We are entering the final stretch of the Movies of 1988 bracket game! It’s down to action hero Bruce Willis against of trio of very different comedies. Can any of them stop John McClane on his march to victory? Just like in Die Hard, the “fly in the ointment” finds himself opposed by a motley band of criminals led by a suave European. But the gang from A Fish Called Wanda is a whole lot sillier than the terrorists who invaded Nakatomi Plaza. Still, if Detective McClane isn’t careful, he is in imminent danger of having chips shoved up his nose.
Today’s match-up features two movies which slyly sent-up corporate culture in the 1980’s. In Working Girl, Melanie Griffith played a put-upon secretary who finds that her hair style and tacky clothes have impaired her ability to break through the glass ceiling. Bonnie Bedelia’s character in Die Hard experiences similar career frustration. She has to go so far as to move across the country and revert to her maiden name in order to advance. And then she ends up working with some coked-up jackass who gets himself killed by terrorists. Come to think of it, if there was one thing Working Girl could have used more of, it was terrorists. Imagine Han Solo and Ellen Ripley teaming up to take on some intergalactic mercenaries. That sure would have pepped up Mike Nichols’ rom com. Where was I again? Oh yeah, today’s match features to movies with almost nothing in common.
Okay, so this one might be a teeny bit lopsided. I fully expect Die Hard to win its way into the final four and I won’t be the least bit surprised if it makes it to the final round. Heck, it’s probably the odds-on favorite to take the crown. Pretty much anything I might put up against Die Hard in the first round was going to get steamrolled. One of the reasons Die Hard was able to redefine action movies is that the genre wasn’t in the best place in the late 80’s. Take a look at the other action movies of the year and you will see what I mean. Other than Midnight Run, my best options were They Live, Bloodsport, Above the Law and Action Jackson. I like some of those movies and I know they all have their fans. But Midnight Run is better than all of them. It’s a near-perfect buddy comedy that had the misfortune to come up against John McClane.
Our final four is split into two genres; action and comedy. Today, we’re tackling the former with two of the more memorable action movies not just of the year, but of the decade. Lethal Weapon didn’t invent buddy cop movies. But it sure did shape them. Predator didn’t define a genre, per se. But it mashed up two existing genres in a way that was uncommon at the time. Both movies launched franchises which remain on-going with the help of recent reboots; Lethal Weapon in the form of a TV show and Predator with an upcoming movie. Today, we decide which movie will represent the action genre in the final round.
John McTiernan’s Predator was a manly movie. Most 80’s action movies would be satisfied with having a bunch of commandos shooting up a gang of insurgents in the jungle. But that’s Predator‘s starting point. From there, the military guys find themselves hunted by an alien creature. By comparison, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is a lot more grounded. In his still-topical drama, greedy men do whatever it takes to make themselves just a little bit richer.
Canadian actress, writer and director Sarah Polley celebrates her 38th today. She began working as a child performer in Canadian television, first as the title character in Ramona, a series adapted from Beverly Cleary’s series of children’s novels, and then starring for several years as Sara Stanley, the lead character of Road to Avonlea, adapted from the novels of Lucy Maud Montgomery.
In the late 1990s, Polley began to build an impressive resume in independent films. She had a pivotal role in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, and in 1999 appeared in several films, including David Cronenberg’s Existenz and Doug Liman’s Go:
1987 was a good year for action movies. Already in this bracket game we have seen the genre-defining buddy cop movie, Lethal Weapon. But the year also included The Living Daylights, Beverly Hills Cop II, Stakeout, and The Running Man among others. Today’s contestants blended action with science-fiction to become two of the more enduring movies of the year. It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator vs. Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop.
The heyday of once-heralded action director John McTiernan has faded into the misty night, like the last embers of an erstwhile firewyrm set to wreak magnificent hell upon the mortal world. Immortal McTiernan classics such as Predator and Die Hard gave way to arguably great fare (The Hunt for Red October), middling action-romance stuff (The Thomas Crown Affair) and absolute puke (Rollerball).
Towards the tail end of the 90’s, McTiernan graced the film-going public with the long-gestating, would-be Viking epic The 13th Warrior, starring an effete Antonio Banderas as the eponymous Warrior, alongside 12 hulking “Northmen”. Based on Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, the film version (filmed years before release, in the wake of other successful/not-so successful Crichton works like Jurassic Park and Sphere) makes some noble attempts to adapt a supposedly true account of an Arab scholar and his travels to the cold and harsh northern lands of Europe to face off against the forces of darkness.
When the movie was released in theaters, it was dismissed by critics and ignored by audiences. As a fan of the film, I have to ask Was I wrong about The 13th Warrior?
John McTiernan was a Julliard graduate who became one of the biggest directors of the later 80’s and early 90’s. His directing career got off to a quick start. Within a few films, he was directing the biggest movie star in the world and reinventing genres altogether. He directed the movies that made Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis into viable action stars. But soon after, the hits stopped coming. But McTiernan’s troubles didn’t end with his career cooling off. The former A-list director spent 328 days in prison!
What the hell happened?