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: Romancing the Stone (1984)

Release Date: March 24th, 1984 (Beverly Hills premiere)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Diane Thomas
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Alfonso Arau, Manuel Ojeda, Zack Norman, Holland Taylor, Mary Ellen Trainor

Nina Saxon Film Design, El Corazon Produccciones S.A., Twentieth Century Fox, 106 Minutes

Review:

“What did you do, wake up this morning and say, “Today, I’m going to ruin a man’s life”?” – Jack Colton

This is one of those films I saw a lot as a kid because it was one of my mum’s all-time favorite flicks. However, I was fine with that, as I liked it a lot too. But I hadn’t seen it in at least two decades, so when I came across it on HBO Max, I figured I’d revisit it.

Plus, what’s not to like, here? You have Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. You also have a pretty great adventure story with solid action and a whole lot of fun.

It’s like an Indiana Jones movie set in modern times, at least when it was made, and it features a very timid yet likable fish out of water character that has to rise to the occasion and put aside her fears to become the woman she should be. It also features one hell of a hero that is reminiscent of Han Solo, as he’s there to help when it’s to his benefit but by the end, he puts his own personal interests aside to do the right thing. Also, they fall in love, so there’s that.

This is a storybook romance but mixed with high adventure, treasure and violent baddies who will stop at nothing to achieve their dastardly goals. Again, what’s not to like, here?

What makes this even better is that Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are a perfect pairing. They know how to challenge each other in the right way and they bring the best out of one another. In a lot of ways, their camaraderie and chemistry reminds me of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen. Being that this is also a jungle adventure movie makes that comparison even more noticeable.

Now Romancing the Stone isn’t the movie that The African Queen is but I kind of appreciate it in the same way in regards to the bond between the two lead characters.

I also love the hell out of Danny DeVito in this and this was really before he became a much more prominent comedic force in movies. Here, he was just coming off of the hit sitcom Taxi and I think it was this movie that really propelled his film career forward.

For its time, this was a perfect date movie. It featured everything a male and a female could’ve liked and it brings it all together quite nicely with likable, fun characters and a simple, lighthearted story with a lot of energy.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Splash (1984)

Release Date: March 9th, 1984
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Bruce Jay Friedman, Brian Grazer
Music by: Lee Holdridge
Cast: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Eugene Levy, John Candy

Touchstone Pictures, Buena Vista Distribution, 111 Minutes

Review:

“What you looking at? You never seen a guy who slept with a fish before?” – Freddie

Splash was a movie that was on television all the time when I was a kid. I’d catch pieces of it from time-to-time and I have probably seen all of it but I haven’t actually watched it in its entirety from start-to-finish until now.

It wasn’t a film that I was super into, back in the day, but my mum dug it a lot. It was good enough to watch, though, because it has Tom Hanks, Eugene Levy and John Candy in it and I’ve always loved those guys, especially in the ’80s.

The film also stars Daryl Hannah, who was approaching the height of her popularity, which this film brought to the next level.

If you weren’t alive in the mid-’80s, you might not be able to comprehend how popular she was for a short time. I always thought it was a bit odd that she worked steadily for years but never really seemed to maintain that momentum she had in the ’80s. Regardless, she did always find decent work and had a bit of a resurgence from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies.

For those who don’t know, the story follows a guy that is rescued from drowning by a mermaid. She ends up with his wallet and uses maps on a sunken ship to locate his home, New York City. She does track him down and the two fall in love. However, he doesn’t know she’s a mermaid and she only has a few days to spend with him before she reverts back to her fishy form. He discovers her secret in the worst way possible and is at first freaked out. However, love wins out in the end and this fairytale has a really satisfying ending.

For being a fairly standard comedy in the ’80s, it’s really well acted by the core stars, especially Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. However, I loved the hell out of Eugene Levy in this, as a total bastard that ended up having a heart of gold and risked everything to put things right.

This is fun, amusing and sweet. But it also has heart and I think that shows how talented Ron Howard was as a director, even at this very early stage of his career.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Dracula (1979)

Also known as: Dracula ’79 (Germany), Dracula 80 (Canada – French language version)
Release Date: July 13th, 1979 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: John Badham
Written by: W. D. Richter
Based on: Dracula (novel) by Bram Stoker; Dracula (play) by Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence, Kate Nelligan, Sylvester McCoy

The Mirisch Corporation, Universal Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“In the past 500 years, Professor, those who have crossed my path have all died, and some not pleasantly.” – Count Dracula

Until this viewing of the film, the first in ages, I didn’t realize that the 1979 Dracula was a Universal release. I guess that ties it to the Universal Monsters banner and with that, kind of makes me see how it sort of matches up to the original Dracula films, tonally and stylistically.

