Omaha movie theaters to become 1990s video stores

Or: a summer movie preview told in VHS not Beta

By Micah Mertes / World-Herald staff writer

Monday, April 20, 2015

It’s no secret that Hollywood is plundering our memory banks of every single ’80s/’90s pop cultural artifact, poking our nostalgia while lightening our wallets. No secret.

It’s just that it’s really pointed this summer.

Of the obligatory sequels/reboots/remakes coming to theaters in the next few months, the movies are aggressively ’80s/’90s in origin. Returning to theaters are (ahem) Mad Max, Ethan Hunt, Clark Griswold, the Terminator, the velociraptors, the Poltergeist and the Cameron Crowe. There are also a few non-sequels with a decidedly retro feel, including the vintage video game comedy “Pixels,” starring Adam Sandler, and the earthquake movie “San Andreas,” starring The Rock.

This lineup is as dispiritingly unoriginal as just about any other summer movie season. However. How. Ever. For ’90s kids this roster is a miracle. After many long, desperate years of trying to go back to our childhood, our childhood is coming back to us. This isn’t popcorn entertainment. This is time travel.

Here’s what’s coming soon to VHS.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Release: May 1

Summary: Robert Downey Jr. (“Chaplin”), Scarlett Johansson (“The Horse Whisperer”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“Jurassic Park”) are heroes who fight an omnipotent robot played by James Spader (“Stargate”).

The ’90s connection: OK, so the ’90s connection is fairly tenuous here, but let us never forget the first Avenger movie, 1990’s gloriously bad “Captain America.” From the director of “Cyborg” and “Kickboxer 2: The Road Back,” the direct-to-video film stars Matt Salinger (son of J.D. Salinger) as Cap/Steve Rogers. The Captain is thawed out after decades of being trapped in ice to fight his nemesis, The Red Skull. Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty co-star. Riddled with a troubled production history and filmmakers who had no idea what they were doing, the final product was a catastrophe. But it’s the single-celled organism that would evolve into the modern superhero blockbuster.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Release: May 15

Summary: Best actor of his generation Tom Hardy plays the titular hero, a man trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world. He finds an unlikely ally in Charlize Theron (“Mighty Joe Young”).

The ’80s connection: This film is wholly, triumphantly tied to the past. It’s written and directed by George Miller, who wrote and directed “Mad Max” (1979), “The Road Warrior” (1981) and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985). This long-gestating sequel/reboot has gone through several variations over the years -- Mel Gibson was set to reprise his role at one point, but you know … -- but the movie is undeniably of a piece with the series. It boasts brutal violence, pitch-black humor, and it looks like most of it takes place in/on/under moving vehicles. And with the exception of the fire tornadoes (FIRE TORNADOES!), most of the special effects look quite practical and dangerous. Most of the summer blockbusters this year look crowd-tested and safe. This looks illegal.


Mad Max Memories

I remember watching "Mad Max" as a little kid and having a very strange, almost euphoric feeling watching it. George Miller really has a way with visuals and tone that gives this dream-like structure to his narratives. As a kid, knowing what comes in "Road Warrior," it is a strange atmosphere in the film because it teeters on the line between chaos and normalsy. Since I have such vivid memories of "Mad Max," to see "Fury Road" finally come to fruition next month, I couldn’t be more excited. I truly believe what we witness on the screen will be nothing short of a miracle, and hopefully we'll see a resurgence of practical effects over CGI. Growing up watching "Movie Magic" as a kid, I definitely have a soft spot for the real thing. - Derek Michael Dillon, creative manager at Alamo Drafthouse Omaha


Release: May 22

Summary: A nice family moves into a house built on a cemetery. Some of the graveyard’s spirits are pissed about this.

The ’80s connection: It appears to be a pretty straight-forward remake of the 1982 film, albeit with 2015 digital effects. Most important: The clown is back.

Still scary as hell

"Poltergeist" terrified me as a kid in a way that maybe nothing else has. This is hard to describe, but I actually feel a very specific residual terror about it decades later -- not because I'm scared of the movie anymore (though I have no interest in watching it), but because I can almost feel the physical effect it had on me back then. I wanted nothing to do with that movie. I didn't want to be in a house where that movie was playing in another room, even if I couldn't see or hear it. I wanted that movie to not exist.

Everything that everyone always finds creepy about it creeped the hell out of me, too -- the clown doll, Carol Anne's voice, the steak maggots and subsequent face-ripping-off by that one guy whose significance I can't recall, ZELDA RUBINSTEIN. Even the title was scary. But if I was going to play armchair psychologist, I'd say the most disconcerting thing about that movie to a little kid was the fact that the parents seemed just totally helpless. Even if you're unaware of it at the time, as a kid you want to hang on to that idea of your parents as superhuman problem-slayers for as long as you can, and the moment that goes, part of your innocence is lost forever. So thanks a lot, "Poltergeist." I hope the reboot sucks. I want nothing to do with that reboot. - Casey Logan, World-Herald staff writer


Release: May 29

Summary: A suave young man recovering from heartbreak finds love in a zany and delightful younger woman. She lets his love open the door to her heart.

