80s Odyssey: Dangerous Curves (1989) & Hardbodies (1984)

Unfortunately this is the largest image I could find of the poster for Dangerous Curves on Google. Apparently there’s a movie from the 30s of the same name and then a ton of pictures that look like the kinds of posters I remember seeing in the back of Spencer’s Gifts when I was younger. Anyway, with the weather getting nicer, I figured some fun beach themed movies would make sense. I never actually saw the beach as a kid, but growing up in the 80s told me it was a place where girls wore very small bathing suits (fashion was WEIRD in the 80s you guys) and there was always a bully around the corner to give you trouble when you were trying to talk to a girl. Why is it that every pretty girl in these movies just happens to be dating a possessive jerk? Okay, that’s not actually the case with Dangerous Curves, but it is a theme I’m noticing as I plow through these movies.

The premise behind DC is that two college friends–a good responsible one and the wacky, smooth talking one who always causes trouble–get tasked with driving a car to somewhere in California. The straight laced one (played by Tate Donovan) wants a job with this guy when he gets out of college, so agrees to take the car, but also winds up bringing his trouble making friend along. As you might expect, hijinks ensue, the car gets stolen and made the prize of a beach beauty contest and there’s several plans to get the car back that include new friends like the beach bum and a group of girls on spring break. There’s a few actors of note in this aside from Donovan. Armin Shimerman (the asshole principal from Buffy) plays a bumbling security guard, Leslie Nielson plays the guy who arranges for the car to be stole, Robert Stack is the businessman, MTV veejay Martha Quinn is a reporter and Damone from Fast Times At Ridgemont High is a cabbie.

Overall the movie was filled with goofy, campy fun in a similar vein, but nowhere near as original as Spring Break. I always have the same problem with these kinds of movies because I definitely tend towards the more straight-laced side of things where I want to see the wacky friend get beaten within an inch of his life. But, I guess without him there wouldn’t be any movie. The one thing that really did confuse me though was why they brought skis with them on this trip. They looked a lot like snow skis to me, though I’m not expert and even if they were water skis, I don’t think you can ski in the ocean without great difficulty. Were they part of the birthday present and I just didn’t get it? Was the friend just being more of a dumb asshole? I know what role they played in the story, but not understanding why they were there just made me angry every time I saw them.

Hardbodies is kind of fun and strange combination of every other beach movie you’ve ever seen and Old School. The plot revolves around Scotty, the guy that everyone loves who only seems to hang out on the beach. His main problem is that he has no money and can’t pay his rent, so he’s looking for a place. Just in time, three older dudes show up at a swanky beach house and Scotty winds up being their coach for getting hardbodies (fit girls, basically). In exchange they pay him and let him stay at their place. From there there’s a lot of training with phrases like “dialog” and going for the “BBD” which stands for bigger, better deal.

As Scotty gets sucked into the high life, he also falls for a girl and wants to be with just her. Of course, there’s some problems that come along, including some tension between one of the rich guys and Scotty after the richie keeps trying to go after this girl who’s known as a tease and it’s just not working. To get revenge, the rich dude hits on Scotty’s girl, which Scotty sees from a distance and takes the wrong way.

Don’t worry though, Hardbodies doesn’t end on a sad note. The good guys wind up staying good and the bad guys get punished, as well it should be. I think I’m drawn to movies like this right now because they’re just so fun and lighthearted and don’t have any real serious consequences. With fatherhood looming and all the responsibilities and seriousness about to wash over me, it’s kind of nice to watch movies about guys who take things way too seriously and others who really seem to know how to live life. Oh, also, lots of pretty ladies and beaches. I think I could easily live on a beach. It looks nice and I wouldn’t mind honing my volleyball skills.

Friday Fisticuffs: High Voltage (1997)

Right off the bat, I think it’s very important to let you know that High Voltage is not a good movie. I’ve often heard people talk about the kinds of movies that were born thanks to the popularity of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but never really experienced it (or knew I was experiencing it). This flick borrows heavily from both movies immediately with an out of sequence opening that works on three different timelines (the group of cooks talking about committing a crime, the drive to the heist and the heist itself). Hell, during the “discussing the crime” parts, it’s pretty obvious they’re trying to go for the rapid fire dialog Tarantino’s known for. Hell, there’s even a Mexican standoff in the first ten minutes and a foiled heist.

