The Cannonball Run Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.


The Cannonball Run movie posterSynopsis
An eclectic group of racers take part in The Cannonball Run, a race from Connecticut to California.

Review
Look, I know The Cannonball Run might not have the best reviews out there, but you know what? I enjoy the hell out of it. Maybe it’s because this was one of the first films I had available on DVD so I regularly watched when I was younger. As a result, I might be tainted by nostalgia but there’s something about this film that keeps me coming back to it and laughing all these years later.

There are quite a few characters in The Cannonball Run and the movie tries to focus on as many of them as possible. These characters are varied and entertaining but because the film tries to focus on all of them, the first half of the film’s breezy hour and a half run time is spent before the titular race even begins as it introduces them all. Also because of the large cast, they get barely any development. Now unfortunately, this also applies to the main core of JJ (Burt Reynolds), Victor (Dom DeLuise), and Pamela (Farrah Fawcett). We do get to know more about them than those around them but it’s still the bare minimum. Given the caliber of the cast list, many of the actors and actresses are wasted, providing little more than what feel like extended cameos.

Given that the film centers around racing, it’s odd (or should it be no surprise?) that the pace is disjointed. As I said before, about half of the film is consumed on the setup. Then the next portion is spent jumping from racer to racer as they make their way across the country. Some of these segments are fantastic while others can be removed completely and it wouldn’t change the film in any way. Then it really slows down before (spoiler alert) becoming a foot race towards the finish line. The movie was shot quickly (it was filmed in 36 days and many of the actors only worked for two or three days) and it feels like much around the production was rushed as well.

Now, so far I have given only criticisms of the film but now I’m going to contradict myself. I said earlier that one of the negatives of this film was that the main characters barely receive any development. The Cannonball Run isn’t about its characters, it’s about the race. The race is an excuse to have a diverse cast characters, played by a who’s who of actors and actresses of the time. This variety is one of the film’s aspects that I enjoy the most. Not all of the actors bring their A-game but regardless, nearly all of them are loads of fun and I find their humor entertaining. And when the characters are being introduced, there are some truly memorable setups.

The gags continue all through the film. Some land spectacularly while others spectacularly miss. As I’ve said before about comedies, humor is very subjective. Meaning that if this isn’t your style of humor, you aren’t going to enjoy The Cannonball Run very much, especially since it doesn’t offer much else. But for me, the slapstick and gags throughout the movie is the kind of humor I enjoy, especially from this era of comedies.

I thought The Cannonball Run was GREAT πŸ˜€ Although this film came out a little before my time, I usurped my dad’s DVD of the film into my own collection when I was younger and watched it often; I couldn’t get enough of it! As I have watched this film more and more without the lens of youth and blissful ignorance, the flaws have become more apparent over time. Nonetheless, I still find myself coming back to The Cannonball Run and finding it good for some quick, cheap entertainment. Because of my relationship with this movie , I have come to sincerely understand that sometimes it isn’t about the quality of the film but your experience with it that makes it meaningful to you.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Hal Needham – Director
Brock Yates – Writer
Al Capps – Composer

Burt Reynolds – JJ McClure
Dom DeLuise – Victor Prinzim
Farrah Fawcett – Pamela
Jack Elam – Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing
Roger Moore – Seymour
Dean Martin – Jamie Black
Sammy Davis Jr. – Fenderbaum
Adrienne Barbeau – Marcie
Tara Buckman – Jill
Terry Bradshaw – Terry
Mel Tillis – Mel
Bert Convy – Brad
Warren Berlinger – Shakey Finch
Jamie Farr – Sheik
Rick Aviles – Mad Dog
Alfie Wise – Batman
Jackie Chan – Subaru Driver #1
Michael Hui – Subaru Driver #2
Joe Klecko – Polish Racing Driver
Norman Grabowski – Petoski
George Furth – Arthur Foyt
Peter Fonda – Chief Biker

Ultimate Decades 2021 Blogathon Kick-Off: Bridesmaids (2011) Review

Hello, friends!

