Thursday, December 23, 2021

Worrell Peace

Ernest Saves Christmas
Director: John Cherry
Cast: Jim Varney, Douglas Seale, Noelle Parker, Oliver Clark
Released: November 11, 1988

Oh my God, how does Vern allow Ernest to come into his home and just destroy it? I would have been screaming at him to "Get out, get out, GET OUT!" Ahem, anyway...

So I have a somewhat vague memory of seeing some of the Ernest movies when I was a child. I'm pretty sure I saw this one, Ernest Goes to Camp, and maybe Ernest Scared Stupid, but I'm not sure about that. What's funny is that when I saw these, there was no adults with us. I was usually with my brother or friend or both, but never an adult in sight except to drop us off at the movie theater. And good God, I don't blame them at all. Considering I outgrew these movies once I turned 12, it had been a very long time since I've seen a movie from the Ernest P. Worrell universe (the EPWU?) and I totally understand why no adult would want to watch these! 

In this movie, we follow three characters: there's Ernest (of course), Santa (of course), and a runaway teen girl (er, of course!) Our story begins on the afternoon of December 23 as a plane lands in Orlando, Florida (because when you think of great Christmas locations, Orlando is the first to come to mind). We see two elderly men get off the plane, talking to each other. (I guess they were seat mates? Why didn't they have this conversation while they were on the plane? I'm pretty sure they flew in from Toronto, so they had plenty of time to talk while they were on the plane). One of the men is Santa Claus (played by Douglas Seale). Now he's not wearing his usual red suit with white fur trim and black boots and he's not even portly like your typical image of Santa, but we know he's Santa through the verbal exposition he gives the other man. Plus, he has a white beard! The man asks if this is his first time in Orlando and he replies he flies in every year, though he "usually comes in a different way." When asked where he's from, he replies, "Up north." When asked what line of work he's in, he says, "Toys, mostly." The man asks him if he's here on business, and he tells him he's here "to appoint a replacement; someone to take over my duties." He says there was once a time when he could remember every name on his list and the businessman takes it as he has lots of contacts. 

As he's walking through the airport, he attracts the attention of kids who seem to know who he is even though he's not wearing his usual uniform. As he's waiting for his luggage, a big velvet red bag comes out with a white rope tied around it. All he needs to do now is hail a taxi to take him to the Orlando's Children Museum where he will find his replacement.  

Lucky for him, Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) is a taxi driver for the city of Orlando and he's headed to the airport right now with a passenger. When we are first introduced to Ernest, he's being his usual annoying self as he sings "O Christmas Tree". He knows the medley, but he doesn't know the words, so he just keeps singing the words "O Christmas Tree" over and over to the medley. To be fair, does anyone know the words to that song anyway? Once Ernest has picked up Santa, he tells the man that he looks like Santa Claud and he probably gets that a lot, but Santa tells him that's to be expected since he is indeed him. Ernest just laughs him off, so he doesn't believe him right away. 

A truck full of Christmas trees is driving in front of them and one tree falls off into the road. Ernest decides he needs to stop in the middle of a busy road, back up, and get out to retrieve the tree. This causes other cars trying to avoid hitting him and they all end up crashing into each other or driving off the road. Once he has the tree, he opens the back door and tells his passenger to hold it as he throws it into the backseat, breaking the window on the side where Santa is sitting. I can only imagine the reviews this guy would get if he was an Uber driver! 

We next meet the runaway teen girl (Noelle Parker) who has just dined and dashed with a waiter chasing after her. (C'mon, would a waiter really chase after someone like that?) As she's crossing a street, Ernest just happens to be there and he slams on his breaks to avoid hitting her. She gets into the front and tells him to "go, go, go, go", then proceeds to make up a story about how the guy chasing her is her mean uncle who "makes [her] work in that restaurant like a slave" and "keeps [her] locked up in the basement...and [she] just escaped." Now, if you heard this story, your first incliantion would be to call the cops (or maybe your first inclination is that she's telling you a bs story), but Ernest is all like, "You can hang out with us now for the rest of the movie." The girl, who is probably 15 or 16, introduces herself as Harmony Starr and tells them to "remember that name, because I'll be famous someday." Yeah, sure you will. Also, very orginal with the name there, honey. 

We need to pause here for a minute to talk about Harmony's outfit. If you were watching this movie and didn't know when it came out, just looking at Harmony, you would know it came out in the '80s as it looks like the '80s threw up all over her. She's wearing shorts with a turquoise sleeveless top over a pink tank top. But to me, the best part of her outfit is the accesories. She's wearing a ton of black and yellow plastic bracelets, clock earrings, and half of her hair is tied up in a red scrunchie and she has tiny braids, each with one of those plastic, colorful barrettes holding the braids in place. It is so ridiculously '80s and I absolutely love it.

When Santa introduces Ernest, then himself to Harmony, she pretty much has the same reaction as Ernest and clearly doesn't believe him. When they reach the Children's Museum, Santa doesn't have any money to pay for his fare (all he has is pretend children's money), so Ernest lets him have a free ride. 

Santa is looking for a man named Joe Carruthers who was on a local children's show called Uncle Joey's Tree House. It was cancelled three weeks ago so now he has a gig at the Children's Museum where he puts on puppet shows about dinosaurs. I guess this guy is destined to be the next Santa because he likes to entertain children and he has a beard. If you want someone who has a children's show, why not go for someone who's a little more nationally (or internationally!) known, like Mister Rogers? Having a beard really isn't that much of a necessity since Santa can magically make a beard appear on his successor. I don't understand why this random fifty-year-old dude from Orlando is destined to be the next Santa Claus; it makes absolutely no sense to me. Also, why is Santa waiting for the last minute to tell Joe about this new job opportunity? He needs a new Santa by seven on Christmas Eve; shouldn't he have been giving his replacement a little bit more notice? When Santa approaches Joe to try to tell him about his new job opening, he says something about a bunch of names were on a list, but many were crossed off until he was the only one left. Maybe I've been listening to one too many true crime podcasts, but my mind went to a completely dark place as to why these men were disqualified from being the next Santa. 

Santa never has the chance to tell Joe about his exciting new offer because Joe's agent, Marty, interrupts him and tells him he's "got a shot for the lead in a movie". It's a Christmas movie, which I assume will be aired on cable in the middle of the night. This thing ain't getting a theatrical release! When Santa tries to tell the men his name, Marty hears it as Santos and refers to Santa as Mr. Santos. 

Santa realizes he's forgotten his bag and that it's still in Ernest's taxi. Meanwhile, we learn that Ernest has been fired for giving Santa a free ride. (Technically, he also gave Harmony a free ride, but that's never really addressed). Personally, I would have fired him for that near pile up he caused with all those cars! Harmony is still with him and they're talking like they've known each other for years. Ernest decides he's going to give the Christmas tree he picked up off the road to his buddy, Vern, who, of course, we never see (or hear, for that matter). He and Harmony go to Vern's house which is set up for a Christmas party. Ernest comes into the house, carrying the tree and knocks vases and porcelain figures off shelves. After struggling with the tree, which is clearly too tall for the room, he sees some "party punch" and proceeds to pick up the large bowl and drink from it! Ugggghhhh! And if that's not bad enough, he's trying to pull a cord out of a socket, but instead of pulling at the base, he's pulling on the cord a few feet away from the socket. There's a cord inside the wall (which is connected to a wall lamp) and he ends up ripping that cord and one side of Vern's wall just gets completely obliterated and he blows a fuse. This is what I was referring to at the beginning of my review. If I were Vern, I would not let Ernest into my house! Though to be fair, Vern did slam the door in Ernest's face the first time he opened it after Ernest knocked. 

When Ernest goes out to his truck to get some bolt cutters, he sees Santa's red bag in the back of his truck (which got transferred from the trunk of his taxi), and hears jingling sounds coming from it. When he opens the bag, he hears giggling and a glow emits from it. This is the moment when Ernest realizes his elderly passenger from earlier was actually THE Santa. He reveals his theory to Harmony, but she doesn't believe one guy could fly around the entire world in one night and tells him, "It just doesn't quite correspond with the laws of time and travel." Ernest tells her it is possible: "Take the international dateline, multiply it by the time zones, divide it by the accelerated rotation of the earth...carry the one. Allowing for the vernal equinox of the tropic of cancer, he might just pull it off!" OMG, what IS he talking about? Harmony asks if he really is Santa, why is he riding around in planes and cabs? Where's his sleigh and reindeer? 

Ernest and Harmony may know not the answer to that, but the viewing audience does. We know that Santa has shipped the reindeer (in huge wooden, enclosed boxes! You'd think Santa would have them shipped in a more humane way!) and they are still at the airport in animal control waiting to be picked up. They are being watched by two morons who think they're Latvian goats. 

Ernest and Harmony go to the Children's Museum to see if Santa is still there, but it's closed by now and nobody is there. Ernest shows Harmony Santa's bag. Her exclamation is, "Ooh, groovy Tuesday!" (The hell?) When he opens it, you hear children giggling, plus a train engine, and animals sounds (almost like the jungle). Ernest reaches into the bag and pulls out a glowing orb. It changes into a plastic flamingo with a wreath around its neck. He pulls out more orbs and they turn into cheap and gaudy items. I guess Santa is the only one who can change them into what they need to be. It's too bad none of the orbs turns into a slinky (say, a slinky dog) but this movie does pre-date Toy Story, after all. 

Meanwhile, since Santa keeps insisting that he's Santa Claus, everyone thinks he's a kooky old man and he is taken by the police where he's put in a jail cell. His fingerprints are taken and the patterns show up as different snowflake designs. Now they would never put an elderly gentleman who seems to have memory problems in a cell with dangerous inmates. One of his fellow inmates is wearing a shirt that says "I eat 'm raw" that's cut up to his nipples and his hairy belly is showing. I can only image how great he smells! Lucky for Santa, though, he's able to tame these dangerous and hardened criminals and has them singing "The 12 Days of Christmas" in no time (with a guy in solitary confinement singing the "And a partridge in a pear tree!" part). 

It's the next morning and Harmony has spent the night on Ernest's couch. Cuz a fifteen-year-old girl spending the night at the home of a forty-year-old man she just met isn't weird at all! They plan to go back to the Children's Museum again to see if they can find Santa. I don't know why they would think he's still there. The stupidity of this movie confuses me at times. Ernest is making pancakes for breakfast and he tells Harmony he's gong to ask Santa how he got into his house as a kid because they didn't have a chimney. His theory is that Santa "got in through the forced-air heating system." After Ernest gives Harmony a stack of pancakes, he places both hands right on the hot skillet (cuz he's a moron and I guess he forgot there was a hot skillet right in front of him). He doesn't even scream, just gasps and tells Harmony, "I like lots of butter with mine, don't you?" as he places his hands in a huge bowl full of butter and lathers them up. My question is, why does he have that much butter in a bowl, anyway? In case he puts both of his hands on a hot skillet?

