#1103 Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

Sporting one of the most cryptic movie names ever, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is a dinosaur movie, and something of an unrelated 80s predecessor to the now iconic Jurassic Park.

Done in the time before CGI, some of the action effects shown in the wider shots have surprisingly fared adequately, and it’s only when we get to the static closeups that the illusion of actual, living jurassic creatures is completely shattered.

Much bigger problem than the effects is where the movie tries to position itself audience wise: on the other hand there’s tons of family movie elements here – like that cutesy little Brontosaurus baby – and on the other some surprisingly graphic gun violence as well as borderline sex scenes. Although the movie does definitely have its strong points, namely the dinos and its overall sense of an adventure, on the whole the movies just isn’t well balanced at all.

It’s a shame since on paper the movie seems like an easy win that could’ve ended up another E.T. of the era.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 51%

#1101 Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985)

A comedy that lampoons the cowboy movies of the 30s and 40s Rustlers’ Rhapsody is a delightful little western adventure – as long as you mostly forget about the lampooning part. Why? Well, it’s not very topical subject pick fun of. The film makers were apparently aware of this so they’ve chosen to carefully point out and underline what they’ve parodied, which helps for the frame of reference, but also robs the viewer the joy of making any connections themselves.

Also, what little I know of those movies, the parody here seems something of a hit and miss.

Luckily Rustlers’ Rhapsody is a movie that’s enjoyable even without the frame of reference: It’s a likeable little fairytale like good vs bad story where the good still wins, always.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 65%

#1088 Runaway Train (1985)

Another movie I recall seeing right before starting this project, Runaway Train is a standout movie that has sticked with me to date.

What we have here is an extraordinary movie that combines prison escape, disaster movie, action and thriller in a truly unique way. Star of the show is the cold, harsh and ethereal setting resembling an alternative reality of a video game or an absorbing book that the director Andrey Konchalovskiy manages to forge here.

Similarly captivating are the performances of Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, former of which manages to create one of the most vile, savage and multi-layered delinquents even seen on film.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 93%

#1053 Volunteers (1985)

Tom Hanks and John Candy star as Peace Corps volunteers send to a small Thai village to build a bridge in Volunteers, an adventurous, never-quite-funny comedic take on The Bridge on the River Kwai, something of an odd target for a parody.

It takes quite a while for the Volunteers to find its tone of voice; it’s only towards the last 30 minutes of the movie that it starts to be enjoyable. Before that the movie feels much disoriented and shoddy and the bad camerawork where most subjects seem out of focus and oddly framed. It seems that the movie can’t really make up what it’d want to be, exactly; even the elements of crazy comedy are tried out at one point when the characters start reading the subtitles superimposed to the screen, which seems bit of a faux pas.

If I was to judge Volunteers only by its end part, it would rate nearer the 80 point mark as it manages to press many feel good buttons in the last minutes. But as a whole the movie can’t really be recommended, even if you’re a fan of the comedy of Hanks or Candy.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 61%

#1047 Gotcha! (1985)

Like mentioned numerous times before, there was a hangup in the 80s to do movies based on Europe. Paris in particular was a popular location, due to its romantic and mysterious reputation to the US public, with many dreaming to travel there one day. Unfortunately the European locations rarely translated well to the American cinema and the endless number of films with out of the water US citizen involuntarily getting into all sorts of mishaps are often only tedious to sit through.

Gotcha! breaks this spell .. sort of. I don’t find the locations fascinating, but they do feel less distracting than usual. It’s an interesting little espionage story that manages to pull off something refreshingly different.

Young Anthony Edwards proves he can carry a full length feature film as the sole lead, most likely somewhat saving Gotcha from total oblivion.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 74%

#1013 Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

It was only now during my second time watching the movie that I realised how much Spongebob Squarepants (and his movie) owe to Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

I never was big fan of the lead who seems mostly annoying most of the time and rarely likeable. In fact, he always seems the weakest link in an otherwise above average movie. Although the premise with the character is finding your inner child and overcoming problems with sheer stupid luck, there’s just something very dark and heinous about him.

