Friday, July 16, 2010

For the Weekend: Summertime and The Livin's Easy

Boy, summer has definitely hit us!  Out here in LA, the June gloom finally realized it was July and quickly left this week.  Guess it was only a matter of time before the West Coast met up with the East Coast heat.  Well, that just means it's time to enjoy those summer movie flicks!  

First up, how can we talk about silly, fun summer flicks without 1987's "Summer School"?  If you're a kid of the 80s, I know you can't.  Carl Reiner directs Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Robin Thomas, and Courtney Thorne-Smith in this light-hearted comedy about a fun-loving, beach-living high school gym teacher (Harmon) forced to spend his summer teaching a remedial English class.  This is one of those movies I always watch whenever I notice it on television.  And why shouldn't I, being a child of the 80s?  We get to see the same school used for "The Karate Kid" (the original 1984 true Karate Kid), Charles Evans Hughes Jr. High School in Woodland Hills, CA, filmed again here.  And we get a soundtrack filled with 80s, truly 80s, singers like Debbie Harry, Paul Engemann, E. G. Daily, and even Eddie Murphy (with his classic "Party All the Time").  What sounds more fun than that?

Next, you can't talk about summer movies without talking about the ridiculously outrageous big budget action films that fill the theaters ever year, and "Armageddon" (1998) epitomizes that to a T.  Remember back in the 90s, when we actually made deep-oil drillers into heroes?  I know this might be in bad taste after BP destroyed the Gulf, but I can't help it.  "Armageddon" is my ultimate guilty pleasure!  There is no crappy movie higher.  In this Michael Bay-Jerry Bruckheimer extravaganza of explosions (even in the vacuum of space?), Bruce Willis stars as Harry Stamper, an oil driller, who is asked to save the world and destroy an asteroid the size of Texas heading straight for Earth.  Costars include a cavalcade of names like Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Clark Duncan, and Jason Isaacs.  Producers actually managed to get permission from NASA to use much of their restricted equipment and facilities, like the 40-foot-deep pool used to train astronauts for weightlessness and the original Apollo 1 launch site.  Those are even real NASA spacesuits the cast wears, something no other civilian has gotten to do.  NASA agreed to all this, hoping "Armageddon" would have the same recruitment effect that "Top Gun" (1986) had for the Naval Air Force.  Of course, they ended up using it more to train managers by counting all the scientific mistakes (like being able to land on an asteroid).  Oh well, I just call it Hollywood at its most fanciful.

Finally, if you live in the LA area, then it's time for one of the greatest summer viewing experiences this town has to offer.  Get out your blankets and picnic baskets, and head to Hollywood Cemetery tomorrow night for "Saturday Night Fever." At 9pm, the show starts on this 1977 classic starring John Travolta as a young man struggling with real life in Brooklyn by escaping to the disco every weekend and dancing his worries away.  Filmed in the streets of New York City a lot, production often had to halt because of the screaming "Welcome Back, Kotter" fans, mainly teenage girls drooling over Travolta.  Karen Lynn Gorney costars, but there were quite a lot of other famous names up for the part of Stephanie, including Jessica Lange, Kathleen Quinlan, Carrie Fisher, and Amy Irving.  Donna Pescow, who won the role of Annette, was actually considered too pretty for the role so she purposely gained 40 lbs. for it.  Travolta, on the other hand, did so much exercising and dancing for the film that he dropped 20 lbs. 

All the above films are currently on DVD, so my advice this weekend?  Hop in your car and make a quick trip to the rental store.  Then go home, crank the A/C, and enjoy some summer living through the decades.  And if you're in LA, venture out Saturday evening for a true one-of-a-kind experience.  Until Monday, everyone.  Have a wonderful weekend!

(Post-tidbit: Liv Tyler turned down the role of Grace Stamper in "Armageddon" three times before finally accepting.  And thank goodness she did, or we never would have gotten to see that just-kinda-seems-wrong image of her father Steven Tyler singing a love song to his little girl in the music video for "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." (Watch the video below.))

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