#799 Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

A movie with tremendously good production values, made by the very best talent of the Hollywood Who Framed Roger Rabbit is ultimately ruined by its now outdated gimmick of mixing in cartoons with live camera action.

A big part of why I love the 80s movies is that I’ve always preferred well executed puppeteering magic to using CGI characters. As much as we humans want to buy in to the stories, we’re really sensitive for any glitches in the matrix; it’s usually enough to break the illusion if one of the actors is watching to a slightly off direction when trying to interacting with the imagined character. The effects also tend the look cool at the time, but grow old just in few years.

Roger Rabbit’s very experimental nature mixing cartoon characters with live introduces many of the same problems: The novelty off the effects has worn off and the resulting movie lacks the needed immersion.

Then, there’s the obvious problem with the characters. Roger Rabbit, a character cut and pasted together for this movie is annoying. I’m talking about Jar Jar Binks annoying. Even worse yet, the character and its constant screaming around paired with the slapstick humor is totally devoid of any laughters. As a proof, Roger never became a classic character that’d go on to live outside the movie. The actual actors luckily do much better here: Bob Hoskins is choice for the classic film noir Hollywood sleuth and Christopher Lloyd makes his vulture-like Judge Doom character a perfect human-cartoon character blend.

The movie was received well by the critics and went on to win three Oscars. I can’t help but to think many were blinded by the novelty of the movie’s technical merits.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 48%

#798 Clean and Sober (1988)

Starting this blog a few hundred movies ago I never quite imagined Michael Keaton becoming one of my favorite actors of the era. Sure, I’d previously digged him in Beetlejuice and Batman, but after discovering his great comedic energy in Night Shift, seeing him fighting him for the american worker in Gung Ho and now in Clean and Sober, it’s becoming quite obvious that Keaton is one of those rare talents, born with a great screen present.

Mostly known for his comedies – some of them horrible misfires – Clean and Sober marks the first drama feature movie for Keaton. He uses his energetic talent well as Daryl, a real estate salesman whose life is spiralling fast out of control after drug and alcohol abuse that’s wrecked his career and his personal life.

The character is very well crafted and devoid of the usual clichés that usually go with the addicts in the pictures; he’s witty enough to be able to land himself a decent job and to hold on to it, fooling everyone there’s no problem. It’s even when the addiction is about to land him in jail that he keeps on trying to bullshit himself out of the situation, totally unaware that he has a problem. Morgan Freeman and M. Emmet Walsh perform superbly as two former addicts now providing support for other abusers, patiently trying to hold a mirror up for Daryl for him to finally come in terms with his situation.

If you’ve ever suffered from an addiction or lived with someone who did, Clean and Sober will surely strike a truthful chord.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 93%

#797 He’s My Girl (1987)

There are only a few cross-dressing movies that get away with the tired concept and those that usually do get away with it make some kind of an effort to rationalise the necessity for a dude to put on the dress. He’s My Girl skips all this and just goes for the lowest common denominator bloke in the high heels approach.

As sad as it sounds, the whole cross dressing act is also the strongest suit of the movie. T.K. Carter actually has the voice and the looks to pull off his sassy transvestite act, and it’s the rest of the movie and especially its cast that falls far behind. Very far.

It’s hard to justify why a movie like He’s My Girl should exist as it doesn’t really bring anything new or original to the table, nor does it manage to make one laugh. This is one of those movies that the time forgot, for a good reason.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 23%

#796 A Hobo’s Christmas (1987)

Ahh, christmas – the time for forgiving and the new beginnings. But as the old vagabond returning to his grown up son’s for the christmas soon finds out, forgiving and starting anew can sometimes be a challenge.

The old man may not have any problems winning over the hearts of his grandchildren, but it’s his long neglected son that has understandably a hard time letting it all slide. The viewer is on the edge here as the gramps kind of wins our hearts over by making an effort – to best to his capabilities – but he never seems quite ready to really make an actual commitment to his son.

