Vegas Vacation Review

Vegas Vacation movie posterSynopsis
When Clark (Chevy Chase) receives a bonus from work, he takes his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Ethen Embry), and daughter Audrey (Marisol Nichols) on a family vacation to Las Vegas.

Review
I know that Vegas Vacation, the fourth film in the Vacation franchise, is the most maligned of the series but I have a confession to make: I enjoy it quite a bit. Admittedly, I might be a little bit biased as this was one of the first films I owned on DVD and therefore watched it much more than any other film in the series (except maybe Christmas Vacation). Vegas Vacation is the first film in the Vacation franchise to not carry the National Lampoon moniker, as well as the first not penned by John Hughes. Despite this, Vegas Vacation still packs plenty of laughs and good times.

Early on, it is obvious Hughes was uninvolved with the script because it lacks the heart of the previous films. Also, the script is nowhere near as strong as previous outings. However, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo remain true to form and carry the film as best they can. Unsurprisingly, some of the best scenes of the film are when Chase and D’Angelo are together. What else can I say that I haven’t said about them in my other reviews? They are simply a fantastic duo.

For a good portion of the film, the Griswolds split up and each explore Las Vegas on their own, giving Chase, D’Angelo, Ethan Embry, and Marisol Nichols plenty of screen time. The strength of each of these four subplots varies but my personal favorites are Embry’s Rusty becoming a high roller despite being underage, and Chase’s Clark going around Las Vegas with Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) trying to regain the money he lost. Although I would be lying if I consider Clark’s portion my favorite parts because Quaid is at his best in the entire series. Quaid has always been one of the highlights of the franchise for me so seeing him in such a central role and rivaling Clark for my favorite character of the film is an impressive feat.

Ellen’s (D’Angello) and Audrey’s (Nichols) subplots don’t feel like they add much to the story. Ellen gets wooed by Wayne Newton which has some laughs but also just feels uncomfortable at times. Meanwhile, Audrey, encouraged by her cousin Vicki (Shae D’lyn), becomes a dancer in a Las Vegas club. Honestly, it’s during these scenes that I just wait patiently for Rusty’s or Clark’s scenes or for the entire group to be together again since they are far more interesting.

I thought Vegas Vacation was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s far from the best in the series but I still find it highly enjoyable. Chase and D’Angelo are fantastic together as you’ve come to expect over the franchise and the latest round of Rusty and Audrey, Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols respectively, do fine against their movie parents. And once again, Audrey’s story feels the weakest while Rusty’s is one of the most entertaining of the film. Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie continues to be a stand-out supporting character, being the best appearance of him of all the Vacation movies. While it doesn’t close out the franchise with the strength it started with, Vegas Vacation is still an entertaining trip with the Griswolds.

Favorite Quote
Hoover Dam Guide: Welcome everyone. I am your dam guide, Arnie. Now I’m about to take you through a fully functional power plant, so please, no one wander off the dam tour and please take all the dam pictures you want. Now are there any dam questions?
Cousin Eddie: Yeah, where can I get some dam bait?

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Kessler – Director
Elisa Bell – Story / Screenplay
Bob Ducsay – Story
Joel McNeely – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Ethan Embry – Rusty Griswold
Marisol Nichols – Audrey Griswold
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie
Mariiam Flynn – Cousin Catherine
Shae D’lyn – Cousin Vicki
Wayne Newton – Wayne Newton
Wallace Shawn – Marty
Sid Caesar – Old Guy

National Lampoon’s European Vacation Review

National Lampoon's European Vacation movie posterSynopsis
The Griswolds, Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), Rusty (Jason Lively), and Audrey (Dana Hill), take a vacation across Europe.

Review
Sequels are tricky to pull off but comedy sequels are even more so. The audience expects a certain sense of humor but that does not mean that the film can repeat the same jokes. Since the Griswold’s toured much of the United States in the last film, they are sent to Europe this time to give them a new playground to cause havoc in. This setting opens up plenty of new joke and gag possibilities while still maintaining the sense of humor that made Vacation so enjoyable. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo return with the same fantastic chemistry they had in the previous film. John Hughes once again pens the script, this time with Robert Klane assisting with the screenplay, which highlights Chase’s and D’Angelo’s comedic talents. The two of them together makes the entire franchise so endearing and fun to return to.

