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.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Swiss Family Robinson, baby (Re-release)



Suspending your disbelief that two young men wouldn’t notice a “boy” was actually an attractive lady in disguise!

Swiss Family Robinson (1960) was fantastic. I didn’t know how old it was when it was re-released in ’81. It didn’t matter. What matters is that if you went to a popular 21-year-old movie now, you’d be paying $9 to see Look Who’s Talking


Coconut bombs!

The Swiss!
And who doesn’t like to see some good ol’ pirate butt-kicking?

This is Disney live-action greatness. 

I saw it again the other night with my kids, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies. We’d previously seen Old Yeller on TCM, and my son, 6, recognized the mom (Dorothy McGuire) and two younger brothers (Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran) from that film.
“The dad is different, though. He doesn’t have earlashes.”  
My boy was referring to sideburns, but I may never call them sideburns again.
The dad from Old Yeller, Fess Parker, died within days of us watching that one. I feared for the life of Mr. Robinson (John Mills) after this, but saw that he had already gone to the Big Treehouse in the Sky in 2005 at 97 years of age. 

97! He gets no pity from me.

Any pity I have goes to the animals in this movie. You would not be allowed to ride an ostrich like that today. 
A re-make in 2012? Sure, why not? Those computers can make some realistic-looking ostriches.