Tag Archives: 80s

Scary Movie October: A review of Aliens

Newt: We’d better get back, ’cause it’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night… mostly.

Two years ago for my first edition of Scary Movie October, I watched Alien. My dad, who has a penchant for horror movies, absolutely loves Alien and not surprisingly, I did too. Many people told me I would love Aliens so I was excited to finally watch it this year.

Aliens Movie Poster

Aliens (1986)

Like everyone mentioned to me, Alien is definitely more horror and suspense-focused and Aliens is more action-packed. There are still some scary things that happen in Aliens, but there are a lot more explosions and loud guns and such. For that reason, I prefer Alien to Aliens, but only by a slim margin.

You do get more character development with Ripley, especially as she becomes attached to Newt, the lone stowaway they find during their rescue mission. The character development is great. Newt, on the other hand, is a tad annoying. Every time she shrieked I yelled at my television, telling her to shut up because the aliens will find her if she keeps screaming. Yeah, I get a little invested in movies. So what?

Overall, Aliens is beautifully made. The main alien in the battle you see at the end of the film looks very realistic and scary to me, which is just amazing considering when the movie was made. If this movie is ever remade with some CGI crap I will probably protest all movies for the rest of time. Aliens is just about perfect.

A few notes:

  • Paul Reiser,  I am one of only two people I know who watched and love Mad About You. I feel like I gave you a lot of leeway because of my MOA history, but oh my god you are the worst person ever in that movie.
  • Sigourney Weaver, how do I get my hair to look like that? And my butt? Please, send help.
  • Speaking of which, after seeing Gravity a few weeks ago I’m convinced that Hollywood believes everyone in space runs around in their underwear and hot bods.
  • If I were Bill Paxton in the knife versus finger scene early on, I would punch the dude. That scene gave me major anxiety.

RIYL: Alien, Die Hard, butts, Bill Paxton, small children

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Scary Movie October: A review of Hellraiser

Frank Cotton: Jesus wept.

Three word review: Not enough Pinhead.

Hellraiser Poster

Hellraiser (1987)

Like, I cannot be the only person in this whole world who thought Hellraiser was about Pinhead, right? The tagline is “he’ll tear your soul apart” and it’s under a photo OF PINHEAD. What IS this, even?

Oh well.

I was excited to see Hellraiser because its director wrote the story of Candyman. And Candyman is some SERIOUSLY scary stuff. My dad started me on horror movies at an obscenely young age so I don’t get scared that easily, but Candyman always stuck with me. Even when passing by Cabrini-Green (before it was torn down), I would get goosebumps on my neck. It’s terrifying.

Hellraiser is decent, but not as terrifying. Basically, a dude finds a puzzle box (“WHAT’S IN THE BOX?”) and opens it, and all of these lights/demons/Pinheadies tear out his outsides. Some time later, the dude’s brother and sister-in-law (who is also his secret lover) move into the dude’s home for some reason. The sister-in-law/secret lover discovers that the main dude has, um, been turned into a weird corpse of sorts. In order to revive his body, he has to be fed blood. So S-I-L kills some guys and the dude’s corpse gets more and more alive. Cool story. As an aside, I don’t usually comment on the looks of ladies in movies but the S-I-L in this movie is really quite unattractive. This is only a point I need to make because she is some sexy sphinx of sorts who woos men into her home and then kills them. It’s a little unrealistic (whereas the skinless corpse is totally not). Yowzer. And so on and so on, the brother’s daughter figures everything out and saves the day, kind of. Oh and at some point you see Pinhead. Phew.

So, it’s not about Pinhead. It IS fairly gory and only ninety-ish minutes long, so it’s a decent quick-hit horror film. The acting is atrocious and all sorts of weird things happen without any explanation, potentially to make you think that the movie is super deep but, no, it isn’t. It isn’t bad, but it also isn’t amazing. And yes, there is a box.

RIYL: corpses, manly-looking women, nails, demons, boxes

Late to the mission from God! A review of Blues Brothers

Prologue by Ryan Stites:

Mrs. Tarantino: “Are you the police?”

