For further background on the year in film please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1987 entry.
Some things that happened in 1987:
- The Philippines got a brand new constitution.
- President Ronald Reagan was "rebuked" for the Iran-Contra affair.
- U2 released The Joshua Tree.
- Hulk Hogan successfully defended his title against Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania II.
- Platoon won the Oscar for Best Picture.
- The governments of Portugal and the People's Republic of China agreed to return Macau to China in 1999.
- The Simpsons shorts appeared on The Tracy Ullman Show.
- Taiwan ended its period of martial law.
- Michael Jackson released Bad.
Linked entries can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube.
1. Cry Freedom
Richard Attenborough directed this look at Steve Biko's Black Consciousness movement. Denzel Washington stars as Biko, with Kevin Cline as a newspaperman covering his rise to prominence. In the era of Black Lives Matter I honestly can't think of a movie more relevant than this one. Americans could also, I think, learn a lot of from South Africans' struggles with the Apartheid regime. Even given the constants of white dominance, a lot of what one sees in South African culture is the inversion of what one sees in American culture, to the extent that matters of race become more obvious when comparing the two places.
Fun Fact 1: At one point in this movie Washington's character is standing in front of a poster of Malcolm X. He'd go on to play Malcolm X years later.
Fun Fact 2: He had a leading role in his first movie, 1981's Carbon Copy, but Cry Freedom was the movie that truly cemented Washington's leading man status in Hollywood. He'd appear in Glory two years later, and begin a long collaboration with Spike Lee a year after that.
Fun Fact 3: This movie wasn't actually shot in South Africa, but rather in Zimbabwe and Kenya.
2. Hello God
Korean film about a disabled man searching for happiness. Of all the films I've seen on the Korean Classic Film YouTube channel, this is the best by far. You can tell the director put a lot of thought into every shot.
Some Good Ones
1. Three Men and a Baby
Three men sharing an apartment together and they're NOT gay! No! Don't even think it! NOT gay! No!
Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg star as three dudes who find themselves burdened with an infant. It sounds stupid, but this movie continues to exert the same breezy charm it exercised in 1987. It's also aged better than a lot of other comedies from that year.
Fun Fact 1: This was Leonard Nimoy's third film as director, following Star Trek III and IV.
Fun Fact(s) 2: To put things in their proper perspective, at the time Selleck was still doing Magnum, P.I. and had completed the sci-fi film Runaway. Danson was still doing Cheers and had completed the Blake Edwards comedy A Fine Mess. Guttenberg had just filmed Short Circuit and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol appeared in theaters the same year as Three Men and a Baby.
2. Beverly Hills Cop 2
Eddie Murphy and two clueless white guys tool around Beverly Hills and solve crimes on a half intentional/half coincidental basis. The ending is very unsatisfying, but I think it's better than the first one.
Fun Fact: Tony Scott was only hired to direct this movie because Top Gun, released the previous year, was such a huge hit.
3. Near Dark
Director Kathryn Bigelow's second movie. In Near Dark vampires invade small town America. Adrian Pasdar stars, with several of the cast members from Aliens. As you might expect it's a very dark, moody kind of film. I liked it a lot.
4. Can't Buy Me Love
Patrick Dempsey, remember him? In this one he pays the most popular girl in school to go out with him. You can guess the rest. What this movie really made me think about was how vibrant malls used to be. In 2020? The internet has killed most of them off.
5. Hunted Fever
Still no idea what "Hunted Fever" is supposed to mean. In this Australian thriller a cop comes into some money he didn't earn. The soundtrack is terrible, and the budget was LOW, but it's surprisingly good regardless.
It's Joaquin Phoenix! Back then he was still calling himself Leaf Phoenix. Russkies was his second movie (third if you count the TV movie Kids Don't Tell) but even back then he had the kind of screen presence that presages superstardom.
In a way it's easy to dismiss Russkies as a latter-day Goonies. Three kids find a Russian sailor stranded on a Florida beach, these kids proceed to capture and then befriend this sailor, and a zany repatriation plan is launched which (of course) doesn't quite work out like they anticipated. Just the same it's a good movie, and a reminder of how much more present the Cold War was before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
Fun Fact 1: Whip Hubley, who plays the stranded Russian in this film, also appeared as Hollywood in Top Gun.
Fun Fact 2: During the arcade scene they're playing Rush'n Attack. I used to love that game.
Like Switzerland, I'm Going to Remain Neutral
1. Lethal Weapon
"I'm getting too old for this shit!"
I will always love director Richard Donner for Superman I and (to a lesser extent) Superman II, but this movie? Let's just say that screenwriter Shane Black's script has the chemistry down, but in real life those two cops would've been suspended within the first ten minutes. Add to this the fact that Gibson's character is WAY too young to have been a Vietnam War vet, and add to this the fact that the bad guys - supposedly masters of the art of "dirty tricks" - are too brazen for words. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson are of course great actors with many great films to their credit, but I never really understood the appeal of Lethal Weapon.
2. The Secret of My Success
Michael J. Fox stars in... Wall Street Lite. It's harmless enough. I just don't get why Fox's character, so intent on making it on his own steam, decides to pretend to be someone he's not. The director, Herbert Ross, had a huge hit with Footloose three years before.
Some Bad Ones
More of a Terminator ripoff or more of a RoboCop ripoff? On the one hand you've got the rogue A.I., the gun-wielding murder robot and the Sarah Connor-type damsel in distress, on the other hand you've got the questionable lab developing the questionable means of law enforcement for questionable corporate reasons. Part of me wants to place this in the "So Bad It's Good" category, but the characters all talk too much, and the scientific explanations are relentlessly nonsensical. I had a tough time sitting through it.
TV movie about time travel. William Devane stars as a historian who crosses paths with people from the future, with Klaus Kinski as the bad guy and Lauren Hutton as some kind of "time policewoman" out to stop him. It's easier to sit through than R.O.T.O.R. above, but less memorably bad. This was one of Kinski's last movies before his death in 1991.
Not-So-Fun Fact: Kinski was a bonafide Nazi. He served in the Wehrmacht during WWII.
NOT the Sean Penn movie. This one's about a plague-ridden future wherein mankind is divided into those whose days are numbered and those whose days aren't. Between the two groups are the "Zero Men," a small, non-contagious subsection of the populace who will die within a set time.
Sounds a little like 2020, doesn't it? Perhaps adding to the sense of deja vu is the fact that Jeffrey Combs' character is named Chaz. The script was rock solid, it's just too bad the production values were so low. With a bigger budget, and in the hands of the right director, this could've been a hit along the lines of The Running Man. As it is the Verhoeven-style news inserts are both amusing and at times prophetic.
So Bad It's Good
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Totally forgot Laurence Fishburne was in this. I remembered he was in Quicksilver around the same time, but this movie was a surprise. I believe I saw this in the theater when it came out, but Fishburne's role had vanished from my memory.
Fishburne aside, Heather Langenkamp is/was a terrible actress. This fact becomes more obvious in her scenes with Patricia Arquette. Scream queen she might have been, but Oscar nominee was never in the cards for her.
To top it all off, the second half of this move is damn silly. Dream warriors? They all dream, but they don't put up much of a fight. They fool around with their powers for a bit, but they're never much of a threat to Freddy.
2. Over the Top
It's big, it's glossy, it's loud, but at the end of the day it's still just a movie about arm wrestling. And doesn't Robert Loggia's Evil Grandpa have the best interests of his grandson at heart? I mean, giving your grandson over to a guy who spends his days trucking and betting on arm wrestling bouts doesn't sound like the best idea ever.