A Tim Burton’s directorial feature debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is colorful and technically well made movie, but a very hard one to to recommend to anyone since I’m not quite sure to whom it is aimed for. In the end, being something of a catalyst and a paragon for Spongebob might just be the movie’s best asset.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 59%

#1011 Wheels of Fire (1985)

Six years after the first Mad Max movie started the post-apocalyptic wasteland craze, Wheels of Fire finally joins the party as a latecomer pretty much at the following day when the host is already done cleaning up the pool.

But it’s ok to come in late if you bring something new to the table, right? Unfortunately in Wheels of Fire’s case the movie feels exceptionally void of any innovation as it seems to follow the very same route set by other ripoffs. In fact, Wheels of Fire might be closest one to original Mad Max series – and this is not a compliment, believe me.

Driving around the desert with the 80s cars, wearing hockey elbow pads spray painted to black and shooting useless weirdly modded weapons has always represented the lowest form of scifi to me, and Wheels of Fire serves as a prime example why.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 13%

#997 The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

The Journey of Natty Gann pictures the 2000-mile long pilgrimage of the young Natty through the depression era America to find her father.

For being a Disney family movie, it’s a movie painted with surprisingly dark tones, ultimately making it a movie I wouldn’t necessarily want to watch through with my kids. On the other hand being a Disney family movie it is a bit too much of a sugar coated family picture to really dig into the grim reality of being a homeless kid during the great depression, and I had this constant nagging feeling throughout the film that I wasn’t in the core audience the movie was made for in the first place.

But the movie is still a delight to look at; the cinematography is top notch and the time period feels a somewhat movie like, but well established and believable. Relationship of Natty and her wolf is a thing of beauty, as well as his friendship with the fellow vagabond Harry, played by John Cusack. It’s ultimately those small moments of carrying each other through the moments of despair that make the movie wholeheartedly recommendable – even if you’re not dead center in the target audience.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 62%

#966 Halloween 2018: Day of the Dead (1985)

The third film in Romero’s Living Dead series that started already in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead takes the franchise to the underground tunnels where the last few survivors of the humankind are hiding from the hordes of zombies that roam the earth. Sheltered behind barriers, they catch and examine the living dead to gain some knowledge about them.

The concept feels fresh on paper but the execution is on the stuffy side, resembling the 1978 Dawn of the Dead much more than a modern take on the subject. Romero’s camera lingers on the zombies for much too long, many of which are pretty poorly masqueraded and would’ve been more effective dwelling in the shadows rather than exposing them to spot lights where they look mostly goofy. On the other hand the effect work is far ahead of rest of the movie and feels extra effective thanks to the overall shoddiness of the movie.

It’s towards the end of the movie that Day of the Dead finally starts moving forward, and as the zombies pour into the vault in masses there’s a decent amount of action and thrills to be had here, including a pretty satisfying ending.

Day of the Dead earns my respect for its courage of taking a road less traveled. I just wished the execution was a notch or two sharper.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 68%

#949 Halloween 2018: Evils of the Night (1985)

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you might know that I steer away from exploitation movies of any kind. It was because of this that I really had to weight if I wanted to include Evils of the Night here, but it was the zany concept of intergalactic vampire aliens that changed my mind.

As you might already guess from the poster, there’s a quite a lot of naked skin here on display and it does get a little raunchy during the first 30 minutes. There’s a limited camp factor to the silly aliens, but nothing bad enough to make it for one of those so bad, it’s so good flicks.

I had already given up my hope with this movie, but the upcoming scene with the three survivors tied inside the car repair shop and the events thereafter were actually pretty suspenseful – even entertaining. That blue collar aliens armed scene where they chase the survivors with drills and axes took some turns I never expected, and almost felt like having some sort of affinity with the cult classic Bad Taste.