The ’80s/’90s connection: Cameron Crowe is now a man in his late 50s, but, God bless him, he still makes movies like it’s 1996, warm and overly sentimental films about “the young man’s journey.” Here, Bradley Cooper plays the young man journeying, Emma Stone his MPDG. Crowe hasn’t made an unequivocally great film since 2000’s “Almost Famous.” Perhaps this is his return. No question, though, this will have a killer mixtape.


Still dreamin' of Lloyd Dobler

I graduated from high school in the late '90s so of course "Singles" and "Say Anything" were both hugely influential. I think I may have been a little young to see "Say Anything" in the theater, but once I saw it on VHS, it quickly became a favorite (and it still holds up!). Lloyd Dobler is such a great and multi-dimensional character. He showed all of us that the ideal boyfriend is not the disinterested bad boy. I'm pretty sure I had "I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen" and "You must chill" written on my junior high book covers.

I believe I saw "Singles" at Indian Hills when it came out. I would have been 14. Both soundtracks are also fantastic and great time capsules. Of course "Say Anything" has the signature Peter Gabriel song "In Your Eyes" but it also had Living Colour, The Replacements, Cheap Trick, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith and Mother Love Bone! "Singles" is just such a cool portrait of a scene. Everyone was emulating Seattle at that time, especially high school kids in Omaha. What could be cooler than to be transported to that place and time from a writer/director who was really living it? I still have a soft spot for Cameron Crowe. - Rachel Jacobson, founder and director of Film Streams

San Andreas

Release: May 29

Summary: Big earthquake hits California. The Rock is a helicopter pilot.

The ’70s/’90s connection: It’s not a sequel or remake, but it’s got strong ties to disaster movies past. Its vibe is particularly that of a mid-to-late ’90s disaster movie. Think “Twister,” “Volcano,” “Dante’s Peak,” but with better effects and a much more muscular leading man.


Jurassic World

Release: June 12

Summary: Scientists at a dinosaur park tamper with nature. Nature kills everyone.

The ’90s connection: It’s been 22 years since “Jurassic Park” redefined what a summer blockbuster could be. And in that time, we've seen a meh sequel and a less-than-meh threequel, and now, after many botched attempts at resurrecting the franchise, here we are. “Jurassic World” works as a direct sequel to the 1993 movie while retaining almost none of the original cast. The new movie returns to "Jurassic Park's" Isla Nublar, which has been home to a fully functioning dino theme park for the past 10 years. When attendance starts to decline, the park’s operators create a new attraction (a new kind of dinosaur) that, of course, becomes too smart, escapes, kills a lot of people, ruins everything. Steven Spielberg didn’t direct it (indie filmmaker Colin Trevorrow did), but all the movie needs to win our hearts again are the dinosaurs, the children in peril and this.


Bawling, weeping, traumatized

I definitely now have fond memories of seeing "Jurassic Park" in the theater with my mom for the first time at what was at the time the Q Cinema 9 out in Millard on 120th and Q. I was in the third grade and was so utterly traumatized (like bawling and weeping) by the famous kitchen scene with the raptors that I begged my mom to get me outta there and we left. My next door neighbors were there with their twin boys who were a few years younger than me. They were *giddy* with excitement. The graphics were so real, too real, and I had never seen anything like it. I couldn't watch the movie for years and years, probably until I was old enough that I couldn't identify with the kids in that scene. - Brooke Masek, program and outreach coordinator for Film Streams

Terminator Genisys

Release: July 1

Summary: All that stuff in the previous four “Terminator” films? Yeah, that’s gone, at least for now. It’s been swept away by the plot magic of timey-wimey time travel. In this timeline, um, a friendly Terminator (Arnold, reprising his role after sitting out “Terminator Salvation”) was sent back in time to save a very young Sarah Connor. He also ends up raising her. So when the plot of the first “Terminator” movie tries to take place, Kyle Reese goes back in time to find a well-trained and deadly Sarah Connor and an old-man Terminator who’s already killed the evil young Terminator sent to kill Sarah. The three try to stop “Judgment Day” from happening, but (twist!) the machines have sent back in time a man-machine hybrid version of John Connor! And he’s evil! What is happening?!

