Another Halloween is upon us boys and girls, so I thought I’d take a time out from posting about grown men getting paid millions of dollars to pretend they are superheroes, and draw on fond (and miserable) memories to list some of the best and worst things about this crazy, kooky holiday.
Best: Halloween Specials
It’s hard to believe now, but once upon a time the major TV networks felt it was perfectly reasonable to fill an entire night (or sometimes even two) of prime time programming with animated Halloween-themed specials for the kiddies. The best of the bunch was something that, to the best of my knowledge, still gets shown to this day – It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, a.k.a.- The One Where Snoopy has a Really Bad Acid Trip. Sitcoms also regularly jumped on board the bandwagon with Halloween-themed episodes, one of the most memorable being Roseanne‘s famous “Tunnel of Terror” show during the second season:
Worst: Having to wear a jacket over your costume
Since Halloween is at the end of October when some of the most unpredictable weather can occur (especially if you gew up in the Northeast), it’s a crapshoot as to what kind of elements Mother Nature is going to throw your way in your attempt to amass copious amounts of fun-size Snickers bars. I can remember Halloweens where the nights were balmy and clear, and others where you could see your breath and a shimmery sheen of frost covering the jack o’ lanterns. Those Halloweens were the worst, because that meant your Mother was going to make you wear your winter coat OVER your costume, thus negating the entire purpose of putting together a cool costume in the first place. Jedi Knights and Zombies don’t wear jackets!
Best: Ben Cooper Costumes
Certain brand names have become synonymous with the Holidays. On Easter, you use Paas coloring kits for your Easter Eggs, on Thanksgiving you eat a Butterball turkey, and in the 1970’s/80s, it just wasn’t Halloween without seeing a giant store display of these iconic Ben Cooper vinyl costumes. These “highly inflammable” death-suits consisted of nothing more than a creepy molded plastic mask and the cheapest, Z-grade Chinese-made vinyl body coverings that would’ve instantly transformed a cheesy, inaccurate Batman costume into the world’s most authentic Human Torch costume with one stray match. Still, these bargain-boxed costumes were adored by kids (and lazy parents who didn’t want to spend any time sewing). Plus, the unique smell of that cheap-o vinyl when the box was first popped open is one of the all-time greatest “kiddie-high” smells, right up there with fresh Play-Doh and uncapped magic markers.
Worst: Crappy Treats
One of our nation’s most hallowed rituals is the post-Trick or Treat sort, where a long night of soliciting processed sugar from neighbors ends when you rush into your house, dump the contents of your bag onto the kitchen table, and examine the goodies like a Pirate who just made off with a chest full of jewels and doubloons. If you were like me, you separated the candy into three distinct piles :
- The quality, name brand stuff – Kit-Kats, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, etc.
- “Second-tier” candy – Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, Starburst, Tootsie Pops, etc.
- The “reject pile.” We’re talking stale popcorn balls or anything “healthy” like a box of raisins, and the terrible off-brand candies like Bit O’ Honeys, Squirrel Nut Zippers, black licorice, peppermint wheels, and other assorted inedible horrors. Receiving these as a child on Halloween was akin to opening a brightly wrapped Christmas gift and finding socks inside. Let’s not even get started on the clueless do-gooders who felt the need to give out those travel-size kits containing a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush. There’s a special place in Hell for you, buddy.
Best: McDonald’s Halloween Pails
In the mid-1980’s, fast-food giant McDonald’s unleashed one of their greatest and most memorable Happy Meal promotions of all-time. The greasy treats came in these fantastic orange plastic Jack O’ Lanterns, which could then be used as a handy candy receptacle on Halloween night. They also made wonderful containers for toys, as I can recall storing hundreds of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures in them.
Worst: School-sponsored Halloween Parties
Halloween parties that took place in your elementary school gymnasium or cafeteria almost always sucked. If they were anything like the parties at my school, they were dull, sparsely decorated, poorly organized, and the costume contests were always rigged so that the kid whose Dad was on the town’s Board of Aldermen won first prize, despite having a shitty costume.
What is Halloween without Elvira, Mistress of the Dark? It’s 100% less sexy, that’s for sure.
