Underground (1995, Directed by Emir Kusturica) Serbian 6

Starring Miki Manojlović, Lazar Ristovski, Mirjana Joković, Slavko Štimac, Ernst Stötzner, Srđan Todorović 

Underground (1995) - Rotten Tomatoes

(6-Good Film)

Epic. Bawdy. Irreverant.

Marko: A war is no war until the brother kills his brother.

I’m afraid I was never taught about the Yugoslav war that resulted in six seperate countries rather than one large one. I’ve also never thought about or heard of World War II’s affect on those slavic states. Underground, a massive film, by revered Serbian filmmaker, Emir Kusturica, spans five decades and covers both world changing events, and I still have very little understanding of either. Underground follows two seemingly degenerate friends, Blacky and Marko, from the ’40s where they lead a resistance movement against the Nazis occupying Serbia, through the Cold War, and, finally, to the 90s where civil war breaks out while the men are still dealing with the trauma from decades earlier. With its broad, irreverent humor, Underground moves fast for such a long film and is never boring. At the same time, and how much a lack of background knowledge affected my experience, I couldn’t say, this film never strikes me as very insightful or poignant. Perhaps it was content to reflect the overwhelming madness of it all, and on that score, I think it succeeds.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Scream 2 (1997, Directed by Wes Craven) English 9

Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Jada Pinkett, Laurie Metcalf, Omar Epps, Liev Schreiber, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Elise Neal, Duane Martin, Portia De Rossi, Tori Spelling, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, David Warner

Scream 2' Ending, Explained: Why the Big Twist Makes It a Great Sequel -  Thrillist

(9-Great Film)

Clever. Suspenseful. Worthy.

Randy: There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.

“Gorier, sexier, funnier,” Scream 2’s adverts promised. I’d say it delivers. The rare sequel that might even surpass the original, though it’s debatable. Scream 2 moves its surviving characters to college, just about a year after previous events. Survivor and final girl, Sydney Prescott (Campbell), is effected but remarkably functional considering, though an avalanche is coming. A movie version (a movie within a movie) of past tragic events is coming out and two college kids were killed at the premier. It seems someone is at it again. Like its predecessor, Scream 2 is clever about the slasher genre’s limitations while simultaneously delivering on the genre’s tacit promises. Scream 2 isn’t as scary as the first one. I would argue that bigger with more characters and more over-the-top scenarios makes for less tension, but it is funnier and has a handful of incredibly suspenseful scenes (Sydney climbing over the killer to get out of a police car, for example). Also, perhaps as a response to how white the original film was, Scream 2 has an excellent opening scene from the black point-of-view.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Freaky (2020, Directed by Christopher Landon) English 6

Starring Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn, Uriah Shelton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Alan Ruck, Dana Drori, Katie Finneran

One More Trailer for 'Freaky' Body Swap Slasher with Vince Vaughn |  FirstShowing.net

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Grisly. Entertaining.

Josh: Great. We’re gonna be killed by Murder Barbie.

Body swap comedies are inherently ridiculous and, in past, have been almost exclusively family flicks, Freaky Friday being the template. Freaky is decidedly not a family flick. Teenage outcast, Millie (Newton), is still mourning the loss of her father and trying to stay afloat at a school full of jerks and creeps. Stabbed one night by a local psychopath, known as the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn), she swaps bodies with the mentally unstable giant. Even with the interesting twist on the body swap premise, much of Freaky functions the same as those previous comedies. Vaughn is now a teenage girl and the once meek Newton is now a single-minded killer. It’s a good setup for its actors to perform and be funny. Freaky basically delivers on that front which makes the over-the-top gore consistently surprising. Freaky isn’t remotely scary, but it is fun and grisly in a memorable way.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Ghost Breakers (1940, Directed by George Marshall) English 7

Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Anthony Quinn, Willie Best, Paul Lukas, Richard Carlson, Paul Fix, Pedro De Cordoba, Robert Ryan

On DVD, 'Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories Collection' - The New York Times

(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Spooky. Well-made.

Larry Lawrence: I don’t mind dying, but I hate the preliminaries.