The Griswold kids have been recast in this film due to Anthony Micheal Hall’s involvement with Weird Science, another Hughes movie filming around the same time. Jason Lively now plays Rusty and Dana Hill portrays Audrey. Lively does a good job picking up the reins of Rusty from Hall and Hill’s Audrey feels more relevant to the story but they don’t quite fill the shoes of Hall and Dana Barron from Vacation. The story takes place during a two week period and it tries to fit as many locations in as possible. As a result, the movie moves along pretty quickly and with a relatively short run time, around an hour and a half, European Vacation is over before you know it.

I thought National Lampoon’s European Vacation was GOOD πŸ™‚ Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are yet again the shining stars. Expect much of the same type of humor as the last film but in a new setting. This film hits all the same notes that made Vacation entertaining and lovable but it doesn’t have the same highs and even has lower lows than its predecessor. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice but European Vacation tries its hardest.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Amy Heckerling – Director
John Hughes – Story / Screenplay
Robert Klane – Screenplay
Charles Fox – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Jason Lively – Rusty Griswold
Dana Hill – Audrey Griswold

The Old Guard Review

The Old Guard movie posterSynopsis
A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. (via IMDb)

Review
Charlize Theron has shown again and again that she can be a kick-ass action star and that continues in The Old Guard. Theron is the leader of the group and has the presence and attitude to back it up. Relative newcomer Kiki Layne, and the new immortal, held her own opposite Theron. This is the first film I have seen that stars Layne and I was impressed at her handling of the emotional moments as well as the action. Everyone did a good job in their roles but the two leading ladies stood out among them. It is obvious that a lot of work went into the action sequences. The stunt work looks fantastic! You can feel the impact of each punch and the way the action is framed is great. Maybe it’s just me being selfish but I would have liked to see a few more action scenes thrown in throughout the movie.

Despite the characters being immortal, which can often lead to flat characters when it does not feel like there are any risks for them, every character in The Old Guard feels well fleshed out. They each receive a good amount of screen time and backstory. The film also does a good job of adding stakes to the film regardless of the main characters’ immortality. The biggest downside to this film is the main villain. He doesn’t make a splash until over halfway through the runtime and he comes off as very generic and somewhat cartoonish. There are shifting motivations from other characters to keep the film interesting but the big bad ultimately falls short.

I thought The Old Guard was GOOD πŸ™‚ Overall it feels like your fairly generic action flick but the exciting and well shot action scenes, good acting, and a surprising amount of character depth makes the time spent worth while, stumbling only when the main villain becomes more prominent. The ending leaves open the possibility for a sequel and since this is based on a comic book series, I’m sure the material is there for a follow-up. I wouldn’t be opposed to visiting this world of these immortals again.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gina Prince-Bythewood – Director
Greg Rucka – Writer
Volker Bertelmann – Composer
Dustin O’Halloran – Composer

Charlize Theron – Andy
Kiki Layne – Nile
Matthias Schoenaerts – Booker
Marwan Kenzari – Joe
Luca Marinelli – Nicky
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Copley
Harry Melling – Merrick
Van Veronica Ngo – Quynh
Anamaria Marinca – Dr. Meta Kozak
Joe Ansah – Keane

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Review

The deadline for submitting entries for this year’s Christmas in July Blogathon is fast approaching! There are still several spots left for the blogathon and if you’re interested in joining in, check out this post.


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga movie posterSynopsis
Lars (Will Farrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), better known as the Icelandic singing duo Fire Saga, are given the opportunity to represent their country of Iceland at Eurovision.

Review
After my experience paying full price for the rental of You Should Have Left, I am skeptical of paying for on-demand film releases. Thankfully, Netflix is still releasing films on its streaming service and their latest release, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, came at the perfect time for me. Written by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele, this movie is cut from the same cloth as Ferrell’s similar films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Blades of Glory. So if you aren’t a fan of Ferrell then this might not be the movie for you. For me, I do like Ferrell’s films and his brand of humor so I did enjoy this movie.

The core of Eurovision Song Contest is a feel-good story focused around the characters Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), who are very easy to get behind and root for. From a story perspective, it hits all the beats you would expect but that doesn’t mean it also isn’t enjoyable. Rachel McAdams is an absolute sweetheart and a great actress to carry the story since, in my opinion, her character’s arc is more interesting than Ferrell’s character’s. However, the stand out performance is easily Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov, the singer representing Russia at the song competition. He serves as a foil for Lars and a love interest for Sigrit. Stevens is clearly having a good time on screen and that in turn makes the film more enjoyable for the audience.

