This year marks the 30th Anniversary of one of the most underrated films of the 1980s, an unassuming comedy that came out in the winter of 1985 and struck a chord with anyone who saw it. I’m speaking of The Sure Thing, Rob Reiner’s follow-up to This is Spinal Tap, and the first film to really show off John Cusack’s range. It’s hard to believe that this was just Reiner’s second movie, as it is as strong a movie as any of the classics that would follow in his varied career, including Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally… and Misery.
The Sure Thing is a wonderful rom com that works because of Reiner’s assured directing, the strong script by Steve L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts, and the exceptional cast, which also included Daphne Zuniga, Anthony Edwards, Viveca Lindfros, Tim Robbins, Lisa Jane Persky and Nicolette Sheridan (in her first movie).
Unlike so many young adult rom-coms The Sure Thing is set in college, a time when characters are on their own for the first time and their impulsive behavior sometimes leads to love, and sometimes leads to heartbreak and singing “The Christmas Song” with a couple of barflies in a Midwest dive. Cusack plays Walter “Gib” Gibson, a freshman at a liberal New England university who hopes to be a writer and possibly get laid. The girls at his school dress mostly in plaid and look down their noses at slackers like Gib. While his best friend Lance (Edwards) is living it up on the west coast, Gib is looking at a long winter alone. There is one prospect, an uptight classmate named Allison (Zuniga), but she has a boyfriend, a fact Gib learns after he tries to kiss her. She rejects him so vehemently that they become fast enemies.
Lance invites Gib out to California for Christmas break with an offer he can’t refuse: a sure thing. In other words, guaranteed sex with a gorgeous co-ed (Sheridan) who’s naïve into experimenting. Gib scrambles to the ride share board and soon he’s westward bound in the station wagon belonging to a show tune loving conservative couple, sharing the backseat with none other than Allison.
Yes, it’s a tried and true set-up that has roots in cinema as early as It Happened One Night, but Bloom and Roberts created fresh, zany characters to carry the film through its journey, and Cusack and Zuniga make for an earnest and down to earth pair. Each has an everyman quality to them that makes the film accessible to just about anyone.
Although a modest success upon its release, The Sure Thing gained a cult status after it came out on VHS. Subsequent home video releases have added to the movie’s longevity, although none have looked or sounded as good as this Shout! Factory Blu-ray release (the first time the film appears in this format). It’s apparent that a great deal of love went into the Hi-Def wide screen transfer of the film and the DTS HD audio. That last part is important because The Sure Thing has a hell of a soundtrack (a topic once covered in Kelly Stitzel’s beloved “Soundtrack Saturday” column for Popdose). Any fan of The Sure Thing, Reiner or Cusack should own this movie. Dare I say it’s a sure thing (Ugh, I know, but I had to say it).
2015 also marks the 30th Anniversary of The Breakfast Club, the film that addressed the way teens were depicted in popular culture, and one that continues to influence writers and filmmakers. It’s a timeless classic that seems current no matter what decade we’re in. Aside from the library card catalog, everything in The Breakfast Club is relatable to contemporary audiences.
On paper it’s such a simple premise: Five high school students from various cliques are forced to spend the day together in Saturday school. You have a jock (Emilio Estevez), a popular girl (Molly Ringwald), a Goth loner (Ally Sheedy), a nerd (Anthony Michael Hall) and a stoner (Judd Nelson). They’re all misfits in their own way, damaged by the way society perceives them and how their parents treat them. Throughout the day, the kids bond and discover that they have more in common than they thought.
The plot sounds cliché now, but in 1985, The Breakfast Club was a revelation. I know because I was 15 at the time, experiencing the exact same emotions those characters were on screen. Until this film, honest depictions of teenagers were hidden in genre films, whether is was a sex farce like The Last American Virgin, an ensemble comedy such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, or slapstick film like Hughes’ own Sixteen Candles. The dramas made about teens felt heighted with melodrama, and not always relatable to each member of the audience. Hughes take on high school was so pitch perfect that every person that took in a seat in the theater felt like the movie was made for them.
In 1985, The Breakfast Club came out of nowhere to become a box office success story, despite opening at number three behind red-hot Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop and the Harrison Ford drama, Witness. By the end of the year, the Meryl Street/Robert Redford epic, Out of Africa, was racking up accolades and would eventually win seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. At that same Oscar ceremony, Lionel Richie would receive the Best Original Song Academy Award for his them to White Nights, “Say You Say Me.” The Breakfast Club didn’t receive any nominations, but it resonated with audiences, which is more important than awards and end of the year lists. Thirty years after the fact, the only time Out of Africa is ever discussed is when it shows up on TCM; and you’ll be hard pressed to hear Richie’s schmaltzy ballad on the radio or Pandora. Meanwhile, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” retains its power, despite being on heavy rotation in every radio market around the country, and The Breakfast Club remains a part of the pop culture conversation.
Let’s discuss the new Blu-ray release honoring the film’s 30th Anniversary. It’s spectacular. Using original 35mm film elements, the movie has been digitally remastered and fully restored. I saw The Breakfast Club for the first time in a second run theater, and later at a drive-in (plus subsequent TV and video versions); this is the best I’ve ever seen it. Moreover, the sound is superb. Simple Minds and Wang Chung never sounded so good on my TV!
The bonus materials consist of a 12-part documentary on the making of the film. It features interviews with cast members and some of the production crew. One neat feature is the trivia track, which allows you to play the film with pop up trivia questions appearing throughput the course of the movie. This is obviously for diehards. Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall also provide feature length commentary.
Filmmakers will continue to try and make the next Breakfast Club, but there’s no need. With this Blu-ray release, the film has been preserved and generations from now, people will still be talking about it.