Tag: Movies

Ernest Scared Stupid Was Hokey, But Fun

Ernest Scared Stupid

Somebody with a runny nose is gonna die.

Having already applied his bumbling shenanigans to one holiday in 1988’s Ernest Saves Christmas, slapstick neighborhood doofus Ernest P. Worrell set his sights on Halloween in 1991’s Ernest Scared Stupid. Purring singer/actress Eartha Kitt joined in the spooky/goofy shenanigans, as did an army of slimy trolls.

This time around, Ernest is in suburban Missouri, working as a garbage collector. As always, he’s a friend to kids everywhere, so when a group of neighborhood preteens asks for his help building a treehouse, Ernest naturally obliges. But this particular oak tree happens to hold Trantor, a 200-year-old evil troll, and as local crone Old Lady Hackmore warns, the troll will be released if a Worrell puts his hand on the tree the night before Halloween and says, “Trantor, I call thee forth.” Well, stupid is as stupid does…

Once Trantor is released, the mean, mucous-covered munchkin sets out to capture the souls of Ernest’s young pals by turning them into wooden dolls. That’s bad enough, but when Trantor tries to pull his wooden magic on Ernest’s pet dog Rimshot, the little snotface has crossed the line. Ernest is out to kick some troll tushie, and this time, it’s personal.

The Halloween season wasn’t as good to Ernest as Christmas had been three years earlier. Ernest’s “human cartoon” slapstick still brought in fans, but not as many as previous films had. Ernest Scared Stupid was the last Ernest movie made in partnership with Disney subsidiary Touchstone, but director John Cherry and actor Jim Varney plugged ahead without the corporate backing, turning out Ernest Rides Again in 1993 and four more direct-to-video Ernest films over the following five years.

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters!

Ghostbusters

They came, they saw, they kicked it’s-well, you know the story. Ghostbusters has become part of the pop culture Hall of Fame, spawning a film sequel, two cartoon series and a host of lines that are still quoted today- “Don’t cross the streams,” “Are you the keymaster?”, “Back off man, I’m a scientist,” ‘He slimed me!” and many more.

At the time, it was a gamble-a big-budget comedy starring a pair of Saturday Night Live alumni (Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd), a screenwriter (Harold Ramis) and Sigourney Weaver, who was still best known for her role in the original Alien.Ghostbusters would have to be a blockbuster to pay back its FX-inflated budget, at the time the highest ever for a comedy. Well, guess what…it did.

The title stars of Ghostbusters are three paranormal scientists-sarcastic “game show host” Peter Venkman, naive Ray Stantz and brainiac Egon Spengler-who just lost their university research grant. The timing could have been better. Paranormal activity in New York City is heating up, and the boys just had their first run-in with a real manifestation over at the public library. On Peter’s urging, Ray takes out a third mortgage and the three set up shop in a dilapidated old fire station, promising to fight all spooks, spirits and specters as the proton-powered Ghostbusters.

In a nicer part of town, concert cellist Dana Barrett has noticed some supernatural goings-on in her upscale apartment-eggs frying on the counter, an ancient pagan temple in her fridge, and so on. Against her better judgment, Dana makes the trip over to Ghostbusters HQ, where the womanizing Peter immediately tries to hit on her. Meanwhile, the lads have been up to their necks in ghosts, starting with a slime-trailing green blob in a fancy hotel.

Egon figures that something big is bubbling up, and Dana and nerdy neighbor Louis are inadvertently involved. The Ghostbusters hire Winston Zeddemore as their fourth member, but the whole operation is shut down by an uptight EPA official and the Ghostbusters themselves are thrown in jail. Even worse, the HQ’s “Ghost Trap” has been shut off, freeing the captured spirits to prepare the coming of the all-powerful Gozer. The Ghostbusters are freed just in time for a showdown in the Big Apple, taking on the Gozerian’s chosen form-the titanic, poofy, sugary-sweet Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Co-written by Aykroyd and Ramis, Ghostbusters was originally intended to be a vehicle for Aykroyd and pal John Belushi. Belushi’s premature death in 1982 forced a change in plans, and the script was rewritten for Murray. No one knows how the original version would have turned out, but the Murray/Aykroyd/Ramis teaming, along with Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson in key roles, was a winning combination.Ghostbusters became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and its success was heralded with toys, video games, tee shirts and Ray Parker Jr.’s #1 hit title song.

