A “Wonderful” Love Triangle Movie

Hello everyone!  It’s back to the 80’s reviews, and what better movie to kick off with than “Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987), directed by Howard Deutch. It has the old familiar set up of the hero being caught between two contrasting choices of girls. Roger Ebert probably summed up the concept best in his review, “it is not about whether the hero will get the girl, it is whether the hero should get the girl, and when was the last time you saw a movie that even knew that could be the question?”

Eric Stolz stars as Keith Nelson, an artsy teenage mechanic from a working class background. His best friend is a tomboyish drummer named Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), and his dad Cliff (John Ashton), puts pressure on him to attend college, and get the education he never did, while Keith would much rather paint instead. He has a crush on the beautiful, seemingly unattainable Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson). In a refreshing take on the normal procedure, Amanda comes from the same modest background as Watts and Keith, but as she hangs out with the “popular” crowd, this makes her “rich by association”.

After Amanda breaks up with her caddish boyfriend, Hardy (Craig Sheffer), Keith wastes no time in asking her out. She accepts his offer, primarily out of spite for Hardy.  This eventually leads to Amanda being shunned by her snooty friends for daring to date outside the “in” crowd. Meanwhile, Watts has some issues of her own, as she has developed unrequited feelings for her best friend…

If you feel that the story that I’ve summarized sounds a little familiar, it’s because it was based the movie “Pretty in Pink” (1986), which preceded this movie by one year. It was not only directed by Howard Deutch, but was scripted by the king of 80’s teen movies, John Hughes. It’s worth noting that the stories are eeriely similar to each other. While “Pink” is about Molly Ringwald trying to choose between a smooth rich guy Andrew McCarthy and quirky best friend Jon Cryer, “Wonderful”  has essentially the exact same premise with the genders reversed.

When Hughes produced “Pretty in Pink”, his original intention was to have Molly Ringwald end up with Jon Cryer’s lovable goofball Duckie. However, the test audience for that film weren’t receptive to that ending, taking it as a sign that the rich and the poor social classes didn’t belong together. The ending was then changed to the one we all know, in which Ringwald ends up with McCarthy’s. It’s funny to note that had “Pink” ended up the way that Hughes originally envisioned it, it’s highly likely that we wouldn’t have “Wonderful”.

If I had to pick between “Pink” and “Wonderful” as being the better film, I’d ultimately have to choose the latter movie, as the supporting characters are more fleshed out and entertaining in my opinion. In “Wonderful”, we have  Duncan(Elias Koteas), a skinhead delinquent pal of Keith’s,who steals many of his scenes,  Laura (Maddie Corman), his annoying younger sister, and Ashton as the open-minded parent who just wants the best for his son.

As for the main trio of Stolz, Masterson and Thompson, they all pull off their respective roles with aplomb. Stolz is appealing as the man in the middle, Thompson pulls off the typical popular girl role with freshness, and Masterson shines as the friend who pines away from afar.

“Some Kind of Wonderful” rates as 4 stars our of a 5 star rating. Although it’s predictable and slow moving in parts, it ultimately captures the decisions of high school, and retains the typical Hughes charm that come from his teen movies. “Some Kind of Wonderful” was the last teen movie Hughes was involved in, before he decided to try his hand at making more adult themed pictures. Nevertheless, “Wonderful” ensures that Hughes’ teen movie period went out with not a fizzle, but with a bang.

If you enjoyed this review, please feel free to check out the movie, “Pretty in Pink”, or you can read my review of the film here! Until next time!

Elisabeth Shue beats the Babysitting Blues in Classic 80’s Comedy

Hi there! Since the Disney Channel’s remake of “Adventures in Babysitting” starring Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson premiered  as the 100th Disney Channel Original Movie recently, I decided that I would also view its 1987 predecessor of the same name, directed by Chris Columbus, who was also in the director’s chair in the first two movies in the Harry Potter Franchise, as well as “Home Alone”, “Gremlins” and “Mrs Doubtfire”.

Growing up, I used to dub this movie as “The Female Ferris Bueller Movie”, as even though the plots are vastly different from each other, they both deal with the characters having adventures through the course of only a few hours. And naturally, both deal with the main characters having to race to get home before the parents do. So, how does “Adventures in Babysitting” hold up almost 3 decades after its initial release?

