Tag Archives: Howard Hesseman

“COMPLIANCE, NAVIGATOR”: LISA, JOE AND ANOTHER LIFE AFTER BY KENT HILL

There are many fascinating stories revealed in Lisa Downs’ Life After The Navigator. The difficult second album, as it can sometimes been seen, has done more than just cement the fact that Life After Flash was no fluke. It shows, we the audience that, like in Navigator’s final frames, David (Joey Cramer, RUNAWAY) Freeman, looking up at a sky alive with fireworks and catching a last glimpse of the extraterrestrial that helped make everything in his world richer from the experience of surviving an extraordinary adventure together, that future is ahead….bright and full of hope.

This of course is a formula made famous by that other kids and aliens flick you might have heard of. It spawned so many imitators. But what was different about the imitators then as opposed to now, is that they borrowed the formula sure enough, but they added their own ingredients instead of merely redressing and mixing up the elements.

I don’t wish to spoil this film for you in any way, shape or form (I will struggle, sorry). But, I was fascinated at how, if you read a little deeper, all of these films like NAVIGATOR, like EXPLORERS, like THE LAST STARFIGHTER; while all are a by-product of the success of E.T., they all have ingredients from another human/alien team-up and help each other kinda film I love, THIS ISLAND EARTH, directed by Joseph M. Newman. I was intrigued further learning the original concept of Navigator from its then novice screenwriter, that a plot which cinematically links it to both ISLAND EARTH and EXPLORERS was the scripts original direction. Oops…nerding off…

What you really need to know is like Flash, Navigator is not merely the making of or behind the scenes of the movie that fans have long waited for. Nor is it simply the story of a kid actor who went to jail. Rather, this Life After is about a film that became a cult classic, with all the bells and whistles you are going to love about that. However, like its predecessor, the emotional core at the center of the piece is the story of the boy who tied the movie together.

Joey Cramer has in essence been from Earth to Phaelon and back. After winning the lottery as a child star, cast in the lead role of a Disney movie directed by the man who gave us GREASE, everything should have been perfect. But as we know, real life isn’t scripted, and the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Joey’s life in the wake of stardom was deep, dark and perilous. However, like Sam Jones is revealed to be a real life Flash Gordon, so to is Cramer the apotheosis of David Freeman, the struggling hero, the pure of heart, seeking to get back to that one place, the best place in the world. The place we call home.

Life After The Navigator splices together these compelling twin narratives that rise and recede almost on cue, flowing as one into the film’s final stages. Both climax in scenes that will have you smiling, overwhelmed with such good will toward Joey for showing us his life deconstructed, for the surviving cast and crew for sharing their adventures in making the movie, and finally to Lisa Downs and Ashley Pugh. This amazing duo are on a roll as far as this dude in the audience is concerned. So get over to the website (https://www.lifeaftermovies.com/) and grab the best gift you can give or receive this holiday season. Hope.

After a year that has been more tragedy than triumph, Life After The Navigator is the perfect elixir. A story about the adventure behind the adventure, how real heroes exist within us….and not solely on the silver screen.

Disney’s Flight Of The Navigator

I feel like live action Disney stuff from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s is underrated. The animated ventures always get minted into classics and go platinum while awesome entries like Flight Of The Navigator get lost and relegated to hidden gem territory after awhile. This is a smart, funny, charming, invigorating and refreshingly eerie little SciFi that doesn’t talk down to its young audience or wade into sap.

In 1978 young David (Joey Cramer) disappears walking through the woods one night, and isn’t seen for eight years until he walks up to his house and finds different people living in it. Here the film impressed me by showing this whole sequence from his blind perspective, because for him only about four hours have passed and he can’t figure out why when the cops track down his parents, (Cliff De Young and Veronica Cartwright are very effective) they have aged so much. Their reunion is treated maturely and with impressively adequate emotion from Cramer, who ever so slightly reminds me of a young Henry Thomas, therefore cementing the Amblin vibes nicely. David has of course been abducted by aliens but that’s no spoiler as you can see by the chromed up spacecraft jetting around on the film’s poster. The resident extraterrestrial who took him now returns and the two embark on an initially disorganized and frequently hilarious ‘mission’ to find star charts downloaded to David’s brain, evade a pesky NASA bigwig (Howard Hesseman) and return David to his family.

