#686 The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988)

Sometimes a movie relies far too much to the audience’s tendency of teaming up with the main character no matter what kind of low-life he is.

In The Prince of Pennsylvania that main character is Rupert Marshetta, an oddball with a grudge with his family, his school and the small coal mining community he resides in. His father Gary, played by the always superb Fred Ward is a modest blue collar man who’s worked his fingers to the bone to have a nice house for his family to live in, to clothe them and put food on their table. After his no-good wife gets caught sleeping with Gary’s best friend, his no-good son decides to rub some more shit in his old man’s face by kidnapping him and intenting to rob the $200,000 Gary was offered to sell his land.

With a despicable family like this I really just felt sorry for Gary throughout the whole movie. Even when his crackpot son turns out to be the kidnapper, Gary at first refuses to believe it, and as the grimm reality sets in, he is being a really good sport about it all. And in the end, after finding out his wife had teamed up with his son to split the money Gary, the man with a heart of gold forgives her, even for the nasty cheating part.

The Prince of Pennsylvania is a massive misfire from the writer and director Ron Nyswaner who later got it together with Philadelphia (1993). The little cozy mining town succesfully established in this movie surely would’ve had tons of more sympathetic, believable stories to tell.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 8%

#685 Microwave Massacre (1983)

An exercise in bad taste, Microwave Massacre is an indie horror comedy about Donald, a disgruntled construction worker growing tired of her wife’s cooking first wasting her wife, and then consuming her among all the other people he manages to invite to his house.

And a true exercise it is as the movie deliberately and unshamedly aims to be as bad and politically incorrect it can be. Most of the sexist jokes are kind of useless, but some of the other dialogue that just consists of a one liner after another are funny in a face-palm shake your head kind of way.

A line like ’I’m so hungry I could eat a whore’ as Donald chops a prostitute with an axe is as high brow as this movie goes.

Microwave Massacre is a movie so stupid it hurts to watch and you definitely have to be in a right mood for it. As a good kind of bad movie it’s just about as good – or bad – as they come.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 64%

#684 Bright Lights, Big City (1988)

There are two fundamental problems with Bright Lights, Big City.

Firstly, Michael J. Fox is a miscast for this movie. While I can appreciate his will to step away from the lovable, at tops maybe a little mischievous boy next door role for a change, Bright Lights, Big City either isn’t the right vehicle for him, or he just didn’t have the chops to do really believable drama at the time.

In Bright Lights, Big City he ends up being that super likeable boy next door – who just happens to snort a ton of cocaine every now and then.

Secondly, despite the heavy dramatic elements, the movie fails to deliver much impact. There are a few exceptions to this – like that scene with Dianne Wiest – but as the end credits roll, one wishes the movie would’ve offered a little bit more substance and meat around the bones.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 71%

#683 Kickboxer (1989)

A definition of the phrase guilty pleasure, Kickboxer is like Karate Kid on amphetamine, with the totally ripped Jean-Claude Van Damme taking names and kicking ass in Thailand.

Thailand proofs to an interesting and exotic location for the movie, and Dennis Chan makes for a cool and memorable Muay Thai trainer who takes Van Damme under his wing. There are some hilarious tongue-in-cheek moments among the training montages, and the scene with Van Damme dancing in a bar is just pure comedy gold.

Kickboxer is a feel good film with top notch action and some well choreographed fight scenes thrown in to the mix as well. It’s not a good film by any standard – but by golly is it entertaining!

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 93%

#682 The Final Countdown (1980)

Taking place on an US aircraft carrier, The Final Countdown is a mystery movie of an entire ship getting warped back in the time all the way to the year 1941.

It’s the kind of concept that always been relevant to my interest, and there are certainly some very interesting elements here as well, like seeing the modern fighter aircrafts take on the Japanese WW2 era planes with ridiculous easiness.

The Final Countdown sets up a very intriguing situation of having to decide whether to interfere with the events of the past, but just as the situation is getting mouthwatering, the movie weasels itself out of having to make any actual decisions.

While I usually don’t bother with any technical details, it’s worth noting that there’s a constant noticeable blur in all the four corners of the movie that I did find distracting at times. The film is one of the rare 80s stereoscopic movies, and the effect could be related to the technic used to shoot it in 3D.

80s-o-meter: 52%

Total: 65%

#681 Dead & Buried (1981)

On the surface Dead & Buried seems like a yet another early 80s slasher but as the events progress further the movie gets some elements of mystery and thriller that really make the story much more interesting to follow.

Towards the end it becomes obvious Dead & Buried is a very untypical movie of the era, and more close to some classic black & white era spook stories. I like it. The movie has a lot of style and ambiance to it that is only broken up occasionally by some of the clumsier special effects.

