The Best, the Beautiful, the Only…Ghostbusters

It’s been just over three months since Sony Pictures Entertainment released the first North American trailer of Ghostbusters (2016) on YouTube. Since then the preview has garnered more than 33.6 million views, 250,608 “likes,” and 872, 947 “dislikes.”*

To put this in perspective, 20th Century Fox’s teaser trailer for the 2015 reboot of the Fantastic Four received 17.5 million views, 71,285 “likes,” and 20,239″dislikes.” That means roughly 78 percent of viewers responded favorably to Fantastic Four while the same percentage responded negatively to the new Ghostbusters trailer.

The reason I bring this up is because Fantastic Four is considered by several prominent critics and aggregate review websites as one of, if not the, worst movies of 2015.

Now at the end of the day these are just previews, and one could argue that perhaps 20th Century Fox was just better at making a good trailer that ultimately failed audience’s expectations. Or it could mean that Sony’s new Ghostbusters movie is going to be an unequivocal ammonia-wrenched bowl of donkey piss so reviled that it will go down in history as a film that failed before it even got off the ground all the while puking on the grave of one of the great comedy screenwriters of all time.

Ghostbusters_cover

Original artwork from 1984

It could be that. And in fact, it will almost certainly be that. Based on the 4 minutes and 51 seconds of official North American preview of Ghostbusters (2016) there can be no doubt Hollywood has finally gone too far. Sony Pictures, and Paul Feig and Katie Dippold, and everyone involved in this dumpster fire have begun plucking at the last of a handful of unsoiled cinematic masterpieces all in the name of profit. What’s most disheartening about this entry is it doesn’t even bother to honor the original; it rides on the coattails of what came before and aggrandizes itself for getting a pig in a dress and calling it the prom queen.

Now before anyone goes off, I am going to state it for the record: my negative attitude for this film has nothing to do with the all-female reprisal. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t get it. Is it supposed to be a political statement? If you’re going for a philosophical point, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a gender-mixed team? Maybe a homosexual Ghostbuster? The LGBT-community is woefully lacking in prominent film roles; wouldn’t that be more reflective of the makeup of our society?

But I digress, they’re all women. Who cares?

Well, apparently a lot of people. As it turns out I’m not the only one who is sick of seeing Hollywood bilk every last cultural milestone of my generation into a bloodless shell of itself. Take it from a guy who is an even bigger Ghostbusters fan than I am.

For those of you who don’t know who James Rolfe is, he is a filmmaker and critic better known as The Angry Video Game Nerd of the popular eponymous web series. If his rhetoric seems a little similar to the writing on Retrobacktive, it’s not coincidence. Rolfe was a huge influence on the tone and direction of this blog; the idea being to create a literary version of his website, Cinemassacre. Rolfe is a wunderkind when it comes to interpreting allegory and was an early practitioner of celebrating films indelible to Gen X’ers.

Recently, however, he was skewered online by opponents who called his “non-review” of Ghostbusters (2016) as “sexist.”

Watch the video again if you need to, but at no point does Rolfe make any reference to the female cast of Ghostbusters (2016) other than to say it’s the only way to differentiate this version from the 1984 original. There isn’t a shred of sexism in that review, but there is plenty of defiance and somehow this has been interpreted as misogyny.

And this is what’s sinking Ghostbusters (2016) into an even deeper level of cinematic excrement. Based on the “polarized” reactions (i.e. wanton hatred) from online reviewers, Sony is aware they are sitting on a potential time bomb. So the filmmakers and cast have sunk to the lowest denominator and conjured up a preemptive excuse for the movie’s likely failure: blame it all on misogyny.

That’s right, if you don’t like Ghostbusters (2016) then you must hate women. That’s the only reason to dislike this film. Well, I’ll admit any picture starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones is a strong reason to dislike it. Wiig and McCarthy have made careers out of one-dimensional characters who lost any semblance of charisma years ago. And Jones is in the process of dismantling Saturday Night Live one awkwardly unfunny sketch at a time. So yes, I’ll will stand out on a limb and say the cast has something to do with it. But being a women doesn’t mean you get a pass from criticism. Funnier women could have been cast; it wouldn’t have saved the film because a Ghostbusters remake is already a bad idea, but it couldn’t make it any worse.

Still not convinced this isn’t misogyny talking? Let’s look at another Internet icon’s take on the trailer:

Danika Massey, better known as Comic Book Girl 19, preceded Rolfe’s video by a couple of months, but to much quieter fanfare. Is that because she’s a woman? Sort of, in so much as there’s nothing for anyone to attack. She made an apt video that summarized what most Ghostbusters fans were thinking. She even goes so far as to tell us not to go see the new movie. All Rolfe said was he wasn’t going to see the new movie. Well, take from that what you want, but both reviews share the sentiment most moviegoers are feeling: Ghostbusters (2016) is going to suck. And if you want to know who I most directly blame for this upcoming pile of bear shit, I’ll tell you. It’s Bill Murray.

Okay, so not really Bill Murray. It’s impossible to be angry at Bill Murray. But in a way Murray, and the rest of the original Ghostbusters creative team, converged to create a media vacuum that brought Paul Feig’s imminent disaster to life. In order to grasp its origins we need to go back almost 30 years.

The success of the original Ghostbusters film led to the creation of a spinoff animated series for ABC called The Real Ghostbusters. The Real Ghostbusters aired for seven seasons beginning in 1986, and was an instant hit. Based on continued interest in the franchise, Columbia Pictures pressured Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis to come up with a script for a second movie. Aykroyd and Ramis had gone on record stating that the intention was to create a conclusive film with the first Ghostbusters, and that a second shouldn’t be made. Murray, likewise, was against a follow-up as he has been plainly dismissive of sequels throughout his career, stating in a 1988 New York Times story, “The reason most people do sequels is greed. But if you do it for business reasons, you should be put to death.”

In a rare act of concession, Murray, as well as Ramis, Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, and director/producer Ivan Reitman, returned to make Ghostbusters II.

Released 27 years ago today, the film was a commercial success, but fell short among critics. Even the actors involved seemed to be aware that the original spark had fizzled. Murray noted in a 2012 interview with David Letterman, “It’s hard. Even the second ‘Ghostbusters‘ wasn’t as much fun for me as the first one. It’s hard to make a sequel.”

It was clear to everyone that the original Ghostbusters was lightning in a bottle. They tried again; it didn’t work. All was forgiven. Best to leave well enough alone, and move on.

