POP GOES THE DECADE- A totally rad look back at the glorious 80's and all the flicks, fashions, tunes, and TV shows that made the decade so cool and memorable in the first place. Like, for sure!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

STAR WARS: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back

       Many cite "The Empire Strikes Back" as the greatest "Star Wars" movie ever made.  And it's easy to see why so many say that.  It's perfect in every way- and it's got much more character development than the original and jettisons its optimism- going for a much darker film with much more conflict.  This was the movie to see- it had been three long years after the original "Star Wars" had blown our little minds.

     "Star Wars", and "The Empire Strikes Back" in general, was a defining moment in many a child's lives- mine included.  I was absolutely, completely, 100% blown away by every single frame of these movies.  It's hard to actually pick a favorite of the "Star Wars" films- there are certain aspects of all of them that I love.  And of course, the original simply because it came first.  But I would have to say at the end of the day, I think I enjoy "The Empire Strikes Back" the best of them all.  It's a truly wondrous film- it really is quite spellbinding.  It's often praised as the best of the "Star Wars" films, and also as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time as well.  It's a remarkable example of screen entertainment.  A true space opera that equally holds its own and even manages to slightly improve on the original, as amazing as that is.

     George Lucas wisely gave up the direction to Irvin Kirshner, and the result is pure magic.  It's everything classic sci-fi should be- hugely intense and sweeping battle scenes, perfect acting, music, and direction, wonderful and memorable new characters, and some truly amazing light saber sequences.  It's the dark middle chapter of a classic trilogy of science fiction.  It's the "Godfather Part 2" of sci-fi.  And it's awesome.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Prom Night

     After the overwhelming success of the slasher classics "Halloween" in 1978 and "Friday the 13th" in 1980, horror (and the slasher genre especially...) exploded and suddenly it seemed a different teen slasher was being released every week.  Following up her immortal turn in "Halloween", Jamie Lee cemented her status as the official Scream Queen of the 80s by appearing in a handful of horror flicks.  One of them,   "Prom Night", hit movie screens in July of 1980.

     "Prom Night" has a strange reputation among horror fans today.  Although it's widely considered a classic slasher of the 1980's, just as many purists disregard the film.  Mainly because there's only six killings and nary a drop of blood to be found anywhere.  There's no nudity in the film either- unless you count a scene of Jamie Lee being stalked in a bra.  However, "Prom Night" does have some things going for it that many slashers of the time did not have.  For one, director Paul Lynch drenches the entire film in a dark and eerie atmosphere.  Many of the stalk/murder sequences are murky, and there's some great shots of darkly lit hallways in the school that are quite effective.  And Paul Zaza's super-spooky score helps the overall creep factor.

     It's hardly a flawless movie, but I find "Prom Night" to be one of the most entertaining and unsettling of all the slashers to come out of the 80s.  It follows the slasher formula perfectly- and proves that you don't necessarily need gratuitous sex or gore to be effective.  Not going all prude on you, I'm just saying that sometimes just a good old fashioned spooky atmosphere, some darkly lit hallways, mysterious phone calls, and an ax-wielding murderer will do just fine, thanks.  And "Prom Night" has all that in spades. 

   It's a perfectly decent little slasher/mystery that doesn't try to be anything but what it is.  It's slightly goofy and certainly low-budget, and that's all part of its charm.  It's very dated, with its disco-themed prom and hairstyles, but the nostalgia of that particular era- the late 70s thru the early 80s- seeps out of every single frame of the film.  And that's probably a huge part of its charm as well.  This movie was the 80s.  On top of being one of the most memorable slashers of that time.  It obviously struck a chord in pop culture, as this film has been remade in the 2000's.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

We Got the Beat by the Go-Go's.

     Released in January of 1982, "We Got The Beat" by the Go-Go's would become the band's biggest hit to date, spending three weeks at #2 on the US Billboard charts.  The song is immortal- not only was it used in the opening credit sequence of the 80s classic "Fast Times At Ridgemont High", but it was also named one of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.  The video received very heavy rotation on MTV and quickly became a staple on the video channel.  With its simple yet instantly recognizable intro, the song still never fails to get people moving and is classic Go-Go's.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Risky Business

   There are tons of movies I absolutely love from the 80s, but there are only a handful that could be considered truly iconic.  "Risky Business" is such a film.  This is a fantastic time machine for anybody over the age of 30.  "Risky Business" just might be the smartest and best acted of all the 80s sex comedies. The film is raunchy, and raunchy 80s sex comedies were a dime a dozen for sure- but this one is much more than that. I'm not a fan of Tom Cruise whatsoever, but he is truly sensational in this performance.  This was his breakout role, and Cruise is what sells the film.  He plays Joel, a high school guy whose main concern is to get accepted to Princeton.  He's tired of always doing the right thing and being Mr. All American, so when the parents go away for a week, he ends up calling a prostitute. His life immediately spirals memorably out of control as he crosses paths with Lana, a call girl memorably played by Rebecca DeMornay. 

     "Risky Business" opens with a fantastically hypnotic synth score by Tangerine Dream that immediately sets a mood.   That almost haunting synth score and those dreamlike shots of Chicago and its burbs are truly sensational.  The film benefits from great visual style- the roaming POV shots add greatly to the overall effect.  This is a rather strange film.  It's usually thought of as an 80s sex comedy, and it does have some funny moments, for sure.  But the film could almost be seen as somewhat depressing- it's an almost dark take on "the American Dream", but at times it's hard to tell whether the film is parodying it or celebrating it.  Still, it brought true intelligence and sophistication to the genre, on top of making Tom Cruise a bona fide movie star.  

Is the film believable?  No.  In fact the entire film is dream like, as if it's a young males fantasy gone completely out of control.  The infamous underwear scene to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" is forever part of pop culture and has spawned thousands of parodies and references.  And "Risky Business" has a rockin' soundtrack, featuring such classics as "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins, "D.M.S.R." by Prince, and "Hungry Heart" by Bruce Springsteen.  I recently watched it and honestly had a blast with it.  It's just a really good movie. 

Physical Attraction by Madonna

     Madonna was not yet a household name when "Physical Attraction" first hit the clubs scene in July of 1983.  From her revolutionary debut album, Madonna, "Physical Attraction" is a stunning track that sounds just as hot today.  Its throbbing 80s bass groove and synth is nothing short of irresistible, and her vocals demand attention.  This track should have been much bigger if you ask me, but I can rest in the fact that this song is widely considered legendary by millions of Madonna fans and music critics around the world.  It's slinky and sexy and hot- close your eyes and it's easy to imagine a dancefloor packed full of sweaty people, lost in the grooves...  Kids today go nuts when hearing this- yes, it really is that cool.  This was new and fresh and exciting in 1983- it was disco with a twist, and the beginning of a new era and sound in dance music.  The 80s rule!