Worst: Getting too old to go out Trick-or-Treating
I think we can all look back on the day we realized that it was no longer “cool” or appropriate to put on a superhero or monster costume, and go door-to-door asking other grown-ups for candy with tremendous sadness. I think my last excursion into a crisp October night to trick or treat was when I was 12 years old, and that was a half-hearted affair that involved a quick application of face-paint and a grocery bag. The cold, bitter realization that you were too old to go out on Halloween was one of life’s most depressing rites of passage. It was a crushing bummer, until you hit 17 or 18 and started going to “adult” parties. That was when the magical discovery of “sexy” Halloween costumes took the holiday to a whole new level…
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the late 1970’s/early 1980’s was the golden age of children’s plastic playthings. The introduction of Kenner’s 3.5 inch Star Wars action figures in 1978 revolutionized the toy industry overnight, and Hasbro’s heavily-articulated line of 3.5 inch G.I. Joe soldiers took the concept even further in the early 80’s. In an era not yet dominated by video game or computer technology, plastic action figures, accessories, and playsets seemed like the pinnacle of human achievement to an imaginiative nine-year-old. Perhaps I’m biased, but as a child growing up during this amazing time, I feel our monsters, starpilots, commandos, robots, and superheroes were simply the best toys ever made. Here’s a look at ten of my personal childhood favorites. I hope you enjoy this and feel free to list some of your faves in the comments!
10.) Zartan action figure with Swamp Skier, (Hasbro G.I. Joe line-1984)
Ahhh, the evil Cobra master of disguise. This action figure was highly sought after in 1984 as part of G.I. Joe’s third (and some would say, best) wave of military-themed toys. Other figures in this now-legendary wave included The Baroness, Mutt & Junkyard (the first toy G.I. Joe dog!), Firefly, and of course, the awesome ninja Storm-Shadow. Zartan, however was the Holy Grail of this series, mostly due to two unique characterisitcs: 1) He could turn color when exposed to sunlight, and 2) He came with a small vehicle, the uber-cool Swamp Skier!
The first feature was probably the coolest and held the most appeal for G. I. Joe-crazed youngsters. However, this gimmick got old pretty quick and was rather disappointing as the dramatic “color changing skin” turned out to be just one sickly shade of purple. I don’t know how useful it would be for someone’s skin to turn purple in the middle of a battlefield, but hey, it was pretty cool at the time. Zartan (an oh-so-clever re-working of ‘Tarzan’ with the T and Z swapped), also came equipped with his super-secret disguise kit, which was basically a snap-open backpack with a creepy little rubber mask that you could affix over Zartan’s face. It sort of looked like Henry The VIII. Again, I don’t know how this really qualified as a “disguise”. Any G.I. Joe member worth a lick would’ve just said, “Hey look, it’s Zartan wearing a Henry VIII mask!”, then promptly shot him.
This figure was so rare and so desirable that I vividly recall the only store with Zartan in stock was a place called Service Merchandise. The gimmick of this particular store was that everything was behind display cases, and there were no cash registers. You had to punch in the item number into the computer, then go over to another area of the mall where the items you ordered would be waiting for you to check out. Anyone remember that store? Very odd.
9.) M.U.S.C.L.E. figures (Mattel, 1986)
M.U.S.C.L.E. stood for “Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere!”, and boy they certainly were lurking around my house as a kid. I literally had hundreds of these little pink-colored plastic monstrosities, which I kept in three of those awesome orange plastic Jack O’ Lantern MacDonald’s Happy Meal containers. The M.U.S.C.L.E. line, like many of the most popular toy lines of the 1980′s, was imported over from Japan where it was known as Kinnukuman (Muscle Man). It was a popular comic book and animated series that followed the adventures of a bizarre intergalactic wrestling federation.
Of course, beyond the wrestling theme, very little of the Japanese concept made it here to the states. In fact, beyond the two “main characters” (in which there are several different versions of each), Muscle-Man and his arch-nemesis Terri-Bull, none of the characters were even named! Children were left to imagine names andstorylines for themselves, which was actually pretty cool and was a huge part of the appeal of collecting M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
M.U.S.C.L.E. figures came in packs of 4, 10, and 28. The 10-packs were my favorite because they came in a cool plastic trash can container, and for those of you who remember collecting these things, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say the smell of the plastic when you popped the lid produced an awesome “kiddie-high”. You couldn’t tell what 10 figures you were getting in these 10 packs, but I loved the surprise factor and the heated trading sessions that would take place the next day at the schoolyard to get rid of my doubles.
