#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%

#1565 Clara’s Heart (1988)

An African-American multi millionaire actress in one of those movies where an outsider enters a community to make a change, this time boasting a heavy Jamaican accent? I sure can see many ways how this one could’ve gone heavily wrong.

But this is late 80s Whoopi Goldberg very much on top of her game, and she just manages to make it all work out. Clara does not end up just a Afro-Jamaican Mary Poppins, but has that certain edge to her to make the character interesting; despite all the philosophy in her, she still is very much a human being with the flaws that come with that territory. But this is not just Whoopi’s show. Kathleen Quinlan, Michael Ontkean and Neil Patrick Harris all in their respective roles contribute to the movie in a memorable way, and Robert Mulligan in the director’s seat manages to fully sell the story to the viewer.

I started to quickly glance through the movie again for review purpose, and ended up watching the whole thing pretty much all over again. If this isn’t a testament to Clara’s Heart being a thoroughly enjoyable movie to watch, I don’t what is.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 86%

#1564 Thief of Hearts (1984)

The second collaboration between producer wizards Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer responsible for such 80s gems as Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun, Thief of Hearts failed to find its audience in the box office.

The story of a thief falling in love with one of her victims and using ill gained information to win her heart over does not reach the epic levels of Bruckheimer & Simpson’s top movies, but the story is still unique and interesting – basically nothing like I’ve seen before.

There is a moment of bad writing though when the couple finally clashes, as it really feels forced and out of character for the thief figure. But the ultimate plot twist (for the lack of better wording) manages to fully redeem the movie, making for one a totally satisfying finish to the movie.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 80%

#1563 Extremities (1986)

Well, here’s a weird sort of screen chemistry ongoing: Extremities is a tragic movie of horror of the events that unfold when an intruder enters the home of a woman, with the intention of performing sexual (and deadly) violence on her – and it therefore feels odd to say, but the leads Farrah Fawcett and James Russo actually go well together on the screen.

Extremities is rooted in female revenge movies genre first capitalised in I Spit On Your Grave (1978) and continued in the 80s with the likes of Naked VengeanceMs .45Extremeties and The Ladies Club. But similarly to the recent Positive I.D. (1986), Extremities bravely wanders off the trashy path of the genre to try something new.

The exploitative revenge porn aspect is still there, but here the heroine stops to think about the morals of her vigilant act as she balances on the very verge of the point of no return, realising she’s damned is she don’t and damned if she does. It’s this part that totally make Extremities worth checking out as it begs us as the viewers to ask ourselves those very same questions.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 85%

#1562 Rooftops (1989)

You know how youth musicals always have this weird corny world where all the characters are so melodramatic and constantly emotionally hurt oh so bad that they have no other options but to dance to shake their negative emotions off.

Rooftops is like a musical without actual music. Instead we have both youthful dance sessions, and some sort of weird youth showoffs where they fight with dance, without touching each other, similarly to Capoeira.

It is what it is. Jason Gedrick in the lead is like a more handsome, more athletic and less charismatic version of Daniel LaRusso of the Karate Kid fame, and well .. I guess he goes well with the movie. While I did get some enjoyment out of the laughable over the top 80s melodramaticity of it all, this is one of the movies I really can’t see myself revisiting any time soon.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 29%

#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%

#1560 The Lightship (1985)

Three thugs kidnap a lightship – an anchored boat that acts as a floating lighthouse – and its crew in this very mediocre action thriller, low on action and thrills.

The look and feel of the movie is from early 80s, that furthermore reminds me of North Sea Hijack – a similar, but far more superior aquatic thriller. With The Lightship I pretty much kept on waiting for some interesting plot twist until the very end, unfortunately in vain: it plays out much as expected.

The positive aspects of the movie are its moody setting, the two highest billed antagonists Robert Duvall and William Forsythe, plus that amazing looking poster that manages to be much less wishy-washy than the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 27%

Total: 37%

#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%

#1558 Border Radio (1987)

When you see a black and white in the movie netting a mere 5.4 average in IMDb, it usually means the the movie does not even enjoy a strong cult following – so you know you’re not probably going to have a particularly good time with this particular title.

And this is the case with Border Radio as well. As with many other similar indie movies, Border Radio seems to be all about style over substance, and the characters and what we really know about them evolves very little during the 90 minute runtime. Sure, we get exposed to the faces a lot and they grow onto us that way, but it’s still a far cry from really connecting with any of them.

The movie and it’s southern California scenery look nice though.

80s-o-meter: 43%

Total: 22%

#1557 Below the Belt (1980)

A talent scout talks a waitress into entering a sherry show wrestling team. She befriends this motley crew of journeymen, travels around with them, and finally is put against her arch enemy as the so called climax of the movie.

A Rocky this isn’t, nor is it All The Marbles that at least had the star power and indisputable charisma of Peter Falk going for it. In fact, if All The Marbles was a disappointing movie, Below the Belt does it all in a little more disappointing and banal way.

The most interesting part of below the belt is its love story between two worn out wrestlers in the crossroads of their lives where one wants to go in one direction – and one to another.

The one without wrestling.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 31%

#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%

#1555 Torch Song Trilogy (1988)

What makes Torch Song Trilogy an above the average movie about gays (and drag) is that is was conceived and lead acted by Harvey Fierstein, an openly gay actor and playwright. This results in a movie that does not aim to explain, sugar coat nor view the gay community through hetero lenses.

