Thursday, July 24, 2014

1989: The Best

Let's end things with a solid top ten.

10. The Abyss

James Cameron really knocked this one out of the park.  A criminally underrated sci-fi flick, this is the best of the underwater movies to come out in 1989.  Not that that's terribly difficult.  Either way, Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio play an estranged couple on an underwater salvage team looking for a sunken sub.  It turns out aliens are involved, though Navy Seal Michael Biehn suspects communists (though given how batshit crazy he ends up, you can guess how that goes).  Cameron delivers a finely crafted piece of filmmaking here with solid performances, some great set pieces and a fantastic overall production.  It's a real gem.

9. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

And here we have the last time Chevy Chase was ever funny.  The third Vacation film is probably the perfect Christmas movie (as far as ones without gunfights and explosions go) as well-meaning husband Clark (Chase) tries to put on the best Christmas celebration his family has ever had.  Tons of great laughs, mainly from Randy Quaid, and some solid character actors help make this a fantastic holiday comedy.

8. When Harry Met Sally

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are fantastic in this thoroughly enjoyable, hilarious romantic comedy about a man and woman who gradually fall in love over a period of several years.  Blessed with a smart script and warm, entertaining performances, this Rob Reiner comedy is still probably the best romantic comedy of all time.

7. Road House

As Mike Nelson of MST3K has said, Road House is the finest cinematic achievement in American cinema.  Patrick Swayze stars as Dalton, a philosophical bouncer who can also rip a guy's throat out with his bare hands who is tasked with cleaning up a scuzzy bar in Missouri.  It's cheesy goodness all they way with rampant violence, hot chicks and hilarious performances.  Any other year this would be on the guilty pleasures list (as is the case with the number five film on the list) but for this year, it's one of the best.

6. Back to the Future Part II

The second Back to the Future movie is a wild, funny, sort of dark roller coaster of a movie with some great f/x, nice work from Michael J. Fox as his entire future family more or less and a typically fun turn from Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown.  Thomas F. Wilson is fun as usual as Biff (as well as his grandson) and Robert Zemeckis somehow manages to juggle the time travel stuff quite well.  Given how dense the plot is, that the film works at all is nothing short of a miracle.

5. Tango & Cash

As with Road House, this one is really something that belongs on the guilty pleasure list but really, this year was just superficial enough that I can make an exception.  Besides, Tango & Cash is possibly the best spoof of the action genre (unintentional, probably) I have ever seen.  Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell play two elite cops who not only have a common dislike for each other but also a common enemy in crime lord Jack Palance in full on "hiss at the end of every sentence" mode.  They are set up for murder by the villain and have to break out of prison after which they go right for Palance with as much firepower as they can carry.  Tango & Cash is simply hilarious with a nice deadpan comic performance from Sly and some truly funny bits from Kurt.  Brion James is also on hand with one of the worst Cockney accents since Mary Poppins and the action is loud, plentiful and gratuitous.  This is one of my favorites and the best comedy Stallone ever made.

4. Batman

It's easy to forget how iconic and huge Tim Burton's take on Batman was when it came out.  We've had Christopher Nolan's dark and gritty take and the animated series from the 90's is probably the best overall adaptation of the character but the `1989 movie stands out by not only delivering a solid version of Batman and a superb rendition of The Joker but it also made the comic book film, specifically the superhero variant a valid box office player.  Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson are great as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Joker respectively and while nobody else in the cast really comes close, they acquit themselves just fine.  Production design is quite good as is the music and I always got a kick out of how Burton handled the action.  It's just a pure, though imperfect blockbuster gem.

3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The third Indiana Jones film is a fine return to form after the rather dark (but still entertaining) second film.  Indy is after the Holy Grail and this time, he;s accompanied by his father, played wonderfully by Sean Connery.  The relationship between the Jones family is the heart of the movie and it makes the fantastic action scenes even more potent and entertaining.  Steven Spielberg does his usual fantastic directing job and the tank chase towards the end of the film is one of the best action scenes in the series.

2. Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing is the best film Spike Lee has ever made.  A nicely insightful, funny, tragic look at the human condition on the hottest day in New York, this takes an eclectic bunch of characters and simply lets them... be.  Lee doesn't push things too hard, doesn't force the issue, he just lets it be a racially charged character comedy with an awesome cast and an excellent script.  Letting tensions simmer to a boil as the film goes on until they explode at the end is a perfect way to handle things and actually makes the funny moments work even better as there is also an undercurrent of tension.  Really, the only reason it isn't my best of the year is that the one above it on the list is one I just like better.  Still, that takes nothing away from the fact that this is one of the finest films of the decade if not all time.

1. Lethal Weapon 2

It probably says a great deal about how superficial the year was that this ended up being my best of the year.  Do the Right Thing is amazing, yes, but Lethal Weapon 2 is one I like just a little bit more.  In some ways, superior to the original, Lethal Weapon 2 is a fast paced, funny, action packed thrill ride with great work from Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Joe Pesci who turns in a classically funny performance as a weaselly accountant the guys have to protect.  The bad guys are equally awesome, nothing says over the top 80's action movie villains like a bunchy of drug dealing South African diplomats who also happen to be racists.  For the sheer joy of viewing it, I have to put it at the top of the heap for 1989.

1989 was a fun, though superficial year for film with an awesome summer season and some good stuff throughout the whole year in general.  Definitely a great way to end the decade.

1989: Guilty Pleasures

Lots of enjoyable crap this year, let's dig in!

Christopher Walken's gonzo performance is the main attraction in this very, very, very loose adaptation of Whitley Streiber's book of the same title.  Playing a rather embellished version of the author, Walken is a sight to behold as he is abducted and experimented on by aliens, at one point making random pop culture references about them.  It's quite a performance and the fact that it's directed by the same guy who did the second and third Howling movies makes it even better.  It's an amazingly odd movie.

While Wes Craven is capable of making legit horror classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street, he also can take a ride off the deep end from time to time.  Shocker is one of those times as a deranged serial kill (played by Mitch Pileggi of The X-Files) is captured and given the chair only to come back an energy being that can travel through phone lines and TV signals and a good chunk of the film is him possessing random folks.  The highlight is the finale which sees the young teen hero chase the villain through the TV in a wild sequence that makes this rather routine for the most part flick a hilarious delight.

The first attempt at a film based on Marvel's Punisher comic book is a loud, violent, cheesy bit of junky fun as Dolph Lundgren hulks his way through the film growling out the occasional line of dialogue and killing a ton of people.  The film isn't exactly faithful to the comic but it's such an enjoyably cheesy ride that it doesn't matter much.  It's a fun, gleefully bad action movie.

I get a kick out this sort of cheap looking, utterly cheesy post-apocalyptic action flick from Cannon.  Jean-Claude van Damme is our loner hero for the day and he must transport a young woman cyborg who holds the key to curing a virus that has devastated the planet.  Cheesy f/x, adequate fights and a few flashbacks where van Damme sports a hideous wig make this a cheesy bit of fun.  It's the second best film Albert Pyun has ever made.

Now we come to a quartet of misguided, sort of pointless and in two cases, funny for all the wrong reasons sequels to hit movies.

The title is a cheat as Jason doesn't even hit land until an hour or so in but the eighth Friday the 13th film sports some nice kills, a typically good performance from Kane Hodder as Jason and some cheesy moments here and there.  The stuff on the boat before we get to New York is not that bad but when we finally hit land, it becomes a cheesy blast.

Most die-hard Trek fans loathe this one with a passion but as a casual fan (to the point of being nearly apathetic, actually), I find the fifth Star Trek film to be actually quite entertaining.  William Shatner's ego was in full force for this one and the end result is some pretty funny bits mixed with some philosophical stuff that tries like hell to work but doesn't.  It's a failure, yes, but a very entertaining one.

