Film Review: Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)

Also known as: The Party (working title)
Release Date: June 12th, 1998
Directed by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Written by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Music by: David Kitay
Cast: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Robert Jayne, Michelle Brookhurst, Chris Owen, Jason Segel, Clea Duvall, Jaime Pressly, Sean Patrick Thomas, Freddy Rodriguez, Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, Selma Blair, Sara Rue, Jenna Elfman (uncredited), Jerry O’Connell (uncredited), Melissa Joan Hart (uncredited), Breckin Meyer (uncredited), Jennifer Elise Cox (uncredited)

Tall Trees Productions, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know about you, but I really believe that there’s one person out there, and for me it’s gotta be Amanda.” – Preston

I didn’t see this right when it came out, as it was a year after I had graduated high school and also because there were already dozens of similar movies that I had watched from the ’80s and ’90s, growing up.

I first saw this when it hit regular television but once I did, I thought it had a lot of heart while also having that heart in the right place. Sure, this is nothing new for the coming-of-age teen comedy subgenre but it’s hard not to like the main characters and their multiple story arcs.

Honestly, it also doesn’t hurt that this movie has a pretty stacked cast and even if most of these kids weren’t stars when this came out, they started to become them by the time I saw this.

The vast majority of the movie takes place in one location, a big ass house party. There are some school scenes early on but the bulk of the story takes place over one night.

To sum up the primary plot, the male lead has been in love with the female lead since his freshman year. But now that they’re graduating and the girl and her boyfriend split, this guy has one last chance to try and win her over.

Beyond that plot, the rest of the kids are dealing with the fact that high school is over and they have no idea what’s going to happen now that their lives are starting. The party is there as a way to blow off steam and distract them from the inevitable future but they all learn a lot about themselves over the course of the night.

There’s too many characters to feature for any great length and the two leads take up the bulk of the running time but each story is pretty enjoyable and endearing. I think there’s actually things that people can relate to with all of them, as they all share their own versions of doubt, insecurity and fear over what’s next.

Can’t Hardly Wait also feels a lot more like an ’80s teen movie than a ’90s one despite the music and fashion in the film. It just has that ’80s vibe to it and it’s easy to tell that the filmmakers were inspired by those movies and drawing from them.

That being said, this kind of feels like the last film of that subgenre of comedy. Sure, there were others after this but none of them are all that memorable, except for Not Another Teen Movie, which was a parody of this subgenre and kind of exposed all the tropes, making it hard to follow with another picture of this type.

In the end, the boy gets the girl and we leave these characters in a pretty positive way. Granted, the jock’s future isn’t all that promising but he went from dick to nice guy back to dick and well… karma is a bitch.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies, specifically of the ’80s and ’90s.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Blood of Elves’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

This book in The Witcher series is the first of the five books that form the primary saga. Before it, I read the two short story collections that were published later but have since been recommended by everyone, as the best place to start.

So I was excited getting into this one, as this is the beginning of the real journey for Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer, as well as the other core characters that come in and out of these stories.

Although, I have to agree that one should read the short story collections first, as they flesh out and beef up the core characters, which I thought was somewhat lacking, here, the book that was originally the starting point.

Having a lot more context going into this was a benefit, even if I already know a lot from the video games and television series.

However, as the television series only adapted stuff from the short stories, thus far, everything here was fresh and new for me and it was really cool reading this and sort of having the blanks filled between the origins of the characters and their later stories, which were used and adapted somewhat in The Witcher 3 game.

I really liked how much Triss was used in this book, as she is one of my favorite characters and it really developed her more than the short story books or the games.

I also enjoyed the stuff about Ciri’s training and how the other witchers had issues trying to raise a girl, as she was growing into a young woman.

Beyond that, I thought some parts of this dragged out a bit too long and even though there is some conflict and action, the book really feels like more of a set up to a larger tapestry than it does its own, solid body of work. That’s not necessarily bad, as this is part of a large saga but there’s not much here that stands out and gives this book its own identity.

This could also be due to the short story books sort of diminishing the overall effect of this one, as it was originally the origin of these characters for the readers who were there in the beginning.

All in all, this is still pretty damn enjoyable and it sets things up in a way that makes me excited for the other books.

