Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936, Directed by Frank Capra) English 9

Starring Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft

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(9-Great Film)

Charming. Wonderful. Classic.

That Gary Cooper, a million leagues away from actually being an “everyman,” could so effortlessly and movingly play one in this film deserves much applause. He plays Longfellow Deeds, a noble average Joe, who inherits a massive fortune from a distant relative. Jean Arthur, one of my favorite movie stars, plays Babe Bennett, a cynical reporter out to get the big scoop, on Deeds. She, of course, begins to fall for him. Douglas Dumbrille plays John Cedar, a greedy lawyer, posing as Deeds’ financial advisor. A true classic. One of Capra’s greats and he made several.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Highlander (1986, Directed by Russell Mulcahy) English 4

Starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, Roxanne Hart

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(4-Bad Film)

Corny. Gimmicky. Bizarre.

I’m amazed that this film is as favored as it is. Highlander is a poorly executed action flick with a handful of good ideas. Lambert (a Frenchman) plays an immortal Scottish warrior in the 16th century who lives out his eternal life mourning the loss of a loved one and battling his archenemy, The Kurgan. There’s, of course, more to it than that, but I stopped caring. The acting is bad (even Sean Connery is squandered playing an Egyptian in a film about Scots). The camera trickery is cool at times before it becomes ultra-gimmicky.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Void (2016, Directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie) English 5

Starring Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Ellen Wong

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(5-Okay Film)

Intriguing. Let-down. Unsatisfying.

Sporadically effective low-budget horror film following a cop (Poole) and other assorted guests trapped inside a hospital as unexplained forces terrorize them and a mysterious otherworldly cult surrounds them. The effects are impressive, not even condescending to the film’s budget, the effects are scary and thrilling. The emotional build-up with the characters is less compelling, and the wild ending suffers because of it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Thief of Bagdad (1940, Directed by Michael Powell and 4 others) English 8

Starring John Justin, Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez, Miles Malleson

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Stunning. Dreamy. Inventive.

One of the great special effects films, Alexander Korda’s remake of The Thief of Bagdad (1924, starring Douglas Fairbanks) stars John Justin as the usurped Prince Ahmad and Conrad Veidt as the usurper, Jaffar. Tricked out of his throne and tossed in jail, Ahmad befriends the endlessly loyal, common street thief, Abu (Sabu), and the two escape to set out on high seas adventure. Once they arrive in a distant kingdom, Ahmad’s able to sneak a look at its nameless Princess (Duprez), a woman so beautiful, her father endeavors to keep her hidden, out of sight from men. Determined to be with her, Ahmad finds that she’s promised to his mortal enemy, Jaffar, and plans for love and revenge blend together. This film is one inspired sequence after another; a series of spectacular, ingenious special effects. Special effects age, but the creativity and Technicolor lavishness endure. I find the old-fashioned special effects mixed with the wonderfully corny overtures of romance give the film an appealing dreamlike quality. The Thief of Bagdad is also unforgettably strange at times; the incredible many-armed dancing statue scene for example. Not top-billed, Sabu, eventually, and to our pleasure, becomes the hero of the story.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Punch-Drunk Love (2002, Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) English 9

Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman

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(9-Great Film)

Idiosyncratic. Appealing. Frenetic.

An implosive and lonely bathroom supply salesman, Barry (Sandler), constantly bullied by his seven sisters, finds love when he meets one of those sister’s coworker, Lena (Watson). It’s probably too strange for the mainstream, and some might find its peculiar soundtrack grating, but this is a great movie. The movement, that soundtrack, and the suspense of watching an always on-edge Sandler give the film a sense of energy and a tone sustained to the end. I think it’s the best depiction of the anxiety and desperation that can sometimes come with love.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Hercules (1997, Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements) English 7

Voices Tate Donovan, James Woods, Danny DeVito, Rip Torn, Susan Egan

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(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Vibrant. Unique.

After a plot by the scheming Hades (Woods) goes astray, Hercules (Donovan), son of Zeus (Torn), winds up mortal and raised by adoptive parents. Not fitting in due to his immense strength, Hercules sets out on a quest and learns of his true lineage, but in order to reclaim his position as a god, he’ll have to prove himself worthy. Working from a diverse array of Greek and Roman mythology, Hercules is a fast-paced, funny, surprisingly light (despite its dark humor at times) animated comedy with great characters and music. The gospel choir as the Greek chorus was an inspired idea, as was DeVito as the Satyr/coach, and James Woods as the bad guy. Not as substantial as some of the other films Disney released during their Renaissance, but a fantastic film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Rescuers (1977, Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman) English 7

Voices of Eva Gabor, Bob Newhart, Geraldine Page, Joe Flynn, Bernard Fox, Pat Buttram

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(7-Very Good Film)

Charming. Picturesque. Adventurous.

When the elegant mouse, Ms. Bianca (Gabor), volunteers for a rescue mission, she chooses bashful janitor, Bernard (Newhart), as her partner. The mission: to save a little orphan girl who’s been kidnapped by an evil treasure hunter, Madame Medusa (Page). Medusa uses the girl to crawl into a dangerous cave where a priceless treasure is hidden. The lone hit for Disney during their 1970s, post-Walt Disney’s death period, The Rescuers makes for a wonderful adventure. Lays on the pathos rather thick, but it works, and Madame Medusa is a fantastically vile villain. Bernard and Ms. Bianca are a suitably romantic and heroic pair, thanks to the voice work of Newhart and Gabor. It’s a fast-paced, efficient film, not as substantial as Disney’s early classics or their ’90s output, but a very good film nonetheless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-