Friday, June 1, 2012

25 Years Ago This Month: June 1987

Kevin Costner got his big starring break in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, written by playwright David Mamet, whose own directorial debut came the same year. Sean Connery won an Oscar for playing sidekick and mentor to Costner's Eliot Ness. Andy Garcia makes one of his earliest screen appearances.

Harry and the Hendersons was a beloved little family film most of us probably remember fondly. John Lithgow is the head of a family that hits a sasquatch with his car while on a camping trip (?) and then takes the man-bear-gorilla home for a bit of light family entertainment/comedy/moralizing. Kevin Peter Hall, who played Harry, is otherwise best known for playing the Predator in both Predator and Predator 2.

Speaking of which, Predator was released the same month! Now this is a movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger (aka former California governor) gets called in for a Central American jungle mission with his elite group of commandos that includes Carl Weathers (aka Apollo Creed), Jesse "The Body" Ventura (aka former Minnesota governor), and Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black. Then they get eliminated one-by-one at the hands of a technologically advanced alien creature. Schwarzenegger faces him mano a mano in the finale. Classic!

Based on respective plot descriptions, the George Miller-directed The Witches of Eastwick seems a bit of a departure from the John Updike novel on which it's based. It looks like it was made as more of a showcase for Jack Nicholson's antics while playing the devil. Susan Sarandon, Cher, and Michelle Pfeiffer play the three witches who each have an affair with him and then torture him with a voodoo doll at the end.

Bruce Robinson's dark comedy Withnail & I has a strong cult following. I never saw it before watching it for a special review this month. I did see his follow-up How to Get Ahead in Advertising which is a wonderfully satirical film with a fantastic lead performance from Richard E. Grant, who made his debut in Withnail & I.

Roxanne is a silly little forgettable Steve Martin comedy loosely based on Cyrano de Bergerac. Martin has a giant schnoz and a poet's gift with words. He falls for Darryl Hannah, but helps a local hunk woo her instead. Eh.

Mel Brooks made some fantastic satirical comedies through the late 60s and 70s. In the 80s he started to get a little more childish and fell off his game. Spaceballs was his first real dud of a film, a Star Wars parody made almost a decade too late that seems more in line with the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films than The Producers or Blazing Saddles. This was one of my earliest trips to the movie theater. I remember seeing it in my home town's single screen second-run theater. The best gag in the whole movie is that Rick Moranis, a completely non-menacing actor, plays the Darth Vader character. But there's not a single great comedic actor in the film and thus not a single great comedic performance. Brooks' earlier movies featured performances by Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman. Here we have Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga and Joan Rivers voicing the C3PO character? Okay, John Candy was a funny actor, but he wasn't given much to do with Barf (Seriously Mel? That's the best you could do?), the Chewbacca character. And Pizza the Hutt? You get it? Like Pizza Hut, the chain restaurant that serves disgusting pizza. You know how I know this is a bad movie? Because I loved it when I was 10.

Still, it's probably not as bad as Dragnet, a comedy based on the old TV series in which Dan Aykroyd stars as Sgt. Joe Friday (nephew of the original Joe Friday) of the Los Angeles Police Department. Tom Hanks co-stars as his partner. Christopher Plummer goes slumming as the villain.

The big prestige film of the month is Stanley Kubrick's last good movie and the last movie he would release for the next dozen years. Full Metal Jacket stars Matthew Modine as Private Joker as he makes his way through basic training and then the hell of Vietnam. This is the only war film I can think of that feels like a horror film. It scared me shitless when I was a kid.

Film Debuts
Patricia Clarkson - The Untouchables
Richard E. Grant - Withnail & I

Non-Movie Events

11th - Margaret Thatcher becomes the first British PM in 160 years elected to a third consecutive term.
12th - On a visit to Berlin President Ronald Reagan issues challenge to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."

24th - Lionel Messi, Argentine national team and F.C. Barcelona football player.

13th - Geraldine Page age 62 from a heart attack.
22nd - Fred Astaire age 88 from pneumonia.
24th - Jackie Gleason age 71 from colon cancer

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