Category Archives: 1984 Movie reviews

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-1984

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-1984

Director-Steven Spielberg

Starring-Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw

Scott’s Review #759

Reviewed May 17, 2018

Grade: A

The second in the trilogy (I refuse to acknowledge the middling Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) is easily my favorite of the group. Much darker than its predecessor, Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is also better, with more flare and pizzazz.  All three (1989’s The Last Crusade added) could be watched in sequence and easily enjoyed as companion pieces for a slice of 1980’s nostalgia.

A prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the action picks up a few years prior as our hero narrowly escapes the clutches of a crime boss in Shanghai, China. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), along with sidekick’s eleven-year-old Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) and nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), embark on an adventure to retrieve a stolen sacred stone. The poor villagers have also lost their children to a lavish palace where they are forced to work as slaves.

Wisely in keeping with the continuity of the first story, director Steven Spielberg and writer George Lucas return to the fold. This enriches the experience as both men clearly are in touch with the character of Indiana Jones and do not try to change him. His familiar wittiness and charismatic nature return and the dashing hero shows more skin this time around with more than one shirtless scene. To cement the good character, Harrison Ford returns to the role he created and made famous.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is layered with positive aspects and holds special childhood memories for me. I vividly recollect going to the movie theater and excitedly watching the film on the big screen clutching a tub of buttery popcorn. For a young boy this is the best- an adventure story for the ages with thrills and edge of your seat sequences. In fact, the film is perfect for the entire family.

Many gorgeous exterior sequences abound throughout the film and a prime example of this is when the trio encounter deadly assassins on a precarious rope bridge high atop a crocodile infested murky river.  This scene is fraught with tension and “how will he ever get out of this?” thinking when dear Indie is cornered by the killers. With lightning quick thinking he severs the bridge resulting in a dangling escapade. As numerous bodies fall into the river they are chopped to bits by the hungry reptiles. The fact that the action is all shot outdoors in lush scenery only adds to the enjoyment.

The film is admittedly filled with dark and scary aspects necessitating a PG-13 rating versus a PG one. As Indie, Willie, and Short Round are held hostage in the evil palace, a dangerous sacrifice occurs. One poor man is chosen to give his life by way of being burned alive in a roaring fire. Indie is then forced to drink potion presumably suffer the same fate.  Other bloody moments occur as a bad guy meets his fate after being flattened like a pancake by a steamroller. So clearly the tone of the film is much darker than Raiders of the Lost Ark.

To offset the blood, guts, and voodoo, the film occasionally parlays into humor mostly at the expense of Willie- the comic relief of the film. Accustomed to the glamour of costumes and luxurious hotels, the singer is forced to fend for herself amid snakes, elephants and other creatures. As she hungrily sits down for what she thinks is a scrumptious dinner, she is treated to monkey brains and bulging eye balls in soup- deemed Indian delicacies.

Lost on me seeing the film as a youngster and readily apparent watching it now are glaring negative stereotypes associated with the Indian culture. As I am sure the intent was not to insult, some stereotypes do abound with the hokey cuisines and the severe poverty. The underlying image of tribal Indians as being weird or out of touch is prevalent to say nothing of the odd religious overtones.

Kate Capshaw as Willie is the complete opposite of the central female character of Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Whereas Marion is intelligent and serious, Willie is pampered, rich, and gullible. I find the camaraderie between Indie and Willie much more palpable than between Indie and Marion and the romantic overtures appealing. Who can forget the famous “bug scene” in the palace?

Conjuring up wonderful and exciting childhood memories, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) is a treasure for the eyes and the strongest entry in the bunch. If in the mood for a good, fun-filled experience with a healthy dose of Indian culture and adventurous antics with a slice of darkness this one is a must see.

Once Upon a Time in America-1984

Once Upon a Time in America-1984

Director-Sergio Leone

Starring-Robert De Niro, James Woods

Scott’s Review #218

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Reviewed January 19, 2015

Grade: A

An epic film, the extended directors cut at more than four hours in length, 1984’s Once Upon a Time in America is a film directed by Sergio Leone, who also directed the 1968 masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West and numerous other westerns starring Clint Eastwood. This particular film is in a different vein and not to be confused as any sort of sequel or related to the aforementioned film- this time Leone explores the crime drama genre rather than the western and does so in remarkable fashion.

The film tells the story of a group of Jewish friends who become involved in organized crime during the 1920’s in New York City. The main story is told via flashbacks as the central character, Noodles, played by Robert De Niro, returns to Brooklyn thirty years later to reunite with his former mobster friends. In this way the film is sectioned- the group of youngsters and kids and the same characters as adults.

Once Upon a Time in America has been met with much controversy since it was made. At the time of its release the film was butchered as over an hour of footage was cut by the studio heads making the film largely uneven. Fortunately, the restored version, at over three hours in length, is available for viewing. Furthermorethe directors cut clocks in at well over four hours and is the best version to watch. Due to so many cuts, other versions appear shoddy and out of order making the viewing experience difficult.

