Friday, May 29, 2009

Quarter Back: May 1984

Quarter Back is a monthly feature looking back at the movies of 25 years ago. At least one film will be watched for the first time, while others may be revisited.

The idea of a "summer movie season" wasn't even a decade old in 1984.

Of course, films had always been released in the warmer months, but only in 1975 did studios think to release their most big-budget, effects-heavy blockbusters when the kids were out of school. Jaws pretty much started the trend, and director Steven Spielberg would run with the idea, owning many summers to come. So it was no surprise to see his first sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, land on Memorial Day weekend.

Unlike today's blockbusters, Temple of Doom pretty much had the month to itself. Summer starts much earlier these days.

In May 2009, with the actual solstice still a month away, we've seen five - FIVE! - monster prequel/sequels, not to mention the biggest animation release of the year. Twenty-five years ago, the competition was a relative unknown named John Hughes making his directorial debut, Robert Redford cleating up for a period baseball drama, and a destined-to-last-forever fad getting Hollywood love.

Featured Movies

The Bounty
Release date: May 4, 1984
Actors: Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier
Director: Roger Donaldson (No Way Out, Cocktail, The Bank Job)
Box office: $8.6 million (#86 in 1984)

Going into The Bounty, I had little knowledge of the William Bligh/Fletcher Christian story beyond name recognition. Immediately after the credits rolled, I spent an hour on Wikipedia learning more about the men, the 1789 Royal Navy mutiny they are famous for, and the extended history and repercussions of the event.

That's a compliment to the film.

Hopkins stars as Bligh, a sea captain sent to transport fruit from Tahiti to Britain (not the sexiest of assignments). However, once his crew experienced the oceanfront paradise, getting them to leave proved more difficult than anticipated. Mel Gibson, at the time known only as Mad Max, provided the foil as leader of the mutineers.

Ok, first - what a cast. Hopkins and Gibson in the leads, then-unknowns Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson in smaller parts. And did I mention the unsupported cast? And yes, I mean UNsupported - because there are more boobs on display here than in the average porno.

I'm not sure what the ratings board was smoking, if they really thought the Tahitian "natives" were straight out of National Geographic and not paid actors, but this is easily the most flesh-baring PG-rated movie in history. The PG-13 rating, which wouldn't arrive for a few more months, is widely credited to Temple of Doom and Gremlins, but I can't help but think this played a part (it would easily garner an R today).

Really, I just can't believe I wasn't clued into this flick as a kid - my parents would have seen the PG rating, and I'd have retired to the back room with a ticket marked "Destination: Boob City."

Oh, yeah - Hopkins, Gibson, Day-Lewis, Neeson. Solid flick. A bit dated (Vangelis soundtrack noted), but solid. Grade: B+

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Release date: May 23, 1984
Actors: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw
Director: Steven Spielberg
Box office: $179.9 million (#3 in 1984)

Of course I'd seen this one before, but this was the first time I've watched it from beginning to end in 20 years. And you know what? Not nearly as disappointing as I remember.

I guess anything looks better after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but this one could potentially beat Last Crusade as the series' silver medal effort. Of course, that underlines one of the sneaky secrets of Indiana Jones - the infamous character has only appeared in one great film. For such a legendary, world-renowned name - that's it. A single one.

Temple of Doom gets bonus points, though, for a few reasons. First, it's unrelentingly dark. Seriously, I remember being freaked out when I was a kid, but I'm surprised I didn't see Thuggie skulls every time I closed my eyes. Second, speaking of kids, it's the only film I can think of to successfully introduce a child partner for its hero. And lastly, it's the only movie where Indiana Jones actually accomplishes something.

Think about it. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, whether Indy had been there or not, the Nazis would have opened the Ark and exploded/melted amidst the wrath of God. In Last Crusade, the Nazis would have found the Holy Grail and tried to escape with it, once again falling prey to the earthquakes/wrath of God (Indy only helped minimally by - and I've never understood this - disabling some of the booby traps so anybody following could easily pass). And in Crystal Skull, the, uh, what the hell happened at the end again? Something about aliens. Goddamn aliens. That's all I remember. But it would have happened with or without his help.

