Holes (2003, Directed by Andrew Davis) English 7

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voigt, Tim Blake Nelson, Khleo Thomas, Patricia Arquette, Henry Winkler, Dulé Hill, Eartha Kitt, Roma Maffia, Rick Fox, Siobhan Fallon Hogan

Holes is a Cinematic Masterpiece – The Blue & Gold

(7-Very Good Film)

Idiosyncratic. Faithful. Rich.

Madame Zeroni: If you forget to come back for Madame Zeroni, you and your family will be cursed for always and eternity!

Stanley Yelnats IV (LaBeouf) has been cursed since the day he was born. His whole family bears the curse, or at least the men, ever since Elya Yelnats failed to fulfill his end of a bargain with Madame Zeroni (Kitt) back in the old country. Now the youngest Stanley is headed to Camp Green Lake, an ironic name for a hellish juvenile delinquent program, where he’ll have to dig a hole (5 feet by 5 feet) every day for the next 18 months, and did I mention he didn’t even commit the crime that he’s sentenced for? Holes is a faithful adaptation of a classic novel I read as a child. I was enchanted with its sense of mystery, foreshadowing, adventure, dark humor and thrills. It’s certainly a favorite of mine and the movie absolutely does it justice. Shia LaBeouf is a very natural performer and he’s surrounded by a tremendous cast of veteran actors.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Accidental Tourist (1988, Directed by Lawrence Kasdan) English 8

Starring William Hurt, Geena Davis, Kathleen Turner, Bill Pullman, Ed Begley Jr., David Ogden Stiers, Amy Wright

PopCultureGuy: July Actor Spotlight: William Hurt - "The ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Emotional. Wistful. Enchanting.

Macon: It’s wrong to think we could plan everything, as though it were a business trip. I don’t believe that anymore. Things just happen.

Macon Leary (Hurt) writes guides for businessmen who want to feel like they never left home when they travel abroad; how to have the most American experience possible in whatever country. He’s still churning out these guides dutifully though his young son has died and his wife, Sarah (Turner), has left in the painful aftermath. Macon seems emotionally dead. He drops his dog off before a trip at a local animal hospital and meets Muriel Pritchett (Davis), eccentric perhaps and certainly forward but mostly charming. She slowly brings Macon back to life. The Accidental Tourist is a wonderful film, adapted from a wonderful book, with a lot of sadness that miraculously manages to somehow still feel light. Hurt gives a very sharply observed performance and Davis is all warmth. I didn’t know while watching the film but I’ve found out since, that the beautiful score is the work of John Williams. That’s not surprising. He adds so much to the film and the ending is so satisfying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


3 Idiots (2009, Directed by Rajkumar Hirani) Hindi 5

Starring Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Boman Irani, Omi Vaidya, Mona Singh

3 Idiots Locations - Movies Locations

(5-Okay Film)

Fun. Silly. Emotional.

Rancho: Pursue excellence, and success will follow, pants down.

Insanely popular, 3 Idiots, to me, is a very strange epic. Alternating between tones frequently, as is common in Bollywood movies, I found the mood swings to be a bit jarring. In any case, a number of films, when they want to highlight the extraordinariness of a lead character, will use a more “average” character to be our point of view. We see Sherlock Holmes through Doctor Watson’s eyes or Andy Dufresne through Red’s eyes, for example. 3 Idiots introduces us to Rancho (Khan) through the eyes of his classmates, Farhan (Madhavan) and Raju (Joshi). They attend the highly competitive Imperial College of Engineering and when Rancho makes an enemy of the Dean by challenging tradition and the way the school puts pressure on its students, Farhan and Raju are forced to decide who to follow, Rancho or the Dean. The soundtrack is infectious and the three leads make a merry trio of friends. There are also a couple of good surprises along the way. The romance is less compelling, however, and overall, despite being one of his biggest hits, 3 Idiots isn’t as strong as some of Khan’s other star-vehicles; Dangal or Lagaan being my favorite.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Man in the Iron Mask (1939, Directed by James Whale) English 7

Starring Louis Hayward, Joan Bennet, Warren William, Alan Hale, Joseph Schildkraut, Albert Dekker, Walter Kingsford

16MM THE MAN in the Iron Mask, 1939 - $89.99 | PicClick

(7-Very Good Film)

Extravagant. Compelling. Exciting.

Philippe: There is one law in life, my brother, that not even a king can escape… the law of retribution!

