Let the Right One In (2008, Directed by Tomas Alfredson) Swedish 7

Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm

Review: Let the Right One In

(7-Very Good Film)

Striking. Thoughtful. Memorable.

Eli: I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.

Any feelings I have about Let the Right One In are inevitably affected by my love for its American remake, Let Me In. In truth, I prefer Let Me In. It’s more polished, more tense, and better acted. Let Me In’s decision to “make the story more accessible,” as they put it (sounds horrible), I would describe as simplifying or chiseling it down to perfection. This has been one of my more unpopular opinions over the years and a good topic for debate, but I will focus the rest of this review solely on the film at hand, and it is a very good film, obviously laying the foundation for its successor which I consider a great film. A beautifully dark fantasy, Oskar is a bullied 12-year-old (the movie is set in the ’80s and you remember how intense ’80s bullying was, at least in movies) just trying to make his way in life when he meets and befriends Eli, a vampire, eternally 12-years-old. So starts easily one of the strangest relationships in film history, at times, romantic, sweet, sinister, twisted, what-have-you. Watching its course is mesmerizing and Let the Right One In is often a beautiful film. Nitpicking, maybe, or perhaps just a consequence of seeing the film long after its initial release, the effects, while still effective, are unpolished at many points in the film. It obscures some of Let the Right One In’s beauty.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Love Crazy (1941, Directed by Jack Conway) English 7

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jack Carson, Gail Patrick, Florence Bates, Sig Ruman, Sidney Blackmer, Vladimir Sokoloff, Elisha Cook Jr.

Love Crazy 1941 - Myrna Loy, William Powell, Gail Patrick, Jack Carson,  Florence Bates

(7-Very Good Film)

Funny. Madcap. Witty.

Steve: She’s married now – got a husband.

Susan Ireland: Yeah? Whose husband has she got?

Steve (Powell) and Susan (Loy) Ireland celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in their upscale, big-city apartment. Interrupted and sent on an errand by Susan’s overbearing mother (Bates), their private party gets further delayed when Steve bumps into his old flame, Isobel (Patrick), on the way home. Part of the small sub-genre I recently discovered of “remarriage comedies,” Susan later decides to divorce Steve after finding out about him spending an evening alone with Isobel in her apartment. From a pretty simple premise, Love Crazy splinters into one of the wildest of screwball comedies. Plenty of physical comedy (which is the most surprising for me, not accustomed to seeing Powell giving that kind of performance) and plenty of wit too. It’s not much of a romance as the principal players already love each other, but at its center is the iconic chemistry between Powell and Loy who evidently made 14 films together.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Philadelphia Story (1940, Directed by George Cukor) English 6

Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Virginia Weidler, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, Mary Nash, John Halliday

The Philadelphia Story' returns to local theaters | TBR News Media

(6-Good Film)

Intelligent. Witty. Affected.

Dexter: Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should’ve stuck to me longer.

I adore old Hollywood films. One of my true passions, I love the stars, I love the first-rate character actors, the production values, and the stories they tell, but I’ve never loved The Philadelphia Story, though it’s considered one of old Hollywood’s best. I come back to it often, expecting some change; a revelation perhaps. My feelings remain unchanged. Starring Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn (my goodness, the star power) as Dexter Haven, Macauley Connor, and Tracy Lord, respectively, The Philadelphia Story sees the three tangled up in a love triangle on the eve of Tracy’s wedding to earnest but stiff George Kittredge (Howard). Dexter is her ex-husband who’s not ready to let go and Macauley (Mike) is a cynical reporter not thrilled with his new frothy assignment of covering a wedding. Adapted from the stage, the film has a pretty conspicuous stagey manner- long, eloquent monologues, affected dialogue-but my problem isn’t with the apparent staginess, it’s with the characters. The dialogue, realism be damned, is sparkling, but I realized this time around that though I love these stars, I don’t even like these characters; especially during the first half. Tracy is prim, Dexter is scheming, Mike is misanthropic, the uncle is a lecher, the dad’s a cad, and the mom’s an airhead. They do breakthrough to a nice ending but too much of the film is bogged down in their deficiencies to bring me any real joy as most classics do.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Fly (1986, Directed by David Cronenberg) English 9

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Leslie Carlson, Joy Boushel, George Chuvalo, David Cronenberg

The Fly's Deleted “Monkey-Cat” Scene Was Too Brutal

(9-Great Film)

Mesmerizing. Grotesque. Effective.

