Monday, May 1, 2017

Hindsight: A 2016 Cinematic Retrospective

It turns out that in 2016 I saw even more Hollywood films than I did in 2015. Bugger. As is the norm, let's start with my totally fair assessments of films I didn't see.

Eleven Films You Might Have Expected Me To See But I Didn't:

10 Cloverfield Lane
I actually quite liked the original Cloverfield for whatever reason and I've heard this is quite decent. I'm curious.

Assassin's Creed
I've played the first four games to completion, and the next two a bit, but everyone knew this was going to suck. The thing is, I feel like this could have been good in different circumstances. Maybe it actually is good; I haven't seen it. It's not, though, is it? Poor old Fassbender.

Batman: The Killing Joke
This overrated comic didn't deserve the hype of being adapted into a cartoon, much less one in which they had to make up new material to give it an adequate runtime. I simply don't care.

Blair Witch
I'm not a huge fan of the original Blair Witch film, but it does have some good creepy elements to this day and I feel like I'll probably watch this followup at some point.

Dad's Army
The idea of turning yet another twentieth-century TV series into a modern feature film is fairly repugnant to me, and while I've seen a reasonable amount of the show, I wasn't very interested in seeing a bunch of modern actors pretending to recreate it.

Don't Breathe
I heard this was pretty good. I just haven't seen it. I want to.

Hacksaw Ridge
I only heard this even existed when Oscars time came around. I'm curious, if only because I've heard it's set during the war and is horror-movie-violent. I might look into it at some point.

La La Land
I also only heard that this even existed around Oscar time. Apparently it's good. How come Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone co-star in so many films? I want to see this.

Underworld: Blood Wars
I like the Underworld films for much the same reason as the Resident Evil films (see below). I don't have much patience for trash, but action horror trash I have a little time for. I'll probably see this at some point.

Warcraft
Nah.

X-Men: Apocalypse
I only watched Days of Future Past last year and enjoyed it more than I expected. I've heard this isn't as good, but I'm sure I'll get around to it at some point.

Now here's a new category!

Nine Films I Didn't See and You Might Not Have Expected Me to See Anyway, but Feel Like Mentioning or Taking the Piss Out Of:

Ben-Hur
What Hollywood genius thought it would be a good idea to remake an old film (yeah, I know it was originally a novel) that old people would consider sacrosanct and young people wouldn't know of or care about?

The BFG
I know this is a kids' film and I'm not the target market, but this was one of those things where when I saw posters I thought "Since when were they making another Roald Dahl film? Well, that marketing campaign missed the bus."

Finding Dory
I actually saw the end credits for this after I went into the cinema early before another film. I've never seen Finding Nemo, so as much as I love some other Pixar properties (Toy Story and The Incredibles), I couldn't give a shit about this.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
I've heard that this is good. I wouldn't mind seeing it.

The Jungle Book
Still adapting Kipling, are we? I kind of want to argue that he's an extremely outdated relic of nineteenth century imperialism, but Arthur Conan Doyle is too and I love Sherlock Holmes, so I suppose I should shut my mouth.

Lion
I saw the trailer for this a couple of times. Heartwarming I'm sure, but didn't look like my cup of tea at all.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
I know it's based on a novel, but to me it just looked like a cross between X-Men and Narnia. Maybe it's worth it for Eva Green. I've long felt that Tim Burton is a master of concept and incapable of satisfying execution, and I daresay this is more of the same.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Apparently this adapted elements from the much-loved 80s cartoon show, which is kinda cool, but I don't actually really care about the 80s cartoon show, so it'd be wasted on me.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot
Having binge-watched all of 30 Rock last year I sort of imagined that I'd end up seeing this because of my Tina-Fey-loving friends, but I didn't. Apparently it isn't very good. I daresay I'll see it in a bargain bin some day soon.

This leaves us with...

