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.

Film Review: The Phantom (1996)

Release Date: June 7th, 1996
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Written by: Jeffrey Boam
Based on: The Phantom by Lee Falk
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Billy Zane, Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar, Patrick McGoohan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Casey Siemaszko, John Capodice

Boam Productions, The Ladd Company, Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

“When darkness rules the earth, America’s in financial ruin. Europe and Asia are on a brink of self-annihilation. Chaos reigns. Like I’ve always said, there is opportunity in chaos. And so, my brothers, I give you… [raises out the first skull] The skull of Touganda. This skull is one of three. When all three skulls are united, they will produce a force more than any army on Earth.” – Xander Drax

A lot of people, myself included, slept on this movie when it came out because even for 1996, it looked hokey and cheap. Granted, it was actually made by a larger studio and it was a more expensive picture than one might think.

I feel like the tone was off for what was becoming the popular trends at the time and that this would’ve fared much better, half a decade earlier. But even really solid comic book movies like The Rocketeer and The Shadow struggled to find an audience before this flick was even greenlit.

While I’ve seen this a few times over the years, I think there are things within it that one can appreciate that would’ve most likely been overlooked in 1996.

To start, this is just a fun adventure movie, a popcorn picture at its core that features good actors, cool characters and period piece sets that show you where most of the budget went.

There is a very pulpy vibe to this and it almost calls back to the tone of old school swashbuckling epics without having any real swashbuckling in it.

It mostly taps into the film serial genre that helped make The Phantom character more of a household name in the ’30s through ’50s. For modern audiences, it will play like a superhero picture with elements of an Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean vibe to it.

While it’s not particularly well-acted, the core cast still give good performances that really show that they’re committed to this film’s pulpy goodness. Treat Williams’ over-the-top antics as the villain are superb and I liked him immensely in this. I also thought that Billy Zane made a really solid Phantom and Kristy Swanson was a good choice for her role. I can’t say that this is Catherine Zeta-Jones’ best work but she did look like she was having a blast hamming it up in this goofy but stylish movie.

The Phantom is far from being a classic in the superhero genre but its much better than a lot of the other offerings in the pre-Dark Knight and MCU era. Frankly, I wish it would’ve done well enough to have had a few sequels but since this felt somewhat dated for 1996, I can’t imagine any sequels connecting with the audience of that era.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other comic book adaptations of the era like The Shadow, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer and the early, cheap Marvel attempts at live-action.

Film Review: Mr. Boogedy (1986)

Release Date: April 20th, 1986
Directed by: Oz Scott
Written by: Michael Janover
Music by: John Addison
Cast: Richard Masur, Mimi Kennedy, Benjamin Gregory, David Faustino, Kristy Swanson, John Astin, Katherine Kelly Lang

Walt Disney Television, ABC, 46 Minutes

Review:

“Ah, did anybody leave a weird green light on in that room?” – Carleton Davis

I remember watching this when it was on television for the first time. Now I mostly remember the sequel, as it was twice as long and had a bigger finale but this was a cool “horror” film that I liked as a young kid. It also didn’t terrify my mum.

This was really made as an episode of The Magical World of Disney, which was a pretty cool anthology television series that used to air on Sunday nights in the ’80s (and probably earlier).

Each episode was usually a short, hour long story. Sometimes they’d be like full-length TV movies, as Mr. Boogedy‘s sequel would be.

I liked this because it featured two actors I liked, Richard Masur and John Astin. It also introduced me to Kristy Swanson, who I (and every boy my age) started crushing on pretty hard.

This is a basic boogeyman story but the origin and background of the character were kind of interesting. However, you don’t get to see the monster until the very end and only for a few minutes. Plus, he’s kind of a careless idiot that destroys himself by sucking off his own cloak with a vacuum he’s using to terrorize a kid.

This is decently written but it’s nothing great. I like how they developed the character, even if it was quick. Honestly, this did feel a bit rushed, not in how it was produced but in the pacing of the story. Granted, 46 minutes isn’t a lot of time and this could have been a richer, better experience if they had make this one twice as long.

I guess I’ll see how the sequel stands up when I review it in a few weeks.

This is goofy, family friendly fun but it comes across as really outdated and will probably only be worthwhile to those with the nostalgia bug.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other episodes of The Magical World of Disney.

Film Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Release Date: July 31st, 1992
Directed by: Fran Rubel Kuzui
Written by: Joss Whedon
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, Hilary Swank, David Arquette, Stephen Root, Thomas Jane, Sasha Jenson, Ben Affleck (uncredited), Ricki Lake (uncredited), Seth Green (uncredited), Alexis Arquette

Sandollar, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Does the word “duh” mean anything to you?” – Buffy

Joss Whedon wasn’t a fan of this version of his Buffy character and five years later, he developed a television series that reflected what he saw in his mind. Most fans prefer the television show but I guess I have to be the odd man out or maybe it’s because I am often times a contrarian but I prefer this movie. I’ll explain though, that’s why I’m here.

