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!

“The Princess Bride”-An Inconceivable Fairy Tale

Love is in the air, as we have reached one of my favourite holidays of all time- Valentine’s Day! And what better way to mark the occasion than to view a romantic movie? And if the latest “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie doesn’t quite cater to your idea of “romance”, then perhaps “The Princess Bride”, Rob Reiner’s 1987 adaptation of William Goldman’s novel of the same name, can be of some assistance. While some male members of the audience may be instantly turned off as soon as they hear the title, believing it to be a girly “kissing” story, it’s more about more than just “a princess bride”. It’s got elements that will keep young boys satisfied too, such as pirates, adventure and revenge!

We start off with a grandfather (Peter Falk) settling down to tell his sick young grandson (Fred Savage) a bedtime story. The tale he weaves tells of Westley (Cary Elwes), a lowly farmhand who works for the family of Buttercup (Robin Wright), whom he loves. When she realizes that she reciprocates  his feelings, he leaves in order to make his fortune so that they can get married. However, she hears that Westley’s ship has been attacked by by the fearsome Dread Pirate Roberts, with Westley being presumed dead. Resigning herself to the loss of her one true love, Buttercup doesn’t resist when vile Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon) chooses her as his intended bride, with the hidden agenda of murdering her in order to profit from her death.

Buttercup gets kidnapped by a trio of outlaws- Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a Sicilian mastermind who greatly overestimates his own brilliance, gentle giant Fezzik, (Andre the Giant), and dashing Hispanic swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), who wishes to avenge his father’s murder at the hand of six fingered swordsman, Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Shortly afterwards, they encounter a mysterious masked bandit known as the Man in Black, who is determined to rescue Buttercup…

“The Princess Bride” was simply a joy to watch. I hadn’t seen it since I was about 8 years old, and I remember being transfixed by the fantastical elements and sets. The characters themselves are immensely memorable. The villains are entertaining without being too hammy or over the top. The cameo appearances by notable celebrities contained no shortage of jokes. One of my favourites includes  British comedian Peter Cook as the “Impressive Clergyman” who mangles phrases such as “Mawage” and “Twue wuv”. It simply has to be seen to be believed! Plus, Billy Crystal, unrecognisable under make up and prosthetics appears in one short sequence as medicine man, Miracle Max, with Carol Kane as his nagging wife, Valerie.

Another thing I should note about this movie is that it’s incredibly quotable. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s almost  guaranteed that you can recite lines from it at random. Some of these include “as you wish” , “Have fun storming the castle” and “Inconceivable”. But the most famous quote possibly has to be (all together now!): “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”!

One aspect of the story that I didn’t expect to enjoy was the framing device between the grandfather and his grandson. Usually when a movie’s main narrative is depicted as one character telling it to another, it can get a little jarring to be pulled out of the action just to show the character’s reactions to the events at hand (as seen in “The Notebook”, Reiner’s own “Stand by Me” and virtually any episode of “How I Met your Mother”). Not so much in this case.  The cutaways to Savage and Falk flowed naturally, and didn’t attract attention away from the main story. If anything, they only enhanced them.

“The Princess Bride” earns a full distinction of 5 out of 5 stars from me. It’s one of those classic movies that almost everyone can remember being a staple of their childhoods, and I’d definitely recommend showing it to younger kids. (And yes, there is some kissing involved!) Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get a Clue with an Unconventional Murder Mystery Flick

It’s never been a secret that I adore murder mysteries, especially ones by Agatha Christie. This has passed on to board games, where the main objective of the popular game “Clue” is to find out who killed a character by the name of Mr. Black, in what room, and with which implement.

The plot of the 1985 Johnathan Lynn flick of the same name is not unlike this setup. It retains the setup of having six eccentric individuals with colour coded pseudonyms being brought to the posh Washington based manor house of Mr Black (renamed here as “Mr Boddy”) (Lee Ving), who is blackmailing each of them for a series of scandalous misdemeanors.

They consist of batty senator’s wife Mrs Peacock (Eileen Brennan), absentminded Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), scarlet woman Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), the lustful and corrupt Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), serial black widow Mrs White (Madeline Kahn) and timid, ambiguous homosexual Mr Green (Michael McKean). Under the guidance of Boddy’s loyal butler Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and flirtatious French maid Yvette (Colleen Camp), the six suspects soon find themselves embroiled in a murder plot. When Boddy turns up dead, the suspects must try to uncover who offed him so that they can save their reputations and stop the body count from increasing. But the three different endings complicate this straightforward plan…

“Clue” is one of those movies where you can tell that the actors were enjoying themselves immensely while filming it. These instances include Wadsworth gleefully having a tiff with Miss Scarlet as to how many bullets are left in a gun, to Madeline Kahn randomly seguing into a monologue about how she hated a particular person so much that it left “flames on the sides of her face”. Watching the other actors stare at her bemusedly is even more hysterial when you learn that she ad libbed that line on the spot.

