#1426 Sweet Lies (1987)

Yet another for the steaming pile of those wild and crazy Americans in Paris engaged in an adventure, Sweet Lies follows an insurance investigator visiting the old continent, who then gets chased around by three women.

Sweet Lies makes an attempt in romantic comedy, but lacks laughs and real romance and is a movie that the time forgot almost immediately upon its release.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 18%

#1425 Penitentiary II (1982)

Another collection of bad design choices, Penitentiary II is a followup to the 1979 blaxploitation movie, both directed by Jamaa Fanaka and starring Leon Isaac Kennedy.

The plot is a mess that makes only little sense as it tries so provide the main character Martel ”Too Sweet” Gordone a motivation to get to the fighting ring. Martel trains for awhile, gets into the ring with some old hack, gets defeated and thus becomes the sensation of the nation everyone roots for. He then goes on to participate in a few fights, which are often cut to a gambling midget trying to get on with some hookers.

The plot makes as much sense as having Mr.T in the movie and reducing his role to a mere trainer that gets very little screen time although he possesses ten times the magnetism compared to the weak screen presence of the Kennedy in the lead role.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 2%

#1422 Hard to Hold (1984)

Back in 1983 Rick Springfield made a horrific career move: instead of taking part in the landmark movie The Right Stuff he opted for Hard to Hold.

Rick plays the world’s biggest rock star who is chased by the crowds and lust after by the all the women in the world, so he finds the only one that doesn’t like him and wants to make her his girlfriend no matter what it takes. I know that musicians can sometime ego trip a little, but Hard to Hold is one horrible, egomanical project so bad that it single handedly ended Springfield’s film career for a good decade.

It’s a painful thing to watch. All the drama in the movie feels super theatric as well as artificial, and Rick Springfield and Janet Eilber (seen licking Springfield’s throat on the movie poster) make together the least interesting couple I’ve seen to date.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 2%

#1420 Xmas 2020: Roots The Gift (1988)

Roots was a TV historical miniseries written by Alex Haley depicting the story of his family as they were brought as slaves to America from Africa, originally released in 1977 and a continuum in 1979 as another miniseries.

Almost a decade later a made for TV Christmas special entitled Roots: The Gift was made and premiered on ABC on December 11, 1988. Here we see young Kunta Kinte taking his first rebellious steps as a slave, not accepting the western name and his new status, and starts plotting on escape.

Although labeled as one, the movie does not rate high as a Christmas movie – many ordinary movies not titled as Christmas movies have a much bigger amount of the festivities present. But it does fare fairly well as a movie dealing with themes of empowering slaves who have never experienced freedom, as well as depicting the inner conflicts of the slave owners, some of who have started question of the ethics of enslaving men.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 38%

#1419 Xmas 2020: Christmas Eve (1986)

An elder aristocrat woman looks forward to uniting her family for the Christmas while fighting his son on the court over the control of the family company and assets in Christmas Eve, a made for TV movie that premiered on NBC on December 22, 1986.

Christmas Eve is everything you’d expect a made for TV movie to be; you would not be happy to go to the cinemas to watch this one, but would probably not mind having stuck in front of a telly during the Holidays to spend the 90 minutes with it while sipping some eggnog.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 56%

#1414 Native Son (1986)

I don’t know how well the original Richard Wright’s 1940 novel of the same name captures the stomach turning feeling of have done something so horrible and irreversible that you feel almost separating from your own body and wishing for the relief of waking up from a bad dream, in vein – but this is what the Jerrold Freedman’s 1986 movie adaptation does exceptionally well.

It would have been great to see Sangre Negra, an Argentinian 1951 movie adaptation of the novel to see how the newer version stacks up compared to it as judging by the film clips they both seem much alike.

To movie seems to rush to its ending and end just when things are getting really innocent, but as whole Native Son left a permanent impression on me. Finding forgotten gems like this is what makes the whole project totally worth the while.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 82%

#1411 Songwriter (1984)

A country drama-comedy featuring Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, Songwriter depicts Nelson as Doc Jenkins, a singer-songwriter tired of his life on the road and away from his son.

While the movie did not end up in my pile of movies to watch again, I did like how the movie depicts its subjects realistically, without neither glorifying or vilifying them; these country starts enjoy loose women, driving nice convertibles and a round of golf as much they enjoy putting on a show.

The musical talent of Kristofferson and Nelson make the movie one of the easier musicals to stomach.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 67%

#1410 Fresh Horses (1988)

It’s always a treat to come across an 80s movie with class A actors I’ve never heard before and Fresh Horses featuring Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy and Ben Stiller in one of his early roles definitely counts as one.

What I liked about Fresh Horses that it plays out very different than I anticipated, with characters that seem superficial but have actual depth to them, with motives hidden deep below the surface.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 80%

#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%