Back To The Future (1985) – Robert Zemeckis

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I love this movie so much!

It’s always a joy to watch, and it puts me right back in 1985, I remember seeing it, reading the novel on my way to school, I remember playing the soundtrack over and over until the ink of the track listings was completely faded, I even got myself a skateboard, though I never mastered it, all because of this movie.

martySo how stoked was I that I got to revisit it on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list? Pretty damned!

This was the first movie I saw that put a character my age in a time-travel story, and even now I continue to wonder what my parents were like as kids, so it had an instant appeal in that way, and of course with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, what wasn’t to like about it?

I’ve seen the clips of Eric Stoltz in the Marty role, and as good an actor as he is, he just didn’t have that something that made Marty awesome.

For me there isn’t a missed beat or moment in the entire film, and even now it holds up beautifully, though I imagine anyone viewing it today who didn’t live through the times would have no idea what a Tab or Pepsi Free was.

Marty is just your average kid, he plays guitar in a band that is just too darned loud, or at least that’s what Huey Lewis in his cameo thinks, has a great girlfriend in Jennifer (Claudia Wells) and wants to borrow the car for the weekend but Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) wrecks it.

He’s also friends with an eccentric scientist, Doc Brown, and one night at Twin Pines Mall, Doc reveals what he’s been working on. He’s turned a DeLorean into a time machine…

BackFuture30And Marty accidentally ends up back in 1955, stops his parents from meeting and falling in love and is now vanishing from time.

He has to save his own future, get his parents together and get back to the year 1985, but trouble with young Biff, his mother (Lea Thompson) crushing on him, and his dad (Crispin Glover) being a bit odd are all piled against him.

Backed with a rousing, highly whiste-able score by Alan Silvestri, Zemeckis alongside co-writer Bob Gale and executive producer Steven Spielberg has created one of my favorite films. Couple this one with Jaws, give me some tomato soup, a grilled cheese and a rainy day on the couch and I’m a happy guy.

There isn’t a single thing I don’t love about this movie, and Michael J. Fox, was and still is, one of the coolest people on the planet as far as I’m concerned.

BacktotheFuture1985Wallpaper1Everything works, the editing and pacing, the attention to detail (Twin Pines changes to Lone Pine before the ends of the film, amongst other changes to the timeline – which of course brings up the idea that Marty didn’t return to his timeline but an alternate one created by him, and the original still exists out there somewhere…), the costumes, the dialogue. I love it all.

When someone says 80s movies to me, this and Breakfast Club are the first films I think of, because for me they are perfectly, typically 80s, and I was the characters’ age when I saw them, so it resonated with me.

There are bits and pieces I love about the sequels, especially the music, but the first one will always be in my Top 20! (it’s Top 20, because most of the movies are in flux constantly except for the number one position, and we all know what that one is :D).

What’s your favorite Michael J. Fox movie?

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The Jewel of The Nile (1985)

After the troubling experience of Cannibal Holocaust, I decided to lighten it up a bit, and just revisit a fun, if not great movie.

So I decided to catch up with Jack T Colton (Michael Douglas), Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner – who I think never looked better than when she was in this pair of movies) and Ralph (Danny DeVito) in their follow-up to Romancing The Stone, The Jewel of The Nile.

Robert Zemeckis didn’t come back for this one, instead, helming this expedition is Lewis Teague (Cujo). This time out it’s goofier, and sadly no where near as entertaining as the first outing.

Our couple, Joan and Jack are stuck in a rut, they’ve been traveling the globe non-stop on the boat, Angelina (named for one of Joan’s characters) since we last left them at the end of the first movie.

And despite all the exotic locales, all the romantic hotspots, something seems to be missing,

It’s also affecting Joan’s writing. After countless novels, she doesn’t know how they end anymore. She is now constantly wondering what happens the next day, after the characters ride off into the sunset.

And that, is what has happened to her and Jack. It’s essentially the next day.

They’re still in love, but are almost at cross-purposes and Joan is even thinking about going back to New York for awhile to unwind, but Jack wants to go to Greece.

That is until Omar (Spiros Focas) shows up. He is about to proclaim himself Emperor in a country along the Nile and wants Joan to write his biography, telling the ‘truth’ about who is.

