#1820 My Dinner with Andre (1981)

I like movies that invite you to a share a moment or night with some people you don’t know and by sharing that time with them you get to know them and enjoy a small slice of their lives just for a bit.

My Dinner with Andre takes the concept to the most minimalistic approach I’ve encountered so far by following a conversation of two friends – a struggling playwright and a director – over a meal in a Manhattan restaurant.

There’s a lot of ways this could have turned into a complete disaster and a bore of a movie of two intellectual talking heads, but the way that the dialogue effortlessly flows out makes this one interesting passing moment to witness.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 75%

#1814 Krush Groove (1985)

I’ve now watched the majority of the 80s hiphop movies, and the verdict is that there’s two definite time capsules of the era that no-one interested in the culture should skip. The other one is Beat Street, and Krush Groove here is the other.

Set in the bustling New York City scene, the film revolves around the trials and tribulations of Russell Walker, a young music producer trying to make a mark in the fiercely competitive world of hip-hop. With an impressive ensemble cast featuring iconic artists like Run-D.M.C. & Jam Master Jay, LL Cool J, Kurtis Blow, Sheila E. and Beastie Boys, the movie pulsates with the rhythm of the era’s hip-hop music.

While both films capture the essence of hip-hop, Krush Groove leans towards entertainment and the music business side of the movement and celebrates the emergence of hip-hop as a commercial powerhouse, encapsulating the rise of hip-hop in the mainstream.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 95%

#1812 Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)

Released only seven months after the first one, I was expecting Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo to be more of the same cringe and badness than the first installation, so I really, really wasn’t looking forward to watching this sequel.

To my positive surprise this second part puts much more effort into the musical dance numbers and makes them much more entertaining in general. Also, the production team seems to have found much more street dance talent this time around, much for the benefit of the movie.

The movie is in many ways much more over the top and there seems to even be a plot line this time around, and I have to admit that I actually enjoyed watching this one.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 75%

#1811 Breakin’ aka Breakdance (1984)

Ah, the youth musicals.. Cue an endless source of cringe.

This goes with Breakin’ as well. This depiction of a young rich girl wanting to get into street wise dancing team and the breakdancing street people is a non-stop stream of life being oh-so-hard.

Dance numbers that might’ve saved the movie are quite underwhelming, and the body popping demonstrated by the leading duo looks like as if I was improvising in front of a camera. This is to say, it’s no good.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 22%

#1808 Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart (1985)

Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart is a subtle little indie like movie following short period of life and events of two generations of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco.

Although the geographical location, ethnic background and challenges in life are quite alien to me, the movie still succeeds to make at very relatable, successfully inviting the viewer to their living room for a short period of time that felt that it was over too soon.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 65%

#1806 Miss Firecracker (1989)

I’ve seen my fair share of 80s comedies that classify themselves quirky. You know, the ones where every character is off just a little. The problem is that this quirkiness, meant to create memorable characters with lovable peculiarities often falls short and the characters feel forcefully written and acted, and often come across plain annoying.

Miss Firecracker gets all of this right. With its cast of a young girl (Holly Hunter) dissatisfied of her life and wanting to change the course of her life by entering a local beauty contest, and her two cousins Delmount (Tim Robbins) and Elain (Mary Steenburgen) with equally interesting traits to them the movie is just plain entertaining and soothing to watch.

80s-o-meter: 54%

Total: 93%

#1794 Family Business (1989)

First of all, let it be known that if I had Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick to my avail, Family Business is not the movie I would have made.

That being said, let’s see what we have here. A quite mediocre and far fetched crime comedy about three generations of men whose grandpa is something of a small time thug, and the father is a recovering criminal, now a jefe in the meat packing industry. Three of them decide to go ahead and do a heist for some experimental science stuff, and of course it doesn’t go as planned.

The following events kind of tie the broken family together, but in a way that’s never satisfying, or something I could take with me as a memory or a lesson for life. Life your own life and don’t do what your gramps wants, maybe?

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 60%

#1793 Barfly (1987)

Charles Bukowski led a heavy drinking life himself that he romanticised in his novels as his alter ego Henry Chinaski who’s a lovable bum heavy on drinking. Enter Barfly, the first US-made movie featuring the character, played by Mickey Rourke.

A movie that does not really have much of a plot going for it, the show is ultimately kept afloat by the sheer charisma put into the role by Rourke – although Bukowski wasn’t reportedly entirely sold with his version of Chinaski. I don’t know, Rourke really puts a lot of himself – or rather, his lovable bum persona – to the role. I do like it, but I can also see the movie being quite different and more poetic in some other hands.

