#1347 I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982)

The playwright Neil Simon churned out mediocre scripts through the seventies and the eighties in a breathtaking pace – so much that his name became something of a brand that was printed in a poster right before the title of the movie. I can’t but to wonder the producers’ urge to jump into making filmatised versions out of these plays since, well .. they’re just not particularly good movie material.

True to his style of writing plays about people involved in show business – producers, actors, authors – I Ought to Be in Pictures is also about people of the Hollywood. I’m guessing the charm of revealing the banal side of entertainment business for us the common people was there back in the 80s, but from today’s point of view that charm train has left the station.

I Ought to Be in Pictures is an extremely tedious movie to watch and seems to drag on and on and on without getting anywhere. The characters are unappealing (and, somewhat annoying), and regularly written in situations or mood swings that seem more forced than natural. The dialogue and the way the actors deliver it tries to be always cute, but never actually ends up clever or snappy enough to be delightful, making the movie extra laborious to watch.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 6%

#1346 Dominick and Eugene (1988)

Playing someone mentally challenged always possesses a risk: do it the wrong way and the end result is usually very gringe inducing.

Fortunately Tom Hulce pulls it off and creates in Dominick an interesting, sympathetic three dimensional character. Ray Liotta’s performance as his brother is every bit as good and shows surprising (positively) sides of him I’ve never witnessed before.

The production quality and the plot borderline a made for TV movie which made me a bit worried at times, but ultimately Dominick and Eugene is a movie that begs you to drop all the cynicism and rewards you in return with a moving story with a honest and huge heart.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 86%

#1345 The Return (1980)

Everything in The Return feels indifferent and passionless as if none of the actors nor the team itself really wanted to do the movie.

Jan-Michael Vincent is more busy sipping beer than acting most of the time and Cybill Shepherd (of the later Moonlighting fame)looks like she’s contemplating on finding herself a new agent.

The Return is a movie that didn’t need to be made as it serves no real purpose and does not bring anything to the table that hasn’t been done better before or since.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 22%

#1344 Cuba Crossing (1980)

A bunch of rogue USA soldiers set out to assassinate the communist leader of Cuba in Cuba Crossing.

This would not be such an issue if the movie itself had something going on for it, but it’s unfortunately an outdated, inconsistent, uninteresting mess that remains stale most of the running time, and gets somewhat interesting only after the plot twist in the third act.

I try to steer away from talking about technical aspects of a movie, but with Cuba Crossing the lack of decent cinematography cannot be unaddressed. Not only is the shooting amateurish with over/under exposed scenes and overall bad cinematographic choices, the movie completely misses out of taking advantage of the tropical Key West landscapes and mostly looks dull as a dishwasher.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 17%

#1343 Harry & Son (1984)

First of a, a personal mental note: if I was to ever write a drama, remember to pick up a few interesting topics, think about ways to deepen then and make them relatable and fully explore the aspects of these topics that seem to work, and finally, get rid of everything excessive and shallow you have no time to address during the running time of a movie.

Harry & Son, Paul Newman’s pet project fails in all of these aspects as Newman as the writer and director tries to fit it much too many dramatic elements that never get followed through. Is this a movie about getting older? Father-son relationships? Becoming an author? Coming of age? Coping with illness? Finding a love? Becoming a parent? Finding your focus in life? Forgiving? Loose sex? Answer, unfortunately is that it’s about all of this.

Maybe the biggest oversight of the movie is how it quickly shifts its focus away from Harry to his son Howard –– a much less interesting character of the two. Newman manages to create a somewhat interesting character in Harry, but he remains an unexplored, closed up onion all the way to the end.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 42%

#1342 Eyewitness aka The Janitor (1981)

Very interesting cast of super talented William Hurt, gorgeous Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer, James Woods and Morgan Freeman star in little known early 80s murder thriller Eyewitness that was originally planned for release as The Janitor, but after lousy initial box office feedback the name was changed.

I’ve always mixed up this movie with the 1987 Broadcast News – William Hurt’s other movie involving TV reporters – and Eyewitness turned out to be completely different from what I was expecting – both in good and in bad.

