I was pretty excited when I realized that my previous It’s All Connected 2020 selection, Phantom Of The Paradise, was directed by Brian De Palma. As I mentioned in that post, I’ve seen a few of his movies, but none of his horror pictures, aside from Carrie. As it happened, I was able to find many of his films from the 70s and 80s streaming, so I went through parts of his filmography in chronological order for a bit, moving into 1978’s The Fury after Paradise.
And it’s not that bad actually. Solarbabies (1986) is a mix of Logan’s Run, Mad Max and Goonies with a made-up sport called Skateball in it. I had never heard about this flick until sometime last year when someone recommended it for ToyFare’s craziest fictional sports feature. Well, I found my way to checking the movie out finally and it was a lot of fun. But also annoying. I’ll explain.
The movie stars Michael from Lost Boys (Jason Patric), the mom from Still Standing (Jami Gertz who was also in Lost Boys), Dom DeLuise’s son (Peter), the older brother from Heroes (Adrian Pasdar) and the kid who played Ryan White in the TV movie (Lukas Haas) plus a few other kids as a group of kids who live in a post-apocalyptic, post-Eco War desert orphanage where they’ve taken to playing Skateball. Skateball’s a a combination of hockey (but with roller skates), lacrosse and roller derby with a goal in the middle of the rink. Like in Logan’s Run or The Island, the kids are told that there’s nothing out in the real world and that this is all there is. Of course, that doesn’t last after the youngest of the group, Lukas, finds a glowing ball called Bohdi (not Patrick Swayze’s character from Point Break, but wouldn’t that be awesome?). Anyway, after a spirited game of Skateball with Bodhi, Pasdar’s character swoops in, grabs him and heads off into the desert and soon enough the kids (the Solarbabies) head out to find him and make sure the eco cops don’t destroy him/it.
Alright, enough with the summary, there are a few things I want to specifically mention. First off, Lukas is super, SUPER annoying in this movie, like Edward Furlong in T2 annoying but times 100. He’s oddly effeminate and not just in the way that all little kids are. His wardrobe doesn’t help as he’s either wearing a pink helmet, off-the-shoulder sweatshirt (think Flashdance) or, at one point, a suit of old lady clothes made out of old tires. His voice and delivery are also grating. He goes from being a normal kid with a high pitched voice to this ultra annoying kid who sounds like he’s in LOVE with everything. He gets all wispy and it freaks me out. Wow, now I’ve resorted to picking on a 10 year old kid in 1986, that’s not quite fair.
What is fair is making fun of the douchey bully kid from the orphanage who somehow gets upgraded from regular orphan to eco cop at the exact same time as the Solarbabies escape. The funny thing is that he walks around like he’s big shit even before joining the eco pigs. Yeah, being the coolest kid in a desert orphanage where you get water rations is like being the strongest guy at computer camp, sure you’re bigger than everyone else but you’re still all locked in the same shitty life. After coming up with that analogy, he got to leave the orphanage, so what do I know?
One other complaint I have is the title of this movie. Solarbabies? Really? This is what you decided to call what looks like a slightly big budget flick? Bad choice folks. Heck, they don’t even play Skateball during the day, so it doesn’t really make sense. The general-or-whatever of the eco police comes to the guy who runs the orphanage and comments on it being soft name and all the warden has to say is that they don’t need to be intimidating because they always win. Yeah, and? I don’t even think the kids call themselves Solarbabies at any time.
Okay, aside from all that stuff, I would still recommend Solarbabies (maybe just call it Skateball or something, because those scenes are pretty rad). Kind of like The Island, you get a mix of other movies that all work together really well and tell a story you haven’t seen quite in this way. It’s not highly original, but it’s definitely fun. I especially like in their travels when they come to Tire Town a place where everything is made out of either discarded tires or cars. They play with that in the sets and props really well to excellent results. Plus, it’s always fun to watch actors when they were younger. I’ll be honest I didn’t recognize Pasdar at all and Gertz looked really familiar to me but I couldn’t nail her down and I recognized her more from Still Standing that Lost Boys.