Being a christmas movie, A Hobo’s Christmas is taking place in that special universum where the drifters don’t booze, nor suffer from mental problems, but instead join together for a jolly little song and even pitch in for creating the best even christmas meal. But that’s beside the point, and the interesting story between the neglected son and his father is still a solid backbone that carries the movie. Tension between the two is kept up until the end and old wounds seem very hard to heal – like they would be.

Darn it. I never expected this, but I kind of liked A Hobo’s Christmas. Unlike your normal sentimental christmas fluff, A Hobo’s Christmas is sentimental christmas fluff that actually has some food for thought, plus a relatable situation that speaks for both the adults and the kids. It’s not going to earn my recommendations for your family’s new christmas tradition movie, but for a small, humble made for TV christmas drama it’s surely among the best ones in its class.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 72%

#795 Xmas 2017: A Christmas Without Snow (1980)

A Christmas Without Snow is another made for tv christmas movie, this time about a small church choir getting a new choirmaster and preparing to sing Handel’s Messiah at the Christmas concert. The choir is also joined by Zoe, a teacher who’s just moved to San Francisco from Omaha after her divorce.

The movie introduces quite a wide number of characters and story lines, but still manages go be pretty drowsy and very TV-movie like in its pace of storytelling. It’s not a very christmassy movie, lacking not only snow but that special magic of christmas time, and wouldn’t interest really interest me if it was run again in TV during the holidays.

On a positive note, I did grow fond of many of the characters in the movie, thanks to some believable acting work. Particularly John Houseman deserves a praise here as the demanding but fair and charming choirmaster who delivers his witty lines in a credible and lovable manner.

80s-o-meter: 43%

Total: 48%

#794 Elves (1989)

Elves is a christmas horror movie with a homicidal Elf (yes, there’s actually only one) that looks like if Nosferatu and a werewolf mated.

There’s a strong home cam feeling to the movie, even so that I was on the borderline of dropping it altogether from the review list. The elf is mostly just a lifeless, plastic torso or its loose hands puppeteered outside the screen, and as pathetic as this sounds, it still manages to be the most credible actor of the bunch, thanks to not having any actual lines. Speaking of which, the horrid dialogue is the only part with some, limited entertainment value here.

Dan Haggerty – previously known from numerous different Grizzly Adams filmatisations – performs as the male lead looking like, but not actually acting as the santa. Haggerty seems like a capable actor, but here he seems mostly baffled how he actually ended up in this production.

Although the movie doesn’t live up to its premise, I still have to give it some credit for its outrageous synopsis – including some genetically engineered elves and nazis – and for being probably the only christmas horror movie original enough not to involve a lunatic killer dressed as a santa.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 27%

#793 Xmas 2017: Babes in Toyland (1986)

Babes in Toyland is a kids’ movie that probably should’ve been disqualified from this list, but its interesting cast got the best of me: There’s Keanu Reeves as the male lead, Drew Barrymore as the girl hero who helps to save the day, Richard Mulligan as the antagonist and Pat Morita as the toy master, all delivering some decent acting work as always.

Although the most well known from this years’ christmas movie featurette, the movie is still totally unknown in these parts of the woods and never was a part of our christmas tradition. After seeing it I doubt I’ll make it there either, but the little ones really seemed the enjoy the movie.

Babes in Toyland is enjoyable in the context of being a made-for-TV christmas movie with a well known cast, but adults without any nostalgic connection to the movie should probably look elsewhere for their christmas entertainment.

80s-o-meter: 64%

Total: 48%

#792 Xmas 2017: To All a Goodnight (1980)

The Christmas featurette for 2017 is going to be a short one – looks like I’m down to the last Christmas movies of the 80s that I know of. The first movie – To All a Goodnight – is another slasher where the killer happens to dress up as the Santa.

As some of you might be remember, this is a familiar concept from Silent Night, Deadly Night series and Christmas Evil, and it’s just as uninspired as the other ones. And it also happens to be the least christmassy one of them all.

