One of the few sequels I like better than the original.
Gomez and Morticia Addams (Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston) welcome their third child, Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper). Unfortunately, the older siblings, Wednesday and Pugsley (Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman), don’t take well to the new child, attempting to murder him, as Addams are wont to do. To help, the Addams parents hire a nanny named Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) who is, in reality, a serial murdering black widow. She seduces Gomez’s brother, Fester (Christopher Lloyd). When Wednesday becomes suspicious, Debbie has her and Pugsley sent to summer camp under relentlessly chipper Counselors Gary and Beck Granger (Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski). Fortunately, the Addams family can handle more than a mere serial killer and a summer camp. Also featuring Christopher Hart as Thing, Carel Struycken as Lurch, and Carol Kane as Grandmama.
I am a fan of the original Barry Sonnenfeld Addams Family movie from 1991, but it’s more for the stand-out scenes than the film as a whole. The plot of the original film was pretty incoherent and is wrapped up by one of the strangest series of dei ex machinae in history. Still, the cast was so good that it was still incredibly fun. This film has the same cast, but also comes up with more entertaining things to do with them and a more compelling plot. It doesn’t hurt that the slightly lighter tone here allows for some more varied, but actually ultimately darker, humor.
I really can’t understate how perfect the casting was for this film. I don’t think I will ever envision Morticia Addams as being anyone other than Anjelica Huston. She was born to play the role. I mean, I loved Carolyn Jones in the live-action series, but Huston nails it as hard as Hopkins nailed Hannibal. Raul Julia and John Astin are both very different but equally good portrayals of the ultimate loving husband, although Julia unfortunately was sick during filming and it does make his performance a little less energetic than the first movie. Christina Ricci proved herself to be an incredible Wednesday in the first film, but in this movie she also has to play Wednesday dealing with both puberty and her captivity within a camp that promotes “normalcy.” Honestly, the scenes of the kids rebelling against the counselors are some of my favorite gags. Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal of Fester always surprises me because it’s so very different from any of his other iconic characters, but he disappears into it just as much. In this, he has to be the lonely man who believes he’s found love and is willing to constantly overlook the obvious red flags. Speaking of red flags, Joan Cusack was a great addition to this cast. Her ability to play a sociopath who is able to put up with the oddities of the Addams family and, in fact, able to manipulate them presents an actual, believable obstacle to the perfect family.
It also is impressive that this movie can get away with so many of the jokes it does. The older Addams children repeatedly attempt to murder a baby, only to be thwarted in borderline slapstick ways. If it weren’t for the cartoonish nature of their attempts, we might be put off by the infanticide. Similarly, after Wednesday leads a revolt at the summer camp, it’s implied that at least some of the children have been killed and that the counselors are going to be roasted to death on a spit like Saint Lawrence, but it’s mostly offscreen and played for laughs by every character, so you can ignore it. The darker and more dryly humorous tone of the first movie only allowed for dark references to the horrors, this movie gets to show them off.
Overall, just a great movie and a fantastic sequel. It’s still my favorite incarnation of the Addams family.
John Wick is back and killing people, but this time he’s being hunted by an entire army of professional assassins.
Starting a few minutes after the last movie ended, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now on the run from the “High Table” that apparently controls all of the mobs in the world after shooting Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), one of the members of the High Table who betrayed him in the previous film, while on sacred ground. The High Table has excommunicated him from all mob resources and has put a bounty on his head of $14 million, attracting every assassin in the world. John must figure out a way to get rid of the bounty while fighting off an amount of killers that makes it seem like most of the global population murders for money.
I loved John Wick. It was an amazing action movie that basically stripped down the story as much as possible without sacrificing emotional impact and providing a lot of worldbuilding with minimum exposition. Mostly, the long-take fight sequences provided a much desired counterbalance to the rapid cut and fast moving fights we see in most other action movies, particularly those in the MCU. It’s not that the other style is bad, but it definitely feels more dramatic to be able to just show the action in its completeness, particularly since it shows the real, and extremely impressive, skills of the stunt performers. It also allows for some more aesthetically creative fights without diminishing the brutality of the violence.
