Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) [review]

This is a pure joy to watch as we not only have Ferris himself go through all we wished we could at that age. There is also Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) and Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) who come along for the ride. Although, I do see them just as much a perfect part of what we enjoy here. The three of them are a great trio and there is a perfect dynamic between them. Although, there are moments which it feels Ferris comes across as a user when it comes to Cameron. There is a monologue to camera in which Ferris realises that after leaving school, the pair will probably find themselves no longer in each other’s company, that it may not be the strongest of friendships after all.

Ferris being the kind of person willing to take chances and take his closest friends with him, showing them there is more to life than has been preached to them by older generations… by those who have been jaded by what their lives have become.

Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) is the perfect jealous sister who finds it hard to let go of the idea that her brother is excellent at getting away with so much. Throughout the day she tries to prove that he is not as perfect as people think he is. Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is great, knowing that Ferris is up to something, and therefore goes out of his way to prove what he knows.

When it comes to John Hughes films, especially his 1980s work, he managed to write teen films in ways which were relatable and did not treat the character or audience as some kind of creature that anybody over the age of twenty one must look down upon.

The film very nicely takes us through a day in the lives of those involved, with many gloriously funny moments, touching moments and ideas of what we should not lose as we grow up. Sad to say that life can take the joy out of us if we let it. This is a perfect reminder that we can take life too seriously and we should try to enjoy our lives when we can, do not take it all for granted and take a day off and enjoy yourself. It’s not as much hard work as we’ve let ourselves believe… at least not all the time.

So, if you get the chance, take a look at this film, remind yourself of its brilliance and let it jog your memory of your younger days,  let it rub off on you, behave like the rules should be at least bent.

Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981) [review]

 

Being somebody who has enjoyed many of James Cameron’s films, I’d like to say more favourable things about this film than I feel I will… maybe the fact that some of the stories of the making of this film are more entertaining than what we see on screen, stories which explains why this film suffers in ways which it shouldn’t.

This may be credited as a James Cameron film, but clearly there are scenes which do not look to be in his style and seem a little sloppy, nor do they seem to be his sense of humour. Ovidio G. Assonitis is an unaccredited co-director of this, which I can only imagine that those scenes which look to be more humorous or feel a little more European, feel to be more like his handiwork.

Not to say they are bad, maybe funny for the wrong reasons in that they feel out of place in this film and could benefited from being edited out into some other film. Which may sound like this is a terrible watch, but there is something entertainment here, mainly for how the film doesn’t really fit that well together in its atmosphere that jumps back and forth in trying to figure out which genre it wants or should be. It is not a film which blends any of the genres well.

James Cameron giving us his trade make strong female lead in Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O’Neil) is great to see that this element was in his work from the start. But the relationship with her son Chris Kimbrough (Rick Paull Goldin) does seem a little off once you realise they are mother and son. Her relationship with husband Police Chief Steven Kimbrough (Lance Hendriksen) does seem a little clichéd these days, but is still enjoyable.

This sequel sadly suffers from some ideas that seem too ridicules, which are trying to heighten the tension or reason to care for those we see on screen. The supposed scares are deflated in moments in which those emotions are supposed to exist, and maybe you’ll find yourself with a smile on your face or laughing due to the fact that the makers of this tried to go a step further than the original. In the hope of not simply remaking the original… but I’d say this is more to do with the ideas of the writers of the script than the directors.

Unfortunately this looks a little silly and falls flat on its face in certain places. This really is a film which you should shut your mind off and not really care whether or not characters survive or if they find themselves injured. If you do care, it is bare minimal, which leads to this film being fun without  having tension.

Piranha (1978) [review]

This is a film of the late seventies that has a charm which I’ve enjoyed since I caught it on late night TV one night back in the early 1990s… much too young to be staying up that late or watching this, but finding something oddly enchanting about it.

The story is a simple one of piranha set lose into a river by mistake, only to see the locals and holiday visitors being ravaged by the meat eating fish who have been enhanced by science. Although this does have the ideals of those who are coming up against the power hungry and greedy for whatever money they can lay their hands upon.