To All a Goodnight is an amateurish early 80s slasher that runs pretty much exactly as you’d imagine it to, and even with its many technical flaws – like, the night shots being obviously just poorly dimmed day shots – isn’t bad enough to warrant any chuckles. It’s got your usual stuff like tits and multiple kills, but no suspension nor anything else original to really keep up any interest.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 24%

#791 Skin Deep (1989)

Blake Edwards’ 80s offerings seem to range from total failures to triumphs, with nothing much in between. Skin Deep, his last theatrical release of the decade is a success that really lives up to its tag line ’The comedy that glows in the dark’. But I won’t be spoiling that for you – just urging you to watch the movie to find out by yourself.

Skin Deep is in many ways a rephrase of Edwards’ former works, and resemblance to the 1979’s ’10’ and the 1983 horrid stinker The Man Who Loved Women are obvious. The movie was written as a vessel for Dudley Moore, who luckily refused the role, for it resembled too much his earlier roles. Moore was of course right: The drunken, piano playing, womanising man child starring here is a cut right out of Moore’s Arthur movies, and would’ve turned to just another spinoff had Moore accepted the lead role. Instead, John Ritter was hired and he really embraces the role wholeheartedly, making Skin Deep his very best comedic role to date.

Ritter even surprises with some very solid physical comedy acting, something I had no idea he had the talent for.

Edwards’ writing and especially his dialogue is super sharp and he seems to gather up much of the best sides from his earlier screen writings here – plus of course them few just right loaned bits.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 87%

#790 Her Alibi (1989)

When I began watching Her Alibi, I mistook it as a thriller – that’s the way it’s certainly set up in its first 15 minutes. But as the first elements of comedy start to appear, they’re certainly not of the subtle kind, and as the 30 minute mark closes in, it becomes clear that Her Alibi derives all of its humour from the same basic setup: The writer of cheap detective novels suspecting his new eastern european girlfriend to be an assassin, after his life, and the hilarious slapstick that ensues from this, including the novelist getting his bottock pierced by an arrow.

The script makes Tom Selleck come of as a total schmuck – if a lovable one – but doesn’t give her object of desire Paulina Porizkova even that: She feels throughout the movie as distant and rude to the viewer as she does to our hero. Porizkova’s inexperience as an actress is most obvious in the already so-and-so comedic situations where a seasoned comedienne could’ve possibly still done her bit to save the scene.

Ok, so the movie made me snicker a few times. The dinner scene was well prepared with the viewer set up to anticipate the coming up gag long before it takes place, and the final scene with the neighbour setting the record straight got a good belly laugh from me. It seems after this scene that the movie has a possibility to redeem itself, but woefully it just returns to the path of weak design choices, including the ending involving some actual clowns.

Because clowns are funny.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 52%

#789 48 Hrs. (1982)

One of the movies that really kickstarted the 80s as we learnt to know it, 48 Hrs is an action packed buddy-cop comedy with a twist of the buddy being convict.

It’s a landmark movie for another reason as well, being the theatrical feature debut of one Eddie Murphy. Demonstrating a street smart, cheeky character he’d perfect two years later in Beverly Hills Cop, Murphy’s transition from a Saturday Night Live comedian to the silver screen is a triumph.

Equally praiseworthy is Nick Nolte’s portrayal of a cynical, drunken dog of a cop, a role that Nolte dives into head first with his raspy, deep whiskey voice. Although there’s a lot of light-hearted wise-cracking going on at most times, 48 Hrs concentrates to be an action film first – a choice that really works for the film’s benefit.

With these kind of movies speaking about any plotlines or character development is kind of besides the point, as long as the movie is entertaining. 48 Hrs is just that; a highly entertaining, unapologetic package that’s never shy on action, shootouts – nor the f-words.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 90%

#788 Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)

One of the most expensive box office flops of the 80s, John Schlesinger’s Honky Tonk Freeway aims draw a comedic picture of America’s constant life on wheels and its total dependency on cars.

The story begins as Ticlaw, a tiny town in Florida eager to get some tourist money pouring in is completely passed by the newly opened highway. While the townfolks execute one dirty trick after another to make that own exit happen, we are introduced to a selection of random people all over the roads of USA making their way to Florida – by car, how else. Looking at the array of wacky characters in their jalopies, an obvious comparison to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World cannot be avoided.

