The Karate Kid Part II (1986, John G Avildsen)

karate-kid-part-2

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

When Mr Miyagi hears that his father is dying, he returns home to Okinawa. His young friend Daniel comes with him, but both are soon the targets of bullies…

Cast and story:
* We begin with a recap montage of the first film. (Don’t you miss sequels that did that?) So we’re reminded of how schoolboy Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) met handyman-cum-karate-teacher Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita) and how a close friendship developed between them. It’s a lengthy sequence: almost five minutes.
* Then there are scenes set immediately after the climax of the first film. Daniel’s mum and girlfriend are said to have gone on ahead to a restaurant (to save hiring the actresses), but bad guy John Kreese (Martin Kove) is there. He’s aggressive and racist, so Mr Miyagi puts him in his place and embarrasses him.
* We then cut to six months later. Daniel has been dumped off-screen by Ali, while his mother has to go away for a few weeks for work, then Mr M gets a letter from an old pal in Okinawa. His father is seriously ill so he must leave for Japan. Faithful Daniel goes too because he’s now at a loose end over summer.
* When they arrive, things don’t go well. Miyagi’s former best friend, Sato (Danny Kamekona), is still holding a grudge from 45 years earlier and wants a fight to the death. Turns out, Mr M fell in love with a woman who was planning to marry Sato.
* Our heroes also meet Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto), a young thug with a shit-eating grin who works for his uncle Sato. He takes against Daniel because… well, you know, plot.
* Also living in the village are Yukie (Nobu McCarthy), the woman Miyagi fell in love with, and her hot niece Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita), who shares a flirtation subplot with Daniel. In one romantic sequence the young pair explore a coastal area typified by some dodgy matte paintings of ancient ruins.
* After Mr M’s father dies, Sato gives him three days to mourn but then wants the duel he’s been waiting 45 years for. Meanwhile, Daniel has pissed off Chozen (somehow) so he’s got problems of his own.
* After a lot of going round in circles, things finally reach a head when there’s a violent storm. Sato’s house is destroyed, but because Mr M is a nice guy he saves his rival’s life. Sato is grateful and the grudge is forgotten (yay!).
* However, Chozen still wants to hurt Daniel (seriously, pal, get over it!). So he gate-crashes a ceremonial dance being held in the matte-painting castle and attacks Daniel. The pair fight and Daniel gets the upper hand, but because he’s a nice guy he declines to kill his rival.

Review: This disappointing sequel suffers from three main problems. Firstly, it lacks drive. There’s a sedate pace to the storytelling – especially in the middle third – while neither Mr Miyagi nor Daniel are ever attempting to achieve anything beyond ‘not getting beaten up’. Secondly, the dialogue is often tiresome with lots of scenes of Daniel asking questions and Mr M explaning Okinawan culture. There are also several lines that feel like they’ve been added to explain a plot hole (“But I thought you said…”, that kind of thing). And thirdly, the story is difficult to get excited about. The plot sees grown men bullying the elderly and a teenager over something that happened 45 years ago. You spend half the film wondering why Daniel and Mr Miyagi don’t just shrug their shoulders and go back home. Even potentially interesting story material feels thrown away. Our characters’ overseas visit is a trip back in time – to a country of old cars, antiquated customs and rock’n’roll music. Meanwhile, a nearby US Army base is eating up the village, bringing modernity and danger. Helicopters sometimes fly past in the background of bucolic scenes. But none of this has any bearing on the story.

Six handheld drums out of 10

Aliens (1986, James Cameron)

aliens-1986-ripley

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Fifty-seven years after escaping the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley is found in cryogenic sleep. She tries to rebuild a normal life on earth, but soon has to return to LV-426, the planet from the first film…

The cast: Sigourney Weaver is the only actor from film one. Of the team of soldiers, Bill Paxton as the sarcastic Private Hudson and Michael Biehn as the laconic Corporal Hicks stand out – but each one is memorable and distinctive, which really helps. They have in-jokes and crude banter, but aren’t mindless drones. They get scared and feel like real people. Paul Reiser (one of the dads from My Two Dads) plays company man Burke. It’s an apt-sounding name for the character if you know your Cockney rhyming slang. Resier plays both sides of the man – a seemingly likeable buffoon and a ruthless corporate twat – really well. When Ripley and the military guys head for LV-426, we meet Bishop, an android played by Lance Henriksen. He’s a wonderful creation: just off-kilter enough to be robotic, but still likeable and interesting. (He also does a trick with a knife that surely a lot of kids cut themselves while copying.) Meanwhile, Carrie Henn – a nine-year-old girl who had no acting experience and therefore no Disney-like conditioning – plays Newt and is tremendous. The first line of dialogue in the film is said by future Jonathan Creek star Stuart Milligan (playing the man who finds Ripley’s spacepod floating in space). Paxton, Biehn and Henriksen had all been in The Terminator, director James Cameron’s previous film.

The best scene: There are dozens of potentials for this category: enormous action scenes, telling character moments, chilling scares, great sci-fi ideas… Let’s pick one of the most understated. Near the climax, the group has been whittled down to just a handful and they’re being chasing by aliens. Two of the secondary characters – jobsworth Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) and takes-no-shit Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) – get cornered and know they’re about to die. They’ve not been best buddies or anything, but as the end approaches there’s a tender moment of understanding. “You always were an asshole, Gorman,” Vasquez says, not unkindly. He then takes out and activates a grenade. The pair both hold onto it, knowing they’ll take some aliens with them… On a side note, the music in this scene is terrific, as it is throughout the film. James Horner’s score includes some action cues that have been reused on trailers galore and copied again and again in other films.

Alternative version: James Cameron later revised the film for home video. Aliens: Special Edition was released on Laserdisc in 1991 and VHS the following year. At 16 minutes longer, it’s a *significantly* different movie so I’ll review it separately at a later date.

Review: A Vietnam-war movie set in space, this is bigger, more complex, more political and more adrenalin-packed than the Ridley Scott original. You were scared shitless by one alien? Well, here’s fucking hundreds of them! It’s not about it being better or worse; it’s *different*, often the most pleasing way for a sequel to go. It was written and directed by James Cameron, hot from The Terminator, and is a full-on, edge-of-your-seat action movie. In fact, I can think of only Die Hard and Cameron’s Terminator 2 as its equals in that category. Aliens is muscular and intense, especially during the action-heavy second half. Vitally, though, the action is always about the characters’ situations – not the explosions or guns. And there’s an amazing sheen to the whole thing, with production design, cinematography and editing on point at all times. There are also a lot of old-school production techniques on show – miniatures, rear-projection screens – which make you ache for films to made like this again. No lightweight CGI nonsense here: this world feels solid and real. James Cameron knows that watching a movie should be a ‘transportative’ experience (well, before he made Avatar anyway). You want to get lost in the world and the story and the characters. Aliens *absolutely* achieves that, no matter how often you see it. As it begins, the opening few scenes recap the story so far in a really neat way. In fact, I actually saw Aliens first and, while I was aware it was a sequel, I just accepted the talk of Kane and the M-class star-frieghter as backstory. It soon becomes apparent that the film is overtly more feminist than Alien was. Ellen Ripley was a decent character in 1979: strong, resourceful and calm under pressure. But it’s here that Ripley the icon is formed. As the story progresses, she becomes more and more active. It’s *her* story and she is astonishing. No wonder Sigourney Weaver was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. (She lost out to Marlee Matlin.) A third of the way in, Ripley meets Newt, a young girl who’s been stranded alone on the planet, and forms a touching and underplayed mother-daughter bond. This kind of emotional subtext was absent from Alien, and is one of the reasons why this sequel is – by a facehugger’s arm’s width – the better film.

