#1725 The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1988)

Despite the apparent gung-ho theme of the film, The Siege of Firebase Gloria still shows an urge of being authentic in its depiction of hopelessness in both sides; there’s no clear cut heroes and villains. The horrific actions and dehumanizing acts done by all parties are not exaggerated but neither ignored; they are presented as a natural part of the war.

The fans of R. Lee Ermey will be happy to hear he is very much starring this show. While this is no Full Metal Jacket, there’s plenty of that same drill sergeant attitude and one liners coming from his way.

The fire fights in The Siege of Firebase Gloria are long and feel the most unrealistic and uninteresting part of the movie. Other than that the movie has interesting aspects to it and will no doubt please those who are into (Vietnam) war movies. The movie is ’drawing inspiration from real life events’ (meaning it never happened), but the lingo and depiction of the troops feels realistic – probably due to Ermey involved in co-scripting some of the scenes with the director.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 71%

#1715 Distant Thunder (1988)

Most people know John Lithgow for starring in 3rd Rock from the Sun or Dexter, but every movie I’ve seen him in furthermore underlines how he is one of the greatest actors of his era, a versatile performer who has excelled in a wide range of roles and genres.

What makes Lithgow such a great actor is his ability to fully inhabit a character and bring it to life in a believable and nuanced way. He has a talent for finding the heart and humanity in even the most complex and flawed characters, and he has a natural charisma and charm that endears him to audiences.

This shows in Distant Thunder which would not be much of a movie without Lithgow’s stellar performance, as he is able to elevate both mediocre manuscript and a pack of mediocre actors to excellence with his portrayal of the many Vietnam veterans failing to rejoin civilian life, living a vagabond life as one of the mountain men in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Lithgow perfectly captures all the right nuances of socially awkward and traumatised veteran’s clumsy efforts to once again rejoin the society and reach out to his son.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 84%

#1714 Split Decisions (1988)

Split Decisions is a boxing movie straight out of a pen of a angsty teenager and its sense of drama feels like a high school musical sans the music.

The father, a boxing trainer, has two sons who are both boxers. He is proud of one and helps him prepare for the Olympics, but he frequently has conflicts with the other son, who is rebellious and hard to deal with. When the troublesome son is killed by a criminal organization after he refuses to lose a match, his brother seeks to avenge his death by challenging the boxer who was involved in the crime syndicate to a fight.

It’s a sports movie so you know how the story will end up, so while waiting for that the personas or their relationships in the movie should be super interesting to watch. Unfortunately all the characters are paper thin, almost caricature like without any interesting growth in them, replaced by drama that feels plain melodramatic and forced.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 18%

#1711 Halloween 2022: Watchers (1988)

Finally wrapping up this year’s Halloween with Watchers that I’ve had in my peripheral vision for a few years now, being one of the last Corey Haim movies of the 80s I haven’t yet seen.

My expectation was a supernatural movie with certain Watchers lurking in shadows, but to my surprise the movie was about a boy running into a stray dog whom he then adopts, later discovering that it is in fact a runaway experiment from a genetic research lab with mental powers equal to a human, being followed by a dangerous creature from the same lab.

And meeeeh, I did like my first impression better than this quite far fetched scifi story the movie presented to me. The movie is based on a seemingly solid book by Dean Koontz, so my only guess is that something got lost in translation here. The movie is ok, but its core audience leaves me puzzled as the movie feels thematically geared more towards 12-year olds, yet boasts R-rating.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 68%

#1708 Halloween 2022: The Cellar (1988)

A nuclear family settles into a run-down house in the Texas desert, unaware that it is cursed by a Native American enchantment in the form of a terrifying, underground creature.

The Cellar’s theme centered on stereotypical, borderline racist Native American spirituality falls flat right from the start, and does not feel real nor plausible at all. The generic and forgettable underground monster, which could have easily been replaced with pretty much anything else like an alligator, fails to be scary or threatening.

It’s just so poor script and concept that even top-notch acting and effects couldn’t save this monster horror flick.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 31%

#1704 Halloween 2022: Spellcaster (1988)

Spellcaster is a horror movie that came to be after the executed producer bought an Italian castle for making films. They then quickly cooked up a story about random bunch of people taking part of a TV programme about finding a cheque hit somewhere in the aforementioned castle.

The poster for the movie features the British musician / actor Adam Ant, but his fans will be disappointed to hear that his actual role in the film is limited to just a few quick shots.

