Also known as: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (complete title) Release Date: December 20th, 2003 (TV) Directed by: Nick Marck Written by: Matty Simmons Based on: characters by John Hughes Music by: Nathan Furst Cast: Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, Dana Barron, Jake Thomas, Ed Asner, Fred Willard, Sung Hi Lee, Beverly Garland, Eric Idle,
National Lampoon, Elliot Friedgen & Company, Warner Bros. Television, 83 Minutes
Full disclosure, I didn’t go into this with any anticipation of it being good or all that enjoyable. I just wanted to complete my mission of reviewing all the National Lampoon Vacation movies, so that also included this shitty, made-for-television spinoff.
That being said, for being a really shitty movie, this was more palatable than I had thought it would be. I guess the main reason is because Randy Quaid is just charismatic and the goofiness of Cousin Eddie works, even if the script is bad and most of the jokes don’t land as intended.
It’s not Quaid’s fault that the material was so bad but he does the best with it and you find yourself still cheering for the lovable loser. Hell, you cheer for him more than the franchise’s main character, Clark Griswold. Why? Well, because Cousin Eddie isn’t a self-absorbed prick. He actually just wants to give his family the best Christmas possible despite their seemingly perilous situation.
In the end though, this is still awfully written to the point that the movie just never builds enough steam to make you give much of a shit. I also don’t think I laughed once and spent more time scratching my head over some of the movie’s more ridiculous moments like Cousin Eddie’s fishing debacle.
Still, Randy Quaid was as enjoyable as he could possibly be in this.
Rating: 3/10 Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.
Also known as: Austin Powers 2, It’s Shagging Time (working titles) Release Date: June 11th, 1999 Directed by: Jay Roach Written by: Michael McCullers, Mike Myers Music by: George S. Clinton Cast: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Will Ferrell, Clint Howard, Burt Bacharach, Michael McDonald, Rob Lowe, Jeff Garlin, Elvis Costello, Jerry Springer, Rebecca Romijn, Woody Harrelson, Charles Napier, Tim Robbins, Willie Nelson, Fred Willard, David Koechner, Tony Jay (narrator)
Moving Pictures, Gratitude, New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes
“I can’t believe Vanessa, my bride, my one true love, the woman who taught me the beauty of monogamy, was a fembot all along. Wait a tick, that means I’m single again! Oh behave!” – Austin Powers
Out of the three movies in the Austin Powers trilogy, this one is my favorite, even though all the films are really close in overall quality.
There are a few reasons why I like this one slightly better.
First, I like the plot better than the first movie. It’s more complex, more interesting and doesn’t simply try to rehash the beats of the first picture. There’s also a time travel element that works for me, even though it quickly breaks the fourth wall dismissing the paradoxes and narrative problems it creates. Because, honestly, this is a mindless, fun Austin Powers movie and you shouldn’t be thinking that hard anyway.
Second, I loved all the new characters from Mini-Me, Fat Bastard and especially Rob Lowe, as the younger version of Number 2.
Third, this has Heather Graham in it as the main “Powers Girl” and she’s always been a favorite of mine and certainly my favorite babe in a film series packed full of incredible, badass babes.
Apart from those three things, this film is just as fun and entertaining as the first movie. Additionally, the cast seems much more at-home in their roles and they’re even better than they were in the previous film.
I also like this chapter because it shows you which jokes sort of become reoccurring gags. Many of these bits became staples of the series while also becoming one of the more endearing things about this goofy, amusing franchise.
It’s also obvious that this movie had more money to play around with. There are bigger, better sets and more of them. Dr. Evil gets multiple lairs and each of them are much grander than the previous film’s underground bunker.
All in all, this is still solid, fun escapism and it made me smile in a young decade that hasn’t been very kind to most of us.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Austin Powers films and other ’60s styled spy spoofs like the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the original Casino Royale.
Also known as: Salem’s Lot: The Movie (cable TV title), Blood Thirst (video title), Phantasma 2 (Spain), Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (Netherlands), Salem’s Lot: The Miniseries (Germany) Release Dates: November 17th, 1979, November 24th, 1979 Directed by: Tobe Hooper Written by: Paul Monash Based on:Salem’s Lot by Stephen King Music by: Harry Sukman Cast: David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Ed Flanders, Fred Willard, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor
“You’ll enjoy Mr. Barlow. And he’ll enjoy you.” – Straker
The last time I watched this wonderful film/TV miniseries was just before the 2004 remake came out. So it’s been a really long time and because of that, I guess I forgot how incredibly fantastic this was.
