#1150 Little Nikita (1988)

What would you do if your parents would turn out to be something completely different than you grew up believing? And furthermore, would you betray them to save them?

The set up of Little Nikita is certainly thought provoking and it seamlessly mixes up interesting aspects of family dynamics, betrayal, cold war and coming to age while realising nothing you’ve built your life upon so far might not actually be as they seem.

I found very little that I would like to change in Little Nikita and the concept felt refreshingly different while still maintaining good dramatic sense and all the basic building blocks of a solid thriller.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 88%

#1149 China Girl (1987)

China girl is a modern Romeo and Juliet kind of take on forbidden love between two youngsters of different ethnic backgrounds.

The movie establishes its fairytale like mood well right of the bat and mixes it up with some delicious eighties aesthetics and over the top dramatics.

The pacing of the movie works well, and what starts as a harmless rush soon escalates further and further out of control, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat until the very end that wraps up true to its classic story origins.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 87%

#1144 The Unbelievable Truth (1989)

The Unbelievable Truth follows a man returning to his home town after serving a prison sentence for homicide and trying to start anew, and the daughter of a car repair shop, who rebels against his father and her old life as a Harvard admitted grade-A student.

This is one of those movies where the actual plot sounds somewhat lame if recapped, as The Unbelievable Truth is all about small quirky things that take place outside the main storyline. Like for example the scenes with the cocky, soon to be ex boyfriend who, dressed up in a $170 suit, who at first declares the world is his oyster, only to later go into pieces throughout the movie as she walks out of his life without ever looking back.

While I didn’t fall in love with the movie, I do want to give this one another go in the future to see if there are another layers to be found within.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 65%

#1134 Alamo Bay (1985)

”I don’t know what to tell you, Dinh. You gotta be one of the last cowboys left in Texas”.

Alamo Bay, a fictive movie about actual clashing between refugee Vietnamese and local fisherfolk around Galveston Bay, Texas in the turn of the decade did not catch my interest at first as I was excepting yet another superficially inspirational tale of prejudice and racism rooted deep within the people that just gets sorted with overnight. But the director Louis Malle does not let things slide that easily and turns the movie into nerve wrenching thriller where in the end there might not be any winners at all.

Ed Harris delivers something of a immaculate performance as the unforgiving local fisherman who seeks for vengeance after losing his boat to the bank.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 84%

#1122 Jacknife (1989)

A late 80s movie featuring Robert De Niro, Kathy Baker and Ed Harris that I’ve never even heard about? Color me interested!

And it looks I’m not the only one. Jacknife is a relatively small budget movie that saw a limited release, grossing only a fraction of its budget. It’s a shame since it is one of the better Vietnam veteran movies that handles its main characters with certain affection that at least feels genuine to the viewer. Unlike other similar movies, Jacknife does not start with a huge bang nor draw its strength from powerful flashbacks of the war, but concentrates more on carefully peeling off layers of its subjects.

The movie does a good job of balancing between not glorifying nor antagonising the characters and I found the setup that revolves around personal issues instead of justification of the war interesting and a refreshing approach to the subgenre.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 82%

#1118 Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

When reviewing these movies I often talk about how the difference with good and bad movies is the directors’ ability to just sprinkle in that special movie magic into their creations. Francis Ford Coppola surely possesses that skill and Peggy Sue Got Married, his look what one would do differently if they could relive their past – and if they could help falling in love with the same person they’ve just divorced – is an exceptional

Kathleen Turner plays the leading role with grace and certain heavyheartedness that the part really calls for. I can see Debra Winger – originally cast for the role, but gave it up due to an injury – performing the role with flying colors. But it’s really Turner’s ability to bring in the role a layer of melancholy that’s almost translucent but still weighty like a bag of boulders that makes her seemingly impeccable fit for the role.

Peggy Sue Got Married is a delight of a movie to watch and only slightly held back by its ending that seems to cut the story short.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 87%

#1117 Never Cry Wolf (1983)

Never Cry Wolf, based on the Farley Mowat’s controversial book of the same name marks for the first ever film for the Walt Disney Pictures label, established in 1983 to diversify film subjects and seek for broader audiences for Disney movies.

I enjoyed the vast landscapes of the subarctic Canada and the love the movie has for its canid subjects. The movie plays out pretty much as expected, so Never Cry Wolf is not about the destination, but more about enjoying the way there. The books tend to encompass these kind of personal journeys in a more intimate, thorough way, so I suspect that the original novel gives a better mileage for those really interested in the theme.

Charles Martin Smith does solid work as the lead and makes following his transformation from a city slicker into a man of the wilderness truly engaging.

80s-o-meter: 42%

Total: 61%

#1092 Dream a Little Dream (1989)

If you do a body switching movie – like so many film makers deemed necessary towards the end of the 80s – you’re going to have to deal with having to sell that outrageous idea to the viewers. Unlike its wacky comedy compadres, Dream a Little Dream has a setback of being a drama, and has to keep a relatively straight face while trying to convince the viewer to go along with the nonsense. And for the most part, it fails.

Dream a Little Dream is the last movie of the 80s for the two teen superstar Coreys – Feldman and Haim – and it also marks end of an era as both soon vanished from top grossing feature films. While it’s no bull’s eye, it’s not at all a bad swansong for either one, although it’s Feldman who gets to lead here. The high school / coming to age drama is typically to the era quite overdramatic, but not everything about it is that far fetched. I’ve seen characters like Joel – played with just the right kind of temper and fire by William McNamara – who are psychotic enough to just snap and pick up a gun.

I wish the creative team behind the movie had introduced both parties of the body switching as just real life characters that happen to meet and find mutual grounds despite the obvious generation gap. Surely it would’ve allowed the same story about growth without all the mumbo jumbo and the excessive explaining and justifying that always follows.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 62%

#1089 The Last American Virgin (1982)

As I sat down to watch The Last American Virgin, I had no idea I was up for the biggest movie surprise of the year.

In fact, half way through the movie I still had no idea; what I’d seen so far was pretty typical early 80s tits & ass teen comedy. But unexpectedly the consequences of all the irresponsible actions suddenly start piling up, the movie changes from trivial comedy to serious drama, with even some heart breaking elements of tragedy to it.

I loved the sudden changes of genres and I loved how the movie had the courage to try out something completely different. I loved the kick ass soundtrack. And most of all I loved how the movie fittingly depicted the heartrending nature of an unfulfilled, unrequited love. What a positive surprise.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 87%

#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%