Fifteen 2016 Films I actually saw:

Allied
When I saw this I had no idea what it was going to be about or who directed it going in. Then it became a somewhat simplistic espionage and romance drama set against World War II, and when the mediocrity was over and the words "Directed by Robert Zemeckis" appeared on the screen, I went "ah". I'm pretty sure Zemeckis hasn't done anything of real value since Forrest Gump, and while this film was kind of interesting, in that a man played by Brad Pitt discovers that his wife, played by Marion Cotillard, might be a deep-cover Nazi agent, the first half of the film, which is set in Casablanca and involves actual spying, is far more interesting and atmospheric than the second, which is set in England and mostly involved Brad Pitt feeling sad that his wife might be a spy. The cliché ending, in which Cotillard's character shoots herself, despite being a victim of blackmail, to save her husband's reputation, felt like the film casting about for something interesting to end on, not being able to think of anything, shrugging its shoulders and saying "tragic suicide it is, then." Competent, but far from essential.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
This is an animated film, reuniting several cast members of the classic 1960s Batman television show voicing themselves in animated form, with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their roles as Batman, Robin and Catwoman respectively. It's a little over-long and I think it could have been divided into two "episodes" like the TV show upon which it's based, but it's very charming and captures the feeling of the old show well while simultaneously poking a bit of fun at its more ridiculous elements. West, Ward and Newmar all sound pretty much right after all these years and the absurd storyline has enough changes of focus to prevent things from becoming too dull, with plenty of humour about the ridiculous villain schemes, hideouts and traps, as well as Batman and Robin's personalities, making it enjoyable to watch. It's a bit of fun.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
See my full review of this here and listen to this podcast for views highly comparable to mine. The first of my "Better Than I Expected" films of 2016, this is a bad film, but I liked it enough to buy the blu-ray release of the extended edition, which adds essentially nothing to the film. It's unnecessarily dark and dour with an overcomplicated story, some tiresome CGI and an extremely inept effort to introduce the other Justice League characters, but for me at least it was largely carried by Ben Affleck's portrayal of Batman, which I personally found rather engaging. However, as with Man of Steel, it doesn't do anything very new or interesting with Superman, which largely makes me wish this had just been a Batman film. This isn't a good piece of cinema by any means, and I fully understand the opinions of those who hated it. I just liked Batman, and, if I'm going to be honest, the fight between him and Superman was weirdly cathartic.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week
This documentary on the Beatles' touring years was, in my opinion, a very interesting insight into the lives led by the Fab Four during their most frantic period of performance activity, from '62 to '66, when they were travelling the world, struggling to hear their own instruments over the voices of screaming teenagers, and being placed under constant scrutiny by a still very skeptical media. The large use of archive footage is extremely effective in providing as close as possible a view of what the time was like, and interview material, both new for the survivors and archival, with the Beatles themselves, is invaluable in enhancing this. Probably my only criticism would be that some of the other "talking heads" in the film, like Richard Curtis, seem pointless and trite. The appending of footage from the '66 Shea Stadium concert was also a very intriguing view of what an actual Beatles concert was like by the end of the period: by the looks of things, rushed, slightly on edge and rather safe in terms of set list. Perhaps it's absurd to suggest that the Beatles, with all their enormous success, had a bad time, but it's still a worthwhile depiction of artists at risk of being trapped by their own fame, and how they avoided it.

Captain America: Civil War
It'd be remiss of me to argue that this isn't as relentlessly adequate as any Marvel film, and it features some reasonably entertaining stuff involving Ant-Man and the new Spider-Man. You can read my extensive review of it here. The thing that bothers me the most about this film is that it's really an Avengers film, or even an Iron Man film, rather than being a Captain America film, as while his actions somewhat drive the plot it's fundamentally more about Iron Man and the Avengers than it is about him. The problem I really have with both Russo brothers Cap films is that they're basically just thrillers that happen to feature Captain America, and as a fan of the character I find that personally frustrating.

The Conjuring 2
I was a big fan of the first Conjuring film, and while this sequel is pretty much more of the same, it lacks the impact of the first one. I think I also struggled with it a bit because I knew a bit more about the Enfield Poltergeist hoax going in, so it was more difficult for me to handle how obviously and wildly divergent the film's narrative is from anything that happened in reality. It's entertaining and horror newbies might find it scary, but it relies more on startles and creating a feeling of helplessness than any strong horror theme. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are both still very watchable as the Warrens but I feel like James Wan's horror stylings are possibly getting a little played out by this point. Nonetheless I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first film.