Ronnie: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is quite possibly a genius. When the beautiful journalist, Ronnie (Davis), goes out with him one night, she stumbles upon his plan to create human teleportation. The two fall in love, and all seems well, but, in that grand H.G Wells tradition, Brundle’s experiment goes wrong and the result is his body’s slow decay and transformation into some kind of human-fly. Hard to watch at times, but harder to stop watching, The Fly is so beautifully disgusting. Goldblum and Davis have excellent chemistry and much of the first half plays out like a charming romantic-comedy. The second half, though, is pure horror mixed with tragedy. Whether you see Brundle’s downfall as symbolic of a cancer or another example of a brilliant scientist going too far and paying the price, The Fly is infinitely, grotesquely entertaining.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,019)

There’s Something About Mary (1998, Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly) English 9

Starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Lee Evans, Chris Elliot, Jeffrey Tambor, Lin Shaye, Keith David, Sarah Silverman, Richard Jenkins, Harland Williams, W. Earl Brown

There's Something About Mary' Turns 20 Today - LADbible

(9-Great Film)

Crude. Endearing. Influential.

Ted: You said she was a real sparkplug.

Pat Healy: No, I said buttplug. She’s heinous.

Crude and charming would seem an unlikely pair, but the Farrelly brothers, early on in their careers, made a trio of such films: Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary. These comedies were inspired, fresh, and, most importantly, funny, with There’s Something About Mary being the best of the bunch. Ben Stiller plays sweet and mostly innocent dork, Ted, still pining after his high school crush, Mary (Diaz), over a decade later. One can see why. She’s beautiful, fun, easy-going, and loves football; the dream-girl, in other words. Unfortunately, she’s like a magnet for deadbeats, including the private eye Ted hires to help him, Pat Healy (Dillon), who instead uses his intel to shoot his own shot with her. Several memorably funny scenes stand out, but the Farrelly’s demonstrate a talent for lightness in between the big laughs that give the film its heart and make it more than just an absurd laugh riot. The singing narrator, for instance, modeled after Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye from Cat Ballou, was a nice touch.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Arabesque (1966, Directed by Stanley Donen) English 6

Starring Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, Alan Badel, Carl Duering, Kieron Moore, John Merivale, Duncan Lamont

Film - Arabesque - Into Film

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Vibrant. Superficial.

David Pollock: Let us through! That man’s about to be killed!

Policeman: I hardly think so, sir. This is England!

Written with Cary Grant in mind to star, Stanley Donen (the director), himself, admitted to the script not being very good, “Our only hope is to make it so visually exciting the audience will never have time to work out what the hell is going on.” I think his comments are spot on and I guess, with that in mind, he succeeded. Arabesque, off the heels of Donen’s Charade (which had a phenomenal script), is convoluted rather than clever, exciting rather than romantic. As far as I could work out, Peck plays a professor, David Pollock, asked to spy on a nefarious middle-eastern tycoon, Nejim Beshraavi (Badel), who wants him to crack a code. David gets tangled up with Beshraavi’s mistress, Yasmin (Loren), who is hard to trust but even harder to ignore. Arabesque is solid light entertainment but far from essential.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Major and the Minor (1942, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 7

Starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Diana Lynn, Rita Johnson, Lela E. Rogers, Edward Fielding, Robert Benchley

The Major and the Minor (1942)

(7-Very Good Film)

Awkward. Nifty. Fun.

Mr. Osborne: Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?

