Monthly Archives: February 2015

“Fix the cigarette lighter.”

This next movie was watched much later than its initial release.  My parents wanted to wait until my humor was mature enough to understand all of the jokes.  After surviving “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” they must’ve felt I was ready.

The circumstances under which we rented it for my first viewing were rather funny.  I remember having a discussion with my dad about Carrie Fisher (I called her Princess Leia) when we were watching “Star Wars.” We were talking about how we never saw her in movies any more.  Then my dad said, “She was the woman who couldn’t shoot in ‘The Blues Brothers.'”

He told me about the scene and we decided that it would be the next movie we’d rent.

Carrie Fisher’s character was a very small part of a rather ludicrous, comedic masterpiece.

Everyone that has seen this movie talks about the amazing musical numbers from some of the greatest stars in soul music history.  Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and of course, the Blues Brothers.

“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” is a performance that you can’t help smiling at when you’re watching it happen.  Check out Dan Aykroyd, that guy could really dance back then.

For me, like my dad–because of him in a way–I will never forget the very brief and hilarious Carrie Fisher moments in the film,

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Her character never really gets a proper introduction until way later in the film.  This adds to the “ludicrous” element I was talking about as she is just a random woman that is attempting to kill the Blues Brothers for all we can see.  The bold way in which she goes about it is what adds to the overall farce of this movie; which is a huge part of its charm.

It is a movie that has everything in it.  A load of laughs, amazing music, live performances by legendary artists, dancing, gun fights, car cha–sorry–EPIC car chases, and a cameo by Steven Spielberg as an actor.

It will be a movie that I will never forget, and can always hold dear in my heart.  My dad introduced me to this picture and it was the last film that he and I shared as viewers together before his passing.  It was an amazing evening of just sitting and enjoying a hilarious movie together while talking about the scenes we couldn’t wait for.  Even though we had seen it over 10 times, we still laughed.

…and that is everything you want from a comedy.

***

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“…I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go….”

This movie is one for the ages and it stands the test of time.  I have talked to many people from different generations Boomers, Gen Xers (for sure), and even Mellenials…all of them love it (not so many Traditionalists–can’t please everybody).

This is arguably, along with “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future” the best “80s film” of all time.  When I say “80s film” I mean when you watch it you see the 80s (hair styles, cars, dress, etc.) and there is a strong sense of nostalgia for the viewer and that specific time period when they remember first seeing that movie.

For me, there was a lot of tension when I first watched it.

My mother was opposed to allowing us to view it.  She knew that it was a movie about a kid that made skipping school an extracurricular, and that he made “authority figures” look like morons.  I think my sister spent an hour talking my mother into allowing us to watch it.  She finally gave in.

At the end of the day, I was like, “What’s the big deal?  I guess I will never see ‘Porky’s’….”

My first viewing was challenging through all of the judgmental gasps that my mom had to throw at it.  At one point, we were able to get it copied and I was able to watch it with no distractions.

I think I watched it back-to-back.

I remember laughing at so many things and having a hard time thinking of my “favorite part.”

Generally I define my “favorite part” as that scene you always want to talk about with your friends as you are walking out of the theater.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was my “favorite part.”  Even the end credits and the final conversation Ferris has with us after the movie is over-over.

For me, Ferris Bueller was a teenager’s James Bond.  I remember people describing the Bond character as a man that women want, and a man that men want to be.  Ferris was the teenager that all the teenage girls wanted, and all of the teenage boys wanted to be him.

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He was smarter than every adult in the film (What teenager doesn’t dream of making every authority figure they come up against look like a fool?), great things just fell into his lap, and even his sister–WHO HATES HIM–comes around on her opinion of him at the end.

Some of the biggest laughs in the movie come from a very underrated comedic actor in Jeffrey Jones as Ed Rooney.  His ability to play a straight-man, buffoon is unrivaled.  The scenes at Ferris’s home without a lot of interaction with other actors are hilarious displays of slap stick and facial expressions that make the sternest people giggle (my dad).

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Add in Alan Ruck in a role of a lifetime as Ferris’s sidekick/heterosexual life partner (for this movie any way) and you have one of the most perfectly cast films of all time.

