Weird Science (1985) [review]

Perhaps one of the greatest John Hughes films which is still as entertaining today as the year it was released.

A teenager’s versions of Frankenstein, as the two main males of this film are inspired by the 1931 Universal film which they’re watching one night over the weekend. This is a film of two characters who are outsiders, wishing they were more popular than they are as the only friends they have are each other. Even Wyatt’s (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) older brother Chet (Bill Paxton) treats him like rubbish. Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt are perfect for each other in that they seem so lost in being the outsiders, Gary the big dreamer while Wyatt is the down to earth type. When the two create Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), they find themselves the centre of attention in their young lives. The two bullies, Ian (Robert Downey Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler) are instantly interested in finding out what is going on, while Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judy Aronson) are beginning to find themselves frustrated with Max and Ian’s behaviour towards most people.

This is a great film for all of us who were the outsiders, who dreamed of better lives, of not being bullied and made to feel like losers for not being the so called norm… whatever that is.

We see two guys doing something with their lives, even if this is a fantasy version of what we could possibly do. Creating something and then finding themselves in situations which the pair had not thought out the possibilities and the consequences when they came up with the plan of creating Lisa. Of course this leads the two growing and finding that there is more to life than where they found themselves previously.

There are many situations and moments of this film which are brilliantly done, we laugh, we cringe, we cheer when we see Wyatt and Garry in certain moments.

John Hughes’ little moments of certain characters breaking the fourth wall is something which I always enjoyed about this film, in this film just a look to camera rather than the characters talking to the audience. This is a great teen film, a feel good and something which a fantastic watch. It may seem very 1980s, but that is one of the great plusses of the film, from the style of cloths, hair and music. This really is something teens of today will enjoy as much as those who watched this for the first time in the 1980s.


Sixteen Candles (1984) [review]

As many have said before, John Hughes certainly knew how to make teen films back in the 1980s and he knew teens are smarter and more capable than anybody over the age of twenty one would like to give them credit for. Which I feel many filmmakers have neglected to do when it comes to making films which the main characters are in their teens.

This films puts Samantha (Molly Ringwald) in the centre of the story of turning sixteen and finding herself surrounded not only by her family who are more bothered by her older sister’s wedding than caring about or remembering Samantha’s birthday. We are also treated to her fellow schoolmates who either want to try and prove themselves when it comes to sex or who is the coolest person, along with a cultural difference when it comes to the none American character.

This is a great look at nerds, the cool, the rich and the outsiders… all of whom are stuck together purely because they all go to the same school, whether they like it or not. We identify with at least one of the characters in the film, if it be Samantha, The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) or Jake (Michael Schowffing) or one of the many other characters along the way. We’ve all found ourselves being one of these people, even if they are exaggerations. Even if this is a 1980s movie, it still stands the test of time, the fashion may have changed over the years, but much of what happens here in this film happens today.

The soundtrack is another fantastic element to the film. John Hughes films seemed to pull a load of excellent tunes together and places them perfectly into the scenes. There are many brilliant scenes and moments in this films which will make you laugh and relate in some way.  I am one of many people who enjoyed this film back in the day and still watch now with a fondness for knowing that there are films and characters such as these.

John Hughes took the everyday situations and made them worth our time watching. So, if you get the chance to watch this, take it as this has something for everybody. Even if you wish to forget your teen years, there is something here which will remind you that there was some good in your teens, something you may even miss.

Uncle Buck (1989) [review]

John Hughes was the master of teen comedies in the 1980s and this is one of his great offerings. Although this does feel a little more as he was trying to see the situation from more than one generation when it came to whom we focus upon.

Of course we have the teen of Tia Russell (Jean Louisa Kelly) as quarter of the focus of the film, the others being Buck Russell (John Candy), Miles Russell (Macaulay Culkin) and Maizy Russell (Gaby Hoffmann), the latter two are perfect as the younger siblings. Maybe John Hughes presumed that those he’d been making films for, were now older and needed something a little different from his previous films, and more members of the family should be focused upon, rather than the individual or group of teens.

