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Paramount's August '06 Releases

Let's Scare Jessica to Death (September 26/06)

Superb title aside, Let's Scare Jessica to Death generally isn't able to live up to its reputation as a hidden gem within the horror genre. The unreasonably slow pace and inclusion of several distinctly '70s-era flourishes - ie Orville Stoeber's incredibly dated score - ultimately lend the proceedings a feeling of irrelevance, though there's no denying the effectiveness of star Zohra Lampert's performance. Lampert plays Jessica, a mentally unstable young woman who's just been released from a mental hospital. Along with her husband (Barton Heyman) and friend (Kevin O'Connor), Jessica moves into a dilapidated country house hoping to start fresh - though it's not long before she starts experiencing visions of a decidedly sinister nature. Director John Hancock does a nice job of punctuating the admittedly bland storyline with brief flashes of eeriness, while the film's screenplay (by Hancock and Lee Kalcheim) generally possesses a reasonable amount of authenticity (at the very least, Let's Scare Jessica to Death never comes off as a typically idiotic slasher). But the deliberateness with which the story unfolds eventually becomes oppressive, and it's impossible not to wish that Hancock and company would just get to the point already. The frustratingly vague conclusion only cements Let's Scare Jessica to Death's status as a forgettable piece of work, and it's impossible not to wonder just why the film has become such a cult classic in the years since its release.

out of

Pretty in Pink (September 27/06)

Though it's not quite up there with some of John Hughes' bonafide classics - ie Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Planes, Trains & Automobiles - Pretty in Pink is nevertheless an extremely entertaining and sporadically indelible entry in the filmmaker's oeuvre (though he didn't actually direct the movie, his fingerprints are certainly all over it). Featuring one of Molly Ringwald's strongest performances, Pretty in Pink revolves around the antics of Andie (Ringwald) - a high schooler from the wrong side of the tracks who finds herself falling for a a rich kid named Blane (Andrew McCarthy). This leaves Andie's lifelong suitor, the vaguely effeminate Duckie (Jon Cryer), left holding the bag, while Blane's snooty friend Steff (James Spader) eggs him on to put an end to the would-be relationship. While Pretty in Pink admittedly features a far more bland visual style than one might've liked (blame that on director Howard Deutch), screenwriter Hughes does a nice job of blending the film's laugh-out-loud moments with sporadic instances of pathos (the subplot involving Andie's down-in-the-dumps father, sensitively played by Harry Dean Stanton, is certainly a perfect example of this). And although the deliberate pace results in a fairly uneventful midsection, there's simply no denying the film's overall effectiveness (even the notoriously reshot conclusion comes off as genuinely sweet and touching).

out of

Some Kind of Wonderful (October 1/06)

Notable as screenwriter John Hughes' final foray into the '80s world of teenagers, Some Kind of Wonderful revolves around the complications that ensue after Keith (Eric Stoltz) successfully asks out the most popular girl at school (played by Lea Thompson) - much to the chagrin of best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), a tomboy who's been harboring a secret crush on him for years. Though the film eventually succumbs to convention in its third act and becomes just another run-of-the-mill romcom, Some Kind of Wonderful is - by and large - another authentic look at teenaged life from Hughes. And although there are some thematic similarities to Pretty in Pink, the inclusion of several note-perfect performances (Stoltz is particularly effective here) and expectedly sharp bits of dialogue ensure that the film never quite comes off as a needless rehash of Hughes' earlier work.

out of

About the DVDs: Paramount Pictures presents each of these three titles with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although Let's Scare Jessica to Death doesn't come with a single bonus feature, both Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful come equipped with an extensive amount of supplemental materials (commentary tracks, featurettes, etc).
© David Nusair