This doesn’t change the fact that on all the other accounts Evils of the Night still isn’t much of a movie. Still, watching it somehow felt like a breath of fresh air after all these subpar slashers this year I’ve had to plow through this year.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 44%

#940 Halloween 2018: Warning Sign (1985)

A surprisingly likeable piece of scifi horror, Warning Sign is a biohazard thriller made in the vein of The Andromeda Strain – a similar kind of viral outbreak movie that really resonated with me when I saw it as a kid. Had I seen Warning Sign back then, it’d surely ended up very near to the top of my favourite movies list.

But, 30 years haven’t been kind to the movie and it hasn’t aged that gracefully. And it doesn’t really help that the movie wasn’t ahead of its time, but already a bit outdated when released. Some of the casting ain’t spot on either with G.W. Bailey – whom I usually love to bits – ending up giving the movie some unintentional comedic tones as one of the doctors inside the military laboratory.

Still, I quite liked Warning Sign. The movie’s premise of scientists coming up a rage inducing virus works well and the elements mixed in from various zombie movies make the movie entertaining, even scary at times. If you can forgive the movie for being fluffy – to the extremes at times – Warning Sign makes for a decent, campy piece of cinema with a certain lovable underdog feel to it.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 76%

#937 Seven Minutes in Heaven (1985)

Overshadowed by the genre giants of the era, Seven Minutes in Heaven is a gem of a teen movie that does quite a lot of things in a more to the point, honest way than many of its contemporary rivals.

The beauty of the movie is how well it levels with its subjects and manages to encapsulate that awfully wonderful feeling of being a 15-year old – at least as closely as I remember it.

Natalie is a grade A student whose big plans for the future get complicated by an unrequited crush. To complicate things further, her buddy Jeff decides to seek refuge from her house despite her opposition, as he doesn’t really get along with his stepfather. Lastly, there’s Polly who’s hellbent to lose her virginity and ready to fall in love with the right person, which in her case means pretty much anyone who crosses paths with her. The dramatic elements here seem subtle, but as the director Linda Feferman realises, for these kids these issues are life changing, and thanks to her evident affection towards her characters she manages to convey that same sentiment to the viewer while avoiding the pitfall of being patronising or condescending.

Although the movie does sidetrack a little towards the end, it wraps up nicely again in the end with a small, subtle finale true to the very spirit of the story.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 85%

#936 Vision Quest aka Crazy for You (1985)

First of all, it has to be noted that despite its sci-fey name, Vision Quest is a coming-of-age sports movie and the cliches of the genre go with it; a story of rising up to a challenge, overcoming the odds and the inevitable showdown are all there. But like any above average movie of the genre, the sports is just a framework and the real focus here is in the human interest.

Louden is a a sympathetic but naive high school wrestler surrounded by some interesting, well written, 3-dimensional characters who share his journey in becoming the champion in a lower weight class. And in their way, all these people are more interesting than Louden himself: His kind but righteous all-American father, his co-worker Elmo who takes Louden on arm wrestling challenges and lives the dream of the victory through him, his mate Kuch who stands up for him even at the cost of his own wrestling career, his english teacher Tanneran who’s tightroping between being a teacher, confidant and a rival, and lastly the gorgeous Carla who’s standing at a crossroad in her life when their paths cross by a passing chance.

A notable trivia to mention about the movie is that it was shot already in 1983 with the young Madonna making a brief appearance as a singer in a local bar. As the fame of Madonna soon skyrocketed, the movie was rebranded as ’Crazy For You’ in an effort to piggyback the movie in the success of the song.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 81%

#933 Certain Fury (1985)

Certain Fury certainly starts strong with one of the most violent courthouse shootout scenes I’ve seen. And the following sewage fleeing scene doesn’t fall far behind, keeping me on the very edge of my seat.

But it’s soon afterwards that it turns out all the action has been just some bells and whistles to disguise the fact that Certain Fury is nothing but a hollow shell of a movie. This comes more apparent as the movie reaches the one hour mark without anything of interest taking place. In the following last action scene of the movie it becomes quite clear that the lead actress Tatum O’Neal is no Sigourney Weaver what it comes to being an action star.

