#1037 School Daze (1988)

Spike Lee’s School Daze makes a successful and interesting late 80s look on African-American college life that’s very convincingly portrayed from inside out.

Being quite far away from its frame of reference as a pale skinned European I probably missed a lot of the references and subtleties of the movie, but on the other hand many of the themes here are still universal enough for me to relate to, especially the way the young and somewhat misguided adults having to choose their side to belong, be it jigaboos, wannabes or fraternities. We’ve all been there.

I also love how many of the clashes on the movie are built around petty issues of the middle-class college students and thus feel like actual, interesting conflicts.

Lee makes admittedly many uniquely interesting insights about the interracial conflicts, principles, having to choose one’s side, fraternities and the petty power that corrupts. But if the movie was out there to make a clear statement, it’s lost in translation for me.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#1036 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

The last movie of the Indy trilogy (refusing to acknowledge that 2008 movie as part of the franchise), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade brings back everything we loved in Raiders of the Lost Ark while amping up both the adventure and lighthearted humour, making it the most well rounded Indiana Jones movie.

I was lucky enough to see The Last Crusade on an actual silver screen as the trilogy was shown from the original film reels in one of the screenings the Finnish national audiovisual institute arranged. Once again, I found myself enchanted from the very first seconds to the movie and the movie kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through it.

Sean Connery makes an appearance as the Indy’s somewhat eccentric father who creates many joyful moments as the know-it-all dad who keeps on talking down to his son like he was still twelve. It’s a delightful comic relief that almost seems to write material by itself thanks to the onscreen tension between the two high caliber actors.

The Last Crusade is a triumph of an adventure, taking everything that worked in the first movie and adding some very brilliant elements of its own.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 100%

#1035 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A prequel set one year prior to the events in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a much darker, violent and, unfortunately, less fun adventure movie than the original.

For one reason or another, Temple of Doom is also a much more generic adventure movie than its predecessor. While still a clear notch above all of its competition thanks to first rate production values and Harrison Ford as the Indy, the story could’ve been well passed off as one of the adventures of Jack T. Colton or Allan Quatermain instead. Unlike in Raiders of the Lost ARk, there’s really no iconic scenes in Temple of Doom that would’ve become a part of the pop culture folklore.

Temple of Doom is not a bad movie by any standard, especially compared to the other adventures of the era. But it is a victim of a middle child syndrome, paling in comparison to what its go-getter elder and younger brother have to offer.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 86%

#1034 Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

If you have never heard of Indiana Jones, chances are you’ve been living under the rock for the last 40 years. The franchise and the line of movies, kickstarted by 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark have been featured so much in the popular culture, articles, studies and reviews that there’s frankly little left to say about them that hasn’t been better worded elsewhere.

A testament to the iconic status of the movie is how many of its scenes, gear and clothing have since had a life of their own outside the movie: The rolling boulder, melting faces, bringing sword to a gunfight scene and revolving airplane, as well as the fedora, bullwhip and the leather jacket are all immediately recognised to be part of the Indy saga as soon as they are featured elsewhere in the pop culture, usually as a nod towards the original. There are pages that list these references, but there are quite frankly so many that nobody can really keep up with them – and they still keep pouring in day after day.

Due to the massive impact the it had when it was released, the movie remains much more than just a perfect adventure; Raiders of the Lost Ark is the very definition of an adventure, and an undertaking still waiting to be topped.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 96%

#1033 Murphy’s Law (1986)

A decade of buddy cop movies, the 80s also saw a minor wave of cop & criminal buddy movies with a similar formula, but more concentration on seeing the two clash together.

Murphy’s Law is a pretty decent Charles Bronson action crime flick, but a totally worthless buddy movie. The petty criminal sidekick – who was probably something of a last minute add on to the movie as she doesn’t really contribute to anything here plot wise – never grows along with the movie and suffers from possibly the worst case of inept dialogue I’ve yet witnessed in a film.

Bronson pretty much walks through the movie without passion and can’t breath any real life into his character of the alcoholic cop battling with his demons.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 58%

#1032 Breathless (1983)

Although I always aim to avoid reading of a movie before watching it to keep my bias down, in most cases with the mainstream cinema with notable actors, I already know the movie at least on some level.

Breathless was a complete surprise to me, and a positive one at that. Richard Gere plays a petty criminal from Las Vegas travelling to Los Angeles to find a girl he had a flake and gets involved in killing of a police officer. True to his nonchalant style he tries to shake it all off but soon finds himself on the run, slowly coming into realisation that for the first time in his life his charm can’t buy him out of the situation.

