Stay Gold Ponyboy

The Outsiders may be the most crucial teen movie ever made. It’s responsible for launching the careers of C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, and even Tom Cruise. So many young future stars getting their start in the same movie. It led to the creation of the Brat Pack which lasted throughout the 80’s. I love teen movies, but my history with The Outsiders is a little complicated. The Outsiders is based on a 1967 novel by S. E. Hinton. She wrote the coming-of-age book when she was in high school. I ended up reading The Outsiders in middle school and we watched the movie in class, but I have a scattered memory of it.

Acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola isn’t known for angsty teen dramas, but he was inspired to adapt the book after students recommended him for the job. The Outsiders is certainly different with a shorter runtime than most Coppola films. Hinton worked closely with Coppola and the actors in order to stay faithful to the story. As the title suggests, the greasers are a group of outsiders living in 1965 Oklahoma. Most of them have nicknames, but all of them are at odds with the high class socs. Dally is the toughest greaser who flirts with danger and redheaded socs girl Cherry Valance.

Ponyboy and Johnny are the most sensitive greasers who come from the roughest families. Ponyboy lives with his brothers Darry and Sodapop and Johnny lives with his abusive parents. Reality strikes when a fatal stabbing forces them to go on the run. The Outsiders is all about those who continue down a dangerous path and those who strive to be better. Dally, Johnny, and Ponyboy are labeled heroes after saving kids from a burning building, but it ends tragically for two of them. All you can do is “Stay Gold” and make life worth living. The Outsiders set the standard for many teen movies to come.

The Outsiders

Dally (center) helps out Johnny (left) and Ponyboy (right)

Clowning Around

Killer Klowns from Outer Space already sounds like an April Fools joke, but it’s a very real movie that I couldn’t make up if I tried. It’s a true old fashioned B movie that delivers what it promises. It’s goofy in a so bad it’s good kind of way. Killer Klowns from Outer Space features clown themed aliens rampaging a small town. Leaving a small group of over-the-top locals to stop the invasion. Klowns use every clown trick in the book.

Their spaceship is a big top circus tent, they use cotton candy ray guns, balloon animal hunting dogs, a compressed popcorn gun, living shadow puppets, and acid throwing pies. Since the Chiodo Brothers are more known for their special effects work, each klown has a funky design that will probably scare people with a fear of clowns. They all have distinct names, but none of them are able to talk. Just disturbing warped alien laughter.

As a PG-13 horror movie, Killer Klowns from Outer Space does get away with light blood and even a comedic decapitation. Although most of the town is killed or cocooned, almost every hero survives in the end. A sequel was talked about for a long time, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a rare horror movie with no follow ups to its name. So it remains a stand alone cult film. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is creepy and colorful at the same time.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Killer klowns from outer space

Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian

The Bounty is the last major adaptation of Mutiny on the Bounty. Unlike the 1935 or 1962 version, the Dino De Laurentiis produced film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Even though it has an all-star cast that includes Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, and Bernard Hill. Plus Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson before they were famous. It’s a wonder I never heard of the 1984 remake, but it is meant to be more of a reinterpretation.

The Bounty is more historically accurate and mostly inspired by the book Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian. Both characters are portrayed as friends and are given equal attention in the story. Hopkins is a very human Captain Bligh who doesn’t feel like a villain until after their stay in Tahiti. The whole movie is framed with his court martial and we actually see everything he went through adrift at sea. Gibson is appropriately masculine as Mr. Christian, but he does overact a bit when the mutiny occurs. 

Their divide is caused by Christian finding love in Tahiti. Despite the PG rating, The Bounty is the only movie to accurately depict the topless women of Tahiti. I know it’s non-sexual, but they do get away with a lot of naked boobs and some pretty passionate moments between Christian and Mauatua. Christian isn’t entirely heroic in his mutiny and it’s kept vague what exactly happened on the island they settle on. The Bounty is a well produced adventure that’s probably the closest to historical fact we’re ever gonna get.

The Bounty

Mr. Christian seizes Captain Bligh

Remake of: Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

I’m the Greatest Sorcerer!

Willow gave Warwick Davis his much deserved time in the spotlight. After getting his start in Return of the Jedi, George Lucas wrote the movie especially for him. It is rare to have a little person in a lead role afterall. After Star Wars and between Indiana Jones, Lucas intended the fantasy epic to be his next big thing. Despite hiring his buddy Ron Howard as director, Willow wasn’t the success he was hoping for. I know Willow has a cult following, but I never made an effort to see it until now. I had no idea Willow was about a baby until I saw it. According to a prophecy, a baby girl is destined to one day overthrow the evil Queen Bavmorda. So she orders her minions to find the infant at any cost.