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What I found again was a character I could relate to in Cameron Frye.  The boy who was actually sick that was willing to do anything for his friend; including being the third wheel on their adventure to Chicago with Ferris’s girlfriend in tow. We all want to be Ferris, most of us are Cameron.  Things don’t always go right for us the way they do for Ferris, but we know we’re lucky to have a friend like him and would be willing to do anything to keep him.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe that Ferris’s day was selfish.  I think he sincerely did this for Cameron knowing the ins-and-outs of his friend’s home life.  He just wanted to give him a great day and tried the only way a child of privilege knew how.

Trust me, there is an entire other blog post that I could fill about this movie regarding Ferris’s sister’s journey as well, but I don’t want to indulge too many crucial points.

I will say, this movie made Charlie Sheen.

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He has what I would consider at the time a “bit part”.  We look back at it now as a cameo, but Charlie Sheen was not as well known as he is now when he has that very small scene with Ferris’s sister.  Talk about a well crafted scene.  Without even trying, that first closeup of him sitting on that couch next to her just uncomfortably staring at her is priceless.

For a movie as funny and at times as farcical as it is, to have the heart that it has in the end in Cameron’s father’s garage is at times a rare choice in Hollywood.  It’s that choice that made this film the classic that it has become.

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“Heil, everybody.”

My first war movie.

Of course it was about World War II.  That’s the only war Hollywood knew how to glamorize.

This was not a film from the 80s, but I watched it when I was 8 or 9 (1985 or 1986), I can’t remember.  It had a cast of people I had not heard of, but my parents talked about them like I talked about Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Matthew Broderick.

Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn.  I found out quickly why my parents knew and loved them all so much.  I learned their names and watched more of their films.

The Guns of Navarone” prologues with actual World War II footage of the German “guns” blasting ally U-Boats into the bottom of the sea, making a large landing of ally troops impossible in Greece.  The footage is narrated by James Robertson Justice with his very sincere and articulate English accent.

After credits, we get the band back together.

This was not the first film to get a rag-tag team of operatives together for a near impossible mission, but it is the first that I saw and I loved it.  They were to be led by Franklin with Mallory (Gregory Peck) as his second.  An expert mountaineer, he is added to the team to help Franklin and his team take a disguised fishing boat to the cliffs of Greece and climb up over them.  We learn little bits and pieces about Franklin’s team through conversation and pictures of the men/women as they describe their specialties.  David Niven is the sassy explosives specialist, and Anthony Quinn is Jules’ Wallet from “Pulp Ficton.”

The team also has a young cold-blooded nazi-killing-machine, his sister, a mute female escaped prisoner, and a man that specializes in murdering with knives.

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They run into underground resistance fighters that aid them on their quest (I know you’re supposed to call them missions since it is a war movie, but I’m a fantasy nerd.  It’s going to be called a damn quest!).  There is everything that you’ll find in your average war picture: a lot of gun fights, espionage, betrayal, capture, escape, and explosions.

This was a good shuffle for me in the types of films I was consuming as a child and the story, the suspense, the acting, and the twists were what kept me focused.

It is quite a lengthy picture at a running time of 158 minutes and the pacing will seam very slow by modern standards.

My advice–if you are interested–is to plan the time to watch it, alone with no distractions, and really listen to the dialogue (especially Niven’s lines–he has some great ones).  It is very well written and every bit of dialogue is important to the tension of the story.  If you need to stop it and take a break, do it and come back to it later.

At the age that I watched it, it was a great spectacle film for me.  I also enjoyed the chemistry the actors shared, along with the subtle relationships that all of the characters had.  How this team interacted within itself is part of the allure that drives the action vehicle and creates incredible drama.

Plus, it’s cool to watch them blow up some shit.

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“Don’t tell me, you got tied up. No. Just handcuffed a little.”

I feel like playing Jeopardy with this next movie.  I’ll list off the cast…then I guess I’ll sorta have to be the one to answer in the form of a question…screw that.  I’ll list off the cast, break it down, and write about it like I always do:

Rick Moranis

Steve Martin

Jim Belushi (Not Jon)

John Candy

Christopher Guest (if you don’t know who he is watch, “Best in Show” and “This is Spinal Tap”)

Bill Murray

to name a few.

