Film Review: Rad (1986)

Also known as: Hell Track (Philippines English title, Australia), BMX Hellriders (Finland)
Release Date: March 21st, 1986 (limited)
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: Geoffrey Edwards, Sam Bernard
Music by: James Di Pasquale
Cast: Bill Allen, Lori Loughlin, Talia Shire, Ray Walston, Jack Weston, Bart Conner

TaliaFilm II Productions, TriStar Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“God, what I wouldn’t give to go ass-sliding with you right now.” – Cru

This was a VHS box cover that I used to see all the time in mom and pop video shops when I was a kid. I always thought it was probably a cool flick but I always passed it up for ninja movies, horror and action flicks from Cannon. I had priorities back then.

So I just watched this for the first time and I had no idea that it actually had some people of note in it like Talia Shire, Ray Walston and Lori Loughlin.

Beyond that, it mostly stars young actors and kids, as the story revolves around a teen that is trying to win a major BMX race, it’s hefty prize and the respect of his town, mother and BMX rivals.

It’s also a movie with a pretty solid ’80s pop tunes soundtrack. While that was pretty common back then, the music really fit the scenes well in this. I listened through the soundtrack after watching the movie and it’s probably one of the best assembled for its time.

Another surprise about the film is that I had no idea that Hal Needham directed it. For those that don’t know, he’s one of Burt Reynolds’ best buds and directed him in Smokey and the Bandit and its first sequel, as well as Hooper, The Cannonball Run I and II, Stroker Ace and Hard Time: Hostage Hotel.

All that being said, this is still pretty mediocre, as a total package. The film is enjoyable but you’ve probably really got to have deep nostalgia for ’80s teen movies, as well as “extreme” sports like BMX racing.

The action stuff is pretty well done but Needham spent a big part of his career filming great car stunts, chases and races. Here, he takes that same formula and just translates it to BMX bikes.

I definitely can’t call this a classic but it fits well with similar films of the time that involved BMX kids and skaters.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other BMX, Skating and surfing movies of the ’80s.

Film Review: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Also known as: Fast Times (working title, informal title)
Release Date: August 13th, 1982
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Written by: Cameron Crowe
Based on: Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story by Cameron Crowe
Music by: various pop bands
Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston, Amanda Wyss, Forest Whitaker, Vincent Schiavelli, Lana Clarkson, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, Taylor Negron, Lana Clarkson, James Russo, Pamela Springsteen

Refugee Films, Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Why don’t you get a job, Spicoli?” – Brad Hamilton, “What for?” – Jeff Spicoli, “You need money.” – Brad Hamilton, “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine.” – Jeff Spicoli

Teen sex comedies were all the rage in the early 1980s. However, unlike all the others, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was much more than just a teen sex comedy. It was a film with purpose, heart and characters that you actually cared for and felt connected to. It had high drama, human emotion but it was still true to the spirit of the genre it was actually better than.

There were several factors that contributed to this movie being better than one would expect at first glance.

First, the story came from a book written by Cameron Crowe, who spent some time undercover in high school to capture the real lives of the teenagers around him. The book was full of true stories, which got adapted into this fictional movie tale. Crowe’s work gave this film a sense of realism and human emotion that other films like it were lacking.

Also, this was directed by Amy Heckerling and even though it was her first feature film, she was young, hip and connected to a lot of cool people at the time. She gave this picture a sort of life and energy that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. She also pulls off similar magic with 1995’s beloved teen comedy Clueless.

Additionally, this film benefits from having an incredible cast for its time. It has Sean Penn, just before he became a superstar, as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of the best actresses of her generation. The shy kind of nerdy character was played by Brian Backer, who had already won a Tony Award the year before for his leading role in Woody Allen’s The Floating Light Bulb on Broadway. You’ve also got quintessential ’80s cool guy Judge Reinhold, the always lovable Phoebe Cates, Robert Romanus, future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Amanda Wyss, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, as well as veterans Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli. How many other ’80s teen sex comedies can boast a lineup that impressive? And this didn’t even have a single person from the Brat Pack in it.