This movie continues all of that, but it becomes clear quickly that the filmmakers are realizing that they are running out of ways to keep making gunfights interesting without seeming repetitive, so they very cleverly figure out ways to force the fights to be different. Sometimes it’s by adding other people or animals, sometimes it’s by keeping John from having a gun and forcing them to improvise, sometimes it’s by reducing the effectiveness of John’s weapons, but the key is that every action sequence in the movie still feels original. Is it sometimes a little forced, like they have to go out of their way to avoid showing John having a gun or being able to just wreck all of the bad guys the way he previously has? Yeah, a little, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.
The world in which the film is set is expanded upon a lot, including showing us some more of the inner workings of the nebulous organization that the High Table oversees. The worldbuilding continues to be interesting and the characters that populate it are all compelling, even if they’re just a clever variation on an archetype, like the wise poor man or the shadowy ninja assassin. We also get a little more background on Wick himself, but not enough to remove the air of mystery and badass that surrounds him.
Basically, if you liked the first two movies, you’ll like this one.
WEIRD FAN THEORY (Mild Spoilers)
John is actually Koschei the Deathless from Russian Mythology. Now, give me a minute on this:
John Wick’s motivation is that someone killed his dog and stole his car. At least, that’s the ostensible motive. The reality is that the dog was a gift from his late wife and the car contained one of the last mementos he had left of her. Thus, when John loses them, he is losing a part of her, the great love of his life for whom he moved heaven and Earth… or, more precisely, killed an absolutely enormous amount of people in one night, essentially accomplishing an impossible task in order to be with her. The rage that fuels John is the desire to retain the powerful love he felt for the woman he lost. Essentially, he’s doing terrible things because he no longer has his heart.
One thing that comes up repeatedly in the films is that John’s nickname is “Baba Yaga,” translated from Russian as “the Boogeyman.” However, at one point in the first film, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) points out that John’s not actually the Boogeyman, he’s the one you send to kill the Boogeyman. In other words, he’s the one that you would send to kill Baba Yaga.
In Russian Mythology, Baba Yaga is a witch or a magical being that takes the form of an old woman. As with most figures in Russian Fairy Tales, her role can vary wildly, going from snatching children and eating people who fail her tests to being a kindly, maternal figure who feeds lost children and helps them find their way home. Universally, though, she’s extremely powerful and immortal. In fact, there’s typically only one figure in Russian Mythology that is capable of destroying her: Koschei the Deathless. Sometimes he’s her husband, sometimes her brother, sometimes just her male counterpart, but she often is stated to know that he’s the only one who might be able to kill her. Hence, if John Wick is the guy who could kill Baba Yaga, he’d be Koschei the Deathless.
While Russian Mythology tends to vary a lot, Koschei’s three main qualities are that A) he’s deathless (duh), B) he can kill anyone and is shown to be magically blessed with all weapons, and C) his heart/soul is gone. The reason why he is immortal (deathless) is because his heart is gone, and typically the only way to get rid of him is to find it. His heart is usually depicted as being hidden in some complicated nested form, such as: The heart is in a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg is in a duck, the duck is in a hare, the hare is in a box, the box is in a log, the log is in a pond, the pond is in a forest, the forest is on an island. Essentially, it’s inside of a Matryoshka nesting doll. Without a heart, Koschei cannot die.
What do we know about John Wick? Well, 1) he’s Russian (established in this film and implied in the first one), 2) he’s specifically a Ruska Roma, or a Russian Gypsy, a people who are known more for their performing than for their combat ability, and who are, mostly through racism, associated with myths like Baba Yaga and Koschei, 3) his name is fake, but his birth name is likely also fake, with his revealed “real name” being the equivalent of John Johnson, 4) before he had his wife, he was famous for killing people with a pencil and after he loses her, he similarly proves that he can kill anyone with anything, and 5) he can survive stuff that would kill even most action movie protagonists (particularly in this film). Note that John is only portrayed as being lethal and immortal when he doesn’t have his heart, which is to say his love, but when he is at peace (with his dogs to serve as his heart), he is beaten up by a group of two-bit punks and his house is blown up. If he doesn’t have a gaping hole to fill in his life, he’s not immortal.