One thing that sets “Clue” apart from films of a similar concept is that it contains not one, not two, but three different endings. When the movie was originally released in December of 1985, cinemas typically aired one ending each. This meant that some moviegoers had to flock to multiple showings in order to view all three endings. However, the DVD version naturally plays all three endings back to back, so that nothing is missed.

I’d recommend watching this movie for the physical comedy and the one-liners as opposed to the actual plot. The premise itself isn’t terrible in any way, it’s just that I find that the joke eclipse it more often, particularly any uttered by Tim Curry, who is just as strong here as he was in “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

In conclusion, if you like quirky, complicated parodies of murder thrillers, then “Clue” is for you. If not, then watch an Agatha Christie adaptation such as “And Then There Were None”, also about a group of strangers being lured into a mansion, only for death to loom on the horizon. “Clue” gets 3 and a half stars from me.

Michael J. Fox is just your Average “Teen Wolf”

Happy October, folks! My apologies for not blogging much as of late. However, I look forward to bringing you some fantasy themed 80’s flicks over the coming month, to prepare for Halloween. Today’s first flick is 1985’s “Teen Wolf”, which later became one of the inspirations for the hugely popular MTV TV show of the same name.

This movie stars Michael J. Fox in one of his most notable outings in the 80’s, albeit one in which he doesn’t travel to the past or to the future in a time-travelling Delorean. He’s Scott Howard, a picked on, socially awkward nice guy, who, of course, pines after blonde cheerleader Pamela (Lorie Griffin), while being oblivious to his best friend Boof’s (Susan Ursitti) affections for him. He is far from the best on the basketball team, with the rival player on the opposing team, Mick McAllister (Mark Arnold), taking particular relish in routinely taunting him. Scott just longs to be seen as special.

And that’s just what he becomes when he involuntary grows hair all over his body during a full moon ,thanks to a hereditary condition possessed by his family in which all the members gradually undergo a complete transformation into (you’ve guessed it) werewolves. Scott confronts his father, Harold (James Hampton), who explains that the curse sometimes passes by a generation, and was hoping that it would be likewise for Scott. (“Well Dad, it didn’t pass me by. It landed on my face!” he exclaims).

After Scott’s secret inevitably gets found out,he almost immediately becomes the host of his high school, due to a teenage wolf being a rarity in a sleepy, suburban town, naturally. But with his friend Stiles (Jerry Levine) looking to exploit him beyond his limits, and Pamela suddenly becoming interested in his wolf persona, can Scott tame his wolf side and win the major basketball game?

First things first, “Teen Wolf” is a silly, at times unrealistic, movie, but it has enough laughs and one-liners that make up for the overall absurdity that is the plot, mainly in the form of Michael J. Fox. “Teen Wolf” came out a month after “Back to the Future”, after Fox was just basking in the success of the latter movie. He has gone on to say that he regrets being part of the former movie, and wisely refused to come back for the sequel, “Teen Wolf Too” (1987), which features a young Jason Bateman as Scott’s cousin, Todd, who tries to balance college life with the trials of being a werewolf (seriously, don’t waste your time with this sequel).

Nevertheless, “Teen Wolf” is a feel-good flick. I’d recommend it if you love seeing Michael J. Fox act as someone other than Marty Mc Fly, and if you want to see a werewolf surfing on a moving van to the strains of the Beach Boys’ “Surfing USA”, or if you like your movies to have a bit of a bite! This flick earns three out of five stars from me!

Science just got a whole lot Weirder…

Filmmaker John Hughes is known for his ability to connect with teenagers through his movies about their lives, and the problems they may face. Examples of some of his earlier work consists of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles”, among others. But one of the many teen-orientated flicks that he directed stands out distinctively is “Weird Science”. By throwing a dash of science-fiction into the mix alongside his usual bout of adolescent hiijinks, you can be sure that you’re in for quite a series of events.

The movie stars Hughes’ regular muse, Anthony Michael Hall, as Gary, and Ilan Mitchell-Smith as his best friend, Wyatt. As you might expect, Gary and Wyatt are two hopeless geeks who secretly long to have girlfriends. When they’re publicly humiliated by thuggish bullies Max (Robert Rusler) and Ian (a young Robert Downey Junior) as punishment for lusting after their girlfriends, Deb (Suzanne Synder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson), Gary and Wyatt decide that it’s time to take action once and for all.

Desperate for a chance at being popular, Wyatt persuades Gary to create their ideal woman from a computer (as you do), inspired by the movie “Frankenstein”. To their surprise, the plan is actually effective when an alluring woman (Kelly LeBrock) materializes and inquires to the bemused boys “So, what would you little maniacs like to do first”?

