#1146 The Sure Thing (1985)

The first lead role for John Cusack and the one that made him an overnight success, The Sure Thing follows two college students on a road trip to California.

They begin the trip an unlikeable companions, hating each others guts – and you pretty know how it’s going to play from there. But as with every road trip, it’s not the destination but the journey matters, and that journey is mostly likeable, although the role of a boorish loudmouth does not seem to sit that well with Cusack.

On a whole The Sure Thing ends up a decent little comedy that manages to be more than the sum of its – at times – meager parts.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 82%

#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%

#1064 Homer and Eddie (1989)

Homer and Eddie is a road movie about two outcasts ending up unlikely travel companions on their way to Oregon.

While the movie starts as a lighthearted, vapid comedy, it starts to get more interesting tones when Eddie starts to have her violent rages: When the bystanders start dying the viewer is forced to really reassess how they view Eddie.

Jim Belushi is likeable as Homer but in reality the role is beyond his limits and he comes across as an actor doing a poor impression of a disabled person. Oscar winning material this ain’t. Whoopi’s portrayal of Eddie has similar problems with the credibility as Goldberg can never shake off the strong impression of a Hollywood actress playing a Hollywood version of a hobo.

Poor execution and lack of chemistry between the leads leaves Homer and Eddie feel like a worse movie than it probably is. Maybe it’s time for someone to pick this up for a reshoot?

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 59%

#1059 Back Roads (1981)

Have a look at Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones having a good laugh in the poster here, as you won’t be seeing anything like this in the movie itself.

This is because most of the running time of Back Roads is spent with this odd couple of a prostitute and a deadbeat trying to make their way to California with faith throwing every imaginable setback on their path. While most movies out there try to balance between loss and occasional win, the constant failing of the duo soon becomes something of a predictable pattern.

The reported discord during the filming seems to work for the benefit for the film as the two leads often seem to show some genuine loathe for one other.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 59%

#1013 Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

It was only now during my second time watching the movie that I realised how much Spongebob Squarepants (and his movie) owe to Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

I never was big fan of the lead who seems mostly annoying most of the time and rarely likeable. In fact, he always seems the weakest link in an otherwise above average movie. Although the premise with the character is finding your inner child and overcoming problems with sheer stupid luck, there’s just something very dark and heinous about him.

A Tim Burton’s directorial feature debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is colorful and technically well made movie, but a very hard one to to recommend to anyone since I’m not quite sure to whom it is aimed for. In the end, being something of a catalyst and a paragon for Spongebob might just be the movie’s best asset.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 59%

#997 The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

The Journey of Natty Gann pictures the 2000-mile long pilgrimage of the young Natty through the depression era America to find her father.

For being a Disney family movie, it’s a movie painted with surprisingly dark tones, ultimately making it a movie I wouldn’t necessarily want to watch through with my kids. On the other hand being a Disney family movie it is a bit too much of a sugar coated family picture to really dig into the grim reality of being a homeless kid during the great depression, and I had this constant nagging feeling throughout the film that I wasn’t in the core audience the movie was made for in the first place.

But the movie is still a delight to look at; the cinematography is top notch and the time period feels a somewhat movie like, but well established and believable. Relationship of Natty and her wolf is a thing of beauty, as well as his friendship with the fellow vagabond Harry, played by John Cusack. It’s ultimately those small moments of carrying each other through the moments of despair that make the movie wholeheartedly recommendable – even if you’re not dead center in the target audience.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 62%

#996 Roadie (1980)

Roadie is a somewhat typical early 80s yippee-ki-yay comedy in the vein of Burt Reynolds, featuring some Texan backdrops, ten gallon hats, saloon fights and wacky car chases – luckily just one in this case.

By far the strongest aspect here is the young Meat Loaf whose natural and unforced screen presence is actually much more watchable than that of his many contemporary peers. It is there somewhat of a shame that Roadie remained his only leading role for the 80s.

