Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XXIII:

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

  • Director:  Mel Stuart
  • Writer:  Roald Dahl (from his novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
  • Producer:  Stan Margulies / David L. Wolper
  • Stars:  Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Award Nominations:  Oscars – Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score; Golden Globes – Best Actor – Comedy / Musical (Gene Wilder)
  • Length:  99 min
  • Genre:  Kids (Musical)
  • MPAA Rating:  G
  • Release Date:  30 June 1971
  • Box Office Gross:  $4.00 mil
  • Ebert Rating:  ****
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #76 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Makeup
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none
  • First Watched:  on television when I was young (7 or 8 or so)
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5 or so

As a Kid:  Like The Princess Bride, I was confused when watching this the first time because I hadn’t caught the beginning.  In fact, like Silver Streak, I so often didn’t catch the beginning that it took me a while before the confusion was cleared up.  That’s because I seemed to always come in when Charlie wins the ticket.  Having missed “Slugworth” talking to the other kids, I never understood why Veruca would cross her fingers in the scene where they get the Everlasting Gobstoppers.  In fact, why focus on Veruca?  Are they saying she was the only one devious enough to be willing to betray Willy Wonka like that?  I think this also explains why my brain never really connected the song “Candy Man” to this film.  I was always missing the scene where it is sung (which is right at the beginning).  But that also meant I was always missing the mother’s song as well which is fine since Veronica and I skipped it when watching it this time because, like a lot of the songs, it’s kind of underwhelming. (more…)

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Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XXII:

Spaceballs

  • Director:  Mel Brooks
  • Writer:  Mel Brooks / Ronny Graham / Thomas Meehan
  • Producer:  Mel Brooks
  • Stars:  Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Mel Brooks, John Candy
  • Studio:  MGM/UA
  • Award Nominations:  none
  • Length:  96 min
  • Genre:  Comedy (Parody)
  • MPAA Rating:  PG
  • Release Date:  26 June 1987
  • Box Office Gross:  $38.11 mil  (#31 – 1987)
  • Ebert Rating:  **.5
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #55 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  Best Opening, Best Line Not from The Princess Bride (“Now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”)
  • First Watched:  on video when first released
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5 or so

As a Kid:  When I first saw this, I didn’t have that much of a knowledge of film because, hey, because I was still a kid.  But I knew Star Wars.  Good lord, did I ever know Star Wars.  So all the Star Wars references worked perfectly for me.  I even got the Wizard of Oz references (and even the Bridge on the River Kwai reference).  But to me, at the time, this was mostly a way of humorously looking at the movie that was not only a big thing in my life but had been the big thing in my life for a decade. (more…)

Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XXI:

La Bamba

  • Director:  Luis Valdez
  • Writer:  Luis Valdez
  • Producer:  Bill Borden  /  Taylor Hackford
  • Stars:  Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Elizabeth Peña
  • Studio:  Columbia
  • Award Nominations:  Golden Globe – Picture (Drama)
  • Length:  108 min
  • Genre:  Musical (Biopic)
  • MPAA Rating:  PG-13
  • Release Date:  24 July 1987
  • Box Office Gross:  $54.21 mil  (#15 – 1987)
  • Ebert Rating:  ***
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #30 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  Best Soundtrack
  • First Watched:  on video when first released
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5 or so

As a Kid:  I wasn’t that much into music yet in 1987.  Yes, I had been watching videos on MTV for a few years but I didn’t know that much, especially about older music.  In fact, I had a tendency to believe that any song that I didn’t know who was singing it (“Eve of Destruction”, “American Pie”, “The Longest Time”) that it was being sung by The Beatles (when my brother John corrected me on these, he explained that he could understand if I had thought “Eve of Destruction” was sung by Springsteen, but by The Beatles?  I explained that I assumed every major song was sung by The Beatles.).  I hadn’t yet seen The Buddy Holly Story but I had a vague notion of The Day the Music Died because of growing up with “American Pie”.  Then this film came out.  More importantly, since I didn’t see this film in the theater, the soundtrack came out, a soundtrack that my brother Kelly bought during a summer that he and I shared a room. (more…)

Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XX:

The Cannonball Run

  • cannonballrunDirector:  Hal Needham
  • Writer:  Brock Yates
  • Producer:  Raymond Chow
  • Stars:  Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLouise, Farah Fawcett, Roger Moore
  • Studio:  20th Century-Fox
  • Award Nominations:  Razzie – Supporting Actress (Farah Fawcett)
  • Length:  95 min
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • MPAA Rating:  PG
  • Release Date:  19 June 1981
  • Box Office Gross:  $72.17 mil  (#6 – 1981)
  • Ebert Rating:  .5
  • My Rating:  **.5
  • My Rank:  #57 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  Best Guilty Pleasure
  • First Watched:  on television
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5-10

As a Kid:  It wasn’t just this film – there was also Smokey and the Bandit.  Both of them were films I watched a number of times as a kid, both of them star Burt Reynolds and were directed by Hal Needham, a former stunt driver and good friend of Reynolds who directed a considerable number of films with Reynolds as the star, many of them terrible.  Perhaps the reason I watched both of them so many times lies in the rating – they were both rated PG.  Neither film is really one you want a kid getting too attached to given the basic immorality of their plots; in the first, Reynolds is trying to illegally sneak a large truck’s worth of beer across the border while in this film, it’s about driving across the country as fast as you can, speed limits and safety be damned. (more…)

Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XIX:

Silver Streak

  • The film is a lot better than the poster would make you think.

