#1085 And God Created Woman (1988)

Directed by Roger Vadim who also directed the 1956 Et Dieu… Créa la Femme that launched Brigitte Bardot’s career, And God Created Woman shares the same title, but brings a completely new story in an very edgy form to the 80s, resulting a catastrophic failure of a movie.

Life is tough for the characters of Rebecca De Mornay and Vincent Spano who play a woman prisoner on a parole, and a carpenter single parent respectively. And it’s oh so tough, and so melodramatic all the time. All sorts of emotional quarrels of love follow, so she decides to put together a rock band to pour all that agony into her songs, all while having erotic B-movie scenes with the carpenter and a famous politician played by Frank Langella.

Essentially a filmatisation of some 2-penny erotic novel I didn’t want to read in the first place, And God Created Woman is a remarkably bad movie – a piece of cinematic garbage that I can’t find any justification for.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 4%

#1084 Savannah Smiles (1982)

I can think of thousands of ways Savannah Smiles could’ve gone very wrong; a tale of two criminals in a run after a jailbreak inadvertently kidnapping a young girl is a delicate subject even for 1982, and a theme that would never go through the executives these days.

What happens afterwards is of course foreseeable. The young girl touches the hearts of the fugitives who let their shields down for the first time and grow attached to her. And Savannah in return finds love and comfort she lacked back home.

What makes this movie tick is the heartfelt change the leads Mark Miller and Donovan Scott manage to convey, as well as the the apparent love that Miller – who also wrote the manuscript – had for the subject.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 65%

#1082 Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? aka Café New York (1983)

If you dislike indie artsy cinema, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie is precisely the kind of movie that would make you hate them even more.

Shot ad-libbing (or so it seems) in New York, the movie shows a recently separated woman and middle aged man entering a relationship where they have sex and go through their neuroses. Watching the movie felt as if I was 6 years old again and having to listen to the adults having a tediously long and boring talks. But it’s even worse than that; here the people are in their underwear while having these long, yawn inducing discussions.

And as if the movie wasn’t artsy enough, it’s interrupted from time to time with needless bits of Orson Welles doing a cameo as a magician trying to make some animals disappear as well as clips of the lead Karen Black singing various musical numbers in some local improv.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 1%

#1078 The Black Marble (1980)

Boasting one of the most unappealing posters I’ve seen in awhile, The Black Marble is another one to the exhibit pile for not to judge a movie by its cover. Passing below the radar for the wide audience upon its march 1980 release, it’s a gem of a movie that never got the recognition it deserved.

Not settling with the obvious clichés, the movie based on the novel of Joseph Wambaugh – who also did the screenwriting here – introduces multiple unlikely elements that at first seem like an odd mix, but ends up wrapping them up so triumphantly, I almost gave the movie a standing ovation.

Harry Dean Stanton, whose legacy as the actors’ actor has only grown interest since him passing away in 2017, does once again remarkably solid work here. But it’s the wonderfully elegiac character of Sgt. A.M. Valnikov played to a such a three dimensional perfection by Robert Foxworth that was unlike anything I’ve seen to this date.

So unlike that I did not get through The Black Marble without watery eyes.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 92%

#1074 Memories of Me (1988)

How’s my relationship with Billy Crystal? Well.. it’s complicated. I’ve liked him in most movies I’ve seen since child, but as the time has passed, I’ve noticed that his comedy schtick gets old really fast. In fact, I like him much better when he drops the witty act and gets down, dirty and serious with his acting.

In Memories of Me this happens right after Abbie (Billy Crystal) finally meets his father who left his family and ran off to Hollywood when Abbie was still a kid. It’s at this moment when a so-and-so movie about a top surgeon recovering from a heart attack turns into an actually interesting study about the difficulty of building a relationship with a person obsessed on being the life of a party that everybody loves – but totally at loss when it comes to showing real love for anyone close to him.

