#1371 Halloween 2020: Ghost Town (1988)

Ghost Town was one of the movies I was looking forward the most this Halloween as I’d admired the poster already for a few years. What we have here is a story of a highway cop following a person gone missing and all of sudden finding himself trapped in a western ghost town.

I was surprised to learn about the problems in the production (financial problems with Empire Pictures and directors being changed on the fly), since Ghost Town is one solid looking movie that leaves very little to complain about visually.

The problem with Ghost Town is that it’s much too tame, sort of like a Disney ghost ride that checks all the marks visually, but will really manage to scare only those with their age still in the single-digits.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 58%

#1363 Big Business (1988)

Two sets of identical twin sisters for two families of the opposite spectrum of richness are born at the same time in a small rural hospital, and get mixed up in nursery, resulting in two sets of non-identical step-sister twins, who then end up growing without ever knowing the existence of their actual identical biological sisters. That is, until fate brings them together.

While it would be easy to give Big Business a hard time for its utterly implausible and silly premise, it’s more admirable to praise the director Jim Abrahams and actors Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin for pulling it all off in a believable manner.

As you’d expect from an Abrahams comedy, the humor finds its mark, and the pacing of the movie makes it easy to watch. The visual tricks of mixing all four unrelated siblings on the screen at the same time is flawless, thanks to clever choreography and the groundbreaking post production work done by Industrial Light & Magic.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 86%

#1359 She’s Having a Baby (1988)

She’s Having a Baby, one of director/writer John Hughes’ rare misses in the 80s misses the snappy writing usually seen in Hughes’ movies. The movie plays out pretty much as expected, with the exception that the movie is written totally from the guy’s point of view.

At first he does not want to get married – but goes on with in nonetheless – has second thoughts about his relationship and career, until the big news about his fiancé expecting a baby hit. The woman in the movie is written as one-dimensional sidekick whose role is to nag and be difficult in all sorts of ways.

Two aspects redeem the movie being a total failure. The depiction of the banal life in suburbs through musical numbers like the lawnmower dance is side-splittingly hilarious, and the ending that manages to grasp the heart like like you’d expect of a John Hughes movie.

If Kevin Bacon’s character seems vaguely familiar, you might have seen him in a clever camio in the beginning of Hughes’ Planes, Trains & Automobiles as the blue collar drone racing with Steve Martin to catch a taxi.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 70%

#1358 The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)

When I think of the world I often see it as an endless source of interesting tales – big and small – that beg to be told. And this is kind of where The Milagro Beanfield War tries to tap into, a small little tale taking place in a small town in New Mexico, involving small people fighting for their right.

Problem is, that story is not very interesting at any given time and with a few exceptions (Sheriff Montoya, old man Cordova) the movie does not present the characters in a way that makes the viewer care for them.

The movie felt tediously long and ends up with very few surprises. As the end credits rolled I couldn’t help but to speculate that maybe the small town next to Milagro could have had a more interesting tale to be shared.

80s-o-meter: 51%

Total: 38%

#1357 Bloodsport (1988)

Bloodsport, one of the definite martial arts / sports movies of the 80s still delivers!

While Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career is patchy to say the least, it’s here that he is at his very best, presenting impressive moves and showing certain on screen charism. Donald Gibb feels at first like an odd match for Van Damme, but ends up making the movie much more memorable than a more conventional choice.

The movie is just the right amount over the edge and built to push all the right buttons for the fans of the genre; Bloodsport aims to entertain, and it does so with flying colors (and kicks).

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 93%

#1346 Dominick and Eugene (1988)

Playing someone mentally challenged always possesses a risk: do it the wrong way and the end result is usually very gringe inducing.

Fortunately Tom Hulce pulls it off and creates in Dominick an interesting, sympathetic three dimensional character. Ray Liotta’s performance as his brother is every bit as good and shows surprising (positively) sides of him I’ve never witnessed before.

The production quality and the plot borderline a made for TV movie which made me a bit worried at times, but ultimately Dominick and Eugene is a movie that begs you to drop all the cynicism and rewards you in return with a moving story with a honest and huge heart.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 86%

#1338 The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

After seeing the movie adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being I think I have to read the original novel by Milan Kundera to see what went missing in translation under Philip Kaufman’s direction.

