Detour (1945, Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer) English 7

Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald, Esther Howard, Tim Ryan

Film Classics: Detour (1945) | The Frame

(7-Very Good Film)

Lean. Mean. Cheap.

Al Roberts: That’s life. Whichever way you turn, Fate sticks out a foot to trip you.

Al Roberts (Neal) hitchhikes his way from New York to Hollywood, or, at least, that was the plan. He’s got a great girl waiting for him in L.A that he intends to marry. His plans, however, get derailed by bad luck and bad accidents the way you hear him tell it. Sitting alone, ragged, vagrant, in a Reno diner, Al tells us his side of things. How he played no part in the death of Charles Haskell Jr. (a shady philanthropist of sorts, who offers him a ride). How he became mixed up with Lucifer in female form, also known as Vera (Savage). How he didn’t want to go along with her schemes and how the conclusion of their partnership was just one more trick of Fate that he had little control over. He mentions that the cops would never believe his story. I don’t, but that’s just part of what makes Detour such a fine, compelling noir despite its noticeable limitations. It’s dark, it’s clever. It gives its inexperienced actors one note a piece to play and they play it to perfection. Perhaps no noir, known for its use of narration, used the device better than this one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(983)

Child’s Play (1988, Directed by Tom Holland) English 6

Starring Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin

Child's Play | Netflix

(6-Good Film)

Creepy. Humorous. Safe.

Chucky: Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?

Chucky is one creepy doll. Hat’s off to whoever built the iconic horror character because I’d say just the design alone propels much of this film. The story is secondary. A  deranged serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (Dourif), transfers his soul to a nearby children’s toy. Young Andy Barclay (Vincent) is the lucky boy to get stuck with the result. Convinced that Chucky and he are destined to be friends until the end, Andy is quickly disillusioned after a couple of violent deaths materialize. Catherine Hicks plays his worried single mother, Karen, and Chris Sarandon plays the selectively effective cop, Mike, and they do dutiful work, but it’s the boy and Chucky’s movie, and they carry this film. The boy is very good and Brad Dourif is always excellent. Though existing mainly through voice work, his brief early appearance and exit make an important, lasting impression. Child’s Play is big on laughs and light on scares which is slightly disappointing. I feel it grows complacent over the course of the story, relying almost entirely on its superficial brilliance and shirks in the suspense department. That being said, there are some quality scenes and, overall, Child’s Play is fun and memorable.

 -Walter Tyrone Howard-

(982)

Son of the Mask (2005, Directed by Lawrence Guterman) English 2

Starring Jamie Kennedy, Traylor Howard, Alan Cumming, Bob Hoskins, Steven Wright, Kal Penn, Ben Stein, Magda Szubanski

Son of the Mask - Is Son of the Mask on Netflix - FlixList

(2-Atrocious Film)

Embarrassing. Painful. Vulgar.

Odin: There was a baby, born of The Mask!

Loki (Cumming), the trickster god born of Odin (Hoskins), Norse mythology’s All-father, created a mask designed to unleash havoc and sent it down to the humans. Somehow this mask ends up in the hands of Tim Avery (Kennedy), a struggling cartoonist. One night, after wearing the mask for the first time, Tim gets his wife, Tonya (Howard), pregnant, and the result is a baby boy, Alvie, with all the powers of the mask without having to wear it. Watching this movie made me appreciate Jim Carrey in a way I never had before. I’ve always been a fan but seeing him in The Mask after seeing this made me realize how good of a performance that was in addition to being funny. Son of the Mask is a miserable experience. There is not a worthwhile idea in the movie. The story and tone are crass and unpleasant; much too vulgar to be a kids’ film. Kennedy’s performance is embarrassing. His character is an idiot. His voice-acting while wearing the mask is annoying. None of the jokes are funny. I’d like to nominate the musical “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” sequence for the worst movie scene of all-time. There’s nothing anybody can do with this film but pile on. There are dozens of angry, hilarious rants about how unfunny this movie is and all I can do is agree.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(981)

Under the Silver Lake (2018, Directed by David Robert Mitchell) English 8

Starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome, Don McManus, Zosia Mamet, Jeremy Bobb, Patrick Fischler, Rex Linn, Jimmi Simpson, Grace Van Patten

Fade to Black: Under the Silver Lake (2018) - Morbidly Beautiful

(8-Exceptional Film)

Curious. Alluring. Puzzling.

Comic Fan: Our world is filled with codes, subliminal messages. From Silverlake to the Hollywood Hills.

