Archive for December 11, 2010

National Lampoon’s Vacation

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Clark Griswold (Chase), wanting to spend more time with wife Ellen (D’Angelo) and children Rusty and Audrey (Hall and Barron), decides to lead the family on a cross-country expedition from Chicago to the Los Angeles amusement park, “Walley World”, billed as “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park”. Although Ellen wants to fly, he insists on driving, so he can bond with his family. In preparation, Clark has ordered a new sports wagon for the trip, but when he finds it is not ready in time for the trip, is forced to take a failing behemoth Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

As the family travels, they have several mishaps, such as being tagged by vandals while in St. Louis, while Clark is tempted several times by a voluptuous young woman (Brinkley) driving a flashy red Ferrari 308 GTS. They stop in Coolidge, Kansas to visit Ellen’s cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her husband Eddie (Quaid), but this creates more tension among the Griswalds. Catherine and Eddie foist crotchety old Aunt Edna (Coca) and her dog Dinky on the Griswolds, asking them to drop her off at her son Normy’s home in Phoenix. After a failed attempt to enjoy a picnic, Clark forgets to untie Dinky from the car before leaving, killing the dog.

While Ellen and Clark argue, they become stranded in the desert, and Clark eventually finds a mechanic that scams him out of the rest of his cash to fix the car. Frustrated, they stop at the Grand Canyon; when Clark cannot convince a hotel clerk to take a check, he takes cash from the hotel’s cash register but leaves behind the check. Leaving the Canyon, they find that Aunt Edna passed away in her sleep. When they reach Normy’s home, they discover he is out of town, and leave Edna’s rigor mortised body in the backyard.

Despite all the events and the begging of Ellen and the kids, Clark is more determined to get to Walley World. They finally arrive the next day to find the park closed for repairs. Clark, slipping into madness, buys a realistic-looking BB gun and demands a park security guard Russ Lasky (John Candy) to take them through the park; Ellen and kids follow him, attempting to placate their father. Eventually the SWAT team arrives along with park owner Roy Walley (Eddie Bracken). Roy understands Clark’s impassioned epitome of the American Vacation, bringing back memories of his own childhood years ago. Roy does not file charges against the Griswolds, and lets the family enjoy the park as his guests. The credits show various photographs of the Griswolds enjoying the rest of the vacation, including returning to Chicago via plane.

REVIEW:

 It has been a fortnight since I last saw National Lampoon’s Vacation. When they say “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, though, they aren’t kidding. I remember loving this picture last time I saw it, and now I love it even more!

I’m sure many of us have had the experience of a family vacation, which is the basis of the film’s plot. However, I’m sure none of us have endured the horrors and hilarity that the Griswold’s go through on this trip.

In the late 70s and early 80s, Chevy Chase was one of the funniest people alive, and this served as a vehicle for his comedic talents. On top of the physical comedy that is showcased here, there is some excellent comedic writing. The kind that we just don’t get these days.

Chevy Chase is never going to be known for his acting, but it is his comedic talent that allows this film to really work. Who else  could play such a bumbling idiot and get away with it?

Beverly D’Angelo is another in a long list of gorgeous women attached to buffoons that makes the audience scratch their heads wondering how they are married. Her scenes are brief, and she does seem to be a bit of a nag sometimes, but the topless scenes make up for that.

Christie Brinkley was the quintessential dreamgirl of the early 80s, and she really played up that fantasy aspect to perfection as the girl in the red car. Such a shame she disappeared after the pool fiasco, though.

Remember in the 80s when they made R-rated comedies that were funny and not sex farces? Well, that’s what National Lampoon’s Vacation is. A great comedy, ne, film, that is a true classic without having to resort to sexual innuendo to make it work. If you’re one of the few hapless souls out there who haven’t seen this film, then I highly recommend it to you, especially. For everyone else, you can never have too much of a good thing, right?

5 out of 5 stars

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Santa’s Slay

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

On Christmas Eve of 2005, the Mason family is enjoying Christmas dinner when Santa Claus (Bill Goldberg) comes down the chimney and kills them all. This opening scene includes bit roles from several famous actors, including James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, and Rebecca Gayheart.

Riding on his sleigh driven by his “hell-deer”, Santa arrives at Hell Township and proceeds to kill the locals in various holiday-themed ways. In one of his slaughters, Santa kills the occupants of a local strip club frequented by Pastor Timmons (Dave Thomas), a crooked minister who manages to survive the massacre. Later, Santa murders the local Jewish deli owner Mr. Green (Saul Rubinek) using his own menorah.

Meanwhile, teenager Nicholas Yuleson (Douglas Smith) is living with his crazy grandfather (Robert Culp), a crackpot inventor who has created a bunker in their basement to survive Christmas. When Nicholas asks Grandpa why he hates Christmas, he is shown “The Book Of Claus”, which reveals the origins of Santa Claus. Apparently, Santa was the result of a virgin birth produced by Satan (just as Jesus was the result of a virgin birth produced by God- meaning that Santa is somewhat of an Antichrist). Christmas was “The Day of Slaying” for Santa until, in 1005 AD, an angel defeated Santa in a curling match and sentenced Santa to deliver presents on Christmas for 1000 years. This means that Santa is free to kill again in 2005.

