JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Directed by: Ron Howard
StarringJim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

If you can believe it, The Grinch was one of the highest-grossing films of the year 2000, and is to this day the second highest-grossing Christmas film of all-time, behind Home Alone. Despite a fairly mixed reception initially, The Grinch has grown in appreciation over the years and remains a firm favourite in my household every Christmas. Last year, upon rewatch number umpteen, it truly struck me and my mum just how funny the film is. It’s become a staple of the Christmas film season, and for me, rightfully so.

The Grinch stars Jim Carrey in the titular role as a weird, green demon hellbent on ruining Christmas. Adapted by Ron Howard from Dr. Seuss’ classic tale, Carrey terrorises the town of Whoville, of which he used to be a citizen, and vows to ruin Christmas for everyone below his dwelling high in the mountains. What follows is a genuine masterstroke of filmmaking from a character and production design standpoint, all of which is elevated by a classic Jim Carrey performance, the master of physical comedy that he is.

It’s fair to say that The Grinch wouldn’t have been the success it was without Jim Carrey. In his grotesque green costume with his bizarrely hairy features, protruding stomach, and slightly misshapen face, Carrey delivers a comedic performance for the ages. Every gesture, every grunt, every line is delivered with absolute maximum effort for the comedic impact that is still referenced today; “oooh…ahhh….hmmm….that’s it I’m not going” and “hate, hate hate hate, double hate…LOATHE ENTIRELY!” are two quotes that I reference all year round, regardless of the season. The way he slinks through every scene, high knees and all, never fails to bring a smile to my face. Carrey is reliably great in almost everything he’s in, but The Grinch uses all his comedic power as humanly possible, and it’s a damn delight for doing so.

What truly defines a Christmas film is its sentiment, its overall message, and The Grinch has such a message in abundance. In amongst all of the glorious nonsense is a story of someone struggling with their self-imposed isolation; their true desire is to feel a part of something again. After humiliation as a child at school (a genuinely moving sequence that could’ve sunk like a stone but really works thanks to the young actor committing to being a young Jim Carrey as much as he could), Mr Grinch (per Cindy Lou) cut himself off to punish the town, to try to cast a light on its internal elitism. Truthfully, this angle has never properly struck me until recently, but it’s a very un-subtle metaphor for assumed social hierarchy, and for that, it deserves a lot of credit.

Beyond that though, as is the tradition with most Christmas films, is the discovery of the meaning of Christmas. The Grinch, one could argue, is an anti-materialist venture, showing that Christmas has nothing to do with material gain and presents, but the overall sharing of the season with the ones we love. The ultimate reason the Grinch starts to care again is this very realisation. In a surprisingly spectacular moment in which the Grinch, after robbing the entire town of their Christmas gifts, the Grinch holds the stolen gifts high above his head in a feat of inhuman strength, and declares “I’ve got you, Cindy Lou!” He doesn’t want the satisfaction that he saved the town’s presents, all he cares is his new friend is safe. He’s grown, he’s matured, 3 times over in fact. He’s another embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge in the form of an actual demon, and it makes me feel absolute joy as the film concludes.

The Grinch is hilarious thanks to Jim Carrey, it’s a marvel in creature design, but most importantly, it’s a faithful Christmas story with a proper Christmas message at its core. That’s what a Christmas film should be.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

Year: 2018
Directed by: Ron Howard
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo, Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Written by Chris Gelderd

In 10 films spanning 41 years, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is the first of the franchise that started and ended production under a big black cloud. Original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, wanting to make a “space comedy” were let go just 6 months into production due to creative differences. Acclaimed director Ron Howard came on weeks later to carry the film forward. Following that, extensive re-shoots were carried out to shape the film into the vision Howard and LucasFilm intended.

But before all this happened, the fans and critics were divided. Do we need or even want a film about a young Han Solo, a character immortalised in three films by Harrison Ford. Does the story of how he became the roguish smuggler and pilot with a bounty on his head and a large walking carpet as a friend need to be told? Who will ever be as talented and physically similar like Ford to pull this off? Will this fit into the wider Star Wars timeline or just be totally unique?

These questions never went away, and coupled with the rumours and hear-say and negative views on the production, it’s safe to say ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ has had a mountain to climb just to get where it is today and win over audiences and critics alike.

Well, you can forget the woes about a trouble production and leave your picky questions at home because this space Western is slick, stylish and shows no sign of trouble at all. It’s a fun and light-hearted space adventure, just the sort George Lucas envisioned back in 1977. There is no dark, brooding conflict and mystical power hanging over the story – not to say there isn’t plenty of menace – and there are no Jedi Knights, Force powers and tedious links to the Skywalker story. This is how Han became Solo.

Think of it as a watered down ‘Casino Royale’ for all generations.

From the outset, Alden Ehrenreich had near impossible shoes to fill. Yet to enjoy his performance, we owe it to this talented actor to see he is portraying not Harrison Ford, but Han Solo. A character we know nothing about at this young age. Yes, it’s hard not to look for Ford in him, but if you look BEYOND the man he becomes, you enjoy him all the more for it. Alden bleeds Ford’s mannerisms in subtly, such as his stance, the way he fires his blaster and that dry sense of humour starting to form. He carries the film and proves that he was the right choice to cast.

