greatoutdoors_posterThe Great Outdoors is a film that’s hilarious, if not incomplete.  Released a year after Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the film attempts to trade on many of the same ideas as PTA and places two genius in the opposing roles.  This time John Candy gets the Ghostbuster himself, Dan Akroyd.

First, what works.  The cast is impeccable.  The chemistry in the families is real.  There is a lot of communication going on that is non verbal.  The whole “oak tree woman” sequence is just so well acted.  Candy and Stephanie Farcy just seem like they’ve been happily married for years.  And of course, Candy and Akroyd just pop as they drive each other crazy.

The jokes also work.  They’re are some great gags, racoons, the Ol 96er and all of it.  The location and the situation are really put to good use.

What doesn’t work, however, is the change in Roman (Akroyd) doesn’t feel right.  The decision to become friends is kind of forced and feels off.  The momentum of the jokes just feels interrupted.  It seems often, when Hughes’ scripts are directed by someone else, they end up losing a bit of the heart that makes them memorable.  The director also directed Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.  Where Wonderful couldn’t survive under the weight of the direction and Eric Stoltz’ weirdness, Akroyd and Candy elevate the movie to rewatchable status.



planestrains_web_l“We’ll have better luck playing pick up sticks with our butt cheeks.”

What to say about Planes, Trains and Autombiles?

planes-trains-and-automobiles-movie-posterThe best Thanksgiving movie ever made?  A perfect comedy?  A timeless film that captures the best performances of two of the best comedic actors ever?  All of these things are true.  And it is probably John Hughes’ best directing job.  And at the same time, he lets his script, full of hilarious jokes and a real heart, be brought to life by two of the best in the business without any sense of ego.  It’s perfect.


There are laugh out loud moments of awkwardness.  The pillow scene.  The chatty Cathy doll.  The “going the wrong way” moments.

The subtle moments are where I feel the movie shines.  “How about a nice hot dog and beer.”  “He’s proud of his town.”  “Her first baby come out sideways.”

And in the age of the bromance, it’s kind of that first one that I remember seeing and being excited about two guys learning to be buddies. The “talk to much” speech is terrible heart breaking.

And what makes it a great Hughes film?  The script, the acting and the direction are so perfectly right for the movie that we don’t KNOW its a Hughes film.  We see it and are surprised every time that it came from the “teen movie guy.”

Yes.  It’s a perfect comedy.  And no.  Those aren’t pillows.


MV5BMzM5ODExMjc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODc3MjEyMDE@._V1_SX214_Some Kind of Wonderful might have been the first John Hughes film I saw in the theater.  Don’t quote me, but I THINK it was.  And I love it.  The film spoke to me.  But, watching it years later, the film kind of faded for me.  Because, it really is…Pretty In Pink.  This time in reverse.  Many believe Hughes wrote the script to correct criticisms of the Ringwald led classic.  Whatever the case, the resulting film is a bit of a mixed bag.  Leah Thompson is great in it.  Mary Stuart Masterson captured my heart.   And Eric Stoltz is Eric Stoltz.  One of the most off putting actors ever.  His performance combined with poor directing choices makes for one of my least favorite entries in the John Hughes oeuvre….and yet its still not a bad film.  And at least this time Ducky wins.


John Hughes Day 2: SIXTEEN CANDLES

sixteen-candles-movie-poster-1984-1020190218In John Hughes directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, he became the voice of a generation and built a reputation for writing the voice of youth that would continue in movies like The Break Fast Club and Pretty in Pink.

The movie follows the plight of Samantha (Molly Ringwald) on her 16th birthday – a birthday her parents forgot.  Will she end up with Jake? Will the Geek her her underpants?  These are the questions haunting the viewer as we’re driven inside the depths of the American high school.

What Hughes was always able to do with his writing was create a world that was both outrageous, yet believable with characters that jumped off the screen in both their eccentricity and sincerity.  You laugh with them, feel for them and at time, cringe by their awkwardness.  Being a guy, I remember being a freshman obsessed with sex, almost so my friends would think I was cool more so than the actual act itself.

The cast is excellent, led by Ringwald who would become the face of a generation and a Hughes staple.  Anthony Michael Hall is epic as the kid everyone feels like they were most like in school. (at least I did)  And it’s fun to pick out Joan and John Cusak, soon to be stars in their own right doing some great character work.

What separates John Hughes films from his many copy cats is simple.  Heart.  For all the PIP-1wacky situations and crazy characters (Long Duck Dong) it’s still about an emotional journey and that never leaves the movie.  So there isn’t a moment where the film feels tonally off.  And it’s the reason why the film never feels dated.

