The Griswold’s Are Staying Home for Christmas

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a christmas classic all on its own. Even though it’s the third installment in the Vacation series, it can easily be viewed every December. Well it’s gonna have to be a Christmas in July for this review. Christmas Vacation is not only the best sequel, it’s also the most unique. While all the other vacations take the Griswolds out of the state (or country), this is the first time they’ve had their vacation at home. Making it the only time we’ve seen the families dysfunctional homelife. The movie’s family friendly PG-13 rating makes a lot more sense for this sequel. Not that there isn’t still plenty of innuendo. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation focuses on Clark’s attempt to make the families Christmas the best ever. Of course that doesn’t work out as expected. Chevy Chase is funnier than ever doing lots of physical comedy and going on epic rants. Beverly D’Angelo also gets more character development. Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis now play Rusty and Audrey respectfully. Audrey is more subdued as an uninterest teenager. While Rusty is suddenly much younger. Things get really complicated when the relatives show up. Clark and Ellen’s parents, elderly Aunt and Uncle, and Cousin Eddie and his family. Randy Quaid proves to be even better this time around as the families hick relative. Just don’t give him his own spin-off. Everything goes wrong when they pick out a tree, try to hook up the lights,  the turkey gets burned, things blow up, and Clark’s bonus turns out to be a Jelly of the month membership. There’s also their neighbors that they inadvertently torment. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the perfect combination of family fun and Christmas chaos.

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The Griswold’s celebrate Christmas

Preceded by: National Lampoon’s European Vacation & Followed by: Vegas Vacation

The Griswald’s Are Traveling Europe

National Lampoon’s European Vacation is so forgettable that I very nearly forgot to include it in my marathon viewing of the franchise. Even though the sequel is very much in the same vein as the original. Both deal with the family traveling somewhere in a variety of humorous ways. Only European Vacation is somehow PG-13 despite a bit more nudity. Similar to Amy Heckerling’s other 80’s film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. National Lampoon’s European Vacation sees the Griswald family (now misspelled with an “a”) win a European trip on a game show called “Pig in a Poke.” From there all they do is travel to London, France, West Germany, and Italy. Where they inadvertently destroy many famous monuments. Probably the funniest running gag though is Eric Idle constantly getting injured. Other than that Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do pretty much the same thing as Clark and Ellen. Mostly just bickering and occasionally getting intimate. This was also the movie that officially began the joke of recasting the kids in every sequel. Anthony Michael Hall got too famous to return. Which meant Dana Barron had to go too. They were replaced by Jason Lively and late voice actress Dana Hill as Rusty and Audrey respectfully. Unfortunately they’re probably the worst interpretation of the kids in the series. Rusty’s only trait is that he’s always horny. While Audrey constantly complains about her boyfriend and has some kind of weight problem. Most of those jokes fall flat. National Lampoon’s European Vacation is basically the same vacation in a slightly more exotic package.

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The Griswald’s explore Europe

Preceded by: National Lampoon’s Vacation & Followed by: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Griswold’s Are Going to Walley World

National Lampoon’s Vacation should be a fun family outing, but not when the Griswold’s are involved. After the success of Animal House, humor magazine National Lampoon decided to adapt a short story by John Hughes. Just make Harold Ramis the director and Chevy Chase the star, and you’ve got the recipe for a hilarious 80’s comedy. Appropriately set to the tune of “Holiday Road,” National Lampoon’s Vacation focuses on the Griswold family. The vacation in question is a trip to Walley World. A perfectly legal take on Disneyland. Chase plays the cheerful (borderline psychotic) patriarch that just wants to spend more time with his family before it’s too late. Beverly D’Angelo plays his attractive wife Ellen who spends most of the movie arguing with her husband about his questionable decisions. 80’s “it kid” Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron play son Rusty and daughter Audrey respectfully. Rusty just wants to please his father while Audrey is mostly concerned with being cool. As is the case with every road movie, Vacation is more about the journey than the destination. It’s a nightmare that sees them getting robbed, dealing with their country cousins (specifically Cousin Eddie), inadvertently causing the death of their Aunt and dog, crashing their truckster in the desert, and finally making it to Walley World… which is closed. All the while Clark fantasizes about Christie Brinkley driving by in a red convertible. What really makes Vacation so funny is its R rated humor. It may seem family friendly, but Vacation is filled with things like Clark going on profane tirades, topless shots of Ellen, or Clark holding a guard at gunpoint. Scenes like that are what make National Lampoon’s Vacation one of the very best road trip comedies.