What does this mean? Well, first of all, I’m not saying he’s literally Koschei the Deathless, so I’m not predicting that magic or old women in chicken-legged houses are going to be in the next one (sadly), but I’m saying his story is similar. Ultimately, the only way John Wick can end is the same way any story with Koschei always ends: With someone returning his heart to him and killing him. I firmly believe that it’s only when John actually finds something to love again that he’ll be allowed to die.
Of course, I could be pulling this out of nowhere. It’s not like John Wick literally keeps one of his most treasured photos inside of a book of Russian Mythology depicting Koschei the Deathless in the New York Public Library, right? Oh, wait, that’s literally in the opening scene which I sadly can’t find a clip of online to place here. Your move, John Wick: Chapter 4.
It’s tough to make any list about Moms in fiction. No matter who you pick for “Best” or “Worst,” there are still gonna be people whining about the results. So, instead, I’m just gonna make up awards for 10 Fictional Mothers. 7 of these were on the list to begin with, the other 3 were picked at random from a list of around 50 names.
THE “MOM WHOSE GLASS IS HALF-FULL (OR ALWAYS FULL)” AWARD
Linda Belcher (John Roberts on Bob’s Burgers)
Linda doesn’t live the high-life. Her family’s restaurant is generally in the red, her husband is perpetually stressed, and her children consistently make everything worse. Despite that, Linda is almost unfailingly positive, being a source of optimism and cheer for her whole family. Sure, she has a few drinks now and then and then and then and then, but she approaches everything with an enthusiasm that usually is contagious even for her very-resistant family. She’s supportive of her children’s unusual pursuits, and even her sister Gayle’s borderline-insane hobbies. She can be pushed to the limit sometimes, but she always bounces back. Also, she’s a naturally theatrical person, coming up with songs constantly, including the “Thanksgiving Song,” the holiday hit the world really needed.
THE “MOST EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE MOM” AWARD
Jessica Walter as Malory Archer/Lucille Bluth (Archer/Arrested Development)
Jessica Walter is a treasure, but her ability to portray a woman able to absolutely destroy the mental health of her own children is so great that they gave her two different shows to do it in. Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of the Bluth family, not only has raised 4 emotionally crippled children, but she makes sure to manipulate them against each other every chance she can just to maintain her status. The fact that she’s revealed to be the mastermind behind everything in the original run of Arrested Development is one of my favorite comic twists.
Malory Archer, while having only one child (that we know of), managed to raise simultaneously the world’s greatest super-spy and the world’s most incompetent human being. She’s had so many affairs that she legitimately doesn’t seem to know her son’s father, gave birth to him on a bar after assassinating a man, left him for five years, and then spent the rest of his life keeping him underneath her. Also, she killed the Prime Minister of Italy after putting him in a gimp suit, and then called her son to help get rid of the body. No amount of context helps this.
THE “MOTHER WHOSE CHILDREN MOST OVERACHIEVE” AWARD
Ramonda (Angela Bassett in Black Panther)
She definitely served her country as a ruler, but you know she wasn’t slacking on her mothering duties. Queen Ramonda of Wakanda has two children. The first is T’Challa, the current king of Wakanda and holder of the title of Black Panther, a superhuman athlete with a mind for both science and battle tactics that is almost unsurpassed in the world, as well as a noble heart. The second is her daughter Shuri, and while T’Challa’s mind is almost unsurpassed, Shuri is actually stated by at least one source to be the single smartest human in the Marvel Universe. And you know the only thing both of them listen to above all else? Their mother. And since it’s Angela Bassett, no one really questions their deference.
THE “NICEST MOTHER YOU SHOULD NEVER CROSS” AWARD
Molly Weasley (Julie Walters in the Harry Potter series)
Molly Weasley has seven children and is portrayed in the first books of the series as being a wonderful, caring, albeit slightly overbearing, woman who loves all of her children deeply and makes sure that they know it. She also basically adopts Harry, an orphan, into her family and treats him with more affection than he’s ever known. She’s a dear, sweet lady.
NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!
