#1130 Ladyhawke (1985)

Sad news hit us this week with the news of Rutger Hauer passing away at the age of 75.

To commemorate him I watched through Ladyhawke, a fictitious fantasy tale taking place in the 13th century. It was only too bad that pretty much the only interesting bit for the movie was Mr.Hauer himself, and I really didn’t find other aspects of the movie that interesting.

Shot in location in Italy, the damp and drafty atmosphere did not lure me in, and although I’m not a fan of sword and sorcery movies, I wished the movie had had some more interesting fantasy element to it than the dodgy shapeshifting to animals, like the landmark movies Willow or Legend did.

The movie does have a strong fan base that really seem to dig it, so if the genre interests you, you might still find something here to love.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 51%

#1123 The Night Before (1988)

Waking up in a strange place with no memory of the events that lead you there might be a clichéd setup, but one that often kick starts a book or movie in an interesting way. The same goes for The Night Before, an adventure comedy exploring probably the most unfortunate prom night ever.

Keanu Reeves performs his trademark awkward Californian surf dude character that we’ve come to love and while it suits the movie perfectly, he seems almost too goofy and dazed here.

As the mystery of the night unravels one memory at the time, the movie successfully ups the ante continuously as it evolves through its non-linear timeline.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 84%

#1114 Saturday the 14th (1981)

The title Saturday the 14th already gives one good overview what to expect here: a horror parody where the title is the most witty aspect of it. And the title isn’t very witty.

On paper it all sounds pretty good: a clean cut nuclear family inherit a cursed house, after which their son accidentally unleashes a horde of monsters by opening a forbidden book. But before you get excited, there’s really not much to be loved here as the movie isn’t anywhere near the best monster adventure comedies of the era. Despite its name, the movie does not poke fun of the Friday the 13th series at all. In fact, it doesn’t seem to parodize any horror movie that I know of.

But that all is really beside the point since no matter what the movie aims for, it ends up a failure that won’t provide the scares nor the laughs. Also, the piss poor production quality crushes any hopes for at least getting to witness any cool movie monsters on screen.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 23%

#1109 The Dungeonmaster aka Ragewar: The Challenges of Excalibrate and Digital Knights (1984)

The Dungeonmaster is an adventure movie depicting a modern computer programmer that gets transferred to a fantasy lair run by ancient sorcerer who challenges him to tasks of defeating enemies in various modern and historical scenarios.

The Dungeonmaster is actually an anthology: Each one of the seven segments is written and directed by different people, and then tied together with interludes of the lair where the programmer returns victorious after each task. The movie would be totally banal if it didn’t have two distinctive modern 80s segments in it; one involving a serial killer and another, hilariously over the top scenario featuring W.A.S.P.

The movie remains the best known for the wide public as the origin of the like ’I reject your reality and substitute my own’, as quoted by Adam Savage in one of the episodes of the MythBusters. The movie is not worth your time for the quote alone, but you might still find it interesting fast forwarding to check it out, as well as watching through the two aforementioned segments.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 52%

#1107 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The first Star Trek movie to be directed by William Shatner, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has the unfortunate honour of being the least exciting one in the series.

Most of the elements that made the previous three movies interesting are gone. There aren’t any memorable antagonists here, no pushing visual boundaries and no humour that made the previous instalments stand out. Perhaps most disappointingly, the human (or: Vulcan) interest aspect that probed deep into the weird and interesting chemistry between the lead characters is nowhere to be found this time around.

While the movie is no stinker, it lacks the grandeur expected from a movie launched to be the 1989 summer blockbuster, feeling much more like a prolonged episode of the original series, shot with modern cameras and slightly superior effects.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 60%

#1106 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

The Star Trek movie perhaps the most applauded by the critics, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home takes the adventure to the then-present day earth.

While many viewers seem to be fascinated by the contemporary setting, I found myself missing the vast space and distant worlds showcased in other Star Trek films, especially after the humour of the crew wandering around the streets of 1986 San Francisco sticking out like a sore thumb has worn out.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a very different Star Trek movie – to the extend that one could argue that it really isn’t a Star Trek movie at all, but more of a humoristic, eco-warrior themed spinoff of the original series. On the positive note the humour presented here is genuinely funny, and the movie wraps up nicely the three episode saga that started with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 71%

#1105 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Picking the story up right from where it was left in the previous installation, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock concentrates on the crew becoming outlaws after defying Starfleet’s Genesis quarantine and stealing a ship in order to find and save Spock from the Genesis planet.