Harmony waits in the truck while Ernest goes into the Children's Museum to ask the old woman who works there if she knows where Santa is. She realizes who he is talking about and tells him the police took him yesterday and Ernest's response is, "Santa Claus got busted?", which, I admit, made me laugh. We see Harmony trying to see if she can wish for something from Santa's bag. She says, "What I really want for Christmas is one million dollars in small, unmarked bills." Before she can untie the bag, Ernest comes back and tells her, "Santa's in the slammer!" (Another line that made me chuckle). Harmony quickly tells Ernest that she was just guarding the bag, but he doesn't seem to notice she was messing with it. 

To retrieve Santa from jail, Ernest poses as a man named Oscar Clementh who tells the chief he's with the "governor's state correctional institutional prisoner fair treatment task force." and that "this is a surprise inspection." He's dressed in a suit and tie, wearing glasses, and his hair is slicked back. This won't be the first time Ernest will disguise himself in this movie. He introduces Harmony as the governor's niece, Mindy, and says that she's writing a school paper on "how government really works." Harmony is wearing a white blouse with a plaid jumper, sort of a school uniform look going on, and her hair is in pigtails. For some reason, she speaks in a baby voice which is odd...I guess she's trying to pretend to be younger than fifteen? 

The chief takes them to the cell with the most recent offenders and lets both of them in. WTF? They're letting a teen girl into the same prisoner with a bunch of adult men who are in jail for god knows what? I mean, they shouldn't be allowing anyone to go into the cell, but it baffles me they would even let a minor back there. What kind of prison were they running in 1988 Orlando? "Oscar" tells "Mindy", "Be sure to take copious notes! And watch that penmanship!" They see Santa Claus who tells them who he is and Ernest takes this to tell the chief he needs to be isolated and just takes him out and leads him out to their truck. Not sure exactly how they really get away with that, but whatever. They have Santa in their possession now, so it's all good. 

Harmony goes back to wearing the outfit she had on before and it makes me laugh that she would take the time to braid her hair in those tiny braids again. 

Ernest is going on about how Santa is the most famous person he's ever met, but Harmony still doesn't believe it's him and tells him, "Nobody believes in Santa Claus." Santa tells Ernest, "She's been this way since that Christmas when I brought her a doll instead of a baseball mitt. Haven't you, Pamela?" So now we know Harmony's real name is Pamela. Also, I have a question: if Santa knew she wanted a baseball mitt for Christmas, why didn't he give her that? It's not like she was asking for something outrageous. No wonder she has issues with Santa! 

Santa tells them he took over the position of Santa Claus in 1889 "from a German chap", so he's been Santa for the last 100 years. We know he's 150 years old, so he became Santa when he was 50. I guess the starting age to be Santa must be 50 since we'll find out that Joe Carruthers is 50. Santa tells them someone new needs to be Santa because "with the passing of time, the magic fades", but "it's recharged through the passing from one person to the next." He needs to make Joe the next Santa Claus before 7 tonight or else "the magic of Christmas will be gone forever." DUN DUN DUN! Again, why didn't he see to this task sooner? 

To try to find out where Joe is, they go to Superior Talent Inc. where his agent, Marty works. Ernest dresses up as an old woman with a walker in a green dress, white shawl, gray wig, pearl earrings, and neck brace. It is quite the getup. He pretends to be Marty's mother and this is how he finds out where both Marty and Joe are. 

While Ernest is doing his thing, Pamela and Santa are waiting outside. We find out that Pamela has run away and that she's been gone for a month which seems like quite a long time. You'd think her parents would have called the police and they would have found her by now. She's been out in public in broad daylight, for God's sake. Santa tells her, "Your mother must  be worried about you." Pamela denies that she's not who he's thinking of and tells him everyone thinks she's really young, but she's 22. Santa tells her he must have "mixed [her] up with someone whose parents had some problems last year and they got so wrapped up in themselves that they forgot that she needed a little attention, too." Pamela replies, "Sounds to me like she ought to wise up to the way things are, and just start looking out for herself."

Ernest and Santa drop Pamela and the bag back at Ernest's place (for plot's purpose as we will soon find out), then head on to Diamond World Pictures where Joe is working on the basic cable movie which he landed the part for. We see him on a set of a living room with a Christmas tree with two young kids, who are supposed to his character's children. He tells the children to go to bed and they go off screen. He hears a knocking on the front door and when he opens it, a guy in a swamp thing costume with tinsel wrapped around him pops into the set and Joe is supposed to grab a gun (that's just lying conveniently nearby) and say, "Die, you son of a b*tch," but he can't say "b*tch" because the child actors are in ear shot. The director tells him, "It's nothing they haven't heard before," but Joe says they're never heard him curse before. 

So the big reveal is that the movie is called Christmas Slay and Marty even reveals the name of the movie earlier when he's talking to Joe with Santa around them. Santa and the audience (well, excluding the audience who actually have a brain) are supposed to think it's Christmas Sleigh, but of course I knew it was gonna be  S-L-A-Y. What's funny is that if you watched it with closed captioning, they have it as S-L-E-I-G-H until this moment when the director tells him it's S-L-A-Y and that "it's about an alien from outer space and he comes and terrorizes a bunch of kids over Christmas vacation." Yeah, they're totally playing this movie at 3 am on some obscure channel. Okay, so surely Joe knew the premise of this movie and knew it was called Christmas Slay, and NOT Christmas Sleigh, so why did he agree to take the part of this role? It seems to be very out of character for him. Was he that hard up for money? Was he just volunteering at the Children's Museum? It just seemed like he had some moral scruples about taking this part, and he even tells the director and producers that he has some problems with the script such as the violence and bad language. Then why are you even in this movie? Honestly, I don't see what Santa sees in this guy that makes him such a great contender to be the next Santa. It's too bad The Christmas Chronicles wasn't out yet, cuz then Santa could have given the job to Kurt Russell. He makes a way better Santa than this random local children's show show host from Orlando. Of course, Kurt Russell was 37 in 1988 so he may have been too young at that time. Also, who the hell in their right mind would want to be Santa? That just seems like the worst job ever. Yes, go ahead and call me a Scrooge.

Santa is finally able to talk to Joe about being the next Santa. He tells him he needs to leave by seven to deliver presents to make sure all the over a billion children in the world receive their gifts before it turns daylight. Joe asks him why he just can't continue being Santa Claus and Santa Tells him he needs to pass the torch on to another: "If it is not passed on, the flame flickers and dies." 

We get to see why Pamela stayed at Ernest's home while Ernest and Santa were at the studio. She keeps taking orbs out of the bag, wishing for them to be something good, (i.e. something valuable such as a stereo or some jewelry) but instead they just turn into crappy toys. There was one popular '80s toy with My Pet Monster so she probably could have made some money with that. She hides all the toys around the house which is quite the feat considering that some of them are quite good-sized. She decides she needs more time and takes a red blanket from the couch and turns into a bag, putting feathers in it. When Ernest and Santa return and tell her it's time to help save Christmas, she tells them, "I think I've got something else to do." Oh, like that's not suspicious at all! 

So she leaves with the real bag, leaving the fake one in the truck. Ernest drives Santa to Joe's house and when Santa lifts the bag onto his shoulder, you can tell right away he knows something is wrong and that Pamela has the real bag. When Joe asks why he's the Chosen One, Santa tells him, "Because you have the qualities; the understanding of children. You have the magic inside you." Uh-huh, sure. He tells Joe the real bag was taken, but he has "absolute faith that it will be returned." Joe tells him, "Thanks, but no thanks" and Santa dejectedly leaves, but not before he tells Joe to "search your heart; there must be something that can convince you of the truth." 

There will be something that will convince him of the truth and that will be the moment he knows he's destined to be the next Santa. It's when he's at a meeting with the movie people and looks out the window and sees Santa riding his sleigh being pulled by the reindeer. Only what he doesn't know is that it's actually Ernest driving that sleigh, not Santa. When Ernest goes to the airport to pick up the reindeer, two Helper Elves fly in from Toronto (I guess there's a direct flight from the North Pole to Toronto? Totally makes sense to me), but as they're transferring the sleigh and reindeer in a big truck, it gets a flat tire so they have fly the sleigh and reindeer. As Ernest puts it, "It's time to slip the surly bonds of earth and dance the skies on laughter's silvered wings." I did love the "Oh, brother!" reply of one of the elves. It's a whole big thing where Ernest can't control the sleigh and they're doing loop-de-loops and fighter jets are trying to chase them and Ernest even pulls a level that takes him into outer space. Why is that even an option? Does Santa also deliver gifts to the alien children? There must be some kind of magic that keeps Ernest, the elves, and the reindeer alive without any protection from the elements as they're orbiting around the Earth. 

Meanwhile, Pamela goes to the Am Track station and dumps a bunch of change and dollar bills on the counter and asks the guy how far that will take her. She tells him she wants to go "anywhere from here." Like that doesn't look suspicious. He tells her she can get to Miami and the next train leaves at 6:40. She wants to know if there's anything sooner, but there isn't. She sits near a mother waiting with her two children. The older boy keeps telling his younger sister there's no such thing as Santa Claus. Pamela starts to feel guilty when she overhears the girl ask her mom how Santa fits all his presents in one bag and glances down at the real Santa bag she has in her possession, knowing that over a billion children will not be waking up Christas morning to their gifts because she's such a selfish cotton-headed ninny muggins and that she sits on a throne of lies. When the mother leaves the children to use the bathroom or get something, the brother tells his sister (again), "There's no such thing as Santa Claus" and Pamela comes up to them and says, "Where do you get off? Don't say that to her. There is a Santa and this is his magic sack." Good Lord, I can only imagine what the mothers' reaction would have been if she had been there. Instead of thanking Pamela for coming to her defense, the little girl is all, "If that' Santa's sack, then why do you have it?" Yeah, good question. So we see Pamela run to the Children's Museum to give the bag back. I guess the Children's Museum was the unofficial place where everyone would meet. She tells Santa she's been doing a lot of thinking and she "really got things figured out" and called her mom (which we don't see). She plans to go home. I still don't know why exactly she left in the first place. 

Joe pulls up at 6:57 to take on his duties as Santa. When he asks Santa, "Is the job still open?" Santa tells him, "For the right man it is" and holds out his hand for a handshake. When Joe shakes its, he has a beard and is wearing the Santa suit which makes me realize we never see original Santa in his Santa suit.

All they need is the sled. Ernest comes hurtling down from outer space and hooray, Christmas is saved! The new Santa lets Ernest fly in the sleigh with him since he's already had some experience flying it and Ernest asks if there's any any room for "an honorary elf" and they let Pamela climb abroad. The old Santa, now going by his old name, Seth Applegate, gets to have a hot date with the old lady who runs the museum. And the one billion plus children around the world will get to open their gifts the next morning! Everyone is happy and Christmas has been saved! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

House Swap

The Holiday
Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black, Rufus Sewell, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns
Released: December 8, 2006
Viewed in theaters: December 13, 2006

I saw this in the theaters when it first came out and remembered absolutely nothing about it except that Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz swap houses over the Christas holiday. After watching it again on Hulu, I understand why I didn't retain anything about this movie: it is very forgettable and bland and ho-hum and average and milquetoast. I'm really selling you on this movie, aren't I? It's technically a Christmas movie - it's set around and during Christmas, there's a couple Christmas songs sprinkled throughout, there are Christmas decorations, it's called The Holiday, for God's sake, but to me, it just doesn't feel like a Christmas movie. I think this is because half the movie takes place in L.A. where it's sunny and I just can't get behind Christmas movies where it's hot and people are swimming at the beach or in their outdoor pool. Call me a traditionalist, but I need snow and people wearing sweaters and mittens and scarves in my Christmas movies! At least during the scenes set in England, it felt more Christmas-y.

