For years now I haven’t been able to get behind what’s become of the action film genre, not impressed by the over-the-top fast pacing, seemingly dumbed-down a little more each year. I was really hoping Violent Night could’ve been the film that got me back into them, but alas, I found very little to like here.
It starts out promising enough; we’re instantly introduced to David Harbour of Stranger Things fame as a jaded, drunken Santa. Seems like a decent enough concept. But things quickly take a turn for the worse when the film becomes a blatant ripoff of Die Hard, finding him the lone wolf inside of a terrorist takeover (lead by John Legumizo) at one of the mansions his deliveries brought him to. What unfolds is some of the most (literal) painful screen time I’ve witnessed in a long time.
I know most people my age group and below are likely to disagree with me, but I found no redeeming qualities with this film whatsoever. The action scenes are unbearable, the jokes beyond lowbrow, and the characters some of the most unlikable in screen history (I especially despised seeing Beverly D’Angelo playing a heartless heiress). It then somehow manages to even parody Home Alone (which in hindsight maybe the film would have benefited from had it taken a more lighthearted tone throughout).
I went in really hoping to like Violent Night, but unfortunately that was far from the case. This movie was not “fun” in anyway to me at all, just utter garbage that I’d much rather permanently remove from my memory bank. In fact, the only thing keeping me from giving this a zero star rating is the inclusion of the Slade track “Merry Christmas Everybody” during the ending credits. Other than that, I’ll be fine if I never see this film again as long as I live.
When the original Home Alone was released in 1990, it caught lightning in a bottle, and to this day the film remains a holiday classic (if you get a chance, take a look at the 30th anniversary piece I did for Rewind It Magazine just last year). Since then, numerous sequels have tried with varying results to recapture that magic of the first film, largely missing the mark in most cases. Home SweetHome Alone, the latest retread of this all too familiar storyline, is definitely no exception to it.
Despite a promising cast lead by the young Archie Yates of Jojo Rabbit, this sixth entry never really finds its footing. The thin plot is based around two parents (played by Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney) on the brink of financial ruin who, after listing their house for sale, discover they possess a rare doll worth a small fortune. When the doll comes up missing, they believe the child (Yates) of one of the parties that recently viewed their home, stole said doll from their house. This of course leads them to the kid’s place, who by now has been left home alone and must defend himself from the intruders.
What ensues feels so forced and devoid of any real humor, it’s almost too painful to watch. Even small throwbacks to the original film, such as the brief return of Devin Ratray as Buzz McCallister, do little to liven things up here. Somehow even the last film, 2012’s Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (which was made for TV), had more heart than this one (the one thing I will give it though, it’s still better than Home Alone 3, forever the lowest point of the franchise).They say you can’t go home again, and this latest installment to an all-too tired series, pretty much proves it.
Chances are if you grew up in the ’90s, you’ll remember Michael C. Maronna as “Big Pete” on Nickelodeon’s oddball hit, The Adventures of Pete & Pete. He also played Kevin McCallister’s (Macaulay Culkin) older brother Jeff in the first two Home Alone films. After appearing in a few more films (including 2002’s Slackers – which we’ll get back to shortly), Maronna moved to a more behind-the-scenes role as electrician, where he has worked on such films as Be Kind Rewind (2008), and Men in Black 3 (2012), as well as a host of TV shows. He also currently hosts a podcast, TheAdventures of Danny and Mike, with former Pete & Pete co-star Danny Tamberelli (which can be found at dannyandmike.com, as well as on various podcast apps).
Recently, Maronna allowed me to graciously pick his brain (just a bit). One of the first things I wanted to ask him was if he actually knew at the time what a unique pop culture phenomenon he was involved with during Pete & Pete’s original run. He tells me; “I’m not sure I realized I was involved with such a thing at the time, I was just busy soaking up new music, books, films, photography, etc. I didn’t have cable TV growing up – we only got it after Pete & Pete went into series production. So we used to go down the block on Sunday nights to my sister’s friend’s house to watch the first 60-second episodes air in between a couple of other Nickelodeon shows.”
I of course wanted to know what it was like filming the original Home Alone, too. He explains; “I remember Chicago and the vast amounts of snow in the winter, eating lots of deep-dish pizza, mostly hanging out with Angela Goethals (who played Linnie), and playing video games a bunch. I took a library book out of the Chicago Public Library about the American Civil War and I still have it somewhere!”
As far as how he views the film today, Maronna says; “I haven’t watched Home Alone in a very long time. My son is 4 years old, so he’s just a little too young for it still. Probably the next time I watch it will be with him, though. It was a confluence of good factors (script, direction, actors, style) that added up to a good (if violent) family Christmas film.”
I was also curious how he felt about it’s 1992 sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, as well as it’s subsequent sequels, to which he says; “Lost in New York is a different movie, about the city being a character in the film. It’s more of an homage to ’80s NYC movies like After Hours or Big, with the Home Alone structure overlaid onto that. I haven’t seen any of the other sequels.”
