Tag Archives: Steve Martin

Monday Movie Mentions #13…

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

planes-trains-automobiles-web_7101With legendary guru John Hughes in the director’s chair, and funnymen Steve Martin and John Candy in front of the cameras, Planes, Trains and Automobiles had all the potential in the world to be great… and thankfully, great is just what it is. It’s arguably the best thing that any of these guys put out in the eighties, if not their careers.

We follow laid back Del (Candy) and highly strung Neal (Martin) as they meet, maintain a love/hate relationship, and try to make their respective ways home across the United States for Thanksgiving, and it’s full of great scenes and fantastic exchanges between the two leads. It’s been several years since I’ve sat down in front of the movie, but I’ve seen it enough times that I can rattle off entire swathes of dialogue without missing a beat.

Del: You play with your balls a lot.
Neal: I do not play with my balls.
Del: Larry Bird doesn’t do as much ball-handling in one night as you do in an hour!
Neal: Are you trying to start a fight?
Del: No. I’m simply stating a fact. That’s all. You fidget with your nuts a lot.
Neal: You know what’d make me happy?
Del: Another couple of balls, and an extra set of fingers?

As great as it is – and it is one of my favourite comedy films – I’m glad it never spawned a sequel. I’m sure the temptation must have been there, because it would have been very simple to shoehorn another road trip out of these characters without making it look like a cash-in, so I applaud the restraint.

Similarly, I certainly don’t want to see it remade, as seems to be the Hollywood model in recent years. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the perfect storm of acting talent, story, and humour, and it’s very difficult to think of a couple of actors who would even come close to matching the performances of Martin and Candy.

On a side note, I have heard rumours of a four hour director’s cut of the movie that was (obviously) too long for release… but that is something I would like to see one day.

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Monday Movie Mentions #10…

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Little_Shop_Of_Horrors_PicThere aren’t many musicals that I enjoy, as it’s not a genre that usually speaks to me, but this is one of the few that I can always make time for. Unsurprisingly, musicals live or die on the quality of their songs, and one bland number can ruin the whole experience and take you right out of it, but Little Shop of Horrors is filled with great tunes, and there isn’t a damp squib in the whole movie. If I know every word to every song in your musical, you must be doing something right.

Every one of the performers – from wide-eyed leading man Rick Moranis in his romantic pursuit of Ellen Greene; right down to her boyfriend, the abusive and sadistic dentist played by Steve Martin, and the great cameo by Bill Murray as the dental patient who loves getting the drill – plays up to the complete inanity of the plot by playing their parts straight down the middle at all times.

Little Shop of Horrors never takes itself seriously, and let’s be honest, it would be difficult for it to do so: after all, it’s about a talking, man-eating plant, with a penchant for singing sixties soul… speaking of which, here’s one of the best songs from the movie, which not only showcases the great music, but also the fantastic puppeteering skills on display throughout, which in my opinion, looks far more realistic than any CGI that could have been used in its place.

Monday Movie Mentions #6…

Way Out West (1937)

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The classic title card.

I have been a great fan of Laurel & Hardy for many years, and this feature is widely regarded as their finest effort. I have a few other suggestions for that spot, but it’s certainly a solid choice.

A long time ago I introduced one of my ex-girlfriends to Way Out West (and the comedy duo in general) and she memorably shrugged indifferently and said to me, “I’ve seen Steve Martin do that”, as if somehow Laurel & Hardy had travelled forward in time, watched a bunch of Martin’s movies and then gone back to film their interpretation in black and white. To this day I still don’t know if she was pulling my leg!

Eighty years after Way Out West, and there is still no double act that has the same chemistry or comic timing as the original masters of the art, and that perhaps says as much about Laurel & Hardy as performers as it does about the progress of cinema since they stopped making movies.

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“Eat the hat.”

From the running gag of Stan using his thumb as a lighter, to the scene where he eats Ollie’s hat after losing a wager, to Ollie’s continual breaking of the fourth wall by looking into the camera in frustration at his partner, Way Out West is a classic of the genre that deserves its place in history.

I know it’s difficult for the current generation to go back and check out these old movies, but I rewatched this one last week, and if you approach it with an open mind, I think you’ll find that it holds up surprisingly well.

But do yourself a favour and watch it in the original black and white form – those colourised versions are (for the most part) cheap and tacky.