Somewhere around 1995 Aykroyd gets this idea for a new Ghostbusters movie. It’s called Ghostbusters: Hellbent and it centers around the team entering a parallel New York that resembles a hellish version of their own. There’s no telling what inspired Aykroyd to come up with this new Ghostbusters story after the critical disappointment of Ghostbusters II, but the plot seems to share some elements with the very first Ghostbusters script Aykroyd wrote in the early 80s.

By this point Murray was a well established comedic star. Harold Ramis moved behind the camera and became a successful director. Aykroyd, however, had hit a slump. Failed big budget vehicles like Nothing but Trouble and Coneheads virtually sidelined Aykroyd into smaller, character roles. Some were commendable (My Girl; Feeling Minnesota), but his bankability was depleted. It’s all speculation, but in this case it may have been Aykroyd chasing down Hollywood.

One laudable story arc in Ghostbusters: Hellbent was a proverbial passing of the torch. The script called for an older, haggled Ghostbuster team (Aykroyd, Murray, Ramis, and Hudson) to train and hand down the mantle to a group of young cadets. Ramis stated in a 1999 Entertainment Weekly article, “dream plan is that Danny and I would produce it, I would direct it, and we would recruit some newer, younger, popular Ghostbusters to star.”Alas, the studios weren’t buying it (literally) as production costs for such an elaborate film were seen as too high.

Despite the transitional plot point in Ghostbusters 3, Murray remained disinterested, and by 2004 rumors of a third film petered out. Ramis revived interest a year later when he suggest in an InFocus magazine interview that he would like to cast Ben Stiller in Ghostbusters 3, but little came of his comment. Four more years passed before an interview in the Guardian Guide found Aykroyd speaking emphatically about the new Ghostbusters film.

By this time the big joke had become that Murray would only reprise his role as Peter Venkman if the writers “kill me off in the first reel.” Well evidently this only drove Aykroyd’s, Ramis’, the studio’s, whomever’s fervency because Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, writers and producers for The Office brought in to work on a GB3 treatment, actually came up with a story line where Murray’s character is killed off and comes back as a ghost. Even Murray remarked “well, that’s clever anyway” in a ComingSoon.net interview.

But nothing came of it. Murray held out. And for years the back and forth went on. Aykroyd told reporters in almost every interview he did that the new movie would go into production…soon. And Murray consistently declared disapproval. Eventually Aykroyd and Ramis decided it would be best to move on without Murray. Said Aykroyd in a 2011 interview with Dennis Miller, “The concept is much larger than any individual role and the promise of Ghostbusters III is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood.”

Well it turns out a big draw to the concept is one individual. In a 2012 interview with IGN Aykroyd said Ghostbusters 3 was in “suspended animation,” production had stalled, and that they couldn’t recreate the Venkman character without Murray’s approval. It seemed without Murray’s star power, there was no interest in a third Ghostbusters movie.

This should have put it all to rest. But here’s where my frustration with Murray kicks in. Just two months later at a Cubs game, a reporter for a local news affiliate, WGN, asks Murray about involvement in a second Ghostbusters sequel. Murray’s response: “Well, it’s a possibility…”

Really? After years of lambasting Aykroyd and Ramis for pushing the project, steadfast in his objection to a third film, Murray tells the world “It’s a possibility.” It’s by no means committal, but it appears it was enough to reignite the flames. Aykroyd seemed spurred on in suggesting the door was always open for Murray to return to the role.

Shortly after his Cubs-game comment, Murray appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. Pressed about his interest in GB3, Murray said, “Well, I think… we’ll try again. I always drag my feet on it.” I’m sorry, over 15 years of saying “no” is dragging your feet? I’d hate to see how long it takes Bill Murray to buy a car.

Perhaps Murray was just tired of answering the question: will he or won’t he? Maybe Aykroyd had finally warn him down. Or still yet it could he was in perennial jest with the world, ambivalent to his professional direction but happy to puppeteer his fans and colleagues emotions because they made it so easy for him.

By the end of 2013 only two things were certain about Ghostbusters 3: it involved a passing of the torch to a new generation, and Aykroyd really wanted to make this picture. Sadly it would not be Bill Murray who would have final say. On February 24, 2014, Harold Ramis died from complications with vaculitis at his home in Chicago. Any hope of a full Ghostbusters reunion was gone. And though Ramis’ involvement in any future Ghostbusters entry would have been downplayed in light of his illness, fans the world over realized the gravity of the situation. It was time to let it go.

Of course when there’s money to be made, who cares about things like desecration, exploitation, and greed? Certainly not Hollywood. Hence Ghostbusters (2016), a film that in four minutes and 51 seconds of preview pays no homage to the genius that came before it. Nope. We’re just gonna slap together some slick CGI, toss in a few caricatures, throw in a cheap cameo for blanket nostalgia (seriously, Murray, you came back for this?!), and bam, you have the definition of modern cinema: a gutless, vapid cesspool of timidity and impossibly low standards that intrigues audiences only by how low it can sink.

At the end of the day, I’m not really mad at Murray for stalling so long, or anyone else from the original production, even Aykoryd who championed the idea long after it should have crumbled. But I’m with James on this one. This movie is going to be a 35-foot-long, 600-pound pile of shit. I won’t see it. Instead of buying a ticket I’m going to use my money to buy a new copy of the original on Amazon, and encourage discerning fans – and from the looks of it there are many – to throw their own Ghostbusters (1984) viewing parties on July 15.

 

*As of this writing.

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X-Men: Apocalypse – a pre-Preview…of Why This Film Will Suck

You will have to forgive informality in this latest Retrobacktive post. We live in a fast world and there is barely enough time to climb atop the soapbox, let alone proselytize.

Summer is upon us, and hence the season of the blockbuster. But we are a far cry from Jaws and Star Wars. Today, May 27, marks the release of the ninth installment in the X-Men film series. And what 20th Century Fox seems to be bating audiences with is star power and little more.

X-Men: Apocalypse features on ensemble cast of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Olivia Munn. For the most part these are all reprisals for actors who have appeared in one, if not multiple, X-Men films already. So there isn’t much here to tempt your average movie-goer.

Oscar Issac joins the franchise as the titular villain Apocalypse. This acts as the movie’s lure. Apocalypse has been a prominent nemesis in the X-Men comics for 30 years. And we finally get to see him on the big screen!

