#1432 The Great Outdoors (1988)

The Great Outdoors is one of the movies I saw before starting this web site and I’ve been saving it for a rainy day. Well, that rainy day finally came, and I found The Great Outdoors entertaining – but not quite the laugh riot as I’d hoped for.

There are a few overarching themes like summer romance, dealing with obnoxious relatives and father-son bonding, which of then are carried through various episodes with kind of a generic comedy bits; everything here works but nothing exactly stands out.

The Great Outdoors is not a bad movie or a bad comedy, but it is less than the sum of its parts – especially considering the level of top notch comedy hammer provided by John Candy and Dan Aykroyd who end up carrying this movie 100%. Replace them and you end with The Passable Outdoors, at best.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 76%

#1429-31 The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission, The Deadly Mission & The Fatal Mission (1985, 1987, 1988)

A trilogy of made for tv movies released almost 20 years after the original 1967 Dirty Dozen movie, Next Mission, The Deadly Mission and The Fatal Mission take the same premise of the original movie and serve it in a surprisingly different packages, while maintaining some of the cast of the original movie.

Next Mission’s main asset is Lee Marvin, who led the original bunch of misfits rescued from death sentence to carry out a suicide mission in the occupied Europe. It is made somewhat interesting by the aspect of not trying to kill Hitler, but to prevent his assassination due to the assumption that it will be Hitler himself that will lead Germany to defeat with his megalomaniac plans. Other than that, nothing much here to write to home about. In The Deadly Mission Marvin was replaced by Telly Savalas (of the Kojak fame) and this was the movie that resonated with me the most, being almost an Indiana Jones like adventure in a Nazi occupied castle. I was also impressed the amount of destruction and havoc they put the castle through, especially considering this is a made for TV movie that usually are very bland in the effects department.

The Fatal Mission feels tired to start with, introducing lots of elements (including a female lead and a love story) that all feel like degenerative and not to the core of the franchise. On top of the uneven trilogy, a TV series of the same name aired on Fox on 1988, but was discontinued after the first season.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: Next Mission 60% | The Deadly Mission 79% | The Fatal Mission 45%

#1427 Seven Hours to Judgment (1988)

By a pure coincidence I now have the smallest mini feature ever: angry relative of a homicide victim vs the judge who has to deal with the consequences.

In Seven Hours to Judgment Beau Bridges plays the honourable judge whose wife is kidnapped by the disgruntled husband played by Ron Leibman. The whole story is highly implausible and gets more so as the story progresses; out of nowhere the husband has managed to get a van, add all sorts of gizmos in it, rent a warehouse and booby trap four floors of it with CCTV, remote controleld guns, PA, cardboard cuts of himself wearing a superman suit and a colour computer graphic live game view of the events to mention just a few. At the same time he manages to be just in the right time and the right place, and to transmit his images to various TV screens – and all this just to get even with the judge.

Like, wow.

For anyone looking forward to watching this movie, if you shy away from all the ridiculousness the movie will become hard to watch, but if you fully lean into the nonsense, you might still find Seven Hours to Judgment a somewhat entertaining piece of a long forgotten 80s cinema.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 70%

#1423 Alien from L.A. (1988)

What would you do if you’d get Kathy Ireland, the hottest swimsuit model of the 80s to star in your movie, and you’d have the chance to shoot in L.A.? Well, the director Albert Pyun and his team decided it was a good idea to make her an annoying mock of a nerd, give her a squeky voice and clothe her in unbecoming rags. I for one would have come up with one or two different options.

A bastardisation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, Alien from L.A. follows Ireland as he ventures below the earth surface to find his lost father. What follows is scifi equal to a TV-series / made for TV movie that looks like it was done for the demography of under 10 year olds. Plot is both nonexistent and hard to follow at the same time. Basically everyone wants to capture her and a few strangers wish to help her.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about Alien from L.A. is seeing how much effort was wasted with the sets, matte paintings and wardrobes to create this turd that never had any chance of success whatsoever.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 1%

#1420 Xmas 2020: Roots The Gift (1988)

Roots was a TV historical miniseries written by Alex Haley depicting the story of his family as they were brought as slaves to America from Africa, originally released in 1977 and a continuum in 1979 as another miniseries.