Deadpool
Everyone sure loved this film, didn't they? It's okay. My sentiments are the same as those of some other reviews I saw at the time. It's watchable, but the plot is a bit too safe for my liking, as it ultimately comes down to Deadpool trying to save his girlfriend. If this had been subverted a bit I would have appreciated it, but it isn't really. Ryan Reynolds is of course fine as the lead; I'm not a huge Deadpool fan, so I can't say whether this was a satisfactory representation of the character or not. My favourite elements were the use of X-Men characters, in this case Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, which added an element of comic-book camp into the film that was necessary and, in fact, far more engaging than the serious way the X-Men are usually portrayed in their own films. I also enjoyed "Deadpool's" (Reynolds') enthusiastic admission at the end of the film that the sequel would feature Cable. Despite being an unconventional superhero film, with its "mature" elements and self-referentiality, this in many respects felt like a film that was more comfortable actually being a comic book movie than many which have been made over the last fifteen years or so, and I at least respect it for that.

Doctor Strange
Speaking of comfort, Doctor Strange was a film I recently saw which I think more or less showed just how well-worn and comfortable the Marvel Studios formula has become. I wish Benedict Cumberbatch didn't have to put on the American accent, but I got used to it after a while, and the supporting cast of various wizards is all decent, the highlight being of course Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. On the other hand, Rachel McAdams doesn't really need to be in the film and seems largely to exist so Strange can have a sort-of love interest, and Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius could have been more interesting than he ends up being; he's somewhat let down, in a film full of interesting locations and curious outfits, by his rather dull design: just a tunic and some purple eye shadow. I also felt that some of the "reality altering" effects seemed pointless. For instance, I'm not sure what purpose all the "running on opposite sides of a catwalk" stuff achieved in the battle sequence in the mirror dimension. As others have pointed out, Strange defeating Dormammu with trickery rather than force was a nice variation on things. Yes, this was ultimately a pretty safe film for such an unusual character, but I think it maybe did just enough differently to get away with it. I only hope the presumed sequel in which Strange fights Mordo takes this a bit further.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I actually enjoyed this film. The screenplay was by JK Rowling herself, and I think it shows, as the quite distinct main plots and their interconnectedness or possible lack thereof potentially evoke a novel's story rather than a conventional cinematic narrative. The excessive use of CGI for the monsters is of course a problem, and with less engaging characters it would have been dull; Kowalski particularly was well implemented. My biggest problem with the film was having the opponent revealed to be Grindelwald himself rather than just being one of his servants or someone who supported his ideals, as I felt like this compressed the size of the world a lot and made Grindelwald, who is meant to be second only to Voldemort in terms of threat, seem far less dangerous than he should have been. Hopefully the sequel explains why he let himself be so easily captured. Also, Johnny Depp? Really? Anyway, I still found this entertaining and would put it as another of my "Better Than I Expected" films of 2016.

Ghostbusters (2016)
The third "Better Than I Expected" film of 2016, I've already reviewed this here. Putting the idiotic controversy around it aside, I think this film works best when not even viewed as a follow up to or reboot of the original films, because the style of humour is completely different. Personally I found it reasonably funny and liked the cast. Of course, it's got nothing on the original, but in my opinion few American comedy films do (maybe Airplane?). The biggest problem with the film is all the scummery that Sony engaged in behind the scenes, such as threatening to sue Bill Murray if he didn't cameo in it. On the surface I think it was made with a reasonable amount of sincerity. Not much more to say about this one; you either like it or you don't.

Lights Out
Based on and with the same director as a viral internet short film, this horror feature about a ghost which only exists in darkness is a competent spooky experience but not much more than that. Probably the most interesting thing about it is that it contrasts to a lot of modern horror films, like the Paranormal Activity series, by having the parent, rather than the child, being the one enabling the creature to terrorise the family. Typically the child is the one who can see or knows about the creature and is manipulated by it, but in this case it's the mother, and it's quite disturbing to see her young son in distress due to her own irrational willingness to let this thing haunt them, and the elder daughter desperately trying to resolve the situation. Nonetheless, the way the problem is resolved is, in my view, a bit cheap, and possibly doesn't convey a terribly good message. It might be worth a watch but it's also not essential unless you want to support a budding director, which perhaps you should.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
I haven't seen all of the Resident Evil films, but the ones I have seen I've enjoyed for their shameless trashiness. While this wasn't a particularly coherent follow up to the previous film, it was enjoyable for dumb grotesque action and a sincere if simplistic effort to resolve the entire plot. Probably what it missed was appearances by more of the series' various supporting protagonists. Recurring villain Wesker is also defeated in a very anticlimactic way. Nonetheless it must be given kudos for the deeply amusing sequence in which Dr Isaacs' cybernetic implants give him a prediction of how he can defeat Alice which ends with him smugly sipping a glass of whisky. The worst thing this daft film could have done was take itself seriously, and it didn't. It's still a stupid film, but it's the kind where I don't care.