This film is a wondrous creation because of how laid back the action is. David teams up nicely with the alien, a rambunctious robotic arm named Max and voiced by Paul ‘Pee Wee Herman’ Reubens. Most of their time together isn’t spent lamenting the situation or blasting government troops with phaser beams but rather goofing off, rocking out to the earth music that Max takes to, hanging out with other alien specimens he has adopted in his voyages (cue the adorable 80’s practical effects) and zooming around the globe in their vehicle which provides some very good exterior FX too. A young Sarah Jessica Parker also shows up as a sweetheart of a NASA defector who watches out for David and eventually helps him escape. It’s a terrific film that doesn’t take itself too seriously yet doesn’t goof off too much and ruin setup and believability (I’m looking at you, Joe Dante’s misfire ‘Explorers’). It benefits greatly from Cramer who was a true find but doesn’t seem to have had much of a career following this. Greatly recommended.

-Nate Hill

Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2

Rob Zombie was always going to make the jump from musician to filmmaker, you could just feel it in the air and it also felt apparent that he’d be a successful one too, unlike a few of his compadres (poor Dee Snider). The term shock rock has been applied to his work and that can be said of his films too; he’s always been about brash, crass stylistic choices and as such it shocks *me* when people are appalled at his films and their off putting nature, I mean this is Rob Zombie the heavy metal guy we’re talking about here, not someone innocuous like Barry Levinson. What consistently surprises me about his work in film is that along with all the appropriately trashy, nasty imagery and visual grotesquerie there is a strong drive to explore themes, cultivate mature, realistic characters and build worlds that feel like our our own to tell his scary stories in. This is all apparent in his Halloween 2 which I feel is an overlooked, misunderstood piece of horror madness and brilliance.

Being a huge fan of his original Halloween reboot I was surprised and curious at his decision to follow it up, because the first stands on its own and wraps up very nicely in the final moments, in its own way and as a calling card to Carpenter’s original. But he and the Myers name made Dimension Films a big pile of money and this film went ahead, which I’m grateful for. His vision of H2 is a spectacularly terrifying, relentlessly bleak and disarmingly psychological one, worlds away from his first outing and while it still bears the profane, yokel brand of his dialogue writing in spots, this is some of the most down to earth filmmaking he’s done. Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor Compton) is a mess following events past, and understandably so. She lives with her friend Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris, a perennial totem of the franchise) and Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Brad Dourif), barely coping with constant nightmares, waking dreams and hallucinations from her trauma and sees a psychiatrist (the great Margot Kidder) who doesn’t prove to be all that effective. Malcolm McDowell’s once helpful and compassionate Dr. Loomis has fought his own trauma by drinking hard and becoming a cynical, nasty media whore who cruelly makes it public that Laurie is in fact Michael’s baby sister, which doesn’t help her mental climate much. Add to this the fact that Michael did indeed survive that fateful Halloween night and is slowly making his way back to Haddonfield for round two and you have all the ingredients for a perfect storm.

This film is horror to its core but I also love how Zombie dutifully explores Post traumatic stress disorder in brutally realistic fashion, something that none of the other films in the series bothered to look at, seriously anyways. Compton is fantastic in a picture of hell as Laurie here, disheveled and dissociated to dangerous levels and damaged by Michael’s evil beyond repair. Michael (Tyler Mane) is different too, spending much of the film without his mask and followed by ethereal visions of his long dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and otherworldly, surreal demonic figures who spur him on in haunting dream sequences. Dourif is emotionally devastating as Brackett and people sometimes forget just what kind of dramatic heavy lifting this guy is capable of. He plays a nice, kind man who only ever tried to protect his daughter and Laurie both and when they collectively pass through the event horizon of being able to heal from the horror, the anguish and heartbreak in his performance shakes you to the bone. Zombie populated his supporting ranks with a trademark bunch of forgotten genre faces like Daniel Roebuck, Dayton Callie, Richard Brake, Richard Rhiele, Howard Hesseman, Mark Boone Jr, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Duane Whitaker and Sean Whalen and new talent like Brea Grant, Nancy Birdsong, Octavia Spencer, Angela Trimbur and, uh… Weird Al Yankovic too. Michael spends much of the film on his journey back to Haddonfield here after escaping a percussive ambulance crash (perhaps of his own elemental making) and as such many of the shots we get are him on the moors, farmlands and eerie fields of the neighbouring counties, haunting the land like some restless spirit until it comes time to kill once again. The atmosphere is one of dread and abstract mental unrest as we see each character, including Michael himself, begin to lose it. It all culminates in a horrifying, darkly poetic confrontation complete with a hectic police chopper and all the careening madness we can expect from Zombie’s vision of this world. Then he decides to give this legacy a disquieting send off that works sadly and beautifully by bringing back the song Love Hurts, this time crooned softly by Nan Vernon instead of a raucous strip bar sound system. Whether you’re attuned to Zombie’s aesthetic or not, there’s just no denying his artistic style, commitment to world building and brave openness in reinvention and experimentation within an established mythos. Great film.

-Nate Hill