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Emilio Estevez (#110 of 6)

Summer of ‘90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ‘80s Nostalgia

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Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Triumph Releasing Corporation

Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Men at Work is patient zero for the plague of Charlie Sheen movies that infected the 1990s. One tends to forget that Sheen had steady work in that decade, turning out cocky fare like The Chase and Terminal Velocity. And while Men at Work isn’t the first film to use the actor in his then-typical role of a wiseass hot-shot lothario, the casual laziness that would infect his ’90s output has its origins in writer-director Emilio Estevez’s crime comedy. As Carl Taylor, Sheen can’t be bothered to do anything but exist on screen as he wades through his brother’s mercilessly overstuffed plot.

Estevez’s second feature is a major step down from his 1986 debut, Wisdom. For that film, Estevez was flanked by a massively talented crew: It was edited by Michael Kahn, scored by Danny Elfman, and produced by legendary Oscar-winning director Robert Wise, whom Estevez sought out for advice and guidance. Despite all that firepower, Wisdom is shocking in its ineptitude, a crime thriller saddled with far too many useless details and tangents. The more problematic Men at Work suffers from the same screenplay overcompensations, to the point where one wishes Estevez sought out Wise’s contemporary, Billy Wilder, for advice instead. Wilder would have burned the script for Men at Work.

Top 10 Greatest Car Movies

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Top 10 Greatest Car Movies
Top 10 Greatest Car Movies

Cars, it’s often been observed, offer a sort of contradiction of motion: They allow us to move around while sitting still. It only makes sense, then, that the movies have for so long been attracted to the allure of the automobile, for surely the appeal of the cinema lies in its capacity to take us from the comfort of the theater or living room to adventures around the world. The greatest car movies—movies about cars, largely set in cars, or otherwise significantly concerned with them—understand that our affection for our vehicles has as much to do with the possible freedoms they promise as the routines they let us uphold. Cars drive us to and from work every day, keeping our lives precisely ordered. But they also suggest escape: We’re always aware, faintly, that we could drive away from it all at any moment, out and off toward some new life’s horizon. Car movies remind us of the power in that possibility—of all the things that can happen when we turn the key.

Summer of ‘86: Maximum Overdrive

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Summer of ‘86: <em>Maximum Overdrive</em>
Summer of ‘86: <em>Maximum Overdrive</em>

The trailer for Maximum Overdrive begins with a voice: “Hi, my name is Stephen King.” A bearded man steps out of shadows. Behind him, we see a giant Green Goblin head. “I’ve written several motion pictures,” King says, “but I want to tell you about a movie called Maximum Overdrive, which is the first one I’ve directed.” We then get our first shot from the film itself: Giancarlo Esposito, bathed in orange-red light, staring down at the camera and saying, “Wowwwww….”

Alas, there is very little wowwww in Maximum Overdrive, but it is not as bad as its reputation. Watching it now, you are more likely to find the movie dull than truly terrible. Its kitsch is not delirious, its actors try hard with bland characters, it had a large enough budget for adequate special effects. It is not, in other words, the 1986 equivalent of Plan 9 From Outer Space or Blood Feast.

The year before Maximum Overdrive hit theatres, Stephen King appeared in an American Express commercial. His face had certainly been well known to fans before (he acted in Creepshow in 1982), and he was already suffering some of the pains of celebrity, with his house in Maine frequently besieged by people seeking autographs and souvenirs, but the amusing commercial increased his visibility exponentially. The opening, in which King descends a gothic staircase with a candle in hand, now seems like a bad wish: “Do you know me? It’s frightening how many novels of suspense I’ve written. But still, when I’m not recognized, it just kills me.” (His 1987 novel Misery would offer a very different opinion about being recognized.)

Summer of ‘85 St. Elmo’s Fire

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Summer of ’85: Tickle Us, St. Elmo’s Fire

Columbia Pictures

Summer of ’85: Tickle Us, St. Elmo’s Fire

St. Elmo’s Fire, viewed before its release as a Woodstock of sorts for ’80s-film supergroup the Brat Pack, turned into the beginning of the end for said Pack the minute it hit screens—and not just because the entire Brat Pack concept was a media chimera. The film’s sole reason for existing was evidently to put Brats Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy in the same movie together; the only bigger afterthought than Mare Winningham is the brittle, stagey script, which fails to descend to the level of campy badness and merely bores instead.

Ali Arikan, Sarah D. Bunting and Matt Zoller Seitz took a look at St. Elmo’s Fire and tried to diagnose the main cause of its dull malaise. Read on for their conclusions—or, if you’re short on time, scroll to the end for some self-portraits of their time in the trenches.

Void Movie, Teen Dream: The Outsiders

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Void Movie, Teen Dream: <em>The Outsiders</em>
Void Movie, Teen Dream: <em>The Outsiders</em>

Once upon a time, back when I could stay out until dawn and not spend the next three days paying for it, I used to go to a bar down on Mercer Street named Void. Actually, to call it a bar is not entirely accurate; it had a bar in it, and Lord knows my friends and I drank enough there, but with the speakeasy-style “lighting,” so low that a trip to the ladies’ required the loan of a Zippo, and the unpredictable hours (sometimes open all night, other times closed for a week…except Tuesday), Void felt more like a den or a lair, a place for coded conversations.

Navel Gazing with Burns and Dignan: Bobby, Volver, and Déjà Vu

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Navel Gazing with Burns and Dignan: Bobby, Volver, and Déjà Vu
Navel Gazing with Burns and Dignan: Bobby, Volver, and Déjà Vu

Andrew Dignan: Hey Sean, is there anything more depressing than staring at Thanksgiving leftovers sitting in the fridge for a second week? Everyone loves turkey sandwiches the next day, but after half a dozen different variations of bird and stuffing (I feel like Bubba coming up with uses for shrimp) I’m seriously starting to resent that gutted-out carcass wrapped up in aluminum foil.

Incidentally, leftovers is the theme of this week’s column, as there isn’t a single new entry in theaters worth watching. It’s one of the worst kept secrets around that the first weekend in December is historically an undernourished stretch on exhibitors’ schedules, giving late August a run for its money as most barren wasteland on the calendar. Rather than endure Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story (can’t wait for the scene where Jesus wants to get a tongue stud and then gets into a fight with Mary over it) I thought we’d talk about a few films that have been out for a little while that we haven’t covered yet.

One such film is Emillio Estevez’s Bobby, which may be of special interest to House readers after a recently-linked review of the film from Jonathan Rosenbaum where the film was not only praised but used as damning counterpoint to Altman’s Nashville, which just goes to show that once all of your capacities as a film critic have left you, you can still pack ’em in by just being a contrarian. I’ll defer any Altman defending to you, but I’m frankly baffled how anyone could seriously consider Bobby anything but an overly earnest bit of hero worship buried amidst an especially pedestrian, multi-narrative melodrama. Basically what one can take away from the film is the rather jejune sentiment that everything and everyone in the world would be better off if Robert Kennedy wasn’t assassinated on June 4th, 1968 and that Estevez’s famous friends just aren’t working enough.