The ’80s/’90s connection: “Terminator 3” and “Terminator Salvation” were solid but uninspired entries. “Terminator: Genisys” seems to be ignoring that those later films ever happened, instead clicking hard into the stories of the first two “Terminators.” Not a bad idea, considering James Cameron’s movies are among the most entertaining and innovative sc-fi action movies ever made. “Genisys’” nostalgia factor is strong, with Arnold back and the movie presumably taking place in 1984. But the alternative timeline is going to be a tricky beast to handle. Exciting as the big changes might be, those changes negate the first two movies. “Terminator: Genisys” aims to tickle your nostalgia while also murdering it. This might not end well.


Scrambled memories of Terminator

In 1991, everyone was talking about "Terminator 2." The special effects, Arnold, the budget and all the action. It was the movie to see. However, my parents wouldn’t take me to or let me rent an R-rated movie. That left only pay-per-view.

Before Netflix, there was pay-per-view. For you millennials out there who don’t know any better, it was a channel where you would pay a fee and watch what was airing. If you didn’t pay the fee, the picture was scrambled, but the sound came through clearly.
As a side note, watching scrambled pay-per-view pornography doubled as sex education for many suburban adolescents.

Like many 12 year olds, I didn’t have access to a credit card and had to settle for "Terminator 2" scrambled. While I could clearly hear what was going on, that only got me so far. I had to stare at the scrambled picture and try to figure out what exactly was going on so I could talk about it at school the next day. So yeah, basically like watching scrambled porn. - Mike Machian, filmmaker


Release: July 24

Summary: Aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war and attack Earth in the form of classic arcade games. The President of the United States (Kevin James … I know) tasks his joystick wizard friends (Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad) with saving the planet.

The ’80s connection: The idea of using Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders as an alien threat is charming. Someone should try it in a movie again sometime after we get this doofy Adam Sandler comedy over with. One thing in the movie’s corner, I guess, is director Chris Columbus (“Home Alone,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone”). The guy knows his way around whimsy.


Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Release: July 31

Summary: Ethan Hunt and his team take on the Syndicate, an evil organization every bit as cunning and crafty as IMF.

The ’90s connection: The 1996 adaptation of the classic TV series didn’t make a lot of sense (and had a big twist that many fans are still mad about), but it was breathless with thrilling action sequences and featured a performance that solidified Tom Cruise’s action hero status. The second and third “M:I” entries were disappointing, but the series came roaring back to life with “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.” That film, and apparently the upcoming “Rogue Nation,” wisely went back to what made the TV series so great: the team aspect. So “Rogue Nation” will embrace the tense, zippy appeal of the 1996 film while continuing to learn from its mistakes. Could be the summer’s most purely fun movie.


This film will self-destruct in ...

My experience with the first "Mission: Impossible" was doubly disappointing. I grew up loving the reruns of the '60s and early '70s version of the TV show. Peter Graves was my guy, and I basically wanted to be Jim Phelps. Anyway, I go see this sham of a production where they think its a good idea to make Phelps (played by Jon Voight) a double agent. My guy is the bad guy?

So right when we are going to get the reveal at the restaurant that it's Phelps, the fire alarm goes off in the theater, and we have to leave. Standing outside with other "MI" nerds, we talk about the fact that they made Phelps a bad guy chasing the money. We are pissed and vow to hate Tom Cruise forever. (He is obviously to blame)

Well one two shake my shoe, they won't let us back in to finish watching the movie, I go home and I am pissed. I saw it again about a week later and it turned out to be okay in my book. - Mike'l Severe, host of The Bottom Line


Release: July 31

Summary: Ed Helms is the sixth actor to play Rusty Griswold, son of Clark, who is now taking his family on a road trip to “Walley World.”

The ’80s/’90s connection: We’re not only getting the original characters of the earlier films but also a few original cast members. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo will reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold. And the outline of the movie is exactly the same as the first. With luck, it will be closer to a “Christmas Vacation” than a “Vegas Vacation.”

Fantastic Four

Release: Aug. 7

Summary: Four young scientists gain superhuman powers following an experiment gone wrong. Together, they use their new abilities to defeat a tyrant.

The ’90s connection: The new “Fantastic Four” looks to erase memories of all previous attempts, including the goofy Jessica Alba/Chris Evans movies. They've Nolaned the bejesus out of the series with this one. Gloomy cinematography, brooding tone and performances, a push towards gritty realism. If they pull it off, it will be no small feat, considering this is one of the sillier of Marvel’s prominent properties; I mean, one guy’s a rock monster. If the film’s swinging so hard in the other direction, it’s hard to blame it. The “Fantastic Four” characters are, after all, the victims of one of the worst movies ever made, the 1994 “Fantastic Four.” That turd was only made to secure copyright, the producers never intending for anyone to see it. But people did see it, and it’s since become a cult curiosity that fans of bad movies seek and cherish.


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