Film Review: Lucas (1986)

Release Date: March 28th, 1986
Directed by: David Seltzer
Written by: David Seltzer
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen, Kerri Green, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Winona Ryder, Tom Hodges, Guy Boyd, Jeremy Piven, Garrett M. Brown

Twentieth Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t ever make me quit, ever!” – Lucas

In the ’80s, coming of age teen movies, whether they be drama, comedy or both, were a dime a dozen. And while I can’t consider Lucas to be one of the better ones, it still has real heart and it’s damn near impossible to not feel for the kid, as he experiences his first heartbreak when the girl he loves, also his best friend, falls for the cool guy that is like a big brother to him.

I think that the story is something everyone can relate to regardless of gender or situation. At some point, we’ve all had to deal with heartbreak for the first time. And since this movie actually tells that story pretty well, it’s a pretty worthwhile picture.

Corey Haim was really young in this and it was only his second starring role. He showed great promise as a young actor, as did the rest of the cast, who also made this sort of hokey picture into a real human, emotional drama.

This is a strange film in that it does sort of get buried by its outdated ’80s cheese but the important stuff still gets through to the audience in an effective way.

There are certainly a dozen or more ’80s teen movies I’d recommend over this one but if you’ve seen the cream of the crop and never watched this one, it’s definitely worth your 100 minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age high school movies of the ’80s.

Film Review: Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)

Also known as: Roxy (Sweden, France)
Release Date: October 12th, 1990
Directed by: Jim Abrahams
Written by: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Music by: Melissa Etheridge, Thomas Newman
Cast: Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels, Laila Robins, Dinah Manoff, Thomas Wilson Brown, Frances Fisher, Graham Beckel, Stephen Tobolowsky, Carla Gugino, Beth Grant

Incorporated Television Company, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Starting tomorrow there will be hourly tours of Roxy Carmichael’s birthplace. You’ll see where Roxy slept and where she ate during her wonder years. You’ll also see pictures of her beloved dog, Bonkers.” – Louise, “She loved that dog. She used to ride it. It was a big dog.” – Town Person

I remember seeing the VHS box for this at the video store, constantly. However, I never knew anything about the film and therefore, never rented it. Since I came across it streaming on HBO, I figured I could kill an hour and a half and check it out. Besides, I typically enjoy old school Winona Ryder.

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is a film with a lot of problems but none of them are really that bad. Also, none of these problems come from Winona Ryder, who is front and center in most of the movie’s scenes.

The film showcases how great of an actress Ryder is, even though she’s surrounded by a movie that really seems to miss its mark in nearly every other regard. For fans of Ryder, this is definitely worth watching just to see her performance, as an awkward kid that can’t seem to find her place in the world. And while that’s hardly an original concept, Ryder does wonders with the weak and derivative material. You can’t help not liking her and actually caring about her journey through this story and that’s most certainly due to her skill and not the humdrum script.

This feels like a picture that should have been better and needed to be but it’s far from terrible and I wouldn’t call it forgettable. We’ve just all seen this story a dozen times over. But at least the plot was fairly interesting in that revolves around a small town preparing for the return of a local girl that grew into a massive music star. In the case of Winona Ryder’s Dinky, she believes that this celebrity is her biological mother.

Adding more layers to the plot, we’re given Jeff Daniels’ character, who was the former lover of the star and the father of the baby she left behind when she bolted from town to live out her rock star dreams.

Additionally, we get to see the lives of other townsfolk and how this star’s return effects them on their own personal levels.

There’s a bit of a twist to the ending but it’s nothing shocking and frankly, it’s fairly predictable. 

In the end, we’re left with a pretty mediocre movie that was lucky enough to get a great performance out of its lead.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age teen movies from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Heathers (1989)

Also known as: Fatal Game, Lethal Attraction, Westerberg High (working titles)
Release Date: January, 1989 (Sundance)
Directed by: Michael Lehmann
Written by: Daniel Waters
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford, Glenn Shadix, Renee Estevez

Cinemarque Entertainment, New World Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Mother Teresa?” – Heather Chandler

When I saw this around 1990, when it hit VHS for the first time, I was pretty blown away by it. I was also eleven years-old and this was some pretty heavy stuff. But by that point, I already saw Christian Slater and Winona Ryder as two of the coolest young actors in Hollywood.