Apparently I'm not the only one who didn't think this was a great Christmas movie (well, I didn't think it was a great movie, period). I was looking at the awards it was nominated for in the IMDB and it got the lovely honor of being nominated for "Worst Christmas film" (I love that that's a category) for The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards (which I have never heard of). You think I am joking, but this is actually a thing it was nominated for. The other films nominated for "Worst Christmas film" in 2006 were The Santa Clause 3, Unaccompanied Minors, Deck the Halls (which I've never seen), and Black Christmas (which I've never heard of, but it's a horror movie and I don't like horror movies). If you really care, Unaccompanied Minors won this prestigious award and while I don't think it's destined to be a Christmas classic, I will say that I think it is better than The Santa Clause 3 and this may be a hot take, but if somebody presented me with The Holiday or Unaccompanied Minors to watch during the Christmas season, I would pick the latter. Let's hope that never happens or I would question this person's taste in Christmas movies. 

Kate Winslet plays Iris who lives in Surrey and writes a column for The Daily Telegram. She is unhealthily in love with her ex, Jasper (Rufus Sewell). Even though they are no longer dating, he keeps putting the moves on her, making her think she still has a chance with him, even though he has a girlfriend now. He also works with her and at a Christmas party, he announces he's getting married to his girlfriend, which guts Iris. 

Cameron Diaz plays Amanda who lives in L.A. where she owns her own business putting together movie trailers and apparently makes "the big bucks" for it. Um, do people really make that much money for putting together movie trailers? People on YouTube do it all the time and I doubt any of them live in gated houses with a home theater and swimming pool. Just saying. I guess owning the business helps her pay the bills. We see John Krasinki in one scene as one of her employers and we see a trailer she's cut for a movie that looks absolutely terrible. Lindsay Lohan and James Franco play themselves, starring in this fake action movie called Deception. Nancy Meyers directed Lindsay in The Parent Trap remake, so that's probably how she got her to make a cameo in this. After watching it, Amanda says how it "finally looks like a hit!" which made me laugh since it clearly looked terrible and if she thought it looked like a hit now, how did it look before? 

She has a live-in boyfriend (whose name I don't remember and I don't care, but he's played by Edward Burns) who also works in the movie business. She accuses him of sleeping with his secretary (which he admit to); he accuses her of being emotionless and never crying and they break up. 

Amanda tells her employees she needs to take a vacation because she's getting too stressed and she read somewhere that stress ages women. She also talks about the bulls*t statistic where women over the age of 35 are more likely to die in a terrorist attack than get married which I remember was something that was brought up in Sleepless in Seattle but I thought that "statistic" was disproved. Also, in that movie, they say it's women over 40, so I guess with each decade, the age gets younger. This movie is pretty much telling you if you're a woman who is a certain age and don't have a man in your life, you may as well kill yourself. You think I am joking, but there is a scene where Iris thinks about killing herself! She turns the gas on her stove and blows out the flame, breathing in the toxic fumes, only coming to her senses and exclaiming "What am I doing?" when she hears her laptop chime and turns off the gas and runs to open up a window to breathe in fresh air. Both these women are young with great careers and envious homes and pretty much have it made, but since they can't hold a relationship they're pretty much deemed worthless. I hate this movie! 

Amanda decides she needs to get away from it all and clicks on a link called "Vacation Rentals", which pretty much what Airbnb or Vrbo is today. She's supposed to pick a country and picks England because she wants to go somewhere where they speak English. Um, why not just go to the East Coast? America is a big country, why not spend Christmas on the other side of the nation? Of course, Iris's charming cottage in Surrey is the second house she clicks on and decides it's perfect for her. WTF? If I were making a major decision on where to go for a Christmas holiday, I would look around a little more at my options. When Amanda sends Iris a message inquiring her about the house, that's when Iris's computer chimes when she's breathing in the toxic fumes. Also, what's the deal with this "website"? Shouldn't there be an availability calendar for the days Amanda is interested in staying there? The whole thing feels very impromptu. (Oh, you have no idea!) Iris replies back, telling her the cottage is only available for home exchange which means they "switch houses, cars, everything." Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold the phone. I understand Iris can't be staying in her house the same time Amanda is there because that would be weird, but if you were Amanda, would you just let some stranger stay in your house? Her house, as far as I know, isn't even listed on this website. Also, are these house swaps a thing? What if someone wants to stay in a fabulous beach house, but you live in some shack in Nowhere, USA, so that person gets stuck staying in your dump? What I'm trying to say is that not all homes are created equal. Well, luckily both Amanda and Iris have fabulous homes. (Of course they do, they're in a Nancy Meyers movie). They're chatting and introducing themselves to each other, giving the basic niceties about themselves. Amanda asks Iris if there are any men in her town. Now that's a stupid question; of course there are men in Surrey. But Iris seems to sense the answer Amanda is looking for and tells her "Zero". Amanda quickly replies back with, "When can I come?" and Iris asks her, "Is tomorrow too soon?" YES! Yes, it is! I need to pack! I need to make sure I have a freakin' passport! I need to make sure I can book a flight by tomorrow! I probably need to buy some WINTER clothes since I live in freakin' L.A. and most likely don't own a winter coat or hat or gloves or snowboots! I need to touch base with my employees first! I need to CLEAN my house and make a list of everything you should know when you're staying there!  Oh, no, but Amanda tells her "tomorrow is perfect." WTF? That scene made me so anxious. I hate this movie!

So starting tomorrow they will be spending two weeks in each other's homes. When Amanda takes a cab from the airport to the cottage in Surrey, the driver tells her he has to drop her off at a certain point because there's no way he'll be able to turn around if he drops her off directly in front of the house, so Amanda has to walk about a mile down a snowy road with her luggage. She is wearing stilettos and keeps slipping on the snow. That means she was wearing stilettos on a ten hour flight. WHY? Why not just wear regular, comfortable shoes for your flight and pack your stilettos. Also, why do you need stilettos? The whole point of this trip for her is just to relax in a cozy cottage and do a lot of reading. And she needs stilettos for this because....?  God, she is so high-maintence. What does Jude Law see in her? Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? She passes a couple on her way to the house and asks them if she's going in the right direction and both of them are wearing boots, like normal people who would be walking in snow. 

I must say the cottage is absolutely adorable and even though it is smaller than Amanda's L.A. home, it had to cost a pretty penny. Apparently, Iris forgot to mention to Amanda she has a dog. Also, apparently Iris didn't even tell her own brother she would be in another country for two weeks and failed to tell him a stranger would be staying at her house. We find this out when there's a loud banging at the door at one in the morning, startling Amanda. OMG, this would scare the crap out of me! She's sort of isolated in her little cottage, so only an axe murderer could be banging at her door. Luckily, it's just Iris's brother, Graham (Jude Law). He tells Amanda when he goes to the local pub, Iris puts him up for the night so he doesn't drive home. Not sure where he lives...why not just visit a bar closer to his home? 

Once Amanda explains about the house swap, he asks her how he's enjoying her stay and she tells him it's not so great and that she's leaving tomorrow...and she's only been there six hours! WTF? Okay, so she didn't have a good experience walking to the cottage in her stilettos, but she only has herself to blame for that, and she had trouble driving Iris's tiny car when she went into town to buy wine and other groceries (btw, what is it with Cammi D driving like a maniac in her movies?) But she's just going to fly back to L.A. not even after being in England for a day? Is she just going to stay in her house while Iris is there or make Iris leave? It was her IDEA to get away in the first place! Once we get the olbigatory they tell each other they're both single out of the way, Amanda tells him she just broke up with her boyfriend the other day, and came here to not feel alone, but feels more alone than ever. This leads to them kissing and then she suggests they have sex since she'll be leaving tomorrow and will never see him again anyway. Of course, since she looks like Cameron Diaz, she can say this without sounding like a complete loon.

So they sleep together and the next morning, Graham tells her if her flight is cancelled or if she changes her mind and decides to stay, he'll be having dinner with his friends at the pub that night. As he's getting ready to leave, his cellphone rings and for some reason (oh let's face it, for the plot's sake), Amanda picks it up and sees it's someone named Sophie calling him. He doesn't answer it, saying he'll call her back. Ooh, who could this mysterious Sophie be?

Also, Graham is wearing glasses because he tells Amanda he lost his contacts. I must say Jude Law in glasses is the best part of this movie. Sadly, beside this scene, we only see him wear glasses in another quick shot of him in a montage. I've included a photo so you, too, can admire him in glasses. 

So later we see Graham at the pub greeting his friends and when he sits down he looks up and who does he see sitting across the room waving and smiling seductively at him? Why, it's Amanda! I guess there's only one pub in this town since Graham didn't tell her the name of it and she went to the right one. Once again, Graham spends the night (but they don't sleep together since she was pissed drunk). The next morning, while they're chatting over coffee, his cell phone rings again and once again (for plot's sake) Amanda looks at it and sees it's someone named Olivia calling. Graham takes the call, going outside to chat. Amanda spies on him through the window and he's smiling and laughing and she thinks he's juggling two other women in his life. 

Graham tells her he thinks they should have lunch in town and get to know each other. Amanda tells him she owns her own movie advertising company and Graham tells her he's a book editor. Amanda confesses she hasn't cried since she was a teenager, when her parents divorced. She cried for a long time after it happened, but after that she hasn't shed a tear since because she thought she should "toughen up".  Apparently, this is the most tragic thing that has happened in her life. Look, having your parents get divorced is no picnic, but if that's the worst thing that's ever happened to you, your life can't be that bad. 

They have a wonderful time at lunch, but when Graham drops her off at the cottage, they both agree this relationship is complicated and better not to complicate it even further. However, that night, Amanda decides things aren't that complicated and decides to stop by Graham's home (how does she even know where he lives?) It's clear he has company over and Amanda quickly realizes this and thinks she's made a big mistake. But a little girl comes out and Graham intrudes her as Sophie, his daughter. I thought Olivia must be his ex-wife, but no, Olivia is his other daughter. Amanda thinks Graham is divorced (well, actually, she thought he was married at first which was hilarious), but he tells her he's been widowed for two years. You're probably wondering, if these two young girls don't have a mother, who was watching them when their father was spending the night with Amanda those two nights? He mentions they were with their grandparents. Also, I guess these two girls both had their own cellphone? Why else would their names be popping up on Graham's phone. I'm pretty sure the youngest one was six!

Amanda is quite surprised that Graham has two daughters, but she is smitten with them and the feeling is mutual. One of the girls tell her she looks like Barbie and they love her perfume and make up. After the girls are put to bed, Amanda tells Graham his kids are great, but is confused why he never told her about them because he's the one who wanted to go out to lunch and get to know each other. He says he didn't think it would be the best idea to introduce to someone who's leaving in a week and they'll never see again. I get that, but he still could have told her he had children, then maybe she wouldn't have shown up at his house unannounced. Graham tells her, "you and me, we come from different worlds" (okay, he didn't quote Hootie and the Blowfish, but he might as well have). He tells her he's a "book editor from London" and she's a "beautiful movie trailer maker from L.A." What is this, Notting Hill? He also tells her he has a cow in the backyard. He was joking, right? Because we never see this cow and I feel cheated. 