Antonio Sabato Jr. is our hero and leader of the gang of crooks. Amy Smart (interesting that she’s in two movies called High Voltage) and the guy who played the crazy roommate in Dead Man On Campus are part of the gang. When it turns out the bank they want to rob is actually a front for the mob, they’re on the run which sends Sabato on a tour of (I’m assuming) LA and Nevada calling up old friends to help him out, including 80s bully extraordinaire Billy Zabka. Hell, even Ogre from Revenge Of The Nerds makes an appearance as a bartender.

Fun casting isn’t enough to make this a good movie. Nearly everyone involved has trouble delivering dialog. There’s also plenty of nonsensical moments like people not being able to shoot other folks a few feet in front of them, men with AK-47s running like little girls from a guy who just rode in on a motorcycle and Amy Smart marrying her by-then dead boyfriend thanks to Sabato holding a gun to a priest’s head. The film tries really hard to be cool and hip, but the goofy action sequences and bad dialog reveal this dog’s true nature. Just check out this clip, it’s the first 15 minutes of the movie and one of the few I could find on YouTube after a few minutes of searching.

Speaking of action, it’s as disjointed as the film itself. The gunplay bounces between pretty cool looking and laughable, veering into Shoot Em Up territory, but without the winking nods to the audience that let you know this is all a ludicrous, but fun adventure. The hand-to-hand fighting is also a weird mix. There’s all these corny sound effects that sound like they were taken from the Indiana Jones audio library (they work in those movies because they’re over-the-top action movies, but this is supposed to be set in the real world). Every punch sounds like a bag of bricks falling to the ground and every slash of a knife like a samurai sword cutting through the air. It’s too much. At the same time, the recipients of every blow and bullet do these kind of amazing and painful looking flips and contortions smashing into everything from tables and chairs to walls and each other. These are corny moments, but they remind me of great martial arts flicks where it looks like dudes are really getting hurt (made all the better by the Jackie Chan-esque closing credits). This short side-fight between Shanon Lee (who winds up being Sabato’s love interest) and an unnamed adversary winds up being one of the more interesting ones.

In the end, I think a movie like this really relies on its leads and how convincing they are as cool badasses. If Stallone starred in this movie or Arnie, I think I’d be all over it, but Sabato just doesn’t have the chops or timing that those guys did (and do). He’s kind of like Van Damme in that he comes off as kind of a douche, but whereas Van Damme’s earlier roles straddle the line and lean towards the more palatable end of the spectrum, he leans the other way and kind of makes me wish that Billy Zabka had knifed him by the end of the movie.

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 8 “Dustin Shows His Hand, Heather Folds”

Tonight’s episode of Real World Las Vegas made me kind of mad and not for the reason you might think. I’m mad that so many people acted so childishly and even hypocritically when it came to the big reveal that Dustin had done some webcam stuff in his younger days. Look, I get why some of them would be upset, specifically Heather, but I’d like to remind everyone that Adam was involved in a SHOOTING. The fact that anything involving sex can be considered worse than a near murder is ridiculous to me and just shows how screwed up society is, especially this group of young people who all seem to have such open views on sexual mores. Hit the jump to see how things went down. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 8 “Dustin Shows His Hand, Heather Folds”

80s Odyssey: Zapped (1982) & Teen Wolf (1985)

I’ve been on a real 80s movie kick since I watched Back To School and Just One Of The Guys. Since then, I’ve probably watched a dozen or so 80s flicks. I’ll be pairing some of them up and writing about them over the next few days and weeks. Zapped appealed to me instantly because, as longtime readers will remember, I am a big fan of Charles In Charge which also stars Scott Baio and Willie Aames.

The story behind Zapped actually reminds me a lot of a movie I saw when I was younger called School Spirit as both are R-rated teen comedies about a kid getting a certain kind of superpower and basically using it the way that a kid that age would. In this case, Scott Baio gets telekinesis after some of the chemicals in the lab he uses at school get mixed up and he ingests them.

There’s little touches here and there that made this film fun and quirky when it could have gotten tired and stale. Even before getting his powers, Baio is growing weed in the lab. His parents also think he’s on drugs and give him a really hard time until he controls a ventriloquist dummy to scare his mom and then she leaves him alone. Oh, Scatman Crothers also plays a coach in the movie and I always enjoy seeing him do his thing.

And, as you might expect, there’s plenty of T&A to go around. I was actually surprised that I didn’t remember this movie from my youthful days of watching USA’s Up All Night or Comedy Central’s T&A Matinee. Heck, the end of the movie finds everyone at prom and Baio going all Carrie, but instead of being pissed, he’s just ripping everyone’s clothes off. In my mind, I like to think that Baio and Aames changed their names, went on to college and wound up on Charles In Charge.

The theme for this post is “high school comedies about kids with strange abilities and the wackiness that ensure” in case you couldn’t tell. Unlike Zapped, I had, of course, seen Teen Wolf. I think it’s nearly impossible to be my age, had cable for a long time and not seen at least a part of the movie. In case you haven’t, though, basically Michael J. Fox is a nondescript teenager on a crappy basketball team who finds out that he is, in fact, a werewolf. Things actually start turning around for him when people find out about his secret (apparently, in addition to getting hairy and growing fangs, being a werewolf also makes you awesome at basketball). From there it turns into a question of identity and being true to yourself as Fox struggles between being the wolf that everybody loves and the boy Boof loves.

I think what sets Teen Wolf apart from movies like it is how differently they play everything. It runs out that Fox’s dad actually completely understands what he’s going through because he is also a werewolf (I love that scene where he opens the door and dad’s standing there in wolf mode too). I also like how no one really seems to care that he turns into a werewolf in the middle of a basketball game. Sure some people are a little weirded out, but they also don’t care because he’s actually good at the sport. I also love the character of Stiles in pretty much any incarnation I see him in. He’s that perfect 80s smooth operator that seems to be missing from modern movies. I think some actors make that guy too douchey for consumption, but Jerry Levine kills the role of ultimate party guy who everybody loves. We need more Stiles’ in our lives.

Like with Zapped and all movies like this that follow a somewhat formulaic plot (you know prom has to be involved and the lead has to like the popular girl while his female friend pines after him), Teen Wolf lives or dies based on the main character. Luckily for both flicks, both Baio and Fox are great at playing normal guys who you can either feel for or relate to. You feel kind of good when they get to be awesome and then feel bad for them when they take it too far, but then good again by the end when they redeem themselves.

I want to take a quick paragraph and talk about this Teen Wolf show that MTV’s got coming up soon. I’ve seen a few previews for it and it doesn’t look like my bag. I’m not one of those idiots who throws around terms like “raping my childhood” when things like this get remade. Not only do I find the very idea of the phrase to be repugnant and a wild misuse of a term, but someone making a new version of something you liked as a good should have no baring on your enjoyment of the original work. It’s still there. You can always watch the original Karate Kid or Teen Wolf and completely ignore the remakes. It’s as simple as that. All that being said, I the bits of the Teen Wolf show I’ve seen seem to take all the fun that was inherent in the movie out of the proceedings in order to make another cheap Twilight rip off. I said something like that to the missus the other day and she responded with something like “Kids today don’t want fun, they want brooding.” I hope that’s not true. I know movies like Teen Wolf and Zapped aren’t in vogue anymore, but they should be. Maybe teens aren’t as into comedy because the only things aimed at them are shows on the Disney channel and the occasional dramedy on TV like My Life As Liz. Where’s the Zapped, Teen Wolf or American Pie for this generation?

Ad It Up: James Bond RPG

Have you ever read the mid 80s Jack of Hearts series from Marvel? It’s incredibly weird. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a four issue comic that bounces around nearly as much as that one, which kicks off on Earth with Nick Fury hanging around and winds up in the stars with aliens explaining Jack’s history to him. Anyway, I picked the issues up at a small comic show in a hotel near my house and didn’t enjoy it a ton, but they did offer up some great comic ads. I wanted to run this James Bond one during my Digging Double Oh Seven series, but I only got to scanning recently. I’ve never been an RPG fan, but I think I could be convinced to give this one a try given the opportunity.

Superman Trade Post: Man Of Steel Volume 6 & Eradication!

SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL VOLUME 6 (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Ron Frenz, Jim Starlin & Dan Jurgens
Drawn by Art Adams, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens & John Byrne
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures Of Superman Annual #1, Superman Annual #1, Action Comics #594-595, Booster Gold #23 & Superman #12.
I’ve only blogged about the fourth Man of Steel volume before, but this is a series of collections that I adore, even if I’m not in love with all the of stories therein. I find myself looking back to the 80s and 90s moreso than looking forward to books coming out in the future from Marvel and DC. Part of that is because I’m out of the loop and only really hearing about things after they’re either well liked or panned. Not having all the comic book access I used to is a bummer, partially because I love reading comics, but more prominently because I don’t have the opportunity (or don’t give myself the opportunity) to make up my own opinions unless I find myself lucky enough to get a trade.

Anyway, I appreciate what creators were doing at DC back then. After Crisis everyone was just trying to figure out what was going on and making some really interesting comics that fit in all different corners–some of which we hadn’t seen before–in the DCU. This collection of Superman comics–mostly annuals–does some of that itself. The underutilized but ridiculously amazing Art Adams draws one of the annuals which features Superman, Batman, Robin AND vampires. I had read the issue before, but it was fun reading it again. Then, there’s one of those stories where a monster runs amok, but he’s not really a bad guy. It might have been new then, but I’ve read it enough to know all the beats. Jim Starlin–who I just interviewed actually for CBR–does some really interesting stuff in an annual that thankfully wasn’t paint by numbers and really had be guessing, trying to figure out what was going on. The Booster Gold crossover was fun, followed by the origin of Lori Lemaris which I already knew, so it was kinda boring and finally a Silver Banshee story (possibly her first–at least post-Crisis–appearance?) that does the ol’ “Superman/Martian Manhunter” switcheroo.

In the end, I think the level of enjoyment you get out of these issues will depend heavily on what comics you have already read, how much you already know about Superman and how much you like Superman. I’ve read a ton of comics and know a lot about Superman, but I also love the character and have a great interest in this era because it’s what directly influenced the comics I wound up reading in the early 90s. I’m definitely having holes filled in my mental map of Superman’s history and hope that the Man Of Steel trade series continues on. Has anyone heard anything about that? I don’t think anything past this sixth volume has been announced, right?

SUPERMAN ERADICATION (THE ORIGIN OF THE ERADICATOR) (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway & Roger Stern
Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, George Perez & Kerry Gammill
Collects Action Comics #651-652, Adventures Of Superman #460, 464, 465 & Superman #41, 42
I have a series of 90s era Superman trades I’ve had sitting around for a while. I’ve been holding off on reading them because I was hoping the Man Of Steel volumes would catch up. I still want that to happen because, frankly, some of these books are kind of a mess. The trade paperback market was pretty infantile at the time, which might explain why this book that supposedly tells the origin of The Eradicator (who would play a big role in The Return Of Superman storyline, hence the trade) doesn’t really achieve that goal. From what I can tell, it would be a difficult task because there was a significant amount of time between Superman being given the Eradicator (that thing that looks like his spaceship floating about his hand in the trade) and the story you read in the pages.

Another problem is that this story doesn’t actually feature the character we came to know as Eradicator, but instead a tale of Superman/Clark Kent becoming very distant and more Kryptonian (ie cold and scientific). The problem is that, if you’ve probably seen this story before if you’ve been reading Superman comics before. I’d rather read all the comics that lead up to this, the ones that showed Clark becoming Editor in Chief of Newstime magazine or the troubles that Jimmy Olsen finds himself in or the Draaga story. Instead, we get peeks at those threads but the “Hey Clark and Superman are acting wonky, aren’t they?” takes center stage.

A few fun bits do include the building of the Fortress of Solitude, a fight with Lobo and Maxima explaining her intentions for Superman (she wants to make him her man and take him back to her planet Almerac). These are elements that I am familiar and was happy to learn more about. As it happened those same elements played into some of the other older Superman trades I happened to read and will write about shortly. I was kind of disappointed in the collection as a whole because it wasn’t very interesting or original, but it did offer more pieces to the puzzle that is “my” Superman (basically from the Man Of Steel miniseries til the end of Infinite Crisis). Hopefully, the Man of Steel collection series will continue on so I can have a better idea of everything that was going on around this time.