Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1987!

20: A Chinese Ghost Story (HK)

Regular Glancers will know I grew up with Bruce Lee movies, and as such I would hunt out anything which sounded like it would have people knocking seven Tibetan shades of shite out of each other. If it had a Horror element – even better! I didn’t know what to make of A Chinese Ghost Story when I first watched it – was it going to be a straight horror movie, was it going to feature zany kung fu masters tackling creatures from Chinese folklore I had zero experience of? It’s all of those things, none of those things, and more. It’s weird. It’s funny. It has a love story. It has trees. It features the gorgeous Joey Wong and the legendary Leslie Cheung in some of their most famous work. It’s one of Tsui Hark’s best movies. It stars Cheung as a nobody, a debt collector who happens to stumble into a rural temple to find somewhere to sleep, falls in love with a tortured ghost, and tried to rescue her soul from Hell. It’s not the first movie to start with in your Hong Kong Cinema journey, but it should be one of the first ten.

19: Withnail And I (UK)

You’ll have seen from my Least Favourite Movies posts, that I’m not a fan of British Comedies. TV shows – absolutely – we’re the best in the world in that regard, but when it comes to movies the reliance on self-titled quirky characters and romance leaves me cold. As with anything there are exceptions – Withnail And I being a prime example. There’s no attempt to hold a sign over a character’s head to scream ‘I’m the quirky one’, there’s no romance in the traditional sense. It’s just two blokes heading away for a weekend in the country so they can get drunk and moan about being actors. Japes occur. It’s all about the performances and the dialogue. It looks (purposefully) shit, the soundtrack is great, and it barely has an ending or a plot, but it’s brilliant.

18: City On Fire (HK)

There was a decided turn in the 1980s away from period action movies, costume and history oriented martial arts fare, towards contemporary, gun based action. Tarantino famously borrowed several scenes and pieces of dialogue from City On Fire, a Ringo Lam movie starring Chow Yun Fat as an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of robbers and ends up in a Mexican Standoff in a warehouse, with police surrounding them outside. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have the quirks and cools and non-linear framing of Reservoir Dogs, but it has Chow Yun Fat and a tonne of action and energy. It was one of a series of the heroic bloodshed type movies which came out of HK in this era, and is one of the best.

17: Planes, Trains, And Automobiles (US)

Likely to be the only Steve Martin vehicle to grace any of my Favourites lists, this one succeeds because of John Hughes, John Candy, and in spite of Martin. Who, to his credit, is fine but plays the same plain white bread guy he always does. Thanksgiving doesn’t mean shit to anyone outside of the US, so I always viewed this as a Christmas movie. Chicago in November looks like Christmas anyway. As its John Candy you can expect lots of zany laughs, and as it’s Hughes you know you’re in for an offbeat heart-warming tale.

16: Good Morning, Vietnam (US)

Robin Williams, letting rip, completely off the leash.

15: The Princess Bride (US)

I always start any conversation about The Princess Bride by saying I’m not its biggest fan – mainly because there are those who worship the thing. I like it, it’s great, but there are better movies, and I have more favourites – many more this year alone. I love the story in a story nature of it, and it’s another in a line of excellent fantasy oriented kids movies which don’t feel like they are patronising its intended audience. While much of the humour also suits adults, it’s still not a movie for that age range. It’s strong enough, funny enough, well acted and written enough to be enjoyed by all ages, but at its heart it’s an escapist adventure movie for lonely kids.

14: The Living Daylights (UK)

A lesser loved Bond movie, Dalton led the series into its grittiest, darkest period, many years before Zack Snyder misinterpreted overlong running times and blue tints for emotion. Dalton’s Bond may have still quipped, may have still got the ladies, but he was doing a job for Queen and Country, his humour of the gallows, a defence mechanism of being exposed to death and mayhem in all its ugly forms. In The Living Daylights, Bond is embroiled in a Soviet Tug of War, and ends up faffing about in a Cargo plane in Afghanistan. It’s not the most exciting story in the series and it’s unlikely to be anyone’s favourite, but it sets the darker tone, re-establishes the formula, and gives Dalton a chance to shine.

13: Lethal Weapon (US)

A number of genres, in their own way, signify the 1980s. The Buddy Cop movie is one of those, and Lethal Weapon is probably the most famous of the genre, establishing and cementing cliches, the laughs, the action, and the ‘buddiness’. Gibson is the unhinged wildcard set alongside Glover’s close to retirement, by the book veteran. Together, they investigate the apparent suicide of one of Glover’s friend’s daughters. Initially wary of each other, their respect and relationship grows, and jokes and action, and a fair amount of introspection and darkness pours out. It’s one of those movies which epitomises the decade – over the top, big budget thrills, violent, fun, stylized, but it’s the script and the cast which make it memorable above the pretenders.