But they still can't stay away from each other and when it gets closer to the day Amanda is supposed to leave, they try to justify how they could make a long-distance relationship work. Graham assumes she must come to London all the time for work, but she says no, and suggests they could meet up in New York, since that would be easier (yeah, for her!). Amanda says they should just realize what they have now is good and is never going to get any better and to not pursue any type of relationship because there's no way they can keep flying back and forth all the time since she has her career and he has his kids. Then Graham drops the bomb that he's in love with her. (Not really sure why). The only way they can make this work is if Amanda moves in with Graham, right? It's not ideal for her not to be in L.A. for her career, but they can just send her everything to her computer. That's all she really needs to make movie trailers. There's no way Graham can move his two daughters to another country.

So Amanda is supposed to leave the next day, but when she's in the cab, she starts crying (who didn't see that coming?) and tells the driver to turn around. Since he can't make it all the way to the house, she just runs instead (and she's still wearing her stilettos! Did she not pack any other pairs of shoes that don't have pointy heels?) and I thought she was going to tell Graham that she was going to move to England, but no, she just tells him she thinks she can stay until New Year's Eve. That's great, Amanda you really solved the problem!

Let's check on Iris's adventure in L.A. While on the plane, she checks her e-mail and gets a message from Jasper asking her how he can reach her. Even though he's engaged, he still wants to keep Iris around as his sidepiece. Instead of just ignoring him like she should have, she writes back a reply back telling him she's trying to fall out of love with him.

Once she's settled at Amanda's house, she meets Miles (Jack Black), who is a composer. He works with Amanda's ex and is stopping by to pick up a few things. He's come with his girlfriend, Maggie, who he introduces to Iris. Throughout the movie, it was bugging me because she looked so familiar, then I was like, Is that Shannyn Sossoman from A Knight's Tale? And, yes, it was. Maggie is an up and coming actress. 

Jasper calls her and asks her if he can send her some pages from a book he's writing and wants her to look at them because she's the only one who he can trust to give him her honest opinion. Iris meets Amanda's neighbor, an elderly man named Arthur Abbot (Eli Wallach) who was an Oscar-winning screenwriter back in the golden era of Hollywood. What has Arthur written? Probably nothing you've heard of, but his friend wrote Casablanca and he added the "kid" to "Here's looking at you, kid." That's his contribution? I hope he didn't get any screenwriting credit for that movie!

Arthur has been receiving letters from the Writers Guild of America West, but he keeps tossing them in the trash. When Iris questions him about it, he tells her they just want to arrange a night to honor him. He doesn't  want to do this because he's embarrassed about being old and having to walk across the stage with a walker and is worried nobody will even show up. Iris tells him she'll help him get in shape (does this guy not have his own personal physical therapist...he lives in a mansion, so clearly he could afford one!) by the time the ceremony is held. Apparently, they want to have this ceremony for him soon and I'm thinking it's probably because the guy is in his 80s so they want to make sure he's still alive when they honor him. Yeah, that just got dark. 

Iris tells Miles about Arthur and how he's recommended a bunch of old movies for her to watch. Miles suggest that they watch one together and Iris thinks that's a great idea. Even though Amanda has shelves upon shelves of DVDs in her theater, she must not have any of the old classics Arthur recommended to Iris because she and Miles go to Blockbuster (how archaic!) to rent a couple of those movies. I hope Arthur didn't recommend anything to obscure because you're probably going to only find the really popular classics at Blockbuster. Also, you know they hid all the Kate Winslet and Jack Black movies!

While there, Miles keeps picking up movies and humming the theme, like the iconic ones to Chariots of Fire and Jaws. He hums the theme to Driving Miss Daisy, which I wasn't familiar with, but it was done by Hans Zimmer, who also did the score for this movie, so of course they had to shout out their own movie's composer. Fun fact: my favorite Hans Zimmer scores are from The Lion King and Gladiator. He picks up The Graduate and starts singing "Mrs. Robinson." Fun fact: my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song is "The Boxer." We see a quick shot of Dustin Hoffman in the next aisle, shaking his head and muttering, "Can't go anywhere." It was funny, but give me a break, like Dustin Hoffman would ever be at Blockbuster. He would be getting screeners delivered to his home. I bet he hasn't even seen this movie (The Holiday, not The Graduate). Apparently, he has a cameo in it because he was in the neighborhood when they were filming and wanted to see what was going on and they invited him to do a cameo. 

While they're at Blockbuster, Miles sees Maggie outside walking and holding hands with another guy. She had been in New Mexico working on a movie and it looks like she brought home a souvenir! After pouring his heart out to Iris, she tells him she knows how he feels and tells him about Jasper and soon she's pouring her heart out to him. It's Christmas Eve and Miles offers to make fettuccine for them so they can sit and eat it by the fire and enjoy being young and alive. Iris hugs him and tells him he's "an incredibly decent man." If that's not being friend zoned, I don't know what is. I guess we're supposed to think these two are romantically interested in each other, but I never got that. They just seemed more like good friends. At least they actually have a friendship while Amanda and Graham are just attracted to each other physically and pretty much have nothing in common. 

Since Miles wrote a theme song for Arthur for his special night, he plans to attend the ceremony with Iris. The night the ceremony will be held, he and Iris are having lunch together. He gets a call from Maggie, who wants tells him she misses him and wants to get together that day. I guess her new guy had to go back home to Santa Fe. 

Back home (er, back at Amanda's home), Iris gets a call from Jasper. He tells her he's sent a surprise and when she goes to open the front door, Jasper is standing there. WTF? He flew all the way from London to see her? No wonder poor Iris can't get over him since he keeps playing mind games with her. She thinks this means that perhaps he's not getting married anymore, but no, he's still getting married! Lovely guy. Iris finally sees that this guy is a douche and makes him leave. 

That night she attends Arthur's ceremony and the auditorium is packed and he is able to climb up to the stage and walk across it without a walker. Maybe Iris should look into another career as a physical therapist. Miles shows up a few minutes late, telling Iris that he told Maggie their relationship is over. He asks Iris what she's doing for New Year's Eve and she tells him she'll be back in England and he tells her he's never been there before, pretty much inviting himself. 

The very last scene we see is Iris, Miles, Amanda, Graham, and Sophie and Olivia all together at Graham's house, celebrating New Year's Eve as they listen to Aretha Franklin and sip champagne (well, everyone except the two little girls are sipping champagne). They almost make it look like this is the first time Amanda and Miles are meeting, even though they should know each other since Miles is friends with Amanda's ex. No way either of these couples are even going to last. This movie is terrible and might be one of the worst Christmas movies out there. Half the time I forgot it even was a Christmas movie!

Thursday, December 2, 2021


Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Joanne Woodward, 
Released: December 22, 1993

Oscar nominations:

Best Actor - Tom Hanks (won)
Best Makeup (lost to Mrs. Doubtfire)
Best Original Song - "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen (won)
Best Original song - "Philadelphia by Neil Young (I don't even remember this song; I'm surprised it didn't split the votes). 
Best Original Screenplay - Ron Nyswaner (lost to Jane Campion for The Piano)

Philadelphia is definitely a movie of its time. AIDS seemed to be the hot button issue of the '90s (especially the early '90s) and once the 21st century hit, you never really heard anything about it ever again. 

The movie stars a young Tom Hanks (36 at the time) and a young Denzel Washington (38 at the time). Hanks plays Andrew Beckett who has just been made a senior associate at Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow, and Brown, the law firm he works at in Philadelphia. (You probably could have guessed the city he lived and worked!) He's gay, but he keeps that information under wraps from his employers (and we'll see why much later in the film (spoiler alert: he works with a bunch of homophobic pricks)). Washington plays personal injury lawyer Joe Miller. We see one of his commercials played during the film and I couldn't help but think he should have used the tagline, "Better Know Joe!" But, of course, being a huge Breaking Bad fan, I couldn't help but think of Saul Goodman when I saw this. Joe's wife is about to have a baby girl.

Right after Andrew's been made a senior associate, one of the partners notices a lesion on his forehead and Andrew tells him he got whacked with a racketball. Nine days later he has more lesions on his face and by this time he has called in sick for four days and does his work from home. A friend of his (played by Chandra Wilson aka Dr. Bailey from Grey's Anatomy) puts make up on his lesions so they aren't as noticeable. The bronzer is called "Tahitan bronze" and Andrew says they're going to think he was on a cruise because he looks tan. 

He gets a sharp pain in his stomach and tells his boyfriend, Miguel (Antonio Banderas), he needs to go to thehospital. It is there that he sees the TV commercial with Joe Miller. Long story short, while working from home, Andrew has been working on a super important file, but somehow it didn't get filed until the very last minute and he ends up being fired because of this. Or at least that's what the partners tell him why he's being let go, but Andrew believes he's being fired because they know he has AIDS. 

We see Andrew visit Joe Miller at his office, one week after Joe's daughter has been born. This is actually not the first time they've met before as we saw them together in the very first scene (although very briefly) where they worked on a case together. It was probably in the last year and it wasn't a huge case, but when Andrew reminds him of it, Joe immedietly remembers him and seems happy to see him as they shake hands, so you know they had a good rapport when they worked together. However, when Joe asks Andrew what happened to his face (he has noticeable lesions), he tells him he has AIDS and Joe quickly drops his hand away. He tells Andrew he is sorry to hear that, but you can tell he's uncomfortable. This uncomfortableness will continue when Andrew sits down and takes off his hat and Joe doesn't look pleased when Andrew places his hat on his desk and looks even more displeased when Andrew takes a wrapped cigar with "It's a Girl" engraved on it, then puts it back. Man, this guy would hate people touching his stuff during COVID! 

Andrew tells Joe he's been fired by his law firm and he plans on bringing a "wrongful termination suit against Charles Wheeler and his partners." He tells Joe they told him he was fired for misplacing an important complaint, but his story is that he worked on it and left a copy of it on his desk, but the next day it had vanished and there wasn't even a hard copy. All traces of it were gone from his computer, but at the last minute it was miraculously found. (Hmm, how convienent. Sounds like a conspiracy theorist would have fun with this one). As he's telling Joe the story of how he was summoned into the partners' office, we see a scene of Andrew in the conference room where he's apologizing to the older gentlemen and tells them thank god it was found. One of the lawyers say, "This time. What about next time?" Andrew is then told that some people thinks he has an "attitude problem", which to me, seems to come out of no where because we never see any examples of this, and that some kind of "fogginess" has come over him. He is also told, "Your place in the future of this firm is no longer secure. We feel it isn't fair to keep you here when your prospects are limited." Andrew asks if they thought he had an attitude problem, why did they give him that important case in the first place? Heh, that does sound like something somebody with an attitude would say! Also, I'm guessing because they didn't know he had AIDS at that time! Joe confirms with him that he was concealing his illness from the partners. He asks Andrew, "Didn't you have an obligation to tell your employer you had this dreaded, deadly, infectious disease? Tell us how you really feel, Joe! Andrew replies, "That's not the point. From the day they hired me, to the day I was fired, I served my clients consistently, thoroughly, with absolute excellence. If they hadn't fired me, that's what I'd be doing today." Joe starts to see the light here: "And they don't want to fire you for having AIDS. So in spite of your brilliance, they make you look incompetent, thus the mysterious files." Andrew confirms this and says he was sabotaged. Joe asks him how many lawyers he went to before he came to him and Andrew tells him nine. It looks like Andrew will have to find an eleventh because Joe says he doesn't see a case here. This is absolutely insane that Joe says this because before Andrew arrived, we saw Joe talking to a guy who wants to sue the city for negligence because he fell into a hole that was clearly marked and blocked off. He asks Joe if he has a case and Joe says he does and takes the case! So you know he is lyyyyying!