The Plot in a Nutshell: It was only supposed to be a simple babysitting gig… Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) is your average suburban teenager who is anticipating date night with her hunky boyfriend Mike (Bradley Whitford), when he cancels on her at the last minute. So she’s lumbered with having to babysit the two Anderson kids, precocious and sarcastic Sara, (Maia Brewton), who has an obsession with sledgehammer wielding superhero Thor,  and sensitive older brother Brad (Keith Coogan), who has his own obsession in the form of an unrequited crush on his babysitter. Chris gets a sudden phone call from her runaway best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who is stuck is a dodgy bus station in the middle of the Chicago city. After being blackmailed by Brad’s sleazy friend Daryl (Anthony Rapp) into taking him along with them, the quartet take off to pick up Brenda.

On route, Chris’ car gets a flat wheel , prompting them to hitch a lift with  one-armed trucker”Handsome” John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan), who seems friendly, until he finds out that his wife is cheating on him, that is. Following a shootout against the adulterous pair, Chris and the kids make a break for a getaway vehicle, right as it’s being stolen by amicable car thief Joe Gipp (Calvin Levels). This leads them to them being on the run from gangsters/car thieves after Daryl steals a Playboy with crucial information written on (and the model just so happens to resemble Chris- what are the chances?)

From there, the night just gets more crazier from that moment on, with their crazy excursion leading them to a blues club, a college party, where they run into helpful college student Dan(George Newbern), and a climax which involves a skyscraper tower. Will our heroes ever make it back before the Anderson parents?

Actor/Character Observations: Even though I felt that Elisabeth Shue’s character in “The Karate Kid” was rather bland, here I feel that because her character was of the most importance this time round, she actually carries the movie along. And the kid actors here given funny  lines, and generally weren’t annoying, as some child actors are prone to be. Out of the three kids, I enjoyed Sara the most, as she had some of the best quips. Coogan’s Brad was sweet and at times pitiful, thanks to his unattainable crush on Chris.

My Favourite Scene(s) in “Adventures in Babysitting”: The scene where Chris and her babysitting charges find themselves in a blues club following a chase from the gangsters and are forced to improvise a blues number to get off the stage. Chris sings a ditty inspired by her hectic night, with the blues musicians backing them up, complete with real life musician Albert Collins making an appearance as himself. The 2016 Disney remake converted this scene into a rap battle ,as a way to appeal to contemporary generations. In my case, it simply made me cringe for the entirety of its duration, and didn’t compare to the blues scenario of the original.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in “Adventures in Babysitting”: I may be in the majority with this, both I found the scene towards the end of the movie where the quartet have to sneak into a party where Brad and Sara’s parents attending seems would have to get my vote for the scene I found tiresome. It appears to be more slapstick in tone than the rest of the movie, and the bulk of that scene features Chris having to don a mink coat to evade the possibility of the Andersons spotting her. It just didn’t work well at all for me.

Actors before they were Famous: Believe it or not, but Daryl’s actor, Anthony Rapp, would go on to originate the role of aspiring filmmaker Mark Cohen in the first production of legendary musical “Rent”. Similarly, Bradley Whitford, as the caddish Mike, later went on to have a career on the successful political show, “The West Wing”. (Even though Mike is presumably a high school senior, like Chris and Brenda, Whitford was 28 at the time, and he looks every one of those years!) Finally, Vincent D’Onofrio, from “Full Metal Jacket”, “Men in Black” and “Jurassic World” fame, cameos as Dawson, the garage boss.

Ratings and Recommendations: I’d give “Adventures in Babysitting” a solid rating of 3 and a half stars out of five. While some of the situations that our heroes find themselves in border on being slightly ridiculous, chances are that you’ll just go along with the plot, regardless of the lack of realism presented.

If you liked this feature, then I’d recommend viewing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (you can read my review of the flick here.) If you’re interested in seeing the Disney remake, which has toned down many of the adult themes of the 80’s classic (namely omitting the swearing and the Playboy subplot), I’d suggest watching that with younger children. Please let me know if you’ve seen the reboot, and whether you prefer the classic or original flick!

 

Great Scott! – 30 Years of Back to the Future

Several renowned movies are celebrating milestones anniversaries this summer, whether it’s “Jaws” (40 years), “Clueless” (20), or “Ghost” (25). But the anniversary I’m sure that even the most hardcore movie fans will be anticipating is the commemoration of the 30 year release of Robert Zemickis’ enchanting science fiction classic, “Back to the Future”, which was first introduced to us on July 3, 1985. Everybody should know the basic premise of the trilogy, seeing as it’s been around for quite a while now. But for those of you who aren’t as familiar with the story, I’ll give you a brief overview of the trilogy as a whole.

