#872 The Island (1980)

The movie that Michael Caine still refuses to talk about? Color me interested!

The Island started surprisingly strong with a truly eery horror bit that totally caught me by surprise and showed a lot of promise. But it was after Caine and his son were attacked and the pirates appear that the movie went to the shitter. The plot twist is kindly put idiotic, rivalled only by the pirates’ witty plan to make him a stand-in stud for a widow. The pirates themselves are appalling, making watching every scene they’re in like chewing a tin foil — and they’re in pretty much in all of the scenes.

So the movie is horrid, but the exotic location and sense of adventure keep it from sinking totally. There is a decent amount of suspense towards the ending, coupled with one of the most rewarding payback scenes ever recorded.

80s-o-meter: 27%

Total: 32%

#871 The Men’s Club (1986)

The Men’s Club focuses on a group of middle aged men who gather together to give lengthy monologues — disguised as conversations — about their contempt for life and love. The movie lowers every male included as a bunch of drooling animals, dwelling in their pigpen of misogyny and self loathe. The only women we see in the movie are either wives or prostitutes, both represented as mother figures nurturing the needy babies that are the men.

The movie is theatrical, taking place in two acts and the actors sounding out their lines with premeditated speech patterns, which contributes to the weirdness of the movie. On top of obvious symbolism, there are also a lot of elements so vague it’s easy to perceive them just as self-sufficient, artsy touches.

The Men’s Club has since received almost unanimous hate from the reviewers and it sure makes a hard case to love, but then again that probably isn’t the point here. Personally I never care in the way the movie tries to make a bold social commentary and then leaves it all open ended and without obvious point, but it did offer some uneasy food for a thought. And in that sense I’d call it a success.

80s-o-meter: 54%

Total: 64%

#870 American Dreamer (1984)

A stay at home suburbians housewife gets involved in a crime plot after winning a trip to Paris and soon afterwards loosing her memory due to an accident.

Part of a wave of Hollywood international crime thrillers set in Paris (Frantic, Gotcha!, Target), American Dreamer is one of the movies I found the Paris setting least distracting, although given the adventurous, mysterious tone of the movie, some northern African location would’ve probably worked better.

JoBeth Williams complete surprises as the strong lead carrying to movie with ease giving credible performances both as the home maker and an action star. Although no classic of the genre, American Dreamer is an above average fluff with an undeniable charm to it.

80s-o-meter: 66%

Total: 79%

#869 Tequila Sunrise (1988)

Given its kick-ass name, I always took Tequila Sunrise for a hard boiled action thriller. Although there are certainly some action elements to it, the main focus is on a love triangle between a woman and two men; one of them a cop and one of them an alleged drug dealer.

Tequila Sunrise isn’t a bad movie — with this kind of budget and production team it really can’t be — but it just didn’t do anything for me. The plot is on the weak side and even the strong cast struggles to keep the script moving on. Instead of showing something exciting or memorable, the movie seems an endless stream of unimpressive macho dialogue yapped by its caricature like characters.

There’s an effort for getting the show running towards the last minutes to the movie, but it’s just too little, too late.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 59%

#868 The Barbarians (1987)

Barbarian Brothers aka Peter and David Paul made some splashes in the bodybuilding scene back in the 80s as the strongest twins of the world. Also known for their showmanship, they soon made their way to the movies and finally starred in their own movie in 1987, aptly named The Barbarians.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: As a movie The Barbarians is without merits. The twins can’t act their way out of a paper bag and lack the charism of big action stars of the era. With that out of the way it has to be said there are tons of other entertaining aspects to the film. Besides the obvious tongue in cheek goofiness the cinematography, set and costume design are all professional work despite the tight budget. Eva LaRue as the heroine and Sheeba Alahani as the evil sorceress in her only feature film role are the highlights of the movie and both perform in their roles much better than the movie deserves.

The Barbarians is a goofy, inane, totally 80s take on the sword & sorcery genre – and guilty pleasure in its very finest form.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 81%

#867 The Lonely Lady (1983)

Pia Zadora has agreed to star mostly topless in The Lonely Lady, a Hollywood movie portraying a struggle of a young artist who wants to climb up the Hollywood industry ladder and has to flash some skin to get there.

Oh the irony.

The Lonely Lady is one of those train wrecks that just keeps getting worse by the minute, but also a pile-up you really can’t look away from. The movie goes from bad to worse as the drama intensifies towards the end, including a nervous break down scene that looks lame even in the context of this bad movie.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 33%

#866 Fame (1980)

After the first 15 minutes to the Fame I’d made up my mind what I going to say about it: Yet another pretentious and theatrical musical about the young performance artist suffering melodramatically while trying to make it to the top. While my initial impression still partly holds, I have to admit Fame wasn’t really all that bad.