I probably watched Heathers a half dozen times in my youth but it’s now been decades since I’ve revisited it.

Seeing it with pretty fresh eyes, I think the film has aged really well and it is still effective, even if it was made as a sort of “fuck you” to the overly positive and cliche high school movies of the ’80s, specifically the John Hughes ones.

I can’t quite say that this is as good as my memory’s impression of it but I definitely enjoyed it and thought that it was a really well executed black comedy about teen angst in a decade that tried to gloss over some of the real issues young people faced at the time. But it is also a critique on the young yuppie lifestyle that was promoted in lots of the teen films of the era.

That’s not to say that this film was an original concept. These ideas have been explored before its existence but Heathers does it so well that it is the one film people seem to remember the most when it comes to expressing these ideas.

The first act of the film is damn near perfection. However, the second act is a bit of a slog and it seems to lose some of its momentum.

As an adult, you also see Winona Ryder’s character much differently. Where I found her relatable in my youth, you kind of see that she’s pretty much just an evil asshole like her boyfriend. She could’ve gone to the cops, she could’ve stopped him pretty early on in the story. However, she goes along for the ride and somehow turns out to be the hero in the end. Additionally, a lot of the moral dilemmas weren’t things I really dwelled on as much at eleven years-old when watching an edgy movie that felt cool.

The finale was decent but I feel like the climax sort of doesn’t live up to the amount of chaos this picture tried to build up. However, I don’t know how keen ’80s audiences would’ve been on a film that blows up a school with all the kids still inside.

Heathers is really good though, despite my more adult take on it, thirty-ish years later. It resonated with its fans for a reason and even if it bombed in the theater, it definitely deserves the cult status it quickly achieved after it came out on VHS and the word spread. 

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: things that ripped it off like Jawbreaker and Mean Girls.

Film Review: Star Trek (2009)

Also known as: Star Trek XI, Star Trek Zero, Corporate Headquarters, The Ernest Castelhun Chronicles, Untitled Walter Lace Project, Star Trek: The Future Begins (working titles), Star Trek: The Beginning (South Korea),
Release Date: April 6th, 2009 (Austin premiere)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Written by: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Clifton Collins Jr., Rachel Nichols, Deep Roy, Tyler Perry, Victor Garber (scene cut), Brad William Henke (scenes cut)

Spyglass Entertainment, Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait’ll you’re sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” – Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise as long as I can remember. However, nothing has really resonated with me since the end of Enterprise in 2005. This film was an attempt at rebooting the franchise and altering the timeline so that it wasn’t forced into having to work within the framework of already established canon. I wouldn’t call that the best idea, as Star Trek has such a rich mythos that it doesn’t need to be rebooted, there are unlimited ways to tell stories within a franchise this large. But a reboot is what we got because Hollywood is gonna Hollywood.

That being said, for what this is, Star Trek isn’t a bad motion picture. It’s an unnecessary one but I did want to give it a shot because if this was all the Trek I was going to get, I wanted to try to make the best of it.

This could have been better though. They hired the wrong guy to direct, as he just wanted to make Star Wars movies, which he would later do, and wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and didn’t really understand what it needed to be in contrast to what Star Wars is.

The director, J. J. Abrams, also made some strange stylistic choices in how he made the Enterprise look and how he went absolutely ape shit with the use of lens flares and lighting. The film is almost headache inducing at times.

As far as the story goes, the altering of the timeline really seems moot, as there are things that are different before the moment of that alteration. I’m specifically talking about the time Enterprise was already in space before Kirk showed up, as well as Spock’s previous service on the ship and Captain Pike’s role in everything.

Additionally, the story really seems to be a rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which Abrams would also heavily borrow from for his first Star Wars movie, Episode VII – The Force Awakens. But this is the same guy who also borrowed heavily from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for his picture Super 8. It all kind of makes me wonder what his next Star Wars film will heavily borrow from.

In the realm of Star Trek movies, this is better than the worst films that came before it but it doesn’t come close to the greatness of Wrath of KhanThe Voyage HomeThe Undiscovered Country or First Contact. As its own film, separate from the series, it is a fun, space action movie. I will give it that. It is a good adventure and a better than average popcorn movie but we’ve seen this all before and done much better.

