#1562 Rooftops (1989)

You know how youth musicals always have this weird corny world where all the characters are so melodramatic and constantly emotionally hurt oh so bad that they have no other options but to dance to shake their negative emotions off.

Rooftops is like a musical without actual music. Instead we have both youthful dance sessions, and some sort of weird youth showoffs where they fight with dance, without touching each other, similarly to Capoeira.

It is what it is. Jason Gedrick in the lead is like a more handsome, more athletic and less charismatic version of Daniel LaRusso of the Karate Kid fame, and well .. I guess he goes well with the movie. While I did get some enjoyment out of the laughable over the top 80s melodramaticity of it all, this is one of the movies I really can’t see myself revisiting any time soon.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 29%

#1558 Border Radio (1987)

When you see a black and white in the movie netting a mere 5.4 average in IMDb, it usually means the the movie does not even enjoy a strong cult following – so you know you’re not probably going to have a particularly good time with this particular title.

And this is the case with Border Radio as well. As with many other similar indie movies, Border Radio seems to be all about style over substance, and the characters and what we really know about them evolves very little during the 90 minute runtime. Sure, we get exposed to the faces a lot and they grow onto us that way, but it’s still a far cry from really connecting with any of them.

The movie and it’s southern California scenery look nice though.

80s-o-meter: 43%

Total: 22%

#1557 Below the Belt (1980)

A talent scout talks a waitress into entering a sherry show wrestling team. She befriends this motley crew of journeymen, travels around with them, and finally is put against her arch enemy as the so called climax of the movie.

A Rocky this isn’t, nor is it All The Marbles that at least had the star power and indisputable charisma of Peter Falk going for it. In fact, if All The Marbles was a disappointing movie, Below the Belt does it all in a little more disappointing and banal way.

The most interesting part of below the belt is its love story between two worn out wrestlers in the crossroads of their lives where one wants to go in one direction – and one to another.

The one without wrestling.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 31%

#1556 Mr. North (1988)

Anthony Edwards appears in Mr. North as Theophilus North, a young bright student who arrives at a wealthy Rhode Island community with big plans. He soon starts to leave lasting impressions on the locals, some of which he befriends with, while other take him for a miracle healer, thanks to his natural tendency of stacking up static electricity.

Mr. North is one of those period pictures that heavily relies on nostalgic scenes of the yesteryear’s America: a small knit together community helping each other, old money, people dressed up smartly and innocence. And it works out for the movie, making it somehow soothing and relaxing to watch.

But if one’d take the concept to the current day, thus stripping out the nostalgia and the related glamor, there wouldn’t just be much of a movie going on here.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 40%

#1555 Torch Song Trilogy (1988)

What makes Torch Song Trilogy an above the average movie about gays (and drag) is that is was conceived and lead acted by Harvey Fierstein, an openly gay actor and playwright. This results in a movie that does not aim to explain, sugar coat nor view the gay community through hetero lenses.

A result is refreshing take that portrays all of its characters and their shortcomings, insecurities and sometimes even sheer pettiness in a realistic fashion. Fierstein is a wonderful actor, and a persona on and off stage and his character that often goes from gorgeous to goofy in one scene, depending on the camera direction and his mood swing makes for one of the more interesting and multi-faceted personas seen on screen.

What I did not like about the movie though is how it’s divided in three acts between different eras and lovers as I’d much rather had the movie concentrating on just one time frame in the lifeline of this character.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 74%

#1554 The Escape Artist (1982)

Here’s something I always look forward to when watching these 80s movies: to find a relatively unknown gem of a movie. The Escape Artist tells the story of a son of a famous escape artist who wants to follow his late father’s steps, while also learning what really happened to him.

