Vacation is not family fun time. It’s every bit the exhausting experience a trip like this would be. Since I watched the entire franchise beforehand, I considered seeing it in theaters. I’m glad I didn’t because most comedies nowadays lack what made classic comedies so good. Vacation is a cross between a remake and a sequel. Only now Rusty Griswold is the focus. Now played by the somewhat more high profile comedian Ed Helms. Rather than be more unique, Rusty is just a less funny version of his father. Only a lot more lame. His wife is kind of a terrible person, his son is a passive wimp, and his other son is just a bully. This Griswold family lacks the heart that made the original family so likable. Their vacation is exactly the same as the first movie. Walley World is just more advanced and open. Of course Audrey appears for a short while. Now played by comedian Leslie Mann. Chris Hemsworth once again proves to be the funniest guy in the movie playing Audrey’s husband. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo also make really cringy cameos that seemed like they were forced to do it. My biggest problem with Vacation however, is what they do with its R rating. Like most modern comedies, they feel excessive swearing, unsexy nudity, gross out humor, and unrealistic violence is the way to go. For that I’m mainly referring to the Christie Brinkley homage. Vacation has its moments, but for the most part it’s an unbearable ride to sit through.
The Griswold’s hit the road
Reboot of: National Lampoon’s Vacation
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.
Tony Mendez makes a deal
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.
Sharpay and Boi are shocked
Spin-off of: High School Musical
Child’s Play (2019) drops the supernatural angle in favor of something more high tech. That’s because Universal for some reason never obtained the rights to the original film. Since every 80’s era horror slasher has had an unnecessary remake by now, Chucky’s time had to come eventually. Despite the original continuity remaining in active development. Child’s Play (2019) is the only film in the franchise I saw in theaters since Seed of Chucky was the last theatrical release in over 15 years. Without the Charles Lee Ray part of the character, Chucky is now an evil robot. Although his reason for malfunctioning and killing is a bit weak. His appearance is also much uglier. Instead of “Good Guys,” Chucky is a “Buddi” doll. An advanced toy that can wirelessly connect to other Kaslan products. Which just ends up giving Chucky more power. The basic set up is the same. Andy’s mother gives him the doll for his birthday. Only Andy is a little old for dolls and Aubrey Plaza doesn’t seem very motherly. Andy is also hearing impaired and he’s given an It style group of friends just because. Mark Hamill is an ok Chucky, but no one can replace Brad Dourif. Chucky’s kills are creative, if a little drawn out. Plus the humor can go a little overboard at times. Since Chucky is already walking and talking, there’s not much of an element of surprise either. That being said, Child’s Play (2019) is still better than most pointless horror remakes that just do the same thing all over again.
Chucky looks over Andy
P.S. Being released the same day as Toy Story 4 can’t be a coincidence.
Remake of: Child’s Play (1988)
Cult of Chucky keeps the momentum going, but this time they go right back to comedy. Although not the franchise killing comedy that Seed of Chucky had. After Chucky was shot by Andy at the end of Curse of Chucky, it turns out that he’s not as dead as he seemed. Nica is sadly institutionalized and thus the movie becomes One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with a killer doll in the background. Meaning Andy has to get to Chucky while avoiding a now human Tiffany. Kyle from Child’s Play 2 may show up as well. Cult of Chucky does manage to be creepy, but the quality of the doll has gotten a lot cheaper looking. That’s probably because of it once again being direct-to-video, but I think there’s another reason. SPOILER ALERT! I think it’s because there are now three Chucky’s! The title may suggest that there’s a cult of people that worship the killer doll, but it actually refers to a literal cult of Chucky’s. Since Chucky has now gained the ability to split his soul into multiple dolls. Classic Chucky, one-armed Chucky with wild hair and a drill, and a short haired Chucky. Cult of Chucky may get silly from time to time, but its dark humor certainly helps more than it hurts.
The cult of Chucky
Preceded by: Curse of Chucky
Curse of Chucky finally brings Chucky back to his horror roots. After Seed of Chucky turned him into a joke, there hadn’t been a Child’s Play movie in nearly a decade. Most people assumed they would have made a remake by this point. Instead they surprised everyone with another sequel and despite being direct-to-video, it turned out really good. Curse of Chucky takes place 9 years later, when a mysterious package winds up in the possession of Nica. A woman in a wheelchair played by Brad Dourif’s daughter Fiona. Her unique characterization and link to Chucky quickly made her one of the series best characters. The package in question obviously contains a “Good Guys” doll. Although it looks brand new, an increase of death slowly makes it obvious that Chucky’s back, and he means business. SPOILER ALERT! Not only is Chucky back, but his stitches are as well. They were hidden under a layer of plastic. While Chucky’s motivation is actually linked to his previous life as Charles Lee Ray. Which ultimately lead to his death. In the end it’s revealed that Tiffany is also still around and helping Chucky take revenge on the people who wronged him. As if that wasn’t enough, Andy finally returns as well. Curse of Chucky is the tense Chucky movie they needed from the start. With plenty of callbacks to keep fans invested.