First, I have always loved Kristy Swanson. This isn’t a battle over who is hotter between Swanson or Sarah Michelle Gellar, as both are gorgeous, but Swanson’s personality and the way she played this role was more my cup of tea. And if Buffy is going to be a valley girl high schooler, Swanson fits the part better for me. Not to discount Gellar’s work because she was great in her own way and played Buffy as a much more complex character. But let’s be honest, she also had seven seasons and 144 episodes to grow in that role, Swanson had less than 90 minutes.

I also love the supporting cast of the movie better. I mean the villains are Rutger Hauer and Paul Reubens for chrissakes! And man, both of those guys ham it the hell up in this and just fit the tone of the film perfectly. Reubens ad-libbed in a lot of scenes and it made for a better movie and for a more entertaining character.

You also have Luke Perry, at the height of his popularity, and I’m not afraid to admit that I watched Beverly Hills 90210 during its peak. It was the hottest show on television and I was in middle school. Plus, I met Luke Perry when I was young, just by coincidence, and he was really f’n cool.

This movie is cheesy as all hell but it is supposed to be. It captures that ’90s teen vibe really well but overall, this is just a really fun movie that I can put on at any time and still enjoy for its absurdity and its awesomeness.

I knew that once the TV show came out, that we’d never get a proper followup to this version of Buffy. But since the TV show has its own comics, it’d be cool if someone did a comic book sequel to this incarnation of that universe. Or hell, maybe even a Buffy vs. Buffy crossover. Who owns the comic book rights now? IDW? Dark Horse? Boom? Dynamite? I don’t know but whoever it is, get on it!

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other ’90s teen horror comedies: Idle HandsThe FacultyFreddy’s Dead, etc. I also like pairing this with Encino Man for some reason.

Film Review: Deadly Friend (1986)

Release Date: October 10th, 1986
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Bruce Joel Rubin
Based on: Friend by Diana Henstell
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Matthew Laborteaux, Kristy Swanson, Michael Sharrett, Anne Twomey, Anne Ramsey, Charles Fleischer

Warner Bros., 91 Minutes

deadly-friendReview:

As Wes Craven passed away not too long ago, I’ve been inspired to watch some of his more obscure films. Especially those I haven’t seen for a long time. That brings me to this film, Deadly Friend.

This 1986 picture is based on the 1985 novel Friend by Diana Henstell. I have no idea how close this is to the book but the premise is about the same. Well, the second half of this movie is the same as the premise of the book. This is actually two movies in one.

The first half of the film deals with a boy named Paul moving to a new house, where he meets a girl and goes on fun adventures with her, some other kid that faints a lot and his pet robot named B.B. The second half of the film sees Paul implant a microchip into the brain of the girl, as she is dead – following her abusive father tossing her down some steps. The microchip makes her go on a killing spree and gives her robotic dance moves and crazy eyes. She essentially becomes the overly attached girlfriend with awkward dance moves.

I have to give props for the first half of the film because the people who built the robot B.B. did a fine job. He was a cool character for the most part and looked great for a film that had a very limited budget.

Well, I am assuming it was really limited, as the other special effects were atrocious. I mean, the death by basketball scene was cool, initially. For instance, when the head exploded it looked great. But then when the headless animatronic body was moving around, it looked nothing like Anne Ramsey. The robot face tearing through the human face at the end of the film was horrible. Kristy Swanson postmortem just had blue eye shadow to show that she was basically a robo-zombie.

After what Craven did with A Nightmare On Elm Street, two years before this, Deadly Friend was a huge step backwards in creativity and ingenuity. This was at the height of practical effects but they just take you too far out of the movie here.

Yet, there is something magical about this film despite the nonsensical plot, poorly written characters with confusing motivations and mostly shitty special effects.

This film is worth watching just for how bizarre and unique it truly is. In fact, it is like Chopping Mall meets Re-animator starring Mama Fratelli from The Goonies and the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I could never express how much I loved Anne Ramsey, as a kid. From The Goonies, to this and Throw Mama From the Train – she was always great. I also preferred Kristy Swanson’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer film over the Sarah Michelle Gellar TV show. No, I am not a fan of Joss Whedon, at all… sorry, not sorry.

This isn’t Wes Craven’s finest film but it is certainly better than the films later in his career. It is far from perfect but weird enough to make it memorable and enjoyable.

Rating: 7/10