Little Women (1994, Directed by Gillian Armstrong) English 10

Starring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Kirsten Dunst, Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Eric Stoltz, Mary Wickes, Samantha Mathis

Image result for little women 1994

(10-Masterpiece)

Consummate. Wonderful. Moving.

Adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, and probably the best adaptation, though there’s been several. The story of Jo March (Ryder) and her sisters, Meg (Alvarado), Beth (Danes), and Amy (Dunst/Mathis) unfolds; their trials and moments of happiness detailed as the years pass. It’s simply a wonderful movie made from a wonderful book. We come to care for each distinct character, but especially the heroine, Jo. This adaptation boasts lavish visuals and a beautiful score. It also captures the joy and sadness of life’s constant passing as the March family perseveres.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(701)

A Matter of Life and Death (1946, Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) English 10

Starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Marius Goring

(10-Masterpiece)

Imaginative. Lovely. Wonderful.

Awaiting his inevitable crash and death, an RAF pilot, Peter Carter (Niven), speaks with an American radio operator, June (Hunter), and the two connect. When miraculously Peter survives, he finds  June, and they fall in love. However, his survival was due to a celestial error made by a relatively new angel, and heaven intends to correct it by taking Peter into the afterlife. Thus begins a sort of heavenly courtroom drama in which Peter, with the help of the saintly Dr. Reeves (Roger Livesey is wonderful in this role), makes his case to stay on Earth with the woman he loves. The movie alternates between color and black and white, but that’s just one of its numerous creative touches that make it a great film. Each actor is fantastic, down to Raymond Massey in maybe 15 minutes of screen time playing the prosecutor in heaven (a patriot during the American Revolution, he hates the British making him biased towards Peter). Made during Powell and Pressburger’s prime when they were making masterpiece after masterpiece.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(696)

Centennial Summer (1946, Directed by Otto Preminger) English 6

Starring Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Walter Brennan, Dorothy Gish, Constance Bennett, Cornel Wilde

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(6-Good Film)

Well-crafted. Attractive. Light.

Set in the summer of 1876 in Philadelphia, the life of the Rogers’ clan is chronicled in this lightweight musical. With a particular focus on sisters, Julia (Jeanne Crain) and Edith (Linda Darnell), who vie for the same man, newcomer Frenchman, Philippe Lascalles (Cornel Wilde), Centennial Summer boasts a terrific cast. Aside from the leads, Walter Brennan, Constance Bennett, and Dorothy Gish star, and the talented Otto Preminger directs. Centennial Summer will suffer comparisons from anyone who’s seen the fantastic Meet Me in St. Louis. It’s a handsome, likable film without being as endearing as Vincente Minnelli’s classic which inspired it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(692)

Starter for 10 (2006, Directed by Tom Vaughan) English 7

Starring James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Mark Gatiss, Lindsey Duncan

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(7-Very Good Film)

Winning. Likable. Smart.

Coming of age, youthful romance, academic contests, these are a boundless source of storytelling. Set in the 1980s, Starter for 10 stars James McAvoy as Brian Jackson, an intelligent but meek freshman student at Bristol University who joins their “University Challenge” team, a trivia competition between schools, popular on television. Brian falls for his worldly teammate, Alice (Alice Eve), and befriends the politically passionate, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), as he navigates his first year away from home. This is a very engaging, well-acted film. My only reservations were that the endearing but awkward Brian makes so many wrong decisions and has so many uncomfortable moments that I struggle to watch the film straight, instead, taking a number of lengthy breaks to get through the narrative.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(691)

Bedtime Story (1964, Directed by Ralph Levy) English 7

Starring Marlon Brando, David Niven,  Shirley Jones, Marie Windsor, Dody Goodman, Parly Baer

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(7-Very Good Film)

Clever. Appealing. Amusing.

The inspiration for ’80s classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Marlon Brando stars as Freddy Benson, a soldier who cons women into sleeping with him. David Niven plays Lawrence Jameson, a rich gentleman who cons women out of their fortune. The two meet and decide the French Riviera isn’t big enough for the both of them, instigating a wager. The first to swindle Janet Walker (Jones), a beautiful tourist on vacation, gets to stay, while the other leaves town. Very funny and well-played between the stars (Brando surprisingly shows a knack for comedy, strengthening his case for best actor of all-time status). I do feel the remake surpasses this film with a few slight changes and a twist ending.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(690)

Tomcats (2001, Directed by Gregory Poirier) English 3

Starring Jerry O’Connell, Shannon Elizabeth, Jake Busey, Horatio Sanz, Jaime Pressly

(3-Horrible Film)

Unfunny. Gross. Offensive.

Tomcats desperately wants to be There’s Something About Mary, an early Farrelly Brothers’ film that worked but instead more closely resembles Boat Trip, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s infamous stinker. Jerry O’Connell leads a cast of semi-famous people who never made it past the D-list (thanks in part, I’m sure to this film), as a cartoonist named Michael, who, together with a group of friends, makes a bet that the last man to stay unmarried gets a huge cash prize. Years later, with the pool of bachelors whittled down to two, a desperate Michael teams up with an embittered policewoman, Natalie (Elizabeth), to seduce his last opponent and make sure he wins that bet. The plot has potential, but the laughs aren’t there to distract us from how juvenile it all is. Plus, the level of misogyny is incredible.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(688)

The Girl Can’t Help It (1956, Directed by Frank Tashlin) English 7

Starring Tom Ewell, Jayne Mansfield, Edmond O’Brien, Julie London, Juanita Moore, Henry Jones

Image result for the girl can't help it 1956

(7-Very Good Film)

Sparkling. Amusing. Memorable.

Jayne Mansfield plays Jerri Jordan, a dumb blonde with hidden depths, named by her gangster boyfriend Marty “Fats” Murdock (Edmond O’Brien) who wants her to be a star singer. He hires a washed-up talent agent, Tom Miller (Tom Ewell), to make it happen. Fats hires Tom solely on the down-on-his-luck agent’s reputation for not trying anything with the ladies he represents, but you can guess where the story goes from there. The pleasure’s in the style, the over-the-top characterizations, and most of all, the music. Little Richard, The Platters, Eddie Cochran, and Fats Domino all turn up over the course of the film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(685)