The Frighteners (1996, Directed by Peter Jackson) English 7

Starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Jake Busey, Jeffrey Combs, John Astin, Dee Wallace, Chi McBride, Troy Evans

Looking Back: The Frighteners (1996) - MAUIWatch

(7-Very Good Film)

Goofy. Exciting. Fun.

Frank Bannister: I can’t fight it, Luce. I can’t protect you! There’s only one way to deal with this thing. I gotta have an out-of-body experience.

The Frighteners is Peter Jackson’s first big Hollywood production, years before he’d make his name with the Lord of the Rings saga. Jackson described his own humor as “moronic,” and it’s true that juvenile jokes are scattered throughout the film, but it’s his ability to mix a childlike spirit of fun with solid, adult material that makes him special. The Frighteners is a substantial, thrilling ghost story that follows a local shyster, Frank Bannister (Fox), who advertises as an expert on the paranormal. The town pretty much ignores him, but the truth is, despite his con man ways, he actually can see ghosts, and later, when a mysterious force starts taking the lives of town residents, Frank is the only one who can help. Trini Alvarez plays a kind widow and the only one to believe Frank. The special effects run rampant in this film and have dated significantly. That I still find The Frighteners an effective, exciting thriller proves that Jackson uses the effects well and is above all, a storyteller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,009)

Hellzapoppin’ (1941, Directed by H.C Potter) English 6

Starring Ole Olson, Chic Johnson, Martha Raye, Mischa Auer, Hugh Herbert, Shemp Howard, Robert Paige, Elisha Cook Jr.

Hellzapoppin' - Film | Park Circus

(6-Good Film)

Trailblazing. Crazy. Memorable.

Louie: What’s the matter with you guys? Don’t you know you can’t talk to me and the audience?

Ole Olson: Well, we’re doin’ it, aren’t we?

Comedians Ole Olson and Chic Johnson interrupt classical dancers being tortured by demons in hell to adapt their stage hit, Hellzapoppin’. A young scriptwriter (Cook Jr,) lets them in on how he plans to update the show and mix in the cursory Hollywood romance. Olson and Johnson, then, wade their way through his Hollywood script, breaking the fourth wall every step of the way. This is an insane film. There’s no old Hollywood classic like it and there’s nothing to prepare you for the mile-a-minute screwball action that’s overwhelming. Even the later Road to…movies featuring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour played by the rules in comparison. As an exercise in style and in originality, Hellzapoppin’ is a brilliant film. As an isolated piece of entertainment, it’s simply passing. More episodically enjoyable than a whole work. There are a few sequences, however, that are absolutely incredible. First and foremost, the dance number by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. If you’re unwilling to see the movie, you must, at least, check out this dance scene because it’s awe-inspiring.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,008)

The Love Guru (2008, Directed by Marco Schnabel) English 3

Starring Mike Myers, Jessica Alba, Romany Malco, Justin Timberlake, Ben Kingsley, Verne Troyer, Meagan Good, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Jim Gaffigan, Samantha Bee, Daniel Tosh, Telma Hopkins

BRIANORNDORF.COM: Film Review: The Love Guru

(3-Horrible Film)

Unfunny. Gross. Dumb.

Guru Pitka: Give me a pound. Lock it down. Break the pickle. Tickle, tickle.

Every comedian bombs. Every film comic puts out a dud or two or even several and it doesn’t mean their good comedies get forgotten. Think of John Candy. Are you picturing the ghastly Wagons East or are you smiling fondly, remembering the classics? I say this as an olive branch to Mike Myers whom I do think is funny, because The Love Guru is an awful comedy. Myers plays Guru Pitka, a white man raised in India by gurus (at least he’s not in brown face, he spares himself that embarrassment). He’s brought in to help raddled, star hockey player, Darren Roanoke (Malco), reconcile with his wife, Prudence (Good), in time to focus for the Stanley Cup. The plot is reasonable enough but it’s really just an excuse for one misguided, unfunny gag after another. There are no laughs in this picture but an abundance of second-hand embarrassment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,007)

The Major and the Minor (1942, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 7

Starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Diana Lynn, Rita Johnson, Lela E. Rogers, Edward Fielding, Robert Benchley

The Major and the Minor (1942)

(7-Very Good Film)

Awkward. Nifty. Fun.

Mr. Osborne: Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?

I’m not sure if things were less sordid then or if sordid things were just less exposed, but a film like this could never work today. I don’t think it’s any deep cynicism on my part that passages of The Major and the Minor are slightly uncomfortable and awkward viewed in today’s day and age. Ginger Rogers plays a disgruntled New York working girl packing it in and heading back to small-town Iowa. Unable to afford standard train fare, she poses as a 12-year-old to get the discounted rate, which leads to one mess after another. Eventually, she stays with Major Philip Kirby (Milland) at his military academy for young boys, and the two fall for one another…even though he thinks she’s a child for most of the movie. Taken too seriously, I suppose, the film is kind of creepy, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to enjoy this, Billy Wilder’s first time directing an American film. This isn’t the real world put on the screen. It’s a screwball comedy and everybody’s a little crazy, but mostly harmless. On its terms, The Major and the Minor is a wonderfully entertaining film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,003)

The Lady Eve (1941, Directed by Preston Sturges) English 7

Starring Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Coburn, Eugene Palette, Eric Blore, William Demarest, Melville Cooper

The Lady Eve | film by Sturges [1941] | Britannica

(7-Very Good Film)

Absurd. Witty. Eccentric.

Jean: I need him like the ax needs the turkey.

