#912 Avenging Force aka Night Hunter (1986)

What a treat. Michael Dudikoff and Steve James, those guys from the outrageous American Ninja are back with another action packed .. err, action pack.

In Avenging Force, or Night Hunter as it was known in the various European countries’ later home video release has a plot, a group called Pentangle consisting of some of the society’s elite members assassinate and arrange hunts for men in order to preserve the American way of life as they want it. The director Sam Firstenberg smartly acknowledges that it is first and foremost an action movie that they are making here and makes sure to push all the right buttons to keep the adrenaline level high. The house fire scene including its aftermath is one of the most palm sweating ones there are.

Avenging Force, virtually an totally unknown movie to the public is an entertaining and fierce movie done in the very best tradition of the 80s, even managing to best the many of the much better known classics of the genre.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 92%

#911 The Manhattan Project (1986)

The Manhattan Project is an intriguing movie about Paul, a tech savvy boy who manages to steal plutonium from a local fuel fabrication laboratory and build himself a nuclear bomb in order to win a local science fair, and to blow the cover from the plant producing the dangerous substance.

The movie is made very much in the vein of WarGames, and if you liked that one, chances are that you’ll find things to love here as well.

The biggest drawback is that the movie feels like a first or second draft and really could’ve used one or two iterative rewrites to weed out all the illogicalities and even out the wrinkles. I’m not going to start with all the technical inaccuracies as they go with the artistic freedom, but I sure would’ve liked to hear a little bit better reasonings why Paul decides to go to the science fair of all the places. Or why does he insist on walking into the lion’s den towards the end of the movie instead of going to the press or sending them a video clearing things up. For a smart boy Paul surely makes a lot of bad moves that aren’t really explained anywhere along the way like they were in WarGames. And if The Manhattan Project pretends to be a smart movie for smart people, it really should’ve been more consistent here.

Although the movie takes some liberties with its subject, the technical insight and interest in the science is solid. During the science fair we see Roland, the science class arch rival of Paul describing what would become internet a few years later, and a friend of his having cultured insects for protein rich human consumables – a trend we all know has become a reality since.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 67%

#910 Finders Keepers (1984)

Remember The Whoopee Boys that I reviewed a while back? It took me awhile to even make the connection that Michael O’Keefe from that stinker of a movie is the same actor that plays the lead here, so much on another level is his performance in Finders Keepers. Here he manages to make for a perfect lovable scoundrel and even to pull off some genuinely funny physical comedy, both of which not easy feats at all.

Aiding him is Beverly D’Angelo from the National Lampoon’s Vacation fame and I really dug the weird chemistry between the two. Brian Dennehy makes for a terrific constantly outraged local mayor of a Nebraska two horse town and last but definitely not least David Wayne is just simply hilarious as the baffling, demented old conductor. Fans of Jim Carrey might be interested to check out the movie as he visits the set briefly as a local yokel in a performance only a shadow of the things to come.

Finders Keepers is one funny and entertaining comedy and a forgotten gem to add to your watch list.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 87%

#909 Three Men and a Baby (1987)

Let’s gather up three hot top list Hollywood male actors and make them go sickly sweet trying to cope with a baby in a clumsy fashion; this has been my presumption on Three Men and a Baby, and the very reason I’ve been steering away from it for the last 30 or so years.

But, I was wrong. What we have here is a terrific, smartly written and savvily directed comedy with a big heart and many laughs. After the woefully sluggish start depicting the swinging lifestyle of the three bachelors the movie really picks up as the baby arrives. Sure, there are some syrupy moments here, but Leonard Nimoy very smartly directs away from the most obvious clichés.

Three Men and a Baby was a huge box office hit and ended up the biggest grossing movie of 1987 – and not undeservedly so.

But I still do loathe the poster.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 92%

#908 The Dirt Bike Kid (1985)

Some of the family movies are awesome and in their own way the best that 80s has to offer; the movies like E.T., Princess Bride or Big are crafted with such a mastership that they enchant both the old and the young. These are the kind of movies that manage to revive that small kids inside of us and make us want to believe there might be a little bit of magic and adventure left in the world.

Then, there are movies like The Dirt Bike Kid. Designed by a committee of adults specifically for the kids with ideas lifted from other movies. Starring here can be seen Peter Billingsley, that kid from A Christmas Story that wanted a BB gun from santa. If you adored that movie, stay clear from this one as all that charm is absent here.