While I’ve never read the book, I know about what changes they made in this adaptation and frankly, I’m fine with all the major tweaks.
For one, the vampire is not some Eastern European dandy of the Bela Lugosi variety. Instead, Tobe Hooper gave us a vampire that is more reminiscent of Count Orlok from the 1922 film Nosferatu. And the late ’70s were a great time for vampire movies, especially lovers of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu between this picture and the Nosferatu remake by Werner Herzog.
Another change that was made is that the final confrontation with the heroes and the vampire took place in the creepy basement of the vampire’s house, as opposed to one of the heroes’ homes. The vampire house was truly a character all its own in this film and it made this movie a mixture of classic vampire fiction and a traditional haunted house story.
What’s really great about the finale, is that the house that was created for the film is absolutely terrifying and enchanting all at the same time. The set designers created an incredibly creepy mansion for the final showdown and it truly brought the dread onscreen to a whole other level. A level that this film couldn’t have reached had they kept the story true to Stephen King’s novel.
The vampire mansion is just one part of this movie’s mesmerizing atmosphere, though.
All the scenes that feature some sort of supernatural element take on a strange life of their own. The scenes where the vampire children come to the windows and float into the rooms at night with fog billowing in are f’n incredible!
Honestly, for its time and maybe all-time, Salem’s Lot takes the cake for creating a perfect ambiance for a horror picture on the small screen. Honestly, I’d love to see this on the big screen, if it is ever showing somewhere near me.
The vampire kids at the window was so well done that it became a bit of a trope following this film. It was used in other movies like The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Plus, this film has a moment where a character is impaled by deer antlers mounted on the wall. This would go on to be seen in other movies as well.
Additionally, this would inspire vampire movies in other regards. Fright Night borrows from Salem’s Lot in different ways. That film even has a big finale in the vampire’s home and while it isn’t as incredible as the finale of Salem’s Lot, it is still a great sequence that is a nice homage to it. Fright Night is a classic in its own right, which also spawned a sequel, a remake and sequel to the remake. I even heard a rumor that it may be turned into a television show in the future.
But while this film would go on to inspire countless others, Tobe Hooper, the director, also had his own homages to other films in this, primarily the work of Alfred Hitchcock and his masterpiece Psycho. The vampire mansion has a very similar appearance to the house on the hill above Bates Motel. Hooper also employed similar shots.
For a TV movie, this also has some pretty good acting but no one else quite kills it like James Mason. He absolutely owns every frame of celluloid in which he appears. I’ve always loved Mason but seeing him truly get to ham it up while being terrifying was so damn cool. And honestly, Mason looked like he was loving this film, as he was so committed to the role that he breathed life into it that no other actor probably could have.
Salem’s Lot is a bonafide classic and pretty close to perfect. My only complaint about it is the running time. The film does feel a bit slow in parts but it was a two-part miniseries and had a lot of characters and subplots. In fact, those were all greatly trimmed down from the original novel and some characters were combined to simplify the story. But honestly, I’m still okay with the final result and I wouldn’t trim much, as almost every scene featuring the main characters feels necessary.
In the end, I love this movie; more so than I remembered. I’m glad that I revisited it after all these years and I feel like it’s a film that I will go back to fairly often now that I’ve been reminded as to just how damn good it is.
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu remake, as well as other vampire films of the ’70s and 2000s Shadow of the Vampire.
Release Date: September 10th, 2016 (Toronto International Film Festival) Directed by: Christopher Guest Written by: Christopher Guest, Jim Piddock Music by: Jeffrey C.J. Vanston Cast: Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Christopher Moynihan, Don Lake, Zach Woods, Chris O’Dowd, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Jim Piddock, Maria Blasucci, Oscar Nunez, Harry Shearer
Netflix, 89 Minutes
“Well, my name is A.J. Blumquist, and I’m a former mascot, Danny the Donkey, and uh, I’m a judge this year for the Fluffies. For the two people that don’t know, uh, Danny the Donkey, my mascot alter ego, was the first one to have an anatomically correct costume.” – A.J. Blumquist
When you have something really good, you can ruin it by having too much. This can be said about cheesecake, high end whiskey, cocaine, sex with street walkers and well, sadly… Christopher Guest mockumentaries.
