The Flight of the Phoenix (1965, Directed by Robert Aldrich) English 9

Starring James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Hardy Kruger, Ernest Borgnine, Peter Finch, George Kennedy, Dan Duryea, Christian Marquand, Ian Bannen, Ronald Fraser

Cult Movies: Original disaster movie The Flight of The Phoenix rises from  the ashes - The Irish News

(9-Great Film)

Dramatic. Brutal. Character-driven.

Heinrich Dorfmann: Mr. Towns, you behave as if stupidity were a virtue. Why is that?

A cargo plane goes down in the middle of the Sahara desert, hundreds of miles off course and away from any apparent civilization. Its pilot, Captain Frank Towns (Stewart), navigator, Lew Moran (Attenborough), and many passengers face death from all directions: lack of resources, limited water, oppressive heat, and a hostile band of Arab thieves. One passenger, a German and a pariah among the men, Heinrich Dorfmann (Kruger), has an idea that he can rebuild a functioning aircraft, but its up to the others whether or not they put their faith in his unlikely plan. The Flight of the Phoenix is an outstanding survival drama and maybe the best film about leadership, ego, and disparate personalities forced into working together by brutal circumstance. Captain Towns is a proud man with decades of experience fueling his stubbornness, but perhaps there are things he doesn’t know, things the younger men can teach him. Lew is the mediator. He loves and respects his Captain but he suspects that they might need Dorfmann in order to survive. Dorfmann, meanwhile, is a tyrant when it comes to it. He’s petty, arrogant, confrontational, and it’s unclear whether he’s a genius or a madman. Captain Harris (Finch) is the stereotypical British soldier, stiff upper-lip, brave, adheres ceaselessly to the book, even when the elements make that book absurd. Ratbags (Bannen) is sarcastic and apathetic. Dr. Renaud (Marquand) is compassionate. Trucker Cobb (Borgnine) loses his mind. Standish (Duryea) leans on his religion, and Sergeant Watson (Fraser), perhaps the most-loathed character across all film, is a coward. These characters are what make The Flight of the Phoenix so compelling. When the action sequences do come, they’re riveting and impressive, but it starts and ends with the actors and the fine work they do.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,097)

Untold: Malice at the Palace (2021, Directed by Floyd Russ) English 8

Featuring Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, Reggie Miller

(8-Exceptional Film)

Compelling. Rousing. Effective.

Less than a month in to the 2004 NBA season, the league-leading Indiana Pacers visited the defending-champion Detroit Pistons. Very few people remember the actual game, but no sports fan can forget the finale. After being hit by a thrown cup, Ron Artest of the Pacers charged up into the stands and a massive brawl ensued, resulting in suspensions for several of the players. As I watched episode 1 of Netflix’s new sports-documentary series, Untold, I was reminded of how great the early 2000s’ Indiana Pacers were. Going into 2004, they had Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jamaal Tinsley. That I often forget about these Pacers is the underlying tragedy at the heart of Malice at the Palace. No, it’s not a tragedy on the scale of a natural disaster, the loss of life, or a war, but the consequences of Malice at the Palace were an injustice and had a lasting effect on these players and their legacies. It’s more than just basketball. The players took all of the blame. Sure, Artest was a volatile personality, but he did not instigate this event. I don’t know many people who could have something thrown at them and not react. The point is, the league did nothing to the fans of Detroit who rioted and attacked the Indiana Pacers players, and instead labeled the players being attacked, “thugs.” Though only an hour long, this is an exceptional documentary with an abundance of great footage and different perspectives including those of some of the key fans who prove to be exactly how you’d imagine them: jerks.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,096)

Mon Oncle Antoine (1971, Directed by Claude Jutra) Québécois 6

Starring Jacques Gagnon, Claude Jutra, Jean Duceppe, Monique Mercure, Lynne Champagne, Olivette Thibault

Mon oncle Antoine (1971) | MUBI

(6-Good Film)

Measured. Bitter. Foreign.

Jos Poulin: To hell with them all! The English, Euclid, the undertaker, the priest, the boss, the whole gang. I’m getting the hell out.

