#923 The Day After (1983)

The Day After portrays a nuclear war between the two cold-war giants USA and Soviet Union, and the effects there after. The initial setup establishing a Kansas site of nuclear weapons works and the movie escalates in an interesting way to its nuclear holocaust peak, but the events after that – as horrid and graphic as they may seem – just feel much too staged and phoney.

Set design is pretty impressive for a made for TV movie and could’ve partially passed for an actual feature film. The same cannot be said about the special effects and the make-up where the lack of budget really shines through. There’s an impressive array of actors involved for a made for TV movie, but here they don’t really add up any additional value to the movie compared of going with some no name actors. The movie is also too long at 120 minutes of which a good 40 minutes could’ve been left in the cutting room floor to save us from many of the scenes that drag on for much too long.

The Day After is a movie made to touch and to shock, but its melodramatic, soap opera feel to it plain prevented me to get really emotionally involved in it. The grim and hopeless Testament, released the same year, portrays the devastating effects of a nuclear war in a more subtle but realistic and powerful way.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 46%

#922 Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988)

Falling somewhere between the first and second Missing in Action movies, the third part, dubbed Braddock: Missing in Action III follows Braddock going back to Vietnam to find his missing wife and son.

A total rehash of The Beginning, this last part of the trilogue and has some of the same strong suits in its action department, but I never really cared about the story line involving the boy. Despite the action the third part seems a little wishy-washy and Braddock tightropes somewhere between being totally unrealistic, but not nearly as iconic and over the top as the Rambo sequels.

If you really liked The Beginning, the third part offers more of the same, but in a watered down form.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 59%

#921 Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985)

After reading about Missing in Action 2: The Beginning deemed to be a worse movie than its originally intended sequel and thus being delayed to be released one year later I was expecting a movie even worse than the previous one.

Not the case as The Beginning surprises by presenting a pretty solid post action pack.

Of course you know the drill; a rogue American soldier single handedly winning the Vietnam war, and there aren’t much of unexpected plot twists along the way, but its the presentation here that makes The Beginning a recommendable watch. The action is over the top as usual, with a nice martial arts showdown at the end, but compared to the previous movie Norris’ character here seems less of an invulnerable, omnipotent super human seen in the previous part.

The Beginning is by far the strongest one of the trilogy, and if you have to watch just one of the Missing in Action movies, let this one be it.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 74%

#920 Missing in Action (1984)

A movie series tailor made as a vehicle for Chuck Norris, Missing in Action is known by its name to many, but still not the most prolific of the 80s POW movies. The first two movies of the trilogy were shot back to back, but after the production had ended, the powers that be decided that the sequel was a stronger movie of the two and was released first. Hence the odd order of movies.

Watching the movies now, 30 years after the original screening the decision feels unwise as the movies would make a bit more sense in the original order. My suggestion would be to watch The Beginning first like it was originally internded before moving onto this movie as you might get a bit better mileage out of it that way. Personally, I feel that Missing in Action is an insignificant mess that falls far behind of Norris’ best movies of the era.

The Italian style poster is cool though.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 55%

#919 Swing Shift (1984)

A war can be a big game changer when you are left on the home front as your husband enlists and gets shipped overseas. And more so if you’re one of the thousands of housewives who rolled in to the factories armed with a rivet gun to support the war effort.

The real treat in this wartime story is the well picked out cast consisting of Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Christine Lahti and Ed Harris, all of who do wonderfully 3-dimensional acting work with their characters.

Swing Shift never seeks for that Oscar like, bigger than life grandeur but instead tells its story of a wartime, separation, friendship and forgiveness with a certain, undeniable affection for each and every one of its characters, making it a triumph.

80s-o-meter: 42%

Total: 86%

#918 Tarzan the Ape Man (1981)

I always find it a little puzzling reviewing anything with Bo Derek in it since the focus of the movies is usually on her mammary glands instead of the plot. What it comes to Tarzan the Ape Man, it admittedly does have some sort of story going on for it, including an ape man that appearing towards the end of the movie, but rest assured: The movie is very much about Derek being half naked and sensual, this time around in a jungle.

Campy in the very definition of the word in its acting and slow motion action scenes, the cinematography here is actually not that bad at all. Other than that and some of the photogenic animals pictured here – many of which don’t belong to the African fauna at all – the movie is just plain tedious and I found myself struggling to stay focused on the events on the screen.

Tarzan the Ape Man remains the second best movie of Bo Derek after her breakthrough role in 10; an insight that should make it clear to steer away from the rest of her catalogue.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 17%

#917 Without a Trace (1983)

An absolute nightmare of any parent, Without a Trace follows the story of a mother whose six year old boy disappears on his way to the school. Based on the novel Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon, which is in turn partly based on the disappearance of Etan Patz, a New York kid who famously became the first lost child to be profiled on the a milk carton in the early 80s.

What makes Without a Trace interesting is the approach of concentrating on the effect that the disappearance has on the parents, and less so to the actual detective work to find the boy – which here only leads to a number dead ends. As time passes without any clues, the journalists and the public move on and it seems like a much more demanding task to get anyone interested in finding child, now assumed lost for good.

Despite the near made-for-TV quality and disappointing – if a little surprising – resolution of the case, Without a Trace is an emotional ride that manages to keep the interest and the hopes of the viewer up until the very last minutes.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 68%

#916 Grandview, U.S.A. (1984)

Telling a story of a few individuals on the verge of a change in their lives in a small town, Grandview, U.S.A. is a successful little exercise in storytelling that feels a perfectly suitable for a TV, but doesn’t have that big screen charm to it.

The movie unravels its story, setting and many characters in a way that feels like a 90 minute pilot for a series. By taking its sweet time we get a good feel of the people and their aspirations, but makes for a slow paced movie where the viewer is never quite sure what storyline to follow and if more characters will still be introduced. I was afraid that the movie would run out of time tying its many loose ends together, but it does manage to conclude the main storyline in a satisfactory manner.

Being a forgotten movie for the general public, Grandview, U.S.A. boasts pretty impressive array of front line 80s actors including Jamie Lee Curtis, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, John Cusack and Michael Winslow.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 75%

#915 Cheech & Chong: Still Smokin (1983)

Cheech & Chong, the comedy duo hit it big with their pot-head 1978 film debut Up in Smoke, and managed to release three more box office hits in the following years until hitting a brick wall with Still Smokin, a haphazardly tossed off sorry excuse for a movie that marked the downfall of the duet, followed by even bigger stinkers like The Corsican Brothers.

In Still Smokin the two travel over to Amsterdam for a film festival, where they start getting ready for a gala and shoot a number of small skits, from which the movie is then stitched together with. The last 25 minutes of the so called movie consists of a footage of their actual live stage act, which translates for the big screen even worse than the earlier skits.

There isn’t much good in this pile of leftovers, but just maybe a good lesson to be learned: Sometimes it’s just good to quit while you’re ahead.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 7%

#914 Dudes (1987)

A movie starring Jon Cryer and Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers fame) that most people me included have never even heard about? Color me interested!

Dudes follows up a three New York punk rockers that take a road trip with a VW Beetle from the east coast to get to the California, only to be ambushed by a gang of redneck thugs in Arizona. After the local police deny helping the two survivals, they then set out to find the gang themselves to revenge the death of their friend.

Dudes tries a little something of its own with freely mixing genres and presenting us some weird dream sequences and ghosts of the warriors passing by the prairie, but there’s something a little off throughout the movie and its screenplay. It all looks and sounds good, but other than that it just seems to wander around aimlessly for the most of its running time.

Cryer and Daniel Roebuck make for a likeable duo that I really see standing a chance of becoming a part of 80s pop culture catalogue had the script been better.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 60%

#913 Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

I’ll never understand people’s fascination with the mob and the huge popularity and high rating of the gangster movies depicting the lifestyle of these crooks. In Once Upon a Time in America we get to see a gang of jewish delinquents who grow up mugging drunkards in early 20th century Manhattan, helping out smugglers and eventually getting involved in a kill and a stabbing of a police officer. Later we witness them running a speakeasy during the prohibition era, and while not involved in shady business, they steal diamonds in violent heists, murder people and just for the heck of it rape a few women along the way.

I couldn’t wait for them to get caught, but as you know this never happens in these movies that beg the viewers to side with the criminals.

The director Sergio Leone has set out to direct an epic movie and it really shows in the fabulous set and costume design that capture the look and feel of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in three different decades in a truly magnificent and cinematic way. I watched the 4-hour Extended Director’s Cut and don’t have any benchmark what the lengthy ’definitive’ cut of the movie adds the original theatrical cut but some tediously long scenes of endless dialogue and fading out lights.

I guess if the organised crime is your thing, you’ll be enjoying what Once Upon a Time in America for what it has to offer. Personally it seems like a totally wasted chance to tell a proper story with some actual human interest.

80s-o-meter: 32%

Total: 41%