#732 Solarbabies aka Solarwarriors aka Solarfighters (1986)

Solarbabies didn’t get any love from the critics nor the audience when it was released back in 1986, and it hasn’t gained much more charism in 30 years. There’s some limited appeal to the 80s haircuts and the whole sheer stupidity of it all, but in the end there’s nothing here to be found but mediocrity.

The concept and its execution are copypasted from various other movies. Unfortunately Solarbabies never knows quite how to evolve those concepts and ends up an uneven patchwork. This is not to say that the movie doesn’t have some genuinely good moments as well – it does – but sandwiched between moments like rollerblading in the desert and playing a game of dystopian roller ball with and extra terrestrial, glowing new-age ball of energy called Bodhi, they really don’t stick out.

The most significant aspect of the movie is the Spanish desert landscape that provides a beautiful, desolate location for the movie, and the set design – although scarce and heavily influenced by Mad Max – is solid, and by far the strongest aspect in the movie.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 28%

#731 Masters of the Universe (1987)

As it turned out only years later, Masters of the Universe was the biggest scam of my childhood. A franchise created by the toy maker Mattel just to sell some overpriced plastic figurines, Masters of the Universe and the accompanied animated television series swept the US and Europe, netting billions of dollars.

And thus enters the movie. What makes the movie interesting to the adult viewer is its strong cast. Although Dolph Lundgren later listed this movie the least his favorite one, his looks and physique as the He-Man seem a step up from the original cartoon character. Although buried behind a thick latex mask, Frank Langella manages to bring Skeletor fabulously alive through intensive eye acting and body movement. Billy Barty makes a perfect Gwildor, a Thenurian inventor dwarf created specifically for this movie, and last but not least, James Tolkan creates one hilariously relentless character in Detective Lubic who manages to steal every scene he’s in.

Compared the stinkers like Flash Gordon and the Superman line of movies, Masters of the Universe’s production values are sky high. While the film is not exactly my cup of tea, this is pretty much as good a movie that’s possible to make from such a two-penny concept as He-Man.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 70%

#730 DeepStar Six (1989)

It’s all rumours, but the story says someone got a whiff that James Cameron was making an underwater aliens style movie and all of a sudden three major studios were preparing a movie in a similar setting. Surprisingly none of them are too bad, and while DeepStar Six doesn’t have the visual fidelity of The Abyss nor the thrills of Leviathan, it is still a movie with decent production values, and plenty of entertainment.

While Leviathan copy-pasted the Alien / The Thing successfully to the underwater theme, the decision to make DeepStar Six a monster movie seems forced and uninspiring; the enchanting, well established deep sea base would’ve provided many other more realistic and tangible threats. The monster is fairly well made and animated, but there’s absolutely nothing iconic or memorable about it. An Alien or Predator this isn’t.

The fairly unknown cast performs fairly well, but without surprises. Miguel Ferrer is a delight as the edgy and hysterical Snyder who’s the only one in the crew who seems to realise the actual weight of the situation.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 79%

#729 Lock Up (1989)

A rare late 80s Stallone movie that failed to break even in the box office, Lock Up is pretty much your typical mistreated prisoner vs evil wardner and his henchmen sort of film.

The movie constantly defies the laws of credibility with its cartoon-like archetypes, sadistic guards and the highly implausible, only-in-a-movie type of ending. It does get better after you accept the fact that the movie takes place in the parallel universum of Hollywood, after which you might find Lock Up a fairly entertaining movie with some memorable scenes like the montage of restoring the Mustang buried in the prison garage and the gruesome sewer showdown towards the end.

If prison movies like this are your thing, An Innocent Man – also released in 1989 – offers all that Lock Up is trying to achieve in a much more believable and entertaining package.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#728 Looker (1981)

Looker, written and directed by Michael Crichton is an interesting, if a bit uneven scifi thriller both adorable in its early 80s clumsiness and partly impressive in its vision. It’s also a milestone in the effects department, making heavy use of computer imagery that not only were first to be seen on the silver screen, but ones that also look surprisingly solid, given their age.

If Looker is somewhat solid on the technical and conceptual level, as a thriller it’s mediocre at the best. The last 45 minutes of the movie ends up – in comparison to the engaging, mysterious buildup in the first act – a series of less than stellar choices, including the final outcome.

