Everywhere You Look – “Full House” in Review!

Following my “Saved by the Bell” review, I have decided to critique another sitcom which aired from the late 80’s until the mid 90’s – “Full House”.  Modern audiences may recognize it due to the recent Netflix revival series, “Fuller House”. It has the honour of being one of the most recognizable  family sitcoms of  the last century.  Even though the bulk of its run-time was through the 1990’s, it still maintains that unique 80’s quality.

This show, airing from 1987 to 1995, centered around Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), a widowed newscaster in San Francisco who is struggling to bring up his three daughters following the death of his wife in a drunk driving accident.  He enlists the help of Jesse, (John Stamos), his ladies man brother in law, and Joey (Dave Coulier), his best friend, and childish comedian, to move in to take care of the girls- D.J. (Candace Cameron), the responsible oldest child, Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), the sarcastic middle child, and Michelle (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen), the mischievous baby of the bunch. The show focused on the antics that both adults and girls got themselves into that week, which could usually always end with a heart to heart between one of the men (usually Danny) and his daughters, with a hug often called upon to sweeten up the moment, much to the glee of the studio audience.

Later additions to the main cast included Becky (Lori Loughlin), Danny’s co-anchor who would later be promoted as Jesse’s love interest and eventual wife, their twin boys Alex and Nicky (Dylan and Blake Tuomy-Wilhoit) , Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber), D.J.’s kooky best friend with an insufferable stinky foot odour and Steve (Scott Weinger), D.J.’s sweet but slightly dim boyfriend.

“Full House” has garnered a repuation for being a wholesome family sitcom, managing to cement the “sappy emotional music” cue, which played during those aforementioned “golden moments”  . The show played up the cuteness of the child actors, particularly the Olsen twins, who could often be depended upon to deliver a cute catchphrase or one-liner.

Despite the show’s roaring success, the male leads of the show have expressed scorn over the overly saccharine plots. Bob Saget, who is now perhaps best known for his profane, raunchy stand up routines, which is a far cry from the soft spoken Danny Tanner. John Stamos similarly strove to put the show behind him by selecting gritter roles.

Nevertheless, almost all of the original cast, with the notable exception of the Olsen twins, signed on for the Netflix revival, “Fuller House”, in 2016. In keeping with the same format as its predecessor, D.J. is now a single mother to three boys,  and has trouble coping after the death of her firefighter husband, so Stephanie and Kimmy step in to help out. As you can imagine, more comedic possibilities ensue! While still considered a “family show, many of the jokes in Fuller House are arguably more laden with innuendo, as summed up here.

“Full House” earns a total of 3 out of 5 stars. Whether you find it or its brand of comedy sweet or sickening, it still remains a staple of classic family driven sitcoms. It’s worth checking out if you like “Fuller House”, or if you, like me, have a love for corny 80’s sitcoms. You got it, dude!

“Stranger Things” is a Marvelous Homage to 1980’s Pop Culture

Greetings! Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past two months, then you’ve probably  heard of the Netflix streamed series that took the world by storm earlier this year- “Stranger Things”, created by twins Matt and Ross Duffer. The Duffer Brothers have worked on shows such as “Wayward Pines” in the past. The Duffers have cited the works of Stephen King and John Carpenter  to be their biggest influences behind the show’s themes. They’ve even gone so far as to emulate the font from many of King’s novels for the title screenshot. It also pays homage to many of the classic movies of the 1980’s, such as “The Goonies”, “Stand by Me” and “E.T. : The Extraterrestrial” . It was a surprise summer hit that came right the heck out of nowhere, but instantly garnered a loyal fanbase.

After hearing about the rave reviews that it had been receiving, I decided to binge watch all eight episodes of the current series. After having viewed all of the episodes in about two days, I have so much to discuss regarding it.

