Cannonball Run II (1984)

cannonballrun2_1Starring Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jamie Farr, Telly Savalas, Marilu Henner, Shirley MacLaine, Susan Anton, Catherine Bach, Jackie Chan, Richard Kiel, Mel Tillis, Tony Danza, Jack Elam, Charles Nelson Reilly, Doug McClure, Ricardo Montalbán

Directed by Hal Needham

Expectations: The lowest.

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Ugh. These are the moments I really hate my completionist tendencies. I can’t even imagine how I’m going to get through Jackie’s horrid American films of the 2000s. But those are problems for another day, so let’s focus on the travesty before us. Cannonball Run II is just like The Cannonball Run if everything was less funny and even more boring. Sounds great, right?

So this time the Sheik’s father, the King (Ricardo Montalban), is angry with the Sheik (Jamie Farr) for not winning the first cannonball race. So the Sheik announces a new race and puts up a million dollars as prize money. Telegrams go out to all the previous racers and before you know it there’s a bunch of wild shenanigans on the highways of the American Southwest. The race never really mattered in the first film, but it doesn’t matter AT ALL in the sequel. It is merely a device to shoehorn as many wacky characters into one movie as is humanly possible.

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It’s Totally Perfect!

MOV_55b8ce66_bToday many movies are for entertainment and are not classically great. I believe a great movie is one that you can’t get enough of; you just have to watch it over and over again. The movie Perfect falls under the “great” category. Usually movies are categorized into one or two genres, but Perfect takes the cake and slices its way into three categories: drama, comedy, and romance. Too bad sexy isn’t a genre. Perfect is a great movie because it manages to capture a time period with its awesome history, radical setting, and bitchin’ acting. When we think of films rooted in history we often think Schindler’s List or Hotel Rwanda, but not Perfect. Perfect is, however, based upon a series of articles by journalist Aaron Latham that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in the ’70s and ’80s.

The movie’s two main characters are Adam Lawrence (John Travolta), a writer for Rolling Stone, and Jessie (Jamie Lee Curtis), a fitness instructor for The Sports Connection. The movie begins with Adam trying to persuade his boss Mark (Jann Wenner, real-life founder and editor of Rolling Stone) to send him to Los Angeles to get an interview with a notorious mobster. Mark agrees to send Adam to California with the stipulation that Adam will simultaneously write a story about fitness clubs becoming the new “singles’ bars” in California.

In the ’80s, the health and fitness craze was in full swing. Bally’s Total Fitness, Richard Simmons, Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical, and Nike’s Just Do It campaign were all introduced. The Sports Connection was a legendary institution, considered a main hub of America’s newfound obsession with StairMasters, dance aerobics, and sweatbands. It was the first club to give its members the total package, offering healthy foods, juice bars, instructor-led training sessions, and a place where singles could meet other singles. Although the film is not historical in the traditional sense, it captures the essence of the sun-soaked, sweat-drenched California of the eighties. The beaches, palm trees, roller skating, and overall California vibe are a constant backdrop, not to mention the blatant sexuality of living in California during the height of the fitness craze. Jessie also represents the archetypical fitness instructor, wearing leg warmers, headbands, tights, and leotards throughout the film. When a movie is able to weave non-fictional events into a fictional framework, there is much more substance.

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Perfect (1985)

perfect-movie-poster-1985-1020252039Starring John Travolta, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jann Wenner, Marilu Henner, Laraine Newman, Anne De Salvo, Mathew Reed

Directed by James Bridges

Expectations: High.

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I think it’s clichéd to open up with some variation of “Perfect was perfect!” but for what it was, Perfect was kinda perfect. Modern viewers are never going to understand what makes Perfect so exciting and entertaining; they’ll be lost in the sea of skin-tight, multicolored leotards and shaking asses. But where those modern viewers might call Perfect‘s dated and very ’80s vibe a bad thing, this was exactly what made it so enjoyable to me. It reminded me of my childhood when the aerobics craze was sweeping the nation, with hype so huge I thought aerobics had only just been invented. How proud I was at six years old to live in a time when we had discovered this new, fun way to tone our bodies.

Perfect tells the story of Adam Lawrence (John Travolta), a reporter for Rolling Stone who’s working on a huge story surrounding the investigation of a business man accused of shady dealings. While on an interview for this story, he happens to spot some 20-somethings heading for the gym in their wonderful ’80s aerobic wear. One article pitch later and Travolta is investigating the health club singles’ scene at The Sports Connection in LA, and ogling a furiously gyrating Jamie Lee Curtis.

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