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-

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

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

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(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-

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The Guns of Navarone (1961, Directed by J. Lee Thompson) English 7

Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, Anthony Quayle, Stanley Baker, Richard Harris, Gia Scala, James Darren

Image result for the guns of navarone

(7-Very Good Film)

Epic. Thrilling. Tense.

Corporal Miller: So what? Let the whole bloody world come in and blow itself to pieces, that’s what it deserves!

Six disparate men are given a suicide mission of sorts: take out the guns of Navarone. Set during World War II, these gargantuan guns held in a fictional island in Greece and controlled by the Nazis are single-handedly keeping the Allied Forces from taking back their captured soldiers. Sending in Captain Keith Mallory (Peck), Corporal Miller (Niven), Colonel Stavros (Quinn), Major Franklin (Quayle), CPO Brown (Baker), and Spyros Pappadimos (Darren), as brilliant and capable as they are, seems reckless. The Guns of Navarone is one of those films off the heels and in the vein of Seven Samurai where a team is assembled to do a seemingly impossible job. More often than not, these films turn out to be excellent entertainment despite little to no character development and rarely any three dimensional characters. That’s the case here. These are characters that don’t reveal much anyways. They’re intelligence and resistance fighters. They don’t trust easily and they’re generally pretty stoic. The majority of the interior drama between them comes from Corporal Miller’s antagonism towards Captain Mallory, and the uneasy alliance between the latter and Colonel Stavros. These three characters played by three great actors are more than enough to hold our interest. If I have a complaint, it’s that the climax itself, the dismantling of the guns, is less compelling than earlier scenes, most notably the execution.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Adventures of Don Juan (1948, Directed by Vincent Sherman) English 7

Starring Errol Flynn, Viveca Lindfors, Robert Douglas, Alan Hale, Romney Brent, Ann Rutherford, Robert Warwick, Una O’Connor, Raymond Burr

the adventures of don juan 1948 이미지 검색결과

(7-Very Good Film)

Festive. Handsome. Fun.

Don Juan: My dear friend, there’s a little bit of Don Juan in every man, and since I am Don Juan, there must be more of it in me!

Don Juan. The man. The myth. The legendary lady-killer. Apparently, not far off from star, Errol Flynn’s own reputation. The perfect marriage between star and role. Flynn’s Don Juan passes from town to town, accompanied by his loyal servant, Leporello (played by Flynn’s loyal real-life friend, Hale), fleeing cuckolded husbands and alternating between trying to live down or live up to his reputation. Eventually, he meets the queen, Margaret of Austria (Lindfors). Falling for her, he fights to protect her from conspirators and enemies of Spain. Not as exciting or memorable as Flynn’s best (Captain Blood, Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk), The Adventures of Don Juan is, however, a fun, romantic romp made with an abundance of skill and money.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Vera Cruz (1954, Directed by Robert Aldrich) English 8

Starring Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel, Cesar Romero, Sara Montiel, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Macready, Morris Ankrum, Jack Elam

The Ace Black Movie Blog: Movie Review: Vera Cruz (1954)

(8-Exceptional Film)

Violent. Exciting. Compelling.

Benjamin Trane: You just can’t do enough for me, can yuh, Joe?

Joe Erin: Why not? You’re the first friend I ever had.

Friends, indeed. Much of the underlying drama in Vera Cruz centers around this so-called friendship. Ben Trane’s (Cooper) older, seems wiser and less violent, but that doesn’t stop him from being mercenary when he can. He’s an ex-confederate soldier trying to start again below the border, during the Franco-Mexican War. His new partner, Joe Erin (Lancaster), has been there longer and built up a reputation as the most lethal crook around. They’re hired by Emperor Maximilian (Macready) himself to escort the beautiful-and treacherous-Countess Marie (Darcel) to Vera Cruz. There’s a good deal of plot in this film for a western and a number of relationships. The two male stars’ is the most interesting. The relationships between the stars and their love interests aren’t hard to figure out and their outcomes are more or less predictable. Trane and Erin’s relationship is more tenuous and I, for one, wasn’t sure how it would shake out. Vera Cruz, though slight in running time, feels like a great big western. Expansive setting, a large cast of characters, an abundance of plot, as mentioned. Despite finding Cooper unimpressive and rather stiff in westerns, he gets the job done here, and Lancaster wasn’t afraid to put his star power on the line to play crazed characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Diamonds are Forever (1971, Directed by Guy Hamilton) English 5

Starring Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Lana Wood, Charles Gray, Bruce Glover, Putter Smith, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot

Diamonds Are Forever Movie Review

(5-Okay Film)

Substandard. Campy. Uneven.

Blofeld: Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in.

That’s right. Sean Connery is back as James Bond, after Australian and subpar actor, George Lazenby, briefly took over the role. A return like this should exist in the same sphere as Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA. Instead, it’s a bit of general trivia for Bond aficionados. The reason? It’s because the film, itself, is mediocre. In fact, I might argue that it’s the silliest of the Bond films (not having seen Moonraker yet), which is saying something. Diamonds are Forever has Connery talking to rats, making out with his self, and driving a space buggy of sorts. It’s also set mainly in Vegas which, after Japan and Switzerland in the previous outings, comes as a letdown. Bond poses as a a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a high-level operation, but the plot is one of the franchise’s most irrelevant, the main villain represents an uninspired take on the role, and the henchman are laughable (maybe they were supposed to be). What are Diamonds are Forever’s redeeming features? It’s entertaining, up until the end which is surprisingly uninteresting. Jill St. John, the first American Bond woman, is fun and memorable. The theme song, of course, is one of the best, and, above all, Sean Connery. I can see why he was tired of doing this material, but he made it iconic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Mulan (2020, Directed by Niki Caro) English 4

Starring Liu Yifei, Yoson An, Gong Li, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, Ron Yuan

What Time Will Mulan Be on Disney Plus? How To Watch With Premiere Access

(4-Bad Film)

Inferior. Misguided. Dreary.

