Tag Archives: Amanda Peterson

Explorers (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kids go into space.

Ben (Ethan Hawke) is a teen who keeps having dreams dealing with a spacecraft and eventually writes down the dimensions of it onto paper and then sends it to his super smart friend Wolfgang (River Phoenix) who uses it as a blueprint to eventually create it in real-life using various parts that they find in a junkyard. Once completed Ben, Wolfgang, and their other friend Darren (Jason Presson) decide to take it for a ride. Initially they fly it around their coastal California town, which catches the eye of the police (Dick Miller), who chases after it to no avail. Eventually though they decide to take it into outer space where they visit aliens inside a intergalactic space station.

Out of all of the sci-fi movies that came out during the 80’s this one has gotten lost in the shuffle and wasn’t too well received by the critics when it was first released though it has achieved a cult following since then. Director Joe Dante has complained that the final cut was taken out of his hands and he was never able to complete the ending that he wanted though for the most part the film never really gels, has a slow pace and only spotty moments where it becomes even halfway amusing.

One of the things that I did like was that the cast is age appropriate for their parts and the scenes done on a junior high campus have a student body that really looks to be teens instead of older college age actors trying to look younger, which happens in so many other teen films. The three leads thankfully aren’t crude or foul mouthed and aren’t obsessed with parlaying a ‘cool’, trendy image, which is also nice, but they seem just a bit too smart and able to do things that most adults can’t like welding and carpentry and  building a craft to exact specifications without any hitch or screw-up. Sure that Wolfgang kid is supposed to be smart, but even geniuses can make incorrect estimations, but this guy never does.

Watching the silly looking contraption actually get off the ground is farcical as in reality it most likely wouldn’t and the science gets completely thrown out the window. When they go out into space on their second trip they don’t even bother to equip themselves with oxygen and since there’s none in space I wasn’t able to figure out how they could breath. There’s no explanation either for how they were able to survive the extreme drop in temperature that occurs in high altitudes nor how the craft was able to get back through the earth’s atmosphere without burning up.

Spoiler Alert!

The scenes where the boys fly the craft around their town and even disrupt a sci-fi movie that is being shown at a local drive-in is when its funny and where the story should’ve stayed. Having it venture out into space and meeting other teen aliens is when it jumps-the-shark. The first hour plays like a whimsical fantasy, which is passable, but the third act becomes too campy. It also criminally under-uses Amanda Peterson, who plays Ben’s attractive love interest, who gets barely seen at all even though she should’ve gone on the trip with the other three boys, which would’ve bolstered the entertainment value and the fact that she doesn’t makes this already weak file even weaker.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 12, 1985

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joe Dante

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

cant buy me love

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Geek dates hot cheerleader.

As a small tribute to Amanda Peterson who unfortunately died recently at the young age of 43 after many years of battling with drug addiction and even spending some time behind bars, I decided to review this film. Even though she was in 5 movies during the 80’s and starred in two TV-series including the short-lived, but critically acclaimed ‘A Year in the Life’ her part her as Cindy Mancini has become her signature role.

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The plot revolves around Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) a high school nerd who secretly has a crush on class beauty Cindy, but realizes that she is way out of his league. Then one day while attempting to buy a telescope that he has saved up for by spending the summer mowing lawns he comes into contact with her at a mall as she is attempting to replace a dress that she borrowed from her mother (Sharon Farrell) without her permission and then accidently ruined. She doesn’t have the money to buy a new one, so Ronald offers to use his telescope money to buy it, but under the condition that she pretends to be in a relationship with him and act as his girlfriend for one month. Cindy reluctantly agrees, but finds to her surprise that she starts to grow fond of him, but when the month is over and their pseudo-relationship ends Ronald uses his new found popularity to jettison to the top of the social scene while becoming quite obnoxious in the process. Cindy tries to rekindle the romance, but Ronald has found new conquests and has no time for her, which gets her angry enough that she eventually tells everyone about their secret deal.

This movie, which was filmed on-location at the Tucson High School in Tucson, Arizona, is a gem especially for an 80’s teen comedy and making it one of the better ones from that decade and quite easily one of the best teen romances of all time. Part of the charm is that it lives out the dream of every geek young and old who has ever fantasized about going out with the hottest girl in school, but then takes this wish fulfillment fantasy and puts it inside a realistic scenario. It also makes a good comment as to just how fickle and shallow the high school popularity game really is. The characters are much more multi-dimensional than in most teen comedies especially Cindy’s and I also liked the way the film keeps things real, but still manages to maintain the innocence of that age without ever seeming overly sanitized.

Dempsey is great and he manages to get you to empathize with his sad, geeky quandary without ever making it seem too pathetic.  The part where he stays up late one night and counts up all the days he had to go through before finally seeing a naked female breast is the funniest part in the movie. However, by-and-large this is Peterson’s vehicle and she is splendid. I loved how her character starts out as being just another superficial teen girl, but slowly evolves into becoming much deeper and introspective and exposing a lot of class along the way.

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Normally I hate bratty little brother characters, but a young Seth Green makes the one here quite enjoyable. I also liked how the parents are not portrayed as being overly authoritative relics of bygone era, but human beings as well and Cindy’s relationship with her mother where half time she seems more like the mature one is fun.

Of course the film does suffer from a few shortcomings. Ronald’s impassioned ‘why can’t we all just get along’ speech that he gives near the end may have merit, but comes off as too melodramatic and corny.  I also thought these kids who were all supposedly seniors behaved too much like they were still in middle school where the teen social caste system is much more rigidly followed, but becomes less important and more phased out as they enter the senior high. It is also inconceivable how anyone even an out-of-it geek like Ronald could ever mistake a PBS show dealing with Africa tribal dances with ‘American Bandstand’.

Despite being an 80’s movie it doesn’t seem all that dated and I think teens today could still relate to it. Sure the characters don’t have smartphones or the other technological gadgets of today, but the foundation of teen life is still there and the movie does a great job of speaking to them on their level without ever seeming like their talking down to them.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: August 14, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Steve Rash

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube