2/4 dog costumes are revealed but you’ll have to wait until Saturday to see the rest!
Two people who refuse to ever marry again meet at a wedding, as you do. Rachel’s (Meryl Streep) a writer, Mark’s (Jack Nicholson) a writer, and they both know better when it comes to love. So of course they end up marrying, though not before Rachel keeps everyone at the wedding waiting for hours and hours as she tries to warm up her cold feet in the room next door. I mean honestly, what’s the max time you would spend at a wedding if the bride was refusing to walk down the aisle?
As if that was an inauspicious enough start to their marriage, the two embark immediately on a home renovation. Which, as we all know, is responsible for like 78% of all divorces and about 94% of matricides (when a wife kills her husband). But they get through it, even with the added pressure of a baby on the way who can’t possibly be born if the lace curtains aren’t hung. And Rachel, newly domesticated, is surprised to find how happy she is. And is totally devastated to find, during the waddliest waddle of her second pregnancy, that Mark is cheating on her.
What now? The Streep takes us up and down a whole xylophone of emotions, hitting every octave with masterful precision. Nicholson is the oboe to Streep’s xylophone, a little jauntier, but hitting complementary notes, pairing nicely. Plus his back hair catches pleasingly in the moonlight. But make no mistake: the xylophone is dominant.
Directed by Mike Nichols based on an autobiographical novel by Nora Ephron, the intimacy is authentic enough to make you feel like a voyeur but you need to decide in advance that you’re here for the performance, not the story. Because there isn’t much of one: love goes off the rails. It’s sad but it happens all the time. The minute Rachel shoves a key lime pie in Mark’s face, she’s every cliche we’ve seen before and none we haven’t.
Part of watching and enjoying Home Alone is letting go of all the improbability and nonsense and just taking the film as it comes. My 6 year old nephew Ben watched it recently and had this to say about it:
We watched it too, and Sean reviewed it himself, though less adorably. I’m sure you know its premise: it’s about an 8 year old kid named Kevin (Macauley Culkin) (in the first take of the above video, Ben called him “Cameron” and I think it’s really funny that in the 30 years since this movie was released, it is now more common to know a Cameron than a Kevin) who accidentally gets left behind at home when his whole family takes a European vacation. His mother (Catherine O’Hara) struggles to get home to him while Kevin has quite an adventure thwarting two burglars (Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci) from terrorizing his house. You really have to stretch the imagination to allow for an 8 year old’s prank assault on two hardened criminals, and his family’s supposed inability to have virtually any adult in the entire city of Chicago check in on him. But it’s fun.
Home Alone did such voracious box office that they couldn’t help but come out with a sequel. Now, it’s fairly common to leave a kid behind. My mom was vigilant and caring but with 4 daughters and a mini van that was often brimming with extra hangers-on, I myself was left behind as a kid and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one (were you? have you done it as a parent?). I was peeing when they left and wasn’t too distressed to find my family had disappeared. I knew right away what must have happened and didn’t panic. I’m sure my family came back for me within minutes. But I bet it’s even easier to forget a kid now, with parents splitting duties with different cars and different destinations. It happens. But really, has it ever happened that someone BOARDS A PLANE AND LEAVES THE COUNTRY without their kid? I realize this was pre-9/11, but there were still security measures. You still had to check your luggage and have your passport checked and your boarding pass printed and your carry-on scanned through security. How did they continually not notice their youngest was missing? The one that writer John Hughes has repeatedly pointed out is a troublemaker, a constant thorn in almost everyone’s side. Wouldn’t the silence have been a dead giveaway?
Anyway, Home Alone 2 asks us to believe that it has happened again. The very next year, Kevin’s family plan to spend Christmas in Florida. Kevin gets as far as the airport but is separated from the group but is somehow not missed. And wouldn’t you be extra vigilant after the first time? And despite airport security being a general thing, Kevin doesn’t just get left behind but in fact manages to board a flight to New York. And then has a whole vacation, checking himself into a swanky hotel with his dad’s credit card and going to town on room service. And if your incredulity was already meeting its limit, get this: the very same criminals who tried to rob him last year have just been released from prison and are headed for – you guessed it – New York City, which Kevin, though just a 9 year old boy, must defend with a very similar set of elaborate pranks, frankly enough to kill just about anyone and yet somehow not enough to discourage these two dimwits even though there isn’t a heist in the world that’s worth this aggravation.
This movie strikes me as incredibly dated, though I love seeing all these weird little relics of the past – a carbon paper credit card imprinter, a hotel room key that’s actually a key, a cameo by Donald Trump that nobody boos.
The thing that I feel is unforgivable? Kevin’s family have had a whole year to rehearse him in emergency protocol. Last year they were unprepared. Kevin could have made one call to a grandparent or a family friend or the goddamned police, and been done with it. Again, in New York, he decides to take on criminals himself rather than asking a grown-up for help. How dumb is this kid?