The movie seems to suffer a little from some identity problems, but once it finds its own voice Dead & Buried is well worth your time.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 76%

#680 Brewster’s Millions (1985)

One of the many filmatizations of the 1902 novel of the same name by George Barr McCutcheon, Brewster’s Millions tells a tale of a baseball journeyman who gets to inherit a cool 300 million dollars on the condition that he first spends 30 million in a month which – of course – turns out to be harder than anticipated.

Despite the obvious plot holes (it just kills me he doesn’t hire more people, throw around multiple parties across the town or duplicate any of his successful money spending schemes) Brewster’s Millions plays just like an 80s comedy should and it makes for a entertaining watch. For Richard Pryor this is definitely one of his better movies of the era, and there’s a good deal of chemistry between him and John Candy.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 84%

#679 Intruder aka Night Crew: The Final Checkout (1989)

A serial killer starts whacking off the nightshift staff in Intruder, a low budget slasher.

The movie is most famous for its ultra violent kills, that clearly surpass the movie’s budget. There’s no plot to speak of, but the overall setting is above your average slasher and although shoddy at times, the movie is not stuffy like most of its early 80s counterparts.

Although the movie is categorised as a horror movie, Intruder never takes itself that seriously and every gory kill and the following aftermath scene is done very much tongue in cheek.

Sam Raimi visits the movie a supermarket clerk and Bruce Campbell also makes a quick appearance towards the end of the film.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 71%

#678 The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)

Based on John Irving’s 1981 novel of the same name, The Hotel New Hampshire is an artsy tale of a family put through tons of random events none of which don’t either seem to make sense or affect the family that much: Random events follow one after another and the end result feels like every time the writer started a new chapter he got immediately bored with the weak and uninteresting choice of events and then tried something completely new with a throw of a dice.

The characters don’t seem to be affected by the events either in any realistic fashion, and by the half way through the movie I couldn’t be any less bothered what happened to them next.

Neesless to say, this is not a good thing in a movie.

The pacing of the movie feels like everything in the book has been tried to cram in here, and there are even clumsy scenes with speeded up playback for that humoristic effect.

80s-o-meter: 20%

Total: 4%

#677 Revolution (1985)

Revolution is an interesting story, done with top notch set design, acted unevenly and told in an yawn-breakingly boring fashion.

This UK production’s biggest star Al Pacino is a mixed bag here. Somehow most of the time looking either lost or the odd one out as he runs across the hordes of people like some 19th century Rambo, Pacino’s acting chops are finally redeemed in the scenes together with his son he’s afraid to lose. These father-son moments are by far the most powerful aspect of the movie that could’ve made the movie much more interesting if explored even further.

Instead we get tons of epic scenes of grandeur one after another that somehow leave no lasting impact.

Revolution is nowhere nearly as terrible movie as most reviews suggest, but it’s clear that the vision was lost at some point of the production.

80s-o-meter: 31%

Total: 61%

#676 In God We Tru$t (1980)

Straight out of Mel Brooks’ school of comedy comes out In God We Tru$t, a Marty Feldman’s solo project that he both wrote, directed and plays the lead role in.

The overall feeling of the movie is very mid-70s both in its gags and the cinematography. In other words, stuffy. The movie aims its taunt at the TV evangelists who monetise on the religion. Andy Kaufman is seen in the role of Armageddon T. Thunderbird, but instead of en evangelist, he seems to play himself in a silly wig instead.

There are funny gags here, some of which are genuinely original as well. But those few chuckle worthy moments simply don’t make a good movie.

80s-o-meter: 27%

Total: 42%

#675 Rocky IV (1985)

With its cold war thematics the fourth instalment of the Rocky throws out the window all the remaining bits of the drama and credibility there was and replaces them with cartoon-like action movie elements.

Rocky IV is a true offspring of its era and could not have been made in any other decade. Made to purely entertain and to give the western audience what they want, we are presented with the now super athlete Rocky compete against steroid buffed Russian mountain of muscles called Ivan Drago.

It’s more or less a propaganda/personality cult film tailor made for both the USA and Stallone himself to polish his superstar status, but does it all in such an entertaining fashion that one can’t help but love all the nonsense.

Made for the MTV generation, the movie itself is sort of a prolonged music video, and there’s an amazing soundtrack to accompany it, with tons of bigger than life songs including Vince DiCola’s epic training montage theme.

80s-o-meter: 100%

Total: 94%

#674 Rocky III (1982)

Of the 6 Rocky movies Sylvester Stallone made, two were released during the 80s. While Rocky III clearly has its roots in the previous two installations, the overall theme has now changed to that of the consumeristic 80s.

And herein lies the most interesting aspect of the movie: How the money and success corrupts a once hungry athlete. The depictions of Rocky’s new found extravagant lifestyle are as hilarious as they are scary.

