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1984 Movie Reviews – Against All Odds, Harry & Son, Repo Man, and This is Spinal Tap

by Sean P. Aune | March 2, 2024March 2, 2024 10:30 am EST

Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1984 was an exciting year for films giving us a lot of films that would go on to be beloved favorites and cult classics. It was also the start to a major shift in cultural and societal norms, and some of those still reverberate to this day.


We’re going to pick and choose which movies we hit, but right now the list stands at nearly four dozen.

Yes, we’re insane, but 1984 was that great of a year for film.

The articles will come out – in most cases – on the same day the films hit theaters in 1984 so that it is their true 40th anniversary. All films are also watched again for the purposes of these reviews and are not being done from memory. In some cases, it truly will be the first time we’ve seen them.

This time around it’s March 2, 1984, and we’re off to see Against All Odds, Harry & Son, Repo Man, and This is Spinal Tap.

Against All Odds

One of the things I enjoy about this project is it allows me to go back and watch films I had always heard about, but I was too young at the time to see. Then, by the time I was old enough, there was too many other things for me to watch. I remember the ads for this one, and, of course the song, and somehow I think all of that fooled me into thinking this would actually be good.

It’s not.

Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges) is released from his pro football team and immediately takes some work from bookie Jake Wise (James Woods) to find his missing girlfriend, Jessie Wyler (Rachel Ward). Because, as you know, injured football players make excellent private detectives.

After wandering around Latin America for a while, he finally finds her, they fall for each other and make plans to just live out their days together. When Hank Sully (Alex Karras), Terry’s former trainer at the football team shows up, it’s time to launch an entirely separate movie about Los Angeles corruption somehow.

Against All Odds is a stylish, well-acted film that finds itself insufferably bogged down by too much plot. There is a really good movie hidden in here that is just constantly suffering from just too much going on. If they had just kept it to a love triangle, it probably would have worked, but adding in the corruption angle in the last third of the film just muddied the film too much to make it even a passing recommendation.

Harry & Son

Another joy of this project is movies I know nothing about, especially when they star an actor I love, like Paul Newman.

Harry Keach (Newman) is a hard-working construction worker who suddenly finds himself facing health issues. When he is finally suspended from his job due to blurred vision, he starts putting pressure on his dreamer of a son, Howard (Robby Benson) to stop living in what he considers to be a fantasy world.

There is really no new ground broken here as it’s your typical ‘father-can’t-relate-to-his-son’ story. There is an added twist of Howard falling for Katie (Ellen Barkin), who happens to be pregnant by someone else.  And just as everything seems to be going right for once, tragedy strikes.

It’s a fine slice-of-life movie with one glaring issue… Benson’s acting. His delivery is so off-the-mark that every scene he is in borders on painful. It’s as if he decided to play Howard as having mental issues, but there is zero evidence of that issue in the script. It’s honestly really bad acting that I wish I could say I didn’t have to sit through.

As Newman movies go, it’s fine, but it’s not one of his stronger entries in his resume. Come for him and Barkin, try to ignore Benson.


Repo Man Review

(This review was originally published in 2019 when I first got this idea for the project. I watched the film again in 2024, and portions of the review have been updated.)

Repo Man is one of those films from the 1980s that decided taking potshots at consumerism was all the rage. And in this film, it somewhat works. While other films swung for the fences by suggesting people had too much money, Repo Man pulls it back so subtly that at one point, Otto (Emilio Estevez) is eating out of a can simply labeled “Food.” Somehow the concept that the simple act of purchasing food, something we all need, is an act of consumerism is impactful.

Oh yeah, the movie also has something to do with aliens, time travel, and government conspiracies.

To say Repo Man is all over the place would be an understatement. And in some ways, just like so many films of the 1980s took jabs at our mass consumerism of the time, that was a hallmark of the films of this decade. You could take risks and break out of the molds, and that is a common trend we’ll see throughout this series of films of 1984, just not really caring what people thought of them. Sure, they all wanted to make money, but if they could have some fun along the way and upset the status quo, they were going to do it.

It’s a fun movie, and it ranks up there on the cult classics list of films, but we certainly wouldn’t say you should expect it to change your life. If it comes down to this film or something such as our next film, This is Spinal Tap, then go with Spinal Tap. But if you’ve seen everything else, you definitely should check it out. This was my third viewing, and I like it more each time I watch it as the quirkiness of this world grows on you. And don’t forget about the special right now on four-packs of ‘drink.’

This is Spinal Tap

(This review was originally published in 2019 when I first got this idea for the project. I watched the film again in 2024, and portions of the review have been updated.)

This may be one of the hardest “I will watch this with fresh eyes” reviews of this entire project as I’ve seen this film so many times.

While This is Spinal Tap didn’t create the mockumentary film genre, it is probably the film most closely associated with it. It is the example that pops into anyone’s head when you mention the style, and that puts any film a rarified air.

Set in 1982, Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiver) sets out to document the first U.S. tour by British rock band Spinal Tap in years. He follows the trials and tribulations of David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) as they fumble their way through life. From not being able to handle directions to being completely perplexed by cocktail bread, the boys in the band are lucky they haven’t somehow met their demise yet.

While there is a through story of the film about the release of the band’s latest album and how the tour is not enjoying the success of previous ones, there is also a feeling somewhat of sketch comedy. That isn’t to suggest the scenes are weaker or less funny, but there are one or two – most notably “these go to 11” – that feel like they are a slightly different tone. This is something that I think was smoothed out some over the years, but it is worth noting.

This is a film that if you haven’t seen it, there is just really no excuse not to. It has become so deeply ingrained in the zeitgeist of the world, that you probably hear a reference to it at least one day. As someone who has worked more trade shows and conventions then I care to count, I can’t even hazard a guess how many times I’ve yelled, “Hello Cleveland!” while walking through the docking bays of facilities.

The 1980s were a strong time for comedies, and this was one of the best. It was even selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. That shouldn’t really sway your choice in viewing this film, but every little bit helps.

1984 Movie Reviews will return on March 9, 2024 with Children of the Corn, The Hotel New Hampshire, Mike’s Murder, and Splash!


Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing