Film Review: The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

Release Date: December 4th, 1985 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Lewis Teague
Written by: Mark Rosenthal, Lawrence Konner
Based on: characters by Diane Thomas
Music by: Jack Nitzsche
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Holland Taylor, Spiros Focas, Avner Eisenberg

SLM Production Group, Stone Group Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, 106 Minutes

Review:

“How much romance can one woman take?” – Joan Wilder

This very rapidly produced sequel to Romancing the Stone is better than I remembered but I also hadn’t seen it since about 1987ish.

While it’s not quite on the same level as Romancing the Stone it’s still a fun movie with enjoyable characters and exudes Indiana Jones vibes while being made in the best era for movies like that.

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are, once again, a great pairing. However, this time around, Danny DeVito is more directly involved with them and it just adds a new element that’s amusing to watch.

In this story, the two leads are now in love and traveling the world. While at a book event on the southern French coast, Turner’s Joan Wilder is recruited by a rising dictator, who she believes is a good leader, to return with him to his country and pen his biography. She leaves Douglas’ Jack Colton behind where he is lucky enough to dodge an assassination attempt. Joan quickly discovers she must write propaganda and is a prisoner that must comply with this dictator’s wishes. Jack and DeVito’s Ralph travel to the dictator’s homeland. While looking to rescue Joan, Jack finds her just as she is escaping with an ally, who is actually the MacGuffin of the story.

As an adventure comedy, this hits the right notes for the most part. There are solid action sequences and everything was pulled off wonderfully for a movie that was rushed and also had major production issues.

Kathleen Turner actually didn’t want to do the film because she didn’t like the script. Michael Douglas, who was the producer, told her it would improve with some rewrites, so she went along with it. In the end, she wasn’t happy with the final product and she isn’t wrong in seeing this as inferior to its predecessor. However, it’s still a great film to escape into for a few hours and these characters are just fun to watch.

It could also be possible that this just didn’t have the right sort of feminine touch and lacked the kind of perspective needed for Turner’s character arc. Romancing the Stone was written by a woman and had the right energy in regards to the feminine half of the film. This picture was written by two men and with that, this comes across as more action and adventure driven where the romance sort of takes a backseat other than a few small scenes.

The Jewel of the Nile was still a decent follow up but I get why it’s become a somewhat forgotten film while its predecessor is still beloved by many. I can also see why this didn’t lead to a proper sequel another year or so later. But in the end, both movies are entertaining.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Avenging Angel (1985)

Also known as: Angel II, Angel II: Avenging Angel (alternative titles)
Release Date: January 11th, 1985
Directed by: Robert Vincent O’Neil
Written by: Robert Vincent O’Neil. Joseph Michael Cala
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Betsy Russell, Rory Calhoun, Susan Tyrrell, Ossie Davis, Steven M. Porter, Robert F. Lyons, Frank Doubleday, Barry Pearl, Ross Hagen

Avenging Venture, Republic Entertainment International, New World Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Good God almighty! The little sidewinder pee’d all over me!” – Kit Carson

After watching Angel, I figured I’d give the sequels a shot but that also hindered on how much of a step down this one was. I’m glad to say that I mostly enjoyed it but it’s not really in the same ballpark as its predecessor. Still, I’ll probably watch the other two, assuming they’re streaming somewhere.

So this one does bring back some of the characters I liked in the first film while also recasting the role of Angel with Betsy Russell, who has always had my full attention. She even made those abysmally bad Saw sequels a wee bit more palatable than they otherwise would have been.

Original Angel, Donna Wilkes, didn’t come back because supposedly, she had salary demands that the producers didn’t want to meet.

I think the recasting makes sense, though, due to the movie jumping ahead four years. Although, I think the time jump also made it less controversial, as the title character was no longer fifteen years-old. Now the character was in law school and definitely made to be sexier, as she was nineteen years-old and technically legal.

Russell has a much stronger presence than the previous Angel, overall, but that’s also not a knock against Donna Wilkes. Russell just felt like she was experienced, tougher and able to handle her shit in a way that Wilkes’ fifteen year-old Angel couldn’t.