A result is refreshing take that portrays all of its characters and their shortcomings, insecurities and sometimes even sheer pettiness in a realistic fashion. Fierstein is a wonderful actor, and a persona on and off stage and his character that often goes from gorgeous to goofy in one scene, depending on the camera direction and his mood swing makes for one of the more interesting and multi-faceted personas seen on screen.

What I did not like about the movie though is how it’s divided in three acts between different eras and lovers as I’d much rather had the movie concentrating on just one time frame in the lifeline of this character.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 74%

#1554 The Escape Artist (1982)

Here’s something I always look forward to when watching these 80s movies: to find a relatively unknown gem of a movie. The Escape Artist tells the story of a son of a famous escape artist who wants to follow his late father’s steps, while also learning what really happened to him.

Griffin O’Neal (the son of Ryan O’Neal) plays the young illusionist thrown in the adult world so convincingly that it was astounding to find out he wasn’t hired based on his magician skills, but only learned the basics for the movie. Griffin is a natural on the silver screen and no doubt ramps up an already decent movie quite a bit, and I was therefore saddened to learn about his troublesome life ever since as it seems to me we lost quite a great skill here. Raul Julia makes for one of his best characters as the slick son of the mayor who form a duo with the young magician, constantly trying to outwit one another.

The Escape Artist is – well, magical – coming of age movie of one exceptional young man on an exceptional journey, relying on his exceptional skills and wit.

Much recommended.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 91%

#1553 American Rickshaw aka American Risciò aka American Tiger (1989)

With American Rickshaw the director Sergio Martino bites a bit more than he can chew; a movie about a Miami rickshaw driver mixed with Chinese supernatural mumbo-jumbo gets outright ridiculous quickly. On the other hand it’s this nonsensical, over the top aspect of American Rickshaw that makes the movie if not enjoyable, at least an experience to watch through. This is definitely one more movie to the ”so bad it’s almost good” -category.

An Italian movie shot in Florida with American actors, American Rickshaw does its very best to underline its American origins – up to the title of the movie – by showcasing well the 80s Miami (beach) life. But, there’s something weirdly and wonderfully off about the movie throughout its running time that is somehow a straight giveaway that it’s not a Hollywood movie we’re talking about here.

I can’t rate American Rickshaw too generously because it’s just not a good movie per se. But take the low rating with a grain of salt, as it does have other interesting qualities to it, and if unorthodox movies are your thing, you might find a lot to enjoy about this wonderful train wreck.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 60%

#1552 Stardust Memories (1980)

Although I do enjoy Woody Allen’s writing – he is the only author that makes the rich neurotic self centred adults caught in their first world problems movies tolerable – Stardust Memories and its insight into the life of the rich and famous seems more targeted to a selected group of his New York intellectual friends to enjoy, rather than something I could really relate with.

Allen is being his base neurotic screen persona and inconstantly disillusioned in his relationships with the fellow men, especially his love interests. And in this movie there are many of them.

You can’t blame the writing from not being smart; it is – and that if anything is what makes the movie enjoyable. But I left Stardust Memories thinking that a movie needs something more than just endless stream of wittiness to be really enjoyable.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 58%

#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%

#1550 Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Considering how much I loved Jim Jarmusch’s later Down by the Law, I really looked forward to seeing Stranger Than Paradise, its indirect predecessor. In fact I was looking forward to viewing it to a small audience in an makeshift Spanish open-air theatre, but changed my plans for another movie in the last minute.

Luckily too, as Stranger Than Paradise turned out nothing like the witty and quirky Down by the Law was. This is a story of two friends who take a road trip to Cleveland to meet up with a cousin, then travel back with her, lose some money and win it back. And .. well, that’s about it.

Nothing much happens meanwhile, and Stranger Than Paradise turned out to be one of those artsy black and white indie movies with much too long scenes of people just sitting still and smoking cigarette and staring into the distance as their lips slowly chap. The very kind of movie that movie snobs watch in their private movie sessions, always laughing a few seconds too early and too loud to the unfunny jokes to underline they are the only ones sophisticated enough to appreciate them.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 24%

#1549 The First Deadly Sin (1980)

Although Frank Sinatra did a notable career in movies, I’ve either consciously or unconsciously steered away from them, so I did not have any sort of expectations (in good nor bad) towards Sinatra in his comeback movie role. And I liked what I saw. Sinatra makes a great character as an ageing detective in the last leg of his career aiming to solve one more case.

As far as thrillers go, this is your basic early 80s stuff, easily overshadowed in wittiness by almost anything seen today. What makes the movie worth one’s while is Sinatra’s character who is no super cop by any standard, but much more human than almost any other detective I’ve seen on the silver screen, and it’s truly refreshing to see this kind of writing that does fall back into the cliches of the genre – like, whiskey sipping detectives surrounded by femme fatales – but instead actively plays away from them.

Here’s a detective who is pressured by his personal events and work place, and makes multiple mistakes along the way, resulting in a much more three dimensional and relatable character, much more noteworthy than the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 70%

#1548 First Family (1980)

Sometimes the political correctness of the 2020s just goes overboard, and 80s movies can be a good counterweight to all that. But as First Family goes out to prove, it’s also a very recommendable thing we’ve moved ahead in many aspects.

It’s the dull sex jokes and racist overtone that makes this one uninteresting to watch. Not that I would mind either, but it’s the uninventive lowest common denominator approach to both that I find mind numbingly stupid.

Bob Newhart plays a president who is willing to sacrifice his family and a portion of the American people for a savage third world nation in exchange for giant vegetables, while Gilda Radner performs as her daughter trying to get laid throughout the movie.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 15%