The Singing Detective (2003, Directed by Keith Gordon) English 5

Starring Robert Downey Jr. Mel Gibson, Robin Wright, Adrien Brody, Katie Holmes, Jeremy Northam, Carla Gugino, Jon Polito, Alfre Woodard

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(5-Okay Film)

Drudging. Unpleasant. Ambitious.

The Singing Detective, that is the original British miniseries, is unique, dense, mysterious, and original. It is not, however, all that much fun to watch. By turns bizarre and hallucinatory, it’s also relentlessly grim. So too is this, a 2003 adaptation starring Robert Downey Jr., only it’s a remake. A remake of something bizarre and unique starts off at a loss as far as I’m concerned. It’s no longer original and that was the miniseries main appeal. Downey Jr. takes over the lead role from Michael Gambon as Dan Dark, author of dime store mystery novels. An extended stay at a hospital suffering from a severe skin disease has Dark losing touch with reality, alternating between painful episodes from his past to present dealings with his doctors to hallucinations about his written creations complete with musical numbers. There’s much to admire in this film, but little to love, or justify watching it when you could watch the superior miniseries. This plays like the abridged version.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(586)

100 Films I Need to See (2019)

  • Akira (1988)
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
  • Alphaville (1965)
  • American Sniper (2014)
  • The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
  • The Black Cat (1934)
  • Black Sunday (1960)
  • A City of Sadness (1989)
  • Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962)
  • Closely Watched Trains (1966)
  • Cobra (1986)
  • Commando (1985)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Deewar (1975)
  • The Devils (1971)
  • Diary of a County Priest (1951)
  • Dirty Harry (1971)
  • Donnie Darko (2001)
  • Don’t Look Now (1973)
  • Down by Law (1986)
  • The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
  • Drive (2011)
  • Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
  • El Topo (1970)
  • Evil Dead (1981)
  • Evil Dead II (1987)
  • Eyes Without a Face (1960)
  • The Firemen’s Ball (1967)
  • Fox and His Friends (1975)
  • The Exterminating Angel (1962)
  • The Golden Coach (1952)
  • The Gold Rush (1925)
  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
  • Gun Crazy (1950)
  • Gunfight at the O.K Corral (1957)
  • The Harder They Come (1972)
  • High Society (1956)
  • The Hired Hand (1971)
  • Horror of Dracula (1958)
  • How Green Was My Valley (1941)
  • Hunger (2008)
  • Interstellar (2014)
  • In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
  • Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
  • Kes (1969)
  • Killer of Sheep (1978)
  • The Last Emperor (1987)
  • The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
  • Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
  • L’Avventura (1960)
  • Leon: The Professional (1994)
  • The Leopard (1963)
  • Lola Montes (1955)
  • Loulou (1980)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • The Man in Grey (1943)
  • Man of the West (1958)
  • Manhunter (1986)
  • Man of Iron (1981)
  • Marketa Lazarova (1967)
  • The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978)
  • Mogambo (1953)
  • Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
  • Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
  • My Night at Maud’s (1969)
  • Okja (2017)
  • Oklahoma (1955)
  • Oldboy (2013)
  • Ossessione (1943)
  • Papillon (1973)
  • Performance (1970)
  • Pierrot Le Fou (1965)
  • Playtime (1967)
  • Predator (1987)
  • Prizzi’s Honor (1985)
  • The Quiet Earth (1985)
  • Rio Grande (1950)
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  • Sergeant York (1941)
  • Shadows (1959)
  • Shame (2011)
  • The Shop on Main Street (1965)
  • Silence (2016)
  • Solaris (1971)
  • Soldier of Orange (1977)
  • The Spider’s Stratagem (1970)
  • Suspiria (1977)
  • Suspiria (2018)
  • Targets (1968)
  • Tokyo Story (1953)
  • Trainspotting (1996)
  • The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)
  • Tristana (1970)
  • Trust (1990)
  • Videodrome (1983)
  • Wake in Fright (1971)
  • White Heat (1949)
  • Withnail and I (1987)
  • A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
  • The World of Apu (1959)

 

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Set it Up (2018, Directed by Claire Scanlon) English 6

Starring Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Taye Diggs, Lucy Liu, Joan Smalls, Pete Davidson

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(6-Good Film)

Satisfying. Familiar. Enjoyable.

This rom-com follows two overworked, little-respected assistants-one, an aspiring writer, Harper (Deutch) working for an influential sports journalist (Liu), and the other, Charlie (Powell) working for a tyrannical finance titan (Diggs). After meeting randomly, the two assistants, out of self-interest, attempt to set their bosses up, hoping that having love in their lives will make their own lives easier. Generic would be an easy complaint, but unfair, since the rom-com conventions are ultimately always satisfying if done well, and Set it Up is a good romantic comedy. The actors are effortlessly funny and have the requisite chemistry to make you care. Well-written, clever enough comedy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(583)

High Society (1956, Directed by Charles Walters) English 6

Starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, John Lund, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, Louis Armstrong

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(6-Good Film)

Sparkling. Snappy. Misguided.