Ten clouds of vapour the size of Nebraska out of 10

Next time: “Get to da choppa!”

Blackadder II (1986, Mandie Fletcher)

edmund_lord_blackadder

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Regulars: The setting has moved to a different historical era, but the three leads are still in place. Edmund, Lord Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) is a Machiavellian nobleman who lives in Elizabethan London and knows the queen. Like his 15th-century ancestor, he has a retinue of two: faithful dogsbody Baldrick (Tony Robinson) and fellow peer Lord Percy Percy (Tim McInnerny). Unlike the earlier Edmund, this one’s clever as well as conniving. The action often moves to Richmond Palace, where we see three new regular characters. Queen Elizabeth (Miranda Richardson) is a spoilt, petulant, child-like woman with violent mood swings. She’s always accompanied by her former nanny Nursie (Patsy Byrne) and the Lord Chamberlain, the toadying Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry).

Notable guests: In the opening episode, Gabrielle Glaister appears in the show for the first time – she plays Kate, a peasant woman who masquerades as a boy called Bob to get a job working for Blackadder. The same episode also features Rik Mayall in a swashbuckling cameo. His Lord Flashheart – a mixture of Errol Flynn, Captain Jack Sparrow and Alan B’Stard – is on screen for just 161 seconds, yet Mayall steals the episode lock, stock and barrel. Episode two features Bill Wallis as Ploppy the Jailor and Holly De Jong as Lady Farrow. The third episode has Simon Jones as an effete Sir Walter Raleigh and a barnstorming Tom Baker as useless – and legless – sea captain Redbeard Rum. Ronald Lacey is unrecognisable from Raiders of the Lost Ark as episode four’s odious Bishop of Bath and Wells. In the same story, Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol is in one scene as potential house-buyer Mrs Pants, while Philip Pope appears very briefly as renowned painter Leonardo Acropolis. Miriam Margolyes appears again, as episode five’s uptight Lady Whiteadder. And finally, Hugh Laurie plays two characters in this series: he’s an innuendo-obsessed boozer in episode five, then a speech-impaired master of disguise, Prince Ludwig the Indestructable, in episode six.

Best gags:

Episode one: Bells (9 January 1986). A destitute woman called Kate poses as a boy and starts working for Lord Blackadder. And he falls in love with her new persona, ‘Bob’…
* Needing money, Kate’s father suggests she becomes a prostitute. “Please go on the game! It’s a steady job and you’ll be working from home!”
* Blackadder asks if Percy’s new girlfriend is Jane ‘Bury Me In a Y-shaped Coffin’ Harrington.
* Every single time Rowan Atkinson says the word Bob.
* Nursie’s anecdote about a boy with no winkle.
* The doctor misunderstanding what Blackadder means by “my manservant”.
* “‘Yes, it is,’ not ‘That it be’. You don’t have to talk in that stupid voice to me. I’m not a tourist.”
* Nursie reveals that her real name is Bernard.
* Baldrick dressed as a bridesmaid – beard and all. Percy doesn’t recognise him and starts flirting.
* Rik Mayall. Everything Rik Mayall does. Smirks to camera, maniacal laughter, vulgarity, violence… He *owns* it.

Episode two: Head (16 January 1986). After the Lord High Executioner dies, Blackadder is given the job – but soon kills the wrong person…
* Blackadder tries to teach Baldrick how to count, which is a struggle. “To you, Baldrick,” he says at one point, “the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people…”
* Melchett’s shortlist of potential new executioners: just Lord Blackadder.* Blackadder meets his two new subordinates: Mr Ploppy and Mrs Ploppy – no relation.
* Baldrick reiterates that they’re “not at home to Mr Cock-up.”
* Blackadder has to impersonate Farrow. He puts a bag on his head, deepens his voice and pretends to have lost an arm so Farrow’s widow won’t twig. When he thinks she’s about to rumble him, Blackadder calls for Baldrick to come and help – and he arrives *just* as Lady Farrow is about to give her ‘husband’ a blowjob.

Episode three: Potato (23 January 1986). Sir Walter Raleigh has returned triumphant from a fortune-making voyage, so Blackadder resolves to out-do him…
* Percy says Mrs Miggins from the local pie shop is bedridden from the nose down.
* Melchett offers Blackadder a potato as if it were a cigarette.
* The Queen’s wandering monologue about her dreams: “And then I dreamt once I was a sausage roll…”
* “You have a woman’s hand, my lord!”, etc, etc.
* Rum accuses Blackadder of being a “lapdog to a slip of a girl.” Blackadder: “Better a lapdog to a slip of a girl than a… git.”
* The Queen’s self-written poem: “When the night is dark/And the dogs go bark. When the clouds are black/And the ducks go quack…”
* Melchett gives Blackadder a map for his voyage: it’s blank, so Blackadder will have to fill it in as he goes.
* “Oh, Sir Walter, really!”
* Speaking of a girlfriend, Percy says he’d “even touched her once.” Blackadder: “Touched her what?”
* “So… You don’t know the way to France either?”
* In a scene of Blackdder, Baldrick, Percy and Rum all arguing, Tom Baker is audibly just saying, “Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.”
* Upon returning from the cannibal-infested south seas, Blackadder says the late Captain Rum was a third-rate sailor but a first-rate second course.
* Nursie wears Rum’s beard.
* When Melchett says he likes the wine Blackadder’s brought back to England – which is actually Baldrick’s piss – Blackadder assures him there’s an inexhaustible supply.

Episode four: Money (6 February 1986). Edmund must pay off a debt to the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells…
* Blackadder says his father blew the family fortune on “wine, women and amateur dramatics.”
* Because his friend is in financial difficulties, Percy says he has some money hidden away. However, Blackadder admits he’s “seen it, pinched it, spent it.”
* In the midst of all his stress over cash, Blackadder has to keep travelling all the way to Richmond when summoned by the Queen. She’s only called for him to amuse herself. (Blackadder deadpans that he’s glad he’s wearing a corset because he thinks his sides have split.)
* Baldrick suggests that Blackadder go on the game to raise some money. Blackadder makes a tiny adjustment to the plan – cut to Baldrick down the docks and holding a sign that reads ‘Get it here’.
* Baldrick’s first punter wants to be talked to like a child, but then asks, “Now then, how much do you charge for a good, hard shag?”
* Nursie warns the Queen that Mr and Mrs Spank may pay a visit to Bottyland.
* Percy uses alchemy to create gold. Then Blackadder points out that it’s green, whereas the colour of gold is traditionally gold.
* Mr and Mrs Pants come to view Blackadder’s house when he wants to sell it. “You’ve really worked out your banter, haven’t you?” says the husband, impressed. “No, not really,” replies Blackadder. “This is a different thing. It’s more spontaneous and it’s called wit.” He then tells Mrs Pants that the house has “the very latest in front-wall, fresh-air orifice combined with a wide-capacity gutter installation below.” She asks, “You mean you crap out of the window?”
* Percy wears a broach made of “pure green”. Blackadder says it looks like he’s sneezed.
* The sight of Percy in his sadomasochism gear when Blackadder stages a scene to compromise the Bishop.

