While his writing efforts have fallen into dismal children's fare as of late, John Hughes spent the 80's bouncing back and forth between adult and teen fare that managed to make the familiar often seem fresh, while providing memorable characters and dialogue. "Some Kind of Wonderful", while certainly not one of the writer/director's (in this case, Hughes wrote, while Howard Deutch directed) most widely known efforts, it's still a very enjoyable film that makes for an entertaining - and occasionally even moving - 90 minutes and change.
The film runs through familiar territory, but succeeds largely because of the writer's attention to characters and the performer's nicely done portrayals of said individuals. Eric Stoltz stars as Keith, a mechanic and artist who hangs out with a tomboy (Mary Stuart Masterson), but has a crush on Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson).
The film does offer a lot of the same elements; guy actually manages to go out with dream girl, but doesn't realize that girl who was previously just a friend might be a better choice; said guy also wants to be an artist, but the father thinks business school might be a better choice, etc. Still, the characters are portrayed in a way that's more complex than they usually are in these films. Even the nutcase (an amusing early performance from Elias Koteas) isn't quite as nuts as he appears. Thompson's performance is an equally unexpected work, as she manages to give the character shadings and emotions that aren't usually found in this kind of standard character.
Still, it's not a film without some problems: the film succeeds because of its down-to-earth and grounded nature (making its characters feel even more real), but there's also some moments in the film where it becomes a little bit too low-key and even starts to drag out a bit. Still, "Some Kind of Wonderful" remains a very good effort from Deutch and Hughes - an enjoyable low-key drama that seems more sincere, involving and entertaining than most of the teen fare that gets released 15 years later.
Although "Pretty in Pink" stands as one of the more widely known efforts written (although not directed) by John Hughes, I don't quite understand the film's appeal. Although the characters are memorable and the dialogue is witty, the film's story - girl falls for rich guy, while guy who's a friend loves her too, has been done before (and after) with more complexity and sincerity.
"Pink" continues the writer's fascination with class issues. Molly Ringwald stars as Andie, a charming teenager who designs her own outfits and tries to care for a father who, it seems, is often unemployed. She wants to date Blane (Andrew McCarthy), but she's awkward in her conversations with him due to the fact that he's richer than she is. All the while, her pal Duckie (Jon Cryer) is madly in love with her - a fact that she largely ignores.
The film's performances are a mixed effort; while some were entertained by Cryer's performance as the friend who's fallen for Andie, it now seems to me like a rather loud, obnoxious character that's almost impossible to root for. Ringwald, on the other hand, provides a pleasant enough performance as Andie, but doesn't quite provide anything aside from the surface elements of the character. James Spader, who is probably one of the best actors out there at playing a jerk, cranks the evil level up to 11 quite superbly. Andrew McCarthy's performance as Blane is about as bland as most of the actor's other 80's efforts.
"Pretty in Pink" is cute and amusing enough, but it never quite succeeds at drama (the characters aren't well-realized enough for their problems to be that involving), comedy (a few laughs to be found) or romance (little chemistry between Ringwald and anyone else in the film). While certainly not terrible, it's not memorable either and Hughes has shown himself to be capable of better (see "Some Kind of Wonderful", which told a very similar story and was released one year after "Pink").
Although rather charmingly cheesy and dated at this point (dig those shots of tappin' feet behind the credits), "Footloose" still offers a terrific performance from Kevin Bacon and a fairly fun - if familiar - plot. Bacon stars as Ren MacCormack (Kevin Bacon), a kid from Chicago who finds himself stuck out in the middle of nowhere when he has to move to the tiny town of Bomont.
Once firmly stuck in small town life, Ren finds that the town is dominated by Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), who has outlawed activities such as dancing and general fun. Of course, teenagers being teenagers, they still manage to find a way around the adults and do entertaining small-town things, such as...race giant tractors around the local fields. There's also the Reverend's daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer), who - as all Reverend's daughters are in movies - is seeking a little fun, too. With the help of his friend (an early performance from Chris Penn) and some of the other local kids, Ren pushes against the town establishment to change their rules on dancing and get a prom for the town's teens.