I should have the review for the next one up in a few weeks.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Film Review: Maniac (1963)

Release Date: May 20th, 1963 (UK)
Directed by: Michael Carreras
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Stanley Black
Cast: Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Liliane Brousse, Donald Houston

Hammer Films, 86 Minutes

Review:

“You take a man’s wife, Mr. Farrell, but not his money?” – Georges

Maniac is a pretty neat, lesser known Hammer picture. It’s written by Jimmy Sangster, who has written pretty much nothing but good shit for the studio. He’s probably Hammer’s most prolific writer and the films where his talent really shines are in smaller, lesser known ones like this.

This almost has a noir vibe to the story and like noir, it’s got some really wretched people and some surprising plot twists in it.

The killer is just really damn cool looking, especially for the early ’60s and in a lot of ways, the character feels like a prototype for a slasher flick bad guy, even though those weren’t a thing yet.

The killer wears a welding mask and carries a blowtorch. Granted, we see his face and he is very much just a human dude. Still, it gives off slasher vibes and the bad guy is pretty damn good and menacing. Most importantly, all the stuff with the killer in this is really damn effective.

The highlight of the film, to me, was the finale, which was shot in a cavernous tomb looking location. It was actually filmed in the huge stone galleries that were dug into the rock of the Val d’Enfer of Les Baux-de-Provence in southeastern France. The location really ups the ante in the picture and gives it something else memorable other than the killer.

My only real issue with the film is that the acting was a bit meh. I wouldn’t call it bad but the cast really could’ve used more coffee throughout the shooting day. I wouldn’t call the performances understated as much as I’d call them disinterested. Honestly, though, this really falls on the shoulders of the director or the casting agent.

Maniac is another Hammer film that has been kind of lost to time but after seeing it, the movie exceeded my expectations. It also makes me glad that I really started digging deeper into the Hammer vaults beyond the Victorian horror stuff and the films starring Peter Cushing and/or Christopher Lee.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other lesser known Hammer horror thrillers.

Film Review: Boomerang! (1947)

Also known as: The Perfect Case (working title)
Release Date: January 26th, 1947 (London premiere)
Directed by: Elia Kazan
Written by: Richard Murphy
Based on: The Perfect Case 1945 article in The Reader’s Digest by Anthony Abbot
Music by: David Buttolph
Cast: Dana Andrews, Jane Wyatt, Lee J. Cobb, Cara Williams, Arthur Kennedy, Sam Levene, Ed Begley Sr.

Twentieth Century Fox, 88 Minutes

Review:

“McDonald, I just made one mistake. I should have known by now that there’s one thing you can’t beat in politics, and that’s a completely honest man.” – T.M. Wade

Out of all the film-noir directors of the ’40s and ’50s, I’ve always held Elia Kazan’s visual style in pretty high regard. His movies, especially in the noir genre, always have this pristine visual look. They’re crisp, utilize great set and costume design with damn near perfect lighting and a mastery of that high contrast noir aesthetic. Granted, he also does all this more subtly than some of the directors that went more extreme with it.

Kazan’s pictures just seem to have a really good balance, boasting a certain style without overdoing it. In fact, you almost don’t notice it at first but as his pictures roll on, you find yourself a bit mesmerized by them.

Boomerang! is one that I haven’t seen in a really long time but it was one of my granmum’s favorites, as she had it on multiple times when I’d go to her house after school as a kid. Well, at least in the non-summer months when the Cubs weren’t on WGN.

The film is based on a true story where an innocent man was accused of murder by an incompetent police force and had to rely on a smart prosecutor to clear his name and save him from a fate he didn’t deserve.

Now this isn’t in my upper echelon of noir classics but it’s still a good movie with very good acting, especially on the part of Dana Andrews, who plays the prosecutor, as well as Lee J. Cobb, who plays the police chief. I also really enjoyed Jane Wyatt in this for obvious reasons but she definitely holds her own in the acting department, as well, and this made me wish that she had become a bigger star, especially in pictures of the noir style. I also didn’t realize, until today, that she played Spock’s mother in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

For the most part, the story is compelling but if I’m being honest, it is a bit paint-by-numbers and it’s fairly predictable and doesn’t throw any shocking patented noir curveballs at you.

Still, this is a good example of a standard film-noir. Especially in regards to those that deal with the legal system, as opposed to just schemers doing something dirty and paying the price for it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other film-noir pictures of the ’40s and ’50s, especially those by Elia Kazan.

