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High School Flashback Collection (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science)

Universal
Movies The Breakfast Club (A-), Sixteen Candles (B+), Weird Science (C-)
Special Features The Breakfast Club (A-), Sixteen Candles (B), Weird Science (B-)
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)

This trio of John Hughes films comes in a cute little tin that looks like a high school locker. It's been many years since I watched these movies straight through, and I was most surprised by how well The Breakfast Club has aged. I won't go so far as to say it has aged like a fine wine; it's more like a can of beer that's been sitting in the fridge for three years that still manages to taste good when you finally crack it open.

These are actually the first three of eight films Hughes directed before he virtually disappeared into writing and producing Home Alone movies. He debuted with Sixteen Candles, a film that is quite shocking 24 years later. I say Long Duk Dong was one of the greatest characters of the '80s, politically incorrect or not. Anthony Michael Hall also started his reign as the decade's supreme geek.

Molly Ringwald, Hall and Hughes rode the success of their first collaboration into The Breakfast Club, a great film about teens being teens that featured a barn-burner performance from Judd Nelson as John Bender, juvenile delinquent. There's also Ally Sheedy as a weirdo who uses her dandruff to create snow for her drawings, and the great Emilio Estevez as the jock. I was in high school when this came out, and it was better than 10 sessions with my guidance counselor. Hughes had a real gift for teen dialogue.

Then there's Weird Science, a goofy film where the wheels temporarily came off. Hall stars as--you guessed it--a geek who creates a woman with his friend's computer. This was Hughes' first stinker ... and it still stinks.

Special Features: Each disc has some great retrospectives with many actors returning to chat, although there's no Ringwald or Estevez. Nelson and Hall provide a great commentary for The Breakfast Club.


Nixon: The Election Year Edition

Disney
Movie A-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

Maybe it's the passing of time, or maybe it's the excellent 28 minutes of deleted scenes that were added back into the film. Whatever it is, I've gone beyond mild admiration for this movie; I now love it.

Anthony Hopkins is remarkable as Nixon, capturing that nervousness that came through in every television image of the guy. The movie is by no means a character assassination from Oliver Stone; it actually offers quite a sympathetic view of the man, from his troubled childhood through his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

The film now clocks in at 213 minutes (that's longer than 3 1/2 hours!), and it still feels a little short. The Nixon story is unbelievable, and Stone did something very interesting with it by featuring Nixon, alone in a room, listening to those tapes he guarded so tenaciously while reminiscing on his life and wallowing in the big hole he has dug. Stone's movie is a bit nutty in the head, as was the country during Nixon's reign.

In the end, the film is sad, as it acknowledges that this president could've been one of the best, considering the improvement of relations with China, the eventual end of the Vietnam War (although he took his sweet time) and the achievement of détente with the Russians. It's a shame he thought he was untouchable and above constitutional law. What a screwup.

Special Features: Two commentaries by Stone are very much worth listening to. Stone also introduces deleted scenes--the same scenes that have been restored in the director's cut.


American Experience: The Presidents Collection

Paramount/PBS
Shows A
Special Features None
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

I caught a couple of these when they aired on PBS, and they are phenomenal. Each program in this set focuses on an American president (from Theodore Roosevelt through George H.W. Bush, excluding Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower and Ford).

The Nixon chapter is an interesting one, especially if you watch it within 24 hours of the new Oliver Stone Nixon DVD. The documentary contains much of the final speech that Nixon made before boarding his helicopter and leaving the White House. Seeing true footage of Nixon really shines a light on how excellent the Hopkins portrayal is in Stone's film.

The Nixon chapter also contains more information about the tricks Nixon employed to get his first government job, and the Communism witch hunt of which Nixon was a big part. You get a true sense of what got Nixon to the post, and what buried him.

Of the other chapters, I was most taken in by Truman and his amazing story. I guess I see a parallel between Nixon and Truman--two presidents who presided over extremely tumultuous times, and two guys with surprisingly major self-esteem issues. Their stories are extraordinary.

Special Features: Each disc says it has a teacher's guide, but you have to visit a PBS Web site to obtain it.

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