SUMMER MOVIES : WHAT FILMS WILL MAKE THE GRADE WITH TEEN-AGERS?
What movies are teen-agers likely to spend their money on this summer?
To find out, Calendar invited eight Los Angeles-area high school journalists to The Times to talk about movies. The students--admittedly a cut above the typical high-school party animal--were selected from more than 100 public high schools.
After seeing previews of 11 major summer films, and looking over production notes, press kits, etc., the eight were asked for their comments, which follow. (The average grade is based on their reactions to the promotional material).
‘A VIEW TO A KILL’: B- Although the group didn’t swallow the promotional trailer ushering in, once again, “The biggest and best Bond yet,” six of the eight said they would see the latest adventure. Yet while the women in this Bond feature won plaudits from the male critics, Roger Moore only drew Christy’s mumbled response, “I’m not particularly attracted to him.”
Michael: The only way I’d go see it is if my friends and I decide to go ahead and party one night and camp on the whole movie. We’ve done it before--I’m sure everybody has. You just go in for a few laughs, eat your popcorn and say, “Can you believe we actually paid for this?”
Chris: I like it because Bond’s the fantasy male--he has all the women, money and adventure he wants, and it seems just great every time. I wouldn’t miss it.
Ted: I’ll definitely see it. With the Bond films, you know if you walk in you’ll have a great time. You may have seen it before, but it’s a lot of fun. You know Moore is not as good as Connery, so he comes off as really funny. The new Bond films are even more enjoyable than the older ones. It’s at the point now where it’s a satire, and that’s good because you can’t take something seriously for 23 years.
Christy: I wouldn’t want to pay for it. I’d wait the two years it would take for the film to get on TV.
Cathy: I wouldn’t see it. Roger Moore is a ladies’ man to the extreme--a nobleman who’s doing this for fun, as a joke that never seems to stop. It’s not even making fun of the film anymore.
Karolyn: I can’t believe it when Roger Moore goes in the hot tub and says, “We haven’t met,” and they kiss--it’s too corny.
‘MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME’: C+ The three die-hard “Road Warrior” fans pledged to run out and see this sequel, in which Mel Gibson discovers a pack of kids living in a crack in the Earth after a nuclear war. The others, however, were turned off by the film’s violence.
Matt: Most sequels, save the two after “Star Trek,” are awful, but I think the “Road Warrior” outdid “Mad Max.” This one looks great too. “Road Warrior” was the best picture of 1982. I could write a book on it. Plus it’s co-written by George Miller, and Tina Turner also looks dynamic on the screen. I’m speechless.
Michael: The violence is essential to this movie because we don’t know exactly what will happen if we have World War III. There are all these possible ideas, and since I’m interested in science-fiction sagas, I’ll probably go see it.
Cathy: Mel Gibson was left in the middle of the desert in “Road Warrior,” so I always wanted to know what happened. But I don’t feel any great desire to rush out and see it, besides being curious over the last episode.
Chris: I wouldn’t see it. I’m tired of the post-war idea. Besides, it has bad music.
John: It doesn’t excite me in the least. Tina Turner’s just a rock star trying to pretend to be an actress, and it’s just the same story: Good vs. Evil in the future with a lot of special effects. Two people with names doesn’t make a film.
‘THE GOONIES’: B Based on the trailer, some thought this Steven Spielberg presentation realistic for its portrayal of young kids while others insisted it was unrealistic because of “an unlikely plot.” All, however, found director Richard Donner’s adventure about seven kids who find a map to a lost treasure to be engaging.
Michael: I liked the fantasy and special effects. Best of all is the idea of friends being in something together, a group of underdogs getting in trouble or getting even.
Christy: I’d definitely go see it. It was really cute and had good action and suspense. It sort of reminds me of “The Little Rascals,” with all of the friendships and little adventures. It’ll be a great summer film, and it’s Spielberg.
Matt: I think it’s an interesting escapist film. I hope people don’t get down on the plot, though, because the title seems to me to be misleading, clashing with “Ghoulies” and “Gremlins,” which are both awful.
John: It’s fairly unrealistic. I don’t know many kids who have adventures like they do, and it looks like a rehash of things I’ve sat through one million times before on TV. But I’ll probably go see it because I end up going to see everything.