Noir in cinema has been nearly synonymous with nighttime throughout the years. It’s a nighttime genre. In Under the Silver Lake, a noir-drenched puzzle box of a film, the parts that I comfortably consider noir occur during the day. At night, the film shifts into a surrealist horror flick, not unlike the director, David Robert Mitchell’s previous film, It Follows. I didn’t like It Follows. I’m pretty sure I love Under the Silver Lake. It’s hard to say for certain after one viewing because it’s hard to say what it’s about. Andrew Garfield plays Sam. Sam seems harmlessly middling; unimportant, uninterested in much. The latter part is where he unquestionably proves me wrong. He’s a conspiracy nut, constantly watching the world for clues. A brief romantic moment with his beautiful neighbor, Sarah (Keough), leads him to a labyrinthian circuit of clues essentially in his backyard. I haven’t pinned down anything about this film yet. I noticed and appreciated some of the influences. Rear Window is the most conspicuous (Sam even has a poster of it on his wall). Like James Stewart’s character in that movie, Sam, too, loves to spy on neighbors. Except here, it’s a little more sinister. What I understood of Under the Silver Lake, I loved. What I suspect lies in waiting on further viewings, I look forward to finding.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(980)

The War of the Roses (1989, Directed by Danny DeVito) English 7

Starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Sean Astin, Daniel Castellaneta, Marianne Sägebrecht

THE WAR OF THE ROSES in the Media: A Compilation of Dysfunction in ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Manic. Funny. Bleak.

Oliver Rose: I think you owe me a solid reason. I worked my ass off for you and the kids to have a nice life and you owe me a reason that makes sense. I want to hear it.

Barbara Rose: Because. When I watch you eat. When I see you asleep. When I look at you lately, I just want to smash your face in.

There isn’t a clearly defined reason why the Roses’ marriage doesn’t work out after nearly twenty years together. True, Oliver (Douglas) works extremely hard, often at the expense of his family life. True, he doesn’t really listen very well, but look at it from his side. He’s worked extremely hard for his family; so that they can have that beautiful house, the fancy kitchenware, and the like. I empathized with both Barbara (Turner) and Oliver at separate times in the film, but, ultimately, none of it matters. Neither one is right and, by the end, their efforts to out-petty each other lead to the logical conclusion. Along the way, however, The War of the Roses is a very funny picture. Told at a fever pitch, we watch the Roses devolve slowly but surely until it goes from a few childish antics to seriously demented violence and destruction. DeVito, starring and directing, gives the movie a faux-cheeriness and a Looney Tunes level of mayhem. It also manages a few perceptive moments. I enjoy Throw Mama from a Train (DeVito’s film prior to this one) but felt it was let down by softening the material and not going all-in on the black humor. The War of the Roses threatens at a few points to go soft but thankfully never does. Kathleen Turner, though something more here, is one of film history’s greatest femme fatales. I’m not sure anyone does contempt better.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(979)

Charlie’s Angels (2019, Directed by Elizabeth Banks) English 6

Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Honsou, Nat Faxon, Jonathan Tucker, Noah Centineo, Chris Pang

Charlie's Angels': Review | Reviews | Screen

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Likable. Misjudged.

Sabina Wilson: [with a playful giggle] I think women can do anything.

Jonny Smith: Well, just because they can, doesn’t mean they should, right?

The “angels,” Sabina (Stewart), Elena (Scott), and Jane (Balinska)  take on a corporation covering up a newly invented energy device that has the power to be a world weapon. I don’t consider myself the target audience for “girl power,” and most attempts over the past few years at rectifying 80 years of “male gaze” have left me unmoved; mainly because they were ham-handed. This iteration of Charlie’s Angels is still ham-handed but slight too, and, in any case, it’s much better than the last 2 films led by Drew Barrymore. For one thing, this is a pretty solid action flick. The “angels” are likable, there’s a red herring or two to keep us invested and a certain knowingness about the humor that makes the film slightly more intelligent than goofy. This is not a great film by any means but watch Charlie’s Angels after reading the IMDB reviews and it will easily exceed your expectations.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(978)

The Far Country (1954, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Walter Brennan, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, John McIntire, Jack Elam, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan

The Far Country (1954) — The Movie Database (TMDb)

(7-Very Good Film)

Gripping. Lean. Rewarding.

Jeff Webster: I don’t need other people. I don’t need help. I can take care of me.

