#1486 The Hanoi Hilton (1987)

Portraying a bunch of American soldiers imprisoned in the Viet Cong Hỏa Lò prison during the 1960s and early 1980s, Hanoi Hilton turns a tremendously potent set up into a lot lukewarm and mostly an interesting depiction of soldiers forgotten by the war, and their country.

The movie follows many soldiers, but never quite stays long enough with one, or gets under their skin to make us really root for them. Everything from torture to mind games never quite seems to touch, and the made for television look & feel coupled with a strong shot inside a studio feeling does not really add to the authenticity.

Maybe if the approach would’ve been even more daring – like sharing one single cell all through the movie with a prisoner – we could’ve gotten a better sense of what was it like to locked up with no human contacts.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 45%

#1485 The River Rat (1984)

Just when I saw Martha Plimpton in a swamp themed movie, I came across The River Rat that precedes that movie two years and yes, is also about people living in the wetlands. And sure, one could make an argue for The Mosquito Coast being a distant relative to the both.

Here young Plimpton plays Jonsy, a foul-mouthed kid living with her grandma that tries to connect with her dad (Tommy Lee Jones), fresh out of jail for the first time in her life. The two find some common ground as they refurbish River Rat, an old river boat.

The past returns to haunt the ex-jailbird in the form of Brian Dennehy, and it’s a pleasure to watch these two veteran actors together. Although not much of a thriller, I did enjoy how the movie played out without going down the most obvious route.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 70%

#1484 Track 29 (1988)

A spiritual predecessor to Requiem for a Dream, Track 29 follows a downward spiral of one relationship and a woman, married to a narcissistic doctor who enjoys his model railways and getting whipped by one of her nurses.

As you might’ve guessed, Track 29 is one of those weird movies that are as detached from the reality as its characters. Rather than a drama, it’s one of those super dark comedies that really doesn’t make one laugh, even once.

I was excited to see Gary Oldman as one of the leads. I guess you could say he performs his part as the annoying ghost of the past so well that I loathed him already in a few minutes, which again made sitting through the movie far more unenjoyable than it should’ve been.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 38%

#1483 Resurrection (1980)

What Resurrection has going for it is an interesting premise where a woman discovers she has developed a healing powers after getting nearly killed in a car crash. How the movie handles dramatic structure after this is bit of a hit and miss though.

Her self discovery after the accident, first realisation of the power, relationship with the community and difficult relationship with her father are all very interesting themes, but the latter two could’ve been explored much further. Instead the story drifts off to involve her difficult relations ship with her lover along with religious themes that are far less interesting.

Ellen Burstyn has been flying totally under my radar despite her winning the Oscar for best Actress in academy awards on 1975 with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. In Resurrection she is simply wonderful, portraying a person with warm supernatural power in her without overdoing or overselling it one bit.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 71%

#1482 Making Love (1982)

Sometimes watching a movie without reading the covers can be beneficial. Judging by its name, with Making Love I expected to get a typical daring early 80s, post sexual revolution romantic drama with painful emphasis on the constant love making, but what I got instead is a study into one married man’s journey to coming into realisation of his homosexuality.

Most of the movie and the drama in it is still very relevant, even though the movie is almost 40 years old. The way that the movie portrays the love of the two leads is particularly beautiful, and the moment of them having to let go of each other is truly heart breaking.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 75%

#1481 Face of the Enemy (1989)

Featuring one of the most interesting synopsis’ I’ve encountered in the recent years, Face of the Enemy is a low budget drama thriller about a former CIA agent who after getting caught and tortured in Middle-East has since returned to home and working as a guard, until he one year recognises someone who he suspects is one of his captors that has since moved to the states under different identity. After the officials decline any help he takes the actions to his own hands and decides to prison the suspect to his cellar and force out the confession out of her.

With Face of the Enemy the director Hassan Ildari has managed to create an intriguing little thriller with minimalistic elements. The trip to the depths of the human psyche is dark and interesting from the start to the end, but Face of the Enemy in its 100 minutes of running time does very little but scratch the surface of what could be hidden underneath; this is one of those concepts that would’ve probasbly worked even better as mini series.

That, or a novel.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 70%

#1480 Everybody’s All-American (1988)

What happens to that perfect college football hero and his beauty pageant girlfriend couple after they marry and grow up. This is what Taylor Hackford’s Everybody’s All-American aims to give an answer to.

Based on a 1981 novel of the same name by Frank Deford, Everybody’s All-American manages to avoid almost all of the clichés usually related to sports movies. Similarly its characters avoid falling into typical caricatures and show some actual humane traits.

I wasn’t sold on the final closure of the movie, but the road to there is filled with interesting, lifelike moments that feel nothing like pasted on.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 72%

#1479 Resting Place (1986)

Another made-for-TV movie with a super interesting premise, Resting Place takes place in early 70s as an US Army Major (John Lithgow) arrives to a small souther town to with a body of young deceased African-American sergeant and soon finds out the family is denied of his burial on the graveyard reserved for whites.

