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Monday, March 29, 2010

Retro Flashback: Camp Cucamonga

In 1990, ABC gathered their finest teen idols and Camp Cucamonga was born. It's a fun but typical camp adventure with teen romance, adult shenanigans, and of course keeping the camp from being closed down.
This film has the most impressive cast list for a television movie. John Ratzenberger plays the goofy camp owner, Sherman Hemsley plays a wisecracking handyman and a pre-Leprechaun Jennifer Aniston plays one of the counselors.

The film truly belongs to the younger generation with Candace Cameron, Breckin Myer, Paul Savino, Chad Allen, Danica McKellar, and last but not least Jaleel White. This movie is worth it alone for Winnie Cooper wearing a Motley Crue t-shirt.

Other amusing scenes are Chad Allen portraying the camp heartthrob (Who else was shocked when he came out), Winnie Cooper and Paul Pfeiffer playing a couple, Candace Cameron playing a bitch for once in her career, and Jaleel White even gets his own musical number.

Poor Jaleel, little did he know that he would go from popular '90s icon to starring in such masterpiece cinema such as this.

I admit it, I initially Netflixed this to snark on but it's impossible. It's too fun and nostalgic and a must for anyone who was a kid in the late '80s and early '90s. By the way, I just realized that it has been exactly 20 years between the first time I saw this film and the most recent, I feel old.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Retro Flashback: Cocktail

Sometime in 1987, corporate bigwigs desperately try to think up a vehicle for the great Tom Cruise

Bigwig 1#: We need something flashy, something hip.

Big Wig 2#:Maybe he could be a soldier in the army.

Bigwig 1#: Been there, done that.

Bigwig 2#: Maybe he could be a wannabe ad exec

Bigwig 1# Too Wall Street

Bigwig 2#: Maybe he could be a bartender with some flair.

Bigwig 1#: Sold!

Cocktail brings us back to a better time in the '80s when a bad movie was the most embarrassing thing Tom Cruise could do. Tom plays Brian Flanagan, a former soldier who wished to become a marketing exec.

After being rejected by just about everyone, he decides to take some business courses. Unfortunately they are taught by a professor that inexplicably hates his students. This makes Brian lose faith in his dream: to create a chain of bars that could be put in every mall. Bars in a mall? I know they exist but seriously who goes to the mall to get hammered?

Desperate for money, he takes a job as a bartender working alongside Douglas Coughlin, the Yoda of the bar world. Brian and Douglas have way too much chemistry in this film. They should have irradiated the female love interests and turned it into a Brokeback Bartender scenario.

At first, Brian is a mess but there's a certain spark to him and he doesn't get fired. In fact, he becomes one of the greatest flair bartenders who ever lived. He and Douglas are so great that other bars are desperate to hire them. New York City must not have had talented bartenders since people had to go to dive bars to poach them/

But of course there has to be the obligatory betrayal scene. For some inane reason or another, Douglas seduces a girl that Brian barely cares about. This hurts Brian enough to pack up his hippy hippy shake and hightails it to Jamaica.

There he meets Jordan, played by the terminally adorable Elizabeth Shue. All it takes is a few kisses and Kokomo and the two are madly in love. Here he comes to wreck the day! Yes, Douglas reappears now married to a hot, rich, woman. He sneers at Brian dating a poor, cute, student when the island is crawling with Botox beauties.

Brian, who left town when a girl he barely liked cheated on him wastes no time cheating on Jordan, who he claims to love. Jordan finds out and leaves and Brian returns to New York with his new sugar Mommy.

When he realizes that all he is is a pampered boy toy, he dumps his sugar Mommy and tries to make amends with Jordan. It turns out Jordan is rich, pregnant, and not interested. He skulks over to Douglas' bar and asks for a job. Unfortunately, Douglas is a drunken mess and Brian ends up having to take home his wife.

The wife promptly comes on to Brian but now he has learned a larger lesson in life. He returns to Douglas who has committed suicide. Realizing that life is too short, he rescues Jordan from her penthouse prison and finally gets the bar he's always wanted.

They live happily ever after until Brian discovers Scientology....

Dead Until Dark (Mild Spoilers)

I am a fan of True Blood. I am also an avid reader. So it made sense that I wanted to read the books that spawned the series. Thanks to the awesomeness of ebay I have received the boxed set of this series.

