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Now and Then (1995)
Young and experienced talents carry the film well
I have heard so many people refer to this film as a female version of "Stand by Me." Yes, I see similarities between the two films, mainly along the lines of friendship, growing up, family issues, the dead, and drifting apart with age. But I must say like "Now and Then" better. Some parts are cheesy, but it has a great message and is timeless.
Four childhood friends: Samantha, Roberta, Tina, and Chrissy make a pact one summer to be there for one another when needed. Twenty five years later, they all reunite in their hometown for the birth of Chrissy's baby. As 12-year-olds in the summer of 1970, they dealt with issues such as divorce, the war in Vietnam, ambition for stardom and wealth, local bullies, and a murder mystery. They had each other when their families were absent or indifferent to them. They promised to be there for each other through the good and the bad, no matter what happened in life. They fulfill their promise, but how have they changed? Will they remain close through it all?
While the adult actors: Demi Moore, Rosie O'Donnell, Melanie Griffith, and Rita Wilson provide great opening and closure to the film, it is the young actors who carry its weight. Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, and Ashleigh Aston Moore, respectively, play their roles with genuine believability. They have their limitations, but who doesn't? We are led to believe that somehow, they will succeed. An elderly man tells it best to one of them: Things will happen to you in your life that you can't control, but don't shut out the world around you. Life is not always fair, and we all have to grow up. But the film is a great reminder that in a cynical day and age, our friends are not lost!
The Breakfast Club (1985)
One of the best portrayals of adolescent life ever done
John Hughes is in my opinions the "king of teens." Each of his teen films is great, from "Sixteen Candles", "Pretty in Pink" (which he co-wrote and produced), and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." They all have funny and serious moments and are classics. By the same token, "The Breakfast Club" is no exception. However, it stands out as doing the best job of the above films at portraying 80s teen life (and perhaps even teen life today) as it really was (is). Hence the familiar plot: Five high school students from different crowds in school (a nerd, a jock, a prom queen, a delinquent, and a loner) are thrown together for a Saturday detention in their school library for various reasons. Detention is supervised by the gruff and demeaning principal Richard Vernon, believably portrayed by Paul Gleason. As the day progresses, each member tells the story of why they are in detention, and by day's end they realize they have more in common than they ever imagined.
What makes the film unique is that each character tells his or her own story with credibility and persistence. Jock Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) is under pressure from his father to perform up to high standards, which Mr. Clark believes will add to his (dad's) lost youth. Nerd Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) excels academically, but is failing shop class. Neither he nor his family can accept an F. Delinquent John Bender (Judd Nelson), while tough on the exterior, masks a difficult home life. Prom queen Claire(Molly Ringwald) has pressure to conform from her friends, as well as issues with her parental unit. Loner Allison (Ally Sheedy) has few if any friends, wears all black, and has similar problems at home. Can the emotional bonding they share in detention hold true beyond the library, and can stereotypes be broken?
"The Breakfast Club" presents no-doubt stereotypical characters, and every member represents countless real-life examples. But what makes it so enjoyable is that applies a variety of themes to its context: prejudice/discrimination, acceptance/tolerance, diversity, class/status differences, family matters, group dynamics, etc. It also encourages us to look at others and ourselves beyond surface-level appearances. Finally, "The Breakfast Club" has great 1980s pop culture and societal integrations, from the soundtrack with Simple Minds "Don't You (Forget about Me), to wealthy, surburban American life (haves and have nots), and superficial values of the "me" decade. It reminds us that there truly is diversity in all of us. We are different, but we are all "the same" in one way or another.
A terrific comedy/fantasy and great early role for Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks earned his first Oscar nomination in the late 1980s with the Penny Marshall comedy/fantasy "Big." I saw it for the first time when I was about 9, and have loved it ever since. I like how it is aimed at both the kid and adult in all of us!
