Sunday, November 14, 2010

INTERMISSION (Cont'd): General Cinema

This pre-dates my Mission Twin Theater days, but I fondly remember going to see my first movies as a kid at General Cinema, which, at the date of this post, was a brand name up for auction.

Thinking of General Cinema always makes me think of this little jingle.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

INTERMISSION: Happy Veterans Day, Captain America!

We should all be feeling good about the upcoming Captain America movie.

Much better than the last attempt, which I once rented on the strength of it starring both of Ralphie's parents from A Christmas Story. Don't watch. You'll shoot your eye out.

Anyone remember the pair of 70s Captain America TV movies featuring Reb "Uncommon Valor" Brown?

That guy playing his mentor cracks me up. I want his voice. And Connie "The Greatest American Hero" Sellecca sure likes the dudes in tights. (This comment has nothing to do with her marriage to John Tesh.)

So yes, the next movie has nowhere to go but up. And I have a feeling it will finally do justice to the character. 

Why am I talking about a movie coming out next year? Well, this Veterans Day, I was thinking about Cap, who happened to be instrumental in my early love of comics.

One of the first issues I ever owned came, like Fruit of the Loom, in a 3-pack, begging to be loved and treasured.

It was Marvel Super Action #11, which reprinted the character's origin from Captain America #109.

Hang with me for a moment, and take a look at some of the scenes from a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby masterpiece.

This splash page grabbed me right away. I've always loved the expressions of Kirby's Captain America. It's reminiscent of my brother's smile in almost every photograph he's ever taken. Sort of a mouth-open look of surprise.

I include this for panel 2's "BTANG!" I mean, those Nazi jerks didn't stand a chance.
Now we'll side-step to the origin. Steve Rogers, feeling out of place after decades frozen in a block of ice, tells his friend Nick Fury about how he became Captain America. My granddad would've enjoyed counting his ribs.
Pure Kirby magic here. How could you not fall in love with comics after this? Check out panel 2. Steve isn't liking being bombarded by those invisible vita-rays.

You have to like the heavy-handed dialogue. And the even heavier-handed punch. He knocks the furor out of that guy! And I'm always a fan of the newspaper montage. Okay, we're almost done.
Ah, starry-eyed young Bucky. "Hey! A guy's dressing in here!" No choice now but to make you a sidekick. 
Cap finally finishes his tale to Nick, who looks nothing like Samuel L. Jackson, yet we're willing to accept this.

The bigger question:  Shall Captain America live? He's already been killed-off once in the comics in recent years.

I think the new movie is going to be huge for this character. He's needed again.

Happy Veterans Day to a make-believe hero, and to all you real-life heroes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not Cutting Footloose (1984)

Truth be told, if I’d lived in that Footloose town, their dancing ban wouldn’t have given me much heartache. Without high school dances, I’m sure there was somewhere else to get beer-soaked shoes and Mötley Crüe-induced hearing loss. 
However, it would’ve been difficult to re-create a frequent coup d'état from the junior high dance years. And that was my knack for snagging the ideal dance partner upon hearing just the first three notes of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” In particular, the extended version.

You didn’t want to be sidelined or stuck with just anybody during this 10-minute slice of slow-dance nirvana. I should send singer Bonnie Tyler a thank you note.
My dance partner of choice in seventh grade was a girl who'd suddenly and quite noticeably become a strobe light on the radar of every junior high male, having previously hidden under large oval glasses and an intimidating aptitude for math.
I'm convinced puberty and contact lenses could knock Earth off its axis.
For a brief window of time before she exclusively dated guys with beards, this blossoming young woman was my date to a church Valentine’s banquet, and personal Ginger Rogers for Anything Melodramatic Top 40. Let’s hear it for the boy!
“Boy,” in this case, was dead-on. Because my height did not come early. Hers, however, arrived by expedited shipping.
At thirteen, I was still physically eleven. And it wasn’t helpful that any clothing purchased for me during this time still featured "room to grow."
At one particular dance, I was wearing a button-down Ralph Lauren Polo Oxford shirt featuring sleeves that extended to my knuckles. Yet it didn't stop me from landing my partner of choice. Leaving the dance floor expecting a high-five from a classmate envious of my prowess, I instead was met with a stingingly accurate “You looked like you were dancing with your mom!”

Right about that time is when I stopped enjoying dances.
For me, overall, a dance ban would've been like hearing the news that junior high coaches could no longer divide gym class teams into “shirts” and “skins.” (Was I ever a “shirt?”) 
In hindsight, I should’ve embraced my perennial winning of this Skins Lottery. Today, I imagine it would've been funny to get a series of creepy, temporary tattoos. Then when my inevitable fate was cast in gym class, I'd peel off my shirt, produce a cigarette out of my armpit, and mutter “Let’s do this, ladies.” That's a bit I could have embraced in exchange for exposing my inebriated, pasty white frame.

Ah, but we were talking about dancing.

And Footloose. 

You may recall that "Total Eclipse" singer Bonnie Tyler also had a big hit on the Footloose soundtrack? I think we're done here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comparing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Tim Vanderburg’s Day Off

If you look at the lukewarm reviews from 1986, you'll see that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has slowly risen to classic status over the past two decades. And deservedly so.
What stands out in my theater-viewing memory is how much my classmate John liked it, grinning with anticipation throughout the movie. Come to think of it, he also did that during The Thing (1982).
I didn’t actually see The Thing with John. But we did once watch Firefox (1982) at his grandparents’ house. On a laserdisc player. With a laser.

Some things you should know:
Fact! The couple playing Ferris’s parents met during filming, dated, and eventually married.
Fact! Matthew Broderick started dating Jennifer Grey, his movie sister, during filming.
Fact! I listened to the John Hughes DVD commentary.

So ... did Ferris Bueller inspire you to skip school? 

He didn’t have that effect on me. Mainly because living in a town that you could circumnavigate in 9 minutes didn’t afford many opportunities for memorable truancy. 
Seriously, If I had skipped school with one of my geeky friends (take your pick) along with my uber-hot girlfriend (epic work of fiction), what would I have done, anyway?

Here are a few ideas:
Comparing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Tim Vanderburg’s Day Off

A smooth elevator ride to the skydeck of The Sears Tower
A rickety ladder climb to the top of a water tower

A bird’s eye perspective of the Chicago Stock Exchange
A steer butt's view of a livestock auction

An intimate surveying of Georges-Pierre Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute of Chicago
A reading of the graffiti at Lake Rita Blanca spillway

Fine dining at the exquisite French restaurant, Che Quis
The drive-thru at Hardee’s

A Cubs game (with a foul ball caught!) at Wrigley Field
Nearly getting caught by Spanish teacher, Mrs. Field

Singing “Twist and Shout” to hundreds of spectators, like a king, from atop a parade float
Humming “Don't Worry, Be Happy” to four spectators at Dairy Queen, through the straw of a root beer float

Still, I probably should’ve tried all of these things at least once. I mean, there's not even a Hardee's there anymore.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

D.C. Cab (1983) - (Get ready to pity a fool.)

What was the first R-rated movie you saw at the theater? 

I'm sad to admit that mine was about "a hapless group of cabbies," starring Mr. T, Adam Baldwin and Oscar nominee Gary Busey.

Yes, Gary Busey has been nominated for an Oscar. If that doesn't make you want to invest in head shots and acting lessons, then just keep reading the Internet.

I wonder if Mr. T. would be appalled today, knowing that a film he was in has this distinction in my life?

Funny, I don't remember anything about this movie. I was going to watch it again, but Netflix repeatedly kicked it out of the queue, insisting I "try reading a book."

Why did I want to see D.C. Cab? It had to have been for the freedom of doing so. Most of my friends had been watching R-rated fare on HBO for 14 hours a day since 1979, previewing the sex and violence for their parents.

My folks, on the other hand, had to be begged into the notion. And this is the one they caved on.

A good policy from The Mission Twins Theater:  If you were underage, you had to bring a note from your parents to get in. My note said:

"Please admit our son, Tim, to see the Mr. T. picture. If he wants to waste the money he earned mowing lawns in 104-degree heat so he can hear foul language and watch people crash into things, then that's his business."

Again, I'll bet the infinitely better The Right Stuff was playing next door, and I was too busy wondering if the giant Mr. T. depicted on the poster could beat Mothra.

That poster once again.
It's a nice illustration, by the way. Proof that even the great artist Drew Struzan sometimes just took a paycheck.

I blame Struzan for me wanting to see it. Something must've subconsciously made me think it would be a comedy of epic proportions, worthy of the man's talents who illustrated posters for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

Sadly, I'm now thinking about mowing lawns for money so I can buy this sweet D.C. Cab poster.

Friday, September 3, 2010

INTERMISSION: A-List Actors Whose Final Roles Were Animated

This could open a Costco-size can of controversy, but do we truly consider someone’s work in an animated feature to be as memorable as in a live-action film? 
We all loved Tom Hanks in the Toy Story films, so in that sense, yes. But do you think of those as Tom Hanks movies? No. None of you do. So we’ve answered that.

Toy Story 3 at The Mission Twins Theater
I have nothing against animated films. Check my record over the past 7 years, and you’ll see it littered with kid-friendly movie stubs.
I just think an actor’s role in an animated film is in a category all its own. And the Academy must agree. Otherwise, Robin Williams would have a gold statue for playing a blue genie.
Here’s what started this:  Sir Sean Connery has announced his retirement. He’ll have one more performance--in the upcoming animated Sir Billi. But then that’s it. 

