Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

There really are not that many major Thanksgiving movies. Compared to the other holidays, Thanksgiving does not have nearly enough representation. Historically, the most well-known and one of the most beloved Thanksgiving movies was starring Steve Martin and John Candy and it was called Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

This was a movie that I had actually never seen until tonight.

Neal Page (Steve Martin) was trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, but it seemed as if the fates were conspiring against him. It started when Del Griffith (John Candy) stole his taxi and only went downhill from there.

Neal met up with Del, the shower curtain ring salesman, at the airport and they wind up trying to find their way back to Chicago. However, Neal was finding that the trip with Del was more than he could handle.

The comedic timing of this movie was beautifully executed and there was remarkable chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy. Both men showed their extremely strong comedic skills. Candy’s character was a lovable, annoying oaf that would get on Martin’s last nerve.

While you could understand the frustration Martin would show towards Candy, you wanted him to not be so mean. Candy reveal a lot of depth to this apparently surface character. This was not just one of those annoying characters that have been used through the years. Candy’s Del Griffith was more than what you could see, and that depth took this movie to a different level.

The writing was sharp. The dialogue flowed. The movie is funny. You would wonder what else these two men could have happen to them.

John Hughes is the director of this film and you can certainly get the feel of him in this.

The reactions of Steve Martin are just perfect here. You can relate to him and, yet, you don’t blame the extremely likable Candy. The pairing worked so well that despite the movie being a little predictable, you go along with it. The strength of these two make the film what it is.

I will say that I was just a little disappointed with the ending of the film, simply because I wanted to know something more about what happened to them (in particular, Del). It is a minor complaint, but I did want more when the credits started to roll.

This is definitely a classic Thanksgiving movie and I am glad that I finally had the chance to watch it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Impossible (2012)

The Impossible is directed by J.A. Bayona and features Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, along with a younger pre-Spider-Man Tom Holland in a true survival tale set during the terrible tsunami that struck Thailand in 2004.

Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) and his family were on vacation in Thailand when the massive wave struck the beach resort that they were staying at. Henry and his two youngest sons were together but his wife Maria (Naomi Watts) and oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) were separated from them. Maria was injured badly and Lucas struggled to keep her as safe as he could.

Honestly, the reunion between the family members is one of the most satisfying, most emotional moments you could hope for in a major motion picture. It gets me every time.

The Impossible really highlights how strong of a young actor Tom Holland was and it was clear that the kid was going to have himself a bright future in the world of cinema. While the Web-Head action was still several years away, Holland’s character here showed definite signs of being heroic. Holland was a clear standout here and carried most of the emotional baggage of the film, having to change between feelings instantly.

Naomi Watts received an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for her gritty, dirty and desperate performance as Maria. The vulnerability she showed in the role and her remarkable connection with Tom Holland provided some of the film’s best scenes.

There are some criticisms of the film for choosing to highlight the terrible Indian Ocean tsunami and to focus on a white British family, but I think that is stretching things a bit. There were some great moments that showed the strength of the local people of Thailand and how they raised up to help their fellow humans.

Based on the true story of Maria Belón, The Impossible was a powerful film. Admittedly, the title of the movie is not as equally powerful, leaning toward the side of generic. Fortunately, there is not much else generic of The Impossible.

The Goonies (1985)

Nostalgia can be a powerful feeling.

I was in the mood to watch the 1985 classic, The Goonies this morning so I had to go searching for it on the streaming services. I finally had to resort to renting it on Vudu… and it was worth every penny.

There is such a magical feel to the great film, where a group of kids find a pirate treasure map and go searching for the “rich stuff” to prevent their homes from being foreclosed upon by the wealthy businessman. During their search, the kids have to avoid the dangerous Fratellis, who are involved in, among other things, a counterfeiting plot.

The film had that 1980s Spielberg magic (as Spielberg wrote and produced the film) with it being directed by Richard Donner.

