Hands of Steel is an Italian-produced film obviously influenced by James Cameron’s The Terminator if combined with the basic plot of First Blood. Set in the near future, we find a beefy thug (Daniel Greene) has been brainwashed by the evil head of a pollution-spewing corporation called the Turner Foundation, headed by John Saxon’s Francis Turner, we soon learn, to assassinate a popular ecological guru leading an environmental movement that is set to make major radical changes to the drastically worsening country. But he’s no ordinary thug; Paco Queruak is a war veteran that was left for dead before getting his body used for a radical cyborg assassin experiment, rendering him with an electronic mind and a body of hardened steel, underneath his very human-like exterior. However, at the last second, his human side begins to question what he’s doing, leaving him on the run from the organization that made him in order to hide their tracks. Paco goes on the lam to his old stomping grounds in Arizona, where he meets a lovely motel and bar owner named Linda who offers him room and board in exchange for doing some chores around the property. Meanwhile, he engages the locals in arm wrestling contests he can easily best them in. Meanwhile, he’s being pursued by a world-class hitman, and also the FBI.
In the future, New York, after the dreaded nuclear holocaust, is a wasteland of lawlessness and gangland thuggery. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a skilled martial arts warrior named Gibson Rickenbacker, a “slinger”(aka, a mercenary for hire helping refugees), who fights for and rescues a woman named Pearl Prophet from a horde of marauders. It turns out that the woman is a woman no longer, but rather, a cyborg transformed in order to gather information and transport it to Atlanta in the hope of turning the tide on the widespread plague that has threatened humanity with extinction. However, the leader of the marauders is the fearsome psychopath, Fender Tremolo, a man who has history with Gibson and has ruined his life in the past. Fender steals her back because he wants the cure for himself, and it’s up to Gibson, along with his newly found tag-along Nady Simmons, to become Earth’s last hope.
RoboCop is set in near-future Detroit, where the city streets are just about completely dominated by the criminal element, while the police are neither respected nor welcome; they are virtually walking targets out there. Desperate to clean up the crime-ridden community and build a gleaming new one in its place, the government officials turn to OCP, Omni Consumer Products, to build and manufacture the future of law enforcement, robotic police that are more powerful and well-armed than anything anyone has ever seen. However, when the first prototypes prove inconsistent, the city officials balk at the idea, so an upstart faction within the OCP comes up with a newer, more “human” cop, a cyborg built using the remnant body of downed officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), and dubbed simply as “RoboCop”.Things proceed splendidly for the RoboCop program, that is, until the human side of the cyborg begins to recollect his past life as Murphy, plagued with flashbacks to the family he lost and the psychopathic criminals who all but ended his life as he knew it. Determined to bring the bad guys that did him in to justice, RoboCop sets out on a mission of his own, not realizing that the gang in question is actually in cahoots with a rogue entity within the OCP, who for all intents and purposes, also own the city, the police department, and the machine side of Murphy. Paul Verhoeven directs this scathing and potent satire on American commercialism and privatization.
Last Crusade begins with River Phoenix playing a young Indiana Jones, even at a young age, having a thirst for adventure. His father (Connery), who is also professor of Medieval literature, is acutely obsessed with tracking down any information he can get regarding the whereabouts of the legendary Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, and, as a result, little attention is paid to young Indy. Flash forward to 1938, where Indiana (Harrison Ford) finds that his father has been kidnapped by the Nazis, who are also looking for the Holy Grail, and the legendary powers of immortality it may hold. Indy and his dad have never quite seen eye to eye, which makes Indiana’s subsequent rescue attempts all the more interesting, as he tries to impress a man who only lives for the Grail. Steven Spielberg directs, with another memorable John Williams score in what was intended to be the iconic character’s final cinematic adventure.
While INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is a sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s really a prequel, set in 1935, a year before. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) finds himself in Shanghai on the hunt for a precious diamond, but gets in over his head, chased out of town with his assistant, a young boy nicknamed Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a ditsy, blonde, nightclub singer. Having to make a hasty exit into the Himalayas from a crashing airplane, Indy and friends find themselves in a starving village in India, who see their visitors as saviors destined to save their children who they believe have been taken away by resurrected forces of evil at a formerly abandoned palace. The trio set off for the palace in search of lost children, a sacred stone…and fortune and glory.