Now, to be fair, the majority of these people are bit, side characters that have one or two scenes, except for Rick Moranis who is the lead.  He is mainly supported by Ellen Greene as Audrey and Vincent Gardenia as Mushnik.

Moranis plays Seymour as another “loveable loser” that I tend to be drawn to in a lot of films (“Lucas” Philipe Gaston in “Ladyhawke” etc.).

I need to describe my family in order to give this post the relevance that it deserves.  I come from a long line of “blue collar” workers.  My father was an electrician.  My uncle that took us to “Return of the Jedi” was a carpenter.  My dad’s dad was an electrician.  My dad’s brother was an electrician.  My brother and cousin are electricians. My other cousin is a painter.  I’m a social worker (go figure).  My point in bringing this up for this movie is that in general, a lot of these guys that are in this line of work tend to not enjoy musicals.  I watched this movie with my dad, my uncle, my cousins, and my brother (my aunt, my mom and my sister were there too) and nobody could look away, nobody could stop laughing, and everybody couldn’t stop talking about their favorite line/scenes after it was over.

Little Shop of Horrors” is that kind of weird, masterpiece musical that never comes to mind when you are talking about the “greatest musicals” of all time (probably because the subject matter is so absurd), but it definitely should be listed among the best ever put on film.  I absolutely adore this movie from the casting, to the singing, to the acting, to the puppeteering, to the special effects….underrated.

To have a musical entertain that broad of an audience just in my living room is quite extraordinary. It is one thing to do it with a Space Opera saga, or a comedy like “Ghostbusters.”  A musical generally is for people that like musicals and I do not think my dad and uncle like musicals (safe bet).  They loved this and I heard them quote it or reference it on many occasions after we watched it.

Steve Martin and Bill Murray do what they always do–deliver.  They share a scene together that almost steals the show.

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I say almost because just about every scene that Seymour shares with Audrey II just about steals the show.  Ellen Greene gives a great comedic and musical performance as the damsel in distress/Seymour crush.  Her comedic timing with her lines and her deadpan delivery is perfect for the role and Moranis and Greene light up the screen together.

I know that I have avoided talking about the plot.  That is intentional as always.  I want to encourage people to see this.  I hope that the majority of you that will, for the first time, have not been spoiled by the details.

Watching this with no warning is a joy.

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“What? Oh God, is it Lent again already?”

I used to think that Matthew Broderick was the best and only actor that ever did movies worth watching.  He couldn’t miss.  To this day, because of his little hot streak in the 80s, I will go to any movie that he is in whether it looks interesting to me or not.

Man crush?  Abso-Frakking-Lutely!  He gets to bang Carrie Bradshaw to boot.

This next movie was such a departure for him and his persona at the time, I didn’t know what to make of it at first, then I just let go and enjoyed it.

The film is set in medieval times and opens with Broderick playing a thief that is in the middle of escaping from a dungeon through the sewers of what is later found out to be Aquila.  Being that Philipe Gastone is the first to ever escape, a man hunt ensues.  After fleeing from the grasp of the Captain of the guard, Marquet, Philipe is later rescued by Navarre, played by the extremely underrated Rutger Hauer.

This film soon becomes a road movie…erm uh, a medieval road picture that Gastone, Navarre, Navarre’s amazing,beautiful horse, and a well trained hawk start out on.  Their first night away, Gastone is left alone by Navarre and he meets the most beautiful woman from the 80s (Michelle “Oh my effing GOD” Pfeifer) who apparently has appeared from out of nowhere and has taken over the barn that they are allowed to stay in for the night. If we weren’t intrigued by the adventure and the quiet and stern Navarre helping this meaningless thief out, we now have our full attention on the naked lady in the room–did I forget to mention she was naked?

YEAH, SHE’S NAKED!!!

Now, they’re very classy with the nudity, which is why my mom let me watch it, but a 9 year old’s imagination is crazy awesome.  I was totally content.

Not only was this tale an entertaining medieval action/adventure, it developed into an intriguing story with eclectic fantasy elements for which I will not divulge as I would never take these “reveals” from a viewer’s first watch.

