The Apartment (1960, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 10

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, Edie Adams, David Lewis

The Apartment (1960) | The Medium

(10-Masterpiece)

Sad. Sweet. Masterful.

Fran Kubelik: When you’re in love with a married man, you shouldn’t wear mascara.

C.C Baxter (Lemmon) is an enabler. His philandering bosses walk all over him and his apartment, using it whenever they can get away from their wives to be with their mistresses. Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), Baxter’s office crush, isn’t doing much better. She turns out to be one of these mistresses, in love with the head honcho, Mr. J.D Sheldrake (MacMurray). A particularly low night for both of them results in the two spending the weekend together in Baxter’s apartment, helping each other. This film is a masterful balancing act between tones for director, Billy Wilder. Elevated beyond its sordid subject matter, The Apartment is sad (I love the image of Baxter completely alone in his enormous office space surrounded by empty desks or sitting by himself on a long New York bench) and sweet (I love the final exchange between Baxter and Ms. Kubelik) in equal measure and like its protagonist, hopeful. Even when he is cleaning up after someone else’s’ party early on in the film, he’s humming cheerfully. There’s a lightness to the humor in this movie that would seem inappropriate if not for how deftly Wilder and his actors manage it. Certainly, one of my favorite films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Penelope (2006, Directed by Mark Palansky) English 6

Starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Nick Frost, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods, Reese Witherspoon, Burn Gorman, Russell Brand

Penelope - Movies on Google Play

(6-Good Film)

Agreeable. Light. Undercooked.

Penelope: They always run. Why can’t you accept that? For seven years I’ve been watching them run. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?

Fairy Tales are an ancient form of storytelling at this point and the idea of a romantic lead being cursed with animal features along with it. Disney reimagined and popularized fairy tales as wish-fulfillment, and now most modern fairy tales, including Penelope, owe more to Disney than they do to the Brothers Grimm or to Beaumont or to whomever else. Penelope is wish-fulfillment. A smart, wonderful girl, the titular Penelope (Ricci), wonders if any man could truly love her as she is, with a nose cursed to resemble a pig’s. The Beast in Disney’s classic not only looked like a beast but acted like one too, and he, of course, found love. I find it amusing that Penelope is virtually flawless aside from her nose and it’s a serious question as to whether or not she’ll find someone. Alas, this is a fantasy. The characters are broad, the reactions extreme. I like Penelope a good deal as entertainment, but find it wanting as a fairy tale. There’s not much depth to the story, whereas the great ones speak volumes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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My Sassy Girl (2001, Directed by Kwak Jae-yong) Korean 7

Starring Jun Ji-hyun, Cha Tae-hyun, Kim In-moon, Song Ok-sook, Han Jin-hee, Yang Geum-seok

My Sassy Girl' (2001): An Inexplicable Non-Romance | Express ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Quirky. Cute. Appealing.

The Girl: Wanna die?

It’s rare and largely unnecessary for a romantic comedy to feature any measure of originality. Most people look to the genre for easy laughs, cute faces, and a reassuring story. My Sassy Girl is now nearly twenty years old, but I’m struck by how fresh it feels. The setup is familiar enough. On the subway one evening, a young man, Gyeon-woo (Cha), meets a very drunk girl, simply referred to as The Girl in credits, played by Jun Ji-hyun. She throws up, he’s burdened with seeing her home, and later, through a serious misunderstanding, Gyeon-woo is tossed in prison. So begins their relationship and it’s a strange one, chiefly because she’s a bizarre girl; demanding, moody, reckless. Gyeon-woo can’t help himself from falling for her, and it’s a credit to the actress that we fully understand. Mean girlfriends aren’t anybody’s idea of a romantic lead but Jun and the quirky writing make The Girl a slow charmer. My Sassy Girl relies heavily on misunderstandings; for its humor and its story. That’s generally considered a weakness in movie storytelling but it works here and the final misunderstanding leads to a surprising and satisfying finale.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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This Means War (2012, Directed by McG) English 5

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, Angela Bassett, Abigail Spencer, Jenny Slate, Rosemary Harris

This Means War << Rotten Tomatoes – Movie and TV News

(5-Okay Film)

Ridiculous. Flat. Diverting.

Lauren: I’m going out. I’m dating. I’m having fun.

