Cactus Flower (1969, Directed by Gene Saks) English 6

Starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn, Rick Lenz, Jack Weston

Image result for cactus flower 1969

Flower power, short, spiraling hairdos, and Quincy Jones’ music fill out the background in this decidedly ’60s romantic comedy. Walter Matthau, with his stooped posture and estimable deadpan, doesn’t have to do much to get laughs, but here, gets a fine role as Dr. Julian Winston, a cad and a half, who tells the women he sleeps with that he’s married to halt any thoughts they might have of long term commitment. His newest conquest, Toni Simmons, played by Goldie Hawn, who won an Oscar in this, her debut, turns the tables on him by threatening suicide, forcing his hand since he’s completely hooked on her. He wants to marry her, but she feels that she needs to meet with his soon-to-be ex-wife first. He has two options: come clean and tell the truth, OR! get his loyal, spinsterish dental assistant, Ms. Dickinson (Bergman), to play his wife for a spell. You can guess which option he chooses. Funny premise generates a funny film, though it’s an odd composite of a stars, and indeed, if one thinks too hard on it, they don’t really go together, however, they’re all quite wonderful in their parts separate from each other. Ingrid Bergman’s given the most sympathetic character, and it’s a pleasure to watch her in such a brazen comedy, shedding- but only partially- her saintly image. Written by frequent Billy Wilder collaborator, I.A.L Diamond, and directed by Gene Saks, following his hit, The Odd Couple (1968). Farcical. Wacky. Time Capsule.

Nothing But the Truth (1941, Directed by Elliot Nugent) English 6

Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Edward Arnold, Helen Vinson, Willie Best, Leif Erickson

Image result for nothing but the truth 1941

Steve Bennett (Hope), new to T.R Ralston’s stockbroking company, and Miami, gets caught up in a few schemes all at once: his boss’ niece, Gwen (Goddard), needs to raise $20,000 for a charity before the end of the month, and tricks Steve in to helping; his coworker needs to get out of an affair with a temperamental mistress, and tricks Steve into leering her away; and the head boss, Mr. Ralston himself tricks Steve into accepting a wager, wherein he can’t lie for a whole day with someone always nearby to watch him. Late screwball comedy that highlights Bob Hope’s great ability and Paulette Goddard’s charm. Fast. Odd. Funny.

Charade (1963, Directed by Stanley Donen) English 10

Starring Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Walter Matthau

Image result for charade 1963

Two of classic Hollywood’s greatest stars pair, with Audrey Hepburn playing Regina Lampert,  the widow of a man who stole a fortune during the war. Her husband’s old partners in crime come calling, betrayed and left out of their cut, to follow Regina, believing that she knows where the money is hidden. Cary Grant plays the mysterious and charming Peter Joshua. Regina quickly falls in love with the man, but can she trust him? Excellent script, full of snappy lines, and romantic patter. Also an excellent whodunnit, an excellent romantic comedy, and an excellent thriller. Charade works tremendously on all levels. Enchanting. Sparkling. Suave.

North and South (2004, Directed by Brian Percival) English 8

Starring Richard Armitage, Daniela Denby-Ashe, Sinéad Cusack, Tim Pigott-Smith, Lesley Manville

Image result for north and south

Margaret Hale (Denby-Ashe) is a spirited, opinionated girl who moves with her parents to the wildly different, industrial town of Milton. There, she catches the eye of hardened factory boss, John Thornton, whom she mostly despises, and befriends a family of aggrieved workers. Adapted from the classic Elizabeth Gaskell novel, this television serial captures her work splendidly, with a standout performance from Armitage as John Thornton. Something of a working class Pride and Prejudice with top-notch production quality and performances. Outstanding. Faithful. Substantial.

