For Your Consideration: Satisfaction

cd90d059fe2f263f038a5565f6ec7161I have an HBONow largely because Silicon Valley is the funniest show on television. But I’ve also been justifying the membership cost by expanding my movie horizons. That’s how I found Satisfaction, a 1988 film starring Justine Bateman, Julia Roberts, Liam Neeson, and a bunch of other people. Julia Roberts caught my eye on the movie poster, Liam Neeson lent this a shred of credibility, but it was Justine Bateman who drew me in. I love her and I want to go back to 1988 and marry her, but I realize I’ll have to settle for this movie instead.

Justine is the lead singer of a rock band. They spend the first few minutes of the movie proving how tough they are. This includes: throwing a jay-walking citation in the trash and ripping the radio antenna off of their car to use as a weapon.

And why is this weapon necessary? They’re engaged in a turf war with some teenage boys because they “popped” a vending machine over on Freemont.

Well, like how are you going to listen to the radio now?

But actually this is really high stakes. This dude pulls a knife and one of the girls has to whip his hand with the radio antenna. And then he hits their van with his van and their van ends up in the river. (But don’t worry, the girls jump out just in time.)

So what kind of music does this tough-girl band play?

They play covers of late 60’s music. Justine plays the cowbell. She also does all of her own singing. (It’s not great.)

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Also, they’re so hardcore that their guitarist is addicted to (check-it) MARIJUANA! (I sense an intervention to follow.) The first major conflict in this film is that the bar they’re supposed to play at is closed on the first night of their summer-long gig.

So they go to some random house where I guess the bar owner lives? I have no idea. But they’re greeted by an angry Doberman Pinscher, so the stoned guitarist sings him “Amazing Grace” until he is docile. Ohhhh okay, so this is Liam Neeson’s house. He has a lot of Gold Records and is apparently in charge of the auditioning bands for this bar residency.

los-10-chicas-mas-sexys-de-las-historietas8-pngHOLD ON A MINUTE. I felt like the stoned guitarist had such a familiar voice. It turns out that she is the singing voice of Jem!! Maybe I judged this movie too hard. Plus, the stoned guitarist is also on pills, so they’re starting to raise the dramatic stakes.

Fake-Jem is the best part of this movie. Well, pretty much no one else has a character. Actually, she doesn’t really either since her whole character is a drug-addict gimmick. But she really won me over when she had a long discussion with the Doberman Pinscher about how he may be a narc because he wasn’t interested in her pot.

familytiesbandontherun-0212Ugh, now I’m listening to Justine Bateman butcher “Dedicated to the One I Love.” Really, if they were going to nominate a Family Ties cast member to head up a girl rock group movie, it should have been Tina Yothers.

Um then Justine Bateman (who cannot swim) jumps into the water after Liam Neeson (who is clearly not drowning). And now she’s only wearing his shirt. And they’re playing that light 80’s hookup music. But like this movie just clearly stated that she graduated from high school RIGHT before coming to this rich dude’s house.

Omg I just saw Justine Bateman’s underwear which means Liam Neeson probably just saw Justine Bateman’s underwear too. But then she goes upstairs to change into her now-dry jeans. And she’s just like asleep in the bed. (Oh yeah, he’s making all of the band members sleep in a crappy cabin that is mostly full of fishing poles.) And then Liam Neeson just goes downstairs to write a song.

Oh thank goodness, we cut to fake-Jem singing “Mr. Big Stuff.” This is by far their best cover song so far. This also comes with a montage of them having fun on the beach, including but not limited to Justine Bateman and Liam Neeson horesback riding in the surf.

MSDSATI FE001But actually, this is the worst script ever. It’s so horrible. Although, they did manage to get Debbie Harry to make a cameo. She’s Liam Neeson’s friend who acts all icy to Justine Bateman. But he’s all like noooo it’s not like that. So he and Justine make out and then we have to endure her singing over an acoustic guitar in which a lyric is actually “like the birds sing to be free talk to me.”

Poor Fake-Jem overdoses. Ugh nooo she’s the only character I care about. Why, cruel world???? While she recovers, the rest of the group disposes of all of her drugs. She wakes up and discovers this and can only yell, “You mothers!” (Because anything else would have been too much for the PG-13 rating.

Ugh, okay so how can I sum up this awful script:
Liam Neeson breaks things off with Justine Bateman and she freaks out and doesn’t want to go to school or tour with her band. So the band decides to prove to her that they are there for her. The drug addict says, “I’m not gonna kill myself no more.” And Julia Roberts says, “I’m blowing off Frankie” (who is the boyfriend she’s been talking about marrying for like the past 30 minutes straight).

But then the dude whose van they stole (oops yeah they stole a van, did I mention that?) shows up to basically murder them. Also, the tour guy only wants Justine to tour and sing with studio musicians. But that’s seriously the least plausible part of this crapy-film because Fake-Jem is the only one with any musical talent in this group.

