Just Go With It (2011, Directed by Dennis Dugan) English 6

Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Kevin Nealon

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(6-Good Film)

Childish. Entertaining. Amusing.

Puerile remake of Cactus Flower (1969) it may be, Just Go With It nevertheless entertains as a light romantic comedy. Daniel Maccabee (Sandler), a wealthy plastic surgeon, is a middle aged player. He tells his conquests that he’s married as a ploy, but it comes back to bite him when he falls in love with the young, stunning Palmer (Decker). He responds with a half-baked idea involving his devoted assistant, Katherine Murphy (Aniston), her two kids, his best friend, Eddie (Swardson), and a trip to Hawaii. The hallmarks of an Adam Sandler movie have been consistent for twenty years now: affable leads, sweet and cutesy moments, absurd silliness. He hasn’t made an outright hilarious movie in a long time. Every once and a while, he can still make an enjoyable film like Just Go With It, that benefits from its two stars chemistry (something that was missing from Cactus Flower despite that film’s superior quality), and the appealing location.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Hitch (2005, Directed by Andy Tennant) English 7

Starring Will Smith, Kevin James, Eva Mendes, Amber Valletta, Michael Rapaport, Adam Arkin, Jeffrey Donovan

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(7-Very Good Film)

Light. Charming. Fun.

Alex Hitchens (Smith), a dating consultant, attempts his boldest job yet: setting the clumsy, overweight Albert Brennaman (James) up with dream girl, model, entrepreneur, Allegra Cole (Valletta). At the same time, all of his smooth tactics seem to fail him in his own pursuit of beautiful gossip reporter, Sara (Mendes). Will Smith had the Midas touch at the time. His charisma and star presence, as well as his chemistry with James, elevate this standard romantic comedy to a fun diversion that warrants repeat viewings if you need something pleasant to watch.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Notorious (1946, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 6

Starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains, Leopoldine Konstantin, Louis Calhern

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(6-Good Film)

Austere. Lean. Impressive.

One of the great Hitchcock’s more revered pictures, Notorious, in my opinion, is far from his best. It’s the kind of film that is more interesting than entertaining, which critics tend to love because there’s so much to write about or theorize. That’s not to say that Notorious doesn’t have much to admire. Every aspect of the filmmaking is admirably done. Ingrid Bergman is luminous as Alicia, a notorious woman (which reading between the lines means she’s a call-girl) in love with an agent, Devlin (Grant in a rare humorless role is excellent), who’s seemingly only interested in using her to get close to fugitive Nazi, Alexander Sebastian (Rains). With very few side characters and a slim plot for an espionage film, Notorious is really about a sort of warped love triangle. As such, it’s impeccably made and acted by the three leads, with a number of memorable directorial flourishes from the master of suspense.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



Christmas Challenge Film #7: The Princess Switch (2018, Directed by Mike Rohl) English 5

For my seventh film on my quest to watch 25 Christmas movies before Christmas day, I watched The Princess Switch. It’s also the third Netflix original movie I’ve watched during this challenge; A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance being the first two. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish which of the three is superior. They are all par for the course. Sweet, competent, bright, warm, reliable, fairy tale, happy endings, family-friendly entertainment. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Apparently there is a sizable audience for these films, since they keep making them. A Christmas Prince even has a sequel Netflix just released. I’ll probably watch it before my challenge is through. But back to The Princess Switch. It feels very much like a direct descendant of A Christmas Prince. A nice, pretty girl, not royalty, has a whirlwind romance with a Prince of a made-up country over Christmas. In fact, there’s a scene in this film of the main characters watching A Christmas Prince.

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Vanessa Hudgens plays Margaret, a talented baker, who struggles to do anything spontaneous. After an awkward meeting with an ex-boyfriend, she caves in, and takes her best friend, Kevin’s advice: a holiday trip to Belgravia where a prestigious bakery competition is held. Margaret goes with Kevin and his daughter, Olivia, but, once there, in what is, of course, a picturesque location, she gets separated from them, and meets Duchess of Montenaro, Stacy DeNovo. I’m never going to stop asking why the people from made-up countries always have British accents, because, once again here, they do. The Duchess, also played by Hudgens, is apprehensive about her upcoming arranged marriage to the Prince, whom she’s met a handful of times. She’d prefer to be an average woman. The Parent Trap or The Prisoner of Zenda are invoked. Margaret and Stacey switch places, fall in love with their respective leading men, and a small dilemma forms, then quickly gets sorted out. It’s that kind of movie, which we already knew going in, and are likely fine with. This is a perfectly satisfying piece of entertainment that will appeal to its audience. No Christmas classic, but fine Christmas time-waster.