The Plot in a Nutshell:  November 1983. In the sleepy suburban town of Hawkins, Indiana, 12 year old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears suddenly under mysterious circumstances one dark night after playing “Dungeons and Dragons” with his circle of misfit friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) . His frantic mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder) is convinced that Will is still alive, and tries to communicate with him by using alphabet Christmas lights. Chief Hopper (David Harbour) is similarly anxious, and gradually uncovers a governmental conspiracy headed by the ominous Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine).

While searching for Will, Mike, Lucas and Dustin stumble upon Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a mystical young girl with a shaved head and psychic abilities. Feeling that she can help them locate Will, the boys take her in as one of their own. They speculate that whatever stole Will is a creature similar to the “Demogorgon” from “Dungeons and Dragons”, and dub it as such.  Meanwhile, Will’s older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) teams up with Mike’s sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) to combat the Demogorgon, with the hope of finding both Will and Nancy’s best friend Barb (played by fan favourite Shannon Purser).  As these disparate parties continue to work upon the same case, things gradually come to a head in the final episode…

Actor/Character Observations: In my opinion, all of the actors were expertly cast in their respective roles. Winona Ryder, in particular, is convincing as a mother who has lost her child. While there are times when her performance can seem a little grating, it’s understandable, given the situation at hand. The child actors all give credible performances, particularly Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. She doesn’t receive many verbal lines, seeing as Eleven has a basic gap in her language lexicon. However, what she lacks in words she more than makes up for with her eerie silence and haunting presence. The other preteens are also given time to shine, and their diverse personalities help to make them relatable to the audience. Dustin was easily my favourite of the bunch, as his one liners cracked me up to no end.

My Favourite Aspect of “Stranger Things”: What I love the most about this series is that it creates an essence of wonder of the 1980’s, and it’s evident that the Duffer brothers have a deep fondness for films and TV shows of that era. In addition to the original story, there’s references to nostalgic shows and pop culture that is synonymous with the 1980’s. Even if you come into this show not knowing what to expect, chances are that you’d be impressed by how spot on their references are in relation to the time period.  However, I occasionally found the obvious parallels, especially to “ET” and “The Goonies”, to be a little too overdone at times. On the other hand, that may be simply part of the show’s charm.

Ratings and Recommendations: “Stranger Things” receives a rating of 5 out of 5 stars,as I found “Stranger Things to be a riveting, enjoyable show.  What adds to its current popularity is that the narrative focuses on adults, teenagers and pubescent children, which means that several members of those demographics can relate to the various exploits that the cast get embroiled in, complete with supernatural elements. I’d suggest viewing this show if you’re a fan of Stephen King’s work, or if you’re a fan of supernatural movies such as “Aliens”.

As of this writing, a second series of “Stranger Things” has officially been commissioned,  and will be expected to air sometime in 2017. Here’s hoping that this upcoming continuation will supply all the answers to the questions that remain unanswered. But no matter what unfolds in Season 2, more stranger things will be afoot for our protagonists!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Sing Street” is a Fantastic Irish Musical Comedy

For my latest movie review, I’m going to critique a movie that was released a few months ago in my native country of Ireland, and features a copious amount of Irish actors and was filmed in Dublin- “Sing Street” (2016), directed by John Carney. It deviates from my usual reviews in that it’s a recent movie which takes place in the 1980’s, as opposed to being released in that decade. The movie has drawn comparisons to Alan Parker’s 1991 musical comedy, “The Commitments”, which is also a movie about a group of youths based in Dublin who put a band together. Despite both of them including actress Maria Doyle Kennedy in a supporting role, the plots of both flicks are vastly different.

The Plot in a Nutshell: The year is 1985. 15 year old Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) doesn’t have the most enviable home life. His parents, Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are constantly at each others’ throats. While his sister Ann (Kelly Thornton) copes by burying herself into her schoolwork,his college dropout brother Brendan  (Jack Reynor) smokes pot and makes wisecracks.  Due to the downsizing of the economy, Conor is transferred from his private school to Synge Street Christian Brothers School, a rough Catholic establishment. After running afoul of both schoolyard bullies and Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley), the school’s oppressive principal, Conor spies mysterious budding model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) from across the street. Willing to impress her, he offers her the chance to star in his band’s music video. The slight catch? The band doesn’t exist.

