Film Review: The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)

Also known as: Fair Is Fair (working title), Billie Jean (Greece video title)
Release Date: July 19th, 1985
Directed by: Matthew Robbins
Written by: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Music by: Craig Safan
Cast: Helen Slater, Keith Gordon, Christian Slater, Peter Coyote, Richard Bradford, Martha Gehman, Yeardley Smith, Dean Stockwell, Barry Tubb

Delphi III Productions, The Guber-Peters Company, TriStar Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“$608 dollars for the scooter your son trashed. That’s what you owe and we’re not turnin’ ourselves in til we get it. Fair is fair! We didn’t start this, we didn’t mean it to happen but we’re not givin’ up til you pay. Fair is fair!” – Billie Jean

I remember discovering this in the late ’80s on the shelf at a mom and pop video store. I thought Helen Slater looked really hot on the VHS box and it also had Christian Slater in it, who I was growing to like a lot around that time. Somehow this came and went in the theaters and my 6 year-old self in 1985 never knew of its existence. Granted, I couldn’t even get my parents to take me to Weird Science back then.

In the ’90s, I feel like this was on TV all the time. I don’t think a week went by without this broadcasting on TBS or TNT, usually on late at night or in a weekend block of ’80s movies.

The main character is named Billie Jean, probably to capitalize off of the super popular Michael Jackson song of the same name. Billie Jean and her brother Binx often times get harassed by local douchebag Hubie, who has the douchebaggiest name ever. Hubie steals Binx’s scooter and ends up beating up Binx and trashing his flashy moped. Billie Jean confronts Mr. Pyatt, Hubie’s dad, and asks for money to fix the scooter. Pyatt brings her upstairs and tries to rape her and tells her she’ll basically have to put out and get the money a little bit at a time. Things escalate, Binx accidentally shoots Pyatt and the kids go on the run, as Pyatt accuses them of robbing him. As the film rolls on, we see how the media spins the story and how Pyatt takes advantage of the situation and tries to profit off of Billie Jean becoming a cult hero by selling merchandise with her likeness on it. Ultimately, this is a film about youth not trusting their elders and about the cult of personality in a time before social media and the Internet.

The Legend of Billie Jean is a cool film and pretty underappreciated in the grand scheme of ’80s teen movies. It certainly has much more to say than the slew of teen sex comedies that were the norm. However, it didn’t do well theatrically and sort of built up its own cult following as the years passed. Sadly and frustratingly, it took a really long time before this ever got any sort of DVD release.

Helen Slater was really good in this and she carries the film. She was able to handle the tough task of her character’s evolution from sweet Texas teen girl to the leader of a generation of kids who had no one to look up to: kids who felt exploited by the adults of the world.

Truthfully, this is a sort of superhero movie, which is funny as Slater played Supergirl the year before this. But for people that said there were no female superhero movies before Wonder Woman came out last year, Helen Slater had already made two, three decades earlier.

The other kids in this: Christian Slater, Yeardley Smith, Martha Gehman and Keith Gordon all did a fine job too. Peter Coyote played the cop trying to bring the kids in but was also trying to save them from themselves. Coyote was very likable and the contrast between him and Dean Stockwell’s district attorney character was great.

The Legend of Billie Jean is a wonderful coming of age drama that is superbly enhanced by its stellar soundtrack, especially in regards to Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”, which really fit the movie to a T.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Gleaming the CubePump Up the Volume and Hiding Out.

Film Review: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Release Date: May 26th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Melissa Mathison
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, C. Thomas Howell, Erika Eleniak

Universal Pictures, 114 Minutes

Review:

“It was nothing like that, penis-breath!” – Elliot

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is hands down, one of the greatest films ever made. I just saw this on the big screen, although it is the third time I have seen it in its proper format. This was the first time, however, that I got to see the original version in the theater. The other two times, it was that special edition that had unnecessary bonus scenes and for some stupid reason, removed the cops’ guns and replaced them with walkie talkies. Finally, I got to see the original unaltered version in all its glory.

It doesn’t matter how many times I see E.T., each time it hits me the same way. It is emotional and real and its effectiveness has not worn off in the thirty-five years since it was first released. That is a testament to just how perfect this motion picture is. It is also a testament to how great of an actor Henry Thomas was, as a kid, as he carried the massive weight of this picture on his back.

Watching E.T. in the theater, and seeing how today’s kids responded to it, showed that it isn’t a generational thing, it transcends all that, as happy parents got to share something with their kids, who all seemed to be truly effected by it. And while sitting there, unable to stop myself from smiling as soon as the movie kids took to their bicycles to outrun the police, I came to the realization that no matter how hard filmmakers try, no one makes movies like this anymore. Sure, we have strong summer blockbusters, here and there, but nothing that has a lasting impact and carries so much emotion with it.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is truly the measuring stick. Yes, I like other big summer movies more but E.T. did so much more with a lot less, compared to films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and certainly more than The Avengers and Transformers. It didn’t rely on being cool and having over-the-top action, adventure and effects. It has great effects on a smaller scale but it just goes right for the heart and grabs it. In reality, George Lucas inspired countless filmmakers and writers but Star Wars didn’t hit people right in the feels like E.T. did. You certainly won’t feel a tenth of the emotion of this film with Captain America: Civil War.

Some people may just go to big summer movies for endless explosions and robots dancing because they’re too afraid to feel emotional in front of their dude brahs or babes. But when a film can go beyond some simplistic bullshit and find a way to resonate within its audience, there is something really special about it. I didn’t see droves of kids leaving the theater begging for toys. I saw little faces that looked like some sort of switch flipped in their little heads. Did these raging, self-absorbed toddler terrorists somehow experience empathy?

While this is a review of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, I don’t feel like I need to rehash the plot or talk about how amazing ever little piece of the film is. I assume that mostly adults read these reviews and frankly, I have to assume that nearly everyone has seen this film and gone on to understand its greatness and importance. If you haven’t, that is an injustice that needs to be rectified.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a masterpiece. Well, as long as you don’t watch the stupid special edition.