Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009, Directed by David Yates) English 8

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - (500) Days of Summer - Death in  Love -- New York Magazine Movie Review - Nymag

(8-Exceptional Film)

Exciting. Intriguing. Satisfying.

Professor Minerva McGonagall: [to Harry, Ron, & Hermione] Why is it, when something happens, it is always you three?

After all that Harry’s done and been through, you would think his friends could give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought about this through most of The Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment, as Harry (Radcliffe) tries to warn anyone who will listen that Draco Malfoy is now a Death Eater and planning something. His warnings fall on deaf ears. Elsewhere, Harry deals with his blossoming feelings for Ron’s sister, Ginny, and is given the difficult task from Dumbledore (Gambon) of prying into Hogwart’s new Potions teacher, Professor Slughorn’s past. This is one of the most entertaining Harry Potter films with a healthy dose of humor, thanks in large part to Jim Broadbent’s Slughorn, and an abundance of romantic intrigue. I do wonder if certain plot points make sense to those who haven’t read the books. Certain elements feel rushed (it’s unavoidable having to condense such a lengthy novel into a film of reasonable length), but, overall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a job well-done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,023)

The Revenant (2015, Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu) English 8

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnhall Gleeson, Forrest Goodluck, Lukas Haas, Paul Anderson

The Ace Black Movie Blog: Movie Review: The Revenant (2015)

(8-Exceptional Film)

Brutal. Severe. Impressive.

Hugh Glass: As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe… keep breathing.

America’s west was the birthplace of many of our legends. Hugh Glass may not be the best known but he’s been a consistent figure in film and literature, and with The Revenant, he finally gets the big-budget treatment. Glass, played by DiCaprio, was a fur trapper in the 1820s, leading a group of soldier-hunters that includes the wily John Fitzgerald (Hardy). After a harrowing attack by a grizzly bear, Glass is left for dead, and watches his loyal son killed by Fitzgerald. Somehow surviving, Glass maniacally seeks vengeance on his son’s murderer. Imposing, bleak, and single-minded, The Revenant is less entertaining than it is impressive. This is a stunning piece of visual storytelling and DiCaprio’s largely unspoken performance is a part of that. I could be critical of the rather heavy-handed racism of many of the characters, but I feel it works. This is not a subtle film, and though I was less impressed with the CGI bear (I’m never impressed by CGI animals), I do think it would have probably been too much to let a real bear maul DiCaprio, so what are you going to do?

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,022)

Beat the Devil (1953, Directed John Huston) English 4

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollabrigida, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Bernard Lee, Edward Underdown

Beat the Devil - Blueprint: Review

(4-Bad Film)

Silly. Uneven. Unfocused.

O’Hara: Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.

Billed as a spoof of the director-star’s earlier success, The Maltese Falcon, Beat the Devil seems to me, not a spoof but an incompetent retelling. With John Huston directing, Humphrey Bogart starring, and Truman Capote writing, somehow Beat the Devil still manages to be a stinker. Bogart is Billy Danreuther mixed up with a gang of crooks on their way to Africa. Biding their time, things grow complicated when Billy and his wife, Maria (Lollabrigida), fall in with a British couple, the Chelms (Jones and Underdown). A great spoof to me should still operate within the genre or story its spoofing. Young Frankenstein, for example, is broad and silly, but it also tells a fun story. Same with Shrek or The Incredibles or Scream or The Princess Bride. Beat the Devil is a film made by people who clearly didn’t know where they were going. Its following describe it as “campy” but it’s not campy enough in my estimation. It’s more like a thriller that couldn’t be bothered to take itself seriously.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,021)

The Philadelphia Story (1940, Directed by George Cukor) English 6

Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Virginia Weidler, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, Mary Nash, John Halliday

The Philadelphia Story' returns to local theaters | TBR News Media

(6-Good Film)

Intelligent. Witty. Affected.

Dexter: Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should’ve stuck to me longer.