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The Griswold’s hit the road

Followed by: National Lampoon’s European Vacation

This Time it’s Personal

Jaws: The Revenge is one of the best examples of franchise fatigue. Jaws for a long time maintained a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. Jaws: The Revenge has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. How a franchise can stoop so low after being so promising is beyond me. But Jaws: The Revenge somehow manages to be worse than Jaws 3-D. It makes no sense and the shark animatronics look horrible. You can literally see the mechanisms used half the time. That might be because they rushed it out after only a few months. As the title suggests, yet another great white shark is now somehow smart enough to seek revenge. Brody’s widowed wife Ellen is now the main character who thinks the shark is after her family, because “This time it’s personal.” After killing Sean, she goes to stay with Mike and his family in the Bahamas. The shark is actually able to swim from Massachusetts all the way to the Bahamas in less than 3 days. Respected actor Michael Caine is also in the movie, but it was strictly for a paycheck. Plus the shark roars like a lion at the end. Jaws: The Revenge finally shot this dying franchise dead in the water.

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The Shark attacks

Preceded by: Jaws 3-D

The Third Dimension is Terror

Jaws 3-D is the third movie in the Jaws franchise. So of course it had to be shot in 3D. Since the 80’s made 3D filmmaking popular again, third installments were often given that treatment. It also became the primary marketing strategy for Jaws 3-D. Even going so far as to use it in the tagline “The third dimension is terror.” My only knowledge of the movie growing up was the gimmick and how much of a downgrade it was. The 3D shots lingerie far too long on stuff like severed arms and bloody bones. Its most infamous 3D shot by far is one of the worst special effects ever put to film. Where another new great white shark very slowly breaks through a glass window. Jaws 3-D now takes all the terror to SeaWorld. Which is a bizarre marketing strategy if you ask me. Come to SeaWorld, it’s full of man-eating sharks. Mike and Sean Brody are now adults with their parents nowhere to be seen. Mike is notably played by Dennis Quaid. After a baby shark enters SeaWorld, the mother shark eats anyone in her way. So it’s up to Mike, his girlfriend, and a pair of dolphins to rescue the park inhabitants. Jaws 3-D is a serious decrease in quality that gets right in your face with its obnoxious 3D effects.

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The Shark attacks

Preceded by: Jaws 2 & Followed by: Jaws: The Revenge

Just When You thought it was Safe to Go Back in the Water…

Jaws 2 is arguably the first blockbuster sequel ever made. As well as the first one to be completely pointless. Since the plot of the first Jaws doesn’t make sense to happen again. So it’s obvious money was the only reason the sequel was made. Despite all the attention they received, I actually never saw the Jaws sequels when I was younger. Even though I had several opportunities to. I guess a lack of Steven Spielberg’s involvement might of had something to do with it. Since he also felt like a sequel was a bit forced. The only returning characters in Jaws 2 are Chief Brody, his wife, and the mayor. His oldest son Mike is now a teenager and his youngest son Sean is now a preteen. Amity Island proves to be the unluckiest town ever when yet another great white shark attacks. Which means the mayor is once again unconvinced. The only precaution put in place are shark watchtowers. Brody becomes obsessed with killing the shark. Even at the expense of his job. When a group of teenagers including his sons sail out into open water, it’s up to him to rescue them from the killer shark. Which now has a burned face. Along with repeating almost everything, Jaws 2 is pretty much just like any other teen horror movie. Just like the original it faced many production problems. Including a director change and Roy Schneider being difficult on set. Really the only good thing about Jaws 2 is its iconic tagline “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”

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The Shark attacks

Preceded by: Jaws & Followed by: Jaws 3-D

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Jaws is the first summer blockbuster and the greatest shark attack movie ever made. They can make a thousand shark movies, but nothing will ever top Jaws. Happy Fourth of July! Today I thought I’d talk about the movie that gave us a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July. Often when I’ve seen lists of the scariest movies of all time, Jaws would always end up very high on the list (if not #1). That’s because Jaws terrified hundreds of movie goers back in 1975. So much so that people stopped swimming afterwards out of fear of being eaten by a shark. They were even scared on dryland. I first saw Jaws when I was very young and several times after. Although I could never seem to stay awake around the middle. Seeing it now certainly makes me realize how much of an accidental masterpiece it is. This was only acclaimed director Steven Spielberg’s second movie, but he proved himself to be one of the best. Due to the mechanical sharks famously malfunctioning, he was able to increase tension by barely showing the shark at all. All they needed was its iconic John Williams theme and clever filming angles. A wider summer release, the creation of buzz, an increase in marketing, an eye-catching poster, and multiple viewings set the standard for blockbusters to come…