Episode five: Beer (13 February 1986). Blackadder’s puritanical and rich relatives, the Whiteadders, invite themselves round – on the same night that Blackadder’s hosting a drinking party…
* “Get the door,” orders Blackadder. Baldrick returns with it in his arms. “Baldrick, I would advise you to make the explanation you are about to give… phenomenally good.”
* When Blackadder fires him, Baldrick says he’s been in the family since 1532. “So’s syphilis,” says Blackadder.
* Nursie complains about the hungover Melchett’s “great and fruitsome flappy woof-woofs”.
* Blackadder needs some of Baldrick’s blood. Baldrick offers to cut off an arm. “No, a little prick should do,” says Blackadder.
* Baldrick and Percy get the giggles after finding a turnip shaped like a thingy. Baldrick says it’s ironic because he has a thingy shaped like a turnip.
* Lady Whiteadder slaps people if she doesn’t like what they say. Or if they have luxuries such as chairs.
* The fake breasts Blackadder and co wear while drinking. When he later forgets to remove his pair of what Lady Whiteadder calls “the devil’s dumplings”, he pretends they’re earmuffs.
* The Queen turns up to the party – but she’s in disguise, so Blackadder hides her in a cupboard.
* Lady Whiteadder says cold is God’s way of telling you to burn more Catholics.
* One of the revellers tells Blackadder it’s a “great booze-up” and Lady Whiteadder demands to know what he means. Blackadder has a think, which lasts a tantalising 16 seconds, then explains slowly: “My friend is a missionary, and on his last visit abroad he brought back with him the chief of a famous tribe. His name is Great Boo. He’s been suffering from sleeping sickness, and he’s obviously just woken. Because as you heard: Great Boo’s up.”
* A drunk Blackadder says he has an ostrich feather up his bottom because “Mr Ostrich put it there to keep in the little pixies.”

Episode six: Chains (20 February 1986). Blackadder and Melchett are kidnapped and held for ransom by a sadistic German prince called Ludwig…
* Baldrick says he heard an amusing story the other day. Blackadder says, “Oh, good,” then walks off.
* Blackadder is kidnapped in exactly the manner he’d just been ridiculing as being an obvious kidnap attempt.
* Held prisoner, Blackadder gets frustrated that the guard can’t understand him. “All right,” he says, defeated. “Let’s start with the basics. English is a non-inflected, Indo-European language derived from…”
* The Queen laments that Blackadder has vanished. “Like an old table,” agrees Percy. “Vanished, Lord Percy. Not varnished.”
* The prison guard and Blackadder play charades so the former can call the latter a “bastard son of a bitch.”
* “Oh, it’s a scythe!”
* Ludwig’s odd emphasis on certain words: “Please accept my apol-ogg-ees,” and so on.
* Ludwig reveals he used to pose as a waitress that Blackadder knew, Big Sally. “But I went to bed with you, didn’t I?” says Blackadder.
* While chained up, Melchett suggest a word game to kill the time. Blackadder challenges him to rearrange the words ‘face’, ‘sodding’, ‘your’ and ‘shut’.
* The Queen has a fancy-dress party and attends as her own father, Henry VIII.
* Ludwig claims he will wreak his “re-veng-ee”.
* Blackadder tells the Queen that life without her would be like a blunt pencil: pointless.

Best episode: Tough call. Maybe Beer, but all are hilarious.

Cunning: When Blackadder visits a wise woman in episode one, she says there are three cunning plans to solve his problem: kill Bob, kill himself or kill everyone. In episode four, Blackadder tells Baldrick he has a plan so cunning you could clean your teeth with it.

History: In reality, Elizabeth I reigned from 1558 to 1603. The series also namechecks explorers Christopher Columbus (c1450-1506) and Sir Francis Drake (c1540-1596), Lord High Chancellor Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), Queen Mary I (1516-1558), revolutionary Watt Tyler (died 1381), priest Martin Luther (1483-1546), Anne of Cleaves (1515-1557) and Cardinal Thomas Woolsey (1473-1530). Sir Walter Raleigh (c1554-1618) appears in Potato. The final episode is spoofing the Spanish Inquisition. In the opening ep, cross-dressing gags suggest Shakespearean conventions, and the Bard himself is mentioned by name a couple of times. In Beer, the Queen paraphrases the troop-rousing speech the real Elizabeth I gave on 9 August 1588 at Tilbury (“I have the body of a weak and feeble woman,” etc).

Review: After series one, the team made some huge changes. The setting was shifted up by a century or so; the lead character was made cleverer and more rakishly sexy; and out went the expensive location filming. (Other than the credit sequences, only one scene in the whole series was shot outside BBC Television Centre.) Perhaps most significantly, Rowan Atkinson stepped down from the role of co-writer and was replaced by Ben Elton, who was hot from The Young Ones and other key comedy shows of the era. It’s maybe a shame the studio sets have gone from spectacularly impressive to spectacularly pokey – seriously, Queen Elizabeth’s throne room is *tiny* – but most of these alterations help the show a great deal. Blackadder’s actions and dialogue are significantly funnier, and that’s because he’s both smarter and crueller – and Rowan Atkinson is world-class at razor-sharp sarcasm. Baldrick’s character has been shifted less. He’s not quite an imbecile, rather a man who’s had all his dignity and drive removed, but the master-and-servant dynamic is better now. Meanwhile, new regular Miranda Richardson is just knockout as the Queen. It’s a stunning performance: bonkers, deranged and amazingly inventive. In fact, all the ‘second level’ characters are much better than their series-one counterparts. (Percy continues to feel unnecessary, sadly.) There’s also notably less plotting than in The Black Adder – most episodes are set-up, gag, gag, gag, climax. Comedy rules. And there are more flashes of Young Ones-style cartoon violence, which can only be a good thing.

Nine tongues like an electric eel out of 10

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, John Hughes)

CoruLDx

Spoiler warning: These reviews reveal plot twists.

