It is hard to believe it has been 32 years since Chevy Chase took his family on their now infamous “Vacation” and in doing so launched a series that would eventually spawn four movies.

The well-meaning but unlucky Griswold family gave new meaning to family trips and Europe, Christmas, and Las Vegas will never be the same.
In the new version, Rusty (Ed Helms) works away as a pilot for a commuter airline which ensures he is home each evening to see his beloved wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and their sons Kevin and James.

The family tradition has been to go to as cabin for the Memorial Day weekend but after hearing that their neighbors recently went to France and that Debbie yearns for a break from the cabin, Rusty opts to take the family on a road trip to Wally World, where he has fond memories from the trip he took as a child.

The idea of spending a long week in a car does not sit well with his family but they decide to indulge their father and hit the road.

It does not take long for the Griswold legacy to start and after a series of hysterical and outrageous encounters along the way ranging from an ill-fated Sorority reunion, an awkward father and son conversation at a pool, running afoul of a trucker, and some hysterical car problems, and more, the crew make it to Texas to see Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann) and her husband Stone (Chris Hemsworth).

Rusty has always had a distrust of Stone as he flirts with his wife and shows off his toned physique whenever he can, and touts his success to all.

Naturally some more mishaps ensue on this visit and Rusty and his family continue their trip with stops to the Grand Canyon and Four Corners.

There are plenty of other moments but suffice it to say that challenges and mishaps are the Griswold way whenever a trip is involved and Rusty has to seek help from his parents which sets up a great finale as Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo add to the fun.
The film has plenty of nods to moments from the series but is very much its own film and not a reboot. The humor in the film is a bit raw for those used to the recent PG-13 efforts from the series, but I think returning the series to the R-Rated origins of the original film was a good idea as it allows the unexpected and outrageous to happen more often and it does many times during the film.

I went in hoping for an amusing continuation of the series and what I got was a film that had me laughing throughout and had some cringe-worthy moments where my wife alternated between laughing and hiding her eyes from the outrageous antics.

The cast did a great job of carrying on the Vacation tradition while establishing their own characters. They are not retreads of Ellen and Clark, as Rusty and Debbie are very much their own people with everyday concerns.

Here is hoping we see this group down the Holiday Road again in the future.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation


Cue the iconic theme music as Tom Cruise is back for a 5th outing as Ethan Hunt in the latest film in the Mission Impossible Series. “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” finds Ethan and his Impossible Mission Force Team shut down by a government oversite committee as they are nearing the source of a mysterious organization known as “The Syndicate”

Ethan believes that the Syndicate is an elite organization comprised of several former agents from all over the world who have officially been declared dead.

This allows them to operate outside any law or jurisdiction and their mysterious leader Lane (Sean Harris), seems to be connected to several killings, heists, and bizarre happening which seem to be connected in a plot to undermine the governments of the world.

Naturally Ethan is not going to let the closure of his organization go without a fight and opts to go on the run with an unsanctioned operation.   This action causes CIA Chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) to hotly pursuit Ethan.

With foes surrounding him, Ethan enlists his friend Benji (Simon Pegg), to help him as they must deal with a mysterious new element in Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a former British Agent who appears to work for Lane but has helped Ethan along the way.

In a race against time, locales ranging from Vienna to Morocco and London come into play as Ethan and crew try to retrieve a valuable item that Lane wants that may be the key to defeating a skilled and deadly enemy that seems to know and anticipate their every move.

The action in the film is first-rate and Cruise himself did his own stunts which is amazing when you see how daring, dangerous, and complex they were.

Many of the Mission Impossible films have used overly complicated plots to fuel the action and this film is not as complex but still has many nice twists to it. My only issue was the ending was a bit to “Hollywood” for my liking as certain individuals seemed to operate against type and established patterns for the sake of the finale.

I also wish that Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames were given more to do than talk and hover over a computer as it would have been nice seeing them more involved in the action.

Fortunately Cruise and Ferguson fill that requirement as the film is a very satisfying action film that shows that there is plenty of life in the series.

Director Christopher Mc Quarrie has worked with Cruise many times in the past and knows what his lead is capable of and also gets the chemistry between the stars to show when it is needed without letting the action overshadow the human element of the film.

Rogue Nation is a fast, clever, and entertaining action film which will keep you entertained throughout.