Home Alone 2 takes no chances, it simply replicates the first movie almost exactly, sometimes line for line, scene for scene. It’s more a remake than a sequel, but what the heck, give the people what they want!
[Note: Disney+ has announced plans to reboot the franchise. Jojo Rabbit‘s breakout star, Archie Yates, is set to star (not as Kevin McCallister, but as another neglected child), and Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney are also set to appear.]
Chicken Little has been shunned in his community ever since, you know, that incident. The one where he said the sky was falling but it wasn’t? Yeah, majorly embarrassing – they even made a movie about it, seemingly just to rub it in. Plus he’s bullied at school and things have been totally strained between him and his dad.
Chicken Little’s dad, Buck Cluck, was a very popular jock back in his day and he hardly knows how to cope with such a puny, disappointing son. Chicken Little (Zach Braff) decides the best way to win over his dad (Garry Marshall) is through sports, so he joins the baseball team and against all odds scores a game-winning run. Don’t worry, he doesn’t let it go to his head (yeah right). But you know what does go straight to his head? Another piece of the sky, which promptly falls on him. Chicken Little’s a little wiser this time – he knows sounding the alarm bells will only spell more mortification for him, so he keeps it to himself and a few trusted friends, namely Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn) and Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack) (aka Ugly Duckling) (Abby Mallard, that is, not Joan Cusack; Cusack is a wonder and a delight, but I don’t think it should be used for poor Abby either). Turns out, Chicken Little ISN’T crazy, but nor is the sky falling. In fact, it’s pieces of wonky spaceship he keeps getting pelted with, and the whole thing boils down to: ALIEN INVASION!!!!
Truth is, I forgot about Chicken Little, which came out back in 2005, and I definitely forget to classify it as a Disney film, which it is. It came out just a year before Disney officially merged with Pixar, so it’s a weird hybrid where the animation is definitely trying to look more like Pixar but it lacks Pixar’s edge, their detailed world-building, their boundary-breaking story-telling. It’s only Disney’s second completely computer-generated animated film (after 2000’s Dinosaur) so it makes sense that they haven’t found a signature style yet.
Anyway, I was reminded about Chicken Little being a thing when I visited Disney World back in February because Chicken Little himself was just walking about the park as if he had nowhere better to be. His friend Abby Mallard was with him, and they both stopped to sign autographs for my 4 year old nephew who was delighted despite not knowing who the heck they were. Abby was in such a good mood that she grabbed my hand and started skipping down Main Street with me, toward Cinderella’s Castle. And that’s what you have to love about Disney. Those characters were unannounced, unscheduled extras. They were walking around making the day extra special for several kids, and several more kids at heart.
Tired of being chased with pitchforks and fire, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (Charlize Theron) find a perfectly horrible asylum to convert into their matrimonial home shortly after their wedding. Thirteen years later, their family resembles the one we all know and love: creepy daughter Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), bumbling son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard), faithful servants Lurch and Thing, indefatigable Grandma (Bette Middler), and a pet tiger. Out of fear and caution, Gomez and Morticia have kept the gates to their home closed, so their children have never seen the world outside it – have never breached the gates certainly, but an enveloping fog means they have also literally never seen beyond their own property.
Which means they don’t know that at the base of their hill, a new town is flourishing. A home renovation guru named Margaux (Allison Janney) has been building a town called Assimilation for her TV show, and besides her own daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher), several homogenized families live there as well – the rest of the homes will be auctioned off during her show’s season finale. But when Margaux drains the marsh, the fog lifts, revealing an unsightly castle on the hill filled with undesirables. And it’s not just the immediate Addams family but the whole clan: uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) leads the way, but soon everyone will be assembled for Pugsley’s rite of passage. Margaux protects her investment the only way she knows how: to cultivate fear among the existing residents, and to start sharpening her pitchfork (or catapult, if that’s what you have handy).
The new Addams Family movie combines elements from the original source as well as the beloved 90s films, so lots will be familiar, but there’s still enough new ground to keep you interested. It’s not quite as dark or as morbid as other iterations, which means it’s not quite as spooky as you’d like, but is probably safer for small children. The voice work is excellent; Theron and Isaac are nearly unrecognizable below the creepy accents they’ve refined. Wolfhard is perhaps the only one who doesn’t distinguish himself and sounds a little out of place – he’s just doing his regular little boy voice while Moretz, for example, is doing some very fine work as deadpan little Wednesday.
The movie does offer some fun little twists: the TV host’s daughter Parker makes friends with Wednesday when they unite against the school’s bullies. Parker decides to go goth to her mother’s complete horror, while Wednesday experiments with pink and unicorns and her own mother struggles with acceptance.
