#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%

#1317 Sixteen Candles aka 16 Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles is the first teen comedy led by Molly Ringwald, and begun a series of movies that would make her the household name in the 80s cinema.

Written with Ringwald specifically, writer / director John Hughes’ (making his directorial debut here) way of finding multiple surprising but well fleshed out and believable aspects of the characters that sets the movie ahead of the competition. But the script is not perfect, nor has it aged too well and contains multiple aspects that I did not find that funny any more, including many lazily written and worn out stereotypes.

It’s still an entertaining teen movie, leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, but just beware that it might not have the same impact it did back in the day.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 79%

#1316 Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989)

Bloodhounds of Broadway is an ensemble comedy based on four Damon Runyon stories: ”The Bloodhounds of Broadway”, ”A Very Honorable Guy”, ”The Brain Goes Home” and ”Social Error”, written in the 1930s.

I’ve often criticised period pictures for having their historical settings without any point but to provide nostalgia, but as Bloodhounds of Broadway is more of an adult fairytale, the setting actually works here. I liked quite a lot in the way that the various personas and their stories intertwined during the movie, and the screenplay and direction of Howard Brookner works exceptionally well.

The casting also works well with Matt Dillon, Jennifer Grey, Esai Morales, Steve Buscemi, Randy Quaid, Rutger Hauer and Madonna seen in atypical roles.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 89%

#1311 Hellbent (1988)

A modern twist of the classic Faust story, Hellbent presents a story of a punk trash band who make a management deal with a person who promises them success in exchange to their mortal souls.

I love a good underdog movie, and Hellbent with its weird story, eccentric characters and ominous cinematography definitely counts as one. The movie does lose its sharpest edge as it changes from relying purely on suspension to more of an action movie, and as an action movie it does not fare that well even though the shooting and violence is depicted in a way that makes it feel very impactful, much more so than in the Hollywood A-list movies.

While not the long lost gem of the decade, Hellbent is definitely interesting enough experiment to earn a recommendation.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 79%

#1309 Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981)

Now, it’s true that Anna Emmaline McDoulet – known as Cattle Annie – and Jennie Stevenson aka Little Britches were two teenage girls that toured around in Oklahoma, following the Doolin-Dalton gang and earning their living stealing horses and selling booze to the native American tribes.

But the movie gets wrong pretty much everything else, and Cattle Annie and Little Britches is a very typical western that demonises the law enforcers, celebrates their death, glorifies the criminals and draws a romantic and a mind-numbingly naive picture of the life of the outlaws.

The only upside of the movie is the Cattle Annie character, played by Amanda Plummer (of the later Pulp Fiction fame) with the look and feel of a human tumbleweed.

80s-o-meter: 10%

Total: 8%

#1308 Do the Right Thing (1989)

Many things make Do the Right Thing worth watching right now, but here are the top two.

First of all it’s a great imaginary time capsule to the late 80s – early 90s hiphop influenced lifestyle of a one neighbourhood in the big apple, delivered through caricatures of characters in a visually rich way that reminds me of cartoony music videos and artists like De La Soul.

Secondly, despite being a sign of its time, Do the Right Thing is just as topical right now as it was 31 years ago. The scene of police attacking Radio Raheem feels chilling and very topical due to the huge black lives matter movement and riots this year following the killing of George Floyd.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 87%

#1305 Bronco Billy (1980)

Bronco Billy is in many ways very similar to Clint Eastwood’s other films of the era, like Every Which Way but Loose or Any Which Way You Can in depicting himself as an everyday dude who road trips around and gets into occasional classes with the locals, or the authorities.

Made purely to entertain, the plot itself feels secondary in Bronco Billy, and the movie mostly concentrates on showcasing Eastwood and his captivating screen presence. Compared to some other films he’s made at the time, what makes Bronco Billy interesting is the way that Eastwood reveals personal flaws in the main character, depicting him as the despotic leader of the western show, but also subjects him to some humiliating encounters with the local law.