In 1987, ABC debuted the long-running animated series The Real Ghostbusters, with new actors taking over the voice roles of Peter, Ray, Egon, Winston and the rest. The original cast was reunited in 1989 for a theatrical sequel, Ghostbusters II, another monster hit.

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

“Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!”

These were the three words that launched the straggly-haired, bad-humored demon Betelgeuse (pronounced “Beetlejuice”) into the land of the living, to terrorize those with warm blood still coursing in their veins. Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s darkly comic vision of the afterlife, included a “bio-exorcist,” menacing sandworms and a handbook for the recently deceased.

Barbara and Adam Maitland are a loving married couple who have the misfortune of being killed in a car accident. At first, they don’t even realize they’re dead, but a visit the offices of their undead social worker lets them know they must live in their New England dream house for the next one hundred and fifty-three years. To the Maitlands’ dismay, they come back home to find that their beloved home has been sold to an artsy New York family, the Deetzes.

Barbara and Adam try to get rid of their pesky intruders by haunting them, but they’re just too nice to actually scare anyone. The Deetzes, now aware of the supernatural presence in their new home, start making plans to turn it into a tourist attraction. Only the Deetzes’ sullen teenage daughter, Lydia, can communicate with the Maitlands, and the three of them become friends.

In despair, the couple turns to Betelgeuse, a troublemaking demon who specializes in getting rid of unwanted humans. By saying his name three times, Barbara and Adam launch him into the living world. But they realize too late that Betelgeuse is even more troublesome than the Deetzes, and also very dangerous. Complications and chaos ensue when Betelgeuse wants to marry Lydia and tries to stay in the world of the living forever.

Beetlejuice combined inventive special effects and Danny Elfman’s unique music into one of the most unusual movies of its time. Among the more memorable moments of the movie was a bizarre song-and-dance sequence, wherein the Deetzes and their guests were possessed and forced to sing “Day-O,” before their shrimp dinners jumped off their plates and latched onto their faces. Despite (or, more likely, because of) all the weirdness, Beetlejuice was a commercial success, earning an Oscar for Best Makeup and helping turn Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse himself) into a major star.

Burton created a strange world for the dead that seemed just as vibrant and alive as the world of the living, and from 1989 to 1991, that world lived on as an animated series, also titled Beetlejuice. In it, Lydia and Betelgeuse inexplicably became friends, taking part in adventures in the worlds of both the living and the dead.

Dick Tracy Was a Colorful Homage

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy was Warren Beatty’s ode to Chester Gould’s comic strip, a sharp, colorful world populated with handsome good guys, strange-looking bad guys, vampish vixens and damsels in distress. The film seemed like it had been actually set in a comic strip, thanks to the bright, bold set design, along with costumes and makeup faithfully translated from the printed page.

Warren Beatty stars as Dick Tracy, the square-jawed, yellow-suited lawman who fights and disposes of his city’s villains with ease. The mobsters, tired of always being sent to the big house by Tracy, decide to band together and rid themselves of him once and for all. But Dick Tracy has other problems at the moment. He has recently met an orphan named The Kid that he grudgingly cares for, but is not sure he can be the father The Kid needs. Also, his relationship with his girlfriend, Tess Trueheart, is strained because he devotes more of his time to crime fighting than he does to her.

And then there’s Breathless. Pop superstar Madonna plays the seductive Breathless Mahoney, a beautiful and blond nightclub singer reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe. She has her eye on Tracy, and despite his better judgment, he finds himself increasingly drawn to her. Tracy must find a way to fight the corruption overtaking the city and come to terms with his complicated personal life.

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy featured an impressive array of cameos, including Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice and Dustin Hoffman as the mumbling Mumbles. Beatty infused Tracy with a surprising quality of vulnerability-shown through his relationship with The Kid and Tess’-that is not often explored in one-dimensional comic strip heroes. In fact, beyond the car chases, explosions and gunfights that made Dick Tracy a kid’s paradise, the film also had heart.

Dick Tracy received seven Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Al Pacino. It won three awards, for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup and Best Song for Steven Sondheim’s jazz-tinged “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man).

The Mighty Ducks Was a Mighty 90’s Hit

Mighty Ducks

Everyone loves an underdog. From Rocky to The Bad News Bears, Hollywood has been capitalizing on our love for the little guy, pitting our hopeless heroes against seemingly invincible opponents. With most other major sports already taken, Disney turned to hockey for 1992’s The Mighty Ducks.

