Category Archives: 1985 Movie reviews

The Breakfast Club-1985

The Breakfast Club-1985

Director-John Hughes

Starring-Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald

Scott’s Review #755

Reviewed May 8, 2018

Grade: A

The Breakfast Club (1985) is one of the most beloved films of the 1980’s and perfectly captures being a teenager during this time. Containing both an innocence and an authenticity rarely found in films targeted for younger audiences (and there were plenty in the 1980’s), the film is timeless and holds up exceptionally well, still feeling fresh. Director John Hughes avoids cliche’s and creates genuine truth in cinema. The theme song, “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” is nearly impossible to hear without associating it with this film.

The story line is uncomplicated; five high school students (Bender, Claire, Andy, Brian, and Allison) of differing social classes gather one Saturday morning in the high school library for a day of detention. Each student appears to know the others, but only peripherally, having little in common. Assistant Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason) assigns them to complete a thousand word essay by the end of the day. The group engages in mischievous antics, squabble, and discuss their respective roles and troubles in life over throughout the day.

The film looks and feels like a small independent feature rather than a big budget (Universal Pictures) offering, which is of enormous praise. The cast is very small- only the aforementioned six principles and two minor characters. The setting is almost entirely inside the walls of a suburban high school with only a few exterior shots to speak of. Mainly what succeeds is that the characters interact with rich dialogue, good texture and underlying insecurities that make the screenplay bristle with genuine angst.

It is tough to pinpoint who the lead characters would be, but arguably Claire and Bender (Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson) are the pair expected to unite as a couple, as they do in the conclusion- this is predictable yet sweet. Unexpectedly however, the film pairs Andy and Allison (Emilio Estevez and Allie Sheedy). Both couples are complete opposites, Claire and Bender even despising each other throughout most of the film, but realize their mutual attraction.

Careful not to weigh down the film with too much heavy drama, Hughes, who also wrote and produced the work, peppers in some comedic moments as well. Gleason is the easy foil as the sole authority figure, a bit too dedicated to his job of humiliating and disciplining the students, but he does get his due in humorous fashion. In fact, either on-screen or off screen, no adult figures are written in a positive light giving The Breakfast Club a complete teenage perspective.

But the main appeal goes to the teenagers and the message that Hughes successfully relays- that of the misunderstood young adult. Each character is unhappy in some way and feels put into a category or defined by the individual cliques they each belong to- whether they want to or not. In this way Hughes makes the film a treasure in terms of relating to the characters- everyone remembers high school and the insecurities wrestled with while attempting to get good grades and obtain acceptance. Hughes brings these aspects to life with his slice of life tale.

Even if every character is not immediately recognized within the viewer themselves, each is empathetic nonetheless. When Andy reveals his father’s criticisms or Bender painfully recounts his father’s physical abuse, we feel for them, suddenly seeing the strong athlete or the burnout from our own high school days in an entirely new way. Mousy Allison gets a makeover from Claire and suddenly shines like a new dime- finally not being ignored. Brian’s overbearing parents pressures are almost too much for him to bear.

At the conclusion of the film, we are left to wonder what will happen on Monday morning during homeroom. Will the group continue their new friendships (or more) or simply return to the normalcy of their respective peer groups? Hughes wisely does not satisfy our piqued curiosity but rather leaves it to our imagination. The Breakfast Club (1985) holds appeal for the masses without feeling cliched or put upon- only feeling insightful and inspired to accept others we may have preconceived notions about.

Witness-1985

Witness-1985

Director-Peter Weir

Starring-Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis

Scott’s Review #754

Reviewed May 7, 2018

Grade: A-

Witness (1985) is a slick crime thriller that may at first glance seem like just another by the numbers genre film, but instead is well above average. As the plot unfolds there are key nail biting and edge of your seat scenes that build the tension in such a way that suspense master himself, Alfred Hitchcock would be proud. Decades later it is tough to watch the film and not notice a slightly dated quality, but at the time it was well regarded and terrifically paced. Charismatic Harrison Ford and novice child actor Lukas Haas make the film more than it could have been.

