Disney’s first big foray into the realm of computer animation would prove to be a box office disappoiuntmen in 1982, but garner a legion of fans over the years for its revolutionary design work and the influence it still continue to have in science fiction today. Jeff Bridges stars as Kevin Flynn, video game programmer, who is ripped off of several ideas by an unscrupulous power hungry man named Ed Dillinger. Dillinger soon starts a meteoric rise to the top of a powerful global corporation, Encom, while the computer that runs it has become so powerful that it is a life-force unto itself, thinking and talking (not to mention plotting world domination). Flynn tries to hack into the computer to get evidence of Dillinger’s theft, when the Master Control Program sucks Flynn into its own cyber-world, dubbed “the grid”, where programs in the voice and form of the programmers that created them are mere toys by which Master Control Program uses for its own enjoyment. Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan and David Warner also star in this film by Steven Lisberger.
Henry Thomas plays Davey, a young San Antonio boy with a vivid imagination and a love o fantasy games. The lines between fantasy and reality blur when he ends up in possession of a video game cartridge that is the conduit for top secret information wanted by some pretty bad hombres who will kill to get it. With the help of his imaginary friend, the daring man of adventure named Jack Flack, Davey must find a way to survive before more people end up dead — including him! Richard Franklin directs from a Tom Holland script.
Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy star in this major hit from 1983, one of the first films to break through into the world of hacking and the burgeoning internet, WarGames. Directed by John Badham, this tells the tale of a teenager who hacks into a database he thinks will allow him to play a not-yet-released video game only to discover he’s in a machine used by the military to launch nuclear missiles in a time of crisis. The computer has games of its own, one called “Global Thermonuclear War”, but the teenager soon discovers that the game may not be a game after all, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance, as the military brass must decide to counterattack what might be a simulation.
Although he had claimed to be done putting on the red cape after SUPERMAN III, Reeve is lured back to make a fourth entry with a different studio from an idea he had written himself to bring back the series to respectability. Alas, it didn’t quite work out that way in the end. Superman makes a decision to meddle in Earth’s affairs by getting rid of all of the nuclear missiles, but Lex Luthor has his own super-powered being to take the Man of Steel down before he interrupts the business of war that Lex relies upon for his riches. In addition to Reeve, Margot Kidder returns to a sizable role, and Gene Hackman returns to the series as Luthor. Where did it all go so wrong when so much seems so right? Vince takes a closer examination on this episode.
Just as Kal-El was sent by his parents to Earth from a dying planet in order to save him, so too did Alexander and Ilya Salkind try to save their dying franchise by trying to spin it off with a new character with Kara, Superman’s cousin, better known as Supergirl! Things didn’t quite go according to plan, however. Helen Slater is fetching in the title role, and Faye Dunaway suitably sinister, in the best of ways, as Selena, the sexy and scheming sorceress out to conquer the world. Is it fun? Is it dumb? Is it dumb fun? Yes, yes, and yes!
Gone is Richard Donner, gone is Gene Hackman, and gone is the epic feel of the SUPERMAN series with SUPERMAN III, in which the creators finally wrest the controls away to make what they’ve been wanting to make all along: comedies! Richard Lester returns as director, as Superman, once again played by Christopher Reeve, has to battle a genius computer hacker played by Richard Pryor from assisting megalomaniac businessman Robert Vaughn from taking over the economic future of the world through computer dominance.
A patchwork film that somehow still works great as a piece of entertainment, despite the switch in directors from Richard Donner to Richard Lester a great deal of the way through. Three power-hungry Kryptonians travel to Earth to dominate it, and the only one who can match them is Superman. Alas, he’s nowhere to be found, and has even sacrificed his powers in order to be with Lois Lane. More emphasis on humor and action than the first time out has some proclaiming that SUPERMAN II is better than the first. I debate my own feelings on which is better on this episode. Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman star, along with Terence Stamp as Zod.
The granddaddy of the modern-day superhero flick, 1978’s SUPERMAN put together a truly epic experience befitting a popular hero on the magnitude of Superman. Richard Donner directed DC Comics’ legendary property from his infancy on the planet Krypton all the way to donning the cape and costume to right wrongs wherever he may find them on Earth as savior of humanity. With treacherous mastermind Lex Luthor out and about, no one is safe, even Superman, if he has his way. Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando star in this grand action-adventure with lots of soaring sounds from composer John Williams and fun character touches from a capable cast.
One of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s, and of all time, Tim Burton would take the reins of Warner Bros. hugest hit with 1989’s BATMAN, a much more dark and eerie take on the character than any prior screen take to date. With a tremendous Danny Elfman score, hit singles by Prince, and a very energetic Jack Nicholson performance as Joker, it would be the movie to watch for its era, despite the Michael Keaton casting backlash leading up to its release.
Seven years after Wes Craven’s original adaptation of the DC Comics superhero, Jim Wynorski takes a stab by sending the whole thing up as a campy b-movie sci-fi/horror hybrid. Swamp Thing (Dick Durock again) is back as protector of a hot babe in the form of Abigail, portrayed by Razzie Award-winning actress Heather Locklear, to thwart the nefarious plans of her mad scientist stepfather, Dr. Arcane, once again portrayed by Louis Jourdan, who wants to take her perfect DNA to make himself live forever. It’s a bad film, intentionally, and in some of the best ways.
Wes Craven wrote and directed this adaptation of the DC Comics superhero, once a scientist trying to help humanity, who turns superhuman when he is doused with his own experimental formula to use plants to help humans while in the nearby Louisiana swamp. Adrienne Barbeau stars as the government agent sent to oversee the lab, with Ray Wise playing the scientist side, and Dick Durock as the hulking alter-ego, Swamp Thing. Louis Jourdan is the bad guy out to get the formula to use for his own nefarious purposes.
Note: I neglected to mention that next week’s show will be on the follow-up, RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989)
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s off-Broadway darkly comical stage musical came to life in 1986, directed by Muppet-alum Frank Oz, featuring Rick Moranis, and small roles for Steve Martin, Bill Murray and John Candy. Ellen Greene co-stars in this story about a 1960s loser who finds success with an exotic plant that makes all his dreams come true, if only he finds a way to keep it fed — with human blood! Production design and the catchy tunes makes this a favorite musical from the 80s.
Rounding out this trio of Hasbro toy-based films put out by Marvel/Sunbow in the mid-1980s, “GI Joe: The Movie” has the dishonorable distinction of being funneled straight to video and subsequently syndicated on television due to the lack of success for the “Transformers” and “My Little Pony” movies at the box office the year before. But does that mean it’s a bad film? Well, some might argue yes, others hell no, and many more fall under the category of loving it because it embraces its flaws and plays them up to maximum entertainment. Don Johnson and Burgess Meredith provide voices for this completely off-the-hook action-adventure-science fiction extravaganza that serves as a precursor to the dumb-but-fun action blockbusters people either love or love to hate from the 1990s.
Marvel joined with Sunbow to deliver the first of four animated feature films based on Hasbro toys in the 1980s with 1986’s MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE, which took the popular toy line of dolls resembling ponies and other animals (plus a few humans) and pitted them against three dastardly witches who can’t stand their rampant pleasantness. Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, Rhea Perlman and Tony Randall do their best to bring this colorful musical adventure to life. Critically and commercially tanking at the box office at the time, it’s about time we look this gift horse in the mouth and see what we find with this retrospective review!
The first of four feature-length ventures between Marvel Productions and Sunbow Entertainment that centered on toys made by Hasbro, THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE would make for an ambitious way to not only sell toys and entertain fans, but also to set for a new course for the animated TV series, in this bridge between the second and third seasons of the show. A critical and commercial misfire, the film has gained cult status among Transformers property aficionados and lovers of cultural oddities of the 1980s, not only for its bold story choices, but also for its eclectic voice actors (Orson Welles, Judd Nelson, Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, John Moschitta Jr, and Scatman Crothers), as well as its driving hair-metal soundtrack.