Writer-director John Hughes was the master of the teen movie in the '80s, scoring hits with The Breakfast Club, Ferris Beuller's Day Off, and Weird Science, and working with a veritable "who's who" of young '80s actors (Matthew Broderick, Kevin Bacon, Robert Downey Jr., John Cusack, Bill Paxton, Charlie Sheen, etc.).
His teen muse, however, was Molly Ringwald. The young redhead was the star of his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, and was the inspiration behind Pretty in Pink, which Hughes' wrote and produced. It's been 30 years since the release of Sixteen Candles and 28 since Pretty in Pink, yet each movie has maintained an audience across the decades. Which one, though, is more relevant if you were seeing it for the first time right now?
Ringwald's Samantha Baker is having a terrible 16th birthday. Her parents forgot it entirely. Her grandparents, who are in town for her sister's wedding, are commenting about her "boobies" and bring along a horndog foreign exchange student (Gedde Watanabe). She's got a freshman geek (Anthony Michael Hall) chasing after her, and in exchange for leaving her alone takes a pair of her panties to show off to the other nerds... for a dollar apiece. Worse than all of the other indignities, though, is the fact that she's totally in love with a senior (Michael Schoeffling) who's dating the most popular girl in school (Haviland Morris).
In other words, it's just about every teen girl's worst nightmare, something that really hasn't changed much in the ensuing years. The film is fanciful and fun, with jokes that are both clever and corny. It's the sort of movie that provides mothers and daughters talking points for everything from love to sex to body image issues. Feeling like you're completely on your own as a teenager and that nobody really cares about or appreciates you is a rite of passage for everyone, as are those first heart-stopping crushes. Youthful insecurity is fairly timeless.
Pretty in Pink
Hughes took a (slightly) more grounded view of a young girl's high school experience in Pink. Ringwald plays Andie, a girl from the poor side of town who makes her own clothes and has to take care of her down-on-his-luck father (Harry Dean Stanton). She works in a music store and hangs out with an eccentric friend named Duckie (Jon Cryer), as she tries to just make it through until she can go to college for fashion design. But then she falls for one of the rich kids (Andrew McCarthy), and has to deal with the very obvious class distinctions that are continually pointed out by his obnoxious friend (James Spader). Unlike the lead in Sixteen Candles, Andie doesn't need recognition from anyone, definitely doesn't want to be pitied ,and is perfectly capable of standing up for herself. She's conscious of Duckie's feelings, but she neither patronizes him nor leads him on. When McCarthy's Blane backs out of their prom date, she goes it alone (and, okay, with a little help from the Duck).
Essentially, Andie is that quiet girl in high school who blossoms in college and doesn’t go to reunions because she's too busy with a great career. It's a little hard to get past the very '80s wardrobe, although it has a killer soundtrack (OMD's "If You Leave" still makes anyone over 40 nostalgic for their own prom). In the end, though, Andie is a realistic teen heroine who, unlike say Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, navigates through a world that is not terribly different from the present and does it by empowering herself. That's not a bad lesson for any young woman to learn.
Both of the teen classics have relevance to a modern audience in their own way, although the jokiness of Sixteen Candles probably helps it translate a little bit easier. That’s what we think, but now it's your chance. Vote below to tell us which of Hughes' teen comedies has remained more relevant.
Well, that's a wrap, y'all. From The Evil Dead to The East, the 2013 SXSW festival gave us a mix of movies as cool and eclectic as the city of Austin. While there aren't enough hours in the day to see all the movies that the fest has to offer (damn you, daylight savings!) we gladly woke up and shot out of bed faster than you can say "breakfast burrito" to catch as many as possible. Even though there were some premieres that downright disappointed (you're not incredible even a little bit, Burt Wonderstone), there were others that downright wowed us (we'll remember Short Term 12 for a long while).
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While the the Grand Jury Prize and audience awards have already been given out (we weren't kidding when we said Short Term 12 was good), Hollywood.com picked our favorites — and least favorites — of the SXSW film festival. Whether it's returning festival favorites like Before Midnight or unexpectedly great newcomers like Scenic Route, here's how Hollywood.com saw SXSW.
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Best Drama: Short Term 12 (Runner up: Scenic Route)
Best Comedy: Drinking Buddies (Runner-up: Good Vibrations)
Best Horror: Evil Dead (Runner-up: You're Next)
Best Festival Favorite: Before Midnight (Runner-up: Prince Avalanche)
Hottest Ticket: Spring Breakers (Runner-up: Don Jon)
Best Post-Screening Q&A: The East, if only for Ellen Page's use of the word "vagine."