The year is 1936, just before the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime. Hitler has been seeking the long-lost Ark of the Covenant, the container for the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments, reportedly used by God’s people in the days of old to crush their enemies using its vast powers. For over 2,000 years, the Ark has been completely hidden somewhere, and the Nazis are digging in one of the sites reported to be a resting place for it. The American government seeks fame and fortune hunter, Dr. Henry Jones, to find the Ark before it ends up in the wrong hands, but it’s easier said than done, as he must not only face peril at every turn, he must bring along an old flame who no longer has much tolerance for the likes of Indiana Jones.
Harrison Ford would catapult to super-stardom after this one, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas solidifying their place as they greatest blockbuster filmmakers of their generation. Can’t forget that amazing John Williams score, either.
The film starts out with Jake Blues (John Belushi) being released from prison, picked up by his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) in a used cop car turned “Blues Mobile”. They make good on a promise to visit the orphanage they grew up in, only to find it is in danger of being shut down, due needing $5,000 in tax money owed. With only days to go before it is too late, the Blues Brothers are inspired by a vision from God to save the orphanage, which they plan to do by reuniting the band they played in. This proves to be a tough task, as all of the members have moved on to other occupations. Not only this, but along the way, they manage to piss off the police, the Illinois Nazi Party, and just about everyone else they come across in their bid to make enough money to deliver by the deadline without getting caught, or worse.
Taimak stars as a young African-American Harlemite who is a devout student of martial arts. He lives kung fu, breathes kung fu and is so entrenched in the ways of the kung fu warrior, he stands out in his predominantly Black community for his lack of hipness and Asian-tinged wardrobe (he even eats his movie popcorn with chopsticks). He is sent out into the world from his master teacher to reach the final level of his training to become a true kung fu master, involving a golden amulet and a master named Som Dom Goy. Meanwhile, his quest is detoured by constant disruptions by a neighborhood bully, Sho’Nuff. who, along with his gang of thugs, are terrorizing the neighborhood. Leroy also gets embroiled with an even bigger bad guy, amoral record producer Eddie Arkadian, whose quest to get his girlfriend’s video played on the hottest music show on TV hosted by singer/VJ Laura Charles causes them to get physical. Leroy becomes Laura’s reluctant bodyguards, and the sparks between them suggest that they might have something more going on.
Although he had claimed to be done putting on the red cape after SUPERMAN III, Reeve is lured back to make a fourth entry with a different studio from an idea he had written himself to bring back the series to respectability. Alas, it didn’t quite work out that way in the end. Superman makes a decision to meddle in Earth’s affairs by getting rid of all of the nuclear missiles, but Lex Luthor has his own super-powered being to take the Man of Steel down before he interrupts the business of war that Lex relies upon for his riches. In addition to Reeve, Margot Kidder returns to a sizable role, and Gene Hackman returns to the series as Luthor. Where did it all go so wrong when so much seems so right? Vince takes a closer examination on this episode.
Gone is Richard Donner, gone is Gene Hackman, and gone is the epic feel of the SUPERMAN series with SUPERMAN III, in which the creators finally wrest the controls away to make what they’ve been wanting to make all along: comedies! Richard Lester returns as director, as Superman, once again played by Christopher Reeve, has to battle a genius computer hacker played by Richard Pryor from assisting megalomaniac businessman Robert Vaughn from taking over the economic future of the world through computer dominance.
The granddaddy of the modern-day superhero flick, 1978’s SUPERMAN put together a truly epic experience befitting a popular hero on the magnitude of Superman. Richard Donner directed DC Comics’ legendary property from his infancy on the planet Krypton all the way to donning the cape and costume to right wrongs wherever he may find them on Earth as savior of humanity. With treacherous mastermind Lex Luthor out and about, no one is safe, even Superman, if he has his way. Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando star in this grand action-adventure with lots of soaring sounds from composer John Williams and fun character touches from a capable cast.
One of the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s, and of all time, Tim Burton would take the reins of Warner Bros. hugest hit with 1989’s BATMAN, a much more dark and eerie take on the character than any prior screen take to date. With a tremendous Danny Elfman score, hit singles by Prince, and a very energetic Jack Nicholson performance as Joker, it would be the movie to watch for its era, despite the Michael Keaton casting backlash leading up to its release.
The first of four feature-length ventures between Marvel Productions and Sunbow Entertainment that centered on toys made by Hasbro, THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE would make for an ambitious way to not only sell toys and entertain fans, but also to set for a new course for the animated TV series, in this bridge between the second and third seasons of the show. A critical and commercial misfire, the film has gained cult status among Transformers property aficionados and lovers of cultural oddities of the 1980s, not only for its bold story choices, but also for its eclectic voice actors (Orson Welles, Judd Nelson, Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, John Moschitta Jr, and Scatman Crothers), as well as its driving hair-metal soundtrack.