Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) [review]

John Hughes certainly knew how to create films with characters that we could not help but love and enjoy seeing their journey. In this case seeing two people who were complete opposites, stuck on the same journey and winding each other up, but underneath it all, they were great for each other.

Not only do we have the joy of seeing Neal Page (Steve Martin) being uptight and barely tolerating the situations he finds himself in, we have Del Griffith (John Candy) who goes with the flow of where he finds himself and in a way, maybe even has a little fun along the way.

Not only does the pair come up against the situations, it’s the reactions and willingness to deal with how and why they find each other so irritating that makes this comedy. This allows both to find their own floors and peeves to the point where we see both sides of the argument. This is a worm and funny comedy which centres around Thanksgiving and family, even if the families are the destination rather than being involved in the journey itself.

From Neal who we see talking to his wife on the phone for a few moments as he tries to get home before the holiday, to Del who talks of his wife on how he feels about her. This is a great film to watch on the holiday with your family and enjoy the misfortunes of others as they deal with the pressures they put upon themselves to get where they want to be.

This is a 1980s classic which still hold up nicely in the modern world, we still find so much of what was going on with the characters, in that it’s a story of two people being human, in a somewhat everyday possibility. Therefore we can’t help but sympathise with the characters. Maybe we consider that we take some aspects of life too seriously and we should enjoy life a little more and appreciate what we have.

Not only is this a comedy of misfortunes, but the fact that we can get into our own ruts and find those around us more than we’d like to find ourselves involved with. We should broaden our outlook on life, going beyond the world we have created around ourselves. This is a film which reminds us that there is much more positive around ourselves which we have forgotten over the years.

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Vegas Vacation (1997) [review]

This film managed to reduced so much of what made the previous three films so enjoyable and funny. This is entertaining, but on a much lesser level than the previous films in the series. The characters seem to be different, less intelligent than we had become used to… not to say they were the smartest of characters, but at least they had something about them which lead us to liking them.

This film was not written by John Hughes, I assume he knew when to let go of something while it still had life in it. This feels like an afterthought; disconnected from the previous films, it almost has a made for TV movie feel to it… a better TV movie, but one which does not have the charm the fans of the series enjoyed in the first three films.

I think that part of the problem with this film is, the four members of the Griswold family go out on their own excursions and are less of a family unit, and therefore we do not see the family getting on each other’s nerves as much as they did in the previous. Clark (Chevy Chase) is less obsessed with keeping the family together and putting them through testing situation in which he created. Some may think the series could only put the family through it so many times… three films and that was it?

This is certainly a film which you will watch if you are somebody like me, who; if you watch a film and like it, you will check out the whole series. Don’t expect too much from this and you will find a handful of moments which you’ll enjoy make you smile.

We do get Eddie’s (Randy Quaid) part of the family again, but; like the rest of the characters, his intelligence and entertainment value has taken a nose dive. This feels like nothing more than money grab by those playing on our fondness for the series. I wouldn’t blame you if your mind started to wonder off onto something else while you were watching. It is a film which seems to rely on unknown and unfamiliar characters coming in to try and hold your attention.

There really is a lack of a… soul, for a lack of a better expression. I cannot say this is a terrible film, but it is not on the same level as the first three. It is something which is easy to forget once you’ve watched it.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) [review]

The great thing about the vacation films is you don’t need to have seen any of the other films in the series to enjoy any of them as a standalone film.

This is a fun Christmas film that makes you laugh for all the floors of the characters and the tensions that come with the expectations of the Christmas season.

Even when you can see the jokes coming a mile away; the fun of seeing the joke building and the reactions of the characters is a pleasure to behold. Although this may not be the funniest of the series, it keeps you entertained for an hour and a half, and like the “European Vacation” this does seem tamer than “Vacation”. The added characters that are the neighbours don’t hit the mark in which I presumed the filmmakers assume they would. They are just a mild distraction between scenes with the Griswold family. Almost as if they’re there merely to give us a moment of relief from the family situation.

Instead of this being a road trip travelling through America or Europe, this is a stay at home vacation in which the tension builds with the extended family coming to stay, which grows nicely over the cause of the film, which gives us the Clark (Chevy Chase) outburst that is a must in this series. We get the slightest of hints of the way of Clark and Ellen’s upbringings in passing comments and quick conversations. Not to say that this explains a lot about either of them, but it’s nice to see more of who they are. We also have Eddie and Catherine returning, after originally seeing them in “Vacation”, this time we get to see more of who they are, more than we experienced in the original film… at least in amount of screen time.

Like any film written by John Hughes, there is a look at elements of life, this time around it is how the work place and management treat those who work for them. All of which is done in the comedic style, as you’d expect from such a film. This is a nice way to end the John Hughes involvement of the series and a grand way to spend at Christmas hour and a half; not caring about what some presume to be the important aspects of the season. Sit back and enjoy… It may not be hilarious, but it will make you smile and laugh.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) [review]

While it could be said that this is not much more than a remake of the first film, but there is enough to makes us go along with the film and enjoy all that it has to offer. The fact that we have the Griswold family out of their own culture and seemingly unaware of their own faults (although they can see each others) as they travel through Europe and presume themselves to be educated enough to enjoy what they’re experiencing. We laugh at, not only their lack of understanding the langue and culture, but their lack of ability to appreciate what they’re experiencing with each other… for the majority of the film that is.

In a way, it is feels like they are going through the motions to say they have done it, rather than experience the pleasure of what is on offer as they travel through each country. Although this film does not have the destination such as the first film had in its final moments, the whole film is the journey and destination. Which, like the previous film brings out the best and the worst in the family; making this fun, maybe not as much as the first, but it still makes us laugh and cringe at the idea of what is happening. As we know in the back of our minds, there is something of ourselves in these characters… if we like to admit it or not.