The first Star Trek movie directed by Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek III is a significant step up in visual fidelity, and definitely one of most handsome looking scifi movies of early 80s. The story itself does not reach the grandeur of its predecessor, but overall this second part of the saga in the line is the most well rounded Star Trek movie of the era.

It’s a movie that’s always been shadowed by its predecessor and sequel – and admittedly it is much more forgettable than either one of them. But personally as a very lightweight trekkie that always preferred the original series over anything that followed, I somehow found myself enjoying The Search for Spock more than any of its siblings.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 80%

#1104 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Star Trek, the iconic TV show from the 60s saw continuum in 1979 as the first movie of the Star Trek series was released and received with mixed reviews. Given the vast public interest in scifi at the time a cost effective sequel was green lighted, and the first Star Trek movie of the 80s, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan finally saw daylight in 1982.

Made with a budget of $11.2M – one-fourth that of its predecessor – the sequel became a sleeper hit that restored the public interest in the franchise and is considered by many the best movie of the series. Much of the success is due to iconic Khan, the villainous title character of the movie played with certain charism by Ricardo Montalbán.

Personally I also preferred the sequel to the original 1979 movie, although I admittedly found the overall experience less epic than I recalled. But what the movie itself may lack in grandiosity is more than redeemed in its emotional ending that wonderfully bridges the saga towards its next instalment, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

80s-o-meter: 69%

Total: 71%

#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%

#1093 Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)

So, apparently Charlie Chan is some kind of mysterious detective that starred in various movies starting already in the 1920s. There was a 1973 movie release starring Chan, but the character really was passé already by the end of 1950s.

Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen kicks off with the assumption that the viewer is somehow aware of the existence and greatness of this character so much that it doesn’t bother to make any kind of introductions. Charlie Chan seems to be the somewhat of a comedic sidekick in his own film as the story concentrates more on his clumsy grandson, his fiancee, mother and the wacky servants of the giant mansion. Really, if you had to go through the trouble of making a yellowface movie, the least you could do is to make him the actual star of the show, right?

The movie was badly outdated as it came out in early 80s, and it’s production was attempted to put on hold by the Chinese-American protesters.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 17%

#1084 Savannah Smiles (1982)

I can think of thousands of ways Savannah Smiles could’ve gone very wrong; a tale of two criminals in a run after a jailbreak inadvertently kidnapping a young girl is a delicate subject even for 1982, and a theme that would never go through the executives these days.

What happens afterwards is of course foreseeable. The young girl touches the hearts of the fugitives who let their shields down for the first time and grow attached to her. And Savannah in return finds love and comfort she lacked back home.

What makes this movie tick is the heartfelt change the leads Mark Miller and Donovan Scott manage to convey, as well as the the apparent love that Miller – who also wrote the manuscript – had for the subject.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 65%

#1081 Shanghai Surprise (1986)

Shanghai Surprise was supposed to be a sure hit: A comedic adventure taking place in the exotic 1930s Shanghai featuring Madonna and young Sean Penn, both guaranteed box office magnets.

The general finger or blame seems to point to Madonna – a pop star turned to actor – but despite being really uncomfortable in her role as a missionary, the real problem of the movie is that it’s just plain dull to watch. George Harrison who produced the film deemed necessary to write the soundtrack as well, and his Beatlesque pop songs just don’t work at all – not with the setting nor the era. Penn who has an uncanny ability to make any role his, can’t do much with the two dimensional frames he is given here and ends up creating some sort of weak pastiche from various men leads from classic romantic adventures, with a stub that pretty much looks like it was doodled on with a ball point pen.

Shanghai Surprise is an UK production that got picked up for the blog merely because of its leads and a little bit of personal curiousness – and I got a good reminder to be a little less curious in the future.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 45%

#1080 Vibes (1988)

Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum and Peter Falk as the leads are the part of the Vibes that works.