12: Full Metal Jacket (US/UK)

Stanley Kubrick takes on War again, and again crafts a seminal piece of Cinema. Similar to Westerns, I wasn’t into War movies in my youth, feeling too stilted and macho but lacking any flair or action. Full Metal Jacket was one of those movies, along with The Great Escape and Platoon, to wise me up. It would become the archetype of many movies to come – not merely in the War genre – dividing into two distinct parts with a bootcamp/training section, and a battle/War section. There’s more to it, but that’s one of the most famous aspects of the film which people continue to bring up. The Dirty Dozen had done something similar two decades earlier, but Kubrick uses both to show the horror of the institution over and above the horrors of war. Supremely acted, written, and directed, it’s one of the most must see movies of the decade.

11: Evil Dead 2 (US)

A sequel, remake, and one of those in-betweeny things, Raimi, Campbell, and fans return to up the ante and double down on the slapstick humour of the first movie. What it loses in scares, it makes up for gore effects, and Raimi continues with his inventive camera techniques and visceral insanity. One of the great ‘modern’ horror movies.

10: The Untouchables (US)

Somehow such an underrated film, especially when weighed up alongside the big boys like Goodfellas and The Godfather, which I have always felt deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those. De Niro is hamming it up and having the time of his life, Kevin Costner is melting hearts as a moral, upstanding husband, daddy, and good guy, Sssshean Connery is the grandad, and Andy Garcia is fucking awesome as always. Charles Martin Smith is at his best, Billy Drago is one of Cinema’s finest henchmen, the soundtrack is excellent, the suits are on point, but it’s DePalma’s movie; he cranks up the tension, controls the mood and tempo, and ensures that it’s a film about family as much as, but in a vastly different way from, The Godfather and Goodfellas are.

9: Hellraiser (UK)

Arguably the film which has come closest to showing us what a nightmare looks and feels like. Hellraiser, like much of Barker’s work, is about ideas; Barker’s worlds and words are brimming with ideas, invention, puzzles, and dubious morality – a constant ebb and flow between opposing, looping factions. Hellraiser concerns a family moving into a new home and resurrecting the bloody corpse of a murderous relative who wishes to continue from where he left off, exploring the darkest desires of humanity for his own enjoyment. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for us, there are others beyond our world who enjoy pleasure and pain more than he, and take great delight at dragging it out of his flesh. It’s such a grime and dirt ridden, low-budget film that it’s extraordinary just how extraordinary it looks. The cast look like they’ve survived a Tim Burton dream he was too scared to finish, the Cenobites are a fantastic inclusion to the Horror world, and it’s bloody, bleak, and beautiful in its own horrific way.

8: The Running Man (US)

One of Arnie’s more maligned movies – it’s neither the big action smash of Predator nor the family friendly fun of Twins, but it’s somewhere in between, a loose adaptation of Stephen King’s nihilistic tale of a broken society, interspersed by James Bond one-liners. An early Battle Royale. It’s a future where gameshows and TV are still the primary form of entertainment, but rather than winning a million quid by answering questions (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), or gaining adoration for being a racist sex hungry asshole (Big Brother), society has regressed to a more bloodthirsty, gladiatorial time. Criminals (guilty or otherwise) are thrown into an expansive game arena and pitted against a variety of games and fan-favourite warriors in a literal game to the death.

It’s such a lot of fun – the one-liners, the costumes, the cast, the idea of all these muscle-bound boyos duking it out for freedom or the adoration of the baying crowd. There’s an epic head explosion in the early moments, there’s Richard Dawson hamming it up, and there’s such an ugly 80s coke-fuelled haze over it – wonderful stuff. You just know when they remake it, they’re going to take all of the fun out.

7: Dream Warriors (US)

Speaking of fun, Dream Warriors is the most entertaining film in the Elm Street franchise. We largely ignore the events of the second movie, and instead re-unite cast members from the original with a new breed of tormented kids. Freddy is back, and he’s stalking the kids of some kind of medical/psychiatric institution. Nancy learns of this and comes back to finish off Krueger once and for all. While the first movie introduced the idea of a killer attacking you in your sleep, Dream Warriors doubles down on the dream logic of fighting back – in your dreams you can be a super-powered version of yourself and therefore the kids each use their own strengths and character traits to go on the offensive. Patricia Arquette and Lawrence Fishbourne appear, Langenkamp and Saxon return, and of course Englund is on top form. It’s inventive in its look and effects, is peppered with one-liners and interesting ideas, and it moves it a rip-roaring pace. It’s not exactly haunting or scary in the same way as the first movie was, but what it lacks in scares it makes up for in action.

