The Legend Of Billie Jean, Less Than Zero & Private School Movie Reviews

Welcome to my 80’s Quickie Movie Review Special! I’m catching up on reviewing the things I’ve watched the past couple of years and, since these three were from the same decade (the BEST decade), I’ve decided to stick them together. One is a film I saw at the time & really liked but hadn’t re-watched in years, one is a throwaway film that was exactly what I expected for its sort of genre, and one is a film I’d badly wanted to see for years & found to be a big disappointment after finally seeing it for the first time now. Here we go!

The Legend Of Billie Jean (1985)

Directed by Matthew Robbins

Starring: Helen Slater, Keith Gordon, Christian Slater, Peter Coyote, Yeardley Smith

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A Texas teenager cuts her hair short and becomes an outlaw martyr with her brother and friends.

My Opinion:

I did watch this on TV several times in the 80s & I really liked it but it never became an all-time favorite like other movies from the era (even though Christian Slater, one of my big teen crushes, was in it). It was a lot of fun watching it again with the hubby several months ago, though, and it’s gone up in my estimation due partly to nostalgia and partly to being older & able to appreciate things such as the female empowerment going on (which will have gone straight over my head when I first saw this at the age of 13 or so). It reminds me a bit of the same sort of theme running through the little known 1982 Diane Lane film Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains and the two would make a great double feature. Any female bloggers want to come over to my place for a movie night? We’ll watch these two. Bring lots of popcorn! No pillow fights, though – we’re not going to feed any male fantasies. They can just go watch Private School (review below). 😉

I love Helen Slater (she’s a definite girl crush) and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Billie Jean. I like the City Slickers connection with both Slater & Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) also being in that together (love that movie!). I also like that this movie has a period scene on my list of My Top Ten Period Scenes In Movies & that I get to link to that post again. Ha! There are great songs in this like Pat Benatar’s awesome Invincible (the movie’s theme song) & Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. Oh, that plot synopsis above is pretty crap so here’s a bit more if you’re curious: Basically, Slater & Slater (no relation IRL!) are a poor brother & sister in small town Texas. C. Slater’s motorbike is trashed by local hoodlums & H. Slater demands that the (rich by small-town standards) father of the main hoodlum boy pay for the repairs. After the father instead attempts to rape H. Slater, C. Slater accidentally shoots the asshole in the shoulder. The siblings & their friends then go on the run & H. Slater’s Billie Jean ends up a media sensation & heroine outlaw to all those who believe in how she stands up for what’s right. Through it all, her only demand is that her brother’s motorbike repairs be paid for by the prick responsible. It’s actually a great, simple story & I can see why it has achieved a sort of cult status.

I do really like The Legend Of Billie Jean even though it’s not one that I watched 1,582 times as a teenager. It’s a must see if you love movies from this era but somehow missed out on it. I’m not sure how a younger generation might feel about it but it has aged slightly better than some other movies from its time so it may be worth checking out if you like the sound of it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Less Than Zero (1987)

Directed by Marek Kanievska

Based on Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr.

Music by Thomas Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars Andrew McCarthy as Clay, a college freshman returning home for Christmas to spend time with his ex-girlfriend Blair (Jami Gertz) and his friend Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is also a drug addict. The film presents a look at the culture of wealthy, decadent youth in Los Angeles.

My Opinion:

I didn’t see this movie at the time as I suppose I was a little too young for it but then I just never managed to catch it on TV or anything. Anyway, it’s a movie from 1987 starring big 80’s actors so I’ve of course been wanting to see it for almost 30 years now (yikes! I’m old). I also loved the big song from this movie (a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Hazy Shade Of Winter by The Bangles) and I saw that video full of clips from the film so many times that it almost felt like I had seen the film. Was the movie worth the long wait? No, it wasn’t. Damn – what a disappointment. I was surprised to find it quite boring, especially as the novel is from such a controversial author. I think it was one that needed to be seen at the time as it’s not at all shocking nowadays.

The film is about rich California kids & Robert Downey Jr is a drug addict whose friends try to help him when his family give up on him. Downey Jr was fine as was McCarthy, I suppose (I never liked McCarthy – he’s so boring & bland. He’s like an American Hugh Grant). I’m a fan of Gertz mainly because of my love for The Lost Boys but she feels the most miscast of the three. None of them feel quite right in their roles, though, and the story isn’t very hard hitting for one about drug addiction. The story just kind of meanders & the sex scenes with McCarthy & Gertz felt awkward – talk about less than zero chemistry.

