Film Review: Pretty In Pink (1986)

Release Date: January 29th, 1986 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Howard Deutch
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Michael Gore
Cast: Molly Ringwald, Harry Dean Stanton, Jon Cryer, Annie Potts, James Spader, Andrew McCarthy, Kate Vernon, Andrew Dice Clay, Kristy Swanson, Alexa Kenin, Dweezil Zappa, Gina Gershon, Margaret Colin, Maggie Roswell

Paramount Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You couldn’t buy her, though, that’s what’s killing you, isn’t it? Steff? That’s it, Steff. She thinks you’re shit. And deep down, you know she’s right.” – Blane

While this John Hughes written movie isn’t as good as the ones he directed, first-time director Howard Deutch did a pretty good job at capturing the Hughes magic and making a film that still felt like it existed in that same universe. I guess Deutch’s ability to adapt Hughes’ script impressed Hughes enough to hire him back for other movies Hughes didn’t direct himself.

Like most of Hughes’s other teen films of the ’80s, this one stars Molly Ringwald. But luckily, this isn’t all on her shoulders, as she had help from legendary character actor, Harry Dean Stanton, as well as Jon Cryer, Andrew McCarthy, Annie Potts and James Spader. There were also smaller roles in this that featured Andrew Dice Clay, Kristy Swanson and Gina Gershon.

This was a movie that I liked a lot in my youth but it does feel pretty dated now and the whole rich kids versus poor kids thing just seems incredibly forced and really extreme, even for an ’80s teen movie. But that’s the centerpiece of this plot, as it creates a Romeo and Juliet story about two young lovers whose social circles try to tear them apart due to their stark, cultural “differences”.

The cast in this is really good, though, and it’s hard not to enjoy these characters even if this is a pretty flawed movie. I liked James Spader and Jon Cryer in this a lot, even though one of them played a real shithead.

Unfortunately, the weakest scenes are the ones that needed to be the strongest. These are the scenes between Ringwald and McCarthy, which just play as pretty uneventful and unemotional. As someone that is caught up in the drama of this story, you want Ringwald’s Andy to make the right decision when it comes to love but ultimately, she doesn’t.

The ending of this movie kind of upset John Hughes, so he essentially had this remade with the same director, a gender swapped cast and the ending he preferred, just a year later. That film is called Some Kind of Wonderful and while it’s not as good as Pretty In Pink, it’s definitely a good companion piece to it, as it provides a more satisfactory conclusion.

Still, I really like this film and it’s one of those things you throw on when you want something light and with a fun, youthful energy. My opinion on it may have soured a little bit over the years but Ducky will always get me through it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Some Kind of Wonderful and other John Hughes film, as well as other ’80s teen comedies.

Documentary Review: Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)

Also known as: Mucho mucho amor: La leyenda de Walter Mercado (Spanish title)
Release Date: January 24th, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Cristina Costantini, Kareem Tabsch
Music by: Jeff Morrow
Cast: Walter Mercado, various

Muck Media, Key Rat, Topic Studios, Netflix, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Walter Mercado is a force of nature without beginnings and endings. He used to be a star, but now, Walter is a constellation.” – Walter Mercado

This was a pleasant surprise and a much more interesting and fun documentary than I had anticipated.

Full disclosure, I’ve always loved the hell out of Walter Mercado. While I don’t believe in astrology and am an atheist, he always seemed well-meaning and he also meant a lot to millions of people that felt uplifted by his woo woo messages of positivity.

As a teenager, I discovered him on television at one of my best friends’ houses. This Honduran family that I’d often times eat dinner with always had Walter on in the evening and even if I didn’t understand Spanish enough to know what he was saying in full detail, it was impossible not to be captivated by him.

What I never knew was his actual story between his early life, the genesis of his public persona and all the hardships he faced over the years. Watching this, I felt like I got to know Walter on a genuine level and I’ve got to say, all razzle dazzle aside, I really like the guy.

The best thing about this documentary is that it wasn’t made about Walter, it was made with his involvement and he stars in it, giving you a peek into his life now. He also tells his own stories, giving great first-person accounts of the key events in his life.

This also features interviews with people that have worked with Walter over the years and one guy that pretty much screwed him over and preyed on Walter’s good, trusting nature to steal the famous man’s name and “brand”.

For those who don’t know who Walter Mercado is, I still think that this would be a worthwhile documentary to check out, as he’s just an interesting person that lived an incredibly unique life and still has a lot to say to the world.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent pop culture biographical documentaries.

Film Review: Hot Fuzz (2007)

Also known as: Raging Fuzz, Blue Fury (working titles), Bubblin’ Fuzz, Dead Right, Feelin’ Fuzzier (fake working titles)
Release Date: February 13th, 2007 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy, Edward Woodward, Bill Bailey, Olivia Colman, Julia Deakin, Kevin Eldon, Martin Freeman, Paul Freeman, Rafe Spall, Stephen Merchant, Steve Coogan (uncredited), Peter Jackson (uncredited), Cate Blanchett (uncredited), Edgar Wright (uncredited), Garth Jennings (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Universal Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“I may not be a man of God, Reverend, but I know right and I know wrong and I have the good grace to know which is which.” – Nicholas Angel, “Oh, fuck off, grasshopper. [Reverend Shooter pulls out a pair of derringers from his cassock]” – Reverend Philip Shooter

The moment this movie finished in the theater, I had a massive smile on my face and it stuck with me for days. Once it was gone, I went back to the theater to go see this picture again.

This is still my favorite Edgar Wright movie and revisiting it now just solidified that. For what it is, it is pretty close to perfect.

It features Simon Pegg and Nick Frost at their absolute best, as a duo. After two seasons of the television show Spaced and 2004’s cult classic Shaun of the Dead, these two guys had evolved into a perfect pair, where each half compliments the other and together they make a much better whole.

That being said, if there was ever a film from Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy that deserved a sequel, it’s this one. I doubt it will get a sequel but it perfectly represents the buddy cop genre and those films are perfect for sequelization. Just look at Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Rush Hour, etc.

Anyway, this is just great from top-to-bottom. It has a stacked cast featuring several of my favorite British people, it has a solid, surprising story, superb action sequences and the sort of buddy cop camaraderie that you and your primary school homies used to try and emulate while playing cops on the playground.

Despite all the other great things Pegg and Frost have done, this feels like the roles they were born to play. And honestly, I almost feel the same way about Timothy Dalton in this, as he’s so damn good that he’s perfect.

Hot Fuzz is just a hilarious, balls out action flick. Once you get to the action packed finale, things escalate in ways you’d never expect and at the same time, this never jumps the shark. It just has the perfect balance of comedy, action and ridiculousness.

Not only is this my favorite of Wright’s films, it is also one of my favorite movies of its decade.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Interior World’ by Rob MacGregor

This was the last Indiana Jones book written by Rob MacGregor and also the sixth of the twelve ’90s novels published by Bantam Books.

I was kind of excited going into this one, as it featured Easter Island, a place that has always fascinated me. With that, I hoped it had some Tiki flavor and tapped into that stuff, which it did to a point, but then this gets more focused on what lies beyond the surface… literally.

The book also spends some time in South America and it draws some comparisons to my favorite MacGregor Indy book, The Seven Veils. But sadly, this didn’t match that one in quality.

I thought that the first few chapters in this were really good and it built up my hopes further, as I wanted to see MacGregor go out with a bang. However, it just kind of gets duller and duller as one reads on.

Overall this book turns into an acid trip and it doesn’t really embrace what makes the Indiana Jones franchise so beloved and that’s adventure.

I like that MacGregor ties his books together and the characters and MacGuffins bleed into other works but I just feel like the guy was out of steam here. Maybe he had a six book contract and he was just trying to get it over with, I don’t know. This just feels rushed and severely lacking.

Being that I’m now halfway through the ’90s Indy novels, I am going to take a bit of a break. I will review the other six in the near future but honestly, this one was just tough to get through and I have so many other books in my stack on my reading desk.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Film Review: Runaway (1984)

Release Date: December 14th, 1984
Directed by: Michael Crichton
Written by: Michael Crichton
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes, Gene Simmons, Kirstie Alley, Stan Shaw, G. W. Bailey, Joey Cramer, Chris Mulkey

Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“You screwed up good, Ramsay. We got two dead officers, do you understand me mister? Two. Dead. Cops! We got two wounded – one of them your own partner – and we got two dead guinea punks! And no one knows why or what the hell its all about!” – Chief of Police

This was one of those movies that used to be on HBO or Showtime all the time when I was a kid. I probably saw it a dozen times back then but it’s eluded me ever since and sort of fell down pop culture’s memory hole.

Watching it now was kind of cool, as it wasn’t as cheesy as I thought it would be and even if there is a bit of hokiness in the movie, it’s still pretty serious and a much better than decent sci-fi thriller.

While there aren’t cyborgs or dystopian metropolises glowing from infinite neon lights, Runaway still has a really strong cyberpunk vibe to it. I think this is due to the amount of robots in the film, the wacky inventions like AI-controlled bullets and the general visual aesthetic of the picture.