The Goonies is so successful, in large part, to the wonderful cast of young actors involved in the movie. Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Ke Huy Quan, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton embodied their roles in the film and brought a fantastic group ensemble aura to out heroic protagonists. The Fratellis were cheesy and over-the-top in the perfect way for the villains of this film, bringing personality and a real sense of menace to the plot. Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano have amazing chemistry with one another, bringing both a comedic element and a sense of dread to the Fratellis.

Then, former football star John Matuszak as the oft-abused Sloth provided the proper addition of heart to the cast, an innocence that surpassed even the Goonies themselves.

While the story may be silly, the combination of these actors really sold the tale they were telling. There was so much heart and youthful energy that The Goonies emanated magic and family feeling. It says that anything can be accomplished with bravery and dedication. Goonies truly never die.

The Craft (1996)

The final film that will be considered part of the 2020 October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest is one that I watched in order to watch a sequel that is currently available from Blumhouse. That film is The Craft: Legacy, which I will watch at some point soon. It is based on a 1996 film called The Craft.

Witches.

One of the staples of Halloween is the witch and this features four young high school girls enraptured with the power of magic and losing the control over their own personal attitudes.

The Craft does not have a great story, as it is really more about the four main female characters and the things they did. The movie does not go into a great deal of effort to tie the narratives together outside of “look how these young girls failed to deal with their newfound power”.

However, the film succeeds on the strength of the four leads. Sarah (Robin Tunney), Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True) were the main reason to watch this movie and they brought the goods. I was thoroughly impressed with each of these young actors, despite the fact that I had only ever heard of one of them. The film is carried on the girls’ backs.

Each character has a solid base of development to them and they each have their own pratfalls and problems. You see them overcome with their powers and the magical ability plays into their high school teen angst. It is about what one would think if you gave high school teens such an amazing power.

I thought the effects were decent and I did not find any CGI that really took me out of the film. It may not be at the level of today, but there was no “Darkman” examples that made me look away.

While this was not a great movie, I enjoyed it enough, mainly because of the four lead actors involved. It was a suitable finale for the Halloween Horror Bingefest for 2020.

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

After watching Darkman this morning, I coincidentally had lined up on my queue another Sam Raimi movie to continue the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest. It was unintentional but it did make a solid double feature. This was Drag me to Hell.

A young bank loan officer Christine (Alison Lohman) rejects an old woman’s request for an extension and evicts her. The woman (Lorna Raver) went crazy and placed a gypsy curse on Christine, a curse that would bring forth a demon that would drag Christine to Hell.

This was a lot of fun and had a lot of the same flavor of the Ash vs. The Evil Dead TV series from a few years ago. I loved that series and this movie certainly feels like a perquisite for that.

There were plenty of sudden gross-out jump scares that worked remarkably well in the movie and, once again, you did not have any questions about who the director of this movie was. It had Sam Raimi’s fingerprints all over it.

Drag Me To Hell is a riot, filled with funny moments and some great scary situations. The film looks great and uses effects that are well used.

Justin Long played Christine’s boyfriend and he does a great job in a supporting role and he plays a huge part in the conclusion of the film.

This is great fun and I would put this up with several of the other Raimi films.

Darkman (1990)

Here on the final day of October, the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest will be coming to a close for another year. To start today’s final few films, I pulled out a movie that crosses genres and has, basically, only elements of the horror genre. Still, with Sam Raimi at the helm of the film, I think it works for the bingefest.

The film’s called Darkman, and it’s a horror/action/superhero/crime film starring Liam Neeson in an early action movie for him.

Scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is trying to create a synthetic skin, but he has had only minimal success. The skin failed to maintain itself after so long. Westlake had a happy life with his girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand). Unfortunately, a group of local gangsters attacked him and left him for dead in his burning lab.

Surviving the assault, Westlake was terribly scarred and his mental state was shattered. Westlake dedicated himself to revenge against those who took his life and devastated it.

