Take Me Home Tonight opens in theaters this week. The film takes place in the year 1988 and has already generated more interest in Eddie Money than anyone's had since the late 80s. I was recently a guest on the Golden Briefcase podcast over at First Showing and we discussed our favorite films from that glorious year. Were I given the technology to travel back in time, hopefully in a DeLorean, the first thing I would do would be to head to 1988 and feast my eyes on the first runs of some of its cinematic fare. Woefully, I was four years old in 1988 and therefore ill-equipped to appreciate what have since become some of my favorite films. Below is a list of the titles I would seek out. Are they the best of 1988? Not necessarily, but most assuredly the ones I would most want to see with a virgin crowd.
The 80s demonstrated such proficiency within the horror genre that a majority of the remakes we get now are from that incredible decade. Not only that, but the horror remakes produced within the 80s run circles around the current remake machine of Hollywood. Drawing from the well of 50s sci-fi horror, films like The Thing and The Fly became instant classics. Though maybe not as highly regarded, The Blob is a fantastic piece of filmmaking that utilizes incredible special effects to make audiences deathly afraid of a wad of gelatin. I'd call that a win.
You know those people who profess that Die Hard is the greatest action movie of all time? Those people are only saying that because it is accurate. Die Hard established the mold for not only the new, more vulnerable action hero, but also for the go-to action movie structure: terrorists take over unlikely target X and must be thwarted by put-upon, regular Joe hero y. Before Under Siege was “Die Hard on a boat" and Passenger 57 was “Die Hard on a plane," there was just Die Hard. I can only imagine seeing it with unsuspecting audience z.
Beetlejuice is a great film in its own right, but it is also unique among Tim Burton's cannon. Tim Burton has become well known as a director who thrives on adapting other source material. Beetlejuice is one of the few original properties that he has ever tackled and I would love to see it on the big screen. I would also love to hear people debating in the lobby after the film whether this guy should be allowed to make the Batman movie.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
I'm sure audiences were blown away by Who Framed Roger Rabbit's seamless integration of animation into a live-action film, and that in and of itself is a major enticement. But the fact that Disney and Warner Brothers characters were allowed to coexist in one feature is the major reason I would want to observe audience reaction to the initial theatrical run of the film. It'd be fun to hear the kids going crazy for their favorite characters but the heavy film noir influence would allow for a more mature appreciation of the movie as well.
John Carpenter is one of my very favorite directors and there are a number of his films that I would want to see on the big screen with a naive audience. I've actually seen They Live on the big screen, but to see with a group of people expecting a familiar John Carpenter film and instead getting a wildly absurd sci-fi movie about aliens and magic sunglasses staring professional wrestler “Rowdy" Roddy Piper? Sign me up!
As a massive fan of nearly the entire Halloween franchise, I would leap at the chance to be in the theater with a group of like-minded fans to experience the anticipated return of Michael Myers after his seven-year absence. Also, Halloween 4 is a criminally underrated film. Sure it is a slasher sequel and suffers from a few of the familiar problems there contained, but it also perfectly blends the slick conventions of 80s horror with the classically-established mythos of cinema's greatest boogeyman.
One of the best retellings of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, nothing would have put me in the holiday spirit more than being able to see this film for the first time in 35mm. Bill Murray, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Bobcat Goldthwait, John Forsythe, and Karen Allen all larger-than-life on the big screen sounds like the perfect Christmas gift to me.
William Lustig is one of my favorite exploitation filmmakers and it pains me that he doesn’t make movies anymore. His films always seem to elevate exploitation to new heights with his flair for cinematography and extracting stellar performances from his cast; this one including Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins. I’ve seen almost all of his movies in 35mm as it is, but Maniac Cop, my favorite of his, still eludes me. I would seriously jeopardize the fabric of space and time to travel back and see the first run of a William Lustig movie; especially Maniac Cop.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
After 10 days of treatment, musician Billy Joel is set to leave Connecticut's Silver Hill Hospital on Wednesday, reports the New York Daily News.The 53-year-old singer intends to head straight for his home in the Hamptons following his stay at the clinic, which specializes in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Joel's spokeswoman said that following some down time in the Hamptons, he will head to Chicago, where a new stage show titled Movin' Out, featuring his songs, is holding its pre-Broadway tryout.
Nicole Kidman, who is headed to Romania next month to shoot parts of her next film based on the Civil War-era novel Cold Mountain, may have to contend with rather unusual dressing quarters: a bus used by a former communist dictator. The Associated Press reports that the bus once carried Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed 13 years ago, around the country on working visits. The bus has since been refurbished with solid wood furniture and a luxury bathtub.
John McEnroe said he is very disappointed with the statements his ex-wife Tatum O'Neal made on ABC's 20/20, including allegations that the former tennis pro took steroids when he was on the pro tennis tour, reports AP. O'Neal, who was responding to McEnroe's new autobiography You Cannot Be Serious, said he also used marijuana and cocaine, but only off the court. The interview airs Friday.
Go Bernie Mac! The comedian is in talks to star in the remake of the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner for Columbia Pictures, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The original feature, directed by Stanley Kramer, starred Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn as parents whose attitudes are challenged when their daughter begins dating a black man, played by Sidney Poitier. This summer, Mac is set to begin work on Charlie's Angels 2; Head of State, directed by Chris Rock; and Bad Santa alongside Billy Bob Thornton.
Will Smith and Ryan Phillippe are teaming up to produce White Boy Shuffle, based on a novel by Paul Beatty, Variety reports. The film follows a young black kid whose Santa Monica, Calif., beach life comes to a halt when his family moves to South Central Los Angeles. How Stella Got Her Groove Back's Kevin Sullivan is attached to direct.
Lil' Romeo will star opposite Jessica Alba in Universal's Honey, a music-driven coming-of-age drama about a tough inner-city woman who wants to start a neighborhood dance studio and is then discovered by a music mogul. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film, directed by music video director Billie Woodruff, begins production Sept. 9 in Toronto.
Jim Henson Pictures, the company behind The Muppets, is teaming up with MGM to make a film about a group of alien dogs, Variety reports. Good Boy! follows the adventures of an alien dog that comes to Earth from Sirius, the Dog Star, to investigate reports that his fellow canines have abandoned their original plan to take over the planet. Shooting is scheduled to begin in August in Vancouver, Canada.
Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias, James Taylor and Ray Charles will perform on the NBC special The Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular live from 9 to 10 p.m. ET and also from 9 to 10 p.m. in each of the other three continental time zones, Launch.com reports. Rob Lowe will host the hour-long special, which will feature special guest appearances from former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Harrison Ford, Mike Myers and Sigourney Weaver.
This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?