What I love about movies is how they can condensate a ordinary day or a lifetime of a human under two hours and I really admire the directors and editors who can make this happen and the end result does not feel rushed due to well thought out pacing. The Unbearable Lightness of Being totally fails all this. It’s a three-hour epic that feels like it’s skimming the original book, but still has less content in it than many of the 90 minute movies out there. It’s extremely slow, but rushed at the same time.

I did not care for The Unbearable Lightness of Being and found it a pretentious movie that aspires to imitate the style of the generic artsy European cinema without ever trying to find its own tone of voice.

But it did evoke a need in me to look into the original novel to see what makes it tick.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 18%

#1336 Hairspray (1988)

Somebody please explain me why movies like Hairspray exist.

Just kidding – I know, I know. They’re there to give a dose of nostalgia for those long for the bygone days when the sun always shone and the colors were much more vivid. You can spot useless nostalgic movie by reimagining it to the current day and figuring out if the concept still holds up.

Hairspray was definitely my cup of tea, even despite its favorable anti-segregation message.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 4%

#1313 Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama aka The Imp (1988)

More is more, but Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama would have fared better with less elements.

In particular, it’s the Imp – the antagonist that lives in a trophy in the bowling alley and causes all sorts of havoc as he gets out – that is very much an unnecessary element in the movie and never manages to feel anything but the rubber hand puppet it is.

If the team would’ve only realised the weak link in the movie, cut their losses and come up with a different kind of approach, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama could have lived up to its outrageous name. As it is now, it makes for a surprisingly solid movie visually (excluding the imp) despite being filmed in one location outside its business hours.

What is lacking completely though are the kills, which usually lend for easy chuckles in similar horror spoofs. Here they are disappointingly skipped, probably due to budget constraints.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 60%

#1311 Hellbent (1988)

A modern twist of the classic Faust story, Hellbent presents a story of a punk trash band who make a management deal with a person who promises them success in exchange to their mortal souls.

I love a good underdog movie, and Hellbent with its weird story, eccentric characters and ominous cinematography definitely counts as one. The movie does lose its sharpest edge as it changes from relying purely on suspension to more of an action movie, and as an action movie it does not fare that well even though the shooting and violence is depicted in a way that makes it feel very impactful, much more so than in the Hollywood A-list movies.

While not the long lost gem of the decade, Hellbent is definitely interesting enough experiment to earn a recommendation.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 79%

#1297 Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988)

To understand how a horrible mess of a movie like Journey to the Center of the Earth came to the existance one has to know about the history behind it. The filming had started already in 1986, but the movie was left unfinished midway and Cannon Films was left with a dud of a movie so they hired Albery Pyun to finish the film.

Pyun who later disowned the whole project and remains uncredited alledgely wrote a new screenplay with zero budget and made it sort of a sequel to the Alien from L.A. (1988) he had just finished shooting.

And all of this shows. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988) in nobody’s passion project, lacks ownership and direction and ends up totally incomprehensible and definitely one of the biggest train wrecks of the era that should never seen the light of the day. The tragedy is that the actors aren’t half bad, and there’s a constant feeling of a half decent scifi adventure movie being buried under all the pile of garbage that ended up on the screen.

80s-o-meter: 79%

Total: 1%

#1295 Mutant War (1988)

A sequel to Battle For the Lost Planet, Mutant War shares the same production values than its predecessor. Meaning, it’s poor.

And while it has the same kind of charming underdog feeling to its predecessor (the team has aimed ridiculously high, including camera and video effects, matte paintings and stop motion animations, all of which way beyond their capabilities), the charm only carries the movies so far.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 31%

#1293 Stars and Bars (1988)

A somewhat annoying art expert (Daniel Day-Lewis) married to an annoying spouse while working for annoyingly demanding boss is send to deep south to purchase a painting from an annoying eccentric hillbilly family whose annoying unmarried son living at home does annoying things to prevent the sales.

The only thing not utterly annoying in the cast of Stars and Bars is the head of the family, played by Harry Dean Stanton who plays the only character in the movie with some dimensions written into it, and Stanton has the acting chops to make his character likeable despite all of its weird personal traits.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 32%

#1292 Kansas (1988)

If you find an 80s movie nobody has ever heard of with your favourite actors in it, your warning bells should go off. Changes that you’ve just found a long lost treasure are very low, and it’s much more likely that you’ve just encountered something that everyone involved wished they’d never been part of.

