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Saturday, 17 October 2015

31 Of My Favourite Obscure, Underrated & Under Appreciated '80s Movies

A follow-up to my favourite obscure, underrated, overlooked movies of the 1990s, I thought I would do one for the 1980s as well. 

Last updated: October 5, 2017

*Movie info from Amazon

My Lucky Stars (1985) - before he became well known outside of Asia for the Rush Hour movies - which to be quite frank pale in comparison to his native offerings, such as Police Story -, Jackie Chan appeared in this kung fu comedy caper about a cop, who along with his partner, are sent to Japan to infiltrate a criminal and his gang. However, the real star of this movie is Sammo Hung, who shines throughout. The comedy is very humorous - although it is likened to say, Benny Hill, and it is really silly. Especially when the guys take it in turns to kidnap and tie up a female cop. I'm not going to say anymore, but that scene was very amusing and so typical of Hong Kong comedy during the 1980s. It's such a shame the Hong Kong movie industry faded into obscurity right after that decade - not only do I miss these types of action comedies, but also the frequent use of spoken Chinese Cantonese. Given that most Chinese movies these days solely rely on Mandarin as the main dialect. One could argue the humour and comedy may not be to their taste, but the fight sequences are really well executed & plus I'd add they are of a higher quality to that of 'Rush Hour 1, 2 & 3'. My Lucky Stars is well worth a look, especially if you are interested in Jackie Chan's earlier work. 

Yes, Madam (1985) - also known as Police Assassins, like most martial arts movies, it has very generic plot and story-line and thus, it mainly shines through the choreographed fight sequences. The English dubbing is beyond awful, and so it is highly recommended that you watch it in Cantonese with the English subtitles on. I mainly watch martial arts movies just to see the good guys kick some ass, more than anything else: Cynthia Roderick and Michelle Yeoh deliver when it matters when it comes to the martial arts fights, - if not for the forgettable script. If you are into martial arts movies, 'Yes Madam' will be for you - for the rest, it's probably worth giving this one a miss.

Ruthless People (1986) - Sam Stone is a hard-nosed, obnoxious money man, whose wife Barbara is kidnapped by a young couple - and matters are further complicated when the hubby doesn't want his wife back. That, as well as Sam's mistress, wants him dead and is only interested in his money, and you have a recipe of backhanded shenanigans, acts of deceit and over-the-top humor thanks to the Zucker bros. themselves. Clever writing, very humorous scenes and banter with grade-A performances by Bette Midler and Danny Devito as Barbara and Sam, whilst the kidnappers played by Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater are okay at best. Ruthless People is not only one of the best dark comedies to come out of the 1980s, but I also regard it as one of the best comedy movies of all-time. 
Wildcats (1986) - 1986 was an interesting year for Hollywood star couple, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, especially as they both starred in American football -based movies: Kurt in 'The Best of Times' and Goldie with 'Wildcats'. And a year later together in comedy, Overboard. A female coach is hired to turnaround the fortunes of a young, ailing (American) football team, much to the dismay of the players themselves. As Molly McGrath in Wildcats, Goldie turns in what I would say is arguably her best on-screen performance. A feel-good movie with some terrific sporting action, Wildcats is definitely worth recommending if you are into sports, comedy, or just to see Goldie Hawn whip those players into shape. Also featured in this movie are a younger Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. 

John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China (1986) - Kurt Russell heads this fantasy action- adventure flick set in San Francisco's Chinatown. Big Trouble in Little China has that comic-book feel to it with a touch of John Carpenter's magical sorcery & supernatural hi-jinks. A far cry from Carpenter's previous efforts, 'The Thing' and Escape to New York, Jack Burton (played by Russell) teams up with his Chinese-American friend, Wang to kick butt & rescue their damsel in distresses, who have been held captive by Lo Pan. Jack is the all-American, all-action yet somewhat inept hero-to-be truck driver, trying to prove his worth, with martial arts action, humour and lots of fun. Slated by critics, but still, a movie that tries not to take itself too seriously, 'Big Trouble in Little China' is worth recommending.

Spaceballs (1987) - Star Wars knock-off spoof courtesy of Mel Brooks, the sight of little Rick Moranis wearing a massive helmet as the villain named Lord Dark Helmet certainly raises a chuckle or two. Yes, it looks a little dated, but Spaceballs is still a hoot, easily watchable with a funny script, as well as there are plenty of humourous scenes. It is the Naked Gun/Airplane of Sci-fi movies.

