Film Review: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

Release Date: November 15th, 1992 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: John Hughes 
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Devin Ratray, Gerry Bamman, Hillary Wolf, Kieran Culkin, Tim Curry, Brenda Fricker, Eddie Bracken, Dana Ivey, Rob Schneider, Ally Sheedy (cameo), Donald Trump (cameo), Bob Eubanks (cameo), Rip Taylor (cameo), Jaye P. Morgan (cameo), Jimmie Walker (cameo)

Hughes Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Hey. You guys give up? Have you had enough pain?” – Kevin McCallister

As I said in my review of the first Home Alone, I hadn’t seen that movie in-full in years. Well, I hadn’t seen this one since it came out. I’ve seen scenes on television over the years but I felt like a full watch was grossly overdue.

So while this isn’t as great as the original and while I don’t think that it was necessary, it’s still really endearing and a fun, holiday movie.

All the important cast members are back but if I’m being honest, it would’ve been nice just getting a cameo from Roberts Blossom after he saved Kevin and reunited with his estranged son in the first film.

That being said, it’s kind of unbelievable that Kevin would’ve been left behind by his family once again but you’ve got to kind of suspend disbelief and just go with it. I mean, it’s also unbelievable that this kid could live and survive in New York City on his own and that while there he’d run into the same burglars from the first film but I digress. This isn’t the type of story where you should be really thinking that hard.

My only real gripe about this film is that it’s too long. I don’t know why they had to go for a full two hours, as the just over ninety minute running time of the first movie was perfect. But I guess Kevin is in a much larger environment and that provided John Hughes the luxury of writing more gags.

Despite the new, grandiose setting, though, the film is really formulaic and just tries to repeat the main beats of the first movie. That doesn’t wreck it though, it just makes it a slightly inferior but still a pretty good copy of the masterpiece it’s trying to emulate.

I really liked the cast additions of Tim Curry and Rob Schneider in this one, though. They added a lot to the movie and their interactions with Kevin and then his parents were pretty good.

It was also great seeing Kevin put the burglars through the gauntlet once again and while this sequence isn’t as iconic as the original, it still provided some great slapstick comedic moments and I love seeing Culkin, Pesci and Stern play off of each other in these scenes.

All in all, the first film is perfect but this is a worthwhile sequel that doesn’t diminish the greatness of the original while giving you a few more hours to spend with these characters you love.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and other John Hughes holiday movies.

Film Review: Home Alone (1990)

Release Date: November 10th, 1990 (Chicago premiere)
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: John Hughes 
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Roberts Blossom, Angela Goethals, Devin Ratray, Gerry Bamman, Hillary Wolf, John Candy, Larry Hankin, Kristin Minter, Kieran Culkin, Billie Bird, Bill Erwin

Hughes Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Down here you big horse’s ass, come and get me before I call the police.” – Kevin McCallister

I’m just going to come out and say it immediately, this is a perfect film: a true masterpiece.

I hadn’t seen this in-full in a few decades, actually, but I was quickly reminded as to why I loved this movie so much, as a middle school-aged kid back in 1990.

The film has that special John Hughes charm but it’s turned up to eleven. I think that had a lot to do with Chris Columbus’ direction and his ability to seemingly magnify Hughes’ effect into something magical, charming and so heartwarming that it’s impossible not to love.

The cast is perfect from top-to-bottom, which is difficult with big ensemble pieces. However, most of the scenes feature the trio of Macaulay Culkin, in his first starring role, as well as great actors regardless of genre, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

These three main players had immense chemistry and they looked like they enjoyed the hell out of making this movie. I’m sure they had no idea that this would blossom into a cultural phenomenon but it did and their great work paid off, immensely.

What surprised me most about this was how much heart it really had. It’s a film with soul and while I picked up on that as a kid, I see it much differently now, as an adult that has lived a much fuller life. In that time, I’ve lost several people close to me and had a deeper understanding of family that you don’t fully grasp as a child.

Home Alone really does hit you in the feels in a really profound way and I guess I can understand why my mom cried every time she saw it. I just thought she was weird but I was also a little shit obsessed with Nintendo, comics and G.I. Joe.

It’s actually kind of hard to review a perfect film. I can’t really pick anything apart or point out negatives because there aren’t any.

So I guess that’s it.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: its direct sequel and other John Hughes holiday movies.

