National Lampoon’s Vacation

Gwyneth-Paltrow-and-Luke-Wilson-in-The-Royal-Tenenbaums

Whether you’re home for the holidays or sitting shiva after the loss of a loved one, family get-togethers can be rough. Never mind if yours is a “dysfunctional” clan or not. Aren’t they all, anyway? It may be relative, but we all have our family dramas and difficult times when reunited with our most direct relatives. If not, you’re a lucky one, except when it comes to trying to relate to a lot of movies. The rest of us like to see stuff like This Is Where I Leave You for both the identification and the exaggeration, the former allowing us to laugh at ourselves, the latter hopefully leading to an understanding that everything could be worse. Movies about family get-togethers can also be a source of learning. We already relate to the basic experiences, but how much do we connect with the specifics of how the characters survive those events? A bunch of these movies feature complete parallels as far archetypes and plot and jokes, so it would seem they’d be universal. And a lot of the times everyone turns out just fine in the end. So, for your next get-together, perhaps this fall for Thanksgiving or next summer for a road trip or full-on reunion, consider the following steps, each one applicable in the movies and, of course, therefore in real life. 

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Chris Hemsworth as Shirtless Thor

Sometimes it’s scary how much people wind up being just like their parents. They try to fight it, but there they are, 30-something years later, dragging their own kids in the trusty family car down the same winding roads that they once had to travel on some wacky adventure. You’d think Rusty Griswold would have learned some lessons back in the ’80s after just a few failed family bonding attempts, but the long-gestating reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation is still underway, with a couple new faces now added to the cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter: Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day. In the new incarnation of Vacation, written and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, Rusty (Ed Helms) is all grown up and taking his own family (including wife Christina Applegate) on a whirlwind road trip that way or may not have an end goal of visiting Walley World. You think that place is still open? While the details of Griswold 2.0’s grand plans are still under wraps, the whole family will play at least some part in the fun and frustration. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are set to have cameos as the original Mr. and Mrs. Griswold (Does Clark have anything to do with the terrible idea of going on a road trip again?) and sister Audrey will play some role to the main story, though that part has yet to be cast.

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vacation2

“I found out long ago, it’s a long way down the holiday road.” Long ago would be 30 years as of tomorrow, because National Lampoon’s Vacation opened theatrically on July 29, 1983. Directed by Harold Ramis, the family road movie was written by former “National Lampoon” staffer John Hughes, based on a short story of his published in the magazine.  The comedy debuted at the top of the box office, knocking out Jaws 3-D in its sophomore weekend, keeping Return of the Jedi back in its tenth and besting fellow newcomers Krull and Private School. And it stayed at #1 through mid-August. Americans were clearly in love with rising star Chevy Chase, though they may have been even more in love with the relatable premise of a cross-country outing. We may not have known it at the time, but it was also a sign we were in love with Hughes’s writing, as both Vacation and Mr. Mom, which he scripted and which opened in limited release a week prior, both were among the highest-grossing comedies of the year, each with a then-remarkable take of more than $60m. Vacation has probably the greater legacy, in part because it kicked off a never-ending franchise (another sequel/reboot is currently in the works for next summer) and in part because millions are still enjoying the original to this day. Very little outside of the model of car and styles of clothing (and some notable political incorrectness) is dated. And the following favorite scenes are […]

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discs murderer lives

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Murderer Lives at 21 (UK release) A murderer is stalking the streets of Paris, and his only calling card is a literal calling card bearing the name “Monsieur Durand.” The police are getting nowhere fast, but when a petty criminal offers evidence that the killer resides in a local boarding house a top detective goes in undercover to ferret the murderer out for arrest. Hilarity ensues. I’m not kidding about it being hilarious either. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot would go on to make Wages of Fear, Diabolique and others, but his debut film shows an assured hand with both the visual style and a fantastic tonal balance between the mystery and the laughs. The dialogue moves at a ’40s screwball comedy pace, and it’s loaded with wit, smarts and innuendo. Even more impressive is the film’s final shot… especially knowing it was shot during the Nazi occupation of France. [UK DVD extras: Interview]