After the initial shock has worn off, Gary and Wyatt gift their creation with the name “Lisa”, after a former crush of Gary’s who didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Lisa makes it her mission to show the nerdy teenagers some fun, so treats them to a night on the town, ending with Gary getting completely drunk. She becomes a sort of older sister to them, instead of the object of lust they anticipated.

The trio then encounter Wyatt’s mean-spirited older brother, Chet (Bill Paxton), who takes sadistic pleasure in bulling his younger sibling. However, Lisa has some tricks up her sleeve which just might inspire the boys’ confidence, and encourage them to take risks, as well as serving up a healthy dose of comeuppance for their tormentors…

“Weird Science” isn’t one of Hughes’ best flicks, with the jokes being cruder and the element of fantasy is a prominent element here. However, with intelligent nerds being the protagonists, and the story takes place in the fictional suburb of Shermer in Chicago, a common setting in Hughes’ work. All of the main cast are on form here, with Hall in particular excelling as the most assertive of the geeks, though Ilan Mitchell-Smith has some interesting moments, making it sad that he retired from acting only six years following the movie. As for LeBrock and Paxton, they clearly have fun in their roles, and their best scenes have the two of them together, where Lisa is successfully intimidating Chet into treating Gary and Wyatt with respect.

I give “Weird Science” a total of four out of five stars, as it has funny moments of dorky comedy that teens of 15 and over should appreciate. Among some of of the risky forms of content for younger kids are in the form of swearing, teen drinking ,some shots of female nudity on a computer monitor, and a team of bikers crashing a party. If you enjoyed this title, then check out the 90’s TV series, “Weird Science”, starring model Vanessa Angel as Lisa.

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!

R the Goonies still Good Enough?

The 7th of June, 2015 will mark 30 years since a ragbag bunch of misfits known as the “Goonies”, which denotes the fact that they reside in the Goon Docks of Oregon, initially graced our screens in the summer of 1985. The band of plucky kids are composed of leader Mikey, (Sean Astin), his overprotective older brother, Brand (Josh Brolin), gadget man Data (Jonathon Ke Quan),gabby Mouth (Corey Feldman), compulsive eater Chunk (Jeff Cohen), cheerleader Andy (Kerri Green), the object of Brand’s affections, and snarky Stef (Martha Plimpton). Their mission- to find the treasure of fearsome, infamous pirate, One-Eyed Willie, all so they can save their beloved homes from being  converted into a posh country club, instigated by the family of egotistical jock, Troy (Steve Antin).

Along the way, the adolescent group of treasure hunters run afoul of the notorious mafia family, the Fratelli clan, which is headed by evil matriarch Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey), along with her bumbling sons Jake (Robert Davi) and Francis (Joe Pantolino). Can the Goonies manage to fend them off and save their homes from destruction?

When I was growing up, nothing cheered me up more than seeing the Goonies go on their quest. In fact, the very holler of “Hey, you guys”! would send me into a fuel of nostalgia (fun fact: the phrase orginated from the 1970’s TV show “The Electric Company”, but is more commonly associated with this movie). The thought of being an extra member with this kids always excited me. I remember particularly loving the friendship that developed between Chunk and Sloth (John Matusak), the third Fratelli brother with a deformed face, over a Baby Ruth candy bar, of all things! Just as “ET: The Extra Terrestrial” cemented my love of Reese’s Pieces, “The Goonies” did the same for Baby Ruths!

It had been years since I had last watched the Goonies, but I decided to revisit an iconic movie of my childhood a few days ago. You know what they say about something from your youth not being quite the way you initially recalled it as? Well, that was precisely the experience I had while rewatching “The Goonies”. For one thing, there’s copious amounts of swearing, especially by many of the kids! Additionally, there’s an entire scene involving a statue of Michaelanglo’s “David”, and its… appendage, which somehow managed to separate itself from the rest of the statue! There’s also a scene where Mouth “helpfully” translates instructions in Spanish for Mikey and Brand’s family maid which allude to drugs and torture devices. As you can imagine, most of the above probably flew quite easily over my head as a youngster, or else I just have a rusty memory from not seeing the movie for a prolonged period of time!

That being said, I very much enjoyed watching this movie, and I reckon that most kids of aged ten years old and up would too. There’s some mild peril and some “jump out of your seat” moments aplenty, but ultimately any kids watching will not care, as they’ll be having too fun a time to notice! I give “The Goonies” and total of 4 out of 5 stars.

The movie’s worth watching also to hear the catchy Cyndi Lauper song “The Goonies R Good Enough”. If you’re in the mood for any “Goonies” parodies, then I’d recommend either “The Goldbergs” or “Bob’s Burgers” respective parody episodes.