I like that this has its own alternate take on the classic story, though, and I thought that they did a tremendous job in telling a different version of the Dracula legend while keeping it fairly true to the source material.

One thing that I really love about this movie is that we get to see one of the greatest actors that ever lived, Laurence Olivier, work alongside a bonafide and legendary horror icon, Donald Pleasence. Both men are great on their own and for different reasons but it’s like seeing what’s considered the top tier talent of motion picture history working with one of the best actors in what’s considered a trash genre by most critics and Hollywood elites. That being said, Pleasence shows that he can hang with one of cinema’s most celebrated actors.

However, even with good performances from those two legends, it’s Frank Langella who really steals the show, as the lead and title character.

Langella is a damn near perfect Dracula, especially for this story. As much as I like this take on the tale, Langella enhances the overall production with his charm, charisma and classically good looks. He looks the part and in some respects, makes it his own. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone else being as perfect for this version of the story as Langella.

The world that this is set in is a great mixture of opulence, darkness and mystery. It feels like an extension of this Dracula’s aura and that everyone else is trapped within it with the monster, himself.

The atmosphere and tone of the picture are also heightened by the score of another legend contributing to this picture, John Williams. This was something he worked on between Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope and Raiders of the Lost Ark. These themes, however, are less adventurous and fun and more brooding and dark. Although, the score isn’t too similar to Jaws and with that, shows John Williams’ great range.

Out of all the Dracula movies ever made, this is what I would consider one of the best. At worst, it’s still top tier and features one of the greatest onscreen Dracula’s of all-time. Surprisingly, this is a movie that’s seldomly mentioned today.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)

Also known as: Faust (shortened title)
Release Date: Octoberber 12th, 2000 (Stiges International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Brian Yuzna
Written by: David Quinn, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Based on: Faust by Tim Vigil, David Quinn
Music by: Xavier Capellas
Cast: Mark Frost, Isabel Brook, Jennifer Rope, Jeffrey Combs, Andrew Divoff, Monica Van Campen

Televisio de Catalunya, Fantastic Factory, Castelao Producciones, 98 Minutes

Review:

“You are the universe. Alpha and Omega. The beast with ten thousand young. Now go forth and mutilate!” – M

So I’ve been aware of the Faust comic for years, as it was one of those legendary things us kids talked about in middle school because we had all heard of it but none of us owned any issues because it was a very adult outlaw comic. I still haven’t read it but I’m more familiar with it now, as many comic book YouTube channels have showcased it.

I didn’t know until more recently that there was a film adaptation of the comic and that it was done by Brian f’n Yuzna of all people, which definitely makes it worth checking out if you are a fan of his better known work like Re-Animator, From Beyond and Society.

Like those films, this one features over-the-top body horror and gore. It’s also full of dark humor and senseless violence, all of which is done in Yuzna’s patented style.

It’s actually cool seeing Yuzna direct a superhero film and using a character that fits so perfectly with his filmmaking style.

Additionally, I also love that Yuzna regular Jeffrey Combs is in this. While he’s not the main character, his role is pretty big and pivotal to the overall film.

This is a pretty bad movie, though, even for Yuzna. Yes, I do like it for all the things I already mentioned but the acting is well below what’s even normal for a Yuzna picture. Also, while some of the effects work, many of them don’t and it feels sloppily thrown together in some sequences and it makes me question how much control Yuzna had or if the production found itself well behind schedule or way over budget.

Regarding the budget, it’s obvious that Yuzna was working with even less money than what he was usually able to muster up.

Faust is a poorly made movie by a guy that can typically make chicken salad with chicken shit. However, maybe this was just too big in scale and way too ambitious of a project to have been approached in the way Yuzna typically makes his movies.

Rating: 3/10

Film Review: Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Also known as: Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (original Italian title), Irene, Excite Me, Eye of the Black Cat, Gently Before She Dies (alternative titles)
Release Date: August 18th, 1972
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, Adriano Bolzoni, Sauro Scavolini, Luciano Martino
Based on: The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Nebbia, Riccardo Salvino

Lea Film, Titanus, 97 Minutes

Review:

Sergio Martino did this film a year before his most famous one, Torso.

While he’s not my favorite giallo director, he has done some really memorable work that probably deserves its place alongside the giallo masters like Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

Many giallo aficionados seem to like this one too and while I do enjoy the first act of the movie, it drags on and falls kind of flat for me. Although, I do like the ending, as it homages Edgar Allan Poe quite nicely and in the most Italian way possible.