I adore old Hollywood films. One of my true passions, I love the stars, I love the first-rate character actors, the production values, and the stories they tell, but I’ve never loved The Philadelphia Story, though it’s considered one of old Hollywood’s best. I come back to it often, expecting some change; a revelation perhaps. My feelings remain unchanged. Starring Cary Grant, James Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn (my goodness, the star power) as Dexter Haven, Macauley Connor, and Tracy Lord, respectively, The Philadelphia Story sees the three tangled up in a love triangle on the eve of Tracy’s wedding to earnest but stiff George Kittredge (Howard). Dexter is her ex-husband who’s not ready to let go and Macauley (Mike) is a cynical reporter not thrilled with his new frothy assignment of covering a wedding. Adapted from the stage, the film has a pretty conspicuous stagey manner- long, eloquent monologues, affected dialogue-but my problem isn’t with the apparent staginess, it’s with the characters. The dialogue, realism be damned, is sparkling, but I realized this time around that though I love these stars, I don’t even like these characters; especially during the first half. Tracy is prim, Dexter is scheming, Mike is misanthropic, the uncle is a lecher, the dad’s a cad, and the mom’s an airhead. They do breakthrough to a nice ending but too much of the film is bogged down in their deficiencies to bring me any real joy as most classics do.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,020)

The Fly (1986, Directed by David Cronenberg) English 9

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Leslie Carlson, Joy Boushel, George Chuvalo, David Cronenberg

The Fly's Deleted “Monkey-Cat” Scene Was Too Brutal

(9-Great Film)

Mesmerizing. Grotesque. Effective.

Ronnie: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is quite possibly a genius. When the beautiful journalist, Ronnie (Davis), goes out with him one night, she stumbles upon his plan to create human teleportation. The two fall in love, and all seems well, but, in that grand H.G Wells tradition, Brundle’s experiment goes wrong and the result is his body’s slow decay and transformation into some kind of human-fly. Hard to watch at times, but harder to stop watching, The Fly is so beautifully disgusting. Goldblum and Davis have excellent chemistry and much of the first half plays out like a charming romantic-comedy. The second half, though, is pure horror mixed with tragedy. Whether you see Brundle’s downfall as symbolic of a cancer or another example of a brilliant scientist going too far and paying the price, The Fly is infinitely, grotesquely entertaining.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,019)

The Wicker Man (1973, Directed by Robin Hardy) English 9

Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsat Kemp

The Wicker Man (1973) | BFI

(9-Great Film)

Odd. Striking. Brilliant.

Sergeant Howie: Oh, what is all this? I mean, you’ve got fake biology, fake religion… Sir, have these children never heard of Jesus?

Nearing fifty years old, The Wicker Man, nevertheless, strikes me as a modern film, and, as such, its steadfast and impossibly earnest protagonist, Sergeant Howie (Woodward), seems misplaced. You won’t find many movies post-Hollywood’s studio era with a hero as moral and upright as Sergeant Howie. He’s more like a hero out of an old western. This, of course, is the point. Sergeant Howie is sent to the Island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young school-age girl. Once there, the devoutly Christian Sergeant finds himself in the center of a sex-obsessed pagan cult led by Lord Summerisle (Lee). Tempted at every turn, The Wicker Man is, on one hand, Sergeant Howie’s horrific, nightmarish descent. More conspicuously, however, this is one of the strangest films ever made; fish-out-of-water humor, Christopher Lee wigs, a catchy and perverse soundtrack. At its center though, is Sergeant Howie and the towering performance by Edward Woodward.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,018)

Stalag 17 (1953, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 8

Starring William Holden, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Don Taylor, Sig Ruman, Peter Graves, Neville Brand

Stalag 17 (1953) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

(8-Exceptional Film)

Irreverent. Masculine. Engrossing.

Sefton: There are two people in this barracks who know I didn’t do it. Me and the guy that did do it.

Sgt. J.J Sefton (Holden) isn’t your typical hero. Even as an antihero, he stands far from the pack. For the majority of Stalag 17, he wants no part of anything heroic, and seems fairly content to have given up. He’s a prisoner of war held in a camp famed for letting no one escape. He’s selfish, apathetic, and ruthless, but when two fellow prisoners of war are foiled and killed in their escape attempt, and Sefton is beaten by the other prisoners who suspect him of being a traitor (one that tips off the Nazis for small benefits), Sefton’s determined to get back at the real traitor just as soon as he figures out who it is. I’m amazed with every Billy Wilder film that I see with how he balances tones. Stalag 17 is another layered work and further evidence of his brilliance. Broad and bawdy in its comedy, the film as a whole, somehow manages to be as gripping and eventually rousing as any straight dramatic classic. Holden won his only Oscar for this performance and he’s convincing at every stage of Sefton’s arc. Sefton’s not even necessarily the main character for much of the film, as it’s a true ensemble piece, but slowly, reluctantly, he becomes a memorable hero.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,017)

