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.

Film Review: Slaughter High (1985)

Also known as: April Fool’s Day (working title), The Last Laugh (alternative title)
Release Date: May 10th, 1985 (Cannes)
Directed by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Written by: Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Simon Scudamore, Caroline Munro, Carmine Iannaconne, Gary Martin, Billy Hartman, Michael Saffran, Donna Yeager, Josephine Scandi, John Segal, Kelly Baker, Sally Cross

Spectacular Trading International, Vestron PIctures, 90 Minutes, 91 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“We’ll take my car. It starts every time.” – Carol

The film’s tagline on its original poster boasts “From the makers of Friday the 13th” but honestly, I don’t know what the fuck the marketing department was talking about because the three writers/directors and the two producers don’t have that film listed under their credits.

One of the producers was known for working in exploitation films and porn, so maybe he was just using one of those old school tricks like flat out lying to get his film in theaters and then hoping he could sweep it under the rug if the big wigs at Paramount Pictures ever found out.

Whatever. This film came and went like the passing of the wind and nearly no one noticed it. I guess it developed a bit of a cult following over the years but having now seen it, I have no idea why. It’s absolute shit. And I don’t say that lightly, as the love of my life, Caroline Munro, is in this thing.

Granted, I’m not sure why Caroline Munro is playing a high school student when she was thirty-five at the time of filming. Still, she’s always been damn beautiful and I’m not going to nitpick about her being in a movie… ever.

Other than Munro, the film is a complete dud. It’s your standard slasher plot about a kid getting bullied, a prank gone wrong and then he puts on a mask and starts chopping up thirty year-old teens.

While I generally like slasher movies, even bad ones, this is just on another level of sucktitude. The story takes too long to get going, once it does, it’s just dull and pretty uneventful until the home stretch.

It’s also wrecked by one of the worst film scores that I’ve ever heard. Strangely, the score is done by Harry Manfredini, who made the iconic Jason Voorhees theme for the Friday the 13th films. Hey! Maybe he’s the “maker” of Friday the 13th that the poster touts.

Slaughter High is a waste of time. Sure, you could stare in awe at the natural beauty of Caroline Munro but you could also appreciate her in far better films than this one.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other really shitty slasher movies.

Film Review: Porky’s Revenge! (1985)

Also known as: Porky’s 3: Revenge (working title)
Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Directed by: James Komack
Written by: Ziggy Steinberg
Based on: characters by Bob Clark
Music by: Dave Edmunds
Cast: Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Tony Ganios, Mark Herrier, Kaki Hunter, Scott Colomby, Nancy Parsons, Chuck Mitchell

Melvin Simon Productions, Astral Bellevue Pathé, SLM Production Group, 20th Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Miss Balbricker, with all due respect. That’s your opinion.” – Billy, “They all had boners!” – Beulah Balbricker, “Mr. Carter, I will not stand here and be accused of having a boner!” – Wendy Williams

For most people, this is probably the worst Porky’s movie out of the original trilogy. For me, I like it a bit more than the second one, which just chugged along on the fumes of the first movie while forcing in some drama class plot that wasn’t all that interesting. Although, I did love seeing the KKK get made asses out of in that movie.

This one just seems a bit fresher. Sure, it’s also chugging along on fumes but it just works better for me, as it finds its center again and that center is the series’ greatest villain: Porky himself.

Also, the ensemble cast just seems better in this movie. Their chemistry has evolved naturally, they seem like legit chums in real life and it transcends the film. I don’t know if they all legitimately liked each other in real life but it feels as if they did by this film and not like they’re just playing generic characters and tropes in a run of the mill teen sex comedy.

The movie is also a nice, organic ending to the film series, as it sees the characters graduate high school, leaving behind this part of their lives to venture off into the unknown future where everyone’s paths will most likely diverge.

This is still the same type of film that we got with the previous two but it weirdly feels like a proper sendoff and tribute to these characters who I didn’t feel any sort of emotional attachment to until this movie.

Granted, it also doesn’t leave me wanting more, it’s just interesting and kind of neat that it wrapped up the series in a way that made me see it as something more than just a pointless sex joke that ran on for too long.

Porky’s Revenge isn’t a great film and none of them are, really. However, it’s a fitting end to a series that was just about coming of age raunchiness. And honestly, it’s actually better than I expected it to be.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Porky’s movies, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.

