Tag Archives: randy quaid

The Wraith

The Wraith

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Today’s feature is the 1986 car-ghost revenge movie, The Wraith, starring two of the industry’s most infamous figures: Randy Quaid and Charlie Sheen.

The plot of The Wraith is summarized on Rotten Tomatoes as follows:

This supernatural teen action film is about a strange reincarnation with the emphasis on “car.” Young Jamie is killed by the evil Packard (Nick Cassavetes) and his gang of thugs because Jamie was caught romancing Keri (Sherilyn Fenn), Packard’s girlfriend. Suddenly “the Wraith” — a black turbo racing car shows up to challenge Packard (sounds like a Detroit auto duel) whose livelihood comes from stealing cars. What happens next is an endless series of car chases as Packard’s gang of punks start to bite the dust, one by one. Then Jake (Charlie Sheen) comes into town on a motorcycle and makes a play for Keri, giving rise to old animosities one more time.

The Wraith was written and directed by Mike Marvin, whose other credits include writing Hot Dog: The Movie and directing Hamburger: The Motion Picture.

wraith2The cinematographer for the film was Reed Smoot, who has worked significantly filming concert movies like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, and also shot Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

The Wraith featured work by two primary editors: Scott Conrad (Class of 1999, A Boy And His Dog, Cat’s Eye, Rocky) and Gary Rocklen, who never had any other editing credits.

Two people were given credit for the music in The Wraith: J. Peter Robinson (Beeper, New Nightmare, Wayne’s World, The Wizard, The Gate, Blind Fury) and Michael Hoenig (Class of 1999, Dracula 3000, The Gate).

wraith3The producers on The Wraith were Jeffrey Sudzin (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Brainscan, Idle Hands, Fright Night Part 2), John Kemeny (The Gate, Iron Eagle II), and Buck Houghton (The Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O).

The cast of The Wraith includes Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots, Men At Work, Platoon, Wall Street, Major League), Randy Quaid (Christmas Vacation, Vacation, Kingpin, Independence Day, The Last Detail, Heartbeeps), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off, The Astronaut’s Wife, Blind Fury, Class of 1999 II), Sherilyn Fenn (Boxing Helena, Wild At Heart), and Clint Howard (Evilspeak, The Dentist II, Carnosaur, Night Shift, Ice Cream Man, Santa With Muscles).

The mysterious, ghostly car featured in the film was a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor, which was built by Chrysler and PPG industries at an estimated cost of $1.5 million. Today, the original car is on display at the Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and a replica used in the shoot was up for sale last summer online.

wraith5Financially, The Wraith was far from a huge hit, grossing only $1.4 million domestically on a production budget of $2.7 million. However, the movie’s international grosses managed to get the film to break even with its budget.

Critically, The Wraith is far more fondly remembered by audiences than film critics: it currently holds Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 27% from critics and 63% from audiences, along with an IMDb user rating of 5.9/10.

wraith4The Wraith isn’t a terribly deep movie, and there isn’t much beyond surface level aesthetics that will stick with you. The characters and story are frankly about as paper-thin as they come. As Leonard Maltin put it, this is arguably a movie that is for people who “favor fast cars and lots of noise.” That said, boy does this movie bring it in the department of fast cars and lots of noise.

The races are shot well, the cars themselves are arguably more distinctive and memorable than any of the drivers behind them, and the stunts and effects are marvelous: if you want to see cars in an old-school movie explosion, this movie is for you. There may not be anything beneath the surface of the film, but that surface has a pretty nifty sheen to it.

Yeah, that was an intentional pun. What are you going to do about it?I do feel like this movie is oddly anachronistic: outside of the soundtrack and the sheer Charlie Sheen-ness of it all, this seems like it would have fit in with the old days of grindhouse car movies. Honestly, if this movie were made today, people would probably laud it for its ode to a bygone era. If you slap some Kavinsky over it and put a leather jacket on Ryan Gosling again, there might just be a cool remake or re imagining here waiting to be cooked up.

Overall, I think there is enough good here to make it worth checking out. There are a lot of missed opportunities to make this a true horror or suspense film, but the stunts and races just about make up for the lacking plot and cartoonish characters. Hopefully, someone will take this concept and build on it someday, because I feel like there is a lot more potential here than was tapped into with The Wraith.

Christmas Vacation 2

Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure

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Today’s feature is a holiday sequel that no one expected or wanted: Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.

