Category Archives: movies

Thirty Years Ago Today: The Bat hits the big screen

Batman Michael KeatonArguably the best Batman film in history was released on June 23, 1989, directed by Tim Burton with Michael Keaton as the titular hero, Jack Nicholson as the villainous Joker, and Kim Basinger as the love interest. While the franchise fell off considerably when Keaton left in 1995, Batman and Batman Returns were instantly classics.

Not only was Batman a box office smash, the music was also successful. Danny Elfman composed the score, and his main theme has become an iconic piece. It was later in animated series, video games, and the 2017 film Justice League.

In addition to the musical score, the soundtrack was also a popular release, written and performed by Prince. Initially, producers wanted Michael Jackson to write and perform ballads for the hero, with Prince handling songs for the villain. Due to contractual issues, Jackson was unable to participate. “Batdance” was the first and most popular single from the album.

I don’t know how well Robert Pattinson will perform as the Caped Crusader, but it will take a lot for him to topple Michael Keaton’s place in my opinion.

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Forty Years Ago Today: Kermit and Fozzie hit the big screen

The Muppet MovieThe Muppets were a major part of my life as a kid. From The Muppet Show to Muppet Babies to three major theatrical releases in the ’70s and ’80s, you couldn’t escape that little green frog and his lovable bear sidekick. And I didn’t want to. I absolutely devoured everything Muppets when I was in grade school.

The Muppet Movie hit the big screen before I was in school, and I’m not sure if I saw it in theaters or not (probably not), but I have watched it many, many, many times over the years. It never comes to mind when thinking of favorite franchises, but the first three Muppet films are hands-down one of my favorite franchises. Jim Henson simply could do no wrong.

The Muppet Movie won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film of 1979. Other 1979 films winning Saturn Award included Alien took home the award for Best Science Fiction Film, Dracula won Best Horror Film, and Dinner for Adele won Best Foreign Film.

Of course, music was a huge part of the Muppets’ attraction. The Muppet Movie soundtrack featured “Rainbow Connection,” “Movin’ Right Along,” and “Can You Picture That?” among other great numbers. The album won the Grammy for Best Album for Children and was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

Thirty-five Years Ago Today: Daniel LaRusso moves to California

The Karate Kid”Wax on…wax off.”

Man, how great was 1984 for movies? The Karate Kid was an insanely popular film and kids were emulating the “crane” technique on playgrounds all across America. Mr. Miyagi, everyone’s favorite sensei, showed that conflict was best resolved without violence. The movie was the fifth-highest grossing film of 1984, just shy of $91 million.

I remember buying the book adaptation of the movie by B.B. Hiller from Scholastic Book Club, reading and re-reading it over the years. I wish I still had that book (and I might somewhere in the basement).

Just like Ghostbusters and Gremlins, The Karate Kid has had a lasting impact on pop culture. There were three direct sequels (Part II, Part III, and The Next Karate Kid with Hilary Swank), a 1989 animated series on NBC (and currently included with Amazon Prime), and a reboot in 2010 with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. Last year, Cobra Kai premiered on YouTube, with Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their roles as Daniel and Johnny.

I can’t believe it has been 35 years. I feel so old.

30 Years Ago Today: The Superstars of the Supernatural are back!

Ghostbusters IIHow difficult is it to make a good sequel? Not many measure up to the original, but there are a few exceptions. In my opinion, Ghostbusters II is one such exception.

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver all return in the sequel, both released and set five years after the initial film. The studio pushed for the sequel against the judgment of Aykroyd, Ramis, and director/producer Ivan Reitman, but fortunately all agreed to work together to bring it to fruition.

The sequel’s soundtrack did not enjoy as much success as the first, but there are still some quality songs from popular artists of the day, such as Bobby Brown, New Edition, Doug E. Fresh, and Run-D.M.C.

News of a third installment featuring the original cast first appeared online earlier this year. Rumored for decades, it had been consistently shot down by those involved in the first two films. I asked Hudson about the possibility of a Ghostbusters III about a decade ago; he pointed to a video game and said, “That’s the closest we’ll ever get.” I’m glad he was wrong; I only hope he is involved in the new movie, produced by the original director’s son, Jason Reitman.

25 Years Ago Today: Simba becomes King

Lion KingA masterpiece of Disney animation, 1994’s The Lion King was released in only two theaters on June 15, 1994, with a wide release nine days later. Despite its limited release, the film still made over $1.5 million.

Overall, it brought in nearly a billion dollars and is the seventh highest-grossing animated film of all-time and third among Walt Disney Animation Studios releases behind Frozen and Zootopia. Zootopia? Really? The Lion King is one of only three movies made before 2000 in the top 50 highest-grossing animated films (Aladdin clocks in at #48, and Toy Story 2 at #50).