The setting of the film is twofold and presents two different cultures- rural Pennsylvania’s Amish country and the bustling metropolitan Philadelphia. The death of her husband leads Amish woman Rachel (Kelly McGillis) and her son Samuel (Haas) to the big city to see her sister. While transferring trains Samuel witnesses a brutal murder in the men’s room- unbeknownst to the killers. This riveting scene (explained more below) triggers the rest of the story.

When Detective John Book (Ford) is assigned to the case and questions Samuel, he is unable to determine who the assailants are. After Samuel fingers an unthinkable suspect, events escalate and John uncovers a mighty corruption circuit within the police force. John, now targeted, must assimilate into the Amish culture as he strives to protect both Samuel and Rachel (as well as keep himself alive), while embarking on a relationship with Rachel. The story wisely focuses on the differing lifestyles of the principle characters.

What I enjoy most of all about Witness is the nice mix between both types of people and different cultures and how they can learn from one another. John is so used to and desensitized by being in the midst of the rat race that he often forgets the nicer things in life- peace and quiet or even love. Rachel and Samuel, of course, are highly sheltered, living in a bubble, and are fish out of water amid the bustling streets of Philadelphia. The counter-cultures offer a nice balance in this masculine film with female sensibilities.

Not to be usurped by purely romance, Witness is at its core, a fleshy, male driven crime thriller. Adding some softer edges, Weir pleases both male and female audience members and appeals to the masses. John’s precinct, filled with detectives, police officers, and criminals, gives the film appropriate “guy elements”.  So director Peter Weir offers a good balance here.

I like how Weirs chooses to portray the Amish- not caricatures, stereotypes, or to be made fun of, they are sweet, stoic, and intelligent, accepting of John into their lives. As John learns more of the Amish culture and becomes one of them, this is even more prevalent as an immersing of different cultures- a good lesson to even apply to other differences between peoples.

The acting is a strong component to Witness. Charismatic and handsome, Ford is believable as a fast paced, busy detective. To add further substance, Ford transforms his character (written as one note in typical films of this nature) into a sympathetic and inspiring man as he slowly becomes father figure to wide-eyed youngster Samuel and falls in love with Rachel. Ford is the standout, but the film would not work with lesser supporting actors. Both innocent and gentle characters, McGillis and Haas add layers to their roles with pronounced toughness  and resilience- saving John as much as he saves them.

Two scenes are pure standouts and successfully elicit tension and dramatic effect. As Samuel witnesses the murder in the bathroom, he is seen in a stall peeking through a crack with only one eye exposed. When he makes a slight noise the assailant violently goes through each stall intent on shooting whatever he finds. Samuel must think quickly to avoid being caught. The camera goes back and forth between Samuel’s looks of panic and the assailant getting closer and closer to catching him. Viewer’s hearts will pound during this scene.

Later, as Samuel sees a newspaper clipping framed among a case of awards, he recognizes one man as the assailant. In this scene Weir shoots it in slow motion so that the reactions of John and Samuel characters are palpable and effective. The scene is tremendously done and cements the bond and trust between these characters.

Thanks to a wonderful performance by Ford and the cast surrounding him, Witness (1985) successfully widens the traditionally one-dimensional masculine crime thriller into something deeper. Providing slick entertainment with a great story and substance, the film crosses genres and offers a substantial cinematic experience woefully needed in the mid 1980’s.

Lifeforce-1985

Lifeforce-1985

Director-Tobe Hooper

Starring-Steve Railsback, Peter Firth

Scott’s Review #516

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Reviewed November 11, 2016

Grade: F

Lifeforce, a film made in 1985, is a film that I did not enjoy at all. It tells the story of a team of astronauts who find three pods of seemingly human bodies, who eventually return the bodies back to Earth and turn said humans into zombies. That is really it in a nutshell.