I decided to leave Vanessa Hudgens’ “British” accent alone, then changed my mind.

(5-Okay Film)

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


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

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David lewis

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Perfect. Moving. Consummate.

C.C Baxter (Lemmon) is a pushover; a peon trying to climb the tall corporate ladder in New York City. He finds a shortcut, but, of course, it comes at a price. He lends his apartment to his philandering bosses who use his bachelor pad to meet with their mistresses. Things get out of hand though when he comes home to find his office crush, Fran (MacLaine), in his bed after a suicide attempt. She’s in a bad relationship with top boss, J.D Sheldrake (MacMurray). If this sounds dark and sordid, it is, but it’s also a deft comedy, and romance. The script is a masterpiece, and so is the film. Billy Wilder and his manic star, Lemmon, give the movie a levity that belies much of the sadness, but at its core is this intense loneliness highlighted by the 2 or 3 sequences of Lemmon, in extreme long shot, completely by himself. One particularly poignant instance of this comes early, when Baxter is locked out , sleeping on a park bench, while his boss parties in his apartment. There’s also a very moving detail in the opening scene of Baxter finishing what’s left of some wine while picking up after one of his bosses. The overwhelming jazz score kicks in around here and soon becomes a common refrain through Baxter’s story. It’s perfect. I love this film. If I made a top 5 list of movies, The Apartment would surely be on it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Last of the Mohicans (1992, Directed by Michael Mann) English 8

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, Wes Studi, Jodhi May, Steve Waddington

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Rugged. Beautiful. Skilled.

The Last of the Mohicans is an expertly crafted epic and a truly rare adaptation that is better than its source material. Telling the story of Hawkeye (Day-Lewis), white adopted child of Chingachgook (Means), the last of a dying tribe of Mohicans, who, like other Indians, gets caught in the struggle between the French and the British during the French-Indian War. Hawkeye, his father, and brother rescue the Munro sisters, Cora (Stowe) and Alice (May), daughters of Edmund Munro, a British Colonel, who have the embittered Magua (Studi) chasing them with unknown motives. A big reason this film overcomes whatever inherent silliness goes with the plot is the authenticity the actors and technicians achieve, and the respect given to each character. Magua is not only a terrifying villain, but also a sympathetic one. Studi is excellent in the role. Day-lewis is considered by many to be an all-time great actor, and here, he makes the ridiculous character of Hawkeye a fierce and stoic hero to root for. Stowe is gorgeous and a worthy object of his affections. This is, in the end, an epic romance; a lovely fantasy with war as a backdrop.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


His Girl Friday (1940, Directed by Howard Hawks) English 7

Starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy,  John Qualen, Gene Lockhart

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(7-Very Good Film)

Intelligent. Witty. Expert.

Perhaps the most famous of screwball comedies, His Girl Friday, directed by Hollywood master, Howard Hawks, stars Cary Grant and a never-better, beauty and brains, Rosalind Russell. She plays Hildy Johnson, an ace reporter giving it all up to marry kind, stable Bruce (Bellamy), an insurance agent. First, she needs to secure a divorce from her husband and former boss, Walter (Grant), the double-dealing editor of a New York newspaper. She knows it won’t be easy. Walter always has something up his sleeve, and he’s not ready to give her up. Similar to an earlier screwball classic, The Awful Truth, in romantic setup and leads (both Grant and Bellamy were great in it), I prefer The Awful Truth. His Girl Friday starts off with a bang, a fantastic Act 1, but loses steam, and drags a bit in the second act. One thing I do love about the film is the background actors, their authentic reactions and interplay. It makes the whole thing seem like a live glimpse at depression era journalism.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-