I really liked Russell in this a lot and she had good chemistry with the returning cast, specifically Susan Tyrrell and Rory Calhoun.

I also liked the rest of the crew with Yo-Yo Charlie getting a bigger role and the edition of Johnny Glitter, who is a character that honestly cracked me up. Veteran actor Ossie Davis was also a good addition to the cast.

Overall, I felt like the story was weaker. The whole thing about Angel being a minor tricking on the streets wasn’t part of the narrative and this movie loses that edge and her character no longer feels like an innocent child in a scummy, dark world.

It’s obvious that this was made just to try and replicate the surprise success of its predecessor but it’s just more of an action crime movie. The fact that there isn’t a sadistic serial killer was also a step down. This just follows Angel as she hunts down the thugs that murdered her police friend that became somewhat of a father figure to her.

In the end, the good guys win and they go on with their lives. Although, there are two more movies. Sadly, no one returns for the other films.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Vampire Hunter D (1985)

Also known as: Kyûketsuki hantâ D (original Japanese title)
Release Date: December 21st, 1985 (Japan)
Directed by: Toyoo Ashida
Written by: Yasushi Hirano
Based on: Vampire Hunter D: Volume 1 by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Music by: Tetsuya Komuro
Cast: Kaneto Shiozawa, Michie Tomizawa, Seizo Kato, Keiko Toda

Ashi Productions Co., CBS Sony Group, Epic/Sony, Toho Co. Ltd., 80 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve lived for almost ten thousand years. Believe me you have no idea what that means: boredom. Everlasting and hideous boredom. A never ending search for ways to pass the time… and mating with a human female is one of the few I enjoy. Eventually they become tiresome. For in spite of their vitality, they are fundamentally stupid creatures who couldn’t survive without the nobility to rule them. Perhaps now you’ll understand my wanting to have some fun every thousand years or so?” – Count Magnus Lee

Vampire Hunter D is one of the first “not for kids” anime films that I ever saw. My friend Carlos had it and showed it to me when I was in high school. I pretty much fell in love with it, dubbed a copy and watched it a dozen times or more over the next few years. However, I haven’t had a working VCR in at least fifteen years, so I’ve wanted to revisit it for quite some time.

Seeing this, in HD for the first time, I was pretty blown away. Man, the animation really holds up and I forgot how atmospheric this movie was from the visuals, the sound, the music and the talent of the English language dub cast.

I also forgot how many monsters and characters were in this and all of them are pretty cool and interesting in their own way. While there are small sequences in the film that kind of get in the way of the overall flow, they all still features cool creatures and villains for the hero to fight.

Other than the title character, D, I really like the primary villain, Count Magnus Lee, who was a very large, elegant looking vampire. The character was named and somewhat modeled after Christopher Lee, specifically his version of Dracula. The Count was just a damn cool, intimidating villain that you kind of like despite him simply killing and doing evil things out of boredom.

This is just a cool fucking anime film. It really takes you to a cool, unusual world and let’s be honest, here, this obviously was a major influence on the Castlevania video games, as far as aesthetics and designs go.

While there was a second Vampire Hunter D film, as well as a series, years later, this is something that deserves to be a bigger franchise than it is.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Spies Like Us (1985)

Release Date: December 6th, 1985
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Dave Thomas
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, Paul McCartney (title song)
Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Forrest, Donna Dixon, Bruce Davison, Bernie Casey, William Prince, Tom Hatten, Vanessa Angel, Frank Oz, Terry Gilliam, Ray Harryhausen, Joel Coen, Sam Raimi, Bob Hope, B.B. King, Larry Cohen

AAR Films, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“They do seem to be headed in that general direction. Maybe your dick’s not so dumb.” – Austin Millbarge, “It got me through high school.” – Emmett Fitz-Hume

When talking about the great comedy films of the ’80s, few ever mention Spies Like Us. While it stars two comedy legends in Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd, it’s sort of been lost in the shuffle with their other movies.

I had a friend’s dad who used to watch this movie constantly, when it first popped up on premium cable. While I loved it too, going over to my friend’s house almost always meant that we’d have to sit through this for the umpteenth time. I’m not sure why his dad was obsessed with this specific movie but because of that, I got burnt out on it and hadn’t watched it since, other than coming across some clips, here and there.