The real power of the movie is the raw energy as Crystal and Alan King as his father clash together with such intensity it feels almost as stomach churning as if you’d just had a fight of a lifetime with your own parents. Dialogue in Memories of Me also surprises positively; not only is it well written, but both leads manage to deliver their lines without a trace of insincerity.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 82%

#1070 A Dry White Season (1989)

The slogan on the poster of A Dry White Season encapsulates perfectly the essence of the movie: No one can be free until all are free.

Taking place in South Africa during the apartheid, the movie depicts Ben du Toit and his white family who’ve gotten so used to their privileged life that they ignore the calls for help by their loyal gardener Gordon whose son goes missing during the peaceful riots and who in turn dies after being detained by the police. As du Toit soon realises, his comfortable life is built upon the repression and exploitation of others. Despite all the death and graphic violence depicted, the most upsetting aspect of the movie is how Ben soon becomes a persona non grata amongst his closest people who quietly give their quiet blessing to the violations to be able to continue their privileged lives.

A Dry White Season is one of the strongest, most upsetting movie of the era that leaves the viewer with no comfort – other than that apartheid as the institutionalised system is a ghost of the past.

The movie is a triumph also for the veteran actors Marlon Brando as the lawyer disillusioned by the system and Donald Sutherland as the seasoned teacher who realises the hard way that in a system where human rights can be taken from one of us, they can be just as easily stripped from anyone.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 93%

#1068 The Beast of War aka The Beast (1989)

I was initially put off by the appearance of The Beast of War; cinematography wise the movie looked dull with most of the events taking place in a tank that wonders across a canyon in desert. But as the story evolved, I soon found the movie to be one of the more interesting and multi-layered war movies of the era.

Looking back now, it’s interesting how the movie antagonises the Russian invaders and represents the Afghan rebels as heroes who bravely stand up against the superpower that tries to take over the land as all know how this narrative was soon changed after the events that started in 2001. Secondly, the tank crew is depicted without thick comical Russian accent, which is still unheard of in Hollywood movies. Instead, they talk with American accents which can be only read as a statement that the two superpowers and their foreign policies aren’t really that different and both are known to start unjust wars to drive their own international politics. As the crew finds themselves on the run with an enemy that’s much better accustomed to the area, it’s not hard to see the correspondence to the Vietnam war.

Thirdly, although the pressure that the tank crew has to endure with is external, it’s the well portrayed internal pressure that really makes the movie: The commander’s power tripping, panic, paranoid and betrayal that the crew goes through are all interestingly documented here.

While I’m not going to change my opinion about judging books by the cover since it’s been a pretty good measurement with 80s movies, The Beast of War is a good reminder that sometimes it’s good to give a movie a fair chance despite its modest covers.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 91%

#1067 Race for Glory (1989)

A Top Gun equivalent of a motorcycle movie, Race for Glory features tons of speed, kick-ass soundtrack .. and your average, very predictable sports movie plot.

The movie is one of the very few Hollywood titles filmed in old continent that still looks fresh and American – in a good way! In fact, the luxurious international locations work really well and capture well all the excitement that surrounds the big motor sports events.

If you’re to watch Race for Glory, you should do it for mostly for the atmosphere for the plot follows a very predictable path without much surprises along the way.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 70%

#1065 Best of the Best (1989)

USA national karate team goes against team Korea in Best of the Best, a totally ridiculous, unrealistic, sports movie about an unlikely karate team.

Sports movies can be a bore as they stick to the plot of an underdog making it through difficulties to the final victory and then try to masquerade this one way or another. Best of the Best on the other hand does not shy away from clichés, it fully embraces them: There’s the unlikely team, an old shoulder injury that you know will come back haunting later, over the top acting, and a final showdown with an opponent guilty of killing your brother! The only thing missing from the arsenal of clichés is if the last match would’ve ended up with some unorthodox special move.

Eric Roberts seems a weird pick for the lead role at first, but he actually makes for one menacing looking fighter in his ponytail – and gives an excellent performance that’s just the right amount over the top.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 88%

#1064 Homer and Eddie (1989)

Homer and Eddie is a road movie about two outcasts ending up unlikely travel companions on their way to Oregon.