Based on Alexandre Dumas’ conclusion to the Three Musketeers saga, The Man in the Iron Mask begins in the 17th century with King Louis XIII’s wife giving birth to twin sons, Louis and Philippe. In most cases, any man would be proud to find he has two sons but in this situation, twin sons mean twin claims to the throne and could spell chaos in the future. Foreseeing this, the king sends one son off to live humbly with one of his trusted musketeers, D’Artagnan (William), never knowing his birthright. Decades later, the remaining son, Louis XIV (Hayward), is on the throne and true tyrant. Finding out about the brother, he sentences his twin to the Bastille and burdens him with an iron mask to cover his face at all times. Joan Bennet plays Princess Maria of Spain who loves Philippe (Hayward) and despises Louis but thinks they are the same person and can’t understand her feelings. Though only loosely based on Dumas’ work apparently, the filmmakers have mined and condensed the story wonderfully into pure intrigue, romance, and excitement. It’s everything you’d want in a swashbuckler. Louis Hayward does nifty work in portraying the disparate brothers.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Avanti! (1972, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 8

Starring Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills, Clive Revill, Edward Andrews, Gianfranco Barra, Giacomo Rizzo

Image result for avanti 1972

(8-Exceptional Film)

Long. Charming. Romantic.

Carlo Carlucci: Here, we take our time. We cook our pasta, we sprinkle our Parmigiano, we drink our wine, we make our love…

Wendell Armbruster: What do you do in the evening?

Carlo Carlucci: In the evening, we go home to our wives.

Wendell Armbruster (Lemmon) is as stiff and tightly wound as can be; an American in Italy, not for pleasure but for business of a sort. His father died while on his annual “therapeutic trip” to Italy and Wendell is charged with bringing the body back to Baltimore for the funeral. Wendell finds out that his father was actually, once a year, shacked up with his mistress at the local hotel run by the worldly Carlo Carlucci (Revill). While struggling to get his father back home in time, Wendell meets and slowly falls for Pamela (Mills), the sweet but insecure daughter of his father’s mistress. Life is complicated but Billy Wilder makes it seem worth it. He’s obviously one of the best and he can make the messiest of scenarios charming and sometimes funny. Avanti!, however, is not a wild romp or as comedy-driven as you might expect based on its poster. This is more often a serious romance with bouts of humor and wit. Lemmon and Mills are fantastic. Mills, in particular, is very sweet, and Revill, whom I learn is actually from New Zealand, is convincing and charming as the Italian hotel manager. Avanti! may be too long but I personally don’t think so. I don’t mind long films so long as they’re not boring. Avanti! isn’t boring. It slowly becomes one of the great romances.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Blue Velvet (1986, Directed by David Lynch) English 9

Starring Kyle McLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, Hope Lange, Brad Dourif, George Dickerson

Image result for blue velvet

(9-Great Film)

Strange. Illusive. Unforgettable.

Frank Booth: In dreams, I walk with you. In dreams, I talk to you. In dreams, you’re mine, all the time. Forever. In dreams…

There have been hundreds of essays trying to get to the bottom of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Following Jeffrey Beaumont (McLachlan), a college kid returning to suburban Lumbertown after his father has a stroke, Blue Velvet quickly becomes the stuff of nightmares. Jeffrey finds a severed ear walking home from visiting his father and feels compelled to investigate. Like a dark Alice in Wonderland, Jeffrey goes down the rabbit hole and finds himself in an underworld populated by people like the seductive lounge singer, Dorothy (Rosselini), and pure evil in human form, Frank (Hopper). Of the theories I’ve read about Blue Velvet, and most hold water, I like the Oedipal idea wherein Frank represents the father (whom Jeffrey wants to kill) and Dorothy represents the mother (whom Jeffrey wants to sleep with). I also think voyeurism is a huge part of the film, as it is with any film noir or mystery (private detectives are called “peepers” right?). Jeffrey peaks in through the closet door and sees sex and violence. It’s attractive. Blue Velvet is a gorgeous film with a number of wtf moments. My personal favorite is the prostitute jumping up on the car and dancing while Jeffrey is beaten. A strange film for a strange world.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Harlem Nights (1989, Directed by Eddie Murphy) English 7

Starring Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Della Reese, Michael Lerner, Charlie Murphy, Jasmine Guy, Lena Rochon, Danny Aiello, Arsenio Hall, Robin Harris, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Berlinda Tolbert

Image result for harlem nights 1989

(7-Very Good Film)

Leisurely. Appealing. Brash.

