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.

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About Me

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