That ought to be exciting for about 20 seconds. Then we get to go back to watching McAvoy and Fassbender ham-handily deliver their best Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen impressions, and see Jennifer Lawrence emerge as the new de facto leader of a young X-Men team. Why is Lawrence the new de facto leader of the team? Because of her star power. There is no other reason to explain it. Her character Mystique was never anything more than a secondary villain in the comics, but why relegate an Academy Award-winning actor to a bit part? That would requiring lending the audience respect.

Despite the fact that Bryan Singer has returned to the director’s chair, it seems the film studio and the writers, perhaps in tandem, have forgotten what made the first film in the series, 2000’s X-Men, a hit. With the exception of Stewart and McKellen – who still weren’t considered bankable actors at the time – the film was a collection of lesser-known players. James Marsden was up-and-coming; Famke Janssen was still known mostly for her Bond-girl status, and Hugh Jackman was virtually unheard of stateside. Halle Berry was the film’s only bona fide movie star, yet she graciously down-played her performance to give ample room to her teammates. Fortunately the acting trumped any grandeur and character development was allowed to flourish.

Now admittedly, this judgment is based on this movie’s cover, but it appears all 2oth Century Fox is giving us is a flashy new villain. It represents a bigger problem endemic in today’s cinematic culture: the bottle-feeding of American audiences. Major movie studios seem to have no faith in audiences’ ability to perceive thematic interpretation, that we may be able to comprehend allegory, mythology, metaphor, and god forbid, complex characterization.

No, instead it is simply more lasers, more explosions, more costumes, and more Wolverine.

It ought to be clear, however, that audiences want more than re-purposed junk. Two of the most successful action films of the last year have been Mad Max: Fury Road and Deadpool. Both rated “R,” both considerate of the audience’s intelligence. These were not perfect films, but breathed hope of life in the movie industry’s atrophied lungs.

Just as this summer’s new Ghostbusters film…(shutter)…panders to the lowest common denominator of attendance, so shall the latest installment in the X-Men franchise. Unless of course the sight of a bald Professor X is enough to push film-goers over their collective edge of excitement. Who needs a story – or brain activity for that matter – when you have the guy playing the guy from the comics looking like the guy in the comics?

Feral Max?

We do a lot of Mad Max posts on Retrobacktive. In case you haven’t figured it out, it’s a certain blogger’s favorite movie trilogy (if over 20 years pass between a third and fourth film in a franchise, the first three are a separate “trilogy”). To be fair, the fourth entry, Mad Max: Fury Road, is an awesome addition to the Mad Max catalog. Great action. Lots of fun characters. Stuff actually blows up.

Still, there’s something a bit off about Fury Road. It’s an excellent action flick, but it doesn’t feel exactly like a Mad Max movie. In a previous analysis, heavy examination was put on Tom Hardy’s portrayal as Max. Was it good? Was it bad? Is he simply not Mel Gibson and naturally going to have different mannerisms and quirks that will make his performance unique? Or is there something more going on?

Here’s what’s important to know: George Miller is as meticulous a director as can be. His attention to detail is legendary. In the former continuity of the original Mad Max trilogy, Miller was highly particular of the character’s timeline. His stance in the wake of the success of Fury Road has taken a 180 degree turn. Miller seems to want to treat the series as an anthology. It dismisses a lot of his earlier effort to create a linear story with the dots all finely connected.

So what’s happened? Has Miller changed his position? Are the original movies locked in time, and so far removed from the release of Fury Road that a few out-of-place hiccups were bound to occur? Or…

Is Tom Hardy’s “Max” really the Feral Kid from The Road Warrior?!

WARNING: endless spoilers to follow.

The_Feral_Kid

The Feral Kid

The answer is yes, and here is why:

1) His Family

Mad Max: Fury Road opens with one of the most gratuitous continuity errors in cinema history. Okay, it’s been 30 years since the last film; audiences needed a refresher course in Max’s history. But die hard fans were shocked to see a flashback of Max’s dead daughter.

Feral Max

The Feral Kid?

Max didn’t have a daughter. He had a son, Sprog, who was murdered along with his mother in the first movie. This is the pivotal moment that drove Max “mad.” How in the world could Miller have forgotten this detail? Given how precise he has been in all his other films, it’s impossible to believe he missed this standout component, and even harder to imagine that he just didn’t care. So already, something is off about our hero’s history.

2) Narration

Fury Road begins with narration provided by Max, something he never offered in the previous installments. There is, however, a rather omniscient monologue that opens The Road Warrior, which in a twist we find out at the end is actually the Feral Kid speaking as an older man. So the only time we’ve heard narration from a Mad Max film has been from the point of view of the Feral Kid. Even the term “road warrior” is unique to the Feral Kid, and it’s used by the narrator in both Mad Max 2 and Fury Road.

3) All the Grunts

Aside from the narration, the Feral Kid only grunts and hollers in The Road Warrior. Mel Gibson’s Max had a New South Wales Australian accent. Well, we could assume this is just Mel’s accent. But it doesn’t explain all of Tom Hardy’s grunting throughout the movie. His dialect has a completely different tone and cadence. So is it Hardy’s own spin on the character?

Tom Hardy went out of his way to try to work with Mel Gibson to honor the original actor’s characterization. Seems odd Hardy, who has shown a lot of promise as a credible actor, wouldn’t even make an effort to sound the way Max does in every other film. Yet his mannerisms certainly appear to resemble that of another Road Warrior character.

4) He Can’t Shoot

There is a scene in Fury Road where Max is down to the final four shots of a long-barrel rifle as he tries to take out the Bullet Farmer. He misses, despite the advantage of a large scope, until he has one shot left before conceding his bad aim and handing the weapon over to Imperator Furiosa who blinds the Bullet Farmer by shooting out his headlight.

In Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome as Savannah attempts to lead an unsupported scouting party for Tomorrow-morrow Land, Max stops her by firing multiple well-placed shots around her head using a long-barrel rifle with no scope at all.

According to Miller, Fury Road is supposed to take place after the events of Thunderdome. So when did Max lose his ability to shoot so well?

5) The Music Box

During their drive to the Green Place, Toast the Knowing is seen playing with an antique sound box. In The Road Warrior, Max gave the Feral Kid an antique sound box (they’re visually identical). We can only assume Toast got the toy from Max’s jacket in Fury Road. So what? It’s a desolate future with little-to-no food, water, resources, but there’s a ton of these little, broken music boxes just kicking around?