Young Josh Baskin (David Moscow) goes with his family to a carnival one evening, and sees the girl of his dreams. When he finally works up the nerve to talk to her, her date appears with her. Then, he does not meet the height requirement for the roller coaster ride he wants to go on. So, off he goes to a deserted part of the carnival to the "Zoltar" machine, a devil's head encased in glass, to "make his wish." He wishes he "were big." Suffice it to say, Josh wakes up the next morning to discover he is an adult (Tom Hanks). Mom (Mercedes Ruehl) thinks he kidnapped her son, and calls the police. Josh eventually convinces best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) that he (Josh) is his true 13-year-old self trapped in a man's body. They take off to New York, where Josh manages to get a job as a product tester for a large toy company. He befriends the boss (Robert Loggia), who likes Josh's understanding of the toys kids really like. However, Josh finds himself at odds with Paul (John Heard), vice president of marketing, who perceives Josh's simplistic views as an invasion of Paul's more experienced, competitive ways. Never fear, as successful co-worker Susan Lawerence (Elizabeth Perkins) finds comfort in Josh's views and company, and falls in love with him. But the more Josh experiences the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood, the more he longs for his youth again. Should he stay with Susan or find the Zoltar machine and wish to be a kid again?
An impressive film about growing up and making wishes. When you're a kid, you can't wait to grow up. But when you're an adult, you have to make sacrifices and accept responsibility, ideal and not-so-ideal. Also, be careful what you wish for, as you might get it! A Broadway musical version of "Big" opened in the mid-1990s. The piano dancing sequence is its trademark. I had the privilege to play the role of Paul (the John Heard character) in a summer musical production, and loved it! I highly recommend both the film and the musical!
A great story and dance musical
Of all dance films, "Footloose" ranks up there with "Dirty Dancing." It is a great film with an excellent Top 40 soundtrack. It was later made into a highly successful Broadway musical. But the story really makes the film a hit.
Kevin Bacon is Ren McCormick, a Chicago teenager who moves with his mother to a small Midwestern town called Bomont after his father leaves. Bomont is a conservative, Bible belt community run by Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow). As the new kid, Ren is seen as a rebel and has difficulty fitting in to the straight-laced ways of Bomont, including a ban on dancing. Things get complicated when he takes up with Ariel (Lori Singer), the minister's daughter. Shaw will not hear of this because Ren "is a troublemaker." Furthermore, Ren decides the high school should throw a dance, and the town should reverse the no-dancing law! As one can guess, this will be difficult if not impossible. Shaw Moore will do everything in his power to keep the law in place, because dancing "is a sin." Amidst this, wife Vi (Dianne Wiest), while supportive of her husband, feels Shaw has drifted away from the family-oriented man he once was, and longs for these days again. Throw in there a humorous subplot involving Willard (Chris Penn), who doesn't know how to dance and befriends Ren. Can Ren convince Shaw Moore and Bomont that a dance will bring not only renewed freedom of expression, but also emotional and spiritual healing?
"Footloose" is a story that could have taken place, as there are some, however few, real-life communities like Bomont. But the testament of the story rests in the lead's ability to do something different: challenge the ways of the church and the town for a chance at a better life. The soundtrack provides excellent support with Pop/Rock, R & B, and slow ballads. Combine the drama and musical genres, and you have one great story for the stage and screen.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
A hilarious and relevant film at the same time
Robin Williams is one of the funniest comedians of all time, and "Mrs. Doubtfire" is no exception. Williams is able to be funny and serious without going overboard. Sally Field and his co-stars carry the film quite well in their own unique way also, which is why I believe so many people enjoy it.
Daniel Hillard (Williams) is a loving and devoted father but is always moving between acting jobs. One irresponsible incident proves one too many for wife Miranda (Field), and she files for divorce. She wins sole custody of the children: Lydia, Chris, and Natalie. But Daniel is given visitation rights only on Saturdays. Then, Miranda reveals she is placing a newspaper ad for a housekeeper. In order to have a chance for the job, Daniel must transform himself into "Mrs. Doubtfire", a British nanny, and don a wig, glasses, lots of makeup, padding, high heels, and a British accent. Mirands hires "Doubtfire" on the spot, and the kids grow to love "her." But how long will it be before the cat gets out of the bag? Also, how will Miranda's relationship with Stu (Pierce Brosnan), her new beau, progress?