This film also has a unique score. I watched this film with a few of my friends and they found the music distracting.  You decide.  I like it.  Give it 3 minutes and if you don’t think it’s catchy, call me crazy in the comments.

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Regarding Rutger Hauer.  He is the only person that does not speak with an English accent throughout the entirety of the film, and I did not find it distracting.  He is such a part of his character, and delivers his lines (and he does not have a lot in this picture) so articulately that the lack of accent goes unnoticed.

Has Rutger Hauer made some bad movie choices? Yes.  Has he ever not put everything he has as an actor into every role that he portrays?  I don’t believe so.  A film that he is in can be bad, but I am always happy to see him show up on film (damn–maybe I have two man-crushes in this film–see how I just worked that out).

Recently I saw him on a couple of episodes of ABC’s”Galavant” and I was disappointed that they didn’t use him enough.  He is one of the hardest working men in Hollywood.  He has been a journeyman character actor for the majority of his life and no one can portray evil the way he can when asked.  Because of that persona, he can play a role like this in which he is the strong silent man that is flawed, but can slay 100 villains all for love…..

…and we buy it.

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“Whoa, this is heavy.”

I am almost as giddy as when I posted about “Ghostbusters.”  I honestly wanted to jump in and do this back-to-back with that, but there was just so much that I needed to finish before we’ve come to this point…

…and now we’re here!

As I have referenced before, we did not get a VCR until 1986. Prior to that, a lot of people did the same as we did.  We would occasionally rent a VCR at the local rental shop if there was a movie in particular that the entire family was excited to see.  That all changed at the release of this movie.  It was the first time I remember seeing a new release, ever, taking up an entire wall of rental space.  That happens all the time now, but this was the first.  I had many friends that had gone to this film in theaters with their families and I was very excited to see it.

Every copy was already rented and there were no machines available to rent.  It was that popular.

First things first, we bought a damn VCR–RCA–it converted into a back pack and connected to a large camcorder that dad used to shoot home videos on.  I loved that damn thing.  I think we had that thing for 15 years before it finally crapped out on us.

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So we came back the next week and there were about 5 copies of the movie available.

As much as I heard about it, I didn’t really understand the concept until I sat down to watch it.  Then everything became clear by the time it was over and I wanted to watch it again, right away.

First off, the soundtrack is awesome.  The intro and “outro” song was so cool, I wanted to buy the soundtrack, but I never got a round to doing that.  My cousin had a copy and I made him play it all the time when I visited.  Every time I hear Huey Lewis and the News, I grin and think about this movie.

The shot of all the clocks and the alarms going off at the same time is so interesting.  Each clock on the wall was very unique and to hear that many different variations of the same sound is quite harmonious in a weird way.  This is of course occurring after Marty McFly has blown himself across the room with an amp as tall as a basketball hoop at full capacity.

I used to think he was so cool.  I used to wear Levis with an orange vest over them because I wanted to emulate Marty’s look.  Yes, I was a nerd, and no I didn’t just wear that on Halloween.  I dressed like that.  I also had a skateboard (like Marty’s) that had “Back to the Future” on it with a picture of the Delorian time machine.

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I found a picture of the exact skateboard I used to own!

I never did learn how to play the guitar, and I did try to pull the “”skateboard grab the car trick” once….once.

It was a bad idea.  I should’ve listened to my dad, he warned me.

The layers that were dealt with in this movie were quite amazing.  I think it needs three views to really catch everything that this movie offers.  Once for pure enjoyment.  Twice to catch some of the inside jokes at the beginning that Marty and his parents share together as a family.  A third time for all of the detail that you find in the “look” of each set that the actors work on.  I think I watched it 4 times the first time we rented it.

I remember watching the actors portray their roles in the present (1985), in the past (1955), and back to the future (get it?) 1985.  What an underrated bit of work that entire cast showed.  Crispin Glover in particular as George McFly, Marty’s father.

Lea Thompson was also at her best playing Marty’s mother and Christopher Lloyd gave a performance as a character too large for one film in Doc Brown.

I’m at the point at which I don’t want to give too much more away.  For anyone that might read this that has not seen it, I wouldn’t want to take away the pure joy you will receive in watching this movie for the first time.

