5 Stars Movies

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Despite being an extroverted child with Asperger’s, it still seems to surprise some of my friends who did not know me growing up that I never once had a detention. Of course, it helps when nearly every person in your family history was a teacher in some capacity.

When I mentioned this to one of the minister’s at my church, he said he found that rather hard to believe. I responded simply, “That’s because you never met my dad”. That is not to say my dad was deeply strict or anything. My dad was totally loving and supportive. The issue was that, as a High School social studies teacher turned Dean turned Assistant Principal, he would tell me stories at the dinner table about what all the “bad” kids did (to be fair, it was more entertaining than what the “good” kids did). These stories, which must have started as far back as when I was a 1st grader were ingrained in my mind to know when to not mess around (despite being a self confessed class clown from time to time.)

This all be said, I am unable to say how accurate a demonstration of the given detention format is in The Breakfast Club (especially since it was made a couple years before I was even born). Either way, the film still works because, despite what generation one was born in, we all have the same amounts of mixed feelings and insecurities (not to mention hormones).

Set in an Illinois high school, five students are to serve a full nine hours of Saturday detention, in which time the Dean, Mr. Vernon (Paul Gleason), expects each of them to write an essay (no less than a 1,000 words) about who they think they are. Each of the five represents five of the stereotypical teenager: The jock Andrew (Emilio Estevez), the beauty queen Claire (80s mega star Molly Ringwald), the brain Brian (Anthony Michael Hall), the criminal (John) Bender (Judd Nelson), and the basket case Allison (Ally Sheedy).

Essentially, the movie is a state play, as it is set primarily in the library (which was made specifically for the movie). This means the film’s script was essential to the success of the film. Of course, it helps when the writer/director is the late great John Hughes, one of the most defining filmmakers of the 1980s. Along with this, he scripted films such as Vacation (1983), Sixteen Candles (1984), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (1987), and Home Alone (1990).

These films had more than just classic lines (“Bueller?…Bueller…?” and “Those aren’t pillows!”, to name a few). He had humor and heart in each of the characters he created, even the janitor Carl (John Kapelos). When I first saw the film (which must of been in my last year or two of High School but I am not sure), I remember listening to Carl talking to the kids. When he said he is “the eyes and the ears of this institution”, I could not help but have more respect for janitors ever since.

Each student of The Breakfast Club is in detention for his/her own reason (if you have seen it, you know what those are), so it is fair to say that none of them start off well with each other. Still, Hughes manages to let each character have their own moment(s) in the spotlight (Bender indeed has most of the lines at the start, but he is one who always yearns for attention). Despite the fact that each actor was older than a teenager while filming (as is many case in the history of cinema), they are all very effective.

Now for the last 15-20 minutes or so of the film. After moments of rage, running, lying, and absurdity (Andrew making the glass break is clearly a mistake since it makes no sense), the kids finally sit down and talk. This is during the same time that Vernon has sat down with Carl in the basement, as Vernon reflects on the negatives of his career, and how these kids will be taking care of him when he is old (it is clear he crosses a line with Bender when they talk alone, and Vernon promises “I’m gonna be there”). Of course, we spend more time with the kids discussing their issues than we would ever want to hear about what the adults are feeling.

All of the acting (for the most part) is completely sublime, as each student spills their hearts out to each other on everything they are feeling. As someone who does not cry often in movies, this scene will get my eyes rather damp. The best way I can describe it is something like a summer camp. Though I don’t remember these talks as a camper, I have spent many of the last few summers as a counselor. The deep discussions campers you have with campers are soul piercing and will change lives (especially if they start it).

Parents, the film is rated R, though I would argue that every teenager should see this when they are in high school. There is swearing (something that I doubt will ever leave high schools in general), as well as sexual discussion. Still, the feelings of insecurity and rage and all other emotions of teenagers are discussed better in this film than any other I have seen, so you owe it to your kids to have them see this when they reach the right age.

There are a plethora of lessons the kids learn in this faithful day, not the least of which is that growing up is hard, regardless of background or race (had this movie been made today, the roles would be much more racially diverse). When you reflect on it, you realize why growing up is hard: You realize (especially in your teen years) that change is inevitable. In fact, as I typed that last sentence, my spotify playlist actually (for real) started playing Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a-changin’.” As Christians, it is always beyond refreshing to remember that God never changes. He is the same God as the one in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and will be the same long after this. True, another thing that does not change is humans having emotions. Perhaps the best thing the kids truly learn is how to express them in the right way: Not with negative actions but with talking it out with others.