While the movie starts as a lighthearted, vapid comedy, it starts to get more interesting tones when Eddie starts to have her violent rages: When the bystanders start dying the viewer is forced to really reassess how they view Eddie.

Jim Belushi is likeable as Homer but in reality the role is beyond his limits and he comes across as an actor doing a poor impression of a disabled person. Oscar winning material this ain’t. Whoopi’s portrayal of Eddie has similar problems with the credibility as Goldberg can never shake off the strong impression of a Hollywood actress playing a Hollywood version of a hobo.

Poor execution and lack of chemistry between the leads leaves Homer and Eddie feel like a worse movie than it probably is. Maybe it’s time for someone to pick this up for a reshoot?

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 59%

#1059 Back Roads (1981)

Have a look at Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones having a good laugh in the poster here, as you won’t be seeing anything like this in the movie itself.

This is because most of the running time of Back Roads is spent with this odd couple of a prostitute and a deadbeat trying to make their way to California with faith throwing every imaginable setback on their path. While most movies out there try to balance between loss and occasional win, the constant failing of the duo soon becomes something of a predictable pattern.

The reported discord during the filming seems to work for the benefit for the film as the two leads often seem to show some genuine loathe for one other.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 59%

#1052 Hero at Large (1980)

Hero at Large is an innocent little tale of a aspiring actor who tries to make the ends meet by posing as a super hero, until he one day stumbles upon a robbery that he stops. He then finds a new direction to his out of stepping in to help people while getting intimate with the lady next door.

It’s a movie that wouldn’t be made today – heck, it probably wouldn’t warrant even a single TV episode: Writing is sloppy and none of the event really make too much sense or follow logic. Other than the movie logic, that is.

Hero at Large is something of a relic of its time, but at least it’s a good hearted and benignant one, for all that it’s worth.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 59%

#1049 Far from Home (1989)

Father and daughter run out of gas and get stranded on a lone town in the middle of the desert in Far From Home, an interesting little thriller that saw a limited theatrical release upon its release.

What makes the movie interesting is not its setting nor the plot, but the good kind of movie-like quality of the small town and its trailer park that gets borderline abstract at times.

For a thriller the movie fails to deliver any kind of suspense and even when the killings take place, they seem more humorous than something that would have you on the edge of the seat. Matt Frewer and Drew Barrymore make for a solid and believable pair as the father and daughter, but the two young trailer park brothers both seem badly directed or complete miscasts for their roles.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 70%

#1043 A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988)

A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon portrays an insignificant little story taking place during the 60s for no apparent reason, and does a pretty bad job at conveying the said period.

Often dubbed by the worst movie of River Phoenix by his fans, River himself wqs reportedly embarrassed having to play the part. And really, there is very little to be loved here. We’re forced to watch through the mishaps of a womanising brat trying to pass as an adult while betraying his best friend, cheating on his girlfriend, reciting bad poetry while trying to borrow enough money from someone to get a one way ticket to Hawaii.

A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon is an unfortunate smut in the solid lineup of movies River had before his untimely death in 1993.

80s-o-meter: 51%

Total: 16%

#1042 Impulse (1984)

I never read any information about the movies I’m about to watch, but I do check out the posters and VHS covers beforehand as I feel they’re an essential part of the overall experience. It’s a pretty good meter in managing the expectations for the quality of the movie: If the poster completely lacks any effort, chances are that the movie itself is a half-hearted effort as well. And then, once in a blue moon along comes a movie where the poster sets the mood completely wrong, but also manages to be off-putting and misleading at the same time.

If I had checked out the cover of the Impulse beforehand, I’d probably postpone watching it to the next decade. Fortunately I didn’t and instead of a soft porn movie suggested by the poster, I found a pretty nifty action thriller with a slight horror twist to it. Story wise there isn’t anything new here but the production values are good and the movie keeps the viewer successfully on the edge of the seat as the events soon spiral out of control.