Of course, it's clear why Joe doesn't want the case and even Andrew sees this. He tells Joe, "I have a case. If you don't want it for personal reasons.." and Joe confirms this is true and says he doesn't want the case. Andrew thanks him and leaves and that's that. At least for now. 

We see a close up of Andrew's face as an instrumental version of Streets of Philadelphia starts playing and I knew this was the moment that Tom Hanks had won his Oscar. I don't remember the 1993 Oscars (wait, even though this movie came out in' 93, the Oscars where it won was held in '94, so I never know if I should refer to it as the '93 Oscars of the '94 Oscars...this is so unnecessarily complicated!); I don't think I even watched it, but I bet this was the scene they showed for his Oscar clip. That or the last scene he has with Denzel. 

So, seeing as how Joe reacted during this whole scene, it's pretty obvious he's freaked out about the whole AIDS thing. We even see him visiting his doctor soon after and his doctor assures him he can't contract the disease just because somebody who has it was in his officer and touched some of his stuff. Now I don't remember how well people knew about this disease in the early '90s, but I thought it was a pretty well known fact that HIV can only be transmitted through bodily functions. 

Joe is blatantly homophobic, and yeah, it's not a great look. Obviously, this is 1993, which, sadly, explains a lot. We get this scene where Joe is telling his wife he doesn't like gay people and why he doesn't like them (although I get the sense he has more of a problem with gay men than women). His wife asks him if he even knows any gay people and he says no and asks her if she does and she ticks off a bunch of people she knows who are gay. This includes her big-busted aunt and Joe seems very disappointed about this which is super weird because she's his aunt. Yes, it is through marriage, but why is he so disappointed that his wife's aunt is gay? He shouldn't care because he's MARRIED so he shouldn't be looking at other women anyway, especially to his own wife's aunt! 

The movie wants us to know how much time has passed from one signifiant scene to the other because they will show this by putting text at the bottom of the screen. We see that since Andrew has come to see Joe at his office, two weeks have passed and its around Christmas time. Joe is studying at the library and he sees Andrew a few tables down with a book that has "a section on HIV related discrimination." He sees and overhears a librarian tell Andrew that they have a private research room available, obviously trying to get him out of view of other patrons, but Andrew tells him he's fine where he is. The librarian still can't let it go and asks him if he would be more comfortable in a research room and Andrew claps back with, "No, would it make you more comfortable?" Ooh, snap! 

This is the moment when Joe knows he has a case and decides to take it. He comes up to Andrew and asks him if he found a lawyer and Andrew tells him he's a lawyer, meaning himself. Joe asks him how did his firm find out he had AIDS and Andrew says one of them noticed a lesion on his forehead. Joe point out that could have been anything, so how did they deduce that he had AIDS and firing him "on the basis of that conclusion?" Andrew acknowledges that Joe has a good point and says the lawyer who noticed it, Kenton, worked for a law firm in D.C. where a paralegal there named Melissa Benedict showed lesions on and off for a couple of years. He says it was common knowledge around the office they were caused by AIDS. She was not fired, and we'll later learn why she wasn't, but Andrew was. 

Joe reads from the tome: "The Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified handicapped persons who are able to perform the duties required by their employment...AIDS is protected as a handicap under law, not only because of the physical libations it imposes, but because the prejudice surrounding AIDS exacts a social death which precedes the actual physical one." 

Six weeks later we see the Wyant, Wheeler lawyers in a box seat at a basketball game when Joe comes in with an envelop and tells one of the lawyers, Kenton, "Summons for you." Before he leaves, he tells the lawyer to read it and he'll see him in court. Kenton tells the others he wants to know everything about Andrew's personal life - Does he go to gay bars often? Do he go to other "homosexual facilities?" What "deviant groups or organizations does he secretly belong to?" They are out for blood and they plan to get it. Bob, another lawyer, has another idea. He wants to make a "fair settlement offer and put this whole tragic business behind [them]." Kenton has the same mindset as Joe because he grabs Bob by the shoulders and exclaims, "Andy brought AIDS into our office, into our men's room! He brought it to the annual family picnic!" Another lawyer says THEY should be suing HIM. Bob just asks where their compassion is. I guess they had to make one of the lawyers have a bit of humanity so they didn't all come off as scum-sucking lawyers. (They probably didn't want to offend the lawyers watching this movie!) 

Another lawyer (can you tell I didn't bother to learn all their names? They're all old, white guys anyway, how can I tell the difference?) says he's looking for a "quick settlement," but Bob says a "jury might decide that he has a case." Kenton says Beckett was fired for incompetence, not because of his AIDS. He asks Bob if he knew he was sick and Bob replies, "Not really". 

It's now Christmas and we meet Andrew's family. He has a sister, Jill, who is pregnant with her second child. He tells his family about what's going on and says there will be things said at the trial that will be hard for them to hear about him and his personal life. His dad tells him, "Andy, the way you've handled this whole thing, I don't believe there's anything anyone could say that make us feel anything but incredibly proud of you." His mom (played by Joanne Woodward; who is still alive at the age of 91 at the time I'm writing this) tells him, "I didn't raise my kids to sit at the back of the bus. You get in there and you fight for your rights, okay?" I'm glad Andrew's family is supportive of him since his former employees and his own lawyer, who is defending him, doesnt' like what he stands for. 

Seven months later, Andrew has lost a significance amount of weight (another sign that Hanks would win the Oscar...they love it when actors go through physical transformations), his hair is thinner and looks gray. The trial has started by now and Joe tells the jury they're going to be "presented with a simple fact: Andrew Beckett was fired. You'll hear two explanations for why he was fired, ours and theirs." (He points to the prosecution) "It is up to you to sift through layer upon layer of truth until you determine for yourselves which version sounds the most true." He tells the jurors the Wyant, Wheeler parters broke the law when they fired Andrew for having AIDS.

The prosecution lawyer, Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen), gives her opening statement to the jury: "Fact: Andrew Beckett's performance on the job varied from competent, good, to oftentimes mediocre, to sometimes flagrantly incompetent." She goes on to inform the jurors that it was Beckett who lied, "going to great lengths to conceal his disease from his employers." She tells the jurors the partners at Wyant, Wheeler didn't know he had AIDS when they fired him and that Andrew is angry because his "lifestyle and reckless behavior has cut short his life" and because of this, "he is lashing out and wants someone to pay." 

Remember the woman named Melissa who Andrew told Joe about that worked with one of the partners at a firm in D.C. and she had lesions and everyone knew it was caused by AIDS, but she didn't get fired? Well, they get her to testify on the stand and she clarifies she told all the partners about it. Joe asked her how Walter Kenton treated her and she said everytime he'd come close to her, "he'd get this look on his face" and referred to it as the "Oh, God" expression. We learn that she got AIDS through a transfusion when she lost a lot of blood giving birth to her second child. To me, that is absolutely terrifying. You go to the hospital to have your baby, then come home with AIDS. Like, WTF? I hope she sued that hospital! So because she didn't get AIDS through sexual contact, she didn't get fired. It is interesting though since you'd think they'd be freaked out since they could still get it. 

Even though Joe has taken on this case and is defending Andrew, he still shows his rampant homophobia by telling his friends who ask him why he took the case, "those people make me sick", but "the law is the law" and says the Constitution and Declaration of Independence said "All men are created equal", not "All straight are created equal." So good for him, I guess? 

While Joe is at a drug store, picking up baby items, a clean cut young man comes up to Joe and tells him the case is very important and he's doing a fantastic job. He tells Joe he's a law student at Penn. Joe is very flattered by the compliment, but that quickly deflates when the young man admits he never picks up people in drug stores and Joe gets very defensive. Probably a little too defensive. He tells the guy he's not gay and assaults him by grabbing by him the collar and violently knocks some items off the shelf by doing that. Before he can get arrested for beating the guy up, he walks out of the store, calling him a derogatory name. 

Back in the courtroom, Joe talks to Jamey Collins (played by Bradley Whitford) the lawyer who told Andrew they couldn't find the file. He asks him, "Is Andrew Beckett the kind of lawyer who misplaces crucial documents?" Jamey tells him no. Joe continues, "If you wanted to make a lawyer look incompetent, would this be a good way of going about it? Hiding an important document maybe for a few hours, and then making it look like the lawyer misplaced it?" Jamey points out they'e had lawyers "who've had heart attacks, ulcers, prostate cancer, leukemia and no one sandbagged them." Joe flat out asks him, "Did you have something to do with this file being lost accidentally on purpose?" He gets objected and rephrases his sentence: "Did you have anything to do with this file being misplaced?" Jamey replies, "Absolutely not." Joe asks Jamey if he's gay and an uproar occurs. The judge asks him to approach the bench and Joe tells him that everybody is looking at everybody else and wondering about they sexual orientation or preference (are they?) and says that he knows people are looking at him and wondering (again, are they?) Obviously he's still thinking about what happened at the drug store. He tells the room, "This case is not just about AIDS, is it? So let's talk about what this case is really all about, the general public's hatred, our loathing, our fear of homosexuals. And how that climate of hatred and fear translated into the firing of this particular homosexual, my client, Andrew Beckett." Interesting who's saying that since he's pretty much describing himself. 

Meanwhile, in his personal life, Andrew tells Miguel that he's going to start planning his memorial service; that he's "going to start preparing for the inevitable." 

When Andrew takes the stand, it's a couple days after Halloween (because we saw Joe and his wife attend a Halloween party hosted by Andy and Miguel (Joe wore a suit with papers stapled onto it and said he was a law suit...I always enjoy a clever, pun-ny costume)). The day before he takes the stand, Joe goes over some of the questions he'll be asked. He tells Andrew the first question he'll ask him will be, "Can you describe the circumstance in which you joined the firm?" Andrew asks him if he ever prays. Joe replies that's not the answer to the question, but yes, he does pray. Andrew asks him what he prays for. Joe tells him he prays his baby is healthy, that his wife made it through delivery, for the Phillies to win the pennant. He tries to get Andrew back on track with the question, but instead he tells Joe, "There's a possibility I won't be around to see the end of this trial. I've made some provisions in my will for some charities." He seems to keep avoiding getting prepared for the questioning and asks Joe if he likes opera, which he has playing. We get this scene where he's describing the music playing to Joe and he's intensely listening. The opera scene is a bit heavy-handed and maybe a taaaad bit overwrought, but probably another big reason why Hanks won the Oscar. 

