Jason is a movie watcher (not as avid as he once was or would like to be), reader of comics, and loves the ‘80s. You can find him on twitter @jrwells82, letterboxd (https://letterboxd.com/jrwells82/), and read his (occasionally updated) blog (https://jrwells82.wordpress.com/).
1987 was a great year for movies. Seriously, just take a look at what’87 gave us: Predator, The Princess Bride, Lethal Weapon, The Untouchables, and The Lost Boys. That’s just the tip of the cinematic iceberg too. And for every well-known blockbuster of that year, there are the ones that slipped through the proverbial cracks as well. Here are a few that I consider underrated.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (Dir. Jim Drake)
Maybe it’s the nostalgia factor for me, but I’m a fan of the Police Academy franchise (especially the first four). Yes, they aren’t going to win any awards, but they are fun and rewatchable. The plot is simple: Commandant Lassard decides to start the Citizens on Patrol (C.O.P.) program, which recruits the common citizen to come along side officers, to compensate for the overworked police force. Part 4 is the last entry to feature Steve Guttenberg, but it also brings back G.W. Bailey as Captain Harris, whom has been MIA since the first film. The normal antics ensue while Harris attempts to get the COP program shut down. Features a young David Spade and has a Sharon Stone cameo as well.
Lady Beware (Dir. Karen Arthur)
I remember my parents having a VHS copy of this one growing up, which I’m thankful to still have because this has never been released on DVD. Honestly, this film is probably how I was introduced to Diane Lane. It’s a nice little psychological/erotic thriller, in which Lane plays a window dresser who is becoming well-known for her provocative window displays. Eventually it garners her attention of a stalker, and that is when the suspense kicks in and the movie really picks up. If you can find a copy of this one, I recommend checking it out.
The Stepfather (Dir. Joseph Ruben)
Only introduced to this film a few years back due to the Shout! Factory blu-ray release, this film is another great psychological thriller written by Donald E. Westlake. It also has a phenomenal performance from Terry O’Quinn as the title character. From the unforgettable opening scene, it continues to move at a great pace and never slows down. Yes, it may have found a cult following years later, but I still consider this a hidden gem amongst the offerings ’87 had to give us. It’s a great film to go blind into, as I did.
Hamburger Hill (Dir. John Irvin)
I think between Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill gets lost in film discussions about the Vietnam War. It stars Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, Courtney B. Vance, and Don Cheadle (all up-and-comers at the time) as members of 101st Airborne and the brutal battle that actually took place over the course of 10 days in May of 1969. It’s visually stunning, brutal and disturbing at times, as there is realism to it that doesn’t always come across in other films about war. I can tell you it’s not for the squeamish. The final battle (which is also the last third of the film) is pretty amazing. Hard to watch, but well worth it.
The Chipmunk Adventure (Dir. Janice Karman)
On to something much lighter: The Chipmunk Adventure. Alvin’s first feature film finds The Chipmunks in the middle of a hot-air balloon race around the world against the Chipettes. In reality, the race is just a cover for a diamond smuggling ring. It has great animation, is lots of fun to watch and has a killer soundtrack (my favorite musical number is “The Girls (and Boys) of Rock n’ Roll”.
Best Seller (Dir. John Flynn)
How this one isn’t better known beats me. I stumbled across it on Hulu a few years back, and was blown away it had evaded my radar. You have John Flynn directing a Larry Cohen script. We have Brian Dennehy as a detective/author with writer’s block and James Woods as an assassin for hire who wants his story to be told. An entertaining premise, with some solid action, but best of all are the performances Dennehy and Woods bring to the table, and the chemistry the two have together. Cleve is Woods at his best, and may be one of his finest performances. I feel it comes up a little short in the end, but still a solid and fun time.
Ernest Goes to Camp (Dir. John Cherry)
Going to state this right out the gate: this is my favorite of the Ernest films. I watched this movie so much growing up, and still love it to this day Ernest works as a maintenance man at Kamp Kikakee and is given the chance to be a counselor to a small group of juvenile delinquents. There is also a mining company (headed up by Krader (John Vernon is great in this role, btw) who have their sites in the Kamp, but the chief refuses to sell to them. Even so, Krader goes forth with his demolition of the campgrounds, but finds resistance from Ernest and his boys. There is a great running gag throughout the film that pays off in the end. We even get to hear Jim Varney sing! I really do love this movie. Even if it’s for nostalgia reasons, check it out.