I thought Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s a pretty generic film and I contemplated giving it a lower score but honestly, I’m a sucker for feel-good stories (and Rachel McAdams). Maybe I would have gotten more out of it if I was more familiar with Eurovision but I will admit that I had fun watching this. The songs written for the film are also good and catchy, nothing like the soundtrack of The High Note, but like the rest of the film, they are still fun. A lot of your opinion of this film is going to fall on your opinion of Will Ferrell and his other films; It is exactly what you expect from a Ferrell movie. It’s not the best movie out there but it is a good holdover movie while we wait for theaters to reopen.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Dobkin – Director
Will Ferrell – Writer
Andrew Steele – Writer
Atli Orvarsson – Composer

Will Ferrell – Lars Erickssong
Rachel McAdams – Sigrit Ericksdottir
Pierce Brosnan – Erick Erickssong
Dan Stevens – Alexander Lemtov
Melissanthi Mahut – Mita Xenakis
Mikael Persbrandt – Victor Karlosson
Γ“lafur Darri Γ“lafsson – Neils Brongus
Graham Norton – Himself

Onward Review

Onward movie posterSynopsis
When brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) receive a gift from their late father that would allow their father to return for 24 hours, they embark on a quest to find the gem required for such a powerful spell.

Review
Of all Disney’s acquisitions over the years, it could be argued that Pixar is their crown jewel. Despite having made over twenty films since their debut feature film in 1995, the studio has had an impressive consistency of quality in both storytelling and pushing the boundaries of computer animation, with only a few slip-ups along the way. Driven by the voice talents of Marvel Cinematic Universe favorites Tom Holland and Chris Pratt and inspired by director Don Scanlon’s personal relationship with his older brother, Onward seeks to build on Pixar’s amazing legacy. While there is a lot to enjoy and take away from this film, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Pixar’s best.

The world of Onward is unique among the Pixar library, taking place in a fantasy world that feels like it was created by JRR Tolkein or JK Rowling. We’ve seen unique creatures in Monsters, Inc., so there is a familiarity to the inhabitants but they still maintain a freshness that prevents the character design from feeling rehashed. This film takes inspiration from fantasy stories of yore so of course there are plenty of call backs to be found. Having watched The Lord of the Rings films for an anniversary celebration a few years ago, one of my favorite references was a diner advertising β€œsecond breakfast.” That’s just one of many found throughout the movie and I’m sure someone more versed in the fantasy genre than I am will notice many more easter eggs than I did.

Being a fan of action-adventure films and fantasy films, I found this film to be very fun. It was full of excitement and laughs. There is some good physical comedy from the Dad legs, particularly some Weekend at Bernie’s style comedy that gave me some good chuckles. The musical score primarily consists of strings, giving the film an acoustic flavor. It fit the fantasy theme of the movie very well. There was also some guitar riffs reminiscent of Van Halen, perfectly apt of Barley’s rebellious nature.

Ian and Barley’s relationship is the core of Onward. The two brothers are brought to life by Peter Parker and Peter Quill – I mean Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. As an older brother myself, Barley’s protectiveness of Ian resonated with me. Throughout the film they were laughing together, fighting each other, and being supportive of one another, like the relationship I share with my siblings. There is a clear growth of the Lightfoot brothers, both individually and together, culminating in an emotional conclusion. Of all the things Pixar has done well in their films, portrayal of families has always been one of their strengths and their expertise is on full display here.

Another strength of Pixar is their emotional moments and for me, that’s where this film falls short. I will admit that the ending did surprise me; I thought I knew how Ian’s and Barley’s journey would end but I was pleasantly surprised that I was wrong. However, it didn’t hit me emotionally as hard as other Pixar outings did. However, I could easily see others getting hit more in the feels than I did. And that’s kind of how I felt throughout the entire film. While there are many fun, exciting, and wholesome moments, I didn’t find anything truly memorable. It took a second viewing for me to be like β€œOh yeah, I remember that.” It shouldn’t take multiple viewings to make moments stand out.