When Andrew takes the stand and Joe asks him the question that Andrew kept avoiding the night before, he answers, "Wyant, Wheeler aggressively recruited me. They were the most prestigious firm in Philadelphia, full of opportunity." He goes on to say he was impressed with the partners, particularly Charles Wheeler (played by Jason Robards): "He was the kind of lawyer I thought I wanted to be: possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the law, a razor-sharp, litigator, genuine leader, gifted at bringing out the very best in others", etc. etc.  Joe asks him if he ever told Charles Wheeler he was gay and Andrew says he didn't. When Joe asks him, "Why not?", Andrew replies, "You don't bring your personal life into a law firm. You're not supposed to have a personal life, really." He says he planned to tell him eventually, but "something happened at the racquet club about three years ago." 

As he describes what happened on the stand, we are shown a flashback of Andrew and the partners in a locker room at a country club. The partners start telling very derogatory jokes about women and gay guys. Andrew is sitting at the end, looking very uncomfortable while the others are laughing uproariously. He says he was relieved he never told them he was gay, which I totally don't blame him. Also, I don't think it's required you tell your place of work your sexual orientation. How does that affect your work, anyway? 

Joe asks him if he's a good lawyer and Andrew says he is, that he loves the law and his favorite part of the law is, "Every now and again you get to be part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when  that happens." Hmmm, whatever could he be talking about? When he says that, all the parters seem to know this case is over for them. When Belinda questions him, she asks if he takes risks and he says he takes "calculated risks" in his work. Belinda asks him if his doctor ever told him to reduce stress, "that long hours and stressful working conditions might damage the immune system and speed up [his] illness?" Andrew confirms this. 

By this time, you can see Andrew is getting flushed and sweating and the camera is tilted as though he's not properly seeing things. Belinda asks him if he's ever been to the Stallion Showcase Cinema on 21st Street and he tells her he's been there three times in his life. She asks if they show "gay pornographic movies" there (yeah, I had a feeling that's what they show there!) Joe objects to this question, but Belinda says it's "vital to the issue of credibility." 

We find out he had sex with a random dude named Robert one of those times he was in the theater. I don't know what's worse: doing it in a public place or doing it with a stranger. Actually, I think the latter is much worse, though I wouldn't recommend the former! But don't have sex with a stranger in a public place (even if it is dark!) Bleh! This happened in 1984 or 85 and is obviously the incident where he acquired AIDS. Belinda asks him if he was aware of AIDS back then and he says he was aware or something called "the gay plague" or "gay cancer", but "didn't know how you could get it or that it killed you." 

Belinda asks him if he was living with Miguel when he had his "anonymous sexual encounter in the porn theater." Yes, but says Miguel was not infected, although he could have. I guess it is implied that he uses protection when he's with Miguel, but obviously didn't when he had his tryst in the theater. 

Belinda asks Andrew if he has any lesions on his face and he says he has one by his ear. She holds up a hand

mirror and asks if he can see it where she's standing,  which is three feet away. It's not very notiecable and he says at the time he was fired, he had four lesions that were much bigger (which was true).

Joe grabs the mirror and asks Andrew if he has any lesions on any part of his body at the this time that resembled the lesions he had on his face when he was fired. Andrew says he does on his torso. He unbuttons his shirt revealing more prominent ones. I mean, Joe totally schooled Belinda on this. You would think the prosecution would know better. 

Wheeler takes the stand and when asked by Belinda, tells her he did not know Andrew had AIDS and that he did not fire Andrew because he had AIDS. She asks him why he promoted him, only to fire him so soon afterwards. He's sort of saved from giving an explanation when Andrew collapses and has trouble breathing and is gasping for air. He it taken to the hospital with his family and Miguel. The trial still goes on with Joe questioning Bob. If you remember, he is the partner who had some ounce of compassion for Andrew. Joe asks him if he notice "any changes whatsoever in Andrew's appearance over the course of the year leading up to his termination?" When Bob says he did and Joe asks him what he thinks the cause was in the changes in his appearance, Bob says he "suspected Andy had AIDS", but didn't share that with anyone else. 

We see the jurors deliberating. The head juror reiterates that the prosecution said Andrew was just a mediocre lawyer and the fact that they gave him "the most important lawsuit they ever had for one of two of their most important clients" doesn't prove anything because it was "just a test." He gives an example: "Say I've got to send a pilot into enemy territory, and he's gonna be flying a plane that cost $350 million. Who am I gonna put in that plane? Some rookie who can't cut the grade because I wanna see if he can rise to the challenge? Or am I gonna give the assignment to my best pilot, my sharpest, my most experienced, my top gun, the very best I've got?" Well, when you put it that way. He says he doesn't understand it and would somebody please explain it to him like he's a six year old. Everyone laughs,  since it's a nice call back to Joe who would always ask people to explain something to him like he's a [insert low number here] year-old."

 Three days later, the verdict comes in We see the jurors saying " I agree" to the judge, except for one who says, "I disagree." Don't they all have to agree on the verdict? I've seen Twelve Angry Men! Well, I have to remind myself what I know about the law is from what I learned from watching Legally Blonde and The Practice. And that one season of Law & Order. 

They have awarded the damages: "For back pay and loss of benefits, $143,000. For mental anguish and humiliation, $100,000. For punitive damages, $4,782,000."  It's a victory, but, unfortunately will be a short-lived one for Andrew, who Joe goes to visit in the hospital after the verdict is read. He overhears the doctor telling Andrew's family that Andrew has lost sight in his right eye. They all must have heard the news because they congratulate him on the verdict and tell him how grateful they are to him. Joe and Andrew share a nice moment, both knowing that this will most likely be the last time they ever see each other again and you can hear Andrew's favorite opera music playing in the background. 

After Joe leaves, we see all of Andrew's family members saying good night to him, but really they're saying good-bye as most of them are crying and this is just more than a simple good-night for them. (I hope I'm not spoiling anything, but surely you can't be too surprised that he dies!) 

Miguel is the last one to talk to him and Andy tells him he's ready. In the middle of the night, Miguel calls Joe to tell him that Andy has passed. At a memorial they have for him, home videos of him as a young boy are played. When I watched this first time, I may or may not have had tears streaming down my face! 

And to bring this review back full circle, I do love the opening credits of this movie where you hear the Bruce Springsteen song and see not only the touristy and historical areas of Philadelphia, but also the real and gritty areas too:

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Witchy Women

Hocus Pocus
Director: Kenny Ortega
Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Thora Birch, Omri Katz, Vinessa Shaw
Released: July 16, 1993 

Can you believe this is the first time I've ever seen this movie? Yes, I'm shocked too, especially since I would have been in the right age demographic when this came out - I was right between the ages of the brother and sister characters. I never knew what this movie was about, really. Obviously, I knew Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy play witches. I didn't know Thora Birch and Vinessa Shaw were in this until the last year, probably! I didn't even know who Vinessa Shaw was until I reviewed the terrible movie Ladybugs earlier this year (and yes, the spelling of her name still bugs me!) 

I made a prediction that this movie would either be about three bad witches who learn a lesson and end up turning into good witches or that they would start off as good, but were misunderstood by the townspeople, and the townspeople would learn a lesson about treating people poorly who are different than them. Yeah, nope, neither of those predictions were correct. They are straight up bad witches...who stay bad during the course of the film! 

The movie begins in 1693 Salem (but of course; where else would a trio of witch sisters live?) where we are introduced to the Sanderson sisters: there's the eldest sister, the buck-toothed Winifred aka Winnie (Midler) who is the clear ringleader of the group and wears green; Mary (Najimy), who talks out of the side of her mouth (now that's a talent!), and has a knack for smelling children and wears red; and Sarah (Parker), who is the ditzy blonde who likes the male attention and wears purple. Everyone is great in their role and Najimy and Parker give great comedic physical performances. Midler shows us she's a true National Treasure by really sinking her teeth into this meaty role (and wearing those prosthetic front teeth could not have been pleasant or easy to talk with!) and she recites her lines in the most over the top way with lots of trills and an exaggerated cadence. 

A boy named Thackery Binx, no older than fifteen, finds his younger sister, Emily, missing. He realizes the Sanderson sisters have taken her and spies her sitting inside their home. This girl does not seem to be very scared or even concerned that three witches have captured her and are about to kill her, but maybe they put a trance on her so that's why she looks so blasé about the whole thing. Yeah, that's what I'm going with. 

Thackery is watching the witches brew a potion in their cauldron from upstairs. He has snuck in by climbing a water wheel from outside. I laughed when Winnie says they need a dead man's toe and tells Sarah to get one "and make it a fresh one." They have a bowl full of toes (ewww), but I don't exactly know how "fresh" they all are! They are brewing a potion they will feed to Emily who will then emit a life force they will be able to suck from her, which will make them all young. Winnie says "One drop of this and her life will be mine - I mean, ours." Clearly she is only looking out for numero uno.

Right when the witches give Emily the potion Thackery tries to thwart them and tips over the cauldron. He's about to save Emily (who still doesn't seem to be in any hurry to escape; so she MUST have been bewitched), but Winnie knocks him out with her magic. The witches notice the spell has worked and Winnie must have been feeling generous because she joins hands with her sisters so they can all suck the life out of Emily. 

The sisters suddenly become youthful looking (in other words, the old age make up that was on the three actresses is no longer applied on them) and Sarah exclaims, "We're young!" I laughed when Winnie looks at herself in a mirror and replies, "Well...younger. But it's a start!" I wouldn't be surprised if Bette Midler ad-libbed that line since she's twelve years older than Kathy Najimy and twenty years older than SJP. 

Elatedly, Winnie tells them they will be young and beautiful forever and has plans to brew more of the potion and pretty much suck the life out of every child in Salem. By this time, Thackery has woken up to see what they have done to his sister and when the witches want to brew another batch with him in mind, he tells them there's not enough children in Salem to make them young and beautiful and calls them all hags. Winnie says, "Sisters! Did you hear what he called you?" I just love how she's like, I certainly wasn't who he was talking about! 

For that remark, they decide they need to find the worst punishment for him and Winnie opens her spell book (a gift from Satan, which has an eye that opens and closes on the cover, but that's not even the creepiest thing about the book; no the creepiest thing is that the book is made of human skin!) Winnie declares, "His punishment shall not be to die...but to live forever with his guilt!" The witches recite a spell that turns him into a black cat.

The townspeople come banging at the door and the next scene is the three sisters about to be hanged. (I guess they found Emily's lifeless body in their cottage). Thackery's father asks Winnie what she has done with his son.  She tells him, "I don't's got my tongue!" All the sisters start laughing and I start laughing too. 

We get a bit of foreshadowing when the spell book drops to the ground and opens up to a page entitled "Spells to Resurrect the Dead" and there's one called "Black Flame Candle Spell." This will come back later. The witches will be able to come back from the dead if the black flame candle is lit by a virgin on Halloween. The witches are hanged (we see a nice shot of Winnie's green and black striped stockings...very Wicked Witch of the West) and the townspeople head home. It's very sad because Thackery, as a cat, tries to get his father's attention by meowing and rubbing against his leg but his father just kicks the poor cat away and tells him, "Away, beast!" DUDE. You just hanged three witches, your son is missing, and this black cat (totally synonymous with witches) is trying to get your attention. Put the pieces together, dude!