‘PALE RIDER’: C+ The film lost points with most for being a Western but gained a following among seven of the critics because of the “rider” and director, Clint Eastwood. He plays a drifter who finds himself in the middle of a feud between prospectors and big-company miners during the California gold rush.
Cathy: I’m not a big Western fan. They usually concern shoot-outs in the middle of the town, and they’re gritty and muddy. But I liked “The Grey Fox” a lot, it was more than just a Western; it had a lot to do with people.
Matt: I haven’t seen a good Western since “The Long Riders,” and this looks like it may be good. I would see it for Eastwood. He has a sense of security, of protection. Before (Eddie) Murphy he (Eastwood) was the No. 1 box-office draw, and he seems to have a presence that’s great, as in the “Dirty Harry” films. I’m not sure he’s that versatile an actor, though.
Christy: Eastwood has had a lot of success in the past few years, so I might see “Pale Rider” for that. He’s not good-looking, but he’s believable.
Karolyn: It looked dull. Clint Eastwood is really good, but I wouldn’t see it myself unless someone else told me to.
Ted: I liked “Star Wars,” but that was a Western that had been updated. Westerns are out now because the technology is out. Horses and guns, unless that’s your thing, are just not that appealing. Back in the old days, they were.
‘SECRET ADMIRER’: C Opinion was evenly divided over a teen farce about a love letter that triggers a chain of mishaps, bewildering parents and turning teen-age love triangles upside down. It stars teen heartthrob C. Thomas Howell.
Christy: I don’t think it’s any comparison to “Risky Business,” but it’s pretty wild. I’d see it for Tommy Howell. It has the three qualities that teen-agers want to see--sex, swearing and music.
Ted: I’d give it a chance--standard teen-age sex comedy, but it seems like it has one heck of a plot. It looks like it will twist the audience and whip them this way and that.
Karolyn: I’d definitely go see it. It looks totally ridiculous, and I like C. Thomas Howell. He hasn’t done any comedy yet, so I’d be interested in seeing what he’s like in this role.
Matt: I think it’s garbage. I was utterly confused. This has to be the 10th “Porky’s” rip-off. Howell is a great actor. Why don’t they put him in a movie where he can act?
John: I’d stay five blocks from the theater. It looks hideous. I don’t need to be hit over the head with every dirty gesture, dirty word or sexual innuendo. I can watch “Three’s Company” and get that. Film comedy has to be more subtle.
‘FLETCH’: C+ The critics looked less at the plot than at its star, Chevy Chase: Half said Chase “always plays the same character”; the other half liked Chase’s role as “Fletch,” an investigative reporter who tracks down a mystery involving drug trafficking on the beach.
Cathy: If Chase can avoid repeating himself, I’d see it, but it looks like some of the jokes could get old after a while. After 25 pratfalls, it’s just not that funny anymore.
John: Chase was terrible in “Modern Problems,” but there’s always room for a good comedy. I’d go hoping it would be good, but there are so many crummy comedies today that you have to watch out.
Karolyn: I like Chevy Chase’s wisecracks and the stupid questions, so I’d probably go see it.
Michael: Chevy Chase makes me think of a white Eddie Murphy. “Fletch” looks a little far-fetched at times, but I’d go see it.
Ted: Chase films usually have all the funny lines in the trailers. His last few films, particularly “Deal of the Century,” have been hideously bad.
‘EXPLORERS’: B This feature about three neighborhood kids who build a spaceship, promoted as “a story in the Tom Sawyer tradition,” was the only film cited twice by our reviewers as the film they would most want to see.
Cathy: As a kid, going into space always was my big fantasy, and here are these kids living it out. “Explorers” really works because it shows something completely unexpected happening to normal people.
Karolyn: You have to be pretty creative to believe that what the kids are doing is possible, but it probably would be fun. “Explorers” seems a bit like “The Goonies,” though, and I’d rather see “Goonies.”
Ted: I’d go see it because of Spielberg and because I like seeing children on screen. They’d never really been given a chance in film until “E.T.”
Chris: I can identify with the idea of kids going after their dream. But I think younger kids will best relate with this film because they don’t ask “Why? How come they can do it and I can’t?” They just watch and enjoy it.
John: “Explorers” reminds me of “Cloak and Dagger.” It’ll make a lot of money because every kid wants to build a space or time machine. I’ll definitely go see it because I also dream of fulfilling this fantasy.
‘RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD II’: F This sequel to “First Blood” proved far more forbidding to our reviewers than the Vietnam jungle where John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) becomes trapped after being sent to track down American MIA’s.