Two spies-best friends-happen upon the same woman. Tuck (Hardy) is a divorced father. Franklin (Pine) is a womanizer. When the two realize that they’re both chasing Lauren Scott (Witherspoon), a competition ensues. They’ll let her decide, but they don’t tell her that they know each other or tell her that they know about her seeing two men at the same time. As their feelings for her deepen, they resort to using their CIA tricks to get the upper hand. It’s a ridiculous premise not meant to be taken too seriously but with the proper execution, could have made an interesting throwback to the old screwball classics of the 1930s. The leads are certainly likable enough, but This Means War is not very funny which leaves it feeling like chaotic nonsense.  Chelsea Handler as Witherspoon’s friend is given most of the comedic lines but delivers them monotonously, never appearing comfortable on screen. At no point did I mind watching this fast-moving dud, but there are thousands of better movies to watch in the world.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(944)

The Hustle (2019, Directed by Chris Addison) English 4

Starring Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons

Weekend Box Office: 'The Hustle' Opens With $13.5 Million As 'Poms ...

(4-Bad Film)

Inferior. Misguided. Painless.

Josephine Chesterfield: Why are women better suited to the con than men?

Are they? Who knows, but this film doesn’t do much for feminine pride. Anne Hathaway stars as Josephine Chesterfield, a glamorous con-artist working the French Riviera. Her business is threatened by a small-time crook, Penny (Wilson), who will likely scare off the big fish with her short cons. You’re probably aware that this is a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Some people know that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, itself, was a remake of Bedtime Story starring Marlon Brando and David Niven. For that reason, I don’t object to a remake, though Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one of my favorite comedies. I object to the casting because it doesn’t work and I object to simply recycling all of the best jokes from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and making them less funny. Hathaway hasn’t proven yet that she can do comedy and Wilson has no one to work off of. As for the recycling of jokes, to me, it undermines much of the film’s focus on female empowerment. They’re just doing what men have already done. Why not do your own thing like the wonderful Bridesmaids? If you’re going to remake a movie, especially a comedy which relies on the element of surprise, you should work up some fresh material.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Animal (2001, Directed by Luke Greenfield) English 4

Starring Rob Schneider, Guy Torry, Colleen Haskell, John C. McGinley, Ed Asner, Louis Lombardi, Michael Caton, Norm MacDonald, Adam Sandler

Ten Years Ago: The Animal – 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective

(4-Bad Film)

Idiotic. Bemusing. Brief.

Rianna: I just want to thank everyone who sent me food and letters of support, especially the mentally handicapped child who sent me this sweet book of poems.

Marvin Mange: She read my poems.

Rob Schneider gets plugged into the Adam Sandler formula for comedy: a kind goofball protagonist learns how to stand up against the jerks in his life. As dumb and as poor as some of the Adam Sandler films are, I’m basically a fan. He also has plenty of movies that I consider good comedies (not to mention his impressive dramatic turns). I get the feeling that he turned this role down before it fell to Schneider who is convincing enough as the kind, put-upon hero but never delivers any laughs with this broad comedy’s ludicrous premise. He plays Marvin Mange, a police-hopeful, who gets badly hurt in a car accident and is put back together by a mad scientist who endows him with animal parts. The animal parts make him a natural as a police officer but eventually begin to run rampant, just as he’s getting close with a beautiful animal lover, Rianna (Haskell). There’s some promise with this material. I think perhaps with Jim Carrey, although it’s probably too close to Ace Ventura for him to ever be interested. As it is, The Animal is a brief ordeal, at times watchable, amusing, bizarre, unfunny, but always completely moronic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(937)

My Spy (2020, Directed by Peter Segal) English 5

Starring Dave Bautista, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Greg Bryk, Chloe Coleman, Devere Rogers, Noah Danby

My Spy Heads to Amazon Instead of Theaters Amid Shutdowns – Adweek

(5-Okay Film)

Unambitious. Hackneyed. Enjoyable.

Tagline: He works alone…She doesn’t care.

