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.
Mistakenly, I had it my head that Max and Liz – aside from a few brief stretches where they are apart — are a couple throughout the three-season run of “Roswell.” On this rewatch, I was surprised to realize they are split up through the entire 21-episode run of Season 2 (2000-01, WB). Yet this season illustrates why I had the mistaken impression, and why “Roswell” is a special show.
Two of Peter’s classmates have a whirlwind romance on a school field trip. Nick Fury is grumpy about his calls going to voicemail. And to Peter’s consternation, Happy and Aunt Mae are flirting. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” flips the cliché of a blockbuster where we marvel at the action sequences and yawn at everything in between. My mind did wander at times during the film, but it was during the bravura special effects – because we live in an age where everything that makes it to theaters has bravura special effects.
Scream: The TV Series” Season 3, long delayed because of the Weinstein scandal that put the ownership in limbo, isn’t exactly worth the wait, but still, it deserves more attention than it’s getting. It has been dumped onto MTV’s sister station, the celebrity reality show bastion VH1, for a three-night, six-hour airing (continuing at 9 p.m. Eastern Tuesday and Wednesday), at a time when everyone is bingeing and discussing “Stranger Things” Season 3.
Roswell’s” Max and Liz are my favorite TV couple of the “meant to be together” type. There’s admittedly something fantastical, idealistic and possibly even unhealthy about fixating on this type of love. But it’s so beautifully portrayed thanks to the chemistry between shy starman Max (Jason Behr) and journal-writing girl-next-door Liz (Shiri Appleby) that I allow myself this one diversion into the idea of soulmates.
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.
The brilliance of “mid90s” (2018), now available on Amazon Prime, is in the details. Writer-director Jonah Hill, known for his comedic acting roles, grew up in this time, and he has a great ear for the way teenagers talked – and the way coolness was the only currency that mattered. Watched from the perspective of 2019, the film makes us think about how the maturation of teen culture has benefited the most vulnerable kids, but also how mid-’90s teens were toughened up by the casual meanness around them.
I’m glad “Cloak & Dagger” Season 2 (8 p.m. Eastern Thursdays on Freeform) started with a “previously on,” because the plot specifics of this show don’t stick in my head – even though I enjoy the experience of watching it. Last season, as I was reminded, found Tyrone/Cloak (Aubrey Joseph) and Tandy/Dagger (Olivia Holt) exposing the evil corporatists at Roxxon. So it’s good that Season 2 has a new plot, and that the duo is comfortable using their primary powers now. (Their secondary powers promise more weirdness, though.)