Will we associate Connery with this as his last role?


Because The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) was his final on-camera film performance. And cable TV’s not going to let us forget it.
Something must be done. His career certainly deserves it.

Couldn’t Sir Sean play a James Bond villain already? We're not picky. He could even die quickly, like Blofeld, who survived how often, and then was dropped down a smokestack five minutes into For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Actually, a gravelly, Scottish “Mr. Booooond!” would be an awesome final line.

But I don’t think he’ll do it. He’s a stubborn guy. So in the end, we’ll get voice work from Sean and like it.
It turns out he’s in good company. I give you ...

A-List actors whose final performances were in animated roles:

                                              JAMES STEWART

Did you know that James Stewart's final big screen credit was for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)? Or that he asked Steven Spielberg (uncredited) to direct his performance? I did, but I'm a crazy-huge fan. 

I always wished Jimmy would’ve been in Cocoon (1985). But no, his last live-action role (not counting TV here) was for an odd Japanese-produced African movie back in 1980. I don’t want to talk about that.

              PAUL NEWMAN

Mr. Newman had a fine swan song on-camera in Road To Perdition (2002), but his final role? As Doc Hudson in Cars (2006). (And also in a Cars video game and short feature.) 

We were already conditioned to seeing a cartoon Paul on salad dressing bottles for years. But if you really want to exit animated, Pixar is a good way to go out. 

                             ORSON WELLES

Welles recorded his final acting work in The Transformers: The Movie (1986) as a mechanical planet that eats worlds. Considering his girth, it wasn’t a stretch to ... nah. 

Researchers will find that he appeared briefly in the live-action Someone To Love (1987), but this work was completed prior to The Transformers and released later. 

Side note:  It’s interesting to consider other A-Listers’ final non-film work.  

Marlon Brando lent his voice to The Godfather video game. 

And it’s likely that Robert Mitchum’s last recorded words were “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.”

Final note:  If Sean’s a lost cause, then let’s help Gene Hackman

Welcome To Mooseport (2004) is no fitting valedictory.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back To The Future, according to its taglines

There are pictures of me from high school where I’m obviously going for a Marty McFly look. Which is why I’m certain 70% of plutonium is used by people attempting to go back in time to slap themselves. 

Back To The Future has its 25th anniversary on July 3. The year 1985 plays such a big role in all three films, it’s hard to forget it. I had to look up the date, though. 
And that’s where I discovered that the movie sure had a lot of taglines:

He's the only kid ever to get into trouble before he was born. [UK]

17 year old Marty McFly got home early 
last night. 30 years early.

1.21 gigawatts of fun!*

He was never in time for his classes... 
He wasn't in time for his dinner... 
Then one day... he wasn't in his time at all.

Marty McFly’s open. To a world of change.*

For everyone who’s been itching for more from the star of Poison Ivy!*

His Family Ties have just come undone.*

Marty McFly just broke the time barrier. He's only got one week to get it fixed.

Go back in time before you knew Crispin Glover was such a weirdo. (Re-release)*

What do you bet Eric Stoltz wishes he had a time machine about now?*

*Made-up. I'd love to hear your versions. (Somebody's gotta make this funny.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

Saw this again. Hammier than I remembered. 

This film could've been more accurately reflected with the tagline:

"Just because we're holding hands doesn't mean we'll be taking warm showers together until the wee hours of the morning."

Great poster though. 

And that mud-fight scene between Clint and the weasely by-the-books Marine is straight out of Batman:  The Dark Knight Returns.
Both from 1986. Hmm.

I'm tellin' you, someone needs to hire Mr. Eastwood as an older Bruce Wayne ... fast.

I remembered the movie mud-fight scene being longer, but I was probably thinking of the comic book.

That year, my friend Mike and I thought Clint's voice sounded completely shot. But I guess it was more of an affectation for the role.

How is it possible that Mike and would have gone to see both this and An American Tail (in which he fell asleep) at the theater in the same year? We were bored in a small town.

Clint was already on my mind after re-watching this movie, and then this incredible set jumped out at me at Costco:

I'm thinking Clint Eastwood:  35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros would make a worthy gift for my dad.