This is clearly a Sam Raimi film. There are few directors whose movies are so apparent, who have such obvious tells. It is bombastic, over-the-top and filled with bright colors. Darkman checks all of these boxes.

This movie, which I remember not loving in the theaters, is fine. It is really cheesy, but it a good way. Liam Neeson is overacting like crazy. Sure the dialogue and the story is not great. but you can absolutely see glimpses of what would eventually become Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy in the film Darkman.

In fact, the third act finale really reminds me of the third act of Spider-Man 3. You can see parts that have been recycled from the director.

Sadly, the CGI does not hold up and that makes the scenes involving the CGI (especially during the finale) difficult to watch.

I would say that I did enjoy this more today than I did when I saw it in the theaters, but it is not a great movie. It’s fine.

House of Wax (1953)

Sticking with classic horror movies, next up on the EYG October Halloween Horror Bingefest is a Vincent Price film called House of Wax.

After his partner burned down his museum, Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Prince), who was believed killed in the fire, returned, injured and with a different perspective on the world. The sculptor’s hands were damaged and he was forced to create his wax sculptures through his students.

His wax museum had become darker, featuring death and pain.

Meanwhile, when her friend Cathy (Carolyn Jones, Morticia from the TV show Addams Family) is murdered, Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) discovered the body and found that the killer was still in the room. The killer pursued her and she ran from him.

Vincent Price shows exactly how great he is in this role. He has several layers of this role, requiring him to show different sides to the same man. Price does it exceptionally. You can tell why he was a star of the kind of horror movies during these decades.

Sure it was a sign of the time, but it felt weird as the female characters of the movie were basically just screaming victims. I understand that was part of the time, but I still did not find it entertaining.

The story was pretty simple, but it worked well. Jarrod was as much of a victim in this story as anyone else, but he was able to find some revenge on those who harmed him.

The Mummy (1932)

Breaking out of the horror/musical genre, I returned to the Universal Monsters bank for the next film in the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest with Boris Karloff’s starting role as The Mummy.

After uncovering the mysterious tomb of Egyptian Imhotep (Boris Karloff), the mummy curse seemed to lead to some major problems. With Imhotep returning from the dead, he discovers an old love, Helen (Zita Johann), reincarnated years over and he hatches a plan to return his love to him.

There was less monster involved here than in some of the other Universal Monster films, and the typical appearance of the Mummy, wrapped in the bandages, only appearance once in the film. Still, there was a great deal of tension and nerves built through the film as Imhotep, in the guise of modern Egyptian Ardath Bey, planned his strategy to get her back.

Director Karl Freund created an impressive monster movie without distinct monster. There was a real tragedy surrounding the Imhotep character as his background story was unexpectedly sorrowful.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

I had thought that I had already done this movie in the Classics section, but I could not find it on my list, so after watching the oddball “so bad it is good” musical Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, this felt like a perfect way to continue the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest. The film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring EYG Hall of Famer Tim Curry as the iconic Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show has become a massive smash with its midnight shows and its wonderfully sexual circumstances. It is an iconic film, especially around Halloween time. The engagement with the audience and the crowds in such an interactive manner brought this to a new level in the world of pop culture.

Truly, if you were only judging the film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would come up short. However, there are so many extra layers and variables to this film, its place in the history of films is set.

Tim Curry’s performance as the alien transsexual Frank-N-Furter is unlike anything that has been seen on the screen and very few, if any, could have delivered the same effort. Curry brings an unmatched level of sensuality and menace as Frank-N-Furter elevates every moment of this movie with his powerful persona.

The music is catchy and provides some of the greatest dance routines in any film dealing with aliens. I know the music, especially the song The Time Warp(as I heard on the Dr. Demento Show), introduced me to the film. I first saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show at one of the midnight shows while I was in college. I had actually bought the soundtrack which included the crowd interactions so I was fully ready to go at the show. Rocky Horror helped inspire the story of Dalton Hill, which is one of my books.