The performances pretty much save the day here. Bacon's lively performance really transforms a not particularly well-written character into an enjoyable hero. Lithgow's character changes rather quickly at the end, but he plays the character well, never going as far over-the-top as the character could have been portrayed. Supporting performances from Lori Singer, Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn are also quite good.
"Footloose" is working with an old formula, but director Herbert Ross and his cast transform the material into something fresh. While a bit dated in spots at this point, the film still manages to entertain.
Cheesy, but still quite entertaining, "Top Gun" is certainly a formulaic picture, but one that's done with energy and solid performances. The film stars Tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, an ace F-14 pilot who's wild and "breaks all the rules", going against authority and doing things like going on a flyby past the control tower. Joined by Radar Intercept Officer Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), the duo eventually work their way up to the Navy's elite flying school in California.
There, they find themselves pushing up against higher authority, such as another pilot (Val Kilmer) who takes an instant disliking to Maverick because his stunts are dangerous. There's also the romantic angle in an instructor at the school (Kelly McGillis), despite the fact that the relationship would probably be discouraged as inappropriate by the higher-ups.
The story on the ground in the film only is involving for so long; after a while, some of the scenes between Cruise and McGillis seem a tad dull, while some of the scenes between the pilots seem like filler between the flight sequences. McGillis and Cruise don't have much chemistry - her performance is a tad wooden, as well. While Kilmer gives a suitably icy performance as the guy going against Maverick, there reaches a point where these scenes seem a tad repetitive and don't give the story much forward momentum. The flight sequences, however, stand up really nicely today - they're superbly shot, exciting and easy to follow.
The performances are pretty good. Cruise offers a compelling performance, turning a rather cliched character into an involving one. Anthony Edwards is very good as his co-pilot, while Kilmer is wonderfully cold as the competition. I didn't care for the performance by McGillis, and some of the other supporting efforts are rather uninspired, but overall, the cast does a fine job with the material.
Overall, "Top Gun" is a solid rah-rah picture that, while seemingly a little long to me after watching it again after a few years, still generates a fine amount of excitement, thrills and memorable moments.
Matthew Broderick stars in one of his most famous roles as Ferris Buller, and he's the anti-hero of John Hughes's famed 1986 teen comedy. Broderick is Ferris Buller, a senior in high school who uses his smarts to not only plan a day off in the city of Chicago, but to consistently outwit his evil principal, Mr. Ed Rooney(Jeffrey Jones).
The first half of the film is dedicated to having everything fall into place so that Ferris and his friend Cameron(Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane(Mia Sara). Once the three are off, they spend a day touring Chicago's loop, considering where life has taken them and where they have yet to go, and still have to make it home in time so that Ferris can continue faking sick.
There are more than a few classic moments and a couple of scenes where the audience isn't quite sure if Ferris will get away with it all. John Hughes has done great work with this classic comedy and Broderick's performance is great as well.
VIDEO: Paramount offers "Some Kind of Wonderful" with a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Jan Kiesser's cinematography maintains a noticably soft focus, but on the bright side, detail remains pleasant enough as the picture looks passably crisp. The print also looked to be in particularly good condition, as, aside from a hint or two of grain, no wear was apparent. Edge enhancement was also absent, lending the picture a clean, smooth and "film-like" appearance. Colors remained a bit on the subdued side, but still managed to seem fault-free and natural.
Paramount presents "Pretty in Pink" with a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Thankfully, outstanding cinematographer Tak Fujimoto ("Signs", "That Thing You Do!") chooses to focus on this 80's film with a crisp, clear perspective instead of the noticably soft appearance that most 80's films (see the Hughes/Deutch picture "Some Kind of Wonderful", made one year later). Sharpness and detail are passable, if not remarkable, and the picture takes on a crisp, clean appearance that should largely please its fans.