M.U.S.C.L.E. toys also hold a sort of bittersweet place in my heart because they were one of the last toy lines I collected before adolescence kicked in and the comfort of plastic playthings was replaced forever by hormones and junior high dances.
8.) The Adventure People Daredevil Sport Van (Fisher-Price Adventure People line, 1978 )
Wow, now this is going wayyy back. If you are reading this and actually remember the Fisher-Price Adventure People line, you have my utmost respect and admiration. The Adventure people line was designed to transition children from their Fisher-Price “Little People” playsets to more grown up “big boy” toys. Early on the toys featured Earth-bound, adventure themes with toy jeeps, rescue boats, motorcycles, parachutes, etc., and later they expanded to some very strange space-themed toys as the Star Wars craze swept the nation.
The Adventure People Daredevil Sport Van was pure fried awesome dipped in gold! I absolutely loved this thing, and you would not believe the play value I got out of it. Let me tell you, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. This sucker was durable. I received this on Christmas Day 1978 and it was in service to my action figures well into the 80′s. Heck, even Duke, Flint, Snake-Eyes and the boys used this van on their weekend camping trips while on leave. Of course, their camping trips would always end up with Cobra showing up and shooting the hell out of everything, but that’s another story.
The Adventure Van came with a cool motorcycle, a kayak, and for some reason, a parachute that you could lash to the top with what appeared to be an industrial strength woman’s hair tie. it also had a a sweet 70′s stoner mural on the side. Classic.
7.) G.I. Joe Skystriker (Hasbro G.I. Joe line, 1983)
Few things in 1983 compared to the majesty of G.I. Joe’s first toy fighter-jet, the Sky Striker. Oh Lord, was this thing glorious. Modeled after the Air Force’s very own F-15, the Sky Striker was gleaming white plastic perfection, with swing-wing action, a cockpit ejection seat (with parachute), the “Ace” pilot figure, retracting landing wheels, and enough missiles and bombs to annihilate a third-world nation. I wanted one of these so bad in the Spring of 1983 that I quite literally got on my hands and knees every weekend and begged my parents to take me to that holiest of Holy ground, Toys R Us, to procure my beloved Sky Striker. Sadly, I had to wait until my birthday to get a hold of one of the darned things, but it was so worth the wait. Awesome.
6.) Optimus Prime (Hasbro Transformers line, 1984)
When Transformers mania hit during the Christmas shopping season of 1984, it hit hard. It certainly whacked me upside the head, as I was desperate to see the mighty leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, under the tree on Christmas morning. Thankfully, the toy Gods deemed me worthy and Prime arrived in all of his die-cast metal and plastic glory.
Sadly, my affinity for Transformers toys began and ended with Optimus Prime. While I enjoyed playing with him and his cool trailer that opened up into a mini-base, I just felt the Transformers toys were a bit flimsy and I didn’t want to invest any more into adding Autobots and Decepticons to compliment Optimus. I was a G.I. Joe kid through and through. Still one of the coolest toys ever though!
Comic Book films have come a long way from the days of Adam West in chincy satin Batman tights spraying a rubber shark attached to his leg with “Bat Shark Repellent,” but just because Hollywood studios have learned to give comic fans faithful, serious takes on superheroes like The Dark Knight or Watchmen, doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of cheese being served up at the cineplex. Even the most grim, ultra-realistic depictions of caped and cowled avengers feature head-scratching scenes, moments, gags, one-liners, and hell – even entire sub-plots – chock full of idiocy. Here then, is a look at ten of these incredibly ridiculous moments in comic book movie history.
10.) Punisher Parkour
Hollywood has attempted to successfully adapt the Punisher to the silver screen three times, and they’ve completely missed the mark on each and every one of them. The most recent crack at the character, Punisher War Zone, came the closest to a faithful and suitably dark adaptation, but it was ultimately dragged down by a cheap Saw-esque look and a fair share of absolute squirrel-nut zippery craziness. In addition to some very over-the-top gore, War Zone features this silly scene where the Punisher miraculously hits a free-running street thug in mid air with a rocket launcher. I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous here, the fact that he is able to hit the parkour guy in mid-jump, or that there is no trace of blood or flying limbs, despite the previous scenes of Frank punching a bloody hole in a guy’s face and another thug getting his face blown away by a shotgun at point blank range.