Emilia Clarke is a little hard to buy into at first, and she only comes to life more in the second half. She may be a talent on the small screen, but somehow her presence on the big screen never leaps at you and she’s just a little forgetful for most of the time, and you don’t buy her relationship with Han as much as you probably should. Paul Bettany is our merciless villain, and while he also is a little glossed over sadly, he commands much of the threat our heroes face in the film and it’s refreshing to NOT be an Imperial officer or a Sith Lord as the bad guy.

Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, equally having a big character to represent like Solo, does a fine job here. He’s smooth, charming and equally proud to look good and fight the good fight. The film could have benefited from more of his friendship with Solo to blossom, because you’re left wondering is this it? Is this the last time they see each other until the frosty reunion of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ a good 15 or so years later? You probably expected more, but you at least get to understand Lando’s ESB greeting of “Why you slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindler!”

Chewbacca finally comes to life more than ever after six films and he really does what you’d expect from a Wookiee here, in more ways than one. Seeing the beginning and formation of a life-long friendship is wonderful to see, and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing Han and Chewie together doing what they do best. Joonas Suotamo, a more than worthy successor to Peter Mayhew, does a brilliant job.

One of the best performances comes from Woody Harrelson as Beckett; a mentor, gun-slinger, smuggler and outlaw. He’s the one who guides us and Han into the world of crime and also the real dangers that the galaxy throws at you. Harrelson is instantly likeable and really looks the part, spinning those blasters and leading his crew into battle. He’s having a blast, and it shows. It’s clear all the cast are enjoying themselves in these iconic roles and situations, and that makes it easy to invest in to have fun too, but some seem to enter and exit the film quicker than you’d expect.

Characters drive the film, and they are key in making it flow. While the run time is not too hefty, and certainly doesn’t drag, the story stumbles a little in the first act. It tries to find its feet, which may be evidence of the production woes.  Another slight irk is the humour; it’s not silly humour at all but sometimes you get the feeling the script is trying too hard to be funny when it doesn’t need to be. Phoebe Waller-Bridge as droid L3-37 is a highly off-putting and pointless character. When she speaks, the attitude and humour doesn’t seem fit for a Star Wars film. Something about her portrayal and character didn’t sit with me – it certainly wasn’t funny.

Once Howard does establish the story and the tone, it takes off a lot quicker. The story zips to various new planets in a blend of genres – from crime to drama to Western and sci-fi opera – to deliver something that adds nothing new to the timeline, but lets us have some fun out there without the need for Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker or the importance of civil wars being the focus point.

The action is slick and well executed, and the visual effects are spot-on. One bonus is that Howard seems to opt for more practical sets and action over CGI, and that adds to a much more real looking universe. From the slums of Corellia, to the dunes of Savareen and the nightmarish vortex of the Kessel Run, this is Star Wars at its finest, adventure planet-hopping best. It may be hard to adjust to a Star Wars film where Stormtroopers aren’t the main bad guys and the faceless Empire doesn’t do much or you see nothing of the Rebellion, but this is why the film is much braver than it appears.

It takes risks, it forces us to buy into a new idea and wants us to do nothing but enjoy the ride. Han Solo is just warming up and I want to see where he goes from here.

Is this a Star Wars film we needed in the timeline? Not really, but I’m glad we have it because Ron Howard just whetted my appetite for more of this sort of anthology film away from the ‘Episodes’. And on the basis of a certain cameo towards the end, the timeline just got a whole lot spicier!

Chris’ Rating: 

4

Alden Ehrenreich Confirms He’s Signed Up For At Least TWO More Star Wars Films

We’re just one month away from witnessing the Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ – a film surrounded by rumours and drama throughout it’s whole production, including the firing of it’s directors Lord and Miller, who were later replaced by Ron Howard who conducted extensive re-shoots.

In a recent interview with Esquire, Ehrenreich let slip that he has signed on for THREE ‘Star Wars’ films, which we can probably assume will continue to focus on a young Han Solo and his adventures with new found friend, Chewbacca.

He knows what he’s getting into. It’s a deeper commitment than just one movie. Even Ford couldn’t quit after just one. I ask Ehrenreich how many he’s signed up for.

“Three,” he says, then flinches, understanding he may have just created a disturbance in the Force. “I don’t know if that’s officially, uh, public. But—yeah.” 

In the same interview, Ehrenreich also addresses the rumour that an acting coach was brought on to the set to help him with his performance as the young smuggler – a rumour that still has many ‘Star Wars’ fans worried about the end result.

He also insists that the story about Lucasfilm forcing Lord and Miller to bring in an acting coach—later identified as writer- director Maggie Kiley—to work on his performance has been mischaracterized: “She was part of conversations that happened for a couple weeks at one point,”

The interview is a great read and Ehrenreich addresses many of the rumours that have been floating around the internet, including the cast’s reception to the new of Lord and Miller’s firing, and their reaction to Ron Howard’s appointment as director.

Still, excitement for ‘Solo’ still seems very tame as we get closer to it’s release – but personally the latest trailer sparked a little hope inside me that this could actually be an enjoyable ride! If nothing else, I’m excited to see the cast in their respective roles, and most importantly witnessing Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian!

“Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the ‘Star Wars’ saga’s most unlikely heroes”

Directed by: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton

Release Date: May 25th, 2018

New Action Packed ‘Solo: A Star Wars Trailer’ Has Dropped!

“Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the ‘Star Wars’ saga’s most unlikely heroes”

Directed by: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton

Release Date: May 25th, 2018