it out y'all!

02:15 approx - Good night again! See y'all tomorrow!

Monday 29th September 2014

An Italian horror quadruple creature feature this evening! Well, the first film is Spanish produced but directed by an Italian!

17:44 - Monster Dog (Claudio Fragasso)

Holy crap! I remember even less about this one than Rocktober Blood! And funnily there are vague similarities... i.e. a singer is a central character and this time it's none other than Alice Cooper!

What I do remember about this (synopsis - again, the title tells you what you need to know) was it was quite atmospheric... e.g. lots of nice blue lighting!

19:45 - Between movies anyway but a power cut temporarily fucks my shit up here. Doesn't last long though thankfully!

20:33  - Devilfish AKA Monster Shark (Lamberto Bava)

Synopsis - A French-Italian Jaws knock off, this is essentially Sharktopus but before that was a thing. And sadly, it's not quite as fun as it sounds... serviceable enough though! And it does have a few things to recommend about it, such as...
  • Gianni Garko and Dagmar Lassander, who are both generally reassuring presences in Italian horror films.
  • A quintessentially 80s bit where some plays video games while listening to a personal stereo.
  • A sleazy murder/assassination scene that seems to come out of nowhere but hey! this is part Italian after all!
22:40 - The Wild Beasts (Franco Prosperi)

Synopsis - zoo animals break out and go berserk after drinking water contaminated by PCP. And this one was as fun as it sounds... or at least I think so anyway...

I'd recommend this one. But bear in mind, i.e. if you're not familiar with European genre films of this vintage, there is the odd instance of animal cruelty, which I always find abhorrent to behold but I'll also concede that these films were from a different time. Rest assured though, this isn't Cannibal Holocaust or anything so said instances are relatively brief. And most of it's more exploitation than outright cruelty, though I'm sure the lines between those things are debatable.

Generally speaking, I found it fun. I think the makers were trying to make a serious point somewhere and while I don't think they succeeded I'd still say no points off for effort.

And any film that has a scene referencing (or ripping off if you prefer) Suspiria and also features the line "She's not crazy, she's being chased by a cheetah" can never be a total waste of time right?

00:41 - Rats: Night of Terror (Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso)

I forgot to mention but I think Mattei was second unit director on Devilfish... and Fragasso directed Monster Dog, so nearly all these films are connected, aside from by theme.

Synopsis: In a post apocalyptic near future (2015 (!!) I think), a bunch of bikers, rolling from place to place, end up under siege by the eponymous critters. Hilarity ensues!

If I'm not mistaken, 1984 was the year of the rat (I think, I'll check later). I've seen this film twice and I can barely remember anything about it apart from that I really enjoyed it and I think it might be worth watching for the ending alone. That's all for now folks!

02:30 approx - Time for bed!

Tuesday 30th September 2014

20:44 - Razorback (Russell Mulcahy)

Another monster movie but this one's from Australia! 

Synopsis - an American journalist (I think) and a local hunter attempt to track down the mythical titular creature that's plaguing a town in the outback.

I was lukewarm about this the first time round but got a lot more out of it the second time. I can't see it becoming a favourite or anything but I think it's worth seeing for the cinematography alone. Fans of 80s gel lighting will frickin' love this. Style to spare here folks!

22:48 - Poison for the Fairies (Carlos Enrique Taboada)

Synopsis - two schoolgirls meet and start getting into witchcraft. Things do not end well. Or do they?

I'd never heard of this or the director until relatively recently and I have our good friend Brad of Yellow Razor to thank for the heads up. This is hands down one of the best films I've seen all year... and believe me, I watched a shit ton of titles for the first time this year.

I need to re-watch this myself and don't want to spoil anything but I'll say if you enjoyed any of the films of Taboada's fellow Mexican Guillermo del Toro, and especially The Devil's Backbone or Pan's Labyrinth, I think you'll dig this. All three films are some of the best horror films I've seen involving children and contain some of the best performances I've seen given by them.

Like I say, only seen it once but I thought this was a great movie. Highly recommended.

00:44 - The Company of Wolves (Neil Jordan)

Synopsis - an adolescent girl dreams tales of werewolves... featuring a shit ton of Freudian and fairytale imagery.

This is another film I gain a lot of appreciation for with each revisit. It's sort of an anthology movie but the stories are sort nested within each other, a la Russian dolls. 

I've read a fair bit of Angela Carter's stuff (The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman comes particularly recommended. Mindblowing) and from what I recall, this generally gets the feel and the spirit of her stories down, which makes sense as she was apparently on board for the film itself.

Again, this is worth seeing for the visuals alone... and anyone who appreciates dreamlike cinema and fairy-tales will no doubt get a kick out of it. 

02:30 approx - Time to call it a night! 

Wednesday 1st October 2014 - Happy Birthday to Me!

20:54 - All of Me (Carl Reiner)

So, I turned 30 today... and stupidly I didn't take the day off work! Ah well, hindsight is 20/20 as they say!

First up on the film front tonight and our second movie from a Reiner this 'thon (the first was from the son, this one from the father, as it were), a body swap comedy gem.

Synopsis -  Steve Martin is having the 38th birthday from hell. Long story short, he ends up cohabiting his body with Lily Tomlin. And hilarity ensues!

I'm a big fan of all the films Reiner and Martin made each other (the other three are The Jerk, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and The Man With Two Brains) but I think this might be the best... it's certainly the most "mature" at any rate. In fact, I think Martin saw this movie as marking the start of a new phase of his career and I think he could be right. 

Random connection to Ghostbusters by the way... look out from the hotel concierge from that film in this... or at least I think that's him! Like I say, running a damn tight ship today so don't have time to check!

Again, I wholeheartedly recommend this film. And it's one that never fails to put me in a better mood... much like our next movie!

22:48 - Electric Dreams (Steve Barron)

Synopsis - disorganised dude Lenny Von Dohlen gets in on the computer revolution. Meets lovely new neighbour Virginia Madsen. Said PC gains sentience after having champagne spilt on it. It becomes his rival for the affections of the lovely Ms. Madsen. Hilarity ensues!

I. Love. This. Movie! It's so delightfully of its time but that merely adds to the charm. And I'm pretty much predisposed to love anything with Virginia Madsen in it but the whole package makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

I think this was Virgin's first foray into producing a film and as a result it features music from several of their artists. And that's another reason I really dig this. From Giorgio Moroder's synth-tastic score to some wonderful pop songs from the likes of Culture Club and the title track from Moroder and Phil Oakey, which is apparently much better known than the film (which seems to have disappeared through the cracks as far as I can tell), the whole soundtrack is a delight to my ears. 

This is one of those films that has me wanting to run out on my tip toes by the end, such is its magic, and I want YOU to watch it!

00:36 - The Toxic Avenger (Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman, as Samuel Weil) 

I'd never seen this before and spotted that up and coming UK home video company 88 Films had released it on Blu Ray. For 8 quid I really couldn't pass it up and I'm glad I didn't. So basically this was my birthday present to myself. And please tell me I'm not the only one who does that sort of thing.

Synopsis - mop boy Melvin becomes the eponymous crusader after a prank gone awry sends him head first into barrels of ill placed toxic waste. Hilarity ensues! And I need to stop saying that, I know, but it's true!

Like say, Street Trash, this is as bad taste and defiantly trashy as it comes but if you're not averse to that sort of thing then roll on up.

Sort of like a head on collision between a superhero movie and a slasher, this has something to offend practically everyone. But it's so over the top and comic book like that it doesn't leave a bitter taste in my mouth... which I couldn't necessarily say for other films of its ilk. And funnily enough, like the last two movies I watched today, it's sort of a romantic comedy. A bad taste one to be sure, but one nonetheless. And again, it's an injection of heart (no matter how tongue in cheek and silly it all is) that arguably lifts this movie a notch or two.

In a word, trashtastic!

02:15 approx - Good night y'all!

Thursday 2nd October 2014

22:03 - Body Double (Brian De Palma)

Synopsis - Rear Window meets Vertigo circa '84. With a musical dream (?) sequence based around "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. And if none of those references mean anything, I can't help you... homework to do, you have, as Yoda might say...

I'd only seen this once before and was eager to revisit it. Glad I did as I loved it. And I found much more to appreciate this time around, my cinematic education having widened since last time. E.g: a lot of the daytime scenes reminded me of Argento's Tenebre this time round.

And this connects to another 80s horror gem... the film within a film here is called Vampire's Kiss of all things. And if you're unfamiliar with the Nic Cage movie of the same name, seek it out... you won't regret it!

01:07 - Blood Simple (Joel Coen)

Synopsis - neo-noir thriller and Coen brother's debut that concerns a quartet of characters involved in adultery and murder.

I have to be in the right mood for a Coen brothers joint but I can't deny their consistent brilliance. And it seems they came out near enough fully formed, as evidenced by this top drawer pulse pounding flick.

There's lots to recommend here but the thing that always stood out to me from a first watch is the cinematography, by future director Barry Sonnenfeld. Great stuff.

If you're a fan of the Coens and haven't seen it, you definitely should.

Friday 3rd October 2014

13:15 - The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Petersen)

Final day of the 'thon and I had a ton of stuff I wanted to check out, but I promised myself I'd call it quits when I finished film number 30.

