My New Favorite Things: Charley Varrick, Twin Peaks Season 1 & Archer & Armstrong

I’ve been flying solo with the little dude for about a full week at this point while my folks are out of town. I haven’t had as much time to dive into awesome stuff as usual, but over the past few weeks, I have been diving into some goodness I want to talk about! Continue reading My New Favorite Things: Charley Varrick, Twin Peaks Season 1 & Archer & Armstrong

80s Odyssey: Joysticks (1983)

joysticks While looking around for goofy 80s movies on Netflix, I was surprised to find Joysticks, a movie I’d never heard of, but set in one of my favorite cultural artifacts from my childhood: the arcade. From the looks of the poster alone, you get the feeling that this movie’s in the vein of Meatballs. Reading the synopsis about a group of kids trying to save their favorite arcade from a mean old adult in town, my brain immediately went to Empire Records and that combination of those two favorites worked very well in my brain. I moved the movie to the top of our Netflix cue, but between that and actually getting it, I mentioned it to my pal and VHS Notebook proprietor Rickey Purdin who told me he had an extra copy of the DVD I could have!

I think watching Joysticks with Rickey and some of our other pals would have made the viewing experience a much better one because I was kinda disappointed with this flick. I hoped for something along the lines of Animal House as far as mixing fun characters and situations with bits of heart and lots of humor, but instead this movie basically lifts the plot of the John Landis classic, changes it ever so slightly, adds some Pac-Man wipes accompanied by sound effects and puts the whole thing in an arcade.

You’ve got cool guy arcade manager Jefferson Baily running a group of misfits while fighting the chicks off with a stick and dealing with Joe Don Baker who wants to shut the place down because it offers no moral benefit to the kids who line up to play the games therein, specifically his daughter. Said misfits include the nerd Eugene (as if you needed to be told that) and Dorfus, a Hawaiian shirt-wearing combination of John Belushi’s Blutarsky and Stephen Furst’s Flounder, who happens to know everything about video games. There’s even a scene where Dorfus and Eugene go to Baker’s house for reasons that still don’t make a lot of sense and wind up reliving an awfully familiar scene. Oh and much like the nefarious Dean of Faber College, Baker’s wife wants to bone any male within reach. And of course there’s a big meeting at the end where the “good guys” defend themselves against the “bad guy” in a town meeting style scene (that happens to have a ridiculous number of those Pac Man wipes).

I’ve seen plenty of rip-off movies and enjoyed them, but the real problem with Joysticks is that it doesn’t have a single interesting or unique character AND it’s not that funny. The closest you get to interesting and new is the fact that Eugene  — who’s so stereotypically nerdy that I wanted to punch a wall (same problem I had with Gorp) — happens to be the guy who explains the misunderstandings that run rampant in the movie. Meanwhile, the best joke in the whole thing is a weird visual thing where the punk rock gamers — run by an emotionally unbalanced young man who goes by Vidiot — go into the arcade and do a whole Pac-Man riff where they moved around like the ghosts. I laughed hard at that…and that’s about it.

The odd thing about the movie is that it also feels completely ridiculous because I have trouble imagining arcades coming under such fire. Was this really a thing? I wouldn’t be surprised it it was, but the goofiness of the movie — not to mention how crappy it looks — make me doubt everything going on. On the other hand, the movie acts as an inadvertent (I assume) allegory for the kind of scrutiny that comic books came under in the 40s and 50s as chronicled in Davi Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague. You’ve got a thing that parents don’t understand so they attack it. Of course, the parents back then had more of a legit complaint considering how crazy and violent some of those comics got. Still, it’s that classic generational argument of new technology/entertainment coming under fire because, as Fresh Prince so deftly pointed out, parents just don’t understand.

Yes, I’m overanalyzing Joysticks. That’s because I wasn’t super into this movie on my own so I was trying to come up with something interesting to talk about. I think it would have been a completely different story surrounded by friends and filled with beers. I really wanted more from an arcade movie because I don’t know of many other examples of this kind of thing. However, if you’re looking for a goofy comedy PACKED with T&A and a gigantic joystick for playing PVP arcade games, Joysticks is right up your alley.

The number one benefit of watching Joysticks, though, was that it reminded me of an arcade-set story idea I started working on a few years ago. I think I’ll dig that one out and see how far I got with it in the relative future.

Digging Double Oh Seven: GoldenEye (1995)

The six year gap between License To Kill and GoldenEye must have been unbearable for longtime Bond fans. Up until that point, there had been a new installment every two or three years since the series debuted with 1962’s Dr. No. A combination of legal problems, unfortunate passings and illness, this expanse of time lead Timothy Dalton to opt out of playing Bond again, so the role went to Pierce Brosnon who was actually favored to replace Roger Moore a few times and was even offered the part but couldn’t do it because of Remington Steele contracts. Other changes this time around are the wonderful Judy Dench as M, Famke Jansson as henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, Joe Don Baker in his first good guy role Jack Wade and Alan Cummings as a computer geek who falls in with the bad guys.

Continuing where Dalton left off as Bond, Brosnon’s version keeps things a little more dark and realistic. Well, for the most part. Some folks might have a problem with the opening sequence’s getaway on a physics level, but if you can’t enjoy all that I feel bad for you. Not only does Bond bungee jump to a secret facility, team up with fellow Double Oh agent Sean Bean (forgot to mention him above), shoot and fight a bunch of guys and then ride a motorcycle off a cliff to soar down, get into a plane and fly it to safety. It was AWESOME. The over the top action sequences (there’s also the tank chase which is pretty epic), Famke’s wonderfully crazy Xenia and another wonderfully light appearance by Desmond Llewelyn as Q bring things up a bit but overall the movie has a pretty serious tone.

Even with the somewhat darker tone, I still had a lot of fun with this movie. In addition to all the elements I’ve already mentioned, the idea of a Double Oh going rogue and returning to face off against Bond is super interesting and I’m kind of surprised hadn’t been used before. It’s also interesting that this is the first of the Bond flicks to be completely original and not have any references to Ian Fleming’s books or short stories. It comes across in the story which has a lot to do with computers and EMPs and giant satellites and the like. Like every movie involving computers from the mid 90s, though, anything having to do with them seems cute and quaint now. When the beautiful on-the-run code monkey and soon-to-be Bond Girl Natalya Simonova (played by Izabella Scorupco) tells some guy the kind of computer she needs, I chuckled to myself. Phones can do what that computer could do.

It was interesting going back and watching this movie for probably only the second time. I was 12 when this movie came out. I don’t have specific memories of going to see it in theaters, but I think I did. Even though I’ve talked about my love of the Bond series, it always tended towards the older movies because those are the ones I watched with my dad on tape or TV. I remember liking Brosnon’s Bond movies for the most part, but there wasn’t any nostalgia there because they were modern. Looking back now, there’s definitely some nostalgia now because these are the Bonds of my teenage years and I saw most of them in theaters with friends throughout high school and possibly college (I’ll have to check out some dates and get back to you with the specifics).