Why We Won’t Forget About “The Breakfast Club”

 

There are some movies out there that are simply iconic, whether they define a certain genre. “The Godfather” is considered the ultimate gangster thriller, “Rocky” as the top sports flick, and “Star Wars” as the greatest Space fantasy epic. But when it comes to high school movies, one is nearly always lauded as being the one that nearly everyone will remember as being the one flick which actually gets what’s its like to be a teenager- 1985’s “The Breakfast Club”, written and directed by the  king of 1980’s teen movies, John Hughes (1950-2009).

The Plot in a Nutshell:   March 24th, 1984, Shermer High School. Five high school students, all different stereotypes, who would never interact with each other under normal circumstances,  are forced to spend a  Saturday together – in detention. There’s John Bender, the aggressive, rebellious tough guy (Judd Nelson), Brian, the intellectual, amiable nerd, (Anthony Michael Hall), Claire, the pristine and pampered rich girl (Molly Ringwald), Andy, the acclaimed wrestler (Emilio Estevez), and Allison, the anonymous eyeliner-clad   loner (Ally Sheedy). They appear to have nothing in common except for their detained status and contempt for their overzealous, pompous principal, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). Initially, they do nothing but snipe at each other, and keep their distance, but as the day gradually wears on,they begin to learn about each of their home lives, and how there’s more to each of them than their first impressions suggested…

Actor/Character Observations:   Everyone gets a chance to shine, and not a single cast member can be faulted for their performances.  Hall is appealing as the sweet, vulnerable nerd with a hidden dark side, and Ringwald manages to make a typical snobby popular girl archetype into a sympathetic character. Estevez shows off his emotional acting chops in a rather touching scene. Sheedy makes the most out of playing a character who doesn’t even speak for most of her screentime, so she has to rely reacting to the others, until she slowly comes out of her shell .She and Estevez get some engaging moments together.  Nelson is at the core of most of the proceedings as  the thug whose wisecracks and bravado mask some deep-seated emotional problems.

The adult characters aren’t as strong as the teenagers, but Gleason delivers in his role as a grouchy disciplinarian who has lost touch with his youth. Finally, John Kapelos, as Carl the Janitor, acts as a foil to Vernon, in that he can easily relate to the kids, and has much more common sense than Vernon.

 My Favourite Scene(s) in “The Breakfast Club”: Where do I even begin with this category? There’s the crazily awesome dancing sequence where the gang just lets loose and dance together in the library, the club’s big emotional therapy session, and Bender’s “Eat my Shorts” verbal smackdown to Vernon (which may or may not have influenced Bart Simpson’s catchphrase only a few years later) .

But the most poignant moment has to be that after the group have emotionally opened up about their respective issues, they deduce that they’ll never be like their abusive parents. This prompts Allison to utter  “When you grow up, your heart dies”. This line alone sums up the belief that once we grow up, we lose all touch of the innocence and the possibilities that supposedly attends our teenage years. It’s after this scene that our protagonists appear willing to defy the  fate of becoming just as cold and uncaring as their parents before them.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in “The Breakfast Club”: The scene that I always find difficult to watch in an otherwise fantastic movie is the one which takes place after Claire shows off her “lipstick trick” in front of the others (i.e. her ability to put on lipstick using her breasts). Bender is the only one who is unimpressed, and proceeds to cruelly mock and belittle her in front of everyone else.  Granted, he did have a rough home life, but it was still no excuse for reducing the poor girl to tears.

Ratings and Recommendations: So, after watching the movie again, do I still like it as much as I did? Well, after watching it again, I have to admit that it’s still one of my top movies. Even though it had been a while seen I had last viewed it, I still recall relating to the characters and their plights. The reason that this movie continues to relate to modern audience  members is because nearly everyone can identify with the protagonists. Even if you don’t empathize with the kids, you can still feel for Carl and Vernon, much like my friend. It delivers the underlying message is that nobody is alone, and we’re all going through similar issues in our lives, without being preachy.  “The Breakfast Club”earns a total of 4 and a half out of 5 stars from me.

So what do you think?  Is “The Breakfast Club” a classic or just plain overrated? Which clique did you fit into in school? Feel free to let me know! But for now, I’ll let Simple Minds have the last word with their iconic ditty, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. Until next time!

