#63 Christmas 2014: Scrooged (1988)

Frank Cross, a hard-boiled eighties TV executive (Bill Murray) wants to smash all the ratings in the christmas time by producing a modernised and bastardised version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to the live TV. Soon he finds out himself being haunted by the ghosts as grim as the show he’s putting on.

I’m not too keen on modernisations of the old classics, so every now and then it’s good to see someone get it right for once. Scrooged is one of these rare cases and its meta take on the story-within-the-story of the Christmas Carol works well brought to the modern age.

Murray plays the role of a self-absorbed asshole so beautifully that it’s almost a shame to see him getting soft at the end. Supporting him is Bobcat Goldthwait in his typical typecast loud, trembling voiced, nervous dude and he fits the role here perfectly.

It’s entertaining, it’s very eighties and it still has that message of christmas in it. There’s nobody, NOBODY on this earth who plays a totally self-absorbed asshole better than in a more hilarious way than Murray. Very much recommended!

80s-o-meter: 97%

Total: 91%

#62 Christmas 2014: Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

Before his untimely death Jim Varney’s Ernest character clowned around throughout the eighties to much amusement for us kids. Rubber-faced Varney’s simple, but good willing doofus character was slapstick at its purest form, with most of the humour relying on pure physical comedy and silly facial gestures. While one could argue this is the lowest form of comedy, Varney was one of the rare talents of the art among with the likes of Jim Carrey.

Ernest Saves Christmas tells a story of an ageing santa who needs someone slightly younger to take over the business, much like a pope. His chosen one is a children TV host called Joe (Oliver Clark), who lives in the faraway land of Hollywood.

There’s not too much to be explained here, it’s a simple movie with no hidden agendas, subtexts or complex plots and something that can be taken with just the face value. It succeeds in delivering most of the stuff it goes after and executes most of it with just the right kind of professional assertiveness.

It’s a good christmas watch for the whole family with a good amount of suspension, humour and kindness, and definitely one of the christmas movies that should not be forgotten.

And Jim, while we are a it; thanks for all the laughs!

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 84%

#61 Christmas 2014: Santa Claus The Movie (1985)

In a similar style to many superhero movies still to date, Santa Claus: The Movie sets out to tell the origin story of how the world’s most indulgent gift-giver came to be. Whether this really needs to be told, and not left more as a magical mystery, this is the portion of the movie that works.

The second part revolves around current time in a big city where a childrens toy tycoon (John Lithgow) tries to steal the christmas for himself with an elf (Dudley Moore) living in exile. It all gets very disoriented fast and as good as Lithgow is as the villain of the movie, the script doesn’t give him much to work with.

While I appreciate the attempt to tie in the commercialization of the christmas with the whole concept, I found myself snoozing off a LOT at this point.

In the very end the film turns out to an action movie with chases and bombs – and somehow misses that whole christmas thing.

This is the kind of movie I wouldn’t mind having open in the TV in the christmas eve as just a background noise, if you know what I mean. As an actual movie I’d sit down and watch, I’ll be skipping it in the future.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 55%

#60 Christmas 2014: One Magic Christmas (1985)

Knowing this was a Disney movie, I expected some immaculate picture perfect Christmas scenes with fluffy white snow, jolly folks all over and the overall feeling of a mass psychosis.

Instead what we see here is a story of a working-class family getting unemployed and evicted. The poverty shown here isn’t romantic in the traditional Hollywood style, but dull, mundane and stressful instead. You know, more like in real life. It’s not an uplifting setting, but I have to applaud them for this more bold approach. Even the snow is that off-white yellowish slush us most people have to experience during the holidays.

Story wise the movie loans a lot from Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). There’s an angel who died in the last century and now has to do a good deed here on earth by helping a family that is being evicted and in debt, and especially targeting its mother Ginny (Mary Steenburgen) who has lost her faith in the christmas. Biggest twist here is that this time around it’s the father who isn’t down in the dumps, but the mother; plus the story is told from the kids’ point of view. Bad shit starts to happen, initiated by the angel and it all escalates to a double murder and them losing their father. Only way to undo it all is for the mother to start believing in the christmas.

Now, I’m not an expert in children psychology, but I’m purrdy sure this is not the best lesson to teach the kids, especially the ones who’ve actually lost their parent.

A lukewarm and uninspired rehash of ”It’s a Wonderful Life” that misses most, if not all of the magic of its iconic predecessor

80s-o-meter: 44%

Total: 35%

#56 Inseminoid aka Horror Planet (1981)

As this blog is generally about american movies of the eighties, I usually steer away from british and australian films – they sometimes get some things right mimicking the Hollywood style, but usually lack that certain magic. But as rules are meant to be broken, and being the nice guy that I am, I sometimes give some titles that sound or look interesting enough a benefit of a doubt. Plus, I’m a sucker for almost all the eighties scifi!

Inseminoid is a british scifi horror movie taking place in a mining planet far away in the space. Except that it don’t feel like it. It feels like it’s shot in a mine and a studio right here on earth and never manages to establish that feeling of an exotic planet.

The plot heavily rips off Alien that came our only two years before, taking the action from a space ship to a planet. The crew members find some alien crystals, one of the women gets raped by a creature, turns into a crazed killer and from thereon it goes pretty much like you’d except with no plot twists worth mentioning.

Everything in the movie has that low production value feel to it, computers look like painted cardboard boxes, film crew’s shadow can be accidentally seen in various scenes and the dialogue and acting is horrid. The film hasn’t really hasn’t aged well at all, and looks much more outdated than the older Alien movie. The overall look and feel has that quality to it that if the dialogue was in some slavic language, this one would easily pass as some sort of eastern Europe scifi knock-off.

On top of it all, many scenes are very needlessly prolonged, in an attempt to reach that needed hour and 30 minutes runtime.

It does have some strange charm to it, but it’s finally ruined by the fact that it’s just plain boring to watch. And even though the kitsch factor is high here, I can’t see myself recommending this movie to anyone.

80s-o-meter: 54%

Total: 23%

#53 Rent-a-Cop (1987)

Burt Reynolds had a strong run of light action comedies through seventies and eighties, often typecast as a self assured, gum chewin’ smug ladies’ man who in the end became a tired self caricature.

I never was a big fan.

Curiously enough, he just started to get better and gaining some real charisma as he got a little older in the late eighties, just when his star was already setting. In Rent-a-Cop he gets paired up with Liza Minnelli, who plays unconvincingly a hooker who lacks seems to lack a personality, but really delivers big time on the irritation scale.

The plot seems to be pasted off a number of similar average movies, the chemistry between the lead characters never quite work and you can tell the level of ambition hasn’t been too high here. Here’s the twist: The movie still manages to work somehow despite all of this as soon as you start realising it’s not going to be a work of art.

Or even memorable after a few hours for that matter.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 59%