Green Book (2018, Directed by Peter Farrelly) English 7

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, P.J Byrne, Iqbal Theba, Tom Virtue

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(7-Very Good Film)

Likable. Winning. Appealing.

I resist the best I can the sort of made-to-be-inspiring , “based on a true story,” flicks that the Oscars and other award shows love. Everyone once in a while a film such as Green Book slips past my defenses. It stars Viggo Mortensen as a bit of a meathead bouncer, Tony Lip, a New York Italian, who becomes a bodyguard/ driver for black pianist Don Shirley (Ali), making a tour across America’s deep south. The humor comes fast and frequent. Mortensen, impressive in a rare comedic role, makes Tony Lip, a caricaturesque personality, human and likable, while Ali shows a deep sense of dignity in his portrayal of Don Shirley at all times. The film is a blast because of its leads. You can complain about historical accuracy or contrived Hollywood happy endings, or whatever, but this is a film that you’ll enjoy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(271)

8mm (1999, Directed by Joel Schumaker) English 6

Starring Nicholas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Norman Reedus, Amy Morton, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald, Myra Carter

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(6-Good Film)

Schlock. Gripping. Sordid.

Not to everyone’s taste is the polite way of saying it, 8mm is, for me, trash entertainment. I have a real fascination with this kind of sordid material. Nicholas Cage plays a private detective, Tom Welles, hired by a wealthy widow to investigate a tape she found in her deceased husband’s safe. The tape appears to be an authentic snuff film, with a teenage girl as the star and victim. The widow wants Welles to investigate if the snuff film is real by finding out what happened to the girl in the video. Welles accepts the case and begins his descent into the world of underground pornography to find the truth. A few years after Seven, 8mm lacks the skill of that classic, but succeeds on the ability of its subject to engross and thrill. Cage, over-the-top at moments, delivers as the film’s wearied protagonist. Phoenix and Morton ground the film, and give it some pathos.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(267)

 

The Truman Show (1998, Directed by Peter Weir) English 9

Starring Jim Carrey, Laura Linney,  Ed Harris, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Paul Giamatti

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(9-Great Film)

Thoughtful. Relevant. Poignant.

Thoughtful, prescient film about a man, Truman (Carrey), who lives his life in a fish tank, unwittingly the star of an elaborate reality television series. The film follows his slow realization that nothing-not his wife, not his family, nor his friends-in his life is real and his subsequent attempts to escape.An interesting premise, in this case, yields a film that seems more relevant today than when it was released twenty years ago. Jim Carrey showcases his dramatic chops, and makes a wonderful hero.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(240)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018, Directed by Bryan Singer) English 6

Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Ben Hardy, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Mike Myers, Gwilym Lee

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(6-Good Film)

By-the-numbers. Engaging. Entertaining.

Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the ups and downs of legendary rock group, Queen, with an emphasis on Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malek. This is basic biopic storytelling, complete with historical inaccuracy and carefully placed uplifting moments. Naturally, the soundtrack is great, the crowd scenes, and concert recreations are elaborate and impressive, and Rami Malek is astounding.  It isn’t a very insightful biopic, nor is it original at any point in its telling of this story, but it is very entertaining, and well-acted, and that’s good enough for me.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(239)

Roma (2018, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón) Spanish 7

Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Marco Graf

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(7-Very Good Film)

Intimate. Accomplished. Elegant.

I’m not sure I’ve seen Mexico like this, the way it’s shown in Oscar winning director, Alfonso Cuarón’s, newest film. Roma portrays the life of a young maid, Cleo, who works for a well-to-do family in the upper class, Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City during the early ’70s. We see conflict at three separate levels: Cleo gets pregnant by a true bastard, who discards her and joins a paramilitary group, her employers’ marriage is strained, and eventually the husband leaves, and then, finally, the city itself endures a torrent of political violence. As dramatic as this all sounds, Roma is often a very quiet, languid piece, with stunning camerawork and a beautiful aesthetic. There’s also a strong sense of love and family present even at its saddest moments.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(230)

 

The Virgin Spring (1960, Directed by Ingmar Bergman) Swedish 6

Starring Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson, Tor Isedal

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(6-Good Film)

Bleak. Thoughtful. Ponderous.

Sweet, virginal Karin leaves home to deliver candles to the local church in medieval Sweden. Along the way, two wayward men and a young boy stop, rape, and murder her. The three assailants seek shelter, and find it, in the home of Christian Per Töre (von Sydow), who, unbeknownst to them, is their victim’s father. This is a brutal tale, with several memorable scenes, but I’m still apathetic to Bergman’s style. I’m drawn to this morbid, haunting story, and some of his ideas, but I find it cloaked in rambling dialogue interspersed with dull quiet.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(229)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, Directed by Frank Capra) English 10

Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Lionel Barrymore, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, Ward Bond

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(10-Masterpiece)

Classic. Immortal. Moving.

Clarence (Travers), an angel 2nd class, is given an awfully tough assignment: selfless, devoted family man, George Bailey (Stewart) of Bedford Falls, wonders if the world would be a better place if he was never born. Clarence gives George a glimpse of what that would look like. The quintessential Christmas standard, It’s a Wonderful Life is the best of Christmas movies for any lover of classic Hollywoood. James Stewart and Frank Capra were an awesome pair, and I’m not sure any one has looked more beautiful in a film than Donna Reed when she and Stewart huddle around a phone, trying to stay angry at one another. I’ve mentioned before people’s tendency to forgive overt sentimentality in older films. In fact, it’s what people love most about films like It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey’s life isn’t easy, or what he dreamed for himself, but in the end, he’s given the gift of seeing that he has a purpose. Aside: Like any true traditionalist, I prefer this film in black and white.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(227)