Summer Starter Pack 2018

I sat through Solo rhetorically wondering to myself if old Larry Kasdan & his son Jon had ever, in fact, seen the Original Trilogy...
Intellectually I know they have (for obvious reasons) but the very fact that I kept on wondering was its own symbolic (though unintentional) protest sign denouncing this lethargic sidestep in: the world of Star Wars, character-driven storytelling, and cinema as a whole.
One probably needs to go back and look at Return of the Jedi - or even Force Awakens - for the earliest (and most recent) examples of Kasdan's curious misunderstanding of the character of Han Solo; whatever sarcastic swagger, menacing charm, and comic timing the character showed off in Eps IV & V had withered in the shadow of the Skywalker thread by ROTJ. And perhaps rightly so. But when the guy gets his own movie, there is no excuse.
Last January, I concluded my longwinded love letter to Star Wars with the declaration that, in regards to Solo, I'd never been so unexcited for a SW-related feature film - so, there was no disappointment to get the better of me. And that's why I needn't bother with any real review-review of the movie; a film this lazy doesn't garner that kind of attention. (I will say, though: Han got his last name from George Lucas - not from an Imperial desk clerk.)

What was exciting - sorta - was seeing a new Star Wars movie in the month of May: the way it was before the dark times... before the First Order... We haven't seen any of the Marvel or Fast and Furious films, so it's been a long time since we've been part of any kinda 'event movies' to kick off the Northern Hemisphere solstice. In the words of Clarice Starling, "It matters." Nothing signals the end of the school year like the smell of hot butter and the endurance test of brutal air conditioning; the movie itself is almost incidental (though a Terminator 2 or a Batman Returns woulda been nice. Heck, even Twister got me jazzed for the storm season).
But no -- I won't be playing Kessel Run in my backyard this summer or swapping stilted dialogue with my Paul Bettany action figure. Nope - per usual I think we'll turn to some old favorites (a lot of which were noted in last year's summer lineup) as well as embarking on some new adventures (soft drinks, video games, parenthood).
And as usual, you folks at home can play along! Join us in launching a summer of fun, and keep your distance from the multiplex - but don't look like you're trying to keep your distance! (In other words, fly casual.)

- Paul

Coke and Pepsi: an update
Well that lasted all of 2 seconds; sure enough, they couldn't leave well enough alone.
Pepsi has corrupted the blunt beauty of their 'retro branding' and branched out into three new designs: previous logos corresponding with their appropriate spokes-musicians.
While my own personal nostalgia for the 90s and 00s has been gaining some momentum, I would've been much more receptive to the idea of some kinda 'Decades Series' had the cans not been defaced with faux pop art depictions of Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, and Britney Spears. It's the toy company equivalent of bright neon guns: how can we possibly be expected to role-play these
fantasies when the props are not historically accurate?
So I grabbed myself a 12 pack of Britneys to assist me in closing out my great Pepsi experiment of 2018.

But God doesn't close a door without opening a Coke.
Without any warning, new flavors of Coca-Cola got out of my dreams and into my Walmart. Apparently the company had been experimenting and testing for some time before they settled on Georgia Peach and California Raspberry -- both released exclusively in glass bottles!
The bad news first: neither of them taste anything like Coca-Cola; without the packaging, one could be fooled into thinking they're drinking one of the thousands of carbonated 'fruit infused' beverages out there.
But the good news is they're a whole ton better than any of that fancy pussy water; the flavors are very close to the extremely rare & highly sought-after retro beverage Clearly Canadian (which isn't a bad thing). In fact, that comparison in and of itself is a magical tale of how a brand new beverage accidentally(?) served up a deep dish slice of nostalgia to all us children of the world.
It's still the real thing.

The Wraith Soundtrack
If you took The Crow and replaced the goth stuff with 80s cyberpunk, you'd be left with The Wraith (and a much better movie with a soundtrack that's almost too good to be true).
The tunes are half Miami Vice and half Headbanger's Ball, creating the perfect vibe for a sweltering beach party or a cool night drive - which equally and adequately celebrate the movie they're featured in.
The album is a little tough to get some hands on - as is its digital counterpart - but I'm sure you pirates can hunt it down (if you haven't already).
(* standout tracks)

"Where's the Fire" - Tim Feehan*
"Secret Loser" - Ozzy Osbourne
"Hearts vs. Heads" - Stan Bush
"Wake Up Call" - Ian Hunter
"Smokin' In the Boy's Room" - Mötley Crüe
"Addicted to Love" - Robert Palmer
"Scream of Angels" - Nick Glider
"Power Love" - Lion
"Those Were the Days" - Honeymoon Suite
"Never Surrender" - Lion
"Matter of the Heart" - Bonnie Tyler
"Hold On Blue Eyes" - LaMarca*
"Rebel Yell" - Billy Idol
"Young Love, Hot Love" - Jill Michaels
"Bad Mistake" - James House*

Freddy's Dead: Pop dream or horror nightmare?
The goofy lack of continuity in most of the old horror franchises allows the viewer to watch them in any order they please without concern over any sorta 'thread.' So while we reserve the Elm Street movies exclusively for warm weather, the only question it poses is where to start, and the inaugural chapter this season is the last (or is it?) in the series, and arguably the worst (or is it?).
The same way the 1970s broke up The Beatles, the 1990s killed Freddy Krueger; he couldn't survive beyond the decade he helped define: arcades, heavy metal, slasher flicks. The Fangoria Age. New Nightmare (1994) and Freddy vs. Jason (2003) merely pay homage to the once and true period of vibrant monster movies and expert makeup FX - and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare is part of that period. (That is, to say, the end of it.)
I've never not had problems with the film - and they're probably the same problems you have. I also have no interest or energy in changing anyone's mind. But I will say that its amount of slapstick, eye-rolling one-liners, and unbalanced pace and structure is equal to, say... most 80s horror fare, up to and including the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. And if Freddy will truly be remembered as more of a Joker and less of a Dracula, then this is the singular film that truly allows him to shine. That, plus a 3D backstory (though sparse and predictable) is more colorful and riveting than the two sentences of exposition found in all the other installments.
And if you're looking for a narrative to tie it together, kung fu this: one theory floating around is that the John Doe character from the first act is actually Jacob (Alice's kid from Dream Child), which would indeed make him Freddy's son (kinda). Added to that is the notion that the Roseanne character is actually an older, unhinged Alice.

Super Mario All-Stars: Lost levels/lost mind
Four games in one? Can't be!
So rarely in any art or media has a centerpiece of pop culture been compiled, repackaged and reimagined shot-for-shot, beat-for-beat, polished and groomed. For a rehash of games we already knew inside and out, they certainly found ways to make it worth the price of admission.
Released in '93 (10 years after the original arcade game, and only 6 years after the American release of Super Mario Bros.) it was already a bold reminder of how the older games were considerably more challenging - with or without an extra 8 bits.
Though perhaps nothing was more challenging than The Lost Levels. In addition to the first three games, All-Stars contained this mysterious 'fourth' game. New in the US (it was originally Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan), it looks and sounds like the original SMB, but feels like you're doing long division under the influence of absinthe and paint fumes. I've yet to conquer it (or even make any serious effort to do so), and am strongly considering marathoning all four adventures as a serious summer side project.

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