Once Upon a Crime (1992, Directed by Eugene Levy) English 5

Starring John Candy, Cybill Shepherd, Sean Young, Richard Lewis, Jim Belushi, Giancarlo Giannini, George Hamilton, James Belushi, Joss Ackland, Ornella Muti

BD合成】【百度网盘】【赌城奇案/弄巧成拙.Once.Upon.a.Crime....1992 ...

(5-Okay Film)

Mediocre. Uninspired. Squandered.

Augie Morosco: I did not marry for money. I married for lots of money!

I’m eager to see the original, the Italian comedy, Crimen, because the premise is good and yet the result, this remake, Once Upon a Crime, proves merely passable. It boasts a big ensemble cast of characters who find themselves suspects in a murder through separate coincidences while visiting gorgeous Monte Carlo. Candy plays a gambling addict, Richard Lewis and Sean Young play antagonistic strangers who band together to return a wealthy widow’s dog, and Jim Belushi and Cybill Shepherd play a bored married couple in search for some excitement. The plot is solid and it’s all pretty competently done but there are no big laughs to be had and nothing particularly memorable about the movie.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(912)

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

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(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-

(904)

Dressed to Kill (1980, Directed by Brian De Palma) English 6

Starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, David Margulies

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( 6-Good Film)

Lurid. Skilled. Ludicrous.

Director, Brian De Palma, is a technical wizard. He is a master stylist and can do amazing things with a camera. He’s also never made a boring movie. Many times, though, he can work with lesser material, or, in this case, a plot that is pretty inane (not to mention derivative of Hitchcock’s Psycho). Angie Dickinson is Kate Miller, a bored, sexually-frustrated housewife who frequently visits a psychiatrist, Doctor Robert Elliot (Caine), for some guidance. De Palma’s wife at the time, Nancy Allen, plays a prostitute, Liz Blake, who witnesses a violent murder. None of this matters as much as the schlocky atmosphere or the impressive sequences De Palma puts together. The parts are truly worth more than the whole. A lot of the content is pure male fantasy. Supermodels for nurses. Bored housewives. Etc. Like I said, it’s not boring.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(902)

That Darn Cat (1997, Directed by Bob Spiers) English 5

Starring Christina Ricci, Doug E. Doug, Dean Jones, Peter Boyle, Michael McKean, George Dzundza, Bess Armstrong, Dyan Cannon. Mark Christopher Lawrence, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Parsons, Rebecca Schull, Tom Wilson, Brian Haley

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(5-Okay Film)

Charming. Intriguing. Underdeveloped.

With its charming host of characters, quaint setting, and nostalgic score, That Darn Cat had the potential to be much better. Christina Ricci plays Patti, an antisocial teenager stuck in a small town in New England where, in her view, nothing ever happens. When her cat, D.C, comes home one morning with a watch that may or may not have “HELP” written onto it, Patti connects it to a nearby kidnapping and goes into sleuth mode. Doug E. Doug plays an FBI agent looking to cut his teeth. I enjoyed much of That Darn Cat but the mystery really falls flat by the end. The solution is completely obvious and should have been taken more seriously. The last twenty minutes dissolves into an uninteresting car chase.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(888)

Time to Kill (1942, Directed by Herbert I. Leeds) English 6

Starring Lloyd Nolan, Heather Angel, Doris Merrick, Ralph Byrd, Richard Lane, Sheila Bromley

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(6-Good Film)

Brief. Light. Appealing.

Raymond Chandler’s series of private eye novels following Phillip Marlowe are masterpieces of style and content for those who are willing to give them their proper consideration (which includes most people now, decades later). I’m guessing back in the day, however, many only saw the style, with early adaptation, Time to Kill, as evidence. Taking Chandler’s third novel, The High Window, and mixing it in with a popular movie series featuring the character, Michael Shayne (Nolan), Time to Kill is awfully slight. About an hour-long and offering very little in the form of stakes, Time to Kill instead aims for humor with quick setups and payoffs. The plot is a bastardized version of the one Chandler wrote. Private detective, Shayne, is hired by a rich old battle-ax to get back a rare coin stolen, convinced that it was her no-good daughter-in-law. The real selling point, as with all films in this series, is Shayne himself. He’s a slick, likable character. Not much of an adaptation though.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(866)

Escape Room (2019, Directed by Adam Robitel) English 6

Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani

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(6-Good Film)

Absurd. Mindless. Fun.