In retrospect, I’m pretty happy with most of the casting. I never liked the idea of anyone else ever playing the original crew but that bad idea is salvaged fairly well with most of the cast choices. I like Pine as Kirk, Quinto as Spock and Urban as Bones. However, I just don’t see how they will ever have the chemistry that Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley had. But since this series was cancelled after the third film, I guess we’ll never see what develops between the three men over the long haul.

But this film also diminishes McCoy’s importance, as the relationship they focus on is just between Kirk and Spock and not the trinity we all came to love on the original television show and the movies of the ’80s. And that’s a shame, really, as I love Karl Urban’s commitment to the McCoy character. He just nails it so well. I think he actually understands the role much more than Abrams, the man behind the camera.

I’m probably coming off as harsh but I’m just calling it like I see it. I did enjoy revisiting this, as it was a quick paced, exciting film. It did have some heart in the moments where Leonard Nimoy, as the older Spock, came into the story. But it did lack the right sort of emotion to make me feel for these characters.

do like this for the most part but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just a framework for something that could have been richer and more intimate. A lot of the pieces to this puzzle were good and while some connected, it’s as if the filmmakers gave up about halfway through and just threw all the pieces back into the box.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Kelvin timeline Star Trek films: Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.

Film Review: Reality Bites (1994)

Release Date: January, 1994 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Written by: Helen Childress
Music by: Karl Wallinger
Cast: Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, Swoosie Kurtz, Joe Don Baker, John Mahoney, Renee Zellweger, Andy Dick, Keith David, David Spade (uncredited), Anthony Robbins (uncredited), Jeanne Tripplehorn (uncredited)

Jersey Films, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t navigate me. I may do mean things, and I may hurt you, and I may run away without your permission, and you may hate me forever, and I know that scares the living shit outta you ’cause you know I’m the only real thing you got.” – Troy Dyer

This was a coming of age movie that I loved when it came out back in 1994. Watching it nearly a quarter of a century later, I hate most of these characters and just see them as the typical “I’m such a cool counterculture ’90s slacker” type. But the reality is, I watched this film about struggling twentysomethings before I was even twenty. Now, being in my thirties and having survived my twenties, it has a very different effect on me now.

All the philosophical rantings are just nonsense. However, what I may have thought were good points when I was an angsty teenager (but I laugh at now) can’t simply be dismissed as shitty dialogue. If anything, this film is a product of ’90s Generation X culture. It certainly isn’t an inaccurate portrayal of it. These ideas, these philosophies and the living hypocrisy of those who espoused it was real. It’s what a big portion of that generation felt and how they saw the world, as they entered it as adults with a very different point-of-view than their Baby Boomer parents.

If anything, this film serves as a real time capsule to the ’90s. And really, are these young people different than those of other generations?

Everything I’m saying isn’t really criticism, it’s just my understanding of these things now. Sure, every young person thought Ethan Hawke was cool in this movie and Winona Ryder was sort of this elven looking ’90s girl next door that everyone was crushing on hard. However, seen outside of twentysomething eyes, they’re not likable characters. They’re selfish, narcissistic, egotistical and complete hypocrites. I couldn’t find myself cheering for them to make it as a couple. In my thirties, I found that I was more interested in Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn’s characters, as they actually had more interesting stories, seemed more grounded and were infinitely more likable. I knew that they would turn out okay.

Going back and seeing the things I wrote or put on social media when I was in my twenties is always a cringe worthy experience. So I can’t imagine what these characters would think now, looking back at the documentary Ryder’s Lelaina was creating out of their lives. I hope they all evolved well beyond where they were at this point in their lives.

Primarily, the point of this film is to show what it is like for Gen Xers to be leaving college and trying to make it in the real world. Yeah, it’s tough out there, we all get that if we’ve lived through it without uber rich parents. But that is where I can relate to the film. And also because these were people that weren’t too dissimilar from my friends at the same age. Those who I am still friends with evolved and grew into better people. Those I am no longer friends with stayed the same and still rant on about the same crap that neither makes them cool anymore and just makes them come off as poorly aged turds.

