Brat Pack Collection
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The Brat Pack Collection

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About once in a generation a film maker catches on with those young people just coming of age. If you where in your late teens around 1985 then than creative mind belonged to John Hughes. Within a time period one year on either side of that date Hughes made four of the seminal films for that generation. Now Universal has released a DVD box set with three out of those four; The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science. For those who are still wondering the missing film is Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Even with that omission this is one of the best collection sets that I have seen in a very long time. The collection is referred to as the Brat Pack Collection, a reference to the small group of young actors appearing on the scene in the mid eighties. Hughes was a director who was very loyal to his actors and reused them often in his films. As such they made each otherís careers and the teen angst film was forever changed.

As the setting for most of his films Hughes reached back to his own teen age experiences and created the high school in Shermer, Illinois. This had the affect of reaching out to most of the teens living in Middle America. They could identify with the kids on the screen, their fights with parents, rejection of their teachers and growing romantic problems. Hughes not only directed his films but wrote and produced them as well. This gave him a great deal of creative control over the projects and the results where films that still resonant with the youth of today. While two decades have passed since these films where released teenagers still are going though the same basic turmoil in their young lives. Parents and teachers are still adults without a clue. There will always be that cute boy or girl in class who seems unapproachable. Teen rebellion is a defining part of our species and Hughes captures it in every film he created. The Brat Pack was a group of young actors that the teen audience could readily identify with. This small group of actors represented the rebels of Hollywood. Stories about the members of the Brat Pack where constantly in the teen and gossip magazines. What mattered most is this was one of the talented group of young actors around and they played their roles with truthfulness and honesty.

The Breakfast Club

One tried and true method to create a drama is to take a diverse group of people and isolate them in a small, confined place. For adults this worked very well with Sidney Lumetís Twelve Angry Men. For the teens of 1985 this situation was the basis of the Breakfast Club. Five students that under normal circumstances never even glance at one another are forced to take detention on a Saturday morning. Each of the characters represented an archetype of teen society. There is the prom queen popular girl Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), pretty and sure the world owes her fro that fact alone. Then there is the jock, a star in the wrestling ring, Andy Clark (Emilio Estevez) who finds himself defined by his athletic abilities. Next we have the class bully and tough guy John Bender (Judd Nelson). He is the one most students hide from as he walks down the hallways. Now we come to the insecure class neurotic, Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy). She is the student who required professional help in dealing with her home life. Dressed constantly in black she is seen by her classmates as to odd to associate with. Finally there is the class nerd, Brian Ralph Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall). He is the excellent student, the type that bullies like Bender lover to pick on and one that could never get a date with the popular Claire. As the long hours of the detention drag on the group has little to do but talk to one another. Slowly the story behind each one comes out and they find that they have more in common then they ever could have imagined.

Sixteen Candles

Her sixteenth birthday is a huge milestone for a young girl. It represents the often painful transition from child to young woman. For Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) this is a particularly difficult time. Her grandparents are in town constantly saying embarrassing things like ĎLook! She's finally got her boobies!í just what a girl about to turn sixteen want to hear. The grandparents arenít even in town specifically for her birthday. While this day should be special to a girl like Sam it is completely over shadowed by the impending wedding of her sister Ginny (Blanche Baker). Even though her future brother in law is close to being an idiot in Samís eyes no one seems to care. The buzz around the house is so focused on the wedding that her parents have completely forgotten about Samís monumental birthday. Add to this a few touches of normal teen angst. Sam has a big time crush on one of the handsomest boys in her class and there is a boy named the Geek who wants to borrow her panties in some money making scheme. For some comic relief there is a plot thread concerned with an overly girl crazy exchange student named Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). Some of his scenes remain the most memorable in the film.

Weird Science

It is as natural as the sun rising for a teenage boy to stare at a magazine with scantly clad young women in it and fantasize about having them come alive. Two friends, Wyatt Donnelly (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) and Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall) decide to try to create the perfect woman on their computer by hacking into a huge government computer. They feed in centerfolds, measurements and any other features their hormone riddled minds could imagine. Then, a bolt of lightening strikes and their fantasy woman steps out to greet them. Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) is everything the boys could imagine and more. Where this film excels is it does not focus on the more obvious, puerile things that go through the boys mind, Lisa winds up more as a mentor for the boys, teaching them about life and how to treat members of the mysterious opposite sex. Lisa winds up as far more than a sexual toy of Gary and Wyatt, she is as intelligent as she is beautiful. At first this is a bit of a shock for the lads that girls are more than images in the center of a magazine, they are thinking human beings.

Universal went above and beyond with the release of this DVD collection. Normally Iím not too impressed by novel packaging but here it is something special. The set is contained in a high school style three ring binder. Each disc is in a plastic sleeve that you flip through as pages in the binder. Each film has been mastered in anamorphic 1.85:1 video. The video for each film is generally well done with little in the way of artifacts or defects. The color palette is often a bit muted but the overall quality is very well done. The audio is provided in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. In each case the DTS tracks resulted in better back fill to the sound field. There is really only one extra but it is fantastic. There is a CD of music from each of the three film soundtracks. Its like the best of the eighties mix with groups like Spandau Ballet, Oingo Boingo and of course ĎDonít you forget about meí from Simple Minds. The suggested retail price of this set brings each movie down to about $13, a real bargain for classics like these.

Posted 11/3/05

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