#1470 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986)

In the 1980 the comedian Richard Pryor famously set himself on fire while on a drug induced psychosis and sustained severe burns. It’s from this setup that Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, a semi-biographical movie of Pryor starts.

Directed and starring Pryor, he plays a stand-up comedian much like himself. While definitely boosted up in the 80s by the Pryor being a star everyone knew, the movie holds very little interest to anyone not aware nor fan of Pryor. There’s no real common thread running through the movie and I’m not sure why the movie was made, other than for some sort of personal self-examination.

Fans of Pryor likably will dig this one as well, others might want to steer clear.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 22%

#1450 Blue City (1986)

Blue City is the kind of a movie that’s firmly detached from any reality and where there are no real motivations or consequences for the actions of the characters.

Judd Nelson as the lead proves to be a tough cookie for me handle; he always seems to be borderline annoying in his roles, and unlike in From The Hip where he managed to turn his negative traits into something positive, in Blue City his totally wild and rebellious character comes off totally unlikeable.

The quite implausible events in Blue City would be easier to accept if the cinematography supported the fantasy aspect of the plot with a more fictitious setting and characters. But, if you manage to accept early on that Blue City takes place in Fantasyville, Hollywood, chances are you will enjoy the movie more than I did.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 60%

#1438 The Morning After (1986)

Not to be mixed up with The Day After, a 1983 made for TV movie about nuclear war (I know I keep mixing these up all the time), The Morning After is a thriller about a has been actress who keeps on drowning her sorrow to the wine and finds herself blacking out often, only to one day wake up and find herself laying next to a man, stabbed to death.

After the interesting start The Morning After does not provide anything substantial and plays until the end without much surprises. The chemistry and eventual relationship between the leads Jane Fonda and Jeff Bridges is a hard sell, and it’s mostly Bridges’ typical enjoyable screen presence that carries the movie until the finish.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 60%

#1419 Xmas 2020: Christmas Eve (1986)

An elder aristocrat woman looks forward to uniting her family for the Christmas while fighting his son on the court over the control of the family company and assets in Christmas Eve, a made for TV movie that premiered on NBC on December 22, 1986.

Christmas Eve is everything you’d expect a made for TV movie to be; you would not be happy to go to the cinemas to watch this one, but would probably not mind having stuck in front of a telly during the Holidays to spend the 90 minutes with it while sipping some eggnog.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 56%

#1414 Native Son (1986)

I don’t know how well the original Richard Wright’s 1940 novel of the same name captures the stomach turning feeling of have done something so horrible and irreversible that you feel almost separating from your own body and wishing for the relief of waking up from a bad dream, in vein – but this is what the Jerrold Freedman’s 1986 movie adaptation does exceptionally well.

It would have been great to see Sangre Negra, an Argentinian 1951 movie adaptation of the novel to see how the newer version stacks up compared to it as judging by the film clips they both seem much alike.

To movie seems to rush to its ending and end just when things are getting really innocent, but as whole Native Son left a permanent impression on me. Finding forgotten gems like this is what makes the whole project totally worth the while.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 82%

#1375 Halloween 2020: Invaders From Mars (1986)

Tobe Hooper’s modern version of the 1953 movie of the same name ticks more boxes than what I’ve seen in all this Halloween; the movie looks lovely and colourful, the spooky atmosphere is there, the tale is a bit twisted in a very good sense, there are weird mind altering aliens involved, and the movie captures extremely well all of this from the perspective of a kid. I’m sure the 8-year old me would have loved this movie to bits.

Too bad the movie does not reinvent the any of the plot line of the original movie – especially during its third act.

This portion of the movie is spent chasing the martians inside an alien dungeon, and although the setting and martians themselves look menacing – and cartoony in a good way – this feels like a total faux pas given the great buildup. I’d much rather followed how the ongoing alien infestation above ground and the proverbial noose tightening around the necks of those in the know.

The Poltergeist related mystery between directors Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg gets sort of a continuum in Invaders From Mars as the movie looks and feels almost as lush as If it was Spielberg sitting on that director’s seat. Hooper certainly had the gift comparable to the best of the Hollywood what it came to charging his films full of the kind of movie magic that separates the best from mundane creations.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 75%

#1367 Halloween 2020: Nomads (1986)

Nomads marks for two interesting debuts: it’s the first leading role for the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan in a feature film, and John McTiernan’s directorial debut.

