Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971, Directed by Dario Argento) English Okay Film

Starring Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Bud Spencer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Oreste Lionello, Aldo Bufi Landi

(Okay Film)

The leader of a Rock and Roll band, Roberto (Brandon), angrily confronts a stalker one night and accidentally kills the man. When a psychotic, masked witness to the scene shows up to torment him, Roberto’s sure he’s been set up but to prove it, he’ll have to discover the identity of his tormentor. Within the broad strokes of this film is some of what would later prove to be greatness in its director, Dario Argento. He’s masterful at using setting and space to set the scene. The way he moves the camera is beautiful. Logic, character motivation, and acting don’t seem to matter to him. Four Flies on Grey Velvet, one of his earlier works, fails to scare up any excitement or intrigue mainly because the lead character is so bland and the two interesting characters, played by Mimsy Farmer and Jean-Pierre Marielle, drift in and out of the picture so indiscriminately. The killer’s mask becomes the star. The final result is a weak picture with some redeeming qualities.

-Walter Tyrone Howard

-15-

Death on the Nile (2022, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English Okay Film

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Annette Bening, Tom Bateman, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Sophie Okonedo, Letitia Wright, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Jennifer Saunders, Emma Mackey

(Okay Film)

Adapted from one of Agatha Christie’s best novels, Death on the Nile is her famed creation, Hercule Poirot’s, finest hour in my estimation. Aboard a river boat along the Nile, the detective (played by Branagh for the second time) is drawn in to a murder plot involving a woman who seems to have everything, Linnet Ridgeway (Gadot), her new husband (Hammer), and his jilted lover (Mackey). Like his previous adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express, Branagh’s work is flashy, old-fashioned, enjoyable, but crippled by familiarity. I’ve read the novel, I’ve seen the 1978 version, I know whodunit. A great adaptation can overcome this. Branagh’s film doesn’t. Outside of his likable performance as Poirot and the Otterbournes (Wright, Okonedo), the gallery of supporting characters don’t make much of an impression. Neither does the location which was Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express’ greatest strength. I look forward to more outings from Branagh as Poirot but so far, there’s nothing essential about these films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

-11-

Foreign Correspondent (1940, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 7

Starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Edmund Gwenn, Harry Davenport, Albert Basserman, Robert Benchley

American Genre Film Archive FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Uneven. Hokey.

Mr. Powers: I don’t want any more economists, sages, or oracles bombinating over our cables. I want a reporter! Somebody who doesn’t know the difference between an -ism and a kangaroo. A good, honest crime reporter. That’s what the Globe needs. That’s what Europe needs!

Wanting a fresh set of eyes, the New York Morning Globe sends crime reporter, John Jones (McCrea), overseas to Europe, where a second world war is brewing and several diplomats gather to invoke peace. Instead, Van Meer (Basserman), a leading diplomat, is assassinated and Jones gets thrown into a whirlwind conspiracy of spies and foreign plots. He’s determined to break the story and get the girl, Carol Fisher (Day), in the process. If Foreign Correspondent afforded Hitchcock a greater budget than his previous work in his home country of England, it also demanded he appeal more conspicuously than ever before as a sort of war propaganda. Certain touches, monologues seem hokey now, 80 years later; the use of our (America’s) national anthem in its ending credits, for example. Add to this, the opening act far exceeds the following two so that the film begins to feel anticlimactic for the majority of its running time. As soon as Van Meer gets shot in that spectacular sequence with the assassin and the umbrellas, Foreign Correspondent has reached its apex. Despite its deficiencies, it’s a sprawling, exciting film with an incredible opening and a slow but satisfying conclusion.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Eyes Wide Shut (1999, Directed by Stanley Kubrick) English 9

Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Todd Field, Marie Richardson, Sky Du Mont, Vinessa Shaw, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski, Thomas Gibson, Rade Šerbedžija

Stanley Kubrick's hard out with "Eyes Wide Shut" | Yardbarker

(9-Great Film)

Cold. Seductive. Suspenseful.

Victor Ziegler: Listen, Bill. Nobody killed anybody. Someone died. It happens all the time. Life goes on. It always does, until it doesn’t. But you know that, don’t you?