With a fabulous female lead, Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies-Urich) who is not only capable of looking after herself, has a charm which draws us into caring and hoping for her survivle. In fact, Joe Dante brought out the best in a cast who play their parts nicely. Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) reluctant to help at first, after hiding away in his cabin, as he finds no reason to be back in the world, to Dr Menger (Barbara Steel) a scientist who can’t help but put what she wants before the lives of those who find themselves in harm’s way due to original mistake of the good guys. To Buck Gardner (Dick Miller) a local businessman who’s out to make money and having little regard for those who work for him or his customers.

While it is a simple idea, there are pieces which seem to hold this together perfectly. Characters we like, those we don’t and a comment of two on what we take for granted and what it is we value as humans. All the while this is a film which does it nicely without trying to be something to over think, but have fun with. We enjoy the characters and situation and have a ride which has an atmosphere which seems to be missing in many modern films of the twenty first century. This is the kind of film which Joe Dante did so well… sadly something which the makers of “Piranha 3D” (2010) did not achieve.

This is not a glossy overproduced film and has the feel that the makers did the best with what they had, using their imagination and talent to create something which is still enjoyable to this day. Something which can be said about many a Roger Corman produced film.

Once again, this is a film which has a Pino Donaggio score that plays nicely in the film.

Escape from L.A. (1996) [review]

While this does have the usual sequel problems; there are so few, to the point where we have a film which is almost as enjoyable as the original. There are many of the original behind the camera crew returning, which helps a great deal. John Carpenter returning to direct and co-write the film, Debra Hill producing and this time co-writing with Carpenter and Kurt Russell… Hill and Russell taking over the co-writing duties from Nick Castle who co-wrote the original with Carpenter. Which of course does give this a different feel than the first… but then again, there are also many years between this and the original and everybody is, obviously older and thinking a little differently.

This does talk about those situations which need to be talked about, from Hollywood itself to those in power of the country to many other subjects. At least the parts of those subjects which need to be considered and brought out into the light. Like the first film this is set many years after it was released, coming out in 1996, this film is set in 2013. As we are post 2013, it is interesting to see what the filmmakers thought the world would become.

We may not have become a place which looks as the world physically does in this film, but I’m sure this film predicted what the world would become in intelligence and depth of who we are in our current state.

Like the original film this is a joy to watch, entertaining us with all that is on offer. The main fault with this film is the 1990s CGI which was in its early years and not perfect, therefore it  is very noticeable in ways which can be mildly distracting. This is less practical in its effects than the first film and the glossy CGI reduces some of the charm of what we have here. But we can only put that down to the decade which did not have the best version of the technology in that visual department… at least when it came to this film.

This does have a brilliant cast that is full of well known actors and actresses, some giving great performances. While enjoying  this film, there is the fact that there is at least one scene that seems a little out of place; which gets the reaction from Map to the Stars Eddie (Steve Buscemi) it deserves, a scene which features Snake and Pipeline (Peter Fonda). There is no such thing as a perfect film, and I’m not sure if there should be. This is a sequel which is enjoyable, but lacks a little of what made the original great… but saying that, this is still worth your time. Any flaws are small and do not take away too much from what is still generally a brilliant and enjoyable film.

Escape from New York (1981) [review]

This really is one of the classics of the 1980s which is a pure joy to watch, with a fantastic lead character such as Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) being one which does not fail at being one of the greatest, possible the coolest to exist. One which seems to have the morality which does not seem to give a damn about what those around him think. Although he maybe a man who is out for himself, he is a man who has a conscious and does not need to be told how to use it.

John Carpenter certainly knew how to create characters and situations which not only enthralled us in why we should care for what we see, there is also a comment on the world as it is, how he thought it was and was becoming. Released in 1981 but set in 1997, this film had no problem pointing out our faults as a human race,  in how our leaders think of themselves and the people they govern… and how those living normal lives and what has to be done to get through their lives and survive.

The President (Donald Pleasence) being a man in power and the leader of American who has found himself in a situation of  being among those he presumes to be beneath him. There is Snake who, is not necessarily trying to save the world, but finds himself pulled into a situation which he can’t escape, and therefore finds that life has taken him on the path of coming into contact with all kinds of people; who may or may not be in the prison system for the right reason.

