The Ten Commandments (1956, Directed by Cecil B. Demille) English 6

Starring Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter, Yul Brynner, Vincent Price, Yvonne De Carlo, Cedric Hardwicke, Judith Anderson, Nina Foch, Edward G.Robinson, Woodrow Strode, John Carradine, Debra Paget, John Derek

Blu-Ray Review | The Ten Commandments (Blu-ray) | Blu-ray Authority

(6- Good Film)

Involving. Gaudy. Epic.

Rameses: His god – IS God.

One of the most popular and successful pictures ever made, Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments is not, however, a great film. Being old-fashioned isn’t a sin in my book, but excess is, and The Ten Commandments is excessively old-fashioned. Start with the white-washed cast of Hollywood stars (Vincent Price, Judith Anderson, and Edward G. Arnold, for as great as they are, stand out as unconvincing Israelites and Egyptians), then move to the ultra-soapy dialogue and acting. While we’re at it, I should bring up Demille’s apparent refusal to move beyond an antiquated theater-like presentation for his story. It’s all wide-shots, static and straight-on. I don’t even recall him using any close-ups. The result is a movie that feels more campy than momentous. That being said, it is an excellent story told on the grandest of scales. If I criticize its technique, its only fair to also point out that it’s four hours long and I was never bored.

-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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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-

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Splendor in the Grass (1961, Directed by Elia Kazan) English 8

Starring Warren Beatty, Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Barbara Loden, Audrey Christie, Joanna Roos, Sandy Dennis, Zohra Lampert

Love is for the Very Young: 'Splendor in the Grass' (1961) - retromoviebuff

(8-Exceptional Film)

Lurid. Affecting. Melodramatic.

“Though nothing can bring back the hour. Of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not; rather find. Strength in what remains behind.” -William Wordsworth.

I could not care less about the premise of this film. A young man, handsome and affluent, is growing impatient with his “nice” girlfriend to sleep with him. The sexual frustrations of a high schooler seem small beans, on the one hand, and ripe for cinematic exploitation, on the other. Thankfully, though it doesn’t shy away from the lurid melodrama at its center, it does slowly become more than that, and by the end, it becomes a lot more. Splendor in the Grass is, ultimately, a poignant film. Beatty is the handsome young man in question and Natalie Wood, the “nice” girlfriend. I put “nice” in quotation marks not sarcastically but because her character, Deanie, comes to resent that designation. She loves Beatty’s Bud Stamper and feels that she’s willing to do anything for him, but he’s too muddled up by his domineering father to really know what he wants. There’s a lot going on in this film; a lot of tears, a lot of yelling. Films like these gave way to the soap opera on television, but there’s a level of skill in all aspects of Splendor in the Grass that elevates the material. Great stars, a handful of provocative, memorable moments, and a moving finale.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Magic Mike (2012, Directed by Steven Soderbergh) English 6

Starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Riley Keough, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Manganiello, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Review: 'Magic Mike,' by Steven Soderbergh, With Channing Tatum ...

(6-Good Film)

Fun. Dramatic. Strong.

Dallas: Will you welcome to the stage, the one, the only… Magic Mike!

“You are the husband they never had. You are the dreamboat that never came along,” says Dallas (McConaughey), the seedy impresario behind a nightclub of gaudy male strippers. Magic Mike (Tatum) is his main attraction, but Magic Mike is not real. We see Magic Mike during the day, going by Michael, working some construction job, struggling to start a business of his own. That’s what this film is actually about. Night versus day. Illusion versus reality. For a certain amount of time each night, Mike gets to live in a fantasy world. It’s only when he begins to mentor a young, new stripper, Adam (Pettyfer), that he begins to see how hollow it all is. Magic Mike is a solid film underneath the heavy layers of pageantry, eye candy, and other distractions; most of it necessary. It can’t quite convince me that they are not all meatheads, but it did make me care about their plight and I enjoyed the journey, besides.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Brideshead Revisited (1981, Directed by Charles Sturridge) English 8

Starring Jeremy Irons, Diana Quick, Anthony Andrews, Simon Jones, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Phoebe Nichols

Classic TV series - Boston.com

(8-Exceptional Film)

Comprehensive. Wistful. Alluring.

“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.”-Evelyn Waugh

Listening to Jeremy Irons’ distinct, mellifluous voice dole out the prose of the great Evelyn Waugh is one of life’s higher pleasures, and one worth even the imposing running time of this 11 episode production. That it comes as almost a bonus on top of a fully formed, deeply compelling character and performance speaks to why this adaptation of the classic novel is so fondly remembered. Irons plays Charles Ryder, an intelligent, brooding, rather passive young man at Oxford circa 1922 who falls in with the lively, attractive Sebastian Flyte (Andrews) and his group of friends; then, later, his family, eventually, falling in love with Sebastian’s married sister, Julia (Quick). Just about 11 hours long, this version of Brideshead Revisited certainly isn’t in any hurry, nor is it at any point suspenseful. It trusts the material. The characters are interesting, their relationships even more so, and the performances are sterling all-around.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Leave Her to Heaven (1945, Directed by John M. Stahl) English 7

Starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Ray Collins, Gene Lockhart, Chill Wills, Mary Philips

Berlinale | Archive | Annual Archives | 2015 | Programme - Leave ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Sparkling. Maudlin. Chilling.