John Hughes Day 1: VACATION

What a week to celebrate a great writer and filmmakers.  John Hughes has long been an influence of mine.

national-lampoons-1-vacation-1983You can really break John Hughes films into 3 archetypes:  the teen movies that we all associate with him, the awkward family comedies and more kid friendly fare.  Vacation, his first produced screenplay is most definitely the second.  And boy does it hold up.

We all love the movie.  We all quote the movie.  But what makes the story work is the subtle moments where it feels real.  Chevy Chase had a goldmine to work with of moments where he could just be awkward.  All of the actors did.  You believed it was a family that was living together, loving each other, getting on one another’s nerves.  It was about character, not just lining up jokes.  Because each character had enough depth for the actors to sink their teeth into, the performances were much more memorable.  Cousin Vicky has two great moments (her Daddy’s french kissing and the koolaid) born out of this awkwardness.  The most important job that a writer does is create characters that jump off the page.  Vacation  has these in spades.

The best way to explain it is to compare it to European Vacation where there was no chemistry.  And the movie is just boring.

Summer 2013: Mid Season Score Card

Well, the summer movie season is almost over.  What can I say, it’s been a pretty epic summer for movies.  And I’ve done a good job of actually seeing movies in the theater this yea.  Who says people don’t live up to their New Year’s resolutions?

1)  MAN OF STEEL:  Without a doubt the class of the summer.  And in my mind, the 2nd best comic movie of all time.

2)  STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS:  Ya I get it.  Trekkers don’t like it.  But I’m not a trekker.  Or trekkie.  But anyway, I dug it.

3)  WHITE HOUSE DOWN:  There are certain things Roland Emmerich does really well.  This movie was one of them.  FUN.

4)  GI JOE:  RETALIATION:  Guilty pleasure type film, but I thought it was alot of fun.  More like the GI Joe comics I grew up with.

5)  WORLD WAR Z:  I’m not a zombie movie guy.  THis is a good zombie movie.

6)  HANGOVER PART III:  Loved the final battle!

7)  IRON MAN 3:  Shane Black did Iron Man justice.  A great improvement on 2.  And better than Avengers.

8)  THIS IS THE END:  Funny, but a bit overrated.

9)  NOW YOU SEE ME:  Like most magicians, this movie had me until the reveal.  And then I realized the whole thing was lame.

10) THE LONE RANGER:  Terrible.  Just.  Terrible.

What say you?

The \S/

vly4vbNIn two weeks, Man of Steel is premiering.  I’m more excited for a new movie than I’ve ever been.  To explain exactly how much is an impossibility.  How do you sum up the anticipation that’s been building for 37 years?  My excitement isn’t just because it’s a cool movie.  Or gonna be epic in it’s action.  Or that it will have a certain degree of emotional levity.  It’s all about the \S/.

People that I know that are “nerds” are fans to the extreme for a reason.  I put Chris Copple, Gary Warren, Doug Descant, Anne Marie Messino, Mike Donis, Issa Kafena and others in this camp.  We connect to a story or characters that touch us.  That captures our imagination and help us to dream bigger.  And those that don’t get it are missing out.

I’ve been a Superman fan since I was making bath towel capes in my pajamas.  There has always been a magic in the character.  While my friends grew into Wolverine fans or other Marvel fans, I was always captured by what Superman meant.  He was hope.  A symbol of what we all could be.  When we made Funny Books, we asked potential actors what character they would rather be:  Superman or Batman.  Mike Shirley put it best by saying “We all want to be Superman.  To be the one everyone looks up too.  Anyone who disagrees is lying.”  Needless to say…he got the part.

He’s the outsider…the man who’s power comes from his birth father…but the hero side comes from Jonathan Kent.  That’s so counter to how most super heroes come about their drive to be heroic.  Many people dismiss him as lame, the boyscout.  But hopefully the positivity will become cool again.

As I’ve just purchased my first ticket to see the new iteration, I recognize that Superman has had an iffy cinematic legacy.  I’ve loved a lot of the movies.  And loathed a few of them.  But I can’t help but feel that Man of Steel got it right.  The Donner / Singer films were mired in preCrisis camp.  This one seems to be of our time.  And seems to capture the struggle it takes to put the world on the shoulders.  Before we see the film, here is my list of favorite Superman films.

1)  SUPERMAN:  THE MOVIE  Donner’s first and Christopher Reeve becomes Kal El.

2)  SUPERMAN 2:  THE DONNER CUT  Donner pieces together his version of Superman 2 using old test footage.

3)  SUPERMAN RETURNS:  Brian Singer’s much maliged take on the MOS.  I love the film.  Unjustly hated on.

4)  SUPERMAN 2:  Some non Superman silliness.


That’s all that was made, right?  RIGHT????