And with one line, Molly Weasley moves from “Sweet Lady” to “Unstoppable Force of Wrath.” When Bellatrix Lestrange, who had previously killed one of Molly’s sons, attacks her only daughter, Molly, despite not being the strongest witch in the world, challenges the single most psychotic (and likely the most powerful) female villain in the books to one-on-one combat. And proceeds to remove her from the face of the Earth. Do. Not. F*ck. With Molly Weasley’s kids.
THE “BEST MOM YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF” AWARD
Bell-mère (One Piece, episodes 34-36)
Bell-mère was a female marine who was wounded in a particularly vicious battle and, as she was dying, saw two girls alone in the wreckage of the battlefield. Realizing that if she died, so would the children, she found the strength to move, bandaged herself up, and took the two kids back to her home village. She adopted and raised the two, and, while she wasn’t a perfect mother, she definitely tried her best and loved them both deeply.
Unfortunately, the town was targeted by a group of quite literally inhuman pirates, who decided to take it over as a base of operations. While Bell-mère was able to actually attack and pin the pirate Captain, Arlong, she was quickly overpowered. The pirates put a decree on the town: Everyone had to pay a tax for themselves and their children, but it was being checked by the town birth register. Her daughters, Nami and Nojiko, not having been born there, weren’t on it. Since they couldn’t afford to pay for Bell-mère and her daughters, the town conspired to make it seem like Bell-mère lived alone and smuggle the two out when they could. Unfortunately, this was confounded immediately… by Bell-mère herself, who used the money for her own life to instead pay for the girls. When asked why she would do this, it’s because she would have had to live without them, and, as she tearfully explained to them, she’d rather die than deny having been their mother. Her last words were “I love you” as she was publicly executed.
This was just a short flashback in the series, but it’s still one of the most intense moments in a show that’s now been running for 20 years. It’s a mom dying not just to save her children, but because she couldn’t live if she couldn’t live with them. That’s why I was happy when this was one of the random ones I pulled.
THE “LONGEST RUNNING MOM” AWARD
Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner on The Simpsons)
What? It’s true. Marge Simpson has been the mother to three pre-teens for so long that people born during her debut now mostly have children of their own.
Despite being married to a legendarily stupid man and having an oldest son who has slowly gone from “problem child” to “sociopathic monster,” Marge somehow manages to keep her family together and out of jail. She’s usually a housewife, but she’s also been a successful baker, entrepreneur, novelist, real estate agent, and police woman. In fact, several episodes have implied that the only reason why the Simpsons aren’t homeless is because Marge’s little side-gigs are so profitable that she ends up paying off their debts. She’s a talented artist, a sexual dynamo (hey, a mom’s got needs), and has the ability to keep hair standing four-feet tall. And, to be fair, while Bart may be a Hellion, Lisa is a polymath and Maggie is portrayed as unnaturally intelligent (though, she has shot 17 people as a baby). As Meatloaf tells us, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
THE “MOM WHOSE PAIN YOU MOST RELISH” AWARD
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey on Game of Thrones)
Cersei Lannister is the worst. Actually, no, she’s not. Cersei Lannister’s eldest son Joffrey Baratheon was the worst. Joffrey was sadistic, malicious, amoral, egotistical… pretty much every bad label you can put on a person, Joffrey earned it, and, above all else, he was completely incompetent. He wasn’t a good fighter, a good leader, a good planner, a good speaker, or even a good son. Despite that, his mother loved him unfailingly, never realizing that she was constantly making him worse by not correcting him. And Cersei herself is so bad that, when Joffrey is finally killed (thank the Seven), it’s almost impossible to feel bad for her, even with Lena Headey’s great performance as a mother losing her beloved son. Same when she loses her daughter, Myrcella, who she basically condemned to death through her own stupidity. But, when Cersei’s bombing of the Great Sept of Baelor leads her last surviving son, Tommen, to kill himself, making her the Queen of the Iron Throne, we’ve truly hit the “Kill her, kill her painfully” point. She’s still alive as of this writing (update: She dead), but if there is any form of justice within Westeros, she will die screaming, alone, and be pulled into the Seven Hells by the spirit of Joffrey, the worst sin she ever committed. Man, that got dark.