High-concept thrillers like Escape Room are practically always ridiculous but entertaining. There’s no real-world logic involved and the characters are paper-thin. The set-up is simple and immediately understood: six disparate people sign up for a brand-new escape room (a series of elaborate puzzles) with the chance to win a large sum of money, but the stakes turn out to be much higher than expected (their lives are on the line) and one of them might be behind it all. Escape room doesn’t deal with characters as much as it does with types. One person is arrogant and cut-throat. Another is intelligent but naive and so on. Their function is mainly to die spectacularly, though, so it’s not much of a complaint. Escape Room succeeds on its own terms. It’s tense, engaging, and surprising on a number of occasions. It’s only the very end that is unsatisfying as the film turns its focus from telling a complete story to setting up a franchise with multiple entries.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(863)

Everybody Knows (2018, Directed by Asghar Farhadi) Spanish 8

Starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, Elvira Mínguez, Eduard Fernández, Ramón Barea

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Gripping. Considerable. Adept.

There’s a series of mystery novels-for my money, the best series in all of literature-written by Ross MacDonald and featuring his ace detective, Lew Archer. I think about a certain quote from time to time, written, not in one of those books, but about the series as a whole. I’ve tried for a while now to find out exactly who said it to no avail, but it goes something like this, “Most mystery writers write about crime. MacDonald writes about sin.” With the amount of time I’ve spent reading, rereading, or thinking about Lew Archer’s cases, I come back to this quote often. It’s perfect. It’s exactly and succinctly the distinguishing characteristic of MacDonald’s writing and what I love most about his novels. I was reminded of this quote again while watching Asghar Farhadi’s most recent drama, Everybody Knows. Farhadi, an Iranian director, has made a number of great films in his own country (A Separation, The Salesman, Fireworks Wednesday) and abroad (The Past). He’s won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film twice. Only the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio De Sica, and Frederico Fellini have won that award more times. I have no idea if Farhadi has ever read a Lew Archer novel, but he works in a similar vein. He takes the holistic view of each mystery he untangles. Every character has secrets. Every character’s actions affect someone else in the story significantly. Every character has motives. Motives for Farhadi, and for me, are more interesting than the crime itself. None of his films that I’ve seen have that kind of Agatha Christie summation at the end that’s tremendously satisfying but also simplistic. It’s a release of tension and when you know everything, when you understand completely, you don’t have to spend any more time thinking about what happened. Farhadi never gives you that satisfaction. He never releases the tension.

His most recent film, Everybody Knows, takes place in Spain; a small town, apparently near Madrid. Cruz stars as Laura, returning home from her life in Argentina to attend her younger sister’s wedding. Laura has two children, a girl named Irene and a younger boy named Antonio, and an Argentinian husband, Alejandro (Darin), that most people in her hometown imagine to be a big-shot, stemming from the devout Alejandro’s generous donations to a local church. Bardem stars as Paco. He’s never left their hometown and from the beginning of the movie, we get the sense that he’s pretty popular. Paco’s married to Bea but they have no kids together. Laura and Paco used to be together and they’re both so attractive, you can imagine how admired they’d be as a couple in such a small town. Everything, every relationship, every past mistake, becomes important later on when Laura’s daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. Everyone becomes a suspect. The kidnappers send their demands to Paco, as well as Laura (who would seem to be the natural target) and the characters, like us in the audience, wonder why would they do that? The things the friends and family members say to each other while they’re wondering form the real basis for the film. What’s interesting about Everybody Knows and, again, Farhadi’s films in general, are the minor twists. This is a very small town he’s using here and everyone knows each other. A lot of what’s revealed is already known by most of the characters. It’s us in the audience who are in the dark; who are learning as the film unwinds. The reveals, the would-be bombshells, the secrets aren’t very secret. The character’s responses suggest that it’s more about hearing it said out loud than it is what was said. The performances, from the supporting cast to the stars, are unaffected and observant. I admired little moments like when Paco has just learned something momentous. The next five to ten seconds or so are devoted entirely to this character thinking; no one speaking. I also appreciate Farhadi’s most common motif throughout his films of kids as witnesses; kids on the periphery of the main plot but still affected by the drama. That Farhadi can not only successfully tell an engaging story in another language, using a separate culture, but for him to make this film, Everybody Knows, fit so comfortably with the rest of work is an impressive testament to his skill. Whether working in his native language, Persian-A Separation, About Elly, etc.-or French-The Past-or now, Spanish, he’s an auteur. His vision transcends and shines through. Everybody Knows is yet another occasion.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(849)