Mank (2020, Directed by David Fincher) English 8

Starring Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard, Charles Dance, Tom Burke, Bill Nye, Tom Pelphrey

Lost In Film on Twitter: "'Mank' (2020, David Fincher). Cinematography:  Erik Messerschmidt.… "

(8-Exceptional Film)

Fascinating. Splendid. Enigmatic.

Herman Mankiewicz: You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.

What impression are we left with of Herman Mankiewicz’s life? He’s a drunkard, it seems, first and foremost; reckless. He’s also brave and full of integrity as played by Gary Oldman in David Fincher’s new movie. A Hollywood hand during the Golden Age, Mank lived in the background rewriting other people’s scripts and never getting credit for it. As this film begins, the Golden Age has passed and Mank’s burnt out. He accepts a deal writing a script for newcomer, boy wonder, Orson Welles, a script that would eventually become the great Citizen Kane. I wonder about a lot of things with this movie. For one, how enjoyable is it if you don’t know these people (Thalberg, Mayer, Hecht, etc.) and this setting (Hollywood’s studio era)? I have a passable knowledge of these things and, perhaps as a result, I found this film fascinating, but it’s one that risks alienating its audience, not just because it’s so specific, but also because I’m not sure yet if it has a point. What’s it saying if it’s saying anything? There’s hints of betrayal but it’s a paltry betrayal if that. There’s moments in the narrative when Mank is asked to sell out, but he never does and it never seems to be any kind of temptation to him either. There’s no conflict that I can put my finger on and single out, but I’ll take this film at face value. It’s a technically astounding, enriching piece of history; an important backstory that often gets treated as a side note if remembered at all.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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In a Lonely Place (1950, Directed by Nicholas Ray) English 9

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Jeff Donnell, Martha Stewart, Steven Geray

Gloria Grahame, Humphrey Bogart - In a Lonely Place (1950) | Gloria  grahame, Film noir, Film

(9-Great Film)

Brusque. Neurotic. Fierce.

Dixon Steele: I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.

Film director, Nicholas Ray, had his own style of Hollywood melodrama. His best known movies- Rebel Without a Cause, Bigger Than Life, and In a Lonely Place-feature characters whose struggles are psychological more than anything else. The conflict is inside, which gives the films weight and drama worthy of Greek tragedy. Wasn’t it the tragic hero that is ultimately doomed by his own weaknesses? If so, Dixon Steele (Bogart) is such a character. An intelligent man with wealth, charisma, and some influence in the Hollywood film industry where he works as a scriptwriter, Steele is attractive to any number of women. He falls for his neighbor, Laurel Gray (Grahame), who reciprocates. When he becomes the lead suspect in a grisly murder of a young secretary, she believes his sardonic assurance that he had nothing to do with it. Eventually, and all-too-frequently, his violent temper pops up, leading her to question her faith in him. In a Lonely Place is a classic noir, efficiently told and paced, beautifully acted and directed from an eloquent, razor-sharp script.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Scream 4 (2011, Directed by Wes Craven) English 7

Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Adam Brody, Anthony Anderson, Rory Culkin, Mary McDonnell, Alison Brie, Marley Shelton, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell, Lucy Hale, Britt Robertson

Classic Craven With A Twist: Scream 4 — Talk Film Society

(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Clever. Worn.

The Voice: This isn’t a comedy, it’s a horror film. People live, people die and you’d better start running.

Scream returns! A little older, slightly tired. Like most horror sequels, Scream 4 pales in comparison with the original. But Scream is a superior horror franchise and Scream 4, especially compared to the fourth entry in most series, is still pretty good. The freshness is gone, and most of the surprise has dissipated, but the cleverness is still there. Sydney Prescott (Campbell), the series’ final girl, returns to her hometown of Woodsboro, where it all started. Naturally, some new psycho rises up to don the mantle of Ghostface and wreaks havoc on the town’s teenagers. The first film spoofed horror films, the second one spoofed sequels, skip the third film, and then the fourth film spoofed internet culture and fandom. Best of all, Scream 4 gave Wes Craven one last chance to show his flair for horror and gruesome thrills.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947, Directed by Roy Del Ruth) English 8

Starring Victor Moore, Charlie Ruggles, Don Defore, Ann Harding, Gale Storm, Edward Brophy, Alan Hale Jr.

