Category Archives: Road Movies

Aloha, Bobby and Rose (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: They dream about Hawaii.

Bobby (Paul Le Mat) enjoys racing cars and shooting pool, but resists being tied down with a steady job. Rose (Dianne Hull) is a young single woman trying to raise a small child on her own while still living with her mother (Martine Bartlett). By chance the two meet one day and instantly hit-it-off. They decide they want to run away together to the exotic locale of Hawaii, but lack the funds. Bobby tries to hold up a liquor store by using a fake gun, but the shop’s owner comes out of a back room and threatens to kill him, so Rose hits the man over his head with a bottle and the gun accidently discharges and kills the young clerk. Now the two must go on the run and evade the police who are after them.

Unfortunately the basic premise here is highly flawed making it hard if not impossible to get into it. For one thing there was no one else in the liquor store to ID the young couple, so the police would not necessarily be looking for them. Secondly the clerk was shot by the store owner, not by Bobby or Rose and the gun is clearly in the man’s hands when he falls to the ground. A simply residue test would prove that he was the one who fired the weapon and it wasn’t just planted on him afterwards. Since there was no one else in the store Bobby and Rose could simply say that the owner and clerk got into an argument and the owner threatened to kill the young man, so in an effort to save him Rose hit the owner with a bottle, but the gun went off anyways. There would be no else to refute this barring that the owner did indeed die and even if he had survived it would simply be his word against there’s and ultimately he would still be the one caught holding the gun, so in essence these kids seem to be running for no real reason.

There is another scene later on where the two crash the car they are driving and conveniently find another one sitting in a dark alleyway. The movie doesn’t even bother to show Bobby hotwiring it, which is how they usually steal cars in the movies, but later on we see him turning the ignition to the car in an effort to start the vehicle. This then signals that the keys were left in the ignition when they found it and the windows rolled down, but how many cars does one find out on the street, or anywhere for that matter, that are like that?

I did appreciate that the film shows in slow motion their heads hitting and cracking the windshield during the accident as this is what will occur especially when the occupants are not wearing their seatbelts. Yet later on they go into a washroom and wipe the blood away with a wet cloth and it’s all gone, but bleeding from the head most likely means that the skull was cracked and would require stitches, which means continual bleeding even if the dried blood gets erased.

The location is wrong as well. The setting is Los Angeles, but several characters speak with southern tinged accents and just about all of them convey small town sentiments. Very little footage is shown of the two actually out on the open road and the music that gets played is a scattershot mix of ‘70s tunes that runs the gamut of musical genres and never gives the film any unifying sound or mood.

The supporting cast helps a bit. I enjoyed seeing Robert Carradine looking like he was still in high school. Tim McIntire adds some verve as an outspoken Texan who has no qualms mixing-it-up with anyone that he comes into contact with and Bartlett is engaging as the flaky mother, but the story meanders too much and goes nowhere. There were many road movies that came out during the 70’s and many of them were well done, but this isn’t one of them.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 29, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Floyd Mutrux

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD

Outrageous Fortune (1987)

outrageous-fortune

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bitter rivals share lover.

Lauren (Shelley Long) and Sandy (Bette Midler) join an acting class and find themselves at immediate odds. Little does Sandy know that Michael (Peter Coyote) the new attractive man that she has just met is also seeing Sandy on-the-side. When Michael disappears they reluctantly work together to try and find him only to realize that he may have been using both of them for nefarious and potentially dangerous means.

This is mindless, fluffy entertainment for sure and it doesn’t mind selling itself as such, but despite a runtime that goes on too long and a plot that becomes increasingly more farfetched it still works mainly because it’s genuinely funny. In fact there are several moments where I found myself chuckling out loud with the best part in my opinion coming near the beginning when Lauren begs her parents to borrow money so that she can attend an acting class.

The two leads help a lot. I always felt that Long should’ve stayed on ‘Cheers’ and her film career was for the most part a dud, but this is one of her better movie roles that takes full advantage of her prissy persona. Midler is terrific too and I admired how she really got into her part by insisting on doing her own stunts and she even has an impromptu moment where she decided to lie down on the road, which was not in the script, while a truck came dangerously close to running her over.

Coyote is good as the duplicitous boyfriend and it was interesting seeing him in a bad guy role, which he doesn’t do often, but this was yet another movie instance where we have a character that walks with a noticeable limp one minute only to have it strangely go away the next. On the flip-side Robert Prosky’s Russian professor caricature is overdone and George Carlin may be a legendary comedian, but his acting parts are never very funny.