Biggest Audience Reaction: Green Day introducing Broadway Idiot.
Worst Movie at SXSW: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Runner-up: I Give it a Year)
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[Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classic]
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Despite starring in movies with big cultural impacts, like Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, and, of course, the Twilight saga, Nikki Reed has never been able to completely watch one of her films. That was until she went to Austin for the SXSW Film Festival.
Reed —along with her co-star Thomas Dekker, writer/co-director Victor Teran and co-director Youssef Delara — premiered their psychological drama Snap to SXSW audiences, and the actress was thankful to have them (and her husband Paul McDonald) by her side.
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"I've never actually been able to successfully sit through a film premiere for a movie that I'm in," Reed admitted to Hollywood.com during an interview at SXSW. "I'm overly self-conscious and it makes me nervous and I can't really enjoy the film. I basically held hands with Thomas and my husband on both sides." Reed added, "I will say, regardless of all of those horrible insecurities, I felt really proud and really excited to be a part of this."
Snap follows the story of Jim, a talented dubstep musician suffering from schizophrenia (played by Jake Hoffman), who meets and falls for a social worker named Wendy. Their relationship quickly takes a turn for the worse when the voices in Jim's head (shown as a physical manifestation named Jake, played by Dekker) get louder and louder, and Wendy and all those around Jim fear for his life and their own.
"It's a stimulating and provoking picture, ultimately we wanted to take people on a journey," Delara told Hollywood.com. Teran, who worked with Delara on 2012's Filly Brown added, "[Snap] explores the voices that we all have in our heads, not necessarily just with schizophrenics: the negative voice that everybody has, the voice of insecurity."
Just as the experience for the moviegoer is a challenging one, it certainly challenged the actors during the movie-making process as well. For Dekker, Snap was a welcome change of pace. "I've played the victim so much more than playing the instigator, so that was new for me. [It] was such a release of energy with this rage and with this attitude. It was intense, but in a pleasurable way," the actor said, adding, "whereas I think it was a little different for Nikki."
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Reed said that while she would make a film like Snap again, she struggled with the subject matter and the intense nature of the movie. "It was really kind of a disturbing process for me, and I didn't even realize that until I was done," the actress said. "It's funny how the people around you can understand. Like, my mom said, 'I'm so happy you're done with that movie,' just because everyone else is so affected by what you're going through."
"Wendy is constantly questioning who she is and what she's doing, the choices she's making. Was that appropriate? Was that inappropriate? Everything about her became everything about what I was doing in my performance," Reed said. "That's who I became, I was questioning everything I was doing. It was a hard place to be in for so long."
Still, despite how hard the process was, the choice was a no-brainer for Reed post-Twilight phenomenon. "Twilight was a huge part of my life...I don't feel the need to quickly let that go and kick that to the curb, but I'm always drawn to good material, and this was easily one of the best scripts I've read in my career," she said of signing on for Snap.
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Another thing that made Reed happy about the project was the role of Wendy itself. "As a girl, you don't normally find such complex characters written for women, where it's not about sexuality, and it's not about being pretty." Reed said, "That was something I really appreciated about this."
[Photo credit: John Sciulli/Getty Images]
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Timing, and timeliness, is everything. Especially when it comes to films. No one is more aware of that than Kieran Evans, the writer/director of Kelly + Victor, and its two leads Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris, respectively. While their harrowing indie drama was filmed over the course of around six weeks (in what Morris described as "a hot, lovely summer in Liverpool"), it began to hit the festival circuit in late 2012 and early 2013 — including here at SXSW — right when the Fifty Shades of Grey frenzy hit a fever pitch.
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So how does E.L. James soapy saga factor into Kelly + Victor, Evans' big screen adaptation of Niall Griffiths' gritty novel of the same name? Kelly + Victor follows the story of a young couple who meet at a Liverpool nightclub and begin an intense emotional and sexual relationship, one that includes S&M. But don't mistake Kelly and Victor for Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey: theirs is a thoughtful, more realistic, and ultimately tragic tale.
That doesn't mean Evans and his stars don't appreciate the timing though. "It's been surprising," the writer/director said. "American audiences are not usually open to this kind of topic. But I think with [Fifty Shades of Grey]...maybe it's a zeitgeist thing. With taboo sex, the lid is kind of being lifted. We seem to be in the right place at the right time."
For Campbell-Hughes, who plays the titular Kelly — a woman she described as seeing as "a puppy that keeps getting kicked... it's sweet, but it will bite back" — exploring her character's intrigue with S&M had no taboos. "I met Kieran and I knew it was going to be handled well," she said. "The rawness of it is the fact that its very honest."