6) He Barely Knows His Name

When Imperator Furiosa first asks Max his name he doesn’t respond. Maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe he doesn’t trust her. Or… maybe he doesn’t have one? Later when Furiosa is dying and Max performs an impromptu blood transfusion to save her life he tells her his name is Max. His exact line is:

“Max. My name is Max. Max is my name.”

The way he says it sounds ambiguous, as though he were saying it for the first time. The Feral Kid lived his whole life in reverence of Max; he relays this at the end of The Road Warrior. One could theorize not having his own name, he decides during an emotional exchange to take up the moniker of his childhood hero.

7) Time Out of Mind?

The timeline is off. Miller claims Fury Road takes place after Thunderdome. Thunderdome takes place 15 years after the events of The Road Warrior. Max was 45 in Thunderdome; he’s supposedly 37 in Fury Road. Again, continuity errors are frequently dismissed when you have to consider the use of younger actors to play time-locked roles. But that’s for lesser directors. Not George Miller who went so far as to make Mel Gibson wear a single contact lens in one eye throughout Thunderdome to uphold the continuity of the character’s damaged retina from The Road Warrior. Miller could have just as easily said Fury Road takes place before the events of Thunderdome. But…

8) The Best Laid Plans…

Miller is likely holding something back. His comments on the “Feral Kid conspiracy” have been dismissive, but what other reaction should one expect from a visionary director amid reconstruction of his magnum opus? Miller has stated in interviews that he is moving forward with future Mad Max projects. If his intention is to have Hardy’s character be a grown version of the Feral Kid he’s certainly not going to admit it at this point in the series’ production.

Imagine what would happen if a few crafty film theorists guessed that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father after watching Star Wars: A New Hope, and what would happen if they presented this theory to George Lucas. Would Lucas just admit right then and there that yes, Darth Vader is Luke’s father? “There’s no point in seeing the next movie. You’ve figured out the mystery. Go tell your friends the secret while we scrap production of The Empire Strikes Back since there’s no point in making it now.”

It’s just business. Miller is not going to concede to any fan speculation at this point. With so many mediums and springboards for commentary someone was bound to piece together these clues. Though, to be honest, they were anything but subtle to avid Mad Max fans. Miller’s stoicism, nonetheless, is to be expected and can’t be read into anymore than good marketing.

Conclusion:

Tom Hardy is actually the Feral Kid. He grew up in awe of a heroic childhood figure. He pieced together a new V8 Pursuit Special, patched together an outfit that resembled his idol’s, and took on his name when pressed to reveal his identity. The events of Fury Road happen at a transitional period before he becomes the leader of the Great Northern Tribe. At some point he loses someone close to him, as Max did. Perhaps a daughter, biological or adopted. This, similarly, drives him to a breaking point. Though in the post-apocalyptic environment he grew up in, his violent sense of self-preservation is natural. His actions, much like the original Max’s, are in line with the essential behavior of anyone trying to survive such inhospitable conditions. To interrogate every last action of Tom Hardy’s character, or incur endless speculation of his motives, is something of a waste of time. Who wouldn’t be vengeful and unsympathetic in the dystopian wastelands of the outback? But there are more than enough physical clues to shine light on the new “Max’s” true identity.

This leaves us with what George Miller has in store for “Max.” According to tweets from the director there’s “more Max to come.” And a fifth entry in the series has already been given the working title Mad Max: the Wasteland. Some have argued Miller’s intent is to create an anthology series. Others speculate Furiosa will become the new lead character.

Whether or not Tom Hardy’s Feral characterization comes to fruition, examining Mad Max: Fury Road from an alternative lens opens viewers to new perspectives that may reinvigorate interest and personal fulfillment in the films. Despite his attention to detail, Miller is the kind of director who aims to challenge his audience with the hope they will conceive their own interpretations of his work. So if you choose to believe Tom Hardy is the Feral Kid, that’s who he is.

Admittedly, re-watching Fury Road from this perspective elevates the movie to another level of greatness and expands upon it’s range of emotional and mental dynamics…but, it’s still not as good as The Road Warrior.

 

 

Somewhere in Time

Predator is a great movie. The writing is fluid and memorable. The acting is layered in machismo, but earnest during necessary poignancy. Even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi, it’s hard to argue the impact of the special effects. There’s catchphrases galore. “I ain’t got time to bleed.” “Get to the choppa!” Also, it’s rated R, so it’s accessible on an adult level. Yes, Predator is a fun-filled, rock-em-sock-em action bonanza.

Predator_Movie

(c) 20th Century Fox

Another noteworthy component: no one has attempted to re-boot it into an impotent, degraded Hollywood vehicle for consumer extortion. Yes, there are sequels and spin-offs, but that’s not really new in the film world. Still, given the major film studios are either unable or unwilling to do anything other than cull new movies from well-known source material, it’s surprising, if not refreshing, to see at least one gem escape tarnish.

About one month after Predator‘s release in theaters, audiences were treated to another sci-fi action treat. Orion Pictures released RoboCop to commercial success and widespread critical acclaim in the summer of 1987.

Content notwithstanding, there’s a big difference between these two films. That difference is any reference to RoboCop today has to be prefaced with “the original,” to discern it from the soulless bag of garbage MGM and Sony remade in 2014.

Now if you maintain a rather nihilistic view of the current Hollywood trend to “re-image” every story ever told then you will likely brush off the barrage of limp blockbusters churned out every summer. What’s unfortunate is that while the common moviegoer is force fed cinematic gentrification, “classics” like Predator and RoboCop – yes, the original – are gradually fading from the cultural radar screen.

It’s unfortunate that assisting Hollywood in it’s dissolution of novel film making is a generation that seems to be inherently opposed to anything remotely antique. Its position on media seems to echo technology; if it’s not the latest and greatest then it must be outdated and unworthy of attention. This is a disservice to not only modern audiences but dedicated film fans who would love to see the next Predator or RoboCop, and not just some hollow copy of the original. But Hollywood’s priority is butts in seats, and if mediocrity is what people want…

On December 25, 2015, Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated The H8ful Eight came out in theaters, but only a select few retrofitted with 70mm film projectors. As arguably cinema’s purist advocate, Tarantino shot his latest movie in 70mm film. At this point virtually every studio the world over has switched to the cheaper, faster digital format. And if you feel the pictures have lost grandeur over the last ten years, you’re not crazy. That’s what digitizing everything does. Like the studios, most movie theaters have switched to digital projection, so even if you can’t see the movie as Tarantino intended it is still available as a worldwide release.