Gere is pretty much born to play the role of the ”seedy Vegas boy. Thinks he’s cute”, like one of the assistants behind the counter aptly puts it. Paul Newman’s amazing performance in Cool Hand Luke remains untouchable, but this is by far the best stab at it I’ve yet witnessed.

Combining elements of crime, sex, comics and rockabilly music, Breathless is stylish, crude crime and love story straight out of a cheap pulp magazine – and very much an underappreciated gem.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 91%

#1031 The Naked Cage (1986)

Look, I’m not even sure why I started watching The Naked Cage after specifically making a statement I wouldn’t be watching any jail exploitation movies within this project.

Maybe I was lured by the relatively good reviews, or the plot summaries that seemed like the movie could very well be a female version of some of the prison movies like An Innocent Man or Lock Up where a falsely accused person is thrown into the jail.

None of that here. This is your very typical chick in the prison softcore exploitation movie with all the clichés that go with it – sadistic and crooked wardens, catfights, stabbings and lesbian lovemaking scenes – coupled with cheap some soap opera look and feel.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 0%

#1030 My Tutor (1983)

A rich kid hellbent on losing his virginity gets a private french tutor in My Tutor, a blatant teen exploitation movie. As it goes, she also ends up teaching the youngster about life and love and as she finally exits, he has finally become a man.

Honestly, I wouldn’t had mind this kind of tutoring back in the days. But having to watching through 90 minutes of this voyeuristic baloney just never hit the spot for me.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 37%

#1029 Unmasking the Idol (1986)

Unmasking the Idol is yet another nominee for the worst Bond copycat movie of the decade.

The film looks exactly like many of the various super agent movies that came out in the late 70s and early 80s, and is such very much a late comer both in its formula and style. The mimicking of Bond movies goes much too far in the very first scenes to the film; after the movie marched in Sato, an asian version of the agency’s inventor Q, I had to recheck I was really watching an independent action adventure, instead of something categorised as a Bond spoof.

Still, there’s something sympathetic about the whole looney underdog ninja adventure. As crappy as it is, its comic book mood with zany monkey sidekicks and caricaturistic baddies kind of grows on you. Had I seen the movie as a kid, I’d probably still think very highly of it.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 59%

#1028 Throw Momma from the Train (1987)

Throw Momma from the Train, Danny DeVito’s feature film directional debut is a success.

The movie is never taxing to follow, visually pleasing and would’ve even withstood a somewhat longer cut; at its current running time of only 87 minutes, the great roleplay of Anne Ramsey is cut short and the nastiness of the mother from hell is never established quite enough. Not enough to warrant throwing her out from the train, at least.

The movie is based on the 1951 Hitchcock classic Strangers on a Train and does a smart move by not trying to hide this, but intertwining it as the central turn of events in the movie.

I do love nods like these in movies.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 85%

#1027 Lovely But Deadly (1981)

From time to time I’ve mentioned movies that take all the right ingredients, but end up making kind of a shoddy mess out of them. In the case of Lovely But Deadly, even the ingredients are a mess.

There’s an aspiring singer that gets into the wrong side of law and whose uninspired musical numbers we’re forced to watch throughout the movie. A lot of the scenes are either too prolonged and don’t really seem to fit together, and it all happens in an alternative world where everyone seems to be a two penny martial artist.

Actually, I take back a few of my previous words: Lucinda Dooling as the lead makes for a darn decent and radiant action star. Too bad she didn’t get to debut in a bit more decent movie.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 18%

#1026 Bull Durham (1988)

A veteran catcher joins a minor-league baseball team Durham Bulls and crosses paths with up and coming star pitcher Ebby and Ann, a baseball groupie who has her own view on how to mature Ebby to the big leagues.

All in all Bull Durham is a quite refreshing sports movie as it concentrates on its characters instead of playing the tired from the bottom of the barrel to the champions schtick; there’s no training montages, no big motivational speeches and no last second game winning throws here.

Kevin Costner performs one of his strongest roles as a charismatic 33-year old baseball veteran on his very last game leg.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 74%

#1025 Nightmare at Noon aka Death Street USA (1988)

How do I love me a good B-movie! Especially the ones that have some decent production values to them, like Nightmare at Noon.

Combining one of my favourite setups, a small town under strange viral attack and a top lineup of B-movie actors: Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins and George Kennedy on the good side, and Brion James as the villain straight out of a cheap comic book, Nightmare at Noon looks surprisingly decent with good amount of action, horror and explosions.