1. Where Eagles Dare, 1968
2. Kelly’s Heroes, 1970
3. Dirty Harry, 1971
4. Magnum Force, 1973
5. The Enforcer, 1975
6. The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976
7. The Gauntlet, 1977
8. Every Which Way but Loose, 1978
9. Bronco Billy, 1980
10. Any Which Way You Can, 1980
11. Honkytonk Man, 1982
12. Firefox, 1982,
13. Sudden Impact, 1983
14. City Heat, 1984
15. Tightrope, 1984
16. Pale Rider, 1985
17. Heartbreak Ridge, 1986
18. Bird, 1988
19. The Dead Pool, 1988
20. Pink Cadillac, 1989
21. White Hunter, Black Heart, 1990
22. The Rookie, 1990
23. Unforgiven, 1992
24. A Perfect World, 1993
25. The Bridges of Madison County, 1995
26. Absolute Power, 1997
27. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997
28. True Crime, 1999
29. Space Cowboys, 2000
30. Blood Work, 2002
31. Mystic River, 2003
32. Million Dollar Baby, 2004
33. Letters from Iwo Jima, 2006
34. Gran Torino, 2008
35. The Eastwood Factor, 2009

But seriously. We really need to see a Batman credit on Clint Eastwood's resume before his career is done.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Empire Strikes Back, alright. It strikes back like a big ... oh, just read.

The Empire Strikes Back debuted 30 years ago, and up until its release, I didn’t even know that was its title. I thought those words were just part of a toy commercial script. 
"Star Wars:  The empire strikes back with an all new series of action figures!"

At least they didn’t use the name of that paperback sequel I saw a kid carrying at the bus stop.
Probably the most anticipated movie for me ever. I was 9 and Star Wars was a huge, huge part of my life.
I went home after seeing Empire, found me a pair of Luke boots, and got out of the swimming suit that had been giving me a wedgie throughout the film.

This was in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1980. 

But this blog is supposed to be about the movies I saw at my hometown theater throughout the rest of the 1980s. 

No worries. I definitely went back to see it again.

But not until it was re-released in 1982 in preparation for Revenge of the Jedi, which featured quite a trailer. 

Did you catch the Wilhelm scream?
Looking at that once more, I'd say they did a pretty good job of not giving much away. What stood out the most in my then 11-year-old mind was Chewie throwing that stormtrooper. 

Han’s frozen, Chewie’s in imperial shackles, and he’s not taking it anymore! Revenge of the wookie! 

("This is going to be even grittier and more action-packed than Empire! There’s no way they’ll bog it down with teddy bears or something stupid like that. A standard has been set!")
I've gotten off-topic a little.

What can I add to all the Empire anniversary discussion?
As you can see so far, nothing.
Except that I’m deeply sorry to all my innocent peers at the neighborhood pool who probably curse me to this day for ruining the “I am your father” revelation. 

I had foolishly bought the Marvel comics adaptation before the movie, leafed through it, and then showed everybody I ran into that day. 

Sorry, Gas Meter-Reading Guy.
Again, I was 9. And in my further defense, I didn’t know if we were meant to believe Vader's words. Up until Jedi, even major literary journals questioned whether or not he was lying. 

In an alternate reality, he was lying, sparing us from those horrific prequels. Too easy? Fine.

Then for a moment, let's bask again in the awesomeness that was Hoth, Dagobah and Bespin ... and a super-cool Boba Fett who could never be easily defeated by getting knocked off balance and into a sand pit that burps.

Let's celebrate that great period in Star Wars history--the one Weird Al even hearkened back to in '85 with his classic, "Yoda," warning Luke:

I know Darth Vader's really got you annoyed, 
But remember if you kill him then you'll be unemployed.

Let's think about that dark, mesmerizing film that featured Han Solo at his best (LEIA:  "I'd rather kiss a wookie." HAN:  "I can arrange that!") and many, many more captivating questions than answers.

We can skip the wedgie part.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On The Right Track (1981) - unless we're talkin' 'bout how we're spending our entertainment money

One day I will have to admit that I saw this movie twice in theaters. I hope it's not via a sophisticated system of interlinked computer networks using the same protocol to serve billions of users worldwide.

The first time I saw it, I don't remember how I got there. As a kid, these decisions are frequently made for you. Your mom wants to go to the mall. You don't want to go. She calls you sweetly from the other room, and you wake up in a theater next to an usher holding an ice pack on your head.

Sometimes Mom has to get stuff done. She figures it's safe to leave the kids at the cineplex as long as they're with their siblings and the movie features one of those squeaky-clean kids from Diff'rent Strokes.

I take full responsibility for seeing this the second time.

Between viewings A and B, we'd moved to our small Texas town. The lure of hanging out at the theater on a Friday night and making multiple trips to the snack bar must've been substantial.

In this film, Gary Coleman lives in a locker at the train station and picks winning horses for people as he reads the newspaper while shining their shoes. I think Mr. Roper tries to stop him or something.

Man, I liked Twizzlers. They were particularly fun to bite the ends off of and use as a straw.