Transformers: The Movie dir. Nelson Shin (1986) A truly execrable piece of stream-of-consciousness filmmaking, taking the very worst aspects of television cartoons, action movies, Japanese SF, the 1980s (in general) and synth-metal fusion soundtracks (in gruelling particular) and throwing them together with disastrous effect. No wonder Orson Welles died.
Billy Idol live @ Riverstage (Brisbane, 31 January 2020) Rocking out afront an 80s-reminiscent ever-changing neon cityscape backdrop, Billy Idol showed that he still has the voice, physique and strut of a man half his age (though perhaps not the stamina). Highlights included ‘Flesh for Fantasy’, ‘Rebel Yell’ and ‘Mony Mony’.
Ghost dir. Jerry Zucker (1990) From the fading afterglow of 1980s filmmaking comes this endearing and enduring romantic fantasy (with dark undercurrents, plus virtuoso comedy from Whoopi Goldberg in her multi-award-winning support role). Patrick Swayze makes for a competent ghost; Demi Moore stars as his bereaved lover.
A 1980s Childhood: From He-Man to Shell Suits by Michael A. Johnson (The History Press, 2012) It seems unlikely this book will have any great appeal to those who didn’t grow up in the 1980s. Even those who did may question the virtue of slipping back through someone else’s (rather Anglocentric) memories. Then again, the 80s were beguiling…
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off dir. John Hughes (1986) Thirty years on, the coming of age story of Cameron Frye, a downtrodden Chicago teen trailing in the wake of his best friend’s extraordinary chutzpah — remains timeless. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is relentlessly funny, eminently quotable, and perfectly cast: a true classic.
Running Scared dir. Peter Hyams (1986) An underrated 1980s film that grows better with each rescreening. Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal form one of the all-time great partnerships as two bantering police officers looking to set the record straight before early retirement. SF fans will recognise Joe Pantoliano.
Stranger Things, Season 1 created by The Duffer Brothers (Netflix, 2016) After a grim, sluggish start — and a prolonged burst of overacting by Winona Ryder — the 1980s styled supernatural sci-fi horror series Stranger Things hits its stride, respecting the attention span and showing that television really can be as captivating as we remember.
Men at Work dir. Emilio Estevez (1990) Critically panned for representing the oncoming glut of 90s turkeys, Men at Work actually belongs to the oeuvre of 80s classics: pointless but utterly endearing, with much of its value resting in incidental details; a film that grows better with each rewatch.
Beverly Hills Cop dir. Martin Brest (1984) Character driven and more tightly scripted than many action comedies of the time, Beverly Hills Cop nevertheless soared as much on the strength of its soundtrack as the likeable sass of Eddie Murphy’s jeans- and sneakers-wearing, culturally confrontational police detective Axel Foley.
Blind Fury dir. Phillip Noyce (1989) A quintessentially 1980s Americanisation of the blind swordsman storyline oft-used and beloved of Japanese cinema. Rutger Hauer brings a certain quality to the lead role and — with precious little help! — just about carries the uneasy mix of action, drama and (occasional) humour.