Upon arriving at the scene of Mr. Green’s murder, Nicholas is taken to the police station for questioning. He is bailed out by his girlfriend Mary “Mac” Mackenzie (Emilie de Ravin), just before Santa arrives and kills all of the officers. Santa pursues them in a police car, but they are able to escape (thanks to a shotgun, left in Mac’s truck by her gun-crazed father). They flee to Mr. Yuleson’s bunker, with Santa still in pursuit. Nicholas and Mac manage to escape, care of Grandpa’s snowmobile, but Grandpa is run over by Santa’s “hell-deer” and killed.

The two teens hide from Santa in a local high school, hoping that Santa’s powers will end when Christmas ends, but are eventually forced to confront him in the gymnasium. They are almost killed by Santa on a Zamboni but are saved by Grandpa, who is actually the angel that originally defeated Santa. With Christmas ended and his powers gone, Santa flees in his sleigh but his “hell-deer” are shot down by Mac’s father with a bazooka. Pastor Timmons is found dead in a Santa suit and is presumed to be the killer, while in fact the real Santa Claus is boarding a flight from Winnipeg to the North Pole.

After the credits, Santa is looking over his naughty list, when he looks into the camera and says “Who’s Next?”

REVIEW:

 Back in the day when I was really into wrestling, Goldberg was one of my favorites along with The Rock, Undertaker, and Stone Cold. So, I was glad to see that he’s still around and hasn’t let himself go. However, after watching this catastrophe, I’m seriously thinking he should have just stayed doing whatever it is he’s been doing since leaving the ring.

I’ve become a fan of anti-Christmas movies. Always have been since I first saw How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That doesn’t mean I’m not fan of the holidays, I just like these films. They are different. The best one I’ve seen to date, though, has been Bad(der) Santa.

Strangely enough, I initially thought this film had that plot and vice versa. I could not have been more wrong!

Santa’s Slay is not the kind of feel good holiday movie you can sit around the fireplace with the family and watch. Let’s get that out of the way. but it is one of those that is entertaining to an extent.

The basic premise is that Santa Claus is the son of Satan and lost a bet with an angel, which caused him to have to be the jolly man we all know for 1000 year. however, the time is up and Santa can now resume killing and he’s (literally) going to go to Hell (the town is called Hel Township) and back to do so.

As cheesy as that plot sounds, it actually isn’t that bad. In the hands of a more capable filmmaker, this coul have been a really great film. However, that’s not what happened, and this turned out to be some cheap B-movie horror flick that is destined to be ridiculed for years to come, and for good reason.

The murders remind me of fatalities from Mortal Kombat. Nothing really special about them after you’ve seen them so many times.

THe fact that Goldberg is the star of this film, and doesn’t really have much to do other than go around looking like a tough guy and killing people should really tell you the quality of the acting here.

Having said that, there is a bright spot in Emilie de Ravin. She plays the token girlfriend who will do anything for her man. Sure, it isn’t the best performance, but it was obvious that she has some talent and is destined for bigger and better things.

On the flipside, I have to wonder what is was that drove Robert Culp to this film, especially since he just dies earlier this year. I’m not 100% sure, but this could have been his last film. If that is the case, I’m so sorry for him.

Sure, Santa’s Slay doesn’t quite fit into the horror or comedy category, nor is there anything memorable about it other than it stars Goldberg, but it isn’t the worst thing I’ve seen this year. I don’t really recommend this, unless you’re just into films of this sort, and even then, there are plenty of other films of this ilk to choose from.

2 out of 5 stars

V for Vendetta

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 11, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the near future, Britain is ruled by a totalitarian government under the fascist Norsefire party. Evey Hammond, a young woman who works at the state-run British Television Network, is rescued from an attempted rape by members of the secret police by a Guy Fawkes-masked vigilante known as “V”. He leads her to a rooftop to watch his destruction of the Old Bailey. Norsefire tries to explain away the incident as a controlled demolition, claiming the building was no longer structurally sound, but V takes over the state television broadcast the next day, exposing the lie. He urges the people of Britain to rise up against the oppressive government and meet him in one year, on 5 November, outside the Houses of Parliament, which he promises to destroy. Evey helps V to escape, but is knocked out in the process.

V brings Evey to his lair, where she is told that she must stay in hiding for her own safety. Upon learning that V is killing government officials, she escapes to the home of one of her superiors, Gordon Dietrich. Dietrich has a comedy TV show and one night he satirises the government. The secret police raid Dietrich’s home, capturing him and Evey. She is incarcerated and tortured for days for information about V. She finds solace in notes seemingly written some years earlier by another prisoner, an actress named Valerie Page, who was arrested for being a lesbian. Finally, Evey is told that she will be executed immediatly unless she reveals V’s location. An exhausted but defiant Evey says she would rather die, and is released. Evey discovers that she has been in V’s lair all along, and that her imprisonment was staged to free her from her fears. The notes were real, but they were passed to V when he was similarly imprisoned. Although Evey initially hates V for what he did to her, she realizes she now feels stronger and free in spirit. She leaves him with a promise to return before 5 November.

