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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King's Ransom

By BrianOrndorf

April 22nd, 2005

Anthony Anderson headlining his own comedy? "King's Ransom" never stood a chance of being good.


Malcolm King (Anthony Anderson) is a filthy rich, conceited CEO on the eve of a divorce from his wife (Kellita Smith, “The Bernie Mac Show”) that will cost him millions. Looking to prevent any loss of his beloved wealth, he enlists his dimwitted mistress Peaches (Regina Hall, “Scary Movie”) into arranging a mock kidnapping to force his wife into hasty legal decisions. Unfortunately for Malcolm, many associates in his life have the same plans, with the arrogant businessman inadvertently ending up in the home of Corey (Jay Mohr), a loser in way over his head.

Rotund, all-mouth comedian Anthony Anderson has stumbled upon a small morsel of fame recently playing sidekicks in such films as “Kangaroo Jack” and “Barbershop.” How this happened, I could never explain. Anderson’s aggressive comedic skills leave a lot to be desired, amplified horrifically when the actor decides he’ll improv his way through a scene. Watching Anderson try to be funny is like getting a tooth pulled, or sitting through a Tim Burton DVD audio commentary. So what to make of “King’s Ransom,” a film where Anderson is the star of the production? You don’t have to shake a magic 8-ball to see where this is headed.

Straight-to-video maestro Jeff Byrd makes his big screen directorial debut with “Ransom,” and I’ll give the filmmaker this, his picture isn’t boring. Byrd keeps the pace snappy as he plows through his checklist of thug life urban clichés (gold teeth, car fetishes, deeply sexualized women), flatulence jokes, and Anderson’s train whistle delivery. Byrd keeps his film on target, though what he’s battling to maintain really isn’t something to be proud of. There’s nothing in “Ransom” that hasn’t already been covered in countless other urban films, including the slapstick humiliation of Caucasians and the monotone thumpity-thump-thump-thump hip-hop soundtrack. “Ransom” doesn’t want to challenge the genre in the least, instead it imagines itself a comedic farce, which it could’ve become if not for Anderson’s shrill, lazy performance.

The only comic inspiration that seems to work in “Ransom” comes from Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) and Charlie Murphy as two fringe players in the outrageous Malcolm King kidnap game. While playing his umpteenth convict character, it’s hard to deny Murphy’s hilarious newfound sense of comic timing due to his stellar work on “Chappelle’s Show.” Matching him well is Faison, who delights in playing up the fear (both sexual and physical) his character has of Murphy. They make an amusing team, and “Ransom” rockets up in interest when these two are onscreen. Sadly, Byrd doesn’t seem to feel the same way, and only sporadically cuts back to their subplot.

“King’s Ransom” might fly by in a blur, but it still reeks of low quality. While I’m sure there will come a day when Anthony Anderson is ready to carry his own film, after sitting through this one, I hope it doesn’t come anytime soon.

My rating: D