I’ve never read a Bret Easton Ellis book so can’t compare this movie to the novel but I don’t like the film American Psycho & what I’ve read of the book sickens me while I absolutely hated The Rules Of Attraction film & found it extremely offensive. I’m not normally easily offended (I’ll get into this a bit more with Private School) but, considering how much the author’s other adaptations have pissed me off, you’d think Less Than Zero would at least have some balls. This is probably the most tame “drug addiction” movie I’ve seen. Very disappointing. I watched this several months ago & barely even remember it now. Good soundtrack, though! I do remember appreciating that.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Private School (1983)

Directed by Noel Black

Starring: Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine, Michael Zorek, Ray Walston, Sylvia Kristel, Kathleen Wilhoite

Music by Rick Springfield

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Private School is a 1983 teen oriented sex comedy film. It follows a teenage couple attempting to have sex for the first time.

My Opinion:

Being the age that I am, I saw plenty of teen sex comedies while growing up. It’s difficult to watch them nowadays without cringing. I suppose it was a very different experience to be a girl watching them in the 80s as opposed to a boy. It’ll seem strange to females nowadays but, in my day, we didn’t give teen sex comedies much thought. It’s amazing that we didn’t find them offensive & I’m happy that they’re, for the most part, a thing of the past. Private School certainly isn’t a “good” movie but, if you really love 80’s sex comedies, it’s worth a watch. It’s better than crap like Porky’s and the girls (whose boobs we see plenty, yes) are fairly decent characters instead of just feeling like victims for the horny male characters (like in movies such as Revenge Of The Nerds with its rape scene that would never be allowed in a movie nowadays. Yikes). I didn’t find Private School offensive & there’s certainly enough nudity in it for horny males everywhere so I think it gets the right sort of balance for both sexes to be able to watch it. But, of course, we get no male nudity. No surprise there!

***WARNING: SOME BOOB PICS BELOW****

Yes, we get a guy spying on the girls in the showers. But, nowadays, he’d take pictures & stick them online. 80’s sex comedies usually don’t feel sinister in the same sort of way that the few modern day films do. We also get the guys dressing up as girls & sneaking into the girls’ dorm. They’re so obviously boys, though, that the girls just have fun messing with them. Especially the below girl, who surprises everyone with a topless ride on a horse. I’m sure it was a very popular scene with young male viewers.

By the way – in looking for pics for this post, I discovered that the topless horse rider (Betsy Russell) is Jigsaw’s ex-wife in the Saw films. Speaking of movies that I find offensive, I find stuff like the Saw films far more offensive than 80’s sex comedies. Yet movies with excessive violence are more readily accepted by society while the briefest flash of a nipple starts riots (way to go, Janet Jackson!). It’s a fucked-up world. Private School is a pretty forgettable film (unless you’re a 13-year-old boy) and it sure as shit isn’t very good but at least the female characters are treated like human beings & have personalities. They’re actually stronger characters than the boys, who are quite dull.

Oh! And Kathleen Wilhoite (in the above photo with the lovely Phoebe Cates) is in this. She’s such a “hey, it’s that girl”. She’s also in Road House. God I love Road House! Road House is “good bad”. Private School is just kind of “meh bad”. I love that I got a Road House mention in here.

My Rating: 5/10

Love these songs!!! Soundtracks from the Eighties are the best. And you get clips from the movies as well. 🙂

Ex Machina (2015) Review

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Ex Machina (2015)

Directed by Alex Garland

Starring:
Domhnall Gleeson
Oscar Isaac
Alicia Vikander

Running time: 108 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

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My Opinion:

Ex Machina was one of my most anticipated movies for this year. Sci-fi is my favorite genre and Ex Machina certainly didn’t disappoint in that department. It even makes up for the inferior Interstellar, which I found to be a pretty big disappointment. Ex Machina doesn’t really give us anything new as far as the exploration of artificial intelligence or “the singularity” but it’s a topic I’ve always found fascinating (such as in the obscure Electroma, which I reviewed HERE) and I think it does a decent job with a popular sci-fi concept.