Michael J. Fox stars as our skate-boarding teenage protagonist, Marty McFly. Despite being the epitome of teenage coolness, he mostly hangs out with his much older friend, the delightfully eccentric scientist, Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Naturally, Doc has assembled a time machine out of a Delorean (yet another reason to favour these car brands above others). As we all know, Marty gets inadvertently transported back to 1955, where he has a run in with both of his future parents- passionate, outspoken  Lorraine (Lea Thompson) and the meek, nerdy George (Crispin Glover). While he learns some home truths about what each were like when they were his age, he must not only convince them that they are each other’s “density”, but try to rebuff the advances of his infatuated mother in order to ensure his own existence, and contend with Hill Valley bully, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Will Marty ever get back to the future?

Part II is famous for having the characters travel to the future as opposed to an excursion to the past, where they end up in the far out year of 2015! In this installment, Marty and Doc must prevent nasty Biff Tannen from winning big on a sports almanac, thus risking the McFlys’ own blissful lives in 1985. It is hilarious to  look at the character’s outfits in the 2015 universe and realize that in the 1980’s, people depicted that those would be the clothes we’d be wearing regularly in that era!

Finally, “Part III” takes us to the old Wild West in 1885, where Marty faces a showdown with Biff’s identical great-grandson, Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen. Meanwhile, Doc falls for schoolteacher Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen), where he has to pluck up the courage to inform her that he’s a time traveler from 100 years into the future…

The “Back to the Future” franchise still continues to be just as timeless (no pun intended) to contemporary audiences just as it was to viewers in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. What keeps the series so fresh to me is the sheer likability of Michael J. Fox as Marty, as he makes us root for him. He has an iconic sidekick in Doc Brown, who defines zany, unconventionality to its core. Thomas F.Wilson delivers an outstanding performance as Biff, and by extension, his equally despicable family members (though it’s worth noting that Wilson actually based his role on his experience of being bullied, and he’s perfectly affable in real life). Lea Thompson is fantastic playing various versions of Marty’s mother, and Crispin Glover, at least in the first movie, has his character grow an abundance of ways.

For the entire trilogy, I give it a rating of five out of five stars, as it manages to remain as fresh and compelling as ever. It still manages to entice new audience members after all these decades, without losing the quality that made it fresh and exciting. I’d recommend it to kids of all ages, as it’s perfect for family viewing. Remember, the future’s what you make it, so make it a good one!

Cutting Loose with Footloose

Of the numerous dance flicks that have be prominent over the years,especially those of the 80’s. the original movie “Footloose”, from 1984 is the one that has struck out as the most memorable. Although it’s regarded as a “dance movie”, the primary source of the movie’s conflict revolves around the fact that the story takes place in a town where dancing and rock music have been banned. That is until a teenage newcomer shows up and challenges the status quo, especially that of an extremely conservative preacher…

Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) is the new kid in the sleepy town of Bomont, having relocated there with his recently divorced mother (Frances Lee McCain) from Chicago to live with his aunt and uncle. He learns about the dancing ban from fellow students Willard (Chris Penn) and Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) that came into existence several years prior due to a tragic incident involving a gang of drunken students.

Ren makes it his goal to ensure that the ban is lifted, and to stage a prom for the high school students by pleading his case in a meeting with the town council. But things get complicated when he falls for Ariel (Lori Singer), the wild, feisty daughter of self-righteous preacher, Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), who just so happens to be the main instigator behind the ban. Will Ren be able to win the girl and change Moore’s tune?

“Footloose” isn’t quite a cinematic masterpiece, what its corny plot and even cheesier dance sequences (such as a bizarre scene of Ren dancing in an abandoned warehouse to the strains of “Never” by the Moving Pictures, which was hilariously parodied in “Hot Rod”), it has many moments of charm and genuine touching moments that we can’t help but be entertained by both the movie and its uplifting message to fight for the cause that are dear to us.

Kevin Bacon is effective as Ren, playing him as a an affable, if unlikely protagonist, who is determined to do right, contrary to what Reverend Shaw believes about him. Lithgow is just as credible, as a well-meaning preacher who tries to connect with his daughter, but fails repeatedly against his own better judgement. Dianne Weist has some tender moments as Moore’s wife, Vi, who desperately acts as the mediator between her husband and daughter. Lori Singer has her moments as the preacher’s daughter who longs to roam free, and Chris Penn and a pre- “Sex and the City” Sarah Jessica Parker offer comic relief in strong supporting performances.

