Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

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When a massive fire kills their parents, three children are delivered to the custody of cousin and stage actor Count Olaf, who is secretly plotting to steal their parents’ vast fortune. (IMDb)
The best scene is the letter-reading and the epilogue that follows (“what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may, in fact, be the first steps of a journey”) but the emotional release is not what it could’ve been thanks to a slapdash (a word which here means way too fucking rushed) script that never sits with any of the suffering, and it’s unfortunately never sharp or coherent enough to work as a quick and quirky dark comedy either. Some performances and CGI are a tad iffy yet too.
5.5/10 (Poor)

 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

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One year after Kevin McCallister was left home alone and had to defeat a pair of bumbling burglars, he accidentally finds himself stranded in New York City – and the same criminals are not far behind. (IMDb)
I’ve never seen a sequel so blatantly and blandly recycle the plot movement and motifs of the original. Some of it is given new life by the different setting (who wasn’t living vicariously through Kevin when he’s gorging on room service?) but most of it’s not. A couple funny new characters (Curry and Schneider’s hotel staff) are cancelled out by the now-comedically-flat Marv and Harry. Meanwhile, Kevin’s new batch of booby-traps cross the line from humorously harsh to just plain disturbing.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Home Alone (1990)

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An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. (IMDb)
Culkin’s cute and clever Kevin confidently carries this kooky Christmas classic, with help from Pesci and Stern’s easy-to-laugh-at bungling burglars. The slapstick comedy of the third act is the obvious highlight (“Why the hell did you take off your shoes?” “Why the hell are you dressed like a chicken?”) but solid writing engages you until then (see the grocery store scene; the subplot with Marley). The redemptive arc with the family didn’t hit home though (poor Kevin didn’t need to feel sorry).
7/10 (Good)

JWM SPOOKATHON 2018: Monster House (2006)

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Three teens discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing, scary monster. (IMDb)
Love the spooky fun premise and the classic Stand By Me-esque kids-solving-mystery trope but the execution underwhelms: cop duo aside, the humour is lacking (a lot to do with the often awkwardly stilted dialogue and animation I think) and the payoff for the haunted house intrigue is a bit of a downer that clashes with the film’s comedy-horror tone. The first two acts are still decent enough though due to the strength of its concept and a few good elements (Buscemi’s voice is on point).
6/10 (Mediocre)
CREEPY QUOTE: Bones: “Everybody knows what he did to his wife.” Zee: “Why? What? What did he do to her?” Bones: “He ate her!”
SPOOKY STILL:
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A Mighty Wind (2003)

Mockumentary captures the reunion of 1960s folk trio the Folksmen as they prepare for a show at The Town Hall to memorialize a recently deceased concert promoter. (IMDb)
The classic doc-style direction is nailed here, and within this setting a brilliant script and deliciously natural turns all around create characters and situations so authentic-feeling you forget you’re watching a fictional film. The humour is consequently organic and mellow, spiked with just the right amount of deadpan outrageous-ness to solidify the film as a comedy while still maintaining it’s doc-facade. Good music and even a touching moment add further value to this great mockumentary.
7.5/10 (Really Good)