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Take a Thanksgiving Road Trip with Candy and Martin

Happy December, everyone! In the run up to Christmas, I plan to review several Christmas themed 80’s movies to indulge in in the run up to the festive season. But before I delve into Christmas, I’d like to take a look at one of my favourite holiday movies of all time, as well as one of my favourite movies directed by the late, great John Hughes, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. Although Hughes was better known for his teen comedy flicks (namely “Sixteen Candles”, “The Breakfast Club, and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), “Planes…” was his first attempt to break out of his comfort zone and write more screenplays based around adults.

Set around Thanksgiving, the flick stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a successful, if somewhat abrasive, advertising executive who simply wants a nice relaxing trip home to Chicago to be with his wife Susan (Lalia Robbins) and his children. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go to plan for Neal, as his plane undergoes a layover in Kansas. What really infuriates Neal is his constant meetings with overly chatty shower curtain ring salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy), especially since Del unwittingly stole Neal’s first taxi cab in New York City.

Neal and Del decide to team up to get to Chicago, but first they have to travel  not only via planes, trains, or cars, but on foot and by bus. Amidst all of the wacky hijinks which ensue, will the ill-matched duo ever get home?

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is ultimately my go- to movie to watch around the holidays.  In fact, the best part of the movie is seeing Del and Neal grow closer together. Interestingly enough, Hughes mixes up the formula of two oddly matched people being forced together by fate of circumstance by having Neal yell at Del for being irritating  come at the beginning of the flick, rather than at the end, so that we’re uncertain about how the events will unfold from this point onwards.

Among some of the movie’s highlights is having Neal flip out at a car rental agent (Edie McClurg) by delivering a rant which features several F-bombs in quick succession (which earned the movie an “R” rating strictly because of this scene), Del and Neal waking up in a motel, wrapped in each other’s arms, dreaming of their wives, complete with the most hysterical payoff imaginable, and Del “doing the mess around” while on driving duty.

In my opinion, Del Griffith is John Candy’s best and most sympathetic role of his career. Despite his relentless chatter and larger than life personality, we gradually learn a lot more about him which only makes him more endearing to the viewer’s eyes. Martin provides a terrific foil as Neal, who gradually allows himself to soften under Del’s influence. The song, “Everytime you go away”, originally by Paul Young, but covered here by “Blue Room”, always brings a tear to my eye, when it’s featured in the touching final scene.

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” earns the full distinction of 5 out of 5 stars. It may not be regarded as Hughes’ best movie, but to me, it’s certainly his most warm, sentimental film. If you’re interested in finding out more facts regarding this holiday flick, then tune in to vlogger “The Nostalgia Critic”‘s video “What you never knew about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. It also inspired the good, if more foul mouthed, Robert Downey Junior movie “Due Date”.

Science just got a whole lot Weirder…

Filmmaker John Hughes is known for his ability to connect with teenagers through his movies about their lives, and the problems they may face. Examples of some of his earlier work consists of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles”, among others. But one of the many teen-orientated flicks that he directed stands out distinctively is “Weird Science”. By throwing a dash of science-fiction into the mix alongside his usual bout of adolescent hiijinks, you can be sure that you’re in for quite a series of events.

The movie stars Hughes’ regular muse, Anthony Michael Hall, as Gary, and Ilan Mitchell-Smith as his best friend, Wyatt. As you might expect, Gary and Wyatt are two hopeless geeks who secretly long to have girlfriends. When they’re publicly humiliated by thuggish bullies Max (Robert Rusler) and Ian (a young Robert Downey Junior) as punishment for lusting after their girlfriends, Deb (Suzanne Synder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson), Gary and Wyatt decide that it’s time to take action once and for all.

Desperate for a chance at being popular, Wyatt persuades Gary to create their ideal woman from a computer (as you do), inspired by the movie “Frankenstein”. To their surprise, the plan is actually effective when an alluring woman (Kelly LeBrock) materializes and inquires to the bemused boys “So, what would you little maniacs like to do first”?

After the initial shock has worn off, Gary and Wyatt gift their creation with the name “Lisa”, after a former crush of Gary’s who didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Lisa makes it her mission to show the nerdy teenagers some fun, so treats them to a night on the town, ending with Gary getting completely drunk. She becomes a sort of older sister to them, instead of the object of lust they anticipated.