Christy: Why didn’t they just turn their guns at the camera and shoot down or burn the whole film? Sylvester Stallone doesn’t have an acting part--all he did was scream. I don’t think he can act in any case.
Ted: Why is Stallone doing this? It’s useless, a waste of time and energy. It reflects something about the kind of films being made today. For the MIA’s and Vietnam vet’s, it’s a disgrace.
Karolyn: This is like going to “Friday the 13th” and seeing machine guns instead of chain saws.
Matt: I’d like to say something to all of the directors of these overblown combat films. We lost the war in Vietnam. So why do we keep making these “Uncommon Valor"-type films? I think Stallone is fit for this role because there’s no acting; it’s just an excuse to cash in on the following of the first one.
Cathy: Nothing could drag me into see this, it looks so bad. In a year and a half, there was “Uncommon Valor” and a Chuck Norris movie (“Missing in Action.”). Why are they doing it again? It just looks like nonstop violence, and that’s too bad because I really liked Stallone in “Rocky.” Why can’t he stick with that?
Chris: Stallone was human in “Rocky,” but now he grabs every script where he gets to show his physique and run around in short pants. How are we supposed to believe we’re going to release this psychopath from prison, this killing machine who blows up civilian houses, and then send him on a secret CIA mission to Vietnam, with orders not to engage the enemy?
‘BLACK CAULDRON’: B+ Two of the group shied away from this Disney release because, they said, “animation was for kids,” but six gave high marks to this $25-million, 70-millimeter animated feature, which was 10 years in the making.
Karolyn: I wouldn’t go see it because I’m older and I don’t watch cartoons any more. It reminds me of “Sword and the Stone.” The only thing that could ever get me to go see this is if I was baby-sitting.
Ted: It’s been a long time since Disney’s done full-length animated features. This animation looks like the traditional style, the music sounds good, the colors are brilliant--I’d definitely give it a chance.
Michael: I like all of the new stories, and the art is fantastic. I’d see it because I really liked the “Dark Crystal.”
Christy: I wouldn’t see this movie because I can never go drag myself to see an animated movie. It reminds me of “Lord of the Rings.”
Matt: It looks lighthearted, original, creative, whimsical and fun. Animation doesn’t get enough recognition. People don’t see how art can be portrayed through the process. Then again, there are bad animation films, like “The Care Bears Movie.” I walked out.
Cathy: “Sword and the Sorcerer"-type magic doesn’t appeal to me, but the animation looks good. If it’s as good as the “Rescuers,” which was one of my favorite movies, I’d definitely see it.
Chris: Disney films are magical and a refreshing break from reality. They take you right back to your childhood. It’s great because what’s better than going back to your childhood? Everybody likes to remember the great times when you were 4 and all you had to do was kick and you got anything you wanted. Anything that reminds you of happy times is worth seeing.
‘PERFECT’: D- The group questioned how this film could explore the ethics of journalism, as its producers claim, when the promotional trailer spotlighted aerobics, drug trafficking and Travolta’s love affairs.
Karolyn: It’s far from its title. I don’t think Travolta can act. I know he’s a big star, but I don’t find him attractive at all.
Ted: Why was this film made? John Travolta is not selling at the box office, and (Jamie Lee) Curtis, who has a lot of potential talent, is getting schlopped off here. This film is not going to do well--I know I won’t see it. Anything with Travolta’s name on it nowadays seems to me like it’s going to be bad. He doesn’t act like a reporter; he acts like John Travolta.
Michael: Questionable, very questionable. Travolta’s like one of those guys whose personality carries him through every role, but he can’t get away with it in this movie. There are lot’s of lines like “Hi, Rick, ha, ha, ha.” There’s nothing to him.
Matt: I don’t think it was even good enough to qualify for TV. It looks like a meaningless film, a bad rip-off of “Absence of Malice.” Also, why Travolta? If you have to make a bad movie, at least get someone who can halfheartedly support it. Curtis is gorgeous--why’s she in this film?
Cathy: Every time I see Travolta I keep thinking of “Welcome Back Kotter.”
‘THE EMERALD FOREST’: B+ Our critics were both confused and entranced by this one, which is based--its makers claim--on the true story of a man’s decade-long search for his son through the jungles of the Amazon.