For anyone viewing it for the first time, Bronco Billy Makes for a very easy movie to watch, but is less likely to leave any lasting impression.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 61%

#1302 True Stories (1986)

Directed and acting as the narrator of the movie, David Byrne of Talking Heads surprised me positively with True Stories and his knack for story telling.

The musical bits were the least favorite bits of the movie for me and I found them really distracting filler kind of material in an otherwise extremely interesting concept.

John Goodman is totally lovable in his role of a kind hearted bachelor looking for love with real intention, and his well built up performance in the local talent show towards the end had me on the edge of the seat, which to me was a totally rare experience for me, and another proof of Byrne’s story telling chops.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 90%

#1299 Zoot Suit (1981)

Zoot Suit is the lavish and showy outfit with high-waist, wide-legged trousers and a ridilously long coat with wide, padded shoulders, coupled with a overlong watch chain dangling below the knee, and worn mostly by the youngsters of African-American, Latino, Italian American, and Filipino descent in the 1940s. What makes Zoot Suit interesting is its rebellious statement of self expression and the showiness of it by using excessive amount of materials, making them a luxury items and the way to show the neighbourhood (and the ladies) how much of a cool cat you were.

This is where the interesting part of Zoot Suit ends. The movie itself is an adaptation of a 1979 musical of the same name with possibly the worst music I’ve heard and the movie itself is shot with theatrical setting as if it was a play, likely to underline the fairy tale like nature of the movie, but to me it just did not work, give a take a few scenes. What worked though was the narrator and the ’Zoot Suit Spirit’ played by Edward James Olmos.

Like most of the musicals, Zoot Suit has a limited, but die hard fan base that rates it up there with the actual musical timeless classics.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 18%

#1298 Max Dugan Returns (1983)

Max Dugan Returns is a good-natured and likeable family comedy that makes an attempt for actually having a point, which is where it fails to deliver.

A long lost father and the grandfather of Michael (Matthew Broderick), Max Dugan, returns to the family of Michael and his mother after skimming money off a casino and ending up wanted by the police. He then purchases his way into their lives and makes all their financial dreams come through, which leads to all sorts of trouble from the police, and making the mother’s newly found relationship with a local detective (Donald Sutherland) quite troublesome. The interesting conflict that was build up all along is solved at the end in a very unsatisfactory way, ie pretty much not at all.

Max Dugan Returns is enjoyable as long as you accept it at the face value, without putting much thought into it.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 62%

#1296 Blame It on the Night (1984)

Look, I totally get what the team behind Blame It On The Night was trying to achieve by joining together a free spirited rock’n’roll star father and a high-strung son studying in a military academy.

But this obvious setup of mixing two very different elements together, having them going through a set of clashes before each one learns a lesson from each other pressed all the wrong buttons to make its point. The movie features useless and overlong segments of lame adult pop concert footage that serves no purpose after the first time the status of the father as a pop star figure was established and uses only a little time establishing believable relationship between the father and the son. The way the movie sets up the clashed feels very artificial, and the resolution of those clashes feel equally lame and forced.

The name of the movie remains a testament of how much of a misaligned mess Blame It on the Night is, as it has absolutely nothing to do with what’s seen on the screen.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 4%

#1294 The Breakfast Club (1985)

One of the definite teen movies of the 80s, the setup in John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club bears resemblance to the 12 Angry Men (1957). Both movies present us a group of people with seemingly little in common forced to a small room by an external power.

But in The Breakfast Club the roles of the individuals are much more pronounced and relatable for anyone who lived through the high school: there’s the jock, the snobb, the geek, the juvenile delinquent and the weirdo, species of different cliques that usually don’t interact in their day to day life, and when they do, they find out just how much in common they really have.

The Breakfast Club leans on clichés a bit more than it needs to in order to make its point, but even if if the movie may be dated, its themes are definitely not.

And that right there is a sign of a movie classic.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 94%