4 stars out of 5


Second review by Joseph Saulnier


Installment 5 of a franchise no one ever thought would become a modern franchise. Wow, how times fly. Though, as I go back and re-watch the first four films in the series, I come to appreciate every one of them. Especially the intricate plans, and the sleek way it all comes together at the end of each film. And Rogue Nation doesn’t fail to deliver.

Rogue Nation finds the Impossible Mission Force under fire from the Director of the CIA, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). Meanwhile, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has spent the better part of 18 months tracking a fabled organization known only as the Syndicate. When the CIA absorbed the IMF, Hunt escaped capture by the Syndicate with the help of Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), one of their own agents. Hunley becomes obsessed with bringing Hunt in, but he goes on the run.

Six months later, Hunt resurfaces to reach out to Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), to help him close in on the Syndicate. Of course, not everything goes according to plan, and Hunt, Benji and Isla have to do the impossible and steal something that is un-stealable. And familiar faces Luther Sitckell (Ving Rhames) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) come along to help out when needed the most.

So let’s be real. You know what to expect out of Mission: Impossible movies. Rogue Nation won’t let down as it has trickier puzzles, hairier situations, and lots of action to fill the between. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but these movies are pretty entertaining. As long as you don’t go in expecting oscar-winning performances, you will enjoy this film. The returning cast have developed a great chemistry together, and the new additions, like Baldwin, are a great compliment to the ensemble.

I had only one real problem with the film. It had to do with what the ultimate objective of the mysterious leader of the Syndicate. I will not go into more detail than that, because I also hate spoilers, but I did kind of feel that it cheapened the intensity of which the Syndicate been built up to be.

Definitely go see this movie in IMAX, too. I was lucky enough to view it in this manner, and it was spectacular. This will most-definitely be a movie I add to my collection upon home release.


4 stars out of 5


By Mark Rahner


On this week’s Special Ops, we talk about Kolchak: The Night Stalker and his creator, Jeff Rice, who just passed away in Las Vegas.

I’ve been a fan from childhood, and I’m fairly certain that growing up with a show about a smart alec reporter who disobeys and shouts at his editors didn’t work wonders for my own newspaper career.

If you’ve never seen the show, you’ve probably seen The X-Files. Chris Carter has been up front about Night Stalker being its inspiration. And while star Darren McGavin didn’t reprise his Carl Kolchak character in X-Files, he did appear in the show as retired agent Arthur Dales.

I indulged in some nerd wish-fulfillment for that in my story for the recent Vampirella 100 special. Altering names a bit – because I don’t want to be sued – an elderly “Kovak” hands off the tape recordings of his adventures to a pair of young FBI agents who resemble Mulder and Scully.

And I wrote a Kolchak story for Moonstone Books a while back. Here are the covers for both.

kol TNVampi100CovAJusko

But enough about me. Some Night Stalker people went on to bigger things.

McGavin – a Spokane native – went on to play the Old Man in A Christmas Story, and it kind of annoys me that that’s what punks know him best for. If you dig him as Kolchak, check him out the detective in the 1958 Mike Hammer series.

David Chase, who wrote eight Night Stalker episodes, cranked out an obscure show called The Sopranos later.

After the two hit TV movies, there were 20 episodes of the Night Stalker series on ABC. Reasons there were so few – in addition to the lousy ratings – was that their quality declined and they got sillier, and McGavin wanted the hell out.

As for the 2005 Night Stalker revival starring Stuart Townsend, avoid that like I avoid sunlight.

All right, back to me now. Here are my top five episodes, in no particular order. And look, they’re on YouTube!

The Vampire

Back to Vegas, where Kolchak encountered a vampire in the first movie. One of the female victims has risen and she’s thirsty. Killer climax.

The Werewolf

A werewolf on a cruise ship at sea. No escape. From the Carl’s brilliant plan to acquire silver bullets to the final confrontation, a beauty all around. It predated The Love Boat on the same network, so I can only assume the idea came from this.

The Zombie

Try not to tense up when a nervous Kolchak attempts to sew salt into a temporarily dormant zombie’s mouth inside a car in a wrecking yard. Crap!

The Ripper

The first episode to air. And that’s right, Jack the Ripper, alive somehow – and killing again – in the present day.  Well, 1974. This has the great scene with Kolchak hiding from the Ripper in his closet and getting so frightened that he loses his cool and bolts.

Horror in the Heights (in three parts, for some reason)

Kolchak faces a monster you may never have heard of: the Rakshasa, which appears to victims in the form of people they trust – and then kills them gruesomely. What else would it do?