Many moments in “Weird Science” (1985) – the third directorial effort from writer John Hughes – make me think “This movie couldn’t be made today.” Geeks Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) build a girl for the purpose of having sex with her (albeit vaguely), and Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) regularly speaks of how they own her. Lisa, clearly an adult, kisses Wyatt, who hasn’t hit puberty. The heroes defeat the evil motorcycle gang by standing up to them and calling them “f-g—s.” (Granted, that slur is always used in Hughes’ movies – because of his era – but here it’s used heroically.)
The origin story of Zorro (Antonio Banderas) is told in “The Mask of Zorro” (1998), and in sequel “The Legend of Zorro” (2005) wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) wants him to hang up his sword, mask and hat for good. It seems like there should’ve been a series of films in between, but there weren’t. As Bruce at Hero Movie Podcast correctly points out, seven years is an awkward gap between original and sequel – you should ideally strike while the iron is hot (a couple years later) or wait till it heats up again (about 20 years later).
Here’s where it all begins: “Sixteen Candles” (1984) marks the start of John Hughes’ reign as a teen-cinema king and it’s the first of Molly Ringwald’s three Hughes films. I’m in the minority in finding it to be an inauspicious beginning. While Hughes’ directorial debut offers loads of talking points as it establishes tropes and popularizes the genre for a new generation, “Sixteen Candles” is a thin and sometimes even boring movie.
Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987) offers little we haven’t seen in other movies, but it has such heart and such an easygoing, naturalistic charm that it’s, well, some kind of wonderful little gem. Writer John Hughes and director Howard Deutch – in the second of their three collaborations – treat a teen love triangle and associated issues with the maturity and respectability of an adult romance film, eschewing big laughs. This is one of those “romantic comedies” that is much more of the former than the latter.
Halle Berry won the Razzie for Worst Actress for “Catwoman” (2004) and famously accepted the award in person, but she is not at all the reason why this movie misses the mark. More into this role than she is her later turns as Storm in “X-Men,” Berry takes Patience Phillips through a blend of “She’s All That” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” wherein she gains confidence but it takes her awhile to realize she’s two different people.
Being a “chick flick” and based on the 19th century Jane Austen novel “Emma,” “Clueless” (1995) isn’t usually cited when I and my friends discuss the core 1990s teen films. But 25 years after its release, the film’s (purposeful) agelessness and (inevitable) nostalgia remain effectively intertwined. It’s clear that writer-director Amy Heckerling’s film deserves a place alongside the likes of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Varsity Blues” and “American Pie.”
Andy Samberg tones down his manchild shtick while retaining his Everyman charms, and he pairs wonderfully with Cristin Milioti in “Palm Springs,” a new Hulu release that gives us a pleasant option amid the shutdown of cinemas. It’s also unintentionally timely for this era when people don’t leave their homes as much: Samberg’s Nyles finds himself stuck at a destination wedding – he’s the boyfriend of bridesmaid Misty (Meredith Hagner) — repeating the day in a loop.
Revenge of the Nerds” (1984) came out 15 years before “American Pie,” but if you watch the scene of a roomful of nerds ogling a closed-circuit hidden-camera feed of a sorority house, it plays like a parody of the accidental computer-camera scene in “American Pie.” Lewis (Robert Carradine) and his sex-obsessed buddies – including a kid genius who gets into the college – watch coeds in their bathrooms and bedrooms all night long. (In a slight nod to reality, some of the guys complain that watching girls brush their teeth is boring, and they eventually fall asleep.)
The King of Staten Island” is the most prominent of the few brave films that switched from theatrical release to video-on-demand amid the pandemic, and it’s also a good one. It had been long enough since I’d seen a good Judd Apatow movie – 2012’s “This Is 40,” the last film he both wrote and directed – that it’s a revelation to rediscover his sharp dialog and knack for showing that deeply flawed people are still worth rooting for.
Back to the Future” (1985) is one of the all-time great films, utterly fun and free-wheeling, yet it rewards film nerds’ deeper explorations with its flawless storytelling structure and genre balance. It’s adorable despite being about a teenage girl crushing on her future son, it’s smart despite being about something that’s impossible, and it accurately captures two out of three eras. Its 1955 and 1985 are pitch-perfect; the flying-cars version of 2015 not so much. But it does promise more time-hopping fun, teasing the possibilities of further adventures with that classic ending where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) views his own actions from earlier in the film.