Nevertheless, Conor gathers a motley crew of musicians, who remarkably have all the skills needed to create a band. Guided by Brendan, he starts to write original songs for the group, now called “Sing Street” after their school, in a bid to distract himself from his crumbling domestic life. Along the way, he starts to become closer to Raphina, and he begins to embark on a path that he never quite anticipated…

Character/Actor Observations: For starters, the young ensemble cast was very expertly cast. I felt that all of the teenage band members had a natural presence, and that they would be the type of youths that I would run into on a daily basis. As someone who is used to seeing actors in their twenties and beyond portray teenagers on screen, it was refreshing to see real teenagers take on these roles. I especially liked the prominent relationship that Conor has with Brendan, as they reestablish the bond through their love of music. Reynor steals many of the scenes that he appears in, and has excellent brotherly chemistry with newcomer Walsh-Peelo. Lucy Boynton is well cast opposite Walsh-Peelo, and many of their scenes together were tinged with the appropriate amount of tenderness required.

My Favourite Scene in “Sing Street”: Two scenes vie for being my favourite in the movie. The first comes about when Sing Street are shooting their first music video, entitled “The Riddle of the Model” (definitely NOT inspired by Raphina). The video looks amateurish, exactly as if a group of kids had filmed it, with the band sporting garish costumes. The song is additionally catchy to boot!

The second scene appears much later in the movie, when Sing Street are scheduled to preform a concert in their school gym. Conor fantasizes about the whole school breaking out into a dance, to their song, “Drive it like you stole it”, clearly influenced by “Back to the Future”, with the students decked out in 1950’s attire, much like that movie. Beneath the humour, however, there is an undercurrent of sadness to this sequence, but it still manages to be entertaining and visually stunning to look at.

My Least Favourite Scene in “Sing Street”: If I’m being completely honest, I was on board with this film and the characters until the climax. Without giving too much away, I felt that the end didn’t quite mesh well with the rest of the movie, and frankly seemed a little rushed in my opinion. Some of you may hold different opinions on the ending, and I’d be interested to know how anyone feels regarding it.

Actors Before They were Famous: The jury’s still out on whether any of the young cast will amount to greater things in the future. However, it still contains supporting performances from many notable Irish actors, such as Aidan Gillen from acclaimed Irish gangster drama “Love/Hate”, and the aforementioned Maria Doyle Kennedy, who has appeared in such works as “Downton Abbey” and “Jupiter Ascending”.

Ratings and Recommendations : If you’re a fan of 80’s bands such as Duran Duran, The Clash, A-Ha and Hall and Oates, then I’d suggest watching this movie, as it makes for a trip down memory lane of sorts for those who grew up in the 1980’s. For those who were not as fortunate to grow up in that era, such as myself, it can give an insight to how people lived in Ireland in that period.

In summation, “Sing Street” receives a grand total of 4 and a half stars out of five. If you enjoyed this movie, I’d suggest watching some of John Carney’s other directorial projects, such as the Academy Award winning “Once” (2006), or 2013’s “Begin Again”, for some more tales of musical triumphs and pitfalls. Highly recommended!

 

Join Peggy Sue on an Adventure 25 Years into the Past…

Hi, everyone! I don’t know about any of you, but I have always been entranced by stories which feature the characters either time travelling to the past (likely before they were born) or to the future. When it comes to time travel movies, there are the classics (“Back to the Future”), the abysmal (the 2002 remake of H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine”, starring Guy Pearce), and the tremendously goofy ones (“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”). That brings me to today’s movie, “Peggy Sue got Married” (from 1986), where Kathleen Turner gets the chance to relive her high school years.

