Painter’s Feet

My Left Foot put its best foot forward. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the greatest actors of all time, but I really hadn’t seen much from his limited filmography. My mother suggested My Left Foot as it was the first film where Day-Lewis won an Academy Award for Best Actor. My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown is the true story of an Irishman with cerebral palsy who beat the odds to become a painter and author of his own autobiography.

Christy is seen as a burden by his proud working class father, but his strong and patient mother has always believed in him. It’s not until Christy writes “Mother” with his left foot that his father starts to come around. We see all of Christy’s life from being wheeled around in a cart to learning to improve his speech with a cerebral palsy coach. It’s a powerful journey with many highs and lows, but Christy is able to find love and appreciation by the end. Daniel Day-Lewis is a pure wonder to behold as he contorts his body throughout the film. As a method actor, his dedication shows in every scene.

Day-Lewis was more than deserving of the Best Actor Oscar, but child actor Hugh O’Conor should’ve won as well. O’Conor is scary good at matching his older co-stars facial features and body movements. Brenda Fricker won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as well. Since a loved one experiencing someone else’s struggle can be just as effective. Some would argue My Left Foot should’ve won Best Picture over Driving Miss Daisy, but I think they’re equally strong contenders. My Left Foot is an inspiring lesson in never giving up on the physically disabled.

My Left Foot

Christy’s mother pushes her son

He Who Walks Behind the Rows

Children of the Corn can only be described as corny. I was expecting another iconic horror experience from Stephen King, but what I got was a bunch of shucks. “Children of the Corn” was originally written as a short story by King. The story is almost like The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” if it chose to focus exclusively on creepy kids sending adults to a cornfield. I had no idea King was responsible for the 1984 Children of the Corn, but all of his usual horror hallmarks are there.

Children of the Corn takes place in a rural town full of religious extremists with anti-religious main characters. It’s about as eye-roll inducing as I’ve come to expect. Every adult in town is brutally murdered by their children in a particularly memorable opening. Made more memorable by Isaac staring at the violence in his black folksy hat. Although Isaac seems like a childish false prophet, John Franklin was actually 23 at the time. His youthful look mixed with his grown up experience made Isaac the most stand out part of the movie.

Everything else is really slow and full of corny performances. Peter Horton plays Burt and a pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton plays Vicky. They’re an unfortunate couple that end up stuck in the adultless town. The only good kids are the narrator Job and his unexplainably psychic sister Sarah (another frequent King cliché). Isaac and his right hand Malachi make the children worship some kind of corn god called “He who walks behind the rows.” I understand having a cult following, but there’s no way I’m watching 10 sequels worth of this. Children of the Corn is about as terrifying as corn can be.

Children of the Corn

Isaac views the carnage

One Ring to Bring Them All and in the Darkness Bind Them

The Return of the King is the final animated adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. Since Ralph Bakshi was overwhelmed by the response to his incomplete version of The Lord of the Rings, Rankin/Bass jumped at the opportunity to finish it. Sadly, The Return of the King was very much a sequel to The Hobbit (that’s not confusing at all). A Best Picture winner of 11 Academy Awards this is not. Since the TV special was every bit the crudely animated unnecessary musical that The Hobbit was. Scenes from the 1977 film are used along with Orson Bean voicing both Bilbo and Frodo.

The 1980 film actually starts with elderly Bilbo celebrating his birthday after the One Ring was already destroyed. A very annoying minstrel sings the story of Frodo and his nine fingers. We pick up right where The Two Towers ended, but neither Bashki, nor Rankin/Bass depicted Frodo’s encounter with Shelob. Instead Frodo is already kidnapped by overly cartoony orcs. Leaving a fairly dignified Sam to come to Frodo’s aid. It really feels like a Hobbit sequel based on how much attention is given to the hobbits in comparison to everyone else.