Elwood: “No, ma’am. We’re musicians. “

This blog is all about Laura and her quest to right the cinematic wrongs in her life, but let’s talk about me first real quick. The Blues Brothers is probably my favorite movie of all time (Jaws being #1a, thankfully, she’s seen that one). I only bring this up because I wonder how this movie comes across to someone that has never seen it and only knows the movie/characters post-John Belushi. Bless Dan Aykroyd for his work on SNL and writing this movie, but the man has done everything but dig up Belushi’s corpse and have it hock House of Blues merchandise (he also should be deported back to Canada for allowing Jim Belushi to appear as a Blues brother). I’m a little worried that Laura’s frame of reference will be clouded by what has happened since the movie*, but a lot of that is probably my own baggage. The Blues Brothers themselves have aged poorly as a property, but the movie is timeless.

The movie hits a lot of personal wheelhouses; growing up Catholic, a giant SNL dork, Chicago (fun fact no one cares about: Car 55 flying into a truck was filmed in my hometown!), car chases, fantastic music. Hell, even Steven Spielberg is in it. Personal business aside, I think Laura will discover multiple things she missed pop culturally, love that lit-rally everyone is in it and like this movie a lot for similar reasons…maybe not so much the Catholic stuff, but just go with it. If she doesn’t our friendship is probably over.

*A quick note on the sequel that never, never, ever should have happened: If you fast forward to the music numbers, it becomes tolerable. Even then, you feel bad for everyone involved and it is best to pretend it didn’t happen.

On a “WHAT? You haven’t seen _____?!?” scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest level of shock, disappointment and sad) I’m going to assign an 7.5 to this just because there was a period of time between roughly 1993-1997 where this movie was on TBS roughly three times a day and I’m not sure how Laura didn’t at least come across it in passing. Also, it is pretty much a musical and she loves musicals.


LTTM Review:

Elwood: They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.

Soooooo, I never saw The Blues Brothers on SNL. Is that bad? I’m definitely curious to go through and watch some reruns to see how this worked as a sketch.

Blues Brothers movie poster

Blues Brothers (1980)

Like Ryan mentioned this movie is pretty much a musical. But not just any musical! A musical where Aretha Franklin makes an appearance teaching her man a thing or two (unsuccessfully), Ray Charles shoots a gun, James Brown sweats a lot, Chaka Khan is a BACKGROUND singer. [And all of the cameos are not just singers. Twiggy makes a small appearance, Carrie Fisher shows up several times with several different incendiary devices, and Steven Spielberg has an incredible performance as the tax man towards the end of the movie.] It’s the only “musical” that Kevin will ever enjoy, so Blues Brothers gets major kudos for that.

Another item of note: while living in Chicago I never once had the chance to drive on Lower Wacker. Based on the Blues Brothers and Batman scenes that take place on Lower Wacker, I assume there is a car chase down there every hour during the day.

While I enjoyed this movie a ton, I don’t think it hits anywhere near my top list of movies I’ve ever seen, or even seen as a part of this project. It’s funny and I really had a good time watching it, don’t get me wrong. But I think Ryan’s Chicago homerism might be getting the best of him (Jaws is INFINITELY better, plus there are sharks). This isn’t even my favorite Dan Aykroyd movie (Ghostbusters II) or my favorite John Belushi movie (Animal House). It’s also not my favorite SNL sketch-turned-movie (Wayne’s World or *cough* Coneheads). That said, Angels in the Outfield is one of my favorite movies so I can understand letting weird quirks  and sentimentality get the best of you. [Or maybe it’s a Catholic guilt thing.]

If you love music, if you love car chases, and if you hate Illinois Nazis, I think you’ll really enjoy this movie. If you’re late to every movie like I am, I’d prioritize lower than some of the other movies I’ve watched so far, but I do recommend that everyone watch it.

Face palm moment: 

I can’t get into details but the community computers at my agency all use the same password. After seeing this movie, I realized that the password is a Blues Brothers reference. I’m a dweeb.

Favorite part: 

As a former Chicago resident, I just really liked seeing different aspects of Chicago that I recognized. I got so excited when I saw a Jewel, you have no idea. Related: I am a dweeb.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: 

I honestly can’t think of anything in particular that I was really missing from the movie. I’m not sure this movie is quite as quotable as some of the others I’ve seen.