Rogue One
I would have dearly loved to have given this my "Worst Film of 2016" award because of how stupendously overrated this was at first release, but that would be dishonest, because it's not badly made, just immensely cynical (perhaps even more than The Force Awakens), thinly written and, its biggest failing, extremely boring. I've already reviewed it as much as I'd care to here. You can also listen to a podcast here (and a follow up here) in which some folks I know express opinions highly comparable to mine on the topic. I'm astonished that people think this is one of the best Star Wars films. Personally I found it dull, with utterly two-dimensional characters and a boring plot. At its core it's just fan-pandering, showing lots and lots of stuff from the original trilogy, up to and including Darth Vader and a creepily-recreated Governor Tarkin. I wish we could see what this would have been before reshoots, as I suspect it would have been a lot better.

Star Trek Beyond
I'm no fan of the reboot Star Trek film series, as can be observed in my scathing review of Star Trek Into Darkness, which I awarded "Worst Film of 2013". As a result I was surprised to discover that I didn't mind Star Trek Beyond. While the plot is still quite boring - the Enterprise goes somewhere, they find a big strong bad dude and at the end Captain Kirk punches him until he falls over - it got me by. I think its biggest strength was that it used the cast as an ensemble, particularly giving greater, deserved screentime to Karl Urban's McCoy, who has always been my favourite in these films, rather than trying to just focus on some angsty relationship between Kirk and Spock. Probably my biggest gripe is that I think it's somewhat badly edited, with some sequences and characters not being set up clearly or coherently, and I don't like the twee way the alien fleet is defeated at the end, but I can live with it, and I think it's almost certainly the best of the reboot films. I wonder if not having JJ Abrams at the helm and/or, more likely, not having those two guys who wrote Transformers and Damon Lindelof penning the script had anything to do with it not sucking as hard...

Yoga Hosers
I know nothing about Kevin Smith films, having only seen most of Clerks one time, which I thought was pretty good. While this film has nothing of the bite of that, in that it only tries to represent the vacuousness of modern youth rather than the hopeless pointless emptiness of modern life, I found it reasonably diverting and I was surprised that it was so unpopular. It reminded me of an Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg feature but less witty. Not sure what to say about this one. The two leads were engaging and Johnny Depp was tolerable. It's stupid and indulgent, but I didn't mind it. 

Thus, of course, my "Worst Film of 2016" Award goes to:

Suicide Squad 
Batman v Superman was one thing, but even I'm not going to try to defend this mess. Frankly, I don't even know why it was made; only nerds like me have heard of pretty much any of the characters in it, and none of them were established in the other DC universe films. Obviously any value it had was wrecked in editing and reshoots, as the cast seems to be introduced twice, there's a subplot about the Joker that doesn't seem to go anywhere, and the main narrative is a "save the world" thing that doesn't explain why they need a team of villains to handle it. Amusingly it won an Academy Award. I liked Affleck's cameo as Batman and I suppose Will Smith and Margot Robbie were okay as Deadshot and Harley Quinn, but the thing I most took away from this was a feeling that no one who was involved in making this really knew what they were doing. While it didn't bore me or annoy me to the same extent as Rogue One, I can't pretend that this wasn't a far bigger disaster. 

Thus, by a process of elimination, my top film of 2016 award goes to:

NO AWARD (yet).

No 2016 film I actually saw deserved "top film", even though some of the better ones, like Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and The Conjuring 2 kept me entertained; giving any of them "top film" would be going too far. I'll update this when I see a 2016 film that actually deserves it.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thimbleweed Park Podcast


Opinions Can Be Wrong's long lost podcast returns to review Thimbleweed Park, the new graphic adventure game by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. This podcast features an initial spoiler-free review and a spoiler section discussing juicier details for those who have played and finished the game.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ranking the Star Wars films

Putting things in order is one of the most predictable habits of the common garden nerd, and one of which I'm not actually that fond, but I thought it would be amusing for me to "rate" the Star Wars films that currently exist in order, much as I "rated" the Doctors from Doctor Who some years ago, in terms of my personal preference. This should be noted: I am not by any means trying to rank these films in any kind of "objective" order based on a close and detailed study of filmmaking, because I'm not well informed about filmmaking. This order, rather, is from the film I like the least to the one I like the most. Like my list of Doctors, I'll also do it in "tiers", so you can imagine that groups of films are ordered as well. My reason for this is that I think that films made in the same era are more comparable than those made well apart, and because I think the Star Wars franchise currently lacks any substantial outliers which would make this not work.

