RIP, we lost one of the greats this week.
1982. The year that Britain woke up the the news Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands. The nation panicked, although calmed down a bit when they were told the Islands were 8000 miles and not just off the coast of Scotland as we first assumed.
Also Abba split up, denying us the sight of Agentha’s bottom ever again.
But in 1982 if you were still going to the cinema you could take solace in some awesome movies.
As always here are three films from that year, not necessarily the best but the ones I personally loved and found the most memorable. There is also a WTF? moment, which could be a bad movie, something weird or something plain out of the ordinary.
Diner Movie Review
As someone who hit his teens right in the middle of the 80’s I probably should have readily embraced that decade’s most enduring of phenomena, the teen movie. Certainly they were all the range amongst my classmates, lapping up tales of troubled adolescents, fighting their way into adulthood either by dancing for their lives or staying true to their outcast roots and not giving in to the “It” group.
But at the time the likes of Breakfast Club, St Elmo’s Fire and Pretty in Pink left me cold. I felt little in common with these beautiful, trendy kids even with their what I saw as phoney angst. Plus I hated the culture of school and couldn’t wait to leave. It’s probably not that surprising then that a different film spoke to me, one that was set in a different more laid back period (1959 to be exact) and followed a group of friends who had left school behind, but were still young enough to not have embraced adulthood.
Looking back I can see why “Diner” was such an appealing film for me. It portrayed the sort of comradely and bonds of friendship that I was finding difficult to maintain in my youth. In Diner we see a close knit group of friends who spend their nights hanging out together, driving aimlessly around in their cars and meeting in their cherished Diner. There they banter, gossip, joke around and take the piss out of each other. To me, these guys in their beautiful 50’s cars, with their jazz and swing music, their laid back attitudes and smart shirt and ties were the real cool guys. The sort I wanted to be and hang out with.
Diner has a stella cast or newcomers who would go off in different directions in fame. Mickey Rouke, Kevin Bacon, Steve Guttenberg, Ellen Barkin, Paul Reiser (Mad About You), Daniel Stern (one of the robbers in Home Alone) and Tim Daley (did a lot of TV and voice overs) make up the group. It’s an impressive assembly of young talent and which is fortunate for a film that relies on down to Earth dialogue and chemistry, as well as the ability to portray the diverse personalities of the characters. Several times in the group scenes you get the feeling that there is a fair amount of ab-libing taking place.
Although the film is framed with the story of Guttenberg’s “Eddie” getting married (to a girl we never see, only hear) there is little narrative in Diner. Instead we see the characters going through their own personal arcs running through the film intersecting with each other. Rourke’s “Boogie” has built up gambling debts to a local hoodlum, Bacon’s “Fenwick” despite been secretly intelligent is an underachiever and a heavy drinker which has started to land him in trouble (one of the funniest scenes is where he takes the place of a stolen baby Jesus in a nativity scene), while Guttenberg’s Eddie appears to not be relishing the prospect of marriage.
Probably the most notable arc is that of Stern’s “Shrevie” as his situation sums up the underlying theme of Diner, the reluctance of this group to embrace adulthood and accept the beginnings of the slow and inevitable drift away from one another. Shrevie is the only one to be married, yet it’s clear he is much happier hanging with his friends than spending time with his wife Beth who often shakes her head at the groups antics. Shrevie admits in a heart to heart with “Eddie” that he struggles to hold a conversation with Beth in the same way he can pass the time with the guys.
While I never appreciated it at the time, Diner is very much a “guy” movie, something that only hit home with me when I introduced the film to a female friend of mine. Women do very poorly in this film and I think today’s audiences may baulk at how they are treated. Beth is ignored and underappreciated by Shrevie and the one scene of their homelife is where he yells at her for not mixing up the order of his precious record collection and even more unforgivable to him, being unable to relate to what the music means to him. Things get worse for her when she asks to have a fling with Boogie, unbeknown to her she’s been used as a disguised stand in to win a bet with the guys that he can bed a local hotgirl (an earlier scene has Boogie attempting to win a bet that she’ll “go for his pecker” at the movies by putting his dick through the bottom of her box of popcorn). Boogie calls off his scheme just before he gets her to his apartment, luckily as unknown to him one of the guys hiding in his closet to confirm the winning of the bet is Shrevie.
Even Eddie’s bride to be has to endure and pass a trivia quiz on his passion for football or he will call off the wedding. A promise he makes good on when she is two points short of the pass rate (although he later relents on a technicality).