The social commentary about the superficiality of the advertisement industry is an interesting notion, and an issue that has obviously pretty much tenfolded since the release of this movie.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 74%

#727 Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is one of those movies made shoddy and stupid by design in order to make them cult classics. There’s a constant stream of low quality, weirdness, dumb jokes, prostitutes, tits and chainsaws, but not really anything much more.

The problem here is that the movie is smart-alecky without being witty and never takes anything seriously enough to have any kind of substance to make watching of the movie interesting. The few chuckles the movie provides now and then aren’t really enough to justify watching this 80 minutes of nonsense.

I’m not quite sure for whom the Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is made for. Those interested in having a b-movie night with some friends know there are a lot of crappier, more entertaining, unintentionally hilarious movies out there to enjoy.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 22%

#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%

#725 Malone (1987)

If there was a word for a movie that is totally insignificant, forgettable and generic, but still somehow strangely entertaining, Malone would fit that bill perfectly. Offering next to nothing that would differentiate this movie from your average weekend VHS action movie rental, you’d be hard pressed trying to find someone that actually remembers this movie. In fact, I might totally forget the plot line just in the following few days.

Now at 50, Burt Reynolds has gained some charism and I much prefer his well composed, calm style here to the 70s smirky, all-eyes-on-me one. Here he plays a mysterious ex-cia agent without a past who stumbles upon a small gas station and finds himself in a brawl against the henchmen of a local businessman who’s got the town and its authorities in his pocket.

Malone plays like a good, entertaining paperback that presses most of the right buttons – but is never interested in finding out what all those other levers and switches do.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 78%

#724 The River (1984)

Life is a struggle for Tom Garvey (Mel Gibson): His family house resides in a valley with The River that keeps on flooding violently, drowning the fields, destroying the property and making the day to day life a living hell for Garvey’s family and his livestock. Soon all the debts for the broken equipment and spoiled crop pile up to the point where bank no longer grants an additional loan to him.

At the same time a local businessman – Joe Wade (Scott Glenn) – wants to build a dam that’d offer work to hundreds of locals who have ended up bankrupt and homeless, but flood the whole valley with Garvey’s homestead and so Wade is willing to buy out Garvey. But Tom is a hard headed man and his head won’t be turned even if it will kill him.

It has to be said that camera loves young Mel Gibson and his charming presence adds an extra notch to every scene he is in. Very disappointingly the movie leaves his character very distant to the viewer, and we never see the actual softening and opening up that the dialogue implies.

In the end the family avoids yet another close call with the flood. It’s a very unsatisfying triumph that leaves the story pretty much where it began; the river will keep on flooding, life keeps on being hard and Wade will keep on paying low price for the crop.

Maybe moving out wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 62%

#723 Firstborn (1984)

A 1984 film that collected an impressive amount of actors that would later became big: There’s Sarah Jessica Parker playing a girlfriend, Robert Downey Jr. in a small side role as a class mate, Corey Haim is seen in his debut film role as the little brother and Peter Weller – who’d later hit a homerun with Robocop – plays the mother’s home invading boyfriend.

Interestingly, it’s Christopher Collet who plays Jake as the lead role here that soon disappeared from the big screens.

Firstborn is a drama about a mother’s shady new boyfriend who moves in with Jake, his brother and his mother, and soon turns nothing short of a shady person. The movie depicts well the kids’ lack of power to prevent the downhill their mother is being dragged and the following repressed frustration that bursts out as violent attacks towards the class mates and the teachers. Unfortunately the movie then opts to solve the situation through an action thriller chase and fight scene that feels an extremely unsatisfying cop out solution to a well built, intriguing setup.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 58%

#722 The Karate Kid Part III (1989)

So .. this had to happen then.

The duo is put together one more time in a sequel that pretty much takes a total piss on the whole series. Poor Daniel returns to L.A. being once again dumped by his latest girlfriend. Daniel shells out his college fund to lease a shop to sell bonsai trees with Miyagi and soon get harassed by a couple of bozos, one of which is the John Kreese, that heinous karate instructor from the first movie.

The core trio of evil doers doesn’t seem to get enough of teasing a teenager and the elder asian, no matter how many times Mr. Miyagi hands their asses back at them. The baddies are more annoying than in the previous two movies combined and watching the endless stream of abuse gets somewhat uneasy to look. Even if this is the buildup is for the ultimate inevitable revenge, it pretty much feels like watching as a standbyer as someone’s being teased to death by the most abusive school bullies ever.