While the movie is not as fun on a smaller screen, the charms and humor still work. This has aged well and may be impossible to recreate (as the failed attempt at a show on NBC showed). The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a stalwart symbol of Halloween.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)

With just today and tomorrow remaining in October, the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest is winding down for 2020 and we are pulling out the real big guns… or at least… the big fruit.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was an absurd film from the late 1970s. It is a comedy. It is horror. It is a satire. It is a musical. It has pieces from all kinds of genre.

It is just terrible.

It is one of the worst movies you are going to see.

Still, it is fun watching it, picking out the most ridiculous moments in this film where tomatoes come to life and try killing off the human race.

There are scenes in this that do not feel remotely connected. There was a Hitler joke. A joke Jesus Christ doing a commercial. A meeting of generals in a tiny room. There was a Lois and Clark/Superman joke. None of these fit in with killer tomatoes.

Some of the voice overs are clearly added later. The sound was so off that it made you think they did it on purpose, that it was part of the gag. It did not have a cohesiveness to it.

There is a great theme song to this movie that I enjoyed every time I heard it on Dr. Demento when I was younger.

I shook my head as much as anything else. This has become a B-movie classic because it was so bad. It falls right in line with Birdemic, The Room and Manos: Hands of Fate.

The Others (2001)

Next up on the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest is a film from 2001 starring Nicole Kidman called The Others.

Kidman plays a woman named Grace, who moved into an old family home near the end of World War II with her two children to await for the return of her husband (Christopher Eccleston) from the war.

Grace’s children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), were photosensitive so they needed to stay out of sunlight, requiring the curtains to remain closed. There were plenty of other rules that seemed quite strict too.

When former servants of the house arrived looking for jobs, they were hired and things begin to unravel.

The Others is a great film, filled with supernatural scares and a mystery of what is going on that keeps the viewers uncertain and off-balance.

Nicole Kidman is excellent as the controlling mother, confused and alarmed at the situation surrounding the house. She starts to believe that the house is haunted, but every attempt at finding answers is met with a new problem or hurdle.

Fionnula Flanagan (Eloise Hawking from LOST) played Mrs. Mills, one of the servants who arrived and she clearly had a secret, but is it sinister?

Along with the strong performances in the movie, The Others features a fantastic setting that helps to create a mood of fearfulness and anxiety. You are never sure exactly what is happening or how it fits together. I will say that the ending did surprise me and that is always a good sign for me.

The movie is a slow burn, but it is worth it. There are a lot of moments of nervousness and anxiety. Nicole Kidman was amazing and The Others is a cool Haunted House story.

Jaws 2 (1978)

The next film in the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest for 2020 is a sequel to one of my all-time favorite moves.

Unfortunately, Jaws 2 comes up very short of Stephen Spielberg’s classic Jaws. While it is not bad, Jaws 2 just was never going to match up with the magic of the film that preceded it.

We return to Amity years after the arrival of the original shark and we see that life has gone on. Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) has gotten on with his life, Ellen (Lorraine Gary) has a successful job working for businessman Peterson (Joseph Mascolo) and the beach is alive as ever.

However, the waters are about to become dangerous once again as the arrival of another great white shark starts to cause chaos among the sailor, water skiers and dumb kids.

There are some good moments in Jaws 2. I thought the idea of Brody being crazed when the idea of a shark returning happens. He seems to be suffering from PTSD and nobody believes him. I think if this had more of a focus on Scheider and his character Brody, this could have been much more successful.

Sadly, though, the original Jaws came down to the relationship between Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss (as Hooper) and Robert Shaw (as Quint) and that dynamic was missing from this film. Instead, the film was more interested in placing a bunch of dimwit teenagers in jeopardy than creating any real characters.

The score, which was a undeniable classic in the original, was overbearing here. John Williams did both, but this time his music was simply too much, at times downright distracting.

