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Featured TV on DVD Review: MGM Collections

October 16th, 2010

MGM Collections - Buy from Amazon: 80s Movies and Sports Movies

On the 5th of October, MGM released about a dozen compilation DVDs ranging in size from two-film packs to ten-film packs. A couple of them, the 80s Movies Six-Pack and Sports Movies Six-Pack, were sent to me to review. With 12 movies on 6 discs on 2 DVDs, there's a lot to get to. And yes, my reviews will be a whole lot shorter than they would be if these were individual releases.

80s Movies

Valley Girl

Julie Richman is the titular Valley Girl, who at the start of the movie is dating a typical valley boy, Tommy. However, he's not a good boyfriend, so she dumps him. Later she spots Randy and its love at first sight. However, he's not from the valley and her friends say that if they are a couple, she won't be popular anymore with the rest of the valley kids.

It's an unbelievably common storyline; however, the execution is phenomenal. It basically started Nicolas Cage's and Martha Coolidge's careers, and it is still one of the best films either has made. It is a quintessential 80s movie. It is not just a good movie from the 80s. It is the 80s.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with Martha Coolidge and a trivia track.

The Rachel Papers

Dexter Fletcher stars as Charles Highway, a 19-year old who is about to go off to college. He is very intelligent and has been concentrating his efforts into perfecting a method for seducing women. He compiles lots and lots of data, on his Commodore Amiga, to help him become the man they want. He then keeps up the charade until the relationship is over. His most recent conquest (and yes, that's the term he uses) is Gloria (Claire Skinner), but he has since set his eyes on Rachel, an American and the "older" woman he is looking for.

At this point, I feel the need to point out that while Rachel is supposed to be older than Charles, Ione Skye is actually younger than Dexter Fletcher by a few years, and was in fact younger than his character was supposed to be. However, she definitely looked older. That's not an insult to Ione, as Dexter looked like he was about 12 in the movie.

He puts his method to use, but it is complicated by the fact that Rachel has a boyfriend, James Spader, not to mention his numerous exes.

This film barely made a peep at the box office here and is mostly forgotten now, but I liked it when I first saw it many years ago. I especially like how it doesn't end with your typical Romantic Comedy happy ending. It's more realistic. I'm also very impressed with the cast, which includes the four people I mentioned above, plus Jonathan Pryce, Michael Gambon, and others. It does have its flaws, including lead characters that are not exactly sympathetic at times, but it is still worth checking out.

Unfortunately, there are no extras for this movie.

Losin' It

Four young men Woody, Spider, Dave, and Dave's kid Wendell travel to Tijuana. Woody, Spider, and Dave go to have sex, while Wendell goes to buy fireworks to resell back in the States. Along the way they pick up Kathy, a woman looking to get to Mexico for a quick divorce from her husband. Hijinx ensue. At least that's what the filmmakers were hoping for.

It's a Road Trip / Teenage Sex Comedy that uses every cliché they could think of, but never once managed to make me laugh. Not once. It was a grating Porky's wannabe, and Porky's wasn't that good of a movie to begin with, despite its massive box office haul. (I like it, but I consider it more of a guilty pleasure than a good quality film.)

Not only are there no extras for this movie, but it's in full screen.

The Last American Virgin

Wow. Two movies in a row about losing your virginity.

In this movie, three friends, Gary, the sensitive one; Rick, the stud; and David, the comic relief, are high school friends who do what most high schoolers do in these films, try and have sex. Rick, being the stud, has no trouble getting women, even David succeeds, but Gary's another story. He's the titular last virgin. For much of the movie, it's this simple setup. However, early on we are introduced to Karen, the new girl in school, and a love triangle between Gary, Rick, and Karen develops. Rick initially wins over Gary, but then...

And at this point the movie takes a sudden, and emotionally effective turn. It goes from a Porky's wannabe to something more. Given how effective the last third of the movie is, I wish it had spent less time being a wannabe, but overall it is still worth checking out.

There are also no extras for this movie.

Class

Class stars Jonathan, a new kid at a boarding school. His roommate is Skip, who decides it is his mission to make sure Jonathan loses his virginity.

Good god, was that all the 80s were about?

Anyhoo. Skip sends Jonathan to the big city so he can find an older woman, and he succeeds in meeting Ellen. They have an affair but break it off when Ellen learns Jonathan is only 17. That Christmas, Skip invites Jonathan to stay at his place over the break and that's when Jonathan learns that Ellen is skips mother. Awkward.

On the one hand, this movie has a lot of good scenes, like the early pranks that help form the friendship between Skip and Jonathan. On the other hand, the overall result is less successful, as the shift in tone to a more serious subject fails to connect.

It is noteworthy for being the first film role for Andrew McCarthy, John Cusack, Alan Ruck, and others.

Zapped!

A couple of years before co-starring in Charles in Charge, Scott Baio and Willie Aames starred in this movie about a high school nerd that gets superpowers after a lab accident. He uses these powers to fight bullies, win a baseball game for his best friend, and see breasts. ... Mostly the last one.

The plot is more in-depth than that, and includes a romance angle, but I feel I've wasted too much time talking about the movie already. Zapped! is easily one of the worst movies I've ever reviewed, and I've reviewed a lot of bad movies. It's career endingly bad. There are some who consider the film so bad that it is good, so keep that in mind.

