Eighinger: Summertime blockbusters

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By Steve Eighinger

Ahh…few things are better than a boffo box office summertime movie
One of my favorite obsessions has always been going to the movies, and with the theaters beginning to re-open I’m sure I’m not the only one who is again looking forward to enjoying some stale popcorn, watered-down cola — and films on the big screen. In non-pandemic times, the months of June, July and August have traditionally been boffo box office when it comes to the movies, and while this summer will set no attendance records it is gratifying to see the theaters slowly but surely allowing more and more moviegoers inside their doors.

Since I was young — which, yes, was a long, long time ago — going to the movies in the summer has always been a rewarding experience. The studios traditionally release many of their biggest films of the year during the warm-weather months when kids are out of school, moms and dads are often on vacation and there is plenty of time to go to the local cinema.

I got to thinking the other day about which summertime films I have found most enjoyable through the years. Using the past 50 years as a guide, here’s my top 10:

1. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978): Rarely do I ever say anything is a “perfect” example of anything, but this is one of those exceptions. “Animal House” featured a perfect cast for what turned out to be the perfect summer comedy, ranging from the late John Belushi as Blutarsky to the late Stephen Furst as Kent “Flounder” Dorfman. I could count on one hand the number of movies I have watched multiple times, but this one of them. “Animal House,” at least for me, remains just as funny 43 years after I saw it for the first time.

2. Bull Durham (1988): If not the most realistic baseball movie ever, “Bull Durham” is at least on the podium. And while Kevin Costner’s portrayal of journeyman catcher Crash Davis is memorable, who can forget Tim Robbins as Ebby “Nuke” LaLoosh? (I’m going to list 1989’s 

“Field of Dreams” as No. 2A. I’m not sure whether or not to count the film as a summer release because it originally hit the theaters in late April, which, of course, is spring, but its popularity carried through into the summer. Costner starred in this baseball movie, too, and I’ll be the first to admit I still get chills when those old players first appear coming out of the Iowa cornfield.)

3. Dirty Dancing (1986): If for no other reason, I would watch this movie repeatedly just to hear Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes.”

4. Jaws (1975): I was in my early 20s when I first saw this Roy Scheider classic, and to this day I have no desire for any sort of oceanic cruise or fishing expedition.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): This is truly one of the all-time great action offerings. Harrison Ford has enjoyed a fabulous acting career, but his Indiana Jones-themed films are the ones I have enjoyed the most.

6. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: Mel Gibson and his post-apocalyptic sidekicks took action and mayhem to a new futuristic level.

7. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983): The movie that introduced the world to Clark Griswold.

8. Saving Private Ryan (1998): What a magnificent film. I feel it is Steven Spielberg’s finest effort as a director. Capt. John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. We were introduced to the harsh, brutal realties of war like never before.

9. Die Hard (1988): It’s hard to believe the original “Die Hard” is now more than 30 years old. It’s easier to realize, however, when you consider Bruce Willis still had a full head of hair.

10. Terminator 2 (1991): The film that cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger’s standing as a superstar. And the special effects weren’t too shabby either.

Worth mentioning: “The Unforgiven” (1992), “Risky Business” (1983), “Back to the Future” (1985),
“Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation” (2015).

If I Had My Way …These songs, which all reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts, would have been No. 1:

“Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People, No. 2, 1979: Admit it, you’ve made the Y-M-C-A letter gestures with your arms lifted high when the chorus rolls around.

“I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” by England Dan and John Ford Coley, No. 2, 1976: One of the all-time soft rock classics.

“He’ll Have to Go,” Jim Reeves, No. 2, 1960: I’ve always thought Jim Reeves could have been a star in any era, but we’ll never know. He died in a 1964 plane crash.

“Hurts So Good,” John Mellencamp, No. 2, 1982: Ironically, this song never reached No. 1 for Mellencamp, but the album it came from, “American Fool,” topped the charts for nine weeks.

You’re Still the One,” Shania Twain, No. 2, 1998: In my book, every Shania Twain song was No. 1.

TOP FIVE

The leading rock bands with roots in the 1960s that are still major contributors to the music industry:

1. Rolling Stones (est. 1962): The original band consisted of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones and Ian Stewart. Mick, Keith and Charlie are still rolling.

2. The Who (est. 1964): The 1971 album “Who’s Next” is considered by many to be the band’s finest overall effort. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Riley” were the biggest hits from that album.

3. Beach Boys (est. 1961): Best Beach Boys’ song? My pick would be “Wild Honey,” a relatively minor hit in late 1967 and early 1968. Best line? “Sock it to me, wild honey!”

4. Chicago (est. 1967): Peter Cetera is my pick for finest overall Chicago lead vocalist, and there have been quite a few.

5. ZZ Top (est. 1969): ‘Cause every girl crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man. Or so they say.

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