#1460 Judgment in Berlin aka Judgement in Berlin (1988)

Before watching this movie I had no idea Sean Penn’s father Leo Penn was a director, known mostly from his work on TV. The reason I made the connection was seeing Sean in this movie a side role as one of the passengers of the plane hijacked from Poland to West-Germany.

And that’s what the movie is all about; an American judge (Martin Sheen) is called to arrange a trial for the defector behind the hijacking, under the pressure from both east and the west.

While the setup is interesting, everything else in the movie falls short, starting from the dreary Eastern Europe setting to the movie not really following though any of its plot lines in a meaningful way.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 53%

#1441 Music Box (1989)

Music Box is a thought provoking movie: how much we really know of the past of our parents, before they were our parents – especially if it is a subject they don’t want to discuss about.

This is what a young attorney Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) starts to wonder as she defends his father against the accusations of war crimes that took place in WW2 Hungary. The movie also keeps the viewer at the edge of their seat as we seek for a spark of hope for the accused, while feeling absolutely saddened by the morbid stories shared by the witnesses.

Armin Mueller-Stahl performs a superb role as the straight forward heartfelt grandfather who’s learned to hide well the enigma of a man he really is.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 94%

#1428 The Star Chamber (1983)

The second movie of this angry relative of a homicide victim vs the judge who has to deal with the consequences -mini feature is The Star Chamber where Michael Douglas plays a judge who carries the burden of having to release violent criminals without consequences due to technicalities in the investigation.

It’s a different kind of beast compared to Seven Hours to Judgment and goes much, much deeper into the dark depts of the human mind and asks the viewer questions about ethics and taking the law into one’s own hands.

Due to not offering simple solutions to any of theses questions The Star Chamber did leave an impression that still lasts for me, a few days after viewing the movie.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 89%

#1421 From the Hip (1987)

I’d previously skipped From the Hip as I mistook it for a British movie thanks to its poster – and I still insist that its style reminds more of the British cinema than what Hollywood usually produces.

But make no mistake, the movie itself is as American as it can be: a courtroom comedy featuring Judd Nelson in one of his best roles of all times. The over acted part of a young hotshot lawyer climbing the corporate ladder could have easily turned super annoying, but the movie manages to be genuinely funny at times.

In fact, laugh out loud funny.

From the Hip has its serious side as well as the horseplay comes to a sudden halt when the wizkid is assigned to defending an intellectual sociopath aristocrat – chillingly convincingly portrayed by John Hurt – in a grim murder case impossible to win.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 87%

#1224 The Accused (1988)

There’s one piece of trivia for The Accused that’s particularly interesting: when seeing the screening cut of the film for the first time Jodie Foster thought her performance was bad – career ending bad –, and started looking into options what do for the rest of her life.

She would go on to win the Oscar for the best actress in a leading role for her performance in The Accused.

Based on actual events, The Accused is an unscrupulous movie that poses many interesting questions that challenge both the prosecuting lawyer and the viewer.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 88%

#1151 Physical Evidence (1989)

Let’s get the bad out of the way first: Physical Evidence is a weak courtroom drama that does nothing better than your average episode of Matlock.

Secondly, there is nothing here that would sticks with you and you’ve most likely forgotten all about the movie less than 15 minutes after watching the it. This is a pretty bland ordeal.

But, it does have that easy-to-watch late night cable movie quality to it and as such I never found watching the movie a chore. A slightly older Burt Reynolds of the late eighties (that I much prefer to his earlier roles) plows through his role without much enthusiasm, and what little focus that movie might’ve had earlier is completely lost during the last 15 minutes.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 58%

#988 The Executioner’s Song (1982)

Tommy Lee Jones stars in The Executioner’s Song, a solid made for TV movie documenting the life and ultimate death of Gary Gilmore who was executed in 1977 upon his own request.

Unlike many other crime movies, The Executioner’s Song doesn’t go out to glamourise the killer or the criminal life style and handles its subject in a way that seems semi-documentary at times. Gilmore is pictured as a complex, short-tempered man who often resorts in violence and even in the passing moments of regret he still maintains his ominous, possessive and obsessive presence.

Tommy Lee Jones makes the best out of the role, easily outperforming the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 64%

#886 Suspect (1987)

Suspect, a dime a dozen courthouse drama on the surface has many positive surprises to offer.

I never thought much of Cher, thanks to her horribad europop tracks of the early 2000s. Much to my surprise she turned out a radiant actress in many of her 80s movies, often stealing the spotlight and making the movie hers.

This is true as well with Suspect and Cher’s effortless presence on screen definitely makes watching the movie a breeze. Equally surprising is the unlikely chemistry between Cher and Dennis Quaid, who on paper mix together pretty much like water and oil. Quaid provides a perfectly lovable, smirky scoundrel of a juror who doesn’t seem to be able help himself poking his nose in the investigation.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 81%

#808 First Monday in October (1981)

Like many Walter Matthau movies, First Monday in October isn’t particularly eighties in style, but more like a nice, cozy breeze from the past. Often typecast as the grumpy, stubborn character, Matthau does have plenty of that old world charm which he always manages to bring into his productions.

Same goes here; Matthau plays an uncompromising, liberal Associate Justice that finds himself in a verbal tug-of-war with the first female Associate Justice just appointed to the Supreme Court. The old men contra women workplace setup is a bit dated, but not at all something that wouldn’t resonate still today. The real highlight of the movie is the snappy, smartly written dialogue that Matthau and Clayburgh deliver in a delightful fashion as they go against each other, tooth and nail.

It’s also an interesting period piece from the time when landmark decisions on the adult video censorship were being made in the Supreme Court.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 75%

#805 Eight Men Out (1988)

Eight Men Out retells the story of 1919 baseball scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox made a pact with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series. Knowing how it all turns out in the end the movie’s angle is to go through the events in the chronological order as they unfolded, with the focus slightly tilted towards outfielder Buck Weaver who would go on trying to prove his innocence for rest of his natural life.

As we go on from a match to another, I can’t help but to think some smarter editing could’ve been used here, snipping off the time from the games and focusing for example on the final trial instead. Still, it was a positive surprise how well the movie was put together and how well it conveys the time period without ever making a big fuss about it, or getting tediously drowsy or stale like so many period pictures tend to come out.

The casting is strong with John Cusack leading as Buck Weaver. As his teammate can be seen young Charlie Sheen, who’d incidentally go on starring in Major League, a hugely successful baseball comedy released the following year.

80s-o-meter: 35%

Total: 72%