I enjoyed the three main actors in this and seeing Luigi Pistilli was kind of cool in that his character is truly the antithesis of what I think is his most famous role as the priest brother of Tuco in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The other two leads are Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg, who both put in believable performances even when the story calls for some over the top antics.

My main issue with this film is the pacing. It’s only 97 minutes but those 97 minutes felt like two hours. There are some minor side characters and side plots that simply existed to give the killer more kills. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a slasher-esque giallo but most of this just felt like soulless filler in a movie that could’ve been more fine-tuned in dealing with the core actors and their dynamic.

I do like the look of the movie, even if it isn’t as opulent and vivid as the work of the better giallo filmmakers.

Ultimately, this was okay but it’s not Martino’s best work and with that, it’s not anywhere near the upper echelon of ’70s giallo.

Rating: 5.75/10

Film Review: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Release Date: March 9th, 1990
Directed by: John Patrick Stanley
Written by: John Patrick Stanley
Music by: Georges Delerue
Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya, Barry McGovern, Ossie Davis, Amanda Plummer, Nathan Lane, Carol Kane (credited as Lisa LeBlanc)

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” – Patricia

This is one of those weird movies that always spoke to me, even as a kid. It’s like I knew I’d grow up and eventually find myself at a monotonous, seemingly pointless, unrewarding job for bosses that just yell nonsense and are just as lost as everyone else. So now that I am an adult and find myself in that position, this movie has even more meaning. I guess I should’ve heeded its warning when I was eleven but alas.

I also think that I liked it for the Tiki aesthetic in the movie’s third act, which sees Joe arrive at a South Pacific island where he is supposed to throw himself into a volcano in order to save the island’s tribal inhabitants.

What the movie is really about though, is living your life. It’s about not being a prisoner of what the modern world expects of you and how it’s expected for you to achieve what’s considered to be the “American dream”. Work hard, little or no play and then wash, rinse, repeat until you’re dead because retirement isn’t something most can really afford.

I love the message and the overall point of Joe Versus the Volcano, even though Joe has to go on a crazy adventure and is lead to believe he is dying and has very little time left. Joe has to believe that he’s out of time in order to really start living his best life.

Along the way, Joe meets three versions of Meg Ryan and falls in love with the best one. He also discovers that after his attempted suicidal sacrifice that he was never really dying. With this news and his new love, however, the world is Joe’s to enjoy, as he has a new, refreshed sense of being.

Beyond the story and it’s odd but somewhat clever way of delivering its message, I like just about everyone in this. Tom Hanks is pretty much his standard ’80s persona but Meg Ryan really turns things up while playing three very different characters. She excels in this movie quite magnificently and it’s kind of a shame that this was a box office dud and most people barely remember it at all. Most people I bring this film up to, haven’t seen it or even heard about it.

Joe Versus the Volcano is a weird enigma of a motion picture but I love it and always will. While I can’t consider it Tom Hanks’ best movie, it is still my personal favorite and one I like to watch when I need a kick in the ass.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Serial Review: Zorro’s Black Whip (1944)

Release Date: November 16th, 1944 (first chapter)
Directed by: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Wallace Grissel
Written by: Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Grant Nelson, Joseph Poland, Johnston McxCulley (original Zorro novel)
Cast: Linda Stirling, George J. Lewis, Lucien Littlefield, Francis McDonald

Republic Pictures, 182 Minutes (total over 12 chapters)

Review:

Zorro’s Black Whip is pretty unusual, as Republic Pictures didn’t have the rights to use the Zorro character in a film but they could still use the name. So with that, they created this serial where the Zorro-esque hero is named The Black Whip and is, in fact, a dame!

The story also takes place in Idaho, a far departure from southern California, even though that’s where this would’ve been filmed.

I like the heroine and thought that Linda Stirling did a pretty decent job as a female version of Zorro with a different name. 

The rest of the cast was about as good as film serial casts go. No one really stood out other than the lead.

The story was a bit all over the place and I thought that the chapter cliffhangers were fairly weak and mundane. Honestly, in a lot of ways, the writing and the situations were incredibly derivative for the genre style.

Still, this did have some spirit for something that was a gender-swapped generic ripoff of a popular hero.

In the end, this is very far from being the best representation of “Zorro” but it’s also not dreadful. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, though.

Rating: 4.5/10

Film Review: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Release Date: June 14th, 1991
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Written by: Pen Densham, John Watson
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Brain Blessed, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble, Jack Wild, Sean Connery (cameo, uncredited)

Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes (theatrical), 155 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Locksley! I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” – Sheriff of Nottingham, “Then it begins.” – Robin Hood

I remember seeing this in the theater and loving the hell out of it. But I think I’ve only seen it once or twice since then and those viewings were in the ’90s. So I kind of didn’t know what to expect from it, seeing it decades later. And sure, I remembered some of the more iconic moments and lines but that’s about all I remembered.

