National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Release: December 1, 1989 cvacation

I can finally say I am in the mother -F-in Christmas mood! Even with Montreal’s green December, I am in the holiday mood after watching this little pre-90’s gem! I used to watch Christmas Vacation every Christmas, along with A Charlie Brown Christmas. I think I might just have to start doing that again every year; as I do with The Godfather right up to the horse head in the lawyer’s bed scene.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third installment in NL’s Vacation series. It stars a young Chevy Chase playing Clark W. Griswold Jr. in his quest for holiday bliss with his family. Though his intentions are pure, what he does usually ends up hitting him in the face. Literally.

Christmas Vacation is written by The Breakfast Club’s John Hughes. You know the guy who wrote: Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, Home Alone, Weird Science, Ferris Buller’s Day Off, and The Great Outdoors; just to name a few. At the directing helm is Montreal native Jeremiah S. Chechik. So you know this flick was born for greatness.

I have to say: THIS FILM IS EPIC. This jewel of the holidays is a prime example of what “family” comedies are missing today. It was wholesome but not corny. It was raunchy but not explicit. It was holiday but not politically correct.

I am truly flabbergasted over the fact that so many of my favorite television actors were in this flick. Playing Mrs. Griswold is Beverly D’Angelo. You know; Babs from Entourage. She still looking… Da-yumn. (Two syllables) A prepubescent Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory plays Rusty Griswold.

What Worked For This Film:

– The Pacing. I think I mention this in every review I write. The editing of a film is probably just as if not more important than the script. Because if a flick has a bad script it can be saved but some tricky editing. Christmas Vacation is a perfect example of how a comedy should be. Quick enough to make 90 something minutes feel good but slow enough that each gag is properly digested before you through something else at me. When Clark is stuck in the attic I had my hot chocolate with marshmallows come up my nose.

– Chevy. The Chase man was at his prime. Well come to think of it. He’s still at his prime. Just watch Community Just watch a DVD of Community to know what I mean. Although everyone else in this film is right on the money too.

– The score. Yep. Sometimes in a comedy the music can be it’s downfall. However, Jeremiah S. Chechik did an amazing job at keeping it on cue without drowning out the action. I also love the opening theme.

What Didn’t Work For This Film:

– The animated opening. I could have done without it. Adds nothing to the movie but minutes to the run time. Maybe they added it for Europeans to make sure they knew it was a Christmas themed motion picture.

The Lowdown:

If you’re searching through you vast collection of holiday films; this is definitely the one to pick. It will put you in the Christmas spirit faster than uncle John’s homemade eggnog. Chevy and the gang are all awesome in this light hearted, goofy spectacle that every Christmas celebrating, North American family can relate to.

UFC Ultimate Fight Collection 2011 Edition Review

718tqcsybxl-_aa1500__largeDVD Package Reviewed by Steven Wilson

The Ultimate gift for the Ultimate Fighting Championship fan in your life is hitting DVD shelves this Tuesday December 6th, and it comes in the form of a 20 disc DVD set highlighting what was one of if not the greatest 12 month period of action in UFC’s history.

This brand new release, not to be confused with the 2009 10 Disc Ultimate 100 Greatest Fights set that hit shelves in conjunction with the promotion for UFC 100 , covers UFC 116 through UFC 131, as well as UFC Fight Night 22 through 24, and UFC Live 2 through 4. It packs all of this in along with a unique set of DVD extras over a whopping 20 disc set, with  over 52 hours of UFC action.

For the most part, each disc of the set covers a specific event, for example Disc 1 is UFC 116, and Disc 2 is UFC 117. Instead of presenting each event as it aired or as it was released on DVD, the UFC production team swaps in some cool fight buildup videos that includes footage from the fight week building to the event, or exclusive behind the scenes footage before a specific fight takes place.

Another interesting addition to this DVD set is the extras included on the 20th DVD which includes features on the best of Joe Rogan 1 on 1, the best of UFC Unguarded and the best of UFC Fight School.

The packaging on this set is impressive as since this DVD tells the story of the UFC during this 1 year period of time, what better way to express this than a storybook style package which pulls out of the DVD set outer box and allows you to flip through the pages, each of which contains 2 discs.