The Philadelphia Story (1940) is one of Hollywood’s most popular classics. I’ve never been really taken with it. On paper, it’s a glamorous romantic comedy starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. You can’t beat that combination, and yet I have only ever been mildly interested in their tangled love triangle and have gone nearly a decade now without rewatching it. Perhaps it’s due for another viewing. To be fair, I was underwhelmed by The Awful Truth (1937) my first time watching it, but years later found it to be charming and marvelous, watching it several times since. Seeing High Society, a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly in lieu of the previously mentioned trio, however, hasn’t made me question my earlier judgment. High Society is entertaining, certainly, lovely to look at with its elegant technicolor visuals, but held back in the end by Grace Kelly’s character, if not her performance. It’s reminiscent to me of a much later picture, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), which too had everything going for it but couldn’t escape its disappointing leading lady. Like Andy MacDowell in that film, Grace Kelly is beautiful and alluring and we can definitely understand the men running after her, but she never proves herself to be truly worthy of any of the male characters’ affection. Is she supposed to be a “modern woman?” Independent, strong, and intelligent? Because to me, she’s the Daisy Buchanan character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby published thirty years earlier except with a happy ending. Also like Andy MacDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, the charming male lead had a better option. Hugh Grant had Kristen Scott Thomas and Bing Crosby and Sinatra should be fighting over Celeste Holm here.

Kelly plays the wealthy socialite, Tracy Samantha Lord. On the eve of her wedding, where she’s to be married to a George Kitteridge (Lund), a nice enough man but bland of course, her ex-husband, C.K Dexter Haven (Crosby) shows up with eyes on sabotaging the engagement and reconciling with her. He still loves her, he admits. Later, two employees of a tabloid newspaper, reporter Mike Connor (Sinatra) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Holm), arrive to cover the event. Connor, initially convinced that he doesn’t like Tracy, soon falls for her and becomes Dexter’s rival in stealing her from George.

Bing Crosby is cool and as appealing as ever. Musical numbers between him and Sinatra and Louis Armstrong are the film’s real strength, as you’d imagine they would be. Armstrong narrates the film and backs Crosby up on one or two snappy numbers, but High Society, as fine as the supporting cast is and as impressive as all the auxiliary details are, is dependent on its stars. I don’t blame Kelly as much as I do the character. We’ve seen Grace Kelly in other films; magnificent films like: To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and Mogambo. She was magnificent in them, but in High Society, she’s asked from the beginning to be a spoiled brat for much of the movie, and though she’s humbled in the end, it doesn’t erase the fact that she was a brat for the majority of the “romantic” scenes. As a result, High Society really isn’t romantic at all (hence me putting romantic in quotation marks). That’s a huge limitation. As a romantic musical, High Society only delivers on the musical aspect, which is good enough to make it worth watching, but probably not more than once.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(580)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, Directed by Nicholas Stoller) English 7

Starring Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Jack McBrayer, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill

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(7-Very Good Film)

Attractive. Scattered. Winning.

Crappy t.v composer Peter Bretter (Segel) is left by his perfect girlfriend, television star Sarah Marshall (Bell), for a bohemian rockstar, Aldous Snow (Brand). Wanting to get away from her and all things that remind him of her, Peter takes a vacation to beautiful Hawaii, but she turns out to be there as well. Dealing with that awkwardness, Peter meets several characters at the Hawaiian resort, one being the lovely receptionist, Rachel Jansen (Kunis). Segel is such an affable personality that we feel for him through each humiliation, and cheer for him in his moments of triumph. Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and Russell Brand (before the persona became stale) provide a lot of laughs in the supporting cast, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a rock-solid romantic comedy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(579)

School of Rock (2003, Directed by Richard Linklater) English 9

Starring Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Miranda Cosgrove

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(9-Great Film)

Funny. Inspired. Appealing.

Dewey Finn (Black) lives the life of a rock star, minus the success, the women, or the money. Already kicked out of the band he created, and on the verge of being kicked out of his patient best friend, Ned’s apartment, he jumps at an opportunity to pretend to be Ned in order to pick up some money as a substitute teacher at an elite private school. Another brain wave hits, and Dewey decides to turn his overworked pupils into a rock band in order to compete at a talent competition. Easily could have been a miserable comedy, but thankfully, Richard Linklater, the script, and Jack Black (in a role tailor-made for him) squeeze every possible laugh out of the material, making the film a blast.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(565)

The Lady Vanishes (1938, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 10

Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty, Paul Lukas

(10-Masterpiece)

Efficient. Thrilling. Charming.

One of Hitchcock’s most entertaining films with many of his go-to plot devices; espionage and misunderstanding. A young woman, Iris (Lockwood), receives a blow to the head as she boards a train taking her back to England. An elderly woman, Miss Froy (Whitty), tends to her before she knocks out, but when Iris wakes up, Miss Froy is gone. Worse still, no one else on the train believes a Miss Froy even exists. Eventually, Iris, with the help of a talkative British gentleman (Redgrave), attempts to piece together a conspiracy. British comedy duo Charters and Caldicott offer dry comic relief.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(564)