Drew’s Movie Reviews Turns 7! My Fave Five New Movies I Watched in Year 7

Hello, friends!

Drew’s Movie Reviews has turned seven! That right, yesterday was my blogiversary which means I have been blogging for a full seven years now. Where does the time go? To celebrate, over the last few days I have posted reviews of all the Vacation films, beginning from the 1983 original to the 2015 “reboot.” If you missed any of those reviews, here are the links to those posts:

Vacation
European Vacation
Christmas Vacation
Vegas Vacation
Vacation (2015)

Lastly, to close out my blogging year, here are my five favorite films I saw during my seventh year of blogging:

Good Boys movie poster5) Good Boys

When I first saw the trailer for Good Boys, the first thing I thought of was Superbad but with elementary school kids. And being a big fan of Superbad, I was instantly sold. This is a very crude film. When I say it’s like Superbad but with kids, I mean the sense of humor and language is exactly like Superbad so watching young kids curse like sailors might not be for everyone. However, that’s one of the reasons that this film was so funny to me. Mix that with their naivete and you have a mix for some outrageous and humorous moments. All of the young actors did great and I was laughing from start to finish.

Knives Out movie poster4) Knives Out

After Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I was weary of watching another Rian Johnson film. I’m so glad I gave Knives Out a chance because it was one of the most refreshing films to be released in 2019. This movie is filled with twists and turns. When you think it’s going to zig, it zags. From the time the mystery is introduced to the final scenes, Johnson keeps you guessing. Knives Out breaks the conventions of what you expect from a murder mystery film and that’s part of the enjoyment. On top of that, the cast is top notch. Everyone is great in their roles and it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. A second or even third watch is worth it just to better see how each of the pieces are laid out throughout the film and better appreciate how it’s all brought together at the end.

Uncut Gems movie poster3) Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is often pegged as a comedic actor, so when I saw he was going to be in a more dramatic role, I wanted to check it out. At the center of Uncut Gems is Sandler’s Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweler with a gambling problem and an overall terrible person. Most movies give some sort of redeeming quality to their main character so the audience can root for them. Uncut Gems does not. From the get-go, Howard is set up as a protagonist that is nearly impossible to get behind. The entire movie I was expecting the worst to happen, and this is where my enjoyment of this film comes from. I found myself constantly on edge watching and waiting as Howard’s life goes from bad to worst and he continuously makes bad decisions. And the entire time Sandler is in top form, maybe the best he’s ever been. Uncut Gems is an unusual film but that’s part of its disturbing charm.

Ready or Not movie poster2) Ready or Not

I went to see Ready or Not in the theater on a whim. As it turns out, it was a good whim to follow. I would be lying if I didn’t say that part of the reason this film has ranked so high is from the surprise factor. Ready or Not did not receive much advertising or fanfare before its release so I knew little about it going in and I don’t blame you if you missed this one on its release. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out on a fantastic dark comedy horror. Despite a talented cast around her, Samara Weaving manages to carry the film as the latest member of the Le Domas family. I constantly found myself both sitting on the edge of my seat and laughing at this dark comedy. What an unusual and fascinating combination.

Eighth Grade movie poster1) Eighth Grade

Surprisingly, Eighth Grade was the only film not released in the last twelve months that made it on this list. I guess this last year was not good for me in terms of watching great movies at home. I chose this film for my first entry of the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon to serve as a snapshot of the decade. It was my first time watching it (hence why it’s on this list) and I was blown away. I thoroughly believe this is the best coming-of-age film I have seen. This movie is so raw and accurately captures the pressures of being a teen. Kudos to Elsie Fisher for giving such an outstanding performance that I did not expect from someone her age. For the second year in a row, a coming-of-age film has made my list of essential watches. Not too shabby.


Year seven is now officially closed! Thank you for all the support over the last year! I appreciate all of the comments, likes, and views. I wouldn’t keep blogging if it wasn’t for all of you. πŸ˜€ Thank you for being here with me on this journey and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for Drew’s Movie Reviews.

Follow DMR on Facebook, Twitter, and Letterboxd to stay up to date with my cinematic adventure.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay positive. Stay weird.

Until next time, cheers!

Vacation Review

Vacation (2015) movie posterSynopsis
In effort to reconnect with his wife and kids, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) takes his family on a cross-country trip to Walley World like his family did thirty years ago.

Review
One of Hollywood’s go-to moves lately has been revisiting franchises that have been dormant for 20 or 30 years and making sequels or remakes or reboots. Often, these attempts are not received well. Movies like Dumb and Dumber To orΒ Total Recall fail to capture that certain something that made the original films so popular and beloved in the first place, attempting to cash in on nostalgia rather than make a film that is worth its legacy. Vacation, more of a sequel than reboot, falls into this category. And like all the others, it’s a pale comparison to the films that came before it.

I will admit that this film did make me laugh. In the same way the 1983 Vacation was a good fit for Chevy Chase’s style of humor, this Vacation highlights Ed Helms’ comedic talents. The types of jokes and gags it has are a bit juvenile at times and what I call β€œstupid funny” but honestly, it makes me laugh. If you’ve seen Helms’ films like Cedar Rapids or The Hangover then you’ll have a sense of what to expect from him. The dynamic between the two Griswold kids, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins), was unexpected and created for some humorous moments. Chris Hemsworth continues to prove that he can do comedy as well as he does action. His timing and delivery are spot-on. If the Vacation franchise somehow manages to continue, he should be the Cousin Eddie of the β€œreboot.”

