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-

(997)

Mr. Deeds (2002, Directed by Steven Brill) English 5

Starring Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher, John Turturro, Alan Covert, Jared Harris, Peter Dante, Blake Clark, Steve Buscemi, Erick Avari, Conchata Ferrell

Mr. Deeds (2002)

(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Likable. Juvenile.

Crazy Eyes: I wasn’t talking to you, Deeds. I was talking to that squirrel over there.

Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison production company have their own brand of comedy and they’re not changing it for anybody. No amount of negative criticism can affect them, apparently, because there are enough people who enjoy their juvenile sense of humor. I’m one of these people, and you should know by now whether you are or not. If you’re not, there’s no point in watching any of his Happy Madison movies. Sure, you can start with the early superior ones like Happy Gilmore or The Wedding Singer but his output hasn’t matured with age if that’s what you’re hoping for. Mr. Deeds is somewhere in the middle as far as his comedies go. A remake of the wonderful Frank Capra film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, you won’t be getting anything like the charm or sweetness of that classic. Sandler takes over as Longfellow Deeds, a small-town Joe (a little eccentric) with a good heart who inherits a vast fortune and moves to New York. There, he’s tricked and reported on by Babe Bennett (Ryder), who begins to feel guilty as she falls for him. Silly, breezy and enjoyable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(995)

The Princess and the Pirate (1944, Directed by David Butler) English 7

Starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak, Victor McLaglen, Hugo Haas, Mike Mazurki, Maude Eburne

The Princess and the Pirate (1944) David Butler, Sidney Lanfield ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Madcap. Irreverent. Fun.

Sylvester: My act is known all over Europe; that’s why I’m going to America.

In a long, prolific career with several dozen films, each chock-full of snappy one-liners, Bob Hope’s best lines might be found in The Princess and the Pirate. It also happens to be a pretty good swashbuckler. Hope plays The Great Sylvester, a not-so-great performer working in 18th century Europe, who gets caught up in the middle of feared pirate, Captain Barrett (McLaglen), and his crew’s abduction of Princess Margaret (Mayo). The production is first-rate and Hope is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast. Mayo is winning as his love interest. Brennan is a blast as Featherhead (bearing a strong resemblance to Dopey from Snow White) and McLaglen lends the film just the right amount of austerity to work even apart from being funny.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(992)

I’ll Never Forget You (1951, Directed by Roy Ward Baker) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Ann Blyth, Michael Rennie, Irene Browne, Dennis Price, Beatrice Campbell, Kathleen Byron

Screenshots - I'll Never Forget You

(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Sentimental. Imaginative.

Roger Forsyth: You’re sort of a mystery man even to your friends.

Peter Standish (Power) is a brilliant scientist. Unhappy in his own time, he dedicates his life and research to traveling back through the centuries to the 1700s, just after the revolutionary war, specifically. Eventually, he succeeds but finds that life in 18th century England is not at all what he expected, and his love life is complicated by the kind, understanding Helen Pettigrew (Blyth). It’s beyond me why anyone would think that life would be better in the 18th century, but this is a romantic fantasy not meant to be analyzed to death. The conceit is more or less an excuse to turn the film into a costume drama. Tyrone Power, matinee idol for the ages, is convincing as the fish out of water and romantic lead. The romance is sweet if treacly, and the story is light and compelling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(986)

Shakespeare in Love (1998, Directed by John Madden) English 6

Starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Anthony Sher, Jim Carter, Simon Callow, Ben Affleck, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everett, Martin Clunes

Shakespeare in Love – a minor masterpiece. | Tim Haslett's Blog

(6-Good Film)

Amusing. Attractive. Overrated.

Viola De Lesseps: This is not life, Will. It is a stolen season.