To All the Boys I Loved Before (2018, Directed by Susan Johnson) English 6

Starring Lana Condor, Janel Parrish, Noah Centineo, Israel Broussard, King Bach, John Corbett

Image result for to all the boys i loved before

High schooler, Lara Jean Covey (Condor), is the introverted type with a close relationship with her family-widowed father, and two sisters, one older named Margot (Parrish), and one precocious younger sister named Kitty. She also has a hopeless crush on her childhood best friend, Josh (Broussard), who happens to be dating Margot, or was dating her until they broke up just before Lara’s new school year. Lara channels her love for Josh into a series of love letters. She’s always written a love letter for every crush she’s ever had, meant to be seen by no one. Somehow, they get out (it’s no great mystery how, but I won’t mention it here), and Lara goes to school to find several former crushes now know about her feelings. She’s especially mortified to find that Josh received his letters, and her solution is to pretend to date another boy, Peter (Centineo), with the two  starting a fake relationship together for separate reasons. A contrived, predictable plot like the one this teen rom-com works from is not a problem when it’s written and performed as expertly as it is here, by relative newcomers no less. Many scenes you will see coming, but no bad scenes, no shortage of likable characters and genuinely cute moments rather than cutesy drivel. Disarming. Sweet. Satisfying.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018, Directed by Jon M. Chu) English 7

Starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong, Lisa Lu, Chris Pang, Nico Santos, Sonoya Mizuno

Image result for crazy rich asians

Not sure what to expect, American born Economics professor, Rachel Chu (Wu), is invited by her longtime boyfriend, Nicholas Young (Golding), to come meet his family in Singapore and attend his best friend’s wedding over Spring Break. To her great surprise, she enters a world of tremendous wealth: sports cars, designer clothes, stunning jewelry. Though they’ve dated for over a year, Nick never told her about his family’s legacy and downplayed the vast fortune waiting back home for him; so much so that Rachel’s single mother speculated that Nick must come from a poor family; one he has to send money to support. He also never told her about the army of scheming, gold-digging women hoping to snag him, the heir to the Young family dynasty,  and who,  later, monitor Rachel’s every move as soon as she steps foot on the island. Rachel accepts the overwhelming situation heroically, hopeful to make a good impression on Nick’s mother, tough and cunning, Eleanor Sung-Young (Yeoh), as well as his Grandmother, Shang Su Yi (Lu), but it quickly becomes clear that she has few allies within the Young family, seemingly within all of Singapore. She has Nick, who loves her and stands up to his family who say she’s not in his class, Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina), a charismatic friend of Rachel’s from college, Nick’s cousin, Astrid (Chan), as kind as she is glamorous, although she’s facing problems of her own with a husband having an affair, and Oliver, another one of Nick’s cousins, who gives Rachel fashion advice. You’d be right in thinking that Crazy Rich Asians has all the makings of a daytime soap opera, or the setup of a conventional rom-com you watch once on an airplane flight and then never watch ever again. Yes, Crazy Rich Asians is a family melodrama and a romantic comedy, and yes, it’s typical in much of what it’s doing, and yet it’s better than most of the films of its kind. It’s funnier, more appealing, more spectacular, and more colorful than most. To hit all of its genre markers, while seeming fresh and funny, is an accomplishment, and a strong part of the film’s freshness lies in its cast of new stars and the glimpse at a different culture, a culture that’s thousands of miles away, and feels further. Much of entertainment is rooted in escapism, and Crazy Rich Asians is an easy diversion. No doubt, indebted to Jane Austen’s works, specifically Pride and Prejudice, the poor girl ending up with the rich Prince Charming trope will likely never die out. When you think that fairy tale’s been done to death, a film like Crazy Rich Asians proves that it still has juice.

-Walter Howard-

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018, Directed by Mike Newell) English 6

Starring Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay, Penelope Wilton

Image result for guernsey and potato peel society

Just after World War II, a writer based in London, Juliet Ashton (James) starts a correspondence with Dawsey Adams (Huisman), from Guernsey, who tells her of his unique and peculiar book club. The club began during German occupation which intrigues Juliet, and she soon goes to visit. Arriving on the island, she grows fond of the members of the club as she learns of their remarkable story. A very familiar romance plot mixes with a different perspective of the war to fine results. I had no idea that Guernsey was occupied by the Nazis, and that lesson alone makes the film more than its typical story book romance. Though its sadder elements failed to strike a chord, and you know exactly where the story’s going, sometimes you want what you expect, and this is a well done movie. Picturesque. Engaging. Well-crafted.