FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| John Sturges |||
John Sturges

Helming the “Magnificent Seven” should be reason enough, demonstrating that Sturges had the happy talent of taking what was considered strictly “male” oriented stories and making them sexy enough and humorous enough to appeal to female movie-goer as well.

Sturges takes this star-studded gunslinger film based on the Japanese favorite "The Seven Samurai", and makes it a bone fide all-American classic featuring Yul Brynner. At the request of Mexican peasants, Brynner recruits a band of fellow mercenaries, half of whom Sturges introduces as the next generation of action film super-stars including Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Steve McQueen. Widescreen!

Sturges is responsible for what is renowned as one of the greatest war films ever made, featuring Steve McQueen and his unforgettably daring motorcycle jumps in the face of the enemy. Allied prisoners escape from a German POW camp in this superior effort, noted for a brilliant international cast and Elmer Bernstein's triumphant score. Widescreen!

This day in the life of a stranger in an isolated town has since been done to death, and this is why. In the hands of a lesser director the talents of this exceedingly manly cast (Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan) would otherwise overwhelm this compelling drama with a prejudice theme, but Sturges is able to maintain a firm grasp of the reigns, keeping his actors this side of mellow drama. Widescreen!

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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