The Plot in a Nutshell: Life isn’t looking too bright for Peggy Sue Bodell (Turner). She’s on the cusp of divorce from her wayward husband Charlie (Nicolas Cage), whom she married at the end of high school when she got pregnant. When she goes to her 25th high school reunion with daughter Beth (Helen Hunt) in tow, she meets up with her old school friends, including Richard (Barry Miller), former class nerd turned billionaire inventor. When she, alongside Richard as her King, is crowned as “Reunion Queen”, she ends up fainting on the stage.

When Peggy comes to, she’s shocked to discover that it’s 1960, and she’s been transported into her senior year of high school. After her understandable shock, Peggy is determined to do things right the second time around, as Peggy Sue Kelcher, where she’s expected not to drink, have sex or experiment with drugs. Peggy confides her  dilemma to the teenage version of Richard, and in turn for his solution to her time travel conundrum , offers him advice about future inventions in the 1980’s.   She becomes closer to her parents (Don Murray and Barbara Harris) and little sister Nancy (Sophia Coppola), fools around with mysterious Bohemian poet Michael (Kevin J. O’Connor), and attempts to prevent herself from getting tied down by Charlie at an early age. But will Peggy discover the reason she fell for Charlie in the first place, or does destiny have other plans in store for Peggy Sue?

Cast and Acting Observations: Kathleen Turner was 32 years old when she made this picture, yet she convincingly plays both a high school teenager and her 42 year old self. This isn’t an easy feat to achieve, but Turner pulls it off with enough charm to make this unlikely scenario plausible by just her performance alone. Nicolas Cage adopts a dodgy accent as Charlie, but nevertheless delivers all the right notes as a character who has more layers to him than Peggy or the audience initially gave him credit for.

Actors Before They were Famous: When I first watched the movie, I was greatly amused to see Jim Carrey in a supporting role as Charlie’s goofball of a best friend, Walter. In addition, future “Lost in Translation” and “The Virgin Suicides” director Sofia Coppola is Peggy’s preteen sister Nancy, five years before she become known for her less than stellar, but not downright horrible, turn as Mary Corleone in “The Godfather Part III”, which, like “Peggy Sue”, was directed by her father, the legendary Francis Ford Coppola.

My Favourite Scene(s) in the Movie:  I (and those of you who may detest Maths as much as I always have) got a kick out of the scene where Peggy awesomely lectures her sadistic teacher on how she won’t have have any need for Algebra in the future. But the real scene that makes the movie for me is when Peggy answers the phone in her home, only to realize that she’s talking to her long deceased grandmother (Maureen O’Sullivan). Overcome with emotion, she hurriedly flees, with her mother having to comfort her without realizing the true instigation behind her daughter’s outburst. Anyone who has ever lost anyone close to them can easily empathize with Peggy’s plight.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in the Movie: While this may just be a ridiculous nitpick in an otherwise enjoyable movie, there was one scene that I found to be a little awkward. After Peggy has revealed her strange situation to Richard, they’re confused as to whether she’s in limbo or dead. Then Richard proposes testing out the “dead” concept, and proceeds to shove Peggy onto the path of an oncoming fire engine to determine this theory. While it’s rather short-lived (with Peggy leaping out of the way just before the engine hits home), it still unsettled me. If she hadn’t jumped away just in the nick of time, then Richard would have been accidentally, but directly responsible for her demise. I know that it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but still.

My Take on “Peggy Sue got Married”: I immensely enjoyed the movie, as I felt that it was a fantastic representation of time travel movies. It may inevitably draw comparisons with the similarly themed “Back to the Future”, which was released just a year prior to this this flick. However, “Peggy Sue” is a remarkable film in its own right, and an unexpected picture from the man who directed “The Godfather Trilogy”.

My Rating and Recommendations: “Peggy Sue Got Married” gets 4 out of 5 stars in my book, as it’s a compelling movie with sympathetic and engaging characters. If you’re intrigued by movies concerning time travel, then please feel free to check out my reviews for “Back to the Futureand Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure“.