Film Review: Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)

Also known as: Gamera 3: Jashin kakusei (original Japanese title), Gamera 3: The Awakening of Iris (alternative title), Gamera 1999: The Absolute Guardian of the Universe (UK closing credits title), Gamera 3 (unofficial title)
Release Date: March 6th, 1999 (Japan)
Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko
Written by: Kazunori Ito, Shusuke Kaneko
Music by: Kow Otani
Cast: Shinobu Nakayama, Ai Maeda, Yukijiro Hotaru

Daiei Studios, Hakuhodo, Nippon Shuppan Hanbai K.K., Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“Every creature, however unappealing, fights to the last to survive. Humanity as well.” – Mayumi Nagamine

This is the last of the awesome trilogy of Gamera films directed by Shusuke Kaneko. With that, this also concludes the storyline of his reoccurring characters and brings to a close this version of Gamera canon.

I’ve got to say, though, Kaneko went out with a bang and this isn’t just my favorite Gamera film of his trilogy but it is my favorite Gamera film of them all!

This one took a longer break from its predecessor and with that, I think they had more time to fine tune it and refine it from a story and script standpoint to working out some of the special effects kinks.

The end result is a film that looks better and plays better than any of its predecessors.

I enjoy the story in this a lot and even if it doesn’t come across as wholly original (it feels like something lifted from an Ultraman episode), it still works for this film series and provides Gamera fans with a neat, energetic conclusion to possibly the best version of the property.

Furthermore, the enemy monster in this is really damn cool and it’s an unfortunate creature with a personal grudge against Gamera. Basically, the monster Gamera fights isn’t simply evil and its reason for fighting Gamera is pretty damn justified.

That being said, the third act of this movie is really f’n good. If you’re already a kaiju or tokusatsu fan, you should really dig it. The final battle is the best in the series and the final moments of the film are pretty heavy and emotional.

If Daiei really wanted to take Gamera seriously and give fans something great, this is where they truly succeeded. The two films before this one really set the ground work and built a solid foundation but this shows that their efforts paid off and the studio and director delivered.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Gamera films of the Heisei era.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Sword of Destiny’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sword of Destiny is the second of The Witcher‘s short story collections, which serve as prequels to the regular novel series. These books give more backstory and context to the core characters and help build out the world that they live in. If you want to get into this series, I’d suggest starting with these.

Like the other short story collection, which I already reviewed, some of the material here was used for episodes in the first season of The Witcher Netflix series. There are a few fresh stories, though, and the literary versions of these tales are actually better with more plot and details.

The most important story here is the one that covers the fall of Cintra and how Ciri lost everything and eventually found her way to Geralt, her destiny (and his).

Ciri’s journey to Geralt is actually covered in the two short stories at the end. However, it’s much richer and more detailed than the television series, which also appears to have made up some of its own details. Granted, some of those things could pop up in later literary stories that I haven’t read yet.

The other stories in this are all pretty entertaining but they do seem less important than the last two. Still, they all add greatly to the mythos and give you a great sense of these characters before you even get to the first regular novel.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Film Review: Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Also known as: Boy Rents Girl (alternative title)
Release Date: August 14th, 1987
Directed by: Steve Rash
Written by: Michael Swerdlick
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Amanda Peterson, Dennis Dugan, Tina Caspary, Darcy DeMoss, Cort McCown, Eric Bruskotter, Courtney Gains, Seth Green, Ami Dolenz

Apollo Pictures, Silver Screen Partners III, Touchstone Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“What happened to us? We were all friends in elementary.” – Ronald Miller, “That’s because we were all forced to be in the same room together. But, hey, Junior high, high school. Forget it. Jocks became Jocks. Cheerleaders became cheerleaders. We became us. I like us.” – Kenneth Wurman

I always had a soft spot for this ’80s teen comedy but I guess I never realized how good it is when compared to all of the other films like it. Outside of the work of John Hughes and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, this one is probably the best of the lot.

This is a movie that carries a real message and does a fantastic job of delivering that message through the journey of its main character.

It’s also a message that’s timeless and maybe even more relevant today, as so many young people are willing to give anything just for their fifteen seconds of fame. Social media has probably just made this more of an issue, as “going viral” is a lifegoal of too many young people.

The story is about a geek named Ronald that has a hard time understanding why half of his friends from elementary school became the cool kids in high school and why he and his other buds are dorks, pushed away from the cool circle. He is also crushing hard on the most popular girl in school. When she finds herself in a bad financial situation, he bails her out. But he does so with the agreement that she’ll date him for a month, as he believes it will make him cool.