The movie transfers to "present day" 1993 (that's 300 years later if you're keeping count) to a high school class in Salem (still Massachusetts; not the capital of Oregon!) where a teacher has been telling the story of the Sanderson sisters to her class. She adds that some people believe on Halloween, a black cat stands guard at the Sanderson house, "warning off any who might make the witches come back to life." Everyone in this class is totally into this story and believes the legend of the Sanderson sisters. Everyone that is, except a kid named Max Dennison (Omri Katz), about fourteen or fifteen and who has recently moved to Salem from L.A. and he hates his new home. Everyone boos him when he tells them he doesn't believe in this malarky (excuse me, hocus pocus!) and tells them Halloween was invented by the candy corporations. The girl he has a crush on, Allison (Shaw), informs him that "Halloween is based on the ancient feast called All Hollow' Eve - the one night of the year where the spirits of the dead can return to Earth." All the students and teacher are clapping and cheering her and giving her high fives because she just schooled him and it's so ridiculous. Look, I've never been to Salem and I don't know anybody from Salem, but I doubt the residents are like, "Whoo! We persecuted and killed people because we thought they were witches! Go us!" Though, I guess in their defense, there were really witches who lived back then. 

 Max comes home in a bad mood because he gave Allison his number, but she gave it right back to him, then later he runs into these two bullies (one of them is wearing a leather jacket and has a flannel shirt tied around his waist and the other has the word "ICE" (his nickname) shaved in the back of his head. They are the most '90s Disney bullies ever) and they steal his cool new kicks.

We meet Max's younger sister, Dani (Birch), about eight years old, who is hiding in Max's closet andwatches as he lays on his bed, hugging his pillow and pretending it's Allison. (I guess he doesn't hate everything about his new town!) Dani jumps out of the closet, scaring him (though he's probably more embarrassed than scared). Their parents are going to a Halloween party and Dani tells Max he has to take her trick-or-treating. Even though it's still daylight, she's all ready to go in her witch's costume. Max isn't into this at all because he just wants to stay home and mope, but he has no other choice. He's wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and jacket, sunglasses (don't ask me why when it's dark outside), and a baseball cap. His dad asks him what he's supposed to be and he replies, "A rap singer." So either the word "rapper" was not yet a thing in 1993 or the script was written by an 80-year-old. I'm going with the latter. I think it would have made more sense if his dad had said to him, "What are you supposed to be? A rap singer?" His dad moves his hat so the brim is on the side. 

While trick-or-treating, Max sees the two bullies and a few of their friends, smashing pumpkins and stealing candy from kids. He tries to get Dani to go another way, but Dani isn't scared of the older boys because she's got her big brother with her. One of the bullies asks Max if he's supposed to be a New Kid on the Block and laughs hysterically, and okay, I'll give them that; that was kind of funny. But then, when Dani informs them he's a Little Leaguer (where did she get that from? He's not even wearing a baseball uniform), Ice pretends to hit a fly ball while Leather Jacket (don't remember his name) shades his eyes as though he's watching it. They both laugh HYSTERICALLY over this and give each other a double high five, up top. I'm laughing too because it's absolutely ridiculous that they think this is so funny. Max and Dani are able to get away by Max giving them their candy. He's not very happy with Dani for getting them in this situation and they bicker and Dani cries, then they apologize and everything is good for the moment.

They come across a house that is just a perfectly normal-sized two-story house. It is a nice house for a middle class family, but it's not the mansion they're acting like it is. Turns out it's the hone of Allison whose parents are throwing an elaborate 18th century party. Allison is wearing one of those 18th century gowns with the bodice, but she's not wearing the proper undergarments underneath it, so her dress doesn't poof out in an authentic way; instead it just lays flat on her body. I guess they were like, eff it, this girl will only be in this costume for less than five minutes, it doesn't really matter how authentic it looks. 

Allison tells them she's on candy duty and asks them if they want some apple cider. We get a really inappropriate exchange when Allison tells Dani she likes her costume and Dani tells her the same. She says she wouldn't be able to wear it beccause she doesn't have any "yabos" and tells Allison that Max likes her "yabos"; "in fact, he loves them." The f***? I get that Dani is trying to embarrass her brother, but why is she embarrassing poor Allison, too? (She just sort of laughs it away). Also, how does Dani know this? Did she hear her brother tell his pillow he was pretending was Allison that he loves her yabos while Dani was hiding in his closet? 

The conversation turns to the Sanderson sisters and we learn that Allison's mother used to run the museum (their old home which is still standing all these 300 years later!) dedicated to them, but it was shut down because "a lot of spooky things happened there." We never learn exactly what these spooky things were. Max suggests they all go check it out and Allison agrees and goes upstairs to change. Dani doesn't want to go because she's heard about the spooky things from her classmates. Max tells her if she does this for him, he'll do anything she wants. He is treading in murky water because she gets an evil grin on her face and tells him next Halloween she wants them to go together as Peter Pan and Wendy. "With tights or it's no deal." Max quickly agrees to this. How much do you want to bet that Max didn't follow up with this deal? He already got what he wanted by spending the evening with his crush, excuse me "the girl of [his] dreams"; it's no skin off his back if he conveniently "forgets" about this deal. 

They reach the museum which is covered in cobwebs and dust. It literally looks like it hasn't been touched inthe 300 years since the sisters have been gone even though it now has modern amenities like a light switch and a postcard swivel stand. There are also plaque cards by certain objects. Max reads one about the Black Flame Candle: "Legend says that, on a full moon, it will raise the spirits of the dead when lit by a virgin on Halloween night." He wants to light the candle with a lighter he found and bring the "old broads" back, but clearly doesn't believe it will happens and calls it "just a bunch of hocus pocus." A black cat jumps on him from out of nowhere, knocking him out of the way of the candle. This does not deter Max and he nonchalantly lights the candle anyway and the house begins to shake as thought there's an earthquake and all the lights go out before the door opens revealing the three witches. The three kids hide, but Dani is quickly detected by Mary who sniffs her out. They're about to push her into the cauldron, but Max tries to stop them. While Winnie uses her magic to restrain him, Allison grabs a broom and whacks her. The cat jumps on her and a bunch of commotion is going on. Max gets them to back off by telling them he's conjuring "The Burning Rain of Death" where he sets the sprinklers off by lighting the lighter. 

The cat tells Max to grab the spell book and this is the first time we see the cat can talk. Of course, this is Thackery Binx, living out his eternal life as a cat. He goes by Binx now (because Thackery is a stupid name for a cat, probably). Now you may be wondering why he just didn't tell his dad he was a cat when he was trying to get his attention all those years before, but my theory is he hadn't learned to speak as a cat yet and now he's had all this time to evolve. Although, I'm pretty sure it's physically impossible for a cat to speak human words (even one who used to be human), but let's not get into semantics. For some reason, the three kids (with the spell book) and Binx run to the graveyard. Great place to be on Halloween night with three witches after you. Max tries to burn the book, but of course it's protected by magic. 

Winnie realizes it's just regular water falling from the ceiling (and ditzy Sarah opens her mouth to drink it) and tells them to follow her. They run outside, but halt quickly when they see a black asphalt road thinking it's a black river. Winnie and Mary push Sarah into to see how deep it is, but Sarah is able to stand on the "river" and announces, "'Tis firm!" and they are able to continue on their way. Winnie tells her sisters (but mainly the viewing audience so we can have some exposition), "The magic that brought us back only works tonight, on All Hallows' Eve. When the sun comes up, we're dust. Fortunately, the potion I brewed the night we were hanged would keep us alive and young forever. Unfortunately, the recipe for that potion is in my spell book, and the little wretches have stolen it." As long as they find the book, brew the potion, and suck the lives out of the children of Salem before sunrise, then they'll be fine. "Otherwise, it's curtains! We evaporate!" Not to get into semantics again, but doesn't Halloween end at midnight? When the sun rises the next day, it will be November 1st! Oh, well. 

The go to the graveyard where Winnie resurrects her old lover, Billy Butcherson, who she killed herself by poisoning him and sewing his mouth shut with a needle so he "couldn't tell her secrets even in death" She killed him because she found him "sporting" with Sarah. She wants him to go after the kids, but they are quick to get away from him when Max snaps a branch in front of his face and his head falls off his body and while he's wasting time finding it, the kids escape in a tunnel that leads to the sewer. 

The witches get on a bus with a bus driver who should be fired because he's acting like a creep to them and coming on to them pretty strongly. Mary smells children so they get off at the next stop where many kids are trick-or-treating, but the witches are confused because they don't realize those are children in costumes. They see a guy dressed as the devil come out of his house and they exclaim, "Master! He loves that these three women are dressed as the Sanderson sisters and invites them inside. This is a little weird that this guy is inviting three women inside his house when his wife is inside. It's also a little weird that this husband and wife are played by real life siblings Garry and Penny Marshall. While the sisters are inside the house, three young girls dressed as the Sanderson sisters see the brooms the real Sanderson sisters left outside and take them. 

There's really no reason for this scene with the Garry and Penny Marshall cameo, (Bette Midler must have called in a favor since Garry directed her in Beaches), but I did laugh when Winnie goes into the kitchen, picks up a mallet, and exclaims, "Behold! A torture chamber!" I can see someone from the 17th century thinking that about a kitchen: there are sharp objects, hot objects, weird electronic devices. When the wife sees Sarah dancing with her husband, she chases the women out (well, really her little terrier chases them out) and Winnie figures out that really wasn't their master and declares the costumed figures are actually children.  

The kids decide to go to the party their parents are at to find them and tell them what's going on. It was a bit odd that they had no idea what their parents' costumes were. Their dad is Dracula, or "Dadcula" as he tells Max to call him. Dani finds their mom who is dressed as Madonna with a blonde wig and a cone bra. Maybe it's a good thing their parents (especially the mom) didn't tell their kids about their costumes so they wouldn't embarrass them! Dani tells her mom (with a very straight face, I might add), "[Max] lit the Black Flame. The withes are back from the dead, and they're after us. We need help." She also adds that the cat she's holding can talk. Her mom asks her how much candy she's had. I don't think that a lot of candy is really going to affect a person that much except give them a major stomachache. 

The witches find their way to the party and Max sees them and makes an announcement about them and how dangerous they are and they're after everyone's children. The crowd laughs, thinking it's a big funny joke. They also love it when the sisters sing "I Put a Spell On You". 

Allison gets an idea and the kids lure the witches to the high school into a kiln. I'm not really sure how they lured them there...we hear a tape playing of a French lesson and for some reason this entices the witches to find out where it's coming from. I don't really know much about kilns. I'm not sure how big they typically are, but this one is big enough for all of them to walk into. The kids lock the door and proceed to burn them alive and we see green smoke escaping from the chimney. I'm looking at the time stamp and there is still half an hour left of the movie, so I know more shenanigans are to be had! After burning the witches, the kids are outside the school, cheering and doing cartwheels. This reaction is a bit extreme considering they just burned three people alive. I realize they were trying to kill Dani (and other children) and killed little Emily 300 years ago so I'm sure they felt they got justice for Binx, but look, we we just shot Bin Laden; it's not like we burned him alive. Their reaction of jubilance is a bit much.