Movies like this and “The Terminator” that deal with time travel, if anything, give us conversations about possibilities.  “Well what if Marty did this instead of that?  Would he still be born?” Etc.

Who doesn’t like having those conversations?

At the end of the day, I loved the idea of time travel and having the ability to fix things when given the opportunity.  It makes for great science fiction, and feeling good after a movie that allows you to think a little is never a bad thing.

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“Mr. Potato Head! Mr. Potato Head! Back doors are not secrets.”

The interesting thing about this next movie is that for the longest time after it was released, there were multiple pop culture references that people used all the time.

Two decades removed from the Cold War now, this film has lost its pop culture reference appeal and is now used to date dinosaurs like me when we quote it.  It is one of those films that you watch now and think, “Wow, so outdated.”  A lot of the things that were covered in this film were talked about for the first time.

Using computers for war. Having computers on your desk at home (I know, back in 1983, not everyone had a computer at home on their desk…crazy).

I’m going to list a few pop culture references from this film and you let me know if you’ve heard them before by commenting:

“Wouldn’t-you-prefer-a-nice-game-of-chess?” (electronic computer voice)

“To-win-the-game.” (electronic computer voice)

Defcon 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (5=peace, 1=World War III)

The use of the phrase “Launch Codes” which was used in about a million other war movies after this one.

There’s a few.  The film was very anti-computer and paranoid with that message.  Not only have the people we elected put computers in charge of our future, but they don’t have a fail safe if the computers were ever compromised.  Talk about putting the public in danger.  I think this film is one of the subconscious reasons my parents were always afraid to get a desk top.  What if it tried to kill us? I kid….slightly.

War Games” is about a smart “computer savvy” nerd that does not do well in school mainly because he is bored and has figured out how to use his computer to change his grades.  Why work when you don’t need to?  This general boredom that he has leads to trying to impress a girl (not played by Kerri Greensad face) and he learns how to break into the national defense system from his desk top.  He simulates a game of “Global Thermonuclear War” that appears on his computer as well as the national defense system’s screen, and they do not think it is a “game.”

For it’s time, this was a very entertaining film.  The public did not have the knowledge of computers that they have now and were easily drawn into the possibility of something like this happening.  We fear what we do not understand.  Basically, I didn’t get a computer until I was in college.

I really liked the acting and the writing and again, I bought the child doing adult things and eventually being the one that has to fix the mess he created.  He did get a little help from the man who created the system, but it was his smarts in the heat of the moment that saved the day.  Another 80s kid that could accomplish anything.  These movies were all over our culture.  Of course we thought we could actually be POTUS one day.  We could save our townsave a different world in a different universe, and even prevent real life Global Thermonuclear war.

POTUS just seems like destiny after that.

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“Those were happier times…”

Talk about an animated film that both children and adults enjoyed alike and I will show you the original “Lord of the Rings.”  It was made in 1978, and in its time, it was a marvel of animation.  Ralph Bakshi was the director and he had heard a rumor of the studios trying to create a 100 minute feature of the LOTR trilogy in it’s entirety.  He went straight to J. R. R. Tokien’s daughter and convinced her to give him the rights to complete the animated feature with the proper time allocated that a story of that scope deserves.

I know that this is generally not the kind of stuff you expect to read on my blog, but I do not want there to be any confusion with this version that I am going to talk about and the Peter Jackson Epic Trilogy that was done in 2001, 2002, and 2003 (Talk about the scope it deserved).

This was the film that got me reading.

I remember watching it with my mother.  She knew the answers to everything and this surprised me as I had been watching it with her for her first time too and I wanted to know how she had all of the answers.  She went into her room and pulled some books from her shelf and showed me the paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy that she owned.  I found that she was such a fan, she read them approximately once a year.  They were her favorite literature and when she saw that the Lord of the Rings was now available on VHS, she wanted to share that story she loved so much, with us.

