Today I have two reviews for you, my minuscule list of regular readers, both fresh from the deeply buried vaults of the Reynolds Files. One book, one movie. Bet you can guess the movie.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Excellent. Top notch entertainment. Returns to a “smaller is better” ideal, with strong characters, good acting, and generally good writing. A few minor plot points I would quibble with, one depressing moment that left me saddened, but we finally got the “next Star Wars film” we all dreamed of when the Phantom Menace was about to be released.
The more I think about the movie, the more I realize how poorly done the prequels were. They seemed to try to stuff as much visual stuff on the screen as possible in every shot, and while it was kind of cool, it was also ultimately distracting from the story. The thing about the original trilogy was that everything was stripped down to minimalism, just a world with some futuristic things in it. Tatooine was mostly desert with a few outposts that were sparingly populated. Remember Ben, Luke and the droids rolling into Mos Eisley in the land speeder, how small the place seemed, how few things were moving around (original version of course, not the “enhanced” re-release of the 90’s)? That minimalism really went a long way to making everything else feel solid and real for some reason, because you could focus on those things instead of being awash with STUFF. Things felt old and used in the original trilogy, not flashy and splashy like the prequels, and this new movie did that same trick perfectly.
The acting was way better than the prequels as well, and I would argue better than the original trilogy for the most part. The main characters are very well done, and those old characters who come back are now actors with decades of work under their belt, and lots of nominations for awards, who have vastly improved their craft. Dialogue was believably delivered and well written for each moment. Relationships develop quickly, but that’s no surprise in a 2 hour action film, they HAVE to develop quickly. Same as the original movie of course.
It’s a long movie, at over 2 hours, but it doesn’t FEEL long. In fact, as they reached the climactic sequence, I found myself thinking “wait, this can’t be the ending… we just got here!” This is a perfect example of a movie that understands its role as escapism, and takes you there, draws you in, and holds you close until it’s done, when you can walk out and spend the next few hours trying to put the whole thing into perspective.
I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens 11 out of 10 Reynolds Wraps.
Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard
I heard a ton of good things about Leonards work as a stripped down writer of criminal stories and decided to give one of his novels a shot. Since I had seen the movie, Get Shorty, and felt some familiarty with the story, I decided to read that one. Better than the movie (which I’ve always enjoyed), there’s more front end to the book than the movie had, which is nice. Chili Palmer gets more depth here, as do the other characters, and motivations become more clear as well as an understanding of how everyone simply seems to love Chili, how “cool” he really is. The ultimate bullshitter, yet a sincere one as well.
Dialogue was what I was curious about. And the dialogue is very good, but I’m unsure why people crow with delight about it so much. I’m not a criminal or a movie person, so I can’t speak to the details of what they said, and I didn’t find the rhythms and beats of the language that different than what I’ve seen in other works. It perhaps has a bit more stripped down feel to it, and one thing I felt was done really well was having the characters talk around an issue without really grasping what each other is saying. That’s hard to do, and its were Leonard succeeds best.
The plot differed from the movie a bit, but towards the end they came into closer alignment. I thought the movie changing Martin (the shorty of the title) from a handsome actor who can play any role to Danny Devito – decidedly NOT handsome of course – an interesting choice, but Devito hit the beats of the character in the book well, the detached pretentiousness he had, so I guess they had reasons to do so.
All in all, an enjoyable read, though I feel no great attraction to read more of his works. They are light, easy to breeze through, and generally funny and enjoyable. I give it 8 out of 10 Reynolds Wraps.