One funny thing about the movie is that they skate everywhere in the desert wasteland. Have you ever tried skating on anything other than a rink or blacktop? It’s not easy. Luckily for them, there seem to be paths from one place to another that are smooth enough for skating 🙂
Wow, what a weekend. It was kind of busy with a wedding and both my football teams losing, but I was also able to squeeze in far more movies than I should have.
On Friday, Em went to bed early, so I ran up to Blockbuster and did a trade in for a double feature of Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi (1992) and Desperado (1995). I’d seen Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico before, but had never seen the original piece of the Mexico Trilogy, plus I’m a sucked for a 2-for1 and traded it in. I did not know that Mariachi is completely in Spanish and it seems as though the version I had rented didn’t have an English dub, but it did have an awesome commentary by Rodriguez. So I listened to that and put subtitles on and enjoyed the heck out of myself. Turns out he made the movie for $7,000 and most of that cost went towards film. He worked with mostly no crew and local people who’d never acted before. And while I can’t understand what they’re saying on screen, they really seemed natural. Rodriguez gives a play by play of how he did everything on screen which is super informative and then, in the special features, offers up a segment called “10 Minute Film School” showcasing how he did some of the more complex stunts and basic stuff like shooting scenes with editing in mind. I’ve never been to film school, but I feel like I got a heck of an education from just listening to the commentary. It was worth the rental for the feeling of “heck, I can do this too.” Who wants to make a movie with me?
So, I was pretty hyped up after Mariachi and put Desperado on immediately after. It definitely looks and feels like a different animal with it’s slicker look, bigger actors and crazier action sequences, but Rodriguez maintains the feel of the original which is impressive. This time Antonio Banderas plays El Mariachi and Salma Hayek plays his love interest. You’ve also got Quentin Tarantino, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi and Danny Trejo (my personal favorite interviewee so far). What stuck in my head from my previous viewing of Desperado was how bad ass it was. And that still holds up as Banderas leaps around shooting dudes from all kinds of awesome camera angles. I also love how cool the guitar case full of weapons is. It’s like Rodney Dangerfield’s golf bag from Caddyshack 2! Anyway, I also really dug the final scene where Mariachi calls in his boys who also have guitar cases concealing weapons (machine guns and a rocket launcher!). It’s an awesome revenge story with tons of action and plenty of bad ass characters walking around looking bad ass, but none as bad ass as Mariachi. BAM!
After that I was pretty exhausted (it was 3AM), so I went to bed. The next day Em took a nap in the afternoon and I started tinkering with my VCR and actually got the dumb thing to start working again which meant I could watch some of the tapes I’ve picked up at work and garage sales lately. So I popped Don’t Answer the Phone (1980) on. It wasn’t very good. The story follows a serial killer as he calls in to a radio psychologist and taunts her. The video tape quality added to the atmosphere of the film, but it was overall just kind of uncomfortable and I didn’t even both finishing it. What I did find interesting was the fact that we as the audience spent a good deal of time with the killer even when he wasn’t killing. We see him walking along the street and calling into the radio show. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to see a slasher movie done like this, where you really get to see things from the killer’s perspective. If Don’t Answer the Phone is any indicator, maybe it’s not such a good idea.
