#1566 Tin Men (1987)

Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito, the two best disgruntled, conning scoundrels ever on the silver screen in a movie where they get involved in a massive feud? Sign me in!

Honestly, the movie seems such a good fit for both personas it feels like it was written specifically with these two gentlemen in mind. A story that starts from one bad day and unfortunate accident between two rivalling house aluminium siding salesmen soon gets out of hand, and what seems an bitter downward spiral escalating further and further soon turns out a totally unexpected, beautiful love story.

An already enjoyable comedy, surprisingly it’s this romantic part of Tin Men that ends up its strongest asset.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 91%

#1561 Lassiter (1984)

Lassiter is a hit-by-the-handsome-stick gentleman cat thief living in London on the verge of WWII that ends up recruited against his will by FBI to break into the heavily guarded German embassy to steal gems from the nazis.

The plot puts further pressure on Lassiter and his relationship with his love interest (Jane Seymour) as he first has to seduce the nazi femme fatale (Lauren Hutton) to gain access to the base.

40-year old Tom Selleck handles the role with expected charisma and the movie portrays well the era – or at least the movie version of it – without redundant underlining or overselling.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 73%

#1559 Uphill All The Way (1986)

Imagine any Burt Reynolds’ action comedy of the late 70s / early 80s, change the setting to the wild West, take out Reynolds and any other notable star – and you’ll end up with Uphill All The Way.

Roy Clark and Mel Tillis – both unknown to me – lead this cowboy Cannonball Run, going from one hardship to another, even more boring one.

Reynolds actually visit that set in a quick uncredited cameo as a poker hustler, which only confirms there was some some of connection going on behind the scenes.

80s-o-meter: 8%

Total: 14%

#1556 Mr. North (1988)

Anthony Edwards appears in Mr. North as Theophilus North, a young bright student who arrives at a wealthy Rhode Island community with big plans. He soon starts to leave lasting impressions on the locals, some of which he befriends with, while other take him for a miracle healer, thanks to his natural tendency of stacking up static electricity.

Mr. North is one of those period pictures that heavily relies on nostalgic scenes of the yesteryear’s America: a small knit together community helping each other, old money, people dressed up smartly and innocence. And it works out for the movie, making it somehow soothing and relaxing to watch.

But if one’d take the concept to the current day, thus stripping out the nostalgia and the related glamor, there wouldn’t just be much of a movie going on here.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 40%

#1551 The Sting II (1983)

A sequel for the 1973 The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, The Sting II loses all of its star power that no doubt helped to leverage the original scoundrel comedy to success.

But what The Sting II loses in Newman and Redford, it gains in Jackie Gleason who is a perfect fit for the role of the gang leader aiming to pull off a boxing match scam of a century.

The movie establishes well its 1940s New York era, and Gleason’s persona and the natural appearance of the golden era star no doubt helps to sell this idea. While not exactly match for its predecessor, The Sting II makes for a totally worthy heir to the original.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 70%

#1509 Raggedy Man (1981)

Raggedy Man almost feels like three movies blended into one. First of all you have a story of a single mother (Sissy Spacek) caught in a dead end job as a switchboard operator in a small rural town. Secondly there is a movie about a sailor (Eric Roberts) on a four-day furlough passing through the town, who grabs onto the chance of some day having a family of his own. And thirdly there is the thriller about times for Luke, the gossipy, sometimes violent bunch of people amongst whom is a mysterious old man everyone calls just a Raggedy Man, keeping mostly to himself.

The good news is that every single one of these stories is an interesting one, backed up with smart screen riding and skilled acting, and it was especially the story of the young soldier that stayed with me long after the end credits had rolled: what ever become of him? Did he ever find happiness, or a family of his own?

Such is the power of a good movie that I ended up caring for this totally fictive person.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 85%

#1506 Tempest (1982)

One more to the pile of movies portraying the 80s New York jetset intellectuals who wallow in money and self pity.

Shot half and half in New York and a remote island in Greece, the movie establishes the vast difference of both well: when we move from New York to the island, the change feels genuinely relaxing, and when we finally get back to the big apple, it again feels like a breath of fresh fresh air after the stuffy island and it’s perverted inhabitant Kalibanos (Raul Julia).