Anyway, Indy is proactive in this film. Without him, those kids would still be working in that damn mine today. Grade: B+

Other films 25 years old this month (movies I've seen are in bold):

Alphabet City - According to the poster: "At 19, they gave him the streets and everything on them. Tonight they want it all back." So wait, "they" were 19? It was a real estate deal? They're Indian givers? I don't get it. Vincent Spano and Jami Gertz starred.

Breakin' - When I was in elementary school, our P.E. teacher let us bring cardboard to school so we could breakdance on the blacktop. Seriously. Even more embarrassing, I remember liking this film and its 1985 sequel, which were filmed back-to-back. If anything, they introduced the term "Electric Boogaloo" to American vernacular, and for that we should be grateful.

Finders Keepers - Michael O'Keefe was on his way to the A-list after The Great Santini (for which he was Oscar-nominated) and Caddyshack. Four years later, after the back-to-back-to-back bombings of Nate & Hayes, The Slugger's Wife, and this Beverly D'Angelo comedy, he was back to TV. However, bit player Jim Carrey would find his way to stardom a decade later.

Firestarter - At the time of release, I remember being shocked by this movie. Not because I actually saw it, because my parents wouldn't let me, but because I thought it was illegal for children to appear in R-rated films. Dunno where I got that. Barrymore would appear in another Stephen King film a year later (Cat's Eye), but this is certainly the better effort.

Hardbodies - Kids today just don't understand. If we wanted to see boobs in 1984, you'd have to wait for something like Hardbodies to come on cable, and then pray your parents wouldn't walk in. And if that wasn't available, we'd turn to the Playboy Channel, and try to catch an aerola through the squiggly lines. Now, it's just, and BOOM! Nips.

Making the Grade - Judd Nelson and Andrew "Not Yet Dice" Clay star in this high school, or college, or something comedy I've never seen.

The Natural - I saw this Robert Redford baseball drama in theaters, and I'm sure I've seen it since, but memory fails. Of course, the final scene has been much-watched in my house, but there's a big blank where the rest of the film should be.

Sixteen Candles - John Hughes' first foray into the teen genre, which he would damn near perfect over the next two years with The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Those two films are the superior of Sixteen Candles, but it is funny, sweet and damn near decade-defining. Of course, it set me up for immense disappointment later in life, when I realized all Asians didn't talk like Long Duk Dong.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Safety in numbers

Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore has been wearing #24 in all preseason activities, but the rookie has cut a deal. He will now wear #25 to honor Missouri teammate Aaron O'Neal, who died in 2005.

Cornerback Von Hutchins will give Moore No. 25 in exchange for a donation to the Lupus Foundation of America. Hutchins' mother has lupus, and the six-year veteran supports the Georgia chapter of the foundation.

He said he's happy to help the rookie carry the memory a teammate, adding he has worn four different numbers since high school and isn't attached to No. 25.

"It will be a great opportunity for both of us to do something that's special to both of our hearts," he said.

Nice story, huh?


Saturday, May 23, 2009


My neighborhood in the proverbial nutshell:

Click for grande.

Maybe the spelling can be blamed on this too?

Brad Pitt on his decision to appear in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming Inglourious Basterds:
"Quentin came to visit some time at the end of the summer, we talked about backstory, we talked about movies - I get up the next morning and see five empty bottles of wine right on the floor, five, and something that resembles a smoking apparatus - I don't know what that was about - and apparently I had agreed to do this film."
I'm guessing he has a few similar stories; just replace "Quentin" with "Angelina" and "do this film" with "adopt a kid."

Friday, May 22, 2009


I have it on good authority that terrorists are planning another attack - this time on September 11, 2009. It will be a direct assault on our values, our morals and our decency. It will shake us to our very core, causing us to question who we are as a society. It will make us sick.

You thought 9/11/01 was bad? It will be worse this time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Outer limits

My brother and I were watching "Cash Cab," and a question about a "googol" started a discussion. We knew a "googol" is the digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes, but what is the oft-mentioned "googolplex?"

As always, Wikipedia has the answer. It's worth sharing.

