Aneat thing about the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise is that it’s one big saga, with the 1976-81 TV series, the 2000-03 movies, the short-lived 2011 TV series and the new movie (opening Friday) taking place in the same universe. This is possible because it’s a simple premise: The independently wealthy man of the title (voiced by John Forsythe in the first two incarnations) hires out his trained-from-youth agents for missions that require them to achieve objectives and escape huge explosions by microseconds.
With Season 2 (April), which recently wrapped its free-to-all run on YouTube Premium, “Cobra Kai” has secured its spot as the best continuation of a 1980s premise (a surprisingly robust genre lately). The safe, cheesy and sometimes flat-out bad (but yes, we loved it anyway) filmmaking of the “Karate Kid” trilogy has given way to a confident, funny, epic and ultimately heart-wrenching TV series.
Similar to “Kick-Ass,” which preceded it by a couple months in 2010, “Super” takes on the elephant in the room of superhero movies. In 95 percent of genre films, the violence is stylized so the good guy knows the exact degree of punishment to dole out so the bad guy is subdued, but not dead; and in fact, the bad guy will probably make a full recovery – but he’ll be safely locked away by then. In real life, such expert control is almost impossible. “Super” aims to be more like real life.
In this age of easily accessible TV, there’s no such thing as timeslot battles anymore, but for the sake of fun, let’s pit “The Unicorn” (CBS) against “Perfect Harmony” (NBC). The half-hour sitcoms air at the same time on Thursdays.
Filmmakers generally don’t aim to create a time capsule when they make a contemporary film, but some turn out that way. A case in point is writer-director Cameron Crowe’s “Singles” (1992), the title of which has three meanings: 1) It explores what it’s like to be a single person in a time when it’s becoming less of a societal stigma, and dating is becoming scarier due to knowledge of STDs; 2) It’s set in an apartment complex of single-occupancy units, a notion that also worked for TV’s “Melrose Place” that year; and 3) It’s about music singles – particularly songs by Seattle bands at a time when hair metal is giving way to grunge, and lyrics are becoming more infused with meaning.
Booksmart” has a lot going for it. It’s the centerpiece high school comedy of 2019, and it represents modern times well despite fitting firmly into the genre. But perhaps we use the word “comedy” too automatically in stories about high school graduation and teenage romance, because “Booksmart” isn’t all that funny. Really, this film is about best friends – Amy (Kaitlyn Dever, who resembles Robin Tunney at that age) and Molly (Jonah Hill’s sister Beanie Feldstein) – and that part is fine. But director Olivia Wilde’s debut never connects on a big or gut-busting moment. It’s too low-key and casual, regardless of what genre label we put on it.
The 2010s have been the decade of nostalgia, so much so that a genuine feeling of nostalgia doesn’t come up much anymore. The existence of – and the experience of watching – “BH90210” (Wednesdays on Fox) is a case in point. Seeing all seven major living actors from “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000, Fox) on screen together, as well as Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth watching the original show late in the pilot episode, does indeed kind of make me want to rewatch the original.
As far as movies about high school graduates facing the real world go, there are better entries than “Reality Bites” (1994). “Ghost World” (2001) particularly digs into the conflict between the responsibility of being an adult member of society and being true to yourself, and how irreconcilable that conflict can feel to a young person. Breezy by comparison, “Reality Bites” only touches on those issues, and it ultimately boils down to a love story between Winona Ryder’s Lelaina and Ethan Hawke’s Troy. But that’s not nothing.
Like he would later do for Hollywood with “State and Main” (2000), writer David Mamet lovingly pokes fun at the art of the stage in “A Life in the Theatre,” a 1993 TNT movie based on his 1977 play. Jack Lemmon is magnetic as Robert, an aging community theater thespian, and Matthew Broderick is mostly a sounding board as the up-and-coming John, who is starting to get calls to work in film.
As Boris in “Whatever Works” (2009), it’s no surprise that Larry David comes off as a mix of his “Curb Your Enthusiasm” character (which is himself) and Woody Allen (who writes and directs, and would normally cast himself in the role). Boris is neurotic, and at one point he comments that “I love the way these pants fit,” but he generally has a more macro view of the world than the minutia-obsessed Larry.