The amazing things I remember were the scenes in which the director “painted” over actual actors performing live action and dialogue.  He saved a lot of these scenes for the Nazgul and the Orcs that were kidnapping Merry and Pippin.  It was both captivating and horrifying at the same time.  Cartoons were supposed to be obvious make believe.  That is why they are drawings.  There was a strange feel to the action of this film when they had the “painted live action” sequences.  Adding the feel of live action elements to an animated feature like this increased the suspense and we had a hard time looking away.

I remember being upset that we did not see the story through to the end.  This feature raps up at the end of Helm’s deep.  We miss out on Shelob, the Ents, the Battle at Pelennor Fields, the Gate of Mordor, and the plunge of the ring into Mount Doom.  Everyone talks about Frodo taking the ring to Mount Doom, but he never ends up there in this film.  We briefly see Treebeard and the film ends shortly after that occurrence.

The film was made in 1978, we watched it in 1986.  My mom was convinced that there would have been a sequel by then if Hollywood was going to finish the story.

She was right.

Even though the film’s story was unfinished, it still influenced me to find the ending on a different medium.  I started reading books and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was the one that started me off on that new adventure.  I was done completing the entire trilogy by the time I was in junior high and was satisfied that I had watched the ending in my mind.  I felt a greater sense of accomplishment doing it that way and decided to make a habit of that too.

Once Stephen King was discovered, I took a break from movies for a while…not a long while, but a while none the less.

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The final shot of Gandalf riding down some Orcs at Helm’s Deep will be in my mind forever as I had never seen something that brutal before, and in a “cartoon” no less.  That’s probably why my parents were okay with me watching it.

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“Because the band does not have fun there!”

I remember being deeply and emotionally moved by this film (I know that’s a-lot-o-adverbs.  Sometimes you gotta).

There is so much to this movie that the effect it has had on me as a viewer has lasted my lifetime presently.  I do get pulled into movies a little too much maybe, but there will be no changing that.

Foremost, it is about a character that I relate to more than any other story or movie that I have ever heard, read or seen.  He is a young sophomore in high school that meets the new girl in town on summer break and is immediately drawn to her (both visually and eventually interpersonally as well).  He has the best summer of his life so far, hanging out with her…and then…school starts; things change.

Lucas” is short, he wears very thick glasses, is the smartest kid in school (probably the town), is a member of the high school band, and is about to learn that you cannot control who you love; and those that do not love you back.

On summer break, Lucas is Maggie’s best friend.  She is a new girl in a small town and he is her only friend for a couple of reasons: 1) Lucas is a loner and he allows her to participate in his world, which has only room for two that summer.  2) Spending all of your time with a loner does not expose you to more people to meet.  That is why when school starts, Maggie is able to branch out and immediately join clubs and meet people that are closer to her “clique”.

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There was not a greater time for the perfect casting of Kerri Green as Maggie.  She was fresh off her role as Andy from “The Goonies.”  Having watched that and developed a decent crush on her, I crushed major–just like Lucas–when I watched this film.  If she could kiss Mikey and his braces, why couldn’t she kiss Lucas?  If she could kiss a guy like Lucas (she doesn’t, I was just hoping), then she could totally kiss me…right?

Anyways….

Great casting.

As school continues, Maggie is exposed to all of the different clubs (cheerleading, football, etc.) and meets Lucas‘ older brother figure, Cappie (captain of the football team).  We learn that Lucas–just because he is a good person–had helped Cappie pass a difficult class a while back.  Cappie has returned the favor by watching out for him (with school bullies) and by being a rare social presence in Lucas‘ life.

After making the cheer team and spending time with Cappie, of course Maggie starts to fall for the handsome jock, much to the chagrin of Lucas (AND ME QUITE FRANKLY!).

I don’t think that this film has become a cult classic or has been viewed by many people out of the “Growing Up 80s” era.  So I am going to contain myself from giving away more of the story and encourage others to watch it.  I will say you will see a very young Charlie Sheen as Cappie and Wynona Ryder makes her first appearance on film, I believe, as well.

Where you will see the movie, I do not know.  I don’t think you can stream it anywhere and rental stores are hard to find these days.  I will probably have to buy it to see it again.  Worth it to me, probably not you.

The important thing I gathered from this film is that it is not always about winning, but learning from your experiences (the bad ones mostly). They help you grow and hopefully help you make better choices.

I’m still learning.

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