Film Review: My Blue Heaven (1990)

Release Date: August 17th, 1990
Directed by: Herbert Ross
Written by: Nora Ephron
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Joan Cusack, Melanie Mayron, Bill Irwin, Carol Kane, William Hickey, Deborah Rush, Daniel Stern, Ed Lauter, Colleen Camp, Troy Evans, LaWanda Page

Hawn / Sylbert Movie Company, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes

Review:

“Richie loved to use 22s because the bullets are small and they don’t come out the other end like a 45, see, a 45 will blow a barn door out the back of your head and there’s a lot of dry cleaning involved, but a 22 will just rattle around like Pac-Man until you’re dead.” – Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Antonelli

Even though My Blue Heaven kind of bombed when it came out, I’ve always liked the movie. I’d even go as far as to say that Vinnie Antonelli is my favorite Steve Martin character. I think a lot of that has to do with it being a real departure from typical Steve Martin while still having his DNA all over it.

Rick Moranis is also great, here. However, he plays the straight character and he’s not too dissimilar from the regular Moranis role. Well, except he’s an FBI agent and a bit of a badass when push comes to shove.

Rounding them out is a good cast of character actors, as well as Joan Cusack, who is pretty dynamite, overall. I like her character a lot and as you get to know her, you start to feel for her while the story makes her character’s journey a worthwhile one.

The plot revolves around an ex-mafioso who has been put into Witness Protection by the FBI. Martin plays the mafioso while Moranis plays the FBI agent assigned to him. Cusack plays the District Attorney of the town where Martin has been relocated to. Martin’s Vinnie can’t keep his hands clean, however, so Cusack’s D.A. keeps trying to throw the book at him while Moranis keeps interjecting, drawing the ire and the attraction of Cusack.

Mostly, the film plays out like a series of gags and funny bits with a simple but nicely layered story bringing it all together.

The best parts are where Steve Martin interacts with other people. He really makes this picture work and on paper, he probably didn’t seem like the best casting but he actually shines and shows his range in the comedy realm. Granted, Moranis and Cusack also bring a lot to the table and they only compliment Martin’s performance, giving him solid people to work off of.

In a lot of ways, this is just a feel good romantic comedy with some crime and a wee bit of action. It’s good, mindless entertainment and reminds me of a simpler time when we could escape into our entertainment and forget the world for 90-120 minutes.

The film has held up well and even though many would disagree, it’s still one of Steve Martin’s best.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Steve Martin comedies of the ’70s up to the early ’90s, especially Parenthood and Little Shop of Horrors, which also feature Rick Moranis.

Film Review: Frankenweenie (1984)

Release Date: December 14th, 1984 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Lenny Ripps, Tim Burton
Music by: Michael Convertino, David Newman
Cast: Barret Oliver, Shelley Duvall, Daniel Stern, Joseph Maher, Paul Bartel, Sofia Coppola, Jason Hervey

Walt Disney Productions, 29 Minutes

Review:

“I guess we can’t punish Victor for bringing Sparky back from the dead.” – Ben Frankenstein

There was a time when Tim Burton was my favorite director. That was mainly due to a string of movies from the mid-’80s through 1999’s Sleepy Hollow. Things went a bit sideways in the ’00s but I still have a lot of love for his first few decades as a director, especially his two early short films: Vincent and this one, Frankenweenie.

This would go on to be remade by Burton, years later, into a feature length animated film. While I’ve never seen that one, I can’t imagine it captured the magic and charm of this original live action short film. I’ll probably give it a watch in the near future though, as I’ve been meaning to for quite some time.

Focusing back on this film though, it’s a lighthearted and heartwarming piece that showcases how damn good Barret Oliver was as a child actor. While he doesn’t get as much time in this as he did in The NeverEnding Story and D.A.R.Y.L., this is my favorite performance of his and he’s definitely the glue that keeps this movie together, even though Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern are also wonderful in this.

The story is an homage of the classic Frankenstein story by Mary Shelley. However, in this, Frankenstein is a boy and he uses the power of lightning to resurrect his bull terrier, who was hit by a car in the opening of the film.

Initially, this was made to be paired up with the theatrical re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but upon seeing it, Disney executives thought it was too dark for little kids. They were wrong, as I would have loved this as a kid just as I had loved Gremlins earlier that same year. I was five years-old at the time but I think us ’80s kids weren’t total pussies like the kids today… but I digress.

Frankenweenie plays like an episode of an anthology television series; Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories immediately comes to mind. It’s a really good length, covers a lot of ground but also has enough time to develop these characters in a way that makes you care for them.

Tim Burton showed tremendous talent with this short film and I’m sure it played a big part in him getting his first feature film gig, directing the original Pee-wee Herman movie, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the feature length animated remake, as well as the Tim Burton short film Vincent and his animated feature The Corpse Bride.

