In the mid-1980s you couldn’t avoid the A-Team. They were rugged, handsome men who smoked cigars and blew things up. They were a hit TV show, of course, but they were also the stuff of lunchboxes, action figures . . . there was even a Mr. T popsicle. Fools were pitied everywhere.
Starting Friday, “The A-Team’’ is back as a feature film starring Oskar Schindler, some guys from “District 9’’ and “The Hangover,’’ and an Ultimate Fighter who is not Mr. T. We don’t yet know if the movie is any good. But we do know it will be familiar. And that goes double for another ’80s-rooted remake opening on Friday — “The Karate Kid,’’ which was a big-screen, sequel-spawning hit for Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita back in the day. This time out it stars Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. The plot? Wax on, wax off, repeat.
Apparently, the ’80s were a more inspiring decade than we thought. Already in theaters is “MacGruber’’ — a parody of the ’80s TV show “MacGyver’’ — which has provoked surprisingly OK critical reaction for a “Saturday Night Live’’ micro-sketch stretched into a full-length feature. There’s also “Clash of the Titans,’’ a 3-D remake of the 1981 2-D cult classic that’s been playing to crowds of Titaniacs looking for that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when gods go to war. Oskar Schindler is in that one, too. Liam Neeson, King of the Remakes, anyone?
We all know that the ’80s produced its share of original and legitimately influential films — “Raging Bull,’’ “Blade Runner,’’ “Brazil,’’ “This Is Spinal Tap.’’ Better that Hollywood takes another crack at “Karate Kid.’’
But why stop at reboots of schlocky old movies and TV shows when there’s a whole decade of familiar cultural touchstones to draw from? Here are just a few ideas we hope get a green light soon.
Cubik Rubes in 3-D
Originally called “Dude Where’s My Rubik’s Cube?,’’ this John Hughes-esque heart-warmer from Ashton Kutcher’s own That ’70s Guy Production Co. reaches back to the height of the ’80s Rubik’s Cube craze, casting Kutcher himself as a transplanted high school senior trying to fit in at his new school. Rejected by the cool kids, he meets a group of lovable, monochromatically dressed outcasts who call themselves the Cubik Rubes and falls hard for its only female member, the beautiful-if-only-she’d-take-off-her-nerd-glasses Roberta (Ellen Page). Will she reciprocate? Will Ashley (Ashton’s character) prove to the school — and especially himself — that geeks can also be cool? The popular 3-D feature adds to the big puzzle-solving showdown climax with the Rubes’ cross-town rivals, the Game Boyz.
The Superfantastical Talkaterium of John Moschitta
and Minute Rice commercial pitchman John Moschitta is a fast-talking, even-faster-conning life coach traveling the New Age circuit with his raggedy “talkaterium’’ tent and an even more raggedy crew. In this new Terry Gilliam redemption epic, Moschitta’s character finds salvation when he makes a stop in a little town called Pause, Neb., where he meets the local sheriff (a vivacious Kathy Bates) who warns him in a folksy way that life is not all about speed. A pivotal scene involves the arrival of a mysterious package, which causes Moschitta to look to the sky, shake his fist, and speak slowly for the very first time. We have no idea why. Dame Maggie Smith costars as the sheriff’s sassy octogenarian mom who is always cooking Minute Rice.
The Raisins of California
There’s a funky new family in Bel Air and they’re shaking up the neighborhood! Loud pool parties, skinny-dipping jazz concerts, and general mayhem ensue when the fun-loving Raisin family disrupts the genteel and privileged lifestyle of Hollywood’s richest of the rich. Martin Scorsese directs from a script by several dozen Wayans brothers.
Woody Allen Untitled Cabbage Patch Doll Project
Starring an international cast including Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Stellan Skarsgard, Seal, and Olivia Wilde (TV’s “House’’). That’s all we know right now.
Flock of Hair
This searing documentary by “March of the Penguins’’ director Luc Jacquet explores the fascinating tension between the original band members of ’80s new wave one-hit wonders, A Flock of Seagulls, and the swoop of hair on the head of lead singer Michael Score. Backstage concert footage of the swoop holding court with such celebrities as “Kate & Allie’’ star Jane Curtin and “Trapper John, M.D.’’ costar Gregory Harrison gives a rare glimpse into a rarefied world that is “not unlike that of the mating Monarch penguins’’ (from the director’s notes). It’s a classic tale of fragile egos and raging jealousy in the music world. Interviews with surviving band members, hair stylists, and present day fans (known as “Flockers’’) show that tensions still run deep between the band and a hairstyle that flamed out too soon. Or did it?
