#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%

#1547 Someone to Love (1987)

Look, if you’ve seen any Henry Jaglom movie, you’ve already seen Someone to Love. This is one more for the pile of his adults wallowing in their own problems kind of movies, but with 100% more wallowing and even 95% less interesting content than any competing Jaglom movie.

Jaglom’s strongest suite, the improvised dialogue works well here, but the sheer lack of events makes the film feel like it’s dragging on and on. Really, at only 107 minutes, watching the movie felt like the few longest hours of my life.

Only thing that breaks the monotony are the inserts of Orson Welles’ dialogue, and while they are nice, I can’t help but to think some other author might have gotten something more memorable out of his ultimate feature film performance.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 8%

#1546 The Dead Zone (1983)

Stephen King’s movies got translated to the silver screen in a quick pace after the success of Carrie and The Shining, but for the better of worse they rarely matched the sheer brilliance of these two movies. While The Dead Zone featuring Christopher Walken in the lead also falls somewhere far behind Carrie and The Shining, it’s still one of the more stronger King adaptations of the decade.

Despite the mild horror and supernatural elements, with The Dead Zone it was never that obvious that this was in fact a Stephen King movie, being more of a thriller. In fact, there’s nothing in the movie that would suggest an exceptional manuscript, and without reading the original 1979 novel of the same name, I can’t really tell how much has been lost (or found!) in translation with Jeffrey Boam’s screen write, or David Cronenberg’s directing.

Even if something has, The Dead Zone still makes for a decent movie with an interesting premise well worth one’s time.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 80%

#1545 Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987)

A textbook example of how to make a decent B-movie, Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity shows not only that one does not need a huge budget to make an entertaining movie, but also that B-movies don’t necessarily need to be laugh out loud bad.

Getting its inspiration very likely from The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity follows two intergalactic woman fugitives who crash land on a remote planet to find themselves in the vast mansion along with other visitors and robot servants, hosted by an eccentric aristocrat who has more plans for his guests than first meets the eye.

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity is throughly enjoyable scifi action movie that goes far beyond its modest budget. Should you watch the movie, pay close attention to the appearance and mannerisms of Don Scribner in the antagonist role as is looks as if young Christian Bale had taken a few notes of this very performance into his later day-to-day repertoire.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 79%

#1544 Rage of Honor (1987)

Shô Kosugi starred in many famous 80s Ninja movies, most of which really did not resonate with me, except for the entertaining Ninja III: The Domination, and his venture out from Ninja genre fared ever worse with the low budget stinkers like Rage of Honor and Black Eagle.

In Rage of Honor he plays a sort of a James Bond type that goes after a drug king pin in Argentina and while the movie is not quite as bad as Black Eagle, it just does everything in such an unimpressive and mediocre way that the movie leaves no lasting impression whatsoever.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 28%

#1543 Positive I.D. (1986)

Positive I.D. is probably the best twist I’ve seen to date in the woman revenge genre as it concentrates more on the identity – and loss thereof – affected by personal violation.

And its study on its female suspect and the enigmatic change she goes through is really interesting. Much more so than any your typical female revenge porn movie could provide.

A low budget movie shot with mostly unknown cast, Positive I.D. manages to find its own, weird slightly out of tune tone of voice that makes the movie viewing experience quite unique and rewarding.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 85%

#1542 High School U.S.A. aka The Race (1983)

Look, I’m not 100% sure if High School U.S.A. really exists, or if I’m trapped in a matrix, comatose or in some kind of psychosis. It’s just that seeing Michael J. Fox and Crispin Glover together in a high school movie in roles not too different to those seen in Back to the Future, and coupling that with some random 80s names such as Anthony Edwards as the rich kid and Michael Zorek in his typical slob role feels like something I could’ve very well cooked up in my sleep.

Other than that, this is your very basic high school comedy with the typical characters and events that go with the territory. There’ the rich, the jocks, the nerds, and the brainiacs and High School U.S.A. does not even aim to do things differently; it mostly just wants to be a TV movie passable for a theatrical release, and in that aspect it does no worse than most of the similar movies of the era you’d watch in a theatre.

Michael J. Fox already shows likeable traits straight out of his forthcoming teen star roles, but does not leverage this movie up that much. The real star of the show is Crispin Glover whose perfect timing and laconic replies got me laughing aloud quite a few times.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 74%

#1541 Emerald Cities (1983)

A disjointed indie movie about a woman who leaves her home and her father dressed up as a Santa Claus in Death Valley. Father then follows him to San Francisco through various small towns in a road movie fashion.

