Movie Thoughts: Back to the Future, Part III, The Last Action Hero, City Slickers

Caught up on a couple of movies that I saw in theaters back upon their initial release over the past couple of days.  Some of them I’ve revisited since the theatrical screening, others I hadn’t.

Back to the Future, Part III

Back_to_the_Future_Part_IIIThe fact that the AFI Movie Club list never got around to including Back to the Future still sticks in my craw.  Back to the Future is a far more essential film than, let’s say, Dirty Dancing or Parenthood.  Nothing against either of those film, but they don’t quite entertain me in the same way that Back to the Future does.

Of course, I said the same thing after rewatching Taxi Driver last summer.  (Let’s face it, if you’re picking a movie for a rainy afternoon, it’s rarely going to be Taxi Driver).

All that brings us to Back to the Future, Part III, the final installment in the trilogy.  I’ll go ahead and say that I love Back to the Future, Part II.   The travels to three different time periods and the consequences of time travel are entertaining as all get out to me.  I know that I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t care.  I love the heck out of Part II and don’t care who knows.

That said, Part III is a bit of slower-paced and less frantic that Part II was.  It’s also the movie that inspired my curiosity about Westerns (that and a trip to Hollywood Studios and seeing several trailers while waiting for the Great Hollywood Ride).  So, while I’d say that Part III is my least favorite installment of the trilogy, it’s just that the first two installments set a high bar.  I’ll say this — Back to the Future is one of the most solid trilogies out there, finding a way to end on a satisfying note while leaving a glimmer of hope we might get more someday.

The homage to westerns is glorious fun and the trilogy taking time to give Doc Brown some character development is a nice choice.  Marty is the focus of the first two films and while his character arc continues and concludes here, it’s Doc who’s front and center.  And watching the film again after all these years (and without watching the first two before it), I found myself garnering a new appreciation for the work done with Doc and by Christopher Lloyd.  Lloyd gets to run the gamut here and it’s nice to see that Doc gets his own happy ending as well.

I’ll admit that Back to the Future Part III really grew on me this time around.   It also made me feel old to think the film is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this summer.  As someone who saw it opening day, I now feel old.

The Last Action Hero

lastactionheroI remember this one was touted as a can’t-miss-hit the summer it was released.  At the time it was released,  I loved (still do) reading the summer previews of what was headed to theaters and trying to decide which ones I’d see at full price, which ones I’d see at the dollar movies and which ones I’d see when they were released on VHS.

Last Action Hero fell into the possibly full price or dollar movies category.  And then it kind of disappointed at the box-office and I eventually saw it at the discount cinemas.

In many ways, this one was a bit ahead of its time.  As a meta deconstruction of the Schwarzenegger action movie, it does, at times works.  Seeing Arnold as Jack Slate, the most Arnold-like Arnold-character ever is fun, but the movie stops really short of actually giving us more to chew on than just having a little fun taking jabs at your typical Arnold movie.  There are isolate moments that almost scream for greater exploration — whether it’s who starred in big-name Arnold movies in the movie world (I’d have given anything for a brief clip of Stallone in Terminator 2) to Jack’s existential crisis that outside forces have created all the trauma and pain in his life that has come to define him as a character.

I think part of this is that the Hero overstays its welcome.  We spend a bit too long in the movie world of Jack Slater, but not enough once Jack crosses into the real world and the rules of his world don’t apply any longer.  Charles Dance is fun as the villain and there are some great cameos. But I found myself become less patient with the movie the longer I watched.

That said, the best moment of the movie comes early with a trailer that transforms Hamlet into an action movie.  I’m not sure if expanding it would help but man it could be fun if done right….

City Slickers

City_SlickersSometimes when my dad and I would rent a movie billed as a “hilarious comedy,” we’d get it home, start watching and after a few minutes turn to each other and ask, “So, when does the hilarity start?”

I can’t help but think we’d have asked this of each other about City Slickers back in the day.  Because the first half-hour or so of this movie is kind of depressing.

Billy Crystal’s Mitch is celebrating his 39th birthday and having a bit of a mid-life crisis.  He’s having his authority eroded at work, his son doesn’t say what he really does at career day (instead of an ad salesman, his son says he’s a sub commander), and it feels like all the joy has gone out of his life.  This is all despite having great friends, a supportive wife and two healthy kids and, overall, what seems like a great lifestyle.

So, Mitch and his two best friends go on a cattle rustling vacation for two weeks to “find his smile.”

It’s once we get to the West that the hilarity ensues.

At least, that’s how I recall it. This time around, I didn’t find it quite as amusing as I did in a packed theater back in the day.

City Slickers works better if you’ve seen Red River.  Slickers references it early and there are several scenes that seem to be directly lifted and are intended as funnier versions of Red River.   But, honestly, I found myself wanting to pull out my Criterion Collection edition of Red River about halfway through this one and enjoy it more than I felt a desire to finish this one.

And yet, I recall enjoying the heck out of City Slickers back in the day.  I think part of this was enjoying it with good friends in a crowded theater (will we ever get back there?!?).

Jack Palance did win an Oscar for this, but you can’t help but feel like this was a make-good for his not getting one for Shane.   And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Norman the calf steals the second half of this movie.



Filed under AFI Movie Club, movie review, movie reviews, movie thoughts

5 responses to “Movie Thoughts: Back to the Future, Part III, The Last Action Hero, City Slickers

  1. I’ll argue for Dirty Dancing any day. Heck, I quote it often. Perhaps the differ even is age of first viewing and gender. Oh, Baby really was not seated in a corner.

    • I like Dirty Dancing…but Back to the Future is in a different stratosphere (at least for this fan).

      • I’m also sad that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan wasn’t included either.
        And my other favorite movie, The Searchers, won’t be included either it’s not exactly the most favorable portrayal of native Americans. But despite its flaws, I believe it has something still to say and teach us.

  2. I just caught The Last Action Hero on tv a few weeks ago – I’d never even heard of it before then but I sure had a lot of fun. 🙂

    • I saw it in theaters back in the day — the discount theater. I wasn’t a huge fan at the time, but I’ve heard people saying it’s worth revisiting now. I did and it still left me with the same feeling of, “This is OK, but not as great as I hoped.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s