Almost a decade later a made for TV Christmas special entitled Roots: The Gift was made and premiered on ABC on December 11, 1988. Here we see young Kunta Kinte taking his first rebellious steps as a slave, not accepting the western name and his new status, and starts plotting on escape.

Although labeled as one, the movie does not rate high as a Christmas movie – many ordinary movies not titled as Christmas movies have a much bigger amount of the festivities present. But it does fare fairly well as a movie dealing with themes of empowering slaves who have never experienced freedom, as well as depicting the inner conflicts of the slave owners, some of who have started question of the ethics of enslaving men.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 38%

#1413 Appointment with Death (1988)

A pretty tame whodunnit even in Agatha Christie’s scale, Appointment with Death is a Hercule Poirot story that brings the very familiar elements of aristocrats, murders and exotic locations to the table.

For anyone accustomed to thrillers of this decade, Appointment with Death will feel excruciatingly slow, but the fans of the classic Christie novels will probably feel at home.

Travel and exotic locations have always been the salt and pepper of Christie’s murder mysteries, and the biggest drawback of Appointment with Death remains its cinematography and directing that fails to capture the magic of the faraway spots that end up feeling dull and unexciting.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 37%

#1410 Fresh Horses (1988)

It’s always a treat to come across an 80s movie with class A actors I’ve never heard before and Fresh Horses featuring Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy and Ben Stiller in one of his early roles definitely counts as one.

What I liked about Fresh Horses that it plays out very different than I anticipated, with characters that seem superficial but have actual depth to them, with motives hidden deep below the surface.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 80%

#1407 Halloween 2020: Death House aka Zombie Death House (1988)

John Saxon directs and stars in Death House, a zombie horror game taking place in one of these special movie prisons. And as always, the authorities that run the penitentiary are up to no good, this time around using the convicts on a death row as guinea pigs for experimental drugs.

After one of the experiments goes south, turning the prisoner a bubbling pile of flesh, the jail goes to lockdown and everyone inside still not zombified try make it out one way or another.

Death House is almost as plain 80s action thriller horror as they come, but in a good way; the movie delivers what it promises in a positively entertaining package.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 80%

#1401 Halloween 2020: Prime Evil (1988)

A satanic cult led by a charismatic priest hunt and kidnap victims for their sacrificial ceremonies in Prime Evil, a movie that ends up surprisingly tame despite the grim theme.

While it’s an ok break from the endless stream of slashers this year, it does not really spook or send chills down your spine, unless you are scared by people in robes, chanting in a basement.

William Beckwith performs well as the magnetic leader of the cult and Christine Moore whom I previously saw in the subpar Lurkers (coincidently also directed by Roberta Findlay) fares much better here as the target of the cult’s evil plans.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 57%

#1393 Halloween 2020: Zombie Nosh aka FleshEater aka Revenge of the Living Zombies (1988)

Who knew a low budget zombie movie that innovates very little could be one of the highlights of this Halloween?

Directed and written by Bill Hinzman who originally starred in the genre classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), Zombie Nosh (and its dozen releases under different titles) is a much better stab into film making than his 1986 directorial debut slasher The Majorettes.

Sure, it’s low quality, low production value and definitely looks older than its release year 1988 suggests, but Zombie Nosh manages to be quite effective at times like when the living dead creep out of the darkness to devour the flesh of the living. Plus, some of its inventive special effects punch in one or two weight classes above the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 62%

#1384 Halloween 2020: Out of the Dark (1988)

A slasher thriller done in a very late 80s style, Out of the Dark is one of those movies that manages to look like a movie taking place inside a movie world, which to me is always a big plus even though the holes in the seams are often visible due to the b-movie nature of the film, which manifests in some of the characters resembling bit too much of caricatures, with obvious fake beards and make up applied.

Not set out to gather points for originality, Out of the Dark concentrates on providing the viewer an entertaining distraction from the reality, and the movie does reach its goal fairly well. More of a thriller with a light whodunnit layer than actual horror movie, Out of the Dark will not give you your serving of scares this Halloween, but it will make for a relatively entertaining 90s minutes.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 68%

#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%