The story makes no sense whatsoever and there is no rhyme or reasons for the actions of the characters except to further the plot. No mention or details at to why they are in outer space or anything that drives the characters motives. The film is way too complicated for its own good and would have been wiser in going for a straight-forward action film rather than what we are treated to (a combo sci-fi/horror mess.

The special effects are completely dated and very cheesy. Lifeforce is completely plot driven and I did not find it gripping at all. This film is a waste of time and deserves to be completely forgotten.

A View to a Kill-1985

A View to a Kill-1985

Director-John Glen

Starring-Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Grace Jones

Scott’s Review #484

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Reviewed September 21, 2016

Grade: A

Not exactly deemed a masterpiece, or even a treasured favorite, among the masses of James Bond lovers, A View to a Kill holds a soft spot for me personally. It is one of the first Bond films that I was fortunate enough to see in the movie theater and it has continued to enamor me all these decades later. Yes, it has flaws (to be mentioned later), but it is a classic, fun, exciting, mid 1980’s Bond offering. It contains Roger Moore- in his final Bond appearance, the exotic Grace Jones, a great villain, and on location treats such as Paris and Iceland- who could ask for anything more?

We are re-introduced to MI-6 agent James Bond on the snowy slopes of Siberia as he discovers the body of 003, along with a Soviet microchip believed to belong to the wealthy Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). Bond attends a horse sale hosted by Zorin and discovers he is drugging the horses to make them perform better. It is also revealed that he intends to destroy Silicon Valley in order to rule the microchip industry. In Zorin’s camp is a mysterious woman named May Day and an odd Nazi scientist named Dr. Carl Mortner. Events conclude in San Francisco as the action packed finale takes place in a mine and overlooking (via blimp) the historic Golden Gate bridge.

I completely get the criticisms hurled at this film- both Roger Moore and, as a secondary character, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, had gotten quite long in the tooth by this point in the franchise (1985), which is a shame because both are favorites of mine. Most glaring in the “bad” department is Tanya Roberts as the main Bond girl, Stacy Sutten- almost rivaling Halle Berry (Die Another Day) as screamingly awful. Not appearing as a major character until quite late in the film, Stacey is a wealthy heir, who Zorin is attempting to pay five million dollars to in order to relinquish her shares in Silicon Valley (she refuses). Robert’s acting is quite poor if I am being honest- she has no chemistry with Moore, and comes across as a bit of a dimwit, despite being written as a doctor or scientist of some sort. Regardless, she does not work as a Bond girl. Yes, the cartoon-like chase around San Francisco with the brooding police chief is unintentionally funny- another negative to the film.

But here are some strengths- Fantastic is Walken as the main villain role of Zorin. Psychotic, loony tunes, and such a pleasure to watch. With his bleached blonde hair and grimacing sneer, a particularly controversial, and favorite scene of mine is when Zorin, machine gun in hand, sprays bullets from left to right, undoubtedly killing dozens, as he gleefully laughs. This was unprecedented in Bond films up to this point as most villains contained a safer personality- Zorin is positively monstrous and to be feared.

Also worth mentioning is Jones as May Day, simply mesmerizing in the role- although sadly her character is weakened  toward the end- did she really believe Zorin was capable of love?? Countering with the anemic chemistry between Bond and Roberts, the chemistry between Jones and Moore sizzles. Interesting to note is that this is not the first time Bond has explored an interracial (white and black) romance- far from it. Live and Let Die- circa 1973 takes this honor. I would have enjoyed much more exploration on an emotional level between Bond and May Day instead of the animalistic physical attraction.

One may wonder with all the recognizable flaws with the film, why the A-rating? Because simply put this film is fun and contains all the elements a Bond film ought to. The action is plentiful- who can forget the nail-biting Eifel tower chase or the Paris car chase- sans car roof?

Certainly not high art, but a grand favorite of mine, A View to a Kill is entertainment personified. The pop title-theme song, performed by Duran Duran, which became a #1 hit in the summer of 1985, is a wonderful aspect of the film and immediately takes me back to a different time- I suppose the film does as well and that is a great part of my fondness for it.