The animation is also quite well rendered and I appreciated the little details that make such a movie unique: Wednesday’s braids ending in nooses, Gomez’s tie pin a tiny dagger, the gate to their family home looking vaguely like metal teeth and opening like a set of jaws. The critics seem not to have loved this one but Sean and I found it quite enjoyable, definitely a fun Halloween outing for the whole family.
I was babysitting my nephews this weekend, and after dinner we got a big bucket of popcorn, drinks in spill-proof containers, and crawled into bed to watch some “scary” Halloween movies together. Brady is newly 8 and Jack is 5 and two thirds so I didn’t want anything that was inappropriately scary, but I wanted to give them a taste of Halloween and who better than Tim Burton to do just that. We watched Frankenweenie, a favourite of mine, and Jack now has some very pervasive ideas about reanimating dead pets with electricity. I suggested to him that this was something that might only work in movies, but no, he assured me, this was not so. Apologies to my sister’s dog, whose corpse may suffer any range of indignities.
Interestingly, The Nightmare Before Christmas didn’t go over quite as well. It wasn’t too scary for them, but it was perhaps too boring. The fault is perhaps mine: they watched it fairly attentively until Herbie The Wonder Dog came up for a cuddle, and then they discovered some of the tricks he was willing to do in order to earn popcorn treats. So that did pull them away from the movie a bit. They were also taken by surprise by its ending – not the content of it, but the timing. And though I hadn’t remembered it being rather short, it is – only 76 minutes, and that’s counting credits. So we may have to try again next year to really give it a fair shake because this movie is quite beloved and dare I say almost cult-worthy…although, is that just among adults?
Jack Skellington (“Is he made of sticks?” Jack asked, and I didn’t exactly want to say bones, so I called him a skeleton and that seemed to appease him) is the pumpkin king, a resident of Halloween Town, where every year they put on a lavish but repetitive display of ghoulish horror. Jack Skellington is bored. So when he finds a clearing in the forest with portals to other holiday towns (and don’t you wish we’d gotten even a glimpse of some of the others?) you bet he opens up the most alluring and steps into the wonder of Christmas Town.
Now, very likely there are residents of Christmas Town who are every bit as bored of doing the same old thing every year as old Jack Skellington is, but we don’t hear from them. Instead we watch Jack’s eyes go round as he is mesmerized by all the merriment. When he eventually returns home, he conscripts Halloween Town’s citizens to put on their own Christmas…but a bunch of ghosts and monsters don’t quite pull off the winter wonderland of Jack’s vision. And the ways in which they get it wrong are quite endearing. Until they kidnap Santa Claus (Sandy Claws, as they mishear the title) and Jack steps into the role clad in trim red velvet suit. (“I’d punch him right in the nose,” says little Jack, quite perturbed by the Santa imposter).
Tim Burton has said that it was a shopping mall that sparked the idea for the film – watching as the Halloween merch gets taken down the day after the holiday and immediately replaced with Christmas stuff (of course, that was back in the 90s when we still had a modicum of decency…today both holidays exist commercially in tandem, as early as August).
Our kids may not have been big fans of the film, at least not yet, but there’s something about it that appeals to many others. Matt, Sean and I are headed to Disney World in a few weeks and we’ll witness Magic Kingdom go from Mickey’s Not So Spooky Halloween to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, literally overnight. And the great thing is: Jack and Sally, rarely seen in the parks otherwise, make special appearances over this holiday time. Disney Land’s Haunted Mansion gets a Nightmare before Christmas makeover, and you can purchase specially themed ears to match, and treats too of course, because Disney is a master at getting you to part with your money.
A young couple, spiky-haired Alec Baldwin and plump-lipped Geena Davis, get into a car accident and come home depressed and sodden, their vacation off to a bad start. And they don’t know the half of it!
A handbook for the recently deceased mysteriously appears in their home and they get to wondering if maybe they didn’t survive the crash after all.
First rule of death? You can’t leave your house. First rule of real estate? When the previous owners die, a new family will move in (cue: pale and deliciously high-strung Catherine O’Hara, creepy as ever Jeffrey Jones, and strange and unusual Winona Ryder). The ghosts of the old owners plus the thoughtfull new owners makes for a very crowded house. We all know that if you want to rid a house of ghosts, you call an exorcist – but what if the ghosts want to rid a house of the living?
Before he was Birdman, even before he was Batman, Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice, the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist. Free demon possession with every exorcism! Keaton goes all out in this film, and he’s the absolute stand-out, despite the fact that he’s in all of 17 minutes on-screen. He’s ghoulish and manic and clearly having a lot of fun leaping into improvisations.
Makeup artists Ve Neill, Steve LaPorte, and Robert Short won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup for their work on this film. Watching it now, it feels a little dated, but that’s nothing in comparison to the weird, stop-motion stuff that Burton dreamed up for the afterlife.