Neither the whimsical jaunt nor the blissfully nostalgic piece I expected based purely on its title, Mon Oncle Antoine is surprisingly bitter. Sure, there are light moments and, at times, it takes on elements of the slice-of-life drama, which is what I anticipated goin in, but this film more accurately is about a young boy’s harsh coming-of-age in a harsh environment (Quebec, 1949). He lives with his Aunt and Uncle who run an undertaker business and flirts with the young shop girl, Carmen, that boards there. The story is quiet; the drama understated. By its end, all taken into account, you’ll notice that a lot actually does happen in this movie and there’s so much more that I feel that I missed or didn’t understand. There’s almost no context given by the film and I have no context of Canadian history, so Mon Oncle Antoine is especially foreign with very little to relate to. I wouldn’t be surprised if it grows with each viewing, but my first impression is that Mon Oncle Antoine is cold and bleak.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,095)

The Blue Dahlia (1946, Directed by George Marshall) English 8

Starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Hugh Beaumont, Tom Powers, Howard Freeman

William Bendix in 'The Blue Dahlia' | by Joe Sommerlad | Medium

(8-Exceptional Film)

Hardboiled. Stylish. Surprising.

Joyce Harwood: Why is it? You’ve never seen me before tonight.

Johnny Morrison: Every guy’s seen you before somewhere. The trick is to find you.

Raymond Chandler’s first foray into scriptwriting, The Blue Dahlia boasts all of his hallmarks: great dialogue, tough guys, beautiful but dangerous women, colorful supporting characters, and a convoluted plot. Alan Ladd plays Johnny Morrison, a war hero who returns to find his wife’s been unfaithful. When she winds up dead soon after, naturally, Johnny is the prime suspect and it’s up to him to prove his innocence. With the help of a beautiful stranger, Joyce Harwood (Lake), Johnny finds that his wife had plenty of enemies. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake really were great together and the supporting characters are perfectly cast. This film may not be as iconic as some of its contemporaries (The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon), but it’s one of the best of its kind.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,094)

History is Made at Night (1937, Directed by Frank Borzage) English 6

Starring Jean Arthur, Charles Boyer, Leo Carrillo, Colin Clive, George Meeker, Ivan Lebedeff, George Davis

Antti Alanen: Film Diary: History Is Made at Night (1937)

(6-Good Film)

Melodramatic. Unique. Engaging.

Irene Vail: You’re right, Bruce. This time you’re right. This time there *is* another man.

Irene Vail (Arthur) has been faithful to her husband, Bruce (Clive), whose insecurity and jealousy have caused her to file for divorce, but Bruce is also obscenely wealthy. He hatches a blackmail scheme meant to keep her tied to him but instead introduces her to Paul Dumond (Boyer), a French waiter who’s suave personified. The two fall in love but Bruce’s jealousy and his wealth threaten to tear them apart. Shifting through tones skillfully, History is Made at Night, which starts as a sort of romantic comedy, goes in several surprising directions. I’m not much a fan of what I call the “weepies,” melodramas designed to induce tears, but Boyer and Arthur are magic together.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,093)

Midnight (1939, Directed by Mitchell Leisen) English 8

Starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Francis Lederer, Rex O’Malley, Monty Wooley

Matinée Moustache — deforest: Claudette Colbert in Midnight (1939)

(8-Exceptional Film)

Surprising. Witty. Charming.

Eve Peabody: [at the ball] Don’t forget, every Cinderella has her midnight.

Most films that I consider charming aren’t as jaded and sarcastic as Midnight, an underrated classic that for years has been difficult to find. Written by two giants of scriptwriting, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, Midnight is a clever spin on the Cinderella fantasy. Claudette Colbert plays Eve Peabody, a beautiful but penniless American in Paris, scrounging for a job. She meets Tibor Czerny (Ameche), a handsome cab driver who’s instantly smitten with her, but she runs off in the middle of their night together, leaving little clue as to who she is or where he can find her. While he searches the city, she helps her newfound fairy godmother, millionaire Georges Flammarion (Barrymore), get rid of a playboy hitting on his wife. Wonderful dialogue and zany, unpredictable scenarios throughout make Midnight a fantastic romantic comedy and Colbert, Ameche, and Barrymore are terrific stars.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,092)

The Great Mouse Detective (1986, Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) English 8

Voices of Barrie Ingham, Vincent Price, Val Bettin, Candy Candido, Alan Young, Frank Welker, Basil Rathbone

The Great Mouse Detective Movie Review

(8-Exceptional Film)

Nostalgic. Exciting. Unique.

Dr. Dawson: [voice over] From that time on, Basil and I were a close team. We had many cases together, but I’ll always look back on that first with the most fondness; my introduction to Basil of Baker Street, the great mouse detective.