As far as the hybrid Rourke/Bukowski character goes, he is an interesting mix of far ends of the same spectrum: self destruction vs skill to survive, intelligence vs acting like an ass, poetic vs foul mouthed and depressed vs smile that never seems to wear out.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 62%

#1792 A New Life (1988)

Pretty much the same thing than Adam Alda’s previous The Four Seasons, A New Life is a comedy about middle aged people getting bored with each others, divorcing, getting confused and then finding new love interests, with the difference here that it’s Alda himself here that divorces. Or rather, he is at the receiving end of being divorced as her wife is the one to pack her packs and go.

Can’t blame the wife as the main character is petty, loud and obnoxious most of the time.

The end result is plastic and very superficial take on the subject that fails to push any of the buttons to make this exercise worth anyone’s time, and very thin on laughs, wit or anything that would make A New Life even mediocre.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 18%

#1783 Little Miss Marker (1980)

I don’t know how great of a movie the original 1934 Little Miss Marker starring Shirley Temple is, but based on this 1980 version I really can’t see anything that warrants a remake – other than the team’s interest in nostalgia, that is!

More bizarrely, the movie is not even brought to the current day. But maybe the story of a gambler giving her daughter as a collateral to bet on a horse race would not fly today as it already seems quite implausible in the 1940s. But so does everything else in the movie, especially the love relationship between the characters played by Walter Matthau and Julie Andrews, and the denouement of them forming a family of some sorts.

On the positive side Matthau is probably the best actor of the era for the role, and his trademark grumpy tone makes his slowly evolving attachment to the now orphaned girl quite touching at best.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 37%

#1778 King of the Mountain (1981)

As I watched King of the Mountain with a ruggedly handsome rogue driver wearing a leather jacket and boasting a wild curly hair, I could not to think this is where the iconic TV series drew its inspiration.

Some petrol heads race on the iconic Mulholland Drive over the Hollywood Hills and young Steve manages to beat them all, and breaks the old record by an eccentric mechanic Cal, who used to rule the hills. In a more interesting subplot there’s bunch of Steve’s musician friends in the brink of success who have to sell themselves short to make it big in the business.

Car racing movies where aplenty in the era, and for me this movie did not really do anything exceptionally well, or in a way that would stick with me. Anything you see here is bettered in multiple movies preceding or succeeding King of the Mountain.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 42%

#1774 A Change of Seasons (1980)

As you can tell from the poster, A Change of Seasons tries to get the masses interested in it by blatantly advertising a hot tub scene of Bo Derek in it.

Well, that scene does exist, but little of worth anyone interest follows. We have Derek once again picking up an older gentleman, and his wife trying to be a swinger also by starting a relationship with a semi hippie nature type. And everything that follows is just downright ridiculous. With no real characters to work with, Anthony Hopkins just ends up walking around confused producing one silly line after another in scenes that seem downright forced.

A Change of Seasons is classified as a comedy, but really there’s nothing side splitting here, and the comedic aspect is just overall silliness and unrelated persons performing nonsensical lines. If you really, really have to see Bo Derek, my advice is to pick up 10 (1979) instead.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 13%

#1771 Desert Hearts (1985)

Feeling dissatisfied with her marriage a young Professor Vivian Bell arrives in 1950s Nevada ranch to seek a quickie divorce. In the middle of a big change in her life, Vivian finds herself unexpectedly and irresistibly drawn to Cay Rivers, a carefree and free spirited young lesbian who is the daughter of the ranch owner, disapproving her lifestyle. As their intimacy develops, Vivian’s insecurities about her feelings for Cay clash with the emotions they unleash.

Desert Hearts is a gem of a movie that totally grasped me and took me to another time, place and life. And for this along it’s a triumph.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 87%

#1770 Losing Ground (1982)

Losing Ground is a recovered piece of lost cinema history, directed and written by Cathleen Collins that never got distributed outside film festivals, and was ultimately restored and released upon initiative of her daughter.

As much as I love seeing any piece of movie retuned from the dead, I found Losing Ground pretty typical piece of indie movie of the era. We have intellectual and artistic academic people wallowing in their troubles and relationships. Here the lead is married to an artist who apparently can’t keep his pants on, leading to all kinds of mishap between the two.

