One thing I’ve noticed about being a soundtrack collector is that I own many film scores from bad and/or long-forgotten movies. I was thinking about this while contributing to Popdose’s recent tribute to film composer Alan Silvestri in which I mentioned that a particularly fun score for me was Judge Dredd (1995), which most people would agree is not the most inspiring of sources. And so for the purposes of this list, it seems like a good place to start.
Alan Silvestri has a singular sound that announces his work as few can. His brassy fanfare punches are synonymous with the movies they appeared in, and his themes catch the spirit of the characters and propel the story like any other vital element of a film. The Back to the Future theme has almost a sailing, swashbuckling demeanor about it, and it doesn’t really matter if the sailing is through oceans or time. The Predator theme is a massive figure itself, stalking through jungle brush, with just a hint of percussive clicking to indicate something not quite human is in pursuit.
Silvestri can handle small dramatic moments and comedic flourishes, but when it is time to amp up an action setpiece, few are as equipped as Silvestri — an honor we believe even his peers would bestow upon him.
I will admit that when I chose Dutch (1991) to finish out this month of Thanksgiving-themed Soundtrack Saturday posts, I wasn’t terribly excited about it. I’d only seen it once, eons ago, and it didn’t make much of an impression on me. And to be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of its star, Ed O’Neill (I like him now though — I really just hated Al Bundy), so that was probably a big part of the reason I wrote it off after seeing it just once.
I watched it again as I was preparing to write this and I have to admit that, while it’s nowhere near the best film in John Hughes’s canon, it’s much better than I remember it being. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s actually pretty good.
Written by Hughes and directed by Australian director Peter Faiman, whose only previous feature film credit was 1986’s Crocodile Dundee, Dutch stars O’Neill as Dutch Dooley, a working-class — but fairly well-off — man who offers to go pick up Doyle (Ethan Embry), the spoiled son of his wealthy, divorcée girlfriend Natalie (JoBeth Williams), from boarding school in Atlanta and bring the boy home to spend Thanksgiving with his mother. Dutch thinks the trip will give him and Doyle the chance to get to know each other. But, of course, the two do not get along at all and road trip hijinx ensue.
So, how has the summer of ten been treating you, cinematically? While I was genuinely looking forward to seeing Toy Story 3 and Inception in the theaters, my score card as it currently stands has only one visit to the multiplex - Iron Man 2.
Like wrinkles on a middle-aged man, time has a way of making even the most mundane movie appear distinguished. Maybe you were a kid when you first saw that middlebrow comedy; maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve watched that predictable action flick with the saggy second act. As objects recede into memory, they appear … better, somehow.
Take, for instance, 1987’s Predator, a rock-’em, sock-’em action orgy that grew out of a gag about Rocky Balboa fighting an alien and evolved, I guess, into an excuse for Arnold Schwarzenegger and a coterie of machine-gun-totin’ dudes to tromp through the jungle while being hunted by a homicidal extraterrestrial.
Perfect popcorn fare, in other words. And thanks to some nifty creature design by Stan Winston — as well as the overlooked talents of Kevin Peter Hall, a gifted actor whose seven-foot physique doomed him to a career in monster suits — Predator was nowhere near as bad as it probably should have been. For something that was inspired by a dumb joke, it’s actually sort of smart; you’d be hard-pressed to find an action movie that builds this slowly today, and its gradual shift from a military rescue flick to a sci-fi/horror film is fun to watch.
Predator definitely has its strong points. But it’s also deeply hokey. And yes, we’re talking about a movie about a Green Beret with a thick Austrian accent fighting an alien in a jungle somewhere near Guatemala, so a certain amount of corn is implied. But this is the kind of movie that likes to beat you over the head with everything from its score (a collection of painfully obvious cues from Alan Silvestri) to its characters (will the Native American badass also be a mystic who touches a talisman around his neck when he’s getting ready to fight? You bet) and its dialogue, which is either extremely cliched or simply slaughtered by Schwarzenegger, whose line readings couldn’t be any more wooden if he were a dime-store Indian. (Still, no one can slather himself in mud, clamber up a tree, light a giant torch, and scream like Arnie. No one.)