The Color Purple-1985

The Color Purple-1985

Director-Steven Spielberg

Starring-Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey

Scott’s Review #358

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Steven Spielberg, admittedly a director who focuses more on sentimentality, mixes heartbreak with courage to blend a recipe that makes for a perfect, mainstream film from 1985. It is a different direction for him- far extreme from the summer blockbusters he was known for until this time. Exceptional acting and cinematography lends itself to The Color Purple, a film based on the much darker novel by Alice Walker. Certainly, one of the best films of the 1980’s. Relative unknown when the film was made, Whoopi Goldberg gives an astounding performance in the lead role.

The film spans approximately forty years in the early twentieth century and is set is rural Georgia. Celie Harris (Goldberg) is an oppressed black woman, her sister and best friend Nettie sent away, leaving Celie a virtual prisoner with a man, Albert Johnson (Danny Glover), she is forced to marry and care for- in addition to his children. Raped and beaten, Celie is left with little self worth until two women, rotund, feisty, Sophia (Oprah Winfrey), and Shug (Margaret Avery) inspire her to be something better.

The Color Purple is a very sentimental film filled with inspiration to anyone beaten down or otherwise abused by people or by society. The depiction of southern life for blacks, especially black women is depicted well, though softened I have no doubt. Liberties must be taken for the sake of film as black men, in particular, are not portrayed well- surely there must have been some decent black men in this time? But, despite Spielberg being a male, The Color Purple is told from a definite female perspective.

Her role of Celie is Goldberg’s finest and hers is a case of the Academy getting it all wrong; she should have won an Oscar for this performance instead of a conciliation win a few years later for her secondary (and unremarkable) role in Ghost. Goldberg never achieved any roles as great as Celie. Her expressions and mannerisms spoke volumes and her occasional wide, beaming smile would melt the coldest heart. Winfrey, equally brilliant as Sophia (and also robbed at Oscar time), is a completely different character. Angry, abrasive, and outspoken, she fills Sophia with life and energy, which makes her big scene heartbreaking to watch. Defying a white man she is beaten and arrested and reduced to living out her days as a limping maid to a white woman- who she swore she would never serve.

The cinematography and direction of The Color Purple are grand. Spielberg does a believable job of depicting the time period in an accurate way. The costumes worn by the cast and the lighting in general are bright and colorful, and I think this gives the film a flavor that is nice to watch. Again, Walker’s novel and the real life experience were undoubtedly much darker, but for film sake, this adaptation (numerous stage versions preceded and followed) makes for a wonderful film.

Clue-1985

Clue-1985

Director-Jonathan Lynn

Starring-Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn

Top 100 Films-#61

Scott’s Review #341

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Clue is a harmless, 1985 comic yarn that is not a cinematic masterpiece, nor really anything more than fluff, but since I adored  the classic board game growing up and reveled in the excitement of the different characters, rooms, and murder weapons, the film version holds a very special place in my heart and memory bank, having watched it time and time again as a youngster.

The plot is immediately filled with intrigue- a successful element and the best part of the film. Six interesting characters- with provocative aliases such as Ms. Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. Peacock, are all summoned to a New England mansion named Hill House. Naturally, it is a dark, stormy night and each receives a mysterious note written by a stranger.

Among the colorful characters working at the mansion are the plump cook, the scantily dressed maid, Yvette, and the butler, Wadsworth, who is running the show and greets the confused guests. Slowly, it is revealed that all of the guests are being blackmailed and all of them either live, or have ties to Washington D.C. After each guest is given a weapon as a gift, the lights go out and a murder occurs, launching a fun whodunit. Each guest, and the staff, strive to figure out who has committed the murder, as subsequent murders begin to occur. The comic hi-jinks are reminiscent of funny films like High Anxiety and even Young Frankenstein.

The atmospheric qualities featured in Clue is what I love most about the film- the vast mansion, the many gorgeously decorated rooms, the secret passageways, and the driving rain all make for great ambiance. Clue is clever in that it features three different endings!  Upon initial theatrical release this was a unique premise- one could see the film multiple times and not know how it was to end or who the killer might be revealed to be- what fun! Unfortunately, the film was not a commercial success so this ploy did not work.