As usual with the movies with such an enormous conflict, Impulse fails to wrap everything up in the most satisfactory way in the end, resorting to the 70s way of summarising the final events in writing which really feels like a faux pas in an otherwise solid movie.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 79%

#1041 The Hunter (1980)

I’ve had The Hunter movie laying around for a few years now and based on the cover image I always mistook it for a action film with a cop trailing a killer. What we got here instead is a loose biography of an aging bounty hunter Ralph ”Papa” Thorson who goes after (often petty) criminals who’ve skipped on their bail.

Yes, I’ve never heard about Thorson either. He wasn’t exactly a widely known character in his days, much less these days. If his life or person were anything interesting, The Hunter sadly fails to capture any of that. Steve McQueen is his charismatic self but fails to be nothing more than Steve McQueen and seems a far cry from the big framed, grizzly Thorson. We get the idea that he is a bad driver and that his young wife is expecting a baby that Thorson doesn’t really want to have, but other than that, all the really interesting bits about him – like his colourful working history – is left out of the movie.

The Hunter goes down in history primarily for being the last movie for Steve McQueen who sadly passed away with cancer after wrapping up the film. He was 50 years old at the time.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 48%

#1039 Heat (1986)

I never was a fan of Burt Reynolds’ smirky, above oneself comedy character seen in oh too many films, so I was surprised to seeing him in dramatic action roles where he is not only tolerable, but actually pretty good!

In Heat he plays a body guard longing of leaving Las Vegas behind him for good, but keeps on making some bad decisions that take him further back on his dreams. The movie feels almost as a prequel to Malone, released the following year and although the movie is bit of a mess plot wise, the movie is never taxing to watch.

Heat also features one of most hilarious kill moves ever, featuring a canister of gas and a light bulb, and is worth watching for that scene alone.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 72%

#1037 School Daze (1988)

Spike Lee’s School Daze makes a successful and interesting late 80s look on African-American college life that’s very convincingly portrayed from inside out.

Being quite far away from its frame of reference as a pale skinned European I probably missed a lot of the references and subtleties of the movie, but on the other hand many of the themes here are still universal enough for me to relate to, especially the way the young and somewhat misguided adults having to choose their side to belong, be it jigaboos, wannabes or fraternities. We’ve all been there.

I also love how many of the clashes on the movie are built around petty issues of the middle-class college students and thus feel like actual, interesting conflicts.

Lee makes admittedly many uniquely interesting insights about the interracial conflicts, principles, having to choose one’s side, fraternities and the petty power that corrupts. But if the movie was out there to make a clear statement, it’s lost in translation for me.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#1032 Breathless (1983)

Although I always aim to avoid reading of a movie before watching it to keep my bias down, in most cases with the mainstream cinema with notable actors, I already know the movie at least on some level.

Breathless was a complete surprise to me, and a positive one at that. Richard Gere plays a petty criminal from Las Vegas travelling to Los Angeles to find a girl he had a flake and gets involved in killing of a police officer. True to his nonchalant style he tries to shake it all off but soon finds himself on the run, slowly coming into realisation that for the first time in his life his charm can’t buy him out of the situation.

Gere is pretty much born to play the role of the ”seedy Vegas boy. Thinks he’s cute”, like one of the assistants behind the counter aptly puts it. Paul Newman’s amazing performance in Cool Hand Luke remains untouchable, but this is by far the best stab at it I’ve yet witnessed.

Combining elements of crime, sex, comics and rockabilly music, Breathless is stylish, crude crime and love story straight out of a cheap pulp magazine – and very much an underappreciated gem.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 91%

#1030 My Tutor (1983)

A rich kid hellbent on losing his virginity gets a private french tutor in My Tutor, a blatant teen exploitation movie. As it goes, she also ends up teaching the youngster about life and love and as she finally exits, he has finally become a man.

Honestly, I wouldn’t had mind this kind of tutoring back in the days. But having to watching through 90 minutes of this voyeuristic baloney just never hit the spot for me.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 37%