I’m excited to be the first to welcome you to the sixth annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and myself! In the past, the Ultimate Decades Blogathon focused on a specific decade, from the 1970s all the way to the 2010s. Rather than revisit those decades again, the format this year is slightly different. Instead of spotlighting a single decade, the the Ultimate Decades Blogathon is now focusing on films released in years that end in the same digit as the current year. Since this year is 2021, all the films in this blogathon were released in years that end in 1. Exciting, right? I think the participants this year have really outdone themselves and chosen some great films from across the decades. Now, to kick things off, I will share my review of a film that came out just last decade. Without further ado, here is my review of the 2011 Paul Feig comedy Bridesmaids.


Bridesmaids movie posterSynopsis
Jillian (Maya Rudolph) asked her best friend, Annie (Kristen Wiig), to be the Maid of Honor in her wedding. Annie finds competition in Helen (Rose Byrne) for Jillian’s attention.

Review
When a film features an all female ensemble, you would be forgiven if you expect a sappy love story about the women trying to catch themselves a man. If you went into Bridesmaids with that expectation, you would be wrong. Bridesmaids takes inspiration from films like The Hangover and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, showcasing that women can at time be just as crude as men. However, Bridesmaids never tries to be like similar films featuring ensembles of male buddies and sets out to show that female relationships do not revolve around β€œtrying to find the one” as many movies before would have you believe.

The script, written by Annie Mumolo and star Kristen Wiig, is what sets Bridesmaids apart from other female ensemble movies at the time. While vulgar and crude, which is not uncommon in comedy films (especially in the late 2000s/early 2010s), Mumolo and Wiig still manage to make it feel unique. Since this is a movie about women written by women, the relationships between the female cast feel like actual relationships. There’s a true feeling of genuineness to the characters and their interactions between each other. Like many comedies, the script takes something simple, like being a bridesmaid, and puts it under a magnifying glass, exaggerating the experience yet still keeping it relatable. While there were female-led comedy ensemble movies before Bridesmaids, they saw varied success. This film feels like it marked a turning point, proving that the comedies written by and starring women can be just as funny and entertaining as those written by and starring men.

Along with the script, the cast is absolutely stellar. Wiig seems to play off everyone around her. Her scenes with Rudolph feel like the pair have been friends since childhood. Wiig and Rose Byrne, who plays her rival for Lily’s attention, are an absolute hoot when they are together. Wendi McLendon-Covey plays the worn-down mom to perfection. The Office alum Ellie Kemper channels her inner Erin and is adorably awkward. I am a huge fan of the British television show The IT Crowd, so seeing Chris O’Dowd was a special treat. However, the stand-out performance to me was Melissa McCarthy. In one of her first feature film roles, she knocks it out of the park. Every scene of hers is laugh-out-loud funny and her comedic timing is impeccable. It’s not hard to see why her film career took off after starring in this movie. Even though there are many characters, Bridesmaids manages to balance them, providing enough screen time for the supporting characters to feel relevant but still enable the leads to stand out.

I thought Bridesmaids was GREAT πŸ˜€ Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig and directed by Paul Fieg, it opened up the door for modern-day female-led comedies, showing that female-led comedies can be raunchy too and not just reserved for sappy love stories. What’s more, the characters are extremely likable and the entire cast is outstanding. At 10 years old, Bridesmaids has aged like a fine wine, and keeps getting better with every viewing.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Paul Feig – Director
Kristen Wiig – Writer
Annie Mumolo – Writer
Michael Andrews – Writer

Kristen Wiig – Annie
Maya Rudolph – Lillian
Melissa McCarthy – Megan
Rose Byrne – Helen
Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rita
Ellie Kemper – Becca
Chris O’Dowd – Rhodes
Rebel Wilson – Brynn
Matt Lucas – Gil
JIll Clayburgh – Annie’s Mom
Jon Hamm – Ted
Tim Heidecker – Dougie


Tomorrow, my co-host Kim will post her entry on her site in part two of the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021 kick-off.