Alice sleeps with her Chucky doll
Preceded by: Seed of Chucky & Followed by: Cult of Chucky
Men in Black: International is not the way you make a Men in Black movie. Since that 21 Jump Street crossover thankfully failed to materialize, a rebootquel was made instead. Something I barely followed because the idea didn’t interest me. You just can’t replace Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The only returning characters are Agent O, Frank the pug, and the worms. J and K only appear in a painting. Although I will admit that Thor and Valkyrie themselves Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson did sound encouraging. Against all odds, Men in Black: International became yet another case of a movie solely banking on star power. Since the idea of a globetrotting adventure isn’t half as interesting as it should be. Aliens in foreign lands don’t really make for great comedy. Speaking of which, MIB: International shouldn’t even be labelled a comedy. There are jokes, but they hardly ever land. The story focuses on newly appointed Agent M (a position unofficially offered to Michael Jackson). She’s sent to work at London with Agent H. Their assignment is too needlessly complicated to remember. All I can say is that they end up in different countries, befriend a small alien, and fight many unimportant alien antagonists. The biggest problem by far is the overly long runtime. The original trilogy knew to keep things light, fast paced, and funny. Men in Black: International does practically none of that. I just wish I had a Neuralizer to forget the painfully dull experience.
Agent H (right) and Agent M (left) take aim
Preceded by: Men in Black 3
Taken 3 took the series in too much of a different direction. After three of these movies, at some point you have to wonder if he’s just a bad parent. Aside from the last 10 or so minutes, Kim once again isn’t taken. In fact, nobody is taken. Taken 3 is more of a lesser version of The Fugitive. Despite being a very big deal in Taken 2, Bryan Mills’ ex-wife Lenore is callously killed off. With Bryan being framed for her murder. All the action takes place in America with the police acting as the primary obstacle. So no one is taken and there are no foreign locations. What’s the point of even calling it a Taken movie? Probably the most confusing thing about the sequel is the recasting of Kim’s stepdad. He was an older man before, but now he’s younger and suddenly villainous. Not even the inclusion of Forest Whitaker can make up for its lackluster story. Plus you can tell Liam Neeson is less into the action role this time around. Speaking of action, it’s nothing short of disorienting this time around. Really the only thing Taken 3 takes is your time.
Bryan Mills goes on the run
Preceded by: Taken 2
Taken 2 took the series in pretty much the same exact direction. One of the problems with making a sequel to a title with a very particular premise is that they’re doomed to repeat themselves. Only Bryan Mills’ daughter isn’t once again taken like most people assumed. Instead Bryan and his ex-wife Lenore are taken while vacationing in Istanbul. The man responsible happens to be a devoted father himself. The father of the bastard responsible for the sex trafficking ring in the first movie seeking revenge. As a result of not being taken, Kim is given a much bigger role than before. She’s no action star like Liam Neeson, but she is somewhat capable. Although even though the takee is different, Taken 2 still plays out the same. There’s still a ticking clock, foreign enemies in a foreign land, and a determined Bryan Mills who kills anyone in his way. The action can be just a bit more difficult to watch. Due to a series of quick edits and shaky cam. Its percentage is much lower, but really I would put the sequel in the same boat as the first Taken. The only thing Taken 2 doesn’t have going for it is the surprise factor.
Bryan Mills makes a call
Preceded by: Taken & Followed by: Taken 3
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, my my, how can I resist you? While Mamma Mia! was very much a guilty pleasure, its sequel was a surprise hit that no one could have predicted. They succeed because they went the Godfather Part II route. By having it be both a sequel and a prequel. The sequel portion focuses on Sophie trying to reopen her mother’s Greek hotel after her death. Since Meryl Streep doesn’t usually do sequels. She also happens to be pregnant, so she enlists the help of her friends and fathers. Her grandmother also drops by for an unannounced visit. Cher’s presence is always welcome even if it’s hard to buy her as Meryl Streep’s mother. The prequel portion of the movie is a far bigger highlight. It details the crazy adventures Donna went on when she was younger. Including how she ended up with Harry, Sam, and Bill all around the same time. It’s quite remarkable how well every younger actor matches their older counterparts. Especially Lily James as young Donna. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to upstage Meryl Streep, but she pulls it off. Her singing voice is better and her story is much more interesting. I was also pleased to hear a few more ABBA songs that I was familiar with. Like “Waterloo” and “Fernando.” Of course they couldn’t resist doing “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia” again. With the removal of what didn’t work previously, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was really when I had the time of my life.
Donna and her family
Preceded by: Mamma Mia!