MOVIE REVIEW #39 / 250 : STAR WARS : RETURN OF THE JEDI

Well, strike me silly.  You wait two weeks for one review, and two come at once.  What a treat, eh?

Alright, alright.  It’s hardly been long since I last trod into the world of intergalactic Jim Henson puppets, but having been left on such a low note from my last review, I felt I needed to get myself a guaranteed kick from somewhere familiar.  I’d rated New Hope as 8, and Empire as 9.  Things can only get better, right?

So, basically, things pick up in Jedi where Empire left off, as you’d hope, really.  The main gang set off to get Han Solo out of carbonite and out of intergalactic crook Jabba the Hutt’s swinging underground lair, and this naturally leads to scenes of chaos, fighting, more chaos, more fighting and talk of the force.  Only this time, it’s final.  The stakes are higher as the dreaded (and more to the point, informed) evil empire begin building their second Death Star, and up the ante on both annihilating the rebellion, and naturally Vader still has unfinished business in wrangling his son Luke to the Dark Side.  This time around, there’s ewoks, too.  Annoying doesn’t cover it.  But, never mind.

It’s kinda sad to draw this saga to a close (before you say it, no.  Check the list.  NO.  Forgot to include them here, but, no.  NO.), but Jedi pulls everything to a suitably dramatic and, of course, explosive close.  There’s even more reliance here upon lengthy action sequences (can’t say too much of this stuff is my kind of thing, but hey, think about what we’re dealing with) than there is in the two preceding films, and it’s definitely more interesting to look at.  What Empire was missing was the weird legion of beasties that clogged up the Mos Eisley cantina in New Hope – fans of rubbery weirdos will be well at home in Jabba’s palace, and the new monsters that are introduced here are fantastic.  Not much gets added to the story nor the saga as a whole other than a climax, though – Jedi is the archetypal closing chapter, so it’s probably a bit late to be wading in with much more on the story front.

What sets this finale apart from any other, though, is that it’s not rushed.  Oh, no.  Not by halves.  The story may be thin, but every last drop is milked – everything that can blow up, does.  It’s not the shaggy dog story of Empire, and nor is it the complete story of New Hope – it’s an all-singing, all-dancing bookend, basically.  I still definitely appreciate Empire more for its contribution to the story and for its character development – Jedi takes this development and, admittedly, doesn’t do much with it – but ensures that there’s still a few tricks up the old plot sleeve.  There’s a few unexpected character twists along the way that bring everything to a really satisfying conclusion.

Ewoks are annoying.

So, yeah.  I really don’t have much left to say about Star Wars.  It’s been a long time coming for me to finally sit down and appreciate all three of the original films (even though the version of Jedi I’ve just watched had HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN show up as a hologram for ten seconds), but I’m really glad I have.  Like I’d said initially when I first sat down to watch New Hope all those weeks ago, I don’t think I’ll become one of those people that dresses up as Boba Fett and shells out £600 to go geek it up with hundreds of people that have analysed how many trees appear in the woodland chase sequence in Jedi… not yet, anyway.

PRO : Visually amazing, brilliant visual pace and variety, great acting, awesome score.

CON : Action sequences milked to high heaven.  Little plot on top of Empire.  Ewoks.

7/10.  I like to think the first two were better, but it’s a great finish.  The end of an era.  I’ve watched the original trilogy, and the end of what has probably been the dullest set of reviews on the whole of the blog.  Right then.  Now what?…

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Movie Review #20 / 250 : ‘PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES’

Spoilers, as per usual…

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is about as straightforward a buddy comedy as you can get. Steve Martin plays an uptight, cynical businessman who is trying to get home to his family in Chicago for Thanksgiving. However, his trip home from work in New York is disastrous, all snowballing on from him missing a taxi at the start of the film. He bumps into a bumbling, talkative and overbearingly optimistic man played by John Candy, who is all too happy for company, several times en route, and ends up attached at the hip to him along his various transgressions despite, in vain, trying to lose him. Oh, and everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, and more often than not, hilariously.

It’s a marvellously simple concept, with two very basic character tropes (pessimist and optimist), ably played out by Martin and Candy. One or two don’t hit, but that’s barely the point, as the chemistry between these two men is electric. Not sexually electric, though. Settle your horses. As the audience we’re tied to Martin’s story as he finds himself later and later for his family holiday as things go from bad to worse to unbelievable, but it’s incredibly hard not to find yourself drawn to Candy’s undying sunniness, despite the fact that the protagonist, for the most part, hates him. Martin’s laughs come from his bubbling frustration, his bitter repartee and, in a sick sort of way, his constant failure. Candy is constantly funny in the way he deals with pretty much everything – with a smile on his face and without any shadowy intentions. Scenes where Candy is torn into by Martin’s unflinching character analysis (only to be rebuffed by Candy essentially telling him ‘what you see is what you get’) and where a car rental assistant gets hit by his profanity-riddled request for service (someone on the internet counted 18 f**ks, not me, honest) are the most memorable.

And that’s mainly what this film is. Memorable. This is a shaggy dog story with a series of events so far-fetched and disgustingly vivid, and with characters so gargantuan (no pun intended with Candy) that you’d have a hard time retelling it yourself. And I genuinely enjoyed it. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much at a movie. I don’t normally do comedy movies, truth be told, but the construction, the timing and the charm of Planes’ script is impossible to lament. The ridiculousness of the scenarios that start piling up may grate for some, and in fairness, the constant shifts in direction would annoy anyone looking for an easy ride (again, no puns). But that’s the point. It’s not an easy ride. This is what makes the moments of happiness and relief so rewarding, and the climax so satisfying. There’s one final twist in the last ten minutes of the film that I’m absolutely not spoiling, but it changes how you view the film from the minute you see Candy’s character getting into the cab. And it’s bloody heartbreaking. This is coming from someone who would shoot schmaltz in the face if it had one (and if I weren’t such a pacifist). It seals the film. Absolutely. And by god, it will make you miss John Candy (RIP) more than you’d ever imagine.

10/10. No films are perfect. But some films have very, very few faults. When I think of what could be construed as a blip in Planes, it looks right back at me as an intentional part of the story. The awkwardness, the increasingly insane series of events – it’s all necessary. The chemistry is spot on. The casting is inspired. The ending is amazing. Even the dated soundtrack is addictive. If you really, really don’t like Martin or Candy, you may not fare so well. But as I’ve said previously – I will know when to award a ten. This. Is. A ten. And you may read that last bit like Gerard Butler in 300. I did.