Casablanca (1942, Directed by Michael Curtiz) English 9

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, S.Z Sakall, Dooley Wilson

Casablanca (1942)

(9-Great Film)

Classic. Immaculate. Beloved.

Rick: Here’s looking at you, kid.

Rick (Bogart), as I’m sure you know already, sticks his neck out for nobody. Heartbroken after a lost love affair in Paris, he’s become the enigmatic owner of a happening bar in Casablanca during World War II. While all around him people are scrambling and killing and stealing for a means of getting out of town and over to ally territory, Rick seems in his element. That changes when an old flame, Ilsa (Bergman), the one who broke his heart in Paris, shows up with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Henreid), a hero to the resistance movement. Casablanca is often proclaimed the best-loved or most cherished of Hollywood classics. It’s a strong testament to what the old studio system could do. Premier production values, invisible editing, great dialogue, and a terrific cast of characters matched with the right stars and character actors. Of course, Bogart and Bergman are immaculate but think about how invaluable the supporting cast is, right down to Sakall in his brief moments (The studio system had the best character actors). I resisted Casablanca for many years, perhaps partly due to my innate contrary nature, but also, I think, because its so famous and influential, so often imitated, that its components are almost cliche. It’s impossible for it to feel fresh at this point, but watching it again, I found myself admiring every aspect of its storytelling. It’s a great film, but you probably didn’t need to be told that.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,063)

Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005, Directed by Jon Favreau) English 7

Starring Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins, Frank Oz

Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005) Review |BasementRejects

(7-Very Good Film)

Solid. Surprising. Restrained.

Walter: Don’t push that button.

I’ve put off every opportunity that I’ve had to watch Zathura for many years now. The spin-off of a popular childhood favorite, Jumanji (1995), I saw its cover and judged it to be an unnecessary, special-effects laden rip-off. Finally, having watched it, I was happily surprised. Following bickering brothers, Walter (10) and Danny (6), the two stumble upon a gaudy board game called Zathura, a sci-fi version of Jumanji. In other words, a game with drastic consequences and much too much excitement for its players. If it was left up to the action, this film wouldn’t make much of an impression, though the special effects are excellent. A matter of preference, Jumanji’s animal adventures and urban jungle mash-up is considerably more exciting to me than this minor space escapade. Also, despite comparable runtimes, Jumanji felt epic while Zathura feels intimate. What Zathura does well, though, is establish a dramatic relationship between the two brothers and build an adventure around it. It’s well-acted, intriguing material with an especially strong ending.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,062)

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021, Directed by Carlos López Estrada and Don Hall) English 7

Voices of Kellie Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Alan Tudyk, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Lucille Soong, Benedict Wong

Raya and the Last Dragon movie review: Disney animation inspired by  Southeast Asian culture | South China Morning Post

(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Beautiful. Engaging.

Raya: My whole life, I trained to become a guardian of the Dragon Gem. But this world has changed, and its people are divided. Now to restore peace, I must find the Last Dragon. My name is Raya.

There aren’t many people left after an apocalyptic storm blows through, turning bodies into stone. Raya (Tran) lives in its aftermath; a world of five kingdoms at war and little to defend against the darkness quickly spreading. She’s still fighting though, searching for Sisu (Awkwafina), a legendary dragon that might be the world’s only hope. The plot and tone are reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender (my favorite show) and if Raya and the Last Dragon was a television series, I would say I can’t wait for season 2. The characters are charming and distinct, the world is beautifully animated. I wanted to stick around. But Raya and the Last Dragon is a movie, Disney’s latest animated production and their 59th overall. The chances for a follow-up are pretty slim. Disney has made less than a handful of theatrically released sequels in their long history, so I have to look at Raya as a stand-alone piece, and on that score, it suffers a bit in my estimation. I wanted more which is both a compliment and a criticism. The world is so epic. The story, while solid, is less so.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,061)

Lady Snowblood (1973, Directed by Toshiya Fujita) Japanese 8

Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon, Eiji Okada, Miyoko Akaza, Takeo Chii, Kō Nishimura, Noboru Nakaya

Lady Snowblood: Blizzard from the Netherworld

(8-Exceptional Film)

Glorious. Simple. Resplendent.

Narrator: People say you can’t wash away the mud of this world with pure white snow. You need asura snow – stained fiery red.