While in later years I was able to enjoy and appreciate the 80’s teen genre in all it’s big hair, mascara and denim clad glory (and those god awful fingerless, lace gloves), the joy I got from Diner always remained on top. It’s genuinely funny in places and surprisingly moving, with some tender scenes of brotherhood. At the finale of Eddie’s wedding we get a melancholy sense that the groups is starting to dissipate with the second of them to get married. Shervie seems to be putting some effort into his marriage my surprising Beth with a holiday for the two of them. Billy has a pregnant girlfriend. Fenwick is thinking of travelling to Europe. While Boogie seems to be pursuing a wealthy woman he meets riding horses.
The final scene is beautifully ambiguous, with the wedding bouquet landing on the table in the middle of the group. Perhaps that another of them is to get married? or that the bond between them is not yet ready to be broken?
Tron Movie Review
Tron is one of those films that could only have been made in a certain era. It was released by Disney amidst the craze for computers as they were becoming more prevalent in schools, businesses and even homes. Even with their increased visibility, there was still a lack of understanding of how they worked, what they could do and as much excitement there was surrounding them there was all mistrust and trepidation about embracing them into our lives. Likewise the film also tapped into the explosion of the video game arcade.
In Tron, Jeff Bridges is Flynn the owner of one such of these loud, bright, money guzzling establishments. He has a rockstar aura around him as crowds surround him to watch him playing arcade machines, and if you think this is dated 80’s cheese just think how many people use Twitch to watch people play Overwatch or whatever the latest game all the young un’s are into these days.
Anyway Flynn teams up with Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) who is using his computer program Tron to hack into the computer mainframe of corporation ENCOM to find evidence that it’s Vice President Ed Dillenger stole Flynn’s computer games plans and passed them off as his own. While hacking in, the computer’s operating system (the artificial intelligence MCP) actually transports him into the computer where a whole society exists, with computer programs having humanoid bodies and being doppelgangers of their programmers in the real world. In this computer world programs are being persecuted by the forces of the dictator Sark (a copy of Dillenger) and forced to play in computer games to the death as punishment for believing in the existence of their programmers known as The Users.
Flynn teams up with Bradley’s Tron program to fight their way through this world and make contact with Bradley in the real world in order to empower his frizbee like information disc with the information he needs to destroy the MCP. And before you start shouting “but this isn’t how computers work,” yes your right because none of this really makes any sense and if you’re wanting facts in your computer science you’re going to be massively disappointed.
Tron was not made for the closed off world of early gamers and computer geeks, it was meant as a fantasy story for general audiences who didn’t have a first clue as to how computers worked (and frankly do any of us really know today?) And for this Tron fulfils the needs of the audience beautifully with a film that in it;s day was one of the most striking, original looking movies around.
Tron was the first film to mix computer graphics with live action and the result is a stunning world. Set against a dark backdrop, the world and it’s inhabitants are lit up with neon lights which echoed the monochrome style of bright computer screens. Even today the film dazzles with a colourful 80’s vibe and still retains a uniqueness to it’s style.
The computer imagery today may seem dated, but at the time the creative team only had 2mb of memory and 30 mb of storage space to work with. Even with such restrictions the results were unlike anything seen at the time, in particular the iconic light cycle duel was mesmerising. It’s a compelling, exciting, seeing a computer game come to life and beats a lot of modern day CGI in terms of style and charm.
I loved Tron as a kid, totally buying into the light bikes, tank battles and lazer frizbee fights and I probably watched it about three times in the weekend I had a copy of it from the video store. Even today I find it enjoyable and in an era where film makers seem afraid of using colour I find it’s bright lights bring about a strangely comforting nostalgic warmth. The score is also a joy, mostly done via a electronic synthesizer which further captures the digital computer vibe.
Tron won an academy award for technical achievement and it’s effects paved the way for the use of computer imagery in movies and is heralded as a breakthrough movie by the likes of Pixar. However creating those effects came at great expense for it’s time with a budget of $17 million and only bringing in $33 million (rule of thumb is a film has to take in at least twice it’s budget to start to look to making a profit). Tron still retains a cult following today.
It took almost thirty years for a sequel to Tron to be made. With computers developing so much in that time, it seemed there was so much potential for storylines which such elements as computer viruses, firewalls, the internet, global hacking etc. Sadly Tron:Legacy seemed to move even further away from actual computers with a strange metaphysical concept to it’s new world. While the special effects were more modern, it also felt colder and while the neon style remained it was with a more severely muted colour palette.
The new Tron film while state of the art, couldn’t touch the original for ravishing visuals. An while the original didn’t stick to the realities of what went on inside a computer, the scene where Flynn explores his new world and discovers a computer brothel shows it was ahead of it’s time in realising what we would primarily end up using computers for.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Movie Review
In the early 80’s the words “kick” and “Ass” were not ones you normally associated with Star Trek. As much as I loved the show even as a kid I realised there was something geeky about the series. It’s first big screen outing “The Motion Picture” had been a dull, tedious, painful to sit through movie that felt like a padded out Roddenberry episode and was laughable when compared to it’ rival franchise (the one with all the Jedi’s). But when a trailer for the second film appeared on the local news, it did indeed kick major ass.