    The film is a lot better than the poster would make you think.

    Director:  Arthur Hiller

  • Writer:  Colin Higgins
  • Producer:  Edward K. Milkis  /  Thomas L. Miller
  • Stars:  Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor, Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty
  • Studio:  20th Century-Fox
  • Award Nominations:  Oscars – Sound; Globes – Actor – Comedy; WGA – Original Comedy
  • Length:  114 min
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • MPAA Rating:  PG
  • Release Date:  8 December 1976
  • Box Office Gross:  $51.07 mil
  • My Rating:  ***.5
  • My Rank:  #18 (year)
  • Nighthawk Globe Nominations:  Picture – Comedy, Original Screenplay – Comedy, Supporting Actor – Comedy
  • Nighthawk Notables:  Best Film to Watch Over and Over, Best Scene (stopping the train)
  • First Watched:  sometime on television
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  more than 5

As a Kid:  There was a goofy television show in the early 80’s called The Fall Guy.  I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember the opening credits.  The song was called “The Unknown Stuntman” and it was actually sung by star Lee Majors (I think that’s how my family ended up watching it – we had been big fans of The Six Million Dollar Man).  It featured several stunts from movies, with the notion that this unknown stuntman that the show was about (played by Majors) had really been the person performing those stunts.  One of them involved a person on top of a train hitting a light switch and being dragged off the train (it’s just 20 seconds in). (more…)

Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XVIII:

The Untouchables

  • The most famous graduate of my high school becomes a star.

    The most famous graduate of my high school becomes a star.

    Director:  Brian De Palma

  • Writer:  David Mamet  (suggested by the book by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley)
  • Producer:  Art Linson
  • Stars:  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Award Nominations:  Academy Awards – Supporting Actor, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design; Golden Globes – Supporting Actor, Score; BAFTA – Supporting Actor, Score, Production Design, Costume Design; WGA (Adapted Screenplay); NBR – Supporting Actor
  • Length:  119 min
  • Genre:  Suspense
  • MPAA Rating:  R
  • Release Date:  5 June 1987
  • Box Office Gross:  $76.27 mil  (#6 – 1987)
  • Ebert Rating:  **.5
  • My Rating:  ****
  • My Rank:  #12 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Supporting Actor, Editing, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Costume Design
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none
  • First Watched:  the week it came out on video
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  5 or 6

As a Kid:  I don’t think it was known yet when I saw this film.  The “it” in the preceding sentence is not that Kevin Costner was about to become one of the biggest stars on the planet.  It’s that Kevin Costner was the most famous person to ever come out of my high school.  I already liked him before I was inclined to like him and this film (along with Silverado) was a major reason why, even before he starred in the two best baseball films ever made at a time when baseball was a massive part of my life. (more…)

Revisiting Childhood Movies Part XVII:

A Nightmare on Elm Street

  • It's all fun and games until Freddy Kruger kills you in your sleep.

    It’s all fun and games until Freddy Kruger kills you in your sleep.

    Director:  Wes Craven

  • Writer:  Wes Craven
  • Producer:  Robert Shaye
  • Stars:  Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Johnny Depp, Ronee Blakely
  • Studio:  New Line
  • Award Nominations:  none that I track
  • Length:  91 min
  • Genre:  Horror (Slasher)
  • MPAA Rating:  R
  • Release Date:  9 November 1984
  • Box Office Gross:  $25.50 mil  (#40 – 1984)
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #28  (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none
  • First Watched:  1987 or so
  • Number of Times Watched as a Kid:  2 or 3

As a Kid:  This film pretty much scared the crap out of me.  It wasn’t the worst movie I ever dealt with (I watched The Hitcher at one in the morning alone – that was a mistake) but it was genuinely terrifying.  And yet, I watched it more than once.  Why?  Well, because I knew it was well-made.  The director clearly had some talent, and he used that to great effect.  I wasn’t quite certain why it had scared me so much – perhaps that I never liked to sleep to begin with (I had nightmares a lot as a kid) and this film is designed to make you scared of sleeping.  Perhaps because the killer was unreal in a sense, and that made him more frightening than someone like Michael Myers.  Either way, this was one of the few non-Godzilla Horror films that I watched more than once as a kid. (more…)