Yuki Kashima, deadly assassin, righteous avenger, and the basis for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, is the product of a savage beginning. Her mother’s husband and son were murdered brutally by four bloodthirsty schemers-Takemura Banzō, Shokei Tokuichi, Tsukamoto Gishirō, and Kitahama Okono. Her mother, then, raped and passed around before dying in prison, giving birth to Yuki. Yuki, also known as Lady Snowblood, was born with vengeance in her heart. Consumed by violence and anger, is there any room for anything else? Yuki meets and falls for a young writer, Ashio, in the pursuit of killing her mother’s tormentors. Great pulpy material married to awesome visuals, Lady Snowblood is a gorgeous action flick with over-the-top violence and several twists.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,060)

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, Directed by Nicholas Webster) English 3

Starring John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Pia Zadora, Chris Month

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) - Watch on Prime Video, fuboTV,  Shout Factory TV, ConTV, Epix, Tubi, PlutoTV, Vudu, PopcornFlix, and  Streaming Online | Reelgood

(3-Horrible Film)

Well-meaning. Inept. Campy.

Hargo: What’s soft and round and you put it on a stick and you toast it in a fire, and it’s green?

Kimar: I don’t know what?

Hargo: A Martian mellow.

Occasionally, maybe once a decade, a film comes out with an utterly absurd concept and, against all odds, is a hit. Who would have bet on Babe (1995) or Ratatouille (2007) being good films based solely on their stories? But Santa Claus Conquers the Martians doesn’t have nearly the level of talent behind the scenes that those two films had. Instead, it’s exactly as bad as you probably imagine it being just reading the title, and the title was clearly the whole point (someone was really proud to have come up with this title). On the planet Mars, otherwise satisfied children watch television with Earth programming (for some reason) and envy our planet’s rich Christmas tradition; specifically, the tradition of Santa giving presents. Mars’ leader, Kimar, notices his kids’ longing and sets out to kidnap Santa, bringing him to make toys for the Martians. There’s no reason to belabor the faults of this movie. They’re obvious and inevitable. Maybe with more self-awareness and a sense of humor someone could make a decent family flick with this material. The creators of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians opt, however, for earnestness and sincerity. The result is a classic bad movie that’s actually fun to watch despite it all.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,059)

Dr. No (1962, Directed by Terence Young) English 6

Starring Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, John Kitzmiller, Anthony Dawson, Lois Maxwell

Dr. No (1962) directed by Terence Young • Reviews, film + cast • Letterboxd

(6-Good Film)

Solid. Well-paced. Low-key.

James Bond: I admire your courage, Miss…?

Sylvia Trench: Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr…?

James Bond: Bond. James Bond.

And thus, a franchise was born. Dr. No set the mold. From Sean Connery’s often imitated introduction, to the Bond girls, to the eccentric villain, to the title sequence and the music, Dr. No led Bond off to an iconic start. It also happens to be a very solid action film. Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow MI6 agent. All roads lead to Dr. No (Wiseman), a genius, whose intricate plot escapes me (I’m not sure I was paying attention during his monologue), but you can rest assured it has something to do with taking over the world. The main Bond girl, Honey Rider (Andress), is a little too naive and uninvolved in the action to be very memorable, in my opinion. I would argue that her status as the first Bond girl is more significant than the performance or the character. That’s not the case for Bond, himself, though. Sean Connery remains the best one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,058)

El Cid (1961, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Herbert Lom, Raf Vallone, Jon Fraser, Geneviève Page, Douglas Wilmer

Facebook

(7-Very Good Film)

Grand. Bombastic. Earnest.

El Cid: You will soon be a King, you must start to think like one, any man can kill, only a King can give life!

Is it possible for a film to be bombastic and earnest? To feel that every single detail was done for effect, but by craftsman and artists who held this man, El Cid, Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (Heston), in reverence. After all, some stories do warrant the epic treatment and his story is certainly one of them. During the 11th century, at a time when Spain was divided in war between the Moors (Muslim) and the Christians, El Cid united the country in order to protect it from North African invaders led by Ben Yusuf (Lom). All while personally struggling with the disdain of his wife, Doña Jimena (Loren), whose father he killed, at home. El Cid is dated in several ways, not all of them negative. On the one hand, the cast of Spaniard and Muslim characters is largely filled out by white actors (sometimes in blackface makeup as with Ben Yusuf). On the other hand, a film of this size and scope is a marvel to behold and one that simply will not likely ever be made again; not by Hollywood anyways. There are thousands of extras used and massive sets to admire. CGI is a tool for filmmakers to work with and a useful one, but there are two areas where it simply fails to measure up to the real thing: animals and crowds of people. Some might argue that El Cid is overly serious or even corny at times, but this is a real person and his real story. I was prepared to take it seriously.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,057)

The Caine Mutiny (1954, Directed by Edward Dmytryk) English 9

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Robert Francis, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Lee Marvin, May Wynn, Tom Tully, Jose Ferrer, E.G Marshall

The Ace Black Movie Blog: Movie Review: The Caine Mutiny (1954)

(9-Great Film)

Tense. Stirring. Thoughtful.

Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg: Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard, standard performance is sub-standard, and sub-standard performance is not permitted to exist – that, I warn you.

Captain Queeg, in the hands of Humphrey Bogart, is an unforgettable character. With maybe only thirty or so minutes of screen time, Bogart carves out a fascinating performance; petty, insecure, hypocritical, neurotic. If the question was simply is Queeg a bad leader, the answer would be obvious and the film would progress entertainingly but also superficially-much like the various versions of Mutiny on the Bounty. However, the battle in The Caine Mutiny is a legalistic one, and the question is whether or not Captain Queeg is psychotic. If sailors were able to overthrow any leader they deemed unworthy, I think very few ships would get anywhere and war is a bad time for mutiny. Everyone aboard the USS Caine hates Queeg’s guts, but it’s the executive officer, LT. Maryk (Johnson), and Ensign Keith (Francis), that make the fateful decision to relieve him of his duties. They’re court-martialed and stand trial for their lives, defended by LT. Greenwald (Ferrer), who isn’t even sure that he wants to win the case. This is an ultra-taut thriller with no action sequences, which is pretty amazing, and the perfect cast for each and every role. Ultimately though, the success of The Caine Mutiny depends on us despising Queeg as much as his crew does. Bogart was a short man with a massive screen presence. The Caine Mutiny is the first film I’ve seen him in that I thought of him as small. He’s such a perfect twerp, and when the film asks its big questions in the end, we’re forced to consider them through the flood of anger that the preceding hour and a half so adroitly stirred up in us.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,056)

The Seven Year Itch (1955, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 5

Starring Tom Ewell, Marilyn Monroe, Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts, Robert Strauss, Oscar Homolka, Victor Moore

AoM: Movies et al.: The Seven Year Itch (1955)

(5-Okay Film)

Toothless. Light. Shackled.

Dr. Brubaker: When something itches my dear sir, the natural tendency is to scratch.

The Seven Year Itch, as iconic as it is, or rather, as iconic as Marilyn Monroe is in it, doesn’t work. Based on a hit play, Tom Ewell reprises his stage role as Richard Sherman, a married man left alone for the summer to deal with the temptations of the girl upstairs. The Girl, as she’s called in the credits, though nameless, is said in the film to look a lot like Marilyn Monroe, and that’s because she’s played by the young star in one of her most memorable roles. She shimmies through Sherman’s apartment and the film in her bimbo with a heart of gold persona, all but stealing the entire show. Directed by the great Billy Wilder, I’d say this is his weakest effort made during his prime. The problem is that The Seven Year Itch was made during the 1950s, meaning, as I watch it, I know that the main character is not going to actually have an affair. He can’t. It wasn’t allowed back then. This takes all of the bite out of the satire and all of the sex out of this sex comedy. It’s not about being vulgar. A film like this needs to be free to go off in any direction and cross lines. As it stands, Wilder tries everything within decency, but being held back from going to some indecent places, The Seven Year Itch becomes just an hours long tease. Fortunately, he’d have the opportunity to handle affairs more interestingly with The Apartment and Avanti!

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,055)

Rope (1948, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 9

Starring James Stewart, John Dall, Cedrick Hardwicke, Farley Granger, Joan Chandler, Constance Collier, Edith Evanson, Douglas Dick

rope 1948 이미지 검색결과

(9-Great Film)

Skilled. Clever. Suspenseful.

Brandon: I’ve always wished for more artistic talent. Well, murder can be an art, too. The power to kill can be just as satisfying as the power to create.

Two well-to-do, talented young men-Phillip (Granger) and Brandon (Dall)-believe that some people are fundamentally superior to others and have the moral right to commit murder. They start with a friend from college, David, hiding his body in a trunk in their apartment, and then inviting a small group over for a dinner party, as a game of sorts, but one of the people they invite is their old mentor, Rupert (Stewart), and he shrewdly catches onto them. The critical consensus on Rope seems to be that it’s good, not great Hitchcock, or, as some critic I can’t remember put it, “hardly top-shelf Hitchcock.” They all point to the technical expertise on display-one location, nine actors, and only a handful of shots done in long take. Rope is certainly a shining example of Hitchcock’s technical ability and creativity, but it’s more than just an experiment or a minor credit on the director’s long resume. I think Rope is top-shelf Hitchcock. It’s taut, expertly told, and fascinating, with one of James Stewart’s best performances. The whole ensemble of actors are perfectly matched, but I especially admire Stewart and Dall’s performances. Stewart, for once in his career, is essentially a supporting player whose charisma and presence quickly ratchet up the tension as soon as he walks on the stage. I’m only familiar with Dall from two films-this and Gun Crazy-but they’re great films and he’s tremendous in them both, here, all arrogance and psychotic smirks.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,054)