There are a few notable cameos here as well with the likes of Alice Cooper, Blondie and Roy Orbison making an appearances, but their appeal is limited to how your fandom of them, and don’t alone warrant watching through the movie.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 57%

#924 Cherry 2000 (1987)

A white collar worker’s last of its line fembot – a Cherry 2000 – short circuits and ends up beyond repair. To find a replacement, he sets out to find a tracker to bring him one from the forbidden Zone 7, and soon unwillingly finds himself in the midst of an adventure.

Mixing various genres is always a huge gamble, but in Cherry 2000’s case the inventive forces behind it seemingly have a good time borrowing elements from sci-fi, cyberpunk, western and road movies and mixing them with elements of dystopian deserted world, 1950s and even some maniac campers. Unfortunately this lead to the movie ending hard to explain to the movie going masses and was deemed a straight to video instead of a theatrical release.

After its release the movie started gaining a cult following and has since inspired various movie and video game makers alike.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 81%

#910 Finders Keepers (1984)

Remember The Whoopee Boys that I reviewed a while back? It took me awhile to even make the connection that Michael O’Keefe from that stinker of a movie is the same actor that plays the lead here, so much on another level is his performance in Finders Keepers. Here he manages to make for a perfect lovable scoundrel and even to pull off some genuinely funny physical comedy, both of which not easy feats at all.

Aiding him is Beverly D’Angelo from the National Lampoon’s Vacation fame and I really dug the weird chemistry between the two. Brian Dennehy makes for a terrific constantly outraged local mayor of a Nebraska two horse town and last but definitely not least David Wayne is just simply hilarious as the baffling, demented old conductor. Fans of Jim Carrey might be interested to check out the movie as he visits the set briefly as a local yokel in a performance only a shadow of the things to come.

Finders Keepers is one funny and entertaining comedy and a forgotten gem to add to your watch list.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 87%

#857 Fandango (1985)

Based on a earlier short movie made by the writer-director Kevin Reynolds, Fandango is a terrific road movie that the time unfortunately forgot.

Fandango tells a story of a four college buddies (five, if you count one of them who stays passed out in the trunk for most of the movie) on the brink of adulthood taking a ride together towards the Mexico to slip away from getting shipped to serve in Vietnam war. The movie is episodic in its nature and Reynolds shows some natural talent by stitching them together to a solid movie experience that doesn’t feel patchy at all. The skydiving bit – lifted off the original short story – does take its sweet time but serves its purpose as a culmination point in the story.

The movie reminded me of how naturally talented and charismatic actor Kevin Costner was before becoming a household name. Fandango also remains Judd Nelson’s best performance to date.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 87%

#850 The Color of Money (1986)

For a movie that I really didn’t care that much for, Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money gets quite a lot of praise from me — first and foremost for not going for the formulaic master and apprentice struggling against the odds to reach the ultimate victory by a hair approach. Instead, it offers an interesting look into an aging hustler who has to start putting his life back together piece by piece to redefine himself and to find his long lost love for the game.

I’m torn with this picture. By avoiding the temptation to press most of the obvious feel good and jear jerking buttons along the way, Scorsese has made an excellent, uncompromising film, but also one that lacked closure and that never managed to grasp me or to keep me on the edge of my seat. In short, the movie often just isn’t very entertaining.

The movie handles all of its 9-ball scenes with TLC, and they are beautifully choreographed and recorded in a one continuous, breathtaking shot. Paul Newman and Tom Cruise are on top of their game here and perform their moves and shots with such confidence, you’d swear they’re both regular pool sharks in real life.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 70%

#849 Roadhouse 66 (1984)

A poster can sometimes say a lot about a movie. In Roadhouse 66’s case the poster is unimaginative, totally forgettable and executed in an uninspired way – and all this goes for the movie as well.

Marketed as a action comedy, Roadhouse 66 is short on both. Counting out a few gunshots along the way, the most action we see is the Burt Reynolds style car race towards the end of the movie, which also ends up the weakest part of the already so-and-so movie.