The Lady Eve might be the most romantic bout of cat-and-mouse ever. This battle-of-the-sexes comedy follows a con artist team made up of an elderly gentleman, Colonel Harrington (Coburn), and his daughter, Jean (Stanwyck), who set their sights on the heir to a massive fortune built on ale, Charles (Fonda). Their plan goes awry once the daughter falls for their mark, and the rest of the movie unfolds in a classic screwball manner. Stanwyck is divine in her demanding role, alternating between femme fatale and vulnerable woman in love with ease and great charm. Fonda and Stanwyck are a prototype for movie couples, and the supporting players are fantastic too. Like the writer-director himself, apparently, The Lady Eve is a strange, often absurd romantic-comedy. Best to just go with it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,001)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Directed by Howard Hawkes) English 6

Starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, Steven Geray, Taylor Holmes

American Dreams: How Joyce and Faulkner Fell For a Blonde

(6-Good Film)

Breezy. Witty. Fun.

Lorelei Lee: Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?

Much like the stereotypical, ditzy blondes being lampooned in its story, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is mostly superficial amusement, but that’s not to say it isn’t charming, at times witty, filled with catchy songs, or filmed with panache by Howard Hawkes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell get a great vehicle for their personas. Monroe is the money-crazy, beautiful chorus girl (Lorelei); perhaps a little naive. Russell is the tough-talking dame (Dorothy) who does her best to look out for her friend. When Lorelei gets engaged to a millionaire’s son, the father hires detectives to dig up some dirt on her and break up the engagement. Fun, light entertainment that makes good use of its stars and Charles Coburn is always a scene-stealer.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(999)

The Happytime Murders (2018, Directed by Brian Henson) English 5

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Ben Falcone, Leslie David Baker, Michael McDonald

Spoilers: A 'Happytime Murders' Ending Explanation

(5-Okay Film)

Promising. Crude. Uneven.

Phil Philips: I never knocked a guy out with his own balls before.

The Happytime Murders is a brash, consistently vulgar romp starring Jim Henson-like puppets. That premise, alone, is going to repel a lot of people. I was interested. The result, however, is only sporadically funny and inspires more head shaking than laughter. Phil Philips is a puppet in a world that doesn’t care one bit for his kind. They’re less than second class citizens. Once a promising cop, he’s now a seedy private detective, but after the bizarre death of his brother, an actor, and other cast members from an old sitcom, “The Happytime Gang,” Phil’s forced to team up with his old partner, Detective Edwards (McCarthy), to catch the killer. Director and puppeteer, Brian Henson, son of the legendary Jim Henson, has proven to be an incredibly creative filmmaker. Even in this film, there are a number of good ideas, but a film like this needs to be as funny as it is vulgar and it’s not. Still, you can appreciate the work of the puppeteers which remains a form of magic even after they reveal the process behind it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(996)

Mr. Deeds (2002, Directed by Steven Brill) English 5

Starring Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher, John Turturro, Alan Covert, Jared Harris, Peter Dante, Blake Clark, Steve Buscemi, Erick Avari, Conchata Ferrell

Mr. Deeds (2002)

(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Likable. Juvenile.

Crazy Eyes: I wasn’t talking to you, Deeds. I was talking to that squirrel over there.

Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison production company have their own brand of comedy and they’re not changing it for anybody. No amount of negative criticism can affect them, apparently, because there are enough people who enjoy their juvenile sense of humor. I’m one of these people, and you should know by now whether you are or not. If you’re not, there’s no point in watching any of his Happy Madison movies. Sure, you can start with the early superior ones like Happy Gilmore or The Wedding Singer but his output hasn’t matured with age if that’s what you’re hoping for. Mr. Deeds is somewhere in the middle as far as his comedies go. A remake of the wonderful Frank Capra film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, you won’t be getting anything like the charm or sweetness of that classic. Sandler takes over as Longfellow Deeds, a small-town Joe (a little eccentric) with a good heart who inherits a vast fortune and moves to New York. There, he’s tricked and reported on by Babe Bennett (Ryder), who begins to feel guilty as she falls for him. Silly, breezy and enjoyable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(995)

The Princess and the Pirate (1944, Directed by David Butler) English 7

Starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak, Victor McLaglen, Hugo Haas, Mike Mazurki, Maude Eburne

The Princess and the Pirate (1944) David Butler, Sidney Lanfield ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Madcap. Irreverent. Fun.

Sylvester: My act is known all over Europe; that’s why I’m going to America.

In a long, prolific career with several dozen films, each chock-full of snappy one-liners, Bob Hope’s best lines might be found in The Princess and the Pirate. It also happens to be a pretty good swashbuckler. Hope plays The Great Sylvester, a not-so-great performer working in 18th century Europe, who gets caught up in the middle of feared pirate, Captain Barrett (McLaglen), and his crew’s abduction of Princess Margaret (Mayo). The production is first-rate and Hope is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast. Mayo is winning as his love interest. Brennan is a blast as Featherhead (bearing a strong resemblance to Dopey from Snow White) and McLaglen lends the film just the right amount of austerity to work even apart from being funny.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(992)

Underclassman (2005, Directed by Marcos Siega) English 3

Starring Nick Cannon, Shawn Ashmore, Roselyn Sanchez, Kelly Hu, Hugh Bonneville, Cheech Marin

(3-Horrible Film)

Dumb. Unoriginal. Uninteresting.

Tracy Stokes: [at a five-star restaurant with Rob] I’m telling you, in my old neighborhood, gettin’ crab is something totally different.

Nick Cannon is a young out of control cop with smarts. He pretends to be a student at a prestigious high school. He’s investigating some huge scandal. He has a weird relationship with his Spanish teacher (Sanchez), who looks like a supermodel. Lots of lame jokes. Really bad movie. Lord Darlington from Downton Abbey is in it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(991)