Ferris Bueller decides to skip school and take his girlfriend and his best friend for a day out in Chicago…

Kids:

* Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a teenager whose biggest gripe in life is that, when he asked for a car, his parents bought him a computer. He’s clever, handsome, charming and has both unshakeable confidence and *preternatural* good luck. Knowing that his time at high school is drawing to a close, he decides to play truant one final time and have a day out with his pals. So he tricks his parents into thinking he’s ill, then calls his friend Cameron – who is actually unwell – and guilt-trips him into coming over. He then phones the school and pretends that his girlfriend’s grandma has died, therefore getting Sloane out of class for the day. After borrowing Cameron’s father’s car, Ferris and Cameron collect Sloane and the trio drive the 15 miles or so into Chicago. Ferris has a hectic day planned, and in fact their itinerary would probably be impossible to achieve in the seven or so hours the story gives them. Nevertheless, the characters visit Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, and look down from 1,353 feet. They watch the goings-on at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. They blag their way into a posh restaurant called Chez Quis. They see part of a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, where Ferris catches a foul ball. They visit the Art Institute of Chicago. And Ferris gatecrashes the annual Von Steuben Day Parade: he boards a float of Germanic women and mimes along to two songs. The latter gets thousands of people dancing, and brings the day to a rousing climax. After dropping Cameron and Sloane off, Ferris has to race home before his parents. He runs through gardens and other people’s houses, and is safely in bed when his mum and dad walk into his room… Throughout the movie, Ferris directly addresses the camera. Matthew Broderick had been talking to the audience in a Neil Simon play on Broadway immediately before filming, so was comfortable with the conceit. Hughes once said that, short of a 15-year-old James Stewart, Broderick was the only actor who could pull off Ferris’s charisma. (Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Michael J Fox and the nearly man of John Hughes teen comedies, John Cusack, were also considered.)

* Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) is Ferris’s sister. She knows his illness is faked, and becomes increasingly irritated with the fact he can get away with anything. Later, because everyone believes Ferris’s lie, a spontaneous ‘Save Ferris’ campaign strikes up at school and pushes Jeanie over the edge. In a jealous rage, she resolves to catch her brother out. The decision comes in a rather shaky tracking shot – the only time in the film that the camerawork is anything less than exemplary. She heads home and stumbles across a prowler, so knocks him out and calls the cops (who ask after Ferris’s wellbeing). The police eventually arrive, but arrest Jeanie for wasting their time. At the police station, she encounters a drug-addled teenager, who she initially hates. However, his plain talking makes her realise that her obsession with Ferris is unhealthy. So she later covers for Ferris when he’s finally caught skipping school by their headmaster.

* Simone Adamley (Kristy Swanson) is the girl in Ferris’s class who tells the teacher why he’s absent – “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night…” Swanson was actually cast as another student: the one who speaks to Ferris on a payphone. But when the opportunity arose to shoot that scene quickly on location, another actress was used, so Swanson was given this tongue-twisting cameo. (She’d been in Pretty in Pink earlier that year.)

* Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) is Ferris’s best friend, but has a lot of issues. As Ferris says, “Cameron is so tight, if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you’d have a diamond.” When the film begins, Cameron is ill in bed. But then Ferris calls and convinces him to come round. (From this point on, aside from the very occasional sniff, he shows no sign at all of being under the weather!) Once at Ferris’s house, he helps in the ruse to get Sloane out of school by putting on a gruff voice, phoning the principle and pretending to be her father. Cameron’s father, meanwhile, owns a rare, gleaming, red, 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. (Value in 1986: $350,000. One sold for $16.8m in 2015.) Despite Cameron’s nervous reticence, Ferris borrows it for the day – he promises to drive home backwards to hide any additional miles on the clock. When at the art gallery, Cameron stares at Georges Seurat’s pointillism masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – 1884, and is affected by a child in the image. The closer he looks, the less he sees. When he and Sloane later have a heart-to-heart about their futures, it’s clear he’s at a crossroads: “What are you interested in?” she asks. “Nothing,” he says, with a knowing smile. “Me neither,” she laughs. Later, as the gang drive home, Cameron learns that the Ferrari’s speedometer has increased from “126 and halfway between three and four tenths” to 301.7. He freaks out and goes into a catatonic state. Concerned, Ferris and Sloane take him to a swimming pool – we never learn whose house it is – but he numbly topples into the water and sinks to the bottom. After a terrified Ferris dives in to save him, Cameron shrugs off his malaise and admits he fell into the pool as a joke. They all go back to Cameron’s house and attempt to rectify the car’s mileage by driving it in reverse with its wheels lifted off the ground. Of course, it doesn’t work. And in frustration with his domineering father, Cameron kicks the car so hard it crashes through a window and falls into a ravine. But it’s been an epiphany for him: he knows he needs to take the blame and stand up to his dad… The role of Cameron was offered to The Breakfast Club’s Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall, who each turned it down. Alan Ruck got the job and had recently been in a Broadway play with Broderick, which helped with the characters’ friendship here. A few years earlier, he’d auditioned to play Bender in The Breakfast Club.

* Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) is Ferris’s girlfriend, who colludes with him to fake a dead grandparent so she can have the day off too. At one point, Ferris asks Sloane to marry him, but she balks at the idea as they’re so young. She also has a touching, platonic connection with Cameron. After Cameron’s catatonia, Sloane asks whether he watched her get undressed: he smirks. Molly Ringwald asked to play the role, but Hughes reckoned it was too small a part for his muse. It might also have been that he wanted someone more classically elegant for the part.

* An unnamed teenager in police station (Charlie Sheen) acts as a therapist for Jeanie when she’s arrested: “What do you care if your brother ditches school?” Jennifer Grey had recently worked with Sheen on Soviet-paranoia movie Red Dawn, so suggested him for this cameo role. He reportedly didn’t sleep the night before to help with the character’s spaced-out look and demeanour.

Adults:

* Katie and Tom Bueller (Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward) are the loving but gullible parents of Ferris and Jeanie (and, as filmed, two other kids – but they were completely excised in editing!). She works as an estate agent; he’s a businessman in the city. Katie nips home at one point to check on her ‘sick’ son. She creeps into his room and sees him sleeping soundly – it’s actually a mannequin and an audio recording of snoring. Tom is actually at Chez Quis at the same time as his son, but never sees him. They later have another near-miss in a traffic jam. In real life, Pickett and Ward became a couple during production and later married.

* The school’s economics teacher (Ben Stein) has a droll, dead, lifeless voice. When reading out the register, he gets stuck twice when no one answers: firstly on “Bueller… Bueller… Bueller…”, then on “Frye… Frye… Frye…” He later gives a flat, uninspiring lecture on what George Bush Snr called voodoo economics. The actor improvised the scene.

* Edward R Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is the dean of students at Ferris’s school, which is never named but presumably meant to be the same institution we saw in Hughes’s earlier films. When Ferris doesn’t show up for lessons, Rooney calls Mrs Bueller and admonishes her for his nine absent days. However, as he’s telling her, the number on his computer screen changes from nine to two: Ferris is at home, hacking into the school’s network. (Maybe he learnt how to do it from watching WarGames.) Rooney is determined to trap Ferris in his lie, and leaves school to track Ferris down. After trying a local bar, where he accidentally confronts a woman who looks like Ferris from behind (and misses seeing Ferris on TV at a ball game), he goes to the Bueller house. He tries to break in, but the family dog attacks him. After poisoning the pooch with flowers, Rooney sneaks into the house – but so does Jeanie, and the two come face to face in the kitchen. Jeanie screams and kicks him in the face. In a sublime bit of editing trickery, she runs all the way upstairs before he hits the floor. At last he rumbles Ferris, finding him trying to creep in before his parents see him – but Jeanie comes to her brother’s rescue. Dejected, Rooney leaves. However, his car has been towed away so he has to catch the school bus… Jeffrey Jones had played the inspiration for the character – the Emperor in 1984 movie Amadeus – so Hughes simply asked him to play the modern version.