I’m not sure if things were less sordid then or if sordid things were just less exposed, but a film like this could never work today. I don’t think it’s any deep cynicism on my part that passages of The Major and the Minor are slightly uncomfortable and awkward viewed in today’s day and age. Ginger Rogers plays a disgruntled New York working girl packing it in and heading back to small-town Iowa. Unable to afford standard train fare, she poses as a 12-year-old to get the discounted rate, which leads to one mess after another. Eventually, she stays with Major Philip Kirby (Milland) at his military academy for young boys, and the two fall for one another…even though he thinks she’s a child for most of the movie. Taken too seriously, I suppose, the film is kind of creepy, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to enjoy this, Billy Wilder’s first time directing an American film. This isn’t the real world put on the screen. It’s a screwball comedy and everybody’s a little crazy, but mostly harmless. On its terms, The Major and the Minor is a wonderfully entertaining film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Lady Eve (1941, Directed by Preston Sturges) English 7

Starring Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Coburn, Eugene Palette, Eric Blore, William Demarest, Melville Cooper

The Lady Eve | film by Sturges [1941] | Britannica

(7-Very Good Film)

Absurd. Witty. Eccentric.

Jean: I need him like the ax needs the turkey.

The Lady Eve might be the most romantic bout of cat-and-mouse ever. This battle-of-the-sexes comedy follows a con artist team made up of an elderly gentleman, Colonel Harrington (Coburn), and his daughter, Jean (Stanwyck), who set their sights on the heir to a massive fortune built on ale, Charles (Fonda). Their plan goes awry once the daughter falls for their mark, and the rest of the movie unfolds in a classic screwball manner. Stanwyck is divine in her demanding role, alternating between femme fatale and vulnerable woman in love with ease and great charm. Fonda and Stanwyck are a prototype for movie couples, and the supporting players are fantastic too. Like the writer-director himself, apparently, The Lady Eve is a strange, often absurd romantic-comedy. Best to just go with it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Directed by Howard Hawkes) English 6

Starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, Steven Geray, Taylor Holmes

American Dreams: How Joyce and Faulkner Fell For a Blonde

(6-Good Film)

Breezy. Witty. Fun.

Lorelei Lee: Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?

Much like the stereotypical, ditzy blondes being lampooned in its story, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is mostly superficial amusement, but that’s not to say it isn’t charming, at times witty, filled with catchy songs, or filmed with panache by Howard Hawkes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell get a great vehicle for their personas. Monroe is the money-crazy, beautiful chorus girl (Lorelei); perhaps a little naive. Russell is the tough-talking dame (Dorothy) who does her best to look out for her friend. When Lorelei gets engaged to a millionaire’s son, the father hires detectives to dig up some dirt on her and break up the engagement. Fun, light entertainment that makes good use of its stars and Charles Coburn is always a scene-stealer.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Flower Drum Song (1961, Directed by Henry Koster) English 6

Starring Miyoshi Umeki, Nancy Kwan, Jack Soo, James Shigeta, Juanita Hall, Reiko Sato, Benson Fong, James Hong

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN'S JOURNEY / FLOWER DRUM SONG ...

(6-Good Film)

Unique. Important. Enjoyable.

Wang Ta: This is not China. This is a different world. And here a man has the right to choose his own wife.

The Orient has always held a strong fascination for us westerners as a world so unlike our own; it’s exotic. Flower Drum Song isn’t so much about that as it is the inverse. A Chinese father and his daughter, Mei Li (Umeki), sneak into America on an arrangement for a wedding. Mei Li is set to marry the fully Americanized, Sammy Fong (Soo), but he’s in love with nightclub performer, Linda Low (Kwan), and Mei Li falls for Wang Ta (Shigeta). Flower Drum Song offers many fish-out-of-water moments, some nice Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, and a look at the sixties from a unique perspective. Mainly, it’s notable for being a rare vehicle for Asian-American performers and they make the most of it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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