Apparently, The Cat and the Canary (another horror film starring Bob Hope and Paulette Godard) was such a big hit back in 1939 that the studio rushed out to try and emulate its success. They dusted off an old stage play, one that had been adapted twice before, and made The Ghost Breakers, a wonderful blend of spook house thrills, Hope’s rapid-fire comedy, and his chemistry with Goddard. He plays Larry Lawrence, a crime reporter on the run after a mix-up involving a local underworld bigshot. He stows away with the sympathetic-and beautiful-Mary Carter (Goddard), who has problems of her own. She’s inherited a large estate in Cuba, but the property is haunted. At least, that’s what someone wants her to think. Larry and his sidekick, Alex (Best), help her investigate. Like most of Hope’s early pictures, The Ghost Breakers is a lot of fun. Sadly though, it’s difficult to find in good quality.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Love Crazy (1941, Directed by Jack Conway) English 7

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jack Carson, Gail Patrick, Florence Bates, Sig Ruman, Sidney Blackmer, Vladimir Sokoloff, Elisha Cook Jr.

Love Crazy 1941 - Myrna Loy, William Powell, Gail Patrick, Jack Carson,  Florence Bates

(7-Very Good Film)

Funny. Madcap. Witty.

Steve: She’s married now – got a husband.

Susan Ireland: Yeah? Whose husband has she got?

Steve (Powell) and Susan (Loy) Ireland celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in their upscale, big-city apartment. Interrupted and sent on an errand by Susan’s overbearing mother (Bates), their private party gets further delayed when Steve bumps into his old flame, Isobel (Patrick), on the way home. Part of the small sub-genre I recently discovered of “remarriage comedies,” Susan later decides to divorce Steve after finding out about him spending an evening alone with Isobel in her apartment. From a pretty simple premise, Love Crazy splinters into one of the wildest of screwball comedies. Plenty of physical comedy (which is the most surprising for me, not accustomed to seeing Powell giving that kind of performance) and plenty of wit too. It’s not much of a romance as the principal players already love each other, but at its center is the iconic chemistry between Powell and Loy who evidently made 14 films together.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Philadelphia Story (1940, Directed by George Cukor) English 6

Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Virginia Weidler, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, Mary Nash, John Halliday

The Philadelphia Story' returns to local theaters | TBR News Media

(6-Good Film)

Intelligent. Witty. Affected.

Dexter: Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should’ve stuck to me longer.

I adore old Hollywood films. One of my true passions, I love the stars, I love the first-rate character actors, the production values, and the stories they tell, but I’ve never loved The Philadelphia Story, though it’s considered one of old Hollywood’s best. I come back to it often, expecting some change; a revelation perhaps. My feelings remain unchanged. Starring Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn (my goodness, the star power) as Dexter Haven, Macauley Connor, and Tracy Lord, respectively, The Philadelphia Story sees the three tangled up in a love triangle on the eve of Tracy’s wedding to earnest but stiff George Kittredge (Howard). Dexter is her ex-husband who’s not ready to let go and Macauley (Mike) is a cynical reporter not thrilled with his new frothy assignment of covering a wedding. Adapted from the stage, the film has a pretty conspicuous stagey manner- long, eloquent monologues, affected dialogue-but my problem isn’t with the apparent staginess, it’s with the characters. The dialogue, realism be damned, is sparkling, but I realized this time around that though I love these stars, I don’t even like these characters; especially during the first half. Tracy is prim, Dexter is scheming, Mike is misanthropic, the uncle is a lecher, the dad’s a cad, and the mom’s an airhead. They do breakthrough to a nice ending but too much of the film is bogged down in their deficiencies to bring me any real joy as most classics do.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Stalag 17 (1953, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 8

Starring William Holden, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Don Taylor, Sig Ruman, Peter Graves, Neville Brand

Stalag 17 (1953) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

(8-Exceptional Film)

Irreverent. Masculine. Engrossing.

Sefton: There are two people in this barracks who know I didn’t do it. Me and the guy that did do it.

Sgt. J.J Sefton (Holden) isn’t your typical hero. Even as an antihero, he stands far from the pack. For the majority of Stalag 17, he wants no part of anything heroic, and seems fairly content to have given up. He’s a prisoner of war held in a camp famed for letting no one escape. He’s selfish, apathetic, and ruthless, but when two fellow prisoners of war are foiled and killed in their escape attempt, and Sefton is beaten by the other prisoners who suspect him of being a traitor (one that tips off the Nazis for small benefits), Sefton’s determined to get back at the real traitor just as soon as he figures out who it is. I’m amazed with every Billy Wilder film that I see with how he balances tones. Stalag 17 is another layered work and further evidence of his brilliance. Broad and bawdy in its comedy, the film as a whole, somehow manages to be as gripping and eventually rousing as any straight dramatic classic. Holden won his only Oscar for this performance and he’s convincing at every stage of Sefton’s arc. Sefton’s not even necessarily the main character for much of the film, as it’s a true ensemble piece, but slowly, reluctantly, he becomes a memorable hero.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Hubie Halloween (2020, Directed by Steven Brill) English 5

Starring Adam Sandler, Julie Bowen, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Chiklis, June Squibb, Ray Liotta, Rob Schneider, Colin Quinn, Blake Clark, Kym Whitley, George Wallace

Adam Sandler's Hubie Halloween Debuts at #1 on Netflix's Top 10 Trending  Chart

(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Modest. Nice.