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) - the animated feature film seems to be dominated by the big three of Manga and Disney and Pixar; therefore, it is nice to see a movie that isn't by these studios, not forgetting an animated movie that is a pure delight from start to finish. Kiki's Delivery Service was virtually unknown to Western audiences back in the '80s, but with interest in Studio Ghibli's work during the last few years peaking, meant this movie was given a second glance by audiences. And it is wonderful: great animation, the art style is fab, the narrative has a feel-good vibe to it and the movie itself is so inviting, warm and endearing.

Tiger Cage (1988) - A Hong Kong action crime film that has gone unnoticed, this has plenty of action, both in terms of the gun-play and kung fu fight scenes, along with some convincing acting performances to boot.

Tango and Cash (1989) - 2 rival LA cops are framed for murder and are later put behind bars. From there on, they set out to escape from jail, clear their names and pursue the crime lord who set them up in the first place. Entertaining and enjoyable action movie, reminiscent to that of Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover; amusing in places, very good action scenes, good one-liners, and the at times humorous banter and verbal exchanges between Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell is one of a kind. 

Turner and Hooch (1989) - between K9 with James Belushi and this movie with Tom Hanks, this canine effort just wins by a small margin. Even though the ending was so incredibly sad, it has a timeless appeal to it that can be enjoyed by everyone. Tom Hanks interactions with the dog are so amusing and cute at the same time. 

Akira (1988) - Back in the days when Anime was still hip and cool and relatively unknown before it blew up worldwide, there were the likes of Akira to contend with. A cultural landmark in Japanese cyberpunk action, this violent animated movie has terrific animation, great art style, end-to-end action and suspense. When we think of the epitome of Anime and Japanese animated movies, the one movie that usually springs to mind is Akira. The comparisons with Blade Runner are evident in the sci-fi action and special effects, and they are something special. A must-see for fans of Anime, it is the best of what Anime has to offer. 

Midnight Run (1988) - from the producer of Beverly Hills Cop comes this action comedy starring Robert De Niro as the bounty hunter and Charles Grodin as the criminal, who end up working together. Interesting mixture of comedy and action and entertaining to boot. 

Punchline (1988) - underrated and often overlooked effort about the world of and life as a stand-up comic with Tom Hanks and Sally Field. It is not technically a comedy per se, but a drama and though it was released in the same year as 'Big', is not as well known as that movie. You can tell in this film through Hanks's performance why his career took off and he went onto bigger things, and yet Sally Field's character - with the exception of Mrs Doubtfire, Soapdish - hadn't, even though her performance was still excellent. With the likes of Big, Dragnet, Punchline and Bosom Buddies to his CV, it is surprising that Tom Hanks doesn't do more comedy-type roles or roles that involve being funny and humorous. Which is something that I miss, because he is so good at it, & not just by being a serious dramatic actor.

Overboard (1987) - from Garry Marshall, who later gave us 'Pretty Woman', Overboard is essentially one of the best rom-coms to come out of this decade. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell star in this rags-to-riches tale of a pompous, pretentious socialite who falls overboard -hence the title- ends up getting amnesia, and is told by Dean she is his wife and that they have 4 kids! Has some really funny and touching moments throughout and it also has a really positive message about 'money doesn't buy happiness', that & Goldie and Kurt have great on- screen chemistry together.  

Ishtar (1987) - this film carried a lot of negative baggage, which for the most part was uncalled for, as it was trashed by critics. The performances by Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty were really good and as a comedy, it's not too bad; in fact, I do not understand why this movie received so much disdain and really, it is a film that should have amounted to cult status by now. 

Dead Heat (1988) - buddy cop action comedy with a supernatural/horror twist that has become a cult classic, over time. Witty, fun with a feel that is akin to Big Trouble In Little China, this is a cool B-movie flick

Red Heat (1988) - B- grade Arnie action movie with James Belushi & big Arnie as the two cops, who don't always see eye-to-eye, yet are forced to team up to track down a drug lord. In a way, this is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's overlooked performances, as he is excellent as a Russian detective who travels to the US to hunt down his nemesis. The interplay by Schwarzenegger and Belushi hits the spot, in addition to the action scenes. 

Running Scared (1986) - fun cop-based film, released at a time when there was a surge of movies starring comedians, other performers turning their attentions to action-comedy roles (i.e Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop). Such as Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines in this effort. The story isn't much to write home about, but the performances, humour and action scenes all make up for it. 

