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Five Movies from the 80’s Everyone Should See (no matter their age)

This list of movies isn’t the huge blockbusters from the 80’s like Back to the Future anyone can pick a movie like that and say that you should see it if you haven’t seen it.  These are five movies that I love and that for whatever reason a lot of people just overlooked or have never seen before.  They are also movies that I think even people today could enjoy even though its been 20 or more years since the films on this list came out.   Here they are in no particular order.

1. Monster Squad

Released in 1987

I don’t remember when I first saw Monster Squad it wasn’t in theaters because I would have remembered that and in 1987 I was 9 and at the whim of what my parents let me go see.  I remember watching it on television and by now the movie does have one famous line that most people do know: “Wolfman’s got nards.”  The thing about Monster Squad that makes it a classic is simply that the movie is fun from beginning to end.  The premise of the movie is that it begins with these monsters from our past: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf-Man, among others all get pushed into a portal in ancient days leading them into the modern days.   The movie is about a group of boys who form a club known as the Monster Squad and they talk about these monsters until suddenly they come to life right before their eyes.  THe movie has a lot of spots of comedy that kids of all ages (that includes adults yes) will enjoy.   There are moments of family as well and times when action is called for.

There’s also a “scary german guy” subplot that leads to some very interesting things throughout the movie.   I remember when watching this movie how good Dracula is every time, Duncan Regehr who plays Dracula does so with a great sense for the character.  He makes Dracula truly scary for young kids and I think that is a good thing because it’s always enjoyable to be scared a little bit.   The film never truly scares you though and you never get the sense that any of the good guys are going to die which is okay by me in a family film.  There are parts of the movie that always make me laugh out loud and other parts that are light-hearted.   IF you want to enjoy some fun family comedy one night I highly suggest this movie.

2. Explorers

Released in 1985

Like the movie above it Explorers is a family film, although I view it more as a film for young boys somewhere between six and fourteen who are adventurous.    Explorers is about a group of young boys who start getting messages from aliens up in space and build a ship to join them.  There is the bad boy, the smart one, and the leader (Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix both got their first movie roles with this film).  Explorers doesn’t have a family vibe to it, as I said before to me it is more of a film made for boys, its got that sense of exploring and adventure that all boys seem to think about and imagine.   The film does have some wonderful set pieces as well and the three main characters are all very well thought out and fleshed out different versions of boys that exist in the world.    There are a few really cool dream sequences in the movie that really tie things together and more than that when the three of them do finally take off into space in their homemade ship we get to really experience what that is like with them.

In this movie you get that sense of adventure, and I really do think that boys, girls, even adults would all really enjoy this movie, and if you have seen it before when you were a kid and are kind of not sure about showing it to your own kids, I say show it to them because it truly is a timeless classic that should be viewed by all even if you’ve forgotten about it over the years.    I recently saw it and it is still as good as it was when I was a kid.  Sure it’s not up to date technology wise, but the movie’;s other parts are so good that you don’t have to pay attention to that part.

3.Willow

Released in 1988

Some people will tell me that I am wrong for putting this movie on this list, they are wrong.   Willow is a true classic, it is actually one of those films about good and evil that you cannot go wrong with.  There is darkness in the world and a young baby chooses a halfing wizard named Willow to protect her from the darkness of Queen Bavmorda who wants nothing more than to kill the child and take over the entire world while sending it into darkness.   Willow along with a human named Madmartigan are both charged to protect the child and also bring down the evil that is Bavmorda along with her rival Raziel, among others.   Willow is a story of magic and mysteries but also a true message that good does conquer evil.

Willow is one of the few movies that George Lucas has done that is not a Star Wars film. It is also like those other movies a very unsuccessful film.  It has become a classic as the years went on and has been viewed as such by many.  Willow is a great movie with a lot of adventure and fun moments.  Val Kilmer is at his best in this movie truly making some great wisecracks and being funny while also serious at some points.  There is one point in the film when Madmartigan is hit with a love spell and falls heads over heels in love with Sorsha who is also the daughter of Bavmorda.   The movie ends with a good clean ending but Lucas has sense written along with another writer a trilogy of books that take place after the movie but are nowhere near as good as the movie.

4. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Released in 1989

Bill and Ted are of course bumbling fools who believe that they are going to be famous rock stars one day and change our world, but if they don’t pass their history class final they won’t ever become famous.   The movie stars Keanu Reeves before he was hugely famous for his “Whoas” and this movie here establishes that whole tradition.   On top of that the movie is a true mix of comedy and action, and probably has George Carlin’s best role in it as Rufus the man from the future that has come to the past with the time machine to save the boys from disaster.   Bill and Ted go through time and collect historical figures from the past and bring them back to San Demas (I think I spelled that correctly) to give an interview on who they are and what they mean to the world.

The fact that Bill and Ted decide to bring historical figures from the past to the present shows that they aren’t exactly the brightest but still it all works out perfectly.   There are some great sequences with Napoleon when he comes to the present and he gets on Bill’s brother’s nerves to the point that he abandons him and thus Napoleon goes to a water park and decides that when he gets back to the past he’s going to make one there!  There are other moments like this as well, when all of the historical figures are in the present at the mall where they all get a little crazy.   If you haven’t ever seen Bill and Ted or if you’re trying to figure out a movie from your past to show to your kids this is one of the top ones that I would pick for various reasons…it is a timeless film really.

5. Big Trouble in Little China

Released in 1986

When Jack Burton goes to Little China to visit with a friend of his after dropping off a load there as well things go from worse to worse until he’s embroiled into a plot by a man who has lived for centuries and only wants to become flesh again so that he can become all-powerful and rule the world (or something like that).   Big Trouble in Little China is probably one of the best movies that John Carpenter has ever made and there were always people asking him if he will ever make a sequel.   The movie is about these group of people who get caught up in an ancient ritual to bring Lo Pan back to life from his undead existence.    There is a lot of action in the film and it is easy to just sit back and enjoy it.

The comedy is timeless, and the film is a cult classic though I am sure that a lot of people would never think of showing it to the new generations and them enjoying it.  There are the three storms in the movie who I think are under-used but are also fun and add a lot to the story and the action.  The movie also happens to be one of Kurt Russell’s best and most memorable characters, and again this is because of John Carpenter’s directing and also the writing and music all of which was done by Carpenter.   It’s really sad what Carpenter has become, making only halfway decent movies as opposed to the kinds of films he used to make in the 70’s and 80’s.    Maybe he could go back to those kind of movies again one day in the future?

This is my list of 5 films that I think everyone should see, rather they are 10 or 20 or 30 or even older.  Do you have a list of five films from the 80’s that are classics in your eyes?

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Sometimes You Burn

DayBreakers

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sam Neil, and Willem Dafoe

Directed and Written by: Michael and Peter Spierig

The basic premise behind Daybreakers is quite simple, it’s a world in the not to distant future, 2019 and it has been over run by vampires, how this happened isn’t really explained in detail but my guess would be a group of vampires got together and decided that they could offer humans the ability to live forever and didn’t think about the consequences to both the new vampire world and the humans as well.  In this future humans are harvested for their blood, their precious life force.   The humans of course are trying to fight back but in this future there are so few of them that eventually they are over run, but thats just the basic premise for the movie, what really happens is not what you expect….

The rest of the review follows the trailer as is standard by now:

Daybreakers isn’t really about a human/vampire war, the war is already over the vampires have won, but upon winning they have also destroyed that which they need to survive.   They hunt humans and then harvest them until they are dead.   Who ever said that a world run by vampires would be a smart one?   THe human population of the world is so low that the blood supply is almost gone and the vampires are starving thus giving rise to vampires known as subsiders who live underground and have become monstrosities that feed on other vampires.

Edward Dalton (Played by Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist looking for a cure to the blood problem, him and his team are trying to synthesize an agent that will replace human blood for all the vampires.  They are doing so at the command of their boss Charles Bromley (Sam Neil) who is the head of the largest supplier of human blood in the world now that it is the main component to life.   There are some good scenes in the beginning to set up everything although there is one that makes no sense.   The opening sequence with a young girl burning because she will never grow up and die is strange as it leads nowhere for the rest of the film, it’s just there as a title sequence opening.

