A blog about movies and filmmaking.

A Look Back At Simpler Times

In action, classics, comedy, sci-fi on April 28, 2010 at 11:01 pm

So, with my trip into filmmaking taking it’s sweet old time in getting jump-started; I’ve had to cancel any frivolous expenditures like Netflix, or video renting. (But, you just reviewed NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, you say; well, that’s because I saw that for free. Duh.) Luckily the internet is included with my rent, and that gives me free access to the television shows that I’d otherwise be missing. But, I just recently took a look through the list of movies that my current favorite (legal) streaming site, HULU, has to offer. I made a list, and will be making my way through those movies. The great thing about this little trip through movie land, is that they’re all online and free to watch for anyone (in the U.S. Sorry, other people.) So, follow along. Drop me a line to let me know what you thought.

A number of them are movies I’ve never seen before (MR. MAJESTYK and THUNDER ALLEY, to name two), but there are also a few that I’ve seen but not really in a long, long time. And it’s two of them that I’m starting this little series with.

One is a relatively newer movie – and one of the last – from what I had remembered – good STAR TREK movies before the recent rebooting of the franchise. Of course this refers to STAR TREK: GENERATIONS. A movie that was pretty quickly forgotten after what seemed like the greatest STAR TREK movie ever, in the form of FIRST CONTACT. Suffice it to say, my voyage back into the beginnings of the NEXT GENERATION’s baton passing in the filmic-lore was not as great as I had hoped it would be.

GENERATIONS starts with a new crew and new Starship Enterprise, captained by Cameron from FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. Naturally, to properly send the ship off on it’s maiden voyage, Captain Kirk (William Shatner, naturally) and two random, original crew members (Scotty, played by James Doohan; and Chekov, played of course, by Walter Koenig – I mean seriously, wouldn’t Kirk want Spock and even Bones there over these two?) are on the ship for this run around the solar system. Naturally, things do not go as well as planned as they receive a distress call, are critically under-crewed and stocked (everything was set to get there on Tuesday). This series of events leads into the introduction of Dr. Soren, played by Malcolm McDowell, who naturally is the villain; because much like Max von Sydow or Sam O’Neill, that’s who you cast for a villain in your movie.  And then the unthinkable happens…Well, I won’t spoil it here, needless to say it’s tragic for the movie.

Cut forward eighty years into the future where we come upon a royal naval ship (like colonial times kind of ship, not the space-faring kind), where we quickly realize that it’s crewed by the cast of the television series from THE NEXT GENERATION. This lead me to think about how, was there ever a crew of Starfleet members who spent so much time playing pretend? I mean a majority of the episodes of the tv series had them on the holodeck doing some kind of role-playing. Anyway, their play time is interrupted by a personal message for Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), who goes into a tizzy and gets real grumpy; and then there’s another distress call from some space station. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes, who spends more time as the Captain in this movie than Picard does), leads the crew to search for survivors. Data (Brent Spiner) plays with some chip that gives him emotions – and allows the android character to act ridiculous, and in a couple of moments disturbingly frightened – and LeVar Burton’s Geordi La Forge, gets an almost shirtless scene.

Picard gets to prance through time, act British, and fight with Malcolm McDowell a couple of times. There’s some Klingon babes, with nice breasts and horrible teeth (and the requisite comment from them about how ugly Human women are – which could be agreeable if they weren’t looking at Beverly Crusher, played by the lovely Gates McFadden.). And somehow, Picard winds up teaming up with Captain Kirk – all because of Whoopi Goldberg.

Yeah, the movie is a mess, even though it actually toys with a few ideas that were also dealt with in the JJ Abrams TREK. But, thankfully, we didn’t have to deal with the bumbling Chekov and Scotty through the rest of the movie. I was pretty disappointed though, and it makes me really afraid to eventually ever revisit FIRST CONTACT; a STAR TREK movie that I loved when it originally came out. Of course this movie does give us a pretty close answer on who the better captain is, between Picard and Kirk – and of course the movie sides with Kirk (and though I was a devout TNG-fan, after this movie, I have to agree).

Watch it here.

The other movie, which is quite a bit older, manages to fare much better. Part of it is that it’s not a science-fiction movie; but instead one of those great comedies from the mid-80’s. SUMMER SCHOOL, which introduced me to the wonder that was Mark Harmon (who, other than the fun – from what I remember – Sean Connery movie, THE PRESIDIO – has gone on to star in some CSI rip-off and I don’t care anymore about him. But, here he’s great.), as Freddy Shoop; a typical high-school gym teacher who through a case of bad luck and timing – if only he’d gotten in his car sooner – is tasked with teaching a bunch of delinquents Remedial English….in Summer School.

The best part of this movie, and something that I was happy to see that it still holds up pretty well, is how the movie doesn’t go down the conventional road of the under-dogs coming out victorious. Sorry, but to spoil the movie; the kids don’t wind up passing their tests at the end of the semester. But, there are still lessons learned, and a modicum of growth between the characters. Plus, there’s Kirstie Alley back when she was still young and way hot!

The kids are played by a smorgasbord of “who?” actors and a couple of names and faces that you might still recognize. Namely, Courtney Thorne-Smith (MELROSE PLACE, hello?) and Shawnee Smith (SAW movies). The other kids are the illiterate, bad-driver Denise (Kelly Jo Minter); the narcoleptic Larry (Ken Olandt), the nerdy kid that isn’t that book smart, Eakian (Richard Steven Horvitz, who actually was the voice of ZIM), and the dastardly duo of Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp and Dave (played by Dean Cameron and Gary Riley, respectively), who are the gore-hounds of the bunch and provide much of the comedy relief – including a classic, horror movie moment.

I loved this movie as a kid. Growing up with it playing repeatedly on HBO, TBS and whatever other non-network channels that played cheesy 80’s movies all the time. (And this was still in the 80’s, so it kind of made sense.) As I said, it still holds up pretty well, despite some of the costumes; which I give part of the credit to director and cameo star, Carl Reiner (y’know, the old guy from the OCEANS 11 movies). He’s a comedy genius who has been working in the biz for longer than the internet’s been around – I know, that’s a long time. And whether it’s Harmon’s character being taken to jail in short shorts and roller-skates; or the near nude-moment of foreign exchange student Anna-Maria (played by the beautiful Fabiana Udenio, or as some of you heathens might remember; Alotta Fagina from the first AUSTIN POWERS movie.), it all clicks on a level that’s just a smidge deeper than playing to the lowest common denominator. Not to say there aren’t some beyond silly moments, but it all works on a level that not many comedies reach today – and isn’t a hard R-rating. It’s also one of those movies that it’s hard to believe was only PG-13, considering the language and the gore – the movie actually does feature clips from the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still really enjoyed it, and also that I still remembered some of the better moments’ dialogue – like when a teacher tells Chainsaw and Dave to take their seats and they lift up their chairs and say, “where should we take them?” Awesome.

Definitely check it out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a trailer on Youtube to post, and I don’t feel like spoiling a moment of the movie. So, just head over to HULU and watch it already!

Okay, I lied…Here you go….Enjoy.

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