I actually found this worse on this viewing than I had thought before. There was little new here and the sequel felt totally unnecessary. As I said, there were some good bits here and there, but the rest of it outweighed it.

Theater of Blood (1973)

As we start off the final week of the EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest, we have a movie that I had never heard of before and only found out about thanks to the podcast Critically Acclaimed, featuring critics William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold.

Theater of Blood starred the iconic horror actor of the 1950s-1970s, Vincent Price is a roll that he is clearly having a blast playing.

After losing out on a prestigious acting award, Shakespearean stage actor Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) threw himself from a balcony into the river Thames in front of the group of self-important critics who had blasted his work in print and whom he blamed for costing him the award.

However, Lionheart did not die from his fall. Instead, he was rescued and saved by a group of vagrants and he spent two years healing.

When he was ready, he began to slay the critics, literally, in the same manner in which Shakespeare had killed some of his characters. It comes down to facing off with Peregrine Devlin (Ian Hendry), the critic who presented the actual award.

This is a horror/comedy and it delivers. Vincent Price is so over-the-top that he fits this perfectly. He provides his Shakespearean lines with gusto of an actor obsessed with the Bard. He could have been a perfect Batman villain as much of Lionheart’s story felt like a supervillain origin.

The camp factor on this is high, and very enjoyable. The British film directed by Douglas Hickox, included a large variety of well-known British actors. Some of these actors were Sir Michael Hordern, Coral Browne, Dennis Price, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley, and Arthur Lowe.

Diana Riggs is also in the cast, giving one of her favorite performances as Lionheart’s daughter Edwina.

I suppose since I loved this, I’m safe from any retribution.

Frankenweenie (1984)

This was the strangest, most unexpected thing. I was watching the credits of the 2012 animated Frankenweenie on Disney + for the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest, when the screen popped up a graphic for another Frankenweenie, which appeared to be live action.

I had no idea what this was, so I decided to watch it. There was young Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern, which immediately put an end to the idea that maybe they had done this after the animated movie.

So it was clearly something that predated the animated movie. Then I saw that Tim Burton had also directed it.

Turns out that Frankenweenie started out as a 28-minute short from Burton and that they adapted the animated movie from this short. I had no idea.

The short was fun, considerably more condensed than the 2012 film, but it did a good job of showing the relationship between Victor (Barret Oliver) and Sparky. There were a few of the scenes (like the cars hooking up their jumper cables to Sparky) were exactly the same in the animated movie.

Much like the 2012 animated movie, this is an homage to the Universal Monster Movies, particularly Frankenstein (1931). The black and white film does a great job of creating that very mood. The short also makes you feel as if you were watching those older film with the staging and the way the actors carried themselves.

This was an interesting exercise, seeing this short after seeing the animated movie. There was more depth in the animated movie, but, as a short, this brought an excellent tone and set the stage for the future movie.

Frankenweenie (2012)

Today, in order to continue the October EYG Halloween Horror Bingefest, I pulled up Disney + for a little family horror entertainment. This would be Tim Burton’s animated classic Frankenweenie.

This was a wonderful animated film, with the magic of stop animation giving us what appeared to be flawless artistic appearance of the characters and setting. The beautiful black and white filming highlighted every last piece of art that appeared on the screen making this a visually stunning film.

The story was touching and funny as well. Victor (Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky were inseparable until a tragic accident brought the dog’s life to an end. Engulfed in the world of science, Victor was inspired to attempt an experiment to resurrect the dog using lightning.

Clearly, the film is an homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein, as many of the iconic imagery appears in the animated movie. There is a lot of emotion here too as anyone who has lost a pet and who wished that there was something that they could do about it could feel for Victor and his plight.

The voice cast is strong. It features Catharine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, and Atticus Shaffer. O’Hara and Short pitched in with multiple voices each.

This is a great family film with some real emotion and some powerful moments for Halloween. Frankenweenie is the type of animation that does not speak down to children, but provides them with a good story and beautiful imagery to watch.