The trio then encounter Wyatt’s mean-spirited older brother, Chet (Bill Paxton), who takes sadistic pleasure in bulling his younger sibling. However, Lisa has some tricks up her sleeve which just might inspire the boys’ confidence, and encourage them to take risks, as well as serving up a healthy dose of comeuppance for their tormentors…

“Weird Science” isn’t one of Hughes’ best flicks, with the jokes being cruder and the element of fantasy is a prominent element here. However, with intelligent nerds being the protagonists, and the story takes place in the fictional suburb of Shermer in Chicago, a common setting in Hughes’ work. All of the main cast are on form here, with Hall in particular excelling as the most assertive of the geeks, though Ilan Mitchell-Smith has some interesting moments, making it sad that he retired from acting only six years following the movie. As for LeBrock and Paxton, they clearly have fun in their roles, and their best scenes have the two of them together, where Lisa is successfully intimidating Chet into treating Gary and Wyatt with respect.

I give “Weird Science” a total of four out of five stars, as it has funny moments of dorky comedy that teens of 15 and over should appreciate. Among some of of the risky forms of content for younger kids are in the form of swearing, teen drinking ,some shots of female nudity on a computer monitor, and a team of bikers crashing a party. If you enjoyed this title, then check out the 90’s TV series, “Weird Science”, starring model Vanessa Angel as Lisa.

Meet the Goofiest Uncle on the Block!

In honor of the upcoming reboot of John Hughes’ classic family comedy, “Uncle Buck”, I watched the 1989 original movie version in order to take a trip back down memory lane, as I hadn’t seen the movie since I was a youngster. Nevertheless, I was determined to view this flick from a more mature standpoint, and compare to how much my opinion of it since I last watched it.

Buck Russell (John Candy) is a slobby, yet amicable guy, who is unemployed, and is frequently nagged by his long-suffering girlfriend, Chanice (Amy Madigan) to find a real job, settle down with her and have kids. Buck, the “black sheep” of his family, is adamant that he doesn’t want to marry or have kids. But this mindset is changed when his brother Bob (Garrett M. Brown) calls him with an emergency- his wife Cindy’s (Elaine Bromka) father has suffered from a heart attack. Buck is left in charge of Bob and Cindy’s three children while they drive to help.

Buck soon acquaints himself with his nieces and nephew- inquisitive 10 year old Miles (Macaulay Culkin), adorable 6 year old Maizy (Gaby Hoffman) and Tia (Jean Louise Kelly), a typical sarcastic teenager. Although Buck hits it off immediately with the two youngest kids, cynical Tia makes Buck a prime target for her offbeat quips.

Buck soon busies himself doing the day to day household duties, whether it be microwaving Maizy’s socks following a mishap with a washing machine, making comically enormous pancakes for Miles’ birthday, or trying to protect Tia from her loathsome boyfriend, Bug, “as in spray” (Jay Underwood). Will Buck manage to get Tia to warm to him before her parents return?

“Uncle Buck” is a character that John Candy appears to be quite at home playing. Although Buck may seem to be a nutty ,cuddly teddy bear on the outside, he ultimately proves to be a watchful and vigilant protector when anyone dares to mess with his nephew or nieces. In my opinion, nobody else could have portrayed Buck to the perfection that Candy did here.

Offering fine support are Macaulay Culkin in a role not unlike his later famous role which catapulted him to fame, as Kevin McAllister in the first two “Home Alone” movies, (Fun Fact: in the scene where Miles is peering through the door flap at Chanice when she comes to call on Buck, and instead sees a trio of crooks, gave Hughes the idea to write a movie with that premise), Jean Louisa Kelly as his rebellious foil, and Amy Madigan as his no-nonsense girlfriend.

“Uncle Buck” gets three and a half stars out of five from me, due to its engaging plot and humor, mostly from the title character. However, parents should be warned that the content isn’t entirely family friendly, with swear words being uttered by kids and adults alike, and Buck smacking a drunken birthday party clown. There’s additionally talk of Tia’s repulsive boyfriend pressuring her to go all the way with him. Proceed with caution!

Molly Ringwald Proves Perfection in Pink

Molly Ringwald has always proved to me to be a fairly versatile actress, as she can convince me that she is the character she’s portraying. She convinces as an insecure, meek teenager in “Sixteen Candles”, a stuck-up rich girl in “The Breakfast Club”, and as a quirky, if unpopular, girl from the wrong side of the tracks in “Pretty in Pink”. “Pretty in Pink” marks Molly Ringwald’s final collaboration with John Hughes, in a partnership I like to refer to as “the Molly Trilogy”. Ringwald was Hughes’ muse during the mid-eighties, until she decided to sever ties with him out of fear of being typecast.

