‘Ultra,’ ‘Vacation’ and ‘Flash’ worth a watch this weekend


When comedy giants, John Hughes and Harold Ramis, made “National Lampoon’s Vacation” in ’83, they created a franchise for family films. These films told audiences that it’s okay when everything goes wrong, and it’s okay to be goofy, and sometimes, you have to go a little crazy in pursuit of the perfect family vacation. This is the continuation of the saga, following the Griswold kids as they grow up and have kids of their own. It also crosses the line from playful PG-13 high-jinks to hard-R raunchiness. Ed Helms plays Rusty Griswold with a naïve charm, and Christina Applegate always has a sense of likability. Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins play their two sons and add plenty to the plot. Some great cameos abound with Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann and Charlie Day. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo add a couple of not so great ones. The transition from a family film that pushes boundaries to just another R-rated comedy feels lazy, but since it’s Thanksgiving, we’ll throw it a bone – worth a watch.

“Ricki and the Flash”

Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”) directs American cinematic royalty, Meryl Streep, in this family drama written by Diablo Cody (“Juno”). To be honest, it’s more like a whole lot of melodrama, but it is an opportunity for Streep to work with her real life daughter, Mamie Gummer. It’s also the third time her and Kevin Kline have been teamed up. Rick Springfield comes along for the ride, along with a host of other musicians, as Streep plays a rock -n- roll singer who left her family behind for the road. Now, she wants a second chance. I know, it sounds a bit cheesy. It is, but it’s also Thanksgiving, and you may need a cheesy flick for the fam. Besides, Streep and Gummer hit a few nice notes – worth a watch for this weekend only.

“American Ultra”

This movie is really what American Thanksgiving is all about – excess, subterfuge and violence. Just like the Pilgrims, a British director, Nima Nourizadeh, guides a cast to commit atrocity against one another in the aisles of grocery stores…Well, you get the parallels and irony here. The point is the film brings together one young actor who’s consistently stellar, Jesse Eisenberg, and pairs him with another actor who consistently works to unravel her career, Kristen Stewart. Together, the pair works pretty well. They work so well because surrounding cast are always there to fill the gaps. Connie Britton, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins and John Leguizamo help make the script of Max Landis (son of John Landis) look like a violent graphic novel come to life. It follows in the footsteps of other comically brutal films like “RED” and “Kickass,” but Eisenberg gives it some street cred, and ramps viewers up for his take as Lex Luthor in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” next year – worth a watch.