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The Shark attacks

Jaws is based on a book by Peter Benchley written the year prior. The basic shark attack plot is there, but Spielberg wisely choose to make the character’s a lot more likeable and three dimensional. Something that sets it apart from most animal attack movies. Jaws begins with one of best opening scenes in movie history. Where a young woman named Chrissie skinny-dips in the ocean at dusk. Her subsequent death is both chilling and heartbreaking. Susan Backlinie’s brief performance sells the danger right off the bat. Martin Brody is Amity Island’s new police chief who hates the water. When he discovers Chrissie’s body, he obviously tries to get the beach closed down. The only one in his way is the worst Mayor in movie history. Since he’s more concerned with town revenue than public safety. Jaws definitely doesn’t hold back as a child and dog are the shark’s next victims. It’s only then that they decided to have people hunt the shark. Including the very grizzled sea captain Quint. Who gets everyone’s attention with nails on a chalkboard and displaying his vast knowledge of sea life. We’re also introduced to marine biologist Matt Hooper who deduces that the shark in question is in fact a great white shark. The perfect killing machine. Which is even more scary when realize this monster actually exists. Despite all the blood and severed limbs, Jaws still maintained a PG rating. After several more attacks, Chief Brody says goodbye to his family and accompanies Hooper and Quint on a voyage to kill the shark once and for all. By using chum, barrels, and possible lethal injection. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw are really the only cast members left. It was around this point that I usually got sleepy. Due to all the water present, but then I’d wake right back up at the climax. Where the iconic and surprisingly improvised line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” comes in. The shark, affectionately named “Bruce,” is finally seen in all its glory. You would think the two shark experts would be the ones to kill the shark, but it’s actually average cop Martin Brody who delivers the final blow. With a satisfying one-liner, (“Smile you son of a-“) Brody blows the shark to chum. Jaws was such a smash hit that it won 3 Oscars for Best Sound, Film Editing, and Original Dramatic Score. It was even nominated for Best Picture. Jaws goes to show what a simple premise like this can be capable of, if given the proper filmmaking treatment.

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Chrissie swims in the ocean

Followed by: Jaws 2

The Best Bad Idea

Argo is the very real hit movie from actor/director Ben Affleck. It details a 1979 dilemma known as the “Canadian Caper.” In which the U.S. embassy was raided by Iranian militants. During the chaos 6 American diplomats managed to escape. Seeking temporary refugee in the house of the Canadian ambassador. Since they were in immediate danger, the only man who could get them out was extractor Tony Mendez. Played by the director himself. Which drew some moderate controversy given Affleck’s lack of Mexican ancestry. There were also a few historical inaccuracies, but that doesn’t hurt too much in the grand scheme of things. Since Argo was one of the best movies released in 2012. So much so that it won Best Picture. Although everyone agrees it made no sense that Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director. Despite the obvious amount of awards and acclaim the movie was getting. Argo is very tense and has you on the edge of your seat until the very end when the diplomats are rescued. It can also be funny because of the solution they came up with. Which is to get them out under the guise of making a fake movie. Because everyone understands the language of film. The titular space fantasy adventure Argo. Since sandy terrain like the ones in Iran are usually found in sci-fi. Alan Arkin gets most of the laughs, but John Goodman and Bryan Cranston have their moments as well. Argo is the best bad idea, by far.

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Tony Mendez makes a deal

Welcome to the Rock

The Rock is the closest thing to a genuinely good Michael Bay movie there is. Every single movie he’s directed has a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes except The Rock. Granted it’s just a 66%, but that’s still saying something for one of the worst directors working today. His movies have always been entertaining, but only if you’re willing to turn off your brain. The Rock actually has a good set up and the Bayhem isn’t the only draw. Which is of course just as loud, bombastic, and constant as all his later work. The Rock refers to the island prison Alcatraz. On it several hostages are taken by a group of rogue U.S. Recon Marines. Lead by Brigadier General Frank Hummel played by Ed Harris. His plan to release deadly rockets full of toxic gas unless he gets $100 million is pretty villainous, but his reason for doing it isn’t completely sinister. Chemical weapons specialist Dr. Stanley Goodspeed is tasked with defusing the weapon. He’s a desk jockey prone to the occasional Nicholas Cage outburst. Former Alcatraz inmate John Mason is also tasked with stopping him. Since he’s the only man to ever escape the island. He’s one of Sean Connery’s last good performances before retirement. Their mission takes them from the rooftops to the sewers with plenty of explosions in between. I may not have been able to completely follow The Rock the first time, but there’s no denying it’s one of the most action packed action movies of the 90’s.

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Mason and Goodspeed examine a chemical weapon

She Wants Fabulous

Since the High School Musical craze refused to end, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure was made. The only spin-off made for the musical franchise. Most people don’t know it exists since it was released direct-to-video. Sharpay Evans is the “antagonist” of the three High School Musical movies. Played by Disney Channel “it girl” Ashley Tisdale. I say antagonist, but really she never did anything outright villainous. Of course Disney couldn’t keep her bad forever either. So she was always redeemed at the end of every movie. Sharpay is definitely the protagonist of Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Which has just about the most generic/cliché plot imaginable. After graduating from East High, Sharpay now yearns to star on Broadway. So she moves to New York, stays in a crummy apartment, doesn’t get the part, meets a guy that helps her, and eventually becomes a star. Its been done a million times and the only standout is the character. The songs don’t even standout. I also wasn’t happy to see her love interest change. Since she’s supposed to be with Zeke (the baker). The only real connection to the trilogy is a cameo from her brother Ryan. Which can only be seen on TV. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure is at best a colorful distraction.

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Sharpay and Boi are shocked

Spin-off of: High School Musical