Coming to America” (1988), from the height of Eddie Murphy’s comedic powers, has returned to the spotlight thanks to the upcoming release of the sequel “Coming 2 America,” which hits Amazon Prime on March 5. The original remains a classic thanks to Murphy’s and Arsenio Hall’s ability to create so many funny caricatures within not only one movie, but within single scenes.
Because of its Oscar and place at the top of many “Best of Woody Allen” lists, 1977’s “Annie Hall” is often seen as an entry point into Allen’s catalog. But a case could be made for “Play It Again, Sam” (1972) as an earlier film where Allen puts it all together – not abandoning his trademark brand of comedy, but focusing more on crafting a character, a core relationship and a distinct hook. While I think “Annie Hall” is the slightly better picture, I also adore “Play It Again, Sam.”
Corrie Swanson and Nora Kelly, our two favorite women from the Preston-Childverse (with apologies to Constance Greene) return for their second combined adventure, “The Scorpion’s Tail” (January, hardcover). As was first seen in 2019’s “Old Bones,” young FBI agent-in-training Corrie and experienced archaeologist Nora play off each other in entertaining ways.
13 at Dinner” (1933) is vintage Agatha Christie, featuring one of those clever solutions that in retrospect makes perfect sense, standing as one of her best early character works, and showcasing classic Poirot-Hastings conversations (with the latter serving as the book’s narrator) as they work out of their shared London flat/office.
Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four” (2015) is disingenuous in some ways, but I was still thoroughly engaged by writer-director Marty Langford’s documentary. It chronicles a strange incident in the history of superhero cinema: Bernd Eichinger’s Constantin Film and producer Corman made a “Fantastic Four” film in the early 1990s for the ultra-low (in film terms) price of $1 million, and then it was not released – except via bootlegs, which is why it has a cult following and why this docu is able to show clips.
To mark the 40th anniversary of author Thomas Harris’ invention of Hannibal Lecter and the 30th anniversary of “The Silence of the Lambs” – the only horror film to win Best Picture – we’re looking back at the four books and five films of the Hannibal Lecter series over nine Frightening Fridays. Next up is the fourth film, “Red Dragon” (2002):
She’s All That” was all that in January 1999, and I recall being peeved by the film for being a generic teen message movie that takes over the grounds of Sunnydale High School (Torrance High in the real world) without “Buffy”-level insights. I also didn’t like that it steals Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” from “Dawson’s Creek.” Today, I’m ready – and even a bit proud — to embrace writer R. Lee Fleming Jr. and director Robert Iscove’s film as one of the core teen movies of my generation.
Bananas” (1971) is an early calling card of Woody Allen’s oeuvre (although he co-writes with Mickey Rose) as it’s driven by snort-worthy off-the-cuff lines about topics ranging from the personal to the sociopolitical. But it falls short of his elite comedies; for example, “Love and Death” would go on to do this brand of humor better. Even though it has messages, I’m not left with a profound takeaway; I’m merely left with a smile on my face.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, Douglas Preston’s nonfiction book “Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History” (1986) plays as a collection of research notes and ideas for his later career as a novelist. That wouldn’t begin for another eight years, with “Jennie,” the seeds of which are found here in chapter 11’s recounting of Meshie Mungkut, the first example of a chimpanzee raised as a human.
Albert Finney looks the part of Hercule Poirot in his only turn as the Belgian detective extraordinaire in the 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” But he also runs through the hallway of the titular train at one point, anxious to pursue the next step in his investigation; running seems so undignified for the great sleuth. It’s one of several things that are just a little bit off in this mostly faithful adaptation from director Sidney Lumet and writer Paul Dehn (“Beneath the Planet of the Apes”).