Day 164 – The Last Starfighter – 1984

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The Last Starfighter is the 1984 cult classic that tells the story of Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) who live in a trailer park with his mum and brother. One day he is approached to join the Ryland Star League and become a Starfighter. The film also stars Robert Preston who plays Centauri, the renegade agent of the Star League tasked to find the greatest fighters. Directed by Nick Castle it was too many reviewers comparing it to Star Wars but praised the cast for their energetic performances.

Alex Rogan lives in a trailer park with his mum and brother. The inhabitants always go to Alex to fix various things. One day his girlfriend Maggie Gordon (Catherine Mary Stewart) wants to visit the beach, and as Alex is about to enter the car his mother calls to help fix the electricity generator. Annoyed yet loyal he agrees to help. After he finishes he plays on the local arcade game ‘The Frontier’. He reaches the highest score anyone has ever seen. Proud of his accomplishments, he finishes the day turning off the trailer park neon sign only to be approached by a futuristic car. A man named Centauri asks him to join him in the car and he is whisked off to the Ryland Star League as a top starfighter. It’s up to Alex, Centauri and new friend Grig (Dan O’Herlihy) to stop the threat of Xur and his fighters.

The film has a similar premise to the classic Star Wars films thanks to its similarities with space battles and a lone male sent to save the galaxy. The film also contains all the classic 80’s charm with a clone character also played by Guest who actually has all the laughs. The comedic charm of which Beta Alex is deadpan because he doesn’t know what is right or wrong, and its funny to see him in situations. Alex, on the other hand, is more down to earth, thinking that he could be killed at any time. The cheese factor is also deep when we meet Grig. His head looks awfully like male genitalia but that doesn’t take away from his humorous persona. He brings the honour to the role with charm and charisma. What I believe that Nick Castle has done here is that he has tried to merge the characters from E.T and put them into the world of Star Wars. It kind of works, but thanks to the inclusion of a terrible villain Xur, it kind of plays as a campy fun.

The film was moderately successful in 1984, but as the years passed many fans looked back and loved it essentially giving it cult classic status. The film was also known as the first to fully incorporate computer graphics for the space sequences which was unheard of in the 80s. Every single scene that takes place in space was generated on a Cray X-MP machine which was incredible. 27 minutes of screentime, 300 shots on screen. Incredible work for something ahead of its time.

Overall the film was amazing, a concoction of Star Wars and E.T. fighting in space. Fantastic special effects for the time and some fun writing for the characters. Lance Guest and Dan O’Herlihy are fantastic as the dynamic duo with Robert Preston as the crazy yet infectious Centauri. Catherine Mary Stewart plays the girlfriend Maggie to Alex and she is perfect. Beautiful, funny and smart she was ideal for the role. The film is a hidden gem, and a sequel should be greenlit asap.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 104 – Romancing the Stone – 1984

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Now this film was technically written prior to the events of the Indiana Jones film – Raiders of the Lost Ark. There were a lot of similarities between the two films, including the main MacGuffin (the ark of the covenant and the stone). The difference one was an action adventure, and the other was a romantic action film. It based the heroics on likeable leads Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner who’s chemistry lit the audience on fire and had a Saturday morning serial stylised action. It also starred likeable actor Danny DeVito as the nefarious Ralph, who chases the two through the film to gain information on the whereabouts of the stone.

The plot is simple, with Kathleen Turner playing Joan Wilder, the romantic novelist who has just finished her latest novel. Her sister is kidnapped by antique smugglers, thanks to her late husband discovering a treasure map. Luckily she sent to Joan, and she sets off on a journey to save her sister and hand over the map. Along the way in Columbia, she meets Michael Douglas’s Jack Colton, who is crossing the southern continent on the hunt for his next big break. Somehow he gets thrown along for the ride, just like one of Joan’s nefarious characters in her novel. It’s both fun, romantic and entertaining to see this kind of antics and a flashback to what films in the 80’s were like.

No flashy special effects, no large explosions but just plain old action and adventure in a realistic setting. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, he originally thought that the film would flop. Luckily it didn’t, and the studio greenlit his next feature, a little film called Back to the Future.

The beauty of Romancing of the Stone is the heroin, Joan Wilder. Kathleen Turner showcases her ability to transform on screen with ease thanks to her fantastic acting. In the beginning, Joan is a loner, the only friends she has is her publicist and her cat. A very introverted person who likes to keep to herself. When her sister is in peril, she hesitantly agrees on an adventure across the globe. Entering a new country, she is thrown into the thick of Columbian culture, and how they work with social skills. She slowly becomes more open to the audience, thanks to the catalyst Jack Colton who in time shows her a thrilling time, conjuring guns, pirates and even the local militia against them in a bid to save her sister. At the end, she is a strong, open and independent woman who’s walk shows you what she has been through. It is a testament to Kathleen Turner, who in recent times has declined in the acting world and taken roles such as Chandler’s dad in Friends. She was once at the top of her game, now unfortunately fallen from grace.

Overall a great star vehicle for leads Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Another comedic take for Danny DeVito who flounces throughout the picture with humility for the audience. It reminds me of the old 50’s televisions shows, of which were campy but at the same time were fun and thrilling.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 88 – Purple Rain – 1984

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Purple Rain is a semi-autobiographical film on the life of Prince, and how he came from the streets to stardom. The Kid is the main singer with his band named The Revolutions.

The film itself is mediocre itself but is brought to life by Prince and his plethora of songs performed throughout. They are placed all over, with the main song aptly titled after the film’s name placed at the end showcasing the talents of the main star. It is a fantastic soundtrack only bogged down by a slow and coma inducing story about The Kid’s former life at home with his father. It also shows what kind of domestic abuse that his father did on his mother and himself thanks to alcohol and the suicide caused by all of this. It is actually a better tale on how he tried to become opposite of his father, only to slowly become him by having the same attributes.

The beauty of the film is the main star: Prince. His presence is felt from the opening with him performing the classic “Let’s go crazy” as the opening song as Apollonia appears in the club he plays at. His costume is flamboyant, his attitude is gritty and his motorcycle is probably the coolest thing ever created for a music star on the silver screen. He oozes the suave, sophisticated look that all men strive for and pulls it off thanks to his personality.

The film is a musical in all respect, but as I said before it was more a story about domestic abuse and the mindset of a man wanting to escape it all, and done via music. The plot is silly, but it’s only generated to showcase the talent of the main star. It actually won an Oscar back in 1985 for best original song, Prince and The Revolution took the stage to receive the award which is unique even to this day.

The look of the film is thrust with loads of dark colours, and purples to connote the dark nature of the film’s premise. The unique inner workings of the great but lost artist on a mission to become big and finally showcase his talent in the world. The composition of character on the screen is also very clever, with The Kid always in the centre to show that he the lead, and Apollonia the love interest is always at the side to show she is secondary. It is also done when they are on a bed and facing the camera. Its angled cleverly.

The music is the greatest thing in the film, with Prince topping the film with songs such as the aptly titled Purple Rain, Let’s go Crazy, Darling Nikki and even I Would Die for You. They are all head banging, and you just can’t stop and dance to some of them thanks to the great beat and tempo that he arranged to make you feel more upbeat.

Overall an interesting take on the world of the music. Prince created a film to show his talents to the world, and to be fair it paid off well.

Should you watch it: YES