Much of the adventure bit really don’t, and Vibes ends up something of a weaker iteration of The Golden Child released two years before, with bit of additional psychic mumbo jumbo and a hint of Indiana Jones thrown in the mix. While the first half of the movie feels like stalling as the protagonists never seems to be able to make it to the actual expedition, as the adventure part starts it turns out to be much weaker portion of the movie. Including the final encounter with the pyramid that looks as if was haphazardly put together with bit of a plexiglass and hot glue, making it one of the least impressive MacGuffins I’ve seen to date.

Luckily much of the humour works, which along with the strong cast makes Vibes tolerable, if not outright recommendable experience.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 61%

#1076 Roar (1981)

It’s nothing short of remarkable that nobody got killed while shooting Roar.

Shot with wild cats of various species without any post processing or camera trickery, it’s truly blood-tingling to see the actors – including one young Melanie Griffith – taking part in wrestling matches with the giant beasts that in many case end up with actual bleeding wounds requiring medical care. As we’re accustomed to seeing online videos of similar play of Russian roulette ending in sudden disaster, Roar really keeps one glued to the edge of the seat.

Most people checking out the movie will do it purely out of curiosity to see the most dangerous ever filmed. And admittedly with Roar that a pretty valid reason in its own right.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 57%

#1071 Hanky Panky (1982)

Hanky Panky plays it safe.

Far too safe, in fact: It gives us the basic story of a man wrongly accused of a murder that soon finds himself tangled in an international espionage ploy.

It really feels like a rehash since Gene Wilder’s previous comedy Stir Crazy already presented us with a similar plot. There are some funny aspects here, like Wilder foolishly trying to outwit the powers that be, but otherwise Hanky Panky ends up pretty eventless, predictable and bland adventure comedy.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 43%

#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%

#1036 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

The last movie of the Indy trilogy (refusing to acknowledge that 2008 movie as part of the franchise), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade brings back everything we loved in Raiders of the Lost Ark while amping up both the adventure and lighthearted humour, making it the most well rounded Indiana Jones movie.

I was lucky enough to see The Last Crusade on an actual silver screen as the trilogy was shown from the original film reels in one of the screenings the Finnish national audiovisual institute arranged. Once again, I found myself enchanted from the very first seconds to the movie and the movie kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through it.

Sean Connery makes an appearance as the Indy’s somewhat eccentric father who creates many joyful moments as the know-it-all dad who keeps on talking down to his son like he was still twelve. It’s a delightful comic relief that almost seems to write material by itself thanks to the onscreen tension between the two high caliber actors.

The Last Crusade is a triumph of an adventure, taking everything that worked in the first movie and adding some very brilliant elements of its own.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 100%

#1035 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A prequel set one year prior to the events in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a much darker, violent and, unfortunately, less fun adventure movie than the original.

For one reason or another, Temple of Doom is also a much more generic adventure movie than its predecessor. While still a clear notch above all of its competition thanks to first rate production values and Harrison Ford as the Indy, the story could’ve been well passed off as one of the adventures of Jack T. Colton or Allan Quatermain instead. Unlike in Raiders of the Lost ARk, there’s really no iconic scenes in Temple of Doom that would’ve become a part of the pop culture folklore.

Temple of Doom is not a bad movie by any standard, especially compared to the other adventures of the era. But it is a victim of a middle child syndrome, paling in comparison to what its go-getter elder and younger brother have to offer.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 86%

#1034 Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

If you have never heard of Indiana Jones, chances are you’ve been living under the rock for the last 40 years. The franchise and the line of movies, kickstarted by 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark have been featured so much in the popular culture, articles, studies and reviews that there’s frankly little left to say about them that hasn’t been better worded elsewhere.

A testament to the iconic status of the movie is how many of its scenes, gear and clothing have since had a life of their own outside the movie: The rolling boulder, melting faces, bringing sword to a gunfight scene and revolving airplane, as well as the fedora, bullwhip and the leather jacket are all immediately recognised to be part of the Indy saga as soon as they are featured elsewhere in the pop culture, usually as a nod towards the original. There are pages that list these references, but there are quite frankly so many that nobody can really keep up with them – and they still keep pouring in day after day.

Due to the massive impact the it had when it was released, the movie remains much more than just a perfect adventure; Raiders of the Lost Ark is the very definition of an adventure, and an undertaking still waiting to be topped.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 96%