Tag Archives: Lea Thompson

Howard the Duck (1986)

howard-the-duck-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: A big budget disaster.

Howard (Chip Zien) is a duck living on another planet that is quite similar to earth except it’s run by ducks and not the ‘hairless apes’. One day while he is relaxing on his easy chair he gets sucked up into outer space by a laser beam that brings him to earth where meets up with Beverly (Lea Thompson) who is a lead singer for a punk band. She takes a liking to him and has him meet up with her geeky friend Phil (Tim Robbins). Phil in turn introduces Howard to Dr. Jennings (Jeffrey Jones) who offers to return him to his planet via a laser spectroscope, but as the procedure is performed it malfunctions and turns Jennings into a dark overlord out to destroy humanity.

This was produced by George Lucas and based on a Marvel Comic book character created by Steve Gerber, which is where it should’ve stayed. I know this movie has been shredded by many other filmgoers and critics and I don’t mean to pour more fuel onto the fire, but it’s as bad as its reputation says and I tried valiantly to give it a chance. Right away though there are problems including the fact that the planet Howard lives on looks too similar to ours. In fact it looks exactly like ours except it has two moons otherwise it’s impossible to tell the difference on anything. Same type of buildings, cars even the money is the same as American dollars except for a picture of a duck on them instead of Washington. There’s also a barrage of visual gags that make light of the subtle differences between the duck’s world and ours which the filmmakers clearly think are quite clever, but instead they’re just annoying.

The appearance of the duck is a problem too. If it had been animated it might’ve worked, but here it looks like a dwarf in a duck costume and has so many human characteristics that you ultimately forget that he’s supposed to be a fowl at all. Although I do realize that the comic strip character is anthropomorphic as well I still would’ve liked a little more ‘duck logic’ put into it. What sense does it make to create a duck type character if it ends up sharing literally NO characteristics to the actual mammal including the fact that it can’t even swim! The scenes showing him becoming aroused by Thompson’s human body and even talking about one day getting married and having kids was downright creepy.

The second half is where the story really goes off the hinges. The story pivot involving the Jones character becoming possessed by a ‘dark overlord’ is about as generic as it gets and leads to a nonstop assault of special effects and car chases that is both mind numbing and pointless. I never read the comic of which this is based but in researching it I found that it had a lot of unique and interesting villains and those should’ve been implemented into the script.

Thompson gives a terrific performance, which is the only reason I’m giving this thing 1 point, but her character is a little too sweet and lacks the streetwise edge a singer in a punk band would most assuredly have. In the comic book version Beverly was a model and I’m not sure why her profession got changed, but it was a mistake. Robbins is engaging too and Jones has one funny bit during his exchange with a waitress inside a late night diner, but otherwise this thing fails at all levels and is too obnoxious to be enjoyed even in a so-bad-it’s-good category.

howard-the-duck-2

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: August 1, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Willard Huyck

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Casual Sex? (1988)

casual sex

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex in the 80’s

Stacy (Lea Thompson) and Melissa (Victoria Jackson) are lifelong friends with very different sexual pasts. Stacy has slept with a lot of guys including some one-night-stands while Melissa has had sex with only a few and never achieved an orgasm at least ‘not when someone else was in the room’.  Because of the AIDS epidemic they decide to reanalyze their sexual mores and join a singles resort where they hope to meet their Mr. Right and settle down.

The film is based on the stage play that was originally produced for The Groundlings Theater in Los Angeles. You can tell this right away at the start where the two women stand on an empty stage and talk about some of their past sexual encounters. This proves to be the funniest part of the film with a lot of keen observations on human behavior. Unfortunately after the first five minutes of this the film digresses into a more conventional narrative by having the girls go to a single’s resort and the attempts at satire get either over-played or not played up enough. What is even worse is that it throws in a romance angle by having Stacy fall for an irritatingly perfect looking heartthrob named Nick (Stephen Shellen) who is an aspiring rock star. The two quickly move in together and then all of sudden he becomes completely clueless and harbors a lot of annoying habits that leads to a drawn-out, boring break-up session.

There are still a few funny moments including an amusing dream sequence where Stacy imagines making love to Nick while her boyfriends from the past start to pop up all around her, but overall the film fails to gain any traction, is filled with clumsy characterizations and falls flat. A much better approach would have been to structure it around a collection of vignettes with a sexual theme much like Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex, but Were Afraid to Ask, which is far more original and funnier than anything you will see here.

