I never saw Oliver and Company when I was a kid but I remember seeing the trailer for it whenever we watched a Disney film on VHS. Every time I saw it I wanted to watch it but it never happened. Probably because I’d get too distracted by whatever Disney film I was going to watch. It always looked really fun and, as someone who loved dogs, I was obviously into the idea of Oliver Twist being remade with animals. I mean if The Lion King has taught us anything it’s that taking a piece of great literature and retelling it with animals is a great strategy for storytelling. I mean who’d even heard of Hamlet before Disney introduced us to Simba, right? Plus, there is a whole host of Disney films that prove that dogs and/or cats having adventures together is an instant winner. I’m not a big fan of Dickens anyway so I couldn’t imagine how it could get any worse by involving household pets.
When I first came up with my Throwback Thirty idea there were a handful of movies that I was super excited about. This week’s film is one of the most exciting. I have always loved a good B movie and, despite my avoidance of traditional horror stuff, will always have time for a worthy comedy horror film… especially one starring aliens that look like clowns. I know a lot of people who are freaked out by clowns but I’ve never seen it. Maybe it helped that I never accidentally watched IT when I was a kid but I’ve never really been fussed either way about clowns. I did work with a guy who was absolutely terrified by them. I admit, we all kind of abused the situation and I was, at times, guilty of humming circus music whenever he was around. It genuinely used to freak him out because he was that scared. Yes, it was a dick move but, in my defence, it was really funny too. So I’d imagine that he’d never seen the 1988 classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space because that would be mental. Like the girl who was in the year below me at uni who was afraid of balloons and, during out college’s end of year party, freaked out during the balloon drop. I’d grabbed a balloon and she forced me to pop it. I was fucking livid! Mate, if you get so freaked out by balloons then why turn up to a place where you know there’ll be shit loads of them???? Not that I’m still bitter 10 years on or anything…
I have to say, I’m quite enjoying this journey back to the year I was born. I mean, politically it was a pretty shitty time in the UK but there are plenty of cool films that I’m yet to discover. I’m not suggesting that all films from this year are going to be stellar or even completely watchable but I’d say, on a whole, I’m not ashamed of my birth year. I discovered the other day that a lot of the films in my TBT jar are currently on Netflix UK. I guess its possible 1988 films are popular because of the big 3-0 anniversary but maybe it’s just cheaper. I don’t know and, really, I don’t care. If it’s as simple to get through my Throwback Thirty list as turning on Netflix and relaxing then I’m happy. Still, it does mean I’m taking the whole ‘randomly pick a film out of the jar’ thing a little less seriously. I genuinely picked a Netflix film this week but, after finding so many on there, I’m tempted to change the rules. The problem is, there are a lot of films in the jar that I love or am super keen to watch but a fair few that I think it will be tougher to get myself to watch. The more serious and filmy films. If I don’t stick to the “rules” then I’ll only watch the ridiculous films like Killer Klowns From Outer Space or Who Framed Roger Rabbit and not the films like Cinema Paradiso. Basically, I’d just watch films that meant I didn’t need to think. I wasn’t sure how I’d fair with today’s prompt but I sat down anyway. After all, I’m a big fan of Alec Baldwin’s face in the 80s and, even though he’s only in this film briefly, it was enough of an incentive.
I have a confession to make before we carry on with out weekly business of reviewing a random film from the year 1988. This wasn’t the film that I originally pulled out of my jar for this week. Yes, I have (kind of) cheated on my Throwback Thirty mission and we’re only 3 weeks in. Last week I pulled Short Circuit 2 out of the jar and was all set to do my usual thing. However, in an act of insanity I decided it was only fair to rewatch Short Circuit before the sequel in order to get the best viewing experience. As such, my week just got away from me and I decided I wouldn’t have time to fit everything in. In an act of utter desperation and reeking with shame, I pulled another name out of the jar. So, I will watch Short Circuit 2 in time for next Thursday. I, bizarrely, feel genuinely quite bad about having to cheat this week. It’s madness because it’s a format that I imposed myself and a series of rules that I, alone, am enforcing. I could do whatever the fuck I wanted and nobody reading this would know. But it means a lot to me for some reason… probably because I have so little going on in my life right now. So, unfortunately, my viewing this week has been a little tainted with my disappointment in myself. An immense shame considering my second pick from my jar of films is one of my favourites in there. It’s also the only time that I can think of that I’ve found myself attracted to Alec Baldwin. There’s something about the combo of those glasses, that hair, and his tan trousers that just gets me… but I digress.
Back for the second in my new series Throwback Thirty. Where I randomly pick a film from 1988 and review it in honour of my upcoming 30th birthday. Self-obsessed? Maybe. Fun? Well, that depends on the film really. There’s a mixed bag of serious and silly in my jar so I do have a slight fear every week that it’ll be something I’m not in the right frame of mind for. As much as I wanted to pick all of the shittest and strangest films I could find, I decided, if I was going to do this, I should at least do it properly. This means there are a fair few films that I’ve not seen. Including today’s pick. I’m a fan of Monty Python because, let’s face it, who isn’t a fan of them? Not only am I British, so it’s in my blood, but I’m a huge fan of weird humour. And it doesn’t get much weirder than those guys. Still, my love of Python hasn’t completely pushed me towards the films of Terry Gilliam. I’ve not seen them all and it’s mainly because I don’t know where to start. Gilliam has had a mixed career as a director in the minds of many people but also hailed as a genius. The Gilliam I’ve seen has also been a mixed bag. So I was quite excited about the prospect of watching this film. It is infamous for having a troubled production and bombing at the box office. If I’m going to work my way through Gilliam’s back catalogue I might as well start here.