Griffin O’Neal (the son of Ryan O’Neal) plays the young illusionist thrown in the adult world so convincingly that it was astounding to find out he wasn’t hired based on his magician skills, but only learned the basics for the movie. Griffin is a natural on the silver screen and no doubt ramps up an already decent movie quite a bit, and I was therefore saddened to learn about his troublesome life ever since as it seems to me we lost quite a great skill here. Raul Julia makes for one of his best characters as the slick son of the mayor who form a duo with the young magician, constantly trying to outwit one another.

The Escape Artist is – well, magical – coming of age movie of one exceptional young man on an exceptional journey, relying on his exceptional skills and wit.

Much recommended.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 91%

#1550 Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Considering how much I loved Jim Jarmusch’s later Down by the Law, I really looked forward to seeing Stranger Than Paradise, its indirect predecessor. In fact I was looking forward to viewing it to a small audience in an makeshift Spanish open-air theatre, but changed my plans for another movie in the last minute.

Luckily too, as Stranger Than Paradise turned out nothing like the witty and quirky Down by the Law was. This is a story of two friends who take a road trip to Cleveland to meet up with a cousin, then travel back with her, lose some money and win it back. And .. well, that’s about it.

Nothing much happens meanwhile, and Stranger Than Paradise turned out to be one of those artsy black and white indie movies with much too long scenes of people just sitting still and smoking cigarette and staring into the distance as their lips slowly chap. The very kind of movie that movie snobs watch in their private movie sessions, always laughing a few seconds too early and too loud to the unfunny jokes to underline they are the only ones sophisticated enough to appreciate them.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 24%

#1547 Someone to Love (1987)

Look, if you’ve seen any Henry Jaglom movie, you’ve already seen Someone to Love. This is one more for the pile of his adults wallowing in their own problems kind of movies, but with 100% more wallowing and even 95% less interesting content than any competing Jaglom movie.

Jaglom’s strongest suite, the improvised dialogue works well here, but the sheer lack of events makes the film feel like it’s dragging on and on. Really, at only 107 minutes, watching the movie felt like the few longest hours of my life.

Only thing that breaks the monotony are the inserts of Orson Welles’ dialogue, and while they are nice, I can’t help but to think some other author might have gotten something more memorable out of his ultimate feature film performance.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 8%

#1546 The Dead Zone (1983)

Stephen King’s movies got translated to the silver screen in a quick pace after the success of Carrie and The Shining, but for the better of worse they rarely matched the sheer brilliance of these two movies. While The Dead Zone featuring Christopher Walken in the lead also falls somewhere far behind Carrie and The Shining, it’s still one of the more stronger King adaptations of the decade.

Despite the mild horror and supernatural elements, with The Dead Zone it was never that obvious that this was in fact a Stephen King movie, being more of a thriller. In fact, there’s nothing in the movie that would suggest an exceptional manuscript, and without reading the original 1979 novel of the same name, I can’t really tell how much has been lost (or found!) in translation with Jeffrey Boam’s screen write, or David Cronenberg’s directing.

Even if something has, The Dead Zone still makes for a decent movie with an interesting premise well worth one’s time.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 80%

#1541 Emerald Cities (1983)

A disjointed indie movie about a woman who leaves her home and her father dressed up as a Santa Claus in Death Valley. Father then follows him to San Francisco through various small towns in a road movie fashion.

While the movie would have been ok’ish small budget project, it’s constantly interrupted with excerpts from TV news, faked interviews, movie clips and miscellaneous footage from concerts, which makes it very hard to following the plot, and the movie.

I liked the few quirky moments in the movie, but as Emerald Cities finally ended I could not help but cheated as a viewer.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 17%

#1529 The Burning Bed (1984)

One of the most hard to watch movies I’ve seen to date, The Burning Bed is a gruesome depiction of a domestic abuse downward spiral.

Being based on actual events, the movie does a terrific job in putting into concrete how the abuse starts in small, almost innocent baby steps that are easy to put aside. It also depicts exceptionally well the manipulative side as the abuser always finds a justification and forgiveness for their acts.