Lea is really cute and gives a good performance. Normally ditzy blondes get on my nerves, but somehow I have always found Victoria’s cute-as-a-button face and squeaky voice appealing. Her acting skills aren’t up to Lea’s level, but her more natural delivery makes for a nice contrast. Skin hounds will be happy to know that both women appear nude from the backside.

However, it’s Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay who steals the film with an engaging performance as the proverbial lounge lizard. Every scene he is in is funny and he tells a lot of lame jokes, but the way he says them is hilarious ‘they can’t all be golden’. In his attempt to get more connected to women he reads a book entitled ‘How to Pretend Your Sensitive’, which is amusing as well. My only complaint is that in the end Lea marries him and he becomes more ‘normal’, which takes away from the goofy caricature.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: April 22, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Genevieve Robert

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Red Dawn (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fight for your country.

Due to the recent release of the remake of this film I decided it would be a good time to review the original.  One thing that has always surprised me about this movie is the fact that out of all the 80’s movies out there why this one would remain such a perennial hit to the point of remaking it even though the cold war has technically long been over has always been a bit of a mystery. I know the ladies at my office are young and don’t know many old movies, but for whatever reason they are familiar with this one, which kind of compelled to check it out.

I remember when the film came out many liberals complained that this could never happen and tried to boycott it much like they did with the ‘Amerika’ mini-series that came out a few years later and dealt with the same plot. My position on the matter remains the same, which is freedom of speech comes first and if someone wants to make a movie about a Soviet invasion more power to them and if they want to make a movie about Sweden invading us then they can do that too.

Now with that said I still felt it seemed farfetched. The explanation for how the Soviets were able to invade us so very easily and quickly is spotty, but I guess if you are going to enjoy the film then you’re going to have to overlook it.

The plot consists of soviet troops parachuting out of the sky and shooting up a classroom before taking over the rest of the small Colorado town. A group of teens manage to escape and hide out in the nearby mountains. Eventually they start to wage guerrilla warfare against the invading troops and name themselves the ‘Wolverines’.

I liked the way the teens are portrayed. They are not just a bunch of spoiled, superficial suburban kids concerned with being hip and trendy and talking in some irritating slang. Instead they seem very much like young men growing into being real men. The fact that there are a few casualties and that they change and become hardened by what they go through makes it all the more authentic. I also liked that the two young women they pick up along the way end up fighting and shooting up the bad guys just as well as the males.

Patrick Swayze does a terrific job as the group’s leader. He makes a strong presence and I wished the movie had focused more on him. It is fun seeing Charlie Sheen looking very boyish and older actor Harry Dean Stanton has a good bit as the father of one of the boys who is now imprisoned in a labor camp and instructing them on how to toughen up.

My favorite performance though was Lea Thompson. She is real young and cute. I loved her volatile temper, her willingness to use a rifle without hesitation, and her infatuation with Andy Tanner (Powers Boothe) a much older man who joins them.

I liked that the point-of-view is exclusively with the kids. There is no attempt to show things from the Communist side, or even try to humanize them at least not until the very, very end. They are portrayed as monstrous and evil lining up civilians and savagely shooting them. If there is anything that can resonate with the masses it is emotionalism and this film keys in on it well and I think that is why it has remained a hit. It becomes like a David and Goliath story with the teens showing up the evil empire and disrupting their plans. I found myself rooting for them even though I kept wondering how they were able to find all that ammunition that they use as well as the warheads.

Action wise it is pretty good. It starts from the very beginning and doesn’t let up. In fact this film was in The Guinness Book of World Records at the time for having the most violent acts of any movie. The film averages 134 violent acts per hour and 2.23 per minute. I enjoyed that the special effects are all real and none of this computerized crap like you see today, which to me still looks phony and makes movies seem too much like a video game.

After about the first hour the movie started to drag and I kept looking at my watch wondering when it would be over. The ending had some satisfying elements as they attack the building housing all the leaders of the invasion, but it is not enough. If you take away the novelty of the Communist invasion then this thing is really just a standard action flick that is no better or worse than the thousands of others out there. The only reason to watch this is to compare it to the remake, or vice-versa.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 10, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG-13 (The First movie ever to have this rating)

Director: John Milius

Studio: MGM/UA

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video