I have a genuine fondness for a number of films, which if found out, would mean having my BFI membership card taken forcefully from me, ripped up and being permanently banished from that institute or any other cinema-related venue. Here is a small selection.....
On the surface (like there’s anything underneath) this has all the makings of your typical glossy, eighties Hollywood melodrama. It’s essentially a shallow morality tale about an equally shallow, materialistic bartender who comes to realise there’s more to life than the pursuit of money. So what is it about this film that I love? I don’t know where to start really. Maybe it’s Bryan Brown’s hilariously amoral performance as seasoned Aussie bartender and the Cruiser’s treacherous yet lovable mentor Doug Coughlin - always spouting his sage and cynical philosophising on life (“Coughlin's Law; anything else is always something better”). Maybe it’s the amazing choreographed cocktail-making sequences, set at one point, to a Cruise-initiated bar sing-a-long to ‘Addicted to Love’, or it could be the ridiculous romantic montage sequence in Jamaica during the middle act, which actually features Cruise and his leading lady, Elizabeth Shue, on white horses, galloping down the beach, resembling nothing more than an advert for the tourist board.
This has a dismal rating of 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and it swept the board at 1988’s Golden Raspberries, but I have to say, being harsh on a film like this is akin to chastising a young child for drawing on the wallpaper - it’s pointless because ultimately, it doesn’t know any better.
There was something about this film that really captured my imagination when I first caught it on video. I liked how it portrayed the mundane, suburban existence, where non-conformity is met with intrigue and prying neighbours. I saw it again recently and although it’s a very silly and light satire, it does have some funny moments and remains really watchable, thanks mainly to Tom Hanks and the director, Joe Dante. Dante’s career has never really reached the same heights as his peers but I was always quite fond of his films back then, particularly Explorers and Innerspace. I think they possess that Spielbergian sense of wonder, combined with a real B-movie sensibility.
The Last Boy Scout
I remember when this was first released and the awful reception it got from the critics. They really seemed to be missing the point. It didn’t help that the star Bruce Willis, was coming off Hudson Hawk at the time (a film even I can’t bring myself to defend). This is a very funny deconstruction of the buddy cop films however - a genre which was incredibly popular around that time. The very fact that it’s writing by Shane Black, the guy behind the first Lethal Weapon, itself a landmark in the genre at the time, shows that he was well aware of what he was doing with the material. I was too young to see it this on the big screen, but when I finally got round to viewing it, I wasn’t disappointed. Although I make no excuses for my love of the likes of Cocktail, this film is crying out for reappraisal.
St Elmo’s Fire
“Take me where the future lies in St Elmo’s Fireee!” I still get goose bumps when I hear that rousing theme tune. Everything about this film is pure cheese. You’ve got bad hair, bad fashion, bad music (check out Rob Lowe’s Halloween-themed saxophone gig which encapsulates all of those in one scene) and cringe-worthy dialogue (“I’m obsessed thank you very much”).
This is the quintessential eighties bratpack ensemble drama, directed by the guy who went on to make (the markedly better, but equally of-it’s-time) The Lost Boys. Also, it’s worth noting the size of star Judd Nelson's nostrils – they’re the biggest I’ve ever seen, both in the movies and real-life. They’re double the size of any normal persons. It’s been a long while since I last watched this classic, but I could probably still recite most of the dialogue. Actually, there are some things that shouldn’t be shared...
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