As the blogathon progresses, you can check out this compilation page on Kim’s site to view all of the entries.

Until next time, cheers!

Ashens and the Polybius Heist Review

Ashens and the Polybius Heist movie posterSynopsis
Ashens (Stuart Ashen) is a collector of rare but worthless collectibles. When he learns the location of the Polybius, a mythical 80s arcade game, he puts together a crew to acquire it.If you’re going to pull a heist, this is not the crew you want.

Review
Before going into this review, there are two things you should know about me: 1) I consider myself a nerd, and 2) I love heist films. So when I read the synopsis for Ashens and the Polybius Heist, I knew immediately that it was going to be a film I would enjoy. Crowd funded and featuring several online personalities, Ashens and the Polybius Heist is made with an evident passion from the cast and crew. This passion seeps from the screen; clearly the filmmakers created a product they would enjoy which in turn made in enjoyable for the rest of us.

The creators behind Ashens and the Polybius Heist describe the film as a β€œlove letter to geek and retro culture” and that’s exactly what it feels like. There are so many homages to classic films such as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Ocean’s Eleven, Mission Impossible, and so many more. Gaming and nerd culture also get plenty of call outs and references as well, from cliches like making rude comments about someone’s mother while playing video games to attending conventions, as well as vast amounts of classic and vintage memorabilia. If you’ve embraced the culture yourself, then you’re going to be pleased with the attention and care it takes when portraying it on screen. It’s easy to see that the creators embrace the culture themselves and brought what they love about it into this movie.

Since this film parodies heist films, particularly the aforementioned Ocean’s Eleven with less-than-subtle references, it too relies heavily on the chemistry between the core cast of characters. Also much like its inspiration, each member of the ensemble pairs well with every other member of the the group. Seriously, no matter the combination, every scene is full of laughs and enjoyment that it is hard to be bored while watching this film. Stuart Ashen and Eli Silverman, the George Clooney and Brad Pitt of the movie respectively, are the foundation of the cast and are delightful to watch. Ashen in general works well with whichever member of the cast he is paired with. While everyone had their moments and enjoyable quirks, two stand-outs to me are Daniel Hardcastle as Cube, the β€œeye in the sky,” and Jarred Christmas as Jarred, the β€œsmooth man.” As someone who works with computers myself, hearing Hardcastle spit programming jargon was entertaining. As for Jarred, his awkwardness when trying to distract his marks was relatable and charming. If I had to give you one reason to watch this film, it would be for the cast.

If you need another reason to check out Ashens and the Polybius Heist, then check it out for the writing. The script is witty and tight. With a run time clocking in around 90 minutes, this film doesn’t have much room for excess plot. While the time might be short, this movie never feels rushed or that there are things missing, pacing itself extremely well. On top of that, there is a payoff for pretty much everything. Even a small comment about maintaining a nice lawn to collecting donations for the heist payoff throughout the film. And there is no shortage of laughs. This film is targeted towards an audience member like me so I might be a little bit biased here but there were very few few jokes or gags that didn’t land for me. I was laughing from beginning to end.

The biggest drawback to this film is the villain (who humorously is literally named β€œantagonist”). Antony Agonist (Stuart Barter), serves nothing more than to be the person who has what the crew is trying to obtain. He’s shallow and cliched. Although, I guess that might be the point. The film pokes fun at tropes associated with heist films and undeveloped antagonists are usually one of those tropes. Unfortunately, that leads into another gripe is that at times it feels too cliched, going against convention at times simply because it is against convention. For the most part this approach works but it happens a time or two too many.

