1989 in movies

Movie reviews I’ve written for movies released theatrically in 1989, the year I turned 8.

1. Crimes and Misdemeanors, directed by Woody Allen (10*/10)

One of the earliest serious Allen films I saw, I was blown away at the time. But I have actually never seen it as an adult, so I don’t think this rating can be trusted.

1. Do the Right Thing, directed by Spike Lee (10/10)

The best fictional film about race relations in the US? I think it likely.

3. Drugstore Cowboy, directed by Gus Van Sant (9/10)

It’s been a while since I saw this, and it was before I wrote reviews. I feel like whatever I say here will not do it justice.

3. Henry V, directed by Kenneth Branagh (9/10*)

I have seen this way too many times to be objective about it. But I still feel like this beats Olivier’s version, not in the least because of the neat trick of incorporating elements of other, related plays into the film. There are days when I think this rating is too low.

5. Tales from the Gimli Hospital, directed by Guy Maddin (9/10)

This is the source of most of Maddin’s future endeavours apparently. Most of what he’s done since is on display here in a less ambitious form. It’s classic, since it basically establishes the Maddin form and really, who else made movies like this in the ’80s? Funny, disgusting, creepy, bizarre, basically everything you could want.

6. Meet the Feebles, directed by Peter Jackson (9/10)

The concept is so great that it’s easy to get disappointed at first. The production values are quite low (reminiscent of Dead Alive) and it doesn’t seem all that shocking…at first. But pretty soon, the unrelenting offensive humour wins you over and you come to love the grotesqueness of the whole thing. The songs are silly, the characters are often cliche, but on the whole it nails things, sometimes spectacularly well (especially the Deer Hunter parody). Certainly one of the best theatre satires I’ve ever seen.

7. Born on the Fourth of July, directed by Oliver Stone (8*/10)

Seen as a teen, well before I discovered I did not like Oliver Stone.

8. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, directed by Peter Greenaway (8/10)

I have lost my review of this film. From memory it is certainly hard to say what the one thing is that keeps it from being an absolute classic.

9. Batman, directed by Tim Burton (8/10)

Watched this all the way through for the first time in years. And I marveled at the uniqueness of Burton’s vision. Yes, the effects have dated. Yes, Nicholson is hamming it up (effectively, I’d say). Yes, some things don’t make sense.

But it’s a unique vison and it was hugely influential, single-handedly reviving the superhero genre, at least for a time.

Really impressive for a blockbuster film, even if it has dated rather horribly.

10. Chameleon Street, directed by Wendell B. Harris Jr. (8/10)

A crazy depiction of a con man who impersonated doctors and lawyers. Read the review of Chameleon Street.

11. Heathers, directed by Michael Lehmann (8/10)

Certainly one of the darkest teen comedies you’ll ever see. Read the review of Heathers.

12. Glory, directed by Edward Zwick (8*/10)

This was the first war movie I saw in theatres. I was 8. I know that because I actually remember where I saw it. I have wonderful parents.

13. Roger and Me, directed by Michael Moore (8/10)

The first of Moore’s polemics feels so much more genuine and coherent than his later movies. Yes, it’s an advocacy film, but in its early form, Moore’s outrage feels important and, perhaps more importantly, localized and specific. Far and away his best movie; not at a technical level but on all other levels.

14. A Dry White Season, directed by Euzhan Palcy (8*/10)

I have lost my review for this but I feel like I might rate it a little less now for its cliche “White people must end white people’s racism because the blacks sure as hell can’t.”

15. The ‘Burbs, directed by Joe Dante (7/10)

I love this movie. A favourite and I’m not sure I can even tell you why. I know it too well at this point.

16. Steel Magnolias, directed by Herbert Ross (7/10)

Way funnier than I imagined and that’s quite the left turn. Read the review of Steel Magnolias.

17. Ghostbusters II, directed by Ivan Reitman (7/10)

To paraphrase my brother, remove the final shot and this isn’t bad at all.

18. The Abyss, directed by James Cameron (7/10)

For me, this is pretty much the only creative ’80s sea-monster movie out there. At least Cameron thought about it differently than everyone else.

19. Longtime Companion, directed by Norman Rene (7/10)

This film does a good job of humanizing AIDS. It’s safe and easy to watch. It’s something of a landmark given Hollywood’s notorious past attitude to the subject matter. The episodic nature seems both necessary and a little odd. It actually seems to diminish the character development somewhat. The film could be better.

20. Christmas Vacation, directed by Jeremiah Chechik (7*/10)

This is one of those movies that I watched year after year at Christmas. Yes, it is the best of the franchise, but that isn’t really saying much. This feels too high.

21. Field of Dreams, directed by Phil Alden Robinson (7*/10)

Seen as a teen.

22. Say Anything, directed by Cameron Crowe (7/10)

This is obviously a wannabe ’80s Graduate. Sure it has an iconic moment in it, but I generally find the rest of the film to be rather overrated.

23. Mystery Train, directed by Jim Jarmusch (7/10)

This an interesting little film, but the ending just doesn’t work for me. I really liked the first story, which is just bizarre enough of a culture clash to be really interesting but not bizarre enough to feel forced. The second story was alright. The third one sort of felt forced, and I don’t particularly like how the stories come together. The dialogue is pretty great though, and the locations are all fantastic.

24. Back to the Future Part II, directed by Robert Zemeckis (7*/10)

The first time I saw this it confused me, which tells you how young I was at the time.