In case you hadn’t heard, a CGI-heavy “live action” film is set for a July release this year. James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa. The live-action remakes that I have seen so far have been inconsistent; even those that were good (such as Aladdin), I prefer the animated originals.

35 Years Ago Today: What you see…isn’t always what you get

Gremlins“Don’t get him wet, keep him out of bright light, and never feed him after midnight.”

Perhaps the best-known rules in cinematic history.

Joe Dante directed Gremlins, released June 8, 1984; the movie starred Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Hoyt Axton. The June release date seems a little strange to me as the film is set at Christmastime, but it worked as it ended up the fourth highest-grossing film of 1984.

A bizarrely brilliant half comedy, half horror movie, the film was criticized for its violence but beloved for its cuteness. It is cited by many as one of the films that prompted the creation of the PG-13 rating less than a month after its release.

The Hardee’s fast food chain released five book and record sets to coincide with the popularity of the film: “The Gift of the Mogwai,” “Gizmo and the Gremlins,” “Escape from the Gremlins,” “Gremlins—Trapped,” and “The Last Gremlin.” I am lucky enough to still own four of the five in my record collection.

35 Years Ago Today: Who you gonna call?

GhostbustersDan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson teamed up together in the Ivan Reitman-directed classic Ghostbusters, released in theaters on June 8, 1984. The movie was a massive success, the second highest-grossing film of the year, trailing only Beverly Hills Cop.

The theme song by Ray Parker Jr. was just as big as the film, hitting #1 in August 1984 for three weeks. At the end of the year, it landed at #9 on Billboard’s chart of all 1984 singles.

There was, of course, a sequel to Ghostbusters released just a few years later (we’ll talk about that one in a few weeks), a reboot released a few years ago (we may never speak of that one again), and a planned second sequel to the original next summer. In addition, Aykroyd has hinted at a prequel television series based on the original characters.

There are tons of toys, books, costumes, and even video games. Here are just a handful of the offerings on Amazon, but you can page through several more items yourself

Ghostbusters remains to this day a cultural phenomenon.

30 Years Ago Today: Dead Poets Society arrives in theaters

Dead Poets Society Robin Williams Carpe DiemCarpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

I am certain I did not see Dead Poets Society when it first arrived in theaters in 1989; I probably didn’t see it until more than two years later when I could drive to Blockbuster and rent it on VHS. Maybe I saw an “edited for television” version at some point before then. One thing I can tell you: when I did see Dead Poets Society, the movie had a major impact on me.

I have always been in love with writing. I often put it off and procrastinate and beat myself up for my lack of skills, but I cannot resist the pull of putting words to the page. The words of John Keating, portrayed by the legendary Robin Williams, inspired me as a teenager. I wanted to seize the day. I needed to make my life extraordinary.

Somewhere along the line, though, “real life” got in the way. I gave up on dreams until I stopped dreaming. I walked away from opportunities because of fear of failure and lack of self-confidence. I discouraged myself, despite the encouragement of others all around me.

Now, three decades later, I want to seize the day; I still feel the need to make my life extraordinary. And I still have no idea how to do that.

30 Years Ago Today: Indiana Jones chooses wisely

Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeHave the adventure of your life keeping up with the Joneses.

Indiana Jones is at it again, this time with dad in tow in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Harrison Ford appeared again as the main character, while Sean Connery joined the cast as Professor Henry Jones and River Phoenix played a teenage Indy in the third film in the series.

The movie was recognized with an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing, beating Black Rain and Lethal Weapon 2. It was the third Oscar for Ben Burtt, who took home an Oscar in 1981 for Raiders of the Lost Ark and in 1982 for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Last Crusade is set largely in 1938, placing it after the events of Temple of Doom (1935) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1936). The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was set in 1957. With over 767,000 users voting, Last Crusade has a 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

35 Years Ago Today: Indiana Jones pushes the boundaries of the “PG” rating

Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomIf adventure has a name…it must be Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom burst into American movie theaters on this date in 1984. The film received heavy criticism at the time due to violent scenes, which led director Steven Spielberg to suggest a new rating between “PG” and “R.” In July, the Motion Picture Association of America introduced the “PG-13” rating.

Harrison Ford reprises his role as the titular character in the second installment of the Indiana Jones series, a prequel to the 1981 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark. Temple grossed over $333 million worldwide, and was the third highest-grossing film of 1984, behind Beverly Hills Cop and Ghostbusters. Wow, 1984 was a great year for movies.

The film featured a score by the inimitable John Williams.

If I were forced to rank the Indiana Jones movies thus far, I would have to rank them in the order they were released. Raiders of the Lost Ark is far and away the best, although I have to say I have enjoyed them all. Yes, even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

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