The plotline has far too many coincidences to make it really believable, and Hurt’s poetic janitor character also seems quite far fetched and theatrical choice. The movie is quite watchable though and the end showdown is both thrilling and uniquely something I can’t remember seeing before.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 70%

#1341 Nadine (1987)

Let me start with a confession: I’ve browsed through this poster in my collection about a thousand times and always skipped the text, looked at the picture and assumed that it was Patrick Swayze who is starring in Nadine with Kim Basinger. I was therefore more than a bit stunned to see Jeff Bridges instead.

Not that I mind, Bridges is one of the greats that I always enjoy seeing on the silver screen. In fact, he is much too good to be in Nadine, a pretty tame action crime comedy set in the 1950s Texas.

On the positive note he does make the movie better than it rightfully deserves to be; the tale of an impulsive hairdresser and his soon-to-be bum ex husband is not very interesting nor is their constant quarrelling funny. The movie does have its exciting moments though as the shady real estate kingpin played by the great Rip Torn finds out the couple has obtained a confidential document he has been looking forward to getting in his hands.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 61%

#1340 Down by Law (1986)

Jim Jarmusch’s follow up to the surprise hit 1984 indie movie Stranger Than Paradise is not without similarities. Both movies are shot in black & white, feature John Lurie, have similar type posters and introduce a fish out of water foreign character as the comic relief.

In Down by Law that comic relief is Roberto Benigni who in his trademark style delivers great energy and hilarious lines and saves the movie just before it’s about to turn stale.

Tom Waits can be seen as the third lead in the movie and the movie seems almost tailor made for him in its aesthetics and lines that compliment his deep, gravelly voice.

80s-o-meter: 20%

Total: 87%

#1339 Dancers (1987)

Tony (Mikhail Baryshnikov) is a good dancer who’s had sex with every ballet dancer in his ballet company. While he is preparing a film version of Giselle balette in Italy, a 17-year-old American teenager joins the company and Tony wants to have sex with her as well. It all goes well until she hears about the former people Tony has had sex. And then we see about 45 minutes of balette dancing on the stage.

I don’t know who convinced The Cannon Group that making Dancers would be a terrific idea –– it doesn’t sound good even on paper, and on film it’s a total dud.

I’d much rather watched just the ballet dancing for 90 minutes – and I don’t even care for ballet a bit.

80s-o-meter: 8%

Total: 0%

#1338 The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

After seeing the movie adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being I think I have to read the original novel by Milan Kundera to see what went missing in translation under Philip Kaufman’s direction.

What I love about movies is how they can condensate a ordinary day or a lifetime of a human under two hours and I really admire the directors and editors who can make this happen and the end result does not feel rushed due to well thought out pacing. The Unbearable Lightness of Being totally fails all this. It’s a three-hour epic that feels like it’s skimming the original book, but still has less content in it than many of the 90 minute movies out there. It’s extremely slow, but rushed at the same time.

I did not care for The Unbearable Lightness of Being and found it a pretentious movie that aspires to imitate the style of the generic artsy European cinema without ever trying to find its own tone of voice.

But it did evoke a need in me to look into the original novel to see what makes it tick.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 18%

#1337 The Trouble with Spies (1987)

The Trouble with Spies was originally shot in 1984 as a made for TV movie but released three years later as a theatrical release. But make no mistake, this spy comedy looks and feels very much like your average early 80s TV movie.

Special Agent comedies have been already done to death by 1984, and The Trouble with Spies is really nothing more but yet another poor man’s Pink Panther copy. There was two upsides seeing this movie, first one being seeing Lucy Gutteridge (who ended up mostly in made for TV movies) starring in another movie besides Top Secret! – a movie I’ve seen about gazillion times as a kid.

Another upside? That adorable guard dog towards the end of the movie.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 38%

#1336 Hairspray (1988)

Somebody please explain me why movies like Hairspray exist.

Just kidding – I know, I know. They’re there to give a dose of nostalgia for those long for the bygone days when the sun always shone and the colors were much more vivid. You can spot useless nostalgic movie by reimagining it to the current day and figuring out if the concept still holds up.

Hairspray was definitely my cup of tea, even despite its favorable anti-segregation message.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 4%

#1335 Hider in the House (1989)

If there ever was a role Gary Busey was born to play, it’s the deranged patient Tom Sykes who in Hider in the House finds himself building a little nest in the attic of a nuclear family to live with the family he never had. Really, he’s such a natural in the role and boasts just the right physical features that the movie seems written with precisely him in mind.