Hubie Halloween (2020, Directed by Steven Brill) English 5

Starring Adam Sandler, Julie Bowen, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Chiklis, June Squibb, Ray Liotta, Rob Schneider, Colin Quinn, Blake Clark, Kym Whitley, George Wallace

Adam Sandler's Hubie Halloween Debuts at #1 on Netflix's Top 10 Trending  Chart

(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Modest. Nice.

Hubie’s Mother: True bravery’s being kind, even to those who are being cruel to you.

Comedy and horror mash-up well together, and this film looked to have its roots in classics like the old Abbott and Costello monster flicks or Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers. That was enough to lure me in, despite an extensive recent record of mediocrity from Happy Madison’s productions. Hubie Halloween is middle-of-the-road Sandler. Not nearly as miserable an experience as Jack and Jill but not as funny as his best comedies like Happy Gilmore for instance. He plays the town dolt, a local punching-bag in the historic town of Salem, Massachusetts. Obsessed with Halloween, his purpose in life is to protect those around him, despite their disdain for him. One person who’s always been nice to him, though, is Violet Valentine (Bowen), his childhood crush. This Halloween, he finally gets a chance to face off with something sinister and to profess his feelings to Violet.

A couple of positives first: Sandler’s movies are often underlined by what feels like genuine sweetness and he makes a point of capping every story with a positive message. It’s easy to be cynical (and more artistic) but he’s made a career out of mixing his humor with saccharine sweetness. I also enjoyed the frequent nods to several of Happy Madison’s earlier films. Ultimately, however, Hubie Halloween could have been funnier, it could have been scarier, and I could have done without the annoying voice Sandler goes with here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,016)

There’s Something About Mary (1998, Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly) English 9

Starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Lee Evans, Chris Elliot, Jeffrey Tambor, Lin Shaye, Keith David, Sarah Silverman, Richard Jenkins, Harland Williams, W. Earl Brown

There's Something About Mary' Turns 20 Today - LADbible

(9-Great Film)

Crude. Endearing. Influential.

Ted: You said she was a real sparkplug.

Pat Healy: No, I said buttplug. She’s heinous.

Crude and charming would seem an unlikely pair, but the Farrelly brothers, early on in their careers, made a trio of such films: Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary. These comedies were inspired, fresh, and, most importantly, funny, with There’s Something About Mary being the best of the bunch. Ben Stiller plays sweet and mostly innocent dork, Ted, still pining after his high school crush, Mary (Diaz), over a decade later. One can see why. She’s beautiful, fun, easy-going, and loves football; the dream-girl, in other words. Unfortunately, she’s like a magnet for deadbeats, including the private eye Ted hires to help him, Pat Healy (Dillon), who instead uses his intel to shoot his own shot with her. Several memorably funny scenes stand out, but the Farrelly’s demonstrate a talent for lightness in between the big laughs that give the film its heart and make it more than just an absurd laugh riot. The singing narrator, for instance, modeled after Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye from Cat Ballou, was a nice touch.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,015)

The Game (1997, Directed by David Fincher) English 6

Starring Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Carroll Baker, Peter Donat, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Tim Robey recommends... The Game (1997)

(6-Good Film)

Intriguing. Adept. Preposterous.

Daniel Schorr: Discovering the object of the game *is* the object of the game.

The Game follows Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas), a big-time businessman that seems to value money over the people in his life. He’s approaching his 48th birthday (his father’s age when he killed himself) and his ne’er-do-well brother, Conrad (Penn), shows up with a surprise gift; an elaborate and mysterious set of experiences known simply as “The Game.” It doesn’t take long for it to get out of hand. David Fincher, in his own assessment, lamented this film’s final act. They never did figure it out and it doesn’t really work. What does work is The Game’s first 2 acts; suspenseful, gripping, atmospheric, handsome, and well-acted. Douglas made a long, successful career largely built on roles like this one; the ice-cold, intelligent man in power. Fincher proves to be a modern master of suspense. Both men are in their element.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,014)