Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - Summer Blockbusters

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join our motley crew each week by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

Let's face it: Summer blockbusters are now just mostly recycled crap, franchise films that are at best enjoyable but almost never exciting. In the 1990s, though, they were something else entirely - visual effects-driven dramas with surprising casts that were more often than not completely original stories. There was no need to create a "cinematic universe" or set up a potential sequel, because the movie itself was enough, and next year audiences would move on to the next thing.

To my mind, these three movies are the Holy Trinity of Summer Blockbusterse: well-made, entertaining films that actually engage you in their fantastical situations with grounded characters.

Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996) You simply could not escape this movie when it came out on July 4, 1996 - or for that entire year, really. This is the movie that blew up the white House, killed an alien horde with a computer virus, and made Will Smith the King of Summer Movies. the special effects are fantastic, but the thing most people remember this movie for (other than Will Smith, that is) is President Bill Pullman's climactic speech to the troops. Has there been a summer blockbuster recently where the writing has been this memorable?

Twister (Jan de Bont, 1996) Released a mere month and a half before ID4, Twister isn't as fondly remembered today, but if you ask me it's the better movie. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are ideal leads as a pair of exes and rival storm chasers, and the title storms are still awe-inspiring, as they should be. Again, this is a popcorn movie where SCIENCE is placed on a pedestal. But it still has enough of a sense of humor to send a few cows flying towards the screen.

Armageddon (Michael Bay, 1998) Easily the worst of these three, Armageddon is still a great time, mostly because of the absolutely absurd premise, wherein Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck lead a team of oil drillers into space to break up a massive asteroid hurtling towards Earth. It's ridiculous, but it has its moments. No one who's seen it has been able to look at animal crackers the same way since, I guarantee that. Also includes Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing", one of the greatest movie songs ever.


  1. I like the disaster theme you've got going on here. Twister still makes me laugh.

    1. Thanks! I have always LOVED Twister.

  2. These three do scream Summer Blockbuster that's for sure and I like the theme within the theme.
    I was living in DC when Independence Day came out and went to see it at the Uptown with its 70x40 foot screen and it was truly awesome. The audience was really into it as well so that helped.

    I went back to see Armageddon there but it wasn't the same, probably owing to the stupidity of the movie. It was still a fun action movie though. Twister was decent even if it got a bit redundant after awhile.

    I didn't go the disaster route but agree that the summer films used to be more inventive and therefore more entertaining.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)-This will be brief since I’m guessing there isn’t a soul who hasn’t seen this or doesn’t know the story. Opening with a throwback to the adventure of Saturday serials we meet Indiana Jones professor and treasure hunter. Learning that the Ark of the Covenant is at risk of falling into Nazi possession he sets out to get it into the safe hands of Uncle Sam instead. Along the way he meets up again with Marion Ravenwood, daughter of his old partner and a girl he done wrong, who in many ways is as tough as he is. High adventure follows. Just a flat out good time at the movies. Made a mint on release.

    Total Recall (1990)-In the not too distant future Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is suffering from troubling dreams about battles on Mars. His wife (Sharon Stone) is dismissive of them but when he continues to have them he turns to Rekall Inc. a company that sell a different kind of vacation, implanted memories. But something happens when the memory is being placed and he ends up on Mars in a fight for his life…or is he? Very violent and convoluted but involving. Even now technically impressive and along with The Terminator the film that really put Arnold on top for a long time. Cost a fortune to make, made a fortune in theatres.

    Grease (1978)-Well summer vacation is over and Danny Zuko (John Travolta) leader of the T-Birds is back from a trip to Australia where he met the demure Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) and had some Summer Lovin’. He’s back in his leather jacket and ready to pick up with his gang where he left off but surprise Sandy is a transfer student to his high school and now he’s torn between his image as a tough guy and his love for goody two shoes Sandy, who has been taken under the wing of The Pink Ladies lead by Rizzo (a far too old but sensational anyway Stockard Channing). Teen angst 50’s style, drag racing, a pregnancy scare, cameos by lots of classic stars and a load of good songs follow in this peppy adaptation of the Broadway hit. Raked in the bucks for months on original release then did it again when it was re-released to theatres for its 20th anniversary.

    1. Yes, I suppose Twister does get a bit redundant in its plot but I have so much fun with it I never mind.

      Raiders is one of my all-time favorite films. It's just perfect fun all around. Indiana Jones is probably my all-time favorite movie character - I mean, what's not to love about a swashbuckling archaeologist/professor with the looks and insouciance of Harrison Ford?

      Total Recall is a total blast as well, one of those movies that is completely ridiculous but is so downright demented and committed that it's impossible not to go along for the ride. Probably my favorite Schwarzenegger movie when all is said and done.

      What else is there to say about Grease? It's the word.

  3. Your intro had me all pumped. Great job! Unfortunately, I kinda hate all of these movies. Well, Twister is solid. The other two? Sigh. I saw both in theaters and actually liked ID4 on that first viewing. It didn't hold up at all when I revisited it just a year or so later. Armageddon wasn't even that lucky. I was sitting there wishing that a giant asteroid would literally land on the theater that very moment. Still, I love the disaster theme you have going.

  4. I saw Independence Day many years (and times) later (I was only 2 years old in 1996) and I loved it. I'm not sure how I'd feel about it now.

  5. Independence Day is a great popcorn movie. I still find myself watching it when I see it on TV.

  6. I have seen all 3 and I realized that these movies came out when the media was freaking out the people each time with these themes. I wonder what the next movie will be...probably Bruce Wllis, Sly Stallone and the rest going to North Korea and saving the day. I thought Independence Day was beyond stupid except for the special effects. The dumb twit who plays Will Smith's girlfriend was annoying as hell and I laughed when Will Smith took the controls of an alien ship and the ship had a steering wheel....hahahaaa? Twister was just as dumb but I have seen it more than once..still dumb and I always laugh at the end when the 2 leads don't even seem to have bruised ribs and the first thing they want to do is make out. Arma gettin on the meteor is also quite dumb but fun also

  7. Actually...I think I might just watch Twister now. Haha. Seen it before, wanna see it again. Love all three picks, so much fun.