The Dirt Bike Kid is a prime example of a soulless creation that happens when you design something to monetise on a specific demography by trying to figure out the lowest common denominators.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 17%

#907 Warlock (1989)

What a mouth-watering setup: A 17th century Warlock jumps through the time to present day to reassemble a Satanic book that will unmake of the creation, and a Witch-hunter named Redferne follows him through the portal in an attempt to foil his plans.

A much remembered classic for a generation, this was my first time seeing the movie, although the I knew the movie well by its reputation. Given its cult status, my expectations weren’t met, but the movie is entertaining nonetheless. To me it seems like the setup would’ve lend itself for much much more, like those few well-known scenes including tongues, frying pans and spiritual channeling well demonstrate. Visual effects are also quite weak considering the late 80s release.

If you haven’t ever heard about Warlock and enjoy time travelling stories, chances are that you will find a lot to be love here. If you are aware of the movie, be advised that it might be not as epic as you’d expect. Either way the movie makes for quite an easy recommendation.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 72%

#906 Best Seller (1987)

It wasn’t too long into the moody start sequence of Best Seller with the four gunmen violently making their way to the high security police evidence storage unit to steal evidence, that I knew I was onto something good.

It’s after this prologue that we see the cop – turned a writer since – some 15 years later on a pursuit after a suspect, and getting an unexpected help from a mysterious figure in an expensive suit. The stranger eventually encounters him, promising to hand out the biggest revelation scoop ever, guaranteed to land him the next best selling novel.

I wasn’t stoked to see James Woods in the role of the crook, but it seems I just have to admit I’m just completely wrong about him as he once again triumphs in the role, making a great hitman with some chilling psychopathic traits. The huge framed Brian Dennehy – one of our favourite supporting act movie sheriffs – carries the lead role with ease and natural charm.

Stylish, moody and suspenseful, Best Seller is one of the most positive surprises of the year.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 92%

#905 A Fine Mess (1986)

Kind of living up to its name, A Fine Mess is a mess alright; some mafia henchmen have drugged a race horse and when two deadbeats find out about it and win a ton of cash, the crooks go after them. Most of the rest of the movie consists of the goody henchmen chasing the men around in extended chase sequences, often sped up for a comedic effect.

Unlikely and inane plot twists follow each other as they purchase a piano from the auction by accident and then sell it to the mob boss. The writer and director Blake Edwards based the movie on an old Laurel & Hardy style, which does not translate well at all to the contemporary movie. Not in this particular experimentation at least.

There’s a slight positive undertone with the movie that keeps watchable, at least for awhile. But as the bad ingredients keep piling on, A Fine Mess becomes less on an entertainment and more a chore to watch.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 32%

#904 Deathrow Gameshow (1987)

Precisely the kind of a movie that the film critics pan for having no merits, Deathrow Gameshow follows a dystopic and amoral TV show that puts Deathrow convicts competing in various events in order to save their lives – not unlike something you would read from Judge Dredd comics.

If the concept seems familiar from The Running Man, another 1987 movie with the same kind of concept, here the emphasis is more on the comedic mishaps that the ruthless gameshow host faces as he drives his convertible from his hillside Malibu home to work to shoot another three episodes of the show.

Although the movie is such an obvious one trick pony, the movie makes for a surprisingly easy to watch experience. The humour is hit and miss, but when it hits, it surely finds its target. The end commercial spoof reel demonstrating various uses for the deceased bodies for example got a pretty decent chuckle out of me.

Being as crude and uneven as it is, Deathrow Gameshow cannot really be recommended to anyone. But I do applaud the nonconventional approach here to try to do something a bit off the beaten path. The world occasionally needs stupidity like this.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 61%

#903 Silkwood (1983)

Whoa. Nuclear processing plants sure weren’t that nice places to work in during the 70s. Safety violations compromising the health of the workers were not unheard of and unions that had interest in workers’ rights and environmental issues were kept out with even some of the employees standing up for the company, afraid to losing their job.

Based on real events that unfolded at Ken-McGee fuel fabrication site in Oklahoma between 1972 and 1974, Silkwood gains a credibility by not representing its subject Karen Silkwood as a saint, but a controversial character and a co-worker who rarely shied away from conflicts.

Meryl Streep wears the role well, making the character her’s. Cher and Kurt Russell both do well in their supporting roles, but somehow just can’t shake of their perfect 10 Hollywood aura to successfully pull off the blue collar worker act.

Silkwood is built towards its climate with such a tour de force that the actual ending falls flat in comparison. Even so, Silkwood’s message of ruthless corporations, money and politics is timeless, and definitely worth a watch.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 81%

#902 The Majorettes (1987)

The Majorettes starts out as your typical early 80s copy-paste high school slasher, and not as a particularly good one at that. There’s a small town cheerleader gang, a few naked locker room tit scenes and a killer that begins doing them in.