Busey perfectly shows the likeable traits needed for the role and we the viewers can’t but hope that everything would turn out well for him in the end somehow. The concept of the movie is unique and it skillfully moves away from the most tired clichés when there is a temptation to just take the road well travelled.

That is, until the end. Even though the ending is a-ok it really felt like such a letdown after all the great buildup that was used to establish Tom’s multifaceted character.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 87%

#1334 A Breed Apart (1984)

After just minutes of A Breed Apart I was really looking forward for it to finish as soon as possible, but it just dragged on and on in its predictable and uninteresting path.

A tale of a soldier turned into nature conservationist never manages to interest and the wonderful cast of Rutger Hauer, Kathleen Turner, Donald Pleasence and Brion James is completely wasted in this mess of a movie.

Reportedly one of the four reels of the movie went missing after being shipped from the shooting location back to Los Angeles and the team had to patch up a movie out of the existing footage. This only partly explains the complete staleness of A Breed Apart.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 2%

#1333 L.A. Bounty (1989)

A weak cast makes for a weak movie with L.A. Bounty.

Wings Hauser plays the role of a demented madman criminal (strong emphasis on the word plays) and Sybil Danning deadpans through the movie in a pair of badly fitting trousers, delivering around 30 words of dialogue along the way.

A kind of a fast food action movie when it was released, this particular serving has gone stale a long time ago.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 38%

#1332 Of Unknown Origin (1983)

The director George P. Cosmatos creates a new subgenre of rat thriller with Of Unknown Origin.

I was drawn to this Canadian-American movie shot in Montréal due to it featuring Peter Weller (of the later Robocop fame), as well as its ominous title. The movie never quite lives up to its premise, and turns into monotonous mouse and cat game where Weller gets fixated on getting rid of a rodent and ends up destroying both his house and him family along the way.

It is not very scary, not that much fun and gets pretty old pretty fast. The concept could have probably worked better as a 20-minute Simpsons episode instead.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 27%

#1331 Inside Moves (1980)

I don’t consider jotting your average average superficial tearjerker movie much of a skill, and I’m pretty confident I would be capable of writing one of those myself in no time. I’m therefore always in awe when I see someone doing it in the right way and coming up with a story that not only feels true but also cares so deeply for its characters that it doesn’t sell them short for some cheap drama.

Inside Moves, based on the Todd Walton’s book of the same name and directed by Richard Donner is one of those rare movies. It starts where one life ends as Roary (John Savage) jumps to his death from the top of a building. After being patched together he then limps his stiff body to a local tavern where he meets up with diverse bunch of characters for a game of poker that changes the course of his life.

The movie is one of the a rare masterpieces that make you happy, sad, angry and hopeful – sometimes all of these within just one minute.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 92%

#1330 American Flyers (1985)

American Flyers is a sports movie that tries a little something different to break the clichéd sports movie formula.

Problem is, it would’ve been a better sports movie if it didn’t so hard to come up with an excessive drama and the additional storyline that seemed only distracting and out of place to me. All of the drama between the two brothers feels really forced and is never quite explained in a satisfactory way.

As a sports movie American Flyers does well in depicting a bicycle race, making it look quite realistic and visually quite pleasing.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 38%

#1329 The Whales of August (1987)

The last movie of the legendary silent movie star Lillian Gish, The Whales of August follows the life and events of two sisters staying together an August during their twilight years in a small shoreside cabin in Maine, like they have done so many times ever since their childhood.

This is one of those slow movies, and nothing much goes on here. In fact, the pacing is painfully slow for anyone with a short attention span .. like myself.

The Whales of August is a hard movie to review, and it pretty much boils down to how much you appreciate seeing the great stars of the yesteryear one more time together in the same movie. My rating will be on the low end due to slow pacing and not having former relationship with the actors – but if you rate it higher, you won’t be getting any counter arguments from me either.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 21%

#1328 Creator (1985)

With Creator the director Ivan Passer and the writer Jeremy Leven have created a thoughtful comedy that deals with many themes not often seen in a romantic comedies.

I wanted to reiterate the plot here to better understand why such a silly premise and goofy plot twists work so well in Creator, but as I wrote everything down it sounded like a pretty darn horrible movie; there’s an eccentric medical professor teaching at a small California college who wants to bring her back through cloning. Plus one of the characters even falls fatally ill – a page right out of a cheap soap opera manuscript.

But please trust me, Creator makes it all work out much better than I can explain it.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 80%