It was simply put together. Shots of Richard Montalban as Khan screaming bloody vengeance at James T Kirk, who actually looked sinister appearing as a silhouette with a background of bright blue light. The action in the trailer was tense and dramatic, a dogfight between the Enterprise and another starship exchanging blows heavy lazer blasts (sorry phaser fire) which ripped into each other’s hulls and devastated the poor crews on either side who ran in panic amidst explosions. At the end in voiceover we hear a rasping Khan, chilling taunting Kirk that he’s leaving him “buried alive” while Kirk in all his Shatner overracting glory screams “Khaaaaaannnnnnnn!”
“At the end of the Universe, lies the beginning of vengeance” utters the grim voiceover guy (boy I miss them from trailers) ending a trailer that promised so much excitement and action that it seemed impossible for something called Star Trek to live up to it.
But by the Halls of StoVoKor, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan did just that, proving to be the finest achievement in the Star Trek cannon.
Wrath of Khan in it’s time was very unlike typical Star Trek. It’s premise followed up on a episode from the original series, something that Star Trek never did as the TV format meant Kirk and co would toddle off after whatever adventure they had that week and never mention it again. This film revisited the episode “The Space Seed” a damn fine episode where the Enterprise reawakens from suspended animation the crew of a spacecraft found drifting in space. It turns out this is a dictator from the 20th Century who along with his genetically modified followers attempt world domination. Khan attempts a coup to seize the Enterprise, is defeated, but Kirk is lenient in his punishment and sentences him to exile on a planet allowing him the chance to set up a new colony and world for his people. In an ending that you could swear was a set up for a future story, Spock muses of what society Khan will create and what “seed” Kirk has planted today.
Wrath of Khan follows on fifteen years from “The Space Seed,” where a Starfleet ship The Reliant discovers Khan and what remains of his people after the planet he was exiled on was ravaged when it’s moon exploded. Khan blames Kirk for the death of so many of his people (including his wife) and takes control of the Reliant, embarking on a quest for vengeance as well as attempting to seize “The Genisis Project” a device that can bring life to a dead planet but has the potential to be misused as a weapon.
The war that breaks out between these two starships is exhilarating and far and away from the fast dogfights of ships zipping past each other that feature in most Sci Fi blockbusters. The battle between the Enterprise and Reliant is a cat and mouse game, switching between hunter and hunted as the two ships resemble the Galleons of old manoeuvring around each other and trading blows. Amongst it all is a tense game of wits between Khan and Kirk, Khan using his superior intellect and Kirk using his cunning to manipulate Khan’s lust for vengeance into making mistakes. Interesting the two never meet in person, with a conclusion that would have seen a sword battle ditched in pre production.
It’s also extremely violent in places. During the battle we see both ships suffering casualties, with crew members caught in explosions and set on fire. The scenes of the panicking engine crew of the Enterprise in the engine room is striking in it’s chaos and ends with the shocking scene of Scotty carrying the near dead body of his nephew, half his face gruesomely burnt off when he passes away. The aftermath of the initial encounter brutally shows the consequences of the battle unlike any Star Trek before or after, with the shocked injured crew members littering the sickbay, covered in burns and blood. Even Khan’s crew are treated sympathetically as by the end of the film Khan is surrounded by the bodies of his followers and his own face ruined, a bloody mask of burns.
It’s an exciting action film, but it’s surprisingly the character and emotional moments that are really the memorable things about Wrath of Khan.
It’s fair to say by the time of Wrath of Khan, age was starting to show on the cast of the original Star Trek. However rather than ignore this or trying to cover it up with make up and diets (which is something Shatner reportedly wanted) this was used in the story it cover the theme of growing old. While Shatner’s over the top acting is often the subjected to paradoy, here he gives a great performance of a weary Kirk, unhappy with his life and making a pact with old age.
In the training scene at the beginning, which introduces the fan favourite “Kobayashi Maru” exercise (the no win mission scenario designed to teach starfleet cadets to cope with facing death and defeat) Kirk surprises his regular crew by stating that travelling through the galaxies is a job for the young. When Spock asks where Kirk is heading next, there is a sad, deflated tone to him as he smiles and says “home!” Later that night at his birthday in his apartment, he is reminded of his ageing with the gift from Mccoy of a pair of reading glasses (he’s allergic to the 23rd century treatments for eyesight). When he responds miserly, Mccoy chastises him “Damn it Jim, other people have birthdays why are we treating yours like a funeral,” and notes that Kirk is growing old like the antiques in his apartment.