For amiable entertainment it’s fun as long as you’re not too demanding, but there was one part that I thought was just too implausible. It comes during a chase sequence where in effort to elude the people who are after them Lauren and Sandy decide to hide themselves in two separate clothes dryers while the machines remain running. For one thing it is impossible to close the doors from the inside as they are intentionally made this way so little children can’t accidently lock themselves in. A person from the outside would have to shut the door in order for it to latch, so even if one did this for the other there is no way that they both could’ve done it. Also once the door is closed you would need someone from the outside to open it back up in order to get out and the prospect of a grown adult body being put into a dryer while it is running would most likely disable it, which makes the scene unable to meet even the minimum requiements of logic and therefore should’ve been left out.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 30, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Linda Lovelace for President (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Vote for porn star.

The election is only a few months away and there are still no candidates running for President. Then someone suggests adult film star Linda Lovelace famous for her starring role in the porn classic Deep Throat. At first she is reluctant, but then after having a conversation with what she thinks is God she agrees, which then leads to many ‘zany’ and ‘comical’ adventures.

I don’t know where to even begin with this one except to say that it’s crap, pure and unadulterated crap that on any level isn’t worth anyone’s time. The gags are incredibly lame and there’s no real plot to speak. It’s also not very sexy, so if you’re considering checking it out just for that reason you might as well pass.

Lovelace isn’t all that attractive and certainly cannot compare to today’s porn stars. Maybe that sounds cruel and shallow to some, but let’s face it the selling point for this thing isn’t her acting talent. I think my biggest annoyance with her is her blank smile and stare and the way she delivers her lines almost like she is in some sort of hypnotic trance.

Had the film tried to keep things on a more real level and gone through some of the things a person who actually tried to run for President would go through than it might’ve had a chance and maybe even been really funny. Unfortunately we see none of that and there isn’t even any opposing Nixon-like candidate going against her. Instead it’s just a barrage of lame gags one after that other that wouldn’t amuse even a 4-year-old.

Chuck McCann has a few light-hearted moments as a racist senator near the beginning and later as an inept assassin, but otherwise there are no laughs to be had. It’s rare that I would ever suggest a porn flick over a feature film, but in this case I would. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but Deep Throat even if you take out the sex scenes it’s still far better directed and more creative than this turkey, so if on a slow evening and you’re really desperate I’d pop that one in instead of this thing. In fact I’d rather watch an 8-hour video showing grass growing than this and believe me it would be far more interesting.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: April 1, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Claudio Guzman

Studio: General Film Corporation

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Cannonball! (1976)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: An illegal car race.

Wacky participants convene in Santa Monica to take part in an unsanctioned cross country car race. All drivers are accountable for any speeding tickets or injuries that they may accrue and the only rule is that the first person to arrive at a designated spot in New York City wins. Yet the race’s top driver Coy ‘Cannonball’ Buckman (David Carradine), who is on parole, risks being sent back to prison if he crosses the state line, but he decides to proceed any ways despite the objections of his lawyer girlfriend (Veronica Hamel) who eventually rides along with him.

This film is based on the same real-life race that inspired The Gumball Rally, but critic Leonard Maltin incorrectly states in older versions of his book that this film plagiarizes that one, which isn’t true as this movie came out first and adds in many different story angles.

Despite the fact that the production is plagued with the typically cheap Roger Corman look and seems more like an extension to Death Race 2000 I still preferred this to Gumball. Both films have characters that are decidedly cartoonish and neither film makes any attempt to recreate what really happened, but this movie has a darker edge and most thankfully a better soundtrack that doesn’t have a kiddie-like melody.

This film also reverses the race’s starting and end points. In both the real-life event and in Gumball the starting point was New York, but here it’s California, which is actually a plus. In Gumball the drivers seemed to go from the Big Apple to the desert southwest in a matter of only a few minutes, which made no sense. Here the film crew is allowed ample time to take advantage of the closed desert roads to do their car stunts, which aren’t bad, and it also sets up an ending in which driver Mary Woronov arrives in New York, but then gets lost in the congested traffic and can’t find the finish line, which is the film’s funniest bit.

The cast is much more eclectic. I really enjoyed Judy Canova in her final film appearance as her facial expressions are a hoot especially as she has her car gets rear-ended by Carradine’s. Dick Miller is entertaining as a man that tries to rig the race and Bill McKinney is very effective as the bad guy. Director Paul Bartel and producer Roger Corman have bit parts as does Carl Gottlieb the man who penned the screenplay for Jaws. Other directors make cameo appearances including Jonathan Kaplan, Allan Arkush, Joe Dante and even Martin Scorsese.

