A Star is Born (1954) is the first remake to the 1937 original. Being released in the 50’s, the type of star was changed from Hollywood actress to musical starlet. Since musical productions were the biggest thing at the time. So it only made sense that they cast Judy Garland as the lead. Her role was something of a comeback considering she hadn’t acted since 1950. It’s easily one of the best performances of her career (after The Wizard of Oz). Which is why her Best actress loss is perhaps the biggest upset in Oscar history. Unfortunately some of the movie’s footage was lost too. So it had to be replaced with black & white images. This version of A Star is Born is the closest to the original. Esther Blodgett (Vicki Lester) and Norman Maine have the same names and motivations. Only the story picks up when Esther has a modest career as a stage singer. She meets a drunk Norman Maine while she’s performing. He wastes no time trying to convince her to quit her band and become an even bigger star. Her only concern is believing she doesn’t look good enough. That’s when he tells her “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.” English actor James Mason plays this Norman as both assertive and sympathetic. Especially during the Oscar sequence when he begs for a job. Big musical numbers are given a bit more focus than their relationship, but it’s still a strong part of the 3 hour movie. Their best moment has to be when she performs exclusively for him. Thanks to the strong performances Norman’s alcoholic spiral is a lot more tragic. With the addition of songs like “The Man that got Away,” A Star is Born (1954) set the standard for this simple tale of rising fame.
Esther performs for Norman
Remake of: A Star is Born (1937)
A Star is Born (1937) is the timeless tale of rising fame. So timeless in fact that it was remade 3 separate times over the course of 9 decades. I’m probably the only person my age who’s seen every version. It all started in 1937. The original A Star is Born set the template, but it still has its own decade appropriate feel to it. The only constant is that a woman who hasn’t gotten her big break yet is given the opportunity by an alcoholic fading star. The two have a quickie marriage and as her star rises, his fades away. After embarrassing her at an award show, his alcohol abuse takes its toll on their marriage. Until he dies in a possible accident. Leaving her to carry on his legacy. In this version the woman is Esther Blodgett and the man is Norman Maine. Being the 30’s, Esther has dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood actress. So we follow her journey from humble beginnings to when she eventually meets major star Norman Maine at a party. Another constant is when he says “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.” As per the times, Esther is given the stage name Vicki Lester. She’s so successful that she even wins an Oscar. The movies themselves always gain the same attention. She may not be the most recognizable of the four actresses, but Janet Gaynor is perfectly charming as the lead. While Fredric Marsh can be both likable and a little aggressive. It’s their chemistry that sells the whole premise. I definitely wasn’t expecting a movie this old to tackle drinking the way it did. Let alone be in Technicolor. A Star is Born (1937) may not be the flashiest, but it’s an honest picture that deserves just as much admiration.
Esther and Norman cuddle
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is just an excuse to show off Eddie Murphy’s ability to play several characters at once. As well as the still impressive makeup used to bring the Klumps to life. Which is why the large and in charge family is given way more attention. Even when it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. Since learning to accept his weight, Professor Klump is finally ready to marry Denise. Despite her importance Jada Pinkett was too busy getting Smithed to return. So instead Janet Jackson plays his love interest/fiancé. Among many other plot points, Sherman invents a youth serum, he has Buddy Love extracted from his body, he gets progressively dumber, Buddy takes on the traits of a dog, Papa Klump can’t satisfy his wife so he takes the serum, and Granny comes onto Buddy. While the first movie had its fair share of gross out moments, The Klumps is far too reliant on them. The most disgusting has to be the one involving the Dean and a giant hamster. Not to mention all the recycled jokes like Sherman’s nightmare or farting at dinner. Although Murphy’s inevitable decline started to show, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is nevertheless funny enough as a feature length version of the family dinner scene.
