The Ten Commandments (1956, Directed by Cecil B. Demille) English 6

Starring Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter, Yul Brynner, Vincent Price, Yvonne De Carlo, Cedric Hardwicke, Judith Anderson, Nina Foch, Edward G.Robinson, Woodrow Strode, John Carradine, Debra Paget, John Derek

Blu-Ray Review | The Ten Commandments (Blu-ray) | Blu-ray Authority

(6- Good Film)

Involving. Gaudy. Epic.

Rameses: His god – IS God.

One of the most popular and successful pictures ever made, Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments is not, however, a great film. Being old-fashioned isn’t a sin in my book, but excess is, and The Ten Commandments is excessively old-fashioned. Start with the white-washed cast of Hollywood stars (Vincent Price, Judith Anderson, and Edward G. Arnold, for as great as they are, stand out as unconvincing Israelites and Egyptians), then move to the ultra-soapy dialogue and acting. While we’re at it, I should bring up Demille’s apparent refusal to move beyond an antiquated theater-like presentation for his story. It’s all wide-shots, static and straight-on. I don’t even recall him using any close-ups. The result is a movie that feels more campy than momentous. That being said, it is an excellent story told on the grandest of scales. If I criticize its technique, its only fair to also point out that it’s four hours long and I was never bored.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014, Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour) Persian 7

Starring Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo, Ana Lily Amirpour

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night' Gets Stunning New Trailer - Bloody  Disgusting

(7-Very Good Film)

Cool. Affected. Intriguing.

The Girl: I’m bad.

A film marketed as the first Iranian Vampire Western is sure to be looking for cool points, therefore, it could hardly achieve the effortless cool of an old Steve McQueen flick. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is calculated; the soundtrack, the black and white photography, vampires. It’s a cavalcade of hipster touchstones. That being said, hipsters are people too, and I’m probably one, at my core. This is a hypnotically interesting movie. In a town simply called “Bad City,” corruption and moral decay abound. Arash, a young man with a good heart in a bad situation, meets the Girl (Vand), ominous and beautiful. A vampire, she lurks through town, righteous and violent, much as Clint Eastwood used to in old spaghetti westerns as the Man with No Name. Spaghetti westerns are clearly the biggest influence on this bizarre work; desolate town, sparse dialogue, visual storytelling, moral anti-hero. By its end, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night does what it set out to do. It’s a cool movie.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Diamonds are Forever (1971, Directed by Guy Hamilton) English 5

Starring Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Lana Wood, Charles Gray, Bruce Glover, Putter Smith, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot

Diamonds Are Forever Movie Review

(5-Okay Film)

Substandard. Campy. Uneven.

Blofeld: Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in.

That’s right. Sean Connery is back as James Bond, after Australian and subpar actor, George Lazenby, briefly took over the role. A return like this should exist in the same sphere as Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA. Instead, it’s a bit of general trivia for Bond aficionados. The reason? It’s because the film, itself, is mediocre. In fact, I might argue that it’s the silliest of the Bond films (not having seen Moonraker yet), which is saying something. Diamonds are Forever has Connery talking to rats, making out with his self, and driving a space buggy of sorts. It’s also set mainly in Vegas which, after Japan and Switzerland in the previous outings, comes as a letdown. Bond poses as a a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a high-level operation, but the plot is one of the franchise’s most irrelevant, the main villain represents an uninspired take on the role, and the henchman are laughable (maybe they were supposed to be). What are Diamonds are Forever’s redeeming features? It’s entertaining, up until the end which is surprisingly uninteresting. Jill St. John, the first American Bond woman, is fun and memorable. The theme song, of course, is one of the best, and, above all, Sean Connery. I can see why he was tired of doing this material, but he made it iconic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Let the Right One In (2008, Directed by Tomas Alfredson) Swedish 7

Starring Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm

Review: Let the Right One In

(7-Very Good Film)

Striking. Thoughtful. Memorable.

Eli: I’m twelve. But I’ve been twelve for a long time.