Some small negatives to mention about this release are the fact that the DVD’s were not put in the package in chronological order, instead they are presented PPV wise, of UFC 116 through 131, followed by the fight nights and Live events, so if the viewer does not realize to watch a certain fight night before a certain PPV they may hear the commentators talking about a fight they havent watched yet. The other negative is that some fights were cut for time to keep this at a 20 disc set. Of the 215 fights presented on the events in question, 170 of them are included in this set. Some of the fights cut were simple prelim fights, while others were a bit more suprising, nonetheless, if your not an absolute completionist, then this is still an absolutely awesome release. Even with a few prelims here and there missing, the set makes up for it with a great slew of bonuses and never before seen behind the scenes footage, 10 plus hours of previously unreleased footage that is, and this makes it an absolute must buy.

Currently on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca for 99.99$, this set is well worth the cash, and would be much appreciated by any MMA fan on your list! I know I would love to find it under my tree on christmas morning, so if your searching for that perfect gift for the MMA fan in your life, you need not look any further.

The UFC Ultimate Fight Collection 2011 Edition from Anchor Bay Entertainment hits retail shelves Tuesday December 6th, For more info check out ufcstore.com or Anchor Bay’s website.

War Horse

Release: December 25th, 2011 warhorse

I got the privilege to sit down this week and watch Steven Spielberg’s latest film, War Horse. This film follows a young thoroughbred horse through his journey growing up and on both sides of the battle in the first world war.

I’ll be honest with you. I was really sure Sarah Jessica Parker (click the link or spider monkeys will eat you dreams) was in this flick. Turns out the horse they got was a much better actor than her! I wish I could say that for everyone in this film. But I can’t.

Besides the loveable cast of horses and a badass goose, this movie boasts a pretty hardcore group of jolly-ol’ English actors. You got David Thewlis, (Remus Lupin from Harry F’n Potter) Benedict Cumberbatch, (Sherlock) Emily Watson, (Miss Potter) and Tom Hiddleston (Thor). Then you have a relatively unknown new comer, Jeremy Irvine. And maybe he should have stayed unknown.

So this film is very slow to start. In fact, I might have aged faster than the horse. However, the one upside to have a film at this break-neck (not) speed is you get to really enjoy absolutely beautiful photography of this film. The cinematographer is Janusz Kaminski who has done everyone of Spielberg’s films since Schindler’s List. And as always he brought his A-game. Sadly I started developing cataracts before this 2 hour and 26 minute film could finish.

What Worked For This Film:

– The Look! Like I mentioned before Kaminski is a master of his craft. The shots were unbelievable! Sometimes I felt like I was watching an experimental indy flick. At least until I saw the crappy CGI horses.

– The Acting. I don’t know why but I really enjoy those English blokes. And these guys have some chops.

What Didn’t Work For This Film:

– The Score. Yeah that’s right. The music in this film just sucked. I’m really having a hard time trying to find the right word. But, sucked seems about right. And it was a huge surprise when I saw that the man who wrote the Emperor’s Theme was behind this abhorrent excuse for a film score: John Williams!

– The Pacing. I know I already touched on it. But I can’t stress how important it is for a long film to be properly edited. This was 114 minutes but felt like The Lord Of The Rings trilogy; extended director’s cut.

– Jeremy Irvine. He play’s our Horse’s trainer/life partner. This kid hasn’t done much so far in Hollywood. And boy oh boy did it ever show. He really dragged down the entire cast. I almost feel sorry for bashing a guy in what might be his big break. But then again he shouldn’t have been so bad.

The Lowdown:

I’m going to put it straight forward: If you like horses or belong to an animal loving society, DO NOT GO SEE War Horse. There’s a lot of imagery involving worn-down horses and their death. If you’re looking for a good family or date flick, don’t bother either. I can honestly say the only reason for watching War Horse is for good examples of cinematography in your next film class.

War Horse get THE TOILET! 

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Release: November 13, 1998 homeforchristmas

Wow! For my second trip down the holiday memory lane, I sat down for I’ll Be Home For Christmas. This flick was made at the peak of the popularity of Home Improvement. The show that launched the career of young Jonathan Taylor Thomas; the star of this little Christmas bag of sleazy-feel-good.

I sat down with an open mind, and got up after with the same: a gaping hole where my brian used to be.

This flick hit theaters when I was but a little lad of 10. I really idolized JTT because he was a kid who was famous. And could only make good films like WIld America. I was such a stupid child.