Story wise Nomads is a bit dud, with group of haunted motorcycle gang tormenting a French couple who just moved to USA. Brosnan’s French accent is totally unnecessary, and the gang itself falls short of similar baddie cliques seen on the silver screen. It’s an ok ride that hints the chance of greatness, but never redeems those expectations.

What Nomads gets absolutely right though is the haunting atmosphere that was picked up by Arnold Schwarzenegger which lead to McTiernan first directing two possibly the most bad ass iconic action movies of the 80s: Predator in 1987, and Die Hard the following year.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 67%

#1365 Children of a Lesser God (1986)

Children of a Lesser God seals what I’ve already known about William Hurt: he is one if not the top actor of his generation, but one that has the uncanny ability not to overpower and suffocate other actors despite his strong screen presence, much for the benefit of the movie.

In the Children of a Lesser God he is accompanied by Marlee Matlin who plays an angry young deaf woman who’s been burned before both in love and communicating through sound, and has built a castle of total silence around her. Hurt as her love interest is the first one to get invitation to that fortress, but only if he joins her in that silence.

35 years after its box office date, Children of a Lesser God still feels fresh and interesting, thanks to its exploration into the world of the deaf, a topic not that much covered in mainstream movies, and the way it does not present either of the parties’ sides as the sole truth. First and foremost a love story between the two leads, what I thought was missing from otherwise near perfect movie was how it concentrated on telling the story through Hunt’s characters, and really getting into the deaf world of Sarah, where the real movie magic might’ve started.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 90%

#1353 Vendetta (1986)

Similarly to the World Gone Wild I just reviewed, Vendetta takes an uninteresting genre as its base, but actually tries to have a fresh approach. In Vendetta’s case this genre is the women’s prison exploitations that usually exist to serve people with a fetish for catfights, rapes and plenty of nude scenes.

And the approach manages make it more interesting. Vendetta is no work of art – it’s trashy in its theme and execution – but I did find myself actually caring for the characters, which is much more than I can say from any other prison exploitation film I’ve seen. Looks wise the movie is also solid, late 80s style that makes it easy to watch despite the overall early 90s late night cable soft porn vibe.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 55%

#1351 Under the Cherry Moon (1986)

Many first row entertainers of the music industry got into acting during the 80s, some doing better than the others. Prince’s sheer geniusness with music never translated to other arts he tried, and movies are not an exception.

Under the Cherry Moon is Prince’s second of the two movies alongside Purple Moon. While Purple Moon is an over the top drama, a cult movie due to being equally entertaining and amusing in its naivety, Under the Cherry Moon tries to be a scoundrel comedy with a cringy theme of forbidden love.

The fact that the movie was at first shot in color, but rendered to black & white afterwards for artistic touch underlines the pretentious tone of the movie. The only thing that work here are the musical numbers, but they are few and far between, and without the visual prowess seen in Purple Moon.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 22%

#1327 Heartburn (1986)

Heartburn marks for the second movie I’ve seen starring both Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, two Academy award winning actors – and both have been a huge disappointments.

Maybe the two egos are too big for one movie, but the lack of chemistry between the two leads in both movies leaves one scratching one’s head.

Both movies also suffer from the same problem, with a weak manuscript that does not leave much chance for success for even a seasoned actor. Based on Nora Ephron’s (the author behind Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally..) personal struggles in her own marriage, Heartburn is a joyless, bitter depiction of a relationship between two uninteresting characters.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 18%

#1321 Happy Hour (1986)

Seeing a decent hand drawn poster on a movie always makes me happy and warm inside as it is a promise of at least half decent production values for the movie as well as a production company that even remotely knows what they are doing.

And Happy Hour fortunately delivers. A silly story about a chemist coming up with a formula that makes beer simply irresistible for everyone from kids to housewives, and the following espionage between two brewing companies has been done with a tongue in cheek in just the right way.

Great characters, excitement and laughters are all to be found in this silly little comedy gem.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 87%

#1319 Big Trouble (1986)

Who doesn’t like a good scoundrel movie?

A surprising (as well as the last) comedy from the director John Cassavetes, Big Trouble walks on the silver screen a somewhat surprising comedic duo of Peter Falk and Beverly D’Angelo that go against Alan Arkin, a mild mannered insurance agent lured into scheme that soon gets out of hand.

