#1115 Beyond Therapy (1987)

Robert Altman was an interesting director who managed to create awful duds like Popeye as well as masterpieces that combine the best traits of both indie and Hollywood movies, like Streamers.

Beyond Therapy falls somewhere between these two. It is an artsy film that makes some annoyingly artsy and trivial choices just for the sake of it. A drama comedy about self-centred and neurotic New Yorkers struggling with relationships begs to be hated, but for one reason or another I did find the oddly off mood somewhat enchanting. And yet, I did hate the artsy move where Altman choose to locate the movie to Paris. And yet, I didn’t care for the plot at all.

Whatever there’s good about Beyond Therapy happens in small quirky moments when a dialogue leads the viewer on, only to take a sudden, unexpected 180 degree turn. Those did manage to make me smile every now and then.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 42%

#1113 Remote Control (1988)

Aliens attack the earthlings with a cheesy VHS tape programmed to watch its viewer into a homicidal monster in Remote Control, a glorious 80s homage to the 50s scifi that despite its name does not have anything to do with actual remote controls.

By far the best aspect of the movies is its pseudo futuristic 80s styling: most of the TV sets are masqueraded to look like flat screen TVs (roughly about 15 years before they were available) and all the teenagers are wearing some bitching gear straight from the 21st century with makeup and hairdos straight out of Patrick Nagel painting.

Despite the visual style being the most prominent feature here, the movie itself is not bad at all. It’s OK – not as brilliant as it could’ve been – but still very much a recommendable experience and great time capsule to the late 80s.

80s-o-meter: 98%

Total: 71%

#1111 Ruthless People (1986)

From the director team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, Ruthless People is a triumph of a kidnapping comedy with a truly clever manuscript by Dale Launer the man behind Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, one of my favourite comedies of all time.

Known mostly from their crazy parodies full of visual gags and verbal puns, Ruthless People is quite a different undertaking for the directing trio and they get to demonstrate how they master all aspects of comedy with ease. Equally impressive is to witness how the distinctive comedy styles of Danny DeVito, Bette Midler and Judge Reinhold work seamlessly together with the right kind of writing.

Ruthless People became an unexpected comedy hit of the year, ending up among the top ten grossing movies of 1986.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 94%

#1110 Moving (1988)

Moving takes a humorous, borderline crazy comedy look into the imaginative array of stress factors a family is put through when they are forced to relocate from coast to coast.

The movie was criticized of its whitewashed portrayal of the urban African American family and it presents the main cast as this Cosby-esque clean cut nuclear family. Personally I didn’t mind the setup at all. On the contrary – it felt kind of a fresh approach compared to the lowest common denominator roles the African Americans usually land in various Hollywood comedies.

To my surprise Moving was a blast. Randy Quaid’s portrayal of a neighbour from hell is side splitting funny, especially during the moments where it becomes clear that he is not just a random jerk, but more of a mastermind that has set out to make his tormenting a true form of art. Moving is also one of the three more enjoyable comedies of the 80s for Richard Pryor, along with Brewster’s Millions and See No Evil, Hear No Evil.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 86%

#1108 To Be or Not to Be (1983)

A remake of the 1942 film of the same name, To Be or Not to Be is a delightful little WWII satire.

Taking place in nazi occupied Poland, the movie follows the crew of Warsaw theater company as they put up a show of their lifetime as they try to retrieve the leaked list containing the names of the members of the Polish resistance from the clutches of the third reich. The movie pokes delightfully fun of the quirky nazi officers who like to act grand but turn into shaky poodles when confronted by persons of higher rank.

To Be or Not to Be is the most well rounded up comedy ever to come out of Mel Brooks’ film factory. It provides the trademark zany visual comedy Brooks is so well known for, but manages to couple it with some very entertaining elements of drama, thriller, human interest and musical.

80s-o-meter: 42%

Total: 90%

#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%

#1099 Heathers (1989)

Remember being 15 and hating someone someone so bad you’d wished they were dead? I didn’t, but Heathers totally reminded me going through the same kind of emotional rollercoaster – and that was the first glimpse of its above your average teenage flick virtues.

Three popular Heathers run a high school clique who cruel rule the entire school belittling, subduing and terrorising anyone foolish enough to cross path with them. After just 15 minutes to the film it’s really clear they’re not out to bruise, but to scar. Veronica is one of the students who’s saved from the harassment by being a quiet compliance who never quite stomachs all the wickedness and wishes for the demise of all the three. What seems like a materialisation of her secret wishes, appears mysterious J.D. who quickly makes all of Veronicas subconscious wishes come true.

A black comedy about bullying, revenge, mass murder and teenage suicides, Heathers’ cruel satire still finds its target so well that a movie like this wouldn’t likely be made by any of the major studios today.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 91%

#1098 Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983)

If the first sequel for Smokey and the Bandit didn’t need to be made, this holds especially true for Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.

Losing most of its better known stars, part 3 concentrates on pursue between Sheriff Buford T. Justice from previous iterations and The Bandit, played by the stuntman turned actor, turned director, Jerry Reed. While he can perform and direct nice stunts, the comedic attempts constantly fall short.

Chases and the stunts are better than previously, so if those are your thing you might find something to like here. For the rest of us, the final Smokey movie is just a deadweight piece of celluloid.