But what happens in both locations is hardly interesting or logical. At 140 minutes the movie is also far too long. It’s so long that it feels downright arrogant from the production team as there really is nothing that epic or interesting on display here.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 14%

#1503 The House on Carroll Street (1987)

A movie about woman in FBI’s is blacklist uncovering a plot in 1950s America to smuggle Nazi war criminals to the states under false identities, The House on Carroll Street plays out like a good mystery novel.

For a thriller the movie plays it quite safe, but establishes well the feeling of being a totally expendable chess piece in the international theatre of power. The House on Carroll Street is also exemplary in the way it portrays the period in a totally natural way and not even once feels underlined nor forced.

I loved Kelly McGillis’ portrayal of Emily that she plays with ethereal coolness but with a humane touch – she is sort of an enigma herself, after all. Jeff Daniels also go out to prove once again that you can’t go much wrong with him aboard.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 80%

#1480 Everybody’s All-American (1988)

What happens to that perfect college football hero and his beauty pageant girlfriend couple after they marry and grow up. This is what Taylor Hackford’s Everybody’s All-American aims to give an answer to.

Based on a 1981 novel of the same name by Frank Deford, Everybody’s All-American manages to avoid almost all of the clichés usually related to sports movies. Similarly its characters avoid falling into typical caricatures and show some actual humane traits.

I wasn’t sold on the final closure of the movie, but the road to there is filled with interesting, lifelike moments that feel nothing like pasted on.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 72%

#1474 Death of a Salesman (1985)

I’m not quite sure what to do with all these made for TV movies of the 80s. On the other hand, watching through all of them is not at all what I signed up for, but with gems like Death of a Salesman how could I possibly pass them up?

Based on the brilliant 1949 play of the same name by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman transfers nicely to the TV format thanks to great casting including Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich and Charles Durning – and in this case specifically to the TV as the production values themselves are a far cry from a feature film.

If you’re new to the play, Death of a Salesman is one of the better ways to get acquainted with the story and its timeless themes of the (false sense of) pride, delusion, American dream – and falling short of it.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 85%

#1465 Sacred Ground (1983)

A mountain man in mid 19th century Oregon builds a cabin to the Native American’s burial site and then revenges the death of his wife by kidnapping a woman from the tribe and killing the chasing tribe members with a repeater stolen from the vendor who lent his horse to him.

In the age of political correctness all the depictions with Native Americans seem a bit uncomfortable, and I’m not sure it Sacred Ground does justice to the Paiutes. I kind of like how the movie handles the disputable decisions of its caucasian lead – this is not the heroic, virtuous character often seen in classic Western movies – but I’d appreciated if the movie had included more the point of view of the tribesmen.

The real star of the show are the Oregon nature and mountains, and the movie captures well what I’d imagine the life there might’ve been back then.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 43%

#1414 Native Son (1986)

I don’t know how well the original Richard Wright’s 1940 novel of the same name captures the stomach turning feeling of have done something so horrible and irreversible that you feel almost separating from your own body and wishing for the relief of waking up from a bad dream, in vein – but this is what the Jerrold Freedman’s 1986 movie adaptation does exceptionally well.

It would have been great to see Sangre Negra, an Argentinian 1951 movie adaptation of the novel to see how the newer version stacks up compared to it as judging by the film clips they both seem much alike.

To movie seems to rush to its ending and end just when things are getting really innocent, but as whole Native Son left a permanent impression on me. Finding forgotten gems like this is what makes the whole project totally worth the while.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 82%

#1341 Nadine (1987)

Let me start with a confession: I’ve browsed through this poster in my collection about a thousand times and always skipped the text, looked at the picture and assumed that it was Patrick Swayze who is starring in Nadine with Kim Basinger. I was therefore more than a bit stunned to see Jeff Bridges instead.

Not that I mind, Bridges is one of the greats that I always enjoy seeing on the silver screen. In fact, he is much too good to be in Nadine, a pretty tame action crime comedy set in the 1950s Texas.