Top Holiday Picks: It Happened on 5th Avenue

(8-Exceptional Film)

Wonderful. Charming. Classic.

Aloysius T. McKeever: And I would like to feel that you’re all my friends. For to be without friends is a serious form of poverty.

Wise words from Mr. McKeever (Moore), a wanton leech and scoundrel. He wanders through life, sneaking in and out of mansions while their owners are away on vacation. This Christmas season, he’s staying in the home of Michael J. O’Conner (Ruggles), the second richest man on Earth. Gradually, other people join Mr. McKeever in the house: principled Jim Bullock (Defore), O’Connor’s daughter, Trudy (Storm), who’s fallen for Jim, Mr. O’Connor himself, as a favor to his daughter, and Mary (Harding), O’Connor’s estranged wife. This is a really wonderful movie that takes its zany, promising setup in a number of surprising directions. Victor Moore is called on to be both comedic scoundrel and Christmas angel all at once. He achieves this effortlessly. Though light on actual Christmas content, It Happened on 5th Avenue is still regularly described as a Christmas classic. Really, it’s a comedy for all seasons.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Godmothered (2020, Directed by Sharon Maguire) English 6

Starring Isla Fisher, Jillian Bell, Jane Curtin, June Squibb, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Santiago Cabrera, Stephnie Weir, Utkarsh Ambudkar

Godmothered Trailer Looks Like A Spiritual Successor To Enchanted

(6-Good Film)

Pleasant. Amusing. Satisfying.

Tagline: Be careful who you wish for.

Inspired (quite conspicuously) by Disney’s earlier hit, Enchanted, and Will Ferrell’s Elf, Godmothered attempts to put a similarly modern touch on the classic Princess fairy tale formula. Jillian Bell plays Eleanor, a fairy godmother-in-training. Belief in magic has greatly diminished in recent years and the fairy godmothers aren’t doing too well. They’re running out of business and appear destined to close shop and restart as tooth fairies. Eleanor runs away on a last ditch effort to save fairy godmothers by helping a widowed mother, Mackenzie (Fisher), find her happily-ever-after. Godmothered has a solid foundation of sweetness and goodwill to carry it along. The cast is full of charming people. It’s a lovely, colorful film, but it’s light on laughs and fairly conventional even with its modern touches and ideas on relationships (again, because it’s so much like Elf). Ultimately, though, this is a nice movie and an enjoyable one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,041)

Babylon (1980, Directed by Franco Rosso) English/ Patois 7

Starring Brinsley Forde, Karl Howman, Trevor Laird, Archie Pool, Mel Smith, Brian Bovell, David N. Haynes

Babylon (1980) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

(7-Very Good Film)

Gritty. Compelling. Foreign.

Alan: You got too much of this.
[mouth]
Blue: Yeah?
Alan: Yeah.
Alan: Especially for a coon. I don’t like moneys who get too clever in my garage.

South London, 1980. A group of young men from immigrant backgrounds live and go about their days as their xenophobic neighbors tell them to get lost. Blue (Forde), their leader, chases his dream of being a reggae DJ while working a menial job at a repair shop. He, along with his group of friends, is about to be pushed to the limit. Babylon unfolds naturally and even though the course of the story follows along the same lines as popular melodrama, it always feels real; authentic. I suppose that’s in part because of the non-professional but excellent performances. It’s also a triumph of direction and writing. This is a fascinatingly foreign culture and setting to me and Babylon captures it well. If the film leads to a familiar conclusion, on the strength of the storytelling, I’d call it inevitable rather than predictable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Underground (1995, Directed by Emir Kusturica) Serbian 6

Starring Miki Manojlović, Lazar Ristovski, Mirjana Joković, Slavko Štimac, Ernst Stötzner, Srđan Todorović 

Underground (1995) - Rotten Tomatoes

(6-Good Film)

Epic. Bawdy. Irreverant.

Marko: A war is no war until the brother kills his brother.

