TV Review – When Was SNL Funny? Part 2 (of 9)

1980 began an extraordinarily difficult period for Saturday Night Live. The plan was for showrunner Lorne Michaels to step away from the program and promote writer Al Franken into the top spot. However, NBC President Fred Silverman passed on this after Franken delivered a monologue on Weekend Update near the end of the fifth season titled “A Limo for a Lame-O.” This piece involved Franken cracking jokes about Silverman being responsible for poor ratings on NBC programs during his tenure, and people were actually very shocked at how mean Franken was. I don’t know if this was intentional self-sabotage, but it basically sealed the deal that Franken was out. Silverman gave the job to Jean Doumanian, who had been an associate producer under Michaels. But things were not settled in any way, and the next five years would be chaotic.

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Comic Book Review – Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 6 (of 9)

Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 6 (of 9)
Reviewing stories found in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8, DC Comics Presents #88, Justice League of America Annual #3, Green Lantern #195, and Superman #415
Written by Marv Wolfman, Steve Englehart, Dan Mishkin, Cary Bates
Art by George Perez, Keith Giffen, Rick Hoberg, Joe Staton, Curt Swan

Still reeling from the death of Supergirl, fans were hit with another significant death that would have some long-term effects on the DC Universe for decades. It must be noted that eight issues into these events and the heroes of the Multiverse have just really gotten their bearings on what is happening to all of reality. They even believe the Anti-Monitor was defeated at this point due to what happened in the previous issue. The surviving Earths are still a mess, and they are trying to sort that out while having no idea that the antagonist is still alive and recharging his batteries.

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My Favorite Movies of 1981

Raiders of the Lost Ark (directed by Stephen Spielberg)
From my full review
Raiders certainly holds up as a great adventure movie. The writing is sharp, and the characters are fully realized so that everyone has a personality without becoming an obnoxious exaggeration. Belloq could easily have moved into a farce of a French snob, but he is grounded and feels like a more realistic person. The same is said for the Nazi antagonists alongside him. They are both character types from genre films but also not grotesque cartoons. In modern cinema, we often get more exposition around villains to explain motivation and layout a master plan. While Belloq does have his own designs on the Ark, I don’t think there was ever a scene that felt like awkward exposition. His goals are clearly stated, and then the story moves on.

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Movie Review – Escape From New York

Escape from New York (1981)
Written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle
Directed by John Carpenter

Our flashback to 1981 has come to a close with this film. Be on the lookout for a list of my favorite movies of 1981 tomorrow. For now, we bring things to a close with Escape from New York. Over the last year, I have expanded my viewings of John Carpenter movies quite a bit. I rewatched The Thing, a film I already love a lot. I also gave Halloween another chance and walked away, liking it a lot. Seeing it in the context as a slasher before that became such a dominant and overdone horror genre helped. I watched The Fog & They Live! for the first time and liked both of them. This was also my first viewing of Escape from New York, and…well, I think this is at the bottom of the list compared to the other movies personally.

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Comic Book Review – Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 5 (of 9)

Crisis on Infinite Earths Part 5 (of 9)
Reviewing stories found in Crisis on Infinite Earths #6-7, Blue Devil #17-18, Infinity Inc #23-24, Legion of Super-Heroes #16,18, DC Comics Presents #87, Superman #414, The Omega Men #31
Written by Marv Wolfman, Gary Cohn, Dan Mishkin, Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas, Paul Levitz, Elliot S. Maggin, Todd Klein
Art by George Perez, Alan Kupperberg, Todd McFarlane, Ron Harris, Steve Lightle, Greg LaRocque, Curt Swan, Shawn McManus, Ernie Colon

The Anti-Monitor has been fully revealed and explains that the Multiverse will be his to destroy when the Monitor’s protective energy fades completely. His plan is to first draw Earth S (Shazam), Earth 4 (Charlton), and Earth X (The Freedom Fighters) to the anti-matter universe. Once consumed, they will give him enough power to wipe out Earths 1 and 2, the most powerful of all the worlds in the Multiverse. Harbinger has made the Multiverse heroes aware of what the stakes are, and now they are rushing to deal with the immediate catastrophes befalling their worlds and determine how to defeat the Anti-Monitor.

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Movie Review – Excalibur

Excalibur (1981)
Written by John Boorman and Rospo Pallenberg
Directed by John Boorman

The story of King Arthur has been endlessly adapted into all forms of media, and it can be assumed that it will continue for as long as humans make art. This particular adaptation is a theatrical version of Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. If you’ve seen The Sword in the Stone or anything where Merlin takes an important role, it’s most likely derived from Mallory’s writings on Camelot. Director John Boorman was initially interested in doing a three-hour film centered on the famous wizard of British lore, but the studios thought it was too costly and without broad appeal. Boorman then turned his attention to a live-action adaptation of Lord of the Rings, which fell through, but there was interest in a film about King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. 

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Movie Review – On Golden Pond

On Golden Pond (1981)
Written by Ernest Thompson
Directed by Mark Rydell

I can remember instances of comedians parodying On Golden Pond in my youth, especially Katherine Hepburn’s particular affectations throughout. As I got older, I learned more about the actors involved, especially the rift between Henry Fonda and his daughter Jane. The film started after Jane saw the play and purchased the rights so she could cast her dad in the lead role. Pairing Henry Fonda with Katherine Hepburn was also a way to appeal to classic movie lovers by featuring these legends. It would turn out to be Henry Fonda’s final film but certainly not one of his best. Sadly, the final product on the screen feels incredibly cheap and trite.

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Movie Review – Outland

Outland (1981)
Written & Directed by Peter Hyams

In 1981, you might think the juggernaut of Star Wars had crushed any desire by Hollywood to make intelligent, more adult science fiction. Yet here comes Outland, a film set on a mining colony with a complete absence of aliens or space battles. Instead, writer-director Peter Hyams translates a plot commonly found in Westerns and places in outer space. The result is seamless, showing how timeless and transcendent certain narratives are. Hyams admitted he wanted to make a Western only, but the success and boom of the science fiction genre caused him to rethink the setting of his idea. He reasoned that the types of stories being told in the 1970s and early 80s were the same you found in Western just repurposed. Thus we get Outland which is High Noon on the moon of Io.

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Movie Review – The Howling

The Howling (1981)
Written by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless
Directed by Joe Dante

1981 might have been the year of the werewolf between this film and An American Werewolf in London and lesser-known Wolfen. Special effects, both makeup and puppets, had improved to the point that movies could showcase spectacular transformation scenes, something older werewolf movies had always made a highlight of their runtime. Seeing the werewolf transform falls into that same category as Bruce Banner switching to the Hulk. There’s something oddly cathartic about watching a person’s body transform into an agent of chaos. Those werewolf transformations are on full display here, with the film reveling in their visceral detail. It’s also a fun, campy horror flick, just the type of thing Joe Dante has always been a master at making.

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Movie Review – Thief

Thief (1981)
Written & Directed by Michael Mann

Michael Mann has made a name for himself for producing some of the best American crime films of the last 40 years. Beyond Thief, he has directed Manhunter, Heat, and Collateral. Outside of the crime genre, Mann directed The Last of the Mohicans and the political drama The Insider. Along the way, he co-created Miami Vice and adapted it to the big screen in 2006. It started with Thief, his feature film debut, exploring the life of a talented safecracker in Chicago. From the start, we can see the atmospheric lighting and the attention to detail that would become a hallmark of Mann’s best work.

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