* Grace (Edie McClurg) is Rooney’s off-kilter secretary. We first see her finding numerous forgotten pencils in her bouffant. Hughes cast McClurg again the following year, giving her a cameo-with-punchline in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

* An English teacher (Del Close) is giving a very pretentious lecture that’s boring the fuck out of Sloane when…

* …Florence Sparrow (Virginia Capers), the ridiculously named school nurse, arrives to tell Sloane the ‘news’ that her grandmother has died.

* The parking attendant in Chicago (Richard Edson) works for a company called A1 EZ OK Park. Ferris questions whether he can speak English because he looks vaguely foreign. “What country do you think this is?” he replies. Despite assuring Cameron that he’s a professional, he doesn’t park the Ferrari safely. Instead, he and a pal steal it for the day and drive recklessly round the city.

* The maître d’ of Chez Quis (Jonathan Schmock) is a snobby buffoon, who doesn’t react well when Ferris claims to be Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chiacgo. So Ferris uses a Hustle-style con involving phone lines to trick him into giving them a table.

* A singing telegram (Stephanie Blake) arrives at the Bueller household, dressed as a nurse and surrounded by other well-wishers. “I heard that you were feeling ill,” she sings. “Headache, fever and a chill. I came to help restore your pluck, cos the nurse who likes to–” Jeanie then slams the door in her face.

* A driver of a school bus (Dee Dee Rescher) offers Rooney a lift home during the end credits.

Close-ups: There are numerous examples of John Hughes’s love of storytelling through close-ups of inanimate objects. My favourites come when Rooney calls both the Peterson and Frye households to check on the cover story. In each instance, when we cut to the house all we see is a close-up of the answerphone. Sloane’s is surrounded by make-up, sunglasses and the colour pink; Cameron’s by medicine bottles. We don’t see wide shots of the room because the close-up tells us all we need to know.

Music: Terrific. The pumping electro-bass of Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F1-11 scores Ferris’s lecture to camera about how to fake an illness. There are some really witty pieces of incidental music. Check out the early cue when we’re cutting between Ferris and Cameron talking on the phone. The former is having a tropical drink on a sun lounger, so the music is perky and summery; when we cut to the latter, who’s sick in bed, the tune turns dark and ominous. The kooky, catchy Oh Yeah by Yello is used twice: when we first see the Ferrari and over the end credits. The Flowerpot Men’s Beat City scores Ferris, Cameron and Sloane driving into Chicago. The Star Wars fanfare plays when the parking guys are racing around in the Ferrari. During the parade, Ferris mimes along to Wayne Newton’s Danke Schoen and the Beatles’ cover of Twist and Shout. (In a bit of foreshadowing, Ferris also sings a bit of the former in the film’s five minutes. Jeanie later sings a bit of it too.) The terrific climactic sequence as Ferris races home is matched to the sound of The Beat’s March of the Swivelheads (a remix of Rotating Heads).

Beatles references: Ferris quotes a John Lennon lyric from his 1970 track God – “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me…” – then tells us Lennon was the walrus. The Twist and Shout sequence is an unparalleled release of joy on a monumental scale – just look how many extras there are! Paul McCartney once said he liked this film, but objected to Hughes dubbing brass instruments over the Beatles recording. Hughes was hurt to learn he’d upset a Beatle, but argued that the addition was only to match shots of the parade’s marching band. Hughes also once claimed that, while filming Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, he listened to the White Album every day for 56 days.

Smiths references: The sequence at the art gallery is scored by a gorgeous cover version of the Smiths’ Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Dream Academy.

Review: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” This film is so many things at once. It’s a wish-fulfilment story along the lines of Weird Science. It’s a love letter to Chicago, John Hughes’s hometown, with loving helicopter shots and the camera swooning over architecture. It’s a demob-happy story about the end of an era – the two leads know their friendship may not survive them going to different colleges. It’s a superhero movie – how else do you explain Ferris’s ability to achieve what he achieves? It’s an assembly line of killer moments, witty dialogue, exciting sequences, scene-stealing cameos, laugh-out-loud comedy and – occasionally – genuine emotion. Above all, it’s *the* example of John Hughes the director. Working with cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (Philadelphia, The Sixth Sense, 2004’s The Manchurian Candidate) and editor Paul Hirsch (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Mission Impossible), he created a classically beautiful piece of filmmaking. Seriously, watch it shot for shot. It’s stunning. The framings and compositions are just exquisite: beautifully balanced in and of themselves, but always telling the story or selling a joke or conveying an idea. (Notably, there’s no handheld camerawork at all. Ferris’s world is confident and precise.) This is the Pulp Fiction of teen comedies – everything may have been done before, but never with this amount of panache, this amount of style, this uncapped exuberance with the possibilities of cinema. But dry analysis shouldn’t – in fact, doesn’t – detract from how *massively* entertaining the film is to watch.

Ten righteous dudes out of 10

Pretty in Pink (1986, Howard Deutch)

pretty-in-pink-prom

Spoiler warning: These reviews reveal plot twists.

Teenager Andie Walsh starts dating a boy at her school – but he’s from a richer clique, and friends on both sides of the social divide object to the relationship…

Kids:

* Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) is a high-school senior from a single-parent, working-class family. Before she appears, some literal-minded direction tells us about her situation: we’re shown that her house is actually on the wrong side of the tracks. Andie chivvies along her layabout father; makes her own outfits to save money; and works part-time at a record shop. (Despite being poor, she still has her own car!) Her best friend, Duckie, is unashamedly in love with her. Because she’s not a ‘richie’, Andie is teased at school by the well-off kids. However, one of them, Blaine, has taken a shine to her so starts flirting. Andie’s torn because he’s rich. But the next day in the school library, Blaine starts IM’ing her (well, the 1986 version of instant messaging) and she’s smitten. Blaine even ventures into the poor kids’ section of the school campus and asks her out – but then makes the mistake of taking her to his rich friend’s house party, where she’s far from welcome. She then takes him to her local hangout, but they bump into Duckie, who’s jealous and bitter about Andie’s new relationship. The night then gets worse when she has to admit to Blaine that she doesn’t want him to see where she lives. Rather than be offended, he drives her home, kisses her and asks her to the school prom. But over the next few days, under pressure from his friend Steff, Blaine blows cold and avoids Andie, leaving her upset. So she confronts him and he admits that he can’t take her to the prom after all: he lies that he’d already asked someone else. After a pep talk from pal Iona, Andie makes herself a new dress and goes to the do alone. At the school entrance, she sees Duckie and the two friends reconcile. And when she realises that Blaine has also come alone, Andie gives him another chance and they kiss… The ending as originally filmed had Andie choose Duckie over Blaine. But test audiences reacted badly, so the cast were recalled and a new sequence cooked up. My heart says she should have picked Duckie, but my head tells me the Blaine ending is better. Pretty in Pink was Ringwald’s third and final John Hughes character – in fact, he wrote it specifically for her. The fact that all are believable and feel different is a real credit to the actress.