After cleaning house at the box office, a sequel to Ghostbusters was inevitable.  Sporting a less than enthusiastic cast, the second film has the guys called in once again to deal with some ghosts as an evil being imprisoned in a painting targets the city.  Bill Murray is funny, but the rest of the cast is sort of hit or miss.  The f/x are great and the overall film, while sort of redundant based on how much it cribs from the first one, manages to be entertaining.  It's not a great sequel, but it gets the job done well enough.

In a way, even though it more or less hits the same beats as the first, I like the second Fletch film more than the first.  Chevy Chase returns as the disguise loving, smartass investigative journalist and this time, he's trying to clear his name after being framed for murder.  He's inherited an estate in Louisiana and after sleeping with the realtor, he ends up being blamed for her murder.  Chase does his usual here with tons of wisecracks and disguises and while all the usual jabs at the south are taken, I can't really gripe because hey... It made me laugh.  As with the first one, the supporting cast is just fine with Cleavon Little and Hal Holbrook standing out along with R. Lee Ermey as a televangelist.  It's just dumb fun and one of the last good things Chevy Chase has done.

Nothing says guilty pleasure like pro wrestling and when you put mega-star Hulk Hogan in a movie where he's expected to emote, the results are pure unintentional comedy gold.  Hogan plays himself, more or less and his nemesis is Zeus, a huge monster of a man played by Tom "Tiny" Lister.  Zeus has been employed by an evil TV exec played by the omnipresent in 1989 Kurt Fuller who wants to put on a match between the two in an attempt to save his flailing network.  Hogan (his character is named Rip but come on, it's Hulk frigging Hogan) balks at the offer and it;ls only after his kid brother is paralyzed by Zeus that he accepts.  A romance with a corporate spy played by Joan Severance is also thrown in and through all of this, Hogan is just the cheesiest guy you could possibly hope for.  No Holds Barred is an amazingly dumb, sort of tasteless action film that is well worth tracking down if you want a laugh or twenty.

Coming soon: The Best of 1989

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

1989: The Worst Part 2

A few of the films on my worst list merit a little more attention so in the interest of keeping posts reasonably brief,  I had to split it into two posts.

I think I must have seen this lame comedy at least five or six times when it was on HBO in the 90's.  A relentlessly dumb attempt to make TV stars John Larroquette and Bronson Pinchot movie stars as well, this stars Pinchot as a psychic who is used by P.I. Larroquette to solve crimes.  They stumble onto an alleged kidnapping and really, it's just an excuse for Pinchot to do lots of different voices while Larroquette tries like hell to salvage humor from the thing.  It just doesn't work.

The third American Ninja movie tries to make do without Michael Dudikoff (David Bradley is the lead this time) and the end result is quite the dull movie.  Bradley plays another American soldier with ninja training who teams up with Steve James in the same role he played in the first two to fight a bad guy played by Marjoe Gortner who has an evil plan to use a biological virus and an army of ninjas to back him up.  James is enthusiastic as usual but it's not enough to make up for the bad action scenes and poor pacing.

A dull, flaccid take on Rambo, this comes close to being my least favorite movie of the year.,  Dolph Lundgren is a Russian soldier who it betrayed by his superiors and decides to get a little revenge.  This would be fine if the action were any good up until the last ten minutes (to be fair, the finale is pretty darn great) and the characters were worth caring about.  Lundgren is a cipher, the villains are bland (even Brion James seems uninspired) and the script and pacing are off.  It's also a little weird that in what is supposed to be a real rah-rah U.S.A.-centric action film, the lone American character is a totally unlikable ass played by M. Emmett Walsh.  Weird.

But that's not my pick for worst.  Oh no...

To borrow a line from the late Roger Ebert, I hated this movie.  Hated, hated, hated, hated this movie!