The film is well balanced between all of its main characters. It also doesn’t showcase the token stoner as just a token stoner. The chemistry between Penn’s Spicoli and Walston’s Mr. Hand is fabulous and makes for some of the best moments in the film. Seeing Walston go that extra step for a student that most teachers would just roll their eyes at is both sweet and refreshing. I could’ve watched a spinoff movie of just Spicoli and Mr. Hand and been happy, even if it had a lackluster script.

I also loved the chemistry between best buds Mark Ratner (Backer) and Mike Damone (Romanus). The shy Ratner needs Damone’s help in getting with the ladies and their exchanges are hilarious and entertaining. Life throws these best buds a curveball though but it was great seeing real friendship conquer all.

There are several good stories sprinkled throughout this ensemble piece. And it is sort of timeless in that the jokes still work, the characters are amusing and even though this gets very serious at points, it is never short on laughs and keeps things generally lighthearted.

It also has one of the best soundtracks of its decade.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a perfect template on how to create a teen coming of age movie. Sure, it is sex heavy, as it was the ’80s, but it’s light-years more mature than similar films like Private School and The Last American Virgin.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Dazed and ConfusedThe Last American Virgin and Private School. Also, Gremlins, as that features both Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold. Plus, Clueless, another teen coming of age comedy directed by Heckerling.

Film Review: Private School (1983)

Release Date: June 29th, 1983
Directed by: Noel Black
Written by: Dan Greenburg, Suzanne O’Malley
Music by: Rick Springfield
Cast: Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine, Michael Zorek, Ray Walston, Sylvia Kristel

Universal Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“That’s the finest example of bareback riding I’ve ever seen.” – Miss Dutchbok

Teen sex comedies have never been the same since the 80s ended. Sure, we’ve had a few classics, here and there. However, even though these films were a dime a dozen in the early 80s, they typically had some charm. While that could be nostalgia talking, I feel like this style of film just fit well with 80s pop culture and humor.

Private School is not a classic in the same vain as Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which is the true masterpiece of the genre because it is much more than just a teen sex comedy. However, Private School features both Phoebe Cates and Ray Walston from Fast Times and also tried to piggyback on that film’s success.

On a side note, Phoebe Cates was my first crush as a young kid and she made me come to the realization that girls were something I should desire and that no woman would ever compare to Phoebe Cates. And truth be told, I didn’t even see her breasts in Ridgemont High until I was a teenager and realized that the VHS version of the film had some things in it that weren’t shown on television. Mainly just boobies, drugs and a more colorful approach to the English language – all fun stuff.

Private School is still enjoyable for its absurdity. Also, it has that scene where Betsy Russell rides topless on a horse in glorious slow motion. And she is pretty much naked or close to naked throughout the whole film, which is something you just don’t get to see anymore because communists have taken over Hollywood in an effort to destroy the young red-blooded American male sex drive. Without their libido, the Red Chinese win. But more importantly, we can only see boobs in porn and everyone wants to slap our wrists now if we watch that good all-American smut.

What’s the big deal? Europeans don’t have a problem with sex and frankly, we’re supposed to be the trendsetters in the entertainment industry. I apologize to Europe on behalf of America if we somehow influence you guys to lose boobies in your movies. Please don’t, I’ll pay big bucks for Euro boobies, especially when they’re thirty feet tall over my head in a dark room.

Anyway, there isn’t much plot to this movie. Mainly, Betsy Russell wants to steal Phoebe Cates’ boyfriend a.k.a. Matthew Modine – the evil guy from Stranger Things. She tries to achieve this by taking her shirt off a lot. The rest of the film is really just a series of funny skits and gags, which is typical of this sort of movie.

Private School is a pretty okay movie. It is fun and it has some good bits, like everything featuring Ray Walston. But it is mostly a film about the greatness of Betsy Russell’s immaculate body. Even though I love Phoebe Cates, she doesn’t do much here other than make pouty faces and keep her clothes on.

Rating: 6/10