25. Sex, Lies and, Videotape, directed by Steven Soderbergh (6*/10)

Probably the first “adult” – as in “frank discussions of sex adult” – movie I ever saw. Well this and Carnal Knowledge – and I know I was way too young to get it, though I’m sure I pretended to at the time.

26. Major League, directed by David Ward (6*/10)

I have been told that if I re-watch this, I will be surprised by its intelligence. I hope so.

27. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, directed by Steven Spielberg (6*/10)

Seen far too many times as a tween and teen, I doubt I can be objective about it.

28. When Harry Met Sally, directed by Rob Reiner (6*/10)

Seen as a teen.

29. Lethal Weapon 2, directed by Richard Donner (6*/10)

This is another one where objectivity has flown out the window. I mean, it’s not just Lethal Weapon, it’s a sequel to Lethal Weapon.

30. Casualties of War, directed by Brian De Palma (6/10)

I believe the criticism of this film at the time was, it couldn’t just be about Nam, it had to be about a rape in Nam. I don’t care whether that is fair or not. My problem is that it really does feel like Platoon 2.

31. Parenthood, directed by Ron Howard (6*/10)

Seen as a tween.

32. Dead Poets Society, directed by Peter Weir (5/10)

I understand the compulsion to make stories like this. The problem is that it has been done before many times, and well. And this never happened to me. And I doubt it happened to many other people.

33. License to Kill, directed by John Glen (5*/10)

I’m sure I would have appreciated this had I been an adult at the time. Unfortunately, I was not, and so I long maintained that “Dalton was the worst Bond”. Oops.

34. Penn and Teller Get Killed, directed by Arthur Penn (5/10)

Don’t remember much except that it was really hit and miss.

35. Tango and Cash, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky (5*/10)

Seen multiple times as a teen, late at night.

36. Deep Star Six, directed by Sean S. Cunningham (5/10)

Though Leviathan has the cast – Peter Weller! Richard Crenna! Daniel Stern! – whereas this one is populated with That Guys, Deep Star Six does a significantly better job with the setup than Leviathan, a movie I’ve seen too many times.

Deep Star Six not as cerebral – and not as good – as The Abyss but it has some surprisingly quality performances and enough sense to postpone the monster reveal for a fairly long time. The monster is also slightly more believable than Leviathan‘s, I guess. The cliches of this sub-genre – yuk yuk yuk – are all still here, but there’s enough subtle tension to keep you interested.

Yes, things could have been better: the monster’s size outside the ship and its size once inside the ship don’t really gel; and Ferrer’s character has to be one of the most sad-sap roles in movie history – it wouldn’t have killed them to spread the blame around. (Also, I am not so sure they got their decompression “science” right, but what do I know?)

But on the whole, I was kind of surprised at how much better this is than Leviathan.

37. Uncle Buck, directed by John Hughes (5*/10)

Seen multiple times as a tween and teen.

38. The Little Mermaid, directed by Ron Clements, John Musker (5*/10)

I cannot be objective about Disney musicals seen when I was a kid.

39. Little Monsters, directed by Richard Alan Greenberg (5*/10)

Seen multiple times as a child.

40. Star Trek V: the Final Frontier, directed by William Shatner (4/10*)

Perhaps my least seen of the original six films, I cannot really remember it now.

41. Lean on Me, directed by John G. Alvidsen (4/10)

4 actually feels way too charitable, as Edward James Olmos was literally just doing this bit:

42. An Innocent Man, directed by Peter Yates (4*/10)

See below.

43. Lockup, directed by John Lynn (4*/10)

I don’t really remember this but I generally dislike these movies. I get this and An Innocent Man confused all the time, even though they have nothing to do with each other, really. And this wasn’t made by Peter Yates.

44. Erik the Viking, directed by Terry Jones (4*/10)

I believe this current rating can’t be trusted because it emerged when I was checking out my original ratings done as a 16- or 17-year-old and I got embarrassed when I saw how high I rated this.

45. Leviathan, directed by George P. Cosmatos (4/10)

This is an awesome movie; so awesome I have seen it a good 6 times. It’s too bad nothing about it is scary, and that every idea in the movie comes from Alien and its ripoffs.

And that cast. Amazing.

46. Look Who’s Talking, directed by Amy Heckerling (3/10)

Remember when we were besieged by this and its sequels? I’m still sort of amazed it exists. And that other talking baby movies have been made since.

47. Journey to the Center of the Earth, directed by Rusty Lemorande, Albert Pyun (3*/10)

I don’t remember this at all.

48. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, directed by Rob Hedden (3*/10)

3 seems pretty damn charitable in retrospect.

49. Weekend at Bernies, directed by Ted Kotcheff (3*/10)

I gave a movie featuring a plot centered around people believing a corpse is alive. I don’t know what was wrong with me as a teen when I gave it a 6/10 or something.

50. Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, directed by Peter Bonerz (2*/10)

For reasons only my teenage brain can understand, I somehow preferred this to most of the other entries in the series. Go figure.

51. Pet Sematary, directed by Mary Lambert (1*/10)

I was in a bad mood when I watched this, evidently. At least I can now appreciate the South Park references to it.

52. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: the Dream Child, directed by Stephen Hopkins (1*/10)

An incoherent mess made worse by the fact that Freddy has never been particularly scary.

53. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II, directed by Charles B. Griffith (1/10)

Unrelated to the first one and just much worse. Read the review of Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II.