8/ SIXTEEN CANDLES. DIR: JOHN HUGHES.
Before he fell into writing tripe like Baby’s Day Out, 101 Dalmatians (the Glenn Close one), Flubber and Home Alone 2 and 3, John Hughes ruled the teenage and comedy film world. Hughes will always (and should always) be remembered for his classics; such as coming-of-age dramas Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club, and for comedy hits Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Home Alone and Weird Science. But one that usually get’s forgotten about is his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles.
Focused on a story about Molly Ringwald struggling through her sixteenth birthday, which everyone has forgotten due to her sister’s upcoming wedding, this is a perfect example of what made Hughes’ films so loved to begin with. While the aforementioned classic films are better, Sixteen Candles is as superbly written and intelligently directed as the rest of them. The writing is Hughes at his prime, not a single word of dialogue feels wasted or out of place, and the visual style of his directing complements the script perfectly. We don’t get films like this anymore, mores the pity.
The acting is perfect. Nobody feels like they’re trying to force anything, it’s all so natural. Then again, what do you expect from a film that features early roles from John and Joan Cusack (the latter of which isn’t a big role). Along with all of this we get heartfelt and sincere insights into what it means to be a teenager. The love triangle scenario is far better handled here than in most other films and the ending, involving a cake with sixteen candles in it, does feel very nice and well earned.
My only issue really with Sixteen Candles, apart from it not being as tightly made as some of Hughes other works, is that I don’t find it has too much re-watchability. It’s a great film and is certainly more than worth your time. But when I first watched it, I loved it and then never really had much inkling to see it again. Not like Ferris Buhler or Planes, Trains anyway. If you are a fan of Hughes though, or if you like great comedies, or just great films in general, then be certain not to give this one a miss. You won’t regret it.
7/ HOOK. DIR: STEVEN SPIELBERG.
Despite it being critically panned upon release; despite it being an initially rejected idea for a story; despite its own director, the great Steven Spielberg being in open distain of the end product, Hook is now a cult classic and a favourite of many Peter Pan fans. This ironically mirrors my own feelings towards the film. When I first saw it, I hated Hook. But then, as time when on and I saw it more and more I found myself really, really enjoying it. It’s arguably the best Peter Pan film ever made – although when we consider that its competition is an average-at-best Disney film, a fun but forgettable 2006 version and the near unwatchable Pan, maybe that doesn’t sound like too much.
Hook works for the very reason that it was hated at first. The story is unique and very different to what anyone was expecting. It was also genius! What if the boy who never grows up…grew up? That alone makes this film worth seeing. It’s a fascinating concept and everyone on board goes at it whole-heartedly. Hook still has its issues – the tone is a little unbalanced, the sets are clearly sets (which is mostly charming, but every now and then it does cripple the scene) and the final act of the film is just bizarre. Yet it’s easy to look past this, as the film is deliberately told as if it were through a child’s eyes.
Spielberg’s direction is fluid, charming and ever-inventive. His work makes for a fun and nice movie. But it’s the late Robin Williams who runs this film. He plays Peter Banning, a man who has grown up and forgotten what it is to be a child. This makes him harsh to his children, even bordering being neglectful. In the charming words of Maggie Smith, Peter has become a pirate. Once on Neverland he slowly remembers what it is to be a kid again – until at the end when he finds the balance between the two, becoming the man he wants to be for his family. There is no better message for such a lovely and sincere family film. Top it off with great performances from Williams, Smith, Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins and Hook is one film that you’ll never be too old to see.
6/ CREED. DIR: RYAN COOGLER.
Never before – possible never again – will there be a film series that so perfectly captured an actor’s professional life as Rocky did. What started as an underdog story was followed by another rousing success (Rocky and Rocky 2). Following this we got sillier, but still massively entertaining films (3 and 4). And then we’d had enough, the charm was gone, and we were begging for the actor to move onto better things (Rocky 5). Thing’s did change a little bit, but not for the better (Rocky Balboa). Then finally, he mellowed out and found a way to address a new generation (Creed). That’s the professional story of Sylvester Stallone.
In Creed, we follow the son of Apollo Creed from the first four Rocky films, played by Michael B Jordan – an actor who, were it not for Fant4stic, would have had a near spotless career. Rocky has changed roles with age, now taking on the same role as Burgess Meredith from the original films. Creed, for the most part, does feel like a remake of Rocky – following a very similar story and featuring the same characters, albeit in different roles. But it knows that, and it plays it to the film’s advantage – with Rocky’s age being the glue that holds it together.
We have a character who we have followed for many films now teaching someone else what he has learned, and slowly Adonis Creed learns the same lessons. We still get the lesson of it’s not winning that counts, it’s how well you do. I honestly wish that more films were as self-aware as this one – it’s a rarity these days. Ryan Coogler’s direction is a definite bonus. Coolger is possible one of the best directors working today (Black Panther being further proof of his talents) and he delivers some impressive scenes – with the single shot boxing-match being a standout. There is an upcoming sequel where Adonis Creed will have to face down the son of Ivan Drago, the villain from the fourth Rocky. I’m very interested in seeing it, and I can only hope that it is nearly as good as this. Both nostalgic and completely new, this is one of the best ways to revitalize a franchise.