When everything else fails, the major turns out to officials, local newspapers and finally his team, who to his surprise seem to keep shush about the actual events leading to the sergeant’s death.

Resting Place is one of those made for tv movies that manages to better 90% of the movies out there, and easily earns my recommendations for watching.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 87%

#1478 Shy People (1987)

American wetlands have always intrigued for their mystique, and I’m always happy to see a movie exploring the swampy southern regions. In Shy People we city slickers get to identify with a New York journalist and her daughter who travel to Louisiana to meet with their weird, backwards distant family.

There are lots of backwards ways in their lives. The family still looks up to an old patriarch of the family who has since left them, lives in a creaky old house and has one of the adult kids permanently locked up in a shed.

I get what the movie makers were going after with the concept, but everything in the movie feels super artificial and implausible. I lost my interest in the events and the characters in the very first minutes when they arrived to the swamp, and the movie failed to pick up my interest afterwards.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 22%

#1477 Square Dance (1987)

Square Dance is an exercise in futility. Stuff happens, people clash and fight and finally get back to the starting point with very little gained along the way.

Everything in the movie feels forced, and it was especially when the intellectually disabled young man played by Rob Lowe appears on screen that I felt the movie was totally without focus. But as it turns out, the only thing really working in the movie is Lowe’s character and I’d rather watched a movie about him rather than being subjected to all the other nonsense the movie tries to serve as a plot.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 16%

#1476 Staying Alive (1983)

Sylvester Stallone (of all people) co-wrote and directed the sequel to the 1977 landmark movie Saturday Night Fever – and it remains one of the few misfires in his career.

Staying Alive picks the story up years later of the original storyline, as Tony Manero (John Travolta) is now trying to make it big in the Broadway. Akin to many musicals of the era, it’s a struggle of getting noticed from a fleet of talented dancers.

The original’s heavy disco approach along with the killer soundtrack is what made it a phenomenon, when again Staying Alive is an early 80s fast food take on the subject; light drama is constantly mixed up with lengthy musical numbers, and neither one have enough memorable aspects to really stick with the viewer for more than a minute or two.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 51%

#1474 Death of a Salesman (1985)

I’m not quite sure what to do with all these made for TV movies of the 80s. On the other hand, watching through all of them is not at all what I signed up for, but with gems like Death of a Salesman how could I possibly pass them up?

Based on the brilliant 1949 play of the same name by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman transfers nicely to the TV format thanks to great casting including Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich and Charles Durning – and in this case specifically to the TV as the production values themselves are a far cry from a feature film.

If you’re new to the play, Death of a Salesman is one of the better ways to get acquainted with the story and its timeless themes of the (false sense of) pride, delusion, American dream – and falling short of it.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 85%

#1473 Tiger Warsaw (1988)

Ah, the 80s where it’s still totally ok to be totally melodramatic in the most theatrical way.

In Tiger Warsaw it’s the Chuck ’Tiger’ Warsaw (Patrick Swayze) in his leather jacket and wild hair who is suffering with his past after shooting his father, fleeing the town and living a life of self destruction ever since. And boy is he in anguish as he tries to meet up with his past again and make up for the past.

As in, almost rolling in pain.

In the cynical world of 2021 Tiger Warsaw feels directly out of a pen of a teenager in angst and all of its overwhelming drama very much glued on. Call me cynical, but this one did not manage to touch me at all.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 19%

#1472 Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987)

Chuck, a star of his little league baseball team realises after a visit to nuclear missile silo how the world is in a balance of terror that might go off any minute, and refuses to throw another pitch until the nuclear arsenal in the world is gone. His boycott is then picked up by a local newspaper, after which an unexpected chain of events starts to unravel as a NBA star Amazing Grace Smith joins him, followed by other front row athletes.

Amazing Grace and Chuck is a beautiful fairy tale with great array of interesting personas and events. It grasped me from the get go, and I enjoyed it all the way to the end. So, it’s highly implausible – but the movie handles all this very well, finally wrapping up beautifully with a one single thought:

”But wouldn’t it be nice”

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 86%

#1471 Covergirl (1984)

A fashion model meets up with a wealthy and persuasive entrepreneur who promises to make her a star, but after the initial crush the she feels that the he has become quite an overpowering force in his life. This imbalance of power is turned around when it’s her turn to help him.

For a movie much about nothing Covergirl is much more entertaining than it deserves to be. Jeff Conaway as the robot building businessman does a good job of being big headed but still likeable scoundrel, and Irena Ferris whose acting career dried up by the end of the 80s has a great screen presence, and the camera truly seems to love her.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 70%