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molly weasley in action

Moms have been an important part of cinema since the beginning, as one of the first humans to appear in a film was Sarah Whitley, mother-in-law of inventor/director Louis Le Prince, in the extremely short 1888 work Roundhay Garden Scene. Since then, we’ve had mothers serving important roles in quintessential masterpieces of Soviet cinema (Mother), Bollywood (Mother India), experimental film (Window Water Baby Moving), animated features (Bambi, Dumbo, etc.), documentary (Grey Gardens), political thriller (The Manchurian Candidate), science fiction (The Terminator), horror (Psycho, Friday the 13th, Carrie, etc.), comedy (The Graduate) and of course melodrama (the whole maternal subgenre). And we’ve all grown up identifying with certain movie moms, and actresses who often played moms; for me they were usually portrayed by Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Dee Wallace Stone and Diane Wiest. Therefore it would be an enormous task and read if I were to attempt to either list all or narrow down the best movie moms ever let alone handpick only a handful of scenes we love involving matriarchs. So I’ve asked the other FSR writers to help out by selecting a single maternal character they favor, and with one from yours truly included we honor ten of these varied women below.

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One week from today, everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, turns 25 years old. By a certain logic, we should therefore make next Sunday’s Scenes We Love post devoted to the John Hughes classic. But that would make it late for the holiday this Thursday — on or before which many sites will post their obligatory write-up on the wacky road comedy, which stars John Candy and Steve Martin as unfortunate traveling companions on their way home for turkey day. Also an occasion and a beloved film like this deserve the eight days of celebrating. Unlike some other memorable and highly quotable works, this one is not the sort that we could include every single scene as a scene we love. Mostly, we just refuse to feature the famous “those aren’t pillows!” bit, and not just because of the homophobic aspect. It’s just really not that funny. Not that all the scenes below are funny. What we love about PT&A is how even though it’s a comedy it’s quite sad. Sure it kinda ends happily, but just before that warm final greeting there’s something depressing about the story. Hughes was great at making us laugh enough for someone who clearly had a lot of gloomy ideas in his head.

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It’s one thing when a series is based around several generations who are actively seeking adventure – treasure hunting and Nazi-punching and all that. That’s not what we’re here to discuss. Don’t expect to see any Corleones on this list, either. This is about those hapless, generally well-functioning families in films who for one reason or another keep falling into bad times. These are the families that trouble follows. These are the truly unlucky ones.

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Culture Warrior

Tomorrow, the Sacha Baron Cohen-starring, Larry Charles-directed The Dictator opens. Unlike the previous two docu-prank collaborations between Charles and Cohen, the humor of the fully staged Dictator doesn’t so much rely on the reactions of ‘real people’ to an idiosyncratic foreigner as it uses its fish-out-of-water arc to chronicle the pseudo-enlightened changes that its eponymous character experiences (this is all based on the film’s advertising – I have yet to see it). With its riches-to-rags narrative, The Dictator seems to be the newest iteration of a long tradition in Hollywood comedy: the story of the redeemable asshole. It’s rather appropriate that the teaser trailer for Anchorman 2 will be premiering in front of The Dictator.  Will Ferrell has made the redeemable asshole into something of an art form in his collaborations with Adam McKay. Ferrell’s often narcissistic, privileged, ignorant, and empathy-challenged creations should, by any measure of any other genre (audiences are far less tolerant of asshole protags in, say, dramedys) be reviled by audiences. But we ultimately find something redeemable, even lovable, in Ferrell’s jerks, even if this surface-level redemption overshadows the fact that they never quite achieve the level of self-awareness that would actually redeem one from assholedom. These are characters we would likely avoid in nearly any real-life circumstance, but yet we go see movies about them learning life lessons which add up to little more than common knowledge for the rest of us. The redeemable asshole is often a white male who is conniving, manipulative, entitled, […]