80s-o-meter: 21%

Total: 4%

#1097 Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again (1980)

Here’s the part of this project that doesn’t interest me much: Watching subpar sequels to 70s movies I have any interest whatsoever to start with.

The original 1977 Smokey and the Bandit was something of a movie equivalent of an Indy cars race that targets precisely that same audience, and Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again continues on that same track. Both movies star Burt Reynolds as the macho male lead, but one could argue that the actual biggest role as well as the top billing should belong to the cars and the stunts they’re involved in.

Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again was not a movie for me, and my guess is that its appeal was already gone in the 90s, let alone today. On the positive side the movie does have a lighthearted tone to it and it even manages to provide few chuckles, thanks to Dom DeLuise’s great comedic improvisation skills.

80s-o-meter: 23%

Total: 21%

#1096 Serial (1980)

Serial turned out to be one hard movie to review.

On the other hand I enjoyed the snappy writing and dialogue, as well as the characters that have an exceptionally low amount of irritating personal traits for a comedy about middle aged adults wrestling with their relationship problems. But as the movie pokes fun on late 70s new age spiritualism, sexual liberation and self-help movements, I realise that I’m missing most of the points of reference to really understand and have a laugh at them.

Most of the reviews of the movie by people who were there seem to agree that this is a collection of jabs that actually find their target. So, if a satirical look into the bay area post hippie, pre yuppie lifestyle interests you, Serial is probably your best bet for it.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 55%

#1095 Disorganized Crime (1989)

Four criminals come together to prepare for the bank robbery of their lifetime, only to find out that Frank – the mastermind behind the heist – is nowhere to be found.

Disorganized Crime is one of those unknown 80s comedies that would’ve deserved more recognition and popularity upon its release. It’s no masterpiece by any way, but one of those comedies where most parts just seem to click and come together in a very satisfying way. Ed O’Neill of the Married With Kids fame provides a solid backbone for the comedy, but it’s Rubén Blades – who was formerly unknown to me – that provides by far the best laughs of the show.

As mentioned, it all comes together in a very satisfying way for everyone in the end: the gang, the two detectives, the viewer – and possibly even Frank.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 84%

#1094 Doom Asylum (1988)

Most of Doom Asylum should’ve ended up on the cutting room floor.

An amateurish, low budget horror comedy shot in one location does have its moments with a few one liners and gruesome kills, but on the whole it’s just too darn long, considering how little happens here. On top of overshooting and undercutting the scenes, much of the running time of the movie is padded with old black & white clips of classic B-horror movies.

Doom Asylum would’ve ended a somewhat positive, better than its budget B-movie if it was a smarly cut 30-minute short story. But then, it wouldn’t had ended up as a direct to video release – and consequently would never had made it to this blog.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 12%

#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%

#1089 The Last American Virgin (1982)

As I sat down to watch The Last American Virgin, I had no idea I was up for the biggest movie surprise of the year.

In fact, half way through the movie I still had no idea; what I’d seen so far was pretty typical early 80s tits & ass teen comedy. But unexpectedly the consequences of all the irresponsible actions suddenly start piling up, the movie changes from trivial comedy to serious drama, with even some heart breaking elements of tragedy to it.

I loved the sudden changes of genres and I loved how the movie had the courage to try out something completely different. I loved the kick ass soundtrack. And most of all I loved how the movie fittingly depicted the heartrending nature of an unfulfilled, unrequited love. What a positive surprise.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 87%

#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%

#1083 Loverboy (1989)

If my memory serves me correctly, I watched Loverboy just a bit before I started this project and so it probably served as some kind of catalyst back then.

Watching the movie now I was actually pretty impressed how well it all comes together. It addresses the obvious genre pitfalls nicely, does a good job of not antagonising the main character without really letting him away with it too easily, ties much of the mishaps together really nicely and is just genuinely funny at times.

While I can’t say I’m big fan of 80s all too wimpy, prior to getting hit with a handsome stick Patrick Dempsey, Loverboy does mark for his strongest comedic role I’ve witnessed so far.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 86%

#1082 Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? aka Café New York (1983)

If you dislike indie artsy cinema, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie is precisely the kind of movie that would make you hate them even more.

Shot ad-libbing (or so it seems) in New York, the movie shows a recently separated woman and middle aged man entering a relationship where they have sex and go through their neuroses. Watching the movie felt as if I was 6 years old again and having to listen to the adults having a tediously long and boring talks. But it’s even worse than that; here the people are in their underwear while having these long, yawn inducing discussions.

And as if the movie wasn’t artsy enough, it’s interrupted from time to time with needless bits of Orson Welles doing a cameo as a magician trying to make some animals disappear as well as clips of the lead Karen Black singing various musical numbers in some local improv.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 1%

#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%

#1079 Hello Again (1987)

If you think about, considering that we all know movies are make believe it’s pretty amazing how much we’re willing to cut them some slack in terms of realism. We prefer a good story to realism and sympathise with characters we know never existed and it really takes a considerable load of baloney for us to lose our faith in the story.

Throughout its running time Hello Again tries these limits: Starting from improbable, moving onto unlikely, all the way through poppycock, ending somewhere between ridiculous, moronic – and downright painful.

I do love Shelley Long. She’s one great comedienne at her very best in easy going, fluffy comedies. But Hello Again is just too much nonsense for anyone with half a brain take in.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 39%