Joan sees it as a chance to do some serious writing, and Jack sees it as a brush off of him and his idea for Greece.

Joan leaves with Omar, and Jack bumps into Ralph, who has been in prison since we saw him at the end of the first film.

He’s eager for a little payback, and when the Angelina explodes, and a man shows up talking about a fabled Jewel of the Nile, the two form an uneasy alliance, as they plunge into adventure and catch up with Joan who is in a but of trouble.

She’s also in possession of the Jewel.

It’s a fun little action flick, but nowhere near the caliber of the first film. There’s a fun sequence with an F-16, Jack’s fight with a couple of natives, and a death trap as featured in Joan’s book Angelina’s Savage Secret.

Despite the fact that the three leads know their characters and look like they are having fun, the fact that the writers, the director, the music are all different make this a pale sequel in comparison to the original.

It’s still fun, it just doesn’t have the same magic.

Course it did have that great tune by Billy Ocean, the song of that summer for me…

When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going).

Romancing The Stone (1984)

“Romantic novelist my ass!”

“The Joan Wilder?!?”

I love this movie, it’s just so much fun, and has so many wonderful lines that tend to fall from my lips on a regular basis.

In the early 80s, everyone was kind of keen to cash in on the big adventure stories ever since they saw what Spielberg and Lucas did with Raiders of the Lost Ark. There were a number of forgotten television shows, Bring Em Back Alive, and Tales of the Gold Monkey and some lesser known films like Chuck Norris’ Firewalker and yet another telling of Allan Quartermain with King Solomon’s Mines.

For me, none of them could ever measure up to Raiders, but Romancing The Stone, featuring the behind the camera combination of director Robert Zemeckis and composer Alan Silvestri, is probably one of my fave adventure films.

It follows romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner – who never looked better!), who still hasn’t met the Right Man, on the adventure of her lifetime. When her sister Elaine, is held for ransom, Joan must deliver a treasure map to her kidnappers in Cartagena, Colombia. She’s shadowed by a corrupt police official named Zolo (Manuel Ojeda) and one of the kidnappers, Ralph (Danny DeVito).

Ending up on the wrong bus, and held at gunpoint by the nefarious Zolo, Joan is rescued by adventurer Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), who stumbles upon the scene to find his jeep wrecked and his prized birds escaped. (“what did you do, wake up this morning and say, ‘today, I’m gonna ruin a man’s life?’”).

Paying him off ($375 in travellers checks… “American Express?” “Yes” “You’ve got a deal.”) Jack agrees to escort her to the nearest phone before realizing they could follow the map, and get the stone for themselves before they bargain for Elaine’s life.

The film has great chase sequences (featuring Pepe, the little mule), a mud slide, crocodiles, shootouts, and as the title suggests, romance. An awesome adventure film!

Zemeckis has consistently proven himself as a director I can rely on, but this, Contact, and Back to the Future will always be my three faves. Yes, I like them more than Forrest Gump and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Stone is just good fun, filled with humor, romance and adventure, an enjoyable romp.

It also saw the first of three times that Turner, Douglas and DeVito worked together on the less than stellar, but still mostly enjoyable sequel The Jewel of the Nile, and the dark comedy War of the Roses, which DeVito also directed.

I saw this when it first came out in 1984, in fact, I can still remember sitting in the theater with my mother, and my sister. There aren’t tons of movies that I can remember a lot of specific moments like that, but the ones I do have stayed with me for a reason… I knew I was experiencing something special, something entertaining, something that was magic.

What’s your favorite Zemeckis film? Or do you enjoy Romancing the Stone as much as I do?

Film Scores – A Whistler’s Tale

I’m a whistler, and a dreamer… and “Binary Sunset” is one of my favorite thoughtful, hopeful and slightly sad things to whistle, especially when I’m thinking about my future, and watching the horizon.

Whistling.

I do it all the time, and I carry a huge repertoire in my mind, and on my ipod.

In the case of my whistling, film scores tend to be my default setting.

Since I was a child, they have been playing in my head. In point of fact, before I even owned my first LP or cassette tape I can remember playing in my school’s playground on a weekend. I had brought some of my Star Wars figures, and I can remember being on the edge of the merry-go-round playing with them, whistling a never-ending medley of themes and cues from a film I had only seen once at that point, whistling over and over music by a composer whose name I didn’t even now yet, believe Mr. Willilams (can I call you John?) I have more than made up for that slip.