If that sounds just like Sleeping Beauty, the difference is the baby Elora never grows up. I expected a time jump, but it’s not that kind of story. This fantasy world is divided between tall people called Daikini and little people called Nelwyn. Willow Ufgood is a young Nelwyn with a wife and kids who finds the baby in a basket. If that sounds just like the story of Moses, I’m sure that was intentional. Willow wants to be a great sorcerer, but his unsureness holds him back. He reluctantly agrees to take Elora to her own kind in order to fulfill the prophecy. On his first quest, Willow is accompanied by a small band of warriors. If that sounds just like The Hobbit, get used to those similarities.

Willow does feel overlong and not as special as it should be. Willow’s quest changes several times and he’s joined by a revolving door of companions. Like Val Kilmer as the likeable rogue swordsman Madmartigan or Joanne Whalley as the warrior daughter of the evil queen. There’s also a pair of comedic brownies and a cursed sorceress who helps Willow perfect his magic. Speaking of magic, Industrial Light & Magic made a crucial technical leap in a scene where the sorceress morphs into a variety of animals. Other effects aren’t as impressive as they probably were in the 80’s. Willow has plenty of heart, but nothing new to contribute to the realm of fantasy.

Willow

Willow on a horse

You Break My Record, Now I Break You

Bloodsport gave the “Muscles from Brussels” his big break. Jean-Claude Van Damme put all of his splits, high kicks, and tricks on display for the first time in this cheesy 80’s fighting flick. Bloodsport is a cult favorite that I was inspired to watch thanks to constant exposure to martial arts. Plus I haven’t seen enough action movies starring Van Damme. It doesn’t really matter how good of an actor he is. Frank Dux is a presumably Belgian soldier who learned ninjitsu from a wise sensei and uses it in a deadly Hong Kong fighting competition known as Kumite.

It sounds far fetched, but Frank Dux is a real person who claims everything in the movie is true. Frank’s only other conflicts are a pair of bumbling CID agents who want him back when he goes AWOL. The respectable Norman Burton and Forest Whitaker play the agents. The hulking Donald Gibb plays fellow American fighter Ray Jackson who befriends him and Leah Ayres plays the blonde reporter Janice who starts a last minute relationship with him.

Obviously the rest of the story isn’t as important as what happens in the Kumite. Bloodsport even popularized mixed martial arts. All fights are pretty awesome and accompanied by cheesy songs like “Fight to Survive.” Van Damme is crazy over-the-top, but not as crazy as his psychopathic rival Chong Li played by famous buff martial artist Bolo Yeung. Chong fights dirty until Frank gains the upper hand without having to see him. Bloodsport is badass.

Bloodsport

Frank Dux vs. Chong Li

Jivetime Jimmy’s Revenge

Hollywood Shuffle is an underrated satire that was way ahead of its time. Meteor Man himself Robert Townsend wrote, directed, produced, starred, and financed a lot of the movie himself. It’s all about how black actors tend to be depicted in Hollywood. Stereotypes ranging from playing a slave, a pimp, a butler, or a jive talking gang member. I’m surprised more people don’t talk about this movie. My mom recommended it and I’m glad she did. It’s a funny take on a relatable problem. Thanks to some influence from Keenen Ivory Wayans as a co-writer.

Bobby Taylor is an aspiring actor who auditions for the unfortunately titled movie Jivetime Jimmy’s Revenge. He tries to follow his dreams despite the obvious stereotypes expected from the predominantly white production crew. It’s especially funny seeing theatrically trained actors saying such ridiculously over-the-top lines. Bobby quits his job at a hot dog stand, but has plenty of support from his little brother, mom, and girlfriend. It’s mostly his grandmother who causes doubt for whether it’s right to degrade yourself for the sake of a job. It’s a simple message for a fairly straightforward 82 minute movie.

Honestly the movie would be about 50 minutes without the many hilarious daydream vignettes in between. I couldn’t stop laughing at the “Black Acting School,” the black version of At the Movies called “Sneaking into Movies” should be its own show, and the noir style short film Death of a Breakdancer felt very authentic. If the movie were made nowadays, it would be far too heavy handed. Hollywood Shuffle knows how to confront serious issues with a sense of humor.

Hollywood Shuffle

“Sneaking into the Movies”

Once Upon a Time in Chicago

The Perfect Model is basically black Pretty Woman. It has an all-black cast, takes place in Chicago, and follows a high class actor who falls for a lower class aerobics instructor. All while the actor’s sleazy promotor friend puts on a beauty pageant looking for the “perfect model.” There’s a good chance you had no idea this movie existed until now. But there’s a good reason why I chose to review this independent, underground, practically lost film. My mom is in the movie!

I’ve previously mentioned her appearance in Adventures in Babysitting (see that review here), but this is a credited speaking performance. My mom never had a copy of The Perfect Model, but I finally found a DVD on Amazon. It’s almost like finding an old home video. My mom rarely talked about it since the movie isn’t very good. It’s a fairly respectable depiction of black culture, but it does get pretty R rated at times. Fortunately my mom wasn’t part of any of that. She has lots of hilarious insider information.