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): Don’t kill me Ryan. It’s not at the top of my list as far as regrettability, simply because there are so many other movies that I had missed out on and prioritized higher. I’ll give it a six or so here. BUT YOU SHOULD STILL WATCH.

Late to selling the jewels in a championship belt! A review of Raging Bull

Prologue by Gavin:

I love Ordinary People. That might seem a bit out of left field as we’re discussing Raging Bull, but to me Ordinary People and Raging Bull will be tied together because they were both nominated for the Oscar™ for Best Picture in 1980. As much as I love Ordinary People and despite the fact that I still cry when I watch it (damn you Robert Redford, Timothy Hutton and Judd Hirsch!), I don’t think it was the best picture from that year. In terms of cinema, filmic values, direction and individual acting performances and damn near anything else you want to use as a standard, Ordinary People is a fine film. Excellent even. Still, Raging Bull is better. The acting is better, the movie looks and feels more visceral and it is every bit as emotionally wrenching as Ordinary People.

[Editor’s note: So, uh, I guess I should see Ordinary People?]

I don’t recall exactly when I first saw the movie, but I was a teenager. I didn’t see it in the theatre because I was (barely) too young. But I know that when I rented it and watched it with friends, the fight scenes grabbed the youthful boy that was me and would not let me go. At that stage in my life, I only saw it as an action film intercut with scenes of an abusive asshole terrorizing the people closest to him. When Jake finally gets his shot at the championship and then has to take a dive, it didn’t really register with me. If it did register, I’m sure my opinion was “oh, you’re not so tough now are you? You can stand up to Vicki, but you can’t stand up to Coach from ‘Cheers,’ you scumbag?” (Like a lot of people, I was callow in my youth and thought I knew everything.)

Of course, as I grew older, I began to appreciate stuff in the movie that I could never have spotted or understood when I was younger. When I was eighteen, I never would have even considered that this movie is a powerful statement about reconciliation and forgiveness. The story has often been told that Martin Scorsese said that growing up, he had only two possible vocations open to him, priest or gangster, and that he apparently seriously considered the priesthood. His Christianity shines through in this move (as does a certain amount of his affection for gangsters). While I couldn’t possibly have seen this as a callow boy of eighteen, now that I’m an ostensibly grown-ass man of (cough-cough) years, it’s impossible for me to not see this aspect of it. I would suggest that this is, perhaps, one of the two most important American films on the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation, the other being Dead Man Walking.

[Editor’s note: So, uh, I guess I should see Dead Man Walking?]

I will be curious to see what Laura thinks about this aspect of the film. A lot of people are repelled by Jake LaMotta, and with good reason. He is a thug, a boor, abusive and totally unable to control his impulses, many of which are loathsome. In other words, he is, like me, a deeply flawed human being. I can’t identify with the things Jake did, but I can identify with having done things for which I don’t deserve to be forgiven but, for reasons totally beyond my understanding, I believe actually ARE forgiven. Don’t get me wrong; the sheer brutality of the fight scenes alone is positively balletic and are reason enough to watch the film (This is one man’s opinion. For every person who thinks the fight scenes are amazing, you will find at least one person completely repulsed by the violence. Somehow, and I can’t adequately explain this, the blood is made worse and more visceral because it appears in black and white.). That’s why the eighteen year-old version of me dug it as much as I did. If Scorcese had wanted to make a straight-up boxing picture, he could have done that and left it alone and made a fine film. But this story is so much more. The brutality of this movie, inside and outside the ring, are what make the redemption aspect of it so powerful.

One piece of trivia: Cathy Moriarty, who plays Vicki LaMotta, makes her film debut in this movie. Try to wrap your head around this as you watch: Cathy Moriarty was only nineteen years old when principal photography began.


LTTM review:

Jake La Motta: You didn’t get me down, Ray.

I make it a rule not to read the reviews my friends write before watching the movie. It makes sense that way, right? No spoilers, no outside effect on the way I view the movie. Just me and a film I should’ve seen a million years ago.

I don’t know about Raging Bull. I liked it. It was fine. No, it was better than fine. It was pretty good. But as I read Gavin’s discussion of forgiveness and reconciliation, I feel like the eighteen-year-old Gavin. Maybe I missed something? To me, this movie was about a guy who was great at what he did but let a lot of things get in the way of being a decent human being.

