English Babu Desi Mem (1996, Directed by Praveen Nischol) Hindi 4

Starring Shahrukh Khan, Sonali Bendre, Sunny Singh, Rajeshwari Sachdev

(4-Bad Film)

Awry. Over-cooked. Unsatisfying.

A Bollywood  romance with mega-star Khan playing three roles; a father and later, his two dissimilar sons. As a prologue, he plays the father, an Indian man who moves to England with his family. Jumping ahead, the oldest son returns to India, falls in love with a local, and has a son of his own. Sadly, he and his wife die and are unable to care for the boy, who is instead raised by his young Aunt. Jumping ahead again, the second son finds out about his older brother and his nephew. He goes to India in order to bring the boy to his rightful home, only to find the boy is devoted to his Aunt and refuses to leave. Did you get all that? The opportunity for a classic cross-generational, fun, romantic, Bollywood story is all in place for most of the movie, but the second half falls off. It switches tone poorly from an antagonistic romance between Khan and his nephew’s aunt to a violent street tale. I just wanted the romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Pocketful of Miracles (1961, Directed by Frank Capra) English 7

Starring Glenn Ford, Bette Davis, Hope Lange, Thomas Mitchell, Peter Falk, Ann-Margret, Arthur O’Connell, Edward Everett Horton

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(7-Very Good Film)

Sentimental. Appealing. Long.

Frank Capra was one of Hollywood’s best filmmakers. His sentimental style might not appeal to those inclined to be cynical, but for anyone else, his filmography is full of truly great classics. His last film, Pocketful of Miracles falls short of his best work but will make you smile, and it’s wonderful to see the cast of old Hollywood greats together decades after most of their work: Thomas Mitchell (in his final role), Edward Everett Horton, and Bette Davis. Davis stars as Apple Annie, a vagrant street merchant favored by slick gangster, Dave the Dude (Ford). Dave is superstitious and believes that Annie’s apples bring him luck. Because of this superstition, he’s inclined to help her, and so when her somewhat estranged daughter plans to visit, Annie asks Dave to help her pretend to be a great lady; to impress her daughter. This is a fine premise for a Capra comedy, and, in fact, he made this film twice-Lady for a Day (1933). Pocketful of Miracles is a beautiful production with plenty of moving moments and a fantastic cast. It runs slightly overlong at 2 hours and 20 minutes and isn’t as funny as it is warm-hearted.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


How to Steal a Million (1966, Directed by William Wyler) English 8

Starring Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Hugh Griffith, Charles Boyer, Eli Wallach, Moustache

(8-Exceptional Film)

Light. Charming. Exciting.

Effortless, light-hearted caper movie starring Hepburn as the daughter of a master art forger. A technical examination looming over a fake Cellini statue her father donated to a museum threatens to expose the whole operation, so, being the good daughter, she enlists a handsome burglar (O’Toole) to help her steal the statue. The surrounding elements-the music, the color, the expensive outfits, supporting cast- are uniformly fantastic, but these kinds of films come down to the stars, and Hepburn and O’Toole are wonderful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Drive a Crooked Road (1954, Directed by Richard Quine) English 7

Starring Mickey Rooney, Dianne Foster, Kevin McCarthy, Jack Kelly, Harry Landers, Jerry Paris

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(7-Very Good Film)

Modest. Gripping. Adroit.

Mechanic and aspiring driver, Eddie Shannon (Rooney), seems to those around him a bit odd. Quiet and repressed, while his coworkers discuss different women, Eddie sits in the corner and offers nothing. One day, Eddie has what appears to be a chance encounter with a beautiful woman named Barbara (Foster). Eddie falls for her, but their relationship is actually a part of a plan made by her real boyfriend, Steve (McCarthy), who’s getting ready to rob a bank and needs a getaway driver. Like many excellent noirs, Drive a Crooked Road, with its screenplay by a young Blake Edwards, is a simple story. At its heart is the note-perfect performance by Mickey Rooney. Used to seeing him in big performances in grand Hollywood musicals, his subtle, observant performance here is surprising and moving.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Farewell, My Lovely (1975, Directed by Dick Richards) English 7

Starring Robert Mitchum, Charlotte Rampling, Sylvester Stallone, John Ireland, Sylvia Miles, Harry Dean Stanton, Jack O’Halloran

(7-Very Good Film)

Stylish. Slight. Alluring.

Unlike other Raymond Chandler adaptations, Farewell, My lovely sticks closely to the book. While Phillip Marlowe (Mitchum) wisecracks his way through two concurrent cases involving blackmail, murder, and an ex-con’s wife, film noir fans can appreciate the film’s beautiful period detail, hardboiled soundtrack, and witty lines. As the second film based on Chandler’s novel, I give the slight edge to Murder, My Sweet (1944) which isn’t as faithful to the source but offers stronger characterizations. Farewell, My Lovely is more superficial than substantial. Robert Mitchum, however, with all the great interpretations in film history, is my ideal Marlowe. He’s great here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Scarface (1983, Directed by Brian De Palma) English 8

Starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, F. Murray Abraham

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Operatic. Over-the-top. Iconic.

Antonio Montana (Pacino), a Cuban refugee arrives in 1980s Miami committed to making a name for himself. And, with the loyal companion, Manolo (Bauer) always at his side, the epic rise and fall of Tony Montana are chronicled in lavish, often explicit detail. Pacino’s Tony swaggers through the picture, snorting cocaine, making threats, spouting ridiculously quotable maxims at every turn, and his demise is as glorious as his road to power. Tony is an iconic and classic character that many will see as too much. Pacino eschews the less is more model he employed to perfection with his earlier characters like Michael Corleone, and instead devours the scenery. Director Brian De Palma is a wizard with a camera and manages to fill each frame with scenery that is suitably big enough for Tony to occupy and not overshadow. The supporting cast is good too, notably Pfieffer looking beautiful, unobtainable, and perennially bored.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Impact (1949, Directed by Arthur Lubin) English 7

Starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn, Helen Walker, Anna May Wong, Robert Warwick

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(7-Very Good Film)

Simple. Involving. Affecting.

The victim of a scheming wife, Irene (Walker), and her lover, millionaire businessman, Walter Williams (Donlevy), stumbles into smalltown Larkspur, Idaho battered and bruised. He knows that his wife set him up to be murdered by her boyfriend and that the latter died in the attempt. He also knows, from the newspapers, that everyone assumes him dead, and he’s essentially free to start over. He becomes a mechanic in a local garage run by the beautiful and saintly Marsha Peters (Raines). This is a very simple story written and performed well, with the final act being so involving that I paused the film several times in anger, hoping to settle down. Charles Coburn is one of the best character actors, and he has a compelling role as the detective trying to get to the bottom of everything.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-