6: Citizens On Patrol (US)

I’m an unashamed Police Academy fan. As a Cinema fan, they’re not exactly high art, and outside of the first film they’re barely coherent entertainment. But I love them. COP is my favourite sequel, giving us more of the original bunch, the return of Harris, more Zed, and fun new characters. It’s ridiculously silly, but there are more laugh out loud moments here for me, than probably every comedy released in the last ten years. It’s a capsule to my childhood, it’s nostalgic outside of my own experiences, and it’s good old fashioned summery, carefree Hollywood escapism.

5: Prince Of Darkness (US)

It’s in my TTT John Carpenter’s post

4: Near Dark (US)

TT Of The Decade.

3: The Lost Boys (US)

TT Of The Decade.

2: Predator (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)

TT Of The Decade.

1: Robocop (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)

TT Of The Decade.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Chart Music Through The Years – 1987

Today in Madonna History: December 28, 1987 « Today In Madonna History

Greetings, Glancers! On the surface 1987 is one of those years I always get excited about – some of my all time favourite movies were released in Predator, Robocop, The Lost Boys, Near Dark etc and at least two of my all time favourite albums came out – Bad, and Appetite For Destruction. Elsewhere, Bon Jovi and U2 released smash hit singles and albums, MTV was launched in Europe, Kyle Minogue left Neighbours and started a singing career, and hair metal was peaking in excess.

What of the wider world? Terry Waite was kidnapped, Budd Dwyer killed himself on TV, Iran-Contra further embarrassed Reagan, Platoon won Best Picture at The Oscars, plans for Euro Disney were put in place, The Simpsons first appeared in an early form, Lester Piggott went to prison, and the IRA bombed Enniskillen.

Back in the musical world, the biggest singles of the year included a variety of novelty songs – La Bamba, Never Gonna Give You Up, rock anthems – Livin’ On A Prayer, Where The Streets Have No Name, and pop classics – The Lady In Red, I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me. As always, I’ll be giving my thoughts on one of the Top Tens of the year and providing an alternative list for anyone interested in 1987. Company… March!

The Bee Gees: You Win Again 

So, a little about me before a little about the song. When I was younger we used to have these family employee Christmas parties where we would go to Pantomimes. One year it was bombed, so we didn’t go back to the panto. Other times we would go to the Cinema, or to indoor play places, or just have some hall hired for the day/night. At one of these events there was a disco and a quiz, and I seemed to be one of the older kids there (by older we’re talking me being 8 or 9). I remember answering as many questions as I could to the point that the DJ was getting annoyed and wanted to give someone else a chance. Anyway, I won a Bee Gees Live Concert on VHS. I probably knew the band before then, but that was my main introduction to them.

They are another ones of those bands that I’ve liked a lot of their songs, haven’t liked others, but never had any desire to seek them out. Spoiler Alert – I hope to cover them in a new Nightman Listens To series. All that is to say – I like this song.

George Michael: Faith

I never really liked this song. I never really liked George Michael. I like Last Christmas, and I like Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, but almost everything else I’ve heard from him has been balls. This is a middling one for me – I don’t hate the song, and there are parts I like enough to know that I’ll sing it every so often. But it’s an average song, nothing more.

Bananarama: Love In The First Degree

As 80s pop bands go, Bananarama are one of the bands that I somehow avoided. Leader Of The Pack, Help, I know those, but that’s about it. I’m sure I’d remember more if I heard them. This is immediately 80s – big ridiculous synth and drums. I recognise parts of this. Hilarious, unnecessary dance moves in the music video. Why do people dance in music videos? I’ve definitely heard the chorus before. It’s cheesy, cheery rubbish, and the video is questionable. Mostly harmless junk.

Jan Hammer: Crockett’s Theme

What is this? More 80s drums and synth. Oh right, now I know it, obviously. I knew I knew the name, but couldn’t place it. I never watched Miami Vice which is apparently where this is from. I probably saw a few episodes of it, but for whatever reason I was more of an A-Team, Knightrider guy. It’s an iconic piece of music that probably most people know even if they, like me, don’t know what it’s from. I’ve no idea why this was a hit over any other 80s theme, but there you go.

Fleetwood Mac: Little Lies

Spoiler Alert #2 – Fleetwood Mac is another band I want to cover in a Nightman Listens series. I have a friend who is a diehard fan, but again I mostly know a bunch of singles, a few of which I love. From the name, I don’t know this. The intro and verse is typically 80s, that atmospheric vibe I love. The verse is sort of familiar, then the chorus comes and I slap myself because of course I know it. Everyone looks incredibly stoned in the video too, which is nice. I’ve no idea why they are dressed like Victorian farmers either. I like it, even if some of the backing vocals are terrible and the video is shocking – a decent enough song.

