Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Reel 30: June of 1987

In today’s Hollywood, major studios tend to put a lot of thought into the release dates for their films; dates and weekends are analyzed, over-analyzed, scrutinized and stressed over, with each studio watching the other closely in a virtual arms-race to see who blinks first. What this means for us is only a few worthwhile films per month, but in the glorious month of June in 1987, we were treated to an avalanche of movies which today, 30 years later, are looked back upon very fondly. Here is a look back at those movies which came to us in June of ’87.

The month started off with a bang, with Brain DePalma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES. Based on the true story of top-cop Eliot Ness’ efforts to bring down top-gangster Al Capone in 1930’s prohibition-era Chicago. With some brilliant editing and shooting to amp-up the tension, and an ensemble cast of Kevin Costner, Robert DeNiro, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, Patricia Clarkson, and Charles Martin Smith, THE UNTOUCHABLES was another feather in the cap of DePalma’s storied directing career, and it renewed America’s interest and fascination with gangster stories and movies. The film was nominated for six Oscars, with Connery winning for Best Supporting Actor.

Audiences were still abuzz with DePalma’s shoot-em-up drama when their attentions were shifted from cops and robbers to soldiers and aliens, when John McTiernan grabbed us by the spine with PREDATOR. Mega-star Arnold Schwarzenegger led the cast of rescue-team soldiers being hunted in the jungle by an alien with camoflauge abilities which rendered it invisible, and McTiernan had an instant entry to pop-culture. Arnold was joined by an ensemble cast of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, and future IRON MAN 3 director Shane Black, and the chemistry between them all gave it an identity beyond a sci-fi/horror shoot-em-up bloodbath. PREDATOR would be the third-highest box office draw of 1987, and the visual effects work would pave the way for future films.

PREDATOR gave fans of science fiction something to hang their helmets on, but the month wasn’t done with outer-space folk just yet, as comedy legend Mel Brooks would release his parody film SPACEBALLS just two weeks later. Taking inspiration from STAR WARS, ALIEN, STAR TREK, and PLANET OF THE APES, Brooks’ film was loaded with his zippy one-liners which are still quoted today. With another great cast which included Brooks, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, John Candy, Joan Rivers, Dick Van Patten, Dom DeLuise, and a cameo by John Hurt, SPACEBALLS became an instant comedy classic.

After three weeks of aliens, robots, cops and gangsters, about the only thing June had yet to deliver was a strong war movie, and no one was better suited to deliver such a film than master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, who arrived with FULL METAL JACKET in the last weekend of the month. Based on a novel which followed U.S. Marines through their training and experiences during the Vietnam War, FULL METAL JACKET boasted a solid cast which included Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Emery, Arliss Howard, and Adam Baldwin…and featured some of Kubrick’s most tempered, disciplined, and exquisite directing. Set during the Tet Offensive, Kubrick’s film stepped away from the typical jungles of Vietnam that Hollywood had been focusing on for decades, and the character-work gave it a strong identity which still leaves impressions today.

Ensemble casting was the one thing that the films of June 1987 seemed to have in common, and other notable heavy-hitters included the mighty cast of Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Veronica Cartwright, and Cher in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, and the adaptation/continuation of the TV series DRAGNET which starred Tom Hanks, Dan Aykroyd, Christopher Plummer, and Harry Morgan. And not to be lost at all in the shuffle were two family favorite films; the Bigfoot-family comedy HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, and the animated THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER. And just to top things off, Steve Martin directed and starred in his adaptation of ROXANNE; a film which he would win a Golden Globe for Best Actor.

By the time July rolled into the timeline, audiences had been thrilled with the offerings of June. It was a month with something for everyone; cops and robbers, aliens and soldiers, families and monsters, comedies and drama, spectacular shoot-em-ups and Oscar contenders. It was a month where no analyzing was needed, and the only goal was to entertain.

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