Part of the journey in this film is considering whether or not those we see in this film are actually in the right place… or, if it is a world trying to tell people which way they should live and must conform or be punished if they, in the eyes of those in power, step out of line. This is something I’ve always enjoyed about John Carpenter’s films in which he has written along with directing them.

There is an underlining substance which gives the viewer something to think about. It is our choice to be aware of what is being said while being entertained for the brilliance of this action Sci-Fi film; that is extremely enjoyable and fun.

Once again, the score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is fantastic. Along with John Carpenter’s partnership with producer Debra Hill which worked so perfectly on this and other classics the two collaborated on.

Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (1987) [review]

While this is certainly not on the same level as the original, there is still some fun to be had with this film, even if and when the jokes come in, they are a little predictable and sometimes fall flat at times. There are some moments which you will have a laugh but sadly the jokes lack the impact of those in the first film.

It is one of those films which the company saw what they had with the original film, but didn’t really know how to create something which had as much atmosphere, chemistry between the characters or know how to deal with what the original did so well.

This is much more on the surface and makes a quick joke without really thinking about it. With different writers and a different director, the tone of the film has shifted to a place where it feels like the company had more control than they should have.  It feels more… phoney than I’d like, money grab on what fans loved about the first film so much.

But this film is not total rubbish; it has its moments of being entertaining, and somewhat fun for just under an hour and a half. There are a couple of jokes which the makers reuse from the first film. Pointdexter’s (Timothy Busfield) eye sight being one which isn’t really done in a way that comes close to being done as well in this film.

Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) is not a big part of this film, which is part of the chemistry problem of what we have here. But maybe Anthony Edwards did not like what he saw in the script and chose to only return if he could have very little to do with it. Plus, there is the obvious reminder of a character from the first film which I guess the actress chose not to return at all, and we only glimpse a photo of her… Betty Childs (Julia Montgomery).

There are a couple of hints of scenes going where we’ve been before, but change course at the last moment, as if the makers are trying to prove that they are not just rehashing scenes we loved in the original, merely hinting at them as if we needed reminding of what we loved so much about the previous film and why we should watch this sequel.

This is certainly a sequel that could have been better, but, simultaneously, it is not the worst follow up you’ll come across. But I think that the makers were a little too lazy to truly give us something which we really deserved… and a little too greedy to let the first film be a standalone classic.

Revenge of the Nerds (1984) [review]

I have returned to this film many times and I still enjoy it… however many times it is I’ve viewed it now. Maybe it’s the outsider element of the main characters that brings me back time and again, maybe it’s the 1980s humour that may seem a little out of place these days.

Maybe you’ll be offended by some of the clichés of sexuality or colour. Maybe we’re a little too beyond this kind of humour to enjoy the simplicity of what was happening here. This film shows us that it is not only the intelligence of the nerds of the title of the film, which we side with and want to see overcome the persecution of the less than open minded bullies of this. We’re also on the side of those who are of different colour and the gay characters.

This is much more than one type of person being hurled abuse at due to who they are. The great part of this film is, that it does it with humour and does not apologise for  how people were in the 1980s, while making the bullies look like complete idiots for their less than open mindedness. While having a laugh at the ridiculousness of those who cannot look beyond their own beliefs while making other people’s lives a misery.

Along with this being a 1980s look at how people were; it also has the cloths of the time, along with the music and technology… which of course you’d expect. This is not a film that is beating you over the head with how you should think and feel about the subjects, but offers you the chance to consider it.

Which you may wonder how there can be a comedy on such a subject, but this is a film with a heart, with people coming together to stand up for themselves. This is a comedy that takes you on an experience that many of us have been through, those of us who are older, will look back and enjoy the fact that we’ve been through it and survived to see what has changed in the world and in our personal lives.

Enjoy the film for the laughs, the highs and lows of the characters, the friendships, loyalties and for realisations of where the characters find themselves at the end of the film. You will enjoy the film for the way it does and doesn’t takes itself seriously… which may be a hard concept to come to terms with without seeing the film.

This is a film which put the idea out there in the 1980s, in which we’re told it is good to be who you are, you should not be ashamed to be yourself and you should not hide it away in fear of those who would like to harm you for existing.