Yet what I really liked is the massive car pile-up that occurs near the end that features car after car crashing into an already existing accident and then exploding one after another into a ball of flames. This was considered quite controversial amongst the crew and star Carradine tried to convince Bartel not to put it in, but he insisted and I’m glad he did. Yes it’s morbid, but it helps put a touch of reality into the whole thing. The ‘70s were filled with a lot of silly car chase movies all with the running theme that people needed their ‘freedom’ and having a speed limit takes away all the ‘fun’, but there is a reason why those rules were put into place as what starts out as a good time can easily turn into something horrific in a matter of seconds. To me this was Bartel’s way of spitting-in-the-face at all those other inane road race movies that always took an innocuous angle while conveniently ignoring the ugly realities that existed just beneath the surface.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 6, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Bartel

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Gumball Rally (1976)

gumball rally 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: An unofficial car race.

Every year a diverse group of individuals from all over the country converge onto New York to take part in a secret cross country race where drivers compete to see who can get from the east coast to the west coast first. There is no monetary prize or fame just a trophy filled with gumballs and one’s own ego as the reward. This year a cop named Roscoe (Norman Burton) is determined to stop the race and arrest those who are participating in it, but the drivers have some tricks up their sleeves to avoid his detection.

The film is based on the real-life race called The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash that was run four times between the years of 1971 and 1979. It was named after Erwin George Baker, whose nickname was Cannonball, and who in 1933 drove from coast-to-coast in a record time that stood for over 40 years.

Like in the movie the drivers were from all walks of life and the race was not officially sanctioned and had no rules other than getting to California at a preset location first. However, unlike the movie there were few accidents while the film jazzes it up with an excessive amount of crashes until comes off like a live action cartoon, which is the main problem as everything gets dragged down to a kiddie level and comes complete with a music score that sounds like it was pulled straight out of a 1930’s nickelodeon.

The characters are nothing more than caricatures with Tim McIntire’s being the only one that is believable. Raul Julia’s is particularly annoying playing a man who is supposedly obsessed with winning, but then still stops off to have sex with women along the way, which seems like a contradiction. Burton, who ironically ended up dying in a real-life car crash, gets stuck in a one-dimensional role of a relentless, but ineffective cop whose exasperated mannerisms and reactions quickly becomes tiring.

There are a few good stunts, which can be credited to the film’s director Chuck Bail, who worked as a stuntman and coordinator for the greater part of his career. Watching the cars speed down the closed off streets of Park Avenue and Broadway in New York City during the early morning hours is impressive especially as its captured from the passenger’s point-of-view. The race between two cars along the Los Angeles River is equally exciting as is the scene involving a car managing to drive on its side for about a full minute down a packed highway.

The various comical scenarios that befall the characters during the race though are inane and hardly worth even a chuckle. The only ones of a minor interest is when a couple (Tricia O’ Neil, Lazaro Perez) tries to get away from a motorcycle gang as well as two drivers (Steven Keats, Wally Taylor) who are disguised as cops and driving inside a phony police vehicle who come to the aid of man and his pregnant wife on the side of a road. However, the whole thing would’ve been much better had the script kept things on a real level that was more focused on the people involved and their backgrounds instead of the silly stunts.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 28, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Chuck Bail

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Mad Max 2 (1981)

mad max road warrior 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 10 out of 10

4-Word Review: A battle for gas.

Years after a nuclear holocaust has depleted the planet former rogue cop Max (Mel Gibson) travels the scorched countryside looking for food and fuel. He meets up with a pilot (Bruce Spence) who guides him to an oil refinery that is under attack by a gang of marauders led by Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson). Max agrees to help out those trapped inside by driving a tanker truck carrying the fuel out of the refinery and through the makeshift gauntlet, but even he wasn’t prepared for the relentless and violent attack that awaits him.

The film is such a massive improvement over the first installment that viewers could just skip that one and go straight to this as it is far more polished and comes off like an epic while the first seemed more like a rough draft done by amateurs looking to get their feet wet. All the problems that I had with the first one get smoothed out here including a good intro that helps explain how the characters got to where they are. Dean Semler’s widescreen photography of the vast, flat desert landscape is outstanding and the violence is far more graphic, although significant portions of it were trimmed to achieve the R-rating, but it still realistically replicates the savage nature of the desperate characters living in a lawless land and willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want.