What to do with this film? I can’t agree with what seems to be the majority’s consensus; I don’t consider Shakespeare in Love a great film. That’s forgivable, and it’s not because of the Best Picture Oscar that I say that, but I don’t even consider Shakespeare in Love a superior romantic comedy. It follows the famous playwright early in his career, played by Joseph Fiennes, toiling in obscurity and struggling for inspiration until he meets the beautiful Viola (Paltrow). A romance ensues and motivates him to write Romeo and Juliet.  There’s a lot more involved and most of it is very interesting. I enjoyed the period detail, the backstage antics, and much of the humor. I enjoyed Judi Dench’s portrayal of Elizabeth I, and the supporting cast, in general, is fantastic. I’m less enthusiastic about what might be considered the heart of the film; the romance. I don’t wish to pile on Paltrow or Fiennes, who strike me as easy targets (Fiennes especially), and I don’t say that they are bad, but I’m mostly indifferent to their characters and their relationship. It’s superficial and dull.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(975)

Yolanda and the Thief (1945, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 7

Starring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, Leon Ames, Mildred Natwick, Mary Nash

Yolanda and the Thief: An Out of the World Place | Bright Wall ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Lofty. Peculiar. Beguiling.

Yolanda Aquaviva: Mr. Brown doesn’t dance… except, perhaps, on the head of a pin.

Yolanda and the Thief, I gather, was not a success. Astaire retired for a period after and its leading lady, Lucille Bremer, hardly ever worked again. The critics sneered and modern opinion hasn’t exactly warmed to it. As it stands, I think Yolanda and the Thief will have to settle for being a niche picture; a film made for a very select group of people, and if that group doesn’t exist yet, I’ll start it, because this is a film that’s at least as special as it is flawed. Astaire plays the thief, Johnny (some people, evidently, didn’t like the idea of dapper, refined Astaire as a thief) and Bremer plays Yolanda, a young woman raised in a convent who’s suddenly inherited a vast fortune. Several con artists set their sights on her but Johnny’s got the perfect con cooking. Overhearing her prayer for a guardian angel, he poses as one, convincing her to sign over the power of attorney and all of her wealth right along with it. The trick, of course, for Johnny is getting the money and running before he falls for the mark. Set in some imagined Latin-American country, but designed on a Hollywood backlot, Yolanda and the Thief is a gorgeous fantasy with an unforgettable detour by way of a mid-movie dream sequence. In fact, it has a kind of dream-like, illusory quality all over that I enjoy very much. Bremer’s performance is heavily criticized and not without reason, but I, for one, find her artificial, syrupy performance at home with the aesthetics and tone of the picture.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(973)

Guys and Dolls (1955, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 7

Starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Viviane Blaine, Stubby Kaye, Robert Keith, B.S Pully

The Ace Black Blog: Movie Review: Guys And Dolls (1955)

(7-Very Good Film)

Snappy. Colorful. Brash.

Sky Masterson: I am not putting the knock on dolls. It’s just that they are something to have around only when they come in handy… like cough drops.

The good girl falling for the bad guy and then vice versa isn’t a unique concept. It wasn’t a unique concept in 1955 when this film was made, or in 1950 when Guys and Dolls premiered as a Broadway musical. I doubt it was a unique concept in the 1930s when Damon Runyan wrote a pair of short stories that inspired the show. The point is “good girl and bad guy” seems to be an endless source of escapism and, perhaps, wish fulfillment. Guys and Dolls has a lot of fun with it. Sky Masterson (Brando) is a big-time gambler. His newest wager is that he can woo any girl- of Nathan Detroit’s choosing-to go to Havana, Cuba with him. Detroit (Sinatra), a fellow gambler in need of $1,000 quick, chooses prim, proper Sister Sarah Brown (Simmons), a local missionary, to win his bet for him. Sinatra is a natural in his part, turning every song he sings into a great one, and there are great songs all around. Brando is less natural in his role, mainly because of the singing that’s required, but the film doesn’t lose any points from me on that score. Brando is a movie star for the ages; one of the best. Seeing him in a role so far afield his usual dramatic fare is a pleasure, and I feel he and Jean Simmons do work in their roles. The dialogue is as fine as the music.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(972)

The Reluctant Debutante (1958, Directed by Vincente Minelli) English 6

Starring Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, Sandra Dee, John Saxon, Angela Lansbury, Diane Clare, Peter Myers

The Reluctant Debutante | Trailers From Hell

(6-Good Film)

Vibrant. Easy. Slight.