"Nudity has never really bothered me that much, but I'm learning it should more," the actress added. "It's not about how much you see, its about how it's shown. The movies that we see all the time are filled with violence and nudity, but its sort of saccharine, it's glorified, its fake, its glycerin, it's horrible."
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While Kelly and Victor's sexual relationship, one which does not shy away from realism, is a major aspect of the film, it's the emotional one that really drives the film. (And, much like 2012's sex drama Shame, while Kelly + Victor has plenty of sex, it can often be decidedly un-sexy and hard to watch at times).
That very relationship at the core of the film — which Morris (who describes his character Victor as "quite a gentle soul" who finds his outlet in Kelly, while Campbell-Hughes sees him as someone who "gets off... on stepping into the void") likened to "obsessive love they have for each other, this frantic physicality that you get in any sort of new relationship when you're just clawing at each other" — is what drew the stars and the writer/director to the project the most. "What's interesting is the relationship between Kelly and Victor isn't about the consequences of S&M," Evans said, "It's about the consequences of what they do and what happens if two atoms collide at such a great speed. "
Another aspect that played into the film, was what Morris described as a "massive character" in the film: the city of Liverpool. "This [shoot] was really unique because to get that essence of Liverpool and the characters for it to be quite engulfing, we really lived Liverpool and the characteristics of the people. That's where the intensity was, it was everywhere in Liverpool,"Campbell-Hughes said, adding that the location is much like an analogy for Kelly and Victor's love: "Liverpool is shown as such a beautiful place, but its full of cracks."
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The actress also described "Kelly and Victor are wanderers in their home land" and Morris himself took to wandering the streets of Liverpool to get into character, both for Victor and the city itself, by going on a pub crawl. "It was the most informative thing to me, under the slight haze of alcohol," he said. "I met the local lads, got down the dialect, [learned] the politics, just walked around."
But, in the end, the film is not about S&M, or Liverpool, or even relationships. It is, as Evans simply said: "Ultimately the whole thing is about human needs."
[Photo credit: SXSW]
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If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
In his new film Due Date director Todd Phillips (Old School The Hangover) stages a rather audacious cinematic experiment placing two enormously talented actors Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis on a mostly deserted island handing them an assortment of blunt and broken tools and charging them with constructing a free-standing fully-functioning Hollywood comedy.
To his credit Phillips was at least considerate enough to supply his comic Crusoes with a detailed blueprint. An odd-couple/road trip movie hybrid Due Date unapologetically mimics Planes Trains and Automobiles one of the John Hughes' rare “grown-up” comedies in which Steve Martin starred as a straightlaced family man forced to travel cross-country with a gratingly affable slob played by John Candy in order to make it home for Thanksgiving. (Surely there have been other such films before and since but Hughes’ work is the one Due Date most vividly recalls.)
The film’s script co-written by Phillips and Adam Sztykiel adds a handful of 21st-century twists to the formula: A baggage snafu while boarding an airplane leads Peter Highman (Downey) a type-A architect with a history of anger-management issues into a confrontation with a Federal Air Marshal that subsequently lands him on Homeland Security’s no-fly list. Stranded without reliable transport lacking the means by which to procure any (he left his wallet on the plane) and desperate to be reunited in L.A. with his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) in time for her scheduled c-section he reluctantly agrees to hitch a ride with the same tubby schmuck Ethan (Galifianakis) who moments earlier was the catalyst of his security debacle.
The unlikely travel companions embark on a calamitous road trip from Atlanta to L.A. during which Ethan proves to be something of a disaster magnet with Peter bearing the brunt of the damage that occurs. Their navigator Phillips lazily guides them through an uneven obstacle course of comic scenarios some of which are embarrassingly predictable (Ethan stores his beloved father’s ashes in a coffee can and they’re later accidentally used to make coffee!) all of which are designed to showcase Downey’s caustic wit and Galifianakis’ sublime daffiness.
Few actors today deliver choice insults better than Downey and even fewer absorb them better than Galifianakis. They make for a truly marvelous collision of opposites and their interplay is what elevates Due Date above its often puzzlingly flat material. (That along with Galifianakis’ gift for physical comedy; no actor outside of the Jackass crew can better sell a collision with a car door.) The film's supporting cast meanwhile criminally underachieves. Conspicuous cameos from the likes of Danny McBride Juliette Lewis and Jamie Foxx are either unfunny unnecessary or both. On this road trip they’re little more than baggage. Thankfully Downey and Galifianakis are more than capable of shouldering the burden.