Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan


Children of the millennium must think of the Disney cartoon when they think of Tarzan. It is a character that has been somewhat dormant for the last fifty years. Every once in a while, a project creeps back into the world but just as quickly disappears. It may be that since the Second World War, Africa doesn’t seem as remote or as unexplored as it once was. I used the term “Elephant’s Graveyard” in class one day, and even the kids who know “The Lion King” seemed mystified as to what I was talking about. As a kid in the sixties, I grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Weismuller, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney  and Mike Henry. There were more Tarzan movies than there were James Bond films. So after more than a decade in retirement as a character on the big screen, I was especially excited to see that Tarzan would be coming back in 1984, which was for me, the most anticipated movie of that year (Yep, even more than Indiana Jones). Having read most of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, I was especially interested in this version because it promised to hold true to the story as I’d seen in in my minds eye.

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Romancing the Stone

Four of the top ten box office hits of 1984 opened in the winter or very early spring of that year. That should give you a pretty good idea of how the marketing and release of films has changed. Last year only one film in the top ten opened in March and it just made it in as the number ten film on the list. If you were interested, in 1984, there were good movies opening almost every week. “Romancing the Stone” represents one of those early in the year releases that managed to make an impression and it ran most of the way through the first half of summer.


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Racing With the Moon




[I recommended this film on the Forgotten Film Podcast when I was a guest. It looks like Todd never got any coverage for it in the blogathon, so I am offering it to you to fill in that gap. Be sure to visit as many of the Bloggers participating in the Blogathon as you can, they are doing a great job covering 1984]


Once upon a time, movies were made about adult subjects and were serious about how they told their stories. While the stories were not always great, the actors and directors and the whole crew seemed to take the notion seriously, as if they were doing a play that would run forever on the screen. These stories featured everyday people dealing with unusual or slightly odd situations rather than end of the world scenarios and villains with superpowers. The term “middle of the road drama” would probably be appropriate to describe those films. Maybe in the indie world you still see these occasionally, but mostly they have been banished to cable movie hell. Today’s film fits this category completely.

racing_with_the_moon_ver1The film was written by Steve Kloves, who is best known for writing every Harry Potter movie except “Order of the Phoenix”. He has a real feel for the characters in the movie. All of them could have been a cliche but they have enough to say and emotions so real that they transcend what might have been mundane and it is more lifelike than you might have hoped. Continue reading

Police Academy

Basically a remake of “Stripes” with the police in the place of the Army and Steve Guttenberg in the role of Bill Murray. It was a huge success and returned a giant profit on the amount of money they spent to make it. It was the number six film of the year, coming in ahead of both “Splash” and “Footloose”. It was followed up by six sequels and a television series, so clearly there was a market for the sort of humor the movie is based on.

police_academyThe movie takes advantage of the cast and their talents to get a good amount of laughter out of silly situations and convoluted set ups. The fact that it works most of the time speaks more to the audiences desire to laugh than it does the creativity of the script. There is not a lot to be said about the story but some of the bits are worth mentioning as they are entertaining.

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The romantic comedy is a much maligned genre. Too often the connect the dots storyline is a repeat of a dozen similar films that came out in the last couple of years. Every once in a while though, a rom-com has a hook and a star or two that make them irresistible. Today’s feature is one of those that cuts through the corn and gets right to the heart. It also features a fantasy theme that is in keeping with a lot of the films on my list from this glorious year of movies.

splash_ver1Three great starring roles, two really attractive people and a fish story that beats any tail (tale) your uncle ever told you about the one that got away. “Splash” is the perfect remedy for a dreary day or the answer to that question your wife asks when she is in a romantic mood, “What should we watch?”