Tier 3 (Bottom Tier): The Prequels

8. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

You can read my thoughts here for why I think Revenge of the Sith is the worst Star Wars film. The main reasons, put simply, are because I think it looks horrible, it's poorly conceived and structured, and it features weak performances. I can't abide the overly-crisp, clean CGI look of everything, such as the opening battle and the clone troopers. I abhor the character of General Grievous, who is an unnecessary and stupid villain, and am consistently frustrated by how much time the film wastes on him and how absurd it is to kill off Christopher Lee's Dooku in the opening scene. Ewan McGregor is completely phoning it in as Obi Wan and Ian McDiarmid's extraordinarily hammy performance as Palpatine is cringeworthy. I really don't like this film at all.

7. Episode II – Attack of the Clones

This film is boring. That's the first and most vital thing that needs to be said about it. It's slow and dull. I'm not just talking about the ineptly-written romance scenes. I'm also talking about, for instance, the weightless and unbelievable CGI chase sequences and battle sequences, especially at the end. As is always said, Anakin is annoying and unsympathetic, with cringeworthy dialogue, while Christopher Lee brings presence but cannot redeem the weak and unbelievable script. Like Revenge of the Sith this also suffers from looking completely fake. Perhaps the only thing that elevates this above Episode III is that McDiarmid's performance is more restrained and it has Christopher Lee and not General Grievous, although there still isn't enough of Lee. The soundtrack also has at least one memorable new tune, "Across the Stars". Returning to negatives, however, I also dislike the depiction of the Clone Wars as clones versus droids, and this film establishes a trend continued in Episode III and the animated series of depicting a universe that I simply can't believe is the same one that is featured in the originals because of how it looks and feels.

6. Episode I – The Phantom Menace

This film is also very boring, being extremely poorly paced with weak direction that derives very unengaging performances from much of its main cast, but I've always been marginally more forgiving of Episode I than the other two. I still don't like the Trade Federation, including both the annoying Nemoidians and the lame battle droids, or the extremely tiresome podrace, but this is one in which I somewhat appreciate the depiction of a world we didn't get to see in the Originals. Naboo shows us a more "civilised" part of the galaxy without being too busy; I can almost see it fitting into the same universe. Of course the problem of an overly busy setting instantly occurs when we go to Coruscant, which always annoys me because I think "Why did we never see Coruscant in the Originals?" Jar Jar is annoying, but I've never found him that annoying; young Anakin is annoying too, but I find him to be less cringeworthy than teenage Anakin. I kind of like Ewan McGregor in this as Obi Wan before he's turned into more and more of a buffoon in the subsequent films, although like all the others his performance suffers from uninspiring direction. Also, while I think that the character of Qui Gon didn't need to exist, Neeson and McGregor make for more watchable leads than McGregor and Christensen in the subsequent films. Even though he's a complete waste, Darth Maul is kind of visually interesting. One of the biggest problems with this is how unnecessary it is, but the biggest problem is the poor pacing. The podrace is far too long, and is completely uninteresting, and too much time is spent with characters tiresomely planning things and discussing them rather than actually doing them, which doesn't work when the stakes are so low and the characters are uninteresting.

Tier 2 (Mid Tier): The Disney Films (so far)

5. Rogue One

In my "Initial Impressions" post I pointed out that I think Rogue One, in contrast to all the praise it's getting, is quite a dull film. My main problem with it when I saw it, and a problem I still feel now, is that the main protagonists are not very interesting and engaging, and I didn't care about them. That's my immediate reaction. There's some decent enough action, and some of the fan service is successful while some isn't. CGI Grand Moff Tarkin looks weird, but I like the inclusion of the character. Vader looks and sounds off, but again I like the inclusion of the character. Jyn Erso and her gang I simply didn't find interesting enough; we're offered a few scraps like Cassian's remark about his life in the rebellion and Bodhi's character development, but I found it insufficient. I mostly kind of enjoyed K-2SO and Chirrut because their pronounced traits gave me something to latch onto, but they were just supporting characters. Jyn and Cassian needed more. All that being said, I can't rate Rogue One lower than any of the Prequels because, even though it suffers from one problem they also have, being boring, this has far less cringe and overall it's more competently made.

