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. 🙂

Full Metal Jacket (1987) IMDB Top 250 Review

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Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring:
Matthew Modine
Adam Baldwin
Vincent D’Onofrio
Lee Ermey
Dorian Harewood
Arliss Howard
Kevyn Major Howard
Ed O’Ross

Running time: 116 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Full Metal Jacket is based on Gustav Hasford’s 1979 novel The Short-Timers. The story follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through their training and the experiences of two of the platoon’s Marines in the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The film’s title refers to the full metal jacket bullet used by infantry riflemen.

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My Opinion:

Yes – it’s me! I’m finally doing my own IMDB Top 250 review since asking guest reviewers to help me out with the movies I’d already seen. Thanks again for all your contributions – it’s been far too easy for me to be lazy and just post your reviews but I realized that I’m now way behind on my goal of watching the rest of the 250 as this is only the second movie I’ve watched for this so far this year (the last being City Of God in January, which I reviewed for Cara over at Silver Screen Serenade HERE).

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So… Here I am having watched another damn war movie for this project. All along I’ve said that what I’m looking forward to the least is watching all the war movies & Westerns in the Top 250. So I decided to get a bunch of them out of the way and, I’ll be damned – they’ve all been pretty freaking fantastic! Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid was fun, Once Upon A Time In The West was beautiful & had a kick ass score, The Great Escape was OH MY GOD SO GOOD, and The Bridge On The River Kwai was the best of all & ended up being one of my absolute favorite films I watched in 2013. I like a lot of Kubrick films (The Shining being a personal favorite) so I decided it was about time I see if Full Metal Jacket was as good as the other war movies & Westerns I’d been dreading watching. Well… No, unfortunately. I don’t think it quite lives up to the rest (although I did enjoy it more than the Westerns I’ve watched so far).

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First of all, I did enjoy the first part of this film where they’re in training before they go to Vietnam. R Lee Ermey was brilliant as the Sergeant shouting the absolute best insults at everyone. Man I wish I could go around insulting people like that! Especially in the workplace – how cool would it be to talk to your co-workers like that?? “Five-foot-nine, I didn’t know they stacked shit that high!” (And that’s by far the least offensive quote of his that I can safely put in this review). Vincent D’Onofrio was good in this, although it was very obvious where that storyline was headed. I really only knew him from Men In Black & as “Thor” before watching this so it was interesting seeing him here (yes – Thor. If anyone gets what I’m on about, you’re my new best friend). I’ve actually not seen Matthew Modine in that much & I really liked his “Private Joker” character in this. He gives a solid performance, as does everyone, but I wouldn’t say any of the acting really stood out in this movie in the way we got some brilliant performances in other war movies such as The Deer Hunter, The Bridge On The River Kwai, and Platoon. I suppose a lot of that was due to the directing & the way Kubrick approached the topic of war, which I’ll try to go into now.

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War movies (the ones I’ve seen, anyway) always try to show you the horrors of war & how terrifying and harrowing it is. Full Metal Jacket does a slightly better job of this in the beginning before they even head off to war but, overall, it takes a much “colder” approach to it all. This is very much Kubrick’s style, though, and I do think it’s a good film & another worthy classic from him (you can see the list I did of My Top Stanley Kubrick Movies HERE – I’d probably add Full Metal Jacket in at five but it’s close with number four). But it meant I felt very detached from these characters so it didn’t feel like it was as effective as a “war movie” as those I mentioned above. I guess it depends on what you want out of a movie – I know this is widely loved but I’d take The Deer Hunter over this, a movie in which you felt for the characters and how they were so obviously deeply affected by their war experiences.

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Full Metal Jacket is very much like A Clockwork Orange – humans are what they are and no excuses are made for those who engage in violent activity, some of whom thoroughly enjoy it and feel no remorse for their actions. At least with Full Metal Jacket we get to see a little bit of a differing opinion from the likes of Modine’s Private Joker, who wears a peace symbol (whether this is truly a belief of his or if it’s just another way for him to live up to his nickname). We never REALLY know for sure and, by the end of the film, you’re kind of just left with a “Yeah, war sucks and some people are animals. So what?” kind of feeling. This movie is a little too “cool” in that you have things like the “Me so horny” hooker bit and all the Sergeant’s thoroughly inappropriate insults, making this a movie I often heard quoted by the teenage boys I went to high school with. It’s not like I ever heard them quote anything from The Deer Hunter. I’m not saying that Full Metal Jacket exactly glorifies war. It’s just that, in typical Kubrick style, it doesn’t necessarily say it’s a bad thing either. It just is what it is.

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Summary:

Full Metal Jacket is a definite Kubrick Classic but the cold approach to the topic meant I didn’t warm to any of the characters and the movie therefore didn’t pack the same emotional punch that you get from other war classics in the IMDB Top 250. The pre-Vietnam scenes are the strongest with very good but ultimately somewhat forgettable performances from Matthew Modine & Vincent D’Onofrio. It’s a very quotable film with some iconic scenes – I did like it but it’s perhaps a little too much “fun” at times, much like a Tarantino film or something like Scarface. It doesn’t exactly discourage violence but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it glorifies war (it’s not as borderline “irresponsible” as you could argue A Clockwork Orange is). This was definitely worth the watch but, if you want a more serious take on the horrors of war, I’d probably recommend a different war movie.

My Rating: 8/10

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