After giving up on that flick, I still had a little more time, so I popped in F/X2 (1991), which is a tape I grabbed from Em’s parents when they were cleaning out all the tapes. They used to own a video store back in the day, so I can only assume it’s a leftover from those days (how I wish I was around when they were getting rid of their boxes and boxes of movies!). I actually thought F/X2 was a horror movie, so I was confused when I couldn’t find it in my Creature Features book. It turns out that it’s more of an action thriller than a horror movie, though. Bryan Brown (Cocktail!) stars as a Hollywood effects man who gave up the game after the events of the first movie (which I haven’t seen). This time, the woman he’s dating’s ex husband asks him to help out with a case (making him look like a woman), but it turns out that the ex gets killed and Bryan stumbles upon a much bigger plot involving cops killing cops, mobsters and the Vatican. Bryan calls in his buddy from the previous flick Brian Dennehy and now they’re on the case. It’s a fairly standard plot from here, but what I really liked about the movie is how Brown uses his crazy special effects talents to go after the bad guys. At one point, a dude breaks into his house to kill him, but Brown’s able to slip into this motion control suit that coincides with a robot clown, so anything Brown does, the clown does. Then there’s this amazingly hilarious fight scene with Brown and the clown vs. the assassin. There’s also all kinds of craziness at the end. Definitely worth checking out if you want to see the kind of movie that will never get made nowadays, one with a sense of humor about itself, but also takes itself seriously.
The aforementioned wedding interrupted my movie watching (it’s okay, I forgive them). On Sunday, I caught part of Bad Boys II (2003) on TV and you know what? That movie’s awesome. I think Michael Bay gets a bad rap. I don’t know much about the guy aside from what he puts on the screen, but I definitely appreciate his love of big crazy movies with lots of action and explosions. Some people call him a hack for that, but I don’t buy it. I’ve liked Armageddon, The Rock, Bad Boys I and II (though definitely II better) and Transformers. I haven’t seen The Island yet and I didn’t really like Pearl Harbor at the time, but would definitely give it another shot. I didn’t get to see the entirety of BBII (I’ve seen it before though) and man, there are some awesome scenes in there. The 360 degree scene of Will Smith on one side of a room and dudes with machine guns on the other. The chase scene where the bad guys throw cars at them. You can’t beat that kind of stuff. And, I didn’t get to see it this time, but the absolute disregard for human life while driving through Cuban homes! This is what movies used to be like back in the 70s and 80s and it’s awesome to see that again. (NOTE: I in no way support the ACTUAL disregard of human life in Cuba, just in the movies!) Also, I forgot how cool Will Smith can be when he wants to (and when the camera angels make him look so). There were a lot of fun similarities between how Rodriguez shot Banderas and how Bay shot Smith. Fun stuff.
Finally, I ended my weekend movie watching with the original When A Stranger Calls (1979). I’ve got a bit of a history with the remake. My first year here in New York, before I got married, I didn’t really have a lot going on, so on my birthday Rickey, Ben and I (sorry if I forgot anyone else, my memory’s fuzzy at best) I thought it would be awesome to go see a horror movie (Em was still in New Hampshire). WASC had just come out and Rickey and I had just seen the main girl, Camilla Belle, in Chumscrubber and had school boy crushes on her so it seemed like a great idea. It was not and I still get reminded of how bad of a movie it was. Soon after, I looked the original up in Creature Features to find out that the original actually split it’s time between the babysitter getting terrorized story and then a seven years later story when the killer breaks out of an asylum. No wonder it felt like it was way too drawn out.
So, last night I finally watched the original and was even more surprised to find out that the babysitter portion only takes up about 15 minutes of screen time! Oh remake people, you’re so crazy. Anyway, it’s a pretty effective movie, the babysitter stuff in the beginning is definitely creepy and spawned the line “The call is coming from inside the house.” You’ve also got a pretty creepy killer, he killed the kids she was babysitting in their bedrooms with his bare hands while she was downstairs. After the 7 year jump we end up splitting our time between the escaped killer as he wanders around New York trying to hit on (or kill?) some woman and the private detective who’s on his trail. Here’s another movie where we get to see things from the killer’s perspective for a significant part of the movie. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sorry for him or what, which adds to my not loving this movie, but eventually he finds the babysitter, who now has two kids and a husband and starts screwing with her again. There are some creepy moments and the killer definitely walks the line between total creep and somewhat not-hateable. It’s not a great movie, but definitely not as bad as the remake, though this kind of makes me want to watch it again. Somebody stop me…