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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Antonio Montana (Pacino), a Cuban refugee arrives in 1980s Miami committed to making a name for himself. And, with loyal companion, Manolo (Bauer) always at his side, the epic rise and fall of Tony Montana is 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.

Crooked House (2017, Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner) English 6

Starring Max Irons, Terrence Stamp, Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Stefanie Martini, Julian Sands, Christian McKay, Christina Hendricks

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Adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel following private detective Charles Hayward (Irons) as he investigates a case given to him by an ex-girlfriend. The case involves the death of an enormously wealthy and corrupt patriarch, and, of course, all his relatives are suspects. Hayward meets the entire family of  greedy eccentrics, as he tries to catch a killer. Christie became a world renowned master of the whodunit mystery, and nobody does it better. Her story has been transported to the screen with skill and a cast full of strong performances. While this is not the best Christie adaptation, it is a perfectly good time minus any truly memorable moments.

Grand Prix (1966, Directed John Frankenheimer) English 8

Starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Francoise Hardy, Brian Bedford, Jessica Walter, Toshiro Mifune

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Follows the lives of four Formula One drivers through the 1966 racing season as they compete to be world champions. There’s Pete Aron (Garner). A stoic, but somewhat reckless American driver who’s blamed for his teammate’s wreck. Sarti (Montand), a Frenchman. The best in the sport, but starting to grow weary of it. He starts an affair with an American journalist (Saint). Scott Stoddard (Bedford), an Englishman recovering from a major wreck and his wife leaving him. And Barlini (Sabato), an arrogant and carefree Italian racer. The women, though certainly beautiful, are completely short-changed in this picture. As a result, the surrounding drama around the stunning race sequences do not measure up. Yves Montand’s character is the only one with any real depth. That being said, the racing scenes truly are special. John Frankenheimer is an amazing craftsmen, and the film’s nearly three hour running time fly by thanks to his vision.

Christine (1958, Directed by Pierre Gaspard-Huit) French 7

Starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Micheline Presle, Fernand Ledoux

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Tragedy about a young officer (Delon) caught in an affair with the wife of his superior, just as he has fallen in love with a local Austrian girl named Christine (Schneider). The fatalism of its ending was, for me, contrived, but that didn’t keep me from caring. The stars-Schneider and Delon- are two of the most beautiful and photogenic ever to be on screen, and their romance is brief but sweet.

Senso (1954, Directed by Luchino Visconti) English 6

Starring Alida Valli, Farley Granger, Heinz Moog

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Set in Italy during Austrian occupation, a married Italian Countess (Valli) strikes up an affair with the Austrian officer (Granger) responsible for her cousin’s exile. Viewed as one of Luchino Visconti’s best, I remain mostly indifferent to his work though I love the individual parts. The imagery is gorgeous. The acting, in the context of a melodrama, is very good. The setting and story are intriguing, and yet this picture never grabbed me. Like the few other films by Visconti that I’ve seen, there’s a character at the center of Senso that’s completely deplorable, making for a difficult watch.

Opening Night (1977, Directed by John Cassavetes) English 6

Starring Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzarra, Joan Blondell

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Myrtle Gordon (Rowlands), a star of the theater world, is on a downward spiral, exacerbated by the sudden, violent death of a young fan before her eyes. This is an elusive theater drama with hints of the supernatural, and, not knowing what to expect, with it being my first Cassavetes film, I found it too confounding to be truly engaging. The main draw, the thing talked about most when Cassavetes is brought up, is the acting. Gena Rowlands, his wife and star, is exceptional. She has a broken down glamour in this picture that serves the story and makes her character haunting. I was less interested in the picture within a picture element to this film. The stage performance which the plot revolves around takes up close to half of the 2 and half hour running time.

The Sound of Music (1965, Directed by Robert Wise) English 10

Starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Heather Menzies, Charmian Carr

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A young woman in 1930’s Austria struggles to fit in with the order of nuns she’s studying under; despite her relentless enthusiasm. They ask her to try working elsewhere for a time, to see if she finds her calling. And so she works as nanny for the wealthy but unhappy Von Trapp family that includes: the widower, Captain Von Trapp, and his seven children. Gradually, she works her way into the hearts of the children and the father, as the threat of Nazi Germany hangs over their beautiful country. I basically feel that there are people who love Sound of Music and people who pretend not to love Sound of Music. I don’t feel the need to pretend. It’s corny, joyous, moving, lovely, wonderful. The music is unforgettable and the story is long and sweeping.