Tom Selleck is damn solid in this and it makes me wish he was in more action and crime films. He plays a complex cop character that specializes in community service calls dealing with malfunctioning robots. Sometimes the jobs are easy and straightforward but other times, they’re deadly dangerous. What makes him complex is that he’s a tough guy but he also has a severe fear of heights. Plus, he’s a single dad, raising a son and still emotionally recovering from the death of his wife while also wooing the two ladies in the movie: his partner and a woman that’s in way over her head with the story’s villain.

Speaking of which, the baddie in this is Gene Simmons from KISS. While I can’t say that his acting is good, he still has a presence and really hams it up in a great way. When he finally gets what’s coming to him, it’s a damn satisfying momenty.

The cast is rounded out by Selleck’s female partner played by Cynthia Rhodes, the corporate damsel in distress played by Kirtstie Alley, Joey Cramer of Flight of the Navigator fame playing Selleck’s son and the always entertaining G. W. Bailey as the cantankerous Chief of Police.

It’s also worth mentioning that this was written and directed by Michael Crichton before he became a much more prolific writer when Steven Spielberg made a little film franchise out of his novel Jurassic Park.

Overall, this is still a really entertaining picture that has a pretty basic but interesting tech crime story. It certainly feels like it’s straight out of the ’80s and while the special effects may appear dated by today’s standard, I appreciate the work that went into this. The robots all look pretty cool and function well. 

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi or cyberpunk films of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Video Game Review: The Punisher (NES)

This is a terrible game and it’s always been a terrible game.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t play the hell out of it when I was a kid because frankly, I loved Marvel Comics and this was the closest thing to the arcade game Operation Wolf that I owned on a home console.

Sadly, like most early Marvel games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this just sucked. I tried to convince myself otherwise but the controls were dog shit and the game was hard as fuck, especially on the tedious boss fights.

The big problem with the difficulty is that it becomes impossible to dodge all the gunfire, missiles and grenades lobbed at you. You become quickly overwhelmed as the game advances and the opportunities to gain some extra life are too far and few between.

The graphics are also shit and this looks like a game that was rushed or just designed pretty half-assed.

Additionally, the villain roster was pretty generic, except for Jigsaw and The Kingpin. The reason for this could also be because the regular Punisher comic book series was still only a few years old when this was made. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have used other street level villains from the larger Marvel universe like Hammerhead, Tombstone, The Owl, Bullseye, Boomerang, Taskmaster, Crossbones, Typhoid Mary, Mister Fear, The Rose, The Gladiator, etc.

Hell, what’s with the fucking android boss? They could’ve designed it to look like a Doombot or mini-Sentinel.

I know, I know… I’m asking too much for a basic bitch 1990 Marvel game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling shooters or other terrible 8-bit Marvel games.

Film Review: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

Also known as: Gamera daikaijû kuchu kessen (original Japanese title), Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Showdown (Japanese English title)
Release Date: March 11th, 1995 (Japan)
Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko
Written by: Kazunori Ito
Music by: Kow Otani
Cast: Shinobu Nakayama, Ayako Fujitani, Yukijiro Hotaru

Daiei Studios, Hakuhodo, NTV Network, Toho Co. Ltd., 96 Minutes

Review:

Gamera movies are a lot of fun for hardcore fans of kaiju and tokusatsu flicks that want to go deeper than just the regular Godzilla films.

However, they were always sort of shit. That is, until this movie came out in 1995 and gave the world a Gamera picture that was taken really seriously and may actually be as good as the ’90s Godzilla movies. Hell, I’d say this is even better than some of them.

This has a darker tone than the jovial kids movies of the original run of films. Also, this has a harder edge and the monsters are more played up for scares than slapstick comic relief.

I like that the studio stuck to using actors in monster suits, as well as great miniature sets for them to wreck while duking it out over the course of the story.

In fact, the special effects for the time and budget are exceptionally good. Quality-wise, this is one of the best looking kaiju movies of the Heisei era.

Plus, I like the cast in this a lot more than what’s typical in these sort of films. The core characters stand out, have purpose and make the human part of the story a worthwhile one, which can often times just get in the way of what audiences really want to see, which is giant monster mayhem. 

This also sets up future films, which for this era in the Gamera franchise led to a pretty impressive trilogy.

From memory, I feel like each sequel improved upon its predecessor but since it’s been so long since I’ve watched these, I’ll refrain from actually stating that until I revisit and review them in the coming weeks.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Gamera films of the Heisei era.