Take a Thanksgiving Road Trip with Candy and Martin

Happy December, everyone! In the run up to Christmas, I plan to review several Christmas themed 80’s movies to indulge in in the run up to the festive season. But before I delve into Christmas, I’d like to take a look at one of my favourite holiday movies of all time, as well as one of my favourite movies directed by the late, great John Hughes, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. Although Hughes was better known for his teen comedy flicks (namely “Sixteen Candles”, “The Breakfast Club, and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), “Planes…” was his first attempt to break out of his comfort zone and write more screenplays based around adults.

Set around Thanksgiving, the flick stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a successful, if somewhat abrasive, advertising executive who simply wants a nice relaxing trip home to Chicago to be with his wife Susan (Lalia Robbins) and his children. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go to plan for Neal, as his plane undergoes a layover in Kansas. What really infuriates Neal is his constant meetings with overly chatty shower curtain ring salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy), especially since Del unwittingly stole Neal’s first taxi cab in New York City.

Neal and Del decide to team up to get to Chicago, but first they have to travel  not only via planes, trains, or cars, but on foot and by bus. Amidst all of the wacky hijinks which ensue, will the ill-matched duo ever get home?

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is ultimately my go- to movie to watch around the holidays.  In fact, the best part of the movie is seeing Del and Neal grow closer together. Interestingly enough, Hughes mixes up the formula of two oddly matched people being forced together by fate of circumstance by having Neal yell at Del for being irritating  come at the beginning of the flick, rather than at the end, so that we’re uncertain about how the events will unfold from this point onwards.

Among some of the movie’s highlights is having Neal flip out at a car rental agent (Edie McClurg) by delivering a rant which features several F-bombs in quick succession (which earned the movie an “R” rating strictly because of this scene), Del and Neal waking up in a motel, wrapped in each other’s arms, dreaming of their wives, complete with the most hysterical payoff imaginable, and Del “doing the mess around” while on driving duty.

In my opinion, Del Griffith is John Candy’s best and most sympathetic role of his career. Despite his relentless chatter and larger than life personality, we gradually learn a lot more about him which only makes him more endearing to the viewer’s eyes. Martin provides a terrific foil as Neal, who gradually allows himself to soften under Del’s influence. The song, “Everytime you go away”, originally by Paul Young, but covered here by “Blue Room”, always brings a tear to my eye, when it’s featured in the touching final scene.

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” earns the full distinction of 5 out of 5 stars. It may not be regarded as Hughes’ best movie, but to me, it’s certainly his most warm, sentimental film. If you’re interested in finding out more facts regarding this holiday flick, then tune in to vlogger “The Nostalgia Critic”‘s video “What you never knew about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. It also inspired the good, if more foul mouthed, Robert Downey Junior movie “Due Date”.

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.

The Aroma of Roast Dinner and Nostalgia…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Smell You Later.”

Many particular smells define my childhood. They consist of roses in the garden, freshly cut grass, lavender, freshly baked cookie dough, and the smell of newly washed linen. But the smell that almost immediately takes me back to my childhood is undoubtedly the very sensuous aroma of my mother’s pot roast chicken on a Sunday Afternoon.

Indeed, countless of those afternoons were spent trying not to get under the feet of my mother, who was pretty preoccupied with organizing the dinner. Just the smell of the pot roast would have me enticed long before the meal itself was even served.

My family are exactly who you’d class as “serious food enthusiasts”, or “foodies”. Nothing could bond our clan together quite like the home comforts of a homemade meal. The fact that my maternal grandmother having been a home economics teacher before she retired probably has a lot to do with us being so “into” cuisine of any kinds…Italian, Indian, French, Greek, Mexican- you name the nationality, we’ve probably already got it sampled.

For many people, nothing brings back memories of their childhood more than the essence of an old family recipe. While tucking into the meal was comfort enough, just coming through the door and being greeted by the welcome whiff of a quality family recipe. Just the smell of the roast fuels my anticipation of consuming it, as well as basking the the company of the people I treasure most of all.