However, unlike Paramount's recent release of the Hughes-written effort "Some Like It Wonderful", "Pink" seems to have a little bit of wear on it. While certainly nothing too distracting, there were a few minor specks and marks on the print used, while slight amounts of grain (especially in a smoky club sequence) were also occasionally apparent. On a positive note, no edge enhancement was spotted, nor was any pixelation.
Colors were largely well-rendered, as the film's bright, vivid color palette looked nicely saturated and without flaw. Black level was usually solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural. A very enjoyable effort.
"Footloose" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film's opening scenes reveal a noticable amount of wear and other issues. Although I thought these concerns would clear themselves up further into the movie, they unfortunately never went away completely. Sharpness and detail are only fair, as daylight scenes appear inconsistently defined, while some low-light or dark scenes can look murky.
As for problems with the image quality, the biggest concern is the print used. While some stretches appear crisper than others, the majority of the film shows a fairly considerable legion of specks, dirt, marks and a few other faults. Some specific shots look very worn, but these instances appear momentarily. As for other noticable issues, there's a fair amount of mild edge enhancement present, not to mention some additional artifacts.
Although I doubt this film ever offered a bright, lively color palette, I equally doubt colors looked as muddy and bland as they do here. Flesh tones also appear rather off in several scenes. This isn't a completely terrible presentation, but it's certainly apparent that the film elements need some work. This new transfer appears to be the same as the prior release.
Paramount presents "Top Gun" with a new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen effort. I have not viewed the orignal DVD effort, but boy does this new transfer look utterly fantastic. Sharpness and detail are first-rate, as the majority of the film looked crystal clear. Some low-light scenes appear slightly softer, but the majority of the film boasted terrific definition.
The picture seemed usually free of flaws. The presentation did show some minor grain at times, but this may be an intentional element of the photography. The image appeared to be free of edge enhancement, while pixelation was limited to a couple of traces. The print appeared to be in good shape, with only some scattered minor specks and marks in a few scenes.
Colors remained bright and well-saturated throughout, with no smearing. Flesh tones also looked natural and accurate. Overall, Paramount has done a fine job here, as "Top Gun" looked great.
"Ferris Buller's Day Off" is presented here in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it looks very good, although not quite perfect. Images are clear, clean and adequately sharp. Colors are accurate and natural although not terribly vibrant. Detail is consistently good throughout the movie, and flesh tones are natural as well.
Where the image runs into a few problems are the occasional (yet noticable) instances of shimmering as well as a few small scratches on the print that is used. Otherwise, this is a clean image that is very likely the best that this film has ever looked on home video.
SOUND: Paramount offers a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix for "Some Kind of Wonderful". While the effort by the studio is appreciated, there are certain things that I'd rather not hear in 5.1: dated-sounding scores to 80's teen comedy/dramas would probably be near the top of that list. Anyways, the audio is generally pleasant enough, with the largely dialogue-driven effort offering crisp and clear audio quality. Surrounds are essentially unused, aside from a few moments where they provide mild reinforcement for the score.
Paramount gives "Pink" a new 5.1 remix and the results are generally very good. Thankfully, while still very 80's, "Pink"'s pop score seems a bit less dated and a lot less irritating than the scores of these teenage 80's efforts go. Surrounds pop in for some reinforcement of the music, while the music and dialogue sound crisp and clear.
While the video quality appeared to be the same, the audio quality seems improved over the prior release. "Footloose" boasts a Dolby Digital 5.1-EX soundtrack. Once again, the film's musical score remains the focus, as it gets reinforcement from the surrounds, including the rear back surround. Otherwise, the sound is largely front-focused, with dialogue and the basic sound effects sounding of decent quality.
Paramount presents "Top Gun" in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 6.1. The DTS presentation is DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete. Completely curious about how the DTS 6.1 effort would fare, I listened to that first, then went back to compare the Dolby Digital option. I was quite surprised at the sound quality of a film that will hit its 20th birthday in a few years. Surrouns are locked and loaded throughout the proceedings, with a lot of strong effects and solid ambience present during many scenes. Plane flyovers sound stellar and the action scenes really roar through the room. The other element that kicks into high gear is the 80's soundtrack; despite being a tad dated, it still fits the film perfectly and sounds marvelous here, filling the room. The DTS-ES 6.1 presentation really offers an enveloping experience, as the rear back surround is engaged quite well during the action scenes and to deliver the score.