But I still like this movie. I like it because it actually is accurate… scarily accurate. Ben Stiller did a good job behind the camera, especially since he had to split his time with acting duties in this as well. But it is kind of sad to relive life through the experiences of these fictitious characters, now realizing that we were all full of shit.

We had high hopes, all this optimism, we thought we’d change the world and fix the wrongs of our parents generation. However, our parents thought the same thing and so did their parents. “Down with consumerism!” “Hey, let’s order Domino’s!” “Don’t be a fucking sellout, man!” “Hey, some major network wants to buy my show!” And in the end, the world is the same. Maybe a bit worse, actually.

This is definitely more of an analysis of this film’s philosophies and characters and less of an actual review but whatever. I can write what I want because I’m not selling my soul to some corporate sponsored publisher that murders whales and dumps crude oil on the heads of Third World infants, maaan!

Someone pointed out to me that the script was written by a 19 year-old girl. Of course it was. Granted, props to her 19 year-old self (who would be in her forties now) for accomplishing such a feat. Seriously. It’s a film that felt truly authentic. It sadly just shows you that young people mostly suck because life hasn’t made them better yet.

I kind of think Troy just stayed a total starving artist douchebag though. And despite the “happy” ending, he probably still sneaked out the next morning.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: SinglesSubUrbiaEmpire RecordsS.F.W. and Clerks.

Film Review: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Also known as: Alien 4 (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1997 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Kim Flowers, Raymond Cruz, Dominique Pinon, Leland Orser

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 109 Minutes, 116 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[voiceover] My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.” – Ripley

Alien: Resurrection is a film that shouldn’t have been made. At least not in its existing form. Ripley died but they bring Weaver back as some sort of clone made from her DNA that conveniently has her memories and is basically Ripley. It’s a terrible f’n attempt at keeping the franchise’s star at the forefront instead of just moving in a new direction, which was needed but didn’t happen until 2012’s Prometheus.

For the most part, this is a terrible film that at least has some good actors and a few cool bits in it. The stuff featuring Brad Dourif and his xenomorph captives is pretty well done. I also liked the look of the standard xenomorphs in this chapter.

People everywhere love Joss Whedon like he’s some sort of golden boy. Well, he wrote this script and the story and this is one of the prime examples I give when battling it out with Whedon fanboys. Did he have a few good ideas, sure. However, even the good ideas were pretty unrefined and made this feel more like a fan fiction fantasy than anything that fits cohesively within the already established Alien mythos.

The Ripley stuff was just dumb, the human/xenomorph hybrid was strange and bizarre and not in a good way and the whole tale just seemed like a pointless side story in some pocket of the Alien universe where I just didn’t care about a single character or their mission, even if Earth itself was in imminent danger.

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t care about anyone. I like Weaver, Ryder, Perlman, Dourif and Wincott a lot. They have all done things that have spoke to me and had me invested in their characters. I don’t in any way blame them, I blame Whedon’s weak script and the director, who was the first in the franchise that I am not even remotely familiar with. Okay, upon checking he did Amélie but that was after this and I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t judge it. I kind of liked it back in 2001 or so, though.

Alien: Resurrection is an example of a major studio turning a property into their whore that has to keep turning tricks to keep making the pimp money.

The underwater sequence was kind of cool, so I do give this film some props for that. Usually underwater stuff comes off as terrible. But then, maybe this film should’ve focused on its strength and taken place entirely underwater. I’m being facetious, that would’ve been shitty.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other films in the Alien franchise but this one is one of the weakest.

TV Review: Stranger Things (2016- )

Original Run: July 15th, 2016 – current
Created by: The Duffer Brothers
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Mac Quayle, Heather Heywood, Alexis Martin Woodall
Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser, Maya Hawke

21 Laps Entertainment, Monkey Massacre, Netflix, 17 Episodes (so far), 42-62 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I became a really big fan of Stranger Things the moment I watched the first episode, last year. I wanted to review it after season one but I decided to wait until after the second season, at least. Reason being, as great as this was from the start, greatness has a really hard time maintaining over the long haul. I wanted a larger sample size but now I’ve gotten it.

