#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%

#1092 Dream a Little Dream (1989)

If you do a body switching movie – like so many film makers deemed necessary towards the end of the 80s – you’re going to have to deal with having to sell that outrageous idea to the viewers. Unlike its wacky comedy compadres, Dream a Little Dream has a setback of being a drama, and has to keep a relatively straight face while trying to convince the viewer to go along with the nonsense. And for the most part, it fails.

Dream a Little Dream is the last movie of the 80s for the two teen superstar Coreys – Feldman and Haim – and it also marks end of an era as both soon vanished from top grossing feature films. While it’s no bull’s eye, it’s not at all a bad swansong for either one, although it’s Feldman who gets to lead here. The high school / coming to age drama is typically to the era quite overdramatic, but not everything about it is that far fetched. I’ve seen characters like Joel – played with just the right kind of temper and fire by William McNamara – who are psychotic enough to just snap and pick up a gun.

I wish the creative team behind the movie had introduced both parties of the body switching as just real life characters that happen to meet and find mutual grounds despite the obvious generation gap. Surely it would’ve allowed the same story about growth without all the mumbo jumbo and the excessive explaining and justifying that always follows.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 62%

#1091 Trapped aka Baker County, U.S.A. (1982)

One of the more sophisticated examples of its sub genre, Trapped avoids many of the shortcomings of its rivals.

Sure, there are teens that go out to the mountains in the countryside only to get harassed by the yokels. But, there’s no gratuous nudity, the teens act smart and contact the authorities and even the backwood villagers are able to grow a conscience as the events escalate out of hand. The movie gains some unfortunate comedic elements towards the end as we witness deaths by getting speared by an antenna and the antagonist turning into something of a supernatural boogie man. The blemishes aren’t big, but still bad calls from the director that should’ve kept the violence as it was pictured in the movie so far: sudden and raw.

Considering that the genre is usually not my favourite one, I actually somewhat enjoyed Baker County, U.S.A.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 61%

#1090 They’re Playing with Fire (1984)

An older female teacher seducing her young male student to a sexual intercourse, why does this seem to ring a bell? Oh yes, we saw the same concept in Private Lessons some two hundred movies ago. And hey – it even stars that same guy, Eric Brown.

Despite the obvious similarities, the two movies aren’t related and from the get go They’re Playing with Fire seems to have an actual movie it as the relationship soon turns into foul play, resulting in a murder and our young casanova getting wrongly accused.

But as the director Howard Avedis doesn’t seem to be capable in anything else but to try out the cheapest of the tricks, the movie soon turns into something of a slasher, nullifying all the thriller elements that had been build so far.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 33%

#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%

#1088 Runaway Train (1985)

Another movie I recall seeing right before starting this project, Runaway Train is a standout movie that has sticked with me to date.

What we have here is an extraordinary movie that combines prison escape, disaster movie, action and thriller in a truly unique way. Star of the show is the cold, harsh and ethereal setting resembling an alternative reality of a video game or an absorbing book that the director Andrey Konchalovskiy manages to forge here.

Similarly captivating are the performances of Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, former of which manages to create one of the most vile, savage and multi-layered delinquents even seen on film.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 93%

#1087 Deadly Force (1983)

An exercise in mediocrity, Deadly Force is an action movie taking place in that distant fantasy land of Hollywood where no conventional rules of the world and physics apply.

Nothing in the movie stands out as it just seems to go through end endless list of clichés: Car chases, rogue cops, angry black police chiefs and vehicles that explode when shot with a hand gun – they’re all here.

The only way the movie could’ve ended up somewhat memorable was if it’d boasted a radiant lead. Unfortunately Wings Hauser isn’t one of them iconic action stars that could make a movie their own.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 59%

#1086 Disconnected (1984)

The only relief I had when watching this movie was the realisation that I wasn’t sitting in a movie screening, having to watch through this pile of excrement just because the filming crew were my acquaintances. Because Disconnected is precisely the kind of student film crap that calls for intervention from the friends: Telling them kindly but firmly that making movies might just not be the right choice for them.

I won’t waste any more time – mine or yours – listing everything that’s wrong with the film; it’s easier to just state there is absolutely nothing of value here.

The only merit that Disconnected has is its ability gathers all the worst aspects of indie horror films into one, and upping the ante by making simple slasher formula so cryptic nobody can understand one bit of it.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 0%

#1085 And God Created Woman (1988)

Directed by Roger Vadim who also directed the 1956 Et Dieu… Créa la Femme that launched Brigitte Bardot’s career, And God Created Woman shares the same title, but brings a completely new story in an very edgy form to the 80s, resulting a catastrophic failure of a movie.

Life is tough for the characters of Rebecca De Mornay and Vincent Spano who play a woman prisoner on a parole, and a carpenter single parent respectively. And it’s oh so tough, and so melodramatic all the time. All sorts of emotional quarrels of love follow, so she decides to put together a rock band to pour all that agony into her songs, all while having erotic B-movie scenes with the carpenter and a famous politician played by Frank Langella.

Essentially a filmatisation of some 2-penny erotic novel I didn’t want to read in the first place, And God Created Woman is a remarkably bad movie – a piece of cinematic garbage that I can’t find any justification for.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 4%

#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%

#1078 The Black Marble (1980)

Boasting one of the most unappealing posters I’ve seen in awhile, The Black Marble is another one to the exhibit pile for not to judge a movie by its cover. Passing below the radar for the wide audience upon its march 1980 release, it’s a gem of a movie that never got the recognition it deserved.

Not settling with the obvious clichés, the movie based on the novel of Joseph Wambaugh – who also did the screenwriting here – introduces multiple unlikely elements that at first seem like an odd mix, but ends up wrapping them up so triumphantly, I almost gave the movie a standing ovation.

Harry Dean Stanton, whose legacy as the actors’ actor has only grown interest since him passing away in 2017, does once again remarkably solid work here. But it’s the wonderfully elegiac character of Sgt. A.M. Valnikov played to a such a three dimensional perfection by Robert Foxworth that was unlike anything I’ve seen to this date.

So unlike that I did not get through The Black Marble without watery eyes.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 92%