From the moment Jeff Webster (Stewart in one of his five collaborations with director, Anthony Mann) drives into Dawson City, Yukon, he’s indifference personified. Something must have happened in his past to make him like this, but, as far as I can clearly recall, it’s never clearly explained. He’s a hard man; the type the people of Dawson City desperately need, if he could only care enough to help them. It’s the close of the 19th century and Yukon is booming with gold. A corrupt judge, Judge Gannon (McIntire) with dozens of men on his payroll is moving in on claims hardworking miners have already staked. Anthony Mann and Stewart’s collaborations are referred to as psychological westerns. The designation fits but it almost spoils how deceptively simple they are. The setup in all five films are a dime a dozen. Here, a jaded antihero doesn’t want to get involved but has his hand forced. You, no doubt, have seen a film or two like that before. I think the key is that this setup is infinitely satisfying. As long as you keep refreshing it with new characters and a fresh take, it can always be effective. Anthony Mann, as far as I can see, really introduced the antihero to the mainstream westerns. Classic westerns tend to revolve around irreproachable male figures. John Wayne and Henry Fonda were saints in a large portion of their westerns. We are definitely rooting for Stewart in The Far Country but we’re rooting for him to finally do the right thing as much as we are for him to fight. Judge Gannon makes for a truly despicable villain and it all builds to an immensely satisfying finale. Preeminent character actor, Walter Brennan, plays Jeff’s partner, Ben.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(977)

Woman on the Run (1950, Directed by Norman Foster) English 6

Starring Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Ross Elliot, Robert Keith, John Qualen, Frank Jenks, Steven Geray

Kennington Noir presents Woman on the Run (1950) on 35mm » The ...

(6-Good Film)

Efficient. Surprising. Nifty.

Maibus: So Frank is a fugitive from the law… that’s just like him!

Frank didn’t do anything wrong. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Witnessing a murder, the cops want him to be their lead witness, but he doesn’t relish the idea of risking his life to play informant so he runs. Now, the cops, the killer, a newspaperman, Dan Legget (O’Keefe), and his estranged wife, Eleanor (Sheridan), are looking all over San Francisco for him. This is a clever, ultra-efficient thriller with a neat trick or two up its sleeves. It’s also been pointed out to me how rare it is to have a noir featuring a woman as the lead. Sheridan plays the jaded, tough-talking dame who more than holds her own in this violent world she’s been thrust into. More proof that within the conventions of a noir and with the limited resources of a B-Picture, came many solid films (and some great ones).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(976)

 

Shakespeare in Love (1998, Directed by John Madden) English 6

Starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Anthony Sher, Jim Carter, Simon Callow, Ben Affleck, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everett, Martin Clunes

Shakespeare in Love – a minor masterpiece. | Tim Haslett's Blog

(6-Good Film)

Amusing. Attractive. Overrated.

Viola De Lesseps: This is not life, Will. It is a stolen season.

What to do with this film? I can’t agree with what seems to be the majority’s consensus; I don’t consider Shakespeare in Love a great film. That’s forgivable, and it’s not because of the Best Picture Oscar that I say that, but I don’t even consider Shakespeare in Love a superior romantic comedy. It follows the famous playwright early in his career, played by Joseph Fiennes, toiling in obscurity and struggling for inspiration until he meets the beautiful Viola (Paltrow). A romance ensues and motivates him to write Romeo and Juliet.  There’s a lot more involved and most of it is very interesting. I enjoyed the period detail, the backstage antics, and much of the humor. I enjoyed Judi Dench’s portrayal of Elizabeth I, and the supporting cast, in general, is fantastic. I’m less enthusiastic about what might be considered the heart of the film; the romance. I don’t wish to pile on Paltrow or Fiennes, who strike me as easy targets (Fiennes especially), and I don’t say that they are bad, but I’m mostly indifferent to their characters and their relationship. It’s superficial and dull.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(975)

Poltergeist (1982, Directed by Tobe Hooper) English 7

Starring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Dominique Dunne, Zelda Rubinstein, Beatrice Straight, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, James Karen

Poltergeist' cast: How the haunted movie became a real-life horror ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Tame. Elaborate. Memorable.

Carol Anne Freeling: They’re here.

The idea of a family-friendly horror film isn’t too compelling but Poltergeist manages to bypass the gore and the deaths of a typical horror flick with an abundance of creativity, effective (still) special-effects, and overall spectacle. It’s a freak show. A well-paced ride through terrible sights and sounds. Your rare expensive horror film that works. The Freeling family, led by Steve (Nelson) and Diane (Williams), discover their picturesque, suburban home was built on top of a gravesite and is now under attack by supernatural forces. They reach out for help from parapsychologist, Dr. Lesh (Straight), and her team, then later, a medium, Tangina (Rubinstein), but ultimately, it’s up to the parents to save their family (two daughters and a son). Spielberg is billed as a producer but there’s a lot of evidence that he directed Poltergeist. In any case, he played a huge role creatively and his strengths show through-directing children, pacing the action, building suspense. Poltergeist is a bloodless affair, too tame to do much damage to me nowadays, but as an attraction of sorts, it’s as fun as they come.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(974)