The Garden of Evil (1954, Directed by Henry Hathaway) English 6

Starring Gary Cooper, Richard Widmark, Susan Hayward, Cameron Mitchell, Hugh Marlowe, Victor Manuel Mendoza

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(6-Good Film)

Overcooked. Grand. Engrossing.

Not Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Not a classic. Not timeless. Garden of Evil is, nonetheless, an involving saga about a group of men-stoic Hooker (Cooper), cynical Fiske (Widmark), emotional Luke (Mitchell), and meek Vicente (Mendoza)- who agree to accompany beautiful Leah Fuller (Hayward) through Apache territory to rescue her husband, with similar themes of greed and men ruined by their quest for gold. Taking the premise of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and adding a woman is a promising wrinkle, but Garden of Evil is too content to be a pot boiler. The actors give flashy speeches, their lines end on suspenseful cue, and the characters aren’t given enough depth beyond what the great cast of stars bring by sheer presence. What can be said in the film’s favor is that the score (by the great Bernard Herrmann) is suitably brash, and the story unfolds, hitting all of the basic marks of entertainment, though leaving a more special, thoughtful western on the table.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(74)

Slow West (2015, Directed by John Maclean) English 7

Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius, Rory McCann

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(7-Very Good Film)

Distinctive. Melancholy. Spare.

A Scottish boy, Jay Cavendish (Smit-McPhee) travels west to find the girl, Rose, he loves and plans to marry. Accompanying him is Silas (Fassbender), a jaded drifter who’s actually a bounty hunter using Jay to lead him straight to Rose, who has a $2,000 bounty on her head, with another $2,000 on her father’s head as well. Lean, fierce western, with an original visual approach to the genre, and some revisionist elements. With only a handful of characters and locations, Slow West delivers a compelling narrative that finishes poignantly and sadly.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(90)

The Ridiculous 6 (2015, Directed by Frank Coraci) English 5

Starring Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Nick Nolte, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Luke Wilson, Jorge Garcia, Will Forte, Steve Zahn, Vanilla Ice, Chris Parnell, Blake Shelton, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Danny Trejo, Julia Jones

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(5-Okay Film)

Scattershot. Lame. Silly.

Western send-up starring Adam Sandler as Tommy Stockburn, a warrior separated from his parents and raised by a native american tribe. After meeting his father, Frank Stockburn (Nolte), for the first time, and seeing the old man being carried off by a gang of bandits demanding $50,000 or else, Tommy turns to a life of crime in order to gather the money. Along the way, he discovers five other brothers or half-brothers: Mexican Ramon (Schneider), doltish Lil’ Pete (Lautner), black Chico (Crews), guilt-stricken Danny (Wilson), and the mumbling Herm (Garcia). Critically panned, and juvenile enough to deserve it, The Ridiculous 6 is nonetheless a pretty creative film. Some of the gags are inspired, some are stupid, others don’t work, and the film is too long. There are dozens of cameos, some better than others. I happened to enjoy the random, completely unnecessary scene of Abner Doubleday (Turturro) inventing baseball.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(273)

American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991, Directed by Simon Wells and Phil Nibbelink) English 6

Voices of Dom Deluise, Amy Irving, John Cleese, James Stewart

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(6-Good Film)

Slight. Appealing. Likable.

Fievel and his family return, this time moving west thanks to the lies of a scheming gang of cats. Fievel, overhearing their plot, attempts to find help and thwart the evil cats. Don Bluth’s productions have always suffered from uneven storytelling. His animation and artistry, however, are incredible. The story is just engaging enough, and the voice work is top notch. This was James Stewart’s last role.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(289)

The Naked Spur (1953, Directed Anthony Mann) English 8

Starring James Stewart, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Strong. Efficient. Suspenseful.

Wanting to begin again in life, Howard Kemp (Stewart) tracks down a wanted fugitive (Ryan) and plans to collect on his bounty. The venture is complicated by two strangers-one a caddish soldier (Meeker) and the other a deceptively meek prospector (Mitchell)-who want a piece of the pie. The three men transport the criminal and his girl (Leigh), while always keeping an eye on each other. The best of what are termed the Anthony Mann psychological westerns, with shades of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the chief pleasure of the film is its clash of distinct characters. As a Hollywood western of the classic tradition, it’s a little too glossy at times. Still a superb picture. Simple story, complex western.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(30)

For a Few Dollars More (1965, Directed by Sergio Leone) English 10

Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef,  Gian Maria Volontè, Mario Brega, Klaus Kinski, Luigi Pistilli

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(10-Masterpiece)

Epic. Rousing. Operatic.

This is the middle portion of Sergio Leone’s colossal Man with No Name trilogy, starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as bounty hunters working the Mexican border in pursuit of El Indio, a pitiless killer with a musical pocketwatch that signals his enemies’ deaths.  For a Few Dollars More is a series of memorable moments from the two stars hat shooting duel to the final faceoff between Van Cleef and El Indio, with a reveal that makes it all the more meaningful. Van Cleef gives his most soulful performance alongside Eastwood, and Ennio Morricone creates another amazing soundtrack. The best film in a trilogy of masterpieces.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(244)

Day of Anger (1967, Directed by Tonino Valerii) English 6

Starring Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma, Walter Rilla, Al Mulock, Andrea Bosick, Lukas Ammann

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(6-Good Film)

Fast. Eccentric. Cool.

Scott Mary (Gemma) is a bastard treated like he’s nothing in a town full of corrupt officials. Enter Frank Talby (Van Cleef), an outlaw who gains respect with his gun. Scott sees an opportunity for more out of life and becomes Talby’s disciple. Prime spaghetti western complete with multiple duels and rough dubbing. Lee Van Cleef is an amazing presence in these type of films, and this anti-heroic mentor role is one of his best.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(254)