Yes Man (2008, Directed by Peyton Reed) English 5

Starring Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby, Danny Masterson, Terence Stamp, John Michael Higgins

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(5-Okay Film)

Inconsistent. Broad. Amusing.

Carl Allen (Carrey) is in a deep funk. Ever since his wife left him, he’s given up on all relationships. Surprised by an old colleague (Michael Higgins), Carl, uncharacteristically, accepts an invitation to a motivational seminar, led by guru Terrence Bundley (Stamp), who extols the power of saying yes. Perhaps going too far, Carl begins saying yes to everything, which leads him to meeting the free-spirited Allison (Deschanel). A good vehicle for Carrey with some clever moments, the premise is a bit too obvious, the crisis and immediate resolution too contrived. I enjoyed Yes Man. It has a few good, comedic scenes, appealing leads, but suffers from a couple of unfunny scenes and a basic plot.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



Midnight in Paris (2011, Directed by Woody Allen) English 10

Starring Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Léa Seydoux, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stoll, Kathy Bates

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Intelligent. Wonderful. Humorous.

Pure blessed fantasy from perhaps the screen’s greatest comedy writers, Midnight in Paris is one of Woody Allen’s finest. Gil Pender (Wilson) is a would-be novelist turned Hollywood hack vacationing with his self-centered girlfriend, Inez (McAdams), in Paris. Gil, a nostalgia enthusiast, loves Paris and wishes he would have stayed last time he visited, instead of going to Hollywood to write scripts. This time around he wanders into an unexplained time leap that takes him to Paris of the ’20s, where he converses with his heroes Fitzgerald (Hiddleston) and Hemingway (Stoll) among others. He also meets the beautiful mistress of one Pablo Picasso, Adriana (Cotillard), and begins to question what he really wants in life. As someone who looks at the past with rose-colored glasses at times, the film speaks to me, and it’s a source of endless fun to see how many artists and writers you can recognize passing in and out of Gil’s adventure. Lovely to look at, listen to, and imagine, Midnight in Paris is fantastic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Spanglish (2004, Directed by James L. Brooks) English 8

Starring Adam Sandler, Paz Vega, Téa Leoni, Cloris Leachman, Sarah Steele, Aimee Garcia, Thomas Haden Church

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Messy. Stirring. Vivid.

Painfully awkward at times, rapturous at others, Spanglish stars Paz Vega as a single mother, Fleur, who moves to California with her young daughter to find a better life. After years of struggling, she finally ventures outside of California’s tight-knit Mexican community and finds employment with the dysfunctional, wealthy Clasky family led by John (Sandler), a chef, and his neurotic wife, Deborah (Leoni). Evoking Ethan Frome to a degree, the kind but unhappy John and Fleur develop feelings for one another as Deborah pursues her own affair. It’s a messy state of affairs for these characters and the film doesn’t attempt to tidy them up. I think it’s a gift and a curse. On the one hand, Spanglish isn’t completely satisfying, but on the other, it’s a unique, thoughtful, engaging film with characters I care about. Sandler has shown, in this and other films, that he is capable of strong work, and Vega gives a terrific performance in the lead. James L. Brooks is one of the best comedy writers of the past few decades, and though this doesn’t measure up to his best, he’s still great.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Frozen (2013, Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck) English 6

Voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana

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(6-Good Film)

Strong. Bright. Satisfying.

Before Tangled was released in 2010, Dinsye bigshot Ed Catmull said it would be the last Disney princess film. Tangled was a huge success, and four years later comes Frozen, with two princesses for the price of one. Anna (Bell) feels shut off from her sister Elsa (Menzel) after the death of their parents. On Elsa’s coronation day, Anna, as well as the rest of the kingdom, learn the secret she was concealing when she turns the land into a frozen tundra and runs away. Anna sets off to find her with the help of her new companions: courageous Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and the loyal snowman Olaf. Frozen was a colossal success, and it’s easy to see why. It has all the hallmarks of a Disney classic. It fails to rank for me with the cream of Disney’s crop, however, falling somewhere in the middle of the studio’s canon. Mainly, I feel there’s a huge gulf between the classic work of Alan Menken with the various brilliant songwriters on old Disney films during the Renaissance, and the soundtrack to Frozen, as popular as it is. There are plenty of catchy tunes, but they’re just not on the level of, say, The Little Mermaid, or Beauty and the Beast. The story lacks a strong villain in my eyes, and though the female empowerment elements prove a nice message, films like Mulan and The Princess and the Frog covered similar territory with more compelling endings.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-




Monkey Business (1952, Directed by Howard Hawks) English 5

Starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Marilyn Monroe, Hugh Marlowe

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(5-Okay Film)

Star-studded. Free-wheeling. Unsuccessful.

Monkey Business is an earnest attempt at recreating the screwball style of comedy which was popular in the late ’30s, early ’40s, but had already gone out of style long before 1952, when this film was released. Starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, and Marilyn Monroe, you couldn’t find a better cast. Directed by Howard Hawks, who made a couple of the finest screwball comedies in His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby, Monkey Business doesn’t quite work. The zany antics and energy that were so wonderful and amusing in Bringing Up Baby strike me as juvenile here. Perhaps that’s a strange complaint to make about a film in which the characters take a formula that causes them to revert back to their youth. At the comedy’s center is a lovely, loving marriage between Grant and Roger’s characters, and this works, but the stakes aren’t high enough; there’s not a serious enough threat to their inevitable happiness. Too bad.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


High Spirits (1988, Directed by Neil Jordan) English 5

Starring Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg, Daryl Hannah, Liam Neeson, Beverly D’Angelo, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher

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(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Riotous. Inconsistent.

High Spirits has the ingredients for a really good comedy. Peter O’Toole plays owner, Peter Plunkett, who sees his shabby, secluded hotel in Ireland going to pieces, and quickly devises a scheme to pick business up. He’ll pass his hotel off as a haunted resort, and appeal to the paranormal enthusiasts, but as the first wave of tourists roll in, he discovers that the place might actually be haunted. One of the main problems of the film is star, Darryl Hannah, as Mary, a lovely ghost who is saved by one of the tourists, Jack (Guttenberg), and subsequently gushed over. She’s playing an Irish lady, which means she does an Irish accent (which is notoriously difficult to do). Hannah’s accent work is distracting and mars many of her scenes, key scenes at that. Jack and Mary’s romance is meant to be one of the main charms of the film, and it doesn’t come off thanks to that accent. O’Toole on the other hand proves once again to be a fantastic comedic actor. Unfortunately, he’s not in this film more. Overall, there’s much to enjoy. High Spirits is silly fun, but something as small as a main character’s accent really did hamper the entire picture.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Interlude (1957, Directed by Douglas Sirk) English 6

Starring June Allyson, Rossano Brazzi, Marianne Koch, Jane Wyatt, Keith Andes, Françoise Rosay

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(6-Good Film)

Opulent. Superficial. Slight.

A timid American woman, Helen Banning (Allyson), moves to Germany for a new job. She reconnects with an old friend, Dr. Dwyer (Andes), who offers her marriage and security for life. It’s a good offer, she knows, but she’s recently met a moody symphony conductor, Antonio Fischer (Brazzi), and can’t help but be drawn to him, though he’s a married man. Rich, lush color bring out the passion in this melodrama, which curious enough seems under-cooked, or too restrained, at least until the climax. The film’s director, Sirk, is an auteur, and as such, each and every picture he made deserves to be seen. Interlude just happens to be one of his more modest efforts. It lacks the undercurrent themes, subtext, or sly tone of his greatest works.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-