Directed by Arlene Sanford, who also unleashed A Very Brady Sequel onto humanity as well as a slew of TV episodes; I’ll Be Home For Christmas also stars the lovely, pre-Timberlake Jessica Biel and Gary Cole.

The film starts off with with Jake (Thomas) a young crafty college student with all the right answers, asking his lady-friend (Biel) to join him on a trip down south (not a double-entendre) only to be shot down because she wants to spend time with her family in New-York. Coincidentally, this is where young Jake is from too.

Always avoiding a trip home since his father (cole) remarried, Jake changes his tune when daddy offers his beloved 1957 Porche as a bribe to get Jake to come home for Christmas dinner. The catch? He has to be home by 6pm sharp!

Unfortunately for Jake, he runs into trouble with former “clients” when one of his schemes goes awry. He’s then got to get home, save his relationship and win a car all the while wearing a Santa costume and no money to boot. He’s gotta do all that and learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Heart warming? Nope.

Like many things from my childhood, this should have stayed buried in the back of my closet until they found me in the desert somewhere down south with a Santa costume and a bottle of Jack!

What Worked For This Film:

– The pacing. This film chugs right along like the little engine that could. I never really felt like this film was too long in length.

– The dialog and humour. This is actually what I miss most about comedies from the 90’s. Nothing was too over the top. Yes, the acting sucked. But I could sit back and actually believe this scenario.

What Didn’t Work For This Film:

– The Acting. There’s a reason The Hallmark Channel now airs this.

– The lack of a true B-plot. Yes Jake’s main want is the car and his need is to learn about the true meaning of Christmas and accepting his father’s new wife, but they could have played more into Biel’s character’s doubt in Jake as a boyfriend. She was just too flat of a character to have been given so much camera time.

– The moral. Yeah Jake finally realizes that he should be going home during the holiday break to see his family and not to win a car. But It really does feel like he just clicked into that mentality once he finally did make it to New York. The whole trip there he didn’t really look like he was evolving at all.

The Lowdown:

I said it before and I’ll repeat it for good measure: There’s a reason this plays on The Hallmark Channel now. This movie is kinda boring. I believe it was intended to attract a younger audience than the general “family film” but in it’s delivery I can’t really find a suitable audience for this film to enjoy. Maybe spider monkeys. They’ll watch anything with JTT in it.

So when searching through your vast holiday film collection to curl up next to the fire while watching; you can just skip right on over it to another Christmas film starring a Home Improvement alumni: Christmas With The Kranks! … Or maybe not.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas gets THE TOILET.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Release: December 11, 1992 christmascarol

I have made the commitment to look back at past Christmases and my childhood to revisit some fun holiday films. I plan on reviewing a different holiday flick every week until the jolly fat-man comes barreling down our chimneys.

Seeing as Jason Segel just brought back my favorite ragtag gang of felt to the world; I feel it fitting that the first film to be watched is The Muppet Christmas Carol!

This was the first Muppets film after the death of their creator Jim Hensen in 1990 with his son Brian taking the helm of the ship.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is a retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The story follows Ebenezer Scrooge, (Michael Caine) a man who’s about all work and no play or heart. On the eve of Christmas he gets a visit from his deceased partners Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler & Waldorf) who foretell of three ghosts that will visit Scrooge in the night to show him the error of his ways and his possible future. All the while, we get treated to narration and commentary by The Great Gonzo and Rizzo The Rat.

To say that this was a “nostalgiagasm” would be an understatement.

WHAT WORKED:

– Michael Caine. The guy always brings his A-Game. The scenes where we’d have close ups on his face make me believe he’s a Timelord like Doctor Who or Sean Connery. Caine hasn’t aged too badly.

His delivery and acting weren’t too exaggerated like some actors around The Muppets. That’s right I’m talking to you David Arquette.

– The Great Gonzo and Rizzo The Rat. Adding two visual narrators was a great idea on the part of Brian Hensen (director) and Jerry Juhl (writer). They broke the story up well and added much to the comedy aspects of “Muppet-vision” of A Christmas Carol.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

– The Songs. Yes, as always The Muppets had some good music and well short musical sequences but nothing stood out for me. There are many Muppets songs I can still recall from my childhood, but none from this film. In fact I watched this last night and can’t remember the songs now.

– The lack of my boy Fozzie The Bear. Not enough of him. Unacceptable.