That brings us to “Pretty in Pink”(1986), Ringwald’s last hit movie she made while she was still a teenager. She shines as Andie Walsh, a working class girl with a quirky fashion sense who lives with her unemployed single father, Jack (Harry Dean Stanton), who is still in turmoil following his divorce. Andie ends up acting as a parent to him mostly. While she isn’t particularly liked at school, she has a loyal, if occasionally wacky, friend in Philip F. Dale, A.KA. Duckie (Jon Cryer), who has a rather overt crush on her.

Andie works part-time at funky record store “TRAX”, which is managed by her madcap older friend Iona (Annie Potts), who acts as a substitute parent for Andie. She encourages her to ignore the rich snobs at school, and to attend her upcoming school prom. She has eyes for “richie” Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy), who shares her feelings, but is scared of being shunned by his preppy friends, especially by the pompous Steff (a suitably nasty James Spader).

Nevertheless, Blane plucks up the courage to ask Andie out on a proper date. While the party they attend at Steff’s house goes less than smoothly when Steff’s equally stuck-up girlfriend Benny (Kate Vernon) demeans Andie. However, Andie and Blane continue their relationship, despite the obvious objections of their peers, mainly from Duckie, who is still feeling the sting of his own rejection. But as prom approaches, will Andie choose Duckie or Blane? And will either of them appreciate the “unusual” prom dress she dons?

While “Pretty in Pink” is as a John Hughes film, he only wrote the screenplay. The directing credit instead goes to Howard Deutch,who directed a similar film the following year, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, which also focused on the social divides between the upper and working classes. Some have argued about the ending of Pretty in Pink, as well as the boy Andie ends up choosing, which is a divisive choice to most viewers. In fact, the film’s test audience weren’t satisfied  with the original ending, so it was promptly altered. This film continues to be one of my top picks of the 80’s, as I feel that all of the actors were credible in their respective roles. Molly Ringwald is as compelling as ever to watch, especially in the moving scene towards the end where she confronts her father about his need to get over his divorce and move on with his life. Andrew McCarthy oozes charisma as the chivalrous cool kid who wants to break free from the mould his friends have placed him in. James Spader adds an interesting contrast to McCarthy as an arrogant jerk we love to hate. Annie Potts offers terrific comic support as the zany, often unpredictable Iona.

But most would agree that perhaps the most memorable character in the ensemble cast is Duckie. Whether he’s lip-syncing to Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”, remarking that “there’s no candy machine” in the boys’ bathroom after some bullies forcibly push him into the girls’ bathroom, and insisting that “Blane” isn’t a name, but a major appliance ,  you can imagine that he’s an absolute hoot to watch!

The soundtrack for the movie is just as impressive, with The Smiths and the Psychedelic Furs (who sing the title track). But, for me, the best song included in the movie’s climatic scene has to be “If you Leave” by British band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. This song fits the mood of the scene quite well. In an episode of “The O.C.”, “The Goodbye Girl”, used a cover version of the song by Nada Surf, as a tribute to the movie. I would rate “Pretty in Pink four stars out of five, as it’s a quality 80’s movie that anyone could enjoy, for either the fashions or the tunes!

Get Ready to Twist and Shout with Ferris Bueller…

It’s been 29 years since a certain high school senior decided to act upon a whim which every other kid would only dream of carrying out- the chance to skip out on school for a whole day with your best friends, whilst claiming to your classmates that you were suffering from a serious disease, in order to con them out of money? Well, in 1986, John Hughes directed a film that depicted a day in the life of one Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), a soon to be graduating high school student, plan to enjoy his high school days while he still can, accompanied by his beautiful, laid back girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sara), and his uptight and depressed best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck). Part of the ruse involves “borrowing” Cameron’s neglectful father’s precious 1961 Ferrari, much to Cameron’s chagrin.

Unfortunately for Ferris, Mr Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), the school’s dean of students, is convinced that Ferris is feigning illness, and sets out to expose him. Meanwhile, Ferris’s spiteful twin sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), is infuriated as to why Ferris can so easily manipulate their parents (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett), while she appears to be ignored, until she gets help from a rather unexpected source…

Everybody I know who has seen “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” will talk incessantly about their favourite scene, may it be Ferris’s iconic dance on the parade float to both “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout”, the first shot of Chicago, Ferris conning the snooty maitre’d of the restaurant by masquerading as sausage king of Chicago, Abe Froman, the “Save Ferris” water tower, and, naturally, the Economic teacher’s (Ben Stein) persistent repetition of “Anyone? Bueller, Bueller”? etc. In short, this movie has no shortage of quotable scenes and moments.