The Verdict

Of the six movies in this set, there's one that is excellent, two that are good, one that had potential, and two that are just awful. Beyond awful, really. There are also almost no extras, but on the other hand, the price is low, so even if only three of the films are worth picking up, then the set as a whole is. Otherwise, just grab the one or two of them you like individually.

Sports Movies

Bull Durham

The film recently came out on Blu-ray and I reviewed it then. My opinion of the film hasn't changed in the past two months.

There are two audio commentary tracks on this movie.

Rocky Marciano

Jon Favreau stars as the titular Rocky Marciano in this TV biopic about the legendary boxer. The film starts in 1969 with Marciano receiving an awards, before flashing back to his childhood, which was spent in poverty. Seeing how hard his father worked and for so little, he's determined to find a better life. And when he knocks out a crocked employer, he thinks he's found it in boxing. However, while he has raw ability, and a lot of determination, he doesn't have any training, so it takes a while for him to be able to compete with the professionals.

There's going to be a training montage.

The movie switches between the "present" of 1969 where he's trying to get home for his daughter's birthday party, and the past as he learns the ropes, meets his future wife, a corrupt promoter, and eventually rises to the top.

Jon Favreau is excellent in this TV movie and there's a great balance of humor and drama. That said, some of the scenes are a little awkward at times. For instance, when he's being swindled by the corrupt promoter, there was something that felt off about the scene. The sales pitch should have been smoother to make the scene more believable. It's not an amazing movie, but it is one that is worth checking out and one that is better than its Tomatometer score.

There are no extras for this movie.

Body and Soul

A boxing movie from 1981 that is a remake of the 1947 film of the same name. The film stars Leon Isaac Kennedy, who also co-wrote the script (not a good sign). He plays a boxer that is on the rise, but encounters a corrupt promoter, makes some bad choices, and ends up screwing over the woman he loves. The original is considered a classic by quite a few people, but it is mostly forgotten. This film is just mostly forgotten, and quite frankly, it should remain that way. The acting in this movie is terrible, especially from Leon Isaac Kennedy, who is equally inept at the dramatic moments and the boxing scenes. He has zero chemistry with Jayne Kennedy, who played the good woman he wronged in the movie, and was his wife in real life.

After going from a better than expected movie like Rocky Marciano, this was a real letdown.

Body and Soul

No, this is not a problem with me and Cut & Paste, although lord knows I've made more than a few of those mistakes. There really are two boxing movies on this set named Body and Soul. Here Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini plays a Charlie Davis, a small town boxer who is looking to make it big, while Michael Chiklis plays his best friend trying to keep out of trouble. I believe it is another remake of the 1947 original, but while it is marginally better than the previous version, it is still a failure. The acting is slightly better, the boxing scenes are a little more realistic, the dramatic moment feel a tad more authentic, etc. It does feel like a TV movie, and not a good TV movie.

Again, no extras and the film is not widescreen.

Diggstown

The fourth boxing movie in a row, but it's one of my favorites. This is probably because it is a conman movie more than a boxing movie. James Woods stars as Gabriel Caine, who along with his two partners, Fitz and "Honey" Roy Palmer, plan to swindle a corrupt boxing promoter, John Gillon. At first, it is just about getting some money. Then as they learn just how corrupt John Gillon is, they decide to take him for all that he's worth. Then it becomes personal.

Okay, it's not a perfect movie and there are more than a few clichés thrown in, not to mention a few times where the demands of the plot trump all bounds of reason, but I still find this movie immensely entertaining. James Woods can deliver the charm needed to pull off a good con, while Louis Gossett Jr. and Bruce Dern shine as the aging boxer and the scummy bad guy respectively. It deserves to be seen more.

Again, no extras are found here.

Semi-Tough

The second movie on this DVD directed by Michael Ritchie. Here Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson play Billy and Shake, teammates on a football team that are also rivals for the same woman, Barbara Jane Bookman, who just happens to be the daughter of the owner of the team, Big Ed Bookman. Barbara falls for Shake after he takes a self help course, which helps build his self confidence.

Essentially the movie is a romantic triangle / satire of self-help, in particular est with football taking a back seat in all of this. At the time it was released, it earned good reviews, but I don't think it has aged very well. I have no idea what "est" is. None. When critics compliment the film's spot on parody of "est" as B.E.A.T., there's no way for me to know if this is true, but I can say that if it was, it was lost on me. It was still funny, at times, but since the central point of the movie went over my head, I only thought it was mediocre and not a lost classic as some of the reviews would indicate. I guess if you grew up in the 70s, it would have a bigger impact.

There are no extras for this movie, nor is it in anamorphic widescreen.

The Verdict

Of the six movies in this set, there are two that are excellent, one that is better than average, one that is below average, one that is quite weak, and one that is awful. There are also almost no extras, but on the other hand, the price is low, even if only three of the films are worth watching, you know the rest.

Final Verdict

So what did we learn from these two DVDs? According to MGM, losing your virginity is to the 1980s as boxing is to sports. And boxing equal corruption. I don't know what that means, but I'm sure some psychologist could have a field day examining it more closely.


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Filed under: Video Review, Bull Durham, Semi-Tough, Class, Valley Girl, Zapped!, The Last American Virgin, Diggstown, Losin' It