The Breakfast Club brought a random idea to my head: I am writing this in the early stages of the year 2020, where our political climate is (to say the absolute least) tense. The blame game is everywhere, making more sense of Allison’s famous line “When you grow up, your heart dies.” Perhaps we need politicians (at least the main ones) to spend time alone in a room.

Obviously, this won’t solve all our problems right away, but it will show each of them that they are all a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.


Rating: 5 out of 5.
5 Stars Movies

Apollo 13 (1995)

In the 2000s, one of my favorite review sites to go to was that of “Mr. Cranky”. It was a satirical site (now no longer available), in which the reviews would state how bad the film really was (the highest rated were for films deemed “almost tolerable”). Of the many reviews I had seen, my favorite header came from the review of Apollo 13, which read along the lines of “Spoiler: They survive.”

Yet the fact that we know what will happen does not at all take away from the suspense of the film. Released about a quarter century after the events occurred (and now a quarter of a century after the release), the film still works as a thrilling adventure for those like me who were not alive when three astronauts spent days in space with little to no hope of survival after an unexpected explosion.

The plot is well known to (mostly) every adult. After the success of the moon landing, astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) captains a trip to the moon with fellow astronaut/friend Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and the relatively young Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon). Only a couple days into the mission do we get the troubling, immortal line by Hanks: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Upon my umpteenth time of seeing the film, I was surprised to realize how much I took the supporting cast for granted. Take, for example, those at mission control. While the head of the ground team is indeed Gene Kranz (the always irreplaceable Ed Harris), that does not not mean others are unimportant.

You have higher up men like former astronaut Deke Slayton (Chris Ellis) and Henry Hurt (Xander Berkley, one of those actors know for playing guys you always find yourself not liking), but other of the tech guys like that of Sy (played by the wonderfully underrated Clint Howard, brother of the films director Ron). Rounding them out, of course, is Ken (Gary Sinise), who was sidelined for Jack at the last minute due to the fear of him catching the measles.

The same is also applied to those in the astronauts’ personal life. Nowadays, the role of the supportive wife is somewhat mundane, but that does not at all take away from the affectiveness of Kathleen Quinlan as Jim’s wife Marilyn.

It is also worth noting that Ron Howard not only cast his brother Clint, but his late parents as well. His father (Rance Howard) makes a cameo as the Reverend (though I don’t remember him having any lines), yet it is his real life mother, Jean Speegle Howard, who steals the scenes she is in as Jim’s mother, Blanche. “If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.”

Though I have not done much of the research myself, it has been said that Apollo 13 is rather accurate to what actually happened. This is rather astounding, as many films are known for taking liberties for sometimes actually changing history (such as Braveheart, also released in 1995, and beat Apollo 13 for Best Picture at the Oscars). As I was rewatching, I was looking at someways the film could have taken liberties. In the film, Fred Haise’s wife Mary (Tracy Reiner) is pregnant with their next child (“I have thirty more days till this blast off.”) Imagine if the screenplay (which is based off of a book co written by the real Jim Lovell) decided to add some unneeded melodram, and have her giving birth while daddy was in space. Or if they decided to dive deeper into Jack’s mistake to file his tax return. The point is that they stick to the story and don’t leave room for any outside fluff.

Despite how many times you have seen the film (by now, you should know it is endlessly rewatchable), you may find it surprising at how many countless factors the crew has going against it. Lack of oxygen. Too much Carbon Dioxide (and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole). Lack of sleep. Endless cold. A Typhoon Warning. The angle of reentry. A broken heat shield. Minimal power supply. The problems seem truly endless, and are sprinkled throughout the mission that you really forget at times that they do make it in the end.

One of the lesser known little moments of the film comes in the final moments of the journey. Just as the crew is about to enter the earth’s atmosphere (with their backs to the surface, no less), after Hanks’ character chimes in with “Gentlemen, it’s been a privilege flying with you,” we see the three astronauts for what is the last time before they seem to be nearly engulfed in flames.