If you’ve ever seen the film Slackers, you know Maronna has one, er… ‘standout’ scene to say the least (I won’t go any further into detail, just watch the film if you haven’t already!) that I had to ask him about. He informs me; “Dewey Nicks directed Slackers, and the sock scene was his idea. Basically I think he was trying to come up with something outrageous, and I said ‘yes’ to it. A guy approached me at the wrap party saying, “A lot of people have mistaken me for you,” and identified himself as the penis puppeteer, a.k.a. the ‘stunt’ performer!”
And of course I had to ask just how he made the transition to electrician. He explains; “I was always interested in the technical aspects of film production and spent my whole life on sets, whether film, TV show, or commercials. I have worked in the theater as well and have family in the stage business but it didn’t hold the same allure for me. On Pete & Pete, production was on location and shot on 16mm film, as opposed to a television show shot on videotape in a studio. This afforded me a lot of opportunities to get to know the process and the equipment and to ask the crew a lot of questions. After the first season of half-hour episodes, the grips gave me a tool belt with some tools as a wrap gift. It was very sweet. A couple of seasons later, I just kept asking questions of the gaffer and eventually he offered me a job after the show ended. My first proper electric job was on a film called Six Ways To Sunday. I auditioned for the lead role and ended up driving the electric truck for it. A lot of crew from Pete & Pete worked on the job so it was a nice transition. The pandemic shutdown put a lot of shows on hold for a few months but I’ve been back to work for a while. Currently I’m working on Dickinson season 3, starring Toby Huss (Artie the Strongest Man in the World of Pete & Pete fame and many other great roles).”
You can follow Maronna on various social media platforms, and don’t forget to check out his podcast with former Pete & Pete co-star Danny Tamberelli!
I can remember it like it was yesterday; I was a typical 9-year-old kid growing up in New Jersey (and if memory serves me correct, there was even snow on the ground at the time) when my big sister took me one cold winter night to see this new film everyone was raving about, Home Alone. As soon as the opening credits rolled, I could tell (even then at my young age) I was watching something uniquely special. And being around the same age as Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin), it felt as though my own childhood fantasies were coming to life and jumping onto the big screen right before me. It was no doubt an event unlike any other, and by the next Monday morning at school, every kid was talking about and quoting Kevin’s lines.
Writer/Producer John Hughes, the mastermind behind such ’80s classics as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, and Uncle Buck, came up with the idea for Home Alone almost by accident, when, while packing for a family vacation, imagined what it might be like if he were to suddenly leave his ten year old son behind. In doing so, he manged to capture exactly what every red-blooded American kid has dreamed of since the dawn of time.
Rather than direct the film himself, Hughes gave the duties to Chris Columbus, who already had a couple of film credits under his belt, and was even originally slated to direct another Hughes-holiday production the previous year, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (before tensions with that film’s lead, Chevy Chase, lead to him dropping out of the project). But Columbus proved to be the right fit for Hughes’ new project, bringing his own sleek, youthful spin to the finished product.
The adult cast quickly included a number of veteran stars; the roles of bumbling crooks Harry and Marv were respectively given to Joe Pesci, who was hot off the tails of the hit blockbusters, Goodfellas and Lethal Weapon 2, and a young Daniel Stern, who was already gaining momentum with roles such as Little Monsters. Meanwhile the duties of Kevin’s parents were given to Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice) and John Heard (C.H.U.D.). John Hughes alumni, the late John Candy (Uncle Buck) also appeared in a bit part. But when it came to casting the film’s young star, Kevin, Hughes eventually turned to another UncleBuck star, the young Macaulay Culkin, after a long audition process.
The story itself of course centered around Kevin being left completely alone at his house just before Christmas, as a series of hectic events leads his family to forget about him while rushing to catch a plane to Paris on time. Kevin is instantly left to his own devices; at first it’s an all-out party, but soon enough Kevin realizes he has to actually take care of himself and learn such mundane choirs (often with humorous results) as grocery shopping and doing laundry, while also dealing with unknown fears that include a creepy basement, and a strange old neighbor.
But it’s when Kevin discovers his house has been targeted by the Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv, that he’s truly forced to step up and defend his home. Using household items that includes everything from paint cans to mirco machines, Kevin constructs an elaborate series of booby traps throughout the house, fighting off Harry and Marv in almost cartoon-like, slapstick fashion. In a recent interview, actor Michael C. Maronna, who portrayed Kevin’s older brother, Jeff (best remembered for uttering the infamous line, “Kevin, you’re such a disease!”) told Rewind It Magazine; “It was a confluence of good factors (script, direction, actors, style) that added up to a good (if violent) family Christmas film.”
