#1521 Sweet Liberty (1986)

Watching Sweet Liberty I quickly realised the benefits of writing and directing the movie that you yourself star in: you get to play a well liked college professor who rides a motorcycle, fences, has written a bestseller that’s to be filmed by a film crew visiting the town and get to make out with two women – one of them who no other than Michelle Pfeiffer.

But Alan Alda’s writing is also snappy, full of interesting events and especially interesting characters, each of which strong enough to support a movie is own.

It’s especially these characters that almost seem to write themselves that make the movie easy and satisfying to watch. Even if Alda’s screen presence is totally enjoyable, his strongest suits are definitely off-camera.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 83%

#1517 Reform School Girls (1986)

A 1986 take on the women prison exploitation movies popular in the 70s, Reform School Girls aims to poke fun of the genre by playing with clichés and turning all the knobs all the way to 11. But it does so only partially.

All the prisoners are of course (adult) models tippy-toeing around the reform school dorm just waiting for an excuse to go to have a shower with the other girls, and Edna, the head of the ward pictured in that awesome poster is set to make everybody’s life miserable.

Women prisoner exploitations were already quite far fetched, super heavy on clichés and caricatures for characters, so the humor here falls very short. As in, not funny at all. But in its poor genre Reform School Girls is actually well above average, even if not successful as a satire.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 61%

#1514 Silk (1986)

A ton of low-budget movies were shot in Asia in the 80s with an international crew plus a few no name American actors to make an impression of an US movie passable enough for video distribution. The vast majority of these movies are Vietnam war reenactments or other action movies, and generally they are quite a disappointment with subpar production quality to them. While I steer away from these movies per rule that they are not in fact US productions, I’ve let some of these slip in if they on the surface make a convincing enough attempt of Hollywood cinema, and are at least partly US productions.

Silk may have for me to recheck this rule.

Shot in Philippines masqueraded as Hawaii, Silk is an appalling, soulless production that never grasped me even once. When the end credits finally rolled I noticed I hadn’t been even remotely entertained by the movie, nor did I know what the heck it had been all about, making Silk a total waste of time.

Too bad. I did enjoy the lush cover art.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 2%

#1493 The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)

After her family moves to an old house, a 14-year old Milly encounters Eric, a young boy shut in his own world.

Soon after befriending him she begins to wonder if there is more to this boy and in his obsession to paper planes and flying, than meets the eye. Two separate site plots follow Milly’s mother struggling to get back to the now-computerised 80s work life, as well as her brother’s struggle with the neighbourhood bullies.

The Boy Who Could Fly is a brief and likeable peek into the life of a suburban family encountering wonderful events, most of which I unfortunately struggled to identify with.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 61%

#1479 Resting Place (1986)

Another made-for-TV movie with a super interesting premise, Resting Place takes place in early 70s as an US Army Major (John Lithgow) arrives to a small souther town to with a body of young deceased African-American sergeant and soon finds out the family is denied of his burial on the graveyard reserved for whites.

When everything else fails, the major turns out to officials, local newspapers and finally his team, who to his surprise seem to keep shush about the actual events leading to the sergeant’s death.

Resting Place is one of those made for tv movies that manages to better 90% of the movies out there, and easily earns my recommendations for watching.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 87%

#1470 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986)

In the 1980 the comedian Richard Pryor famously set himself on fire while on a drug induced psychosis and sustained severe burns. It’s from this setup that Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, a semi-biographical movie of Pryor starts.

Directed and starring Pryor, he plays a stand-up comedian much like himself. While definitely boosted up in the 80s by the Pryor being a star everyone knew, the movie holds very little interest to anyone not aware nor fan of Pryor. There’s no real common thread running through the movie and I’m not sure why the movie was made, other than for some sort of personal self-examination.

Fans of Pryor likably will dig this one as well, others might want to steer clear.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 22%

#1450 Blue City (1986)

Blue City is the kind of a movie that’s firmly detached from any reality and where there are no real motivations or consequences for the actions of the characters.

Judd Nelson as the lead proves to be a tough cookie for me handle; he always seems to be borderline annoying in his roles, and unlike in From The Hip where he managed to turn his negative traits into something positive, in Blue City his totally wild and rebellious character comes off totally unlikeable.

The quite implausible events in Blue City would be easier to accept if the cinematography supported the fantasy aspect of the plot with a more fictitious setting and characters. But, if you manage to accept early on that Blue City takes place in Fantasyville, Hollywood, chances are you will enjoy the movie more than I did.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 60%

#1438 The Morning After (1986)

Not to be mixed up with The Day After, a 1983 made for TV movie about nuclear war (I know I keep mixing these up all the time), The Morning After is a thriller about a has been actress who keeps on drowning her sorrow to the wine and finds herself blacking out often, only to one day wake up and find herself laying next to a man, stabbed to death.

