November 22, 1989

Clark Griswold's Immortal Children

Well, maybe not immortal, but young Rusty and Audrey Griswold seemed to have discovered some kind of elixir for slowing the aging process. Assuming the actors who play Rusty and Audrey are always "playing their age", there's some kind of voodoo hoodoo going on at the Griswold household.
  Clark Ellen Rusty Audrey  
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) 40291515Anthony Michael Hall & Dana Barron
National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985) 4231?21Jason Lively & Dana Hill
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) 46351416Johnny Galecki & Juliette Lewis
National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation (1997) 54431924Ethan Embry & Marisol Nichols

Back to the Future, Part II

I am a sucker for time-travel stories, and alternate-realities even more so. This movie's alternate-reality storyline (Biff steals the time machine, goes back to 1955, and eventually turns Hill Valley into his own Vegas-style fiefdom) is a silly, sloppy mess, but I love it anyways. Would the movie world be a better place if BTTF 2 and 3 had never been made? Maybe. Would BTTF 1 be more beloved if #2 and 3 had not been made? Not likely. (NOTE: 11/22/89 was the day before Thanksgiving)

November 8, 1989

Erik The Viking

Incredibly silly Viking movie starring Tim Robbins. I think I saw this at the Cabot theater in Beverly?

October 6, 1989

When Harry Met Sally...

The gold standard for romantic comedies in the 1990s. Co-screenwriter Nora Ephron has gone on to make a career out of directing familiar remakes of this movie. The key element which sets this movie apart from Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail is the male presence of Rob Reiner (director and co-writer) and Andrew Scheinman (co-writer). Their perspective helps establish the male voice in this film. TRUE FACT: Harry and Jess's divorce scene at Giants Stadium (Mister Zero knew?) is based on a conversation Rob Reiner had at a football game, about his divorce from Penny Marshall.

August 15, 1989

Millenium

 It's actually a pretty neat premise- in order repopulate the future (or something like that), passengers are abducted from jet planes which are about to crash, then the planes are sent off to blow up without them. This way, no one in the 20th century knows the passengers were abducted? Now that I spell it out, it's a bizarre premise. I loved how the "messing with past events" paradoxes led to "time waves" passing through the scenes set in the future: a voice on the future PA system warned the characters that a "time wave" was coming, and then the sets would shake and the lights would flicker. I guess messing with time machines leads to earthquakes? Nearly 20 years later, the absurd time travel movie A Sound Of Thunder included a similar ridiculousness: changes in the timeline made millions of years ago manifested themselves with "time waves" which introduced CGI animals and plants all over Chicago. Finally, the last "time wave" turns Catherine McCormack into a half mermaid, half catfish (I am not making this up). Millenium stars Kris Kristofferson is the crash investigator, and Cheryl Ladd is the time travel agent from the future, who needs to set everything straight.
Catherine McCormack at the end
of A Sound Of Thunder

July 18, 1989

Batman (Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson)

In 1989, Batman was just becoming cool again, on the verge of fully recovering from the humiliation the character endured at the hands of the 1960s TV show. Warner Bros was canny to hire quirky filmmaker Tim Burton to helm their character reboot (of course, they didn't call them "reboots" back then ;-) In 1989 Burton was the director of Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, so he may not have seemed to be a perfect choice, but he brought a gritty sensibility and a dark tone to the film, miles away from the comic book primary colors and overlit sets of the TV show. Sam Hamm & Warren Skaaren's screenplay, plus Anton Furst's production design, owed a big debt to the look and feel of Frank Miller's graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. The casting of Michael Keaton guaranteed a Batman heavy on brooding but light on muscle. Ironically, Adam West had a better body for Batman than Keaton, but Keaton had the right attitude.
Keaton turned the character to his advantage: He played up the "Scarlet Pimpernel" angle of Bruce Wayne. Wayne comes across as a wealthy, bumbling flake, completely snowing the reporter and photographer (Robert Wuhl and Kim Basinger) on Batman's trail. The costume helped mask his flabby physique, but in retrospect, he does seem like a librarian Batman after you see Christian Bale with his shirt off in Batman Begins. In 2010, I watched a documentary on Batman, and Michael Keaton defended his Bruce Wayne: he rationalizes that no criminal would ever fear his average-looking Wayne, no matter how crazy-eyed he got. That's what the Batman persona is for. Ironically, Christian Bale's Wayne believed the same thing, even though he's at least three inches taller and much more badass.
Jack Nicholson fully embraces the Joker's homicidal mania, and the screenplay offers a Joker origin story which actually makes sense. I never understood how the Joker could become the leader of a criminal gang with no previous experience. In this case, he's already a high-powered Mob lieutenant with his own loyal soldiers when he gets dumped in the drink, betrayed by his boss (Jack Palance) over a woman (Jerry Hall). The origin of his gruesome smile (he gets shot in the face!) is a classic Burton touch.
THEATER NOTES: A great sold out opening night crowd. A packed house of energized fans is the best way to see a movie.
(Liberty Tree Mall, Danvers)

Stub Hubby & Batman

June 15, 1989

Ghostbusters 2

Five years after the original saved the world in the summer of 1984, the entire creative team behind Ghostbusters reunited. I re-watched the first half hour on HDNet in the summer of 2008, and again in 2016, and boy, is it not funny. There are some jokes, but there's no energy. The proceedings have the feeling of a college reunion, or maybe a victory lap - formerly young and hungry, now the cast is rich and comfortable, and everyone is so pleased to be back together. I think this is one of Bill Murray's first movies with some "Just For Men" blended in. I originally saw this movie at the North Shore Shopping Center in Peabody.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

So, so terrible. So bad I never saw it again.

May 15, 1989

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Spielberg, Lucas, and Ford are still talking about finally making a fourth Indy Film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (worst title of a sequel since The Phantom Menace), will be released nineteen years after Last Crusade was released. In Last Crusade, Sean Connery was playing a character (Dr. Henry Jones) older than himself (Connery is less than twelve years older than Harrison Ford). What's frightening is that Harrison Ford is now older than Sean Connery was when he played Henry Jones:

Sean Connery: Born August 25, 1930, was 58 when he made Last Crusade. Harrison Ford: Born July 13, 1942, will be 65 when Crystal Skull is released.

January 15, 1989

Three Fugitives

On his first day out after being released from prison, bank robber Lucas (Nick Nolte) is an innocent bystander in line for a teller, when he gets tangled up in a botched bank robbery by desperate father Ned Perry (Martin Short). When the police arrive, Detective Dugan (James Earl Jones) naturally assumes Lucas is behind the hold-up. Lucas ends up on the run with Perry and his sickly daughter Meg (Sarah Rowland Doroff).

Written and directed by Francis Veber, a remake of his 1986 French movie Les Fugitifs (starring Gérard Depardieu as Lucas). Nick Nolte also played the Gérard Depardieu role in another French-turned-American remake, Down & Out in Beverly Hills (based on the French play Boudu Saved From Drowning). Martin Short also played a man named Ned (Ned Nederlander), in a movie with a two-word title, and the first word is "Three": ¡Three Amigos! (1986)

My first ever written-down film review was a review of this movie, for a student comedy newspaper which I co-founded with some friends in high school. The review is not available on this Web site, thank God.