It’s only one year later that Judge Reinhold and Willem Dafoe both became household names with their box office hits Beverly Hills Cop and To Live and Die in L.A., respectively, and as such the movie is an interesting look into their earlier career. Although neither of the lead actors do a particularly good or memorable work here, they’re still very much the glue that holds the movie together and save it from being a complete failure.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 58%

#847 The Hitcher (1986)

’My mother told me never to do this’, utters the youngster transporting a car through the desert as he opens his car door for the serial killer, inviting him in on the front seat. Thus begins The Hitcher, a notorious cult classic that is probably to blame for the end of the hitchhiking culture.

Rutger Hauer makes for one of the most chilling villains ever and does it all in such an effortless yet effective fashion it’s downright impossible to fathom The Hitcher without him. Mostly likeable but often hit and miss C. Thomas Howell also fares well here as the young kid who gets more than he bargained for by just happening to pick up the wrong guy.

Underrated and a box office flop The Hitcher later rightfully gained a cult status and shouldn’t be confused with its subpar 2007 remake of the same name.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 92%

#788 Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)

One of the most expensive box office flops of the 80s, John Schlesinger’s Honky Tonk Freeway aims draw a comedic picture of America’s constant life on wheels and its total dependency on cars.

The story begins as Ticlaw, a tiny town in Florida eager to get some tourist money pouring in is completely passed by the newly opened highway. While the townfolks execute one dirty trick after another to make that own exit happen, we are introduced to a selection of random people all over the roads of USA making their way to Florida – by car, how else. Looking at the array of wacky characters in their jalopies, an obvious comparison to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World cannot be avoided.

There are some isolated good moments here but overall the experience is crippled by endless amount of characters and subplots that fail to lead anywhere, leaving the whole experience patchy. The humor is also hit and miss, mostly playing around with some tired stereotypes and easy targets.

Besides the misfired jokes and some occasional animal cruelty there’s certain good road movie feel to the movie, which – along with the interesting cast – is definitely the strongest asset here.

80s-o-meter: 56%

Total: 58%

#726 Paris, Texas (1984)

Wim Wender’s moody, slow and absorbing road movie Paris, Texas is an affectionate European take on the deserts and the cities of America, and a study of people lost somewhere there in between.

Similarly to the movie being an outside view, the same alien feeling of not belonging is present throughout the movie. As is the theme of losing and finding again.

Harry Dean Stanton who plays the lead character found wandering around a desolate Texas landscape makes this movie. His ability to portray great emotional depths in such a subtle manner is in a league of its own.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 90%

#666 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

For those not familiar with National Lampoon, it was a humour magazine that ran from the seventies to the beginning of the 90s, and ventured successfully into movies in the late 70s with the hugely popular Animal House. Vacation, starring Chevy Chase, another Saturday Night Live actor was their second big success.

(with this history lesson out of the way, it’s worthwhile to note that the hugely popular Mad Magazine tried the very same thing, inspired by National Lampoon, only to crash and burn spectacularly)

It’s been a while since I last time saw the movie, but luckily it was just as funny as I remembered. What I didn’t remember was all the raunchiness, tits and black comedy elements. Mind you, it isn’t anything X-rated, but still lewd enough to safely say a saturday afternoon whole family movie this isn’t.

National Lampoon’s Vacation is a milestone in 80s comedies that inspires many other comedies still to date.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 95%

#300 Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

The celebration of the post #300 coincides with the celebration of thanksgiving, so what a better time than this to check the #1 movie about this holiday.

So, let me get this out of the way: Planes, Trains and Automobiles in an amazing movie. It’s one of those rare moments when every aspect of the movie just come together perfectly. Not only is it the best movie in John Hughes’ amazing career, but it also features Steve Martin and John Candy – both comedic geniuses in their own right – at their very best.

We might not know about thanksgiving here in Europe, but snowstorms, commuting, snowstorms and cancelled flights while trying to get back home are things are universal themes we have absolutely no problems connecting with.

Packed with laughters and tears, Planes, Trains & Automobiles is not just Hughes’ best, but also an absolute pinnacle for both Steve Martin and John Candy.