Any feelings I have about Let the Right One In are inevitably affected by my love for its American remake, Let Me In. In truth, I prefer Let Me In. It’s more polished, more tense, and better acted. Let Me In’s decision to “make the story more accessible,” as they put it (sounds horrible), I would describe as simplifying or chiseling it down to perfection. This has been one of my more unpopular opinions over the years and a good topic for debate, but I will focus the rest of this review solely on the film at hand, and it is a very good film, obviously laying the foundation for its successor which I consider a great film. A beautifully dark fantasy, Oskar is a bullied 12-year-old (the movie is set in the ’80s and you remember how intense ’80s bullying was, at least in movies) just trying to make his way in life when he meets and befriends Eli, a vampire, eternally 12-years-old. So starts easily one of the strangest relationships in film history, at times, romantic, sweet, sinister, twisted, what-have-you. Watching its course is mesmerizing and Let the Right One In is often a beautiful film. Nitpicking, maybe, or perhaps just a consequence of seeing the film long after its initial release, the effects, while still effective, are unpolished at many points in the film. It obscures some of Let the Right One In’s beauty.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Mulan (2020, Directed by Niki Caro) English 4

Starring Liu Yifei, Yoson An, Gong Li, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, Ron Yuan

What Time Will Mulan Be on Disney Plus? How To Watch With Premiere Access

(4-Bad Film)

Inferior. Misguided. Dreary.

Mulan: Yes… I will bring honor to us all.

If you asked me ten years ago for one classic Disney animated film that could be interesting as a live-action remake, Mulan would likely have been my choice. The original is one of my favorites of all Disney films but I feel (or felt) that there was plenty of directions its story could go. It didn’t need to be a carbon-copy of the original to work. The folks at Disney obviously agreed and this new Mulan, Mulan 2020, is, in a lot of ways, a new film; its own film. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good film. Mulan 2020 starts out the same. She takes her aging father’s place in defending the country. The enemy is different, however. China’s facing Rouran warriors being manipulated by a vengeful witch (Li). Most people would have probably preferred that it recycle what worked so well in the animated version (catchy songs, colorful adventure, funny characters like Mushu, and light romance between Mulan and Li Sheng). I like the initiative to make something different, but every choice seems like a slap in the face to the original. It feels like the filmmakers were embarrassed by the original and spend the majority of this movie catering to China (turns out China hates it too). Everything is described as an effort to be “more historically accurate.” They forgot to make it entertaining. Everything that was fun about the first film is gone now. What’s left is dreary (and somehow still campy at the same time). There is nothing wrong with musical fantasies. I can’t believe Disney tried to make a fantasy “more realistic.”

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Quest for Camelot (1998, Directed by Frederik Du Chau) English 4

Voices of Cary Elwes, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gary Oldman, Pierce Brosnan, Eric idle, Don Rickles, Jane Seymour, Sir John Gielgud, Jaleel White, Gabriel Byrne

WarnerBros.com | Quest for Camelot | Movies

(4-Bad Film)

Smarmy. Unpolished. Cookie-Cutter.

King Arthur: You have reminded us that the strength of a kingdom is not based on the strength of the king, but on the strength of its people.

Even by the late ’90s, Disney still had a monopoly on mainstream animation. Competitors had cropped up. Don Bluth, mainly. Dreamworks was up and coming (they released the fantastic Prince of Egypt this same year), and Warner Bros. was trying their hand at reestablishing themselves as animation giants. Quest for Camelot comes off the heels of Cats Don’t Dance, a film I liked, and spins a fresh tale around the legend of King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur. Kayley’s (Gilsig) father is a knight of the famed round table-loyal and brave-but he dies trying to protect the king from a power-mad, Ruber (Oldman). Once Excalibur is lost, it’s up to Kayley to retrieve it with the help of a blind swordsman, Garrett (Elwes), and a double-headed dragon, Devon and Cornwall (Idle and Rickles). As a passionate fan of King Arthur’s tales, I believe there’s plenty of material here for a good film and I like many of the ideas floating through Quest for Camelot. So naturally with a movie this subpar, it’s all in the execution. Its chief sin? The music is god-awful. Beyond that, everything else is simply mediocre and a couple of notches below the immense standards Disney was setting at the time.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Cats (2019, Directed by Tom Hooper) English 4

Starring Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, Francesca Hayward, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Laurie Davidson, Ray Winstone, Robbie Fairchild

Cats review: The movie Cats doesn't even know what the musical is about -  Vox

(4-Bad Film)

Senseless. Unappealing. Puzzling.

Old Deuteronomy: [to Victoria] I believe you truly are a Jellicle cat, a dellicle cat.

