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National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
Not really "good" so much as "classic "
I recently watched this movie again after not having seen it for some twenty-odd years and I was somewhat disappointed. It wasn't as good as I had remembered it being. It wasn't bad, just not that great. Like many people, I first saw it back in the 80's when it first came out. I was in my early teens then and thought it was decent. Now in my forties, I have a much better appreciation for it when I watch it because I have two children of my own and I see much (perhaps a little too much) of myself in the Clark W. Griswold character. I laughed out loud several times at Chevy Chase's portrayal of Clark being "such a dad." I don't know whether or not he had children of his own prior to making this movie, but he really nailed the "typical dad" character. Also, Beverly D'Angelo is the perfect combination of sexy and motherly in her role, and Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron are also terrific in their roles. Randy Quaid, back in his more stable days, gives a rather sane performance as the inimitable Cousin Eddie. There are many outstanding supporting performances in this movie. Having written that, however, I must state that the movie plays out as episodic, like one childhood memory after another strung together. Also, the movie is often silly; it contains elements that would have better left as ideas. For instance, it doesn't really make sense that Clark's old car would be driven straight from him trading it in to being compacted within minutes. It makes for a fairly funny sight gag, but doesn't come across as something that would actually happen. When it comes to ratings, the movie really deserves no more than six out of ten; however, there are so many funny moments and Chevy Chase is so good as Clark, I bump up my rating to seven out of ten.
Draft Day (2014)
Slightly above-average film with limited appeal
As much as it pains me to write, this movie is not all that great. I bought the blu-ray disc because it had so much going for it: it is about the Cleveland Browns football organization; it entails a draftee from the Ohio State Buckeyes, and it was apparently the previously top un-filmed script on blcklst.com, a website for film scripts. Sounds really, really good paper, which is why I was left a little flat after watching it. I think there were a couple reasons for this. One, the movie isn't at all about the triumph of the Cleveland Browns on the football field. Rather, it is about a victory for the Browns in (as the title of the film would suggest) the NFL draft wars. Exciting stuff? Uh, no. Contrast that with "Major League," the beloved movie from 1989 about the Cleveland Indians baseball team. That movie, much to the delight of us Ohioans, culminated with Tribe victories on the baseball diamond. "Draft Day" ends as the new draftees get set to take the field with the rest of the Browns. This is somewhat akin to what "The Avengers" would have been like if the film had ended immediately after Nick Fury assembled the superhero team: a little anti-climactic, to say the least. Another reason "Draft Day" fails to generate much excitement is that the majority of the film is predicated on phone calls. Guys in Cleveland are talking to guys in Seattle, Kansas City, Madison and elsewhere. Who wants to watch guys doing business over the phone for two hours? Even though the filmmakers acknowledge this and did some innovative things with editing, it is just a bad way to forward the action of the movie. One more aspect of the movie I found a little hard to swallow was the enthusiasm the draft picks show for playing in Cleveland. I was more than a little incredulous: I mean, no one really wants to be a Cleveland Brown. We fans love the team, but let's be honest about that. No other fans deserve the moniker "die-hard" more than Cleveland Browns fans. The Browns haven't won a championship in fifty years and, for all we know, it likely won't for another fifty years. We hope for the best, but realistically cannot expect our Browns to attract a following outside Ohio. Despite the aforementioned infractions, I more or less enjoyed the movie. Because I live in a suburb of Columbus, where the Buckeyes play, and have been a fan of the Cleveland Browns since the days of Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome and Dave Logan, the appeal of this film was obvious. How can one really go wrong with a film about the Buckeyes and the Browns, has unprecedented access to the NFL and even features cameos by Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar? I recommend the film really only for die-hard Browns and Kevin Costner fans.
Movie Madness (1982)
"Stupid" is the word that kept coming to mind as I watched this travesty masquerading as a movie. Humor is subjective, so pertaining to that I will only state that I did not find this film funny at all. It wasn't that I found it offensive, simply unfunny.
This is a comedy anthology, consisting of three separate segments featuring all different actors. In the first story, "Growing Yourself," Peter Riegert plays a man who has everything: a well- paying job, a beautiful wife and a brood of decent children. He wants to grow as a person, so he tells his wife to leave him. Sound plausible? I didn't think so either. The ending is even worse, with the parents flipping a coin to see which parent gets to keep one of the couple's remaining two children. The best thing about this segment is Teresa Ganzel, a blast from Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show" past.
The second story is only slightly better, with Ann Dusenberry going to extreme lengths to exact revenge on the butter industry (don't ask) executives who wronged her. There were a couple jokes about having margarine in her veins or in her blood, which were the only remotely humorous things about this one.
The last segment features Robby Benson (remember him?) as an overly optimistic police officer in a precinct full of jaded, apathetic veteran officers. I give Mr. Benson credit for at least trying to carry this bad idea to fruition, but everyone else simply phones it in.
Unless you are dying to see Teresa Ganzel or Ann Dusenberry topless, or if you are genuinely a glutton for punishment, there is really no reason to watch this.
Cool effects, but absolutely nothing else. The story was too thin to carry it longer than a half hour, yet it runs 2.5 hours. There isn't one likable character (though John Malkovich and Ken Jeong are pretty funny in their brief appearances). Many characters are introduced late in movie, and then only because more bodies are needed to populate the screen. I'm not really certain who the intended audience is here. Hasbro produced the movie, ostensibly to keep the toys selling. Yet, the movie is clearly not for kids. Autobot violence is one thing, but there are scenes with guns that go too far. The language is also too strong for kids, with several s--t and even a couple f-bombs dropped in for bad measure. It is also much too silly to be taken seriously by adults. Despite a couple tearful attempts, there is no heart or soul to it. The direction is very inept and Bay seems to still be getting the hang of melding live-action with CG action. I suppose he will keep going until the toys stop selling.
Food Party (2009)
Back to the drawing board
I have watched six episodes of this show on IFC and found nothing about it to recommend. Even though it is supposed to be funny (I think), I didn't laugh once. The plots are very simplistic, which in itself is not detrimental. Yet, when the actors appear visibly anguished to be associated with the show, it does tend to detract from the experience of watching it. The sole person who seems to be enjoying it is Thu Tran, who, although energetic enough, lacks the acting ability and professionalism to pull off the feat of starring. She seems like a nice person and is quite lovely; however, she simply isn't funny and I have seen better acting in grade school plays. I realize it is her show, but if Greencard Productions is committed to the show, it should seriously consider replacing Tran with a person of talent.