Ellen Berent Harland: I’ll never let you go. Never, never, never.

Novelist, Richard Harlan’s (Wilde) own story should be a cautionary tale. He fell in love after a brief flirtation with the beautiful Ellen Berent (Tierney), and they were married soon after. It’s only after they married that the dark side of her personality peaked through. Violently possessive, Ellen slowly destroys his life, and Harlan ends up in jail. The only problem with calling this a cautionary tale is that it’s hard to say what exactly Harlan’s mistakes were; at least, early on. There weren’t exactly any clear signs that Ellen was a psychopath. She was an enigma and that only made him more curious. I can’t blame him. Leave Her to Heaven is a brightly colored melodrama with an undercurrent of noir. Like its lead character, Ellen, the film’s dazzling superficial qualities belie its dark core. Tierney is unforgettable in her role; pristine, Barbie-doll looks, and an ice-cold manner. Her scene at the lake, shades on, staring off into the distance as something horrific happens right in front of her, is as chilling a scene as there ever was.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(988)

Above the Rim (1994, Directed by Jeff Pollack) English 6

Starring Duane Martin, Tupac Shakur, Leon, Marlon Wayans, Wood Harris, Tonya Pinkins, David Bailey, Michael Rispoli, Shawn Michael Howard, Bernie Mac

Above the Rim (1994)

(6-Good Film)

Rough. Spirited. Lasting.

Kyle-Lee: Why are you doin’ this man? It’s just a game.

Shep: Not to me.

Basketball is easily my favorite sport to play, but not my favorite sport to watch. More pertinent, it seems to be particularly difficult to portray dramatically. Boxing would appear to be the most cinematic of sports while basketball is way down on the list. The speed and tenaciousness that comes with a good game of basketball have yet to be shown convincingly on film. The basketball sequences are mainly what make Above the Rim an uneven experience. The story and the characters are enduring; engulfed in basketball culture over 25 years later (Drake wore Tupac’s outfit from this film at a recent NBA playoff game). Kyle-Lee (Martin) is a good kid but a little cocky. Growing up in Harlem, raised by a single mother, he might have what it takes to play at the next level; D-1 college basketball, full-ride. Shep (Leon) used to be that guy. He led his school to a championship and seemed destined for big things in the basketball world. Now he’s a security guard with demons. Birdie (Shakur) is his little brother who’s bad news. These three figures are common character types used and performed well here. Tupac’s energy serves the film well, as does the outstanding soundtrack in which he features heavily. Above the Rim moves fast and might have benefited from a slower, more contemplative tone. As it is though, the film feels raw which works in its own way.

-Walter Lee Howard-

(987)

I’ll Never Forget You (1951, Directed by Roy Ward Baker) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Ann Blyth, Michael Rennie, Irene Browne, Dennis Price, Beatrice Campbell, Kathleen Byron

Screenshots - I'll Never Forget You

(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Sentimental. Imaginative.

Roger Forsyth: You’re sort of a mystery man even to your friends.

Peter Standish (Power) is a brilliant scientist. Unhappy in his own time, he dedicates his life and research to traveling back through the centuries to the 1700s, just after the revolutionary war, specifically. Eventually, he succeeds but finds that life in 18th century England is not at all what he expected, and his love life is complicated by the kind, understanding Helen Pettigrew (Blyth). It’s beyond me why anyone would think that life would be better in the 18th century, but this is a romantic fantasy not meant to be analyzed to death. The conceit is more or less an excuse to turn the film into a costume drama. Tyrone Power, matinee idol for the ages, is convincing as the fish out of water and romantic lead. The romance is sweet if treacly, and the story is light and compelling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Honey Boy (2019, Directed by Alma Har’el) English 8

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, FKA Twigs, Noah Jupe, Maika Monroe, Clifton Collins Jr., Natasha Lyonne, Laura San Giacomo, Martin Starr, Byron Bowers

Watch FKA twigs and Shia LaBeouf in the Trailer for New Movie ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Moving. Insightful. Deft.

James: Yes. She’s filling your head full of fear, I pump you up full of strength. Cause we’re a team and I know you got what it takes. You’re a fucking star and I know it, that’s why I’m here. I’m your cheerleader Honey Boy.

Much is made about Shia LaBeouf’s first script, Honey Boy, as it feels like a revelation from his own life. Not having read the background to this film or any comments LaBeouf may have made about its authenticity, it feels presumptuous for me to guess how much of it is true (taken from the star’s life and written into film). I can say that it certainly feels true. That it’s perceptive and moving, and that it’s exceptionally well-acted, LaBeouf and Jupe especially. Jupe plays Honey Boy, a child star supporting his wildly erratic, often abusive father, James, played by LaBeouf. Har’el does an impressive job directing the story, flashing back in time seamlessly, making the narrative seem real. James is a man of many sides. We see all of his bad sides, but it’s the occasional sweeter scenes that make you think he could possibly change. Those scenes are usually followed by him tearing it all down again. Poignant, fascinating work.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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