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Ghost Canyon

'80s Beat - 8 Films'
(Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., James Spader, Kevin Bacon, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The boys of the big screen who graced the covers of Teen Beat and Bop (and teenagers bedroom walls) are back and better than ever with this totally rad collection of Hollywood hotties in 8 unforgettable films! So, call your friends for a sleepover and feast your eyes on these hunky heartthrobs in career-defining performances worth cherishing!

DVD Verdict: OK, taking these great (for the most part) movies one at a time, first up is Flatliners - (1990) - Color R - Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt. The basic premise of Flatliners is fairly simple. Several medical students put themselves at the point of death in order to find out exactly what the brain does during the fact. It sounds like something a mob of bored students would do for a joke, but it forms the basis of some very creepy substories. In today's world, where Hollywood has to mine foreign markets for the ideas to make a horror film, Flatliners is one of those rare gems that show Hollywood can make something different when it tries hard enough. What separates Flatliners from a lot of films based on this premise that would come out today is that it does not stoop to being condescending or arrogant. Flatliners recognizes that people go to films to be entertained, not moralized to. In this kind of supernatural thriller, the difference this restraint makes is really incredible. What's even more incredible is that Julia Roberts appears without being annoying or demonstrating that she can only play Julia Roberts. The theory of obscurity, that performing artists do their best work with the smallest audience, is in force here.

Next up is True Believer - (1989) - Color R - Robert Downey Jr., James Woods, Margaret Colin, Yuji Okumoto, Kurtwood Smith. Edward Dodd (James Woods) is a run-down lawyer who no longer shines the way he did 10 years ago. Back then he was writing history, saving the Black Panthers and stuff of the like. Now he protects drug pushers and street peddlers. Nevermind what excuses he finds for this gradual decay of affairs, for a skilled speaker and lawyer Dodd never ceases to be - this can be seen even as he defends crooks. Roger Baron (Robert Downey Jr) arrives to clerk for him and realizes the idea he had of Dodd no longer suits the reality of the man. Thus he proceeds to ask him to take a prisoner case.

This courtroom thriller has all that kind of movie should have; we see a well-crafted pace that keeps you tied to your seat, the kind of acting from James Woods that is hard to find nowadays, Robert Downey Jr also dons the recently-graduated idealistic law student to a tee. The film is reminiscent of a John Grisham novel. Margaret Colin as Kitty Greer is also great. In fact, every actor in this flick does a better-than-average role.

Then comes The New Kids - (1985) - Color - Rated R - James Spader, Lori Loughlin, Shannon Presby, John Philbin. This is one of those movies about a bunch of psychotic weirdos trying to do as much damage as possible to two innocent victims, leaving you to wonder what the heck these kids did to push the antagonists so far over the edge.

Here, our innocent victims are Abby (Lori Laughlin) and Loren (Shannon Presby). After their parents died, the brother and sister go to live in an amusement park (how awesome is that?) where their relatives (surrogate parent-types) live and work.

The psychos are led by Eddie Dutra (James Spader) a sadistic albino, and his gang of merry men (one of which is the excellent John Philbin who 80s fans will remember as 'Turtle' from the surf adventure, North Shore). Anyways, Eddie wants Abby, and what Eddie wants, he gets. But when Abby pushes him away after several forceful advances, sadistic control-freak Eddie doesn't want it to look like he let a girl weaken him. He and the gang go after Lorren, Abby, and their family, in a do or die situation.

Next up is Little Nikita - (1988) - Color PG - River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, Richard Bradford. The plot of this film has more holes than Swiss Cheese and seems more than a little dated, even if the baton of the quintessential foreign bad guy has passed now from the Nazis to the Soviets to the Islamic terrorists or (perennial favorite) our own US government.

What if the most ordinary white-bread American parents (yours) turn out to be Soviet spies? That is the premise of this film. What if some renegade Soviet spy is blackmailing the KGB operatives in the US by killing its agents one by one for MONEY! How capitalist! How demented can you be? This is the kind of guy who would take your girlfriend water skiing just so he can see her get smooshed by an oil tanker or something. And what are the poor hapless KGB agents supposed to do? Send your Mom and Dad off to pay this guy off? Why? Almost all of the agents are dead. The only ones left are Mom and Dad. Considering that Mom and Dad are near useless as agents, hey, be our guest, comrade.

