The Burbs

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in

This weekend schlock-master Paul WS Anderson (Resident Evil, Death Race) is bringing us his latest over the top action extravaganza, a story about adventure and romance set against the backdrop of maybe the most famous volcanic eruption in history, Pompeii. If you watch the trailer, it seems like the movie’s going to be pretty bad, but bad in that way that you’re going to end up watching and enjoying it regardless. Or maybe that’s just my crushes on Emily Browning and Kit Harington talking. Pompeii won’t be the first time a couple of attractive young kids have fallen in love against the backdrop of a volcano decimating an entire group of people, however. Back in 1990, writer/director John Patrick Shanley took a couple of actors who hardcore movie fans may have heard of, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and used their one-of-a-kind chemistry to tell a unique tale that was part romance, part comedy, part adventure, and part genocidal disaster movie where an entire race of orange soda-loving Polynesian Jews called the Waponis got decimated by the eruption of a volcano known as The Big Woo. The movie was called Joe Versus the Volcano, and despite everything it has to offer, it still hasn’t received a high definition release of any sort.

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Joe Dante‘s The ‘burbs, which turns 25 tomorrow, was a nice way to end a decade filled with a nostalgia for the simple 1950s idea of suburbia as well as a trend towards uncovering terrible things amidst the modern ideal of perfection of the new suburbia of tract house developments. In the latter camp, there’s Poltergeist and Gremlins, both produced by Steven Spielberg (whose own E.T. nearly fits) with the latter helmed by Dante (who’d go on to make another suburbia tale almost 10 years later with Small Soldiers). The ‘burbs is, more than its ’80s brethren, a satirical leveling of the former camp, particularly the early TV sitcoms re-introduced to a new generation through Nick at Nite and update spin-offs like Still the Beaver/The New Leave It to Beaver. The movie, fittingly, was shot on the same cul-de-sac neighborhood lot at Universal Studios as that Leave It to Beaver sitcom sequel and co-stars Corey Feldman, who’d played the Beaver’s son in the pilot TV movie of Still the Beaver. The ‘burbs also features TV sitcom staple Gale Gordon, a regular fixture in Lucille Ball series including The Lucy Show (there are photos of him and Ball in the movie) and a main cast member on Dennis the Menace as the second Mr. Wilson. That the movie’s plot revolves around Gordon’s character going missing, seemingly murdered by the new neighbors, is a great metaphor for the loss, again, of that era. At the hands of the unknown strangeness of the Klopeks, […]

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Alexander Payne probably achieved his greatest level of success and recognition after casting a huge movie star, George Clooney, in his most recent film, The Descendants. Given the taste of mainstream acceptance that this director of pitch-black dramatic comedies got by working with a well-known name, you might think that he would be tempted to go back to the well and snag more big stars to play the father/son duo in his upcoming road movie, Nebraska. It seems like we should have been hearing rumors over the past few months that he was courting Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Douglas, or something of the like. Not Payne though, who seems to be wholly concerned with finding the right actors to fit the parts, and if a report from Deadline Benkelman is to be believed, he’s found an off-the-beaten-path duo that look on paper like they could make for a delightful pair. The report says that Payne has been meaning to make Nebraska his next film for quite some time, but he didn’t want to move things forward until he could find the right actor for the father role. For the longest time he was fixated on Gene Hackman, but that screen legend’s continued retirement made his casting an impossibility. Payne feels like he’s found his man now though, in Bruce Dern, and he also wants Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte to play the son.

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Movies We Love

“Ricky Butler says they’re nocturnal feeders.” Tom Hanks became pretty much the biggest actor in the world once he turned to dramatic roles, but I’ve always preferred him back when he was goofy. The ‘burbs represents the pinnacle of his goofy period for me, as collaborating with a great filmmaker in Joe Dante allowed him to craft a unique, outstanding performance that anchored a unique, outstanding horror comedy. In this movie he drinks a glass of orange juice better than anyone has ever drank a glass of orange juice on film. He traverses a set of stairs after being blown up more artistically than even Wile E. Coyote in his prime. He owns his character and the screen. The ‘burbs tells the story of a sleepy, suburban cul-de-sac that gets disturbed when a new family moves in. You see; they’re a creepy group of three men. They never come out of their house. There are weird lights and smells coming out of their basement. Their name is Klopek. What is that, Slovek? Sure, we don’t know exactly what they’re doing down there, but it isn’t normal. At least when the Knapps lived there they mowed their lawn. So, all things considered, it’s up to Ray Peterson (Hanks) and his cadre of suburban sleuths to find out what’s going on, and what they’re keeping down in that cellar.

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Damn. Well, maybe now Tom Hanks and Corey Feldman will take the hint and make The Burbs II, so we can finally all sleep easier.

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