Now, sadly, I have to say that Dead Until Dark is boring. It's an awesome book but it turns out True Blood stayed completely true to the novel. Which would've been more awesome had I not watched the series first. The whole mystery plot of who was killing the fangbangers had already been spoiled for me.

At least it gave me a chance to see what they changed in the leap from book to HBO. For instance, no Tara in the first book. She is in the series but has a smaller role. For instance, Sookie's brother Jason has a smaller role, he's still a suspect in the murders but the whole vamp blood/Amy Burley storyline was made up for the series. Tara also does not appear in the first book and Lafayette's is more of a peripheral character.

Nothing against the character of Tara but having Sookie with nobody close to her made her isolation and loneliness a little more believable.

I actually like the book's portrayal of Sookie and Bill's relationship better than the television's. Sookie is just a little more accepting of Bill's dark nature. When she learns that he killed a couple who attacked, she's just a little uncomfortable. Unlike the series where she completely freaks out.

Essentially Dead Until Dark covers the entire first season of True Blood. All in all it was a great book. But I was disappointed that I didn't discover the book series before the television series. I still suggest True Blood fans read this book, despite the spoilers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Retro Flashback: St. Elmo's Fire

That was just passion burning? Thank God, I thought I had to go the free clinic.

St. Elmo's Fire did the impossible, it ended the reign of the Brat Pack forever. Perhaps we weren't ready to accept our teen idols as grownups. Perhaps we weren't ready to accept John Bender as a yuppie Republican. Perhaps Joel (Bat Nipples) Schumacher really is an evil spirit and must be destroyed.

Our favorite Brat Packeteers (sans Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald) have graduated college and are ready to make their mark on the world.

Judd Nelson plays Alec Newberry, a Democrat turned Republican who wants to marry his live in girlfriend Leslie. However this doesn't stop him from banging every girl within ten feet of him. Judd Nelson glowers and snarls like an epileptic Elvis impersonator but never quite emotes.

Ally Sheedy's witchy weirdness is masked in the thankless role of Leslie. Leslie is a wanna be career woman who doesn't believe in marriage. Despite her character being terminally boring, she has two men fighting over her.

The other man is Kevin played by Andrew McCarthey with his perpetual deer-in-the-headlights gaze. Kevin is a sarcastic obituary writer who yearns to write something earth changing. Humorously the character with no life succeeds by writing an article on the meaning of life. He secretly lusts after Leslie and spends his time debating life and love with a neighborhood hooker.

Emilio Estevez ups his creep factor as law student, Kirby Kager. A chance meeting with a former crush causes him to become full on psycho. He drops out of law school, joins med school, works for a Korean gangster and goes back to law school all in one film. His stalking methods are rewarded though by a kiss from his beloved.

Demi Moore plays party girl, Jules. Jules is the talking handbook of '80s indulgence with her furs, coke, and pink Billy Idol inspired apartment. She is also under a mountain of stress and it culminates in a very '80s nervous breakdown reminiscent of a Bonnie Tyler video.

Mare Winningham plays Wendy the allegedly fat, virginal, heart of the movie. I say allegedly because in reality the actress was pregnant filming this movie. She's the typical rich girl yearning to be out on her own. She is also typically co-dependant on bad boy Billy.

Billy is played by Rob Lowe, chaos incarnate. The only married parent of the group, he blows through jobs and women like they are going out of style. But he only does that when he's not mangling his saxophone during awkward music numbers. Who didn't giggle hysterically when he left his friends to pursue his music career?

The movie in a word, maudlin, we don't even like these characters how can we root for them? Watching a bunch of Yuppies in trendy clothes and fab apartments complain about how hard life is not your typical post college experience. Why not show the real world of post college life? Medium wage jobs, that small apartment you can barely afford and eating Top Ramen more times that you need to.

Rather than fade away, this film continues to thrive. CBS is planning on making a series based on St. Elmo's Fire.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Party Never Stops: Diary of a Binge Drinker

Jesse is a blond, beautiful, smart girl with a bright future. She's also a character in a Lifetime movie. I'm gonna sing the doom song now.

