Mischief is the 80’s film about 50’s teenagers who are up to no good. Although I was on a teen movie kick at the time, I guarantee I would never have even heard of Mischief if not for one specific scene. A full frontal nude scene by a young Kelly Preston. I never knew the context of the scene. Then I saw the movie and it changed my whole prospective. Mischief for some reason opens with a Star Wars joke. It doesn’t fit the rest of the movie’s tone at all. Jonathon is a loser who pines over the sexy blonde girl next door Marilyn (it is the 50’s after all). The opportunity finally arrives when he befriends cool greaser Gene. With his pointers, Jonathon ends up dating as well as sleeping with Marilyn. That’s when the famous nude scene comes in. At the same time Gene falls for popular girl Bunny. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but their subplot is almost exactly like Rebel Without a Cause. The teen romance is fine and all. I just had a problem with the way it ended. Despite seeming to get along well together, Marilyn and Jonathon randomly break up in the end. I guess the moral is supposed to be take things slow, but if that were the case, then why do Gene and Bunny run away together? Then again, Mischief isn’t supposed to be deep.
Akira is a landmark piece of Japanese animation. It was responsible for bringing both manga and anime to a far wider audience. But its impact doesn’t stop there. Akira was the most expensive anime film made at the time. Since it was one of the first to give its characters fully expressive facial features. Not to mention the highly detailed world that was crafted. Akira impacted the cyberpunk genre, adult animation, and a whole lot of modern pop culture (both Japanese and American). Although my experience with anime is limited, I knew this was a film I just had to watch. The subtitled version is probably better than the dubbed version though. Akira takes place in the far future of 2019. Neo-Tokyo is a very R rated post-apocalyptic city full of street gangs, corrupt politicians, violent protests, and terroristic threats. One particular gang is lead by Kaneda. A youth that looks after his friends and fights off more violent gangs. His friendship is put to the ultimate test when Tetsuo discovers he has telekinetic superpowers. From there they encounter rebel factions, secret government conspiracies, psychic children, and even the mystery behind the titular Akira. Some of the imagery in Akira is recognizable even if you haven’t seen the film. From Kaneda’s red motorcycle to Tetsuo’s villainous red cape. Along with other disturbing moments, Akira ends with Tetsuo losing control of his powers and turning into a giant grotesque blob. With its fast-paced energy, boundary pushing animation, and complex themes, it’s easy to see why Akira is one of the most influential anime films ever made.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a christmas classic all on its own. Even though it’s the third installment in the Vacation series, it can easily be viewed every December. Well it’s gonna have to be a Christmas in July for this review. Christmas Vacation is not only the best sequel, it’s also the most unique. While all the other vacations take the Griswolds out of the state (or country), this is the first time they’ve had their vacation at home. Making it the only time we’ve seen the families dysfunctional homelife. The movie’s family friendly PG-13 rating makes a lot more sense for this sequel. Not that there isn’t still plenty of innuendo. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation focuses on Clark’s attempt to make the families Christmas the best ever. Of course that doesn’t work out as expected. Chevy Chase is funnier than ever doing lots of physical comedy and going on epic rants. Beverly D’Angelo also gets more character development. Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis now play Rusty and Audrey respectfully. Audrey is more subdued as an uninterest teenager. While Rusty is suddenly much younger. Things get really complicated when the relatives show up. Clark and Ellen’s parents, elderly Aunt and Uncle, and Cousin Eddie and his family. Randy Quaid proves to be even better this time around as the families hick relative. Just don’t give him his own spin-off. Everything goes wrong when they pick out a tree, try to hook up the lights, the turkey gets burned, things blow up, and Clark’s bonus turns out to be a Jelly of the month membership. There’s also their neighbors that they inadvertently torment. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the perfect combination of family fun and Christmas chaos.