Regardless of the quality, The H8ful Eight embodies posterity if nothing else. People should appreciate that which came before, and understand that newer is not always better. In fact rarely is it better. The only instance that comes to mind is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. And even then these films only slightly edge out Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns.

And let’s be clear as to quell any notions of absent-mindedness: Mad Max: Fury Road is at best on par with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – it is not as good as Mad Max 2. And Star Wars: The Force Awakens just plain sucks.

What audiences (and to some degree artists themselves) seem to forget is that certain media milestones exist in a vacuum. No matter how hard you try it is impossible to recreate the circumstances that lead to brilliance. Franchises like Batman and Superman can be constantly updated as they have deeply ingrained themselves into our social fabric. We’re talking like 80- years-spread-over-multiple-media-outlets deep! Even if George Lucas himself returned to helm the latest Star Wars entry it still wouldn’t live up to expectations. He’s a different director than he was almost 40 years ago. Case in point: George Miller returning to the Mad Max series. And while Fury Road was not a bad movie, it lacked a certain recklessness the originals had – in all fairness, so did Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Despite this staunch stance, however, let it be stated for the record that the occasional remake isn’t a bad thing. Remakes are nothing new in the movie and T.V. world (how come musicians never try to remake albums? does anyone remember what an “album” is?). But there is a big difference in paying homage to something and blatantly ripping it off for money’s sake. David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly and John Carpenter’s The Thing are great examples of remakes that are superior to the originals. What did they do that was so different? For starters several years had passed since the originals were at the forefront of anyone’s mind. But most importantly these directors put new spins on the source material. The fact is these remakes would have been great even if no one had ever heard of the originals. No one was trying to cash in on a recognizable name.

Could someone remake Predator? Possibly. You’d need the right cast (who can replace Schwarzenegger in anything?), a solid R rating so it isn’t dumbed-down for mass appeal, and a director eager to put his or her own angle on what is a rather simple story. Then you might have something. But here’s a thought: why bother? Predator is easy enough to find on DVD or Amazon. It’s not that old. It holds up. There’s no need for an update.

And if it really is that you have run out of ideas, Hollywood, drop a line here at Retrobacktive because guess what? I don’t just write blogs.

 

Then & Now

Since its inception virtually all of Retrobacktive’s feature posts have focused on some tangible relic indelibly interwoven into the fabric of Generation X. Movies, albums, celebrities, even fruit juice have shined front and center as the perdurable stars of the show. Suspiciously there has been little attention to those esoteric components of the decade. The soul of the 80s, if you will.

It’s not a coincidence. Retrobacktive was cultivated in the catacombs of classic journalism where the word “I” is shunned and only hints of advocacy are allowed to permeate the context of the story. It’s a terse, matter-of-fact style; some might even call it boring.

But then there’s that voice. The inner firebrand, hand at the holster, ready to say, “you know what, this is how it really is, and you’d better believe it.” Might not fly on the front page of the New York Times, but this ain’t the Times. Are you here for the Times? You made a wrong turn on the Internet.

So here’s a thought: what’s changed since 1989? A lot, undoubtedly; we’ve covered this. But is it better or worse? Modern conveniences hold a powerful sway over society, but there’s a virulence to nostalgia with a way of luring people from their Apple-Ikea bliss. The past, after all, lives in a vacuum where only the good survives. Oh, there’s more than enough room for an “Everything Awful About the 80s” article. But for now let’s focus on the good old times, and what truly made yesteryear so bitchin.’

— Things That Were Awesome in the 80s —

1.) Phone calls

Alexander_Graham_Telephone_in_NewyorkSo first off, this list is only going to make sense to people who have souls. The modern world has morphed us into timid, ineffectual communication wimps. And most people are content to ideally stand by and accept Facebook as their artificial intelligence life planner. Here’s an idea: take a virtual trip back through time, pick up the phone and call someone. Thanks to all the passive forms of communication that exist today, no one has to actually own any social responsibility anymore. There was a time when that kind of flakiness was restricted to L.A. But now thanks to Facebook, email, and instant messaging, people have all the time in the world to come up with lame excuses as to why they can’t interact with you – or more commonly they can just leave any personal engagement into the infinite void of cyberspace. At least in the 80s if you were an asshole you had to be smart enough to come up with a quick lie over the phone. The world has always been full of assholes; okay, but can we at least have smart assholes?

2.) R-rated Movies

Movies come up a lot in Retrobacktive. It’s because they used to be good. Sure, there are some good movies today, those gems that poke their way out of the woodwork come Oscar season. Good movies were perennial in the 80s. Today you have to filter through the endless deluge of vapid Hollywood slop that pours off the summer movie conveyor belt. And it’s all rated PG-13. When the dollar usurped humanity as the universe’s most precious commodity (somewhere around 1999) the film industry jumped on board and said “let’s make every movie as palatable to the most amount of people as possible.” And the de rigeur MPAA rating for this new world order was PG-13. Excites kids; doesn’t offend parents. Everyone is happy… except discerning adults who would like to see Bruce Willis call someone a “motherfucker,” blow that character’s head off and actually see blood come out if it. At least we still have Quentin Tarantino.

3.) Music

No. Before you get excited, I’m not going to suggest music was “better” in the 1980s. Such a debate is an exercise in futility on par with arguing which fruit is the best fruit in the world. What was better, though, was how you got your music 20-plus years ago. Imagine going to a centralized location where all your friends are hanging out. You get to physically stand at the precipice of all your favorite artists’ cutting edge releases. Eyes and ears are intertwined as you scan the infinite aisles of invigorating artwork and listen to new and exciting tunes blasting over the PA while you shop.

That’s going to a record store, not slouching over your Mac while fishing through frustration over the digital pawnshop that is iTunes. Allow me to break my fourth wall to drive home a harrowing truth: until three months ago, I had not bought an album of music in seven years. Seven. Years.*

Call me antiquated but I never want to have to resort to tech savvy to listen to AC/DC. Music is elementally beautiful. Why must it’s delivery be so convoluted? I don’t like giving people money for anything I can’t hold in my hand and walk out the door with. Otherwise it leaves entirely too much trust in the hands of corporations and brands that have proven to be positively untrustworthy. But we’re modern people; we’re lazy and cheap, so Apple can perpetually spoon feed us shitty Taylor Swift songs then take them away every time they decide to update their software.