Larger, more beloved films followed in Disney’s great canon of animation-three years later, The Little Mermaid arrived and started the company’s renaissance-but The Great Mouse Detective was always a favorite of mine as a child. I’m pleased to find that it’s still as charming and exciting now as it was to me then. A twist on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s invention, Sherlock Holmes, the great detective, along with every other character, is replaced, here, by a mouse called upon to help a young girl-mouse reunite with her abducted father, and thwart his arch-nemesis, Professor Ratigan (Price), once more. The animation is striking, bolstered by early use of CGI; the climactic showdown between the heroes and Ratigan in Big Ben is a stunning example of this. The voice work by Vincent Price, clearly relishing his role, is fantastic, and the story is compelling and efficient.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,091)

Next (2007, Directed by Lee Tamahori) English 5

Starring Nicholas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschman, Peter Falk, Jim Beaver

Next (2007 film) - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

(5-Okay Film)

Intriguing. Shoddy. Silly.

Cris Johnson: Here is the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes, because you looked at it, and that changes everything else.

When a high concept film is done poorly, it becomes silly. Next, taken from a story by the high concept king, Philip K. Dick, is done poorly. It stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, who also goes by Frank Cadillac, a seemingly inconsequential magician performing in Vegas. But Cris actually has one extraordinary ability. He can see the future up to two minutes in front of him. The FBI are after him because they believe his ability can help them prevent a terrorist plot for nuclear disaster. The terrorists are after him because they agree. It’s a potentially interesting premise, but one that’s difficult to wrap one’s head around. The implications of Cris’ talent and the variations of time that he creates seem infinite. It would take a brilliant mind to make this material work, or at least a thoughtful one. Next is neither thoughtful nor brilliant. It’s fast-paced enough not to be boring but it’s also pretty crudely done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,090)

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Directed by Steven Spielberg) English 9

Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot, Alfred Molina

Raiders of the Lost Ark' cast: Actors and their characters in the 1981  Indiana Jones film

(9-Great Film)

Classic. Expert. Fun.

Indiana: Meet me at Omar’s. Be ready for me. I’m going after that truck.

Sallah: How?

Indiana: I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.

Jaws is considered the first “blockbuster,” but Indiana Jones is the one that I see as the benchmark. Not because Jaws isn’t a great film, but because I see traces of Indiana Jones in just about every major blockbuster since. Starring Harrison Ford as the iconic, titular hero, Indy (an archaeologist, university professor, and globetrotter) is caught up in a race with the Nazis to find the Ark of the Covenant. Helped along the way by an old flame, Marion (Allen), a work colleague, Marcus Brody (Elliot), and a loyal friend, Sallah (Rhys-Davies), Indy works his way through one great action set-piece after another. Like a few other great American classics-Casablanca or Chinatown, for example-Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t necessarily my favorite film. My taste gravitates towards stranger things; movies like its sequel Temple of Doom, which I adore. Raiders of the Lost Ark, however, is a nearly perfect film. It’s tremendous storytelling by the master of blockbuster filmmaking, Steven Spielberg, and in Harrison Ford, he had a star who was instantly compelling. Consider how much is happening to Indy and around him throughout this movie, then consider if you ever felt the character was overshadowed by the action. That’s a tribute to Ford that he’s never lost in the maelstrom. He’s one of the great movie stars.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,089)

Assassin’s Creed (2016, Directed by Justin Kurzel) English 4

Starring Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Irons, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams, Ariane Labed, Carlos Bardem, Essie Davis

(4-Bad Film)

Dreary. Serious. Muddled.

Callum Lynch: We work in the dark to serve the light. We are assassins.

I realize that it’s unfair to judge a video game series by its movie adaptation, but, having never played any of the Assassin’s Creed games, I can’t help never wanting to, after working my way through this seemingly interminable drag of a film. Working with an original story set in the world of Assassin’s Creed, Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a violent prisoner, is coerced into delving into his ancestor’s memories through amazing new technology (so amazing that it’s nonsensical, even in this, a fantasy), in what his captors hope will bring them to the sacred apple of Eden and a chance to eliminate violence in the world. So yes, Assassin’s Creed has a lot of big ideas and explores them seriously, and with the benefit of a sterling cast. Unfortunately, there’s not an ounce of fun to be had watching this picture, as far as I’m concerned, and a little bit of camp might have helped. It’s a sluggish work with too much exposition and not enough character development. With no humor whatsoever and no romance, Assassin’s Creed has the austerity of a classic historical epic, but with none of the spectacle.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,088)