Yes, there’s a lot of melodramaticism going on here, but also a lot of undeniable warmth to the way that the characters are written and presented in the movie, and it was that love for the characters that won me over eventually. The movie is noticeably lengthy at 134 minutes and would’ve gained from a bit more rapid pacing at times.

Young Irene Cara provides great vocals to the key songs and would go on to an even greater musical triumph with Flashdance three years later.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 73%

#865 High Road to China (1983)

It’s a well known piece of movie trivia that Tom Selleck was the first choice to play Indiana Jones, but had to turn down the role due to his contractual obligations starring in the TV series Magnum, P.I. Indy’s huge success spawned a wave of adventure movies taking place in kind of an alternative pre WWII timeline, and seeing Selleck starring in one of these unofficial Indy spinoffs sort of completes the circle.

Having said all this it’s a shame High Road to China isn’t any better movie.

While it does get the sense of adventure right with the reluctant hero and the damsel in distress flying to multiple exotic locations, the events between the beautiful aviation shots mostly miss their mark. Prime example of this is the end when we are forced to watch through a showdown between two sides completely unknown to us from the former events of the movie.

I’m a sucker for adventure movies and there is admittedly some charm to High Road to China — but it’s mostly that of Selleck’s.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 57%

#864 Cruising (1980)

Al Pacino goes underground to a find a serial killer targeting men of the leather gay subculture in Cruising, an interesting – if flawed – time capsule straight from the pre-HIV era.

Cruising was a controversial movie in its time and got targeted by the gay community for giving a negative and one-sided portrayal of the minority. The approach is admittedly sensational, even if the leather BDSM lairs of the time presented in the movie weren’t too far fetched from the reality. The movie doesn’t shy away from graphic depictions of sex and violence – almost borderlining a slasher at times – which was enough for the movie to get banned in some countries, Finland included.

Pacino is either acting well or he’s genuinely uncomfortable in his role – most likely a bit of both given the bad press the movie received during its production. The movie’s ambiguous ending with its totally unnecessary plot twist feels like a last minute afterthought, and one I can hardly see as satisfying to any viewer.

80s-o-meter: 64%

Total: 62%

#863 Iron Eagle II (1988)

While the first movie in the series was a fresh take on the subject, Iron Eagle II – released two years after the original – takes much more notes from Top Gun by introducing a roster of outcast pilots ordered to perform a seek and destroy mission along with a fleet from the Soviet Union.

The sequel ditches the former lead Doug Masters by killing him during a firefight in the very first minutes of the movie, leaving us with Colonel Chappy – arguably the weaker half of the duo. Along with the Top Gun influence, the movie is built on the post cold war thematics with some Police Academy style of humour thrown in the mix.

Iron Eagle II is a tired follow up to the original that inexplicably went on to spawn two more sequels during the nineties, both of which apparently even weaker than this one.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 58%

#862 Iron Eagle (1986)

Often dubbed as the poor man’s Top Gun, Iron Eagle was actually released seven months earlier, in january 1986. As I didn’t check out any previews beforehand I also was expecting a similar experience; a bunch of young Navy hotheads rivalling in the skies.

Instead, Iron Eagle presents us an underage kid nicking a fighter plane from the navy in order to fly it to an imaginary state somewhere in the middle east in order to free his imprisoned father, sentenced to be executed.

This is truly an outrageous concept that could’ve only been born in the 80s and thanks to this ludicrous setup, Iron Eagle ended up a much more fun experience than I had expected.

The movie also gets a high praise from its soundtrack full of kick ass songs from artists such as Dio, Queen, Twisted Sister and King Kobra.

80s-o-meter: 100%

Total: 87%

#861 Private Lessons (1981)

Part of the now politically even more incorrect wave of early 80s movies of an adult getting raunchy with a minor, Private Lessons joins in with the somewhat dubious club of Class, My Tutor, In the Mood, They’re Playing with Fire and Blame It on Rio.

It’s hard to view Private Lessons as anything but an exploitation on the subject and a weak excuse to display some T&A in order to lure in some younger audience. The movie does make an effort to cover all this up by cooking up a blackmailing plot – which is not actually too bad – but it’s too little too late to make up for its numerous shortcomings.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 44%

#860 Explorers (1985)

Explorers is a kids’ adventure movie that starts a bit dumb, then manages to get exciting as the three youngsters start putting together a spaceship, only to get dumb again as they eventually make their way into the alien spaceship.

The idea of another culture getting all of its information about mankind from TV broadcasts and ads is downright delicious, but Explorers fails to get anything substantial out of it. The aliens – as the rest of the movie – are well executed, but the forced humour aspect will leave cold anyone looking forward to a thrilling adventure.

Most viewers familiar with the two child stars of the movie will probably get the best mileage out of Explorers as a look into the early career of Ethan Hawke and the late River Phoenix.

80’s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 61%

#859 Winter People (1989)

I’m not too big on period pictures unless they’re based on actual historical events, and Winter People ends up yet another movie where the decision feels uninspired and glued on.

The director Ted Kotcheff who gave us the superb First Blood and Weekend at Bernie’s is at lost here. He gets a very limited mileage out of his actors, who all seem to perform well beyond their skill level. The most cringeworthy performance comes from Jeffrey Meek, whose performance as the sadistic, drunk father comes across cartoonish and artificial, and his rockstar like looks feel extremely out of place given the era.

Kurt Russell fares ok as the clockmaker single parent, but clearly Winter People wasn’t the right vehicle for him either.

80’s-o-meter: 37%

Total: 48%

#858 Willow (1988)

You have to excuse me for having always mixed up Willow with Ridley Scott’s Legend; another mid-80s fantasy movie with stunning, faerytale like visuals. While Willow might not be as beautiful a movie, it’s still stunning to look at and the groundbreaking special effects by ILM still look mostly impressive, despite their age.

Story-wise there isn’t anything extraordinary going on here: Your usual fantasy stuff with evil queens, dwarfs and dragons. But it’s the way that the director Ron Howard manages to tell the story that makes it truly captivating. Young Warwick Davis makes for a terrific, unlikely hero of the story, and although Val Kilmer at first seems to overact the role of the mischievous thief, he soon grows on to you.

Fantasy movies are not my cup of tea, but in Willow’s case, the end result is just much too charming to pass by with just a shrug.

80’s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 84%

#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%

#856 Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

I tend to dislike young or junior versions of already established franchises and it’s particularly because of this that I postponed watching Young Sherlock Holmes for so many years. Second reason is that I always mistook it for a british movie, thanks to the main character, location and the actors all being of british origin.

Directed by Barry Levinson, the movie carries a strong label of its executive producer Steven Spielberg. Although numerous – often somewhat clumsy – nods to the forthcoming Sherlock Holmes events are made throughout the movie, the end results resembles more of a Young Indiana Jones with big emphasis on effects, great set design and action and very slight emphasis on actual deduction and whodunnit.

The computer animations done by the wizards in ILM still fare amazingly well, outperforming much of the effects seen even in the 90s movies, and are alone a good enough reason to check out the movie.

80s-o-meter: 51%

Total: 72%

#855 Nothing Personal (1980)

Here’s a film that once again reminds me of how much I loathe much of the 70s cinema. Nothing Personal is a horrid romantic comedy shot in the end of the decade and released during the first months of 1980, thus unfortunately making it into this review site.

There’s very little to be liked here, and the few somewhat interesting themes of nature preservation and fighting against big companies are quickly bypassed by cringeworthy scenes of the two leads getting it on between the sheets in the spirit of the sexual revolution that was big at the time.

I can’t remember the last time I was so mildly entertained by a comedy. The only decent thing the movie has going for it is Dickerson, a weasel of a big company spokesperson played to perfection by the terrific Dabney Coleman.

80s-o-meter: 22%

Total: 12%

#854 Three Fugitives (1989)

A former convict is dragged into a getaway against his will after walking in on a bank robbery in Three Fugitives, a comedy that manages to be heartwarming as well as to offer some genuinely funny laugh out loud slapstick moments.

Nick Nolte revises his gruff, rough around the edges bulldozer of a character previously seen in 48 Hrs, but improves it on almost all counts, and Martin Short provides a perfectly good target for him to get heavy handed on with his small frame and very clever physical acting.

There’s a slight dip in the middle of the movie, but luckily the movie picks up the pace again towards the end, and manages to make it to my recommended 80s comedies list with ease.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 93%

#853 The Naked Face (1984)

Based on the 1970 Sidney Sheldon novel of the same name, The Naked Face is your pretty standard thriller fare. Roger Moore plays a psychiatrist that gets tangled in a murder plot where his patients and subordinates are getting killed, leaving him the prime suspect.

The movie looks and feels old beyond its years – and honestly isn’t anything to write to home about – but it still manages to create a good kind of whodunnit vibe to it that makes it an easy watch movie. Although this is not a perfect vehicle for Moore, he proves to have plenty of charism to carry through a full length feature film.

The Naked Face was heading for a solid low 70 score, but the idiotic and totally unnecessary last minute plot twist spoiled the show for me.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 51%