So today is the first in my new series that I have, ingeniously, called Throwback Thirty. As I laid out in my blog update post, for the next 52 Thursdays, I will review a film that came out the same year that I was born. This is all in honour of my 30th birthday: an event that will take place on March 5th. Am I making a big deal of it in the hope it distracts me from the fact that I’ve not made it to the point I thought I’d be at this age? Maybe? Am I also hoping that seeming okay with it will make me comfortable with being a 30 year old? Maybe? Am I just using it as an excuse to watch loads of questionable 80s movies? Erm… hells yeah! I am a huge love of 80s films anyway so a year of watching some of my old favourites and some that I’ve never seen before sounds perfect. I’ve put the title of loads (way more than 52) films in a jar and each week I will pick out a title. By happy circumstance that first title I picked out was Twins. I guess it’s only right considering I am, in fact, a twin myself so this is also my sister’s 30th birthday year. In our 3 decades together, my sister and I have never got involved in a dodgy deal about a prototype fuel injector but we’ve got into some scrapes. I’ve got no doubt that I’d be the Danny DeVito of the pair and she’d be Arnie… although I’m not sure she’d necessarily think that was a good thing. We’re very different people. Me? I’ve been practicing trying to say “put the cookie down now” in my best Arnie voice ever since I watched Jingle All the Way last month.
Everyone knows the score when it comes to buddy cop movies. We’ll be introduced to two police officers and will quickly discover that, unfortunately yet hilariously, the pair are polar opposites of each other. No matter where the difference comes from it will create tension as the pair try to come together to bring down the bad guy. It feels like we’ve seen the set-up in every fucking way possible by this point. It’s a timeless classic that writers will continue to come back to. And who should we blame for this? Well, the idea of the odd couple is an incredibly old one but it was the 80s and 90s that really saw the whole buddy cop thing take off. As we all know, one of the greatest uses of the formula comes in a film that just so happens to be celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. It’s also a fucking classic film that I really just wanted to excuse to see after watching The Nice Guys. After all, there’s no such thing as too much Shane Black.
On Tuesday I discussed the fact that, for whatever reason, I can’t seem to distinguish between Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson in my head. I know I’m not a big fan of one of them but always forget which one it is. I think the confusion comes from my love of 80s movies. After all, Mel Gibson is the star of some of my favourite action films so I guess I assume he’s the one I love. He isn’t. He’s just the kind of crazy, anti-Semitic guy who rants about everything these days. Yet, once upon a time, he was the unhinged super cop grieving for his dead wife. Along with Danny Glover and thanks to a sharp script from Shane Black, Mel Gibson has become forever linked with the buddy cop genre. 1987’s Lethal Weapon quickly became the template for modern examples of these types of films and was the first in a long line of great scripts from Black. It’s an important movie in film history but, more importantly, it’s also a really good one.
Even though I’ve never been completely comfortable with the opening. Now I’m not talking about the death of a young woman as she falls from her top floor hotel balcony. No, I’m talking about the moment when Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is surprised by his family whilst he’s taking a bath. It’s so fucking weird. I get that it’s his birthday and they want to celebrate but give the man some privacy. Who wants their kids to sing happy birthday as their dad’s dick is on full show? What kind of kid would be okay with that scenario? It’s never sat right with me and it will always make me cringe.
Still, the moments passes and we quickly learn that Murtaugh is nearing retirement age and is looking for a quiet life. Obviously, that all changes when he’s partnered with Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) who, rumour has it, is either crazy or hoping to get sick pay by acting crazy. You see, Riggs has seen shit. He was an expert marksmen during the Vietnam War and is still haunted by his past. To top it all off, his beloved wife has died meaning he’s living alone in an RV. He’s got something of a death wish but fails to finish the job himself. It gives Mel Gibson plenty of chances to stare wildly into people’s eyes and there are several weird and ugly close-ups of his unblinking, crazy expressions. So, why, I hear you ask, is this unhinged man allowed to continue working in law enforcement? Well, he’s just that good a detective, goddammit.
The pair take on the case of the dead girl and discover that the apparent suicide is actually something much darker. The find themselves running from drugs barons and blonde henchmen. Really, the plot isn’t really important. It’s just a generic reason for getting the pair into situations where they must shoot or fight there way out. There’s very little actual detective work but plenty of kidnappings, shoot outs, and terrible martial arts to make up for that. The thing that really matters with Lethal Weapon is Shane Black’s script. He, once again, created a strong and sharp premise that includes plenty of great back and forth between the main pair. It became the staple for the film’s to follow in its footsteps and pushed Black along the path to greatness. There’s action a plenty but this film is also funny and tender. It’s the kind of thing that, in the wrong hands, would just come across as absurd and stupid but, for some reason, it comes together. There is enough energy and drive from all corners that you can’t help but get swept away in the excitement. It’s a fucking classic.