It takes a lot, really a lot for me to outright despise a film but this rancid turd nugget managed to do it. Based on a French comedy, it stars Nick Nolte as a recently paroled bank robber who ends up being taken hostage by bumbling would-be bank robber Martin Short.  They are pursued by James Earl Jones as maybe the dumbest cop I have ever seen and just to make things worse, Short has a young daughter who has never spoken he's looking after.  Jones is convinced Nolte is the hostage taker and the usual stupid road trip crap happens and of course, the film decides to dump the comedy (which to be fair, was flopping like a dying fish anyway) in favor of cheesy pathos with the little kid.  Three Fugitives is cloying, stupid, sappy and worst of all, it takes three actors who I usually enjoy and utterly wastes them.  This might be the worst movie I have ever seen in my life.

Coming Soon: The Guilty Pleasures of 1989

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1989: The Worst

When the films this year were good, they were very good.  When they were bad... Ugh!

While the first two movies were entertaining, genuinely good films, the third Karate Kid film is just inexplicably bad.  A dumb plot sees Daniel (Ralph Macchio) taken in by a cheesy, over the top bad guy played by Thomas Ian Griffith and turning against Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita).  The plot is nonsensical, the performances are arbitrary and the entire thing is just needless.

Speaking of pointless, it seems the fifth Police Academy film did well enough to warrant a sixth and it's... Whoo boy, it;s even sillier and more flat than the fifth.  The city is under siege and the good guys have to find out what's going on.  Michael Winslow is the best thing about the film which means that cheesy sound effects done entirely by one man's mouth are all this film has going for it. 
And yet, five years after this one, a seventh one came out.

For me, few things are worse than a film with a good cast and an interesting premise that proceeds to absolutely stink out the point.  Family Business is a horribly underwhelming caper film starring Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery and Matthew Broderick as three generations of thieves.  Actually, given that Hoffman and Connery are fairly close in age, it's probably closer to two and a half.  Connery's character must have been hell in junior high.  I think Hoffman's age in The Graduate wasn't this much of a leap.  Either way, the three leads are wasted on a bad story with an needlessly tragic ending, which is a shock given that director Sidney Lumet usually does better films.

Robert Englund's directorial debut is this awful supernatural teen revenge flick about a put upon kid who gets access to Satan through one of those 976 numbers that used to be prevalent in the 80's.  Acting is horrible (Sandy Dennis proves with her turn as an overly religious mom that even Oscar winners can stink up the joint), the plot is predictable and poorly paced, really the f/x and the fascinating badness of Dennis' performance are the only things the film has going for it.  Still, you have to say that it's a rare film that has an Oscar winning actress praising the lord while wearing a huge fright wig and a nightgown while fish rain from the sky.

That's probably a good thing.

The fifth Nightmare on Elm Street film is a far cry from the over the top madness of the fou4rth.  Freddy is back again, this time trying to be reborn through the unborn child of the girl who defeated him in the previous film.  Some good f/x are really all there is to recommend here as the film has a rushed, unfinished quality to it that makes you wonder what the point of it was. 

Coming Soon: The Worst of 1989 Part 2

Monday, July 21, 2014

1989: Leftovers

A helping of leftovers from 1989.

With a little more quality or a little more cheese, this might have made either my honorable mentions list or the guilty pleasures one.  As it stands, Fright Night Part 2 is more or less a retread of the original with William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowell returning in their roles from the first film.  Like Phantasm II, the lead has been undergoing psychiatric treatment and now believes the entire first movie never happened.  Naturally, he comes around to feeling otherwise after a sexy woman played by Julie Carmen shows up, looking for Charlie (Ragsdale).  Said lady is the sister of the Chris Sarandon character from the first film and she is hell bent on revenge.  The end result is that we get some nice f/x work but not really much else worth mentioning.  It's a pretty blah sequel.