This was a great flick. The nostalgia factor of it alone would make it worth watching again. But the story, acting and overall awesomeness will be the payoff for plopping this into the DVD player during the Christmas season! Because The Muppet Christmas Carole is Verified Awesome.

The Descendants

descendantsThe Descendants is a comedy-drama from Fox Search Light, and is also based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. It stars the ever-fantastic (except Batman & Robin) George Clooney. The Descendants is directed by Alexander Payne who has previously brought us About Schmidt and Sideways.

Once again I’m going to stress that I always separate my feelings on a film from the novel that it is adapted from.

The film follows Matt King (our boy Clooney) as he copes with his dying, comatose wife and troubled family. To top it all off he is also dealing with the sale of his family’s trust of a large piece of Hawaiian land. Over the course of the flick Matt discovers details about his wife’s infidelity.

What Worked For This Film:

– The soundtrack! The descendants boasts musical score from entirely Hawaiian musicians. It’s soft or stressing at all the right moments but doesn’t dictate the films emotion.

– Clooney. This film is just another reason why I think he’s still in the top 10 best leading men. He right for the role of Dad. I could totally see this guy cleaning a pool and making a craptastic lunch.

– The kids. I have to give them props. Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller and Nick Krause keep up in the thespian department with Clooney.

– The writing. Payne, Jim Rash (Yeah, Dean Pelton) and Nat Faxon really opened up a world we all could live in for good and for bad.

What Didn’t Work For This Film:

– I’m seriously still looking.

The Descendants is AWESOME.

DVD Review: UFC Ultimate Knockouts 9

ufc-ultimate-knockouts-9DVD Reviewed by Steven Wilson

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, its time to start looking at the latest releases that can appeal to the MMA fan on your list, and the first of such releases is the latest in the UFC Ultimate Knockouts DVD & Blu Ray series, this installment being Volume 9, hitting shelves on November 8th.

Much like the other releases in this series, the DVD checks in with a 93 minute run time and features the latest in high profile knockouts from UFC battles that took place over the past year.

As the tag line on the DVD`s back cover says, nothing puts an exclamation mark on a fight like a great knockout, especially when your least expecting it. This was the case in Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfot fight from UFC 126, It was the crane kick to the head heard around the world which would later spawn Lyoto Machida`s similar finish on Randy Couture at UFC 129. To say the least I have always been a big fan of the knockout, and honestly regardless of the type of UFC fan you are who doesnt like a good knockout every once in a while?

The release features action from 30+ fights that ended in a Knockout or Technical Knockout. Some fights are show in full, while others are joined in progress shortly before the “big bang” so to speak. These bouts include the afformentioned Anderson Silva/Vitor Belfort fight, as well as the Lyoto Machida/Randy Couture fight, also featured are the heavyweight title bout between Brock Lesnar & Cain Velazquez from UFC 121, the very short Matt Hughes BJ Penn UFC 123 fight, Dan Hardy vs Carlos Condit from UFC 120, Chuck Liddel vs Rich Franklin from UFC 115, and Shogun Rua vs Jon Bones Jones from UFC 128

Extras are slim on this release, limited to only a Total TKO’s featurette. However considering the DVD’s main subject there is little more you can expect out of a 1 disc release such as this one. That being said, UFC producers still try and go all out with another one of their awesomely produced highlights packages.

For the big fans of the KO out there, this series continues to provide exactly what your looking for. It may not be content heavy release, but could always be good for a quick afternoon watch with your fellow UFC fans, and for the UFC fan on your holiday shopping list, its an affordable gift that should be much appreciated.

UFC Ultimate Knockouts 9 will be released on DVD and Blu Ray November 8th via Anchor Bay Entertainment. You can order your copy via quality online retailers such as Amazon for as little as 21.98$ for the DVD version

The Rum Diary

Rum DiariesThe Rum Diary is the latest film starring everyone’s favorite gay pirate: Johnny Depp. Depp plays Paul Kemp, a novelist trying to make some cash as a freelance journalist for a failing paper in Puerto Rico.  It was written and directed by Bruce Robinson, who’s last directing venture was Jennifer Eight with Andy Garcia in 1992. The screen play is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson.

As I do with all flicks based on books, I’m going to ignore the fidelity it has to Thompson’s Novel. (Which is badass so you should read it anyways.)

The movie starts with a scene of  a hangover morning in what I swear could have been a reality Show on Depp’s life. It’s exactly how I’d be if I were Depp. F–ked up in a random hotel room craving eggs with blood vessels busted in my eyes.