After the interesting start The Morning After does not provide anything substantial and plays until the end without much surprises. The chemistry and eventual relationship between the leads Jane Fonda and Jeff Bridges is a hard sell, and it’s mostly Bridges’ typical enjoyable screen presence that carries the movie until the finish.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 60%

#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%

#1375 Halloween 2020: Invaders From Mars (1986)

Tobe Hooper’s modern version of the 1953 movie of the same name ticks more boxes than what I’ve seen in all this Halloween; the movie looks lovely and colourful, the spooky atmosphere is there, the tale is a bit twisted in a very good sense, there are weird mind altering aliens involved, and the movie captures extremely well all of this from the perspective of a kid. I’m sure the 8-year old me would have loved this movie to bits.

Too bad the movie does not reinvent the any of the plot line of the original movie – especially during its third act.

This portion of the movie is spent chasing the martians inside an alien dungeon, and although the setting and martians themselves look menacing – and cartoony in a good way – this feels like a total faux pas given the great buildup. I’d much rather followed how the ongoing alien infestation above ground and the proverbial noose tightening around the necks of those in the know.

The Poltergeist related mystery between directors Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg gets sort of a continuum in Invaders From Mars as the movie looks and feels almost as lush as If it was Spielberg sitting on that director’s seat. Hooper certainly had the gift comparable to the best of the Hollywood what it came to charging his films full of the kind of movie magic that separates the best from mundane creations.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 75%

#1367 Halloween 2020: Nomads (1986)

Nomads marks for two interesting debuts: it’s the first leading role for the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan in a feature film, and John McTiernan’s directorial debut.

Story wise Nomads is a bit dud, with group of haunted motorcycle gang tormenting a French couple who just moved to USA. Brosnan’s French accent is totally unnecessary, and the gang itself falls short of similar baddie cliques seen on the silver screen. It’s an ok ride that hints the chance of greatness, but never redeems those expectations.

What Nomads gets absolutely right though is the haunting atmosphere that was picked up by Arnold Schwarzenegger which lead to McTiernan first directing two possibly the most bad ass iconic action movies of the 80s: Predator in 1987, and Die Hard the following year.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 67%

#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%

#1353 Vendetta (1986)

Similarly to the World Gone Wild I just reviewed, Vendetta takes an uninteresting genre as its base, but actually tries to have a fresh approach. In Vendetta’s case this genre is the women’s prison exploitations that usually exist to serve people with a fetish for catfights, rapes and plenty of nude scenes.

And the approach manages make it more interesting. Vendetta is no work of art – it’s trashy in its theme and execution – but I did find myself actually caring for the characters, which is much more than I can say from any other prison exploitation film I’ve seen. Looks wise the movie is also solid, late 80s style that makes it easy to watch despite the overall early 90s late night cable soft porn vibe.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 55%

#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%

#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%

#1321 Happy Hour (1986)

Seeing a decent hand drawn poster on a movie always makes me happy and warm inside as it is a promise of at least half decent production values for the movie as well as a production company that even remotely knows what they are doing.

And Happy Hour fortunately delivers. A silly story about a chemist coming up with a formula that makes beer simply irresistible for everyone from kids to housewives, and the following espionage between two brewing companies has been done with a tongue in cheek in just the right way.

Great characters, excitement and laughters are all to be found in this silly little comedy gem.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 87%

#1319 Big Trouble (1986)

Who doesn’t like a good scoundrel movie?

A surprising (as well as the last) comedy from the director John Cassavetes, Big Trouble walks on the silver screen a somewhat surprising comedic duo of Peter Falk and Beverly D’Angelo that go against Alan Arkin, a mild mannered insurance agent lured into scheme that soon gets out of hand.

All of the casting works like a treat, but it’s particularly Falk as the devil-may-care mastermind – resembling somewhat his famous Columbo character – that gets the best laughs from me.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 85%

#1318 Alien Predator aka Alien Predators aka The Falling (1986)

Alien Predator is a promising underdog of a horror movie that does other things with admirable ingenuity while totally failing elsewhere.

I liked the atmosphere in the movie and the overall science-gone-wrong in a small town kind of setup, and could I bet the writer / director Deran Sarafian has seen the classic 1971 scifi thriller Andromeda Strain a few times before preparing the manuscript for the Alien Predator. Being a horror movie, jump scares are expected, but are so well paced that they manage to surprise from time to time.

The ghost car seemed like a totally unnecessary element in the movie, and Dennis Christopher who plays the other lead struggles throughout the movie to make his lovable rogue / class clown character work, ending up merely with one of the most tiresome characters ever seen on the silver screen.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 73%