As tends to happen in Hollywood, every now and then there will be two or three similarly themed films released over the course of a year.  In 1998, we had two movies about Earth being potentially obliterated by a huge asteroid/comet with Armageddon and Deep Impact.  Hell, last year we had two films that could be describes as "Die Hard in the White House" with White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen.  In 1989, there were two instances of this...

First off, 1989 saw two buddy cop films where a human officer was teamed up with a dog.  In the case of Turner & Hooch, Tom Hanks is a neat-freak cop who has to solve the murder of the aforementioned dog's owner.  The dog is Hooch and... well as much of a dog lover as I am, this is one ugly ass mutt.  Cute though, in a way.  The film goes about the way one would expect except for the twist at the end where the dog gets killed saving Hanks.  Not often a film is going badly and then decides "Let's just sink this completely, nobody is gonna hate it less!"

Shockingly enough, of the two buddy cop films featuring a dog, the one with James frigging Belushi ends up being the better of the two.  I'll say that again, the kid brother of John Belushi made a movie that was better than one starring Tom Hanks that shared more or less the same plot.  Belushi is the cop and his partner in this case is Jerry Lee, a German Shepherd on the K-9 squad.  The film ends up being better simply because number one, when you see Tom Hanks doing this sort of thing you sort of feel bad for the guy.  The material is right up Belushi's alley though, so you end up not giving a damn.  Second, the dog lives at the end which I certainly prefer.  Having said that, both films are pretty lousy.

The only reason this isn't on my worst of the year or guilty pleasures list is that Terry Kiser does a rather stunning job as Bernie and honestly, it saves the film.  The film is as high concept as it gets: two guys who discover their boss is embezzling money and has ordered they be killed... unless he's around.  They're invited to his beach house where they find him dead and of course, hilarity and wackiness ensues as they try to convince everybody Bernie is still alive.  Kiser aside, the film is pretty awful but not so much that I ended up hating it.  It's really, stupid though.

Back to the similarly themed films motif for this year, we now come to two out of the three underwater science fiction/monster movies.  The third will be in a later post.

First off is Deep Star Six, arguably the worst of the lot. A bunch of character actors plays the members of a deep sea colonization experiment that runs afoul of a rather nasty beast from the depths.  Miguel Ferrer has a fun supporting role but for the most part, the rest of the cast is rather nondescript.  The creature is also a bit of a letdown as while the design by Mark Shostrom is pretty neat, we don't see nearly enough of it.

Better, but still a disappointment is Leviathan which sees an undersea mining crew menaced by something nasty.  Boasting an impressive cast (Peter Weller and Daniel Stern are quite enjoyable in their roles) and a great Stan Winston creature, this one is actually pretty damn good for the first half.  Unfortunately, the second the creature shows up is the second the film just goes on auto pilot.  It's a damn shame as the build is pretty terrific.

Richard Dreyfuss is a joy to watch in this comedy about a compulsive gambler who only wants to have the best day of his life at the horse races.  He gets his wish and the film tracks him as he wins and wins while his wife (Teri Garr who once again manages to annoy the hell out of me) is off to the side.  Dreyfuss carries the rather thin plot quite well and this one is worth a look.

We end with the first of two Sylvester Stallone films from this year.  Lock Up is a rather formulaic, yet enjoyable (in a very, very stupid way) prison film starring Sly as an ex-con thrown back in by a vindictive warden played by Donald Sutherland in one of his more restrained villainous roles.  It's too long, not really that well acted and not one of Stallone's better movies but if you enjoy cheesy, formulaic crap it's one to consider.

Coming Soon: The worst of 1989

Sunday, July 20, 2014

1989: Honorable Mentions

1989 was a fully loaded, but somewhat superficial end to the decade.  Good selection of movies, some duds and a few classics and plenty of stuff in between.  Let's get started with a quick look at the honorable mentions.

Note: Not mentioned here are Field of Dreams, Glory, Driving Miss Daisy and some others.  Not because they're not good, but because I have truly nothing at all to say about them.