What always stuck out to me was we see each astronaut’s final facial expression before the flames surround them. While each character has had their own approach to the idea of space flight (Hanks as the vet, Bacon as the newbie, and Paxton as the “wow, am I lucky to be here, now I just want to go home” type), each of them clearly shows the sense of knowing they will probably die now. It is proof that each of us does react differently in the face of death.

I have always been one who is not a fan of some decisions made by the MPAA rating system. However, I remember being pleasantly surprised when I found out that Apollo 13 is rated PG. There is no sex in the film (one scene with two characters in the shower, but nothing is seen). Aside from the obvious intensity, it is mainly the language (a few S words). Middle school and above are fine with seeing this film (and arguably should).

Recently, I was listening to the Bruce Springsteen song “We take care of our own”. Much of the lyrics (let alone the title) were vibrant in my head when watching this film. Nowadays, we have sad times when those around the world (not just the country) offer support and love (mass shootings, terrorist attacks, etc). It is a clear reminder of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 12, which talks about the body of Christ.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26

The film is a sheer reminder that, when we as a body are working together (alone with God, of course), we can encounter any problem.


Rating: 5 out of 5.
3 Stars Movies

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

All of my interactions I had with Sonic as a 90s kid were from my friends.

After my older brother and I got the Super Nintendo (a landmark day in my life at the age of 4 or so), we would have to depend on friends to play on the Sega console and race with Sonic, Tails (being the little brother, I was always second player, so this was my character), and Knuckles. While the Nintendo library is undoubtedly more popular than that of Sega, it is clear the that Sega’s mascot would always be the blue furry Sonic going forward (even if some of his games, like the one in 2006, would come to a crashing halt). Sonic’s roller-coaster career in the gaming world is surpassed by the even more uneven history of movies based off video games, so mixing them together to make Sonic the Hedgehog definitely had me wary, to say the least.

Still, Sonic has a steady loyal fan club. When the first trailer of Sonic the Hedgehog came out, there was online protest that was heard by nearly all those on the internet: Sonic did not look right at all. This forced director Jeff Fowler and the rest of the needed crew to go back and change Sonic’s appearance to be more accurate to the games. As someone who only played one or two of the games, I cannot say how accurate Sonic’s “backstory” is. In the film, the baby hedgehog is born with incredible speedy legs, soon to only be matched by his speedy mouth. When his powers are discovered, he is told by his guardian Owl Longclaw (don’t ask) to use his magic rings to travel through the universe to Earth. He is ordered strictly not to be seen by anyone.

Flash forward ten years. Sonic is living in the outskirts of a small town in Montana called Green Hills. The town is looked after by the local sheriff (or “Donut Lord”, as Sonic calls him), Tom (James Marsden). He and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) are in the process of moving to San Francisco. In the mean time, Sonic has caused an accidental black out of the whole town (if not more of the west coast), leading the government to (somewhat unwillingly) call in Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Tom and Sonic team up and are on their way to San Francisco where Sonic has lost his bag of rings he needs to get to his next safe haven: a mushroom planet (“I hate mushrooms” is perhaps Sega’s commentary towards a certain plumber in the Nintendo canon).

No doubt the plot of the film is rather fast paced, yet full of questions. Here is the main one: If Sonic (who is voiced well by Ben Schwartz) is able to run as fast as he can, you would think he could just run to San Francisco and get the rings (though to be fair, the rings have ended up on top of a building). The movie does have one moment where Sonic does in fact run to the West Coast, only to go straight into the Pacific. The movie does its best to show that Sonic is in desperate need of a GPS. Of course, if he could just run there and get the rings himself, not only would there not be a friendship between him and Tom, but there would be no movie.

While I was not the biggest fan of Sonic growing up, I was a very big fan of Jim Carrey. From Ace Ventura to The Mask to (mainly) Dumb and Dumber to Liar Liar, he was the first real movie star I knew by name. His work as Dr. Robotnik is far from his best work (comedic or dramatic), but I would be lying if I said it did not bring back some vibes I had long forgotten about these past two decades.

