Holiday Affair (1949, Directed by Don Hartman) English 8

Starring Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Gordon Gebert, Griff Barnett, Esther Dale

Image result for holiday affair 1949

(8-Exceptional Film)

Warm. Witty. Thoughtful.

Widowed mother, Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), meets department store salesman, Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum), one day and the kind, charismatic guy complicates all of her carefully considered life-plans. For one thing, she’s already practically engaged, to nice, secure Carl Davis (Wendell Corey).  Holiday Affair plays out slowly, with no trumped-up action and little fuss. It’s all dialogue (witty and intelligent) and engaging characters. It’s also an attractive look at New York back in the 1940s during the Christmas season.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(822)

Holiday Rush (2019, Directed by Leslie Small) English 5

Starring Romany Malco, Sonequa Martin-Green, Darlene Love, Amarr M. Wooten, Tamala Jones

Image result for holiday rush

(5-Okay Film)

Bland. Treacly. Likable.

Successful, affluent radio DJ and widower, Rashon Williams (Romany Malco), goes to work one day to find that #1) the station’s been taken over by a larger company and #2) he’s fired. Left to manage with less while dealing with his four spoiled children, Rashon hurries to come up with a long term solution with his partner, Roxy (Sonequa Martin-Green), who he may be falling in love with. There’s very little meaningful tension in this movie, which has been true of all the Netflix Christmas films. Things work out and they work out well in Holiday Netflix land. My bigger concern was that the leads already love each other as soon as the film opens so there’s not much draw there, and most of the “obstacles” that exist in Holiday Rush involve rich kids not getting a horse for Christmas. Not very compelling, but the film succeeds in the same way that all of these feather-weight Netflix Christmas movies do: by being likable rather than being interesting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(821)

The Accountant (2016, Directed by Gavin O’Connor) English 6

Starring Ben Affleck, J.K Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Jean Smart

(6-Good Film)

Solid. Unspectacular. Straightforward.

An autistic accountant (Affleck) with extensive combat training takes on a convoluted plot that I might not fully understand, to be honest. Meanwhile, a treasury agent (Simmons) coerces a junior agent into tracking “The Accountant” down for reasons he explains later. Dense plotting masks a lack of true depth in the film, but Affleck gives a strong performance. Otherwise, for such a great cast, the supporting characters fall disappointingly short, and the action, which is frequent enough to stay entertaining, isn’t creative enough to be must-see.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(820)

Pensées #13: Christmas Challenge Weeks 5 and 6

It has been an excellent two weeks of movie watching for me, though that mainly applies to the non-holiday films I’ve seen. Films like The Irishman, Knives Out, and Cobra thrilled me, while old favorites like Murder, My Sweet and Charade remain as wonderful as ever. The Irishman may end up as my favorite film of the year, with heavy competition thanks to a strong 2019 following a disappointing 2018. A few days ago, I saw The Irishman trending on Twitter and, as is usually the case, I was bothered to find out why. A large number of tweets (no doubt from the legion of bitter Marvel fans) took to Twitter to bash The Irishman as too long, and to nitpick at other details. Scorsese, of course, commented earlier this year that Marvel films are essentially uninteresting to him and not cinematic. This upset a lot of people and sparked debate among cinephiles. It also led to Scorsese, himself, writing an excellent essay fleshing out his thoughts on the subject. In any case, I have to believe the pushback on Scorsese’s film stems from this incident, or perhaps the film’s star, Robert De Niro, and his being more outspoken about politics lately, because The Irishman is a great movie.

I’ve watched 20 movies over the past 2 weeks and three of them were Christmas films. I thought when I rented the movie Holiday that it would be number four but it was more to do with New Year’s Eve than anything so I’m not counting it.

#9: Elf

Image result for elf 2003

2003, Directed by Jon Favreau

(9-Great Film)

Loud, obnoxious, annoying adults would seem a difficult fit for a family Christmas film, and yet Elf manages to make it work. Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised in the North Pole by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who is finally told the truth one day: his real father, Walter (James Caan), lives in New York, and is on the dreaded naughty list thanks to his selfish, workaholic attitude. Buddy travels to the Big Apple in time for the holiday season and hopes to connect with his father, but his eternal cheer makes him a fish out of water in New York. Elf is a very funny family film and really inspired work. Think of the casting. Bob Newhart, for example, in a small role. Faison Love and Peter Dinklage are both funny and memorable in their small parts. Elf is definitely one of the few Christmas pictures I look forward to each year.