Otherwise Stallone seems to have run out of ideas, and most of the second half of the movie consists of training montages and the actual showdown. The iconic Mr.T debuts creditably as the big mouthed challenger, but the end bout between him and Rocky is mostly anticlimatic.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 78%

#673 Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

The big success calls for the inevitable sequel, so enter Fright Night Part 2.

The sequels rarely perform better than the original, usually either offering more of the same, or taking the franchise to a weaker direction. This is the case here as well.

Part 2 continues four years after the events in the original movie. In a hilarious theme that follows the movie through its running time Charley (William Ragsdale) has been going to a therapy sessions where he has been convinced that vampires don’t really exist. This all changes when a juvenile group of vampires appears to haunt him.

This group doesn’t really cut it as a memorable antagonist, bringing down every encounter and the eventual showdown with the enemy quite a notch. Mood wise the movie still gets it quite right, and the few effects there are, are quite inventive.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 80%

#672 Fright Night (1985)

A surprise vampire hit of the 1985, Fright Night gathered a strong following when it was first released and it still enjoys something of a cult status.

It’s a fun movie with an excellent execution, and while the plot isn’t anything to write to home about, Fright Night more than compensates it all with its superb mood and great special effects.

The performances are solid. The cowardous TV vampire killer has-been played by Roddy McDowall is a memorable hero against his own will, and Stephen Geoffreys is simply hilarious as the geeky oddball friend turned into a vampire.

Fright Night’s reputation has preceded it, and as good as it is, it’s not quite epic enough to get the label of being the best horror comedy of the 80s. But it’s close.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 90%

#671 The Stunt Man (1980)

Although this blog is all about movies of the 80s, I do have to admit many of the early films of the era don’t tickle my fancy too much as their roots are clearly more in the seventies than the eighties. Same pretty much goes for this one; it has that poor seventies movie making style written all over it.

The Stunt Man tells a story about a fugitive at large who gets hired by a director who is making what seems like the worst movie ever about WW2. Far too long scenes about making the movie are meant to be an impressive look behind the magic of making movies, but in 2017, there’s really nothing here that’d astonish anyone.

While the original movie-within-a-movie idea with the director and the stunt man playing mind games is somewhat fresh, it’s the overall poor execution here that renders it all very tedious and tiresome to watch.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 32%

#670 Eating Raoul (1982)

Shot on leftover reels on a shoelace budget, Eating Raoul is truly one of the greatest among indie movies. The script is naturally pretty sharp, but the biggest surprise is how professional they managed to make it all look and feel – I had no idea of the budget restrictions until I dug deeper into the subject after watching the movie.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 78%

#669 Burglar (1987)

If a computer AI was fed a few parameters like genre and actors, and asked to compose a feature film using some existing movie footage as the input data, the end result would be pretty close to Burglar: Somehow familiar and recognisable as an actual movie, but somehow eerily off in a weird way you couldn’t never really put your finger on it.

What we have here is a collection of characters that all seem somehow lost or out of place in the movie. There’s G.W. Bailey and Bobcat Goldthwait on a lease from the Police Academy series, both still in character, Lesley Ann Warren straight out of the Clue mansion, John Goodman rocking a fake moustache and of course Whoopi Goldberg who seems the most distracted waving the guns around, making a public scene to distract the guards like a female version of Eddie Murphy and delivering snappy one-liners like ’I gotta stop doing this shit’.

Burglar is a case of typecasting the actors and then violently hammering them into molds that don’t allow the actors neither to do their thing nor to show any versatility. It’s a strong cast with many thespians that could’ve fully supported a movie of their own, all of them wasted with this mediocrity.

What a pity.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 52%

#668 Johnny Dangerously (1984)

A crazy comedy in the vein of Airplane and Top Secret, Johnny Dangerously is a little known box office failure that gets a pretty good amount of chuckles out of its absurd comedy style.

Starring Michael Keaton, the comedy is a far cry from his best ones like Gung-Ho that followed this movie – and quite honestly, if you liked his work elsewhere, having him starring here isn’t a good enough reason to bother watching this one.

But instead, if you’ve already seen Police Squad, UHF and Airplane more times you care to count, Johnny Dangerously could well be your ticket to spend 90 silly minutes.

80s-o-meter: 43%

Total: 76%

#667 The Challenge (1982)

A part of the huge wave of asian inspired martial arts movies of the early 80s, The Challenge has an interesting premise of an American getting in the middle of a long family feud and being a fish out of water in a completely strange land and culture.

The interest is kept us as the protagonist starts learning kenjutsu and the system of honor, still constantly clashing with the oddities of the culture.

The Challenge is not a masterpiece and its cracking, unfinished seams are visible at times; especially with the bluray transfer the fishing lines guiding projectiles like arrows and shurikens are visible.

Still, it’s a refreshing and mold breaking title to the often tired martial arts movie genre, and the end showdown is nothing short of a (hilariously) amazing.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 79%