Ah, the holiday season.  Time for movie studios to bring their best and brightest in an attempt to get you and your grandma to spend $40 to see DiCaprio say something very earnestly.

So, let’s talk about two movies that say “holidays” to me.  One is new, one is old, but both of them evoke memories of family fun.  Just maybe not in the way you expect.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) [R]

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) posterLet’s go with “traditional” first.  I watch this every year during the holiday season.  “Why,” you ask?  Because of John Candy.

Look, I won’t sugarcoat this.  Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a John Hughes, 80’s comedy.  That means, if you aren’t ok with 80’s  comedy stylings, you probably will think the jokes are really cheesy.  The music certainly is.  But that’s not what makes the movie great.

The film follows the plight of Neal Page, played by Steve Martin, trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving.  His flight is cancelled due to bad weather so he has to find alternate transportation.  He also finds Del Griffith, played by Candy, a boisterous traveling shower curtain ring salesman.

The pair end up trying to find their way to Chicago together and the movie becomes a bit of a road movie / buddy comedy.  But Candy’s performance makes it just a little bit more.  In less agile hands, the character of Del could quickly become someone the audience feels no sympathy for.  Not only does Neal start to like the guy, we do too, and it’s all because of John Candy’s abilities.

And here is where I give tremendous credit to director and screenwriter John Hughes.  I can’t say I love all of his movies but he really knocked it out of the park with this one. Roger Ebert wrote of the film when it came out that “the buried story engine of Planes, Trains and Automobiles is not slowly growing friendship or odd-couple hostility (devices a lesser film might have employed), but empathy. It is about understanding how the other guy feels.”  The balance of comedy and sentimentality in this script are masterful and under different direction, it could have easily gone astray.

All of this is to say that Planes, Trains and Automobiles is not just one of my favorite holiday movies, but genuinely one of my favorite movies period.

8 paws out of 10

Spectre (2015) [PG-13]

Spectre (2015) PosterSpeaking of favorite movies, you may or may not have read my feelings about the James Bond series back when I reviewed Skyfall  three Decembers ago, but believe me when I tell you I’m kind of a crazy Bond fanatic.  Don’t worry though, I’ll be objective in my review.

Yeah, it’s a little long.  The thing goes on for almost two and a half hours.  So maybe they could have trimmed the script a little.  Maybe it’s not as emotionally compelling as its predecessor Skyfall.  Is the second half of the film a little bit of a letdown from the first half?  Sure.

But folks, this is a James Bond movie.  You’re here to watch Daniel Craig look good in a suit while he punches a guy in the face and drinks a martini.  And on that note, this is another fine entry in the series.  It starts with a long tracking shot (that was probably more like two or three stitched together to look like one long shot but who cares) à la the opening for Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil that leads to a splendid action sequence.  From there, it stays entertaining and exciting until the very end.

“This is all fine and dandy, Collin, but how does this have anything to do with the holidays,” you are asking?  To me, Spectre is the kind of movie that you and your brother go see after you’ve eaten a big meal at your parents house and your buddies are still at their parents’ houses. and you just want to go watch something fun and exciting and easy on the eyes.  Or maybe you’ve had to go to your girlfriend’s office party and you’ve finally snuck out after a couple of hours of humdrum conversation with people you barely know.  Spectre will help you forget about those weird cookies your aunt is trying to feed you and your family.  And really, what more could you want during the holidays?

7.5 paws out of 10


A new Star Wars movie.  That’s what more you could want during the holidays.  And what luck, we get one.  Don’t worry, dear readers, that review is coming next month.

As always, if you have a movie you think I should check out or you want to talk further about one of these reviews, drop me a line at collincougar@collin.edu or leave me a message on Facebook.