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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Teens > Sex > 1950s > Heist > Drama > Hockey > Canada > Losin' It (1983)/Money For Nothing (1993/Hollywood/Disney)/Youngblood (1986/United Artists/MGM/all Kino Blu-rays)

Losin' It (1983)/Money For Nothing (1993/Hollywood/Disney)/Youngblood (1986/United Artists/MGM/all Kino Blu-rays)

Picture: B-/B/B Sound: C+/B-/C+ Extras: C-/C-/C+ Films: C+

In the early 1980s, Hollywood decided to try and turn back the clock, be Reaganized and make many a simple, safe film and this included a new group of young stars. Many became part of the grouping dubbed 'The Brat Pack' by the press, but as Director Joel Schumacher (whose St. Elmo's Fire was a yuppie answer to Barry Levinson's superior Diner, but all trying to be the next variant of Lucas' American Graffiti (1973)) pointed out, it was press-created and a disservice to all the actors involved.

Since he first stated this (including on the audio commentary on Fire), it is now apparent he may have been highly underestimating how bad the situation really was and is. Most of the actors of that period have been oddly uncelebrated, forgotten and even thrown away by the media. Save a lucky few, there is no nostalgia for them, no celebration of the 1980s that includes them as heavily as it ought to and the many weak films they made or were not the hits they should have been are included as part of this problem. Still, many were ambitious and certainly better than much of the really bad releases (or is that bored package deals) we are seeing today.

Add to this that there was often serious talent behind the camera and the erasing of these actors becomes odder. Here are four films from the period issued on Blu-ray that are curios, though too many are not aware of them or forgot the films were made!

Losin' It (1983) might be best remembered as one of those early films Tom Cruise was in and he is, but it also happens to be directed by Curtis Hanson (Wonder Boys, L.A. Confidential) and also stars Jackie Earle Haley (a child star more well known than Cruise at the time who has managed to still be a working actor and star today) and a young Shelley Long just before landing the TV hit Cheers. Its the later 1950s when a group of young male friends (Cruise and Haley included) just becoming teens decide to find out more about women, sex and drinking by gong to Tijuana, Mexico. The film even has some great classic hits of the period, then also adds odd 1980s pop songs made for the film.

Though the film is uneven, it is always interesting and trying to be authentic, the actors are brave to be vulnerable as they would have been in real life then and its look is very convincing. There is even some chemistry, but the script is a little uneven and that stops the film from being even better. One wonders if the new songs were forced on the production. It also has John Stockwell (later of John Carpenter's Christine, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and he fell through somewhere between the two actors that made it and the upcoming 'Brat' cycle to be.

Both John and Joan Cusack were also around at the time starting their careers and both have made some great movies, given some memorable performances and were in that space between honest 1970s films about growing up and the problematic 1980s films that the 'Brat' films often include. They also both made the transition into adult acting and still work, even if John has been in more B-movies when he deserves more and Say Anything is now a classic despite being underrated, underappreciated and disrespected upon its original release.

Ramon Menendez's Money For Nothing (1993) was one of those early Hollywood Pictures live action releases Disney was pumping out and having some hits with. Using Pittsburgh too obviously and often as a stand-in for Philadelphia, where some of the film was also shot, this is a heist comedy with few laughs and new ideas, but still has plenty of talent. Not that well directed, Michael Madsen, a very young James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman (both gone way too soon), Frankie Faison, Fionnula Flanagan, Michael Rappaport and two actors still active today: the always underestimated Debi Mazar and now Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro. Yet, the film is a miss and already, you can see at this point that no 'Brat Pack' members show up in a film that via the Hollywood star system, they would have shown up in otherwise. Cusack could almost be included, but he was never totally, officially part of that grouping.

The result is a mere package deal that does not deliver, yet another film far more people would be interested in seeing or re-seeing because of the talent involved, so with so many bad and far more violent heist films being made since, this has no cult following either.

So that brings us to the film in the chronological middle which also does not have any cult following and is not discussed much despite the talent involved. Peter Markle's Youngblood (1986) was as well promoted as the other films and hit starved MGM/UA thought they had a hit on their hands in this drama/comedy with still-popular Rob Lowe as a young guy who wants to play hockey, but is about to discover it will involve more bullying, peer pressure, male bonding and the like than he expects. Fair enough and it is totally a Canadian production, one we can look back on as an early success that made filmmaking up north a big deal and evolved into its own industry that it was totally absent in being in the later 1970s.

The late Patrick Swayze (who hot the respect he deserved before leaving us too early) is on the team already, a secondary league team versus the National Hockey League, but his character is the high scorer. Like a music video or the sudden new masculinity in the Reagan era, all the guys were suddenly toned and from the gym, even filmed like a music video or like models, as the film flaunts sexuality, does some gay-baiting (Lowe is practically nude in one scene when his love interest (Cynthia Gibb) shows up as he is stuck in a hallway) and I doubt we would see such a scene today.

The cast (also including character actor Ed Lauter, Jim Youngs and a brief early appearance by the one who is now the biggest star of them all, Keanu Reeves (he's part of the gang and has some dialogue) does their best to give good acting performances and make this believable. It also plays more like a Canadian independent production despite the 1980s Hollywoodisms, so why is it not more well known or a curio? Well, its better than those Mighty Duck films and may not be as brutally honest and wacky as Slapshot with Paul Newman, yet it is one of the few films about hockey with any credibility despite its cliches and issues.

Lowe continued his career long after his 'Brat' contemporaries, TV and otherwise, but this film too has just disappeared moire into the 'memory hole' than it might have if from another era and with other actors. Even a few big stars and big stars to be have not been enough for these films to be talked about, but their arrival on Blu-ray should be reason enough to revisit and reconsider them to at least some extent.

They also look decent enough with all the films presented in 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers save the later Money in 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition (home video had the studios insisting on 1.85 too often, killing true scope productions until the early 1990s) and they look decent with name Directors of Photography on each. The legendary Gilbert Taylor, B.S.C., shot Losin' It and he is applying a certain sense of style when he can, but a few times, I could not tell if it was style or the age of the transfer or film materials used. It looks fine otherwise.

Thomas Siegel, A.S.C., lensed Money and Mark Irwin, C.S.C., Youngblood, both now known for their many hit genre films and some impressive TV work. Irwin is probably one of the most successful cinematographers in all of Canada and the films look good, though Youngblood is more stylized.

All three have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless mixes, but Losin' It was a monophonic release and the later two films 2.0 Stereo and issued theatrically in Dolby older analog A-type noise reduction system with mono surrounds. If you get those two, use Pro Logic (or any variant thereof) to decode the surrounds.

Extras on all three releases have multiple trailers for other releases and one for each respective film, but Youngblood has a feature length audio commentary track by Director Markle that's not bad to hear after seeing the film.

As for my points on the 'Brat Pack' era, I hope to revisit these points and add to them with future such releases. We'll see what else we can identify about the era then/

- Nicholas Sheffo


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