The only positive side in the movie is that the karate shown in the movie is much more convincing than in the previous installations, with Thomas Ian Griffith showcasing some genuinely impressive moves.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 45%

#721 The Karate Kid Part II (1986)

The work for the sequel started in a record time, only ten days after the first movie was shot and it seems like a story the makers wanted to tell to complete the first movie. In The Karate Kid Part II the duo travels to Okinawa, and this time around it’s Daniel steps up to support his friend Miyagi who finds himself face to face with things he thought he’d left in his past.

Even if the sequel is weaker than the first installation, I have to compliment the production team for taking the franchise to a new direction instead of playing it safe and repeating everything seen in the first movie, which is the case more than often in these series.

Shot in Hawaii, the decorated setting is carefully reconstructed to pass as a small Okinawan village and these beautiful pacific backgrounds add much depth to the kata training sequences. Similarly to the previous movie there’s not a lot of actual hand to hand combat going on here and in the few selected fights we see I have to say that Ralph Macchio’s credibility as the undisputed karate master still requires quite a stretch of imagination

If the previous Karate Kid was a movie about friendship, in Part II the theme is love. The two very different relationships between Miyagi and Yukie, and Daniel and Kumiko, under the pacific paradise island are portrayed with fondness. The relationship between Daniel and Miyagi also deepens on multiple levels, and Mr. Miyagi gains some new dimensions when his integrity and honor are faced with themes of loss, shame, love and even pettiness.

Pat Morita’s portrayal here is nothing short of awe inspiring.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 81%

#720 The Karate Kid (1984)

A movie responsible for putting the crane kick on the map for a whole generation of young wanna-be-karatekas, The Karate Kid is a culmination to the martial arts trend that started back in early 70s.

Despite its name, The Karate Kid is in its core a movie about an unique friendship. What starts as a master-apprentice relationship between the protagonist teenager Daniel and his unwilling sensei-to-be Miyaki deepens into an friendship believable enough to last a lifetime. It’s this unlikely companionship that keeps the movie interesting until the end, and feeling fresh still after 30 years of its initial release.

Unlike other martial arts films or the era, the actual choreographed karate is pretty non-existent here and while I’m not an expert on the subject, Daniel’s combat skills don’t really seem that impressive. Yes, including that unbeatable crane kick.

A hand must go to young William Zabka for creating one stylish and memorable baddie as the opposing karateka. For the baby-faced Ralph Macchio The Karate Kid was the part of the lifetime and his portrayal outside the actual karate fights is maybe not relatable, but never tiresome to watch. I was astounded to learn that Macchio, who portrays a 14-year old teenager, was already 23 at the time.

Pat Morita is so iconic as the sensei Miyagi that now in retrospective it’s impossible to even think about anyone else being able to replace him.

As whole the movie is entertaining, well balanced and very 80s in a good way. If I was to pick five most iconic 80s movies that shaped the pop culture, The Karate Kid would be a no-brainer addition to that list.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 90%

#719 Teen Witch (1989)

An 80s cult classic largely thanks to its unshameful depictions of teenage high school everyday life – including white boy rapping on school hallways and improvised dance and sing numbers in the girls’ locker room – Teen Witch no doubt paved the way to a lot of awful 90s movies and series, the likes of Beverly Hills 90210.

While I have to admit that all that over the board teen stuff is entertaining in all of its awfulness, Teen Witch never goes full way with any of its concepts. The soon-to-be-cinderella protagonist isn’t a loser to start with, the antagonists aren’t menacing enough, the teen witchery aspect isn’t explored beyond getting a male teacher to undress and getting to be popular in the school, which could’ve been achieved without resorting to any supernatural plotlines.

Finally, the moral of the movie of believing in yourself and being just yourself, well .. I’m not too sure if it ever actually takes place in that final scene.

Teen Witch plays campy like a high school musical with very limited amount of music, but although the movie is flawed and makes just a little sense, there’s just something very irresistible about the whole sincerity of it all.

80s-o-meter: 97%

Total: 70%

#718 Married to the Mob (1988)

On the surface Married to the Mob had nothing to interest me: I’m not particularly big on mob movies and the cast here didn’t seem to include anyone with the kind of comedy chops that will provide some sure laughs.

