Tag Archives: chris columbus

Home Alone

Macaulay Culkin was the shit. If there was ever a case for developing anti-growth hormones, it would be to keep him from reaching puberty. I’m sure Michael Jackson would agree. Home Alone is an awesome movie, essential viewing for any happy childhood. It’s they story of 8-year old Kevin McCallister who is accidently left home alone when his family goes to Paris for Christmas vacation. Chris Columbus directs and John Hughes produced and wrote this family favorite.

Kevin is kind of a brat, but he is picked on and excluded by his large family. He makes a wish that his family would disappear, and instead they totally forget about him and leave for an amazing vacation without him. At first he’s ok with it and has fun doing whatever he wants without anybody telling him what to do. Too bad Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, a.k.a. Harry and Marv, a.k.a. the Wet Bandits decide to loot his neighborhood, including Kevin’s house. Kevin decides that it’s time for him to man up and defend his house, and so he devises a crazy plan that uses tons of booby traps and with a little luck he disrupts their plans and saves Christmas.

John Heard and Catherine O’Hara play Kevin’s parents. They have a big family and don’t always have time for Kevin. They love him though. They have to. Catherine O’Hara is Kate McCallister, the frantic mom who would sell her soul to the Devil himself just to get back to her son. There could be a spinoff about Home Alone from her POV. She left her son home alone, she realizes it halfway to Paris, and spends the next few days bartering her way from airport to airport, bumming rides, and essentially doing whatever she can to get home. She even hangs out with John Candy and his Polka buddies.

There is an actual story, a real plot… but I think that the booby trap/house raid was thought of first, and then they built the movie around that. The booby traps are very elaborate and obviously planned out. The whole plot of leaving Kevin home alone is just an excuse to have a kid physically abuse two bad guys. The police are a joke; they don’t do anything to help Kevin. The Santa Claus knows that a little kid is all alone on Christmas Eve, just wishing for his parents to come home. He even knows his address and does nothing to help. The pizza guy thinks he got shot at, knows the address, and doesn’t report it? There are so many adults that Kevin has encounters with, and not one of them is competent enough to recognize that he needs help.

The booby trap/house raid sequence will make you laugh and squirm, especially moments like the nail going into Marv’s foot and Harry’s hand getting branded by the doorknob. I still get shivers down my spine when the Wet Bandits catch Kevin and Harry says he’s going to bite off Kevin’s fingers. It makes everything Kevin did to them justified.

Home Alone was more than a movie growing up. It was a career opportunity. Whenever I was sick or pretending to be sick, it was up to me to defend my house. I must have lived in a decent neighborhood, because I never got my chance to hurt any burglars. At least I could live my dreams through Kevin.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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The Goonies

Richard Donner (Superman, Radio Flyer) directs, Chris Columbus (Home Alone) writes, and Stevie Spielberg (it’s Spielberg, c’mon) produces this classic movie about a group of friends called the Goonies who go on an amazing adventure in search of the fabled fortune of One-Eyed Willie to save their foreclosed homes. A dangerous family of fugitives (the Fratellis) is hot in pursuit of the Goonies. It is a fun adventure movie. It doesn’t try to take itself seriously, which makes it more appealing. This is one of those rare movies that you can watch with your mom or your best friend, and if you have a little baby you’d watch it with him too. You can watch it multiple times, you want to quote it, and you want to share it with other people.

This is one of the few movies with a great cast of child actors. Casting a kid heavy film can make or break a film. This cast is on par with other great kid casts like in The Sandlot and Stand By Me. Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and a few others made the transition to become working adult actors. And Corey Feldman outlived Corey Haim, which is pretty amazing. Jonathan Ke Quan plays Data. A lot of Asians depicted in movies around this time are blatantly racist and are only there for comic relief. This movie came out a year after Pretty in Pink with the super racist caricature Long Duk Dong. In this flick, Data is just one of the Goonies. He has a few lines in Vietnamese and uses broken English occasionally, but they don’t call attention to it, and they don’t make fun of him. There are no stupid stereotypes. Data is Harold wayyyy before he met Kumar.

