#1925 Blue Velvet (1986)

I hovered around Blue Velvet for a long time, aware of its stature as a seminal David Lynch piece, and being a fan of Twin Peaks. And speaking of which, there’s certainly similar tones in both. Both taking place in a small towns that seem ordinary until the veil is lifted, revealing a dark, intricate mystery underneath, and Lynch’s fascination with the darker sides of human nature is apparent also here.

Both also star Kyle MacLachlan, navigating through layers of surreal and often disturbing realities acting as audience surrogate through whose eyes we get a front-row seat to the unsettling, surreal events that unfold on the screen. The transitions between what’s peaceful and normal, to scenes of insanity and nightmare are well done and seem to come almost too near to the viewer.

Blue Velvet took me to places and to this bizarre world where you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next, and I appreciated it more as an experience rather than your traditional movie. It’s one of those films that takes you to places and stirs up feelings very few movies can.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 85%

#1924 Chattanooga Choo Choo (1984)

Chattanooga Choo Choo is one of those happy-go-lucky titles you might have found if you dug deeper into the shelters of your local video rental store. You know, the row where all the movies are ordered like books, with only the spines of the movie visible.

A road movie taking place in a train, there’s heritages, race to be won, cheating tycoons, football team wearing lavender outfits, near deaf and blind locomotive engineers, an amazingly acrobatic waiter who never spills a drink, laxative pranks, cheerleaders, and some peeping tommer. And it’s all quite tame: never raunchy nor edgy – but never side splitting funny neither.

Watching the movie fell to a good spot for me as a Sunday matinee to watch before napping. And for that purpose it does it’s part very well. It’s not the most original comedy out there, but the few well known actors – George Kennedy amongst them – and gorgeous actresses keep the show rolling steadily to the end.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 72%

#1923 Fear, Anxiety & Depression (1989)

A curly haired, nerdy and nervous jewish boy who is a failing playwright in New York, pushing off women who cling onto him, while clinging on to women way above his league in a socially conscious drama comedy with snappy writing and quirky characters, written, directed and starred by the one and same person.

It’s easy to draw parallels between Fear, Anxiety & Depression and the works of Woody Allen. But where Allen was had already gotten into more mature themes towards the late 80s, Todd Solondz movie and it’s humour is a bit more anarchistic, featuring punk rockers and a bit of the NY alternative scene as well.

I found Fear, Anxiety & Depression very entertaining and its quirky humour and characters worked for me well. It is also a movie that marks the last lead role for Solondz, which is a shame since he performs well both in the front of the camera, as well as behind it.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 81%

#1922 Flesh Eaters from Outer Space (1989)

After seeing a few dozen of these straight to video scifi monster comedies, here’s my advice to any aspiring film maker out there wishing to do the same: find an original angle, or go beautifully overboard with at least some aspect of the movie, be it wild plot twists, humour, gory effects or some similar out of the box thinking.

Or, you will end up like Flesh Eaters from Outer Space: a movie that nobody knows, nobody likes and nobody cares about.

The movie is a repetitive mess that fails to press any of the right buttons. It’s not interesting, not funny, and not scary. New people are introduced not to make the movie more interesting, but to repeat one more killing scene already seen multiple times before.

80s-o-meter: 31%

Total: 3%

#1921 White Dog (1982)

After almost 2000 movies, you’d think you would not at this point come across a movie that has an unique concept. But, White Dog surely boasts one.

Here a young woman accidentally runs over a mountain of a dog who then turns out to be a perfect body guard and a guard dog, until he starts to attacking people who all to her shock are African-Americans. Based on true events Romain Gary’s 1970 novel of the same title, the movie was met with protesting from citizen groups and was canned until finally getting a DVD release in 2008. This is a something of a crime as White Dog is one of the most thought provoking movies of the era, presenting the viewer with multiple tough questions.

White Dog is one of those movies that is extremely taxing to watch due to the difficult topic, but it will reward you by sticking with you long after.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 80%

#1920 Cleo/Leo (1989)

Knowing that Cleo/Leo is a movie put together by a team mostly known of their work in the Adult movies, that I always assumed painfully bad – and so it has waited for a good moment on the shelf for me to finally have the courage to press play.

And sure enough, the movie starts as expected as what feels your typical low budget sex rump of the era, with a pig of a man suddenly turning into a woman and then continuing to act as if she was still a man as the only source from which the movie could draw its comedy. But going forward the movie takes actually quite daring moves with Leo exploring some newly found feminine sides of her world and thinking, finally extending all the way to relationships.