The Klumps prepare to eat
Preceded by: The Nutty Professor (1996)
Since the High School Musical craze refused to end, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure was made. The only spin-off made for the musical franchise. Most people don’t know it exists since it was released direct-to-video. Sharpay Evans is the “antagonist” of the three High School Musical movies. Played by Disney Channel “it girl” Ashley Tisdale. I say antagonist, but really she never did anything outright villainous. Of course Disney couldn’t keep her bad forever either. So she was always redeemed at the end of every movie. Sharpay is definitely the protagonist of Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Which has just about the most generic/cliché plot imaginable. After graduating from East High, Sharpay now yearns to star on Broadway. So she moves to New York, stays in a crummy apartment, doesn’t get the part, meets a guy that helps her, and eventually becomes a star. Its been done a million times and the only standout is the character. The songs don’t even standout. I also wasn’t happy to see her love interest change. Since she’s supposed to be with Zeke (the baker). The only real connection to the trilogy is a cameo from her brother Ryan. Which can only be seen on TV. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure is at best a colorful distraction.
Sharpay and Boi are shocked
Spin-off of: High School Musical
Lost in Translation is the story of strangers in a strange land. After proving to be not much of an actress, Sofia Coppola tried her hand at directing. First with The Virgin Suicides and second with the much more critically acclaimed Lost in Translation. Like I said in my Godfather Part III review, her father is a great director, wouldn’t it be obvious that she’d be a great director too. She even ended up winning an Oscar for Best original Screenplay. Making them the only father-daughter duo to win the same award. Sofia Coppola based the movie on her own experiences in Japan. The idea of two people talking in Tokyo for an hour may not sound all that interesting, but it’s actually quite engaging. Since Coppola cast unconventional actors as the leads. Scarlett Johansson who only did supporting parts at the time and Bill Murray who is mostly known for comedy. Lost in Translation opens with a shot of Johansson’s butt (I’m still not sure why). Then it follows aging actor Bob Harris who is filming Japanese Whiskey commercials in Tokyo. Where he has trouble communicating. Eventually he has a chance encounter with Charlotte. The young wife of a celebrity photographer. You would think two people with such an age difference would have nothing to talk about, but they’re more alike than you think. They explore the bright streets of Tokyo together and just find comfort in one another. The movie is only R because of an out of nowhere strip club scene. Lost in Translation famously ends with the two parting ways, but not before Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear. Something that will forever remain a mystery. Lost in Translation is the best kind of midlife crisis.
Bob and Charlotte hang out
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, my my, how can I resist you? While Mamma Mia! was very much a guilty pleasure, its sequel was a surprise hit that no one could have predicted. They succeed because they went the Godfather Part II route. By having it be both a sequel and a prequel. The sequel portion focuses on Sophie trying to reopen her mother’s Greek hotel after her death. Since Meryl Streep doesn’t usually do sequels. She also happens to be pregnant, so she enlists the help of her friends and fathers. Her grandmother also drops by for an unannounced visit. Cher’s presence is always welcome even if it’s hard to buy her as Meryl Streep’s mother. The prequel portion of the movie is a far bigger highlight. It details the crazy adventures Donna went on when she was younger. Including how she ended up with Harry, Sam, and Bill all around the same time. It’s quite remarkable how well every younger actor matches their older counterparts. Especially Lily James as young Donna. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to upstage Meryl Streep, but she pulls it off. Her singing voice is better and her story is much more interesting. I was also pleased to hear a few more ABBA songs that I was familiar with. Like “Waterloo” and “Fernando.” Of course they couldn’t resist doing “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia” again. With the removal of what didn’t work previously, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was really when I had the time of my life.
Donna and her family
Preceded by: Mamma Mia!
Mamma Mia! is all about ABBA. A swedish musical group popular in the 70’s and 80’s. Save for there two biggest hits, I never considered myself an expert of ABBA songs. So I never really considered seeing Mamma Mia! At least not until I listened to more of their music. All I knew about the movie was that it was considered a guilty pleasure. Mamma Mia! is based on a jukebox musical of the same name. It takes place on a Greek island during a wedding. Amanda Seyfried plays the bride to be Sophie. She has a dream that her father will be able to walk her down the aisle. Her only dilemma is not knowing who that is. So she decides to invite every potential father to the wedding in the hopes that she figures it out. Since her mother Donna was with three separate men at the same time. All played by familiar actors. Pierce Brosnan as Sam, Colin Firth as Harry, and Stellan Skarsgård as Bill. She tries, but I think it’s safe to say this is one performance Meryl Streep ain’t winning awards for. Her singing voice isn’t exactly suited for pop. Speaking of singing voices, Pierce Brosnan should stick to acting. Mamma Mia! mostly suffers from common rom-com clichés. There’s also a problem with the placement of songs in the story. Since ABBA songs are pre-existing, they have to fit them in whether they make sense or not. Not that it isn’t a lot of fun seeing elaborate dance numbers for songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia.” Mamma Mia! is beautiful to look at and can be very enjoyable if you’re willing to accept its silly plot.