Once Upon a Time in America is largely underappreciated except for the die-hard cinema lovers most patient with the film, and deserves mention as an excellent crime epic drama. The film contains many similarities to The Godfather and The Godfather Part II and the role De Niro plays is not too different from Vito Corleone in Part II. However, the greatest contrast is that Once Upon a Time in America is more visually artistic than The Godfather films.

The film centers mainly on Noodles perspective as he enjoys youth in the Lower East Side of Manhattan where he meets his group of lifelong friends. The focal point is his friendship with Max, the adult character played by James Woods, and his undying love for Deborah, played by Elizabeth McGovern as an adult. As kids they are worry free, but gradually fall in with a group of older mobsters, first doing their dirty work, followed by venturing out on their own.

The themes of the film are loyalty, childhood friendship, betrayal, and greed as all of the characters change (or die) in the time span that the film takes place. When a mysterious letter forces Noodles to resurface in Brooklyn, we begin to understand the back story and the history between the friends as layers are slowly peeled back.

The film drags slightly in the middle section, but the first part and last part are very well made and absorbing. Leone has a way of pacing the film that really works- it is methodical, nuanced, with wonderful set pieces and each period of time explored- 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1960’s seem equally as authentic as the next one does. I especially enjoyed the 1920’s art direction- it revealed such a state of genuineness and felt like truly being there in that time period.

The relationship between Noodles and Deborah is an interesting one worth mentioning. Falling in love as youngsters (when Deborah was played by a very young Jennifer Connelly) they had an innocent, puppy love relationship. As adults, due to a violent, disgraceful act, their tender relationship is subsequently ruined and one might argue one of the characters turns quite unsympathetic.

Once Upon a Time in America is a sprawling epic film sure to be enjoyed by intelligent fans of the crime epic drama genre and specifically Sergio Leone fans- an under appreciated gem.

Bachelor Party-1984

Bachelor Party-1984

Director-Neal Israel

Starring-Tom Hanks, Adrian Zmed

Scott’s Review #163

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Reviewed September 1, 2014

Grade: D

Watching Bachelor Party for the very first time circa 2014, and quite certainly the last time I plan on watching this film, I realized almost immediately how dated it is and at this point in time can only be presumably enjoyed for nostalgia purposes. I can’t fathom anyone watching Bachelor Party for the first time and thinking it is a great film- it is not. If not for Tom Hanks becoming a huge star this comedy would be forgotten as there are dozens of like-minded films from the 1980’s that resemble it- think Pretty in Pink, National Lampoon films, etc.

The premise is basic- Rick (Hanks) and Debbie (Tawny Kitaen) are engaged and Rick’s friends throw a Bachelor party while Debbie goes out with the girls. Of course, Debbie’s parents hate Rick and scheme, along with her ex, to break them up. Every decade seems to have a similar carbon copy of this party themed film- Animal House, American Pie, The Hangover though not as entertaining as the aforementioned films.

All the characters are caricatures, one note, and types. There is little back story for any of them. The plot is silly, predictable, and the 1980’s look to the film does not hold up well. The film contains every stereotype imaginable- the meddlesome parents, Debbie’s vicious ex-boyfriend who is the film’s foil, various frat boys and sorority girl types, and Rick’s inept siblings. Avoid, unless a trip down 1980’s bad film memory lane is needed.

Friday the 13th: Part 4: The Final Chapter-1984

Friday the 13th: Part 4: The Final Chapter-1984

Director-Joseph Zito

Starring-Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman

Scott’s Review #125

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Reviewed July 21, 2014

Grade: B

Being the 4th chapter in the popular Friday the 13th saga, and the shameless marketing of this installment as being the final chapter, obviously a fib since the ending of the film clearly sets up another sequel, I have a soft spot for this Friday the 13th sequel, but, if I am being honest, with each viewing I realize more and more it is not nearly as good as the first three. In fact, from a storyline and technical perspective, it is a crappy movie. It now seems incredibly dated and of its time- the acting is mediocre at best. Fans of the franchise will love it, it is predictable, like eating at McDonald’s, you know exactly what you will get and that is fine- a gathering of horny, pot and beer induced teens flock to Camp Crystal Lake for a weekend of revelry. Apparently not knowing, or caring, that dozens of other teens have been slaughtered there before, they begin their partying.

For horror fans there is comfort in this film. We know the youths will be killed- we just don’t know how or when. That’s the fun and beauty of it. Will someone be decapitated? Lose a limb? Will the murder weapon be an ax or a machete? Who will be the last remaining victim? The introduction of the twins is a nice touch and a very young Crispin Glover appears. The addition of Corey Feldman to this one adds child feistiness. Otherwise, it’s pretty formulaic and not much separates it from any of the others. Fans of the Friday the 13th franchise will love this film, all others stay away.