Sheila Broadbent: No, darling, it’s Jane. She’s no good with men. She doesn’t know any, and she doesn’t want to know any.

Vincente Minelli, like most old Hollywood studio directors, was prolific. Through dozens of films of varying quality (all entertaining), his skill and level of craftsmanship were constant. The Reluctant Debutante, in a career primarily made up of musicals and romantic comedies, happens to be one of his lightest of efforts. It’s champagne bubbles and garnish; not a full-course meal. Seventeen-year-old Jane Broadbent (Dee) travels from her home in America to England to stay with her father, Jimmy (Harrison), and step-mother, Sheila (Kendall). Sheila, meaning well, wants to introduce Jane to upper-class society’s finest and most eligible young men. Instead, Jane falls for a drummer, David Parkson (Paxon), a working-class stiff with a bad reputation. The cast shines brightly (Kay Kendall is a fantastic comedienne) and there’s fun to be had in the rapid-fire dialogue.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(971)

Dragonwyck (1946, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 6

Starring Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Glenn Langan, Walter Huston, Anne Revere, Jessica Tandy, Spring Byington

Dragonwyck (1946) with Gene Tierney – Classic Film Freak

(6-Good Film)

Atmospheric. Eerie. Grandiose.

Miranda Wells: Nicholas – you do believe in God?

Nicholas Van Ryn: I believe in myself, and I am answerable to myself! I will not live according to printed mottoes like the directions on a medicine bottle!

Miranda Wells (Tierney) has lived a cloistered life courtesy of her strict, religious parents in early 19th century Connecticut. When the opportunity comes for her to live with a wealthy relative, landowner Nicholas Van Ryn (Price), she leaps at it and quickly finds herself drawn to the imposing figure, despite his being married. I imagine Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is the standard for all romantic gothic novels and their adaptations, though I haven’t read any of the books and have only seen a handful of the movies. There’s an affected, very mannered air about the dialogue and acting in these films. As a result, Vincent Price is perfect for his gaudy role here. He once remarked about many of his films, “(they) don’t date because they were dated to begin with.” I think that’s accurate, in general, and accurate about Dragonwyck in particular. Dragonwyck is a handsome, elaborately staged affair. The costumes, the house, and all of the trinkets inside it are expertly crafted. That’s the main pleasure of watching most period films and, on that score, Dragonwyck delivers while its story happens to be predictably maudlin and ultimately not up to as much as its busy, intriguing premise suggests. And I’m putting it as a side note but it’s very much front and center in the film: Gene Tierney is staggeringly, timelessly beautiful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(966)

Rules Don’t Apply (2016, Directed by Warren Beatty) English 5

Starring Warren Beatty, Lilly Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Haley Bennett, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Candice Bergen, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Taissa Farmiga, Paul Schneider, Steve Coogan, Dabney Coleman

Rules Don't Apply - NYT Watching

(5-Okay Film)

Promising. Muddled. Unsatisfying.

Frank Forbes: [to Marla] You’re an exception. Rules don’t apply to you.

Howard Hughes. The man, the myth. Only I’ve never really understood the fascination with him. Perhaps it’s obvious to some: he was obscenely wealthy, an influential Hollywood figure, an aviator, and dated some of the most desirable women of his time. Yet, I have never been that interested in him or his story and no film has come along to make me feel otherwise (haven’t seen Melvin and Howard). The most recent attempt is Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply. Opening in the late ’50s, a young driver, Frank (Ehrenreich), gets a job chauffeuring a young Hollywood hopeful, Marla (Collins), around L.A. The two begin to fall for one another and the film is off to a great start. It’s when the main star of the piece, Howard Hughes (Beatty), shows up that the film loses its way. Shifting tones should feel like a journey not like a distraction. There are two stories at play here and though they are linked, they don’t compliment each other. One subtracts from the other. The result turns Hughes into a creepy older guy who interrupts an intriguing romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(962)