* Blaine McDonough (Andrew McCarthy) shows up at Andie’s place of work and buys a random record as an excuse to talk to her. His pal Steff objects to him dating a working-class girl, so puts pressure on him to use her and lose her. Blaine has a wobble and actually dumps Andie (boo), but eventually tells Steff to fuck off (yay). By the time of the happy-ending reshoot, Andrew McCarthy had cut off his hair for another role. So sadly Blaine sports a terrible wig for the film’s final few minutes.

* Phil ‘Duckie’ Dale (Jon Cryer) is Andie’s best friend. He’s not-so-secretly in love with her, though tries to hide his affection behind humour. At one point, he even has a chat with Andie’s dad to assure him of his honourable intentions. Duckie’s smart and quick-witted, but is deliberately failing his classes in order to avoid leaving high school. He’s deeply hurt when Andie starts seeing Blaine and lashes out at her; he later kisses their friend Iona to try to make Andie jealous. But after overhearing Steff slagging off Andie, Duckie physically attacks him. At the end, he patches things up with Andie as they both attend the prom dateless, and Duckie advises her to give Blaine another go. The film then gives him a reward for his sacrifice: he pulls a gorgeous girl. In some ways, the character is a slightly older version of the Geek from Sixteen Candles. Hughes and Deutch originally wanted Anthony Michael Hall to play the role, but he turned it down as he feared being typecast. Robert Downey Jr, who’d just been in Weird Science, was also considered before Cryer was cast.

* Benny Hanson (Kate Vernon) is a rich bully in Andie’s classes. She’s dating Steff. Like most of the students at the school, she looks about 30.

* Jenna (Alexa Kenin) is Andie’s pal at school who delights in returning Benny’s bad attitude (“I hope they shrivel up and fall off…”).

* Steff McKee (James Spader) is Blaine’s best pal, and is a total cunt. After Andie makes it clear she doesn’t like him, Steff turns nasty and counsels Blaine to stay away from her. James Spader gives a performance of prime sleazeball: white Miami Vice jacket, open shirt, no socks, droopy cigarette, languid eyes, slutty girlfriend, the works.

* Simon (Dweezil Zappa) is a pal of Andie and Jenna’s. In his scene at the nightclub, he’s more interested in the band than listening to the girls.

* Benny has a couple of different partners-in-bitchiness, one of whom is played by Gina Gershon.

* A girl at the prom (Kristy Swanson, who was later the original Buffy Summers) is credited as ‘Duckette’ because she smiles at Duckie and nods approvingly. After checking that she means what he thinks she means, he looks conspiratorially at the camera then moves in.

Adults:

* Jack Walsh (Harry Dean Stanton) is Andie’s father, who’s been in a rut ever since her mother walked out on the family. He’s unemployed and, in a self-destructive kind of way, reluctant to get a job. When he finds out Andie is going to her prom, he buys her a garish pink dress. She’s polite about the pattern, but then rumbles that he’s been lying about a new job.

* Iona (Annie Potts) works at – and possibly owns? – Trax, the music store where Andie has a part-time job. A confident if lonely woman in her 30s, she has a post-punk style of dress. She acts as Andie’s surrogate mother figure and is her closest female friend. At one point, Duckie suddenly kisses Iona as a way of provoking Andie (Iona has to admit that she likes it). There’s a sense of her living her life vicariously through Andie – she’s pleased as punch when Andie gets asked to the prom, but the news propels Iona into a nostalgic mood for her 1960s youth. She later starts dating a pet-shop owner (“Amongst other things”) called Terrence and begins dressing more conventionally. Well, conventionally for 1986: she looks like she’s in Ashes to Ashes. Anjelica Huston was offered the part but turned it down. Potts got the job off her terrific appearance in Ghostbusters.

* The bouncer at nightclub Cats (Andrew Dice Clay) never lets Duckie in. It’s not clear why. When he asks Duckie why he keeps coming if Andie can get in and he can’t, Duckie is stumped.

Close-ups: Although not directed by John Hughes – he wrote and executive produced – the house style of close-up montages is continued. Andie is introduced with a series of tight shots of her getting dressed and making herself up. She’s becoming pretty in pink before our eyes.

Music: This is one of the great 1980s movie soundtracks. The title song had been a 1981 single by Psychedelic Furs; the version used in the film is actually a new, more polished recording. A couple of scenes are set in a local nightclub with a local band playing. Duckie lip-syncs and dances to Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness in order to impress Andie. (Sadly for Duckie, Andie’s more interested in her imminent date with Blaine.) Three terrific New Order tracks – Shellshock, Thieves Like Us and Elegia – are used as score. OMD wrote If You Leave in 24 hours specifically for the reshot ending.

Beatles references: Duckie sings a bit of John Lennon song Love.

Smiths references: It seems Hughes and his team had a new favourite band. In Trax, the sign for the Smiths section of the LP racks is prominently shown. The nearby storeroom door has a giant poster of the band on it. And Duckie later listens to Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want while feeling maudlin.

Review: “Blaine?! His name is Blaine? That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!” Superficially similar to Sixteen Candles, this film actually has a different feel about it. It’s John Hughes does romcom, with the class divide as the prime obstacle in the lovers’ way. The change of tone is largely down to the direction. Hughes hired Howard Deutch to direct his latest script, and he has a much more observational style: looser, calmer, less comic. It’s hard to imagine John Hughes the director using a long handheld take as Andie and Blaine walk down a busy street (or for that matter, allowing a performance as rambling and untamed as Harry Dean Stanton’s!). Aside from one knowing look to camera, there’s none of the slapstick style from earlier Hughes movies. But this actually suits Pretty in Pink’s more-soppy story, which while basic and predictable is enormous fun. Excuse me, I’ve got something in my eye…

Nine Warsaw Pacts out of 10

The Queen is Dead (1986)

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Title: It’s been 10,675 days since this album was released. And she’s still going.

Cover: An image of actor Alain Delon, taken from 1964 film L’Insoumis. It’s been tinted green to give it a vaguely Victorian-death-chic look.

Best song: It’s impossible to pick just one.

* The title track, which starts the album, is very possibly the band’s greatest achievement. It begins with a cold open: a short clip cribbed from a 1962 film called The L-Shaped Room in which a character sings an old music-hall standard. We’re in the past – the world is black-and-white, there’s Blitz spirit and kitchen-sink drama. Then the switch to Mike Joyce’s tribal-drum patterns is a time-travelling jolt, thrusting us into the *here and fucking now*. Based on an idea Johnny Marr had been working on for years, the music has a ‘garage band’ intensity. There’s feedback, there’s a grungy bass riff, there are wah-wah guitar washes. In the family tree of Manchester indie bands, here’s the link between the dark, hypnotic mood of Joy Division and the sparkling, dance-influenced groove of the Stone Roses. It’s incredibly powerful music that demands to be played loud. And then Morrissey provides probably his strongest ever lyric: an arch mish-mash of monarchy-bashing, secrets in your heritage and disillusionment with society.