It is these aspects of the movie that actually make it stand out and make it somewhat interesting approach to the often worn out man-turned-woman antics and Veronica Hart in the lead role quite successfully driving the movie forward with her performance.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 67%

#1919 Lifepod (1981)

I have to admire the courage so many film makers or the 80s had when having no budget at all, but still trying to come up with a believable scifi movie – which typically requires expensive FX work, costumes and set design. And more so in the case of Lifepod that has taken the concept of a central computer taking control of a space ship – a concept pretty much perfected in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey – and puts it into a much more modest wrapper.

The made-at-home feeling here is even a bit sympathetic at times, and could have been easily forgiven if the movie was kosher otherwise. But alas – it’s nothing but as Lifepod is a lifeless, slow, repetitive show without any real feel of suspense. A wide range of characters is introduced but none of them ever seem to add much to the plot.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 26%

#1918 Beverly Hills Vamp (1989)

First starring in Grease back in late 70s, Eddie Deezen found a great niche for himself, portraying a socially awkward, nasal-voiced geek that felt like it had dropped right out of out of comic book, and soon became the quintessential nerd character of the 80s. Partly an act, partly his own eccentric self, the character is one of the best comedic reliefs of the era that I never grew tired of.

As a side character, that is.

In Beverly Hills Vamp Deezen gets to lead the whole show, pretty much single-handedly carrying the whole quite movie to the finish line. But, the movie could have used a stronger lead to side with Eddie for his comedy to really work. But then again it could have used many other things; this is fluffy, late 80s direct to video flick at it’s worst or best, simply designed to showcase a few silly laughs as well as a roster of naked breasts. Those who know what they are subscribing to will be able to enjoy the movie accordingly. Those who don’t might want to steer away.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 58%

#1917 Murder in Space (1985)

Ok, so it’s a made for a TV movie that I was not to touch for some time, but as I had cravings for some scifi, I really don’t have too many options available to me at this point.

The concept is unique and interesting for sure: a spaceship with multinational crew is on its way back to earth, when a murder occurs, resulting a potential scandal, hostilities between nations, and of course a classic whodunnit situation on board the ship, trapped in space. And instead of being a movie about space and travelling, it is just that: a whodunnit where the location just happens to be in space.

Michael Ironside and Wilford Brimley make Murder in Space somewhat worth watching – but most other parts here fall very much in the mediocre TV movie domain.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 42%

#1916 Firehouse (1987)

The Police Academy series was upon its release heavily bashed by critics for being crude, low brow humour. But stinkers like Firehouse show how skilfully crafted that humour and a roster of characters really is in comparison with this kind of garbage, put together with absolutely no ambition nor skills.

Basically a Police Academy but with fire brigade, Firehouse shows a badly conducting firemen getting a new roster of female fire fighters, with whom they then compete with. But this is no female power movie, more like a sorry excuse to display an infinite amount of mammaries on the screen.

Pretty much nothing in Firehouse makes one laugh, feel nor think, making it one of the most futile attempts in humour for a long time..

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 6%

#1915 Mysterious Planet (1982)

I take no pride nor joy hitting down on a small underdog, but Mysterious Planet just plain does not have much redeeming qualities to it.

What we have here is a sci-fi adventure where a few earthlings and their extra terrestrial buddy end up stranded on a far away planet. Not only does the movie rely heavily on a special effects the team can’t possibly provide, the pure technical quality of the movie is downright abysmal. The basic camera work is off with very tiring shaky movement throughout, and void of using basic functions like white balance. But where the movie first the most is with its dubbed dialogue, quite impossible to understand due to hissing, extra noises, echo or other layering sounds drowning it all.

An ambitious project, Mysterious Planet unfortunately bit more than it could chew. Purely as a movie experience, it is nearing zero – but I do admire that level of ambition and the fact that they manage to finish it all despite the quite apparent uphill battle they faced.

80s-o-meter: 53%

Total: 12%

#1914 Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989)

In the early 90s someone in the Finnish National Broadcasting company had the good taste to get the Penn & Teller special Don’t Try This at Home to the programming. It was completely new, something fresh, daring and funny. And I was hooked, becoming an instant fan.

So yes, of course I’ve seen Penn & Teller Get Killed. But for some reason I always thought it as an early 90s release.

Written by the Penn & Teller themselves, the movie looks very much like them. There are tricks, pranks, revealing hoaxes, something of a plot and lots of black humour. In fact, the whole premise of the movie is based on the black humour as Penn jokingly states in national television how he wished someone was trying to kill them – something that soon becomes a self granting wish.

The movie might have been better if given to hands of a professional writer, but would not likely have reflected the duo as well as this one. Same goes for the melodramatic ending, filled with that pitch dark dark humour we’ve come to expect from these two magicians.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 80%

#1913 Touched (1983)

A movie you haven’t ever heard of, nor have your friends or family heard of, Touched is a long forgotten little drama on mental patients struggling to become independent.