This has a great charm of looking at the situation of family, knowing that not everybody is going to look upon each other with fondness, not only with children and their parents, but family in general. Uncle Buck being so different from the rest of the family, he is normally kept at arms lengths… until he is the last option for the job.

Uncle Buck is a the kind of person who may look like a irresponsible individual, but then again, his lack of growing up is perfect when it comes to Miles and Maizy. Proving that there is more than one way of living life and being a responsible person when looking after children.

This is a great journey over the course of the week, not only seeing how Buck comes to some realisations about his life, but Tia trying to find her feet as she goes through her teens. We get to see that there is more to people than we first think, leading us to find there is more to life than we thought there was… or could be.

There is warmth to this film; of a family who may not understand each other or why things have to be the way they are. If you are the age of Tia you may understand where she’s coming from, if you’re older, you will find Buck the person you relate to. If you’ve grown up watching this film, you will have gone through the stages of relating to both at different times in your life. We’ve all been there, done things in our lives that we look back with fondness or regret and we’re here to remember.

This is a film which is still a joy to watch after all these years.

New Port South (2001) [review]

The easiest things to do here would be to compare James Hughes to his dad John Hughes, but that wouldn’t give us much or tell you anything about this film. If you are a John Hughes fan, do not watch this with the expectations of this being his type of atmosphere. Some of the subject matter may be similar… in that is a story focusing on teens, but that is the only similarity to a John Hughes’ film.

This film is good; placing us in a situation of knowing as much about what is going on as the characters when we first meet them. One of the students coming up against what he believes the teachers are trying to do in restricting the pupils’ freedoms of speech and what they can believe in.

The teachers you would expect to be people we should dislike… and to a point we do, but nothing is that black and white, as the story unravels; we see both sides of the argument, we find out the truth along with the characters as to what is going on and why people are acting and reacting as they do. And as one the characters comments, it is a situation of people needing something to believe in.

This is a film about standing for what the characters believe in, even when we or they don’t know exactly why, but they/we need to try and make the point and stand for something. Here we have characters that have opinions and they are dealt with in different ways. This film questions the notion of how things can be perceived and how some of it can be twisted to fit an ideology.

This also takes a look at the idea of who will willing go out of their way to make their point, how, if anything, people have to lose along the way and what they have to gain from fighting their opponent. What we have here raises questions and lets the audience answer them for themselves how it fits with our own conscious, it does not force its opinions on us and leaves us to side with those we connect with, finding ourselves seeing where each character is coming from and why they react the way they do.

Some of the characters we may not like, but there are moments which we cannot completely disagree with them, which I feel is one of the great points of the film. Think for yourself and question that which you don’t understand or disagree with, do not presume to know all or force your beliefs on others.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) [review]

John Hughes certainly knew how to create films with characters that we could not help but love and enjoy seeing their journey. In this case seeing two people who were complete opposites, stuck on the same journey and winding each other up, but underneath it all, they were great for each other.

Not only do we have the joy of seeing Neal Page (Steve Martin) being uptight and barely tolerating the situations he finds himself in, we have Del Griffith (John Candy) who goes with the flow of where he finds himself and in a way, maybe even has a little fun along the way.

Not only does the pair come up against the situations, it’s the reactions and willingness to deal with how and why they find each other so irritating that makes this comedy. This allows both to find their own floors and peeves to the point where we see both sides of the argument. This is a worm and funny comedy which centres around Thanksgiving and family, even if the families are the destination rather than being involved in the journey itself.

From Neal who we see talking to his wife on the phone for a few moments as he tries to get home before the holiday, to Del who talks of his wife on how he feels about her. This is a great film to watch on the holiday with your family and enjoy the misfortunes of others as they deal with the pressures they put upon themselves to get where they want to be.

