80s Odyssey: Gorp (1980)

gorp As I mentioned in my review of Summer School, I get really jazzed for watching 80s comedies when the weather gets nicer. The first thing I wanted to do was watch a camp movie along the lines of Meatballs, but Gorp was all that I could easily find on Netflix Instant. I actually remember watching part of this movie last year — I watched a ton of 80s movies, but only got around to reviewing half of them, if that — and had a pretty negative memory of it. At the time I remembered it as a really wacky, frenetic, all over the place comedy that was kind of a mess. But, upon giving it a second change, I realized that, while it does have some of those elements, it’s nowhere near a mess. Tone-wise, it’s a lot more in line with something like Animal House, which I somehow didn’t pick up on the first time around. You can tell that the story was written based on some wild camp stories, but when you pack all those different stories into one place, it can seem a little over the top. Since this is a comedy, though, that’s not a bad thing.

I’m actually really glad I gave Gorp another shot because, while it’s not going to top my list of favorite camp movies, it’s a pretty good entry in the genre. You’ve got the super slick 80s leads who make it their mission to split time between getting girls, playing pranks and, oh, also doing their jobs as wait staff at a summer camp.

One of the problems with watching any of these movies is the treatment of sex and women. The two leads send two of their nerdy co-workers to snap pictures of the incoming ladies which then get passed out to the guys as if they’re promised cattle. That’s far from the end of it, with the men often thinking the women are simply there for their sexual gratification, but there are actually some surprisingly strong women in this film. The main object of the leads’ affection, Vicki very clearly tells them that she does not have sex. At the same time, Fran Drescher owns her sexuality and doesn’t see she shouldn’t be able to do what the guys do. Now, while there elements aren’t exactly bright spots in the film, I would also say that they’re presented within a context that makes sense within the film, especially when you realize that A) the opinions are being stated by completely immature dudes from the lates 70s/early 80s and B) that it’s a comedy that was most likely encouraged to have as much T&A as possible. I mean, this is the kind of movie you’re watching:

Because it’s a fairly broad comedy, you wind up with a broad variety of characters from the well-rounded ladies I already mentioned to nerd and fat kids stereotypes that are so old and tired they make me angry. And yet, there are some rare moments in addition to the comedy bits that I enjoyed. At one point, one of the two main guys gets fed up with how weird his surroundings are and goes on a minor rampage. On one hand it’s a kind of meta moment because some viewers had to be thinking the same thing about the people they were watching around this time, but it’s also an effectively emotional moment where a human being realizes that hanging out with goofballs and freaks, which might seem cool to a young person, does not a happy life make. It’s actually a big sign of inner growth if you think about it.

But, don’t expect a film that features a real evolution of character. For that one moment, you’re treated to a whole cast of one-note, yet often still funny, kitchen workers who get their own fair share of screen time. Hell, the end of the movie features a fireworks war that leads to the destruction of the cabin all our main characters lived in. But that’s followed by another emotionally important moment, the one where the kids tell the mean camp owner to go screw himself, it’s time for them to branch out and make their own lives. I know I’m thinking about this way too much, but it’s another important developmental moment that makes this movie more interesting than many of the ones that would come later in the decade.

By the way, as the poster points out, the title is another name for trail mix (one I’d never heard before). I wrongly assumed it was an anagram and kept trying to figure out what it could mean without coming up with anything close to an answer. The tagline “a bunch of fruits, nuts and flakes” is actually pretty clever when you take that into consideration.

Halloween Scene: Legion (2010) & Outpost (2008)

legion

I’ll be completely honest, I watched Legion over two days, but separated by probably a week or so and don’t remember a whole lot about the plot. There’s an angel who ditches his wings and a bunch of people in a diner, one of which is a pregnant woman whose unborn child is wanted by some demons. Or something. You’ve got a kind of zombie army, old women turning into wall-crawling monsters and, most importantly, an angel fight at the very end between the good former angel and the current bad angel.

I really shouldn’t even be “reviewing” this movie and didn’t plan on it, but there were a few things I wanted to note. First off, the cast is pretty impressive, featuring Dennis Quaid, Kate Walsh, Kevin Durand (Keamy from Lost, dude makes an awesome evil angel), Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Doug Jones and a bunch of others. Second, I wish the story would have been opened up to have larger steaks than just focusing on a few people in a diner. I know that would have made the movie exponentially more expensive, but I feel like I’ve seen lots of stories like this set in out-of-the-way diners. At least it wasn’t snowing. And finally, the movie is worth watching for the final battle between Bettany (the good angel) and Durand. Durand still has his wings and a pretty bad ass weapon that inspired me to put together a list of the best weapons of the past decade, both of which he uses to excellent effect.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with dudes with wings, but the director/fight coordinator/special effects guys did a hell of a job using all the elements for a great finale fight. It kind of reminded me of Grant Morrison pitting the JLA against angels in his run on that book and made me hope that director and former special FX guy Scott Charles Stewart could help out if that run ever gets turned into a movie (incredibly doubtful, but a boy can dream). In fact, all the special effects were top notch, which is why I’d like to see this thing on a larger scale.

outpost

After reading Brian at Horror Movie A Day’s review of Outpost, I immediately added it to the top of my DVD queue. Badass soldiers lead by Ray Stevenson fighting some kind of undead Nazis in a remote location? Sold! And, man, I’m glad I did because I wound up really liking this movie. See, a scientist hires Stevenson to put together a team of mercenaries to take him through the woods/jungle to an old bunker.

