#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%

#1361 The Heavenly Kid (1985)

A delight of a comedy, The Heavenly Kid takes the often seen formula of dying and coming back from heaven to rectify one’s wrongdoings and with a few original twists and tweaks makes the concept work.

First of all, Lewis Smith as Bobby, a good willed, but a bit empty headed cool cat is a perfect cast for the role and he is a delight to watch on the silver screen. Also the plot line of Bobby having to deal with his former girlfriend in the current day, now married to his former worst rival makes the whole concept much more interesting.

Lastly, Richard Mulligan adds a certain spark of magic to it all as a Rafferty, the worst ever spectral mentor on a motorcycle.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 88%

#1359 She’s Having a Baby (1988)

She’s Having a Baby, one of director/writer John Hughes’ rare misses in the 80s misses the snappy writing usually seen in Hughes’ movies. The movie plays out pretty much as expected, with the exception that the movie is written totally from the guy’s point of view.

At first he does not want to get married – but goes on with in nonetheless – has second thoughts about his relationship and career, until the big news about his fiancé expecting a baby hit. The woman in the movie is written as one-dimensional sidekick whose role is to nag and be difficult in all sorts of ways.

Two aspects redeem the movie being a total failure. The depiction of the banal life in suburbs through musical numbers like the lawnmower dance is side-splittingly hilarious, and the ending that manages to grasp the heart like like you’d expect of a John Hughes movie.

If Kevin Bacon’s character seems vaguely familiar, you might have seen him in a clever camio in the beginning of Hughes’ Planes, Trains & Automobiles as the blue collar drone racing with Steve Martin to catch a taxi.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 70%

#1358 The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)

When I think of the world I often see it as an endless source of interesting tales – big and small – that beg to be told. And this is kind of where The Milagro Beanfield War tries to tap into, a small little tale taking place in a small town in New Mexico, involving small people fighting for their right.

Problem is, that story is not very interesting at any given time and with a few exceptions (Sheriff Montoya, old man Cordova) the movie does not present the characters in a way that makes the viewer care for them.

The movie felt tediously long and ends up with very few surprises. As the end credits rolled I couldn’t help but to speculate that maybe the small town next to Milagro could have had a more interesting tale to be shared.

80s-o-meter: 51%

Total: 38%

#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%

#1350 Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)

New York of the early 80s was a hostile place with crime and deaths on the rise year after another, homicides peaking at 2000s at worst – and Bronx had a notorious reputation even for New Yorkers.

Fort Apache the Bronx follows the everyday life of two cops, one veteran and and his younger partner in one particularly colorful precinct in Bronx. Officer Murphy – played by Paul Newman – is disillusioned and nihilistic on the surface, but always shows a great sense of discretion and ingenuity when defusing situations, with a confidence that only having a good understanding of (and affection for) the community for many years can bring.

Fans of Paul Newman will be at home with the movie as Fort Apache the Bronx showcases Newman at his very peak. The way the movie shows the life of a cop in a realistic fashion was new and fresh at the time (and it still holds up surprisingly well), but the 70s heritage of cinema is strong with the movie – especially in the way its actions scenes are shot.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 70%

#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%

#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%

#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%

#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%

#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%

#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%

#1322 New Year’s Day (1989)

Henry Jaglom’s New Year’s Day is one of those pretentious art house movies that makes you never want to sit through another similar movie. Consisting mostly of talking heads in a boring dialogue going through their anxieties, New Year’s Day makes you truly hate every adult out there and their stupid adult problems.

Jaglom’s movies have to be credited in embracing improvisation so wholeheartedly, but here the concept does not just work, and a good movie needs much more flesh around its bones – or at least people in it who feel more fleshed out than just a simple collection of neuroses.

Some people may have come across the movie due to young David Duchovny starring in one of the roles, but you should not bother seeing New Year’s Day for that reason only as Duchovny is one of the weakest links in this already weak movie.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 11%

#1320 Under Fire (1983)

In Under Fire two American journalists get involved in a political intrigue between the Somoza dictatorship and the rebels in the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution.

The movie takes an interesting look into the ethics of journalism and choosing sides when neutrality is expected. The conflict that follows their choices inside the powder keg that was Nicaragua at the time leads to very interesting thrill ride that makes the viewer ask themselves what would they do if put in a similar position.

The depiction of a rogue military control in the area is well done and almost documentary like at times.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 81%