Spellcaster was shot already in 1988, but got its official release as late as 1992. And truth to be told, not much would have been robbed from humanity if this one was totally shelled instead.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 32%

#1700 Halloween 2022: Twice Dead (1988)

Here’s what I’m always looking forward with every movie I put in my VCR to be watched for this blog: a movie that just oozes 80s in some wonderful way.

This definitely holds true with Twice Dead that delivers wonderfully all that 80s goodness a bit in the vein of The Return of the Living Dead, although in a bit less outrageous fashion. The story of a Colorado family moving into a house possessed by ghost of an old is non-sensical, but all that’s besides the point anyway as nobody is here for that: the real entertainment factor of Twice Dead is all in its stereotypes and overall cheesiness.

It’s no The Return of the Living Dead, but those who enjoyed it will likely find themselves right at home the Twice Dead.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 80%

#1698 Halloween 2022: The American Scream (1988)

Although boasting a poster that fails to look interesting at all, The American Scream turned out to be a real gem of a forgotten 80s comedy horror shlock.

The plot follows a family going on a vacation to an odd little town in the mountains where the locals enjoy killing teenagers and kids that show up. The suspense is enjoyable, and the movie has an interesting array of characters; there’s something quite enjoyable about seeing the adults plotting against the kids in this situation – something that the teenager in me enjoys quite a bit.

The fans of the era will happy to hear the movie is wonderfully 80s in its style (clothing and hair styles included!) and offers some good, goofy fun, coupled with some elements of actual suspense that make watching through the movie a breeze.

80s-o-meter: 96%

Total: 83%

#1682 Halloween 2022: The People Across the Lake (1988)

Funny how genre affects on how you view a name of a movie.I originally mistook The People Across the Lake as a made for TV drama, and my instant assumption was a tired costume drama, but upon learning that this is actually a horror movie the name became much more interesting one. In fact, I quite like it!

Many made for TV horror movies of the 80s have been positive surprises, quite unexpectedly so. Generally they have the courage to try out something a little different and rely on eery feeling instead of excessive gore, and the same goes with The People Across the Lake.

I was super pleased to see Barry Corbin in one of the main roles in the movie, but given how I’ve learned to perceive him, the role seemed bit of a misfit for him in the end, but it’s no deal breaker by any means. The movie could have built up much more suspense towards the end, but takes a bit too easy path in the end making The People Across the Lake entertaining – but not exceptional.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#1678 Halloween 2022: Doctor Hackenstein aka Dr. Hackenstein (1988)

A parody of Frankestein line of books and movies, Troma’s Doctor Hackenstein cannot be discussed without comparing it to the great Re-Animator that has a similar premise, and was released only three years earlier.

Where Re-Animator reinvents the mad doctor turning dead into living beings, and does so with hilarious results, Doctor Hackenstein remains strangely tame, only ending up a slightly gorier, more naked and a bit sillier version of its paragon.

If Re-Animator did not exist, Doctor Hackenstein would have been a nice breath of fresh air in horror comedies. Even though it’s nowhere near the stinkers often seen in this genre, the team should have really leveraged upon learnings from Re-Animator and try to do something much more outstanding, instead of settling for playing the second fiddle.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 60%

#1672 Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

A costume drama I was for once actually aware of for once, Dangerous Liaisons marches in a quite unexpected cast (at least for a historical drama) consisting of Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves.

Those familiar with my page know that historical romantic dramas aren’t exactly my cup of tea, so at least here the consolidation was the interesting cast I was looking forward to seeing. I perceived Dangerous Liaisons as it was: a drama taking place for some unexplained reason in the make believe history with bored aristocrats in funny wigs delivering an endless stream of witty and pretentious dialogue in a pompous manner.

But – fortunately – there’s an end to all the wittiness, and this is where Dangerous Liaisons actually becomes interesting, to the point of redeeming itself in the final act.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 70%

#1669 Apprentice to Murder (1988)

A US-Norwegian-Canadian co-production Apprentice to Murder portrays of Pennsylvanian folk healer and his apprentice getting far too deep into dark powers of their craft in a story that very successfully blurs the line between real and make-belief, wrong and right, and good and bad.

I was surprised to learn the movie was shot entirely in Norway, so my hat is off to the production team who very skilfully concealed this fact, and totally sold me the location of 1920s Pennsylvania.

Although shot in mainstream Hollywood fashion, Apprentice to Murder (apparently based on a real historic event) is a very untypical movie but in a good way. It boldly goes quite deep into religious fanaticism, dark sides of human psyche and superstition.