When the 1980s rolled around and I got my first walkman as a birthday present (I think it was my birthday, it may have been for Easter). One of the very first cassettes I bought to go with it was the score from Return of the Jedi.

I wore that tape out.

I would listen to it over and over, I knew every moment of that score.

I also played my soundtrack LPs repeatedly as well, I introduced myself to John Barry through his fantastic score for The Black Hole, and James Horner through his stirring compositions for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and I would wear out my Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and Braveheart soundtracks.

But cassette tapes were my passion, before I had my own CD player, I had tons of them. Anytime my meager allowance came along, or babysitting money, or my small income from working as a stock boy at the CanEx I would find yet another soundtrack or score to add to it (or a pop tape, but more often a soundtrack).

It was during this accumulation of tapes that I discovered the wonderful compositions of Jerry Goldsmith. My favorite scores of his continue to be the soundtrack for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien. Both of these soundtracks just keep circling in my head.

I’m well aware that he has composed so many more other scores, and I even have some of them, but his work for sci-fi films seem to resonate the most with me.

John Williams of course, seems to have scored my entire life, and I think I actually have most of his collaborations with Steven Spielberg, and none of them disappoint.

For me, one of the highlights of knowing that there were new Star Wars movies coming out, when the rumors of prequels started, was that no matter what the films were like, there would be three new soundtracks filled with music from the Star Wars universe by the man who wrote the original music (specific tracks are Duel of the Fates, Battle of the Heroes, and the Main Titles & Revenge of the Sith – Williams is the man!).

That is saying nothing about the impact he had on me with the Raiders March, the piano end titles of E.T., the music cues mentioned in my Raiders of the Lost Ark post, the theme from Jurassic Park, any cue from Jaws, the ebullient tones from Close Encounters, Hedwig’s theme, the violin work in Schindler’s List…

It goes on and on…

I was also lucky to discover Alan Silvestri, who turned in fantastic work for the films of Robert Zemeckis including  Romancing the Stone, all three Back to the Futures and of course, the amazing score for Contact.

I especially love the cue/track, “Good to go.”

I have always loved films scores, and composers who use a full orchestra. It can give you huge sweeping moments, stirring strings, and then quiet tiny cues that can break your heart.

Howard Shore’s work on the Lord of the Rings films are great examples of that. He composes music that serves the film, and never over powers it, it simply enhances the viewing experience, and I do like when my brain just randomly cues one of those tracks in my head to whistle.

I can’t wait to see what he does with the Hobbit!

There are some composers who use a combination of synthetic and orchestral sounds, Hans Zimmer (whose score on Gladiator is his best in my opinion), Daft Punk’s score for Tron Legacy, the Chemical Brothers use of tones and electronica for Hanna.

But for me a score stands on whether I whistle it or not, and Silvestri, Williams, Barry and Goldsmith are for me, the titans in composing circles.

I have one more name to add to that list, and this compose seems to be the hardest working composer in film today. Or at least he seems to be, his name seems to pop up everywhere.

His name…

Michael Giacchino.

He’s everywhere, and he doesn’t keep his work merely on the big screen, he’s scored videogames, as well as TV series, most notably Fringe, Alcatraz, and Lost. He has a healthy working relationship with J.J. Abrams, and scores his films, amazingly I might add.

His standout scores for me currently, are his turns on The Incredibles, filled with homages to superhero films as well as a bit of an old school James Bond feel, and my favorite, his highly whistle-able score for Star Trek.

His brassy, up-tempo score for Trek simply sunk into my subconscious, even more than I realized. I had seen the film once, and purchased the soundtrack, loading it onto my ipod, and by the second time I saw the film in the theater, I was stunned to find myself whistling themes and cues from the soundtrack already.

I am constantly delighted now when I read a film’s credits, or am watching the opening or closing titles and see Michael’s name pop up. I always know I’m in good hands.

I know I don’t know as much about writing or composing music to talk tech about it, but I know what I like, and I am quite happy to welcome Mr. Giacchino into the ranks of Williams, Goldsmith, Barry, Silvestri, Horner and Shore. I can’t think of a higher compliment to pay than my continued whistling, so that’s what I’ll do…