The movie keeps ticking on all the lowest common denominator boxes until in the act two it inexplicably turns into a revenge flick as one of the jocks annihilates a local motorcycle gang. The change is so abrupt and out of place that if I was in a movie theatre, I would’ve assumed the projectionist had swapped in a wrong reel by accident. I can only assume this is all done to make the otherwise uninspired slasher somehow a bit more unique.

This change of a pace unfortunately adds only a limited amusement factor to it all, and the movie itself remains subpar until the very end.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 17%

#901 Flashpoint (1984)

What at first seems like a some sort of lighthearted border patrol buddy cop movie, Flashpoint takes both the viewers and the leads by surprise as the events take several grim turns, soon escalating out of hand.

But the movie does take its sweet time getting there, and the few thrilling events are followed soon after with less thrilling ones – like popping in to library to read some of them micro films. If feels like the movie has its left foot on the brake and its right one on the accelerate, gunning and braking at the same time for the most of the film.

Kris Kristofferson does his basic stuff as a raspy voiced patrolman. Treat Williams who triumphed in Prince of the City seems a little lost with the script that doesn’t give him much to work with. Kurtwood Smith makes for a terrific crook as always, and the movie would’ve had gained quite a lot devoting more screen time to him.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 63%

#900 Racing with the Moon (1984)

There’s no way around it; Sean Pean is quite simply one terrific actor. In Racing with the Moon he plays a small town boy on the brink of getting drafted and shipped to WWII, portraying the role of a rough on the outside, poetic in the inside boy who likes to play the piano and is secretly destined to things bigger than this old town. And does all this remarkably well and without a slightest sign of pretentiousness or insincerity.

Nicolas Cage, playing the role of his best buddy with a knack of always getting him in ways of trouble performs also strongly here and makes for a memorable screwup who misses direction in his life.

I’m always more than a bit suspicious when watching a period picture not based on historical events as they tend to just ride on the nostalgia factor, presenting the past as them good old days. There’s a little of that also going on here, but it never requires one to feel any real affection to the era. Racing with the Moon keep its focus tightly on the personas instead and manages to deal with universal themes of coming to age that are still as relevant as they were in the 40s.

80s-o-meter: 54%

Total: 92%

#899 Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)

With the exception of Saturday Night Live, sketch shows on the TV aren’t nearly as big in the states as they are in the old continent. As a some sort of oddity (and quite frankly luckily as a passing fad) sketch shows started to appear as full length feature films in the mid 70s.

Amazon Women on the Moon is a continuum to this fad, with five different directors including Joe Dante and John Landis at it. The movie derives its name from a recurring bits that follow a poorly made 50s style scifi movie of a expedition crew landing on the moon. These segments don’t offer any humoristic value beyond the intentionally bad quality and forced clumsiness, and you’re likely to get a much better mileage watching any similar 50s scifi movie done with grave seriousness. There are quite a lot of much funnier scifi films out there, believe me.

Being a full length feature film, the skits are long and tend to drag on for too long. The Blacks Without Soul bit with B.B. King got a good chuckle out of me, but fails to evolve beyond its initial idea and should’ve cut shorter. Carl Gottlieb’s Invisible Man spoof is the real gem here with Ed Begley Jr playing a deluded man convinced of having come up with a formula for invisibility, oblivious that people around him are just humouring him.

Amazon Women on the Moon is best viewed to catch a glimpse of the various 80s actors usually seen only in feature films testing their wings in short sketches.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 60%

#898 Tango & Cash (1989)

In the beginning sequence lieutenant Ray Tango rides his Cadillac Allanté ahead of a fleeing 10-wheeler, does a bootlegger’s turn, steps out of his car and forces the 18 ton truck to a full stop with his .38, effectively launching the two henchmen through the windshield. The sequence may be loaned from Jackie Chan’s Police Story, but it still very effectively sets the tone for the following 100 minutes of class A action.

As you may have already gathered, Tango & Cash takes place deep in the alternative world of Hollywood action movies where no restrictions of the normal world apply what it comes to laws of the physics, chases, police stations and even the prisons. There is a good tradeoff to all this thought, as Tango & Cash offers a very entertaining 80s buddy cop movie with a high rate of escapism.

I don’t know how Stallone and Russell fared outside the sets – probably bad due to Stallone’s reputation at the time – but on screen their oil mixed in with water kind of chemistry works a treat, often bursting out in an entertaining way. The always stunning Teri Hatcher provides the visual treat as well as gives the movie its dame in distress motif towards the end.