Binx tells Max he's wanted to do that for 300 years, since they took Emily away from him. After telling Max to take good care of Dani, he starts to run in the opposite direction, but Max tells him he's a Dennison now and can live with them. They all go to the Dennison house where they hang out in Max's room; Dani and Binx on the bed and Max and Allison sitting on the steps. Oh, did I mention that Max has steps in his room? Yeah, they lead up to a widow's walk. Um, like how cool is that? Why is he complaining about his new town when he has a super cool room that leads to a widow's walk?? You know Dani is moving into that room after Max goes to college!

Dani tells her new pet, "You'll have milk and tuna fish every day. And you'll only hunt mice for fun." (Earlier, Binx had told them he hunted mice in the sewer). Milk and tuna fish sounds like a disgusting combination (though I think anything with milk (with the exception of chocolate) is disgusting). Sidenote: don't give your cat milk; give them water. There was also an earlier incident where poor Binx gets flattened by a bus when they come out of the sewer (the same bus the sisters were on) and yes, it was very traumatizing for both poor Dani and me! Binx is able to inflate himself back to life and he tells Dani and the others about his curse; that he can't die and will live forever. This is why when Binx cuddles with Dani she tells him, "I'll always take care of you. My children will always take care of you. And their children after that. And theirs after that." He starts purring and it's so sweet. There's nothing better than cuddling with a purring kitty! And it's also sad because poor Binx is going to have to watch all the people he loves and who takes care of him die one after the other while he lives on. Though, I won't lie, I was a little jealous that Dani's cat will never die. My cat is in his senior years and it makes me so sad that he only has a few years left of his life; the majority of his life has already passed and it's like, where did the time go? I still remember bringing him home in my car in his little cardboard box with the holes poked in it from the Humane Society! 

Allison ends up falling asleep at the Dennison house (both she and Max falls asleep on the stairs which can not be comfortable!) When she realizes it's five am, she tells Max she should go since her parents will kill her. They're probably worried sick about her! If it's five am, her parents' party probably ended hours ago and, yeah, they're probably wondering where their daughter is! But she quickly forgets about going home when she gets sidetracked when they see Binx snuggling up to Dani and Max tells her, "We owe him a lot." Allison gets the idea to look through the spell book (yep, still in in their possession) and see if they can find a spell that will reverse the curse. Max reminds her that Binx warned them not to open the book, but Allison just replies, "The witches are dead. What harm can it do?" 

Plenty, Allison, plenty. You see, ALLISON, the witches aren't actually dead. Somehow, being burned alive didn't kill them...or maybe those kids don't know how to work a kiln, who knows? We see the door open and the three sisters walk out of the kiln with disheveled hair. There isn't even a trace of ash or soot on them.

They return to their home and Winnie is trying to remember the potion from memory since they don't have the book. She says she remembers that Sarah was "dancing idiotically over there", which Sarah hilarious reenacts her for. When Winnie is trying to remember one of the key ingredients, she just can't quite get it. Is it dead man's nose?  Dead man's thumb? Dead man's gum? Sarah jumps in excitedly with, "Dead man's toes!", but Winnie just tells her to hush. 

It's no use, Winnie can't remember the recipe for the potion and she starts sobbing and tells Mary in the most dramatic way, "This is the end, I feel it. We are dooooooomed. I feel the icy breath of death upon my neck." She requests that Mary take her to the window because, "I wish to say goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye, cruel world. Goodbye to life. Goodbye to all that."

Well, it just so happens that when Allison and Max opened the spell book, it shot a stream of red light right out of the widow's walk, illuminating where the book is and Winnie's tune quickly changes from depressed to ecstatic. She tells Mary, "We fly!"  Mary isn't sure what they're going to fly on since all their brooms were stolen, but they open the supply closet and Winnie flies on a broom, Sarah flies on a mop, and Mary flies on a vacuum. I guess the criteria is that witches have to fly on something that cleans floors! Where is the Swiffer? That's what I would ride! 

I must say the practical effects they used for the flying scenes look pretty realistic. I'm not sure how they did it, but props to the special effects department for this movie. 

While Max and Allison are reading the book, they find out if they surround themselves with a circle of salt, they are protected from the witches' powers. Of course, this is going to come up later, but it's kind of weird they're even mentioning this because, as far as they know, the witches are dead and they don't need to protect themselves from them. 

Max checks his parents' room to see if they're home, but they're not. How is it five am and the parents still aren't home? Is it because Winnie cast a spell at the party telling everyone to, "Dance until they die?" (Which she did, but I didn't think anyone was going to take literally!) Why haven't they shown us shots of the parents at the party, still dancing to show us why they're still not home? 

While Max and Allison are in the kitchen getting salt (I guess you can never be too prepared), we see a creepy shot of a long fingernail cutting through the screen. The older kids hear a crash from upstairs and run up to check on Dani. She looks like she's laying in the bed, under the covers, but when the covers are pulled off, Sarah is lying in the bed. I have to admit, that reveal scared me because I wasn't expecting it! The closet door opens to reveal Winnie and Mary hiding with Dani and the book. They take Dani, Binx, the book, and shoot through the widow's walk, just leaving a huge gaping hole. I'm sure the Dennison parents are going to love to pay for that! 

There's a cool shot of the silhouette of three witches flying over Salem where you can see the coastline and a lighthouse flashing its light. 

Not sure if this movie is a musical, but we had the witch sisters singing "I Put a Spell On You" and now we get another musical number where Sarah sings a song to lure the children to them: "Come, little children, I'll take three away into a land of enchantment." As she sings this sing, we see kids, walking like zombies, toward the Sanderson home. Some are in their pajamas and some are still in their costumes. At five am? Why? Some kids are even in their pajamas with elements of their costume. The witches have tied Dani up in a chair and Binx is tied up in a bag while they brew the potion.

Allison and Max get an idea to fool the witches into thinking the sun has come up (even though there's still probably another hour before the sun actually comes up). They drive to the Sanderson house (I guess it's one of Max's parents' car; I don't think they just jacked this car from off the street) and right before the sisters are about to feed Dani the potion, Max bursts in and tells Winnie there's something called Daylight Saving Time, then Allison turns on the car's headlights, making the witches think the sun is coming up and they hide for cover. This gives Max time to get Dani and Binx out of there and he kicks over the cauldron with the potion. Very similiar to the first scene when Thackery knocks over the potion. 

The witches realize they've been duped and Winnie inspects the caldron, declaring there's just enough potion left "for one child" and pours the potion into a vial. Even though the children they've summoned are still walking towars their home in a trance, Winnie has her sights set on Dani as payback since she called Winnie ugly while Winnie was brewing the potion and lauding how she was going to be young and beautiful forever. Dani told her, "It doesn't matter how young or old you are! You sold your soul! You're the ugliest thing that's ever lived and you know it!" The look Bette Midler gives Thora Birch in this scene is absolutely hilarious. Needless to say, Winnie does not like being called "ugly" and she tells Dani that she'll be the first to die. And Winnie plans to keep that promise! 

The kids drive to the graveyard with the witches following them on their flying cleaning supplies. (Again, what is with the graveyard setting?) They run into Billy who takes the pocketknife that Max threatens him  with to cut open the stitches in his mouth. He is finally able to tell Winnie off and Max realizes this zombie is on their side. 

Max and Allison put Dani in the grave that Billy was in (because that's not creepy at all) and create a circle of salt around her to protect her. When the witches show up, Billy tells Winnie to go to hell and she replies with, "Oh, I've been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely." She comes after him and poor Billy loses his head for the second time since he's been raised from the dead. Dani leave the Circle of Salt Safety to retrieve Billy's head and give it back to him. I think at this point, Allison and Max are contending with Mary and Sarah. This allows Winnie to come down and scoop Dani up. Binx runs up a tree and along one of the branches and jumps on Winnie which makes her drop the potion which Max catches. Winnie throws Binx and he hits a rock and becomes unconscious. Poor Binx gets a lot of physical harm done to him in this movie.

Max tells Winnie to put down his sister or he'll smash the vial. She retaliates by telling him if he smashes it, Danie dies. He drinks the potion instead and tells her she has no choice; she'll have to take him. It's very noble that he's sacrificing his own life for his little sister's, but hopefully he has a plan NOT to die! Max starts to emit the same glow Emily did at the beginning of the movie and Winnie, still on her broom, lifts up Max so she's basically holding him by the collar of his sweatshirt (that thing's gonna stretch out!) or even by his hair at times (ouch!) She's trying to suck the life out of him as he's struggling to let go. Sarah and Mary are trying to help her, but Allison, Dani, and Billy are pulling on the cord of the vacuum to prevent them, so Sarah has to pull on Mary's hand to help HER.

But, guess what? Time's up! Game over! The sun starts to come up (and this is a massive Sahara sunrise; no way this sunrise would ever occur in New England, especially in the fall). Winnie is surprised by this and both she and Max fall to the ground. But Winnie won't give up! She's determined to get the life force from Max before the sun has completely risen. She still's holding Max by his sweatshirt, but is distracted and freaked out when she starts to turn to stone, starting with her feet until she has turned into a statue standing in the middle of the graveyard (and still holding onto Max, but he's able to get away from her stone grip). I was confused for a second because I thought they were supposed to turn to dust, but then I liked the idea of Winnie remaining a statue forever in the cemetery and it would add more to the lore. Sarah and Mary, still flying on their brooms (just for a split second more!) are like "Uh-oh!" when they see the sun and they both turn into dust, though it looked more like glitter since Sarah turns into purple dust and Mary turns into red dust. Then the statue of Winnie explodes into green glitter dust and I was a little disappointed that her statue didn't stay. The sequel to this movie is supposed to come out next year with Midler, Parker, and Najimy reprising their roles. I bet the screenwriters are kicking themselves that they didn't leave Winnie as a statue! Oh, well, I'm sure they'll find a way to resurrect these witch sisters from being turned into millions of dust particles!

So the witches are dead for good now (at least for the next 29 years! (but by then Max, Dani, and Allison will be adults by then and probably not be living in Salem anymore and will be like, "Not my problem anymore" if/when they hear about the resurrection of the Sanderson sisters)), so everyone should be happy, right? Well, not quite. After Winnie threw Binx to the ground, we did see him raise his head and meow pathetically, so we know that didn't kill him. However, after the witches died, the curse broke and Binx died too. Poor Dani is so sad and crying over his little furry body. At least Dani gets some closure because she sees the ghost of Thackery Binx (as a human) telling her not to cry and say, "The witches are dead. My soul's finally free." He thanks Dani for freeing him and thanks Max for lighting the candle. Then it turns into a ghost family reunion because the ghost of Emily just appears, looking for Thackery. (I guess she was buried at the graveyard, so it makes sense she was already "in the neighborhood". Max, Dani, and Allison watch as the 18th century ghost sibling walk away together in the sunrise. 

The great mood the Dennison siblings are in now won't last long when their parents return home and see the top of the house has been blown off!

So I really enjoyed this movie even though I have no nostalgic attachment to it. I can see why it's turned into a Halloween cult classic over the years. I do find it odd that this movie came out in July; this is a movie you must see during October during the Halloween season. 

Happy Halloween, everyone!