I’m not quite sure what to do with all these made for TV movies of the 80s. On the other hand, watching through all of them is not at all what I signed up for, but with gems like Death of a Salesman how could I possibly pass them up?
Ah, the 80s where it’s still totally ok to be totally melodramatic in the most theatrical way.
In Tiger Warsaw it’s the Chuck ’Tiger’ Warsaw (Patrick Swayze) in his leather jacket and wild hair who is suffering with his past after shooting his father, fleeing the town and living a life of self destruction ever since. And boy is he in anguish as he tries to meet up with his past again and make up for the past.
As in, almost rolling in pain.
In the cynical world of 2021 Tiger Warsaw feels directly out of a pen of a teenager in angst and all of its overwhelming drama very much glued on. Call me cynical, but this one did not manage to touch me at all.
Chuck, a star of his little league baseball team realises after a visit to nuclear missile silo how the world is in a balance of terror that might go off any minute, and refuses to throw another pitch until the nuclear arsenal in the world is gone. His boycott is then picked up by a local newspaper, after which an unexpected chain of events starts to unravel as a NBA star Amazing Grace Smith joins him, followed by other front row athletes.
Amazing Grace and Chuck is a beautiful fairy tale with great array of interesting personas and events. It grasped me from the get go, and I enjoyed it all the way to the end. So, it’s highly implausible – but the movie handles all this very well, finally wrapping up beautifully with a one single thought:
”But wouldn’t it be nice”
A fashion model meets up with a wealthy and persuasive entrepreneur who promises to make her a star, but after the initial crush the she feels that the he has become quite an overpowering force in his life. This imbalance of power is turned around when it’s her turn to help him.
For a movie much about nothing Covergirl is much more entertaining than it deserves to be. Jeff Conaway as the robot building businessman does a good job of being big headed but still likeable scoundrel, and Irena Ferris whose acting career dried up by the end of the 80s has a great screen presence, and the camera truly seems to love her.
In the 1980 the comedian Richard Pryor famously set himself on fire while on a drug induced psychosis and sustained severe burns. It’s from this setup that Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, a semi-biographical movie of Pryor starts.
Directed and starring Pryor, he plays a stand-up comedian much like himself. While definitely boosted up in the 80s by the Pryor being a star everyone knew, the movie holds very little interest to anyone not aware nor fan of Pryor. There’s no real common thread running through the movie and I’m not sure why the movie was made, other than for some sort of personal self-examination.
Fans of Pryor likably will dig this one as well, others might want to steer clear.
Too Scared To Scream takes notes from the early 80s slasher movies as well as the genre classic Psycho and serves them as a thriller with a slight horror twist to it.
A high rise apartment complex in New York City is being riddled with murders. Suspicion points to a peculiar doorman played by Ian McShane (of the Lovejoy and Deadwood fame) and its up to the Detective Dinardo (Mike Connors) to prepare a trap to catch the slayer.
I would give Too Scared To Scream top rating purely as a slasher movie (as it tops that genre), but although I do like the overall mood and the setup, as a horror thriller it does not fare quite that well.
I definitely was not looking forward to seeing The Concrete Jungle after suffering through various similar prison exploitation movies.
Luckily The Concrete Jungle manages to surpass most of similar women’s prison exploitation movies by staying low in exploitation and putting more emphasis on the script. Make no mistake about it still, the movie prison world is very much there; the prisoners are well groomed, look like models, sleep in their pyjamas in a dorm and get into cat fights.
But, there is an actual plot and the movie manages to generate empathy towards the main character thrown in the slammer for protecting her drug trafficking boyfriend. Tracey E. Bregman performs well in her role as Liz and overall the movie looks much more fresh than its release year would suggest, and the 70s style movie poster does not represent the look and feel of the movie at all.
While Hollywood Cop was a pleasant surprise that turned all the entertainment knobs all the way to 11, and Young Rebels was an uttermost disappointment, Killing American Style luckily resembles more of the Hollywood Cop, but loses a bit in the action department.
Like other Shervan’s movie, every pumped up character feel like they’d been taken out of Mortal Kombat arcade game, and the action and dialogue are so overboard the movies feel more like parodies rather than serious action movies. Robert Z’Dar, Shervan’s square-jawed go to actor once again complimenting this theme as a menacing baddie straight out of a comic book.
Another late 80s drawn to look cool to hide the fact that the movie itself is almost one decade old and made with a small budget, Stark Raving Mad is one of the movies I always thought to be a cult classic, but isn’t. The probable reason for this is the classic Simpsons episode from the season 3 (1991) that had a similar word play, Stark Raving Dad – but the two aren’t connected in any way.
Stark Raving Mad is an exploitation movie done in the vein of Bonnie and Clyde of a 19-year old greaser who starts dating a 14-year old and they end up starting a crime/murder spree. The official blurb of the movie states the following: while awaiting execution, a convicted serial killer relates the story of the circumstances that led to his present situation – but this kind of prologue was missing on my DVD copy. There is however a final sentencing closure present.
There isn’t much info nor reviews available for the film online, so it can be considered an actual movie lost in time. Plot and production wise it’s a pretty inept movie, but not a complete stinker. Knowing the downward spiral will end unfortunately for the duo, watching the proverbial noose tighten around them still makes for an interesting if not thrilling experience.
