Paths of Glory (1957, Directed by Stanley Kubrick) English 10

Starring Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, George Macready, Timothy Carey, Adolph Menjou, Wayne Morris

History of Cinema - Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957)


Stark. Infuriating. Powerful.

Colonel Dax: Gentlemen of the court, there are times that I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.

When General Broulard (Menjou) asks General Mireau (Macready) to attack a well-fortified enemy base known as “the anthill,” the latter knows it’s a fool’s errand. It can’t be done, and yet, when the former suggests that the attack could lead to a hefty promotion, Mireau goes ahead with the mission, ordering his soldiers, led by Colonel Dax (Douglas) to push forward, despite the monsoon of bullets and apparent hopelessness, and take the anthill. When the mission fails, Mireau has to cover his own tracks and deflects blame by accusing his soldiers of cowardice. As a result, three men go on trial and face execution, with Colonel Dax doing his best to defend them against the stacked deck of military justice. Surprising for a Kubrick film, Paths of Glory is unsubtle, emotional, even sentimental at times. Kubrick, often thought of as an emotionless, almost-robotic genius, is constantly provoking our anger throughout this film. He does so expertly. Certainly a technical genius, he doesn’t get enough credit sometimes for the performances in his movies. Paths of Glory is still potent.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987, Directed by Chuck Russell) English 7

Starring Patricia Arquette, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wasson, Laurence Fishburne, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin

Case File 032: Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)  - 27th Letter Productions

(7-Very Good Film)

Imaginative. Gory. Effective.

Kristen Parker: The man in my dreams… he’s real, isn’t he?

Nancy Thompson: He’s real.

Freddy Krueger, vengeful pedophile and horror icon, is back for more in his third outing, Dream Warriors, in my opinion, his best. He’s terrorizing a group of teenagers who’ve all been admitted to a local psychiatric hospital to deal with their apparent suicidal tendencies. None of the adults or doctors really believe their stories about a boogeyman stalking them in their sleep. Finally, Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp), survivor of the first film enters the picture and convinces the head doctor, Neil Gordon (Wasson), to take Freddy Krueger seriously. No, this movie is not particularly scary or thrilling or suspenseful (by this point, Krueger could just as easily be a comedy icon) but it more than compensates with its insanely grotesque effects and imagery that spring up from the Krueger-induced nightmares.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Tall T (1957, Directed by Budd Boetticher) English 9

Starring Randolph Scott, Maureen O’Sullivan, Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Arthur Hunnicutt, Skip Homeier, John Hubbard

Don't Get What's So Great About Westerns? Start Here - The New York Times

(9-Great Film)

Lean. Brutal. Gripping.

Willard Mims: Would I save my own skin and leave my wife here?

Usher: I think you would.

Pat Brennan (Scott), just a hired hand, finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping as three violent outlaws (Boone, Silva, and Homeier) hold up his stagecoach and ransom off its female passenger, Doretta Mims (O’Sullivan), the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Her scheming husband soon leaves her behind, so it’s up to Brennan to help her. Boetticher and Scott made a number of fine films together, none finer than The Tall T. Not a moment wasted, no superfluous detail or action, and surprisingly brutal, The Tall T seems at once old-fashioned (in the best sense) and original. Stripped down to the bare essentials, the emphasis then becomes its characters who are fascinating and well-played. Brennan’s budding relationships with Doretta and the leader of the outlaws, Usher, are unpredictable and give the film its suspense. Top-tier western.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Dead Again (1991, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 7

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Robin Williams, Andy Garcia, Wayne Knight, Campbell Scott

Criminally Underrated: Dead Again - Spectrum Culture

(7-Very Good Film)

Lurid. Twisty. Effective.

Cozy Carlisle: You take what you’ve learned from this life and use it in the next. That’s karma.

Soul mates, fate, hypnosis, murder, red herrings, sharp objects. Dead Again is pretty kitschy. Maybe too much for some, it’s enormously appealing to people with taste like mine. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars, playing a private detective, Mike Church (adopting an American accent that’s done well-enough but still slightly awkward as it’s such a departure from his usual British manner). Mike is persuaded into helping a lost, mute woman (Thompson), who suffers from amnesia and visions of murder from an apparent past life. Like many of the best Alfred Hitchcock films that inspired it, Dead again is wild and ludicrous upon further inspection but still proves wonderfully entertaining thanks to Branagh’s skill and panache directing it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


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-


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-


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-


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-


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-


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-