Despite the title, Aragorn is barely in the movie to return as the king of Gondor. Legolas and Gimli are surprisingly never seen. Arwen is still absent, but at least Eowyn gets her female empowerment moment. The Battle of Minas Tirith is vaguely intense with Gandalf, Pippin, and eventually Merry fighting off orcs. It’s just Frodo and Sam avoiding Sauron’s eye atop Mount Doom that takes up most of the 1 hour & 38 minute runtime. The green Gollum from The Hobbit attacks Frodo, but his accidental destruction of the Ring is due to clumsiness. Frodo then departs to the Grey Havens in an ending with almost no weight to any of it. The Return of the King tries its best, but thankfully Peter Jackson came along to make the story a masterpiece.

The Return of the King

Frodo uses the power of the Ring

Do Right By Me

The Color Purple did right by its source material. The 1982 novel was frequently banned, but that wasn’t enough to keep African American author Alice Walker from winning a Pulitzer Prize. The movie was made only 3 years after the book was published with none other than Steven Spielberg as director. It was his first serious drama, even though people thought it should’ve had a black director. Despite being Jewish and understanding the material well enough to do the film justice. I’m always impressed by Spielberg’s ability to turn even the most tragic stories into fully engaging epics. Apart from its reputation, I actually never knew much about The Color Purple growing up.

It’s the tale of two African American sisters growing up in the South at the turn of the 20th Century. A saga that spans approximately 40 years. Like most black women at the time, Celie is constantly mistreated by the men in her life. The PG-13 rating makes the darker themes easier to get through, but no less uncomfortable. Racism is present, but that’s not the primary focus. The only person who cares about Celie is her close sister Nettie. Unfortunately, Celie’s life takes a turn for the worst when her abusive father gives her to the equally abusive Mister and he separates the sisters for what seems like an eternity. The ensemble cast of respected black performers delivers some of their best work.

Whoopi Goldberg makes her breakout feature film debut as Celie. Effectively showing her progression from timid maid to strong independent black woman. Oprah Winfrey makes her film debut too, by practically disappearing in the role of the strong-willed Sophia. Even the much more irredeemably cruel Mister and Old Mister are fleshed out with Danny Glover and Adolph Caesar in the roles. The final ingredient was Margaret Avery holding the family together as singer/showgirl Shug Avery. SPOILER ALERT! It was satisfying to finally see Celie stand up for herself and just as emotional to witness her tearful reunion with her sister. The Color Purple had 11 Academy Award nominations, but not a single win. Ironically, it lost Best Picture to another female focused film with Africa as a setting. The Color Purple may have been overlooked, but that doesn’t make it any less deserving of appreciation.

The Color Purple

Celie and Nettie in a field of purple flowers

Girly Man

Just One of the Guys is Twelfth Night if it were set in the 80’s. Unlike the 2006 She’s the Man, Just One of the Guys doesn’t use any of William Shakespeare’s original names. I’m a fan of crossdressing comedies, but that wasn’t my reason for seeing a movie I probably would’ve never heard of. I heard it had one of the more famous PG-13 nude scenes. Just One of the Guys centers on high school student Terri. She’s an aspiring writer who disguises herself as a boy when her writing isn’t taken seriously enough to win a publishing job.

With the help of her overly sex-crazed brother, Joyce Hyser becomes a mostly convincing guy. The usual hijinks ensue. Guys pick on her, girls unknowingly flirt with her, awkward things happen in the boy’s locker room, and she falls for a guy while in her disguise. Leading to even more hijinks when her college boyfriend drops by unannounced. Eventually they sort of forget about the writing thing in favor of male bonding turned high school romance.

Things take a turn at the prom where Terri decides to reveal herself the only way she can. By opening her shirt for a few seconds. I’m actually surprised the movie didn’t get an R rating. There’s a lot of crude sex talk and a whole bedroom covered with naked woman. Everything else is standard teen movie fair. Complete with very over-the-top nerds and William Zabka as the bully. Apart from the fun crossdressing part, Just One of the Guys is just one of several similar 80’s teen movies.