In movies like this one, there is an extra emphasize on homages that try to cash in on the nostalgia of the franchise. Sometimes the filmmakers go overboard with the callbacks that feels like they are pandering to the audience. Luckily, Vacation doesn’t fall into that trap; it has just the right amount of references to the previous films, particularly the original Vacation, that it doesn’t feel heavy-handed or too much.

I think the what I was most disappointed about was the portrayal of Rusty. I know it’s around thirty years after the original Vacation but this Rusty seems like more of a push-over than what was portrayed in the other films. As much as I like Helms, his personality doesn’t match the Rusty we’ve seen in the four previous films. Maybe it’s just me but that’s how I felt. I think it was less of how Helms portrayed Rusty and more of how the part was written.

Another problem with making a film simply to cash in on nostalgia is that often it lacks the charisma or charm of the first one and Vacation unfortunately does not buck that trend. The characters lack the appeal of Clark and Ellen, and the Griswold kids even less so. The actors also don’t have the same chemistry as the original cast. It’s not like this brand of comedy cannot be full of heart, plenty of other movies have proven that it can happen, but this film is more focused on trying to capture the magic of its inspiration that it forgets what made it memorable in the first place.

I thought Vacation was OK 😐 It’s simply another attempt to ride the nostalgia wave popular in Hollywood right now and it falls way short of capturing the magic of the original Vacation. Maybe this film might have fared better if it wasn’t attached to a franchise like the Vacation franchise. But then again, if it tried that, I imagine it probably would have been compared to the original Vacation and then still would have been looked at in a less than positive light. Moral of the story is let’s stop trying to remake or reboot beloved and popular franchises simply because it can be done. If you want to watch a great film like Vacation, simply watch Vacation.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Francis Daley – Director / Writer
Jonathan Goldstein – Director / Writer
Mark Mothersbaugh – Composer

Ed Helms – Rusty Griswold
Christina Applegate – Debbie Griswold
Skyler Gisondo – James Griswold
Steele Stebbins – Kevin Griswold
Leslie Mann – Audrey Crandall
Chris Hemsworth – Stone Crandall
Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Catherine Missal – Adena
Charlie Day – Chad
Ron Livingston – Ethan
Norman Reedus – Trucker

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

National Lampoon’s Vacation Review

National Lampoon's Vacation movie posterSynopsis
Desperate to spend time with his family, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) takes his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and daughter Audrey (Dana Barron) and a cross country road trip to the theme park Walley World.

Review
The 80s was a great time for actor Chevy Chase and writer John Hughes. Given the long and storied careers these two would end up with, then of course it is no surprise that when these two collided almost 40 years ago, magic happened. Hughes based the script for National Lampoon’s Vacation on the short story “Vacation ’58” he wrote for an issue of the National Lampoon magazine. Chase, combined with an incredible cast around him and director Harold Ramis behind the camera, creates one of the most memorable films of the decade.

The first thing that makes this movie so entertaining are the actors; every one of the Griswolds is perfectly cast. Chevy Chase as the head of the family, Clark Griswold, never fails to elicit laughs. His deadpan delivery and slapstick comedy are timed perfectly. Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen, the Griswold matriarch, is fantastic opposite Chase; she plays off his comedy well and shines just as bright. The Griswold children, Anthony Michael Hall as the older sibling Rusty and Dana Barron as Audrey, the younger sibling, are just kind of there to go along for the ride. Hall seems to have the more stand-out moments than Barron but they both gel well with Chase and D’Angelo.

Chase, D’Angelo, and the rest of the cast wouldn’t stand out if it wasn’t for the excellent script they had to play with. This film is filled to the brim with wit and humor. I don’t think there was one scene that did not make me laugh, whether it was Clark’s antics or obliviousness, Ellen trying to keep her children and husband in line, or the Griswold children just going along with everything as best they can, there are jokes and gags galore. It gets even better when Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie shows up, albeit too briefly. Hughes’ script is also very tight. Every scene has a purpose or sets up something that pays off down the line. It also keeps moving; with the amount of jokes and gags in each scene, the film never lingers on any one of them, constantly moving on to the next. This is what makes Chase such a wonderful fit because he expertly navigates from one gag to the next.

But what I really enjoy about this film is how it takes something simple, such as a family vacation, and turns it into a caricature. Something simple like asking for directions or visiting a cousin’s house is exaggerated and portrayed in a ridiculously over-the-top manner. Countless times I found myself laughing and saying to myself β€œI can relate to that!” The best movies find something for you to connect to, building an emotional bond between you and the film. Vacation finds those emotions and holds on tight, making sure you remember the film long after you’ve finished watching.

I thought National Lampoon’s Vacation was GREAT πŸ˜€ Really, what’s not to love in this film? Director Harold Ramis, aka Dr. Egon Spengler, brings writer John Hughes’ script to life with energy and nuance, highlighting the comedic talents of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Randy Quaid is a hoot as Cousin Eddie, who has only a small role in this film but thankfully plays a bigger part later in the franchise. Vacation hits all the right emotional cords with its melodramatic take on the family road trip, drawing you in with its fun and relatable characters and keeping you engaged with Hughes’ trademark humor and heart.

Favorite Quote
Lasky: Has your father ever killed anyone before?
Rusty: Oh, just a dog. Oh, and my Aunt Edna.
Clark: Hey! You can’t prove that, Rusty.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Harold Ramis – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Ralph Burns – Composer

Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
Anthony Michael Hall – Rusty Griswold
Dana Barron – Audrey Griswold
Imogene Coca – Aunt Edna
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie
Miriam Flynn – Cousin Catherine
John Navin – Cousin Dale
Jane Krakowski – Cousin Vicki
Christie Brinkley – The Girl in the Ferrari
John Candy – Lasky, Guard at Walleyworld
Eddie Bracken – Roy Walley