A mountain man in mid 19th century Oregon builds a cabin to the Native American’s burial site and then revenges the death of his wife by kidnapping a woman from the tribe and killing the chasing tribe members with a repeater stolen from the vendor who lent his horse to him.
In the age of political correctness all the depictions with Native Americans seem a bit uncomfortable, and I’m not sure it Sacred Ground does justice to the Paiutes. I kind of like how the movie handles the disputable decisions of its caucasian lead – this is not the heroic, virtuous character often seen in classic Western movies – but I’d appreciated if the movie had included more the point of view of the tribesmen.
The real star of the show are the Oregon nature and mountains, and the movie captures well what I’d imagine the life there might’ve been back then.
A movie that holds a record number of alternative titles so far, Olivia has almost as many plot twists as names.
Other than Olivia witnessing the death of her prostitute mother as a kid, and then re-enacting the revenge against men in her adulthood, I could not tell what the movie was about overall. Very little of all of it makes sense, and the coincidents masquerated as plot twists are just implausible.
Still, kudos for trying out something a bit more unconventional, although this time it does not pay off.
An academic couple’s picture perfect marriage comes to halt as the husbands love child pops up from the past, and the whole family needs to adjust to the new situation.
The movie handles the situation well and draws a realistic picture of the situation along with all the internal and external conflicts everyone involved goes through.
Man, Woman and Child is an easy to relate to drama that avoids the pitfall of being too syrupy or melodramatic, and is only held back by the ending that really feels like cutting the story totally short.
After just a few days after suffering through Robot Holocaust I happened to watch She, a similar kind of sword & sorcery adventure set in the future dystopian world.
But where Robot Holocaust failed, She manages to be actually probably the best movie in this sub genre I’ve seen to date. The different factions and places the leads run into are imaginative, but not completely ridiculous and the whole look and feel of the movie reminds me of a post apocalyptic RPG, kind of like Fallout, with less 50s and mutation.
Heck, I enjoyed the movie and can’t but to credit the director/writer Avi Nesher for managing to put together a surprisingly solid movie out of such a shoddy ingredients.
A cult classic so cult (meaning, adored by a small bunch of people) I had no idea of its existence, Deadbeat at Dawn is one notch above your average hobby projects.
But one notch only. The movie follows a gang leader whose girlfriend gets killer by a rivalling gang. He at first doesn’t seek revenge, but after getting hunted down by the gang decides to get even. Shot on a non-existent budget with family and friends helping out, the result is far away from big studio quality, but still a tad better than we usually see in these hobby projects. There are also a number of nice small ideas here that make it clear the director/writer Jim Van Bebber was actually putting something of his own into this movie, instead of just copying form elsewhere.
I was ready to rate this one somewhere in the +-50 range, but the movie does get better towards the end, with some pretty nice street brawler choreography included.
Before watching this movie I had no idea Sean Penn’s father Leo Penn was a director, known mostly from his work on TV. The reason I made the connection was seeing Sean in this movie a side role as one of the passengers of the plane hijacked from Poland to West-Germany.
And that’s what the movie is all about; an American judge (Martin Sheen) is called to arrange a trial for the defector behind the hijacking, under the pressure from both east and the west.
While the setup is interesting, everything else in the movie falls short, starting from the dreary Eastern Europe setting to the movie not really following though any of its plot lines in a meaningful way.
A well known misstep in the career of Francis Ford Coppola, One from the Heart – a drama, romance and a musical – does not work on a paper, much less as a movie.
While the initial conflict between the leads in relatable, even interesting, everything that follows is implausible and very unrelatable, and it’s especially the ending that feels very unfulfilling. Some of the choreography is nice, and songs by Tom Waits are nice, but wasted with the movie.
What works though is the whole Las Vegas set including downtown, street view and a desert scene meticulously build inside a studio, and helps to create that surreal, movie like look and feel that I love.
A rambo-like Sergeant goes against a terrorist organisation led by Abu Jihad (!) in Death Before Dishonor, a patriotic American action romp taking place somewhere in Middle East.
Despite all the action, the overall feeling of the movie is oddly tame. The movie tries to push all the best buttons to the best of its abilities, but the end result always seems to fall far behind expected.
I expected to lift up a few strengths of the movie to this last paragraph, but honestly can’t think of anything that would stand above average – and that is probably the biggest downside of the whole film.
An action b-movie, Kill Squad presents us with a motley crew of Vietnam vets who get together to revenge the murdering and raping the wife of their former platoon leader.
This is one of those movies where every encounter with even the car salesmen turns out as a martial arts fight with all of the clichés that go with the genre – including those over the top whack, yap and ki-yah sound effects!
The movie rinses and repeats the same scenario of a fist fight ending up with a sniper doing away one of the squad members over and over again, and there’s only little charm to it after the third time. Still, the concept is something I’ve never seen before and there’s certainly something enchanting about the whole movie that raises it above similar brawler movies.
An Italian-American co-production directed by Luigi Cozzi and shot in a movie studio located in Rome, the movie looks and plays pretty much as expected with visuals and effects comparable to similar adventure epics of the 60s; looking nice but outdated, with dodgy stop motion animations.
Ferrigno is likable, and truly possesses the physique of a Hercules – but not the screen presence of Schwarzenegger: he manages to bump up the movie a few notches, but not quite much as his Austrian colleague might’ve. I’ve never been a big fan of Sybil Danning, but after seeing this movie I do understand what her followers have been going on about.