4. Episode VII – The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens has a lot of problems, largely being the laziness of the plotting and some unnecessary CGI. If this film had replaced Maz Kanata with something else, had Snoke as an actor in makeup rather than a fake-looking CGI character, scrapped the rathtar sequence and replaced Starkiller Base with a plot point that wasn't just another Death Star, it'd be a much better film. It also suffers from having a somewhat weak soundtrack lacking in memorable new tunes. All that being said, what elevates this substantially above Rogue One in my opinion is that I personally found the characters to be far more likeable and interesting, particularly Rey, but also Finn and Poe. Finn is probably the weakest of the new characters as he's used too much for comic relief, but overall I find the characters sufficiently entertaining to watch. I also think that the film is visually fairly pleasing in terms of its cinematography, colouring and the like. It's a somewhat decent piece of action sci-fi cinema let down by a number of annoying elements.

Tier 1 (Top Tier): The Original Trilogy

3. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

The received wisdom is that this is the best of the Star Wars films, but it's not my favourite of the original trilogy. I still like it a lot and think from a technical standpoint it's probably the strongest. It also has a number of classic sequences. Things like Han being frozen in Carbonite, Vader force-choking Admiral Ozzel, the AT-AT assault and of course the final duel are all extremely well realised. Yoda is a particular highlight, benefiting from a superb performance both vocally and in terms of puppetry by Frank Oz. The reason this one isn't my favourite is because at times I feel like it's just a little bit too slow, particularly the opening sequence up until Luke's rescue and some of the scenes when the Millennium Falcon is hiding in the asteroid belt. I also think that the development of the characters and progression of the story is just a touch more understated than is effective, because to me the "failure" of the characters in this one could be a touch more prominent in its representation. I'm sure there are plenty of arguments for why the "craft" of this film is the best; my personal reaction to the film is simply not quite as high as many people's is. That being said, it also has a terrific soundtrack and the all-time great moment of Vader revealing that he's Luke's father. This is the film that made Star Wars what it is today.

2. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

In some respects, Return of the Jedi is my "favourite" Star Wars film because I greatly enjoy Luke's character development in this one, as he becomes a more confident character with greater wisdom. The scenes with Luke, Vader and the Emperor are classic, as is Luke's initial confrontation with Vader on Endor. I also rather enjoy all the puppetry used in the opening act of the film at Jabba's Palace, which is convincing and amusing, although I'm not the biggest fan of the rancor fight. The film's biggest weaknesses, obviously, are the Ewoks and the fact that Han and Leia have nothing to do as characters. I don't hate the Ewoks. I just think they go a little too far, and the earlier idea of setting that part of the film on Kashyyyk with the Wookiees would have been much better. The Battle of Endor, however, is my favourite space battle sequence of the films. Overall, I think this one could have been better in some respects, but is elevated by some extremely strong aspects, the most important of which being that it gives a satisfying ending to Luke's story.

1. Star Wars (or Episode IV – A New Hope)

Star Wars (or A New Hope if you prefer) isn't strictly my favourite but at the same time I think it's the most consistently enjoyable of the Original Trilogy. It has good music, good effects and engaging, likeable characters. The opening sequence is exciting, Luke's journey as a hero is a classic tale, the stuff aboard the Death Star is very fun and the final battle, featuring superb model shots and Vader himself manning a TIE Fighter to take the combat to the Rebels is all extremely entertaining. What I think elevates this film above the others in the Original Trilogy is that in addition to our consistent cast of Luke, Leia, Han and Vader (plus R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewie), this one also features Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin and the largest role in the trilogy for Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan. These two bring an extremely watchable level of old-school class to the film that you don't get anymore and just elevates it slightly above the other two in my view.

One thing that has greatly improved my experience and enjoyment of the Original Trilogy is the release of the "Despecialized Editions" of the films, and I would highly recommend watching them if possible. I personally think that these are the best way to view the original films and appreciate their achievements and best qualities without the distraction of elements changed or added later.
"Who?"