This is one of the rare cases where it doesn’t make much sense mentioning the made-for-TV origin of the movie was it easily bests the vast majority of theatrical dramas in its genre. Farrah Fawcett’s performance is flawless, and my hat is off to Paul Le Mat for his courage of accepting such a role. The events of the movie cut so deep that I might never look him the same way again.

80s-o-meter: 54%

Total: 92%

#1525 Made in Heaven (1987)

Made in Heaven is a movie narrated in two acts: in the first act we see the protagonist as a young boy heading off to California, getting killed in an accident, ending up in heaven and falling in love with another soul.

In the second act they both have been born again, unaware of their previous lives and mutual time together in heaven, and the thrill the movie offers to the viewers is of course the hope of their life lines somehow intertwining, perhaps leading them to find each other once again.

I have to admit I found the movie incredibly dull and slow paced for most of its running time, but the final events did admittedly get to me to the extend of turning the overall experience quite positive. Clearly this concept of soul mates has something special going for it, only if the endless taxiing before final payoff of a takeoff was crafted just a bit more exciting.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 61%

#1518 Someone to Love (1987)

Look, if you’ve seen the other Henry Jaglom’s movies of the era, you’ve pretty much already seen Someone to Love.

The theme is once again adults wallowing in their life and relationship troubles, this time invited and enclosed in an old theatre. Jaglom’s trademark improvised dialogue is once again the aspect of the movie that stands out most, but other than that the array of the characters does not grasp one at all.

Orson Welles can be seen in his final feature film role having a dialogue of his own. Although these interludes do break the monotony of the movie, they make the film feel even more uneven and fragmented as it should be.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 22%

#1512 Flowers in the Attic (1987)

When ran into Flowers in the Attic I already knew it by its name. Based on the 1979 novel of the same name, this was the first movie adaptation of the book.

But I did not know the grim gothic tale it was. A story of a grandmother locking the children to wither away in a north wing of the family mansion, and their mother betraying them the movie is not an easy thing to watch – especially considering this kind of abuse in the world is not fictive.

I haven’t read the book or seen the 2014 made for TV version, but based on what I’ve read the director Jeffrey Bloom has made the right call downplaying the incest relationship between the children that would’ve made the movie even harder for me to stomach, and toned it down to normal teen curiosity and a strong comradeship between the two elder siblings.

80s-o-meter: 28%

Total: 85%

#1509 Raggedy Man (1981)

Raggedy Man almost feels like three movies blended into one. First of all you have a story of a single mother (Sissy Spacek) caught in a dead end job as a switchboard operator in a small rural town. Secondly there is a movie about a sailor (Eric Roberts) on a four-day furlough passing through the town, who grabs onto the chance of some day having a family of his own. And thirdly there is the thriller about times for Luke, the gossipy, sometimes violent bunch of people amongst whom is a mysterious old man everyone calls just a Raggedy Man, keeping mostly to himself.

The good news is that every single one of these stories is an interesting one, backed up with smart screen riding and skilled acting, and it was especially the story of the young soldier that stayed with me long after the end credits had rolled: what ever become of him? Did he ever find happiness, or a family of his own?

Such is the power of a good movie that I ended up caring for this totally fictive person.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 85%

#1505 The Chocolate War (1988)

The very definition of a storm in a teacup, The Chocolate War studies the weird power play and hierarchy inside a Catholic Private School.

The movie gets surreal from the get go as we see Brother Leon (John Glover) with his unorthodox ways of teaching and ways of publicly disfavouring students who don’t yield to his kind request of selling out a record number of chocolates door to door. Adding to the tower of power are The Vigils, an openly secret student society who usually pull of harmless pranks but are now forced to form an alliance with Brother Leon to make his fundraising dream come true.

Although the whole world of Catholic schools is alien to me, the cliques shown in The Chocolate War are easy to identify with, representing the glass walls of politics and group dynamics I trust we’ve all run into at some point of our lives.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 60%