The vehicle chase at the end is one of the best ever filmed. The editing is quick with no ill-advised slow motion sequences or annoying cutaway or close-ups. The action happens just like it would in real-life where everything is split-second. The good guys don’t miraculously avoid injury or death either and in fact there’s enough bloodshed from both sides that you begin to wonder if anyone will make it, which creates far more authentic tension than most action pics. Yet what I really liked was that there were no irritating computerized effects. The vehicles used are all real with expert stunt driving and incredible stunt work that rates as some of the most dangerous ever to be tried on film.

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The only minor letdown is the fact that Gibson’s character no longer has that clean-cut, choirboy image and is now more of the moody, clichéd loner dressed in a getup that doesn’t look much different than the bad guys. The first film had more of an interesting contrast, but here he at least gets partnered with a dog, which the producers managed to save from being euthanized, and a feral boy (Emil Minty) who has a nice ability to throw a mean metal boomerang.

Many critics at the time considered this to be the best action flick to have come out of the ‘80s, but I’d consider this to be quite possibly the best action movie ever made! Absolutely everything clicks from the first shot to the last and remains intense, exciting and gripping even after repeated viewings. However, watching it on the small screen will not do it justice and only broadcasting it in the cinema or a very large screen HD TV will do.

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My Rating: 10 out of 10

Alternate Title: The Road Warrior

Released: December 24, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Miller

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

european vacation

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: The Griswolds tour Europe.

After winning a trip to Europe Clark (Chevy Chase) and his family set out to see the sights. First they go to London and France and then Germany only to end up in Italy where they get involved with a couple of thieves. Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) also becomes an international porn star when stolen video of her singing naked in the shower gets shown at the local adult theaters.

Although John Hughes is credited as the co-writer he had nothing to do with the script and the majority of blame for this mess goes to Robert Klane. Klane burst onto the scene during the early ‘70’s with the brilliant Where’s Poppa that deserves to go down into the annals of all-time original comedy, but his output since then has proved to be mediocre and the uninspired humor here is no exception. The comedy in the first installment was solely focused on all the amusing elements that can occur when a family takes a trip, but here gags of any kind get thrown in with much of them being crude and pointless.

The performers who play Rusty and Audrey are poor replacements to the ones in the first film. Anthony Michael Hall was asked to reprise his role, but decided to commit to doing Weird Science instead. After he bowed out it was decided to then cast a new person in the Audrey role as well, but the presence of the teens here is not as fun. In the first film they were portrayed as being the sensible ones, which made for an amusing contrast to the more child-like Clark, but here they are straddled with the generic issues of the everyday teen, which isn’t funny or interesting and includes Audrey dealing with an eating disorder and having a nightmare where she stuffs her face full of junk food, which is gross.

There is also a potpourri of recognizable character actors who appear briefly in bit parts and include : Eric Idle, John Astin, Paul Bartel, Robbie Coltrane, Moon Unit Zappa and Victor Lanoux all of whom get wasted to the point where I was surprised they even agreed to appear unless they just really needed the money. The side-story dealing with the Griwolds and some thieves is dumb and looks to have been written in simply to pad the running time.

Chase himself has gone on record to state that he dislikes this film and it’s easy to see why. The on-location shooting is nice, but everything else falls horribly flat. In fact the only funny gag in the whole thing is when Clark gets trapped in a London roundabout and is unable to make a left turn, which forces him to drive in circles for hours, which apparently isn’t such an uncommon occurrence.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 26, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Amy Heckerling

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Kansas City Bomber (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life on roller derby.

Raquel Welch plays K.C. Carr a struggling mother of two who goes all-out as the star in the roller derby circuit. She plays for the Kansas City Bombers, but then gets into a grudge match with Big Bertha (Patti ‘Moo Moo’ Cavin) with the loser agreeing to leave Kansas City and never return. Through some cheating by other teammates K.C. loses, but is soon picked up by the Portland Loggers whose owner (Kevin McCarthy) is quite impressed with her and promises to make her a star. The two eventually get into a relationship, but then she gets into yet another grudge match this time with the aging Jackie (Helena Kallianiotes) and the loser agreeing to leave Portland forever.

