She’s All That” was all that in January 1999, and I recall being peeved by the film for being a generic teen message movie that takes over the grounds of Sunnydale High School (Torrance High in the real world) without “Buffy”-level insights. I also didn’t like that it steals Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” from “Dawson’s Creek.” Today, I’m ready – and even a bit proud — to embrace writer R. Lee Fleming Jr. and director Robert Iscove’s film as one of the core teen movies of my generation.
Freaky” has slasher-flick moments and it has comedic moments, but never at the same time, leading to a patchwork hybrid that always feels like a slick Blumhouse product, never something you can get swept away by. On the other hand, Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton (“Blockers”) are on point playing a teen girl and a serial killer, respectively. While this doesn’t rank among the great body-switch films, the two leads are always on their game.
Igave decent marks to the previous seasons (which this series calls “parts”) of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” but in retrospect it was because I imagined its future upside. But now that the run is complete with the eight-episode Part 4 (December, Netflix), it’s clear that “Sabrina” doesn’t reach that upside. It’s always visually impressive – a simple Google Image search demonstrates that this looks like a good show – and Kiernan Shipka nails the self-centered-yet-likable lead character, but the scripts are never on par.
Cobra Kai,” which recently dropped its 10-episode third season on Netflix (after two years on YouTube Premium), has come along at a perfect cultural intersection where storytellers give fans what they want and actors don’t hesitate over small-screen roles. What was a pipe dream of “Karate Kid” fans a scant few years ago has become not only reality, but also one of the elite must-watch shows on TV. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
In 1998, I ranked “The Faculty” higher than “Disturbing Behavior” in my year-end top 10, but today I think the crisp, on-the-nose nature of director Robert Rodriguez’s film makes it the less interesting entry. Still, watching it today brings back that giddy feeling of getting not one but two school-as-hell movies in a matter of months. At Christmas of ’98, I knew how volcano enthusiasts felt in 1997 and how asteroid fans felt earlier in the year.
Empire Records” (1995) is perhaps not technically or objectively a good movie, but it’s almost impossible to dislike it. Choppily yet insightfully written by Carol Heikkinen, with game-saving direction by Allan Moyle and energetic editing by Michael Chandler, the film started as an underdog to its own soundtrack, highlighted by “Sugarhigh” and “Til I Hear It from You” and owned by every CD-collecting teen of the time. As time goes by, those of us who used to apologize for liking this movie seem to have been vindicated, as “Empire Records” has become a cult classic.
Fox’s two-decade run of 13 “X-Men” films and two TV series ends in understated and underwhelming fashion with “The New Mutants,” which was originally supposed to come out in 2018 and has been delayed so many times that it’s a small miracle we’re watching it at all. It could be seen as an abortive attempt to launch new characters (who now will be unlikely to continue, especially since Disney/Marvel Studios now has the “X-Men” rights), but it also plays decently as a standalone, mutantized take on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Writer-director Alexander Payne’s breakthrough film, “Election,” was somewhat buried among the glut of teen classics in 1999. That’s appropriate, because it’s more timeless and less nostalgic than its brethren from that year; today, it remains a near-perfect portrayal of elections, popularity and the fact that God does not favor the best human beings. I almost typed “satire” instead of “portrayal,” but “Election” is too on-point to be called a satire. (It is a comedy, though, in that way of extended takes and funny images – like a tiny car peeling through town – that are Payne’s staple.)
Heathers” (1989) is one of the most oft-referenced titles in teen-movie scholarship, and the film itself regularly gets referenced in other works. Namely, the term “Heather” now refers to a self-centered popular girl. More subtly, Christian Slater became the go-to heartthrob of the 1990s – for example, the girls in the equally classic “Clueless” (1995) plan to attend the new Christian Slater movie.
John Candy wraps up his trilogy of starring roles in John Hughes movies – following “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and “The Great Outdoors” – with the one where he’s asked to do the most heavy lifting. He’s not armed with an A-list co-star or a riotous screenplay in “Uncle Buck” (1989). In the seventh of the eight films where writer Hughes also directs, Candy’s title character finds his sweet bachelor lifestyle (betting at the track, a bowling league, no steady job) is not so cool anymore now that he’s 40.