It is kind of weird how much Mikey grows and changes throughout the movie. He grows so much that he no longer has asthma. I don’t think it works like that. Another weird thing is calling the pirate One-Eyed Willie. It is clearly a penis reference in a movie for kids. Why not call him something more subtle like Mushroom-Tip Johnson or Pocket-Snake Dick? And how come Chunk doesn’t ask his parents if this giant deformed man-baby can live with them? He just tells Sloth he’s going to live with him now.

Weird stuff aside, if you haven’t seen this movie, then you didn’t have a childhood.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)

Harry Potter is back on the big screen in the second installment of the franchise. Chris Columbus directs again, and the whole cast comes back with a few new additions, like Kenneth Branagh as the swarmy Lockhart. Harry is a year older and dealing with new problems like the damn Chamber of Secrets being opened and being the prime suspect by his fellow students.

The film is still a kid’s movie, it is still bright and happy, but there are a few more scarier scenes. The scene with Aragog and the Basilisk are two of the most frightening creatures in the series.  The computer graphics are much improved over the rushed effects in the first film.

Richard Harris died shortly after filming. He obviously wasn’t in great health while playing Dumbledore and it shows. Dumbledore looks tired and very ancient.

This is a very loyal translation of the book. It follows the source material very closely, and so when they make unnecessary changes, I just don’t understand why. Why does Harry have to fall out of a flying car and dangle there while Ron shrieks and tries to pull him back in? Was a sequence involving 2 underage wizards driving a flying car to their magic school not amazing enough? The most puzzling part of the movie was the ending when Hagrid returns to the Great Hall and Harry says, “There’s no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid,” and Dumbledore starts a slow clap, and everyone cheers and hugs him. They act like he’s a hero. Hagrid didn’t do anything. It’s called Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, not Hagrid Comes Home. It’s a very stupid ending to what had been a good movie.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (film)

Harry Potter was too much of phenomenon to stay on paper, and in 2001 the first book became a box office hit. Chris Columbus was chosen to direct, mostly because he was used to directing kids in films like Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Harry Potter’s mostly British cast would use virtual unknown child actors and established film stars to play the adults.

It was really risky hiring Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. If he sucked the whole franchise would have fallen apart. He looks the part, and plays the part pretty well, but he is still just a kid in this and not much of an actor. He gets the job done though, and so you have to give credit to everyone who saw his potential. At the time the movie was made, there were only three books out and 4 more yet to be written. No one knew if they were going to keep the same cast or have to replace them if they got too old. Rupert Grint plays Ron Weasley and Emma Watson rounds out the trio as Hermione Granger. Rupert Grint is naturally fun and great sidekick to Harry, but Emma Watson is the best actor of the three in this one. She is the most natural on camera. Inspired casting with the Hogwarts staff, but Alan Rickman steals the show as Snape. He can do more with a sentence than most could do with a four-minute monolog.

This is a bright happy kid’s movie. The later films get darker as the books become more adult orientated. Columbus does a great job establishing the look and feel of the wizarding world. He sets up a great foundation and establishes the general tone and mood for the later installments. He brings J.K. Rowling’s vision to life, and it is truly magical at times. The first time I saw this movie was in Spanish class, and dios mios, it blew me away. Even though I had no idea what that little nino was saying to his amigos nuevos en la escuela de magica, I knew that I was seeing the start of a great new franchise. The computer graphics and special effects are a little under par. Neville’s flying sequence and the bathroom troll seem really cartoony. The Quidditch scenes were also very boring and not fast enough. The Quidditch scenes also showcase Daniel Radcliffe’s most wooden acting in the entire franchise. Maybe he should have been drinking back then to loosen up a little.

Overall the film stays very loyal to the book. Only a few things are changed or cut from the film, nothing too major. The flow of the film gets a little clunky at times, and the acting a little amateur, but it is entertaining and rewatchable. A great start to a great film franchise.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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