FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Buster Keaton |||
Buster Keaton

If you like Chaplin you will absolutely love Keaton, who is widely acknowledged for being one of the greatest directors of all time, a great screen legend and one of our finest actors, as well as one of the three top comedians in silent era Hollywood, and a true pioneer for the independent filmmaker; producing, controlling and owning his films.

Offered as one of three films in the Buster Keaton Collection, The Cameraman is Buster at his deadpan funniest. After becoming infatuated with a pretty office worker for a Newsreel company, Buster picks up a movie camera and sets out to impress the girl, which makes for some very interesting, visually groundbreaking and cleaver footage, capturing the essence of what it was like to be an innovative cameraman.

Based on a true incident, “The General” is a classic of silent screen comedy. Keaton is a Southern engineer whose train is hijacked by Union forces, which leads to a classic locomotive chase and some truly impressive and hilarious stunts, some of which could only be produced by CGI today.

Sherlock Jr is one of the comic's most inventive efforts (introducing a concept oft repeated) depicting a movie projectionist entering the film he's running in order to solve a jewelry theft. Known for doing his own stunts as well as filling in for his costars, Keaton actually fractures his neck on screen as the water from a basin flows from a tube and washes him onto the track.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

Advertisement

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