Hughes Day Tuesday: ‘European Vacation’ (1985) fails to create wonderful new family memories – or much humor (Movie review)

W

ith “European Vacation” (1985), the first sequel to “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), we’re forced to conclude that either 1, John Hughes is capable of writing bad stuff, or 2, he handed off most of the duties on this one. He’s credited with the story and co-credited on the screenplay with Robert Klane (“Weekend at Bernie’s”). Amy Heckerling (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Clueless”) directs, and this is likewise not one of her finer credits.

Continue reading “Hughes Day Tuesday: ‘European Vacation’ (1985) fails to create wonderful new family memories – or much humor (Movie review)”

PKD flashback: ‘Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night’ by K.W. Jeter (1996) (Book review)

W

ith only a year between novels, it’s unlikely K.W. Jeter was reacting to readers’ complaints about “Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human” when crafting “Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night” (1996). But it plays like he was. His second sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott classic breaks free of rain-drenched bounty hunting and delves into Philip K. Dick’s most beloved themes. (Some readers complained that “Edge of Human” wasn’t Dickian enough. Some were disappointed that it’s not a sequel to “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” – although I don’t know what more Bantam could’ve done to make it clear it’s a “Blade Runner” sequel.)

Continue reading “PKD flashback: ‘Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night’ by K.W. Jeter (1996) (Book review)”

Superhero Saturday: Rogen’s ‘The Green Hornet’ (2011) is so unfunny and boring that it stings (Movie review)

M

y pal Michael likes to say that there’s nothing worse than a bad comedy, and “The Green Hornet” (2011) is a prime example. Flat and difficult to watch, Seth Rogen’s bid at being a superhero – yes, that’s how ubiquitous this genre was last decade – is the longest 119-minute movie you’ll ever watch. It has a basic technical competence under the direction of Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) and the actors are dialed in, but nothing about the experience of watching this film is enjoyable.

Continue reading “Superhero Saturday: Rogen’s ‘The Green Hornet’ (2011) is so unfunny and boring that it stings (Movie review)”

Frightening Friday: ‘The Thing’ (1982) simmers in atmospheric dread that doesn’t go away with the closing credits (Movie review)

J

ohn Carpenter has built up enough of an oeuvre that everyone has their own pick for his elite work, but for me it’s “The Thing” (1982) in a landslide. I appreciate “Halloween’s” status as a slasher trope codifier, and “Escape from New York’s” guerrilla grit, but “The Thing” is the director’s most fully formed masterpiece. It’s mentioned a lot for its elite practical creature effects and its portrayal of paranoia within a small group, and it has made must-watch lists during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to its story of a mysterious infection. But what most defines the film for me are its sense of place and sense of dread.

Continue reading “Frightening Friday: ‘The Thing’ (1982) simmers in atmospheric dread that doesn’t go away with the closing credits (Movie review)”

Throwback Thursday: ‘Escape from New York’ (1981) is both a gritty actioner and a dark comedy (Movie review)

I

appreciate “Escape from New York” (1981) more as an influential piece of history in the action genre than as a film that stands the test of time. It has two undeniably iconic aspects. First: the gritty, dark cinematography by the legendary Dean Cundey, which turns 1981 St. Louis into the dystopian future of 1997 Manhattan. And second: the eye-patch-wearing, gruff-voiced, take-no-crap Snake Plissken. Kurt Russell does a lot more with this role, to darkly comedic effect, than what’s on the page from John Carpenter (who also directs) and Nick Castle – although they do give him some great one-liners to work with.

Continue reading “Throwback Thursday: ‘Escape from New York’ (1981) is both a gritty actioner and a dark comedy (Movie review)”

Hughes Day Tuesday: Chase shines as ‘Vacation’ (1983) chronicles a hilarious ‘two weeks of living hell’ (Movie review)

N

ational Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983) both makes fun of and lauds the archetypal dad who wants to show his family a fun time but runs into a building stream of annoyances and gradually loses his mind. Writer John Hughes shows love and sympathy for this type of person, and has the perfect actor to embody Clark Griswold in Chevy Chase.

Continue reading “Hughes Day Tuesday: Chase shines as ‘Vacation’ (1983) chronicles a hilarious ‘two weeks of living hell’ (Movie review)”

PKD flashback: ‘Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human’ by K.W. Jeter (1995) (Book review)

B

ack when a “Blade Runner” movie sequel seemed unlikely, Bantam (the publisher of “Star Wars” spinoff fiction at the time) and author K.W. Jeter delivered three follow-up novels from 1995-2000. The first, “Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human” (1995), returns us to the world of the film nine months later, and the author paints a picture with words as beautifully as Syd Mead and his team created the movie’s dystopian Los Angeles.

Continue reading “PKD flashback: ‘Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human’ by K.W. Jeter (1995) (Book review)”

Superhero Saturday: ‘Dredd’ (2012) goes simpler and grittier in saga’s second cinematic bid (Movie review)

D

redd” (2012) — the second go at bringing comicdom’s single-minded future cop to the big screen — is tight, simple and brisk. It’s objectively better than Sylvester Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” (1995), particularly in regard to the main character’s portrayal – by Karl Urban this time – but it’s actually a shallower text than the first version. Concerned with action and atmosphere more than police-state critiques, “Dredd” wins the battle of the “Judge Dredd” adaptations entirely with coolness points.

Continue reading “Superhero Saturday: ‘Dredd’ (2012) goes simpler and grittier in saga’s second cinematic bid (Movie review)”

Frightening Friday: ‘Disturbing Behavior’ (1998) is ‘wrong, bad, bad, wrong,’ yet oh so lovable (Movie review)

I

n 1998, I thought “Disturbing Behavior” was an elite portrayal of high school as a conformity factory, as that concept was a new discovery for me at the time. While the theme is now old hat, the movie still makes me smile as it meets at the intersection of blunt metaphor and derivative sci-fi warning but comes off as a dark comedy. It features a dizzying variety of performances in a tight 84 minutes, cut down by the studio into almost a trailer of itself. It’s a crystallization of 1998 (flannel), yet it exists in a parallel reality (“razor”). It’s not objectively great – and I can see why some people hate it — but it’s so fun to watch.

Continue reading “Frightening Friday: ‘Disturbing Behavior’ (1998) is ‘wrong, bad, bad, wrong,’ yet oh so lovable (Movie review)”