Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) Film Review

Neal (Steve Martin) is trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, but nothing is going his way… work runs over, there isn’t a taxi to the airport, he misses flights and is stuck in terrible weather. And then there’s Del (John  Candy), a fellow traveller whose relentlessly cheerful demeanour drives Neal wild. Yet, it seems, they need each other to get through.

For me, this film totally holds up. It’s ridiculous and stupid and totally unbelievable often, but it’s wonderful and epitomises eighties comedies. Just… great.

L.A. Story (1991) Film Review


Steve Martin plays a wacky weatherman, Harris K. Telemacher, in LA, who is unhappy with his life until he meets Sarah McDowel (Victoria Tennant), a British reporter. However she is going through the motions of recociling with ex-husband Roland Mackey (Richard E. Grant), while Telemacher is dealing with his girlfriend Trudi (Marilu Henner) and cute shopgirl SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker). All of this with the backdrop of crazy, happy, vacuous LA – and the assistance of a electronic sign with personaility.

I seem to recall quite liking this film. There are certainly some quirky things that I kind of like – especially the sign. But overall, it’s a real mess – the gags tend to get in the way of the story, it’s just messy and silly. And fun! But messy.


Mixed Nuts(1994) Film Review


Philip (Steve Martin) runs a lifeline out of a decrepit building which is due to be replaced by condos any time, but he doesn’t have the heart to tell his staff Mrs. Munchnik (Madeline Kahn) or Catherine (Rita Wilson). Meanwhile, Catherine has befriended Gracie (Juliette Lewis), a local pregnant girl whose partner Felix (Anthony LaPaglia) is an ex-con who has no job and keeps getting hurt and treated by local vet Dr. Kinsky (Rob Reiner). Then there is Louie (Adam Sandler playing his somewhat mentally lacking character by doing a stupid voice) and Chris (Liev Schreiber) a transvestite who needs to get away from his appalling family.

Perhaps in the nineties it was more okay to make fun of mental illness. I don’t recall. What I know is that this film is somewhat of a strange mix of good and bad representations – Philip and several other characters balk when they see a man in a dress, but it doesn’t take them too long to accept him – so bad then good… There are some things that kind of work in this film, but overall it is just a massive mess that, if it worked in 1994, it doesn’t hold up now.


Roxanne (1987) Film Review


Ah, the heyday of Steve Martin. Three Amigos, The Man with Two Brains, The Jerk. And Roxanne. Fabulous.

It’s based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne is a romantic comedy about CD (Steve Martin), the local fire chief who has a ridiculous large nose. He’s smart and seems pretty happy (unless anyone mentions his nose) – until he meets Roxanne (Darryl Hannah), a stunning star-gazer who is looking for a smart man, but she falls in lust with a handsome newcomer, Chris (Rick Rossovich). Chris likes her, but is nervy and gets tongue-tied whenever she is around. So, Chris makes a deal to woo Roxanne with CD’s words.

It’s such an insulting story – but it is a classic. Man can’t deal with woman’s beauty, man assumes women is too shallow to be attracted with a physical flaw, and so much deal with having a vicarious relationship through a third, more physically attractive person. Really it is all about communication. But, as I say, it is a classic. I think my favourite film version of this is The Truth About Cats and Dogs, but Roxanne is a close second. Oh, and there is some marvellous slapstick around the hopeless fire department. It’s extremely insulting to anyone who works in a fire department, given that they are people who do some of the most dangerous, most physically challenging work and they need a lot of brains as well as brawn.


Three Amigos! (1986) Film Review

Three Amigos

It’s the height of the silent film era, and one of the big acts is The Three Amigos – a trio of heroes who play Mexican heroes who ride into small towns to save them from evil warlords. However when the three actors, Lucky Day (Steve Martin), Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase) and Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) get too big for their boots and end up out of work, they need to find a new way in life. A telegram comes from Mexico offering a huge reward if they turn up for a show – however they do not realise it was from Carmen (Patrice Martinez) a girl from a small town threatened by the evil El Guapo (Alfonso Arau), and she does not understand that movies are not real. When they arrive and find all is not showbiz, they show their cowardly side. But, they cannot in all conscience leave Carmen to El Guapo and his evil ways.

This is most definitely a classic comedy. Well structured with lots of ridiculous jokes, tonnes of slapstick and is the best work of all three leads. I love this film and I will always love this film.


It’s Complicated (2009) Film Review

It's Complicated


Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) are happily divorced. Their children are grown up and have left home, Jane runs a successful bakery (very overly successful judging by in insane excess of her life) and Jake is now living with the woman he left Jane for. At their son’s graduation, they end up having a few drinks and fall into bed together. Suddenly, Jane is having an affair with her ex-husband – and all the while being pursued by the architect who is redesigning her perfect house.

I had a lot of trouble getting past Steve Martin’s lack of facial expressions and the utter ridiculous decadence of the way they all live (such as the insane renovations that this woman is having put in for a house where she lives alone). But once you get past that, it’s a fun film with a lot of laughs.


Parenthood (1989) Film Review


There are the original parents of the family; Frank Buckman (Jason Robards) and his wife Marilyn (Eileen Ryan) (oh, and one of their mothers is still around, played by the delightful Helen Shaw). They have four kids; Gil (Steve Martin), Helen (Diane Wiest), Susan (Harley Jane Kozak) and Larry (Tom Hulce). Gil, married to Karen (Mary Steenburgen) is dealing with an anxious son, a quite normal daughter and a crazy toddler and is trying to figure out how he feels about the fourth which is on the way. Helen has a son, Garry (Joaquin Phoenix) who is reclusive since his father left and a rebellious daughter, Julie (Martha Plimpton) who is dating drag- racing drop-kick Tod (Keanu Reeves). Susan is married to Nathan (Rick Moranis) who is desperate to ensure their daughter is a genius. And Larry turns up out of the blue being chased by gangsters who owe him money and with a surprise son, Cool, in tow.

A lot going on? Yup. Funny? Very. Heartbreaking? Yes, at times. Does it stand up to time? I think so. Some of the fashions are dated, but not in a bad way. I’d be interested to see how much would change if such a film were made now. Possible not a lot. It’s clever, entertaining and I totally enjoy it every time I see it.

Parenthood was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Dianne Wiest) and Best Music, Original Song (Randy Newman, I Love to See You Smile).

Shopgirl vs Shopgirl (2005)


Mirabelle works at the glove counter in an exclusive department store in Beverly Hills. She lives with two cats and creates artwork every so often. Sometimes, she sells them. Jeremy, a young man who makes his living stenciling amplifiers, approaches her in a Laundromat, and they have a few dates. Then she meets Ray Porter, a handsome millionaire who spends part of his time at his home in Seattle and part of his time in LA. They commence a relationship with differing expectations.

The novella, written by Steve Martin, is like reading a dream or a modern-day fable. It is told from a very detached sense; it felt as though everything as described after it happens, and there is little emotional connection. In many ways, I didn’t mind this, although I missed conversations. It is one thing to be told what the characters say, but another to hear their voice.

The novella was turned into a film in 2005 starring Claire Danes as Mirabelle, Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy and Steve Martin as Ray Porter. For me, the film was everything the book described, but the story worked much better as a film.