Where’s the Beef?
Jane Lynch (TV’s “Glee’’) plays Wendy Peller, a lonely young widow trying to recapture life while on a get-away dude ranch vacation. The ubiquitous ’80s catchphrase refers to her search for meaning in a life marred by the tragic early death of her first love. But after a meet-cute with shirtless ranch-hand Zac Efron while trying to milk a bull, “Where’s the beef?’’ takes on a whole new meaning in this latest sassy heart-tugger from director Penny Marshall.
For Your Members Only
A secret society filled with very secrety secrets. A mysterious mystery. “Friday Night Lights’’ star Kyle Chandler plays a renowned professor from the Fashion Institute of Society brought in to investigate the mysterious theft of the last Members Only jacket in existence. In this Doug Liman “joint,’’ the dashingly resourceful professor’s tri-state chase to find out “who, what, or why’’ anyone would want the powder-blue epaulette’d jacket culminates in an epic sartorial showdown with MC Hammer and a secret society of child stars, who shall remain a secret.
A shot-by-shot remake of the original ’80s classic. “AA!!’’ stars Oscar winner Jeff Bridges in the role originated by his father, Lloyd.
This live “re-imagining’’ of the popular ’80s video-game craze brings us into a world where ghosts rule and societal outcasts — the Pac-Men — are forced to hide their dot-gobbling instincts. In a change-of-pace action role, Jason Bateman stars as the leader of an underground group of Pac-Men, including Megan Fox (“Transformers’’) and Aziz Ansari (TV’s “Parks and Recreation’’) trying to expose the multicolored corporate ghosts for who they are — fear-mongering conservatives who want to control the nation’s infrastructure of roads. In an homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope,’’ director Eli Roth filmed “Pac-Men’’ as one continuous chase sequence, including the graphic fruit mutilation scenes.
Dragons & Dungeons Inc.
Lester Dragons and Harold Dungeons are the smartest kids at Applebottom Middle School. They also don’t have any friends, except for each other. Naturally they decide to open a kid detective agency! “We Work on All Levels’’ is their motto. Played by rising child stars Angus T. Jones (TV’s “Two and a Half Men’’) and Justin Bieber (Justin Bieber!), these awkward charmers go on adventures solving “crimes’’ brought to them by their fellow students. The first film in this franchise also features Holly Hunter as a guidance counselor who may or may not be an evil sorceress with elaborate powers of enchantment.
Board, Baby, Board
The “almost-true’’ story of the single mom who invented the Baby-on-Board craze in 1984. It’s 1983, and Clarisse Simmcox (Christina Applegate) is a no-nonsense single woman in her mid-30s who doesn’t like kids. She’s a talented graphic artist with a group of high-powered lady friends who all feel the same way. Informally, they call themselves the “Bored With Babies Drinking Club.’’ Life is good, until one day Clarisse discovers she’s pregnant. Oops. After some soul searching (watch for a 28-minute montage set to ’80s club music), she jogs to the top of the “Rocky’’ steps in Philadelphia and decides to keep the baby. Nora Ephron guides us through her journey from antagonistic single to prideful mommy. Her maternity-leave project turns into the ubiquitous diamond-shaped signs that changed the way we, as a society, are aware of who is traveling in a car.
Sacky Hacks in 3-D
Ashton Kutcher’s new production company, That Punk’d Guy Productions, is the driving force behind this slacker-comedy (or “slack-com’’ as the genre is known) in which Kutcher plays a brilliant yet bored high school senior trying to fit in at his new school. Rejected by the cool kids, he meets a group of lovable, tie-dye-wearing, hacky-sack-playing outcasts who call themselves the Sacky Hacks and falls hard for its only female member, the beautiful-if-only-she’d-take-off-her-bandana Harmony (Ellen Page). Will she reciprocate? Will Ashley (Ashton’s character) prove to the school — and especially himself — that “hackers’’ can also be cool? The popular 3-D feature adds to the big kick-a-thon showdown climax with the Hacks’ cross-town rivals, the Ultimate Frisbees.
Gary Rudoren is coauthor of the book “Comedy by the Numbers: The 169 Secrets of Humor and Popularity.’’ He can be reached at email@example.com.
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