#1515 The January Man (1989)

The January Man is an odd one, starting with its casting. Not that the cast itself isn’t up for the task, but it’s just the combination of them that does not seem a typical selection for an a-list action movie. Same goes with Kevin Kline acting as the lead: he does the work adequately, but somehow I feel like he wasn’t among the top-5 choices for the role. This becomes obviously clear in the moments he is represented as a top notch cop; no matter how hard I tried, I could not buy it for a second.

Same goes for figuring out who the killer was, which would’ve taken me some giant leaps of faith and perhaps even more imagination than the writers had.

Although coming across more as an actor than an actual cop, there’s no denying that Kline possesses a great secret presence, and despite (or, thanks to) all the fluffiness the movie does make for a very easy, weirdly enjoyable watching experience.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 65%

#1511 Mindfield aka Mind Field (1989)

Canada – or USA lite as some pundits like to call it – felt in the 80s somewhere in between Great Britain and the States (a bit like Australia did as well) performing at times pretty convincing imitation of the Hollywood cinema, but more than often not really finding a tone of its own, and ending up sort of a poor man’s version of its US counterpart.

Mindfield is 100% Canadian product that got into this list for featuring one Michael Ironside who had already achieved a sizeable career in the US that would ultimately culminate in Total Recall (1990) that made him a household name and one of the definite baddies in the cinema history.

In Mindfield he also performs well, but anything else in the movie falls so far behind the expectations that it’s clear his talent is wasted here. Don’t let the nice poster or the scifi mind altering thriller blurb fool you – Total Recall this totally ain’t.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 38%

#1510 Pink Cadillac (1989)

Pink Cadillac is one of those movies I watched at the very beginning of starting out this project, but it turns out I never got around reviewing it.

Turns out I remember at the beginning with Clint Eastwood as a skip tracer going after the trailer park beauty queen Lou Ann (Bernadette Peters) who has fled to Reno with a briefcase full of her husbands counterfeit money – but the second half with them battling together against a camp full of white supremists I’d totally forgotten about. Probably due to it being more forgettable and less impactful than the plot twists that preceded it.

So, Pink Cadillac is a totally enjoyable movie – but not quite as iconic as I remembered it to be.

Still, you can never go much wrong with Eastwood.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 81%

#1507 Robot Ninja (1989)

If many of the main stream movies gained in quality from being released towards the end of the 80s, the same goes for the indie movies as well. Had Robot Ninja been released in 1982 it would’ve probably been unwatchable mess, but now the overall production quality (for a low budget movie) and the 80s style of it makes it more enjoyable and definitely closer to something that one could consider as a cult movie.

Mind you, this is still not a good movie. It is totally stupid and silly, and mostly relying on totally overboard gory special effects, but it does have that guilty pleasure aspect to it that I can relate to some people enjoying. That being said, the movie wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

There is a definite star in this show as well, though: A Commodore Amiga 500 home computer is present in many of the scenes, which alone makes the movie worth checking out for the fans of Amiga. I know you’re out there!

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 40%

#1499 Chattahoochee (1989)

Chattahoochee is based on the life of Chris Calhoun, a Korean war veteran who in 1955 suffered a violent mental breakdown resulting him to be incarcerated in a high security mental health prison in Chattahoochee State Hospital, Florida.

From thereon his problems get worse as the patients of the asylum are subjected to various sorts of abuse. The systematic cruelty was eventually exposed by The Tampa Tribune, aided by the letters that Calhoun wrote while committed.

Chattahoochee features a wonderful story coupled with the strong performance by the wonderful Gary Oldman, but is ultimately held back by a poor screenplay that often fails to portray cause and consequence of various events; we see the violent breakdown, suicide attempt and eventual recovery but never quite understand the catalysts behind them.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 67%

#1489 Immediate Family (1989)

I keep of finding the oddest movies I at first don’t remember watching before, but throughout the movie I have this nagging feeling I’ve seen them before. With Immediate Family this became apparent as soon as Mary Stuart Masterson was introduced as a teen mother giving her to-be-born child for adoption to a couple unable to bear children of their own.

A movie about teenage pregnancy as much as dealing with infertility, Immediate Family plays just the right notes throughout the movie, but for some reason the movie ends up less than the sum of its first class parts.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 64%

#1481 Face of the Enemy (1989)

Featuring one of the most interesting synopsis’ I’ve encountered in the recent years, Face of the Enemy is a low budget drama thriller about a former CIA agent who after getting caught and tortured in Middle-East has since returned to home and working as a guard, until he one year recognises someone who he suspects is one of his captors that has since moved to the states under different identity. After the officials decline any help he takes the actions to his own hands and decides to prison the suspect to his cellar and force out the confession out of her.