I thought Onward was GOOD πŸ™‚ Pixar has far and away established themselves as some of the best storytellers in Hollywood. Onward‘s tale about the bonds between siblings in one many can relate to and is sure to strike all the right emotional cords. Unfortunately, besides those strong emotions, and perhaps some good action sequences, this film lacks much else to really place cement itself as a top-tier Pixar films. Still, it is far from their worst and provides a feel-good story that is more than worth checking out.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Dan Scanlon – Director / Writer
Keith Bunin – Writer
Jason Headley – Writer
Jeff Danna – Composer
Mychael Danna – Composer

Tom Holland – Ian Lightfoot (voice)
Chris Pratt – Barley Lightfoot (voice)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Laurel Lightfoot
Octavia Spencer – The Manticore (voice)
Mel Rodriguez – Colt Bronco (voice)
Lena Waithe – Officer Spector (voice)
Ali Wong – Officer Gore (voice)
Grey Griffin – Dewdrop (voice)
Kyle Bornheimer – Wilden Lightfoot (voice)

The High Note Review

The High Note movie posterSynopsis
Maggie is an assistant to singer Grace, a dream job that makes her life hell. As Maggie looks for her big break to be a music producer, Grace seeks her next challenge. (via Amazon)

Review
With theaters shut down right now, I have been eager to watch a new 2020 film release. Some of the other films released digitally earlier in the year weren’t any that I was interested in seeing. I’ll admit that The High Note probably wouldn’t have been one of my must-see films in May 2020 if things were normal in the world. However, I’m glad that I was able to catch The High Note on digital release because I would have been sorry to have missed it otherwise.

Dakota Johnson carries this film with ease. Maggie is a woman who has a goal and his working hard and tirelessly to achieve that goal and Johnson brings the right amount of strength, vulnerability, sass, tenacity, and likability to her character. Also, her chemistry with the other members of the cast is wonderful. Her scenes with Tracee Ellis Ross are some of the most emotional of the whole movie. And that’s saying something considering how well she paired with Kelvin Harrison Jr. Harrison and Johnson together really drove the heart of the film so it’s a good their relationship was believable on screen.

Being a movie about the music business, you would hope that the soundtrack is up to par. The soundtrack for The High Note is absolutely fantastic. Every song is different and memorable. I’ve been playing it on near repeat since watching this film. Ross is someone I recognize more as an actress than as a singer. Let me tell you, this. Woman. Can. Sing! Her voice is a show stopper. This comes as no surprise after learning she is the daughter of Diana Ross. Her song β€œStop For A Minute” is hands-down my favorite song in the film. However, each of her songs stand out in their own right. I hope Ross takes the momentum from working on this soundtrack to record more music because her voice is worth hearing more of. I know I’ve talked a lot about Ross a bit but Harrison also has a great singing voice. His voice is so smooth and full of soul. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite song of his off the soundtrack because I like them all but β€œLet’s Stay Together” might, might, inch past the rest. Ross and Harris have a duet together that is pure magic. No matter how you feel about this film, chances are you will find a song to enjoy on the soundtrack.

If you watched the trailers, you might have a different idea of what the film is about than what it actually is as I feel the trailers are a bit misleading. Grace’s desire to create a new album, which seems to be the focus of the trailers, is more of the B-story. This movie’s focus is actually Maggie working towards her dream of becoming a music producer. Maggie’s story is very much intertwined with Grace’s story but a good portion of The High Note is devoted towards Maggie, which seems contradictory to what the trailers portray. Not a big deal but if you are reading this to decide to watch the film or not I just wanted you to have the correct expectations.

I thought The High Note was GOOD πŸ™‚ You won’t find anything plot-wise that is too surprising or mold-breaking but it sticks to a tried-and-true formula that is easy to get behind. The solid cast, centered around Dakota Johnson, brings so much heart and soul to the film. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a soundtrack to listen to.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Nisha Ganatra – Director
Flora Greeson – Writer
Amie Doherty – Composer

Dakota Johnson – Maggie Sherwoode
Tracee Ellis Ross – Grace Davis
Kelvin Harrison Jr. – David Cliff
Ice Cube – Jack Robertson
June Diane Raphael – Gail
Zoe Chao – Katie
Eugene Cordero – Seth
Bill Pullman – Max
Jonathan Freeman – Martin
Eddie Izzard – Dan Deakins