While Kansas is no treasure, it is actually a decent piece of cinema depicting a guy crossing his path with a bank robber and soon finding tangled into something that might lose him his love, freedom and even life.

Andrew McCarthy performs his trademark dazed out everyday guy routine while Matt Dillon delivers yet another chilling role as the fugitive with psychopathic personal traits.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 83%

#1289 Black Eagle (1988)

In short: an useless action movie shot in the republic of Malta, starring Shô Kosugi (from the Ninja trilogy fame) and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Instead of relying on your typical Hollywood ninja mythology that Kosugi usually does well, Black Eagle is more of a poor mans rendition of your typical Bond movie of the era; all the secret agents, military secrets and special gizmos are here, but the movie itself is a bore and without much thrills. The cinematography looks dull and the team fails to find any interesting, movie like aspects from the location (excluding those cool caverns), and the long awaited martial arts showdown between the leads in the end is anticlimatic, to say the least.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 14%

#1265 18 Again! (1988)

One of the many body switching movies of the 80s, 18 Again! does a pretty routine job at comedy.

The only variable with similar titles is that here the story is observed entirely through only the other party of the body switching process as the 81-year old grandfather overtakes the body of his 18-year old grandson, while the grandson ends up in his unconscious body, hooked to life support. This decision leaves the growth story that’s usually in the core of the movie one sided. Another call I didn’t agree with was using the grandpa’s voiceover throughout the movie, often delivering uninspired one-liners – or explaining the situation to the viewer in a condescending fashion.

One noteworthy piece of trivia to share of 18 Again is that this was the last movie for the ageless comedy legend George Burns who plays the 81-year old grandfather. In reality, he was already 91 at the time.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 70%

#1264 Cohen and Tate (1988)

Again, a movie that has totally gone under the radar for me, Cohen and Tate is a thriller of two assassins transporting a young eye witness to a mob boss after wiping out his family and bunch of officers of the Federal Witness Protection Program.

The movie is minimalistic; most of the running time is spent inside the car, with tension building up between Cohen and Tate, two very opposites sides of the same coin. The violence presented in the movie is similarly spartan: very quick and over before the viewer has time to react, making it consequently extreme impactful.

Cohen and Tate is a triumph of an action thriller in both its cinematography and story telling for the director Eric Red, and well ahead of its time, resembling the formula that Coen brothers perfected a decade later.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 95%

#1253 The In Crowd (1988)

Teen dance party TV programs were apparently a thing in 1960s. The In Crowd taps into this phenomenon and offers a look into a life of a young gentleman who makes it to the show and becomes a huge celebrity in his school.

The movie seems extremely silly and trivial so it was very hard for me to have any empathy to their problems, knowing that the male rivals of the movie would settle the score by having a dance off together in a living room.

Yes, a dance off.

The In Crowd tells a story that did not beg to be told and offers a nostalgic trip for meant for those who were there or who really dig the era, or at least when accompanied with thick, rosy nostalgia goggles.

80s-o-meter: 21%

Total: 11%

#1250 Permanent Record (1988)

Although the 80s is a decade of teen movies if any, the films that depict the teens without lowest common denominator generalisations are far and between. Permanent Record joins this small group of movies with flying colors.

First of all it steers away from the usual teen clichés, offering a very believable take on the day to day life of an Oregon high school student. Secondly, it quite rarely condescends to underlining and being over dramatic to make a point; the boy who decides to take his life is a fine looking, popular kid who seems to be going places, but still goes through his final solution. It may be a spur of the moment act, or something he premeditated for year, but just like his friends who are left to mourn, we will never know.

Towards the end of the movie the movie has two distinctive moments that could have easily turned pretentious, but it’s the sincere love that Permanent Record shows towards its characters that just makes them honest and purely heart breaking.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 94%

#1249 Dead Ringers (1988)

Ah, it’s a David Cronenberg movie, so you never quite know what it has to offer, but you know it’s going to be at least interesting.

In Dead Ringers Cronenberg tells a story of two identical twins who run their gynaecology clinic and while identical twins they seem like two sides of a coin that have their distinctive personal traits, but somehow complete each other as one person. They use their resemblance to their advance and so that the introverted twin gets to share the women seduced by the outgoing one, until a clash over one woman finally makes the twins drift apart, with disastrous consequences.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 84%