Quick Movie Review: Snow Day (2000)

snowday

Originally intended to be a feature film version of the Nickelodeon show, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Snow Day has its roots buried well.

Living in California, we never had snow days, but I was luckily able to live vicariously through this movie.

Snow Day follows a group of young kids who celebrate the year’s first school closure and try to stop the “evil” snow-plowman (Chris Elliott) from clearing the roads. Meanwhile, high schooler Hal (Mark Webber) tries to woo the popular Claire Bonner (Emmanuelle Chriqui) after she breaks up with her boyfriend. The film’s moniker is that anything can happen on a snow day.

Just like Pete & Pete, it’s way smarter than it needs to be or should be. Much like childhood, it’s often bittersweet. It glorifies the simple things because that’s what it’s like when we’re kids. These little pleasures are such a big deal to us, and it’s nice to see a movie that understands that.

For a children’s movie it’s fully aware of itself and stays entertaining throughout without having to throw in any cheap action sequences.

Though it’s still a product of its time, so it’s not without a couple of sappy moments–only one or two.

Hal’s dad is played by Chevy Chase, who’s a perfect fit. And Josh Peck is a wonder here in his debut. It’s apparent early on that he has great instincts. The cast is very good all around with some solid performances that really get the job done. There really aren’t any weaknesses.

Hal’s sister, Natalie, is the ring leader of the anti-plowman kids. A lesser film would have found cliches to fill out her relationship with her brother, but this one knows how to hit the nail perfectly on the head.

This movie just gets it, embellishing small moments and memories as we do in our minds when we’re young, and keeping them that way even into adulthood, so we can look back at them the best way possible. Snow Day basically magnifies that sentiment and perfectly empathizes with it by making the mundane magical.

Twizard Rating: 92

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Quick Movie Review: On Your Marc (2017)

on your marc

If you’re like me and grew up with ’90s Nickelodeon, you have an intrinsic affinity for Marc Summers. He was like the face of the network back in the day, hosting perennial mainstays, like Double Dare, and the more forgotten about What Would You Do? A zeitgeist, if you will. You could say he was my childhood.

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the world premiere of his documentary, On Your Marc. He was there in person–someone who I’ve always wanted to meet, yet always felt like I have. And that’s where this documentary seems to get it.

I’m not sure how to critique the film as someone who doesn’t know who the man is, because I can’t even imagine what that would be like. But as someone who grew up watching him on my TV set, I can tell this documentary seems to understand what else we’d like to know about someone who’s already an open book.

It isn’t a documentary in the strict biographical sense. Sure, it covers mostly everything in his life–dripping information here and there about meeting his wife, how he was inspired to be in the entertainment industry, his performance as a father when his kids were little, etc.–but focuses mostly on his later career, post-Nickelodeon. It’s not linear, yet you don’t feel robbed of his backstory.

Marc’s dreams in show business are rooted in theater, ever since attending a performance of Fiddler On the Roof as a child. So with this stage show, he’s one step closer to Broadway–a destination that’s never left his sight. As someone with seemingly unattainable goals for my own career in this industry, it tugs at my heart strings. It’s crazy to think that the person you look up to also feels like he hasn’t quite “made it” yet.

The main topics discussed are Summers’ lifelong struggle with OCD, reaching his ultimate career goal, and his recent bout with cancer. The film uses him prepping for his one-man theater show to underlie his story–interspersing it when necessary without focusing on it too much.

But the film isn’t always so serious. In fact, it’s quite funny. It mostly finds the comedy in all of this otherwise deep subject matter, with most of the humor coming from Marc’s natural wit–as he, himself narrates a big chunk of it. After all, Summers was a stand up comedian early on in his career. The documentary actually takes his lead, fitting right into his style.

It’s funny because you never felt before like you didn’t already know the man. He’s naturally such an open and real guy, you feel like you’ve always known him. You almost forget he’s a celebrity. But with this, his vulnerabilities come through even more–making him more real, if even possible.

