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 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.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Miller’s Crossing (1990, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen) English 10

Starring Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Jon Polito

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Superb. Skilled. Under-rated.

Italian mobsters want Bernie Bernbaum (Turturro) dead. Irish mobster Liam O’Bannon (Finney) says he won’t let it happen. O’Bannon’s closest confidant Tom Reagan (Byrne) tells him that’s not the smart move. O’Bannon doesn’t listen. The ensuing drama plays out in true Coen brothers fashion, balancing scenes of extreme violence with humor and colorful characters. The whole cast is great, but Polito and Turturro stand out in key supporting roles. Miller’s Crossing is overflowing with style, wit, and intelligence. Adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Designing Woman (1957, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 6

Starring Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Gray, Sam Levene, Tom Helmore

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(6-Good Film)

Inventive. Slight. Forgettable.

Breaking the fourth wall, married couple Mike (Peck) and Marilla (Bacall), with help from the cast of supporting characters, recount the wild first days of their marriage, complicated by differences in class, jealousy, and local gangsters who want Mike dead. Beautifully mounted in technicolor, Mike and Marilla’s story is reminiscent of the old ’30s screwball romances, but lacks the snap and sparkle of the classics in that category. Bacall is, of course, dazzling, and it’s fun to watch Gregory Peck in a comedy. He’s a million miles away from the great stoic characters he became famous for (Atticus Finch, most prominently).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-