There are some isolated good moments here but overall the experience is crippled by endless amount of characters and subplots that fail to lead anywhere, leaving the whole experience patchy. The humor is also hit and miss, mostly playing around with some tired stereotypes and easy targets.

Besides the misfired jokes and some occasional animal cruelty there’s certain good road movie feel to the movie, which – along with the interesting cast – is definitely the strongest asset here.

80s-o-meter: 56%

Total: 58%

#787 The Bedroom Window (1987)

Steve Guttenberg, one of the top-billing comedians of the 80s dips his toes into lighthearted psychological thriller in The Bedroom Window.

What we have here is a nice little movie about getting tangled up in a complicated web of lies. Thanks to the smart writing and directing the lie-to-get-out-of-a-lie decisions characters often decide take feel very humane and relatable. It’s also very likely that the team was very aware of the lead actor’s heavy comedic legacy and utilised it to their advantage here: We witness Guttenberg holding up his trademark boyish smirk that got him out of all sorts of trouble in Police Academy, but also as it finally starts to fade out as the gravity of the situation starts to sink in.

Worth mentioning is also the cross examination scene, so well choreographed and played out by the always great Wallace Shawn that we can’t but laugh along the rest of the courtroom – all while witnessing our protagonist getting his hide nailed to a wall.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 86%

#786 Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home (1987)

It’s always kind of an alarming sight when a movie poster aims to piggyback ride on the success of another movie; you kind of know the movie isn’t going to be anywhere near as good as the movie the poster refers to.

Such is the case here as well – kind of. After the huge success of Pretty in Pink, 1987 became a work filled year for Jon Crier who starred in total of four movies, all of which went pretty much under the public radar – and Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home being possibly the least known of the bunch. It’s one of those movies that got panned by critics, the audience and even the team behind it when it first came out, making the movie fall completely into oblivion.

Now, 30 years later the news isn’t that bad at all and Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home seems just like most other harmless 80s comedies out there. The lighthearted tone is set in the early few minutes of the movie and the movie keeps up with that premise until the end, as predictable as it may be. Although the whole living in a golden cage situation is alien to me, Crier’s acting work and his somewhat goofy, clumsy teenage-like composure makes it easy to relate to the character and the weird situation he is caught in.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home into one of those comedies that actually got better over time.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 75%

#785 Second Sight (1989)

Second Sight is the name of a detective company where a psychic and two of his co-workers try to solve some petty little crimes together. The movie follows the same pattern throughout: An eccentric psychic gets (somewhat violent) fits, tackles people to the ground and causes all sorts of embarrassing havoc. His assistant documents the events and carefully explains the behaviour to the viewer, while the head of the agency follows the duo, constantly rolling his eyes, irritated and embarrassed by the events.

Second Sight is not a strong comedy to begin with, but really ends up completely butchered by the irritating lead character. Bronson Pinchot (of Beverly Hills Cop fame) tries to do his very best Eddie Murphy imitation to make his eccentric character work, but fails in such a painful way the end result is cringeworthy to watch.

Truth be told, the character is so poorly written that even Murphy’s comedic chops couldn’t have saved this trainwreck.

John Larroquette and Stuart Pankin as the co-workers in the agency actually perform admirably with what little script has to offer, with Larroquette’s straight face comedic acting being the only delightful aspect here.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 28%

#784 Stick (1985)

I don’t know how closely Elmore Leonard’s 1983 novel Stick resembles your average below the counter cheap pulp, but that’s exactly what Burt Reynolds’ directorial version of it offers. Something definitely got misaligned here, since Leonard ended up disowning the whole movie as it was released.

Stick seems to play with silly personalities that could’ve end up somewhat memorable, but here they only come across as paper thin characters right out a TV comedy sketch. Particularly soul aching to watch is the completely idiotic bozo of a crime villain the great Charles Durning has ended up playing here. Reynolds himself walks through the movie without much enthusiasm and once again ends up portraying somewhat of a caricature of his public image.