This is a 1980s classic which still hold up nicely in the modern world, we still find so much of what was going on with the characters, in that it’s a story of two people being human, in a somewhat everyday possibility. Therefore we can’t help but sympathise with the characters. Maybe we consider that we take some aspects of life too seriously and we should enjoy life a little more and appreciate what we have.

Not only is this a comedy of misfortunes, but the fact that we can get into our own ruts and find those around us more than we’d like to find ourselves involved with. We should broaden our outlook on life, going beyond the world we have created around ourselves. This is a film which reminds us that there is much more positive around ourselves which we have forgotten over the years.

Vegas Vacation (1997) [review]

This film managed to reduced so much of what made the previous three films so enjoyable and funny. This is entertaining, but on a much lesser level than the previous films in the series. The characters seem to be different, less intelligent than we had become used to… not to say they were the smartest of characters, but at least they had something about them which lead us to liking them.

This film was not written by John Hughes, I assume he knew when to let go of something while it still had life in it. This feels like an afterthought; disconnected from the previous films, it almost has a made for TV movie feel to it… a better TV movie, but one which does not have the charm the fans of the series enjoyed in the first three films.

I think that part of the problem with this film is, the four members of the Griswold family go out on their own excursions and are less of a family unit, and therefore we do not see the family getting on each other’s nerves as much as they did in the previous. Clark (Chevy Chase) is less obsessed with keeping the family together and putting them through testing situation in which he created. Some may think the series could only put the family through it so many times… three films and that was it?

This is certainly a film which you will watch if you are somebody like me, who; if you watch a film and like it, you will check out the whole series. Don’t expect too much from this and you will find a handful of moments which you’ll enjoy make you smile.

We do get Eddie’s (Randy Quaid) part of the family again, but; like the rest of the characters, his intelligence and entertainment value has taken a nose dive. This feels like nothing more than money grab by those playing on our fondness for the series. I wouldn’t blame you if your mind started to wonder off onto something else while you were watching. It is a film which seems to rely on unknown and unfamiliar characters coming in to try and hold your attention.

There really is a lack of a… soul, for a lack of a better expression. I cannot say this is a terrible film, but it is not on the same level as the first three. It is something which is easy to forget once you’ve watched it.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) [review]

The great thing about the vacation films is you don’t need to have seen any of the other films in the series to enjoy any of them as a standalone film.

This is a fun Christmas film that makes you laugh for all the floors of the characters and the tensions that come with the expectations of the Christmas season.

Even when you can see the jokes coming a mile away; the fun of seeing the joke building and the reactions of the characters is a pleasure to behold. Although this may not be the funniest of the series, it keeps you entertained for an hour and a half, and like the “European Vacation” this does seem tamer than “Vacation”. The added characters that are the neighbours don’t hit the mark in which I presumed the filmmakers assume they would. They are just a mild distraction between scenes with the Griswold family. Almost as if they’re there merely to give us a moment of relief from the family situation.

Instead of this being a road trip travelling through America or Europe, this is a stay at home vacation in which the tension builds with the extended family coming to stay, which grows nicely over the cause of the film, which gives us the Clark (Chevy Chase) outburst that is a must in this series. We get the slightest of hints of the way of Clark and Ellen’s upbringings in passing comments and quick conversations. Not to say that this explains a lot about either of them, but it’s nice to see more of who they are. We also have Eddie and Catherine returning, after originally seeing them in “Vacation”, this time we get to see more of who they are, more than we experienced in the original film… at least in amount of screen time.

Like any film written by John Hughes, there is a look at elements of life, this time around it is how the work place and management treat those who work for them. All of which is done in the comedic style, as you’d expect from such a film. This is a nice way to end the John Hughes involvement of the series and a grand way to spend at Christmas hour and a half; not caring about what some presume to be the important aspects of the season. Sit back and enjoy… It may not be hilarious, but it will make you smile and laugh.