So now that I have seen season two and know that I’m halfway through the series, as The Duffer Brothers have said it will end with season four, I thought now was a good time to talk about what is currently one of my favorite shows. In fact, out of what’s on TV in 2017, this and Mr. Robot are the only shows that I really even care about on more than a casual level.

The thing is, Stranger Things, at least by the end of season two, has done the impossible. The show has maintained its greatness. The high precedent set by the first season was not a fluke, Stranger Things 2, as they call this season, is on the level. It may even surpass it, to be honest.

A quality that the show has that others don’t, is that it doesn’t constantly churn out a set number of episodes. The Duffer Brothers don’t want to be confined in that way. They write the story and however many episodes they need to tell it, is what they make. It isn’t a show bogged down by filler episodes or dragging its ass because more episodes mean more advertising revenue. I hope all other streaming shows follow suit and realize that this is probably the best way to present a show. I mean imagine if a movie just introduced a random character out of nowhere and then distracted you for a significant amount of time, disrupting the overall narrative? (*cough – Matt Damon in Interstellar)

I’ve never been a big fan of kid actors, especially in ensembles. It barely ever works out but the 1980s were a strange decade where a lot of child ensemble films just worked. This show is a true throwback to that because these kids are magic together. And maybe we’re coming into some child actor renaissance, as It also featured a great young ensemble cast. That film also featured Finn Wolfhard from this show, so maybe he is a magic ingredient.

Stranger Things is three parts 80s Stephen King, two parts John Carpenter, one part The Goonies, one part Monster Squad, one part E.T. with a John Hughes floater. This is probably why it is such a popular show with people my age, those of us who were the age of these kids in the same decade it takes place. The show also resonates with a younger generation too but that’s probably because this is a real 80s throwback and the 80s were infinitely cooler than today’s pop culture. Hopefully, the show’s popularity has inspired younger people to look at this show’s influences because I’d rather watch anything this is an homage to than Scream Queens or the television remakes of Teen Wolf or Scream.

This is a stupendous show. Really, it’s fucking amazing and even that feels like an understatement. It was a breath of fresh air that entered our pop culture scene a year ago and hopefully, stays fresh over its upcoming final two seasons. If not, I’ll have to adjust my rating and express my loss of enthusiasm. But, at the midway mark, it deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Rating: 9.25/10

Film Review: Homefront (2013)

Release Date: November 27th, 2013
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Based on: Homefront by Chuck Logan
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Rachelle Lefevre, Frank Grillo, Clancy Brown, Izabela Vidovic, Pruitt Taylor Vince

Millennium Films, Nu Image, Endgame Releasing, Open Road Films, 100 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2013.

“Whatever you’re thinking, rethink it.” – Phil Broker

Jason Statham. James Franco.

Both men locked in eternal combat for bayou supremacy.

Well, not really. But what we do have here is two awesome badasses going head-to-head in a story of redneck revenge and bayou justice.

The down side for me was that there really wasn’t enough Statham versus Franco action. The trailer for this film had me thinking that Franco was some sick meth-cooking redneck and that Statham was the dude who had to put him down. In the end, it sort of happened that way but the plot leading up to that point was very layered and there was a lot going on that made the film not as black and white as I had anticipated it being. Of course, this was somewhat of a delight.

Frank Grillo shows up and plays a badass shitbag, which is something he has mastered between this and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There were also appearances by Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, The Kurgan himself Clancy Brown and a few other noteworthy actors.

The film was written by Sylvester Stallone, which I didn’t know until I saw it. The script felt like it was written by Stallone as it had that one-dimensional tough dude dialogue that is 50 percent awesome and 50 percent cheesy. For instance, when one baddie steps up to Statham, our hero utters, “Whatever you’re thinking, rethink it.” Man, I can almost hear John Rambo saying that to a cop about to give him a DUI.

Also, what’s up with Statham. I like the guy but even when he plays an American, he still talks like British ass Jason Statham. Dude doesn’t even try to do an American accent. Then again, it is Jason fucking Statham. I like to pretend that in every film, he is the same character and he’s using different aliases and the other characters in his films just haven’t picked up on the fact that he has a British accent.

I liked this film overall. It wasn’t a classic and will probably be forgettable to me after I do a few shots but it provided me with a better than decent time for just under two hours.

Rating: 6.75/10