Erasure: The Circus

Erasure. One of my least liked/most disliked bands. Along with Lighthouse Family, UB40, Enya, probably others. I can’t even remember why anymore, but I’m sure we’ll find out. Ponky pumpy horny synthy intro, drunken sounds in verse, annoying vocals. I think it’s more the style rather than the voice I don’t like. This doesn’t feel at all like a single. It’s not terrible, it’s not great… I’m not sure what it is aside from being all over the place.

Billy Idol: Mony Mony

Billy Idol always struck me as a bit of knob. All dressed up like a punk rock or metal superstar, but releasing songs which BROS could just as easily have released. Obviously this is a cover. It’s not all that different from the original, just with a bit of an 80s overhaul. It’s another traditional rock’n’roll song so you can guess how it sounds – the energy, the rhythm, the rises and falls – nothing special but still better than most of today’s chart pap.

Pet Shop Boys: Rent

I like It’s A Sin – who doesn’t? But I’ve never been crazy about these fellas either. This doesn’t seem familiar. Talking vocals, silly whisper noises in the background, already off to a losing start. Singing is marginally better, melodies a little bland, but I appreciate the plaintive feel. I assume the lyrics are heartfelt, some feeling does come across. It’s not bad, but it’s not something I’ll remember or seek out again.

Kiss: Crazy Crazy Nights

Another rock ‘classic’ that was played, for the ladies, at my local Metal bar on Saturday nights. It’s basically a pop ballad the likes of which you’d hear a boy/girl band write, but with added guitar. That’s the thing about hair metal – you had some genuinely accomplished musicians, then you had those who could just about get by, but in the main the songs were throwaway pop garbage. Guitars and androgyny were hot in the 80s, so all these pretty boys with guitars would form bands for a quick buck, suck, or fuck – and most of them are terrible. Nevertheless, those who succeeded, those who are still discussed today knew how to write a catchy tune which all music fans could enjoy, even if there was very little under the surface or face-paint.

Was (Not Was): Walk The Dinosaur

The only artist here I hadn’t heard of so I’m going to go out on a limb and say this was a novelty hit. It certainly starts in that vein with some sort of caveman chant that you just know idiots of the time would have chanted. The verse vocals are fine, and then the chorus drops and I remember it all. So, I’m not sure what the intent behind the song or the lyrics were, aside from trying to make a bunch of money and capitalize on the idiocy of 80s culture. Musically, it beats the equivalent today – there is a variety of instruments, there is some semblance of vibrancy, but it’s still a pile of crap. It seems to be selling a dance instead of being a song on its own merits. If we compare it to Walk Like An Egyptian – another song which created a cutesy dance craze – there’s a clear gulf in talent and creativity between the two.

So, that was an accurate depiction of 80s pop music. Does that mean it represents the decade or the year in music truthfully? No. Does it show the breadth of talent of those who were making music then? Absolutely not. As we have already established, chart music rarely does. Therefore, here is an alternative list of songs released in 1987 which you may find more appealing – and I’m even keeping it mostly pop!

  1. With Or Without You – U2
  2. Sign O’ The Times – Prince
  3. Just Like Heaven – The Cure
  4. Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson
  5. Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns ‘N’ Roses
  6. Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle
  7. Satch Boogie – Joe Satriani
  8. Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues
  9. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – REM
  10. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You – Gloria Estefan

Let us know in the comments if you have any memories of 1987 – the music, the movies, and everything in between!

Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1987

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

Yes, you read that right – 1987 is probably my favourite year in Cinema with a ludicrous amount of films that I love and count among my all time favourites – films which have contributed to my love of film and to who I am. I could have gone more than twenty, just like in other years I could have selected more than ten. Basically any year I could pick any number of films that I enjoy, but I’m limiting these lists to the best of the best, the ones I love most, and in 1987 there are just too many of these. I mean, I picked twenty films and hardly any of these were among the top grossers and none were nominated for Best Picture, so there were plenty more great releases this year. Enjoy!

20: A Chinese Ghost Story (HK)

19: Withnail And I (UK)

18: City On Fire (HK)

17: Planes, Trains, And Automobiles (US)

16: Good Morning, Vietnam (US)

15: The Princess Bride (US)

14: The Living Daylights (UK)

13: Lethal Weapon (US)

12: Full Metal Jacket (US/UK)

11: Evil Dead 2 (US)

10: The Untouchables (US)

9: Hellraiser (UK)

8: The Running Man (US)

7: Dream Warriors (US)

6: Citizens On Patrol (US)

5: Prince Of Darkness (US)

4: Near Dark (US)

3: The Lost Boys (US)

2: Predator (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)

1: Robocop (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Zero