Audio quality seemed terrific, as sound effects and the score both seemed punchy and dynamic, with strong clarity. Dialogue also remained crisp and clear, with no issues. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks provided a fine experience, but the DTS soundtrack offered a noticably more enveloping, dynamic, full, rich feel to the sound.
"Ferris Buller's Day Off" contains not much at all in the way of action or effects, but it does certainly sound very nice on this DVD, with a score that has a nice presence and dialogue that is consistently clear and easily heard. Again, nothing spectacular, but certainly pleasing.
EXTRAS: All titles offer a short compilation music CD of 4 '80's tracks, including songs from A-HA ("Take on Me"), INXS ("Need You Tonight"), Echo and the Bunnymen ("Lips Like Sugar") and Erasure ("Chains of Love"). Strangely, none of the extras with the "Footloose" Collector's Edition - even the two commentaries - have been included here. "Top Gun" doesn't include the extras from the second disc of the special edition. Neither "Pretty In Pink", nor "Some Kind of Wonderful" offer commentaries, either.
"Top Gun" has a newly recorded commentary, with thoughts from director Tony Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-screenwriter Jack Epps, captain Mike Galpin, technical advisor Pete Petteigrew and vice admiral Mike McCade. This is an excellent commentary that provides both the viewpoint of the filmmakers and that of the Navy, as we get to hear from officers who share their thoughts on their realities and how the movie portrays them. The track certainly starts off in interesting form, as Scott recalls how he was fired three times from the project, yet still remained on-board as director when it was all done. Scott and Bruckheimer discuss a lot of the issues regarding trying to get the movie made, as well as the production obstacles that occured (filming flight sequences long before the birth of visual effects). The naval advisors discuss what is realistic in the movie and what isn't, as well as more behind-the-scenes information on the realities of what these characters would actually go through. Overall, this is a terrific track that really breaks down the production and allows the viewer to get a great overall sense of what it took to bring it all together.
Also included on the first disc are music videos for: Berlin, "Take My Breath Away"; Kenny Loggins, "Danger Zone"; Loverboy, "Heaven In Your Eyes" and Harold Faltermeyer/Steve Stevens, "Top Gun Anthem". We're also presented with seven TV spots for the film.
Director John Hughes provides the commentary for "Ferris Buller's Day Off". Although I was looking forward to this commentary highly, it has its strong points and it also does contain a few slow spots. What I really like about this commentary (and commentaries in general like this) is how honest it feels. Hughes occasionally comments on pieces of the film that he feels don't work quite as well, or not at all.
Hughes mainly focuses on the relationships between the characters and how they play out along the lines of the movie( their motivations, how they played their characters, etc) as well as how Broderick gradually sculpted the role along the way. He has quite a few interesting insights about how these characters were built to be accurate to high school kids and be around real kids(the actors were placed among many extras their own age during the film). Hughes also provides some interesting facts about the Cameron character, from where he came from to just what might be going on in Cameron's mind.
He also points out quite a bit of information about various aspects of the production, from where locations are to where they were located in the shooting schedule to more details about the background of the set. This is mainly an actor's commentary, though, where most of the speaking is talking about working with the actors and dialogue rather than anything too terribly technical, although Hughes does point out some filmmaking concepts at a few times throughout the picture.
Again, there are a few slow moments on this commentary, but in general, fans of the picture will definitely enjoy hearing Hughes talk about this film on DVD.
Final Thoughts: It's difficult to recommend any of these titles, as they are either no different than prior editions (with the exception of the CD - see Pretty, Some Kind of Wonderful and Ferris) or they offer less than the edition that came before it (see "Footloose" and "Top Gun"). Either way, with the previous editions of all of these titles are already available for less (or much less) than these new editions and I'll recommend those previous editions instead.