The film was an instant success, earning over $476 million worldwide, and becoming the highest-grossing live action comedy film of all time (a title it would hold for over two decades). It also spawned four sequels (with only the first two of them being released theatrically) and countless parodies (Macaulay Culkin somewhat reprised his role as Kevin in a 2018 ad for Google Assistant, and appeared on a Home Alone-themed episode of the webseries The Angry Video Game Nerd around the same time). Today, it is regarded as a classic, and is still played nearly around the clock on various cable stations til this day. As a husband and father now myself, I usually catch the film with my family at least once every Christmas season.
Regarding the film’s legacy, recent Rewind It Magazine interviewee Diana Rein, who appeared in the film as Kevin’s older cousin Sondra, reflected to us; “There’s so many people who watch it multiple times every year, it’s like their holiday tradition! I’m SO grateful it’s still around like it is!” You can check out our full interview with Rein from our Dec. 19 article; and be sure to look out for the rest of our full interview with Maronna, posting later this week!
Diana Rein is truly one of those rare, multi-talented threats worth taking note of; not only is she an accomplished singer, songwriter, and guitarist, she’s also a former child actress who you might just remember as Kevin McCallister’s older cousin, Sondra, in 1990’s Home Alone, and it’s 1992 follow up, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
But more on that later. Rein’s main focus these days is without a doubt her music (her last professional acting credit was actually in 2011), and when I spoke to her via phone this past week, it was apparent that’s where her passion truly lies.
Of course being a musician in 2020 is no easy feat, so one of the first things I wanted to know was how she’s handled being a musician throughout the pandemic. Rein tells me; “I think I was actually in Virginia when I decided to cancel the rest of my first tour when things started getting really bad earlier this year. Before I went on the tour, my life was at home with my 8-year-old, doing music, social media, and recording from home. So I’m kind of back to doing that again, and that’s okay for me. I can still feel like I can create a reach where not being on tour isn’t like a total detriment though, so that’s nice.”
Rein’s third solo album, Queen of my Castle, has been out since last year. I inquired how she felt it held up compared to her previous work, to which she replied; “It was my first album with the label Gulf Coast Records, who were just starting out, so that kind of gave it a nice little push. A lot of people seem to still love it, but I’m also in a different mind space now because of all that’s happened since then, and I’m writing new music right now, too. It was going so well on my first tour, getting such a good response, so it’s just such an absolute shame that I got cut short of that experience.”
However, Rein does inform me she has been working on new material since then; “I came back and was learning more of the technical stuff of creating music from home for a couple of months. Then I took out my acoustic guitar and starting writing for about two weeks before I took about another week and wrote lyrics to all them (around twenty total). Then I went into the process of recording, mixing, and mastering all of them from beginning to end. So we’ll see what happens with them, maybe they’ll be released as singles, or another album next year.”
I was also curious what some of Rein’s favorite go-to songs were while playing live, and her response was; “Well, there’s two that really come to mind; “Heat” from Queen of my Castle has got a really amazing riff that I love playing, and when the solo comes around its super fun. And my song “Midnight Line” has a really awesome beat, and whenever I see that coming up on my set list I get so excited! A couple of songs that aren’t my own though both happen to be Hendrix songs; “Little Wing,” which I completely get lost in more than any other song. And then “All Along the Watchtower” I usually end my shows with. Something about Hendrix, just the way he wrote, out of all of them, those two just take me to a different place. And he was probably writing from a different realm, too (laughs)!”
As far as when you might be able to catch her live for yourself, Rein explains; “There were actually some shows from this year that got phased into 2021. I think there’s some dates right now for California, Arizona, and Colorado, so there should definitely be a few if things start looking up. I don’t think it’s going to be that busy of a year for me live, but you never know! But I do think I’m going to try to stay more regional next year since things are still not yet certain.”
Of course, I had to ask Diana about her involvement in one of the biggest holiday films of all time, the previously mentioned Home Alone (and it’s first sequel). She tells me; “I cannot believe it’s been thirty years, but it just feels like it’s stood the test of time! I’m on TikTok now, and just did a recent video on there that talked about it being thirty, and showed my scene in the beginning of the first film where I say my lines to Joe Peschi (which are, “Hi,” “Yeah,” and “No!”). The response I’ve been getting has been overwhelming! There’s so many people who watch it multiple times, every year! It’s like their holiday tradition, and that makes me feel SO good that it’s still around like it is! And I didn’t know when I was eleven that it was going to be this, kind of cult-following type of film someday! John Hughes was such an amazing writer and producer (Hughes gave directorial duties at the time to newcomer, Chris Columbus), and I’m just SO grateful to have had a small part in his history.”
And with Christmas being just next week, I wondered what some of Rein’s own traditions might be. She tells me; “Well, I was never one for traditions, but I’m starting a new one this year. My dog Roxy just passed away on November 30, and I’m getting little personalized oranaments made for him, our other dog and cat, and ones for my husband and son. So I’m just going to do new ones that we can add to our tree every year from now on.”
You can keep up with all of Rein’s endeavors at dianarein.com, as well as follow her on all the major social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming, thirty-year anniversary piece on Home Alone; expect it to drop early this week!