80s-o-meter: 11%

Total: 72%

#1658 Crossing Delancey (1988)

A few good tiles excluded, romantic comedies were never quite my thing, but I’ve grown a bit more understanding for them along the years, and willing to give them a fair chance. That being said, Crossing Delancey seemed on the paper something that I would not enjoy at all: a film with a pretentious title, New York self-centered and someone neurotic characters, and a setting in the people engaged in the literary arts, and embracing that lifestyle.

Not that I don’t like any of that, but I’ve been scarred with so many Henry Jaglom’s movies, or by writer/directors who wish to be the next Jaglom or Woody Allen that I had al the warning signs up. But despite its theme Crossing Delancey does not come across too pretentious, and it’s especially the pickle seller Peter Riegert’s very likeable character that seems to get the most honest, most touching lines in the movie.

Fans of Frasier might be delighted to find David Hyde Pierce in a role of a bookstore clerk, pretty much 1:1 to Niles.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 61%

#1656 Screwball Hotel (1988)

Third and last in the series of screwball comedies directed by Rafal Zielinski, Screwball Hotel shows the fun, carefree comedy style 80s is known for, but that already feels forced and tired attempt that just copies and pastes all the clichés seen elsewhere.

Screwball Hotel is obviously targeted for VHS rack as just another dumb comedy with gratuitous nudity to pick up if you’ve already rented out Police Academy 4 too many times, and as such it works out as planned.

Sure, the movie would’ve given anyone renting it 90 minutes of brainless action, but without much laughs along the way.

80s-o-meter: 96%

Total: 41%

#1646 Patti Rocks (1988)

You know that screw up of a friend you don’t want anything to do with, but who for one reason or another manages to get you involved in his affairs, ”just for this one more time”.

In Patti Rocks that guy is Billy, played by Chris Mulkey. Billy is unlikely many other lovable bastards often seen in movies in a way that he at times manages to hover over likeable, but more often than not comes across just obnoxious. He is the kind of a guy with his sexist jokes that would make me want to switch tables at bar, and kind of a guy who would accuse anyone doing so of not having a sense of humour.

But his friend Eddie seems to be able to stomach him, and drives him on a long road trip filled with sexist jokes to settle the score with a girl – Patti Rocks – he got pregnant.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 40%

#1640 Illegally Yours (1988)

Something feels amiss or disconnected throughout Illegally Yours. Perhaps its the nagging feeling of the movie being miscast on most parts, or Peter Bogdanovich’s direction not delivering the story in a convincing way or maybe its the story of a young handsome college dropout nerd stalking his old school love and getting tangled in a trial and murder mystery that just does not click.

There’s a lot to be loved about the movie, and various events and characters have a certain charm, but in the end it’s just somehow much less than the sum of its parts.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 61%

#1638 Assault of the Killer Bimbos (1988)

Ok, so the name here sounds much worse than what the movie actually is.

Assault of the Killer Bimbos is more like an early, rough version of Thelma & Louise. Actually, to them actually contemplating to sue its production team. Truth be told, Assault of the Killer Bimbos is no Thelma & Louise, but some of the similarities here are uncanny.

But Assault of the Killer Bimbos is really a feel good comedy, and actually not a bad one at that.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 75%

#1630 A Man for All Seasons (1988)

Apparently Charlton Heston would have wanted to star in the 1966 version of A Man for All Seasons that took home six Oscars in that year’s Academy Awards.

To the extend that to rectify this wrongdoing he would go on to direct his own made-for-TV version some 20 years later where he this time around stars in. Based on a play by Robert Bolt of the life of Sir Thomas More, this newer version of A Man for All Seasons still maintains the great wit and charm of the original.

Historical dramas – especially the made for TV ones – aren’t my cup of tea, but in this genre A Man for All Season definitely holds its own, thanks to its strong manuscript.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 70%

#1614 The Wizard of Speed and Time (1988)

I love a good underdog, and The Wizard of Speed and Time definitely counts as one.

A brainchild of an animator Mike Jittlow, the movie is a testament to what a creative mind can accomplish; the movie takes great cues from mainstream media and movies, but takes them in a quirky direction that the big companies can not follow. Jittlow also adds to the mix a lot of his elbow grease, artwork and effects that he very obviously put together with a lot of dedication and love, instead of just hastily putting something together as quickly as possible in order to fill the minimum required length for a movie.

And this is why The Wizard of Speed and Time ends up more of a triumph than incompetent mess that indie movies – especially the comedies – more than often are.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 83%