Though the film does not get as deep as other family films (like those in the Disney library), young kids can still learn a good lesson or two. Sure, the idea of not being cruel to animals is there (Tom’s wife is a veterinarian), but most kids won’t look at Sonic as some kind of pet. He is indeed as human as most CGI characters (the CGI is actually very well done). The real lesson for kids is how to help those in need, regardless of if you know them or not (Luke 6:31). There is also a secondary lesson on life decisions (as shown in whether Tom should take his new offer in San Francisco or not.)

Parents, the film is fine for kids. There is may one minor swear word or two, and light kissing. The action has virtually zero violence in it. Add in some lightly peppered humor the adults might get, and the film ends up being fine for anyone in the family.

Even with the flimsy plot, Sonic the Hedgehog worked on me mainly due to the fact that I am, as stated before, a child of the 90s. The film is like a boxing match of two different bits of 90s nostalgia. In one corner, you have video games (Sonic), and the other corner has Jim Carrey. It is a match of nearly equal amounts of quirky, bizarre energy (both Sonic and Dr. Robotnik seem to clearly have some amount of ADD). While most movies based on video games are genuinely bad, Sonic the Hedgehog has set a nice pace for those to follow.

Here is hoping they catch up.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

5 Stars Movies

Roman Holiday (1953)

Despite the fact that Superbowl LIV (2020) was the first title for the Kansas City Chiefs, the story most talked about was the half time show, featuring latin pop stars Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performing in ways that offended many. Though I paid little to no attention to the show (it was not my type of music), it is understandable to see why many were concerned: it seemed to many to send a message that this is how women can act. Certainly, this is a vast difference from 1953, when Roman Holiday came out.

Of course, society has changed in too many ways to count since then, but the idea of a woman still making her own mind up was relevant. In the film, the fictional Princess Anne (Audrey Hepburn) is poised on the outside, yet struggling with insecurity and identity on the inside (not to mention keeping her shoes on). After an outburst, the doctor gives her a sedative. Once she is alone, she manages to escape the palace, only to make it a few blocks before the drugs kick in, and she is nearly knocked out.

As she lays on a bench, reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) mistakes her for a drunk, and helps her to his apartment. The next morning, he awakens and soon discovers it is the Princess. Eager for a story, he tries to lead her on a vacation of sorts in Rome, while his friend Irving (Eddie Albert) takes secretive pictures of the daily exploits (“we can’t go running around with a hot princess!”, Irving says).

The way the film is structured is so well done it is easy to overlook. The Oscar winning story (by blacklisted Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo) gives us real characters in not so ridiculous situations. Even though Princess Anne is revered and respected, she is still a human with normal feelings and desires as anyone. And then there is Joe, who may be looking for a story, but still has a rather good heart (even if he won’t let anyone sleep on his bed).

Leads in any film are one of the key ingredients that will make or break the outcome. Hepburn and Peck are Hollywood legends, and they prove it here. Peck was more than just the tall, dark, handsome guy. He was sincere in what he did, even in the comedic moments (which this film has plenty of). However, it is the debut performance of Hepburn (which she won an Oscar for) that stands out. It truly was what made her one of the most respected actresses even to this day.

The end (which I will spoil, since the film has been out for over half a century) does show the two finally showing real feelings for each other (their first kiss is one of the more authentic kisses I have seen), only to realize that their fairy tale must end. If not, the people of the country will be in disarray. Only then does Joe realize that he cannot publish the pictures (which Irving takes using a gadget I am not sure is entirely factual, but it works for the movie.) If the two had chosen to stay together, the film would not have worked.

Parents, the film is fine for kids. There is no swearing or violence, and nothing sexual besides two kisses. If you ever wondered what would be a good film to have kids get into old Hollywood, this would be a great starter.

Along with the aforementioned Superbowl Halftime Show, I also witnessed the new comic book film Birds of Prey, in which the Joker’s (now ex) girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) tries to make a name for herself. I am not trying to get into a debate of what it means to be a woman or anything (being that I am not one, so what would I know?). I would argue, however, that characters such as Princess Anne are just as strong and powerful in their own right as someone fighting crime with a sledgehammer. Hepburn’s character showed her inner strength even more so. I would imagine it is something a lot of parents would want their girls to try and emulate.

Of course, it won’t be easy, because there will always be only one Audrey Hepburn.


Rating: 5 out of 5.