4.) Star Wars

Poster art by Tom Jung, 20th Century Fox

Poster art by Tom Jung, 20th Century Fox

Arguably the greatest movie trilogy ever. A bottomless well of childhood memories steeped in the immortal archetype of good versus evil. Here George Lucas architects the engine of imaginations for generations to come.

Then those stupid prequels came out. It would be bad enough to have to merely live with the memory of Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen’s emo-Anakin Skywalker, but that Lucas went and re-cut the original films to fit the narrative of the prequels sullies the whole series. This is the ultimate example of the danger in changing something for change’s sake. We get it, George; you’re a tinkerer. But even the strongest diamond can turn to dust if you chip away too long.

5.) Beer

For the record, craft beer is great! And it’s been great for awhile; the past 10 years have brought some outstanding brews to the flavor-starved lips of beer aficionados around the world. But the crest in this wave is about to break. Look, there’s always going to be room for experimentation and those outliers who push the envelope and aim for something higher. But not everyone has to buy into it.

The biggest beer breakthrough in the 80s was Bud Light. They took flavorless beer and made it more flavorless and less caloric. But it was still pretty much beer. The common thread that bonded beer in the Eighties was it tasted like beer. No one walked into a bar and asked for something “hop-forward,” unless they wanted a pogo stick thrown at them. No citrusy, piney notes, or orange garnishes, or glasses that looked like they were blown by a bunch of epileptics on PCP. And it was filtered. All of it!

Hippie Beer Rep: “We’re independent! We don’t filter our beer; we keep it pure! Whoo, go Kombucha ale!”

Me: “Dude, if I want sand at the bottom of my beer, I’ll drink it at the beach. Stop being cheap; buy a filter.”

Not sure how anyone else feels, but is all the craft beer starting to taste the same? It’s not the breweries. It’s our taste buds’ ability to adapt. You can only guzzle so much of something before it loses it’s inherent integrity. At least 25 years ago it was easy and inexpensive. Hey, sometimes beer-flavored beer is just beer-flavored beer. Good enough.

*It was Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor by the London Symphoney Orchestra. Still not sure it was worth it.

New Year – Retrobacktive Returns with AFI: Eighties-ized!

Hello, and happy 2014.

It is now a new year and aspirations are high. Given the plethora of twists and turns Retrobacktive has yet to explore (“give or take a decade…” Damn it! Where are the 70s and 90s?!), why not start 2014 with an ambitious undertaking married to a tried-and-true staple of the digital reliquary?

From 1998 to 2008 the American Film Institute presented 13 lists of movies that were categorized and rated based upon their merit and cultural impact. As one of those lists was an update presented ten years after the original, AFI compiled a total of 12 unique countdowns within their series. There are 12 months in a year. Thus (wink wink, nudge nudge)…

Here are the guidelines: Retrobacktive will present its take on AFI’s “greatest” series with an original countdown based upon the institute’s lists starting with 1998’s 100 Years…100 Movies. Each month there will be a new countdown that follows the next chronological list from the series. While some subjectivity will find its way into these lists, attempts to measure each entry based on creativity, legacy, and artistic merit are considered. All films will have been released between 1970 and 1999, with the exception of this inaugural list which contains only films released between 1980 and 1989.

Finally, considering the abbreviated era of time within Retrobacktive’s scope, only 20 films will be presented for each list.

This seems fair.

And so, our first drum roll for 2014 leads to…

20) Batman (1989) – Believe it or not, there was a time when superhero movies were not that popular. Today it feels like studios release a new comic-book flick every week, but back in the early 80s there wasn’t much outside the Superman franchise. By 1987, however, even that series had floundered thanks to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Warner Bros. had been sitting on the rights to Batman for some time, and wanted Tim Burton to direct, but were wary of the unproven director’s abilities. After the success of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, Warner Bros. greenlit production for Batman with Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Michael Keaton in the titular role.

The casting of Keaton as Batman sparked controversy among fans as he was known at the time for playing comedic characters. Producer Jon Peters, however, lobbied for the actor’s casting, and Keaton’s tormented performance is often lauded for adding to the film’s dark tone. Batman was a commercial success breaking opening-weekend box office records and going on to win an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.  While much of the character’s legacy today is centered around Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Tim Burton’s Batman deserves as much, if not more, credit for establishing the iconic image of the brooding, tortured superhero.

19) Return of the Jedi (1983) – To address the immediate concern of all Empire Strikes Back devotees, yes, the first Star Wars sequel was made in 1980 and could have been included on this list. But it wasn’t. And no consideration was given to include only one Star Wars film on this countdown, though in many ways Empire is the superior film. This is, however, an 80s retrospective, and when it comes to cultural impact that exists in the vacuum of time, it’s hard to deny posters of lovable Ewoks on every Gen X boy’s bedroom wall. As captivating as The Empire Strikes Back’s morose tone was, ROTJ provided a bit more of the effervescent jubilation inherent to the 80s.

18) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – John Hughes is as synonymous with 80s cinema as Woody Allen is with awkward charm – which incidentally is also what most of Hughes’ films are about. But Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is Hughes’ masterpiece. It inspires every boy’s favorite fantasy of dodging school to spend a day carousing through an urban wonderland with your beautiful girlfriend, best pal, and a really fast, red car. It may not have the varied introspection of The Breakfast Club, but who needs introspection when you’ve got Abe Froman: the Sausage King of Chicago?

17) The Thing (1982) – Allow me to save the trouble for anyone interested in seeing a Retrobacktive face-off between Wes Craven and John Carpenter for best 80s horror director. Carpenter wins. As great as Craven, Hennenlotter, and Barker were, Carpenter had a subtle charm that the others just couldn’t match. With The Thing, he nails it despite the fact that its gore level is through the roof. What Carpenter does with this remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World is elevate the psychological component of isolation and distrust among those fighting for survival. This is a more faithful recreation of the original source material Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, only with all the grizzly benefits of 80s animatronics.