One could say that this isn’t Christopher Guest’s fault, he’s just making what he knows and he is a master of the genre. He can’t help that there has been a huge over-saturation of films like this and really, a lot of that could be due to how good his movies have been. But on the flip side of that, this falls flat in just about every way and there are recent mockumentaries that are much funnier than this: What We Do In the Shadows, for instance.
Guest rounds up his typical group of stars minus a few key people, most notably Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. He spends more time using newer actors in main roles and most of his great collaborators take more of a backseat here. John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge and Michael Hitchcock were severely underutilized and even Jane Lynch, who got a good amount of screen time, deserved more.
Out of the newcomers, I didn’t really connect to any of them except for Zach Woods. I liked Woods in this. But even Chris O’Dowd, who I usually find funny, didn’t hit the mark here.
It’s not that this picture is unfunny, it has some funny bits, but it doesn’t keep you as amused as Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman or A Mighty Wind. It’s nowhere near as incredibly as This Is Spinal Tap and it falls short of living up to Guest’s previous weakest film, For Your Consideration.
I’m not sure what this means for Guest’s future, as other reviews I’ve seen aren’t too fond of this film and feel the same way that I do. But if he sticks with Netflix he’s probably fine, as they’ll pump out anything with a famous name on it.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: Christopher Guest’s other mockumentaries but this is the worst one so all the others are better.
Release Date: April 30th, 1999 Directed by: Rodman Flender Written by: Terri Hughes, Ron Milbauer Music by: Graeme Revell Cast: Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox, Jessica Alba, Jack Noseworthy, Robert Englund (voice), Fred Willard, Connie Ray, Kelly Monaco, The Offspring
Licht/Mueller Film Corporation, Team Todd, TriStar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes
“There is evil out there, and I’m gonna kick its ass!” – Debi
Idle Hands is a bizarre and fun movie.
It follows a stoner and his buds. The main stoner, played by Devon Sawa, who was a hot commodity circa 1999, has a possessed hand. His hand murders his parents very violently while he is asleep. The rest of the film sees him trying to control his hand, as it yanks him around like a rag doll while looking for more people to murder.
This isn’t a film that did well when it came out and critics weren’t kind to it. It is sort of a niche movie that found its audience once it hit video stores. I remember that it developed a cult following pretty quickly and when I was in my early twenties, this was on the TV at a lot of parties. And rightfully so, as it is unique, cool and has a certain charm to it.
I have always been a fan of horror, especially when it has a comedy element to it. This film has the right balance between its scares and its laughs. It is also pretty gory, which was still fairly normal in 1999 before the ’00s brought tame PG-13 horror.
Seth Green has played a lot of good characters, the best of them always seeming to be an extension of himself. Here, he plays maybe his best character as one of the stoner buds. After he dies, early in the film, he is basically a zombie pothead with a bottle lodged into his forehead. The other stoner, who walks around holding his decapitated head, was played by Elden Henson, who modern audiences will probably recognize as Foggy Nelson from the Daredevil series on Netflix.
Jessica Alba is also in this, as the apple of the stoner’s eye, and she’s never been more adorable. Most guys my age fell in love with her in the TV show Dark Angel but it was Idle Hands that got me crushin’ on her hard.
I also love that Fred Willard is in this, albeit briefly, as the father of Sawa’s character. He meets his violent demise pretty quickly in the film but Willard is enjoyable in everything. Here, he is a straitlaced dad that’s sick of his stoner son being a useless coach potato with no ambition.
This movie has really good style. I love the set design, the characters’ looks and the score is actually pretty damn good.
I love the opening theme by Graeme Revell, as it truly sets the tone of the picture. The rest of the film is accented by Revell’s score mixed with a lot of notable ’90s rock. The Offspring even play the school dance, where they cover The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated”.
Idle Hands is just a good time if you are into horror comedies with a good amount of gross out moments.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with:Disturbing Behavior, The Faculty, Can’t Hardly Wait, Brainscan and Final Destination.