I thought Ashens and the Polybius Heist was GOOD πŸ™‚ I feel that films featuring online personalities and influencers don’t have the best reputation. However, there is obviously a lot of dedication and heart that went into making this movie. That passion translated into a product that pays homage to many fandoms in nerd culture and appeals across a wide range of audiences. Whether you are a part of that culture or not, this film has something for you to enjoy.

Favorite Quote
While playing a video game
Cube: How did you do it? You’re cheating as well!
Annalise: Oh, don’t say that. Oh, I’m going to say mean things about your mum in a minute.
Vocal: Your mum is the nicest person I think I’ve ever met. She’s, like, so kind.
Annalise: Where’s my head gone? There’s so much blood, I’m going to have PTSD.
Cube: Your mum’s so fat! Well, she’s lost a lot of weight recently actually. She looks really good for it to be perfectly honest.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Riyad Barmania – Director / Writer
Stuart Ashen – Writer

Stuart Ashen – Ashens
Eli Silverman – Benny
Jarred Christmas – Jarred
Alyssa Kyria – Annalise
Katia Kvinge – Vocal
Daniel Hardcastle – Cube
Yiannis – Yiannis Vassilakis
Ryan Livermore – Ryan
Dan Tomlinson – Geoff Excellence
Barry Lewis – Chef Assistance
Jonti Picking – Handsome Man
Steve Langley – Attractive Man
Joanna O’Connor – Christine Ashen
Stuart Barter – Antony Agonist
Robert Llewellyn – The Professor
Nigel Fairs – Jonathan Ashen


Ashens and the Polybius Heist is now available for streaming. For all viewing options, head over to watchpolybiusheist.com.

Career Opportunities Review

Career Opportunities movie posterSynopsis
Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) has a hard time holding down a job and an even harder time holding back his wild imagination. As a last option, Jim is hired as the night janitor at the local Target. During his first night on the job, he discovers Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of a local wealthy businessman, also inside the store. As the night goes on, they learn more and more about each other.

Review
I didn’t know anything about Career Opportunities besides the famous shot of Jennifer Connelly riding the penny horse. When I eventually learned what movie that scene was from, and learning it was from a film written by John Hughes no less, I quickly sought it out. That excitement had died down by the time the credits rolled. If I hadn’t known it was written by Hughes going into the film, I would not have believed it if I had learned that piece of information after watching it. Career Opportunities lacks the charm I have come to expect from his scripts. The set up is pretty standard fare for a Hughes’ coming-of-age film: a young man and a young woman who appear to be complete opposites of each other come together and form a bond. However, if this is a story you want to watch from Hughes, there are plenty of his other films that do it better. I will say that Frank Whaley as the fast talking Jim Dodge is a highlight of the movie and has the charisma needed to carry such an intimate movie. On the other hand, Jennifer Connelly, as beautiful as she is, is flat and not very expressive. Whaley and Connelly together are the driving force of Career Opportunities, so to have their chemistry be less than perfect becomes a liability to the film.

I thought Career Opportunities was OK 😐 There’s a standard expected from a film penned by a writer of John Hughes’ caliber. Unfortunately, this film does not fulfill those expectations. While Frank Whaley carries this movie the best that he can, the script and his co-stars don’t quite rise to his level. It’s no surprise that this film has barely been re-released on home video compared to Hughes’ more notable films. There are many movies in his filmography where any one aspect of this film is done better, so if you’re itching for a Hughes’ teen comedy, go watch one of those films instead.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bryan Gordon – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Thomas Newman – Composer

Frank Whaley – Jim Dodge
Jennifer Connelly – Jose McClellan
Dermot Mulroney – Nester Pyle
Kieran Mulroney – Gil Kinney
John M. Jackson – Bud Dodge
Jenny O’Hara – Dotty Dodge
Noble Willingham – Roger Roy McClellan
Barry Corbin – Officer Don
Andrew Winton – Boy #1
Andy Greenway – Boy #2
RonReaco Lee – Boy #3
William Forsythe – Custodian
John Candy – CD Marsh

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