Growing up, the most relatable character in the movie to me was Cameron. He is disregarded constantly at home by both of his parents, and always appears to afraid of taking risks. By involving Cameron in his plan, Ferris aims to offer his best friend some support and encouragement before they go their separate ways. There’s a theory that Ferris is merely a figment of Cameron’s imagination, a la “Fight Club”, and that Ferris is a projection of everything Cameron himself wants to be. I’m not sure I believe in this theory myself, but it certainly made me view the entire movie in a new light.

Like many of John Hughes’ other teen movies which centered on angsty teenagers, the lessons bestowed in this particular picture are timeless, as they apply to many contemporary teenagers, such as feeling jealous of a sibling, wanting to enjoy your youth while you still can, and taking chances now and then. For that reasons, I reward “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” with 5 out of 5 stars. One of John Hughes’ best, in my opinion, and definitely an 80’s must-see!

Additionally, if you’re in the mood for a modern parody of Ferris Bueller and his shenanigans, then check out “The Goldbergs” recent parody episode, aptly titled “Barry Goldberg’s Day Off”, in which Barry hatches a plot to take a day off, much like his famous fictional idol. The episode features him trying to reenact scenes from the original movie, but instead he finds out how tricky it can be to try this out in reality. Plus, for an extra dose of nostalgia, Charlie Sheen reprises his cameo as the boy in the police station by dispensing advice to Barry’s sister, Erica, who finds herself acting out Jeanie’s precise role! Fans of the original movie may enjoy having the scenes given a more realistic outcome to them!

Samantha’s Sweet 16th is anything but Sweet…

Picture the scene- it’s the morning of your 16th birthday. You’ve promised yourself that you’ll have “four inches of bod and a great birthday” ahead of you. But unfortunately, fate seems to be set against you, as nobody (except for your annoying kid brother) remembers the occasion, as they’re fixated on your older sister’s upcoming wedding. As if that wasn’t irritating enough, you’re in love with the hottest guy in the senior class at school, who doesn’t know that you exist, and already has a perky, if shallow, cheerleader girlfriend. Also, a dorky freshman is obsessed with you trying to “win” you,all for the sake of a bet with his friends, to the point that you’ll give him your underwear because you feel sorry for the guy. And that’s only the beginning of your troubles…

That’s the case with Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald), the heroine of  John Hughes’ 1984 teen classic, “Sixteen Candles”. As if that aforementioned scenario of her entire family forgetting her special day wasn’t enough, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), the boy in question, reads a note Samantha had written to her friend, where she declares her love for him. He sets out trying to track down Samantha, all while trying to rid himself of Caroline (Haviland Morris), his popular girlfriend. Meanwhile, geeky “Farmer Ted” (Anthony Michael Hall), is desperate to increase his popularity (or lack therefore). Samantha’s troubles are exemplified by foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe).Wild teen parties, a wedding day gone awry due to muscle relaxers and an underwear showing ensue. Can Samantha still have the birthday, and the guy, of her dreams?

As I’ve mentioned before, I simply adore John Hughes movies. He definitely possessed an astute insight to how the teenage brain works, as well as the awkward shenanigans that seem to be a package deal when it comes to being an adolescent. Many contemporary teenagers can relate with this, showing them that even in the 80’s, kids suffered through similar pitfalls as they do currently.  This leads to many laugh out loud moments, many due to the actions of the amicable Ted, who, to me, is the epitome of all the wannabe cool kids stereotypes that I am familiar with. The film also features early appearances of siblings John and Joan Cusack, as Ted’s just as geeky friend Bryce, and a girl with embarrassingly uncool orthodontic braces, respectively.

While the film has held up well where school life and teenagers are concerned, one thing that might not seem as funny to viewers in 2015 as it might have to those in 1984 is how the film represents Long Duk Dong. How he is portrayed has sparked off many a controversy in recent years, with many sources stating that this treatment of his character is offensive and unnecessary. However, this doesn’t hamper the enjoyment of the film itself, in my opinion.

In conclusion, “Sixteen Candles” is not my favourite Hughes film of all time (that honour would have to go to either “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” or “The Breakfast Club”), but it is the movie by him which I can relate to the most, mostly because I identified so strongly with Samantha and Ted, as I’m sure many others did likewise while watching it. It is for that reason, that I’m awarding “Sixteen Candles” a strong score of four and a half stars out of five.