Luckily the movie turned out much different than I anticipated. Instead of a lowest common denominator gangster film, Married to the Mob is a movie about starting anew and trying to let go of your past that won’t let you go. This is not a laugh out loud comedy, but one that manages have a lot of heart.

Michelle Pfeiffer is totally gorgeous and lovable as the widow trying to start all over again. Both Matthew Modine and Dean Stockwell are likeable in their roles, but both somehow seem just a bit off. Stockwell in particular tries his very best to be as repulsive as possible, but ends up a much too sympathetic mob boss.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 82%

#717 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

A musical comedy loosely based on real life events, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas revolves around a small town bordello run by Mona Stagley (Dolly Parton) that gets busted by Melvin, a showy TV reporter played by Dom DeLuise. The long-running bordello is part of the community heritage and protected by the city officials and its law enforcement led by the sheriff (Burt Reynolds)

My expectations for the movie were extra low, but I have to hand it to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas for surpassing them. The dance and music numbers are refreshingly original, many shots and cuts are well thought out and inventive and there’s just a good amount of good mood and thought work put into most aspects in the production.

My biggest beef with the movie is that I’m always having a hard time trying to stomach Reynolds with his facial hair, chest rug and cocky smile. There’s a lot of half-naked Burt here, but luckily also much more to warrant sitting through the film.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 65%

#716 Wrong Is Right aka The Man With The Deadly Lens (1982)

Wrong is Right or The Man With The Deadly Lens as it was released in the UK is a rare mix of comedy and thriller.

Starring Sean Connery in a playboy network star reporter role that although his James Bond fame seems a bit off to him, the movie suffers from its subpar, made-for-tv like production values with the special effects and camera trickery and zooms that reek of the 70s. The newsflash portions with public reactions and interviews are unintentionally comical and the action parts are pretty much on par with the classic 60s James Bond or Batman series.

In other words: Not good.

It’s a shame because the movie’s grim message of the dirty international politics, behind the curtains machinations, assassinations, oil money and how the news has turned into an entertainment business is as topical as it was almost 40 years ago. Not only are we currently reaping the results of these politics, but many of the predictions presented here have actualised in one way or another.

80s-o-meter: 51%

Total: 60%

#715 Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)

There are two kinds of family movies: Those that have many things to offer to both the kids and the adults, and those with very limited interest to the grown ups. Ernest Goes to Camp falls in the latter category.

A second movie to feature Jim Varney’s Ernest character, this is your typical kids’ movie where the kids are smart, every adult is a one-dimensional dimwit, and the humor never manages to evolve beyond the cartoony slapstick. Ernest Saves Christmas, released the following year is a much more well rounded movie in this sense.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 58%

#714 Into the Night (1985)

I really should’ve loved Into the Night.

Starring Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer and directed by John Landis, Into the Night is an action comedy thriller taking place in the nighttime Los Angeles, it has chases, stolen emeralds and such, but as the minutes tick by it starts to become painfully obvious the movie is going nowhere.

The experience is problematic on many levels. First of all, the movie seems to suffer from an identity crisis, never quite knowing if to present itself as a comedy or an action thriller. For a comedy it just lacks the laughs – excluding the scene where Goldblum paces through a movie set like an elephant in a porcelain store – and for an action thriller it’s just much too tame and generic. The overall pacing of the movie is drowsy, even so that the movie grinds to a full halt at times, like when the leading duo sits inside a small tunnel waiting for the sun to set again.

The movie must hold some kind of record for the number of cameos included, but now – over 30 years after its original release – most of them are totally unknown to an average viewer, so instead of adding any value they make the overall experience feel patchy. The hitman character played by David Bowie would’ve suited the movie well, but woefully he’s the only one of the cameos that understays his welcome.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 52%

#713 Mac and Me (1988)

An awful, cheap copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Mac and Me takes a lot of notes from its role model and executes them in a disappointing fashion.

For a movie build upon an illusion of an alien character, the puppetry work here is really subpar. Not only are the puppets plasticky and generally off putting, they always look just that – Puppets – without ever giving the impression of real, actual breathing creatures. The movie is sprinkled with the most blatant product placement of the 80s and there’s a constant stream of absurd scenes like a totally random dance party taking place in MacDonalds and revival of a whole family of half-dead aliens by making them sip a few drops of coke.

A collection of poor design choices, Mac and Me is like E.T. with all the magic, fun and joy stripped out of it.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 17%