Oscar-winning director, Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), brings Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical, Cats, to the big-screen with an A-list cast and the budget of a blockbuster epic. How did this go so wrong? As someone who has never seen Cats on stage, I admit that it’s unfair to judge it based on this universally-panned adaptation, but I couldn’t see any appeal in this material. A house cat, Victoria (Hayward), wanders out into the streets to find a strange world of cats, known as “Jellicles,” competing for the distinction of being named “the Jellicle Choice” at the annual “Jellicle Ball.” This amounts to a lot of random characters introducing themselves through song and dance. A lot of the blame and criticism went to Hooper, as the director (goes with the job), but what is Cats about? What is the point of this bizarre spectacle? The characters are hard to distinguish, the music is repetitive, and it’s one of the most nonsensical works I have ever seen.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Sleepaway Camp (1983, Directed by Robert Hiltzik) English 7

Starring Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Paul DeAngelo, Karen Fields, Christopher Collet, Mike Kellen, Robert Earl Jones

Sleepaway Camp (1983) - simonprior.com

(7-Very Good Film)

Campy. Bizarre. Transcendent.

Meg: If she were any quieter, she’d be dead!

Years after experiencing a traumatic (hard for me to discern) boating incident, young Angela is sent with her protective cousin, Ricky, to socialize at a nearby summer camp. The target of bullies and perverts alike, Angela does make one friend in Paul, smitten with her, while the bullies and perverts get there comeuppance from a mysterious killer. It’s difficult to tell if Sleepaway Camp is spoofing the slasher genre or if it really is just earnestly amateur. The dialogue is laughable, the story is preposterous, the acting ranges from decent to kitsch in the extreme. Regardless, this movie is pretty awesome. I laughed (I’m still laughing), covered my eyes a few times, and scratched my head often. Like other campy cult classics, Sleepaway Camp transcends the good or bad labels.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Over the Moon (2020, Directed by Glen Keane) English 5

Voices of Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, John Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Cathy Ang, Margaret Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles

Netflix's 'Over the Moon' is an animated musical from Glen Keane - Insider

(5-Okay Film)

Pleasant. Diverting. Derivative.

Fei Fei: When she cries, her tears turn to stardust.

Fei Fei is a young Chinese girl whose mother died and is now upset to find her father (John Cho) remarried. Smitten with the tale of the moon goddess, Chang’e (Soo), that was told to her by her late mother, and eager to escape her home life that now involves a step-mother and brother, Fei Fei builds a rocket that will take her to the moon, where she can hopefully meet the goddess. Positives first: this is a nicely animated film with a culture we rarely see in American films. On top of that, a young girl dealing with the death of her mother and learning to love her new family is a good foundation for a film. I’m surprised, however, that no one seems to notice how similar Over the Moon is to the vastly superior film, Up. I don’t consider it a deadly sin for a movie to borrow from another, but it does lose a great deal of its power by not being fresh. Look at the broad strokes of both films: the main character is in mourning, builds a home-made aircraft, meets and gets disappointed by his/her idol, has an annoying stowaway, meets a friendly, overly chatty dog along the way. It’s blatant to me. This story and its elements aren’t as interesting the second time around.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Love Crazy (1941, Directed by Jack Conway) English 7

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jack Carson, Gail Patrick, Florence Bates, Sig Ruman, Sidney Blackmer, Vladimir Sokoloff, Elisha Cook Jr.

Love Crazy 1941 - Myrna Loy, William Powell, Gail Patrick, Jack Carson,  Florence Bates

(7-Very Good Film)

Funny. Madcap. Witty.

Steve: She’s married now – got a husband.

Susan Ireland: Yeah? Whose husband has she got?

Steve (Powell) and Susan (Loy) Ireland celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in their upscale, big-city apartment. Interrupted and sent on an errand by Susan’s overbearing mother (Bates), their private party gets further delayed when Steve bumps into his old flame, Isobel (Patrick), on the way home. Part of the small sub-genre I recently discovered of “remarriage comedies,” Susan later decides to divorce Steve after finding out about him spending an evening alone with Isobel in her apartment. From a pretty simple premise, Love Crazy splinters into one of the wildest of screwball comedies. Plenty of physical comedy (which is the most surprising for me, not accustomed to seeing Powell giving that kind of performance) and plenty of wit too. It’s not much of a romance as the principal players already love each other, but at its center is the iconic chemistry between Powell and Loy who evidently made 14 films together.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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