National Lampoon’s European Vacation is so forgettable that I very nearly forgot to include it in my marathon viewing of the franchise. Even though the sequel is very much in the same vein as the original. Both deal with the family traveling somewhere in a variety of humorous ways. Only European Vacation is somehow PG-13 despite a bit more nudity. Similar to Amy Heckerling’s other 80’s film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. National Lampoon’s European Vacation sees the Griswald family (now misspelled with an “a”) win a European trip on a game show called “Pig in a Poke.” From there all they do is travel to London, France, West Germany, and Italy. Where they inadvertently destroy many famous monuments. Probably the funniest running gag though is Eric Idle constantly getting injured. Other than that Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do pretty much the same thing as Clark and Ellen. Mostly just bickering and occasionally getting intimate. This was also the movie that officially began the joke of recasting the kids in every sequel. Anthony Michael Hall got too famous to return. Which meant Dana Barron had to go too. They were replaced by Jason Lively and late voice actress Dana Hill as Rusty and Audrey respectfully. Unfortunately they’re probably the worst interpretation of the kids in the series. Rusty’s only trait is that he’s always horny. While Audrey constantly complains about her boyfriend and has some kind of weight problem. Most of those jokes fall flat. National Lampoon’s European Vacation is basically the same vacation in a slightly more exotic package.
National Lampoon’s Vacation should be a fun family outing, but not when the Griswold’s are involved. After the success of Animal House, humor magazine National Lampoon decided to adapt a short story by John Hughes. Just make Harold Ramis the director and Chevy Chase the star, and you’ve got the recipe for a hilarious 80’s comedy. Appropriately set to the tune of “Holiday Road,” National Lampoon’s Vacation focuses on the Griswold family. The vacation in question is a trip to Walley World. A perfectly legal take on Disneyland. Chase plays the cheerful (borderline psychotic) patriarch that just wants to spend more time with his family before it’s too late. Beverly D’Angelo plays his attractive wife Ellen who spends most of the movie arguing with her husband about his questionable decisions. 80’s “it kid” Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron play son Rusty and daughter Audrey respectfully. Rusty just wants to please his father while Audrey is mostly concerned with being cool. As is the case with every road movie, Vacation is more about the journey than the destination. It’s a nightmare that sees them getting robbed, dealing with their country cousins (specifically Cousin Eddie), inadvertently causing the death of their Aunt and dog, crashing their truckster in the desert, and finally making it to Walley World… which is closed. All the while Clark fantasizes about Christie Brinkley driving by in a red convertible. What really makes Vacation so funny is its R rated humor. It may seem family friendly, but Vacation is filled with things like Clark going on profane tirades, topless shots of Ellen, or Clark holding a guard at gunpoint. Scenes like that are what make National Lampoon’s Vacation one of the very best road trip comedies.
Followed by: National Lampoon’s European Vacation
Jaws: The Revenge is one of the best examples of franchise fatigue. Jaws for a long time maintained a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. Jaws: The Revenge has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. How a franchise can stoop so low after being so promising is beyond me. But Jaws: The Revenge somehow manages to be worse than Jaws 3-D. It makes no sense and the shark animatronics look horrible. You can literally see the mechanisms used half the time. That might be because they rushed it out after only a few months. As the title suggests, yet another great white shark is now somehow smart enough to seek revenge. Brody’s widowed wife Ellen is now the main character who thinks the shark is after her family, because “This time it’s personal.” After killing Sean, she goes to stay with Mike and his family in the Bahamas. The shark is actually able to swim from Massachusetts all the way to the Bahamas in less than 3 days. Respected actor Michael Caine is also in the movie, but it was strictly for a paycheck. Plus the shark roars like a lion at the end. Jaws: The Revenge finally shot this dying franchise dead in the water.
Preceded by: Jaws 3-D
Jaws 3-D is the third movie in the Jaws franchise. So of course it had to be shot in 3D. Since the 80’s made 3D filmmaking popular again, third installments were often given that treatment. It also became the primary marketing strategy for Jaws 3-D. Even going so far as to use it in the tagline “The third dimension is terror.” My only knowledge of the movie growing up was the gimmick and how much of a downgrade it was. The 3D shots lingerie far too long on stuff like severed arms and bloody bones. Its most infamous 3D shot by far is one of the worst special effects ever put to film. Where another new great white shark very slowly breaks through a glass window. Jaws 3-D now takes all the terror to SeaWorld. Which is a bizarre marketing strategy if you ask me. Come to SeaWorld, it’s full of man-eating sharks. Mike and Sean Brody are now adults with their parents nowhere to be seen. Mike is notably played by Dennis Quaid. After a baby shark enters SeaWorld, the mother shark eats anyone in her way. So it’s up to Mike, his girlfriend, and a pair of dolphins to rescue the park inhabitants. Jaws 3-D is a serious decrease in quality that gets right in your face with its obnoxious 3D effects.
