Night of the Comet

The 1980s were full of creative science fiction films. Some of them became influential classics like “The Terminator“, some of them ended up in bargain bins on VHS and may never see the light of DVD day or Blu ray. This one ends up as a well remembered cult film that was done on a very limited budget but it engendered a clever and warm feeling at the end of the experience. It’s alternate title summarizes it well:

Teenage Mutant Horror Comet Zombies

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This is a delightfully wry sci/fi horror movie that never takes itself too seriously but is surprisingly well acted and scripted. It is full of clever quotes, fun twists, and references to the time period that will make the horror of fashion in 1984 haunt you almost as much as the zombies do. Like most films with a limited budget, it has to make up for a lack of special effects with creative set design and storytelling.

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Mass Appeal

This film is not only 30 Years On, it may be closer to 50 years on. In other words, it may only be tolerable to those who are old enough to remember when movies were stories and character rather than spectacle and visuals. There is not a special effects shot, a digital insert, or any type of sound effect worth noting anywhere in this film. Based on a play by the same title, it features two characters and for the most part, they are the only people to attend to. On stage, there were only two parts, in adapting for the screen a couple of other roles were created but they are mostly superfluous. This is an actors piece, paced a a glacial rate that will bore anyone born after 1970. If you have a older persons sensibility, there is probably enough here to be interesting, as long as listening to people talk will entertain you.

mass_appealThe two stars are veteran Jack Lemmon and newcomer Zeljko Ivanek. Mr. Lemmon was a movie star for thirty years before this came out and remained one until his death in 2001. Mr. Ivanek is not a star but he has worked consistently since this came out and he is one of those faces you will recognize from a dozen movies and hundreds of TV episodes. Together they do justice to a piece that is small scale, and very clearly theatrical in it’s roots.

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The Flamingo Kid

Yes, I’m back. I never really left, I have just been going through a lot of adjustments in my life (including a new puppy and a retired spouse), so I have not gotten to the dozen or so films on my original list as quickly as I had hoped to. There is a little more time available here in the summer, so I’m going to continue to stretch out the project and hope that it will not be six months between posts in the future. I return to 30 Years On with a movie that should have been a summer release but actually debuted at Christmas time.

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The Flamingo Kid” is a coming of age story set in the Summer of 1963. Jeffery Willis is a recent high school graduate, very smart but from a working class background and unsure of where he is headed in life. His father, played by Hector Elizando when he still had some hair, wants him to go to college, preferably Columbia, and become an engineer. Like most teens, Jeffery resists doing the thing his father wants and explores some other options. His friends from the old neighborhood take him to their beach club one day and things begin to change right there.

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2010 The Year We Make Contact

If ever a movie did not need a sequel, it would be Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was a film that made intellectual discussion of movies a topic for everyone. So many people had to ask “What the Hell?” that most of us felt compelled to try to answer, and many of us disagreed on the answers. Science Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote the script with Kubrick, based on a short story he had written, decided that he was not done with big questions and wrote three sequel novels. The first of these was turned into a film sixteen years after the original classic.

posterThis movie is more closely set in 1984 than in the future [now past 2010]. A new trip to Jupiter is planned in order to investigate the events of the previous expedition and cope with some strange phenomena occurring on the nearby moons of Jupiter Io and Europa. The Soviets are in control of the most ready spaceship and the Americans are tagging along. Hey, this may be the one thing that these films got absolutely right. In 2015, we are hitch hiking our way to the International Space Station, which we built, aboard Russian launch vehicles because we have no replacement for the Space Shuttle. Continue reading

Starman

This is a movie that at one point was the hot alien visiting Earth property which had a lot of directors attached to it., Of course the other story about an alien visiting Earth got made and released first and that worked out well for Steven Spielberg. John Carpenter made this, his most mainstream film, after “The Thing” failed at the box office and he needed to show he could do a commercial picture. While it did not have the box office success of “E.T.”, it is an artistic achievement and contains one of the most interesting performances by an actor in this, or any other year. Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen lend a sweetness to the film that is totally different than the other film, and a lot more mature in some ways.

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The premise of the movie is that we have invited a visit from Extra-terrestrial beings, but are clearly not prepared to handle such a visit. The alien visitor is detected by the military and SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), but before they get to the site of a space ship crash, the visitor has taken on the form of a recently deceased house painter by cloning a body from DNA found in the widow’s home. He than hijacks the widow to take him to a rendezvous site on the other side of the country, “Arizona Maybe”. Jenny Hayden is confused as hell that her dead husband has come to life, but she recognizes almost immediately that something is wrong. The visitor has a rudimentary understanding of language but not much else and he learns by watching and copying the actions and behaviors of the humans he encounters.

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Micki + Maude

For a period of time in the late 1970s and early 1980s Dudley Moore was a huge star. He was nominated for an Academy Award and he was featured in several very successful comedies. In 1984 he had three films released, “Best Defense” with Eddie Murphy, “Unfaithfully Yours”, and this romantic comedy about a bigamist with two pregnant wives. The movie with Murphy got such scathing reviews, I stayed away from it. “Unfaithfully Yours” opened in February and it probably slipped past me simply because other things were going on. I plan on continuing this project with other older films, including those from 1984 that I did not see that year or have never seen. I’m sure I will eventually get around to it. “Micki + Maude” was a holiday release and I distinctly remember when and where I saw it originally.

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If a movie about a two timing man, getting both his wife and girlfriend pregnant at the same time and marrying the girlfriend while lying to both of them can be funny, then this is the movie that achieves it. The premise is a bit off putting but it is mostly a madcap farce, much less distasteful than say “Blame it on Rio” and executed with a light sense of humor that makes even the awkward physical comedy seem appealing.

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Birdy

Here we have an anti-war film, set in the Vietnam era, that for the most part takes place stateside and without much reference to the war. The story centers on the history of two traumatized soldiers, who were close friends before their duty in Nam. Each one is coping with what we today would refer to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) . One has been badly burned in the war and is worried that he won’t recognize himself when the bandages come off, the other has retreated into the fantasy world of flying and birds that he was obsessed with before being in a helicopter crash. The story involves the ability of their friendship to pull them back into the world.

birdy_ver1This was a movie given a limited release in Los Angeles in late 1984, to qualify for Academy Awards consideration. It was ultimately a Grand Prize winner at the Cannes film festival in 1985, but it never got widespread distribution. In fact as far as I can tell it only made it onto three screens in the U.S. and it did about one and a half million dollars at the box office. Amazingly enough, I actually saw it in its three week run in Westwood. I dragged my wife across town when we had a holiday break and we saw it in a matinee screening. I doubt that she will remember much about the movie except the final line, which we have quoted to each other with the same tone of Matthew Modine for thirty years now.

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