Film Review: Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Release Date: November 27th, 1985
Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc
Written by: David Newman, Leslie Newman
Music by: Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse
Cast: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston, Judy Cornwell, Burgess Meredith, Carrie Kei Heim, Christian Fitzpatrick, Jeffrey Kramer, Christopher Ryan

Calash Corporation, GGG, Major Studio Partners, TriStar Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Now, all those within the sound of my voice, and all those on this Earth everywhere know that henceforth you will be called Santa Claus.” – Ancient Elf

I actually wrote about this movie in an old article titled How Dudley Moore Ruined My Childhood – A Christmas Story. In that article I outlined the plot of this movie from memory but I was kind of off, as I hadn’t seen the film since 1985.

Anyway, seeing this now, it’s a much better movie than I remembered and I kind of enjoyed it in spite of my complaints in the previous article and how it destroyed Santa Claus for my seven year-old brain.

This is a movie with really odd pacing and plot structure where the first act seems like it takes up the first full hour of this 107 minute movie. But I do really like the first act, which shows the fantastical origin of Santa Claus. It’s so well shot and orchestrated that the picture feels otherworldly but incredibly magical and soothing.

David Huddleston was perfectly cast as Santa and his wife and the elves were also great, especially Dudley Moore and Burgess Meredith. We also get to see Christopher Ryan in a small role as an elf, which I thought was really cool. He’s best known, at least to me, as Mike from The Young Ones and as different Sontaran commanders from Doctor Who.

After the first hour or so, we are introduced to the film’s villain B.Z., played by the great John Lithgow. As a kid, I always loved this character and sort of saw him as the Lex Luthor of Christmas. I guess I remembered his role and his presence in the film being bigger than it actually was but that’s probably because Lithgow was so solid that it left a big impression on me.

There are also two little kids in the movie but they’re kind of annoying and overly happy all the time. But I guess you need kids in a Santa movie and they’re supposed to be the narrative stand-ins for the kids in the audience, imagining themselves hanging out with Santa and the elves.

The film looks really dated though and I remember thinking that it looked older than a 1985 movie in 1985. Also, the special effects aren’t great but the matte painting work and sets kind of make up for that.

The story isn’t great either but trying to see it through the eyes of a kid, it’s fine.

In the end, this is a weird but comforting movie. I feel like it’s been lost to time and mostly forgotten but I still think that people would like it if they gave it a chance.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other family Christmas classics.

Film Review: Into the Night (1985)

Release Date: February 22nd, 1985
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Ron Koslow
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Farnsworth, Irene Papas, Kathryn Harrold, Dan Aykroyd, Bruce McGill, David Bowie, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Art Evans, John Hostetter, Jack Arnold, Rick Baker, Paul Bartel, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Demme, Amy Heckerling, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Mazursky, Carl Perkins, Dedee Pfeiffer, Don Siegel, Jake Steinfeld, Roger Vadim

Universal Pictures, 115 Minutes

Review:

“[to Diana] I need you to appease Shaheen. She will demand blood; yours will do.” – Monsieur Melville

After recently watching Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, I couldn’t help but want to revisit a similar film from the same year by John Landis.

However, after revisiting this, it’s not all that similar other than it’s a “yuppie in peril” story. Also, the girl makes it to the end of this film and it’s more of an actual love story while also being more lighthearted and action heavy. The two films certainly have some parallels but this one is more accessible and probably more fun for most filmgoers.

Personally, I don’t like this as much as After Hours but it’s still a movie that I enjoy quite a bit.

It’s hard not to enjoy a film with Jeff Goldblum and Michele Pfeiffer as its stars, though. Both of them are great in this and I liked their chemistry and kind of wished they were paired up in more movies.

Beyond the two leads, we have a film full of lots of great talent, as well as more than a dozen cameos with other filmmakers and behind the camera legends in small, bit parts. Hell, even this film’s director, John Landis, plays a roll throughout the film as one of the four thugs in pursuit of the main characters.

I really liked David Bowie in this, though. He steals the scenes he’s in and it made me wish that his role was bigger.

The story sees a man, after catching his wife cheating, stumble upon a woman running away from some dudes with guns in an airport parking garage. They speed off together and we’re sent on an action adventure romp through Los Angeles, as they try to figure out how to get her out of trouble and survive all the trouble that’s coming for them.

There are so many great characters in this and every sequence in the film is pretty damn memorable because of that.

It’s strange to me that this isn’t considered one of Landis’ top films but it was also the first film of his to come out after the tragedy that happened on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. I think that because of that, this wasn’t promoted as well as it should have been and the public already had a bad taste in their mouths and probably, rightfully so.

However, looking at this as its own thing, separate from the grim reality of an unrelated picture, this is a solid comedy that did just about everything right.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: After Hours and other “yuppie in peril” movies.

Film Review: After Hours (1985)

Also known as: Lies (script title), A Night In Soho (working title)
Release Date: September 11th, 1985 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Joseph Minion, Joe Frank
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Thomas Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Catherine O’Hara, Dick Miller, Will Patton, Bronson Pinchot, Martin Scorsese (cameo)

Double Play, The Geffen Company, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, come on, let’s go find my statue, man. It’s got to be around here someplace. That makes me sick. You know, that statue is the first thing in my life that I ever bought! See what happens when you pay for stuff! Somebody rips it off.” – Neil

How have I never seen this film until now?

While this has been in my queue for quite awhile, I only really heard about it a few years ago. And honestly, that’s kind of unfortunate, as after seeing it, it’s now become one of my all-time favorite Martin Scorsese films.

I think it was forgotten due to it being a straight up comedy, as opposed to his more popular crime films, many of which have received a sort of legendary status as the years have rolled on. However, in its own way, After Hours is just as great and deserves more recognition than it receives.

To start, I’ve always really liked Griffin Dunne since first seeing him as a kid in John Landis’ ’80s horror classic, An American Werewolf In London. Apart from that film, I’ve liked him in everything I’ve seen him in, as he has real charisma and he’s just really damn likable. Taking him and throwing him into this “yuppie in peril” comedy story, just enhances the film greatly in a way that would’ve been hard to achieve with just about anyone else. Dunne is simply perfect as this character.

This is also a big ensemble piece, as the story has so many great characters that weave in and out. It’s well cast from top-to-bottom, however, and there really isn’t anyone that doesn’t pull their weight and give something great to the film.

The story is about Dunne’s Paul, who meets a girl, goes off to see her in Soho and ends up having a series of mishaps that balloon out of control to the point that they would make Larry David jealous. The film slowly escalates but it does so really well, as you eventually get to a point where things are completely bonkers. However, within the rules of this film, which evolve with the story, everything works well and there’s a real magical, charming quality about the movie.

I could see where the finale might be a bit much but I thought it was perfect and brought everything full circle in a rather poetic way.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot as this is probably best enjoyed not knowing much about the details. In fact, even though I always post a trailer at the end of my reviews, if you’ve never seen this, I’d skip the trailer and go into this film completely blind, as I did.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other “yuppie in peril” movies, specifically comedies and from the ’80s.

Film Review: Malibu Express (1985)

Release Date: March, 1985
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Henry Strzelecki
Cast: Darby Hinton, Sybil Danning, Lynda Wiesmeier, Lori Sutton, Art Metrano, Shelley Taylor Morgan, Regis Philbin, Joy Philbin

Andy Sidaris Company, Malibu Bay Films, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Did you hear that she got raped this afternoon by two homosexuals? One held her down and the other one did her hair.” – Liza Chamberlain

I’ve wanted to watch Andy Sidaris’ movies for quite awhile, especially this one and Hard Ticket to Hawaii. Luckily, I found the entire collection of his twelve films on Amazon for nine bucks. Yes, nine bucks! It’s a fucking steal! Buy it!

Well, that is unless you don’t like goofy action comedies with Playboy Playmates, cool dudes with guns and fast cars, as well as crime stories littered with bumbling, idiot criminals.

These films also feature stunts, lots of vehicles and budgets so low that over-the-top special effects have to be crafted out of chicken shit and dirt.

Malibu Express may be the biggest budget film of the lot (adjusted for inflation) and it doesn’t fall victim to as minuscule of a budget as the other films that came later but it’s definitely not “big budget” and had to cut corners and trim unnecessary fat.

Sidaris and his crew still did the best with what they had and the look of the production is more akin to a moderately budgeted action TV series of the ’80s, as opposed to looking like something made for less than the cost of a small house in the Hollywood Hills.

I love the lead, Darby Hinton. I also love all the beautiful women that are often times devoid of clothes. Plus, this has Art Metrano in it. I only really know him as Mauser from the Police Academy movies but I’ve loved that guy my entire life. Add in Sybil Danning and this is a solid mix of fun talent in a fun movie that’s amusing and high octane.

Sure, this is low brow schlock that got shoved into drive-in theaters and budget movie houses but it’s also what I would call an ’80s VHS classic. And frankly, that makes this the type of action comedy I tend to love.

I can’t say that I was impressed by Malibu Express but I can say that it didn’t disappoint me or leave me with buyer’s remorse. It’s pretty much exactly what I thought it would be.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other eleven films in Andy Sidaris’ Triple B Series, as well as the American films of Iranian director Amir Shervan.

Film Review: Summer Rental (1985)

Release Date: August 9th, 1985
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Mark Reisman, Jeremy Stevens
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: John Candy, Karen Austin, Kerri Green, Joey Lawrence, Rip Torn, Richard Crenna, John Larroquette, Richard Herd, Lois Hamilton

St. Petersburg Clearwater Film Commission, Paramount Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I love you Scully. That’s not the booze talkin’ either.” – Jack Chester

This was one of those movies I used to watch a lot as a kid. I hadn’t seen it in years though but after recently revisiting The Great Outdoors, I wanted to give this similar movie some love.

Sadly, it’s nowhere near as good as I remembered it being. But that’s not to say that it isn’t amusing and funny. It is, but that’s mainly due to how charming and lovable John Candy is regardless of the quality of the production he finds himself in.

The story follows a guy who is forced to take a vacation so he packs up the family and heads to Florida for the summer. Once there, a series of mishaps happen and the vacation is turned into a bit of a nightmare but ultimately, he has to come to look at the silver lining and reconnect with those he loves most while also challenging himself in a new way in an effort to succeed at something important to him.

This is a lighthearted positive film and it feels like a relic because there are few movies like this anymore, which is kind of sad. But even with all the shit that is thrown at John Candy’s Jack Chester, he tends to find a way to get over it and be optimistic.

Apart from Candy, I really liked Rip Torn as his buddy that teaches him how to sail and helps inspire him to win a sailing race against the town’s rich asshole.

That asshole is played by Richard Crenna, who I also liked a lot in this, as he isn’t playing his typical tough guy role but is instead playing a pompous old yuppie that gets to ham it up and have fun. In fact, he and Candy made such good rivals in this, I’m surprised Crenna didn’t get more similar roles following this film. But then again, this just did okay in theaters and was critically panned at the time.

Summer Rental isn’t the best John Candy movie, by any means, but it still showcases the guy’s magnetic charm and it makes you want to root for him and his family.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other vacation comedies of the ’80s, most notably The Great Outdoors, also with John Candy.

Film Review: Cat’s Eye (1985)

Also known as: Quitters, Inc., The Ledge, General (segment titles)
Release Date: April 12th, 1985
Directed by: Lewis Teague
Written by: Stephen King
Based on: stories by Stephen King
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Kenneth McMillan, Robert Hays, Candy Clark, James Naughton, James Rebhorn, Charles S. Dutton, Mike Starr

Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, International Film Corporation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes

Review:

“[to Junk] Forget the cat, you hemorrhoid! Get the gun!” – Dr. Vinny Donatti

My feelings on anthology horror movies has been made pretty clear on previous reviews. However, I really, really like the third and final story in this movie and it saves it from being a real dud.

The first story is interesting but in no way realistic. It’s entertaining to watch, though, simply because James Woods is so damn good in it and he commits to the bit with reckless abandon.

In this story, we see a man go to Quitters, Inc. in an effort to quit smoking. The organization’s methods, however, are extremely fucked up and life altering. It’s a cool idea but it wasn’t very well thought out before execution. Granted, that could also be due to the segment really only having about a half hour to tell its story.

The second segment is like a dam in the river and it almost kills the movie. I guess it works watching it for the first time but there isn’t much to make you want to revisit it. In fact, I only sat through it to re-familiarize myself with it for this review.

It’s about a rich mafioso type in Atlantic City that forces the man that’s fucking his wife to have to make a lap around his casino penthouse by shimmying along a narrow ledge. Of course, the asshole tries to knock the guy off several times. Ultimately, the tables are turned and you’re probably thankful that we can move on to another story.

The third and final tale is a really neat horror fantasy starring a young Drew Barrymore, as a girl who takes in a stray cat she names General. Now the mom isn’t too keen on the cat and keeps forcing it outside. However, there is a small goblin-like monster that sits on the girl’s chest at night and steals her breath. The cat, of course, is trying to save the girl from this tiny and clever monster.

I love this story so much that I feel like it should’ve just been its own movie. Maybe they couldn’t have stretched it out to 90 minutes but it’s still really cool and it leaves you wanting more. Honestly, it reminded me of the really great episodes from the TV show Amazing Stories.

In the end, this film is okay. It’s really held back by the second segment but it is then gloriously saved by the great finale.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s horror anthology movies, as well as films based on the work of Stephen King.