To begin then, something I'd never seen. Yup, as with another apparently well loved movie from this year we'll be getting to later today, this one had somehow slipped through the cracks. And strangely, both concern protagonists being given strength and wisdom (though more indirectly here) by olders gents while seeking refuge from neighbourhood bullies.

And also, like said other movie I'm referring to, I'm wondering what took me so long to get to this. I really got into it and I'm not ashamed to admit one part had me tearing up... if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.

Random connection to another 84 movie, and one we've looked at... Giorgio Moroder was one of the people who did the music.

15:30 - Dune (David Lynch)

I've been a big Lynch fan for years now but this is one I was never crazy about. But every re-watch since buying the Blu Ray last year is starting to change that... I'm starting to love this, warts and all.

While I know author Frank Herbert dug this and I do also, I'll be the first to admit there are flaws. But there's so much to love I'm frankly willing to overlook that.

I mean, narratively, it's a bit of mess... especially towards the end. But anyone generally familiar with Lynch, and how he rolls, will be attuned to his somewhat right-brained approach to cinema and shouldn't find that a problem. Or in other words, it's more about the imagery, atmosphere and general vibe than plot.

Plus, there's plenty to be enjoyed on a level of unintentional (?) humour, like Lynch's cameo (heard not seen I think, could be wrong), Patrick Stewart running into battle carrying a Pug in his arms, and a young and hilariously overdubbed Alicia Witt (yup, of Urban Legend). Oh, and Paul Smith from Pieces and Robert Altman's Popeye is in it, so what else do ya need?

18:34 - The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen)

For anyone wondering what film I kept comparing the also previously unseen Neverending Story to earlier, this is it. Yup, aside from remembering seeing the ending tournament years ago, I don't think I'd ever seen this all the way through before.

Not a lot to say for now but I really loved it. I hate to keep reusing certain words but again I'd say this had a lot of heart, which is what makes it work. Or a generosity of spirit if you prefer.

I look forward to revisiting it. Wax on wax off.

21:17 - Ninja III - The Domination (Sam Firstenberg)

Synopsis - 80s lady become possessed by spirit of dead ninja seeking vengeance (I think). Hilarity ensues. Sorry, couldn't help it.

This is a film I'd heard a lot about hence I was very much looking forward to it. While my memory of it is very foggy, it didn't disappoint. For anyone unfamiliar, it's a fun, wild, sometimes cheesy (not a bad thing) ride. 

Strangely, like our next movie, it contains a scene combining arcade games and aerobic/gym gear. And finally, to reuse another much exploited word from this whistle stop tour, the soundtrack is synth-tastic!

23:20 - Silent Madness (Simon Nuchtern)

Synopsis - owing to a clerical or computer error (I forget which), a homicidal maniac is released from a psychiatric institution. A lady shrink from said loony bin goes undercover in a sorority to try and find him.

The first part of an underrated slasher double bill to finish the moviethon, Silent Madness is, I would say, definitely worth a look if you're a fan of the sub-genre. 

Firstly, there's a couple of links to perhaps the seminal slasher of this year, A Nightmare on Elm Street, i.e. an antagonist is named Krueger in both (though this film drops the e I think) and a boiler room features prominently. 

But all that aside I found it to be generally engaging and entertaining. And like in our last movie, there's a scene that's quintessentially 80s... it combines the Dragon's Lair arcade game, weights, a window and some spandex... and that's all I'm giving away.

01:40 - The Initiation (Larry Stewart)

For the final film of the 'thon, I elected to go for one I covered earlier this year (see here fool! P.S: it turns out I'm the fool and I actually didn't review this! Just thought I did! Sorry y'all, I'll try and get to it in the none too distant!), and it's another underrated slasher and also a film that rises in my estimation every time I watch it.

Synopsis - sorority girl plagued by recurring nightmares of childhood trauma has to spend a night in her father's department store and steal the guard's uniform... while a deranged killer is on the loose (of course)!

Like in All of Me, it's the central characters birthday in this, which made it highly appropriate for present purposes. As with Silent Madness, there's a couple of resonances with A Nightmare on Elm Street (something was in the water that year apparently). And seguing nicely into what we'll be looking at next on the blog, there's one slashtastic scene with Christmas décor galore.

To reiterate, as I covered this some months back (no you didn't Simon!), I don't have a lot new to add. So if you'd like to know more about this one check out the aforementioned review (or the one I'll write later and add a link to here I mean!). Or just watch it. If you like slasher films and especially the 80s variety, I think the balance of probability predicts that you'll dig this. End of.

03:15 approx - The End! Fine! Fininto!

So then, what have we learnt? I'm not sure... a question to be answered another time perhaps. Please bear in mind I wrote most of this in one night so I'm sure you'll forgive me if I say I have nothing left. Don't try this at home kids (if you value your sanity) and good night ladies and gentlemen!

No comments:

Post a Comment