FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Hitch

By BrianOrndorf

February 10th, 2005

While it’s great to see Will Smith away from battling robots and aliens, “Hitch” is far too blandly scripted to give the actor much to do. Smith leaves the fun to Kevin James, who steals the movie with his possibly meth-enhanced performance. Without him, “Hitch” is one decidedly dull motion picture.


Alex "Hitch" Hitchens is a dating doctor. Helping shy geeks land the girls of their dreams, Hitch teaches the men to understand and respect women. Hitch's latest client is Albert (Kevin James, "The King of Queens"), a buffoonish accountant with the hots for his company's heiress, Allegra (Amber Valletta, "Raising Helen"). While Hitch finds difficulty educating Albert in the smooth ways of courtship, his attention is stolen by Sara (Eva Mendes), a chilly gossip columnist who challenges Hitch's fast-talking, charismatic ways. Looking to do some wooing of his own, Hitch's plans are thwarted when he learns that she's out to uncover his line of work.

If you're not counting the homoerotic overtones found in the "Bad Boys" movies, I guess it's safe to say that "Hitch" is Will Smith's first foray into a romantic comedy. It's surprising that Smith, an actor who has built a career around one big, boisterous personality, hasn't tried one of these films before. But the bigger surprise is that "Hitch" ends up being a milquetoast and forgettable motion picture even with Smith in the driver's seat.

"Hitch" really is two movies for the price of one. While Smith's character dominates the marketing and the title, bumbling-student-of-love Albert takes up a large amount of screen time with his wooing of Allegra. Unexpectedly, this is where "Hitch" is most funny and assured, tossing away (or at least pretending to) its contrived and sluggish script in favor of romantic slapstick good times, with Kevin James inhaling Chris Farley's ashes and unabashedly flops around. This section of the film also features a very small but agreeable turn from model-cum-actress Amber Valletta. This takes the pressure off of Smith, who gets great comic mileage playing straight man to James, allowing the warmly rotund comedian to steal a sizeable number of scenes away from the star. Their moments of romantic training are the film's highlight, and they make an appealing team too.

When the focus falls back to Hitch's romantic entanglements with Sara, the film is far less interesting. Because "Hitch" doesn't offer anything new to the genre, the hackneyed paths it does take seem extra painful because they stop the film dead. Filmmaker Andy Tennant isn't much of a director to begin with ("Sweet Home Alabama"), and he doesn't seem to realize that his film utterly gives up on being a comedy in its second half, thus losing almost every ounce of charm it's been building up to that point. Smith and Eva Mendes liven up the sometimes bizarre nature of the script (a jet ski sequence set in New York City?) with their charm, especially Mendes, who has never been this charismatically flexible on screen before. But when the brutal script machinations start to impede on their chemistry for no good reason other than to further a story the film doesn't really even need, it destroys the minimal amount of fun "Hitch" was, and makes it start to feel like a college lecture. Clocking in at just under two hours, there's a lot of dramatic fat in "Hitch" that needed to be trimmed to sharpen the focus.

While he has his expected moment of unforgivable cockiness (in an excruciating restaurant scene with a randy client), Will Smith's turn here as Hitch a nice change of pace from the forgettable F/X and action bonanzas that have been filling his dance card the last few years. It's just too bad that Smith wanted to play it so safe and so easy when "Hitch" could've benefited from a stronger vision and much bigger laughs.

My rating: C