It takes the whole conflict with Khan to shake the life back into Kirk, as he has to draw on the cunning of his youth to win the day and save his ship. Just after he reveals of how he was the only person to beat the Kobayashi Maru scenario, cheating because he “doesn’t believe in a no win situation” he suddenly seems alive and full of vigour. Kirk hasn’t grown old because of his body ageing, he’s allowed himself to grow old mentally because he’s been denied the things that he actually lived for and gave him purpose. At the end of the film, he smiles with a glint in his eyes as he says he finally feels young.
The revelation that Kirk cheated to defeat the Kobayshi Maru isn’t just a cool moment in Kirk’s “I don’t like to lose” attitude. It’s also an indication to a flaw in his character, by avoiding the lesson of the exercise he reveals his inability to actually face death which is brought up by the son he seemingly never knew he had (although I’ve watched this many times I can never figure out if he knew David was his son or not). In his own words Kirk beat death and cheated death never accepted or faced it. Until the end of the film where we seemingly see the ending of one of the most iconic bromances in cinema history.
By the time I saw the film it was common knowledge that Spock died in Wrath of Khan. Despite this it was a real lump in the throat moment as Spock made his sacrifice to save the ship and absolutely heartbreaking as Kirk has to be held back by the crew from opening the radiation filled chamber where his old friend is doomed to die “He’s dead already! growls Scotty in one of the chilling, gritty lines in the movie. As a kid one little moment brought tears to my eyes, it’s where the dying Spock stands up and adjusts his uniform as he prepares to speak to Kirk one last time. It’s just a simple moment of proud dignity that I find touching.
The scene is incredible, Shatner absolutely nailing the distress in Kirk as he watches his friend die unable to speak, while Spock speaks of Vulcan logic behind his sacrifice being “The needs of the many outweigh the need of the one,” but finishing with the un Vulcan like “I am and always will be your friend.” That and the funeral with Kirk struggling to hold it together while delivering the eulogy and the firing of the coffin into space to the tune of Amazing Grace, make this one of the most incredibly moving deaths scenes in popular movies.
Just so you know that toxic fandom and overreaction didn’t come about just because of twitter, the news that Spock was to die was greeted with outrage by some Star Trek fans. Letters were wrote demanding the studios rewrite the movie, some even carrying death threats to the makers. To placate fans (and the negative reaction of some test audiences) a last minute scene was shot with Spock’s coffin on the genesis planet and added to the film which apparently the cast were not aware was in the film until they saw it at the Premiere.
Spock dying for good seemed plausible at the time as it was well known Leonard Nimoy had wanted to distance himself from the character. He’d initially refused to join up for The Motion Picture and only relented after filming had already begun. However Spock would return and his death and resurrection would make Wrath of Khan the first in a trilogy amongst the movie series. Wrath of Khan was followed by The Search for Spock that was derided critically but I personally enjoyed, with the trilogy rounded off by the extremely fun The Voyage Home.
The Star Trek franchise has gone through many incredible highs and awful lows in both television and movies. Love it or hate it, Star Trek’s rebirth started here with Wrath of Khan.
In 1982 a short trailer showed up on television that had me buzzing. The Soviets had built some sort of super fighter and Clint fucking Eastwood, the coolest man on the planet back then was going to kick ass across the Soviet Union, steal it and fight his way back home in it. Fuck Yeah!!!!!
Unfortunately I couldn’t go to see it because it had a 15 certificate. But that’s what the VCR was invented for, to allow kids to watch films that were inappropriate for our age.
Finally Firefox came out on video and my parents rented it for me one Friday night to watch while they went to the pub and left me with the babysitter.
So I sat, waiting to watch two hours of Clint kicking Communist arse and teaching them to make their own super plan by God! And I waited, and waited and watched in disbelief as the most plodding and dull Clint Eastwood film I had ever seen played out in front of me. I couldn’t believe how boring a film about stealing a jetplane starring Clint Eastwood could be as he made his way across Russia doing some incredibly boring spy stuff.
But I persevered and finally we got to what I thought would be the good stuff, Clint stealing Firefox and fighting his way out of Soviet airspace. Except the boredom remained as Clint flew the plane back with little incident, meeting up with a US submarine to refill with fuel seemingly being the only drama.
A Clint Eastwood film that was boring seemed an impossibility to me but by God the makers of Firefox had managed it. There is finally a dogfight after two hours of slow, pondering “action” when a duplicate of Firefox is sent after the original but even this is an anticlimax with Clint only having to remember to “think Russian” in order to fire his missiles and shoot the over bugger down.
And that’s it, maybe the worst movie the mighty Clint has been involved in. Honestly give this tedious film a miss.
And that’s all for 1982.
BTW we won the Falklands War keeping the world safe from Argentine aggression and expansionism. You’re welcome.