During the ‘70s the roller derby sport was all-the-rage and several films during the period were produced on the subject including The Unholy Rollers, which was also released in 1972 and starred Claudia Jennings as well as Derby, which was a documentary on the sport and came out a year before this one. I once went to a roller derby game a few years back in Indianapolis and I found it to be inane and boring, but there were indeed some people there that seemed to really get into it. In fact if there is one thing that this film does well it is the way it captures the spectators. Seeing many of them with missing teeth and looking like they would not fare too well on a college entrance exam, but getting extremely worked-up with the action in front of them solidly hits-the-mark on the mentality that one will find when attending these events.

The action though looks horribly fake and it’s obvious that the performers are pulling their punches during the fight sequences. I initially thought this was intentional and to show how the sport is really just about acting, but the script wants to play it like it’s for real, which makes the phony staged action look all the more ridiculous.

Welch’s presence is another hindrance. She’s a beautiful looking lady, but her acting has always been suspect. She manages to convey a toughness during the game sequences, but the character is just too nice and naïve otherwise. The film makes efforts to show the hard life and dehumanizing conditions that working in the business entails and yet somehow we are expected to believe this is the one person that has managed to ‘rise above it’ when in reality it would’ve dragged her down to its level, or at least made her more world-wise. The scene where she becomes ‘shocked’ at how the players are being ‘used’ and expresses this to the Kevin McCarthy character gets a good comeback from him when he states “We’re all being used…that’s the American way. You outta know that by now!”  And the fact that she strangely doesn’t despite being supposedly a ‘seasoned’ player makes her character come off as poorly fleshed-out and hollow.

Her relationship with McCarthy is a major issue as he was 30 years older than her. The two share no chemistry and have little in common and watching this gray haired man walking hand-in-hand with a hot young chick comes off like an old fogey that’s  porking his granddaughter.

The unintentionally funny climactic finish is pathetic and features the replay of the same hokey shot done from 3 different angles. The ending also leaves open a slew of unanswered questions while wasting the talents of a young Jodie Foster who appears only briefly as Welch’s daughter. I also didn’t get why it was entitled the Kansas City Bomber as the character spends only a brief time there while the bulk of the story takes place in the Pacific Northwest.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: August 2, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jerold Freedman

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Going on a trip.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides to drive his family of four from Chicago to California in order to visit the world famous amusement park of Wally World. Sure they could’ve flown, but he feels that getting there is ‘half the fun’, so they pack up their station wagon while losing their luggage along the way, running out of money, getting stranded in the desert and forced to take along the crabby Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) who makes everyone miserable.

The film is loaded with laugh-out-loud gags particularly at the beginning. I enjoyed the snapshots of touristy places that get shown over the opening credits as they look exactly like homemade pics stripped directly from somebody’s family album. Clark’s attempts to recreate their proposed trip on the computer only to have his animated station wagon eaten up by a Pacman-like monster is hilarious and imaginative. The scene showing him trying to get back into his old car after its been crushed, or falling asleep at the wheel and driving haphazardly off the road only to end up miraculously at a hotel are also quite good.

The screenplay was written by John Hughes and based on a story he wrote for the September 1979 issue of National Lampoon’s magazine. The plot nicely tackles all the problems that can occur on a typical family outing. Everything from having to visit boring in-laws to squabbling kids in the backseat get comically examined and most likely will remind everyone of their own family trips that started out fun, but turned into a nightmare.

I enjoyed seeing comic legends Eddie Bracken and Imogene Coca cast in supporting roles as well as other recognizable stars popping up for brief bits. This is also the best casting of Rusty and Audrey and watching the kids being the sensible ones while the Dad is more child-like is fun. However, their lack of appreciation for the song ‘Mockingbird’, which Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do an admirable rendition of, is outrageous even for teens and should’ve been enough to have them thrown into Lake Michigan immediately!

The script though begins to go off its hinges with the running joke involving supermodel Christie Brinkley. She plays a hot babe who seems for some strange reason to be attracted to middle-age schmuck Clark. The script was originally written to have this as Rusty’s sexual fantasy, which might’ve worked better, but as it is here it makes no sense.  The character drives so fast in her sporty red convertible that she should remain miles ahead of them and yet she is constantly repassing them almost like she’s a stalker and the odds that she would’ve coincidently been staying at the same hotel as them, out of the thousands that are out there, are astronomically slim. It all might’ve been saved, at least for the male viewers, had she gone nude, which was the original intent, but she refused. In either case it’s a boring bit that is not funny, or believable, or for that matter even sexy.

Spoiler Alert!

I also found the ending to be a letdown. The original one had Clark purchasing a BB gun and using it to invade the home owned by Wally (Eddie Bracken) after they find that his amusement park has been temporarily shut down and then forcing him and his associates to sing some songs before the SWAT team closes in. However, this ending rated poorly with test audiences so it was changed to where Clark and the family invade the park itself and force a security guard, amusingly played by John Candy, to take them on the rides while threatening him with the same type of BB gun.