Mulan: Yes… I will bring honor to us all.

If you asked me ten years ago for one classic Disney animated film that could be interesting as a live-action remake, Mulan would likely have been my choice. The original is one of my favorites of all Disney films but I feel (or felt) that there was plenty of directions its story could go. It didn’t need to be a carbon-copy of the original to work. The folks at Disney obviously agreed and this new Mulan, Mulan 2020, is, in a lot of ways, a new film; its own film. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good film. Mulan 2020 starts out the same. She takes her aging father’s place in defending the country. The enemy is different, however. China’s facing Rouran warriors being manipulated by a vengeful witch (Li). Most people would have probably preferred that it recycle what worked so well in the animated version (catchy songs, colorful adventure, funny characters like Mushu, and light romance between Mulan and Li Sheng). I like the initiative to make something different, but every choice seems like a slap in the face to the original. It feels like the filmmakers were embarrassed by the original and spend the majority of this movie catering to China (turns out China hates it too). Everything is described as an effort to be “more historically accurate.” They forgot to make it entertaining. Everything that was fun about the first film is gone now. What’s left is dreary (and somehow still campy at the same time). There is nothing wrong with musical fantasies. I can’t believe Disney tried to make a fantasy “more realistic.”

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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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-

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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-

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Tenet (2020, Directed by Christopher Nolan) English 5

Starring John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel, Martin Donovan, Michael Caine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy

Christopher Nolan's movie 'Tenet': What is this movie about? – Film Daily

(5-Okay Film)

Tedious. Solemn. Convoluted.

Lady in a Lab Coat: Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.

“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it,” a lady in a lab coat tells our protagonist, simply referred to as Protagonist (Washington), for the whole of the film. Protagonist appears to accept this there and then-though it’s hard to determine what he’s thinking, if he’s thinking, at any point. I could not accept it. I don’t want to not understand. I don’t enjoy being lost, in general, but if I am to be lost, I’d prefer a vibrant setting, a character or two to care about, and a sense of humor. Not this gray oblivion devoid of humor that touts intelligence and sophistication at the expense of humor, entertainment, and emotion. In thinking about it, it’s strange what the lady in a lab coat says to Protagonist. The line is clearly meant as a clue to the viewer on how to experience Tenet and in this sense, it does its job, but within the context of the film, does Protagonist ever “feel” anything? Don’t try to understand it? I don’t even understand who she is.

Any film made by Christopher Nolan bears the weight of exceptional expectations. Nolan is quite possibly the most popular filmmaker working today and, perhaps more impressively, he’s also almost universally admired by his peers. His popularity was built chiefly on his take on the superhero genre with Batman and The Dark Knight saga. Since the final film in that trilogy though, The Dark Knight Rises, his films have grown increasingly austere and opaque. Those two words combine to mean pretentious in my eyes. I was not a fan of Interstellar (the second half meandered its way to the goofiest ending I’ve seen in years), I was apathetic towards Dunkirk (admittedly, I’ve seen this once and I’m willing to see it again before I mark my opinion in stone), and now, Tenet, Nolan’s worst film; an interminable barrage of noise and poor sound design, unintelligible, obscure dialogue, superficial characters, wrapped around a “high-concept” central conceit that I don’t give one damn about.

The story follows Protagonist, hired by some unknown figure to…(I don’t know what this film’s about and you probably don’t want me to tell you anyways.) Let’s go broad strokes instead. John David Washington is the good guy. Kenneth Branagh is the bad guy. The end of the world is at stake. Time can be manipulated. Robert Pattinson is in this movie. He’s helping the good guys. Elizabeth Debicki is married to the bad guy, but reluctantly helps the good guys. Will subtitles help? Do I want to give Tenet a third try on DVD where I’ll at least know what’s being said? Half of the dialogue is spoken through thick accents or obscured by masks which has become a trademark for Nolan and not one of his better ones.

In order for there to be suspense, the audience needs to be in on what’s going on. Alfred Hitchcock famously explained (explained it best, in my opinion), saying, ““There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” There’s no anticipation in this film because we’re never given a solid enough picture of what is happening. We’re meant to be overwhelmed. Everything, from the bombastic sound design to the narrative structure, conspires to overwhelm us. This is not a spy film like some critics claim it is. Cinematic espionage is not knowing who to trust but knowing that good and bad will reveal itself by the end. Tenet is knowing who’s good from the start, Protagonist, but not knowing who he is or why he does anything. The good guys are emotionless suits with no backstory whatsoever and no clear motivation.

Perhaps the large-canvas, awfully convoluted plot is simply a means to an end; an excuse for large-scale spectacle and masterfully crafted action sequences. I’d never accuse Nolan of being a hack. He’s a technician. Many of the action set-pieces are incredible. Tenet is consistently beautiful and well-acted in the rare moments when acting is called for (aside from Debicki, the cast is mostly called on to look good in a suit and spout pseudo-clever dialogue). However, as I said in a different review (Highlander 2, I believe, another nonsensical sci-fi flick), when I can’t follow the plot, I have no sense of what a scene’s purpose is in the grand scheme. Then, I can only hope to enjoy each scene independent of context. There are a number of scenes in Tenet in which I was able to do this, but it’s hard to do for 2 and a half hours. “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” No lady in a lab coat. I felt nothing, and in the time spent between seeing Tenet and writing this review, I didn’t think about the film once.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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