Hubie’s Mother: True bravery’s being kind, even to those who are being cruel to you.

Comedy and horror mash-up well together, and this film looked to have its roots in classics like the old Abbott and Costello monster flicks or Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers. That was enough to lure me in, despite an extensive recent record of mediocrity from Happy Madison’s productions. Hubie Halloween is middle-of-the-road Sandler. Not nearly as miserable an experience as Jack and Jill but not as funny as his best comedies like Happy Gilmore for instance. He plays the town dolt, a local punching-bag in the historic town of Salem, Massachusetts. Obsessed with Halloween, his purpose in life is to protect those around him, despite their disdain for him. One person who’s always been nice to him, though, is Violet Valentine (Bowen), his childhood crush. This Halloween, he finally gets a chance to face off with something sinister and to profess his feelings to Violet.

A couple of positives first: Sandler’s movies are often underlined by what feels like genuine sweetness and he makes a point of capping every story with a positive message. It’s easy to be cynical (and more artistic) but he’s made a career out of mixing his humor with saccharine sweetness. I also enjoyed the frequent nods to several of Happy Madison’s earlier films. Ultimately, however, Hubie Halloween could have been funnier, it could have been scarier, and I could have done without the annoying voice Sandler goes with here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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There’s Something About Mary (1998, Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly) English 9

Starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Lee Evans, Chris Elliot, Jeffrey Tambor, Lin Shaye, Keith David, Sarah Silverman, Richard Jenkins, Harland Williams, W. Earl Brown

There's Something About Mary' Turns 20 Today - LADbible

(9-Great Film)

Crude. Endearing. Influential.

Ted: You said she was a real sparkplug.

Pat Healy: No, I said buttplug. She’s heinous.

Crude and charming would seem an unlikely pair, but the Farrelly brothers, early on in their careers, made a trio of such films: Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary. These comedies were inspired, fresh, and, most importantly, funny, with There’s Something About Mary being the best of the bunch. Ben Stiller plays sweet and mostly innocent dork, Ted, still pining after his high school crush, Mary (Diaz), over a decade later. One can see why. She’s beautiful, fun, easy-going, and loves football; the dream-girl, in other words. Unfortunately, she’s like a magnet for deadbeats, including the private eye Ted hires to help him, Pat Healy (Dillon), who instead uses his intel to shoot his own shot with her. Several memorably funny scenes stand out, but the Farrelly’s demonstrate a talent for lightness in between the big laughs that give the film its heart and make it more than just an absurd laugh riot. The singing narrator, for instance, modeled after Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye from Cat Ballou, was a nice touch.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Thin Man Goes Home (1944, Directed by Richard Thorpe) English 7

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Lucile Watson, Gloria DeHaven, Leon Ames, Anne Revere, Harry Davenport, Edward Brophy

the thin man goes home | Tumblr

(7-Very Good Film)

Charming. Fun. Endearing.

Mrs. Charles: Well, all I can say is if you’re looking for crime in Sycamore Springs, you’ll have to commit it yourself.

Nora Charles: I wonder? Nicky always says that there’s a skeleton in nearly every closet and if you rattle it hard enough something always happens.

I’d watch Nick and Nora, fabulously witty married couple and part-time sleuths, go anywhere. In The Thin Man Goes Home, their fifth outing, the Charles’ visit Nick’s parents in some small New England town, where Nora meets his disapproving father (Davenport). Nora desperately wants her father-in-law to be impressed with Nick, who’s pretty much given up on that idea, but something of a dark, sinister miracle occurs when a dead body turns up at their front door, and Nick gets the opportunity to show how brilliant he is as a detective. After the first two truly surprising and original outings, the Thin Man series follows a fairly clear formula. You’ll get no complaints from me as I love these films and these characters, including Nick’s loyal brigade of small-time crooks.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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