Road to Rio (1947, Directed by Norman Z. McLeod) English 7

Starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Frank Puglia, Gale Sondergaard

Image result for road to rio 1947

(7-Very Good Film)

Funny. Clever. Zany.

The fifth in the series of Road to…movies, Road to Rio features Bing Crosby and Bob Hope as two musicians on the lamb, who stow away on a ship to Brazil, and get mixed up in a nefarious plot that involves the beautiful Dorothy Lamour. Not the best in the series, but still full of inspired silliness, clever one-liners, and self-deprecating humor. Excellent combination of music and comedy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Birds (1963, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 9

Starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, Suzanne Pleshette

Image result for the birds

(9-Great Film)

Thrilling. Odd. Masterful.

Melanie Daniels (Hedren), beautiful socialite and subject of much tabloid gossip meets Mitch Brenner (Taylor) in a bird shop in San Francisco. Presumably smitten with him, or perhaps intrigued by the brush-off he gives her, she follows him to his family’s home in the small, California town of Bodega Bay. There, unexplained mass attacks of birds terrorize the residents, and soon Melanie is fighting to survive. From a pretty silly premise comes what I would call the best disaster film in history. I like that it starts as an odd romantic scenario before veering into sheer madness and terror. It does what most films of the genre fail to do and that is to make me care about the characters before it puts them in these horrifying situations. While the special effects are certainly outdated, the film is still effective thanks to imaginative sequences and the already mentioned establishment of characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Let Me In (2010, Directed by Matt Reeves) English 9

Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Cara Buono, Elias Koteas, Dylan Minette

Image result for let me in

(9-Great Film)

Beautiful. Dark. Disturbing.

A bullied 12 year old, Owen (Smit-McPhee), finds a friend in the odd girl who moved across the hall in his apartment, Abby (Grace Moretz). Around the same time, a string of grisly murders have shocked their small town in New Mexico, baffling the police, and putting families on edge. Soon, Owen finds that Abby is a vampire, and his growing love for her is tested. As a close remake of the Swedish Let the Right One In, many devotees of the original might not be able to see this film for what it’s worth. This is a gorgeously filmed, beautifully acted horror film that lingers in your thoughts for long after its finish.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Band Wagon (1953, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 10

Starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray, Jack Buchanan

Image result for the band wagon 1953


Poignant. Revealing. Stunning.

Fred Astaire is Tony Hunter, a once famous song and dance movie star, now attempting to make a comeback on the stage. Joining him in the production of The Band Wagon are the quarreling married couple, writers Lily and Lester Marton (Fabray and Levant), the egotistical director, Jeffrey Cordova (Buchanan), and the young and beautiful Gabriel Gerard (Charisse) who bickers relentlessly with Tony before the two fall hopelessly in love. The best of Vincente Minnelli’s musicals, which is to say the best of all musicals. Unique for its early use of meta humor with Astaire playing a caricature of himself at that point of his career. What’s best is its undertones of sadness in portraying the rigors of putting on a show filled with joy. Minnelli and Astaire were tremendous artists and this was their masterpiece.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984, Directed by Steven Spielberg) English 10

Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Jonathan Ke Quan

Image result for temple of doom


Exhilirating. Bizarre. Scary.

Indy (Ford) returns, though set before the events of the first one, here, stumbling upon a small village in India losing its children to a Thuggee cult. He investigates with the help of Short Round, his young Chinese sidekick, and the diva-esque Willie Scott (Capshaw), leading him to a remote temple full of bizarre rituals and horrors in every corner. My favorite popcorn flick. I adore this movie and every odd choice. No one is better than Spielberg at layering the suspense, or raising the stakes mid-action scene. Superior to the original, thanks to Short Round and the compelling, exotic location. Countless memorable moments including the killer opening.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Gigi (1958, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 6

Starring Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold, Eva Gabor

Image result for gigi 1958

(6-Good Film)

Beautiful. Superficial. Underwhelming.

Set in 1900s Paris, Gigi tells the story of a young courtesan in training named Gilberte (Caron) who attracts the attention of a bored aristocrat and family friend, Gaston (Jourdan). The level of craftsmanship on display by Minnelli, the director, and his cast and crew is remarkable. Truly one of the most beautiful films you’ll ever see. However, I’ve always found the film lacking in anything substantial. As a classic musical, it’s meant as pure escapism and so it isn’t necessary that it be profound or dramatic, but this film lacks any drama. The main conflict is essentially a matter of how much Gaston loves Gilberte. Does he want her just as a mistress or as a wife? I didn’t find that gripping enough. The soundtrack has some nice moments, but pales in comparison with Lerner and Loew’s other work, in particular, their masterpiece My Fair Lady.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Alien (1979, Directed by Ridley Scott) English 10

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Koto, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Ian Holm

Image result for alien 1979


Influential. Game-Changer. Extraordinary.

“In space, no one can hear you scream.” So says what is perhaps the best tagline ever. Many years in the future, the crew of Nostromo find themselves the prey of an unknown, intelligent alien creature picking them all off one by one. It’s a terrifying predicament, and Alien is rightfully placed among the best of its genre. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, simply by being practical and quick-witted, is one of film history’s great heroines. The set design, creature effects, and Ridley Scott’s use of space are first-rate. He keeps the camera tight on his characters, so we can never get a firm grasp on the space they attempt to navigate or the distance between them and the monster. We don’t know where Ripley’s running or what’s happening behind her. It’s a claustrophobic nightmare.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Black Swan (2010, Directed by Darren Aronofsky) English 6

Starring Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey

Image result for black swan

A quiet, technically-perfect ballerina, Nina (Portman), strives for the lead part in her company’s upcoming production of Swan Lake, but the artistic director thinks she’s too nice for the dark aspects of the role. Stunning visual work, dedicated performances, and all, I was unmoved by this picture. I appreciate the central theme of Black Swan, its unique take on artistic commitment, but found its compelling narrative overly shallow.

The Princess Bride (1987, Directed by Rob Reiner) English 7

Starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Many Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Peter Falk, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Fred Savage

Image result for the princess bride

An old man (Falk) spends the day entertaining his sick grandson with The Princess Bride, a story about a princess, a stable boy, an evil king, pirates, henchmen, monster rats, and much swashbuckling. Excellent spoof and an engaging adventure romance. The cast is perfect with at least a dozen classic characters.

Clueless (1995, Directed by Amy Heckerling) English 9

Starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Dan Hedaya, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Wallace Shawn, Twink Caplan, Jeremy Sisto

Image result for clueless

(9-Great Film)

Clever. Funny. Fresh.

This seminal teen comedy updates Jane Austen’s novel Emma, starring Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a wealthy, beautiful, spoiled high schooler who intervenes in the love lives of those she deems less fortunate before realizing that she’s the one that’s clueless.  This is one of my favorite teen films. It successfully satirizes ’90s culture while also churning out a delightful romantic comedy. Silverstone, regardless of where her career went afterward, does a remarkable job here of making Cher likable despite being almost every quality we generally hate- vain, spoiled, selfish-and her take on the film, that it’s, “very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it’s true lightness,” while making no logical sense, somehow seems to capture the film correctly.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-