MSDSATI FE002So Justine goes back to the city to go to college and hang out with her band. She tells Liam that she’s keeping his shirt and by forever. I guess that worked out for the best since she’s like eighteen and he’s like thirty-four and them moving in together like she wanted would have been a disaster.

Oh okay, this was brought to you by NBC, the same people who brought you Family Ties. So that explains a lot.

Very Special Lesson: Don’t watch this movie. If you think “Hey, that doesn’t sound half bad,” watch Girls Just Want to Have Fun instead.

A, My Name Is Alex (Family Ties)

This episode opens with Jennifer explaining to the youngest Keaton son that Alex’s friend, Greg has died and that everyone else is at the funeral. So right from the beginning, it’s a downer. It’s not quite what I’d expect from Family Ties, but here we go.

Soon the rest of the Keaton’s arrive home and Alex is busy cracking jokes. He says how great the funeral was, which is important because “the dead have an image problem.” But we quickly learn that these jokes are all a thinly veiled coping mechanism for Alex’s guilt.  Alex would have been in the car accident with his friend, except that he was too selfish to help move a piano. Incidentally, this selfishness turned out to be a lifesaver.

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Oh Greg, we hardly/never knew ye

Apparently, Alex and Greg were so close that Alex delivered Greg’s eulogy. (That’s so interesting because I don’t remember ever hearing about Greg before.) Soon Alex begins hallucinating that Greg is back in ghost form. (Not only is he grieving, but he also stayed up all night writing that eulogy and hasn’t slept.)

Now, I would assume you might call a priest in a time like this, but Alex invites a monk into his home. I wouldn’t know where to find a monk if I tried. Are there monasteries just hanging out in suburban America and you can call them up and request that a monk come and sit with you? That appears to be the case here.

But Alex decides he doesn’t really want to be a monk (he’s not ready to give up the ladies) and soon he’s back to hallucinating conversations with Greg. He even makes him a sandwich. But when Mallory finds him talking to himself in the kitchen, he has a total meltdown. Michael J. Fox is such a good actor. He’s truly phenomenal and deserved so much better than the crappy writing on The Michael J. Fox Show. He makes this episode incredibly powerful when it could have easily been overwrought and clunky.

But that’s when things turn into experimental theater. And it’s like kind of weird for a family sitcom, even with Michael J. Fox’s exceptional skill. Actually, it’s like super weird. He’s just sitting in an arm chair in front of a free-hanging window talking straight to the camera (on off screen psychologist).
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And then things kind of turn into a really depressing “Carousel of Progress.” Little vignettes with Alex’s friends and family pop up behind him and he jumps into the scenes. This is not to say that the writing is bad– the two-part episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series–but rather that the change in the storytelling method is just as jarring (if not more so) than the subject matter itself.

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Although bizarre at first, I think that the change in narrative style works in this episode’s favor and keeps it from falling into trite “very special episode” pitfalls. It’s obvious that the Family Ties writers knew they could get away with this with Michael J. Fox carrying the show, so instead of an after-school special we get an emotional tour de force on grief and self-actualization.

“A, My Name is Alex” is best described as Family Ties re-imagining itself as a different kind of show for 1 random hour, which is kinda cool in it’s own right. Ultimately, Alex has to decide what he believes and what feels right to him about his place in the world now that he is alive and his friend isn’t. I feel like I cannot reiterate enough how terrible this episode could have been if carried out by a less capable cast. But luckily we have (national treasure) Michael J. Fox. And for Fox’s exceptional skill reason alone, this episode is totally worth the watch.

Very Special Lesson: Grief can cause us to lose our way or it can be an opportunity to find ourselves more deeply than we had before.

Family Ties: Rain Forests Keep Fallin’ on My Head

First of all, isn’t rainforest one word? Secondly, it’s really cool that youngest child Jennifer wants to rid the family home of 80’s toxins. This was before we removed formaldehyde from our hair conditioners, people! But she doesn’t know how to accurately dispose of any of the waste.

She forces Mallory to stop using her conditioner. The results are not pretty.
She forces Mallory to stop using her conditioner. The results are not pretty.

She gets depressed and ends up talking to a parakeet about the Brazilian rainforest. Her parents try to help her relax by watching a baseball game on TV, but there is a breaking news update on the Exxon Valdez (ripped from the headlines!) and she runs upstairs on the verge of tears. Jennifer gets like super, super depressed and decides that life is pointless because the environment is in danger.

Jennifer sporting her post-industrial look.
Jennifer sporting her post-industrial look.

Her parents convince her to see the school counselor and she ends up freaking him out. By the end of their session he totally agrees with her and feels like there is nothing they can do and that life is over and depressing.Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.43.07 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.43.15 PM

Luckily, Jennifer has two ex-hippie parents who know how to rally a depressed activist. They tell her that things seemed bleak and hopeless when they tried to save the whales. They encourage her to join Greenpeace or Sierra Club. They also use the pet parakeet to makes sure there’s no Radon in the basement.

Very Special Lesson: Don’t freak out. Join a club.