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: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Release Date: March 14th, 1975 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Written by: Monty Python
Music by: Dewolfe
Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

Python (Monty) Pictures, Michael White Productions, National Film Trustee Company, EMI Films, Cinema 5 Distributing, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” – French Soldier

I’ve never been a big Monty Python fan and I know those are fighting words from big Monty Python fans but I don’t care.

It’s not to say that I don’t find some amusement within these movies but once I’ve seen one, it’s hard for me to go back and see them again. But that also applies to most comedy movies for me. Well, except for a few things I am a big fan of like old school Bill Murray movies, the Police Academy franchise (omitting part 7) and a lot of ’80s comedies that I probably only love because nostalgia is a needy whore that must be satisfied every so often.

And that’s the thing with Monty Python movies. I just don’t have the nostalgia for them because they were a decade before my time and I never saw them until I was into my 20s. But also, I’m not a big fan of parody films unless it’s a very small sample of the best of Mel Brooks’ oeuvre.

I do love the cast and a lot of these guys have gone on to be in movies I’ve loved over the years. Especially, John Cleese and Eric Idle. Then there’s also Terry Gilliam, who has gone on to make some solid motion pictures outside of the comedy genre.

I appreciate this movie for being the first real exposure to these talented guys outside of the UK. And it is a funny movie but it’s not something I need to experience, again and again.

From memory, I think that The Life of Brian was the one I liked the most. So I do plan on revisiting that one again soon, simply so I can review it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Monty Python films and projects.

Film Review: Brazil (1985)

Release Date: February 20th, 1985 (France)
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Kim Greist

Embassy International Pictures, Brazil Productions, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, 142 Minutes

brazil-1985Review:

Brazil is one of those movies that after you see it, you can’t get it out of your head.

The film follows Jonathan Pryce’s Sam Lowry, as he goes through his humdrum mediocre life in his industrial dystopia. He discovers that the government made an error in capturing who they suspect is a terrorist. The man they caught is killed and his family is left in serious distress. Lowry is tasked with resolving the error. In the process however, he sees a woman that looks like the mysterious girl he’s been dreaming about. The woman, Jill Layton (played by Kim Greist), is also trying to get to the bottom of the government’s mistake, as she is the neighbor of the victim’s family. Lowry obsesses over the woman and does everything he can, putting himself at risk, to prove the government’s mistake. The government, not privy of having its flaws exposed, responds with an iron fascist fist.

This is one of Terry Gilliam’s most critically-acclaimed films alongside The Fisher King, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen12 Monkeys and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It is also the one that was the most influential on other filmmakers. The visual style and other elements have gone on to inspire Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro, the Coen brothers, Alex Proyas, Tim Burton, Darren Aronofsky and Zack Snyder.

The film is similar to 1984 in its subject matter. However, it has a comedic twist and more action. The comedy is a mixture of satire and slapstick and it works really well for the picture. The action sequences are executed nicely, especially the fantasy segments pulled from Lowry’s dreams. Overall, the film is a surrealist playground with stellar set design, costumes and cinematography.

The acting is also pretty superb. While De Niro is in this, he only has a few scenes, despite being billed pretty high. It is refreshing to see De Niro play a character that isn’t just Robert De Niro, like all of his later films.

Despite the talent in this film, though, I thought that Kim Greist just couldn’t cut it as Jill. Apparently, Terry Gilliam felt the same way, as her scenes and screen time were cut down in the editing room. She delivered lines like a B-movie actress and just felt out of place, sticking out like a sore thumb while playing off of the incredible Pryce.

The only other complaint I have, is running time. I feel like some sequences were too drawn out. The film had an uneven pace at times but its positives far outweigh its negatives and I don’t want to be nitpicky for the sake of nitpicking.

Ultimately, Brazil is a fantastic dystopian fantasy and some of Gilliam’s best work. The performance by Jonathan Pryce was so good, that because of this film, I always light up when I see him pop up in other pictures.

Rating: 9/10