9.) Green Lantern’s Hot Wheels Racetrack
So let’s say you have just been chosen to become a member of an intergalactic peace-keeping corps, and given a magical power ring that can create anything you can think of. Now let’s imagine a scenario where you have the opportunity to be a big hero by using said ring to save hundreds of people from being chopped into bloody bits by a helicopter careening out of control. Now, the logical thing to do would be to create something like a giant, glowing green catcher’s mitt that will contain the helicopter and gently lower it to the ground without turning anyone into ground sausage, right? Nope. Not if you’re writing the screenplay for Green Lantern. Then you’d idiotically have Ryan Reynolds create a giant glowing Hot Wheels© racetrack, and place the chopper inside a big green racecar that actually made the damn thing go faster and careen even more wildly out of control, making the situation 100% more dangerous. Brilliant.
8.) Superman’s Schoolyard Games
I can’t claim to have read every Superman comic in existence, but I have perused more than my fair share of the Man of Steel’s adventures, so I think I can say with the utmost confidence that at no point in the 70-plus years he’s been around, has Superman ever been able to make duplicates of himself that he can then teleport around a room in an effort to fool evil (and stupid) Kryptonian criminals. Nor has he ever removed the “S shield” from his chest, magically transformed it into a giant piece of cellophane, and thrown it over anyone in an attempt to deprive them of oxygen, either.
All of this is mere prelude to the true bugfuck craziness happening in this strange sequence of events in the Fortress of Solitude. At one point, Superman turns to Lois and says that he “played these games on the schoolyard and was never very good at them.” This is mind blowingly insane, because either A.) The writers forgot that Kal-El was only an infant when he was rocketed to Earth and never had a chance to attend Kryptonian elementary school, or B.) Superman was implying that he would deflect laser beams with his hand or suffocate normal human kids with giant cellophane “S shields” on the playground at Smallville elementary. Either way, it’s frighteningly crazy and makes absolutely zero sense.
7.) Daredevil’s See-Saw Flirt Fight
This idiotic sequence dovetails nicely from the “schoolyard” shenanegans of Superman II, as we are treated to more playground tomfoolery by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in 2003’s crap-fest Daredevil. In this ludicrous scene, blind lawyer Matt Murdock (who is secretly the blind, red-clad avenger of the night, Daredevil) is stalking and sexually harassing socialite Elektra Nachios (who is secretly the deadly ninja assassin umm…Elektra), while she is just trying to walk down the street and mind her own business. Murdock follows her to a schoolyard playground and continues his persistent stalking tactics in an effort to get her name. She tries one more time to shake the creep, but he grabs her arm, igniting an impromptu kung-fu fight on the playground which eventually spills over and onto the teeter-totter.
Now imagine if you have never read a Daredevil comic book in your life, or knew absolutely nothing about the character and you randomly came upon this sequence on a Sunday afternoon on the FX channel of Ben Affleck playing a blind dude trying to whack Jennifer Garner with his walking stick on top of a see-saw. You’d probably say, “what in the name of fuck mountain is this, and why am I watching it on FX? I think need to go outside and kiss girls!” Hell, even in context this scene is horrible and stupid.
6.) The Hulk Battles Mutant Pooches
I’ve previously mentioned these ridiculous gamma-irradiated schnauzers in the Top Ten Lamest Villains from Superhero Movies list, but the sequence in which they battle the Hulk certainly deserves a spot in this piece as well. Basically what happens here is that The Hulk’s insane and abusive father David Banner (played by a crusty and disheveled Nick Nolte) is doing his own home experiments with gamma radiated nano-whatevers, juices up three dogs with them, (one of which is a fluffy white show poodle), and sends them off to attack his son for a reason that is too stupid for me to remember right now. The end result of this is one of the most bizarre and ridiculous fight sequences in movie history. The dogs end up looking as ludicrous as you would imagine – creepy and cartoonish – almost like the dog towards the end of The Mask with Jim Carrey.