* I Know It’s Over is the heartbeat of this album. The Smiths have often been the target of ridicule because of a perceived obsessed with depression, suicide, self-pity and other ‘angsty’ topics. But to paraphrase a character in The West Wing when talking about the use of the word ‘liberal’ as a negative, if you throw these terms at the band’s feet, they’ll pick them up and proudly wear them as a badge. After the song’s backing track had been finished without his input, Morrissey walked into the studios and recorded his vocal. His band mates had no idea what he was going to do, and that day in autumn 1985 they were shocked by his stunning vocal performance. The rest of us still are. This is a *heartbreakingly* tender confession of loneliness and helplessness, which would only fail to move a misanthropic dullard. But it’s far from one-dimensional. There’s a clever switch to a second character’s voice (“And you even spoke to me and said…”), while the lyric also contains some touching altruistic advice to those who *are* happy (“Handsome groom, give her room…”). If anything the song is even more impressive musically. The pulse of the bass guitar, the chiming guitar flourishes, the subtle string effects… It’s a gorgeous, grown-up, complex arrangement that builds in intensity across six minutes. It’s literally perfect.

Honourable mentions:

* Frankly, Mr Shankly starts with comically lumbering bass notes, then we get a lyric about being fame-hungry. It’s said to be a coded dig at the band’s record-label boss, Geoff Travis, specifically in its reference to “bloody awful poetry”.

* Cemetry Gates (the spelling error was made at the time) is a lyrical gymnastics routine. Morrissey uses a day spent gravestone-spotting as a witty metaphor for his own habit of stealing lyrics from other people. He and a friend trade quotations – Keats, Yeats and Wilde are name-checked, Shakespeare alluded to – each claiming poets to be on their team. Morrissey then places his tongue firmly in his cheek and sings, “Don’t plagiarise or take on loan/There’s always someone, somewhere, with a big nose who knows and who trips you up and laughs when you fall.” And the punchline comes when he claims Oscar Wilde is on his side. Wilde, after all, once said, “Talent borrows, genius steals.” Wanting to challenge himself, Johnny Marr set out to write something special for the music. He soon stumbled on a chord change (B minor to G) that, the other way round, had famously excited John Lennon while co-writing I Want To Hold Your Hand. Marr’s resulting melody is upbeat, busy and effortlessly charming, while Andy Rouke’s bass plays a big role in the urgency of the track.

* Bigmouth Strikes Again was Marr consciously trying to ape the Rolling Stones classic Jumpin’ Jack Flash (he wanted “something that was a rush all the way through”). It’s a big song, mixed for a 3D effect. The only flaw is some ill-advised high-pitched backing vocals. Obviously, the title refers to Morrissey himself – specifically, one assumes, the way people often take him too literally. A 7” single in May 1986, this song was the band’s first material released in eight months due to legal problems. The last single before the hiatus had been…

* The Boy With The Thorn in His Side was the first track recorded for the album, based on a musical idea Marr had been busking during recent sound checks. Morrissey’s lyrics are about the music press not appreciating him and the band. He once said it was his favourite Smiths song. It’s absolutely delightful.

* There is a Light That Never Goes Out has an attention-grabbing opening that tells you something important is about to happen. One of the Smiths’ most famous and popular tracks (rightly so), the idea that this should be a single was astonishingly rejected in favour of Bigmouth Strikes Again. This song is actually built on the same chord sequence as Bigmouth, but they’re a world apart tonally. This has an emotive string part and a flute melody, which add extra beauty and sentimentality to Morrissey’s wonderful lyrics. Seemingly about suicide, the words actually have an underlying optimism: the character only wants death because he knows life will never be this good again – he wants to preserve a moment of happiness. Stirring, crafted and catchy, this is a stadium-rock anthem in disguise. The one time I’ve seen Morrissey live, in Manchester on 11 July 2004, he performed this song. There were tens of thousands of us singing along with him:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXwIOvICyVs

Worst song: Vicar in a Tutu is slightly irritating filler. It also goes out of time.

Review: A glorious kaleidoscope of styles, tones, emotions, musical invention and dazzling wordplay. The Smiths’ masterpiece, and a strong contender for the best album of the 1980s.

Ten dreaded sunny days out of 10.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986, Leonard Nimoy)

VoyageHome

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

The crew head to Earth in a stolen Klingon Bird-of-Prey after the events of the previous film – but the planet is under siege from an alien probe, which demands to speak to a species of whale that is now extinct. So Kirk decides to time-travel in order to find one…

Regulars: Kirk and his crew are in exile on Vulcan as the film begins, but vote unanimously to return home to face trial for mutiny. When they later get to 1986, Kirk and Spock track down some whales – a mission that allows them time to bond again. Spock, meanwhile, has lost his uniform (understandable, given what he’s been through) so spends the film in a white robe. He’s still trying to find his way after his resurrection, and declines to call Kirk ‘Jim’. Dr McCoy has doubts about the Vulcan and voices them privately to Kirk, saying Spock is “not exactly working on all thrusters!” Once in the 80s, McCoy, Scotty and Sulu’s mission is to source and build a tank capable of holding the whales for the trip back to 2286. In a hospital scene later on, Bones dishes out pills to a woman on a gurney and is generally appalled by 20th-century medicine. During the time-travel journey, Sulu gets to dramatically announce the increasing speed (“Warp two! Warp three!”), then in 1986 has fun finding and stealing a helicopter. Chekov and Uhura, meanwhile, are sent off to find a nuclear reactor in order to refuel the Bird-of-Prey. Chekov is arrested by the military after being caught on an aircraft carrier (playfully said to be the real-life USS Enterprise, although another ship was used for the filming). Saavik is again played by Robin Curtis. Before being left behind on Vulcan, she has one short scene with Kirk and Spock: there’s clearly something going on between the three that’s left unsaid (she’s pregnant with Spock’s child, according to the film’s writers). Majel Barrett gets a laughably prominent credit in the opening titles for a tiny role as Christine Chapel, while Janice Rand appears very briefly too.

Guest stars: Mark Lenard returns as Sarek. Jane Wyatt plays Amanda, Sarek’s wife and Spock’s mother; she has a scene with her son where she tries to help him with his post-death confusion. The main guest star is Catherine Hicks, who plays Dr Gillian Taylor, the assistant director of San Francisco’s Cetacean Institute. She’s a bit wet, but there’s chemistry between her and Kirk – even if it’s not romance of the century or anything.

Best bits:

* The ominous, musical sound the probe makes.

* The white-haired dude with the Fu Manchu beard on board the Saratoga.

* For the second film running, characters refresh their memories of the last movie by watching clips from it.

* McCoy has renamed the stolen Klingon ship HMS Bounty. The wag.

* The stuff on Vulcan is a lovely mix of location and studio, matte paintings and sepia lighting.

* Spock’s test, answering quick-fire questions on a range of topics, is brought to a halt by “How did you feel?”