THE “MOST BAD-ASS MOTHER ON FILM” AWARD (ADOPTED CATEGORY)
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver in the Alien series)
To those of you pointing out that Ellen Ripley actually does have a biological daughter, I’m aware. In fact, it’s sad that the movie Aliens cut out the scene where Ripley is told that her daughter has died while she was lost in space, because it’s a great performance that genuinely makes her actions later in the film much more emotionally compelling and understandable. But, in the category title, I’m referring, of course to her “adopted” daughter, Newt. Ellen finds the only survivor of the Xenomorph attack on LV-426, a young girl much the same age as her daughter would have been had she made it back on time, and a bond is struck quickly.
After the team she is with is devastated by the aliens, she makes it to safety, but Newt is captured. With no one else left to go back into the nest of the very creatures that just annihilated a crew of Marines armed to the teeth, Ripley instead duck-tapes together a flame thrower and a pulse rifle, goes into a hive of some of the deadliest monsters on film, and brings Newt back, killing dozens of the bastards on the way. And that would be impressive enough, but unfortunately, Newt and Ripley get attacked by the Queen Alien. As Ripley gets away, Newt is cornered by the beast, until Ripley, in what is a strong contender for the single most bad-ass scene in movie history, comes back operating a power loader and calls out a 20-foot tall, super-strong, acid-blooded, nigh-indestructible monster with the line:
GET AWAY FROM HER, YOU BITCH.
The fact that Molly Weasley had to steal her line from this one tells you everything you need to know about exactly how little you ever want to mess with Ellen Ripley.
THE “MOST BAD-ASS MOTHER ON FILM” AWARD (BIOLOGICAL CATEGORY)
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
To be clear, I don’t actually think there should be a demarcation between biological and adopted children, I just couldn’t put one of these women on the list without the other and I wanted some flimsy justification.
Sarah Connor was a normal woman, until a robot in the shape of a giant Austrian bodybuilder decided to show up at the nightclub she was at and try to kill her. She was rescued by a man from the future, who told her that her son would one day save humanity. Sarah managed to destroy the robot and realized that she would have to get ready for a dark future.
When we catch up with her 11 years later (yes, that’s when T2 happens relative to Terminator, check the movies), we find a very, very different Sarah Connor. She spent the entire interval turning herself into a living weapon. She’s in peak physical condition, can make a weapon out of anything, can pick locks, hack ATMs at will, and is both willing and able to wield lethal ordinance. The only thing that really scares her in the movie is the T800, which… well, is completely reasonable. She’s so determined that being stabbed repeatedly doesn’t weaken her resolve. And she did all of this in the name of keeping her son (and the human race) alive.
THE “BEST FICTIONAL MOM” AWARD
Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston in The Addams Family films)
Look into your heart, you know it to be true. Morticia Addams may be weird as all get-out, but she’s the best overall mother on this list. She’s supportive of her children but can also be a disciplinarian when she needs to be. For example, when she sees Wednesday about to attack her brother with a cleaver, Morticia stops her, takes the cleaver, and then gives her a scythe, which is going to be much more appropriate for the environment that he’s located in. She’s going to want the reach, after all. Morticia puts family first, and always wants harmony among them, but unlike most families, hers actually is pretty much perfectly harmonious. She keeps a lavish garden, including a one-of-a-kind African Creeper named Cleopatra, helps out with school functions and charities, and has a close relationship with both of her children (and later her third). “But she lets her kids attack each other all the time,” I hear you saying, “at one point she even watches her daughter electrocute her son while playing the game ‘Is there a God.” Yeah, she gives her kids their independence, what’s wrong with that? The only reason why this bothers you is because your wimpy kids would die from a large bowl of arsenic or a shotgun to the chest, but she’s clearly a better mother than you. She makes sure her kids are prepared for the real world by ensuring that they’re prepared to deal with hardships like “decapitation.” Plus, she can still instantly arouse her husband with a word in French, even after 3 kids. Can you name another mother that can do all that?
This article is dedicated to my own mother, who deserves better than she gets, gives more than she needs to, and loves her children and grandchildren more than anyone I know.