Once there, the soldiers discover a pile of bald naked men, one of whom is still a live and the scientist discovers a big machine in the basement that the Nazis invented to try and capture the energy of the unified field theory. While Stevenson has things explained to him by the scientist, the rest of the men get paranoid as they’re apparently shot out, phantoms start creeping around and then a full-on invasion force of what looks like zombie Nazis appears in the forest which gets lit up like crazy at night (this is a great effect by the way, looking somehow real and artificial at the same time, and definitely creepy). In fact, the movie has lots and lots of creepy moments between those phantoms and the eventual kills that come from some very solid soldiers designed to kill.

If I’m understanding the science behind the story, the Nazis wanted to capture the essence of the unified field theory (which I in no way understand). They also discovered that that energy had very interesting effects on their soldiers, turning them all but immortal, but, sometimes, out of phase with reality because they’re vibrating on a different level than the rest of the world. I’m working here with a physics knowledge based on a terribly taught high school class I took a decade ago and lots and lots of comic reading. Why the phasing Nazi ghost zombie things don’t just storm the bunker and murder Stevenson and his soldiers straight-up, I don’t know, but this is also asked by one of the soldiers who also doesn’t know, so I guess that’s left up to the audience. Maybe they’re bored and want something to do now that they can get physical.

Even though the movie reminded me a bit of Predator (which I love) and Dog Soldiers (which I didn’t love too much), I still had a great time with it. The plot does a great job of being both a solid action movie and a solid horror movie which plays up on the conventions of both. I actually got some added enjoyment from the flick by pretending that Stevenson was still playing Frank Castle from Punisher: War Zone. Punisher vs. Nazi Zombies? Double awesome.

Random Double Feature: Enemy Mine (1985) & Rising Son (2006)

I spend most of my days now sitting on my couch with my laptop in front of me and the TV on. I’m usually catching up on the crappy TV shows I missed throughout the week or watching movies I’ve decided to randomly watch. Today is one of those movie days as nothing was on TV this morning. I started off with the sci-fi flick Enemy Mine which I knew nothing about aside from the fact that Dennis Quaid was in it. I figured it would be a big crazy sci-fi movie on a fairly low budget. And it was, it just wasn’t anything like what I thought it would be in the specifics.

In the future, humans are trying to explore the galaxy, but they run into an alien race called Dracs. There’s fighting and all that. Quaid gets shipwrecked on a planet with a Drac and no one else. They start off as enemies, but eventually become friends and learn each others’ languages and culture. I’ll give a SPOILER WARNING now in case you don’t want things ruined for you. Eventually, the Drac (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) tells Quaid he’s with child (they spontaneously become pregnant, but carry their children like a mammal). After giving birth, the Drac dies and Quaid takes care of the little guy only for some scavengers to come, nearly kill him and take the baby Drac away to work in their mines. Once he gets better, Quaid goes and gets his adopted nephew back.

I give the writers and director Wolfgang Petersen tons of credit for going all over the place with this story. It could have been just a man vs. alien story or a man learning to get along with an alien story, but they got the extra few miles with the kid and the relationship and Quaid’s eventual revenge on the scavengers. There’s even a scene at the end with Quaid being honored by the Dracs on their homeworld. I like how, at the end of the movie, it’s not like everything between the two races has been solved and put aside just because two people got to know each other, but it does offer hope that maybe if he can tell his people about the Dracs, they can work something out. I also really liked the sets of the alien world. They didn’t go the Star Wars route and just choose one season/type of climate and just stick to that. It’s a very rich environment that’s fun to watch. Good stuff, highly recommended!

I’ve been on a mini-skateboard movie kick lately. Well, if a “kick” can be described as watching three movies on a subject in 8 months. Anyway, it started off with Lords of Dogtown and then I watched the documentary that was based on called Dogtown And Z-Boys, which I really should have posted about. And now, I just got done with Rising Son: The Legends Of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi, which focused on one skateboarded. Rising Son is the perfect compliment to Dogtown And Z-Boys because Hosoi started skating with those dudes when he was just a kid, but eventually he became one of the greatest skaters in the game only to fall from site thanks to a drug addiction and eventual time in jail. It even has a few of the original Z-Boys in the form of Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Shogo Kubo which was pretty rad. The doc also has some big time skaters like Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist and a slew of others talking about how influential Hosoi was. Heck, even skateboarder-turned-actor Jason Lee and David Arquette are interviewed (though I think Arquette’s only on screen once). There’s even a contestant from Launch My Line, Louanna Rawls (Lou’s daughter), interviewed because she used to date Hosoi.

So, why is this dude such a big deal? Well, when he was coming up he just started doing all these sick tricks that no one else was doing and really brought skateboarding back into the mainstream after it died off with the Z-Boys crew a few years earlier. He had a swagger that made him a rock star and the talent to back it all up. To be honest, I had never heard of the dude, but then again, I don’t really know much about the history of skateboarding, just what I’ve been learning in these movies. I found the film really fascinating though and it does have something of a happy ending as Hosoi got out of jail, off drugs and is now going around talking to people about his experiences with drugs, skating and God.

One thing I’ve discovered after watching so many documentaries on Netflix is how freaking interesting life can be. On the surface, this story is just another story about a kid who made it big and then crashed, but the interest, along with the devil, is in the details. I think I’d like to try my hand at making a documentary about something, I just need to figure out what it is. Any thoughts?