Christy: I’ve never seen anything like it on film. It reminds me of “Lord of the Flies.” The clash between civilization and primitive life will be really interesting to watch.
Karolyn: If it was a true story, the kind that only happens once in a lifetime, I would go see it.
Cathy: The cinematography really impressed me, but I don’t like the idea of violence deep in the jungle. The only way I’d see this is if I went with my father or my brother. This looks like their kind of movie, a man’s movie--fighting it out in the jungle. Otherwise, it would be too violent for me. All of those arrows. . . . (Cathy shivered).
Matt: Intriguing and intense. Boorman is very diverse and intelligent. There is a lot of violence, but it’s based on a true story. “Mask” and “Missing” are also based on true stories, and those directors (Peter Bogdanovich, Costa-Gavras) really seem to set out to make a good film. It also goes back to rivalry between the Indian and the white man, which encompasses a lot of our history books. It’s important to see that on the screen.
Chris: The music was mesmerizing, and the surroundings were real. This movie might link what civilized people have in common with uncivilized people.
John: I’d definitely see it. The action was justified, not just there for action. It had a good plot, and the idea that the love between a father and his child can overcome all barriers. I like that theme.
AND NOW, LET’S MEET OUT PERCEPTIVE PANELISTS
Michael Acevedo, 18, a senior at Hollywood’s Franklin High, goes for tough, action movies. He lists “Terminator” as his favorite film, “reading a good horror novel” as his favorite hobby and lauding “Road Warrior” films because “it’s interesting to see what World War III might look like.” Michael, who also is a comedy film fan (Eddie Murphy is his favorite actor), plans to major in broadcasting (“I like getting up in front of a camera and blabbing”).
Matt Auerbach, 15, a sophomore at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, has “disliked most of the films I’ve seen in recent years.” He says, “I’d rather eat dog food covered with stale liver” than see “Rambo.” Matt generously praised escapist films, Mel Gibson (favorite actor) and “A Clockwork Orange” (favorite film). He won’t go to movies in Westwood, however. "$6 is a phenomenal rip-off.” He plans to attend UC Berkeley.
Chris Eftychiou, 16, a junior at Rosemead High, spoke out for “genres neglected by society.” Chris argued that animation films and documentaries “aren’t given the attention they deserve.” He feels “Disney films are magical” and often praised movies “where kids go after their dreams,” but his favorite film and actor are drawn from an altogether different area: action. Harrison Ford and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” top his list.
John Louis Eliopoulos, 17, a senior at Hoover High School, sees movies three times a week. After viewing a preview of “Pale Rider,” he laughed, “I’ll probably go see it because I end up going to see everything.” John plans to major in cinema-TV at USC and said he likes films “dealing with childhood, especially with relationships between fathers and sons and the love-conquers-all theme.” “And Justice for All” topped his list of favorite films.
Cathy Hodges, 18, a senior at West Torrance High, is “very enthusiastic” about all films except “movies where 25-year-olds try to pass off as 16-year-old teen-agers, teen-sex comedies and violent films--no ‘Porky’s or ‘Friday the 13th, Part 20,’ please.” She plans to go to USC and major in cinema. “I like to see movies with my father because we discuss them afterwards.” Her favorite film: “Amadeus.” Harrison Ford is her favorite star.
Karolyn Kusumoto, 16, says she’s “too busy” to see films more than once a month, with choir, cross country, German language club, writing, dancing, singing, debating and acting. The San Gabriel High sophomore wants more fast-paced adventure and comedy movies “without all the violence, male chauvinism and sex. It’s getting redundant.” Favorite actor: Harrison Ford; favorite film: “The Breakfast Club (“a superb example of comedy without sex”).
Ted (“Why was this film made!”) Spellman was the most cynical of the panel. “Hollywood sometimes treats the public like children and it should stop.” A junior at San Dimas High School who hopes to attend UCLA, Ted thinks “most teen-agers don’t really know the line between good and bad films” and said, “Choosing a film is just a matter of reading between the advertising lines.” Ted said he would like to see more “intelligent sci-fi films.”
Christy Trinh, 18, a senior at Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, usually “watches the talked-about, critically acclaimed stuff,” and said she’d like to see more “funny movies that are intelligent.” When seeing movies with her friends, she’s the one who decides. “I usually like what I see, even the stupid films, which, admittedly, have their moments.” Her favorite film is “Risky Business.” She will attend Boston University in the fall.