16) The Princess Bride (1987) – “Hello. My name in Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “Good luck! Have fun storming the castle!” “Never go in with a Sicilian when death is on the line.” Shall I continue? “Miracle Max: Beat it or I’ll call the brute squad. Fezzik: I’m on the brute squad. Miracle Max: you are the brute squad.” Swashbucklers may have seem dated in the era of big hair and neon tights, but The Princess Bride out-slices any Errol Flynn flick. Although lead stars Cary Elwes and Robin Wright never recaptured the recognition this film brought them, they are supported by one of the strongest casts ever assembled for the screen, including Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Chris Sarandon, and the undeniably charismatic Andre the Giant.

15) Top Gun (1985) – It was the movie that made Tom Cruise a bona fide superstar. All those retro-trendy aviator sunglasses the hipsters sport now? Guess where the trend originally started. Cruise’s cocky-yet-competent fighter pilot Pete Mitchell personified a decade marked by brazenness – Pete’s ‘call name’ is Maverick after all. When he’s not buzzing the tower in an F-14 jet, Mitchell races his motorcycle down runways, picks up girls with cheesy renditions of Everly Brothers tunes, and rocks a mean pair of tighty-whiteys (admit it, fellas, we all think of buying some after watching Top Gun). Despite being the Miami Vice of the Air Force, this movie continues to hold its own against today’s ubiquitous military dramas. While known better now for his outlandish talk show appearances and devotion to Scientology, Cruise gives a meaningful performance nuanced with brushstrokes of human infallibility. Watching Top Gun today consistently begs the question can’t someone tell Tom Cruise to go back to drama.

14) The Road Warrior (1981) – Few film franchises have ignited legacies as indelible to an era as George Miller’s Mad Max series. Images of leather-clad, mohawked biker gangs set against the backdrop of desolate wastelands became staples of 80s post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

The original Mad Max was a cultural phenomenon that realized massive global success and sparked the Australian New Wave cinema craze. The one country where it remained relatively unknown was the United States. When Miller and production partner Byron Kennedy decided to make a sequel it was simply dubbed Mad Max 2. Warner Bros., however, feared American audiences wouldn’t relate to the subject matter as a sequel, so the stateside release of the film was titled The Road Warrior. And unlike Mad Max, it found critical and commercial success in the U.S., as well as the rest of the world.

Much like a western, the plot is uncomplicated; Mel Gibson’s despondent anti-hero rediscovers his lost humanity while aiding a group of settlers in their battle against a merciless group of thugs. Where the films excels is in its fast-cut pacing, non-stop fight scenes, and one of the greatest car chases ever captured on film.

13) The Fly (1986) – Here is another example of a classic 50s horror film – based on an innovative sci-fi short story – being updated in an age of seemingly limitless cinematic effects work. The Fly is arguably the greatest “science-experiment-gone-wrong” story ever told, and there was no better director to capture the torturous physical and mental transformation of Jeff Goldblum’s doomed main character than David Cronenberg.

After finding success with cult horror films such as Scanners and Videodrome, Cronenberg was primed to make his mark with a big-budget production. He delivered with a reinterpretation of George Langelaan’s 1957 short story about a scientist whose experiments with teleportation go horribly wrong when a housefly is sent through space with him. Although the premise provided Cronenberg with an endless platter to set his trademark gore upon, the film’s cornerstone is the deterioration of the relationship between Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle and Geena Davis’ Veronica Quaife. Goldblum in particular gives a gut-wrenching performance as a lost soul whose physical destruction is eclipsed only by his mental collapse. Be warned: this film is not for the weak of heart, and requires a strong stomach to sit through. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

12) Gremlins (1984) – Gremlins is the Johnny Rotten of movies. It did everything wrong and without apology. First, all the wrong names were attached to the film, namely Steven Spielberg as executive producer and veteran character actors Hoyt Axton and Polly Holliday, who were better known for playing lighthearted television roles. Second, the film had a vivid Christmas setting despite a summer release. But the biggest curveball was the extensive promotion that revolved around Gizmo, the cute little mogwai the presented the movie as a story of one mild-mannered young man’s fluffy little pet. From there the movie spit right in the audience’s face. Many parents who brought their kids to see Gremlins did, in fact, leave halfway through the film, unprepared for its graphic violence, dark humor, and unnerving tone. This, however, only mirrors the eponymous characters’ qualities. The gremlins are punks; they’d want to see mothers whisking their children away in disgust. Gremlins was widely criticized for being too explicit for a PG rating. Hence it became, along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, one of the catalysts in the development of the PG-13 rating.

11) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Most fans all know the story by now: Tom Selleck was originally offered the role of Indiana Jones, but had to decline because of his commitment to Magnum P.I. The truth is Harrison Ford was Steven Spielberg’s first choice to play the adventuring archeologist. Screenwriter George Lucas was concerned Ford would be seen as his go-to actor, but that ultimately would not matter. Raiders of the Lost Ark proved to be bigger than the sum of all the principals who came to create it. It was far and away the most successful film of 1981, and is still one of the top 20 highest-grossing movies of all time when adjusted for inflation.

10) First Blood (1982) – Sylvester Stallone’s most well-known character may be Rocky Balboa, but an argument for his most nuanced performance could be made for that of the unhinged Vietnam veteran John Rambo. Adapted to screen from David Morrell’s book, First Blood is the story of an aimless war hero suffering from deep survivor’s guilt after learning the last living member of his platoon died from cancer as a result of exposure to agent orange. Isolated and out of touch with civilian life, Rambo runs afoul with a small-town sheriff who attempts to make an example of him. The result is a mental snap which Stallone executes brilliantly as a stoic but efficient killer. And his emotional breakdown at the movie’s climax gives sobering insight to the suffering many veterans endure after returning from war. First Blood went on to spawn three sequels, and is widely considered the progenitor of the archetypal 80s action film where one man must defend himself against many in a contained, foreign environment.

9) Rain Man (1988) – It wasn’t all machine guns and monsters in the 80s. Hollywood managed to turn out a few dramatic flicks, too. Rain Man remains most notable for Dustin Hoffman’s celebrated performance as Raymond Babbit, an autistic man with a nearly eidetic memory who has spent the majority of his life in a mental institution. Tom Cruise plays Raymond’s estranged brother, Charlie, who seeks out Raymond when he learns their late father bequeathed his multimillion dollar estate to the older, autistic son. Although Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor, film critics often consider Cruise’s character to be the film’s actual protagonist. His transformation from a callous, money-hungry opportunist into a caring and sensitive brother desperate to reconnect with his family is deftly executed, but understated by Hoffman’s unbreakable acting. The film also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Barry Levinson), and Best Original Screenplay.