I was a kid the first and last time I saw this, and I had to work hard to convince my mom to rent it for my little posse of pony-tailed friends. Beetlejuice was perfect sleepover fare: creepy, with the illusion of the illicit, but overall harmless fun with an inspired Calypso soundtrack perfect for sleeping bag shenanigans all night long. Rewatching it now, I have a new appreciation for how dark and funny it is, and for the formidable Catherine O’Hara, whom I always love, but who rarely looks as stylish as she does in this movie.
The movie ended up being successful enough to spawn a cartoon series and whispers of a sequel that remained in the works for years but seemed to die off until they were recently dusted off for us in 2015. It’s been terribly hush-hush, Burton unwilling to confirm except that he’d only consider it if Keaton is on board – and he is, and so is Winona. Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride & Prejuidice & Zombies) has been working on the script since 2012. Chloe Grace Moretz (rumoured to play Winona’s daughter) and Samuel L. Jackson have reportedly already begun filming.
As for Delia Deetz, style icon, I present you:
She wears mostly Japanese designs by Mitsuhiro Matsuda, Issey Miyake, and Comme des Garçons. James Acheson took home the Oscar that year for Dangerous Liaisons, and I can’t argue that, but I do think it’s a crime Aggie Guerard Rodgers didn’t even get a nomination for her work here.
And while I’m engaging in some movie history revisionism, can we please start a campaign to digitally erase Jeffrey Jones from our favourite movies? You want to know why he was so convincing as Feris Bueller’s creepy principle? Because he’s a real-life pedophile. In 2003 he pled no contest to the felony charge of taking sexually explicit pictures of a minor, and possessing child pornography. He’s a registered sex offender. Can we maybe take him out family movies like this one?
Wandering Through the Shelves’ caveat at the end made this a tricky one. There are so many G-rated animated films taht I adore. I really had to dig deep for liv action family movies for me to endorse, especially since I already used up Babe in Live Action Fairy Tale Adaptations.
Home Alone (1990)- It makes it easier when the movie for kids came out when I was a kid. All I needed to do when rewatching it for the first time in twenty years was remember what it was like to be a ten year-old ewatching this for the first time. When I was a kid, I watched it for the sadistic finale. As an adult, I love Catherine O’Hara’s quest to get home to her son and got a kick out of how resourceful Kevin becomes. The casting is perfect from Pesci and Stern to Hope Davis as a French ticket agent.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)– If my calculations are correct, this may be the last time that the once great Jim Carrey was actually fun to watch. His homicidal master of disguise dominated the previews but the three kids- an inventor, a reader, and a biter- are the real stars. When all the adults are either despicable or clueless, these three take care of each other without ever having to set traps. Although not nearly as dark and unfortunate as Jude Law’s narrator keeps warning us (the parents die in every movie, bud. This isn’t that unusual), SOUE has a wicked sense of humour and genuinely touching moments.
Hugo (2011)- Does this really count as a kids movie? One of Scorsese’s better post-Goodfellas films, Hugo is pure magic for any age. The scenes in the train station- where people get on and off trains and work in various shops-were especially spectacular in IMAX 3D and scorsese’s love of movies has never been more apparent. Not sure I can picture Hugo as the next Spiderman though.
I thought I was too old to see this movie in the theatre. Now I have probably watched it ten times in my 30s (all by choice). It is somehow a sweet movie despite little Kevin nearly killing poor Harry and Marv (according to some doctor on the internet, they would have died several times over in real life from the injuries Kevin gives them). It is somehow a tale of a mother’s love for her son even though Kevin’s parents are totally neglectful. After all, if they had just sat in coach instead of abandoning their kids there, Kevin’s parents would have clued into the fact that they were missing their son (and as an added bonus they could have prevented their other kids from terrorizing the rest of the passengers on the plane). It is a story of an old man saving the day on Christmas Eve, but also apparently taking great pleasure in scaring the neighbourhood kids the rest of the year. And be sure not to think too hard about how Harry and Marv ever got away with any of their alleged string of burglaries, when every step of the way they get thoroughly out-schemed (as well as savagely beaten) by a ten year old.
So how have I watched this so often and enjoyed it every time? Because this movie just works. It hits all the right crazy notes. It captures the magic of being a kid at Christmas. It doesn’t worry about justifying its ridiculous premise or anything else along the way. It takes pleasure in ramping up the craziness at every opportunity. It is truly joyful, a live action cartoon, a John Hughes caper to end all John Hughes capers. For accuracy’s sake, I checked the back of the DVD case to be sure that the late great Mr. Hughes had, in fact, written this movie but I was sure he had. It has his fingerprints all over it and that’s a wonderful thing.
Hands down, this is my favourite Christmas movie, for what it is and for what it captures. By the way, don’t bother with any of the terrible sequels, just watch this one three or four times and you’ll be far better off.
Ten wet bandits out of ten.