This film starts out interesting and gives Robin Hood a neat backstory that saw him held prisoner in a dungeon in Jerusalem, far from his home in England. He is able to escape and saves the life of a Moorish warrior in the process. This warrior swears a life debt to Robin and follows him back to England.

Azeem, the Moorish character, was created just for this film but I liked the character a lot and it was cool seeing Morgan Freeman bring him to life while also getting to partake in the action heavy parts of the movie. Also, he paired up well with Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have watched these two go on further adventures.

The story is your standard Robin Hood tale for the most part but it takes some liberties, as all interpretations of the legend do. This one also pushes the romance pretty hard between Robin and Marian but honestly, it doesn’t get in the way of the action or the larger story. This version also has a witch character, who gives advice and directions to the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff and frankly, it’s one of his best roles. He gets some great lines in this and he came off as very formidable against Robin in their final battle. Rickman turned the role down twice but finally took it when he was told that he’d have the freedom to play the character in the way that he wanted. I think that his influence and creative decisions made the character unique and memorable and it takes a great villain to shape a great hero.

I also like that the Sheriff of Nottingham had Michael Wincott as his main henchman. I’ve dug the hell out of Wincott for as long as I can remember and he was a good addition to this cast.

I also liked Christian Slater in this even though I felt like he was a bit underutilized.

The only truly odd thing in the film is that Kevin Costner, as the legendary British hero Robin Hood, uses his American accent, as opposed to doing a British one. I guess this was decided during production, as there are some scenes where Robin sounds a bit British-y. However, the director thought that it might be too distracting and break the film. I guess the critics of the time felt the opposite, though, as they got really hung up on the American sounding Robin Hood.

While the accent didn’t bother me too much, the running time did. I just thought this was 20-30 minutes too long and there was a lot that could’ve been whittled down. Once Robin gets back to England, early on, it felt like it took awhile for the film to really get going.

I thought that the action was pretty good and the big battles were exciting and hold up well. However, the final swordfight didn’t feel swashbuckling-y enough. I think that the director wanted a more realistic fight but part of Robin’s appeal, at least to me, was his athleticism, playfulness and mastery of the sword. Furthermore, the Sheriff of Nottingham truly gets the best of Robin and the hero only wins due to a distraction and a dagger he had hidden. It just felt kind of meh and cheap.

Still, I did like seeing this again and it was an entertaining experience. Costner was fine as Robin Hood but Rickman stole every scene that they shared.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Release Date: May 12th, 1938 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Written by: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller, Rowland Leigh
Music by: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Una O’Connor, Patrick Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale Sr., Melville Cooper

Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“Why, you speak treason!” – Lady Marian Fitzswalter, “Fluently.” – Robin Hood

I’m actually kind of shocked that I haven’t reviewed this yet, which means it’s been far too long since I’ve seen it. This was one of my favorite “old” movies when I was a kid and I probably watched it dozens of times throughout the years, as my mum and granmum always had classic movie channels on.

This is also the movie that introduced me to Errol Flynn, one of my all-time favorite actors, and the swashbuckling subgenre of action and adventure films.

Beyond that, this also introduced me to Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains, two actors that were mostly known for being horror icons. However, in this picture, Rathbone proves that he’s much more skilled than that and especially while wielding a sword.

With that, this isn’t the first time that Rathbone and Flynn are both wielding swords against one another. They had an epic and memorable duel in Captain Blood, which was also directed by this film’s director, Michael Curtiz. Flynn and Rathbone just make perfect rivals and their sword work is pretty exceptional in a time where the actors had to get out there and do it on the screen without quick edits, special effects and the level of fight choreography and stunt people Hollywood has at its disposal now.

The final duel between the two legends may even be better in this movie, as they have their final showdown in a castle and use that environment pretty well, where in Captain Blood, their duel was on a beach.

I’ve also got to mention Olivia de Havilland, who is stunning and wonderful in this, as Marian. Still to this day, she’s my favorite Marian and a lot of that has to do with her style and grace, which is why she was also one of the most sought after actresses of her time.

Claude Rains is pretty much perfect too. He’s such a devious little shit and really delivers the best performance he could’ve given. Being that he’s immensely talented and owns every role he’s ever had, he made a great villain as King John (not Prince John, mind you).

The story is good, quick paced and just moves from great moment to great moment. The animated Disney film probably borrowed most from this version of the Robin Hood legend. So if you’re familiar with that movie, this will all feel very similar.

In the end, this is still one of the best swashbuckling adventure movies ever made.

Rating: 9.25/10