Just One of the Guys

Terri (left) checks someone out

Too Cool for School

Back to School is a ton of fun I tell ya. I tell ya it’s the funniest movie starring comedian Rodney Dangerfield. The man got no respect, no respect I tell ya. I didn’t grow up knowing Dangerfield outside of his appearance on The Simpsons. Caddyshack was a hilarious breakout performance, but my parents always told me to check out Back to School. I wasn’t sure how Dangerfield would do in a lead role, but he’s perfectly natural between good natured riffing and eye bulging.

Thornton Melon is a self made millionaire who got rich selling to the tall and fat. He’s got money, time, and an unfaithful trophy wife, but that’s nothing without an education. So he decides to attend college with his disillusioned son Jason in order to convince him to stay. There were plenty of middle aged students when I went to college, but it’s still a unique circumstance. Thornton coasts through college by buying any supplies he needs, partying down, hiring employees to do his homework, and romancing his poetry professor.

Thornton still has a good heart though. Eventually learning the value of learning without money. Meanwhile, Jason attempts to have his own accomplishments and maybe get a girlfriend. This was the 80’s, so expect two F bombs and a topless shower scene in this PG-13 movie. Along with some great talent like Ned Beatty, Burt Young, and a young Robert Downey Jr. Dangerfield still steals the show with all his witty remarks. His crowning comedic achievement is subbing for someone on his son’s diving team. Performing a ludicrous “Triple Lindy” dive. Back to School is just chock full of laughs I tell ya.

Back to School

Thornton Melon high dives

Was it_____in the_____with the_____?

Clue is a board game movie done right. Granted, there aren’t many board game movies in existence. Given the narrative structure of the game, Hasbro made the wise decision to make a live-action version of Clue. A famous board game I never played when I was younger. Clue was a lot of kids introduction to a classic “Whodunit” full of murder and sex appeal. I didn’t see the over-the-top mystery film when I was younger either, but I can certainly understand why it has a cult following. Clue goes to great lengths in recreating the scene of the crime. A highly respectable cast is assembled to portray each key player in the game.

Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren are all fully dedicated to giving Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Prof. Plum, Mr. Green, Col. Mustard, and Miss Scarlet personality. They make the clever decision to have each name be a pseudonym. Each character is blackmailed for business related scandals. They all enter the board game authentic mansion where they’re greeted by an original butler and maid. Tim Curry is a major highlight as the high energy Wadsworth. Though I often find myself staring at the busty French maid Yvette.

Mr. Boddy is the host who is just their to be the primary murder victim of the story. He gives them each a candlestick, knife, lead pipe, revolver, rope, and wrench. The first murder sets off a chain reaction of murders that occur after increasingly hilarious hijinks. The physical comedy really lightens up the constant death. While the 1954 aesthetic and shadowy atmosphere makes it seem more sophisticated. The most unique part is the use of multiple endings during the theatrical release. Ending A & B make one person the final killer, while Ending C makes everyone partially guilty. It’s a mystery why Clue hasn’t inspired even more well thought out board game movies.

Clue

Wadsworth and his guests answer the door

Real American Heroes

G.I. Joe: The Movie is a real American blast. If you love the Transformers, then you have to love Hasbro’s other action packed toy line as well. G.I. Joe coined the name action figure in the 60’s and earned a new generation of fans in the 80’s with the cartoon adventures of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. I didn’t watch much of it, but I did have Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow toys when I was younger. Like The Transformers: The Movie, my brother really wanted me to check out the 1987 movie. The difference was the latter’s financial losses resulted in G.I. Joe going straight to video.

It’s a shame since this animation was clearly made for the theater. It starts with a bang by having warring factions G.I. Joe and Cobra Command fight at the Statue of Liberty. That macho military excitement can be found throughout the entire movie. With the perfect amount of awesome all-terrain action and cheesy characters. When the shrieking Cobra Commander’s position is threatened by the ridiculous Serpentor, a new threat arises in the form of Pythona, Nemesis Enforcer, and her superior Golobulus of a snake civilization called Cobra-La. It’s silly, but I expect nothing less.

