By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Alien in the trunk.
Otto (Emilio Estevez) has trouble accepting authority, which causes him to get fired from many of his jobs. He eventually gets courted into the car repossession business, which he at first resists, but then, especially with its lure of quick cash, he grows into. This then leads him in pursuit of a Chevrolet Malibu with a $20,000 bounty on it driven by a very strange man (Fox Harris) who harbors a glowing radioactive substance in its trunk that kills anyone who comes into contact with it.
The film’s best selling points is that it gives one a gritty feel of what being stuck in society’s poor underbelly is really like as it traps the viewer inside the inner-city of Los Angeles with its almost non-stop capture of its rundown buildings, which becomes like a dominant third character. The viewer then begins to share the same anxiety, anger and frustrations of the people in a place they don’t really want to be, but with no idea of how to get out of it. The only time the film shows the more vibrant area of L.A. is during a brief shot of the skyline from a distance making it come off like a far away place that’s out-of-reach.
The rebel mystique gets better explored and examined here than in other 80’s films where the term ‘rebel’ seemed to apply exclusively to mouthy suburban teens who didn’t like their parent’s rules and would wear punk attire because it was ‘trendy’. Here you get a much more authentic feeling of being an outsider and the unglamorous, desperate qualities that comes with it.
Writer/director Alex Cox also examines the thin, merging line between being a conformist and non-conformist and the ironic/contradictory results that can occur. This gets best captured with the character of Duke (played with gusto by Dick Rude) who is an in-your-face-I-don’t-like-any-rules street punk one minute only to turn around and tell his girlfriend at another moment that he wants to get married and have kids because ‘everybody else is doing it’.
Estevez gives his signature performance here though his excessive cockiness becomes a bit of strain, which fortunately gets tempered in the scene where he gets shot at and panics showing that even a streetwise brash kid like himself has his limits, which makes it all worth it. Harry Dean Stanton as his partner is terrific and the vast 40 year age difference between the two isn’t apparent at all. Olivia Barash is quite good too without even trying. Her likable unrehearsed quality makes for a refreshing contrast to all the rest who are more compelled to put on a facade and for the this reason I wished she had been in it more.
Honorable mention should also go to Fox Harris who plays Parnell the driver of the much sought after car even though in real-life he couldn’t drive and he got the vehicle in a few accidents and even damaged other props on the set in the process. Normally this would’ve gotten him fired, but because he had been the only actor who was nice to Alex Cox when he worked as a lowly security guard at the Actor’s Studio and before he became a director, he choose to stick with him despite the problems, which shows that if your nice to everybody even those that have very little social standing it can come back in rewarding ways in the long term.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: March 2, 1984
Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes
Director: Alex Cox
Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Criterion Collection), Amazon Video, YouTube
Posted in 80's Movies, Black Comedy, Crude Comedy, Cult, Offbeat, Satire, Sci-Fi
Tagged Alex Cox, Dick Rude, Emilio Estevez, Entertainment, Fox Harris, Harry Dean Stanton, Movies, Olivia Barash, Review
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Introducing the brat pack.
Seven friends from college start out on the rocky road of adulthood while learning to hold down full-time jobs and having long term relationships. Kirby (Emilio Estevez) is obsessed with an older woman (Andie MacDowell) who doesn’t reciprocate his same interest. Alec (Judd Nelson) wants to get married to Leslie (Ally Sheedy) despite the fact that he has already cheated on her with several other women. Wendy (Mare Winningham) is secretly in love with Billy (Rob Lowe) who is married to someone else and Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) has a secret crush on Leslie while Jules (Demi Moore) still seems to be in perpetual party mode.
I would’ve liked some explanation as to why there was a nude fat guy walking around in the opening scene at the hospital, but otherwise I felt the beginning was okay. The dialogue has a believable conversational quality and friends sticking together lends out a nice vibe although the scene where Alec dunks Billy’s head into a toilet after he loses his job would’ve ended that friendship for me quite quickly. The setting was supposed to be Georgetown University, but ended up being shot at the University of Maryland instead. I liked the tree lined streets and snazzy apartment neighborhoods, but was surprised how kids just out of college could afford such ritzy places.