Watching it now, I am no longer plagued by the fatigue I once had for this film and I got to see it with somewhat fresh eyes.

Dan Aykroyd has always been a favorite of mine and honestly, I have had a new appreciation of Chevy Chase after revisiting and reviewing a lot of his movies lately. In this, he’s exceptionally good and it’s as if the movie was written specifically with him in mind.

Aykroyd is also on his A-game in this and the two men had good chemistry, which probably goes all the way back to their time on Saturday Night Live. And with that, I really wish these two would’ve worked together more often. I think all they did together after this was the abysmally bad and super weird Nothing But Trouble and Caddyshack II, where they were barely used and I’m not even sure if they shared any scenes in that one, at all.

Anyway, this sees the two legends paired together and sent into the Soviet Union as spies. What they don’t know going into their mission is that they are just sent in to create a distraction for the real spy team. However, they do end up rising to the occasion and help complete the real mission.

This was directed by John Landis, who had a real penchant for comedy, especially in the ’80s. He had directed Aykroyd a few times before this and he’d work with Chase after. But if you like Landis’ style of comedy, this fits right in with the rest of them.

Spies Like Us is just a fun, fairly mindless movie. Being that the Cold War was still seemingly going strong when this came out, it allowed people to laugh about it and also see Americans and Russians working together for a greater good.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Fletch (1985)

Release Date: May 31st, 1985
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Andrew Bergman
Based on: Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Chevy Chase, Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Richard Libertini, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Matheson, M. Emmet Walsh, George Wendt, Kenneth Mars, Geena Davis, George Wyner, Chick Heam

Vincent Pictures, Universal Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Why don’t we go lay on the bed and I’ll fill you in?” – Fletch

Because I’m not a big Chevy Chase fan, I hadn’t seen Fletch since the ’80s and even then, I don’t think I ever watched it from start-to-finish until now.

Seeing this as an adult, though, I think my mind has shifted. I actually dug this movie quite a bit and it’s made me rethink Chase and his contributions to cinematic comedy.

If I’m being honest, he was perfect in this, it truly utilized his charm and his comedic style. In fact, I’d even say that his style was enhanced by this script and the situations throughout the movie.

He wasn’t a complete self-absorbed prick like he was in most of the Vacation movies. Sure, he was definitely self-impressed with his own antics but he was actually a heroic character, trying to uncover a mysterious plot and rid the beaches of drug pushers with ties to the local cops. He also had this coolness about him that was similar to the coolness he had in Caddyshack but this even eclipsed that, as he was this film’s focal point and he wasn’t competing for laughs with Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray.

The cast is also stacked with lots of great character actors like Joe Don Baker, M. Emmet Walsh, George Wendt, George Wyner and Kenneth Mars. It also featured Tim Matheson and a very young Geena Davis. However, I really liked Dana Wheeler-Nicholson in this, as the female lead. She had good chemistry with Chase and their budding relationship was believable and nice to watch.

I also thought that the Harold Faltermeyer score was solid. I think it’s my favorite score he’s done after his work on the first two Beverly Hills Cop movies.

Fletch might be the perfect Chevy Chase film. I’m going to have to review the sequel in the next few weeks. While I think it’s safe to assume that it’s not as good as this flick, I hope it utilizes Chase’s talent as well as this did.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Also known as: Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear (original script title)
Release Date: December 4th, 1985
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by: Chris Columbus
Based on: characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Anthony Higgins, Sophie Ward, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Brian Oulton, Susan Fleetwood

Industrial Light & Magic, Amblin Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“A great detective relies on perception, intelligence, and imagination.” – Sherlock Holmes

It may sound strange since I’m a kid of the ’80s and a massive Spielberg fan from that era but I’ve never seen Young Sherlock Holmes.

Now I have seen clips of it over the years, due to its very early use of emerging CGI technology, which made this a very groundbreaking film in digital effects, even if it wasn’t a massive hit like Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus and Berry Levinson had hoped.