Disney's animation department came back in a big way with this delightful film about a mermaid who wants to be human.  Great animation, great songs, this one is just an awesome family film.

I've written at length about this one to the point where I really have noting much more to say.  It's a solid yet somewhat flawed entry in the James Bond series.  Good action, good acting, a perfectly acceptable action film.

Really, really good obscure horror film about a young girl who while home sick, takes to drawing to fill her time.  Said drawings, one of a house particularly, end up being linked to some disturbing dreams she's been having and the film does a really solid job of making the dreams work.  The cast is solid, director Bernard Rose does a nice job keeping things moving and the end result is something quite effective.

Gleefully downbeat dark comedy from Danny DeVito which stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as a couple that falls in love and gradually out of it in the nastiest way imaginable.  Douglas and Turner are good as always and DeVito has a nice supporting turn as a lawyer friend of Douglas who narrates the film.  DeVito does fine in the director's chair as well, though two hours is probably a little more than the film really needed.  The film is pretty much the textbook definition of a dark comedy.

I'm a pretty big Shakespeare fan and this adaptation of Henry V is pretty damn good.  Kenneth Branagh is good in the lead and he also does a fine job of directing things.

Terrific baseball comedy that has a solid cast playing the hapless Cleveland Indians (back when the team was in the middle of a nearly fifty year streak of failure) as they manage to overcome the odds and start winning.  Charlie Sheen is quite funny here as is Bob Uecker as the announcer and the film in general is one of the best baseball films ever made.

TV gets spoofed to hell and back in Weird Al Yankovic's only starring role.  Under appreciated when it came out, this is actually one of the better comedies of the decade, chock full of silly gags and memorable lines.

From laughs, we go to full on screaming with the best Stephen King adaptation since Creepshow.  Mary Lambert directs this utterly creepy tale about a family torn apart by the terrible secret behind a nearby pet cemetery in the small Maine town they move to.  Fred Gwynne is good as a kindly old man who tries to help and there are some bits throughout that are utterly horrifying.  It's a real winner from an era where King adaptations tended to be guilty pleasures at best for the most part.  Good song by The Ramones at the end too.

I've always enjoyed Joe Dante's twisted little suburban comedy with Tom Hanks as an average family man in an average neighborhood who finds out his new neighbors are serial killers.  Fun cast, some very funny lines and a fun turn from Hanks make this one quite enjoyable.

Surprisingly solid sequel to the David Cronenberg original. Eric Stoltz plays the son of Jeff Goldblum's character from the first movie and as bad luck would have it, he ends up going through the same sort of transformation as his pop did.  Great f/x with a nice creature design and a gooey exploding head and some nice work from Stoltz make this a fun creature feature to look at.  It's nowhere near as good as the first one but it's fun.

Last but not least is this enjoyably cheesy martial arts flick starring Jean-Claude van Damme.  A pick-up by Cannon, this stars van Damme as a young man whose brother is crippled in a bout with a nasty piece of work named Tong Po.  The plot is more or less your standard martial arts film plot but the fight scenes are energetic and fun, especially the finale.  Good stuff.

Coming soon: The Leftovers of 1989

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

1981: The Best

Finishing off 1981 with a massive top ten.

10. Dead and Buried

This underrated little gem of a zombie movie is a nicely shot, relatively low key affair about a small town that has a terrible secret.  James Farentino is good as the local Sheriff who discovers the secret which revolves around the brutal murder of a man in the opening of the film as well as several other killings.  Jack Albertson is superb as the creepy local mortician who has the ability to restore the dead in more ways than one and the Stan Winston f/x are quite effective.  What's great about this one is that it moves away from the Romero sort of zombie and instead goes for something a little closer to the old time movies from the 40's with a sort of black magic angle that is left refreshingly ambiguous.

