The Karate Kid Part II” (1986) is definitely a less sloppy film than the original, without its forbearer’s editing errors, but it’s also a slightly less interesting one. The sequel is often entertaining, but it’s disappointing to see that “The Karate Kid” is apparently going to be a follow-the-formula film series where Daniel (Ralph Macchio) encounters a group of bullies and ultimately defeats them with a special trick move. On the other hand, I can’t quibble about Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) being the focal point of “Part II,” as he is the saga’s best character.
With “The Winslow Boy” (1999), writer-director David Mamet is as much using his name recognition as he is using his skill to bring an important story to the public’s attention. Based on a real legal case, the film is adapted from Terence Rattigan’s 1946 play, which was made into a film two years later, co-written by Rattigan. The 1948 film rates a few percentage points higher (7.7 to 7.4) on IMDB than Mamet’s version. Yet this adaptation is important because it brings a crucial story to a wider audience, and it’s also impeccably directed in Mamet’s no-moment-wasted 105-minute style without sacrificing any turn-of-the-20th-century British affectations.
There are ’90s teen movies with more shock value, but “Can’t Hardly Wait” (1998) is the one I point to as the “American Graffiti” of my generation – a sweet, universal story featuring every archetype under the sun, and darn near every notable young actor of the period. It doesn’t lean into the “end of an era” vibe as much as the purposely nostalgic “Graffiti,” as it’s much more of a comedy, but it ultimately strikes that note anyway, almost catching a viewer off guard after all the laughs.
On the “Buffy” fan Facebook page I frequent, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix) is often mentioned when someone asks “What’s a new show that’s sort of like ‘Buffy?’ ” It’s hard to resist the comparisons. After all, the nine episodes of Season 1, Part 2 end with (spoilers follow) …
1999 was a landmark year for movies and TV, so we’re being bombarded by 20th anniversary celebrations of these classics. But is “Cruel Intentions,” from March 5, 1999, one of those classics? I saw it in the theater when it came out and didn’t like it, but in all honesty about 90 percent of the reason is that I couldn’t handle seeing Buffy as a bad person. Giving it a fresh look today, I can see why people celebrate this film – and besides, at least Sarah Michelle Gellar distances herself from her iconic role by having brown hair here.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” recently wrapped an amazing four-season run with Rebecca Bunch (co-creator Rachel Bloom) deciding to pursue love – as in her love of writing songs, but now she’ll do it on paper instead of in her head. As fans know, not all of the 150 to 300 songs (depending on how you count them) from “CXG’s” run were in Rebecca’s head, meaning that Josh, Greg, Nathaniel, Paula, Heather, Darryl, etc. also did their share of internal songwriting.
Irecall that the theater was packed with an enthusiastic crowd for “Varsity Blues” in January 1999. Not that it was a huge movie – all movies other than the summer blockbusters kind of snuck into theaters back then – but it was definitely a cool movie for young people. It features “Dawson’s Creek’s” James Van Der Beek, other soon-to-be-stars like Paul Walker (R.I.P.), and a soundtrack lineup that’s the 1999 equivalent of the 1929 Yankees (tracks 2-6: Green Day, Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, Fastball, Third Eye Blind).
Summer ’03” (2018) had the misfortune of coming out the same year as “Eighth Grade,” which showed new blood can be wrung from the stone of coming-of-age dramedies. Stacked against other entries in the genre – but especially that one – “Summer ’03” is tame, without a sharp or original perspective. The trappings of a decent film are here, including lead actress Joey King – very much in her “She’ll be a star someday” mode – and nice Georgia cinematography (although the film takes place in Cincinnati for some reason) by Ben Hardwicke.
I’m usually not a fan of remakes, but I make exceptions if the remake brings a fresh perspective to the material. I can also be won over if the remake is really f****** good. Such is the case with “A Star is Born” (2018), which was also made in 1937, 1954 and 1976, and which makes a solid case for its existence in dialog from Sam Elliott’s Bobby: “It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes. That’s it.”
Elizabethtown’s” existence in 2005 ticked me off, since, as a huge “Garden State” fan, I felt it was ripping off that film’s plot of a depressive young man who travels to a small town for his parent’s funeral and is saved by his dream girl. While the plot is indeed the same, Crowe is obviously not ripping off Zach Braff; it’s a coincidence. Still, I wasn’t ready to appreciate “Elizabethtown” then. But I like it quite a lot now that time has passed.