Certain Fury misses its chance of becoming Thelma & Louise before Thelma and Louise by failing to connect with the viewers between the action scenes. The ending scene furthermore underlines the essence the movie: Going fast, totally without aim.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 52%

#927 Sweet Dreams (1985)

It would be difficult to do a justified review of Sweet Dreams without mentioning the wonderful Coal Miner’s Daughter. In fact, it would be almost impossible as that particular movie is actually mentioned by name on the Sweet Dreams’ official poster.

To recap, Coal Miner’s Daughter was a triumph of a movie that got me emotionally involved in the career and the life of a country star Loretta Lynn, a singer previously totally unknown to me. She later became friends with Patsy Cline, another young star on the rise and Sweet Dreams sets out to tell her story from a young housewife to the stardom, eventually leading to her untimely death.

But, Sweet Dreams isn’t the masterpiece that Coal Miner managed to be. This is a very different movie that somehow presents its characters and the events in a way that failed to get me hooked on, feeling much more like a Reader’s Digest’s abridged summary than a full fledged biographical movie. A lot of drama is thrown on the screen with the passionate love / hate relationship of Cline and her husband, but like the ultimate tragic events, none of the drama here is built in a way that it would really stir me.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 38%

#921 Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985)

After reading about Missing in Action 2: The Beginning deemed to be a worse movie than its originally intended sequel and thus being delayed to be released one year later I was expecting a movie even worse than the previous one.

Not the case as The Beginning surprises by presenting a pretty solid post action pack.

Of course you know the drill; a rogue American soldier single handedly winning the Vietnam war, and there aren’t much of unexpected plot twists along the way, but its the presentation here that makes The Beginning a recommendable watch. The action is over the top as usual, with a nice martial arts showdown at the end, but compared to the previous movie Norris’ character here seems less of an invulnerable, omnipotent super human seen in the previous part.

The Beginning is by far the strongest one of the trilogy, and if you have to watch just one of the Missing in Action movies, let this one be it.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 74%

#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%

#883 Bad Medicine (1985)

Steve Guttenberg, Julie Hagerty and a cast full of ’Hey, it’s that guy from the other movie’ supporting actors, Bad Medicine sure seems like a sure hit 80s comedy. But, there’s unfortunately something more or less off throughout the comedy.

This is not so say that Bad Medicine is a total dud. The cast keeps the show running and the movie even has multiple laugh out loud moments.

Done very much in the vein of Guttenberg’s Police Academy box office hit movie series, you could easily confuse this movie as a spinoff, especially if G.W.Bailey was seen as the dean or the school. Speaking of which, Alan Arkin does a wonderfully fine acting work as the love sick founder and dean of the school, mixing in just the right doses of desperation and foolish pride.

Bad Medicine has a lot of good things going for it and could’ve potentially been one of the definite comedies of the 80s, but woefully ends up much less than the sum of its parts.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 62%

#876 The New Kids (1985)

We’ve seen our fair share of movies based on the payback / revenge aspect as well as portrayals of bullies who terrorise an entire school and community around it. But The New Kids makes for a original and enjoyable stab at the genre by gracefully steering around most of the clichés of the genre.

Not only do the leads manage to stand up for themselves, but the antagonists also fail to spin the public opinion and blame against the new kids. The leads Shannon Presby and Lori Loughlin perform well as the clean cut all american kids while James Spader steals the show as a truly chilling juvenile delinquent with borderline psychopathic traits.

The New kids took me positively by surprise by mixing in some old and some new to an interesting and entertaining 90 minuter.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 81%

#860 Explorers (1985)

Explorers is a kids’ adventure movie that starts a bit dumb, then manages to get exciting as the three youngsters start putting together a spaceship, only to get dumb again as they eventually make their way into the alien spaceship.

The idea of another culture getting all of its information about mankind from TV broadcasts and ads is downright delicious, but Explorers fails to get anything substantial out of it. The aliens – as the rest of the movie – are well executed, but the forced humour aspect will leave cold anyone looking forward to a thrilling adventure.

Most viewers familiar with the two child stars of the movie will probably get the best mileage out of Explorers as a look into the early career of Ethan Hawke and the late River Phoenix.

80’s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 61%