JJ (Bautista) is former special forces turned CIA, but after a botched job, his boss, David Kim (Jeong), gives him the lowly surveillance assignment of watching a single mother and her daughter, Sophie (Coleman), since they’re connected to a big-time international arms dealer. Sophie finds out about his little operation and blackmails him into spending time with her. It’s a pretty well-worn formula and I was surprised to see it used for a film made more for adults (this isn’t the kids’ film I expected, going in). Bautista is the antithesis of what a spy should be; inconspicuous, versatile, patient, average. He’s a massive man who stands out like a sore thumb. The film doesn’t make any effort to show him as a capable spy either. He’s pretty bad all the way through to the end. There’s a difference between an action hero and a spy but this film disregards that distinction. That being said, My Spy is actually quite enjoyable. Despite no big laughs and its typical premise, My Spy has a lot of likable faces, chiefly the young girl, Chloe Coleman, playing Sophie, and is much more pleasant than I anticipated.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Artist (2011, Directed by Michel Hazanavicius) English/Silent 9

Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Ed Lauter, Malcolm McDowell

The Artist (2011) (H1) | Flood Of Movies

(9-Great Film)

Charming. Simple. Wonderful.

George Valentin: [talking about his dog] If only he could talk.

Making a “silent picture” in the 21st century is a cute idea and bound to stand out but The Artist would have faded away pretty quickly had it settled there. A retelling of A Star is Born, essentially, The Artist follows silent star, George Valentin (Dujardin), at the height of his success in the late 1920s just before the “talking picture” takes over Hollywood and makes him and so many other silent stars obsolete. He meets young hopeful, Peppy Miller (Bejo), and the two fall in love while their careers and lives take different directions. This is an earnest, charming movie that weaves together and recycles several classic Hollywood stereotypes. Performers falling in love while their careers splinter, silent filmmaking, dog sidekicks, none of this is new material and yet when The Artist came out in 2011, it felt fresh. If anything, it proved that all of the hallmarks of Hollywood storytelling still work when done right. Dujardin and Bejo give wonderfully expressive performances.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947, Directed by Irving Reis) English 6

Starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Ray Collins, Rudy Vallée, Harry Davenport, Johnny Sands, Lillian Randolph

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) – MUBI

(6-Good Film)

Familiar. Zany. Modest.

Margaret: I’ve never been subjected to so much charm before.

Cary Grant is a local artist named Richard Nugent with a reputation for being a womanizer. Judge Margaret Turner (Loy) knows all about his reputation. She meets him in court one afternoon after a fight breaks out between two women arguing over him. Still, she can’t help falling for him even while trying to get her younger, teenaged sister, Susan (Temple), to snap out of her infatuation for the man. The entire premise is ludicrous, even for a screwball comedy, but all that’s really needed is a contrivance to get these three stars together and it does the job. I do wish Grant and Loy had more time together on screen as they’re usually only together when surrounded by other characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Long Goodbye (1973, Directed by Robert Altman) English 9

Starring Elliot Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Jim Bouton, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Long Goodbye | Metrograph

(9-Great Film)

Cool. Distinct. Languorous.

Det. Green: Your name Marlowe?

Philip Marlowe: No, my name is Sidney, uh, Jenkins.

Det. Green: Come on inside, Marlowe, we want to talk to you.

The famous Philip Marlowe, private eye, star of Raymond Chandler’s classic mystery novels and several films, gets possibly his best adaptation in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. From the moment he wakes up in the opening scene, to the surprise of the finale, Marlowe (Gould), is out of his element. He still basically looks and sounds the way we’re accustomed to; Gould is sly, witty, infinitely cool, always wearing a suit and tie. It’s his surroundings that have changed (his neighbors don’t wear any clothes at all). Very loosely working with Raymond Chandler’s novel of the same name, Marlowe gets involved with an alcoholic, self-destructive novelist, Roger Wade (Hayden), and Wade’s beautiful, unhappy wife, Eileen (van Pallandt), shortly after helping an old friend, Terry Lennox (charged with killing his wife) escape to Mexico. Other films that came before this one tried to transplant Marlowe to a more modern setting. The film simply titled Marlowe, for example, moved him to the ’60s, but The Long Goodbye doesn’t just “update” the material. It displaces the hero. He’s still essentially the romantic hero that he’s always been. Chandler described him as a “shop-soiled Sir Galahad,” in The High Window, but his loyalty and sense of honor seem out of touch here. In any case, this is a great film with an odd sense of humor and a unique style.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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