This looks like a job for the Joes. At least it would be if they didn’t go the Transformers route. Focusing on a new team of potential toys to train. Including the carefree Falcon and female ninja Jinx. Srgt. Slaughter himself steps in to train the more violent recruits. Of course they use celebrity voices on some characters, but this is still a direct-to-video movie. One where core G.I. Joe Duke was supposed to die before Optimus Prime made them call it a coma. So the world is saved without him. G.I. Joe: The Movie is nevertheless a thrill ride that’ll make you scream “Yo Joe!”

G.I. Joe: The Movie

The new Joes

Isn’t the World a Lovely Place?

My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) is the feature film debut for Hasbro’s best selling girls toy line. At least I thought it was the debut. I kinda watched episodes of the 1986 animated series thinking they were first. Then I realized The Movie was meant to come first. Now I realize even that was preceded by 2 specials called Rescue at Midnight Castle and Escape from Catrina. I think I’ll just stick to the teatrical movie for now since I don’t think I can take anymore of these ponies. As a 4th generation Bronie, I knew I’d eventually backtrack to the generation that started it all.

My Little Pony: The Movie was pretty painful to get through. It feels more like an extended episode complete with commercial-like fade outs. The 80’s ponies are just too sugary for my taste. All they do is frolic, play games, and befriend woodland animals. Ponies are distinctive colors with Earth Ponies, Pegasui, and Unicorns populating Ponyland. I couldn’t really tell the difference between anypony. Apart from baby dragon Spike. Other creatures appear like Bushwoolies, Grundles, and even humans.

Megan, Molly, and Danny seemed to come out of nowhere without my knowledge of their original debut. But the real focus is on the witches. A trio of bumbling witches that only hate the ponies because they’re so sweet. There are celebrity voices, but that didn’t help much. The near constant songs are grating, different characters pop up constantly, and nothing feels theatrical. The only threat is a blob called the Smooze that’s easily defeated by Flutter Ponies. Unless you’ve grown up watching it, My Little Pony: The Movie will kill you with cuteness.

My Little Pony The Movie

The little ponies and friends

You’ve Got the Touch

The Transformers: The Movie is the awkwardly titled feature film debut for everybody’s favorite “Robots in disguise.” Transformers are the very definition of successfully turning Japanese toys from the 80’s into an exciting story for kids. So it was only a matter of time before I became a fan, but really it was my brother who became obsessed with it. After the live-action movie was released, we backtracked to the show that started it all. Although we foolishly saw the movie before watching the 1984 animated series. It makes way more sense after we watched seasons 1 & 2. Since every Autobot, Decepticon, Dinobot, Insecticon, and Constructicon appears with no explanation for non-fans.

How awesome it must have been to be a young fan in 1986 seeing the Transformers on the big screen with highly detailed animation. In the distant future of 2005, Decepticons have taken Cybertron for themselves. With Autobots ready to mount an offensive from one of their moon bases. You might expect a standard war between factions, but The Transformers: The Movie is a total energon-bath. Beloved Autobots and Decepticons are killed left and right. Fortunately Bumblebee is safe with an older Spike. Starscream isn’t so lucky after one too many betrayals. A heated early battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron actually results in both icons being mortally wounded. Killing Optimus Prime was a major child traumatizing mistake that Hasbro should’ve thought twice about.

It gets so intense that Spike actually says “Sh*t” in this animated kids movie. Eventually you realize every death was just to make room for new toys. As well as high profile voice actors. Judd Nelson is next generation Autobot Hot Rod, Leonard Nimoy is Megatron reborn as the Decepticon Galvatron, and Orson Welles himself is the massive planet sized main antagonist Unicron. It’s a desperate struggle for the all important “Matrix of Leadership” where “One shall stand, one shall fall.” The transformative action is seriously intense, but the fun is never lost. The 80’s anthem “The Touch” ensures The Transformers: The Movie as an 80’s benchmark for generations to come.

The Transformers: The Movie

Optimus Prime vs. Megatron