Like the case often is with these movies, Nightmare at Noon also struggles to make the footage span over 90 minutes, which becomes all too apparent towards the end of the movie with some prolonged chase scenes.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 83%

#1024 The Private Eyes (1980)

The Private Eyes presents us with a classic mansion whodunnit comedy that makes for a surprisingly entertaining watch.

It’s a slapstick comedy making a solid imitation of the similar movies from the famous comedic duos of the yesteryear, namely Abbot and Costello. Starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts who made a series of comedies together starting from 1975, The Private Eyes is their best known movie, and also their final full length feature film together.

The movie is made with the young audience in mind with spooky bits comparable to an episode of Scooby Doo. The jokes are somewhat tame and obvious, but performed in an entertaining way by the duo.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 68%

#1023 Jinxed! (1982)

For a movie about gambling, Jinxed really truly pulls a great sleight of hand. With its story of a boorish, womanising gambler going after one specific blackjack dealer who he thinks is jinxed, the movie really seems to have an interesting and unique little comedic story in its hands.

But as the we reach the end of the act one, the movie really goes down the shitter and an interesting story that was being developed all along is changed to something of a cannonball run where the woman lead played by Bette Midler goes for a hunt after heritage left behind by his late husband. Nothing in the movie really works from hereon.

Midler does his comedic work in a satisfactory way, and Ken Wahl – who later gathered fame as the lead in Wiseguy, a successful late 80s TV series – co-stars as a hunk of a casino worker, delivering one of the most wooden acting ever recorded on film, yet somehow managing to be likeable.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 41%

#1022 A Little Sex (1982)

A newly married man keeps on landing on his dick on every woman that crosses his path in A Little Sex, an early eighties sex comedy.

The theme of the movie might’d still been somewhat relatable if the main male character wasn’t written in such a dull way: He’s portrayed as this whiny, poor thing that is forced to extramarital affairs by the sex craving women, instead of taking any of the initiative himself.

There’s somewhat interesting tension built between the couple as the dude finally is caught, but even that is quickly diluted in a disappointing, uninspired romantic comedy ending.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 32%

#1021 Special Effects (1984)

As Special Effects was nearing its midpoint, I found myself bargaining out loud for the movie not ending up in the very same stupid, predictable direction it was heading. But it does, which makes the latter half of the movie a tedious waiting game for the very apparent outcome.

Directed and written by Larry Cohen, Special Effects – not to be mixed up with similarly named F/X (1986) – does the unexpected by not only revealing the killer, but also lays out his plan to frame her ex fiancee for the murder. This is where the plot’s wittiness ends as we’re expected to take some giant big leaps of faith to believe all the nonsense that follows.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 44%

#1020 Outrageous Fortune (1987)

Bette Midler had a running streak of four solid comedies in just two years, all of which were solid box office successes.

Looking at Outrageous Fortune it’s no wonder: The movie is an obvious crowd pleaser and presses quite a lot of right buttons for moviegoers wanting a nice nonsense escape from reality for 90 minutes.

Personally I found all the agent nonsense totally unnecessary. The chemistry between Midler and Shelley Long works a treat and personally I would’ve been pretty happy just following the urban love triangle that was already well established and appetising. Luckily it all wraps up satisfactorily in the end in a finale done in the very best tradition of the 80s.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 71%

#1019 Modern Romance (1981)

Modern Romance follows the on / off relationship between hemming and hawing urban male and her very patient girlfriend.

The movie is such a chore to watch. That overly neurotic male shtick might’ve been pretty cute back in the early 80s, but from the present day’s standpoint the cuteness just isn’t there. The guy tries to cover all of his bases while spying on her love, breaking up with her cold blood one moment and then demanding her back just to not to have to share her with anyone else, probably more sane person. Cute? Try possessive, smothering or borderline sociopathic. Nothing modern about it.

I’ve really dug Albert Brooks in his various roles throughout the years, but Modern Romance falls quite far from that list.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 31%

#1018 Steel Magnolias (1989)

For a movie in where next to nothing happens, Steel Magnolias is a surprisingly entertaining ordeal, thanks to its interesting array of smartly written characters portrayed by the top talent of the era.

I really did not feel for the tearjerker story nor the syrupy depictions of the close knit, loving white community only seen in highly fictitious movies. But for a wholehearted sappy melodrama clearly targeted for the female audience, Steel Magnolias isn’t really half that bad.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 71%