How had I not heard of this movie?! I haven’t had this much fun from a Christmas film in quite some time. The idea of an older man (voiced by Jean Shepherd, the author of the source material In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash) narrating from the perspective of a 9 year old boy was an inspired decision by director Bob Clark. If your only experience with such things before is Look Who’s Talking (or worse, its sequels) do not judge this by that! It works extremely well here and gives our 9 year old protagonist both an air of sophistication and a worldly wise sense of reason and humour. It is a joy to see things from his point of view. The basic driving plot concerns our young narrator wanting a BB gun for Christmas, but much of the film is actually made of anecdotal snippets of his life – along with his friends and family – around Christmas time. The plot may seem rather disjointed, but it is via these vignettes that much of the random humour is created – the Chinese Christmas turkey scene had me in stitches. This is laugh out loud funny and all actors pull their weight and play their parts to perfection. I cannot wait to see it with my children when they are a little older and can well see this becoming an annual Christmas movie rite. I hope so at least.
This is where it all began. I guess you shouldn’t hold it against the kiddie actors, but none of them are overly impressive here – they do seem to get better as the series develops. But what irritates most about this early film are the special effects, some of which are terrible, particularly the backdrops of Hogwarts and of the background during the Quiddich match. Correction, what irritates most about this film is that American audience’s cannot cope with it’s true title, ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ – is it really such a hard concept to comprehend?! Robbie Coltrane does a great job of here – but amazingly is not the fattest man on set, that award goes to Richard Griffiths – boy oh boy he is BIG. Anyway, this is a relatively enjoyable romp and a decent enough introduction to the world of Potter – even if it is probably the weakest of the films.
Another great Hitchcock film. But then, aren’t they all? This is perhaps a little more predictable than some of his other thrillers (I picked the ending half way through), but there is much to appreciate here… The setting in the south of France just makes me want to go and holiday there right now, his sweeping panoramic shots over the crystal clear waters with the rustic countryside roofs below are mouth-watering. No wonder it won an Oscar for cinematography (it’s a surprise that Edith Head didn’t win the Oscar for best costume (colour), with the amount of stunning dresses on show here – and that doesn’t normally interest me at all). Also wonderful is the timeless chemistry between the always great Cary Grant and the mesmerising Grace Kelly – they must rank here as one of the best on-screen couples with their flirtatious banter (some of which was improvised). One protest: why is all the French dialogue not subtitled? I want to know what is going on in these scenes and feel I am missing out. Interesting that Grant slaps a woman here too (as well as in Notorious ) and manages to do so with an air of deserving style. In fear of sounding exceedingly misogynistic I don’t want to dwell on it, but I did secretly cheer when he delivered the blow as it was well warranted and came as a surprise. I smiled too when he wanted to slap the French elderly flower vendor when being chased by the police in the market, but he gallantly thought twice and resigned himself to being arrested instead. Some good subtle humour from Hitchcock in amongst the flirting and chasing.
Oh George Lucas. A name once synonymous with cinematic brilliance, creativity and originality. Now a name synonymous with crap prequels, characters so annoying you want to smash their CGI faces in, truly awful dialogue, and a smug bearded face. I mean, let’s start with the dialogue. It is AWFUL. Here is a tasty example:
Anakin: You are so… beautiful.
Padme: It’s only because I am so in love.
Anakin: No, it’s because I’m so in love with you.
Oh please! Give your audience some credibility. I’ve read four year old’s work that is more creative than that. Trust Lucas to write so badly that he can even give love a bad name. But enough of that. How about the special effects? Why does he feel it necessary to cram so much into one shot that you don’t know where to look or what to take in? There isn’t time to appreciate it. It’s the Las Vegas strip approach to beauty: More, more and more is best (for a headache, yes). And who is responsible for the number of moons in every landscape/sunset shot? Who was it that said at every opportunity during pre-production, “You know what this shot needs? Another moon!” “But it’s got 4 already…” “Doesn’t matter! Let’s put another one there. Ooooh, we can place it over the top corner of the larger one behind it, and give it a different colour! Oh yes!” “Err, sorry, are you 4 years old too?”
So much grates about this film I just don’t have time for it all: Why does General Grievous, a robot, wheeze and cough all the time? He is a ROBOT. They do not have lungs or asthma or old age as they are made of METAL; Vader’s first few steps looked like a cross between the village granddad doing a pantomime and Frankenstein with a pins and needles in his legs; And what is with pinball Yoda? This is a 700 year old green muppet with a walking stick – how plausible is it that he pings around like a grasshopper during mating season with eucalyptus oil on his Johnson? And don’t just say ‘The Force’ because that is not an answer. It’s an excuse. I could go on, but I won’t, as it just makes me angry. Credit where it’s due: Ewan McGregor has a cool beard.
If you wanted a 20 something year old to play a teenager in the 80s you turned to Michael J Fox (or maybe Ralph Macchio). Fresh with his hit as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, he continues the teen theme here, playing Scott Howard, aka Teen Wolf, in this typical 80s high school comedy. The title pretty much gives away the plot of the film: teenager realises he has werewolf capabilities. That’s it. Oh, and he plays basketball. It is all rather predictable, but it is entertaining nevertheless. Standing out is Jay Tarses as Coach Finstock, who has the best lines and delivers them with dead pan restraint, “There are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese.” Can’t go wrong with that.
Ahh Steve Martin. Do you remember the days when you were funny? You had Roxanne; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Parenthood all within a couple of years of one another. All hilarious, all immensely rewatchable, all 80s classics. Compare that run of hits to the lamentable brace of Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen (who on earth sanctioned a sequel for either one of those never deserves to work again) and you can see my point. A modern day version of Rostand’s famous Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne will always be infamous for the hilarious ‘20 insults funnier than “Big Nose”’ sequence, delivered with panache by a top of his game comedian.
Another lonely voice on the internet.