Thirty-three years after “Coming to America,” Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley and nonagenarian James Earl Jones still look great. But writers Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield – along with newcomer Kenya Barris – obviously weren’t polishing fresh jokes in the interim. As I watched “Coming 2 America” (Amazon Prime) move between its vibrant dance numbers and sitcommy not-quite-humor as it repeats the same story for the next generation, I thought “I bet the outtakes will be the best part.”
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.”
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.
Woody Allen makes a creative directorial debut (he was only the writer on his previous credit, 1965’s “What’s New Pussycat?”) with “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” (1966), a comedy in a riffing style that presages “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” (1988-2015). Allen and his co-writers take the Japanese James Bond knockoff “Key of Keys” (1965) and pen new dialog that forms a purposely ridiculous and nonsensical spy-action spoof while also making fun of the shoddy original material.
Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986) takes a sometimes absurd but ultimately realistic view of human behavior as it chronicles a period encompassing three Thanksgivings of a New York City family and people in their circles. It’s consistently and gently humorous, occasionally sneaking in a gut-busting gag, as it slyly builds toward its overarching message that these four sisters will continue to love each other no matter what conflicts they get into.
Freaky” has slasher-flick moments and it has comedic moments, but never at the same time, leading to a patchwork hybrid that always feels like a slick Blumhouse product, never something you can get swept away by. On the other hand, Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton (“Blockers”) are on point playing a teen girl and a serial killer, respectively. While this doesn’t rank among the great body-switch films, the two leads are always on their game.
On three occasions, John Hughes used the pseudonym Edmond Dantes when he felt the film represented other people’s work more than his own. It doesn’t mean the movies are horrible. The first, “Beethoven,” in which Hughes’ screenplay was rewritten, is halfway decent. And Hughes’ resume concludes with two films where “Dantes” provides the story and other writers pen the screenplays: the likeable romance “Maid in Manhattan” (2002) and the solid geeks-versus-bullies comedy “Drillbit Taylor” (2008).
Love and Monsters’ ” cast and crew is filled with people who have done apocalypses before, so perhaps having gotten the doom and gloom out of their system, they’re ready to say “Really, maybe the end of the world won’t be that bad.” Dylan O’Brien (the “Maze Runner” films), in a role Ethan Embry might’ve played 20 years ago, is Joel, a likeable but thoroughly normal young man thrust into adventure with a loyal dog, Boy, by his side. Joel searches for lost love Aimee (Jessica Henwick, “Iron Fist”) amid a monster-riddled landscape.