And it’s all so beautifully candid that you barely even feel like it’s covering much ground. But sure enough, you walk out of the theater with a much more rounded out view of a person you’ve always loved anyway. When you leave, you feel like you may know almost as much as the filmmakers at this point. It’s truly an accomplishment.

The film is written and directed by Mathew Klickstein–a perfect choice. Years ago merely a passionate fan of ’90s Nickelodeon, he’s now the acclaimed author of Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age–since then, becoming good friends with Summers because of it. A genius? Perhaps. I just wish I thought of it first.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Varsity Blues (1999)

varsity

If you want to witness James Van Der Beek attempt to don a Texan accent for 106 minutes, you may not get another chance. While fun, it has all the signs of a stereotypical late-’90s teen movie. It’s cheesy, telegraphed, cliched, crude–yet meaningful.

It follows a successful high school football team coached by Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight)–a man who basically runs the community. The small Texas town has already erected a bronze statue made in his likeness. The guy even controls the police to the point that his players can get away with stealing cop cars. That’s how obsessed this community is with their high school football. It’s all they have.

Mox (Van Der Beek) doesn’t see it that way. He’s the 2nd string quarterback and has plans to go to Brown University and put the sport behind him. But as soon as he’s forced into the starting role, he enjoys soaking up all the attention.

Varsity Blues doesn’t take too many risks–if any–but it has a lot to say. The script is deceptively good. It may be platitudinous in its dialogue and outcomes, but under the surface it makes some seldom-touched upon points.

The football scenes are some of the more realistic we’ve seen in movies up to this point, and it organically showcases the importance of football in some small towns in this country. It then proceeds to question that very importance, along with the aggrandizing of athletics in our schools altogether.

Subtly juxtaposing these ideals, we see Mox’s little brother, who has an obsession with religions and practices a variety of them throughout the movie, much to his parent’s disapproval.

It isn’t perfect, but Varsity Blues holds up well. Voight gives us a compelling villain to despise and the film more nuanced that meets the eye. It made me nostalgic and I was entertained.

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: The Unauthorized Full House Story (2015)

full house story

Full House is one of my favorite television shows of all time. The nostalgia that exudes from the screen every time I watch it is almost unparalleled. But when making a Lifetime movie about all that happened behind-the-scenes, you have to expect a below average product.

Honestly, I didn’t hate it. The made-for-TV-movie happens to hit on what Full House was all about for their audience–escaping our lives temporarily to watch a family that we knew would make it all work out in the end. Full House was far from a technically superb show, but America loved it for some strange reason. It spoke to us, and it had it’s own distinct character to it.

But other than fans watching their childhood being made significant with the production of a “biopic”, this film is poorly made, thus written off as laughable.

While hardly scratching the surface, The Unauthorized Full House Story gives little depth to what happened off-camera. It provides necessary details of what occurred over a 10 year period for nearly a dozen characters, but doesn’t make the conflicts mean anything.

But honestly, I don’t think that’s what is making people write this one off. I think it’s the fact that every little missed detail is annoyingly distracting us from becoming convinced of this world that the filmmakers have created. We want to get sucked in and experience all the happenings of the people we so fondly grew up with. And that’s what a biopic is all about–being convinced. But the main actors–other than the girl who played the young Candice Cameron–were ever so inaccurate with their portrayals. Bob Saget comes off as whiny, John Stamos appears to be a prude, and the Olsen twins aren’t nearly as precocious as they were famously known to be. We have a hard time imagining the actors playing the characters, therefore taking away from the “magic” that is supposed to be present here. In fact, after lines were delivered, I spent a lot of time stopping to imagine the actual person saying them.

Also, almost nothing about this film feels like it’s set in the ’80s or ’90s. From the first scene, when we see a pre-fame Saget delivering jokes in a comedy club, the camera flashes to the audience who is dressed as if it were 2015. At least make us FEEL like we’re there!

But let’s face it, most likely we’re not going to get a feature film biopic directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring a handful of household names. This is pretty much as good as we’re going to get outside of an actual documentary or the followup series being delivered sometime in 2016.

Twizard Rating: 54