Purple Rain

For a year before this movie hit, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” had ruled the radio airwaves and the TV screens turned to MTV. A month or so before the movie came out, the soundtrack to “Purple Rain” was released and suddenly, there was a different set of songs dominating the radio. The first time I can remember hearing “When Doves Cry” was when I was browsing the aisles of the Alhambra Bookstore on Main Street, killing time and feeding another one of my habits, book buying. The stereo system at the bookstore was not particularly elaborate, after all they sold books not music, but it was loud enough that when the percussion on  the song kicked in, everybody looked up and our bodies started unconsciously moving to the music. This would be the soundtrack for our lives in the Summer of 1984.

purple_rain“Purple Rain” has been praised for it’s innovative shooting of concert footage and clever editing of montages, and it has been criticized for it’s amateurish acting and ham-fisted story line. I’m going to concur on both counts but forgive the later because the music and the former are so overwhelmingly positive. Continue reading

Cheech and Chong’s The Corsican Brothers

What is your tolerance level for stupid? Is it higher if you are higher? If your answer to the second question is yes, than this might be a film for you. If stupidity and slap stick are not for you, there is not enough pot in the world to make you want to endure “Cheech and Chongs The Corsican Brothers”.

cheech_and_chongs_the_corsican_brothers_xlgHaving cornered the market on stoner humor films in the late seventies and early eighties, Cheech and Chong stretch out a bit with an historical parody that will never be confused with a Mel Brooks film like “The History of the World Part 1”. There are some funny lines and clever pieces in the movie, but it does not sustain itself and too often drops in crude toilet humor to get to the next scene.

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The Neverending Story

One of the oddest movies of 1984 is this fantasy film from Wolfgang Peterson based on a book by Michael Ende. There were significant enough changes in the story that Ende refused a title credit and at one point sued to have production halted. Although the author of the book was not enamored of the film, worldwide audiences ended up making it a good sized hit. The story, the visualization of the characters and the odd tone of the film contribute to it’s uniqueness. neverending_story_ver1Fantasy films often have such a distinct look to them that people may be put off from them. I personally have not delved deeply into the animation from Japan as much as I think I ought to have, because the characters always look so strange and the dialogue and story lines seem off kilter. This is not a criticism, merely an explanation of why I have been tentative in this area. Don’t ask me to explain why I am OK with “Legend”, Labyrinth”  or “The Dark Crystal”. They are equally odd but never gave me the same vibe.

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Electric Dreams

The 1980s are alive and living on You Tube, which was the only place I could find this film to watch for the project. It exists on VHS, there is a Region 2 copy on DVD, and a 1990 Laser Disc which is going for $59 on ebay. Since the VHS fits the time period, I was tempted to buy a copy from ebay, but then I’d have to dig out my player and I’m not sure where it is. I don’t have a Region free DVD player, and I was not spending 60 bucks to add this to the project. As of the moment it has not had a U.S. DVD release and there is no blu ray. It’s also such a small movie that I feel no guilt that I watched it on my Kindle.

electric_dreamsThis movie features a science fiction, love story in the brave new world of computer technology, circa 1984. It gets a few things right and it does advance some of the same thoughts about the loneliness of Artificial Intelligence that  “Her” expressed. It is also a watershed moment for music video directors getting into the film business. Continue reading

Revenge of the Nerds

Having recently dismissed another sex comedy that came in the same package as this, I was pleased to find that my memory was correct. “Revenge of the Nerds” is a far superior movie to “Bachelor Party“, and it has a cast of young stars that while they never set the world on fire, continued to work in films and television, making a greater impact than any of Tom Hanks buddies from that monstrosity.

revenge_of_the_nerdsWhile college fraternity comedies had certainly existed before this film, it is still the template for many fraternity underdog stories. “Monster’s University” should have paid a licensing fee to the creators of “Revenge of the Nerds”.  This is a nice story of friendship and acceptance. It has some titillation and a few awkward stereotypes, but in the long haul it means well and it mostly succeeds.  Continue reading

The Muppets Take Manhattan

I was twenty-six years old in 1984 and I had no kids, but this was still the movie I had the strongest desire to see in this week of that great year. I am a Muppet fan from way back. I have always tried to keep the Muppets alive by buying videos, seeing the films and owning toys (Yes, for my kids when they came around also, but mostly for me). Next to the original “Muppet Movie“, this may be my favorite.

muppets_take_manhattanThis is a backstage musical, with an Academy Award nominated score, and a real romantic send off for Kermit and Miss Piggy. It is a delight from beginning to end. There are a couple of weak moments here and there but the total effect is whimsy and charm. Continue reading

The Last Starfighter

“Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.”

Last year for about five months, I wrote a weekly post for Fogs Movie Reviews, under the title “Movies I Want Everyone to See“. I had a lot of fun doing so, but the site folded and I was left with a list of films I still wanted to talk about and had not yet had the chance. “The Last Starfighter” is one of those movies. It has a great concept, groundbreaking special effects, a wonderful script and a cast that includes a couple of old school actors, hamming it up and having a great time. Lucky for me this movie came out in 1984, at this particular time. I now get to cross it off of my list of movies I want to do a post on and have not, and it is a great palate cleanser for the three losers that preceded it on this project.

last_starfighter_posterI have a very vivid memory of the first time I saw this. It was actually a week before it opened in a sneak preview screening that followed a return visit to the Enterprise and “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock“. In the 1980s, a lot of films gave out promotional pinback buttons with artwork from the poster or the movie. I have three or four from this screening in a box in the garage from that sneak preview. Continue reading

Bachelor Party

The last couple of weeks in June of 1984 contain three of the worst movies of the year and thus this project. While there are still stinkers ahead, you will not be getting a run down a set of deadly rapids like Rhinestone, Conan the Destroyer, and Bachelor Party again. We will be able to navigate around some of the pitiful films of the year one at a time from here on out. There is however this last obstacle to take care of before we move into more favorable waters. Tom Hanks is lucky he had “Splash” earlier in the year, or his career could have been over with this steaming pile.

bachelor_partySex comedies were a dime a dozen in the first half of the eighties. Most of them were not any good at all, and those that were usually had the least amount of sex in them. “Bachelor Party” has a great idea for a subject, and then they tossed in the first idea anyone had on the set that day to make the movie. It is hard to believe there was an actual script. Continue reading

Conan the Destroyer

There are a couple of obvious reasons this sequel fails to live up to the standard of it’s predecessor, but there were so many other things going for it that it is hard to figure out why it fails. Let’s take a look at the first (and definitely the least) of the Arnold Schwarzenegger films of 1984.

conan_the_destroyerBasil Poledouris is back with a reasonable score that can never match the perfection of the first but does echo it adequately so we can tell it is from the same source. Jack Cardiff, the legendary cinematographer, was behind the camera for this. Cardiff’s work in Black Narcissus is the main subject in a post I did last year on a Secret Santa blog. This work was gorgeous to look at some times but the camera does not really follow the action well. That is the fault of the director.

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