There is a scene with a morning shop selling blood where once it had probably sold donuts which is really interesting, the signs about 20% blood in all of their products is also wonderful.    It turns out that Dalton is not like other vampires, he’s not feeding on human blood but instead on animal blood which we learn quickly when he meets with his brother and the two of them fight a subsider who has been feeding on vampire blood and has grown huge wings.   Subsiders slowly change into something else, a vampire that is stronger, faster and well to put it mildly ugly as well.

Ethan Hawke walking in the subway....time to capture some humans

In the world of Daybreakers vampires do not have reflections and they always seem to have sharp teeth as well no matter what.  They have a very pasty complexion vampire look to them and none of them can walk around in the daylight or they burn as most vampire legends say.     That evening on his way home Dalton runs into a group of humans and instead of reporting them he saves them and thus that leads to him meeting their leader Lionel “Elvis” Cormac who it turns out was once a vampire and turned back into a human.  This is where things start to get really interesting.   By this point the Spierig brothers had managed to create  real world that had its own rules and its own characters in a future that was not ideal despite everyone living forever.

the makeup effects are really good in this movie as well once things take a turn for the worst in the vampire city  (we only ever see one city despite them saying vampires cover the world now) you can actually see the vampires starving and when they attack the stand all of them going crazy over no longer having much blood you can see their desperation.   They attack and the vampires that come to stop them also attack in the end due to a blood frenzy because of how little blood is in their systems.   Daybreakers does not shy on the blood in the film, there is a lot of it and it is always done in a more tasteful way than you would think.

Sam Neil does evil like no one else

Back with Dalton and Elvis we learn that the sun turned Elvis back into a human, he crashed his car and went flying out of the window during the daylight, the sun burned him but the water he landed into stopped the sun from burning him and together the two made him into a human again, restarted his heart, made him live once more.    Dalton decides that he too wants this as he never wanted to be a vampire, his brother turned him against his wishes.   So he sets up an experiment to control the turn, burning himself and having the fire be whisked away by the fans in a wine tank.   Dalton becomes human again and decides it is time to take the cure to other vampires so that they no longer are dependent upon blood to live.

Of course the others don’t necessarily want this.  Of course why they don’t want it is never really gone into in much detail other than: we want to live forever.  Just like how all of the billions of humans were managed to be turned or killed in just less than a dozen years.  His former friend reports him and Dalton has to pull off a rescue of the girl who was traveling with them, Audrey (played by Claudia Karvan)  this ends up being the best thing as Daltons brother Frankie attacks Elvis and is suddenly crying out in pain being changed back into a human.  Dalton comes up with the ultimate revenge against the man responsible for all of this suffering Bromley himself by going up to his tower and speaking with him convincing the man to bite him.

This leads to the ultimate conclusion where vampires attack the humans including the newly turned Bromley which leads to the large blood bath of vampire feeding on newly turned humans until they become vampires as well.  Dalton and Audrey make it out alive just barely leaving behind the world of the vampires and going out into the light at the end revealing that they have the cure, and it will spread no doubt because the vampires cannot help but feed on human blood.

This marks the second Spierig movie that I found very well done on a small budget.   The film has some good actors in it that are always good to watch.   I love watching Sam Neil be evil and give lines because he just has that kind of voice where creepy comes so natural, ever since seeing him in Event Horizon I have thought he was good as a villain.    In the end the movie has  a message that I think mainly goes out to the twilight crowd:  this is what a vampire really is, it’s not all shiny diamonds and cutesy love, its dark and bloody and violent.

What they Did right: The vampire legends are spot on, from the no reflection to the need for blood and the need to stay out of the sun.  Like the vampires in buffy they can walk around in the daylight as long as they stay out of direct sunlight….this is in line with Dracula as well I believe.   The subsiders are dark and wonderful, I just wish they had gotten a little more spot light, would have been an even better movie if it had been about the war between vampires and subsiders.

What they did wrong: The whole burning to bring the heart back to life seems a little far-fetched.   The vampires are not very smart when dealing with the human population it seems a little unbelievable that in just 10 or so years the entire human population is dwindled down to just a few dozen people.    The subsiders seem to be a sub-plot that either wasn’t necessary or should have been expanded upon.

Overall: 80/100

A fun ride, full of dark and twisted characters, there is nothing that I like more than a good vampire horror movie and this one has to be one of the best in recent years.  It’s defineitly more of a rental than a movie to purchase but all the same its a fun film.