Personally I disliked both endings because they are over-the-top and make little sense. There is no way that an amusement park would completely shut down for 2-weeks to make repairs especially in the middle of summer, which it is at the height of tourist season and risks too much of a loss of revenue. Certain individual rides may get shut down from time-to-time, but not the whole place. There is also never any explanation as to who is running the rides from the ground that the Griswolds and the security guard go on. Some may argue that it might be done by the black security guard, which is played by actor Frank McRae, but this is never explicitly shown or implied, so it therefore cannot be automatically assumed.

It also takes away too much from the film’s overall theme, which was making fun of less than ideal situations that occur on a lot of family vacations. Yes they do get exaggerated for comical purposes, but there was still a grain of truth to it while the ending instead borders on the surreal.

A better version would’ve been to have the family go to the park and have it open for business as expected, but then get caught up in a lot of crowds, long lines, overly priced rides and roller coasters that made them physically sick, which it did to the cast in real-life anyways.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Despite some of the script’s weaknesses this is still the funniest installment to the Griswold adventures and far better than its 4 sequels or the 2015 reboot. I also enjoyed the on-location shooting as well as the music by Lindsey Buckingham. His song ‘Holiday Road’, which gets played during the film’s opening, has become the mainstay to the franchise even though I found ‘Dancing Across the U.S.A’ that gets played over the closing credits to be better.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 29, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Harold Ramis

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Mad Max (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Gang harasses cop’s family.

In the not so distant future where lawlessness is the norm motorbike gangs terrorize the Australian countryside and it’s up to highwayman known as the Main Force Patrol (MFP) to keep them under control. When one of the officers known as Max (Mel Gibson) kills a gang member during a high-speed chase the gang’s leader named Toecutter (Hugh Keyes-Byrne) gets his revenge by having his gang member’s destroy a small town and rape a couple. He also has the youngest member of his gang named Johnny (Tim Burns) kill Max’s partner Goose (Steve Bisley) by having his car set on fire with him still inside. After Max witnesses Goose’s charred remains he quits the force, but Toecutter and his men continue their harassment by this time setting their sights on Max’s wife (Joanne Samuel) and young child.

This film, which was produced by a generally novice crew including its director who at one time worked as a doctor inside a hospital emergency room, became a worldwide cult hit that has spawned many sequels and imitations. The intent was to create a “silent movie with sound” with the emphasis more on imagery and action than dialogue or story. For the most part it succeeds quite well in this area with some excellent car chases particularly the one at the beginning and coupled with the dry barren Australian countryside, which truly does give off a strong, desolate future-type look.

The film though lacks any backstory and one spends the greater part of the first hour asking ‘Who are these people and how exactly did they get there?’ The film can still be enjoyed without it, but comes off as poorly realized and lacking any type of depth. The narrative is also just a little too simple and obvious. When the wife decides to go off to get some ice cream when Max is at the car repair place it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she’ll bump into the marauding gang when she gets there, which of course she does. Later, she goes for a walk in a forest, but Max doesn’t go with her, or give a gun for protection even though the gang is still on the loose, which seemed like really poor judgement.

There are also times when the film pulls away from the violence a little too soon and would have been more effective had it stayed on it for a while longer. One of these moments occurs during the rape sequence and another time is when Max visits Goose in the hospital, but instead of having the camera capture Goose’s burned face, which would’ve been much more graphic and disturbing, it instead looks at Max’s widening eyes, which is cheesy and cartoonish.

The film’s biggest issue though is the music score by Brian May, which is so loud and obnoxious and borders on being a distraction. The booming orchestral sound doesn’t jive at all with the futuristic setting and seems much better suited for a 1940’s serial instead. The images would be enough to set the tone and having the blasting music added in makes it come off as heavy-handed and amateurish.

Byrne as the gang leader is distinct looking and effectively menacing although his evilness could’ve been played up even more. Sheila Florance though is a lot of fun as the elderly, gun-toting Aunt May who single-handedly tries to take down the gang with only her and her rifle. However, it’s Gibson that steals it with his young, baby-face that makes him look like a choirboy and heightens the intrigue by having such a contrasting look to the gang members and making the viewer wonder if he really can take them down or not.

mad max 2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: April 12, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Miller

Studio: Roadshow Film Distributors

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube