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: Body Slam (1986)

Release Date: November 21st, 1986 (limited)
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: Shel Lytton, Steve Burkow
Music by: John D’Andrea, Michael Lloyd
Cast: Dirk Benedict, Tanya Roberts, Roddy Piper, Lou Albano, Barry Gordon, Charles Nelson Reilly, Billy Barty, John Astin, Sam Fatu, Sydney Lassick, Afa Anoai, Sika Anoai, Kellie Martin, Sione Vailahi, Tijoe Khan, Freddie Blassie, Ric Flair, Bruno Sammartino

Musifilm Productions, Hemdale Film Corporation, 89 Minutes

Review:

It amazes me that I never saw this movie as a kid and I didn’t even know of its existence until I heard someone talking about the wrestler cameos on a wrestling podcast I regularly listen to.

I guess I have to assume that this wasn’t on the shelves in the dozens of mom and pop video stores I spent time in during my childhood. I mean, there’s no way I would’ve overlooked it back then.

The film stars Dirk Benedict, a guy I loved from one of my favorite shows at the time, The A-Team. It also stars one of my favorite wrestlers, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, as well as a slew of other WWF wrestlers from the time. Plus, it also has a few cameos from a bunch of wrestling legends.

Beyond that, you’ve got Tanya Roberts, who I have been crushing on ever since The Beastmaster, as well as Charles Nelson Reilly, John Astin, Billy Barty, Kellie Martin and an underappreciated character actor I’ve always enjoyed, Sydney Lassick.

So the cast is pretty good or at least, interesting. However, the story has a weaker foundation than a house of sticks in a flood zone. For the most part, everything in this movie just feels kind of random and not much makes sense.

That being said, I still enjoy some sequences in the film but most of those usually just deal with the wrestlers I grew up loving, playing versions of themselves doing wonky ass shit.

After getting to the end of the movie, I wasn’t really sure what the point of it was. It seems like it was a tailor made picture just to include the very charismatic Piper and his wrestling buds and really, there’s nothing else here.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Dirk Benedict. He was fine with what he had to work with but I do feel like he was wasted in this and it could’ve possibly torpedoed any real attempt at a movie career after The A-Team.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other goofy B-movies from the ’80s. Also, anything starring ’80s wrestlers.

Film Review: Mr. Boogedy (1986)

Release Date: April 20th, 1986
Directed by: Oz Scott
Written by: Michael Janover
Music by: John Addison
Cast: Richard Masur, Mimi Kennedy, Benjamin Gregory, David Faustino, Kristy Swanson, John Astin, Katherine Kelly Lang

Walt Disney Television, ABC, 46 Minutes

Review:

“Ah, did anybody leave a weird green light on in that room?” – Carleton Davis

I remember watching this when it was on television for the first time. Now I mostly remember the sequel, as it was twice as long and had a bigger finale but this was a cool “horror” film that I liked as a young kid. It also didn’t terrify my mum.

This was really made as an episode of The Magical World of Disney, which was a pretty cool anthology television series that used to air on Sunday nights in the ’80s (and probably earlier).

Each episode was usually a short, hour long story. Sometimes they’d be like full-length TV movies, as Mr. Boogedy‘s sequel would be.

I liked this because it featured two actors I liked, Richard Masur and John Astin. It also introduced me to Kristy Swanson, who I (and every boy my age) started crushing on pretty hard.

This is a basic boogeyman story but the origin and background of the character were kind of interesting. However, you don’t get to see the monster until the very end and only for a few minutes. Plus, he’s kind of a careless idiot that destroys himself by sucking off his own cloak with a vacuum he’s using to terrorize a kid.

This is decently written but it’s nothing great. I like how they developed the character, even if it was quick. Honestly, this did feel a bit rushed, not in how it was produced but in the pacing of the story. Granted, 46 minutes isn’t a lot of time and this could have been a richer, better experience if they had make this one twice as long.

I guess I’ll see how the sequel stands up when I review it in a few weeks.

This is goofy, family friendly fun but it comes across as really outdated and will probably only be worthwhile to those with the nostalgia bug.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other episodes of The Magical World of Disney.

TV Review: The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-1994)

Original Run: August 27th, 1993 – May 20th, 1994
Created by: Jeffrey Boam, Carlton Cuse
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Velton Ray Bunch, Stephen Graziano, Randy Edelman
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Julius Carry, Christian Clemenson, Kelly Rutherford, John Astin, Billy Drago, M. C. Gainey, R. Lee Ermey (cameo), Tracey Walter

Boam/Cuse Productions, Warner Bros. Television, 27 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

briscocountyReview:

I have been a huge fan of Bruce Campbell since first experiencing the Evil Dead films in the 80s. However, as much as I love his character Ash, my favorite role Campbell has ever had is Brisco County, Jr. This is, hands down, the greatest thing Campbell has ever been a part of and it still bothers me, over twenty years later, that the show ended after a single season.

In the same vein as The Wild, Wild West (the show, not the atrocious movie), The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. mixes the western and science fiction genres. It also adds in lighthearted but excellent comedy and a family friendly level of violence, as it isn’t really violent at all.

Bruce Campbell plays the title character, Brisco County, Jr. He is a bounty hunter who is trying to round up all the men who helped murder his father, a U.S. Marshall (played by R. Lee Ermey). He finds himself pitted against John Bly (played by the always enigmatic Billy Drago), as well as Bly’s gang. Gang members, Big Smith (played by M.C. Gainey) and Pete Hutter (played by John Pyper-Ferguson) are fantastic characters that have a lot of depth and make this show even more enjoyable. Pete Hutter is actually one of my favorite comedic villains of all-time. But nothing is as cold, chilling and evil as Billy Dargo’s John Bly. He is still one of the best television and western villains I have ever seen.

On the heroic side, Brisco is joined by the lawyer Socrates Poole (played by Christian Clemenson) and rival/friend bounty hunter Lord Bowler (played by the perfectly casted Julius Carry). The camaraderie between Brisco and Bowler is amazing. They are one of the great all-time buddy pairings. The inclusion of Clemenson rounds out the trio and makes a stellar team. They are also assisted, at times, by Professor Wickwire (John Astin a.k.a. Gomez from The Addams Family) and Dixie Cousins (Kelly Rutherford in her best role).

In addition to apprehending the John Bly Gang, Brisco keeps finding himself involved with a mysterious object called “The Orb”. In fact, it is the one thing that John Bly is after. The Orb brings a supernatural element to the show that is refreshing and new. This show still feels like it is one-of-a-kind, even today, because of things like the Orb and the way that it was always looking to the future and teased technological innovations before their time.

27 episodes weren’t enough, even though the show does leave you with a somewhat satisfying ending. At least the main story arc is closed by the end of the season with a few hints at the future sprinkled in. It would’ve been awesome if it had kept moving forward though.

According to the creators, the second season would have seen Brisco becoming the sheriff of a small town while settling down with Dixie and having a family.

Rating: 9.5/10