Welcome friends and neighbors to a new
edition of Happy Birthday... You Should Watch! Lots of birthdays
today, February 12th, but I'm narrowing it down to three so this doesn't turn into a
The two going to ignore are Josh Brolin
and Michael Ironside. Sorry fellas! But naturally for Brolin I have
to go with Inherent Vice (not my favorite movie, but it's probably my
favorite Brolin performance... just the chocolate covered banana
scene by itself is the best thing he's ever done) and for Michael
Ironside... this is tougher. He's been great in so many things...
Scanners, Total Recall... But my gut is saying Starship Troopers
because he gets to be his usual tough-ass self, but not a villain.
Addams Family Values (1993) – I was
going back and forth between two Christina Ricci performances in my
mind. The one I was more inclined to focus on was a film called Black
Snake Moan. It's great, she's amazing in it and it's not something
everybody has seen. But it's also a movie where she spends 2/3rds of
it chained to a radiator while wearing nothing but a cut-off shirt
and panties, so any image from the movie I wanted to use looked like
I was objectifying her. The movie's more than that, so seek it out if
you can, but I went with a little bit of a safer pick.
Both early '90s Addams Family movies
are great, but I think I may like the sequel better and a big part of
that is because of what they do with Wednesday Addams. Addams Family
Values splits up the family in more ways than one. Uncle Fester is
preyed upon by a money-hungry husband killer (a great turn by Joan
Cusack) who gets in-between him and the rest of the family. At the
same time the kids are sent to a summer camp.
I was Ricci's age when this movie came
out and I'm pretty sure I fell in love while I was in that movie
theater. Wednesday's outsider status combined with her gleeful
darkness would pretty much define my ideal girlfriend throughout my
teenage years. It's no surprise to me that my first longterm
girlfriend bore more than a passing resemblance to Ms. Ricci.
The jokes in the movie come at you
lightning fast and there's so much charm on display. The chemistry
between Raul Julia and Angelica Huston was so note perfect it really
does make me sad Julia passed so young and kept us from getting
another half-dozen more of these films.
Walking Tall (1973) – Joe Don Baker
is one of my favorite character actors. He's probably best known for
being Bond's charming American connection in the Pierce Brosnan era
(funny since he played a completely different character, a villainous
military leader, in The Living Daylights) or the redneck dad in Mars
Attacks! Or, for you, MST3K fans, the star of Mitchell, one of the
most popular episodes of that point and laugh at bad movies show.
I kinda like Mitchell... it's silly,
but typical of the drive-in action fare of the day. But that's not
the one I'm going to recommend on Mr. Baker's 82nd
birthday. Nope, the one I recommend is called Walking Tall. The Rock
remade it with Johnny Knoxville a few years back in one of the most
bizarre adaptations in cinema history. They turned it into a PG-13
action film which is absolutely a disservice to the original story.
Walking Tall is a true story based on a
real life Southern Sheriff named Buford Pusser. He was a bit of a
crime-fighting folk hero known for protecting the people of his small
Tennessee town with a hunk of wood. He fought low level crime and
corruption in his local government. Mr. Pusser was alive when this
film was made and was even supposed to star as himself in the sequel,
but died in a car crash. The sequels ended up starring Bo Svenson and
did cover his death, framing the car accident as the result of him
taking on the corruption in this small town.
Baker is front and center here and
force to be reckoned with. He's angry, he's brutal and he's just kind
of a regular guy. That was the beauty of the era... character actors
could be leads and Joe Don Baker was a great lead here.
Walking Tall was a massive success on
the drive-in circuit and for reasons I don't know Baker was
one-and-done with it, instead moving on to two truly great '70s
films: The Outfit (starring Robert Duvall) and Charlie Varrick
(starring Walter Matthau).
You can rent Walking Tall on most of
the steaming outlets (YouTube, Amazon, GooglePlay and iTunes). Just
make sure you're getting the good one. Remember, it's Walking Tall
not Rocking Tall.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
(1989) – This one was an easy call. Before his death, the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln was brought to the '80s thanks to a time
traveling phone booth to appear in a documentary called Bill &
Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Mr. Lincoln did a lot of good in his
life. He delivered inspiring speeches that are still remembered
today, he fought to end slavery, and put in motion a reconstruction
effort that would hastily mend a deeply divided nation. It doesn't
surprise me he'd help out a couple time traveling kids with their
history project. He was just a good dude, you know?
There have been plenty of talented
people who have played Lincoln, like Henry Fonda and Daniel Day
Lewis, but this marks the only movie where Lincoln was able to play
himself and he pulls it off without any camera shyness or awkward
line delivery. Obviously all those years giving political speeches
prepped him for this, perhaps his greatest moment.
That's it for today. Here are the
trailers for all three films we talked about:
Happy birthday Joe Don Baker, Christina
Ricci and Abe Lincoln! Party on, dudes!
@ericvespe on Twitter