Sophie and her family
Followed by: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Bend it Like Beckham is sports movie goals. Despite being the most popular sport in the world, I’ve never been a big soccer guy (or football to most countries). For the sake of geographical convenience, I’ll be referring to football as soccer. Bend it Like Beckham refers to famed soccer player David Beckham. Jesminder is an Indian girl with a not so secret love for soccer and a poster of Beckham above her bed. She lives in England where an English girl named Jules finds her playing soccer in the park. Due to her underutilized talent, Jules befriends as well as offers Jess a position on a women’s soccer team. But Bend it Like Beckham isn’t just about soccer. It’s also about culture. Since Jess’ parents have strict beliefs, they don’t allow her to play soccer. Leading to an eventual rift that makes her choose between her Indian heritage and the game that she loves. Speaking of love, things only get more complicated when she falls for her Irish coach (whom Jules also happens to fancy). I don’t mind playing soccer, it’s just the watching that never got me into it. That being said, the movie did at least manage to boost my overall interest of the sport. Bend it Like Beckham is a charming story of love, society, and soccer you’re bound to get a kick out of.
Jess holds up the winning trophy
Never Been Kissed is all about that magical moment we all experience. Unless your one of the few who hasn’t. I can relate to the title and lead character. Since I myself have gone a long time without being kissed. Josie Geller is a newspaper copy editor looking to become a serious journalist. Her big break comes when she’s assigned to work undercover as a high school student. This is obviously a big suspension of disbelief. Since there’s no way a 25 year old would pass for 17. Then again, Drew Barrymore looked pretty young for her age at the time. So who knows if it would fool people in real life. Josie was a nerd back in high school and just as it seems like she’s falling into old habits, she finds a way to be popular. Along the way falling in love with her teacher. Which brings up a bunch of ethical questions considering how close they get before her secret gets out. Her brother who tags along, also finds himself in an underaged relationship. Despite that detail, it leads to one of the most romantic movie kisses of the decade. When Josie is kissed on a pitcher’s mound. Never Been Kissed is another teen movie I just had to watch. I didn’t realize before I watched it, just how many actors I recognized were in it. But Drew Barrymore’s lovable performance is what makes Never Been Kissed such a 90’s gem.
Sam kisses Josie
She’s All That is the best example of the trope “Beautiful all along.” That thing in movies where an “unattractive” girl with glasses and a ponytail takes off her glasses, lets down her hair, and suddenly she’s gorgeous. She’s All That is also a contemporary high school retelling of Pygmalion aka My Fair Lady. It became one of the most popular teen movies of the late 90’s. Since it probably follows the most teen movie clichés. Zack is the popular jock who’s just been dumped by his conceited girlfriend. You can tell it’s the 90’s, because she leaves him for a guy who was on The Real World. His friend then proceeds to make a bet that Zach can turn any girl he choses into a prom queen. He chooses the artsy social outcast Laney Boggs. After a few failed attempts, she finally lets her guard down after the iconic makeover. Rachael Leigh Cook is clearly very attractive, but her character arc is still the most genuine part of the movie. Since she struggles with letting herself come out of her shell. The same can be said about 90’s mainstay Freddie Prinze Jr. at times. The only thing that distracts from the romance is a few out of place moments. Like the bizarrely raunchy lunch room scene. Of course the secret does comes out and you already know what to expect, but it doesn’t make their first kiss any less effective. I didn’t even realize the song “Kiss Me” came from this movie. Since it feels like it fits another 1999 teen movie a bit better. Regardless, She’s All That is in fact, all that.
The new Laney Boggs
P.S. I’ll bet you didn’t know M. Night Shyamalan wrote part of the movie.