A remake was released in 2011. While it’s very good in it’s own right, it doesn’t have the same guilty pleasures that the original possessed, least of all, Kevin Bacon! While many might find the original’s excessive dancing scenes too much to handle, for me, it’s all part of the charm! To commemorate “Footloose”‘s 30 anniversary in March 2014, Kevin Bacon appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” to poke fun at his role in the film by partaking in a “Footloose” flash mob of sorts.

“Footloose”(1984) rates as a solid 4 out of 5 stars, as it has an inspiring message despite all the goofiness that surrounds the main story. I would recommend it to viewers who enjoy dance movies in the vein of “Step Up” or “Save the Last Dance”, or if you’re just looking for an excuse to hear the iconic title song, as well as “Let’s hear it for the Boys”, since the soundtrack is quite infectious. Let’s hear it for “Footloose”!

What’s your Damage, Heathers?

Imagine this premise for a movie- you have two high school students- one a reluctant member of the popular posse, another a jaded, sociopathic loner with an intense hatred for the popular kids. The two teenagers conspire together to kill the most ranked students in the school, and fake these murders as suicides. Did I mention that this is played for laughs, albeit very dark laughs?

That’s the plot of “Heathers”, a 1989 high school flick revolving around the various perils of high school politics. Everyone’s familiar with the movies in which the protagonist ditches their unpopular group of friends at the price of being popular, only to realize how shallow the popular crowd is. Well, “Heathers” opens where those kinds of stories end. Our protagonist, Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) is a recent addition of the “Heathers” clique at Westerburg High School, named after the three other members of the group- arrogant leader Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), cowardly cheerleader Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk), and bookish Heather Duke (Shannan Doherty), who secretly hopes to upstage Chandler as the head of the clique.

Veronica, however, only half-heartedly enjoys being popular, and resents the Heathers’ petty behaviour. She still routinely hangs out with her former best friend, Betty Finn (Renee Estevez). One day, Veronica bumps into new student and charismatic outcast, Jason Dean, AKA J.D. (Christian Slater). After confessing her disdain for her alleged friends, J.D. suggests that she take a “vacation” from her popular pursuits.

Veronica and J.D. sneak into Heather Chandler’s house, where they plan to prank her by making her throw up from a combination of milk and orange juice. Unbeknownst to Veronica, J.D.tricks her into picking up a container of liquid drainer, which promptly kills Chandler once she consumes it. A horrified Veronica insists that she never meant to literally kill Chandler, but J.D. calmly goads her into forging Chandler’s signature so as it’ll appear that underneath her prestigious social ranking, Chandler was unhappy with her lot.

Unfortunately, this works too well, as Chandler’s status as queen bee has risen since her demise, with the school newspaper dedicating a whole spread to her. After obnoxious school jocks Kurt (Lance Fenton) and Ram (Patrick Labyorteaux) spread lewd comments about Veronica, J.D. decides to teach them both a lesson the only way he seems capable of doing.

By this point, Veronica has had enough of J.D.’s shenanigans, realizing that she would have been better off without him in her life. However, J.D. won’t stop until he’s through with the entire population of Westerburg High…

“Heathers” is a film which would have a hard time getting made in this day and age. Back in the 1980’s, the idea of teenagers killing their more popular peers seemed implausible and completely unlikely to happen. Nowadays, with more instances of shootings occurring within school environments, this concept suddenly doesn’t sound as absurd as it might have back then. I wouldn’t recommend showing this movie to teenagers under the age of 14, or in general, anyone who would understandably find the entire subject matter to be a tad too grisly for their tastes.

Having said that, the principle cast carry out their performances to varying outstanding degrees. Winona Ryder is as engaging as ever, as she portrays Veronica as the witty, only sane girl amidst all the chaos surrounding her. Christian Slater as J.D. is equally as impressive as the freaky outcast, although he appears to be channeling Jack Nicholson for the majority of the movie. As for the Heathers, Kim Walker makes a lasting impression as mean girl Chandler, which is a tragedy given her untimely death from a brain tumour in 2000. Shannan Doherty, as Duke, plays both timid wallflower and overly confident queen bee to a tee. Rounding out the girl posse is Lisanne Falk as McNamara, who seems to be the most innocent and friendly of the Heathers.

In summary, “Heathers” receives a total of three and a half stars out of five. Some viewers may enjoy the film in spite of the grimness that prolongs the plot. If you enjoy contemporary teen comedies which showcase the workings of high school popularity, such as “Jawbreakers”, or “Mean Girls”, then you might enjoy this very quotable take of adolescent life!