Police Story (1985) my favourite Jackie Chan movie; this film just screams classic Jackie Chan - not the dumbed down version in his Western efforts. The stunts, fight scenes, the moves, it is non-stop stuff with some added comedy and humour. The main highlight is the shopping mall scene towards the end of the movie where Jackie takes on the bad guys all by himself, relying on inanimate objects and props as weapons and taking a beating or two. No, make that a couple, as well as injuring himself in the process with no wires - just pure stunt work. If you have never seen a Jackie Chan movie, start with Police Story and if you have seen almost every Jackie Chan movie, apart from this one, then, by all means, watch Police Story.  

Wheels on Meals (1987) set in Spain, this is more of a comedy movie first, & martial arts movie second, with plenty of laughs and like with every other Jackie Chan movie has some of the best fight scenes, including one with Jackie squaring off against fellow martial artist, Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez. He also takes a backseat and plays more of a supporting role to Sammo Hung and Yuan Biao, but that in particular is a good thing, because it allows the other two to have more scenes. If you don't mind seeing a less action -orientated Jackie Chan movie, then Wheels on Meals is the movie for that. 

Best of the Best (1989) - American martial arts action drama with Eric Roberts, elder brother of Julia Roberts. The action is good, it's also interesting to see the competitive nature of taekwondo, rather than being a straight up action beat em' up. 

The Survivors (1983) - see here 

The Money Pit (1986) - from Steven Spielberg comes this screwball comedy flick starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long (Cheers) as a couple, and they watch their house fall apart, right in front of their very eyes. Some snappy writing and slapstick fun, if you are into that sort of thing. 

China Girl (1987) - Nitty Gritty take on Romeo and Juliet with an urban flavour by Abel Ferrera, he brings this story to life in ways that other directors wouldn't dare reach that is also one that I find stylish and the most interesting out of all the versions of this famous tragi-story. 

Adventures In Babysitting (1987) - debut from Chris Columbus featuring first early major onscreen performances by a young Elizabeth Shue and Penelope Ann Miller, with Shue's character and 3 other kids she babysits finding themselves in an adventure and on the run from bad guys. Fun throughout and action-packed in places, this comedy is worth taking a spin 

Seize The Day (1986) - see here

The War of the Roses (1989) - An interesting indictment on relationships, marriage and divorce in such a savage but also not too overly sick and twisted way, courtesy of Danny DeVito. If you are able to separate Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner's characters from Romancing The Stone to the ones in this movie, then you'll find some enjoyment out of this one. 

Stripped to Kill (1987) - I'm not usually one for soft-core porn based movies, but after reading the plot of this thriller, I really had to give this one a watch. At least this one was watchable and went far beyond having only the sexual aspect of it to generate interest. A female detective is forced to go undercover to suss out the culprit responsible for a spate of killings: all of whom are strippers. & she does this by posing as a stripper in a seedy joint. What I'd thought would be an utter monstrosity, it was to my surprise I discovered that Stripped to Kill had some decent acting performances & dialogue, as well as an intriguing plotline and narrative that had improved as the film went on. The music is awful though, so cringing. It is very hammy & cheesy at times, the last 30 mins were so ludicrous and over-the-top - and yet it was also entertaining and not lacking in fight scenes. So bad, yet also watchable at times, Stripped to Kill will appeal to guys in particular who like to get their kicks from seeing lap-dancers and stuff like that. This movie shares the same spotlight with Fear City. Not bad for a Z-list erotic thriller. 

Fear City (1985) - This one is in the same league as Stripped to Kill - well almost. A serial killer is on the loose targeting female strippers one by one. Apart from that one plotline in this movie, the cop doesn't go undercover as a stripper. An ex-boxer runs a strip joint whilst still harbouring feelings for his on- again, off -again girlfriend, who later becomes a target. The performances are good but what makes this movie appealing to me is that both Tom Berenger's and Melanie Griffith's characters are flawed individuals. The production looks slick - yet because of its lurid nature, 20th Century Fox declined to release it officially in theaters in America. Overall, it is a good thriller slasher movie with some suspense, but for the lack of characterisation of the villain, which comes across as being underdeveloped. 

Banana Joe (1982) - an Italian comedy starring Bud Spencer, a banana grower has to go down town and seek help to prevent a mobster tries to take his banana farm. It's not laugh out loud funny or highly amusing, but it has its moments and is brimming with a breezy, light feel. 

Into The Night (1985) - an early John Landis effort that is not well known to general audiences, Into The Night stars Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Phieffer in this mystery romance film. It's not too bad but thanks to Phieffer, her appearance and turn as a thief is worth tuning in for.

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