Honestly, it’s those effects that have cemented this motion picture as a relevant one for its time. Nothing else within it is all that memorable or significant. But that’s not to say it’s not good. It’s just be pretty forgettable without its great effects for the time in which it was produced.

I mostly liked this and I liked the kids in it and how they helped generate a sense of wonder, which is something Hollywood is completely unable to do in modern times. Still, this movie does drag in several spots and while I can buy the kids in these specific roles, they’re not that memorable except for Sophie Ward, who would go on to have an interesting career.

I liked the whole Egyptian cult that Sherlock and company were trying to expose and take down but if I’m being honest, a lot of that stuff felt like it was recycled from the Thugee cult stuff in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and that film came out only a year earlier and also involved Spielberg, as he directed it.

This also has a magical element to it and because it stars some proper British kids, there’s a particular vibe that I can best describe as proto-Harry Potter.

Young Sherlock Holmes isn’t a movie that I felt like I missed out on. As a kid, I would’ve certainly liked the effects heavy scenes like the stain glass knight but I probably would’ve been bored for 75 percent of the movie.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Brewster’s Millions (1985)

Release Date: May 22nd, 1985
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Based on: Brewster’s Millions by George Barr McCutcheon
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Richard Pryor, John Candy, Lonette McKee, Stephen Collins, Hume Cronyn, David White, Jerry Orbach, Pat Hingle, David Wohl, Tovah Feldshuh, Peter Jason, Rick Moranis

Lawrence Gordon Productions, Davis Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Universal Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Gentlemen, do you think I’m a lowlife?” – Monty Brewster, “Oh no, Mr. Brewster. Not with these clothes.” – Tailor

When I was a kid, this was my favorite Richard Pryor movie. I probably watched this dozens of times, as it was on television a lot. I also liked that it starred John Candy and that Rick Moranis pops up in it, albeit in a pretty minor role.

This was also a remake of a 1920s Fatty Arbuckle film that I’ve never seen but honestly, that’s long overdue and I should probably give that one a watch.

For being a light comedy in the opulent and fun ’80s, I thought that the story and all its details were really well-crafted.

Basically, Pryor’s Monte Brewster has inherited $300 million but in order to collect it, he has to pass a test where he has to spend $30 million. But there are all these fine details into what he can and can’t do and that’s what makes the story really good.

There are twists and turns throughout and there are also some people that try to trick him into failing at every turn because they have a very big financial interest in seeing Brewster lose his right to his inheritance.

Surprisingly, this is directed by Walter Hill. He’s directed stuff like the 48 Hrs. films, The WarriorsRed Heat and other pretty awesome classic action flicks. So a straight up comedy like this makes him an odd choice for director but he taps into the same energy he had when working with Eddie Murphy on the first 48 Hrs. and just kind of applies that to Pryor and Candy.

I think Hill’s involvement actually shows his versatility as a director while also giving this a bit more oomph while making the story work really well in spite of it being more layered than it needed to be for a simple, light-hearted ’80s comedy.

Additionally, I love Pryor in this. I think it may be his best character, as he’s just a really good guy that wants to succeed but also wants to spread that success to those around him. Frankly, it’s impossible not to root for him in this.

Brewster’s Millions is just one of those movies that will always hold a place in my heart. It’s positive, it’s meaningful and it’s a much better movie than it should have been.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Barbarian Queen (1985)

Also known as: Queen of the Naked Steel (alternative title)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Hector Olivera
Written by: Howard R. Cohen
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Lana Clarkson, Katt Shea, Frank Zagarino, Dawn Dunlap, Victor Bo, Andrea Barbieri

Rodeo Productions, Aries Cinematografica Argentina, 74 Minutes

Review:

“You are much too beautiful a girl to let yourself be broken into food for the royal dogs.” – Arrakur

This is one of those super low budget, low quality Argentinian sword and sorcery flicks from the ’80s that was trying to capitalize off of the craze. However, this isn’t one of the Roger Corman ones, so its quality is even worse.

Probably knowing that this was going to be a shit movie, the filmmakers leaned heavily into making this as sexy as possible with bringing in a whole crew of beauties that spent portions of the film wearing as little clothes as possible.