If anyone remembers Harlem Nights, Eddie Murphy’s lone directorial effort, disappointment or unsuccessful are probably the words that come up quickest. Murphy stars as Quick alongside a terrific cast that includes Richard Pryor, Della Reese, and Redd Foxx among many familiar faces. Murphy and Pryor’s characters run a speakeasy in Harlem during the 1930s and are doing so well that local big-shot, Bugsy Calhoune (Lerner), wants a cut of their action. They have to use their wits to outsmart the gangster. Harlem Nights isn’t funny. Parts of it are humorous and the actors perform with natural charisma but it’s not what you’d expect from a film starring Murphy, Pryor, and Foxx. I’m sure that’s where the disappointment comes from. Aside from that though, I think there’s a lot that is worthwhile about this film. The setting, the score by Herbie Hancock, and the performances above all. Murphy seems to have a deft hand at working with actors. Harlem Nights is better than it’s given credit for.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Little Foxes (1941, Directed by William Wyler) English 7

Starring Bette Davis, Teresa Wright, Herbert Marshall, Dan Duryea, Patricia Collinge, Charles Dingle, Carl Benton Reid, Richard Carlson

Image result for the little foxes 1941

(7-Very Good Film)

Stagey. Masterly. Brutal.

The Hubbards, a southern aristocratic family, are always scheming. Wealthy, greedy, they’re led by three siblings, Regina (Davis), Ben (Dingle), and Oscar (Reid). Regina’s unhappily married to Horace Giddens (Marshall), suffering from a heart condition, whom the three siblings plot to bamboozle into funding their latest venture. Teresa Wright plays Alexandra Giddens, Regina and Horace’s daughter, threatened with marriage to her unscrupulous cousin, Leo (Duryea), in order to keep the family strong. Set in the early parts of the 20th century and based on a successful play, The Little Foxes is immaculately staged and well-performed by its cast who are given plum roles to dig into. Bette Davis is a force of nature and she excels in her role as a heartless, ruthless wife.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951, Directed by Raoul Walsh) English 5

Starring Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty, James Robertson Justice, Terence Morgan, Denis O’Dea, Christopher Lee

Image result for captain horatio hornblower

(5-Okay Film)

Serious. Dry. Well-Acted.

C.S Forrester’s famous literary hero, Horatio Hornblower, is adapted for the big screen, played by Gregory Peck with his natural austerity. English Naval Captain Horatio Hornblower guides his ship through every possible hardship during the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century. Along the way, although married, he falls hard for Lady Barbara (Mayo). Compared to the jolly romps of Errol Flynn, this film seemed to me, overly serious. Well-crafted, well-acted, Captain Horatio Hornblower simply wasn’t much fun. Perhaps it’s an issue of expectations. This isn’t a swashbuckler. It’s a romantic drama set on a ship. Many people would welcome that. I didn’t care.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Fireworks Wednesday (2006, Directed by Asghar Farhadi) Persian 8

Starring Hedye Tehrani, Taraneh Alidoosti, Hamid Farokhnezhad, Pantea Bahram, Houman Seyyedi, Sahar Dolatshahi

Image result for fireworks wednesday

(8-Exceptional Film)

Painful. Assured. Poignant.

“Human beings are condemned to consequences.” Some wise old British writer once said that, though I’m struggling to place who. I, perhaps erroneously, remember reading it in some Graham Greene novel many years ago (The Heart of the Matter), but maybe it was Aldous Huxley as someone else has suggested to me. In any case, the quote perfectly underlines what’s at the heart of each film by the great, two-time Oscar winner, writer-director, Asghar Farhadi, a master in his prime. He found international acclaim and came to my attention back in 2011 with his powerful fifth feature film, A Separation, which won that year’s prize for Best Foreign-Language Film at the Academy Awards. He went on to win a second Oscar in that same category years later for The Salesman, and, as his reputation grew, some of his earlier works were made available to us in the Western world. One of these early films is Fireworks Wednesday. Young bride-to-be, Rouhi (Alidoosti), takes on short-term work helping the wealthy, dysfunctional Samiei family. The wife, Mozhdeh (Tehrani), is almost certain, let’s say ninety-nine percent sure, that her husband is cheating on her, and it’s that one percent doubt that is wearing on her. He makes her think that she’s crazy. Maybe she is. Like his other films, Farhadi’s Fireworks Wednesday focuses on the collateral damage, the innocent victims of domestic strife. In this film, it’s Rouhi, who’s like a third wheel in a toxic relationship, and it’s the Samiei’s young son. This is an involving drama and a potent one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-