On the positive note he does make the movie better than it rightfully deserves to be; the tale of an impulsive hairdresser and his soon-to-be bum ex husband is not very interesting nor is their constant quarrelling funny. The movie does have its exciting moments though as the shady real estate kingpin played by the great Rip Torn finds out the couple has obtained a confidential document he has been looking forward to getting in his hands.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 61%

#1316 Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989)

Bloodhounds of Broadway is an ensemble comedy based on four Damon Runyon stories: ”The Bloodhounds of Broadway”, ”A Very Honorable Guy”, ”The Brain Goes Home” and ”Social Error”, written in the 1930s.

I’ve often criticised period pictures for having their historical settings without any point but to provide nostalgia, but as Bloodhounds of Broadway is more of an adult fairytale, the setting actually works here. I liked quite a lot in the way that the various personas and their stories intertwined during the movie, and the screenplay and direction of Howard Brookner works exceptionally well.

The casting also works well with Matt Dillon, Jennifer Grey, Esai Morales, Steve Buscemi, Randy Quaid, Rutger Hauer and Madonna seen in atypical roles.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 89%

#1271 Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986)

A portrayal of a Jewish family living together in 1937 Brooklyn, New York, Brighton Beach Memoirs concentrate on the story of Eugene, a horny 16-year-old trying to find an outlet for his sexual frustrations.

But almost every other character in the story is more interesting to follow. The movie gets its best moments out of the shared moments between the older brother, who makes several bad choices, and the father, who is surprises the son as well as the viewer with his totally unexpected compassion and wisdom.

80s-o-meter: 21%

Total: 58%

#1268 Housekeeping (1987)

A critical success of movie of an odd ball sisters, who after getting orphaned end up with their eccentric aunt.

Housekeeping is one of those movies where you either get enchanted by the eccentricity, or don’t get much out of the movie, as happened to me. While I did enjoy the overall mood I found the characters uninteresting and pacing of the movie tedious.

For me a much more interesting story would’ve instead been that of the sister who’s torn with belonging to the dysfunctional family and wanting to fit it with the rest of the society.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 30%

#1263 Lionheart (1987)

Starring Eric Stoltz, Lionheart is a 12th century adventure film that the time forgot – and for a good reason.

The reason being that nothing in it really stands out in a memorable way. Released in the era that already gave us terrific adventures like Excalibur, Legend, Willow and Conan the Barbarian that all have their unique thing going for them, Lionheart feels completely lukewarm and odourless.

While similar movies visual landmark movies of their time, Lionheart has the look & feel of Monty Python and The Holy Grail, sans the humour.

80s-o-meter: 8%

Total: 22%

#1257 Nate and Hayes aka Savage Islands (1983)

A totally unknown adventure movie for most, Nate and Hayes (or Savage Islands as it was known in the Europe) depicts a scoundrel of a captain, and a green-behind-the-ears missionary joining forces to find the missionary’s kidnapped wife to be, while having (an often hilariously courteous) for her hand.

The movie played out completely different than I anticipated, but in a good way. The tropical, piratey setting looks beautiful and makes for a perfect setting for an hour and a half of escapism. Tommy Lee Jones and Michael O’Keefe that possessed some alluring star quality at the time show tremendous chemistry, and both are joy to watch in their respective roles.

Nate and Hayes took me by surprise, making its way up to my top-10 list of 80s adventures. What a thrill!

80s-o-meter: 21%

Total: 92%

#1256 Old Gringo (1989)

A big money production depicting two Americans in the midst of the Mexican revolution, Old Gringo is a triumph settings wise, but if it has any deeper points to make, I kept on missing it.

Sure, sometimes the movies don’t need to make a point, but the Old Gringo is told in a way that it seems to make one, before completely sidetracking once again. In other words, there seems to be a good story hiding here somewhere, but it never surfaces.

Greckory Peck – who was 73 years old at the time – makes for a charismatic role a disillusioned author in search of a one last adventure, and maybe that one more sigh from a lady.

80s-o-meter: 11%

Total: 57%