9. Stripes

Apart from Groundhog Day, this is Bill Murray's best solo comedy film.  Actually, that's not a really fair assessment as he's joined by a nice batch of comic performers like Harold Ramis and John Candy but the truth is, this is Bill's movie first and foremost.  Stripes is your basic service comedy with Murray and Ramis as two guys who decide to join the army on a whim and of course, the requisite hijinks ensue.  Warren Oates is funny as the drill instructor, Sean Young and P.J. Soles are fun as two MPs the guys romance and I get an especially huge kick out of John Larroquette as a blustery, incompetent platoon leader.  It's a real gem of a comedy.

8. Body Heat

Kathleen Turner is just beyond hot in this engrossing neo-noir film that is more or less a loose remake of the 1944 classic Double Indemnity, at least in terms of the overall criminal plot. Turner plays a seductive temptress who targets lawyer William Hurt and lures him into a plot to kill her rich husband, played by Richard Crenna.  The cast is pitch perfect, especially Turner who delivers one of the most frankly sexual performances I have ever seen.  It's a hell of a debut for her and the film as a whole is just awesome.

7. The Howling/An American Werewolf in London

To be honest, I cant really make a choice between these two so they get to share a space on the list.

First off is Joe Dante's clever, slyly funny werewolf epic about a reporter who goes to a forest retreat to regain her mental bearings after an attack, only to find it is a colony of neurotic werewolves.  Dee Wallace is terrific as the reporter, Robert Picardo is fine as the psycho bad guy and the Rob Bottin f/x, while slightly overused are still top notch.

Equally top notch are the Rick Baker werewolf and zombie f/x for this John Landis classic.  Like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London is in touch with the spirit of the Universal classic horror films, skillfully telling its tale of a young man cursed to stalk London as a bloodthirsty beast with a nice balance between humor and gut-churning horror.

6. Scanners

Scanners is probably the most accessible of David Cronenberg's films, though granted that isn't saying a hell of a lot.  Cronenberg spins an intriguing yarn about a group of troubled telepaths who can kill with a thought.  Dick Smith's gruesome f/x work and Michael Ironside's powerhouse performance as the bad guy really make the film soar, as does the lean pacing and storytelling.  It's not my favorite Cronenberg flick but it's up there.

5. The Beyond

I've written at length about this elsewhere on the site so I won't belabor the point.  This is the best thing Lucio Fulci ever made.  It's tense, silly, gory, creepy and quite simply a work of mad art.

4. The Evil Dead

San Raimi made a hell of a debut with this enjoyably gory flick.  The story is pretty well known: five friends go to a cabin and unwittingly awake something evil in the woods which proceeds to make a gory mess out of everything.  Bruce Campbell is fun as always as the put-upon hero and the film makes every bit of its low budget count.  I kind if like the sequels better, but the original is still pretty damn effective.  The recent reboot is pretty solid as well.

3. The Road Warrior

It hit theaters in the U.S. the following year but given how loaded 1982 was, I decided to give it a prime slot in the 1981 best of the year list. The Road Warrior is a pure and simple, balls to the wall action movie. Mel Gibson is good once again as Max and the action is simply extraordinary.  It just plain works.

2. Escape from New York

In 1981, two pretty important post-apocalyptic action films were released.  The aforementioned Road Warrior and John Carpenter's Escape From New York.  Kurt Russell is great as anti-hero Snake who is tasked with rescuing President Donald Pleasence from the hellhole that is New York.  Carpenter directs everything well as well as contributing a nice music score, the cast is great and the action, while low key is solid.  It's a real classic.

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark

You can put him in a overly dark second film, toss him into a rather underwhelming fourth one, but the first Indiana Jones film still holds up as an all time classic.  Great acting from all concerned, Steven Spielberg does maybe his best directing job, John Williams contributes an iconic score and the action scenes are still some of the best ever captured on film.

Whew, what a great year!  1981 was truly a landmark year for cinema.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.