I found the movie within a movie the most interesting aspect here and there was something relatable to the leads willingness to jump into the world of cinema even if for just a passing moment of glory.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 37%

#1769 Night Crossing (1982)

Night Crossing is one of the movies where the story is bigger than the movie itself: the real life events of two families building a hot air balloon in late 70s and use it to jump to the west from East-Germany is certainly something that warrants a movie, or two.

This is not to say Night Crossing is a bad movie. It does it job and tells the story in a relatable and understandable manner – but its style is documenting, to the point and TV-movie like. The story would definitely have worked without western leads – but, if I get John Hurt and Beau Bridges starring together in any movie, you won’t see me complaining.

Normally I would have complained about the uninspiring European setting, but given the Eastern-Germany theme and the 70s era, here it works of course for the benefit of the movie, even if shot in the western side of the fence.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 77%

#1768 Old Enough (1984)

Story of almost 13-year old Lonnie befriending an few years older Karen from working class family, and taking her first steps out of the childhood, Old Enough is subtle, likeable, and mostly harmless little coming of age movie.

Although their friendship is unlikely, both show genuine, intriguing interest into each others different lives, while spying on young adults they secretly admire.

The movie wraps up nicely as the summer ends, creating a tangible touch point for everyone that know how that one lost summer of the past feels like.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 70%

#1766 Sonny Boy (1989)

Sonny Boy, a story of a criminal clan living in the New Mexico desert, who raise a young boy, Sonny, as a weapon to take revenge on their enemies, is one challenging film to classify. Through flashbacks and vignettes, the audience is shown the abuse, endurance tests, and deprivation Sonny is forced to endure to transform him into an animalistic avenger. The film is open to multiple interpretations and is not a routine or formulaic exploitation film. It could be seen as a cruel, contemporary fairy tale or an allegory about child abuse – or, very well as an anarchistic commentary on normalcy and conformity.

Director Robert Martin Carroll creates a dream-like atmosphere that is closer to the cinema of David Lynch, with the desert setting, the muted colors, and soft-focus cinematography. The performances of the cast are eccentric but appropriate for the characters and storyline. Paul L. Smith commands the screen as a monstrous brute of a father figure, Brad Dourif excels in his portrayal of a ratboy like sociopathic accomplice and David Carradine gives totally unexpected, but memorable role as Pearl, who tries clumsily to act as the only thing closer to a family member, and a mother figure for Sonny Boy.

Despite the film’s eccentric storyline and grotesque characters, it is hard to imagine an indifferent viewer as Sonny Boy is a film that will definitely polarize its audience – you’ll either tune out immediately or watch in fascination and disbelief.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 70%

#1765 Permanent Vacation (1980)

The last Jim Jarmusch movie for the era is his earlier student work from the start of the decade.

Although I enjoyed the visual language of the movie, it’s much too muted for my taste, and there’s really nothing much of interest beyond the visuals, making Permanent Vacation hard film to recommend to anyone but Jarmusch completionists.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 31%

#1761 Tough Enough (1983)

Whoa, Dennis Quaid was ripped back in 1983.

Pretty much unlike what I expected, Tough Enough is a boxing movie about a country singer that takes part in a Toughman amateur boxing competition to make the ends meet. This different approach and the human story behind it all is the side of Tough Enough that I enjoyed.

What I did not enjoy though was the endless staged boxing matches with random fighters that quite frankly weren’t really that interesting. The movie has all the usual shortcomings and dramatic structure than all the sports movies, which makes the movie also a bit less interesting if you know the formula. Ultimately I feel it’s Quaid who single handedly carries this movie through, transforming something quite mediocre to a passable movie experience.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 61%

#1760 Rad (1986)

With Rad we are closing in to what I would consider a 100% 80s rating: there’s BMX bikes, BMX baddies, evil businessmen, crazy futuristic gears, dance offs, radical and rebellious kids, and conservative parents and townsfolk, simply amazing pumping soundtrack – and the dreamy Lori Loughlin to top it all off.

It’s a sports movie, so there’s that certain formula everyone already knows – but then it just becomes the question of not how it will all and, but how entertaining the movie will be along the way. And Rad is admittedly pretty entertaining.

The Canadian shooting location does its very best to pass as an American small town. In all honesty I did not find Bill Allen to be the best choice for the lead role as he comes off a bit plasticky compared to many teen stars of the era – but he still manages to pull off the role as a something of a poor man’s Matthew Broderick.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 87%