Inspector Finch, Scotland Yard’s chief of police, learns how Norsefire came to power and about V’s origins in the course of his investigation. Fourteen years earlier, the United States had collapsed, the victim of its own accidentally-unleashed bioweapon. Britain suffered in the resulting chaos. Norsefire led a reactionary purge to restore order, and “enemies of the state” frequently disappeared. The country was divided over the loss of freedom until a bioterrorist attack, targeting a school, a water treatment plant, and a subway station, killed many people. The fear generated by the attack allowed Norsefire to win the next election, silence all opposition, and turned Britain into a totalitarian state under High Chancellor Adam Sutler. A cure for the virus was discovered by a pharmaceutical company with ties to Norsefire.

Finch comes to realize that Sutler and his now security chief, Peter Creedy, engineered the catastrophe to gain power. The virus was developed through deadly experimentation on “social deviants” and political dissidents at a detention center in Larkhill. Unlike the rest of the doomed prisoners, V gained heightened abilities. When the center was destroyed, he escaped.

As 5 November nears, V’s various schemes cause chaos in Britain and the population grows more hostile towards Norsefire. He sends at least 100,000 Guy Fawkes masks to the people. On the eve of 5 November, Evey visits V, as she had promised. He shows her a train in the abandoned London Underground which he has filled with explosives to destroy Parliament. He leaves it up to Evey whether to use it, believing that he is unfit to decide.

V then leaves to meet Creedy. Creedy had come under increasing criticism from Sutler for his inability to capture V. Fearing for his life, he agreed to bring Sutler to V in exchange for V’s surrender. Creedy kills Sutler in front of V, but V refuses to surrender and is shot multiple times by Creedy’s praetorian guard. V survives due in part to his concealed armour breastplate, and kills Creedy and his men. Mortally wounded, V returns to Evey to thank her, and dies in her arms.

She places his body in the train. She is found by Finch. Having learned much about the corruption of the Norsefire regime, Finch allows Evey to send the train on its way. Thousands of Londoners, all wearing the Guy Fawkes masks but unarmed, march on Parliament to watch the event. Because Sutler and Creedy are dead and unable to give orders, the military stands down in the face of a civil rebellion. As Evey and Finch watch, Parliament is destroyed

REVIEW:

 No, V for Vendetta is not a movie version of the TV series V. It is however based on a graphic novel by the same team that brought us Watchmen.

Thank goodness this flick isn’t as long as said film, and it also moves along at a much faster pace, although there are times that it does seem to drag.

The plot here centers around futuristic England, which seems to be under totalitarian rule. As with any government, there is one (or a group) that are opposed to them, this is where V enters, and the film takes off from there.

The story is actually told very well. As the film moves along, I found myself feeling sorry for the people of this society and the lack fo freedoms that they have.

There is some very  fine writing going on here, coupled with Hugo Weaving’s natural delivery, V comes off as a very educated, refined character, the likes of which we only see as Disney villains.

Some may say this is some kind of political statement film. I won’t go there, but I can see where one would get that idea. What with the near Nazi-esque society, and the idea that government takes over everything, it does seem to be on the verge of a political flick.

The action scenes are few and far between, but they make you sit up and take notice. The team that brought us The Matrix trilogy, also brought us this film, and the fight scenes have their fingerprints all over them.

Natalie Portman gives one of her strongest performances to date. I will admit, that I was hoping she would have kept the damsel in distress type persona. Nothing against strong women, it is just nice to have someone who was just there to be saved and not try to make a federal case about it or take over the operation the way females in cinema tend to do these days. All that being said, I have to commend her for actually shaving her head. There aren’t many women that can pull off that look and still look attractive.

Hugo Weaving is his usual debonair self as V. There are no holes in his performance, though I was wishing they would have revealed his face. The whole film left us in a mysterious cloud about what really happened. The least they could have done was reveal it at the end, but maybe that was jus wishful thinking, right?

Stephen Fry, at one point in the film, has me convinced he was V. There is a scene where he gives Natalie Portman’s character the same treatment she received down in V’s lair, even going so far as to repeat some of the lines. Fry impressed me with his character, and I wished he would have had a bigger part.

John Hurt turns in a strong performance as the villainous dictator-type. It takes a strong actor, though, to give one  chills when all they are doing is screaming into a camera from the underground.

V for Vendetta initially did not interest me, but after hearing about it from some friends, I decided to check it out for myself. I’m so glad that I did. I can’t believe I was missing out on this masterful piece of cinematic lore. If you have been avoiding this picture in the same way I was, then I suggest you stop and go check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 stars