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.
Agatha Christie’s second novel, “The Secret Adversary” (1922), introduces Tommy and Tuppence, best friends since childhood who form The Young Adventurers in their early 20s. Not as prolific or lauded as Poirot (introduced in her first book, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”), T&T nonetheless have a following, as witnessed by four additional books and two miniseries (both called “Partners in Crime,” and both featuring an adaptation of this first novel). It’s easy to see why: They are a delightful bantering duo, with Tommy focused on facts and Tuppence being more impulsive.
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.
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).
From my first read, I remembered “Death Match” (2004) as being too similar to other works — dating back to the HAL-9000 portion of “2001” – and featuring one of those stereotypical Big Final Acts. But I got more out of Lincoln Child’s computer-tech thriller – his sophomore follow-up to “Utopia” – on this read. While the novel fits in the grand tradition of cautionary tales about artificial intelligence, it offers a tantalizingly fresh idea at its core: What if a computer program could find your ideal romantic partner?
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.
As a kid, I knew “Annie Hall” (1977) as the movie that beat “Star Wars” for Best Picture, so I vaguely hated the movie without seeing it. That matchup remains one of the starkest apples-and-oranges comparisons in Oscar history, as “Star Wars” marks a sea change in filmmaking technology while “Annie Hall” is a just plain hilarious comedy. “Annie Hall” of course won because of the makeup of Oscar voters, but – while “Star Wars” would’ve been an equally legitimate winner – I’m now mature enough to say “Annie Hall” is deserving of the statuette.