I’m afraid I was never taught about the Yugoslav war that resulted in six seperate countries rather than one large one. I’ve also never thought about or heard of World War II’s affect on those slavic states. Underground, a massive film, by revered Serbian filmmaker, Emir Kusturica, spans five decades and covers both world changing events, and I still have very little understanding of either. Underground follows two seemingly degenerate friends, Blacky and Marko, from the ’40s where they lead a resistance movement against the Nazis occupying Serbia, through the Cold War, and, finally, to the 90s where civil war breaks out while the men are still dealing with the trauma from decades earlier. With its broad, irreverent humor, Underground moves fast for such a long film and is never boring. At the same time, and how much a lack of background knowledge affected my experience, I couldn’t say, this film never strikes me as very insightful or poignant. Perhaps it was content to reflect the overwhelming madness of it all, and on that score, I think it succeeds.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Scream 2 (1997, Directed by Wes Craven) English 9

Starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Jada Pinkett, Laurie Metcalf, Omar Epps, Liev Schreiber, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Elise Neal, Duane Martin, Portia De Rossi, Tori Spelling, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, David Warner

Scream 2' Ending, Explained: Why the Big Twist Makes It a Great Sequel -  Thrillist

(9-Great Film)

Clever. Suspenseful. Worthy.

Randy: There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate – more blood, more gore – *carnage candy*. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.

“Gorier, sexier, funnier,” Scream 2’s adverts promised. I’d say it delivers. The rare sequel that might even surpass the original, though it’s debatable. Scream 2 moves its surviving characters to college, just about a year after previous events. Survivor and final girl, Sydney Prescott (Campbell), is effected but remarkably functional considering, though an avalanche is coming. A movie version (a movie within a movie) of past tragic events is coming out and two college kids were killed at the premier. It seems someone is at it again. Like its predecessor, Scream 2 is clever about the slasher genre’s limitations while simultaneously delivering on the genre’s tacit promises. Scream 2 isn’t as scary as the first one. I would argue that bigger with more characters and more over-the-top scenarios makes for less tension, but it is funnier and has a handful of incredibly suspenseful scenes (Sydney climbing over the killer to get out of a police car, for example). Also, perhaps as a response to how white the original film was, Scream 2 has an excellent opening scene from the black point-of-view.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Killing (1956, Directed by Stanley Kubrick) English 9

Starring Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Vince Edwards, Coleen Gray, Jay C. Flippen, Timothy Carey

The Killing (1956) | The Criterion Collection

(9-Great Film)

Lean. Ferocious. Exciting.

Johnny Clay: None of these men are criminals in the usual sense. They’ve all got jobs. They all live seemingly normal, decent lives. But, they’ve got their problems and they’ve all got a little larceny in ’em.

Not a Stanley Kubrick scholar or a filmmaker, I can’t see much connection between The Killing (his first feature-length film) and the classics he made subsequently. Where his most famous films like The Shining or 2001: A Space Odyssey are epic and ambiguous, The Killing is almost the direct opposite. It’s a testament, then, to his skill that he directed these films, and that each one is, in its own way, a great one. The Killing follows a group of men, led by Johnny Clay (Hayden), who plan to knock off the local horse track in the middle of a race. Their planning is thorough, but even the best laid plans go astray, especially in crime flicks. This is one of the best; perhaps, it is the best. Efficient, striking, low-key, with the perfect faces to fit each role. Marie Windsor is rightfully famous among film buffs for her femme fatales. She’s just so hateful. Not a minute seems wasted on the way to a poignant finish.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Freaky (2020, Directed by Christopher Landon) English 6

Starring Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn, Uriah Shelton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Alan Ruck, Dana Drori, Katie Finneran

One More Trailer for 'Freaky' Body Swap Slasher with Vince Vaughn |  FirstShowing.net

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Grisly. Entertaining.

Josh: Great. We’re gonna be killed by Murder Barbie.

Body swap comedies are inherently ridiculous and, in past, have been almost exclusively family flicks, Freaky Friday being the template. Freaky is decidedly not a family flick. Teenage outcast, Millie (Newton), is still mourning the loss of her father and trying to stay afloat at a school full of jerks and creeps. Stabbed one night by a local psychopath, known as the Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn), she swaps bodies with the mentally unstable giant. Even with the interesting twist on the body swap premise, much of Freaky functions the same as those previous comedies. Vaughn is now a teenage girl and the once meek Newton is now a single-minded killer. It’s a good setup for its actors to perform and be funny. Freaky basically delivers on that front which makes the over-the-top gore consistently surprising. Freaky isn’t remotely scary, but it is fun and grisly in a memorable way.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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