Child’s Play makes dolls even scarier than they already were. By taking the idea of a living doll and making it pure evil. Child’s Play is actually my personal favorite 80’s era slasher movie. As well as my favorite slasher movie killer. Before I even saw the movie, Chucky gave me nightmares. A particular VHS preview first introduced me to the character. Giving me three separate nightmares about him. So I finally decided I needed to confront my fear. My brother and I first watched the movie with our mom. Child’s Play may be R rated, but it’s not so bad that a kid can’t watch it. Child’s Play begins with a psychotic serial killer named Charles Lee Ray aka The Lakeshore Strangler, being chased by the police. When he’s fatally shot he (as one would do) uses voodoo to transport his soul into the closest thing near him. A “Good Guys” doll. A toy with long red hair, freckles, blue eyes, a striped shirt and overalls. Nothing sinister about this doll. Until it ends up in the possession of Andy Barchley. An innocent child living with his mother who wants the doll for his birthday. I first saw Child’s Play when I was about Andy’s age. I was understandably disturbed. Especially at the moment where Chucky first comes to life. Let’s just say, Batteries not included. Although Child’s Play isn’t without a sense of humor. Mostly because of Brad Dourif’s iconic vocal performance as Chucky. The animatronics used on him are especially impressive too. I’ve seen Child’s Play more times than any other slasher movie and it never fails to make me question a still lifeless doll.
Followed by: Child’s Play 2
Predator introduces us to the deadliest hunter of them all. Resulting in one big testosterone fueled smash hit. From John McTiernan, the man who would direct Die Hard just one year later. He enlisted only the biggest, most muscular action stars at the time. Since I was a big fan of aliens and Arnold Schwarzenegger growing up, Predator was a perfect combination. As this was the peak of Arnie’s acting career. Even though Predator is R rated and clearly not meant for kids. Despite the toys, comics, and video games that were eventually spawned from the franchise. I was definitely a fan, but it was really my brother who was obsessed with it. He really got into the technology that the titular predator uses. Of course my parents were the ones who initially got us into it. Originally titled Hunter, Predator surprisingly originated from a joke made about Rocky IV. With the simple premise of the muscular hero fighting an alien. Luckily they didn’t go with their original predator design. Which would have been Jean-Claude Van Damme in some sort of bug suit. It was thankfully redesigned with Kevin Peter Hall bringing him to life. Big action stars, cheesy one-liners, and bloody violence were the 80’s at their finest…
Predator crosses action and science fiction with horror, because nothing is scarier than being hunted like an animal. We already know the predator is an alien due to the spaceship revealed in the opening shot. Predator centers on a ragtag crew/cast of elite special forces operatives. Arnold plays Major Dutch, the leader (and last surviving member) of his team. His team consists of Mac, Blain, Billy, Poncho, and Hawkins. Joining them is CIA operative and old friend of Dutch, Dillon. Whom he greets with the manliest handshake ever. Only Carl Weathers can pull that off. Their mission is to rescue hostages held by guerrilla forces in the Central American jungle. Arnold of course spouts off a stream of cheesy one-liners. Including “Stick around,” “If it bleeds… we can kill it,” and the often quoted “Get to the choppa!” But it’s actually Jesse “The Body” Ventura who gets the cheesiest line of all. After getting shot he says “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Ironically both Schwarzenegger and Ventura would become state Governors. While Sonny Landham who played the stoic Native American Billy would be less successful in his political career. Bill Duke previously collaborated with Arnie in Commando. Although the oddest cast member would have to be writer/future director Shane Black. Anna is the only female cast member, but she does survive as well. The titular predator (or Yautja) has a very distinctive design. Although most of the movie it’s unseen because of cloaking technology. Which only builds up the tension of the hunt. When the Predator is revealed, its shown to be carrying a variety of weapons. Like Retractable wrist blades and a deadly shoulder mounted plasma cannon. It also carries a medical pack and something to clean its trophies after skinning bodies. Since a predator is drawn to heat, it only makes sense that they have reptilian skin. Dutch manages to survive by camouflaging himself with mud. Since predators can only see with thermal vision. After holding it off with a series of booby traps, the predator finally takes its helmet off. Revealing itself to be one ugly motherf***er. With alien dreadlocks and tusks surrounding its mouth. Their final confrontation ends in Dutch’s favor. But the glowing green blood soaked predator has one more trick up its sleeve. A self-destruct device that it activates while strangely laughing manically. In the end, Predator is a classic because it shows that man is the true deadliest hunter.