Speaking of which, the movie is maybe mostly known for its lengthy end part where Tango & Cash ride their armoured custom truck to the enemy base, wreaking all sort of havoc – and this is where the movie unfortunately took a wrong turn that I never really cared for.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 85%

#897 The Video Dead (1987)

Zombie movies are – and have for quite some time have been – a favourite of self-funded indie movie makers, who always seem to think there’s room for another poorly executed home made zombie slasher. Chances are there’s a team working on one in your home town ask we speak.

The Video Dead, released straight on tape, is one of these projects that time has forgotten. It does however stand up from the endless pit of similar zombie movies thanks to trying something a little bit of its own and introducing its concept of a possessed TV set spawning out the undead. The undead themselves like the rest of the movie are quite haphazardly made, but there’s also a certain good kind of Bad Taste vibe to all of it, especially in the forest scenes.

But, despite some chainsaw zombie action, there’s mediocrity written all over it. The splatter and the comedy elements are there, but if the movie had gone all the way with both like Evil Dead or the aforementioned Bad Taste, it might’ve had a chance of becoming a cult classic. As it is now, it’s just too tame and to make any kinds of waves.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 57%

#896 The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980)

As I’ve excluded all the kids only movies from this project, I was on the verge whether The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark should be here. This Disney Productions’ movie is made in the same vein as the company’s other whole family adventures, like Herbie The Love Bug series, Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Absent-Minded Professor, and as such, the movie’s style feels outdated for a 1980 film.

Given all the legacy, the movie fares surprisingly well despite its strong whiff from the past. The exotic Gilligan’s Island style setting proofs to be an atmospheric one and Elliot Gould manages to keep the show running as the average Joe Pilot; grumpy but with a heart of gold.

The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark is predictable, uninspired and an outdated product and I can’t really point out much of the things I like here. But, it could be due my non-existing interest or the overall low expectations that I ended up enjoying the movie a bit more than it actually deserves.

80s-o-meter: 47%

Total: 52%

#895 The Whoopee Boys (1986)

It’s worth taking a look on the poster on the right as it perfectly captures the essence of this movie, and no – it’s not good news. The Whoopee Boys is a comedy following two useless losers who after running into a rich heiress decide to get into the high society disguised as a gentleman and his servant.

Total void of funny is what best describes the movie. Much of the failure is due to Paul Rodriguez, the other half of the comedic duo who just goes for the low key comedy without any kind of idea or wittiness to it. His schtick throughout the movie consists of slapping women on their gluteus maximi and acting like a dick among the aristocratic crowd, making funny remarks about poodles humping legs and suggesting the owners stroke their pets’ genitals. I’ve never witnessed a comedian dying so many times on stage and I can only hope not to witness anything like this again.

The Whoopee Boys is an agonising experience to sit through, and I’d suggest anyone hoping to find a hidden eighties Dumb & Dumber gem here to keep on looking anywhere far away from this stink pile.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 4%

#894 Space Raiders aka Star Child (1983)

Ah, Star Wars. The 1977 space saga years ahead of its time that then spawned numerous late 70s and early 80s copycat movies that never really bothered creating something of their own. Space Raiders definitely takes this route as well, and the loaning here goes as far as one of the pilots uttering out ’Look at the size of that thing’ upon confronting a mothership – a line well known from the Star Wars merchandise.

The movie is targeted to the sub-12 year Mickey Mouse Club audience, telling a story of a young kid who wanders into a space pirates’ ship during a battle and gets abducted incidentally as the pirates flee. Most of the movie’s offering – including the sets and music recycled from earlier titles – is tired and subpar, but I actually enjoyed much of the early 80s style effects and the look of the ships as they pass by in the vast frontiers of the outer space.

Space Raiders is the kind of a movie that gets all of its mileage from being set in the extra terrestrial backdrop. Strip out the setting and move the story to a, say, wild west and you admittedly wouldn’t have much of a movie going on here.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 37%

#893 Body Double (1984)

Sharing the same October 1984 opening weekend with The Terminator, Brian De Palma’s Body Double tells a story of an involuntary peeping tom ending up witnessing a crime.

There is a lot to be loved in this stylish and daring thriller that loans from the likes of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Rear Window, and mixes them up with some very pure 80s elements. Scenes like the porn movie shoot featuring an amazing soundtrack from Frankie Goes to Hollywood demonstrates some of the admirable courage that De Palma possesses.

Body Double would’ve been sufficiently good page-turner even with more traditional approach, but its broad-minded, fearless approach to artistic choices works to its advantage, definitely making it a more memorable, often fascinatingly weird experience.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 87%