* Oh! I’ve never twigged before that the Federation officer on the screen is Vijay Amritraj off of Octopussy.

* McCoy trying to chit-chat with Spock, who takes his banter literally then is distracted by his earpiece. “Forgive me, Doctor, I’m receiving a number of distress calls.” McCoy, wearily: “I don’t doubt it.”

* There are some great model shots throughout, but the Golden Gate Bridge during the storm is especially brilliant.

* The crew going to maximum warp in order to slingshot around the sun.

* The *bonkers* dreamlike sequence as they time-travel – we get surreal imagery and unsettling snatches of dialogue – which oddly doesn’t happen when they return to their own time later.

* To hide his Vulcan ears, Spock ties his cotton belt round his head, karate-style.

* The cloaked Bird-of-Prey landing in a San Francisco park. First a bin is invisibly squashed, then a section of grass is pushed down by the ship’s leg. Two nearby dustmen run off in fear.

* “Everybody remember where we parked,” quips Kirk as he and the crew leave the ship.

* The scene of the crew on a bustling 1986 San Francisco street. A driver nearly knocks Kirk over and calls him a dumbass. “Double dumbass on you!” replies Kirk.

* Kirk pawns the spectacles McCoy gave him in The Wrath of Khan so the crew can have some cash. When Spock asks, “Weren’t they a present?”, Kirk smiles: “They will be again, that’s the beauty of it.”

* While Spock methodically uses logic, coordinates and a nearby map to track down the whales, Kirk sees them advertised on the side of a passing bus.

* Spock dealing with a rude punk on a bus by using the Vulcan nerve-pinch. The other passengers applaud.

* Spock sneaking into the whales’ tank at the institute and swimming around while an oblivious Gillian talks to a tour group. Kirk’s expression when he spots Spock – shame, embarrassment, worry – is very funny.

* Spock’s attempt at swearing. “The hell they did.”

* Scotty and McCoy bullshitting their way into the Plexiglas plant.

* “Hello, computer!”

* Kirk’s nod of approval after taking his first sip of 1986 beer.

* “No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.”

* Chekov being chased though the huge hanger of the aircraft carrier.

* Sulu flying the helicopter… and accidentally switching on the windscreen wipers.

* The woman who, thanks to Dr McCoy’s futuristic pills, has grown a new kidney in about five minutes.

* Though not accused of any crime, Spock insists on standing alongside his crewmates at their trial.

* The phenomenally predictable reveal of the name of the new ship to which the crew are assigned at the end.

TV tie-in: The crew first time-travelled in a TV episode called Tomorrow is Yesterday. It’s a fun and pacey story about a 1960s US Air Force pilot who’s beamed aboard the Enterprise when our characters are accidentally sent into the past. The slingshot-round-the-sun technique used to get the home was reprised in The Voyage Home.

Review: A probe heading for Earth and demanding a response is the same basic storyline as Star Trek: The Motion Picture – and like that film, The Voyage Home doesn’t have an actual villain – but there’s a galaxy of difference between the two films. Directed by Leonard Nimoy, this is Star Trek as comedy-drama. It’s lighthearted without being flippant, charming without being twee, and is thoroughly, thoroughly entertaining. Once the lead characters have time-travelled to what was then modern-day America, the film is quite leisurely for a while. But then the complications and ticking clocks pile up. Meanwhile, the movie is incredibly light on its feet and is not afraid to poke fun at itself. The fish-out-of-water stuff is generally a hoot – and it’s easy to imagine the cast, now feeling like a real gang, having a blast with the script. The movie is the third part of a continuous trilogy that began with The Wrath of Khan – and is *enormous* fun.

Nine nuclear wessels out of 10.

Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986, Jerry Paris)

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In this good-enough third entry, the police academy has to fight for its survival when the Governor announces he might close it. Let’s list some more of the series’s running gags and clichés…

Mahoney flirts and pulls pranks! – He’s coaching a women’s basketball team in his first scene – one of the players bumps into and lands on top of him. He flirts with new police recruit Karen Adams, then tries to convince her they’re roommates. He and Jones trick Mauser into putting some sticky tape over his eyes – when removed, it pulls off his eyebrows.

Hightower uses his strength! – He poses undercover as a woman to catch a mugger (blonde wig, usual ’tache). A new recruit mistakes him for a porter, so he flings the guy’s suitcase over a building. He rips a taxi meter out of a car when the cabbie tries to rip someone off. He tells a dog to sit – everyone nearby immediately sits down. He holds onto a speedboat as it attempts to drive off.

Tackleberry shoots! – He’s turned his backyard into a Vietnam-style jungle. We meet his in-laws from film two, but not his wife. He shoots a TV when he hears dialogue he doesn’t like (“You’re dead meat, copper!”); shoots a crossbow into a rude man’s cigar; and shoots a public phone when a woman’s quarter gets swallowed.

Jonesey’s sound effects! – Mauser speaking nonsense; music and a pair of voices to welcome new recruits; sound-effects of high-speed driving as he and Karen sit in a parked car; two further run-outs for his badly dubbed kung-fu-movie dialogue; a malfunctioning till in a bar; hip-hop music when bored; a scanner as he chases bad guys; and submarine sounds as he goes underwater.

Hooks shouts ‘Dirtbag!’ – Her shouty bit comes early – telling a busload of recruits to “Zip your lips, slap your butts to the seat and listen hard!” She later punches both Blanks and Copeland at the same time.

Callahan’s chest! – Back after a one-film absence. She meets recruit Nogata (see Homophobia!/Racism!), who’s at tit-height and falls in love with her. He later goes to her room – while she’s working out in a leotard – and they get it on.

Harris shouts ‘Proctor!’ – He’s not in this one.

Lassard is a bit, um, vague! – He gets distracted by a fly while listening to a speech (when he sees it on a woman’s face, he slaps her off her chair); slaps his baton on his desk and his fish flies into the air; drives his golf buggy into a lake; and drops his fishbowl out of a window (Mahoney catches it).

Bobcat! – The bad guy from film two is now a student at the academy. He shares a room with meek shopkeeper Sweetchuck, who he terrorised in the earlier movie. As well as every line being delivered in strained raspy voice, he screams at a door to open it (it works).

Obvious replacement characters! – It’s still Mauser rather than Harris. For plotting reasons he now runs a rival academy. Proctor’s still his sidekick.

Homophobic!/Racist! – One of Mauser’s recruits is Tomoko Nogata (“of Tachikawa Nogatas”). He misreads from a translation guide, is referred to as Fu Manchu and “stir-fried shrimp from outta town”, and is soon shipped off to Lassard’s academy, where he sleeps on a, um, bed of nails. A naked Proctor wanders into gay haunt The Blue Oyster.

Bare breasts! – There’s a close-up of Karen’s arse as she walks away from Mahoney. The hooker from the first movie returns – Mahoney convinced her to get Proctor naked and then shut him out of his hotel room. Proctor then ends up wandering the street and walks into the Blue Oyster bar. (The producers had by now presumably realised how much more cash they could make if these films were PGs. We get neither proper swearing nor boobs.)

Famous totty! – None.