Although I published the first half of this list earlier this month, I did watch a few more movies I wanted to chat about.
The Craft (1996)
Four teen girls indulge in magic, bad things ultimately happen in this “be careful what you wish for” film. I remembered that the girls were Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True, but I didn’t remember that Breckin Meyer, Skeet Ulrich, and Christine Taylor were their classmates. If they ever want to do a next generation of Batman, Fairuza should play the Joker’s daughter. The DVD has a little bit of behind-the-scenes information.
Robert Young is a movie star overwhelmed by his fans — they’re demanding to the extent that the mobs put him in the hospital — so he changes places with his accidental double, a Hawaiian owner of a pineapple plantation. The musical elements are really the draw, though, with numbers by famous tapper Eleanor Powell, plus ditzy bits by Gracie Allen. Her husband, George Burns, is also in the movie as Young’s agent, but the couple rarely appears together, oddly.
There’s a nightclub scene where Allen, dressed as Mae West, does a song with some Marx Brothers impersonators, while doubles of W.C. Fields and Clark Gable, among others, are in the audience. Interesting to see how early Hollywood became self-reflexive. In the same sequence, Powell dons blackface to dance as Bill Robinson. Young has a near-illiterate Asian houseboy type, too, so be warned, stereotypes abound. It’s available from Warner Archive.
Ruby Sparks (2012)
I really enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction, so I was intrigued by this similar story about a blocked novelist (Paul Dano) who creates the perfect girlfriend on paper only to find her come to life. This wasn’t as good as the earlier film, though. Dano’s cute, and I could relate to his struggle with being acclaimed a young genius, only to never again live up to that early promise, but Zoe Kazan (who wrote the movie and plays Ruby) was too much Manic Pixie Dream Girl for too much of the film.
There are some intriguing concepts, of course, but they’re not explored in sufficient depth. I knew things were going to go downhill when it turned creepy. She develops her own personality and doesn’t always find it easy to live with him. When she starts showing too much self-determination, he returns to his typewriter to keep her in line. At that point, it’s almost a horror movie, with him not realizing the full effects of his writing. (Remember John Candy in Delirious?)
There is a happy ending, although it’s one of those weird ones that doesn’t fully stand up if you think about it. Loved his apartment, though.
Tower of Terror (1997)
Turns out that there’s a TV movie based on the Disney World ride, starring Steve Guttenberg and a young (but not young enough for the role) Kirsten Dunst. He’s a disgraced reporter who’s reduced to faking photos for a Weekly World News-like tabloid; she’s his niece. They’re investigating what happened to five ghosts trapped in the building since lightning struck their elevator 60 years ago.
I liked seeing the bits that were filmed in the attraction itself, since the abandoned 1930s Hollywood hotel is my favorite theming of any Disney ride, but the plot is typical for the genre type and plays out slowly and predictably. Parents will want to know that the movie assumes magic really exists, since the tragedy in this case is said to be the result of a jealous spell.