Working through random reviews on the internet, I laughed at one viewer’s comment that Eyes Wide Shut has meaning, it’s just hard to find. I suppose that’s a positive critique. I, on the other hand, do not find Eyes Wide Shut especially deep or thoughtful; in the same way that I don’t find dreams very meaningful. Eyes Wide Shut is dream-logic stretched over 2 1/2 hours. Every woman is attractive, and around every corner seems to be the promise of sex or nightmare. Tom Cruise plays Dr. Bill Hartford. Handsome, wealthy, successful, Bill is surrounded by temptation; every woman in his life is available to him. When his wife, Alice (Kidman), admits to lusting after another man, Bill wanders out into the night seeking retribution or maybe just feeling free for the first time to do what he wants. He meets a handful of strange people throughout the night, ultimately ending up at the film’s infamous, mysterious orgy party for the elite where each party guest wears Venetian masks. Eyes Wide Shut is a great film, again, not because it’s brilliant but because it appeals to my sensibilities. I love the night, I love mystery, I love Murakami, missing women, shadows, cloak and dagger, etc. Eyes Wide Shut is a suspenseful film without being very tense. It’s almost entirely about anticipation; with muted pay-off. That’s also like a dream. Pursuit without reward, suspense without consequences (for the main character). There’s very little point in asking logical questions.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,105)

Dead Again (1991, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 7

Starring Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Robin Williams, Andy Garcia, Wayne Knight, Campbell Scott

Criminally Underrated: Dead Again - Spectrum Culture

(7-Very Good Film)

Lurid. Twisty. Effective.

Cozy Carlisle: You take what you’ve learned from this life and use it in the next. That’s karma.

Soul mates, fate, hypnosis, murder, red herrings, sharp objects. Dead Again is pretty kitschy. Maybe too much for some, it’s enormously appealing to people with taste like mine. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars, playing a private detective, Mike Church (adopting an American accent that’s done well-enough but still slightly awkward as it’s such a departure from his usual British manner). Mike is persuaded into helping a lost, mute woman (Thompson), who suffers from amnesia and visions of murder from an apparent past life. Like many of the best Alfred Hitchcock films that inspired it, Dead again is wild and ludicrous upon further inspection but still proves wonderfully entertaining thanks to Branagh’s skill and panache directing it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,098)

The Blue Dahlia (1946, Directed by George Marshall) English 8

Starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Hugh Beaumont, Tom Powers, Howard Freeman

William Bendix in 'The Blue Dahlia' | by Joe Sommerlad | Medium

(8-Exceptional Film)

Hardboiled. Stylish. Surprising.

Joyce Harwood: Why is it? You’ve never seen me before tonight.

Johnny Morrison: Every guy’s seen you before somewhere. The trick is to find you.

Raymond Chandler’s first foray into scriptwriting, The Blue Dahlia boasts all of his hallmarks: great dialogue, tough guys, beautiful but dangerous women, colorful supporting characters, and a convoluted plot. Alan Ladd plays Johnny Morrison, a war hero who returns to find his wife’s been unfaithful. When she winds up dead soon after, naturally, Johnny is the prime suspect and it’s up to him to prove his innocence. With the help of a beautiful stranger, Joyce Harwood (Lake), Johnny finds that his wife had plenty of enemies. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake really were great together and the supporting characters are perfectly cast. This film may not be as iconic as some of its contemporaries (The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon), but it’s one of the best of its kind.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,094)

The Great Mouse Detective (1986, Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) English 8

Voices of Barrie Ingham, Vincent Price, Val Bettin, Candy Candido, Alan Young, Frank Welker, Basil Rathbone

The Great Mouse Detective Movie Review

(8-Exceptional Film)

Nostalgic. Exciting. Unique.

Dr. Dawson: [voice over] From that time on, Basil and I were a close team. We had many cases together, but I’ll always look back on that first with the most fondness; my introduction to Basil of Baker Street, the great mouse detective.