Film Review: C.H.U.D. (1984)

Also known as: C.H.U.D. (Caníbales Humanoides Ululantes Demoníacos) (Spain), C.H.U.D. – Panik in Manhattan (Germany)
Release Date: August 31st, 1984
Directed by: Douglas Cheek
Written by: Parnell Hall, Shepard Abbott
Music by: Martin Cooper, David A. Hughes
Cast: Daniel Stern, John Heard, Christopher Curry, John Goodman, Sam McMurray, Graham Beckel, Jon Polito

C.H.U.D. Productions, New World Pictures, 88 Minutes, 96 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Are you kidding? Your guy’s got a camera. Mine’s got a flamethrower.” – Captain Bosch

This was the first film featured on the full-time revival of Joe Bob Briggs on television. I’m talking about his show The Last Drive-In, which is now streaming weekly on Shudder.

But like Joe Bob, I’m apparently one of the few that isn’t too fond of this motion picture. It’s not really bad but it’s pretty damn dull for about 80 percent of its running time and there are so many better movies from the era. This is probably why I haven’t reviewed this yet, as I just didn’t have the urge to revisit this, even for review purposes.

In all honesty, I prefer the sequel more. Yes, it’s actually a worse movie but it’s batshit insane and pretty much a black comedy spunoff from the C.H.U.D. concept.

People have been asking me for my opinion on this movie for quite awhile, though. So I guess a review is overdue and if Joe Bob can sit through it again, I guess I can too.

It’s still dull as shit. But it does have several known stars in it to at least distract me from my boredom enough to get through this.

On the flip side of that though, I do like the scenes that feature the actual creature or some of the gore it’s responsible for. I also like the idea for the film, I just thought that this spent too much time boffining it up and not enough time spent on cool monsters eating dumb people.

The performances can be a bit over the top but not so much so that I’d call the acting bad. And at least the performances provide some energy where the story fails to do so.

It may sound like I’m a hater, I’m not. But I’m certainly not a lover of C.H.U.D. I understand that a lot of people have a nostalgic soft spot for the movie but it didn’t really resonate with me as a kid, even though I pretty much lived in ’80s video stores and loved the horror genre tremendously.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: it’s really bizarre sequel, as well as Street Trash and Neon Maniacs.

Film Review: Leviathan (1989)

Release Date: March 17th, 1989
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Written by: David Peoples, Jeb Stuart
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Michael Carmine, Hector Elizondo, Lisa Elbacher, Meg Foster

Filmauro, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Talk about having a bad day.” – Justin Jones

Leviathan is hardly a unique movie. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering that most movies are just rehashes of things we’ve seen before.

This film is a hybrid of Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing. But there were a lot of films like this in the 80s; films that took a crew, isolated them and then had them face some sort of terrifying monster. In fact, there was a very similar film to this, which was also released in 1989, Deep Star Six. Out of the two, this is the superior picture.

This film benefits from having a really solid ensemble cast.

Peter Weller, Robocop and Buckaroo Banzai himself, is the crew leader. Then you have Richard Crenna a.k.a Col. Trautman from the Rambo movies, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Hector Elizondo, Amanda Pays from the original Flash TV series, Meg Foster from a ton of cool movies and Michael Carmine, who was charismatic and entertaining in Michael Mann’s Band of the Hand and Steven Spielberg’s Batteries Not Included.

The creature effects in this film were handled by Stan Winston’s people. While the creature and the effects are pretty good, they do get a bit cheesy when you see the man-eating fish-mouthed tentacle. Still, most of the film was comprised of solid work by Winston’s crew.

Peter Weller did a superb job pretty much playing a normal character and not a cyborg cop or an uber cool 80s superhero. He’s always been an accomplished actor and would do Naked Lunch a few years after this picture, which was some of his best work. Here, he shows signs of greatness but is bogged down by his surroundings, a better than decent but almost throwaway sci-fi horror spectacle. But this is a movie with a cast whose talent level probably deserved a better script that emphasized more suspense and less in your face scares.

Despite some of the film’s hokiness, the sets and effects feel pretty real and this is a good looking film for 1989 and for being limited by its budget, as it was produced by an Italian studio. It had the backing of the De Laurentiis family, who weren’t necessarily known for quality but were often times able to make chicken salad with chicken shit.

I have always liked Leviathan. The fact that it stars a lot of people I adore might have something to do with that but it still plays out well and is better than most of the Alien and Thing clones. There were a lot of these types of films back in the 1980s. Hell, they still knock those movies off today, almost forty years later. But Leviathan, is still, one of the better ones.

Rating: 7/10