Followed by: Predator 2
Aliens is one of the greatest sequels ever made, because it took its story and did something big with it. While Alien was a horror movie set in space, Aliens is much more of an action movie. One that still has enough sci-fi terror to keep with the tone of the original. Something only master filmmaker James Cameron can pull off. He was chosen as director right after the success of The Terminator. Which is why previous collaborators like Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn play a part. It’s also why the sequel now deals with themes of war. Since the horrors of war are a common theme in James Cameron movies. He was also able to give the sequel a look all its own. The titular aliens now have a more skeletal design. Rather than the smooth design we saw previously. Probably Cameron’s best contribution to the franchise would have to be further developing Ripley’s character. To the point where Sigourney Weaver received a Best Actress nomination. A landmark nomination for a science fiction film. It ended up winning Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. Despite still retaining an R rating and featuring more bloody violence, Aliens was definitely the Alien movie that my parents suggested the most…
Aliens builds up the tension by simply making its title plural. Instead of just one alien to deal with, there are now hundreds. After blasting the original alien out into space, Ripley (and her cat) have tragically been drifting in hypersleep for over 57 years. Until they’re rescued by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. A corporation that was merely hinted at before, but is now given even greater significance. Since James Cameron is also fond of corrupt businesses. We learn far more about Ripley and the aliens. Ripley’s first name is revealed to be Ellen and the aliens are given the classification Xenomorph. Nobody believes Ripley’s story and she suffers from nightmares of having a chestburster inside her. It’s not until contact is lost with a now terriformed LV-426 that they’re willing to listen to her. That’s where the Colonial Marines come in. A squad of ultimate badasses that supplies the movie with its 80’s style hyper violence and harsh language. Aliens easily has the best crew/cast of any Alien film. Along with Ripley, the crew is made up of: Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez, Gorman, Burke, and Bishop. Bishop is a far less sinister android that Ripley is initially hesitant to trust. While Burke turns out to be the untrustworthy one. Like Ripley, Vasquez is a badass female presence. Hudson starts out cocky at first, but falls apart after their first encounter with a swarm of aliens. Bill Paxton’s constant complaining and iconic line, “Game over man,” make him a standout. Hicks is the one who teaches Ripley how to fight. Making her the badass movie heroine we all know today. Her softer side is shown in her interactions with Newt. A girl who somehow managed to survive the aliens. Lines like “They mostly come at night… mostly” prove that adding a kid to a cast isn’t always a bad idea. The scariest scene would have to be Ripley and Newt trapped in a room with two facehuggers. The aliens prove to be more resourceful than ever. By cutting the power or using their acid blood as a weapon. The best addition by far is the introduction of the queen alien. A giant alien that was responsible for laying the eggs. After nuking the colony (and presumably the queen), Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and Bishop make it to safety. Until the queen survives long enough for a very similar climax. Only with the added excitement of Ripley in a cargo-loader exosuit. Delivering one of the most badass lines in movie history, “Get away from her you b*tch!” Scenes like this are why Aliens is a perfect sequel that ends the series on a hopeful note.