Larger, more beloved films followed in Disney’s great canon of animation-three years later, The Little Mermaid arrived and started the company’s renaissance-but The Great Mouse Detective was always a favorite of mine as a child. I’m pleased to find that it’s still as charming and exciting now as it was to me then. A twist on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s invention, Sherlock Holmes, the great detective, along with every other character, is replaced, here, by a mouse called upon to help a young girl-mouse reunite with her abducted father, and thwart his arch-nemesis, Professor Ratigan (Price), once more. The animation is striking, bolstered by early use of CGI; the climactic showdown between the heroes and Ratigan in Big Ben is a stunning example of this. The voice work by Vincent Price, clearly relishing his role, is fantastic, and the story is compelling and efficient.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,091)

Spiral (2021, Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman) English 5

Starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Max Minghella, Dan Petronijevic, Patrick McManus

Spiral Director Explains Why Chris Rock's Movie Doesn't Have Iconic Saw  Characters Like Jigsaw's Puppet - ePrimeFeed

(5-Okay Film)

Mediocre. Grisly. Ineffective.

Det. Zeke Banks: Whoever did this has another motive – they’re targeting cops.

Hoping to reboot the lucrative Saw franchise, this film, instead, feels like a gorier, less impactful version of David Fincher’s Seven. Chris Rock plays the lead-in one of the few fresh ideas this film has-playing Detective Zeke Banks, son of legendary former police chief, Marcus Banks (Jackson). There’s a killer on the loose, targeting cops- dirty cops, to be exact-and it’s up to Zeke to catch the psycho, along with his new partner, William (Minghella). The point of a reboot is to bring new life to an old idea. That typically means having a host of new ideas. Spiral may be unlike previous Saw movies but it’s not unlike any of the cops-hunting-killers films that have come before. It’s riddled with clichés. Zeke doesn’t get along with partners. He lives in his dad’s shadow. And a few others. Spiral’s just more violent than most police procedurals. Not surprising or exciting enough to make much of an impression. It will most likely be remembered as an outlier in Chris Rock’s career rather than a film that people like.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,080)

The Woman in the Window (2021, Directed by Joe Wright) English 4

Starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Tracy Letts, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Fred Hechinger

5 Things to Know Before Watching The Woman in the Window Movie

(4-Bad Film)

Clumsy. Butchered. Gaudy.

Anna Fox: You don’t think it’s paranoid if I wanna change the locks. Do you?

Who would have thought that a film written by Pulitzer-prize winner, Tracy Letts, directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Hanna), and starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, among others, could be this bad? I’ve read the book; a bestseller and a skillfully written page-turner. Following a former child psychologist, Anna Fox (Adams), agoraphobic after a family accident, who sees, or at least thinks she sees a violent murder across the street, The Woman in the Window is an excellently paced, diverting, and satisfying novel. Its adapation, despite a strong performance from Amy Adams, is clumsy, suspenseless, silly, and dull. I know that the film’s release was hit hard by last year’s covid outbreak, but did something happen during production as well? It’s an inexplicably bad movie. The characters are ill-defined. The cops are useless. The dialogue is full of exposition, and I’m not sure any of it makes sense. Had I not read the book, I don’t know that I’d follow what happened in the film. I probably wouldn’t care.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Presumed Innocent (1990, Directed by Alan J. Pakula) English 7

Starring Harrison Ford, Raul Julia, Brian Dennehy, Gretta Scacchi, Bonnie Bedelia, Paul Winfield, John Spencer, Sab Shimono, Bradley Whitford, Jesse Bradford, Jeffrey Wright

Presumed Innocent (Film) - TV Tropes

(7-Very Good Film)

Alluring. Intriguing. Deceptive.

Rusty Sabich: I’m going to need a lawyer, a very, very good lawyer, an expensive lawyer. It could break us.

Murder novels, like the one this film is based on, aren’t generally considered great literature, though they dominate the bestseller lists, and this attitude carries over to cinema as well. Very rarely will you see anyone receive an Oscar nomination for a murder mystery, because they very rarely offer any amount of depth. They go down easy and they usually satisfy, but how many murder mysteries have you seen or read more than once? Presumed Innocent is a murder mystery in the classic tradition and a courtroom drama with Harrison Ford playing Rusty Sabich, a lawyer investigating the brutal murder of his work colleague and mistress, Carolyn Polhemus (Scacchi). Soon, the evidence stacks up against him and he’s tried for the killing, while his wife, Barbara (Bedelia), who knows of his affair, stands by his side. Whether Presumed Innocent warrants and rewards a second viewing remains to be seen for me, but I’m confident that it’s, at the very least, a superior mystery film. It features a strong lead performance from Ford, a sure, seductive tone, and a rich sense of atmosphere to go along with a slowly surprising story.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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