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First of all, I have to mention that it was good to be able to see Domhnall Gleeson & Oscar Isaac together in a movie before we see them again in Star Wars The Force Awakens & it’s probably helping Ex Machina to get more attention than it otherwise would, which I see as a good thing. This is Alex Garland’s first time directing after being a writer & I was excited to see how he’d do as I’ve really enjoyed his movies. He wrote The Beach novel, 28 Days Later & Sunshine plus the scripts for Never Let Me Go & Dredd. Okay, I’ve not seen Dredd but people really seem to like it so I’m eager to finally see that one now as well. Apparently, based on Ex Machina, there’s now talk of him directing Star Wars IX. I’m happy to see someone who seems very talented getting some recognition.

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I thought Gleeson was very good in this and the right choice for his role. Isaac was good but it kind of felt like a role that could have been played by most anyone & I thought he paled in comparison to Gleeson & Alicia Vikander. Vikander as the female A.I. was probably the best thing about Ex Machina but may not get as much attention as the male leads, which would be a shame. She is, of course, lovely & her sad brown eyes alone displayed so much emotion (or DID they?). Yeah, she’s gorgeous… I hate her a little.

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As I said above, the story itself doesn’t really do anything “new”. We’ve seen the dangers & morality issues associated with artificial intelligence explored in a wide variety of sci-fi movies such as Blade Runner, The Terminator, Westworld, etc. Oh, and of course D.A.R.Y.L. & Short Circuit… (had to get those in here!). I loved the look & feel of Ex Machina but can’t say the story is totally original. It doesn’t really delve as deep into the moral issues as I was hoping it would but it’s still far from “shallow”. I really liked that it didn’t feel the need to throw in a bunch of technobabble, however, which made it feel far less phoney than Interstellar as that tried too hard to impress. Garland tells this story in a pretty straightforward way & does leave you with something to think about once the film ends. It also looks quite beautiful (its style reminded me of Oblivion) and Alicia Vikander as A.I. Ava looked amazing. It wasn’t a case of style over substance, however – I just wish they’d had a little more to say about the moral issues involved in creating advanced artificial intelligence. I liked Ex Machina a lot & think it’s a worthy addition to the sci-fi genre.

My Rating: 8/10

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Under The Skin (2013) Review

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Under The Skin (2013)

Directed by Jonathan Glazer

Starring:
Scarlett Johansson
Jeremy McWilliams
Joe Szula
Kryštof Hádek
Paul Brannigan
Adam Pearson
Michael Moreland
Dave Acton
Jessica Mance

Running time: 108 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Under the Skin is a 2013 British-American science fiction art film directed by Jonathan Glazer, and written by Glazer and Walter Campbell as a loose adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2000 novel of the same name. The film stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress who preys on men in Scotland.

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My Opinion:

Finally! I finally managed to see this movie after looking everywhere for a cinema actually showing it when it came out and having no luck. I was intrigued because, first of all, it looked like “The Woman Who Fell To Earth“. Being a big David Bowie fan and loving The Man Who Fell To Earth way more than I should, I really wanted to see this. Plus, I found out that the director has made some of my favorite music videos (more about that later). So did Under The Skin live up to all the hype in my head? Yes and no.

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I mentioned this movie when I reviewed Lucy HERE on Monday and, yes, I think Under The Skin is the superior film of the two although I did really enjoy Lucy. Scarlett Johansson is indeed the true star of both films and, I think, makes both movies far better than they would’ve been with a different actress (and this is coming from someone who has never really been a fan of hers). Under The Skin is a very brave role for her to have taken on and I think, along with Her, it’s paid off and made her a far more respected actress. Under The Skin could have been a massive failure for her and, although there will certainly be plenty of people who hate the film, I think it’s a huge success as far as her professional career is concerned. As for the movie…

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Yes, it’s weird. Very very weird. It’s exactly what I expected, though, having seen The Man Who Fell To Earth (it does have plenty of similarities so it’s hard to not compare the two). I enjoyed it a lot although I don’t think it’s quite as iconic as the Bowie film (which is NOT a good movie but it’s hard to deny that Bowie is extremely fascinating and certain images from the movie will stay with you). In the same way, there are images from Under The Skin that will never leave my mind. I think that’s a good thing, though. I see that as a sign of a great piece of art. As a coherent and fully rewarding movie-watching experience, however, Under The Skin falls a little short. For as much of a mess as The Man Who Fell To Earth was, we at least had a backstory and knew what Bowie’s alien’s purpose was on Earth. If you’re the type of person who wants a movie with a proper storyline & a satisfying conclusion, Under The Skin may not be for you. If you want a nice piece of art to look at (like, weird & abstract art – not Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade), you MIGHT enjoy Under The Skin.