Thor has put down his hammer, and Captain America his shield. Lightning McQueen and Mater have finished the race. Green Lantern’s power ring has lost its charge. The pirates have sheathed their cutlasses. The cowboys have holstered their pistols. Hogwarts School of Wizardry & Witchcraft has closed its doors forever. The Transformers have returned to Cybertron. The Apes have risen. Summer movie season 2011 is at an end.
It was an overcrowded Summer blockbuster season, jammed with sequels, prequels, and four -count ’em FOUR, big-budget superhero movies. All of that competition ensured there would be no $500 million+ grossing juggernaut like Avatar or The Dark Knight. Instead, dozens of huge-budget spectacles battled eachother to eek out a $200 or $300 million take. There were many surprises, and a few films with lofty expectations crashed to Earth in a fiery wreck (I’m lookin’ at you, Green Lantern). So, without further ado, here’s LaserCola’s list of Hits & Misses for Summer 2011 Blockbuster season.
Hit: Marvel Superheroes
Marvel had the very daunting task of introducing audiences to a couple of superheroes that didn’t register very high in the public consciousness, as well as lay more groundwork for the epic superhero team up film, The Avengers. They succeeded brillianty with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. The former was a bright, fun Summer spectacle with Shakespearean overtones handled superbly by the very Shakespearean director Kennth Branagh. The latter was an earnest, un-ironic, rousing WWII-meets-superheroes adventure with beautiful period photography by Rocketeer director Joe Johnston. Even X-Men: First Class, following the dismal X-Men 3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was a surprisingly well-made and entertaining film; combining an Inglorious Basterds-like Nazi revenge film with a 60’s James Bond-like visual aesthetic and familiar superhero action.
Miss: Green Lantern, DC Comics films, and Ryan Reynolds
It was not a good year to be Ryan Reynolds. The actor tried desperately to transition away from smirky, comedic supporting roles to leading man status in big-budget pictures, only to see one attempt after another crash and burn. Buried, while garnering great reviews from critics, never got a wide release and made an anemic $1.5 million. Lame 80’s body-switching callback Change-Up with Jason Bateman was a complete bomb at the box-office. Most disappointing however, was Green Lantern, an effects-laden superhero spectacle that was meant to launch a successful slew of Iron Man-level blockbusters for DC characters, but was doomed by poor marketing and even worse word-of -mouth. It also didn’t help that the film itself was a poorly paced, laughably edited mess with gaping plot holes and weak villains. Green Lantern grossed only $53 million on its prime mid-June opening weekend, and has so far made only $115 million on a budget north of $200 million. Clueless Warner Bros. execs who don’t understand the character at all, have already greenlit a sequel, which they promise will be “darker.”
Hit: R-rated Comedies
Despite critics labelling it a lazy re-hash,The Hangover 2 still did huge business at $254 million, making it the third-highest grossing film of the year. This success seemed to carry over to most of the R-Rated comedies, as Bridesmaids was a huge surprise hit at $167 million and counting. Horrible Bosses didn’t have a huge marketing push, but still managed an impressive $112 million take, an even the execrable-looking Bad Teacher nearly managed to hit the magic $100 million mark.
Miss: Pixar’s Reputation & Animated Films
Though it was still a moderate financial hit at $186 million, Cars 2 was Pixar’s worst-reviewed film ever, and it put the studio’s impeccable reputation under scrutiny for the first time . Many media pundits and bloggers saw Cars 2 as a crass cash grab with none of the heart or deeper moral resonance that fueled previous Pixar masterpieces. Pixar chief John Lasseter admittedly stated Cars 2 was designed to be a fun, action/spy adventure film targeted at very young children. While there is certainly nothing wrong with Lassester wanting to branch out and do something different, critics felt the film was noisy, gaudy, and put too much emphasis on the character of Mater and his crude humor.
Meanwhile, Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda 2 underperformed at the box office domestically, barely surpassing its $160 million budget (it did do very good numbers overseas, though). Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the Summer of 2011 was the wholesale rejection of the beautifully hand-drawn, traditionally animated feature Winnie The Pooh, which was widely lauded for telling a heartwarming family-friendly story with beloved characters. It arrived with a thud, scraping out a disappointing $7.5 million opening weekend en route to a $26 million gross.