8) The Terminator (1984) – This is one of those films that had such an enormous sequel, it’s almost always overshadowed in any discussion about the franchise itself. A shame because The Terminator is the best Terminator film in the series. Terminator 2: Judgement Day was a tour de force – the other two sequels pale dimly with the absence of protagonist Sarah Connor – but it steps into bounds that borderline fantastic (read: campy). The original is pure sci-fi/horror/action with a tight but brilliant script (there’s even a moment in the movie where one of the characters admits that the plot is brilliant because it “doesn’t require a shred of evidence to prove!”), and a perfect cast. Try to imagine anyone else in Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s respective roles. It’s impossible.

7) Back to the Future (1985) – Everything about this movie scream 1980s. It stars the definitive 80s actor, Michael J. Fox, features a cameo by Huey Lewis (as well as his bitchin’ soundtrack song “The Power of Love”), and the story’s MacGuffin, a time machine, is a DeLorean. It helps that the script is hilarious and witty, the acting perfectly balanced, and the suspense nail-biting. If it weren’t for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Back to the Future might have had a possible contender for the title of Greatest 80s Trilogy. But as it stands, the Back to the Future series has no competition. Even considering Back to the Future II. It probably seemed funny on paper, but Michael J. Fox in drag just doesn’t work.

6) Die Hard (1987) – This film really deserves its own Retrobacktive entry (and honestly the number one spot on this list, but as mentioned, an actual measuring system was used). To be clear: this is the greatest action movie ever made. Are there flaws? Yes. Are they kept to a bare minimum relative to the garbage barges of ridiculous crap audiences are forced to put up with in other action films. Also yes. While it has been referenced in virtually every review ever written about Die Hard, it’s worth noting again; the pièce de résistance in this flick is Bruce Willis’ everyman characterization of John McClane. Stallone and Schwarzenegger did what they did very well, but the last thing film-goers needed in the late 80s was another overblown superhero. Willis gave audiences something everybody could relate to. Of course, let’s not forget Alan Rickman… but wait, that’s topic for another month’s list.

5) Field of Dreams (1989) – A sports movie had to find its way onto the list. Bull Durham and Major League were strong contenders, but there’s something to be said for a picture that can produce a phrase so ubiquitous people say it without even thinking of the source from which it came. If you build it, they will come. And they did. Phil Alden Robinson’s directorial debut In the Mood may have disappointed audiences, but sophomore effort Field of Dreams‘ story of an Iowa farmer’s mystical reconciliation with his father though baseball undoubtedly redeemed the filmmaker and further propelled star Kevin Costner’s career. James Earl Jones’ monologue best sums up the heart of this gem.

4) Big (1988) – Heart-warming. Funny. Original. Sentimental? Perhaps, but is that the worst quality we could attribute to a big-budget Tom Hanks vehicle? For those exclusively familiar with the AIDS-patient/Forrest Gump/lost in space Tom Hanks, Big is the film that took the once tongue-in-cheek actor from a likeable goofball and transformed him into an Academy Award-contending film star. Virtually all of Big‘s emotional depth can be attributed to Hanks’ uncanny performance as a 13-year-old boy trapped in a thirty-something’s body. But what really gives this film it’s iconic reputation are the numerous scenes that stand-out as indelible, if not cliched, classic cinema moments. Most notably Hanks and Robert Loggia’s “Chopsticks” duet on the pedal-powered keyboard. Moments like that aren’t constructed; they just occur while the camera happens to be rolling.

3) This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Despite the seemingly endless amount of famous quotes that emanated from this Rob Reiner classic, the truth is This is Spinal Tap was not a huge, breakout success upon release. But eventually as a number of renowned musicians began to take note and compare their own experiences with that of England’s dim-witted but “loudest band,” This is Spinal Tap soared in popularity. Say what you want about Gone With the Wind; when it comes to quotable movies lines… well, again, topic for another list. But the whole production is all the more impressive when you consider the vast majority of the dialogue was ad-libbed by Reiner, and lead actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.

2) Robocop (1987) – Part Man. Part Machine. All Cop. Imagine yourself a young boy in the 80s whose tastes for the finer things in life include superheros, gunfire, explosions, robots, and invincibility. If you can come up with a better tag line for such an audience, quick your job and write movie poster copy.

Of course, any young person watching this movie in his or her youth (Warning: do not let young people watch this movie; it is traumatically violent) will miss the endless allegories and critiques of capitalism, greed, consumerism, commercial exploitation, and identity loss. On the surface, Robcocop is a sci-fi superhero thriller where the protagonist holsters his gun inside his leg. Similar to The Terminator, no one should have expected such a cerebral story and polished production. Yet it was praised by critics and became the 16th top-grossing movie of 1987. Although many of the film’s themes reflect the monetary and commercial obsessiveness of the 80s, the film continues to echo through time as a dark foreshadow on the dangers of reckless technological and social incorporation.

1) Ghostbusters (1984) – Of the things one could say of Ghostbusters‘ legacy, none is more appealing than the addition of Bill Murray. Yes, the film is rounded out by a flawless cast, including writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts. But it is Murray who remains indefatigable in his signature role as the wise-cracking, aloof Peter Venkman.

When Aykroyd first conceived the project he had fellow Blues Brother John Belushi in mind for the role of Venkman. Belushi, however, died while the script was still in development. Murray stepped into the role, improvising the majority of his lines and ad-libbing his way into comedy history.

The strength of Ghostbusters lies in the cast’s collective performance. Aykroyd and Ramis are the brains and subsequently the nerds; Murray is much like the older brother who is by now immune to his surrounding absurdity yet beyond reproach in his criticism of it. Hudson is the everyman; Weaver is the beautiful damsel in distress; Potts and Moranis are the quintessential New Yorkers providing an elemental sense of geography (where else could Ghostbusters take place?). The story was never intended to be highbrow, but just as most Hollywood triumphs weren’t, the sum of its parts magically work together to create something bigger. Ghostbusters is in the hearts and minds of a generation still yearning to wear a proton-pack and drive Ecto-1, and its legacy is now ready to be passed down to the next audience who will undoubtedly find something to relate to, something to mimic, something to idolize, and always something to laugh at.

Honorable Mention: Aliens, The Karate Kid Part II, Manhunter, Rocky IV, Pretty in Pink, Wall Street, To Live & Die in L.A., Lethal Weapon