In the PBS science program "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Episode 9: 'The Lives of the Stars," astronomer and television personality Carl Sagan estimated that writing a googolplex in numerals (i.e., "10,000,000,000...") would be physically impossible, since doing so would require more space than the known universe occupies ... Therefore a googolplex can not be written out since a googol of '0' can not fit into the observable universe.

The time it would take to write such a number also renders the task implausible: if a person can write two digits per second, it would take around 1.1 × 1082 times the age of the universe (which is about 1.37 × 1010 years) to write a googolplex.

The more you know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More expendable love

The first one-sheet for Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables has been unveiled. It's probably best viewed like an eclipse, through a pinhole in a piece of cardboard.

Yeah, the flick is still 11 months away. I'm going to be even more obnoxious as we get closer to next April.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lost spoilers! Heed the warni - screw it, KATE DIED!!!

Ok, Kate didn't really die. I don't think.

Beyond saying it was frustrating yet excellent, or excellent yet frustrating, I'm not going to spend any time here digesting Wednesday's season finale. There are plenty of sites to get your dork on about "Lost," and plus, I don't want to lose The Fiancee as a regular reader.

I'm really just wondering where the hell my island invitation is.

The episode finally introduced Jacob - a sandy-haired, zen surfer type - and revealed that all of our favorite castaways had run-ins with him in the past. Jack met him at the hospital, Sayid met him on a sidewalk - and Sawyer and Kate met him as children. This last part is what I want to focus on.

Because you know who else met Jacob as a child? ME.

Recognize this little classic?

Follow the arrow. As previous discussed in these pixels, that's a 12-year-old me in the 1989 Hulk Hogan classic No Holds Barred. (And yes, my sister looking like a Down's baby at lower left).

I played Johnny, a scrappy kid from the wrong side of the tracks who had been arrested scoring hooch for his old man. After spending his 10th birthday in a juvenile detention center, Johnny had been released, only to find his father dead, and his mother remarried to an abusive Pakistani. Even at his young age, the boy knew the smell of anger, the taste of hate, and he had to abandon his family in the search for something greater. That path had taken him to a roadside tomato stand in Pikeville, Arkansas, where a kindly old man took him in. Experiencing kindness for the first time in his existence, Johnny immediately became accustomed to that lifestyle - and barely questioned it when the old man began touching him. Down there. The confusion grew within him - he would stare for hours at the navy blue lines on his mattress and think of his old dog, Punkin. After a few months, he hid a straight razor up his sleeve, and one evening made a straight slice across the man's neck, damn near ruining the mashed potatoes in the process. It was to the road again, the lonely highway, where Johnny held odd jobs. He liked the reptile farms best, but obviously couldn't stay one place very long. The same questions would arise: Where's your momma? Who takes care of you? Why are you cutting yourself? His life changed forever one July day, when he stumbled onto a carnival for kids held by professional wrestler Rip. He blended into the crowd, picking wallets from unsuspecting adults, and forming what would become a decades long cocaine addiction with some carnies behind a trailer. But between rails he met Darla, a redhead beauty from Opalika, a woman who would clutch his heart and never let go. Until the blood rushed from her brain six months later, him clutching her in one arm and the paperweight in the other.

Of course, in the actual movie, I didn't have any lines, and only that one scene. But a great actor is always prepared, and I knew how the role should be played. I think the character's history is readily apparent in the final film.

But I digress. My point: yes, I also met Jacob as a child. Because guess who was standing about five feet to my left when that photo was taken?

Yep, it's the same guy:

On one of his many sojourns from the island, Jacob had apparently found time to support his pro wrestler brother. And I specifically remember talking to this guy that day, if only because he was the only paid actor not even remotely famous, without a trailer to hide in like Hogan.

So what the hell? Why didn't fate call me to Oceanic 815? Or at least the lesser, ghetto Ajira 316?


Semper Fight

A banner seen at this week's Cannes Film Festival:

Stolen from Hollywood Elsewhere.

I'm going to need a few minutes to myself.

Oh, and look: Ain't It Cool News has posted some pictures from the set. One jumps out above all.