With Face of the Enemy the director Hassan Ildari has managed to create an intriguing little thriller with minimalistic elements. The trip to the depths of the human psyche is dark and interesting from the start to the end, but Face of the Enemy in its 100 minutes of running time does very little but scratch the surface of what could be hidden underneath; this is one of those concepts that would’ve probasbly worked even better as mini series.

That, or a novel.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 70%

#1451 The ’Burbs (1989)

Shot in the legendary Universal back lot, The ’Burbs is one of those perfect 80s family movies that lets us a sneak peak into the life of a neighbourhood in the suburbs where a tempest in a teapot is just about to be unleashed as a new suspicious family moves in to disturb the peace.

Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern and Rick Ducommun create an unlikely trio of family guys who stick together even thought they don’t share much more in common other than the same street address. Corey Feldman joins the show to do what Corey Feldman does the best: being the laid back dude often breaking the fourth wall.

The ’Burbs balances well between creating big drama out of small elements, suspense and comedy. It is debatable if the movie needed its last minute plot twist (I’d been totally content without it), but otherwise the movie does very little wrong.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 90%

#1442 The War of the Roses (1989)

I haven’t been shy on saying about how Danny DeVito is one of the Hollywood’s unsung heroes, that has never received the critical acclaim he should’ve – both as a director and an actor. The War of the Roses, his second feature film after Throw Momma from the Train is once again a good looking, well directed piece of cinema where it’s only the manuscript that runs out of steam before the end.

A black comedy about a couple going through the most devastating divorce ever evolves from a love story into a spiral of revenge that in the end devours them both. But it seems that the story lacks one more step in evolution; the characters become more and more two dimensional caricatures – until the last showdown that manages to revive some more dimensions to them.

The War of the Roses is a good movie with a constant feeling of huge untapped potential that the movie never quite redeems, and although the leads Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas perform well on the screen, it’s DeVito himself whose appearances always leave me hungry for more.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 75%

#1441 Music Box (1989)

Music Box is a thought provoking movie: how much we really know of the past of our parents, before they were our parents – especially if it is a subject they don’t want to discuss about.

This is what a young attorney Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) starts to wonder as she defends his father against the accusations of war crimes that took place in WW2 Hungary. The movie also keeps the viewer at the edge of their seat as we seek for a spark of hope for the accused, while feeling absolutely saddened by the morbid stories shared by the witnesses.

Armin Mueller-Stahl performs a superb role as the straight forward heartfelt grandfather who’s learned to hide well the enigma of a man he really is.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 94%

#1440 Black Rainbow (1989)

If you’re going to introduce supernatural nonsense into your movie, you better back it up some how.

I was waiting for Black Rainbow to come up with a good explanation how Rosanna Arquette as a medium with a great showmanship suddenly begins channeling grim predictions of the future and foreseeing deaths to the tiniest detail, but the movie provides none of that. As the movie closes it manages to leave one confused, with less clear picture of the character and her powers one had just 30 minutes ago.

Black Rainbow is a mishmash of a movie that had a nice premise for a movie, but would’ve needed much, much snappier writing in order to pull it off.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 59%

#1436 Farewell to the King (1989)

An American army squad shipwrecks on the shores of Japanese occupied Borneo and gets wiped out by the enemy, except for the soldier who flees the confrontation and befriends with a local tribe. When two British soldiers paratroop into the jungle, they meet up with the tribe and the American, now dubbed as the king of the tribe.

If this sounds familiar, you might be interested to hear that John Milius, the writer behind Farewell to the King is the same guy who wrote Apocalypse Now some ten years earlier.

What made Farewell to the King the most interesting to me was not the battle against the enemy, but the perseverance the allies show about bringing him back to be trialed as a deserter. The noose tightens and Farewell to the King keeps the viewer well in its grasp until the very end.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 70%

#1434 Cookie (1989)

An organised crime racketeer Dino (Peter Falk) is released from prison and goes out to claim his ill earned money from his former partners of crime who don’t want to give that money to them. At the same time his daughter Cookie (Emily Lloyd) who has had to live without a father turns out not loving him, but hating instead. Now Dino has to get his money and the love of his daughter back and also choose between his mistress and his wife.

This is once again a mob movie that begs the movie to side with the main character against the authorities and for this needs a lead that the viewer can feel that sympathy for, and Falk definitely fits the bill: there’s nothing so vicious he could not do and to get away with it by doing his trademark underdog Columbo schtick.

Falk remains the only strong point in the movie and I found most aspects of the movie very unoriginal, as if the Susan Seidelman had traced over a caricature that has been traced over countless times before, and failing to add anything of her own there.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 41%

#1418 The Kill Reflex aka Soda Cracker (1989)

The Kill Reflex is a paint by numbers action thriller overshadowed by most of its contemporaries. This lone wolf police story could have worked a bit better as a buddy cop movie, but naturally still ended up inferior in that category as well.