Apparently the director Darryl Roberts had no clue what he was doing and Ivory Ocean (the mayor from The Mask) did most of the work. My mom also choreographed an aerobics class. That’s one of two scenes she appears in. My mom has the funniest part in a dinner scene where she orders a ton of food… and a diet Pepsi. It’s strange hearing my mom talk in her late 20’s, but it’s also a great time capsule. The Perfect Model was worth sitting through just to see my mom in her acting days.

The Perfect Model

After aerobics dinner

Come to Terms

Terms of Endearment is a lot to come to terms with. It’s a human-interest story that was very common in the 80’s. The kind of story guaranteed to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Aside from its Oscar win, I never had too many expectations going into Terms of Endearment. I only knew it was a tearjerker, and that my manager strongly recommended it. Simpsons producer James L. Brooks directed, produced, and wrote the film himself. Winning three separate Oscars in the process. Terms of Endearment is based on a 1975 novel by Larry McMurtry. It chronicles the back and forth relationship between a mother and her daughter. I just don’t think it’s for me. Just about everyone is flawed and occasionally unlikeable.

The great Shirley MaClaine won Best Actress for her performance as the controlling Aurora, who maintains an obsessively close relationship with her daughter. Debra Winger was nominated for her performance as Emma, who deliberately marries a man her mother doesn’t approve of. Jeff Daniels got a serious career boost playing Emma’s neutral college professor husband Flap. Nearly 30 years of their lives go by with little warning. Emma and Flap have three kids, but each of them have affairs when life gets too tough. John Lithgow was nominated for his performance as Emma’s kind of pathetic lover Sam.

Aurora’s love life is just as complicated. She distances herself from Danny DeVito, but ends up falling for Jack Nicholson. Nicholson very much deserved his Best Supporting Actor win as Aurora’s overly confident, yet somehow charming former astronaut neighbor Garrett. I felt the most invested when he was on screen. Reality sets in when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness and everyone has to come to terms with it. Although I was on the verge of tears, I guess I couldn’t connect as much as I could’ve. Even though it is a perfect catharsis for each character. Terms of Endearment is technically brilliant with a perfect cast, fine performances, and realistic characters dealing with realistic problems.

Terms of Endearment

Emma lays down with her mother Aurora

Followed by: The Evening Star

You Blockhead!

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!) took the titular blockhead halfway round the world. Like Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, I’ve seen the movie advertised many times on my Rugrats VHS tapes. It was the final Peanuts movie released in Charles M. Schulz’s lifetime. Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!) is a personal story partly based on the creator’s life experience in France. Charlie Brown, Linus, Peppermint Patty, and Marcie travel to England and France for a foreign exchange program.

Charlie Brown deals with questions of who sent him a letter, Linus looks out for him, Peppermint Patty is overconfident as usual, and Marcie speaks enough French to get by. Meanwhile, Snoopy and Woodstock enjoy the finer parts of the country. Including a brief stay at Wimbledon. The animation is more cinematic and atmospheric than anything else in the franchise. The movies did evolve overtime, but the 80’s were a weird time for the Peanuts.

Even though adults are supposed to be unseen and unheard, several adults are both seen and heard. It wasn’t the first time, but it does make me a little uncomfortable. Peppermint Patty and Marcie stay with a friendly French boy, but Charlie Brown and Linus end up at an unfriendly Baron’s manor. I was at least happy to see Charlie Brown kissed by another little red-haired girl. Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!) is a suitable conclusion.

4. Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!)

Snoopy drives the Peanuts

Preceded by: Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown

Una Poca de Gracia

La Bamba brings music to life. Ritchie Valens was one of the most promising young singers who ever lived. His tragic death at 17 on “The Day the Music Died” left a lasting impact on the music industry. Though I never knew too much about his personal life. I only knew that my parents were big fans of the movie La Bamba. Lou Diamond Phillips shines as the Mexican American Richard Valenzuela. The film covers his entire rags to riches story as he moves to California with his family. Ritchie has big dreams to one day become a successful musician.

La Bamba does an excellent job balancing his career with the relationships he forms along the way. His mother is very supportive, but his troubled half-brother Bob is always in his shadow. Esai Morales steals many scenes with his alcoholism, drug abuse, mistreatment of girlfriend Rosie, and failed dream to become a cartoonist. Ritchie’s relationship with high school sweetheart Donna Ludwig inspires his hit song “Donna.” Together they deal with her racist father, but the late 50’s are surprisingly kind to their romance.

Joe Pantoliano is Ritchie Valens’ manager who gives him his stage name and makes him a star. Though I recognize songs like “Come On, Let’s Go” and “Donna,” “La Bamba” will always be his biggest hit. Los Lobos perform Valens’ songs per the families request. Of course I knew the fateful flight with Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” was coming since Ritchie is haunted by recurring nightmares of a plane crash. The music may have died February 3, 1959, but La Bamba made sure Ritchie Valens’ legacy would live on.

La Bamba

Ritchie Valens performs on American Bandstand