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Featured Blu-ray review: Better Off Dead and Ferris Bueller's Day Off

July 30th, 2011

Better Off Dead - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon and Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Bueller... Bueller... Edition Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

I'm combining the Blu-ray reviews for Better Off Dead and Ferris Bueller's Day Off for a number reasons. They were originally released in theaters less than a year apart, are coming out on Blu-ray the same day, they are both being released by the same studio, and I previously reviewed Ferris Bueller's Day Off, so that review will be rather short. Another similarity... they've both been released on DVD a number of times.

Better Off Dead - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

John Cusack stars as Lane Myer, a high school student with more than a few problems. He's family is dysfunctional in a comedic way (his dad is convinced he's on drugs, his mother's cooking will literally crawl away, and his brother is a child prodigy / mad scientist in the making). He really only has one friend, Charles de Mar, a wannabe stoner who laments the lack of real drugs in their suburban environment. He's in this weird rivalry with two Japanese racers, one of whom, Yee Sook Ree, speaks like Howard Cosell. Finally, he's in a seemingly life-or-death struggle with the paperboy. But at least he has Beth, his girlfriend and the only reason for living.

After trying out for the high school ski team, his girlfriend dumps him for the captain of the ski team, Roy Stalin. As previously stated, Beth was Lane's only reason to live, so his immediate response is to try to commit suicide. He later decides that maybe trying to win her back is more sensible, but how? He's got to ski the K-12, which is basically the same thing as suicide. Neither his family nor Charles is much help overcoming this, but when he meets Monique, a foreign exchange student living with his weird neighbors, that things start to go his way. Sadly, she doesn't speak any English, so the conversations tend to be a little one-sided. Perhaps the confidence she installs within him will help him conquer K-12!

Go up to anyone who grew up in the 1980s and yell, "I want my two dollars!" and see how they react. A lot will recognize the quote from this movie, which is amazing, as the film barely made more than $10 million at the box office. It was beat by such 1985 films as Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, or American Ninja. However, it developed a following on the home market, and it is easy to see why. It is an infinitely quotable movie filled with many characters that come off as real, as well as characters that are just outside the realm of normal. That's a balance that is hard to pull off, but it works. You can enjoy the movie as a romantic comedy between Lane and the love of his life, or the typical 1980s Slobs vs. Snobs film, or you can also enjoy it as a surreal suburban nightmare scenario filled with a Japanese Howard Cosell, psychotic paperboys, and more craziness.

Granted, not every joke hits its mark, but it is still a minor classic from the era.

The Extras

There are no extras. Nothing. Not unless you count the trailer, which I don't. The film does look and sound better than it ever has on the home market, but since it was a relatively low-budget release from the 1980s, that's not saying a whole lot. Details are a little soft and sometimes the grain is a little too much. On the other, colors and contrast are excellent and overall it is as good as one would expect given its age and the type of film. The 5.1 track is front-heavy and there's not a lot of dynamics, ambient sound, or even bass. That said, the dialogue is clear, and that's what you want for a film like this. Personally, I wouldn't want to spend too much more than $10 for a release like this. Unfortunately, the price on is $17.

The Verdict

Better Off Dead is a great movie, but the Blu-ray is disappointing and costs too much for shovelware.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Bueller... Bueller... Edition Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

I previously reviewed this movie when it came out as part of the I Love the 80s line and that review can be found here. The film is a generally considered a classic and many still consider this film Matthew Broderick's best movie. Some have argued that it is too 1980s and it hasn't aged well, but I disagree with that sentiment.

The Extras

So what is the Blu-ray like? It's the Bueller... Bueller... Edition and not the I Love the 80s Edition, which is good news and bad news. The latter had an audio commentary track with John Hughes, while this version does not. On the other hand, that's all that DVD had in terms of extras. The Blu-ray instead has several featurettes starting with two making of featurettes: the 28-minute long Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off and the 15-minute long The Making of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Who is Ferris Bueller? is a 9-minute featurette on not only the character, but why Matthew Broderick was the perfect choice for the part. The Word According to Ben Stein has Ben Stein talking about his life and career. Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes is a ten-minute interview with Matthew Broderick and Alan Ruck. Finally, there's a photo gallery. That's quite few extras, but none of them are different from the DVD, nor are they new from the previous Blu-ray release.

The video is a little soft and the level of details are a little low, but that's not too surprising given the age of the movie. The colors are better, as is the contrast. The audio is front-heavy, as you would expect, but there are points in the movie where you get good surround sound effects.

The Verdict

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a good movie, while the Bueller... Bueller... Edition Blu-ray has a lot of extras. However, it is shovelware, and the film was released on Blu-ray just two years ago. It's a cash grab.

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Filed under: Video Review, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Better Off Dead...