All of the casting works like a treat, but it’s particularly Falk as the devil-may-care mastermind – resembling somewhat his famous Columbo character – that gets the best laughs from me.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 85%

#1318 Alien Predator aka Alien Predators aka The Falling (1986)

Alien Predator is a promising underdog of a horror movie that does other things with admirable ingenuity while totally failing elsewhere.

I liked the atmosphere in the movie and the overall science-gone-wrong in a small town kind of setup, and could I bet the writer / director Deran Sarafian has seen the classic 1971 scifi thriller Andromeda Strain a few times before preparing the manuscript for the Alien Predator. Being a horror movie, jump scares are expected, but are so well paced that they manage to surprise from time to time.

The ghost car seemed like a totally unnecessary element in the movie, and Dennis Christopher who plays the other lead struggles throughout the movie to make his lovable rogue / class clown character work, ending up merely with one of the most tiresome characters ever seen on the silver screen.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 73%

#1314 Miracles (1986)

Jim Kouf, the writer behind many of the top notch comedies of the 80s like Class, Secret Admirer, Stakeout and Up the Creek steps up for the first time also to the director’s seat to direct Miracles that he also manuscripted.

And, it’s a quality comedy one again, written with undeniable wit and great comedic pacing. Tom Conti and Teri Garr have never been in my radar as the great comedic pair, but here their performance as the couple going through divorce until thrown back together in an adventure against their will is perfect and I can’t see anyone else playing the roles better.

Paul Rodriguez fares as the sympathetic crook much better here than in his other 1986 comedy The Whoopee Boys, which still is one of the lousiest comedies I’ve seen, and Christopher Lloyd is as delightful as always as the depth-perception impaired half of the criminal duo.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 87%

#1276 Odd Jobs aka Summer Jobs (1986)

Odd Jobs is an on even, small budget comedy of a bunch of college students first trying to get summer jobs before forming their own moving company.

As much as I root for the underdogs, Odd Jobs just doesn’t have what it takes to make for a memorable comedy, and although the single ok moments in the movie are many, as a whole it ends up a dud.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 50%

#1274 A Great Wall aka The Great Wall Is a Great Wall (1986)

A Chinese American man gets disheartened with his Silicon Valley job and takes a long vacation to Beijing for the very first time in forty years with his fully Americanised family with no roots to the mainland China.

The few cultural clashes are inevitable in this kind of setup in A Great Wall, but more interestingly the clashes are internal and take place within each family. None of the drama is too big and I did like the approach as it gave both families a great sense of depth and authenticity.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 75%

#1271 Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986)

A portrayal of a Jewish family living together in 1937 Brooklyn, New York, Brighton Beach Memoirs concentrate on the story of Eugene, a horny 16-year-old trying to find an outlet for his sexual frustrations.

But almost every other character in the story is more interesting to follow. The movie gets its best moments out of the shared moments between the older brother, who makes several bad choices, and the father, who is surprises the son as well as the viewer with his totally unexpected compassion and wisdom.

80s-o-meter: 21%

Total: 58%

#1267 Omega Syndrome (1986)

Sometimes when you watch a skilfully paced movie, you might pause if after awhile and get surprised that only some 20 minutes have passed and the movie has already taken you into adventure and action while telling an interesting story and establishing a connection with the main characters.

What you get here is the completely opposite. After watching for an hour the movie seemed be in a standstill without me unable to connect with neither the plot nor the any of the characters. Well, almost as the most interesting aspect of the movie turned out to to be the rough-around-the-edges antihero sidekick played by George DiCenzo.

Omega Syndrome resembles quite a lot of the video games of the 80s, as it has a catchy title and splashy poster, but nothing much more.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 42%

#1266 My Chauffeur (1986)

I wasn’t feeling My Chauffeur at all and actually stopped watching it after only 15 minutes as the concept of an annoying free-spirited Madonna copy introduced to a high society limousine company to cause resentment just seemed like such a bore concept.

But after a small pause I carried on bravely and found My Chauffeur not exactly improving, but not at all as irritating as I first thought. The movie actually turned so self-consciously bad from time to time that it actually got entertaining at times, and I found myself ashamed laughing out loud to all the stupidity.

One aspect worth mentioning about My Chauffeur is that the magician / entertainer duo Penn & Teller make their first movie debut together as a team here in a long segment that feels almost completely separated from the rest of the movie.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 60%