If it's crap ... We'll tell you
When I was at the tender age of 15, during my weekly "Moonlighting" tv fix, I saw a trailer during the commercials for a movie that literally made me start to choke on my peanut butter and cheese (don't judge me) sandwich. That movie was the 1985 absurdist teen comedy, "Better Off Dead". "Now That's a shame when people be throwing away a perfectly good white boy like that". ... ... ... "Yes. YES! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS THING?", I shouted, jumping up and completely upending my collection of Atari games. This thing, as it were, was one of the most oft-quoted films of my generation, to be sure. If you've ever heard anyone nefariously utter, "Two dollars..." then you've been caught up in its wake. John Cusack plays High School student Lane Meyer, a likable enough of a nebbish who's gotten away incongruously with having a hot girlfriend (80's dreamgirl, at least as far as being the very first victim of Freddy Krueger, Amanda Wyss) for too long. It's of no surprise to any of his even nerdier friends (most notably, the defining 80's nerd, Curtis Armstrong) that she dumps him for the hunky captain of the ski team, Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier). Despondent, Lane starts a series of suicide attempts, but is buffoonishly ineffectual. The truth is, he just needs his mojo back. Whether that means beating Roy in a ski-off and winning back the affections of his shallow ex, or realizing something much better is standing right in front of him, is a given for the audience but not for Lane. That much better thing standing there, is a French foreign exchange student (Diane Franklin) who the phrase, 'cute as a button' may very well have been initially framed for, assuming that button is one I'd like to spend a sweaty naked, heavily-accented, ski-lodge weekend with. Bizarre, hysterical, even kind of touching here and there, "Better Off Dead" is SUCH a classic, so one of a kind (unless you count director/writer Savage Steve Holland's almost-a-sequel and also awesome "One Crazy Summer"), that I'm only confused what took it so long to come out on Blu-ray. So why, I ask you, WHY is there nothing in the way of extra features? I could understand the wait if it was because the powers-that-be were gathering together some awesome retrospective shit, well deserved for this, but no....nothing but the trailer. At least it looks a lot better then previous DVD releases.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Better Off Dead [Blu-ray]
FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (Blu-Ray)
While we're on the topic of endlessly quoted, enormously popular, 80's high school films, it falls to me to mention in the same breath as "Better Off Dead", a very different but equally unforgettable classic, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", now also available in a brand new HD edition. Even more commonplace than the shifty-eyed, "Two Dollars!" quoters were the monotone "Bueller...Bueller...Bueller" intonations from this film's fans, embracing the hysterical depiction of the endless monotony of High School as expressed in the dialog of the world's most boring teacher (a great cameo by Ben Stein). Even while deceitful, both to his friends, family, and authority figures, Matthew Broderick's Ferris Bueller is an icon for teens; a mischievous master of misdirection who manages to outsmart (or out-luck) everyone who tries to foil the celebration of being alive day (ie: skipping school) that he has planned for himself, his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and his knock-em-dead girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara). That's just the thing: Ferris means well. He's immune to the pleas of his neurotic friend and is determined to show him the never-a-care existence that he joyfully skips through. The schemes of the High School principle (Jeffrey Jones) to catch him in the act seem motivated by jealousy of Ferris' enormous and surreal popularity at school. And if this was the real world, they'd all probably end up in jail and Ferris would be publicly shunned, but as Ferris reminds us, as he regularly turns and discusses the film's plot with the audience (at the time, a pretty groundbreaking move), this is indeed just a pleasant fantasy. Make no mistake, director John Hughes was working his way up to this, with his series of classic High School comedies; for my money, it remains his masterwork of innocuous rebellion. But what about this new transfer? Well, it's not a perfect upgrade, but fits well within the acceptable range, to be sure, and is the best looking and sounding copy you can get of the film. On the down side, even though there's about an hour's worth of extras here, they're just the ported over SD one's from the previous SD release and are of mixed quality. What's really missing is the stand-out John Hughes commentary track from the very first DVD release. What's up with that? And how about some new retrospectives, maybe even something with the cast talking about Hughes post-mortem? Perhaps a discussion of the potential sequel, still brought up in film circles every other year or so? Maybe some day we'll get the Blu-Ray upgrades we deserve for these two classic teen movies, but today is not that day.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Bueller... Bueller... Edition) [Blu-ray]