Hit: Super 8
Director JJ Abrams served up a slice of nostalgic movie magic with Super 8, a beautifully shot homage to late 70’s/early 80’s Spielbergian wonder. In a Summer teeming with bombastic robot carnage, colorful capes and masks, and fast-paced CGI wizardy – Super 8 returned audiences to a time when shots lingered longer, dialogue was delivered slower and with more impact, and every frame had a misty, dreamlike sheen to it. The gang of kid actors, led by Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney delivered captivating, innocent performances that brought back pleasant recollections of kid gangs like The Goonies or the Monster Squad. The spectacular destruction and fiery chaos of the train crash sequence is one of the most exhilarting set pieces I witnessed in the Summer of 2011. The film also did very well, earning $233 million worldwide on a modest $50 million budget.
Miss: The Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise
Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow shtick is getting old. The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film shed much of the convolution and bloat of the previous installments, but it also felt cheaper and downright arbitrary altogether. Ian McShane was wasted as the infamous Blackbeard, as was the potential romance between Penelope Cruz’s character and Capt. Jack. Still, it’s the fourth-highest grossing film of the year, and has made well over a billion dollars when you factor in foreign grosses, so we will be subjected to many more of Captain Sparrow’s tired antics in the years to come.
Hit: The Re-Birth of the Apes
No one could have predicted the late-summer success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It had everything going against it: An over-exposed and unpopular (at the time) star in James Franco, an August dumping-ground release slot, the memory of a poorly-received installment of the franchise by Tim Burton in 2001, and a mostly unknown director. But the film was helped immensely by terrific word of mouth about Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performance for the main ape, Cesar. The movie itself was very well-paced and crafted, and it looks to be an exciting launching point for a new series of Apes films.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon was another loud, dumb, sexist, juvenile, and incoherent explosion-fest from Michael Bay. The 3D was visually stunning, and in some cases vertigo-inducing, but ultimately none of the dazzle meant anything due to the obnoxious, poorly-developed characters and outright silliness. Yet, audiences lapped up Bay’s frosting-covered dog slop to the tune of $1.1 billion worldwide. Thankfully, Bay’s reign of terror is over (at least where this franchise is concerned). Rumor has it Jason Statham could be facing off against Megatron in future installments.
Hit: Fast & The Furious
This series, which reached new lows in both execution and box office take with Tokyo Drift, gained new life this Summer by adding a Rock vs. Vin Diesel dynamic, and transitioning from street-racing thuggery to balls-to-the-wall action spectacle. The fifth installment of the Fast & Furious series pulled in an astonishing $87 million opening weekend on its way to a gargantuan $605 million worldwide gross.
Miss: The Horror Genre
Horror had a…well, horrific showing at the box office in Summer 2011. The tone for the genre was set in April with the dismal failure of the much-heralded Scream 4. Shortly thereafter, Priest was released to atrocious reviews and an even poorer showing at the gates, making a paltry $29 million on a $70 million budget. A completely unecessary fifth Final Destination film stunk up theaters in mid-August, and horror-comedy reboot Fright Night with Colin Farrel vamping it up was D.O.A. at the theaters with a terrible $7.9 million opening weekend. The year’s lone horror hit was Insidious, which grossed $54 million on an unbelievably meager $1.5 million budget.
Hit: Harry Potter
After ten years and eight films, the Harry Potter franchise racked up enough cash to feed several third-world nations for decades. What’s remarkable to me about these films is the fact that all of the principal cast members(with the exception of Richard Harris, who passed away after the second film) appeared in every single installment and developed their craft over a grueling ten-year period. The high point of the saga remains Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban, but The Deathly Hallows Part II delivered a very solid conclusion to a saga that I have heard referred to as “this generation’s Star Wars.”
Miss: The Smurfs & The Zookeeper
Two examples of everything that is wrong with Hollywood filmmaking in the 21st century. Lowest common denominator drivel that exists solely to pander to uneducated audiences and sell products. Everyone involved and everyone who fell for it, should be ashamed of themselves.
BONUS: My Top 5 Best and Worst Summer 2011 Films:
Best: Super 8, Captain America: The First Avenger, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: First Class, and Thor.
Worst: Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Cowboys & Aliens, Green Lantern, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, TIE: The Zookeeper & The Smurfs.
The movie universe of the 1980’s was a dangerous place to be if you were even the slightest bit different. If you were poor, artistic, creative, intelligent, sensitive, weighed less than 175 lbs., or wore anything besides letterman jackets and acid washed jeans, you immediately became the target of ridicule and abuse from guys with mirrored sunglasses, perfectly feathered blonde hair, Lacoste polo shirts with popped collars, Porsche convertibles, and ludicrous trust funds. The bullies of 1980’s teen cinema were sadistic karate masters, intolerant rednecks, and drunk fraternity clods out to make life a living hell for innocent movie protagonists just looking to find acceptance in a new town or win a woman’s heart. Here then, is LaserCola’s look at ten of the biggest pricks in 80’s movie history. Assholes, we salute you!
10.) Mick McAllister – Teen Wolf (1985)
Played by: Mark Arnold
We begin the list with one of the all-time great movie jerks. Mick McAllister is your prototypical 80’s antagonist, complete with chiseled looks, athletic ability, the girl of our hero’s dreams on his arm, and a relentless drive to be the biggest douchebag on Planet Earth. Mark Arnold was 28 years old during the filming of Teen Wolf, so he looked extra intimidating during his reign of terror on the basketball court for the Dragons against poor little Michael J. Fox’s Beavers. Mick’s crimes against humanity in Teen Wolf include drawing 179 brutal flagrant fouls over the course of two basketball games; repeatedly calling Scott a freak, nerd, dweeb, geek, etc.; referring to poor, sweet Boof as a “tramp”; and being allowed to stand in the lane directly under the basket to stare down an opposing player attempting two foul shots, in clear violation of the rules of basketball. Total Dick move.
9.) Chuck Cranston – Footloose (1984)
Played by: Jim Youngs
Chuck is an especially violent example of a 1980’s movie bully. This Texas redneck jerkwad had the unmitigated gall to not only beat the living snot out of the film’s female lead Lori Singer, but he was also out to completely mess up the most perfect head of hair in movie history! Thankfully, Kevin Bacon’s Ren was able to bring back the power of dance to the town of Basin, and kick Chuck’s misogynistic ass in the process. Let’s hear it for the boy!
8.) Teddy Beckersted – One Crazy Summer (1986)
Played by: Matt Mulhern
In Teddy Beckersted, director/writer Savage Steve Holland created a cartoonish parody of the standard 80’s preppie tormentor that met all the criteria and then some. Blonde hair? Check. Filthy rich? Check. Mean? Check. Violent? Check. Hot girlfriend? Check. Gang of sycophantic asshole friends (including a particularly douchey and balding Jeremy Piven)? Check. Teddy loved doing laps in the pool, wearing sweaters tied around his neck, eating animal crackers, and beating the ever-lovin’ crap out of anyone who even so much as breathed near his Ferrari. (Apologies for the lame YouTube clip…apprently no one bothered to upload clips of Teddy bloodying up the Stork twins or playing a sadistic game of H.O.R.S.E. using poor Ack-Ack as a human basketball hoop).
7.) Steff McKee – Pretty in Pink (1986)
Played by: James Spader
Steff McKee broke away from traditional bully tropes in 1986. Since the protagonist in Pretty in Pink was a female, Spader couldn’t beat her up or give her an atomic wedgie in the locker room. He had to rely on classism and psychological warfare instead, using his wealth, status, and razor-sharp tongue to make Molly Ringwald and everyone around her feel like inferior pieces of shit. He also looked like a 36 year-old stockbroker hanging out in a high school parking lot. Spader deserves a ton of kudos for managing to look threatening while rocking loafers with no socks, an all-white linen suit, and a silk turquoise shirt unbuttoned to his navel.
6.) Hardy Jenns – Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Played by: Craig Sheffer
Another smug jerkwad in the John Hughes mold, Hardy Jenns added a physical menace to the Steff McKee template of upper-class superiority and psychological torment. This charmer had a Corvette, a power mullet that would rival Richard Marx’s, and he treated a young, blazingly hot Lea Thompson like a prized piece of beef until Elias Koteas showed up at his parents’ house with a group of 40-year old metalheads. Soon as that happened, Jenns reverted to the meek, pampered pussy boy he truly was.