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Summary:

Well, I don’t think I really need to say much more than I already have. Basically, Under The Skin is weird and you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. I found it to be an interesting piece of art and, as the director has made music videos before, perhaps that’s why this feels a little like something in between a music video & a movie. If you want a straightforward movie or even something that has some deep meaning, you won’t get that here (but I may just be too stupid to figure out some “deeper meaning” to this film). You will, however, get a good performance from Johansson and some images that you’ll never get out of your mind. I really enjoyed the film.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Here’s a list (thanks Wikipedia) of a few of the music videos made by the director of Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer). I’ve included two of my favorites (FYI – the UNKLE one isn’t one to watch if there are kids around):

Karmacoma by Massive Attack
The Universal by Blur
Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai
Karma Police by Radiohead

Plus my two favorites:

Street Spirit (Fade Out) by Radiohead:

Rabbit in Your Headlights by UNKLE ft. Thom Yorke:

**I’ve recently participated in the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon being hosted by the robust Rob of MovieRob and the zany Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. You can read my contribution, a review of Hitchcock’s 1964 film Marnie, starring Sean Connery & Tippi Hedren, HERE. Thanks, Rob & Zoe, for hosting this blogathon! 🙂

All Good Things (2010) Review

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All Good Things (2010)

Directed by Andrew Jarecki

Starring:
Ryan Gosling
Kirsten Dunst
Frank Langella
Kristen Wiig
Philip Baker Hall
Diane Venora
Lily Rabe

Running time: 101 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Inspired by the life of accused murderer Robert Durst, the film chronicles the life of the wealthy son of a New York real estate tycoon, and a series of murders linked to him, as well as his volatile relationship with his wife and her subsequent unsolved disappearance.

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My Opinion:

Earlier in the year, I decided to start a Ryan Gosling Project where I’d watch all his films. But then… I don’t know, I just sort of fell out of love with him. So I haven’t continued that project but I guess I can add All Good Things to the list HERE.

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I thought this was a decent “based on a true story” (suspected) murder mystery movie. It’s not a genre I really go for but occasionally I’m in the mood for this kind of thing. I have to admit that I sometimes miss those (horrible) true story made for TV Lifetime movies in America. All Good Things is that exact sort of thing – It’s a Lifetime movie with a bigger budget & better actors. Okay, those Lifetime movies do get played in the UK but I just don’t have time for those (horrible) wonderful movies anymore. I miss Nancy McKeon, though – is she still doing that type of stuff?? And Valerie Bertinelli! And Meredith Baxter-Birney!

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So, anyway – this film is based on the story of wealthy Robert Durst, whose wife went missing in 1982. The case remains unsolved but Durst is suspected of two other murders 20 years later (and was tried for one, in which he claimed self-defense). Gosling plays Durst (but with the character name changed to David Marks) and Kirsten Dunst plays his wife Katie.

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I’ve never really liked Kirsten Dunst but I have to say she really did a very good job in this film. She was the highlight of the movie for me & I thought her performance was even better than Gosling’s. Obviously, it’s not a spoiler to say she disappears & we never see her again but, luckily, the film spends the majority of the time focusing on the marriage so she’s in the film a lot. After she disappears, the film goes through the next 20 years or so very quickly (maybe a little too quickly considering that this is when things got REALLY interesting & f%*ked up!).

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Ryan Gosling also does a good job but I kind of feel like we’ve seen too many similar performances from him before. He plays the character as a quiet, deeply troubled man (the type of role he plays so often). He plays it very subtle & it’s nice not seeing some over-the-top psycho but, again, we’ve seen this from him before. My very favorite Gosling movie is Lars And The Real Girl – he plays the role of Marks the same sort of way as he played Lars (but with a crazy anger underneath the surface – Lars was crazy but just sweet). He was great as Lars – if I hadn’t already seen that film, I’d probably be more blown away by his performance in this one. He is good in this – I’m not saying he isn’t. I just thought that Dunst felt like the true star in this one.

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Summary:

All Good Things is a very intriguing mystery based on the real life 1982 disappearance of the wife of a wealthy businessman. Gosling & especially Dunst give very good performances and a lot of time is spent exploring their characters & their relationship. Then she disappears & things get REALLY odd. I liked this movie quite a bit considering it’s not my favorite sort of genre. It really is an interesting case so I can see why they made a film out of it. I recommend this if you like “true crime” dramas.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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