Of course, things can’t be that simple. While he does become “cool”, he turns his backs on his geeky friends and even breaks the heart of the popular girl he was in love with in the first place. As the story rolls on, his ruse is exposed and everything backfires. With that, he has to find a way to be himself, fix his old friendships and earn back the cool girl, who fell in love with the sweet guy she knows is inside Ronald.

As a young person, I got the message of the film loud and clear and it’s a simple one but this movie does a pretty good job of letting it play out in a lot of different ways, showing how it effects Ronald in every facet of his life, as well as the other kids around him.

Additionally, I think it’s a good message. High school aged kids generally want the same thing Ronald wanted but it’s important to understand the cost and what being “cool” actually means.

While this doesn’t have the magic of John Hughes best pictures, I think it is as well written as his high school movies and that’s why I consider it to be in the same ballpark of quality for ’80s teen comedies.

I like Patrick Dempsey in this but it’s Amanda Peterson that stole the show for me. I wish she had gotten better work after this film but she retired from acting in the mid-’90s, moved back home to Colorado and her life tragically went to shit until she died of an overdose in 2015.

Sorry to end this on a sad note but it’s kind of a punch to the gut when watching this film, knowing what happened to the high school goddess in real life.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s teen comedies.

Film Review: Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Release Date: February 23rd, 1987 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Howard Deutch
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Stephen Hague, John Musser
Cast: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Craig Sheffer, Lea Thompson, Elias Koteas, John Ashton, Candace Cameron, Maddie Corman

Hughes Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Keith… you’re losing it. And when it’s lost, all you are is a loser.” – Watts

About a week ago I reviewed Pretty In Pink, which was written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch. I commented on how Hughes didn’t like the ending and wanted to correct it, so he wrote this film, which was actually released just a year later.

While researching this, I discovered that Deutch wasn’t actually the first choice for director and that Hughes pulled him in after two other potential directors left the project.

That being said, knowing what’s behind the genesis of this film makes comparing it to Pretty In Pink kind of hard. However, they’re still very different, especially tonally, as this is more of a drama and doesn’t have the more lighthearted comedy side that Hughes’ other teen pictures do.

I think with the more serious tone, though, this film just loses some of the patented Hughes magic and comes across as a bit dry. This may be why it’s not as highly regarded as the other teen movies Hughes was creatively a part of in the ’80s.

If I’m being honest, I feel like Hughes may have been a bit out of steam by this point. At least in regards to these kind of flicks, as he would still create great cinematic magic with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and the first two Home Alone films.

This is okay but it’s hard to care about these characters as they seem to lack personality and depth. Mary Stuart Masterson’s Watts is the most developed character of the bunch but you still never really come to understand her as deeply as you should and her pining starts to become annoying by the end of the film.

While this may have been the ending that Hughes wanted for Pretty In Pink, it’s just not as good of a film leading up to that big romantic climax.

I did really like Elias Koteas in this, though. I wish there was more of him, as he robbed every scene he was in and apparently, ad-libbed a lot of his lines.

Anyway, this is a fairly mundane teen drama. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and it doesn’t have much to really justify its own existence when compared to better, similar movies.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Pretty In Pink and other John Hughes teen movies of the ’80s.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: The Last Wish’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

I have a friend that has been a massive fan of The Witcher for years. He always gave me shit for never reading the books, even though I love The Witcher 3 video game and also really dug the Netflix television show. So to appease him and because I actually wanted to read these anyway, I finally picked the books up in a fancy box set, which I got for a pretty awesome price.

This book in the series is the first of three prequels before the five-part regular book series starts. I figured I’d start with the prequels, as that’s the recommended reading order and because these stories are also familiar to me, as many of the short stories in this first volume were used as the basis of many of the first season episodes on the Netflix show.

I really liked reading these original versions of the tales. They exceeded what I thought they would be and I certainly enjoyed the deeper context and understanding the lore on a more intimate level.

I also kind of liked all the homages to classic fairytales that were thrown in, which the television show sort of ignores. I had no idea that the Renfri character was essentially Snow White. There are also homages to Beauty & the Beast and Cinderella in this collection.

There wasn’t a boring or dull short story in this book. Frankly, it was entertaining and I had a hard time putting it down. I blew through it in two sittings, which is pretty unheard of for me with my normal schedule.

That being said, I can’t wait to jump into the second and third prequel books and then the regular series.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

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.