Yes, that's Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa face-to-face almost 25 years after their fateful Christmas 1985 match. That's history right there, folks.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Paul Blart: Mall Survivor

On Sunday night, I watched Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Ok, reasons aren't necessary. It was free, I think Kevin James is funny, and it was free. And it was free. So I don't feel justification is required. It was free.

The movie was OK. Not great, but OK. A harmless PG-rated flick that I would absolutely take my kids to, if I had any. But what makes it worth bringing it to your attention is this: it had Survivor. SURVIVOR. And we know only good movies - Rocky III, Rocky IV, The Karate Kid - have Survivor. SURVIVOR.

Fifteen minutes into the flick, Blart takes the potential love of his life on a Segway ride through the mall. And the filmmakers - geniuses that they are - laid Survivor's 1984 hit "I Can't Hold Back" over it, and featured it again in the final scene. It made the film feel straight out of the mid-'80s, and trust me, that's a compliment.

Let's revisit "I Can't Hold Back," as if you don't know exactly what I'm talking about.

Yes, I know. You love Survivor as much as I do. Sadly, their current tour dates don't mention Atlanta as a destination, but I'm sure that's an oversight that'll be immediately corrected.

By the way, fun fact: Bud Light's "Real Men of Genius" ads are sung by original Survivor vocalist David Bickler. Just when you thought Survivor couldn't get any more badass.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Weekend warrior

The iPhone takes such lovely pictures.

I'm having a sports-filled 24 hours. Playoff softball game last night (victorious), a visit to the Atlanta Falcons' open mini-camp this morning, and a trip to see the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers tonight.

I know everybody wants to hear about the softball game, but you're just going to have to read about it in the papers. Instead, I'll share my favorite moment of the mini-camp.

Backstory: Atlanta took safety William Moore in the second round, and for various reasons - mostly having to do with friends' taunts about it being an allegedly bad pick - he immediately became my favorite Falcons rookie. So much so that I dorked out and had him sign my helmet. This is what I heard as he was signing:

Dickbag fan: "Hey William! If you had come out last year, you'd have been a top 10 pick!"

Moore, not missing a beat: "And now I have a diploma."

Awesome. Now I might just have to buy a William Moore jersey. When I find one.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't share this picture of The Fiancee and former Alabama starter, now Falcons back-up John Parker Wilson:

He plays for the good guys now, so I guess this is OK. But I guarantee she wouldn't have been able to remember my name at that moment. He is dreamy.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Trek lightly

Well, that was disappointing.

For a person who's never seen an episode of any "Star Trek" television show, I'm a pretty big fan. Of the 10 previous films, I feel four are genre classics (The Wrath of Khan, The Search For Spock, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country). I even have a soft spot for the widely derided The Final Frontier.

Now J.J. Abrams has brought his rebooted Star Trek to the screen, starting over very literally at Day One for James T. Kirk.

I thought this was a perfect fit. Trek had run out of steam in its current incarnation(s), and Abrams has proven to be one of our best filmic storytellers (don't engage me in a converation about "Alias" or "Lost" unless you have a couple hours on your hands). I walked out of the theater however, feeling let down in that Superman Returns kind of way. What should have been home runs - Bryan Singer and Supes, Abrams and Kirk - felt oddly hollow, rushed and lacking their predecessors' fire.

Star Trek is not a horrible film. I didn't glance at my watch cell phone, I didn't shift in my seat, I didn't yawn. But I also didn't care. I didn't laugh, I didn't cry, I didn't find anything to feel particularly passionate about. I say this with 100% conviction: this film's trailer is more emotionally satisfying than the film. At the point in the freaking commercial when Eric Bana's villain cries "Fire everything!" I almost teared up. It seemed such a larger-than-life moment, such an emotional apex - and in the film, it just sits there. Nothing.

Where's the wonder? The awe? When old Spock meets young Kirk, shouldn't we be thinking something other than, "Yeah right, they just happen to be in the same desolate cave?" I mean, that should be A Moment.