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The Hotel New Hampshire

Sometimes memory is cruel to us. We hold onto faults and disappointments rather than the minor little victories and joys that we experience all the time and let slip by. “The Hotel New Hampshire” is one of those brutal memories for me. The film was based on one of my favorite books and it starred a good  cast headed by Jodie Foster. My reaction to it at the time was weak and over the years has gotten more antagonistic. The return to the movie for this project was not expected to be a happy one. Imagine my surprise that instead of a malignant tumor of a film, I found a flawed but mostly sincere interpretation of the book that I love.

hotel_new_hampshire_ver1If you have read any of John Irving’s novels, you know that they are full of prostitutes, wrestling, bears and frequently Vienna. The characters are oddballs and have major sexual hangups of some sort or other. In spite of how off putting some of the characteristics are, Irving usually manages to get us to care for them before he tortures us with their fates. A John Irving story is not going to end on a happy note, although there will be happy moments along the way.

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This is Spinal Tap

During the course of this project, I will be posting on all the movies that were nominated for the Oscar for Best Song from a motion picture. Two of them were from “Footloose” a couple of weeks ago, one is from this weeks “Against All Odds”. None of them should have even been on the list of nominated songs in the first place. All five slots that year should have been filled by:

Big Bottom



Rock and Roll Creation

Sex Farm

The great catalog of songs from the band Spinal Tap, featured in this documentary of their career. “Big Bottom” many be the most genius musical parody ever created, including the collected works of Weird Al.

this_is_spinal_tapI remember reading a story in the L.A. Times in 1984, in which director Rob Reiner complained that people did not understand the movie because the band featured in the documentary was not that good. Supposedly there were a whole group of people in some of the preview audiences who did not get the joke. I don’t know if the story was true or not, but it is believable in part because everyone in this film played it straight and put in the effort to make it look like this was the real deal. The rest of us just laughed and have been doing so for the thirty years since. Continue reading

Against All Odds

A successful L.A. mystery/romance that features two incredibly beautiful people in a mixed up love triangle. “Against All Odds” is probably best remembered for the title song than the lush Mexican scenery from the first hour or the typical real estate driven plot in the second.  It comes from a time when L.A. had three professional football teams playing and the Go Go Eighties were in full swing. against_all_odds

My wife and I saw this opening night on a Friday in 1984, the next day some friends of ours wanted to see it so I returned with them and my wife stayed home. It was after the group of us got back to our apartment that my wife told me she had received a phone call while we were gone and it concerned a friend of mine. He had been murdered and his body was just recovered weeks after the crime. My friend had been involved in some shady business and his partners basically took him for a ride. This movie had so much of that L.A. crime world aura around it, and there is a scene towards the end where one of the characters has basically been told he will not be returning from the car ride that everyone is making. I can never watch this film without thinking of my friend and the wrong turn he took in his life. One of the reasons that it still resonates is that the movie perfectly captures so much about the L.A. scene at the time. The fashions and hairstyles are not obtrusive and the locations have changed only slightly in the thirty years since. “Against All Odds” is a neo noir that still holds up today with only a couple of reservations. Continue reading

Repo Man

The eighties were filled with offbeat movies about a variety of subjects, but science fiction seemed to fill the theaters on a weekly basis.Some big budget films failed to score as predicted and some little anticipated films have scored sequels right up through today. About four years ago, there was a Jude Law vehicle titled Repo Men, that had absolutely nothing to do with the 1984 singular form of the title. The science fiction roots of this story are hard to ignore, but ninety percent of the movie is focused on the ethos surrounding the guys who come and take your car when the payments are behind. The sci/fi stuff exits only to provide a framework for a story about a bunch of sad sack souls, who find ways to make their profession seem noble. repo_manLow budget science fiction appears to be a field where former Monkee Mike Nesmith felt comfortable. This was the second feature he had a hand in producing for his own company. His previous venture being “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann”, a time travel western. I don’t know that he had a big influence on the creative end of this movie, because his music is not anything like the punk aural wall that permeates most of the film. The real reason that this movie is thought of fondly has nothing to do with the science fiction storyline, it is all about the aesthetic of the film. This is a movie made by angry people for angry people. In other words it is “punk perfect”.

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