Self-absorbed lawyer Gordon Bombay is haunted by memories of blowing the final shot in the peewee hockey championships. When Gordon gets hit with a DUI conviction, his boss, Mr. Ducksworth, orders him to take a leave of absence from the firm to coach a peewee hockey team. The ragtag moppets represent a cross-section of cultures and character types (the overweight kid, the skate princess, the tough kid, etc.), and Gordon doesn’t like a single one of them.

The coach’s attitude begins to change when his team suffers a hard loss to the rival Hawks, a team still coached by Gordon’s cruel ex-mentor, Coach Riley. Gordon gets the team a new sponsor (Mr. Ducksworth), new uniforms, and a new name – The Mighty Ducks. After whipping the guys and gals into top game shape, Gordon puts the Ducks on the path to the championships’ and a rematch with Riley and the Hawks.

This fairly low-budget sports comedy was a surprise hit for Disney, and the company responded with a slew of spin-offs. Two movie sequels followed, as did a cartoon adaptation (this one starring actual ducks, albeit from outer space), and yes, a real-life National Hockey League team, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Apparently, everybody loves a winner.

Looking Back at Cloak and Dagger

Cloak and Dagger

Cloak & Dagger told the story of the little boy who cried, “Government spies are selling out the country and I have the video game to prove it!” In this loose reworking of 1949’s The Window (which was in turn based on a Cornell Woolrich short story), an eleven-year-old boy with a vivid imagination got himself into more trouble than he could’ve imagined.

Davey Osborne is the tale-spinning son of widowed military officer Hal Osborne. When Davey gets handed a special copy of the video game Cloak & Dagger by a dying spy, he discovers a plot to sell vital U.S. secrets to enemies abroad. But who’ll believe him? No one, it seems, as Hal and the other adults think it’s simply another case of Davey’s overactive imagination.

Davey’s imaginary hero, Jack Flack, shows up to lend a hand, but he can only carry the boy so far. Once reality sets in, it’s up to the Davey’s natural ingenuity and determination to get himself and his friends out of the villains’ clutches.

Henry Thomas, fresh off his starring role in the mega blockbuster E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, starred as Davey, and Dabney Coleman played the dual role of Hal Osborne and Jack Flack. Along with Tron and WarGames, Cloak & Dagger was one of the first Hollywood films to acknowledge the growing popularity of video games. But more importantly to its young fans, the movie acknowledged an older and greater truth: nobody ever listens to kids, even when murderous double agents really are out to kill them.

Fondly Remembering The Dark Crystal

Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal was produced by the same puppetry wizards responsible for the Muppets, but this 1982 fantasy was much more J.R.R. Tolkien than it was Kermit the Frog.  Jim Henson, Frank Oz and their army of puppeteers and voice artists put together an entire world of dark, mysterious creatures, casting them in a classic tale of good and evil.

1,000 years before the events in the film, a race of powerful beings called the UrSkeks decided to purge all evil from their bodies. At the time of the Great Conjunction (when all three of the planets suns aligned), the UrSkeks focused the united light through their powerful crystal, hoping to burn the evil out. Unfortunately, the evil merely separated from the good, creating two separate races the peaceful Mystics and the wicked Skeksis. One of the Skeksis smashed the crystal, separating a shard and turning the crystal dark.

According to prophecy, an elf-like Gelfling would return the shard to the crystal at the next Great Convergence, putting an end to the Skeksis dark reign. To keep their power (and assure their immortality at the next Great Convergence), the vulture-like Skeksis sent their giant servants, the Garthims, to kill all Gelflings.

Dark Crystal

In the films present day, a Gelfling named Jen thinks he is the last of his race, and he sets out to fulfill his destiny. As his journey continues, the young lad discovers another Gelfling, a female named Kira, who joins his quest to heal the crystal. Kiras hungry pet Fizzwig signs on as well, as does a gnarled old witch named Aughra. Even this united front, however, faces a daunting task in trying to outwit the dangerous Skeksis and their evil Chamberlain.

The Dark Crystal was indeed dark, but no more so than the average Brothers Grimm fable. That didnt seem to matter to most audiences, however, who had opened their hearts to E.T.  The Extraterrestrial earlier in the year. A financial disappointment in theaters, The Dark Crystal still managed to build a relatively small, but very loyal base of fans, who continue to treasure this underappreciated puppet fantasy.

This article originally appeared on the long-defunct website Yesterdayland.