You have to see it to believe it. I thought it was funny when it came out back in 1993, and I still do! This is a great film with a message about the pains of divorce, and working through it to become better people and parents. A reminder that no one is perfect, but that love somehow prevails!
The Goonies (1985)
The best adventure movie of all time
I have been a fan of "The Goonies" since I was about 5 years old. I taped 2 different copies on cable, then bought it on home video, and finally on DVD. I have to say the DVD and its bonus features (i.e. deleted scenes, a "Making of The Goonies" featurette, current audio commentary with Donner and the actors, etc) are excellent!
Mikey, Brand, Chunk, Mouth, Data, Andy, and Stef follow a map and go searching for buried treasure via caves and waterfalls in an abandoned restaurant along the Oregon coast. They do this because they believe it (the treasure of legendary pirate One Eyed Willie) will save their homes from being torn down by land developers who want to build an upscale golf course. The problem is that a group of ex-convicts (the Fratellis) also want the treasure, and are using the abandoned restaurant as a hideout. Moreover, the Fratellis will crush anything and anyone in the way of their goals. Can the Goonies find the treasure before its too late?
I must say "The Goonies" has it all: stereotypical but likable characters, awesome visual and sound effects via Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner, and Industrial Light and Magic, as well as integrations of 1980s pop culture (Cyndi Lauper's "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough", Mouth wearing Prince's "Purple Rain" shirt, etc). Product placement is also highly evident: Baby Ruth, Rocky Road, Domino's Pizza. The sets, costumes, and props are wonderful as well (I have a Hawaiian shirt similar to the one Chunk wears). If you are a child of the 1980s, "The Goonies" is a must see! It truly brings out the kid in you!
Christmas Vacation (1989)
Has to be by far the best of all the "Vacation" movies
I have to say that "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is the funniest and best of all the "Vacation" movies with Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Randy Quaid. The Griswold's really have a knack for making the best of bad and hilariously funny situations. This is what makes it so enjoyable in my opinion.
Both Clark and Ellen's families visit the Griswold's at home for the holidays. In a nutshell, everything that could possibly go wrong pretty much does, from an overcrowded house, to divided and contemptuous relatives, rude neighbors, uncaring bosses, and mishaps with Christmas decorations and foods. In the end, Clark sets out to prove to his family the true meaning of Christmas. You have to see it to believe it.
Everyone shines, from the Griswold kids (Lewis and Galecki are hilarious), to the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and significant others. A great film to be enjoyed each holiday season!
A true and hilarious slice of life
I must say that "Roseanne" has got to be by far one of my all-time favorite television sitcoms. I watched it for its entire run on ABC from 1988 to 1997, and still watch it in reruns on Nick at Nite. It was a welcome departure from most family sitcoms of the time (i.e. Full House, Family Matters, The Cosby Show). While interesting and diverse (I watched them sometimes), these shows often lacked the portrayal of the typically less than ideal realities of everyday life. "Roseanne" was different in that it showed, to the extent possible, people as they really are. It proved that working class people and families can make you laugh. They don't have to be rich, blond, and thin to be funny.
Roseanne Barr plays Roseanne Conner, a hard-working, sarcastic, but lovable wife and mother who is never short of "telling it like it is." John Goodman plays her husband Dan Conner, tough but lovable to mom and the kids. Oldest daughter Becky is the most rebellious and loves boys. Middle child Darlene is the tomboy, and takes after Roseanne with her sarcastic wit. Youngest child DJ takes after his father. Along for the ride is Roseanne's younger unmarried sister, Jackie, played by Laurie Metcalf. While intelligent and well-meaning like Roseanne, Jackie is much more naive and gullible. Other characters include Crystal, who later marries Dan's father Ed. Roseanne and Jackie's mother Bev, the domineering, passive-aggressive guru, is a recurring character. Among many others, we also have Becky's boyfriend and later husband Mark, Darlene's boyfriend David, friend Nancy (Sandra Bernhard), and Roseanne's boss at the restaurant, Leon (Martin Mull). Jackie later gives birth to son Andy, and Roseanne and Dan have a son Jerry.