There is a slight feeling that this is aimed a little more at a family audience than the original film. The langue seems a little tamer and there doesn’t seem to be the chance of certain characters having outbursts in the way we saw in the previous film. Although, I presume this is due, not only to the company wanting to make more money, but the fact that we have a different director. The choice of director of course will have been partly due to the company wanting a lower rating for… the already mentioned to make more money. Along with showing a little less flesh; although there is some, but this time it feels a little less sexy.

It was great to see the filmmakers looking outside their own country, making fun of not only the people of their own country, but those they were visiting… although this is all very much clichés of the people and what some characters may think of where they’ve found themselves.

This, just as much as the original, would be a completely different film if made today, if it were to involve modern day technology. People would be able to find information and make calls which were much harder to do in 1985. But I think that’s what makes the film all the more entertaining, having less ease than we have now, and actually having to deal with the problems in ways that were at hand.

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) [review]

This is a classic which never seems to lose its brilliance and is as entertaining as it was back when it was released back in 1983. Which I think is due to the fact that we all know people like this, and probably feel this way about our own families, having to be stuck with them on holiday. Especially when it comes to being stuck in the confined space such as a car and when it comes to somebody who insists on having fun (their version of fun) while staying on what have planned.

The misfortunes of the Griswold family, and at moments extended family is one of being in situations which they have put themselves in, with the added bonus of none of it going the way it should… or maybe if certain people were smarter and did not insist on having the holiday the way they envisioned it. The pressure which is put upon the family heightens this to the point where it is ridicules and entertains. We connect with the characters while relieved that it’s not ourselves in the situation, but somebody we can watch and enjoy.

There are many great scenes in this film which lend themselves to absolute joy, fun and many a laugh. In a way, this is the journey, rather than the destination which matters, tearing a family apart and seeing what makes each of them tick and why they tolerate each other.

This film has a great ending which brings the film to a grand conclusion, without setting itself up for a sequel… although we do get one… in fact more than one. But it is very much has a standalone feel to it. It is a film which deserves our attention and gives us an hour and a half of enjoyment without needing to offend or shock.

There is a down to earth feeling about this film which leaves us to consider that we don’t need all the modern day technology. If this were made today, I’m sure there would be multiple versions of technology would find a way to get around some of the situations of the film in a way that would lessen what makes this as fantastic as it is.

The soundtrack to this film is a pleasure to hear, one which suits the film perfectly and gives a summer, joyous feel on repeat viewing. Which I have done many times over the years.

The Breakfast Club (1985) [review]

This is a little hard to explain, in that what we have here feels to be a film which very little takes place, while so much happens. This is a great look at how we find five teenagers stuck in each other company while in detention on a Saturday. Although the cliques of the five may be obvious, they are done in such a way, that we can’t help but get involved in their lives, feel for them and the baggage they bring.

The five being the smart guy, the athlete, the princess, the outsider & the criminal, who all over the course of the film, we see the five trying to figure each other out, what makes each other tick, while also finding what it is to be themselves, who they really are and discovering more than they ever realised previous to meeting the others.

Which may seem a little over thinking it, but then we can see ourselves in the characters, if you are watching it as a teen, you may find somebody you recognise, if you have grown up with the film, you may remember what it was like to be the age of these characters and how we’ve changed over time. Maybe that we are not just one of these characters, but we have a little bit of a mixture of some or all of what we have here, the realisation that nothing is as simple as it may seem and we’re not all that we’re cracked up to be.

The two members of staff are also worthy of our time, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) has let the world grind him down to the point where he finds himself at odd with the students, disillusioned with what he sees in the younger generation. While Carl (John Kapelos) still has an upbeat look on life as he goes about his day job. We find there is more to what we assume his job has to offer. A man who has more substance than some would like to acknowledge.

John Hughes created a film which left us thinking that teens have more to offer than those over twenty one may consider, that we may forget what it was to be, before we lost something of ourselves to the world as we grew older.

This also has a great 1980s soundtrack which features one of the greatest tunes to come out of that decade.

The Great Outdoors (1988) [review]

When it comes to John Hughes films, this is among his family films, moving on from the teen offerings he made in the mid 1980s. This film shows us more of the relationship between parents and their children; siblings of not only the younger generation, but their parents’ generation, and then there’s the relationship between husbands and wives. All of which offers the love and awkwardness of being part of a family.

There are the values of two families linked by blood, but who have taken different paths and idealisms in their lives. One which is more family oriented and the other more money minded. This, as you would expect, brings out the worst in the family gathering on a holiday and the best in the humour and our interest in what we enjoy here.

This really is a film which holds the two families together when there really is no reason to, but then again, there would be no film if that wasn’t the case. But, that would be to presume there is nothing more than what lies on the surface. There is always something more to pull us in than we presume and therefore this film works nicely in that we want to see a family at war with itself. This is a great hour and a half which is fun and takes us on a ride that spans over a few days of a holiday, which reveals the actual intentions of why certain people are as they pretend not to be.

This is a light hearted look at life that will make you laugh and find yourself enjoying the misfortune of those who have to put up with it. The younger generation of the film try to find their own interests and people they would rather hang around with. The added idea that both families are out in the country, away from their normal city lives which they are accustomed to, there is much to be enjoyed here, which is a grand sight to see in a way that it is neither abusive or over the top.

This is a film which I have watched numinous times and still find entertaining many years after its release in the late 1980s, and I’m sure I’ll see it many more times. There are moments which will make you laugh, some which will make you smile and some which will make you understand and appreciate family members for all their faults.