The Wind and The Lion (1975, Directed by John Milius) English 6

Starring Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith, John Huston

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(6-Good Film)

Handsome. Appealing. Muddled.

An American widow and her two children are kidnapped and held for ransom by a brigand named Raisuli (Connery) in early 20th century Morocco. President Teddy Roosevelt (Keith) gets involved in saving the widow, just as she begins to form some respect for her captor. Okay, so Sean Connery is playing a Muslim leader. Right away, that’s pretty ridiculous. The crazy thing is that, though he makes no discernible effort to be convincing as a Berber, he’s still pretty compelling in this role. My main problem with the film is that at 2 hours (so not a short film), it still felt like it wanted to be much longer. Splitting time between President Roosevelt and Raisuli with the American family didn’t allow enough time with either. I did love the old-fashioned spirit of the movie; soaring score, epic battle scenes, romanticized characters. Overall, it’s a good film, no more.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(473)

Inglourious Basterds (2009, Directed by Quentin Tarantino) English 10

Starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, B.J Novak, Diane Kruger, Michael Myers, Eli Roth

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(10-Masterpiece)

Bold. Brilliant. Suspenseful.

Unfolded in a lengthy episodic style, a renegade (or clandestine) group of Jewish soldiers led by Aldo “The Apache” Raine wreak havoc and vengeance on the Nazis during World War II. Meanwhile, pure evil masquerades as a mischievous rogue in the form of Colonel Hans Landa (played brilliantly by Waltz in a star-making turn). He’s coined the Jew hunter and makes it his mission to track the Basterds down. With only a handful of scenes, the film’s 2 and a half hour running time blows by. Each scene is a tour de force of verbal suspense and the finest example of Tarantino’s unique gift. A fantastic cast fills out even the bit parts making every character memorable; Til Schweiger as Hugo Stiglitz for example. At the end, when Pitt’s character says, “I think this might just be my masterpiece,” I feel that it applies to Tarantino and this incredible film he wrote and directed.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(471)

Frantz (2016, Directed by François Ozon) French/German 7

Starring Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber

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(7-Very Good Film)

Intriguing. Gripping. Appealing.

In the aftermath of World War I, a young German girl, Anna, mourns the loss of her fiancée, Frantz, when, one day, she notices a mysterious Frenchman visiting her beloved’s grave. “Who is he?” Anna wonders, as he begins spending time with her and Frantz’ family, and as she slowly begins to fall for him. At its core, the film is a fairly simple story, but it’s strengthened by themes of forgiveness, xenophobia, truth versus lies, and illicit romance. Plus, Ozon’s direction gives the film the suspense and tension of a classic Hitchcock. Switching between black/white and color, I believe to signify times of mourning versus post-war closure, Frantz is an excellent foreign drama, though I can’t shake my disappointment with the resolution, despite it probably being the right ending for the film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(438)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962, Directed by John Frankenheimer) English 10

Starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Henry Silva

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(10-Masterpiece)

Raw. Gripping. Brilliant.

Political thriller about a group of soldiers returning to the States after a harrowing campaign in the Korea War. But Captain Marco (Sinatra) starts to doubt his own memories and understanding of what took place overseas, and all signs point to brainwashing. Soon Captain Marco finds a major Government conspiracy that involves turning soldiers into helpless killing machines, and Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Harvey), son of Svengali-like Senator’s wife Eleanor Iselin (Lansbury), is at the heart of it. Communist paranoia at its finest, as well as a razor-sharp satire of the McCarthy era, this is such a fine film. Gripping, odd, suspenseful, layered. A masterpiece of its genre.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(415)

Come and See (1985, Directed by Elem Klimov) Belarusian 5

Starring Aleksei Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Vladas Bagdonas, Jüri Lumiste

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(5-Okay Film)

Monotonous. Striking. Dull.

In Belarus, 1943, a young boy, Flyora, joins the local resistance movement and witnesses the atrocities perpetrated by the occupying Nazis. With such a potent subject, how could I call this film dull? Even with a dozen or so piercing images and an unforgettable sequence early on where Flyora and a new companion make their ways across nearly gelatinous mud, Come and See is monotonous. Like many well-respected foreign films, it has one tone and never wavers for a second from it. It’s like being pounded in the head relentlessly until you get used to it and bored by it. Its style has garnered it many admirers. I’m not one of them.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(387)

The Patriot (2000, Directed by Roland Emmerich) English 6

Starring Mel Gibson, Jason Isaacs, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Tom Wilkinson, René Auberjonois

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(6-Good Film)

Preposterous. Thrilling. Entertaining.

A reluctant patriot, infamous war hero of the French and Indian campaign, and intimidating father figure, Benjamin Martin (Gibson), now a widower, does all he can to protect his family as the Revolutionary War rages on. After a sadistic Redcoat Colonel, Tavington (Isaacs), murders Benjamin’s second son, the old veteran finds that he can standby no more. There’s such a long and equal list of pros and cons for this film that they should cancel each other out, rendering me neutral on its verdict. However, though the cons may equal the pros in quantity, there’s a significant difference in quality. All this to say, I recognize that The Patriot is a flagrant Hollywood fantasy. I recognize some of the absurdities of the action sequences and their contrived nature (Benjamin and Tavington having a one on one in the midst of a battle for example). I wince at some of the treacly moments, and yet The Patriot is a completely satisfying film. It’s 18th century Die Hard, and I’m fine with that. Mel Gibson goes a long way to making the trumped-up revenge plot believable, giving an excellent performance, and Jason Isaacs makes a character that is over the top evil seem perfectly natural. The visuals and action sequences too, are first-rate.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(323)

Robin Hood (2018, Directed by Otto Bathurst) English 4

Starring Taran Edgerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Jamie Dornan, Eve Hewson, Tim Minchin, Paul Anderson, F. Murray Abraham

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(4-Bad Film)

Ill-conceived. Misguided. Drab.

Robin Hood’s back. He wasn’t gone for long. It’s been just 8 years since the last big-budget Robin Hood adventure starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. This reboot stars Taran Edgerton as the famed crusader who steals from the rich and gives to the poor of Nottingham during King John’s reign. Jamie Foxx plays Little John, or actually just John, an anglicized version of his Muslim name; just one of the odd choices the filmmakers made in their storytelling. The sheriff of Nottingham (Mendelsohn) taxes the people beyond their means to fund his plot to take control of the country, and only Robin can stop him. Borrowing heavily from Zorro or the Batman myth, Robin plays up to the Sheriff, pretending to be a snooty aristocrat, while moonlighting as a vigilante. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films also seem to be an inspiration. The bottom line is it’s just not very good. It’s not incompetent, and Mendelsohn is a compelling villain (as he’s shown in countless movies now), but the new Robin Hood simply makes me miss Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. The color, the fun, the romance. All things missing from this outing. The first act largely follows the failed crusades in the middle east, and I’m baffled that the filmmakers thought this would be appealing. Immediately Robin Hood becomes a dull affair. This is Robin Hood, not The Hurt Locker. Fortunately, the second act picks up a little, but not enough to make this a good film. It’s also almost entirely humorless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(107)