#10: Holiday Rush

Image result for holiday rush

2019, Directed by Leslie Small

(5-Okay Film)

Successful, affluent radio DJ and widower, Rashon Williams (Romany Malco), goes to work one day to find that #1) the station’s been taken over by a larger company and #2) he’s fired. Left to manage with less while dealing with his four spoiled children, Rashon hurries to come up with a long term solution with his partner, Roxy (Sonequa Martin-Green), who he may be falling in love with. There’s very little meaningful tension in this movie, which has been true of all the Netflix Christmas films. Things work out and they work out well in Holiday Netflix land. My bigger concern was that the leads already love each other as soon as the film opens so there’s not much draw there, and most of the “obstacles” that exist in Holiday Rush involve rich kids not getting a horse for Christmas. Not very compelling, but the film succeeds in the same way that all of these feather-weight Netflix Christmas movies do: by being likable rather than being interesting.

#11: Holiday Affair

Image result for holiday affair 1949

1949, Directed by Don Hartman

(8-Exceptional Film)

Widowed mother, Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), meets department store salesman, Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum), one day and the kind, charismatic guy complicates all of her carefully considered life-plans. For one thing, she’s already practically engaged, to nice, secure Carl Davis (Wendell Corey).  Holiday Affair plays out slowly, with no trumped-up action and little fuss. It’s all dialogue (witty and intelligent) and engaging characters. It’s also an attractive look at New York back in the 1940s during the Christmas season.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015, Directed by Joss Whedon) English 5

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olson, Paul Bettany, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgård

(5-Okay Film)

Loud. Monotonous. Dumb.

This sequel, once again featuring Marvel’s all-stars, adds new Avengers to the mix, including Quick Silver (Taylor-Johnson) and the Scarlet Witch (Olson)-Russian Twins who never speak in Russian-as they attempt to thwart Ultron, a god-like being created by Tony Stark to save the world who instead seeks to destroy humans.  Dumb to the point that I often tuned out, this film reminded me of the Shakespearean line, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(819)

Minions (2015, Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda) English 5

Voices of Sandra Bullock, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Jon Hamm, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Coogan

(5-Okay Film)

Zany. Uninspired. Empty.

In the grand tradition of spinoff movies- recall Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)-this film following those inscrutable henchmen from the Despicable Me franchise is a mere shell of its source material. The minions, lost in the ’60s, with their gradually aggravating private language, search for the perfect evil villain to call master. The film then becomes a series of zany and over the top action scenes, to mildly satisfying results. The minions are enjoyable sidekicks to Gru and his cute daughters who provide the heart of the Despicable Me movies. Separated from them, however, the minions are mostly annoying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(818)

Little Giants (1994, Directed by Duwayne Dunham) English 5

Starring Rick Moranis, Ed O’Neill, Shawna Waldron, Devon Sawa, Brian Haley, Susanna Thompson

Image result for little giants 1994

(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Amusing. Slight.

The younger, Danny O’Shea (Moranis), has always been in the shadow of his Heisman trophy-winning brother, Kevin (O’Neil). When Kevin starts up a local Peewee football team but cuts Danny’s daughter simply because she’s a girl, Danny decides to start his own team. Since each town can only have one, the two brothers will face off to determine which team stays. I do try not to grade on the curve. At the same time, you can’t watch something like Little Giants with the same criteria used for The Godfather. The fact is Little Giants was made to please children first and foremost and is pretty successful on that front. Beyond that, it’s a fast-paced, goofy, creative effort with a solid premise and a handful of strong characters. Even its sillier moments (the annex of Puerto Rico and numerous gags) are pretty memorable, as are the nicknames “Icebox” and “Spike.” Fun for a kid, reasonably amusing for an adult.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(817)