It’s a tired show that does not ever to try to outdo other movies of the genre, just fit in with the rest of them.

There are two highlights in the movie; the ending the ending that manages to surprise with the drastic actions the baddies take when caught in a corner, plus the fact that another one of them can be earlier seen wearing a Finnair Sports Tours tracksuit.

Go, Finland!

#1404 Halloween 2020: The Weirdo (1989)

An oddball of a youngster gets bullied by various people until he reaches his breaking point.

There’s an argument to be made that The Weirdo isn’t a horror movie at all. It’s a revenge movie, and not a very good one at that. The concept has been used many times much more effective, touching, gruesome, shocking – you name it – way, and served in a visually more splashy fashion.

Only interesting aspect in The Weirdo is how the main character is just not simple innocent victim, but like many outcasts he can also be bit of an asshole, even towards the people that care for him.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 4%

#1382 Halloween 2020: Clownhouse (1989)

Wow, what a great start for a movie. Clownhouse successfully introduces three brothers and their very relatable relationship; giving each other hard time but really sticking together when it counts. It’s especially the trip to the travelling show that captures this, along with the kids’ coulrophobia and overall the whole segment is just very atmospheric.

It is therefore a shame how Clownhouse regresses into very average game of cat and mouse between the mental patients dressed as clowns and the kids – not unlike in Alone in the Dark just seven years earlier. The movie fails to provide any motivation for why to clowns decide to attack one specific house and why don’t they just march in and kill the kids, but prefer to run around them in the woods and hide inside closets inside the house, and it’s not too long after it gets old.

On the positive note the clowns, especially the leader does look menacing and visually a good fit for the style of the movie. Sam Rockwell can be seen in his debut feature film role as the eldest of the brothers, and his already very Rockwellysque performance at this young age is already a treat for us fans.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 70%

#1381 Halloween 2020: Murder Weapon (1989)

If you’re going to make a stupid slasher, why not at least make it original, right?

Murder Weapon is a turd of a movie, with the record amount of padding I’ve seen to date; for the starters we can see some chick applying sun lotion for what seems an eternity coupled with an interview scene that drags on and on. It takes mind numbing 32 minutes for the movie to actually start.

After it does, things get somewhat better. Murder lusted girls fresh out of asylum invite their mullet-rocking old boyfriends to a house, and – you guessed it – gratuitous nudity and graphic kills ensue. While Murder Weapon earns a few extra points for not going down the beaten path, it’s ultimately just a glorified soft porn movie that fails to provide any scares.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 17%

#1376 Halloween 2020: The Terror Within (1989)

First of the scifi horror movies this Halloween, The Terror Within takes place in a base built in a desert somewhere in the dystopian future when most of the human kind has been wiped out by undisclosed human activities against the nature, leaving only super powerful mutants roaming the earth.

The restricted budget becomes very obvious in the few establishing shots of the futuristic base as everything here seems to be composed cardboard or of off the shelf items with a strong 70s whiff to them. After the movie turns out to be yet another Aliens ripoff and the alien offspring escapes to the ventilation hatches the movie gets a gloomier tone and the lighting changes for the movie’s benefit. For once the inevitable sighting and showdown with the enemy is not a complete letdown: Aliens level of art directing may not be found here, but the monster does look menacing enough for me not to want to bump into it in a dark corridor.

George Kennedy who probably received top billing is not sold on the project and walks through the movie without much enthusiasm. Andrew Stevens who’s previously stayed under the radar for me on the other hand puts in tons of great energy and effort as the heroic lead, levering the otherwise mediocre movie up a quite a notch.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 75%

#1366 The Jigsaw Murders (1989)

I’ve gone through this before; given the sky high quality of the thrillers these days that offer plot twists after plot twists, it’s hard to get impressed with the 80s offerings.

But what actually works for the benefit of The Jigsaw Murders is the way how refreshingly straight forward it is: someone gets murdered, the evidence gets piled up against a suspect, and finally it’s a question of getting enough evidence (with legal means) to put him away.

As the book of movie clichés would have it, the senior detective struggles with alcoholism, but the movie handles this side of the story interestingly, stripping any sorts of movie glamour out of it.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 72%

#1335 Hider in the House (1989)

If there ever was a role Gary Busey was born to play, it’s the deranged patient Tom Sykes who in Hider in the House finds himself building a little nest in the attic of a nuclear family to live with the family he never had. Really, he’s such a natural in the role and boasts just the right physical features that the movie seems written with precisely him in mind.

Busey perfectly shows the likeable traits needed for the role and we the viewers can’t but hope that everything would turn out well for him in the end somehow. The concept of the movie is unique and it skillfully moves away from the most tired clichés when there is a temptation to just take the road well travelled.

That is, until the end. Even though the ending is a-ok it really felt like such a letdown after all the great buildup that was used to establish Tom’s multifaceted character.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 87%