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-

(1,003)

Splendor in the Grass (1961, Directed by Elia Kazan) English 8

Starring Warren Beatty, Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Barbara Loden, Audrey Christie, Joanna Roos, Sandy Dennis, Zohra Lampert

Love is for the Very Young: 'Splendor in the Grass' (1961) - retromoviebuff

(8-Exceptional Film)

Lurid. Affecting. Melodramatic.

“Though nothing can bring back the hour. Of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not; rather find. Strength in what remains behind.” -William Wordsworth.

I could not care less about the premise of this film. A young man, handsome and affluent, is growing impatient with his “nice” girlfriend to sleep with him. The sexual frustrations of a high schooler seem small beans, on the one hand, and ripe for cinematic exploitation, on the other. Thankfully, though it doesn’t shy away from the lurid melodrama at its center, it does slowly become more than that, and by the end, it becomes a lot more. Splendor in the Grass is, ultimately, a poignant film. Beatty is the handsome young man in question and Natalie Wood, the “nice” girlfriend. I put “nice” in quotation marks not sarcastically but because her character, Deanie, comes to resent that designation. She loves Beatty’s Bud Stamper and feels that she’s willing to do anything for him, but he’s too muddled up by his domineering father to really know what he wants. There’s a lot going on in this film; a lot of tears, a lot of yelling. Films like these gave way to the soap opera on television, but there’s a level of skill in all aspects of Splendor in the Grass that elevates the material. Great stars, a handful of provocative, memorable moments, and a moving finale.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,002)

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-

(1,001)

Bend of the River (1952, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Howard Petrie, Chubby Johnson, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Lori Nelson, Jay C. Flippen

Bend Of The River | Movies ala Mark

(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Complex. Proficient.

Glyn McLyntock: You’ll be seeing me. You’ll be seeing me. Everytime you bed down for the night, you’ll look back to the darkness and wonder if I’m there. And some night, I will be. You’ll be seeing me!

Glyn McLyntock. What a name. It could only have been born out of the pages of some dime-store western novel, which is the case here. Played by James Stewart, Glyn is an old raider, an ex-criminal, out to prove to himself and his new group of friends-Jeremy Baile (Flippen) and his two beautiful daughters- that he’s reformed. He’s helping a group of settlers establish a life out in the wilderness of 19th century Oregon, but when a greedy businessman holds out on their supplies, it’s up to Glyn to get them for his new adopted town. Complicating matters is Glyn’s new friend, Emerson Cole (Kennedy), also an ex-raider, not nearly as reformed. Excellent western drama with a number of exciting action sequences. Better still, the complex characters portrayed by Stewart and Kennedy. Rather than the simple classic westerns that dominated the ’40s, it’s hard to tell where this story is going. Add to that, the good guys and bad guys eschew the black and white characterizations of those films and instead occupy the gray in-between area.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,000)

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-

(999)

Bao (2018, Directed by Domee Shi) English 5

In need of some Christmas feels? You can watch Pixar's 'Bao ...

(5-Okay Film)

Bizarre. Original. Confusing.

Back in the summer of 2018, I eagerly went to see The Incredibles 2 the first opportunity I had. Anxiously, I ran into the theater 15 minutes late, hoping I hadn’t missed any of the movie. I hadn’t, but I did miss the first half of this insane Pixar short called Bao. If you’ve seen Bao, imagine only seeing the second half, and how confusing that would be. Rewatching it, or finally watching it in its entirety, I discovered it does actually make sense, though it’s still rather bizarre. A middle-aged Chinese woman living in Canada cooks dumplings and watches as one comes to life, which she in turn raises as her son. The years pass and the dumpling grows up and has its own life, causing hard feelings between the over-protective mother and her dumpling son. I spent so much time focusing on whether Bao would make sense or have a point (it does, on both counts) that I wasn’t able to enjoy the ride, if you will. It’s all very strange, from the animation to the story. Perhaps this demonstrates a lack of empathy on my part, but this isn’t my story, and a mother sad that her son is moving on didn’t resonate with me, at least, the way it’s told here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(998)

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)

The Happytime Murders (2018, Directed by Brian Henson) English 5

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Ben Falcone, Leslie David Baker, Michael McDonald

Spoilers: A 'Happytime Murders' Ending Explanation

(5-Okay Film)

Promising. Crude. Uneven.

Phil Philips: I never knocked a guy out with his own balls before.

The Happytime Murders is a brash, consistently vulgar romp starring Jim Henson-like puppets. That premise, alone, is going to repel a lot of people. I was interested. The result, however, is only sporadically funny and inspires more head shaking than laughter. Phil Philips is a puppet in a world that doesn’t care one bit for his kind. They’re less than second class citizens. Once a promising cop, he’s now a seedy private detective, but after the bizarre death of his brother, an actor, and other cast members from an old sitcom, “The Happytime Gang,” Phil’s forced to team up with his old partner, Detective Edwards (McCarthy), to catch the killer. Director and puppeteer, Brian Henson, son of the legendary Jim Henson, has proven to be an incredibly creative filmmaker. Even in this film, there are a number of good ideas, but a film like this needs to be as funny as it is vulgar and it’s not. Still, you can appreciate the work of the puppeteers which remains a form of magic even after they reveal the process behind it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(996)

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)

Magic Mike (2012, Directed by Steven Soderbergh) English 6

Starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Riley Keough, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Manganiello, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Review: 'Magic Mike,' by Steven Soderbergh, With Channing Tatum ...

(6-Good Film)

Fun. Dramatic. Strong.

Dallas: Will you welcome to the stage, the one, the only… Magic Mike!

“You are the husband they never had. You are the dreamboat that never came along,” says Dallas (McConaughey), the seedy impresario behind a nightclub of gaudy male strippers. Magic Mike (Tatum) is his main attraction, but Magic Mike is not real. We see Magic Mike during the day, going by Michael, working some construction job, struggling to start a business of his own. That’s what this film is actually about. Night versus day. Illusion versus reality. For a certain amount of time each night, Mike gets to live in a fantasy world. It’s only when he begins to mentor a young, new stripper, Adam (Pettyfer), that he begins to see how hollow it all is. Magic Mike is a solid film underneath the heavy layers of pageantry, eye candy, and other distractions; most of it necessary. It can’t quite convince me that they are not all meatheads, but it did make me care about their plight and I enjoyed the journey, besides.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(994)