Over the years, Roseanne and Dan face many challenges that keep them on their toes. They bounce from one job to another before landing modest steady employment. Becky challenges them the most, especially when it comes to Mark. Darlene is similar when it comes to David. DJ keeps somewhat in the background in the early years, but becomes more prominent as he gets older. Jackie has many different careers and relationships, sometimes bizarre. The Conners lose more than they win, but through it all they "get by." This is why I enjoyed the show so much. It showed that life does not always go the way we want it to, unlike a lot of other shows, and we have to deal with this. But somehow we get by too!
While I did not enjoy the last season as much (it was too far removed from it's original objective), it still ranks up there on my list of favorites. People of all races, ethnicities, ability levels, creeds, sizes, orientations, etc are just like us. This is how life is and truly should be!
I Am Sam (2001)
Brilliant piece of acting and film-making
I first saw "I Am Sam" with a friend almost three years ago, and I thought it was wonderful. Sean Penn got the chance to do something different here: rise to the challenge of playing a father with mental retardation. To do this well, one must temporarily "put away" him/her self and "put on" his/her character. Like Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump" and Dustin Hoffmann in "Rain Man", this film has a similar effect.
Sean Penn plays Sam Dawson, a single father with the IQ of a 7-year-old. The mother, believed to be a homeless woman, abandoned him and his daughter when the daughter was born. He names his daughter Lucy, after the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." He raises her on Starbucks coffee wages for some time. She is obviously very bright, and exceeds most expectations in school. But when she turns 7 herself, it's obvious she is avoiding doing well so that she won't appear to be more advanced than her father. This arouses the concern of school personnel and social services, who take Lucy away and place her in foster care. With the help of Sam's friends/roommates, co-workers, and high-priced, tough-nosed, lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), he works to get Lucy back. But it won't be easy. The courts do everything they can to prove Sam has nothing close to the intelligence and skills required to raise Lucy successfully. He and Lucy believe "Love is all you need", however. To add to this, Rita has her own problems at home. Sam sets out to help her see things differently, and in the process learn more about herself. Dakota Fanning shines as Lucy. Also, Dianne Wiest has a small supporting role as a neighbor who defends Sam's love for Lucy.
I recommend "I Am Sam" for everyone. In our increasingly diverse and inclusive society, those with mental challenges are people too. They deserve as much of a chance as possible in the "real world", even with assistance. Everyone is "gifted" in one way or another, and must show it. Kudos to the incredible acting and film-making.
Mr. Mom (1983)
One of my family's all-time favorities
Of all comedies that I have seen in my 23 years, "Mr. Mom" has got to be one of the best and funniest of them all. I have been a fan of this movie since I was about 4 years old! To be exact, I think I taped three different copies on cable and network until I bought it on video and finally on DVD!
Michael Keaton plays Jack Butler, who, along with several co-workers, loses his job at an auto plant due to layoffs. To make ends meet, wife Caroline (Teri Garr) gets a job at an advertising agency, and he stays home with the kids. Easy, right? Absolutely not! From out of control vacuum cleaners, washing machines and toasters, to the neighborhood ladies, including Joan (Ann Jillian), who has her eye on Jack, running the household is horrendous. On top of this, Caroline is climbing the corporate ladder. But success comes with a price in the form of long hours, travel, and persistence from boss Ron (Martin Mull), who sets his sights on Caroline. Can Jack and Caroline keep the family together despite these woes?
It is my belief that "Mr. Mom" is one of the best comedies of all time, and features Michael Keaton and Teri Garr at their best. People of all ages should see this movie. It shows how successful familial role revearsals have the power to be, and demonstrates how to challenge previous stereotypes about career and family. A great film not to be missed!