The main fallback is the male characters that even for guys seem too full of extreme contradictions. Alec expects loyalty from his girlfriend Leslie even though he’s fooled around on her, but because somehow they were ‘meaningless’ to him then they should be overlooked. Billy is already married and has a kid, but shows no ability or interest in holding down a job and expects his wife to still ‘believe in him’ even though he hits on every woman in sight. Kevin expresses major cynicism towards marriage and relationships and then suddenly expounds on his ‘love’ for Leslie when he is alone with her like he is speaking straight out of a Harlequin romance novel.
The worst though is Kirby who shows definite signs of being a creepy stalker/psycho by chasing after a woman that clearly isn’t that in to him. He sniffs her pillows when alone in her apartment and disrupts one of her parties by barging into it dripping wet with rain and angered that he wasn’t invited. Then when she doesn’t show up to one of his parties he becomes enraged and travels all the way up to her remote mountaintop ski lodge and pounds on her door like he is ready to beat her senseless. What’s even more ridiculous is that she finds his behavior to be ‘flattering’ instead of scary making me wonder if she’s crazier than he is.
The women fare better. Winningham is a great nerdette and Sheedy allows for some genuine sympathy. I even liked Moore who does a fun caricature of an 80’s party girl and her scene inside a homeless shelter was interesting, but having her flip-out so severely and quickly after losing her job was, like with everything else, overdone.
The film’s musical score is the best thing while the drama is over-the-top and impossible to take seriously.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: June 28, 1985
Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes
Director: Joel Schumacher
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube
Posted in 80's Movies, College Life, Drama
Tagged Ally Sheedy, Andie MacDowell, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Entertainment, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham, Movies, Review, Rob Lowe
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: These stories aren’t scary.
This film is made up of an anthology of horror tales that were originally made for the ‘Darkroom’ TV-show that ran from 1981 to ’82 on ABC and was hosted by James Coburn. The network deemed these stories to be ‘too intense’ for television so Universal decided to make it into a feature film. Unlike the series there is no actor or host that ties the stories together, which is unfortunate as Coburn’s presence could have given it a little personality. The biggest reason I was interested to watch this was to see what was considered ‘too intense’ for television back in the early 80’s and after viewing it the answer is ‘not much’.
The first story is entitled “Terror in Topanga” and features a mental patient on the loose in a suburban town and a housewife named Lisa (Cristina Raines) who has run out of cigarettes and feels compelled to go out late at night to get some. The segment is predictable and pedestrian with a twist ending that is a big letdown. Christophe Crowe who wrote the story is married to Raines in real-life and the two teamed up a few years later for an episode entitled “Prisoners”, which aired on the 80’s version of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ and is much, much better than this one and well worth seeking out.
“Bishop of Battle” makes up the second story and features Emilio Estevez as a teen obsessed with beating a video arcade game. This segment features the best visuals. I found the graphics that were used for the game were actually kind of impressive and fun to watch. Estevez is enjoyable as the tightly wound character and this segment also features Moon Zappa in a small part as well as Billy Jacoby (Jayne) who is the younger brother of famous child actor Scott Jacoby and looks just like him.
Lance Henriksen stars in the third story “The Benediction” as a priest who is grappling with his faith and thus decides to leave the ministry. As he starts out in his car on his journey to get away he finds himself being menaced by a black pick-up truck whose driver he cannot see and the two start to play a game of cat-and-mouse with their vehicles on a lonely stretch of desert highway. The scene where the pick-up bursts through the ground is the only interesting moment in what is otherwise a weak, uninspired rip-off of Duel.
The fourth and final story “Night of the Rat” is by far the worst. It pertains to a suburban family whose house becomes invaded by a giant demon-like rat. The special effects used to create the giant sized rodent are awful and would be almost comical if it weren’t so thoroughly botched and ridiculous. Veronica Cartwright who plays the perpetually nervous, high-strung mother gets a bit one-dimensional and irritating, but it is nice to see Bridgette Anderson as the daughter who later went on to star in Savannah Smiles before dying of a drug overdose at age 23.
The stories are flatly photographed with dull looking sets that have no cinematic quality to them and no business being on the big screen. This thing was given an R rating even though there is no swearing, or nudity and just the minimal of violence. I realize that the PG-13 rating was still a year away at the time, but this still should have been given a PG.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: September 2, 1983
Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes
Director: Joseph Sargent
Available: DVD, YouTube