Saturday, August 13, 2011

Superman III (1983)

The most-hated poster of 1983.

Enough time has gone by to give Superman III its rightful due. Once a pariah among super hero films [and really, it had unfair competition against Superman:  The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1980)] it's no longer at the bottom of the genre.

No, that's a spot reserved for Batman & Robin (1997), Catwoman (2004) and this film's successor, Superman IV:  The Quest for Peace (1987) — which even Christopher Reeve distanced from. (Nuclear Man, anyone? I didn't think so.)

Of course Superman III is far from being anyone's desert island must, but if you're in the mood for a fun, nostalgic taste of the 80s, this fits the bill more nicely than you might expect. Plus, it features an evil Superman sitting in a bar, drunk, breaking bottles by flicking nuts at them with superhuman strength.

Uneven? For sure. It was, after all, the movie that paired The Man of Steel with Richard Pryor. Margot Kidder looks like she can't get off the set fast enough, and when you see Robert Vaughn, you can't help but think, "Hello, Obvious Last Minute Gene Hackman Replacement."

But for those who criticized director Richard Lester's campy take, don't forget that he's responsible for directing the most entertaining action sequence from any Superman film — at least up until the plane rescue sequence from Superman Returns (2006).

I'm referring to the junkyard battle of Good Superman vs. Evil Superman. As it turns out, it's a psychological battle inside the hero's head, but this somehow makes him even more heroic when it's all over.

I love this part of the movie, and occasionally put in the DVD just to find it in the chapter index. It shows that Christopher Reeve was ideal for this role, and understood the character perfectly. The man is definitely missed.

The battle begins.

Bully Superman = Comedy. "Come ON!"

Iconic Clark. An inspiration for comic artist John Byrne?

Still drunk . In agony . Ripped off at Oscar® time .
"You always wanted to fly, Kent. Now's your chance!"
Free at last.
Not so fast.

He's back.

Anyone else wonder why they went with the darker colored Evil Superman costume when designing the look for Superman Returns? It appears the next version of Superman in 2013 is following suit. Still, I'm holding out hope for that one.
 Meanwhile, give Superman III another chance. Nuclear Man is nowhere to be found.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)

The success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes has put apes on my mind. Actually, reading Tarzan of the Apes while on vacation put apes on my mind. Then I decided to revisit an 80s movie favorite, Greystoke:  The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, while also finally checking out the Disney version of Tarzan (1999). All told, that's a bunch of apes!

I know this introduces a lot of questions for you. So I'll try to address them.

How does Greystoke hold up since last seeing it when you were 13 years old?

Pretty well. The acting is solid. Pre-Highlander (1986) Christopher Lambert is fun. And I had forgotten how beautifully photographed it was. 

It does a nice job of adapting the first part of the book, and then takes considerable license to focus heavily on themes I imagine many readers wish Edgar Rice Burroughs would've tackled — Tarzan's birthright and struggle with his humanity. A great idea for a movie. Still, I think it might've been more interesting if Tarzan had become as fully human as he did in the book. He stays more ape-like in the film.

Man, you're sure talking about that book a lot. Isn't this supposed to be about 80s movies? 


Is this movie fit for watching with my kids? For example, if I have a pre-teen daughter or a son who's almost 8? And what about my wife?

PG could get pretty racy back in the 80s, but this is safe. For your daughter, there are some early jungle scenes featuring the backside of a non-loinclothed Tarzan that you might feel more comfortable fast-forwarding through. And your son might get bored after watching the Disney version. Especially when the action is shifted to Europe. 

As far as your wife goes, she might wonder what this new Tarzan infatuation is all about, but then patiently sit through it hoping for some touching romance between Christopher Lambert and Andie MacDowell.

Is there any?

Not as much as I would've thought. Again, they kept him fairly ape-like, and that can only go so far.

How about some random trivia?

Okay, did you know that Andie MacDowell's voice was dubbed in post-production by Glenn Close, because Andie's southern accent wasn't considered appropriate for the character? You did? Man, don't you know that had to have hacked her off?

Did you further know that Glenn Close performed the voice of Kala, Tarzan's ape mother, in the Disney version? The lady is Tarzan-CRAZY.

Okay, you're dying to talk about the book some more. What else do you want to mention?

The book is a lot different, and by the end, features a very civilized Tarzan tracking down Jane back in the states, after meeting her in Africa. (In the movie, she's never even in Africa.) The first paragraph of the final chapter amused me:

At the sight of Jane, cries of relief and delight broke from every lip, and as Tarzan's car stopped beside the other, Professor Porter caught his daughter in his arms.

Hee hee. "Tarzan's car." I didn't know those words had ever been used together. It just struck me funny. And what a great band name. I'd go see Tarzan's Car play. Especially if they opened for Foo Fighters.

Anything else?

Yes. After Greystoke, I defy you to not want to go up to someone and do the sad "Ooo Ooo" sound, while putting their hand on top of your head to see if they're alive.