I’ve seen many lists where Raging Bull is called the best sports movie ever (and it’s always in the top ten of the AFI best films list). I think that for me to enjoy a sports movie, I need to feel a strong connection to one of the characters. I loved Rocky, I loved Ray Kinsella (and Moonlight Graham and ESPECIALLY Shoeless Joe), I loved Norman Dale– shoot, I REALLY loved George Knox. This movie made me really respect Robert DeNiro as an actor– dude gained 60 pounds for this movie and in the first scene I actually thought he was Marlon Brando— but I didn’t feel much for the character besides thinking that he was a complete asshole. I don’t even like him that much as other Scorsese leads played by DeNiro. The connection, for me, wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong– this is a very good movie. But it’s not my favorite sports-related movie and it’s not even my favorite Scorsese. I think I missed a lot of the deeper meaning to the movie but I’m not even that interested in rewatching. I recommend seeing it once but it won’t be on my list of frequent repeats.

Face palm moment: Cathy Moriarty– I know her as the rude woman from Casper.

Cathy Moriarty– what a meanie!

Favorite part: The shoutout to On the Waterfront, which I watched as a part of this blog but never managed to review it. I should though because it’s probably one of my favorite movies I’ve watched as a part of this project.

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 5/10. I didn’t feel the connection I think most people have.

Late to the stuffed beaver! A review of Naked Gun

Jane: I’ve heard police work is dangerous.
Frank: It is. That’s why I carry a big gun.
Jane: Aren’t you afraid it might go off accidentally?
Frank: I used to have that problem.
Jane: What did you do about it?
Frank: I just think about baseball.

English: Actor Leslie Nielsen 1982 in a first ...

I have a little sister named Leslie. As the older sister it’s in my job description to find exciting ways to torture my sibling and make her life as miserable as possible. Being aware of Leslie Nielsen‘s existence was a huge help to me growing up as he was the best example I had to prove to my sister that she had a uni-gender name and thus a lesser human being (is ambigendrous a word? I want it to be…). I tip my hat to him for, you know, existing. It’s just too bad that I waited so long to see his movies (I first saw Airplane! early last year) because I think he is incredibly funny.

Naked Gun is a spoof movie based on the short-lived television series Police Squad! and, as someone who obsessed over Dragnet as a little kid, I can definitely appreciate the satire. Since Police Squad! is available on Netflix (DVDs only), I definitely plan to check it out.

To enjoy this movie, you definitely have to have a goofy sense of humor. I could see a lot of people I know rolling their eyes at any mention of “Papshmir.” The jokes are very silly and quick, firing in rapid succession, and I found myself laughing at everything. Even the subtle humor like Queen Elizabeth passing hot dogs down a line of people at the baseball game cracked me up. Leslie Nielsen has the same impeccable comedic timing as he did in Airplane! and it was a nice surprise to find out that he sings the National Anthem a little better than Carl Lewis. And I was amazed to find out that Priscilla Presley wasn’t horrible in the movie. While she doesn’t deliver a ton of funny lines, I thought her interactions with Leslie were good and she was actually able to finish the movie without cracking (which is something I couldn’t do).

Face palm moment:
It’s really weird to see OJ Simpson doing anything besides trying on gloves. He doesn’t have a big part in this movie but I felt a little squeamish the few times I had to watch him in the hospital or at the baseball game.

Favorite part:
Although I laughed throughout most of the movie, there are three things that stand out– the scene where Drebin breaks in to Ludwig’s office and everything goes wrong, the villain’s death scene with the USC marching band (“my father went the same way”), and this little interaction:

Frank: It’s the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girl dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Jane: Goodyear?
Frank: No, the worst.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment:

Frank: Nice beaver!
Jane: [producing a stuffed beaver] Thank you. I just had it stuffed.

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10):
Naked Gun might be one of the most quotable movies I’ve seen since Late to the Movies started. Considering the fact that most of my regular movie quote go-tos are from incredible comedies such as It Takes Two and Knotting Hill, I’m most grateful for this movie. 10/10.