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Holiday rooooooooooad. Come on. You know the words. It’s that time of year when the weather is starting to heat up, families are planning their yearly excursions to the greater parts of the world, and the highways of this great nation of ours are going to be filled with Family Trucksters. What better time than to visit the original cross-country, family quest for fun? That’s right. We’re talking about National Lampoon’s Vacation. Not only was I shocked to find there was a commentary track on this 20th Anniversary Special Edition, but it contains director Harold Ramis, producer Matty Simmons, and most of the Griswold clan, Cousin Eddie included. Sadly Beverly D’Angelo didn’t make this trip, but our hearts and prayers are with her. As for the rest of the tribe, they give us more than our fair share of Vacation trivia, insight into the filming, and overall good times that are had by all. As Clark W. Griswold once told his son, Rusty, getting there is half the fun, so let’s get there already, shall we? Praise Marty Moose.

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Mad Max Cars

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s difficult to explain, really. We do know what it isn’t: boring. We begin this evening with one of two images from the scene of the crime where George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road could very well be shooting. We know this because some wicked Mad Max-esque vehicles have been spotted near where the production is said to begin shooting in April. It’s got Tom Hardy, it’s George Miller back in the saddle, and it’s okay by me.

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According to Variety, the John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein writing team whose been crafting the words behind a remake of National Lampoon’s Vacation are now in talks to direct the film. It would be the first feature directing job for both, even though no amount of movies can make Daley not the guy from Freak and Geeks. It’s being produced by David Dobkin over at New Line, and at the very least involves the high concept of good old Rusty Griswold takes his loving family out on the road. Who knows what adventures they’ll get into from there. So why pick two newcomers to the directing game? Because they have a strong short film resume. Their latest is Audio Tour which features Will Forte as a man who leaves a museum with his tour guiding headphones still on and learns way too much about the world around him. Check it out for yourself:

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Movie Rollercoasters

Despite being the least efficient mode of transportation available today, people can’t get enough to these damned amusement park rides. I myself enjoy being flung around by steel monsters quite a bit, but truth be told I much prefer rides as they are depicted in films. The reason for this is simple: since they aren’t going to build a whole amusement park ride just for the film they go find one that already exists, then they proceed to make it look 10 times more awesome than it really is by adding cool elements or characters to it. The result is a ride that is just too fun to exist. The following are those rides that set the bar up high, as well as their less-awesome real world equivalents.

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Earlier this week we showed you the horrific short film made by the marketing folks at HomeAway featuring the Griswolds, Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo). It was a train-wreck. This was clear, even to someone like me, who is a bigger fan than most of the Vacation franchise. Apparently it wasn’t clear to New Line…

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VacationSequelQuestion

Sometimes I feel like I’m just getting back from Wally World. I’m tired, irritable, and there’s an unseasonably high urine count in my sandwiches.  But with the news that Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are teaming up for a Superbowl commercial, I have to wonder if we should really be saving up for a real family vacation. Don’t get me wrong. I love Superbowl commercials because 1) they are a colossal let down and 2) I’m usually watching the Puppy Bowl instead (after the NFC championship, don’t we sort of already know who’s going to win the Superbowl?), but I would much rather see that dynamic duo hit the big screen again. I know I’m usually pretty negative toward the lack of creativity that this decade will be marred by, but if we’re in for a penny, why not be in for a pound? Let’s just sequelize everything. All of it. Some possible downsides to a National Lampoon’s Vacation sequel in the here and now: National Lampoon, like the magazine that spawned it, has become one of the least funny producers of The Funny around. With John Hughes gone, who could possibly write it? Year One Some urine-soaked food for thought. What do you think?

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Guide to Indiana Jones

With the much anticipated release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull due out this week, we have to ask ourselves this question: Will a fourth installment into the series be welcomed with open arms or met with criticism?

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