There's room for improvement, and I believe with this unwieldy "introduction" out of the way, the next entry will be more successful. The film is exceptionally well cast (minus Tyler Perry and Winona Ryder, who are nothing more than distracting stunts), and assuming they got all the in-jokey Trek references out already - and damn, I don't believe there could be too many more - maybe they'll build something of their own. The foundation is definitely there.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Say again?

Last Friday's release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine marked the beginning of the summer movie season - never mind that the actual summer season is still seven weeks away. May is particularly rife with titles I want to see - Wolverine (sort of), Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation and Pixar's Up.

And that's good, because I feel like I'm owed. I started a new job in January, about 500 feet from a movie theater that serves beer in monstrous mugs and charges $5 a ticket. I thought, "Hey, perfect. It will be a great way to wind down, like, once a week. Take in a flick and get a buzz on."

Today is May 6th, and I have done that exactly once. The movies this year have just been terrible. I saw Taken in my lone Happy Hour special, sat through Fast & Furious after discovering my oil change would take 90 minutes, and date-nighted I Love You, Man. Of course, none of those were sacrifices - all are recommended with varying degrees of enthusiasm (of course, the stupid but satisfying Fast & Furious above all).

There's been very little else to stoke my interest, though. Paul Blart: Mall Cop? My Bloody Valentine? Oh No She Didn't? (Ok, that last one doesn't technically exist, but it was the working title of Beyonce's Obsessed. Seriously. God, I wish they had gone with that).

Well, on Sunday night, The Fiancee and I had Movie Date Night #2 for the year. And, like it or not, I knew exactly what we'd be seeing. I didn't bother pointing out how buff and dreamy Hugh Jackman was or, hey, monsters fighting aliens is funny! No, I remembered that in our time together, she has only asked for three movies from my Netflix account:

1) High School Musical.
2) High School Musical 2.
3) High School Musical 3.

Yes, we went to see 17 Again.

Of course, if you read my previous post, you know where this is heading: it was good. Really good. It made me laugh almost as much as last year's Role Models and Tropic Thunder, I cared about the characters in a goddamn body-switching movie, and I am now - as embarrassing as it is - firmly entrenched in the Cult of Efron. The kid is a star.

Aside from a brief role in Hairspray and a few skits from his recent "Saturday Night Live" appearance, Zac Efron had completely escaped my radar. And while I won't be running backward to catch up with "HSM" (as the cool kids call it), I'm impressed with how he chose to step out of Mickey Mouse's shadow and the musical genre. He wasn't afraid to be out-funnied by a comedy all-star supporting cast (Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon), he managed to sneak in a few words not allowed on the Disney Channel, and most of all, he agreed to a script that wasn't satisfied limiting itself to "the High School Musical kid rips off Big."

Oh, and he found time to take his shirt off, which caused The Fiancee to noticeably convulse. Thank God I have similar washboard abs, or I'd get all weird about that.

I might be overstating it. I probably am - my expectations were pretty low. But as easy as it is to slag on the today's young stars, I'll gladly admit when one of them is deserving of the press.

And yeah, I'm totally gay. I know.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Trip the light

Last night, on the way home from an unbelievably funny (seriously, unbelievably funny) movie, The Fiancee's eagle eyes spotted something almost as hilarious.

The iPhone can't take a good picture to save its damn life, but that's a Fuddrucker's sign with the "ddru" burnt - or broken - out. On a comedy scale, it almost lived up to that surprisingly excellent stupid fantastic movie we saw in the two hours previous.

More on the film tomorrow, by the way. I'm still working up the nerve to reveal the title.

Trek backlash

Judgment pug

Earl the Pug is 11 years old, and we've always marveled at her (yes, her) serious, steely demeanor. And the fact she has never aged. And the fact she will occasionally try to kill John Connor.

So when she was hit by an 18-wheeler on Saturday, and then strutted in three minutes later like nothing had happened, a lot of our questions were answered.

Ok, our dog isn't actually a Terminator. We wish. And no, she didn't actually get hit by a truck - because she doesn't need to walk on the street to poop in our next-door neighbor's yard. Instead, that picture is courtesy of Terminate Me, the iPhone app created to hawk Terminator: Salvation.

She can be one mean bitch, though. Trust me. There's definitely a little T-1000 in her.