Boasting only 140 ratings and one review on IMDB, I have no idea how the movie became so obsolete, but I suspect it had either really limited theatrical release, or it was canned altogether. While the movie is no stinker, and would have warranted a somewhat wired release, there’s just something about seeing Robert Hays so many times in Airplane! that I can’t take him easily serious enough to read how good of a drama actor he actually might be.

The movie tells a story of him falling love with another mental patient, played by at least equally gorgeous looking Kathleen Beller, and I was struggling to believe the two as patients going steady and starting a life of their own, instead of actors pretending to do so.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 38%

#1912 Places in the Heart (1984)

With actors, it’s often the first impression that counts. For example, I only knew Sally Field from her work in Mrs. Doubtfire for a long time before I discovered her true acting skills.

The same goes for Danny Glover, who, upon seeing his other work, turns out to be a much more versatile actor than the Lethal Weapon series would have you believe.

Together, these actors make Places in the Heart work, with Field playing a recently widowed mother now struggling to pay the mortgage, and Glover portraying a vagabond. Together, they become an unlikely team, fighting fiercely to keep the family homestead.

80s-o-meter: 8%

Total: 75%

#1911 Grave Secrets aka Secret Screams (1989)

In the era where far too many slashers were made, Grave Secrets is already winning for being a good old possessed spirit horror movie.

It’s a movie that does nothing exceptionally well – but nothing that badly neither. It’s biggest problem is with the writing, with nothing too much of interest and of suspense taking place until the last act. It’s this ending where the movie finally wakes up a little, consequently waking the viewer also.

As much as I dig Paul Le Mat, he seems to be sleepwalking through the movie, and I couldn’t have but thunk that perhaps another choice for a lead would have kept the attention up for a longer.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 62%

#1910 Fast-Walking aka The Rap (1982)

I’m struggling to see the point of Fast-Walking. A prison drama shot in a rascal comedy style, the movie draws a picture of state prison and its corrupt warden looking forward to making a few bucks.

At first I thought the film was about how he would start to feel the net tightening around him, but this is actually the lovable scoundrel the movie hopes us to root for.

I found very little to like about him, and the the events inside or outside the prison. Nor did I like the way the movie was constructed, and how it looks and feels very outdated much beyond its years.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 31%

#1909 Enemies, A Love Story (1989)

Enemies, A Love Story is a rollercoaster of emotions in the life of Herman (Ron Silver), a holocaust survivor in the 1949 New York.

You see, Herman has tangled himself between women. And to make things worse, the third woman from the past is just around ther corner.

Silver does well in the role, portraying the low-key Herman with tons of mixed emotions storming below his calm facade. He never sells the character as heroic or likeable, but manages to make him relatable enough so that the audience finds themselves rooting for him, despite his morally questionable choices and actions.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 67%

#1908 Criminal Act aka Tunnels (1989)

Criminal Act – or Tunnels, as it’s much more apt name for it – promises a horror story inside old, long forgotten tunnels crossing under a newspaper, whose two female reporters go out wandering around there, just for the heck of it.

So it’s a bit far fetched to begin with, but what follows requires even more overlooking the probable. The movie turns into bit of a cartoon for adults, with film’s baddies sketched with heavy strokes of caricature making it even harder for one to buy the plot. It’s like watching a comedy without the humour part.

Horror is promised on the movie cover, but that’s an element that is not be found here.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 22%

#1907 Lobster Man from Mars (1989)

A spoof of 1950s monster scifi movies, Lobster Man from Mars was to my surprise a positive little comedy.

The movie successfully picks a few archetypes of the genre and parodises them with either expected or unexpected twist so almost everything you’d expect to find in the movie is there. The amateurish look and feel naturally goes with the picture, and the movie is often much more cheap and TV-series like than it needs to be to convey the message, but for once this did not take too much away from the overall experience.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 70%

#1906 Beach Balls (1988)

When you see a movie cover like this with a silly stupid name, it’s going to be one painful experience or a positive surprise. Either way, the expectations can’t be sky high.

Luckily Beach Balls happens to fall into the latter category. It keeps the annoyances of the genre – like being just a stupid sex comedy only revolving around gratuitous nudity – to the minimum, but still manages to being a showcase of all the possible comedy elements and characters of the genre and era stuffed into one movie: beach, jocks, baddies, heavy metal bands, house parties, side kick of a best friend, clashes with the police and conservative religious parents – it’s all here! The archetype characters also mostly work, one of the best ones being Raf Mauro as the neurotic and problematic parole officer Mr. Sugarman, at the very brink of a complete meltdown.

The humour might be hit and miss but overall Beach Balls is an enjoyable and recommendable time capsule to the silly, fluffy beach comedies of the era.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 83%