And Mom and Dad are sleepers biding their time running a flower shop while waiting for their orders, which finally come in a dead fish. But by this time their covers have worked so well they are now God-fearing Americans. It is as though Ozzie and Harriet were Russian spies. But of course there is blackmail.

The second disc begins with the brilliant The Legend of Billie Jean - (1985) - Color PG-13 - Christian Slater, Helen Slater, Keith Gordon, Peter Coyote, Yeardley Smith. This is an excellent movie for young people, in general. It shows how one has to fight for one's principles, as it's the case with Billie Jean, a girl living in the Texas coastal town of Corpus Christi. As directed by Matthew Robbins, this film will never cease to amaze.

After he brother's motorcycle is trashed by a group of rough teenagers. Billie Jean wants the father of the boy who gave a beating to her brother, to pay for the repair of the bike. This is a man who, knowing where Billie Jean comes from, tries to abuse the girl sexually. He doesn't know who he is messing with.

The movie deals with the way Billie Jean goes about in getting her revenge against all odds. In doing so, she becomes an instant celebrity to the young population in the area, who easily identify with the wronged girl and make her a folk hero.

Helen Slater makes a sunny appearance as Billie Jean. She is a girl who believes in justice, and demands it from the man who wanted to take advantage of her. A young, blond Christian Slater is Binx, the young brother. Peter Coyote is also seen as the chief of police who Billie Jean goes to present her complaint, but doesn't have enough sense to pay attention to her.

Then comes Private Resort - (1985) - Color - Rated R - Starring: Johnny Depp, Ron Morrow, Emily Longstreth. In Private Resort, Johnny Depp and Rob Morrow star as two single guys out to meet women at a resort hotel. Actor Hector Elizondo turns in a good performance as a jewel thief and con artist assisted by his wife, played by Leslie Easterbrook. Hilary (Shapiro) Shepard-Turner is very convincing as a religious fanatic and heiress to a fortune. The film is filled with classic slapstick comedy, and in places is both entertaining and funny despite a somewhat weak plot. Overall, Private Resort is a good comedy film of the 1980s and a great look into Depp's young acting world - floppy hair an' all!

Next up is Like Father Like Son - (1987) - Color - PG-13 - Kirk Cameron, Dudley Moore, Margaret Colin, Catherine Hicks, Sean Austin. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I think this movie's great. There's lots of hilarious (and clean) sight gags, slapstick and laugh-out-loud situations.

Dudley Moore, obviously the far more superior comedian, is fantastic as a teenager stuck in an adult's body. He has many funny scenes and milks them for all they're worth, my favourite being the chewing gum/cigarette incident. The looks on his co-stars' faces is priceless. Watch also for Moore's date with Margaret Colin (that goes really badly) and when he does the rounds at the hospital!

Finally we get the little known gem (well, to me, at least) Side Out - (1990) - Color - PG-13 - C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton, Courtney Thorne-Smith. Law student Monroe Clark (C. Thomas Howell) from Milwaukee moves to L.A. to work for his rich real estate lawyer Uncle Max. He's given a job to serve eviction notices. One of the tenants is beach volleyball player Zack Barnes (Peter Horton). He was the original local king of volleyball but he has been spiraling downwards.

His business partner Kate Jacobs (Harley Jane Kozak) is tired of him but there's more to their relationship. The new king is Rollo Vincent. Monroe befriends local Wiley Hunter and falls for Samantha (Courtney Thorne-Smith). Monroe and Wiley play in a tournament and Zack comes in to coach them.

Sorry, but C. Thomas Howell is not a believable volleyball stud. On top of that, his character is not appealing at all. I think he's trying to be Tom Cruise, but he's no Tom Cruise. His kissing scene with CTS made me involuntarily laugh. Peter Horton does have that washed-up beach bum vibe though and as much as this whole movie is terribly cheesy for the most part, if you shut your brain down for 70 minutes, it's definitely popcorn fluff perfect for an evening in. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

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