The real gem of the movie is its antagonist, a albino hit-man played by the stuntman Dar Robinson. A visually memorable baddie, Robinson’s portrayal loathsome, seemingly dead inside character holds some resemblance with Halloween series’ antagonist Michael Myers. This would sadly remain Robinson’s only feature film acting role before his untimely death one year later, in 1986.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 48%

#783 Terminal Exposure aka Double Exposure (1987)

Filed in action comedies / subcategory Hollywood / subsubcategory beach movies, Terminal Exposure is a buddy movie of two young California dudes accidentally witnessing a murder and getting way more than they bargained for after deciding to investigate the matter further themselves.

It’s totally paltry and insignificant movie, but maybe because the movie totally acknowledges this and just makes the lighthearted most out of it all, Terminal Exposure manages to entertain in its own paltry, insignificant way.

The movie remains the pinnacle in both the male lead’s short careers, but there’s really nothing to be ashamed about: They actually manage to make for a well above your average dynamic duo here with some genuinely good moments between them.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 72%

#782 I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

I’m Gonna Git You Sucka is a blaxploitation spoof comedy that’s style wise somewhere half way between crazy comedies like Spaceballs and The Naked Gun series and spoof comedies like Life of Brian and Return of the Killer Tomatoes.

The fundamental problem with I’m Gonna Git You Sucka is that it tries much too hard to be funny and to equal its paragons, but just isn’t nowhere witty enough to provide the actual laughs. Instead, we’re presented with funnily dressed up pimps and overdosing on gold chains, but the movie never proceeds to do anything wittier or more inventive with any of these concepts.

The strong cast is the most interesting aspect of the movie; legends of blaxploitation like Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, Isaac Hayes and Jim Brown prove to have a strong screen presence even if put in a weak comedy. The great Steve James reprises his role from the American Ninja series, although the script doesn’t give him much to work with. Young Chris Rock can be seen in a small role in possibly the most hilarious skits of the movie, haggling in a diner for some spare ribs.

If it’s blaxploitation comedy you’re after I can’t do nothing but recommend the amazing 2009 filmatization Black Dynamite over this one.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 50%

#781 Eye of the Tiger (1986)

There’s something about the evil motorcycle gangs that one can’t take them quite seriously after seeing Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose. Nonetheless, this is the enemy Gary Busey faces in Eye of the Tiger after returning to his home town after doing time in a prison for a murder.

If the name of the movie rings a bell to a well known pop song usually related to certain boxing movies, you’d probably be as baffled as I to find out the movie features the very same song by Survivor. But, it turns out this isn’t even the most confusing aspect of the movie; Eye of the Tiger is a truly mindless action packed revenge story best enjoyed after stopping to try to make any sense out of it all and just going along with the ride.

The whole over the top 80s B-action – including some decapitated bikers – is more entertaining than it really deserves to be and there’s certain hilarious charm to the off-the-wall aspect to it all.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 74%

#780 Heaven Help Us aka Catholic Boys (1985)

There are plenty of movies done in the eighties that reminisce 50s and 60s, an era when many of the film makers were young. Sometimes the trip back in time does make sense story wise – like in the Vietnam war depictions – but more often the period picture approach contributes only to the nostalgic value and doesn’t bring much more else to the table.

Heaven Help Us is one of these titles where the justification of an older time period is debatable. Sure, the catholic schools were more strict back then, but the story of the mischievous students and an abusive teacher is timeless and could’ve as well taken place in the current time. The chosen time period and catholic school theme is alien to me and initially made it harder for me to relate to the events.

But, what lays beneath is a likeable coming to age movie about unlikely friendship between a seemingly random bunch of catholic school boys and their suffocated attempts to rebel against the power that be. Debuting in their first cinematic roles can be seen Patrick Dempsey, Stephen Geoffreys in a weird role of an almost mute chronic masturbator and Kevin Dillon in a leading role as a spiteful and dumb Rooney who might be one of the worst friends one can have, but also someone you’d rather have as an ally instead of your enemy. Mary Stuart Masterson who was a slight miscast in Some Kind of Wonderful does a wonderfully charming role as the object of always likeable Andrew McCarthy’s shy and clumsy romantic attempts.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 64%