The famed cast delivers their parts with comic gusto, and with lesser talents the film would simply be dumb. It seems obvious that the cast had a good old time with this romp- Eileen Brennan, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, and Madeline Khan, have a comic ball with their perfect delivery of the lines.

Clue is not a message movie, it does not inspire cinematic art, but what it does, it does incredibly well- it entertains. The writing and the political and sexual innuendos are witty. One can become lost in the interesting characters and try to guess, or even make up, the whodunit and why they done it. I can be entertained by Clue time and time again.

Kiss of the Spider Woman-1985

Kiss of the Spider Woman-1985

Director-Hector Babenco

Starring-William Hurt, Raul Julia

Scott’s Review #187

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Reviewed October 24, 2014

Grade: B+

1985 was not the best of years for film nor was much of the 1980’s, as I think about it, but unique standouts do exist and Kiss of the Spider Woman is an unusual and artistic film.

Set in present day South America (Brazil) two men are imprisoned for very different reasons and are cellmates in the prison where they are captives. Complete opposites, they form an unlikely bond, centering on friendship, but also skirting towards romance, flirtation, and at times, love. Luis Molina is outwardly homosexual and extremely flamboyant and perhaps out of touch with reality as he fantasizes and describes romantic Nazi films. He is imprisoned for not only being homosexual, but of having sex with an underage male. The other man, Valentin Arregui, is a liberal, political activist, who has been beaten, tortured, and interrogated due to his revolutionary leaning politics- he has a rough, macho edge to him. On the surface the two men have nothing in common, but due to close proximity, forge a close bond and mutual respect for each other as their lives pre-imprisonment are explained to each other as well as to the audience. The true strength of this film is the performance, very against type, of William Hurt- his best performance of his career by a mile. He completely embodies the character of Luis in his effeminacy, yearning, pain, and obsession with escaping reality through film. Raul Julia has the same effect, though in a completely different way, as he portrays Valentin. Luis tenderly comforts Valentin, who is being poisoned by prison officials, by incorporating his stories of films into Valentin’s real-life, as he yearns for his separated lover, Marta. As Luis begins falling in love with Valentin, and one is seemingly double-crossed by the other, it leads to a test of courage and dedication to each other.

The ending of the film is a sad one, dark, yet thought provoking, and shows of love, tenderness, and bravery. My only negative from Kiss of the Spider Woman is at moments, using the flashback series or through the film that Luis explains, it is tough to follow and surmise what is exactly going on in the story, but the performances of Hurt and Julia, and the chemistry between them, are the films major strengths.

Friday the 13th: Part 5: A New Beginning-1985

Friday the 13th: Part 5: A New Beginning-1985

Director-Danny Steinmann

Starring-Melanie Kinnaman, John Sheperd

Scott’s Review #118

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Reviewed July 17, 2014

Grade: B

The fifth installment of the seemingly never ending Friday the 13th franchise, Part 5 offers viewers a twist, a twist that sadly did not go over well with horror audiences. Hardly high art, and hated by myself initially, I have grown a fondness for this film over the years after repeated viewings. Originally, I was not crazy about the twist at the end of the film, but I now recognize, for this type of film, an appreciation for trying something different.

The lighting is brighter and more modern than its predecessor, Part IV, despite being made only a year later. There is greater comedy in this one- the hillbillies are laugh out loud fun and the waitress scene is howlingly awful in the acting department- in fact most of the acting is atrocious and can be laughed at, but a much needed change of setting away from Camp Crystal Lake works and seems refreshing. The final victim is, for a change, not a teenager, but a mature, intelligent young woman.

Released smack dab in the middle of the 1980’s, the film has a jarring dated look to it, which doesn’t do the film any favors in the longevity department. Obviously, the film cannot compare to the original or even the first three installments (the best in my opinion), but more experimental than any of the others, which deserves some credit.