I wouldn’t quite call this full-on sexploitation, as it’s all pretty softcore stuff but being a kid in the ’80s, this was certainly a film I didn’t mind watching in an effort to appreciate the anatomy of the female form. I was an aspiring comic book artist, so stuff like this was just educational… really.

Anyway, this featured Lana Clarkson and Dawn Dunlap in it and those women had my heart when I was just a wee li’l lad.

Sadly, beyond the beautiful women, there just isn’t much here that’s worthwhile. It’s a pretty generic and paint-by-number sword and sorcery plot. Bad guy, magic shit, warriors clashing steel but strangely this was really lacking in the monster and beast department. And frankly, a lack of monsters and beasts should always be a no-no in a flick like this.

In the end, I’d call this a pointless and wretched film. However, I can’t label something as wretched when it is full of so much unrestrained beauty.

Rating: 2/10

Film Review: European Vacation (1985)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s European Vacation (complete title)
Release Date: July 26th, 1985
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Written by: John Hughes, Robert Klane
Music by: Charles Fox
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Dana Hill, Jason Lively, Victor Lanoux, Eric Idle, William Zabka, John Astin, Paul Bartel, Robbie Coltrane, Moon Unit Zappa

National Lampoon, Warner Bros., 95 Minutes

Review:

“[repeated line] God, I miss Jack!” – Audrey Griswold

I was a bit underwhelmed by the first Vacation movie after revisiting it a few weeks ago. While I wasn’t a massive fan of this film series, as I’m not really a fan of Chevy Chase, they’re still amusing enough to hold my attention and make me laugh in spots.

Now having revisited the second movie, I like this one more. I think that the European setting made it better, overall, and I this set of Griswold kids is my favorite in the series, as a tandem.

While the original seems to be the most beloved of the series, with Christmas Vacation being a very close second, this is just more interesting, as I find the culture clash stuff funnier than the family just driving through the desert, meeting their redneck kin and then riding some rollercoasters.

This also has more action and a pretty good, high energy finale for an ’80s comedy movie.

Additionally, it fleshes out the kids more and gives them their own subplots apart from just making them accessories to their parents on a road trip. In fact, the subplots with the kids I found to be more enjoyable.

All in all, I’m still not in love with this series but it’s not a bad way to kill some time on a rainy day. There are much better ’80s comedies and much better ’80s comedic leads than Chevy Chase.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.

Film Review: Cocaine Wars (1985)

Also known as: Top Mission (France), American Scorpion, Vice Wars (alternate English titles – Germany) 
Release Date: August 1st, 1985 (Argentina)
Directed by: Hector Olivera
Written by: Steven M. Krauzer, Hector Olivera, David Vinas
Music by: George Brock, Jorge Lopez Ruiz
Cast: John Schneider, Royal Dano, Federico Luppi, Rodolfo Ranni, Patti Davis

Aries Cinematografica Argentina, New Horizons, Concorde Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“[while applying the cattle prod to Cliff’s teeth] “Tell me, Cliff… where are the papers?… You have no choice because I’m going to kill you…” – General Lujan

Sadly, this movie isn’t anywhere near as badass and cool as its poster. In fact, it’s kind of a letdown, if I’m being honest.

This does star John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard, though. So had I seen this as a kid, I probably would’ve loved it.

It also features Royal Dano, a character actor I like in all of his roles.

This was one of the ten films that Roger Corman made down in Argentina. He had some sort of deal with a studio down there and they pumped out a lot of shit like this, as well as pretty bad sword and sorcery flicks at the height of their popularity.

This film sees Schneider take on generic Latin American drug traffickers backed by military might. There’s a lot of action and gun play but overall, most of this stuff is poorly shot and executed.

For action flicks like this, all you need to do is “bring it” with the action shit and the plot and flaws almost don’t matter. However, if you fail at the most important part, everything else comes off looking like shit too.

Still, I did like Schneider and Dano in this but their presence doesn’t save the film in anyway. Well, other than making this not abysmally bad.

It’s still really bad, though and it’s damn forgettable. Schneider probably could’ve evolved into a legit action star if he were given the right vehicle. Cocaine Wars certainly wasn’t that.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other C-level action films of the ’80s.