Jesse meets her roommate, Shanna, and the two hit if off. Even though Shanna is a sorority pledge and Jesse is a jock. Suddenly a gaggle of giggling teenagers burst in bearing champagne and plastic champagne glasses. It turns out the single glass of champagne was super fun and leads her down the windy path of self-destruction.

Shanna begs Jesse to attend a party with her. Jesse can't, she has a 10:30 class in the morning. Jesse, you bloody amateur, you can party and still attend a 10:30 class, stop whining, and start binge drinking like Lifetime told you.

Soon Shanna and Jesse are three sheets to the wind and grooving to the most generic dance music that Lifetime likely got at a clearance sale. Oh horror of horrors, Jesse wakes up at 10:16 am and is late for class. She meets a nice guy named Colin who saves her from falling asleep in class.

Jesse tries to straighten up and fly right but misses the fun that booze and parties brought her. Shanna meets a guy and is rarely home. While having coffee with Shanna, Jesse notices Colin playing guitar on the street. If his tuition is reliant on his musician skills, he better drop out right this minute.

We cut back to poor Nancy Travis whose whole storyline so far consists of her missing her daughter. Lifetime wasting Nancy Travis' talent since 2007. At Shanna's bequest, Jesse agrees to go to a fraternity luau. Plastic cups of daiquiri goodness follow.

Jesse goes on a double date with Shanna and a couple of cardboard cutout studs. A nervous Jesse takes a swig out of a flask. Colin is there performing and gives Jesse an impromptu serenade.

Jesse gets drunk, loses her virginity to the cardboard cutout, and misses class. Of course, cardboard cutout doesn't call and Jesse begins to spend time with Colin who doesn't drink. Cardboard cutout finally calls and she ditches Colin. She only orders a Diet Coke, but no fear cardboard cutout has a flask. The flask to student ratio is very high at this college.

It turns out cardboard cutout has a girlfriend. Jesse mopes to a sad, generic, Sade ripoff until she gets the strength to party again. She drinks, falls asleep in class, and avoids her mother's calls.

Shanna and Jesse vow to stay at school and have a sober Thanksgiving with Chinese food and Spanish soap operas. Jesse goes home for Christmas and lies to her mom that she doesn't drink. Shanna gives her a fake ID as a gift. Colin asks Jesse out a date but she decides to hit the bars instead.

Jesse hooks up with some random guy and loses her cell phone. Nancy Travis wastes some more talent waiting by the phone. Jesse is horrified that she hooked up with someone she didn't know.

Nancy Travis finally does something in this movie. She goes up to surprise her daughter only to find her drunk. Jesse insults her mom who leaves but tells her that this isn't over. Shanna begs Jesse to lie to her mom and go to San Diego for a sober spring break. Sure, all the college girls go to spring break to avoid drinking.

5 seconds later, she is drunk again. She enters a wet t-shirt contest and flashes the crowd, unaware that a video camera is filming. Of course all that drinking catches up with her and she doesn't make the track team. Jesse's dirty video hits the Internet and her mother orders her to stop drinking or she'll stop paying for college.

Jesse heads to the frat for a non-drinking night of movie watching. Yes, lots of girls who want to quit drinking go to a frat to avoid alcohol. She sees cardboard cutout macking on some random girl and decides to drink.

Jesse's mom looks up binge drinking on the Internet. The viewers are bombarded with a bunch of statistics. Sexual assaults, vandalism, and death, oh my. Someone asks a frat brother to move his car, Jesse insists that he's too drunk and does it instead. She crashes into a fire hydrant and the campus police arrive.

Jesse only gets probation though and promises her mom that she'll go to counseling. In a guitar driven montage, she gets her act together and hooks up with Colin. As the school year ends, Shanna invites Jesse to a party on the roof, Jesse declines. Shanna swears that she'll only have a couple. Why do I suddenly get the feeling that Shanna's gonna go squish?

Jesse and Colin wind up attending the party and are greeted by a drunk Shanna. Jesse is kind of disgusted by the way the girls are behaving and leaves. Shanna doesn't go squish but instead goes to the frat house for more booze.

Colin admits that he used to be a drinker and lost his scholarship and girlfriend because of it. She kisses him. We see Shanna showing up at another party. Shanna succumbs to sweet lady alcohol poisoning.

Everyone learns a larger lesson in life. And once again Lifetime cruelly snatches two hours our of my life.