The writer for Christmas Vacation 2 was producer Matty Simmons, who was a producer on movies like Animal House and the entire Vacation series (Vacation, European Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation). His writing credits, however, are less prestigious: a lesser National Lampoon movie called Pucked, and a couple of episodes of the television show Delta House make up the majority of his experience on that front.

Christmas Vacation 2 was directed by Nick Marck, who has worked extensively on television shows like Greek, Veronica Mars, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, Northern Exposure, and The Wonder Years over his directing career.

The cinematographer for Christmas Vacation 2 was Rohn Schmidt, who shot movies like Philadelphia Experiment 2, Beastmaster 2, and Ghoulies Go To College, as well as numerous episodes of The Walking Dead, Saving Grace, The Shield, and Huff.

The editor for the film was Joel Goodman, who cut such films as The Prowler, Lawnmower Man 2, and The Abyss, as well as multiple episodes of Rescue Me and Community.

The effects work on Christmas Vacation 2 was done by a team that included Rick Cortes (How I Met Your Mother, Dexter, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Double Team, Smallville), David Takemura (Drive Angry, Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Lisa Rocco (Masters of the Universe, The Hunger Games, The Naked Gun).

The musical score for the movie was provided by Nathan Furst, who has also done music for flicks like Need For Speed, Act of Valor, Lake Placid 3, and Lake Placid 2.

christmasvacationtwo2The cast of Christmas Vacation 2 includes Randy Quaid (Kingpin, Independence Day, Midnight Express, The Last Detail, Parents, Vacation, Caddyshack II), Fred Willard (Austin Powers, Best In Show), Jake Thomas (The Cell, Dinocroc), Miriam Flynn (Vacation, Christmas Vacation), Ed Asner (Mary Tyler Moore), and Dana Barron (Vacation, Death Wish 4).

The plot of Christmas Vacation 2 is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A holiday to the South Pacific turns awry, when Cousin Eddie’s family and a tour guide are shipwrecked on an island.

In Christmas Vacation 2, Dana Barron reprises her character of Audrey Griswold, who she portrayed in the original Vacation. Curiously, this is the only time that someone played the character twice: in all the other movies, her character was re-cast.

Christmas Vacation 2 has the rare distinction of being a direct sequel to a sequel: Christmas Vacation was itself the third film in the Vacation franchise, immediately following European Vacation.

Randy Quaid, the lead actor in Christmas Vacation 2, has one of the most dramatic Hollywood falls from grace in history. He is an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee who once had a significant film and television career, but descended into the realm of inane conspiracy theories and significant legal trouble starting in the late 2000s, from which he has yet to recover.

Christmas Vacation 2 is near-universally reviled: it currently holds a 2.7 user rating on IMDb, along with a 13% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes.

This is honestly one of the most flubbed comedies I have ever sat through. It is actually pretty astounding how poor the comedic timing is, and how often the attempted jokes fall completely flat. Sequences drag on way too long, punchlines don’t hit, and most of the attempted jokes come from really unpleasant places: mostly mocking people for being unintelligent, old, suicidal, or poor. Alternatively (and unsurprisingly), there are also a lot of farts to be had.

Having a movie entirely based on the premise that a character (Eddie, of course) is inept can only go so far: there needs to be a little more rounding than that, or at least some unusual situations for the character to deal with. Another movie that I was reminded of while watching this was The Jerk, which manages to make this formula entertaining by giving the central character charming naivete and exposing him to outlandish situations, like inexplicably becoming a corporate success. Cousin Eddie, on the other hand, is just written to focus on physical buffoonery in a variety of locations.

Bad comedies are consistently some of the most un-entertaining movies I have ever come across. Rarely do movies like Christmas Vacation 2 have any kind of redeeming value, and I can’t say that this is an exception to that rule. If anything, this is even lazier than your typical spoof movie, which at least put some effort into lambasting the current box office leaders and pop culture icons. Christmas Vacation 2 was a bad idea to start with, was turned into a bad script, and then was executed poorly in almost every conceivable way. Unless you are inexplicably a Randy Quaid completionist or a die-hard fan of the Vacation franchise, there isn’t any reason to give this flick even a passing glance.

For more thoughts on Christmas Vacation 2, I can heartily recommend the coverage of it on the Christmas edition of Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst. Frankly, they say everything there is to say about it.