While the movie would have been ok’ish small budget project, it’s constantly interrupted with excerpts from TV news, faked interviews, movie clips and miscellaneous footage from concerts, which makes it very hard to following the plot, and the movie.

I liked the few quirky moments in the movie, but as Emerald Cities finally ended I could not help but cheated as a viewer.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 17%

#1540 Defiance (1980)

Tommy is a wandering seaman who arrives at early 80s New York to wait for a new ship to take him in. Meanwhile he find a house in a small worn out neighbourhood terrorised by a hoodlum gang called The Souls.

As you might have guessed, Defiance draws its inspiration from Death Wish and its numerous heirs: the main character inadvertently clashes with the gang, but remains hesitant to really stand up against them.

After seeing many similar gang movies, The Souls seems pretty lame bunch of misfits – almost caricatures – in their silly outfits, an do not really feel imposing enough to warrant a violent revenge. And unlike Death Wish, Defiance does not really deliver one. Oh, and if you’re into Jan-Michael Vincent, you might want to learn that Defiance is among the best, or if not the best movie of the decade for Vincent, before his unfortunate downward spiral.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 48%

#1539 Crimes of the Heart (1986)

Three troubled and eccentric (read: annoying) sisters reunite to the old family house to hang around, discuss and confront each others and the tragic events that led to their mother committing suicide.

Lenny is an old maid, wallflower type of person that never left the house. Meg aimed for a Hollywood career but ended up with nervous breakdown, and drives everyone (including the viewers) crazy in her egocentric ways. Then there’s Babe, a pedophile who got into relationship with an underage African-American child and shot her husband when he found out about it.

Yeah, I did not feel it at all for Crimes of the Heart, and honestly don’t understand for whom this movie is made for in the first place. It’s only the fine actresses that save very little what there is to be saved in this convoluted mess of a movie.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 11%

#1538 Communion (1989)

Ok, so Communion and The Dead Zone and Brainstorm are the three 80s movies starring Christopher Walken that I keep mixing up as they all have a scifi / supernatural theme to them.

So, just to reiterate: The Dead Zone is the Stephen King one with Walken gaining psychic abilities after a car crash and the following coma. Brainstorm is the one where they can project images and memories direct to peoples brains with the head gizmo and things go south as the army gets interested in the device. And, finally, Communion is the one that is based on experiences of one Whitley Strieber who was spooked around in a cabin by extraterrestrials who did like the aliens typically do: shined light into their eyes and terrorised their dreams.

Communion is pretty much like every UFO story out there; it has an unbelievable and fascinating events way beyond our current comprehension, but very little explanation or concrete outcome of it all, and it’s this vagueness that leaves the experience pretty bland at the end.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 59%

#1537 Alphabet City (1984)

Alphabet City is one of those movies that has only night scenes with tons of smoke and bright neon coloured lights, and it’s stylish all right ..and it’s mostly style over substance.

Which is not necessarily bad at all. I’ve enjoyed tons of movies for the mood only if they represent well a movie world that fascinates me. But even then the movies do need some substance, even if it’s through an interesting main character – and this is where Alphabet City fails. Vincent Spano seems to have been hired for the role for his looks only and his character and his representation of it feels paper thin, even for a superficial movie like this.

The movie reminds me mostly of video games that appeared years later, and the way that the movie looks totally fresh still to date is totally a feat on its own. But judging this by the story only, I’ve seen better plots written on the side of a yogurt can.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 58%

#1536 Glitch! (1988)

One more movie out of the movie factory named Nico Mastorakis, I honestly suspect that Glitch was initiated by first renting out the luxury Malibu seaside mansion, and only secondly trying to come up with the movie.

The plot and events are so ridiculous that it feels they just made it all up as they went along. There’s two losers, one of them turning back and forth from a moron to a genius after hypnosis treatment, a few baddies, and perhaps most importantly to the production team a wide array of bikini babes who likely signed up for the movie for no compensation for their petty 15 minutes on a silver screen.

With Glitch Mastorakis has reached the unimaginable goal of coming up with a movie too fluffy and silly for my taste. While the movie has its few passing moments, it’s just much too hollow shell of a movie to really enjoy.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 21%