Victor/Victoria (1982, Directed by Blake Edwards) English 6

Starring Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Leslie Ann Warren, Alex Karras, John Rhys-Davies

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(6-Good Film)

Fun. Silly. Farcical.

Desperate in the extreme to eke out a living in ’30s Paris, two American entertainers (Victoria played by Andrews and Toddy played by Robert Preston) cook up a scheme that can make them rich and famous. Victoria will pretend to be a man who pretends to be a woman on stage. Things grow complicated when an American gangster (Garner) falls for her, and she for him. It’s an elaborate and exuberant farce that features fantastic musical numbers, a torrent of gags, and witty one-liners. Feels old-fashioned and edgy, which is why, even today, the film seems progressive. Rather than being laugh out loud funny, Victor/Victoria has tremendous energy, and even amidst the madcap plot and never-ending misunderstandings, the characters are authentic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(641)

Bridesmaids (2011, Directed by Paul Feig) English 8

Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd, Jon Hamm, Ellie Kemper, Rebel Wilson, Wendi McClendon-Covey, Jill Clayburgh

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Funny. Likable. Feel-good.

Annie Walker (Wiig) seems to have hit rock bottom in every aspect of her life. At the same time, her lifelong friend, Lillian (Rudolph) is getting married and needs Annie to be the Maid of Honor. Annie’s happy to do it but begins to feel insecure when she meets Helen (Byrne), Lillian’s new beautiful, fabulously wealthy friend who’s pushing her way into Annie’s place. Bridesmaids really took off when it came out, making a killing at the box-office, receiving acclaim from critics, and even a handful of award nominations. While following a typical romantic-comedy formula, it deftly blends in elements of buddy comedy as well as women behaving badly (à la I Love Lucy). Add to this, Bridesmaids was an introduction for many, including me, to Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, and Kristen Wiig. It’s funny and likable enough for repeat viewings.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(637)

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954, Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki) Japanese 10

Starring Toshiro Mifune,  Rentarō Mikuni, Kuroemon Ono, Kaoru Yachigusa, Mariko Okada

(10-Masterpiece)

Epic. Gorgeous. Awesome.

The first film in this epic trilogy charting the evolution of the legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto (Mifune). This installment follows Miyamoto in his early years as a rebellious soldier out for personal glory along with his friend Matahachi. After fighting for the losing side in a war, the two men forge wildly different paths for themselves, with Matahachi becoming idle after marrying an older seductress, and Miyamoto becoming a priest after a saintly man rescues him from his life as a fugitive. Added to the plot is Miyamoto’s romance with the woman who was supposed to marry Matahachi, and the story is set up for later installments. It’s a beautiful film on its own, but even more substantial as part of this sweeping series.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(628)

The Crimson Kimono (1959, Directed by Samuel Fuller) English 7

Starring James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, Victoria Shaw, Anna Lee, Paul Dubov, Gloria Pall, Pat Silver

(7-Very Good Film)

Progressive. Compelling. Solid.

Two cops-a white one, Detective Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Corbett) and his Japanese-American partner, Detective Joe Kojaku (Shigeta)-hunt down the murderer of a popular L.A stripper in Little Tokyo. The case brings them to a young and beautiful painter, Christine (Shaw), leading to a potentially volatile love triangle as they hunt for a killer. Melodramatic and hard-boiled, this film features Fuller’s characteristically energetic camera movement and an exciting finale to go along with its take on forbidden love and race relations.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(634)

Cinderella (2015, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 7

Starring Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Hayley Atwell, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Stellan Skarsgård

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(7-Very Good Film)

Vibrant. Appealing. Winning.

Orphaned through hard-luck and raised by her cruel, unloving step-mother (Blanchett), kind Cinderella (James) cooks and cleans all day long in the house in which she once lived a charmed life, but fate hasn’t completely turned on her as a chance encounter gives her an opportunity with the handsome prince (Madden) who falls instantly in love with her.  A fairly faithful live-action remake of one of Disney’s greatest successes proves to be solid, welcome entertainment even if it is, like all of these remakes, unnecessary. Director, Kenneth Branagh, is, among other things, a great confectioner as a filmmaker. All of his films boast an abundance of style and beauty and Cinderella is no exception. Cinderella is also exceptionally well-cast. I can’t imagine anyone better than Lily James and Cate Blanchett in those roles. It’s a wonderful story slightly less impactful since it’s been told before.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(631)

Still of the Night (1982, Directed by Robert Benton) English 6

Starring Roy Scheider, Meryl Streep, Josef Sommer, Jessica Tandy, Srah Botsford, Joe Grifasi

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(6-Good Film)

Moody. Intriguing. Simple.

Dr. Sam Rice (Scheider), a psychiatrist, is involved in a murder investigation after one of his patients gets stabbed to death. The prime suspect? Brooke Reynolds (Streep), whom Sam becomes infatuated with despite the potential danger. Still of the Night is described as Hitchcockian which in this case just means it borrows elements from several of the suspense master’s films. The lead performances are both strong. It’s especially enjoyable to see Streep as a femme fatale, and the tone, look, and pace of the film are classic noir which I love. Where Still of the Night fails is in the plot. It’s too simple but also somehow not clear enough early on what we’re trying to solve. The cast has about 5 characters which mean 4 suspects since we can safely eliminate the lead from the list (although that could have been an interesting twist). It’s just not surprising enough. In other words, unsatisfying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(630)

The Caddy (1953, Directed by Norman Taurog) English 6

Starring Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Donna Reed, Barbara Bates, Joseph Calleia, Fred Clark, Clinton Sundberg

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(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Zany. Enjoyable.

“That’s Amore,” sings Dean Martin as Joe Anthony, a blue-collar drifter working his way up in social class through golf. He meets and falls in love with the lovely socialite, Kathy Taylor (Reed), but his caddy, future brother-in-law, and friend, Harvey Miller Jr. (Lewis), is embarrassing him in front of his new friends. The Caddy is a fast-paced, irreverent comedy with a few great musical numbers. It teases a sports story but ultimately lets that aspect fizzle out. Lewis is mostly annoying but paired with Martin, it doesn’t keep the film from being enjoyable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(627)