This flick follows the misadventures of Paul Kemp while in Puerto Rico. It really feels as if this script was written while Robinson was really high on five different psychedelic drugs. Theres constant change in direction. Unlike Napoleon Dynamite, there is reason for the conflict but shares the same lack for true resolve.

What worked for this film:
– The dialog between Depp and paper photog, Sala (Michael Rispoli). I could have watched a three-hour film with just a mid shot on these two talking.
– Kemp’s love interest: Chenault. Need we say more?

What didn’t work for this film:
– Giovanni Ribisi. Moburg as a character was too eclectic and animated for what I felt to be a “realistic” film.
– The drug trip scene with the CGI. Really guys?
– The lack of resolve during the film.
– The camera work. I don’t know. For me a film should have a constant style. This just kept changing. Not to mention a very “up-chuck” inducing walking beach scene.
– The erratic mess of direction. Was this a buddy-stoner/drunk film? Because I know another movie where 2 idiots have a small baby blue car that goes missing. And that one had more boobs!

This film gets the toilet!

Paranormal Activity 3

PA3It’s always smart to be weary of any horror film’s second sequel. With all the Saws and whatnot. However, Paranormal Activity 3 stands up pretty well, even on it’s own.

This time around it’s Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost at the directing helm of this flick. These guys directed the documentary Catfish They take the “surveillance camera” tactic to it’s OG roots with VHS and home-brew rigs.  This is another prequel to the 2007 film that started it all. Taking us all the way back to when Kristi and Katie are but little gals in 1988.

What worked in this film:

Little Kristi! (Jessica Tyler Brown) This kid has some acting CHOPS! I’m not too sure how old she is. That means IMDB and Wikipedia don’t have anything on her yet. But she can’t be more than 7 in this and she just blows the rest of the cast away. With the noted exception of Toby.

The continued lack of music. I know you’re saying “Duh, this is a hand-held docu-style horror film!” But it’s what kept me on the edge of my seat. I have a pretty large posterior so it a feat in itself.

The fact that the characters in the film never get concrete idea about what is going on leaves the viewer feeling their panic.

What didn’t work for this film:

The mom Julie. (Lauren Bittner) I know I’m just pulling at straws but She really got blown out of the water by a ginger-child-of-the-corn.

It really takes a while before this film gets going. I’d say the first 30 minutes feel much longer than they really need too. I had the time to finish my Ice Cap and contemplate getting a second. But just as those thoughts start, so does the movie’s true suspense and freaky I’m-not-going-to-stand-near-almost-open-doors-again-ness.

I wasn’t a fan of the first two films in the series, but I’m totally digging on this one and might have a hard time sleeping tonight.

Paranormal Activity gets a 4 out of 5 from me.

PS: Paramount is once again using social media to help promote the flick. For PA3, they’re using twitter with @TweetYourScream.

UFC Ultimate Knockouts 8 DVD Review

Reviewed at MainEventRadio.com (Tony Stabile)

There are three ways to end a fight in the Octagon of the UFC; judges’ decision, submission or the most exciting of the three: KNOCKOUT! “They leave no doubt, by way of Knockout!” is what Mike Goldberg utters during the intro, and that is exactly what these men do in UFC’s latest DVD/Bluray release:

This release only features one disc.  However it features over 80 minutes of insane knockouts from all the best in the UFC. This DVD starts off strong with what was probably one of the more surprising knockouts in the history of the UFC in the fight between UFC knockout legend “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell and Shogun Rua in Montreal at UFC 97. It goes on to feature names like Drew McFedries, Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin, Frank Mir, Frank Trigg, Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar.

The Bonus features are somewhat light but acceptable for a small highlight release like this one. It features Promos for other releases from the UFC and “Total TKO’s.” This is where the production shines. “Total TKO’s” is a six minute highlight reel of some of the best TKO’s in the history of the UFC, nicely spliced together with quick match highlights and tough music to blend it together.

For the casual fan it’s a great way to spend an evening reliving some of the UFC’s best knockout finishes! For 20$, this is a must to any MMA DVD/Bluray collector. It continues the hard-hitting action from itspredecessors.

UFC’s Ultimate Knockouts 8 is available now on DVD and Blu Ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment for more information or to pick up your own copy check out www.ufc.com or Anchor Bay’s Web page for the release viawww.anchorbayentertainment.com