Yolanda and the Thief (1945, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 7

Starring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, Leon Ames, Mildred Natwick, Mary Nash

Yolanda and the Thief: An Out of the World Place | Bright Wall ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Lofty. Peculiar. Beguiling.

Yolanda Aquaviva: Mr. Brown doesn’t dance… except, perhaps, on the head of a pin.

Yolanda and the Thief, I gather, was not a success. Astaire retired for a period after and its leading lady, Lucille Bremer, hardly ever worked again. The critics sneered and modern opinion hasn’t exactly warmed to it. As it stands, I think Yolanda and the Thief will have to settle for being a niche picture; a film made for a very select group of people, and if that group doesn’t exist yet, I’ll start it, because this is a film that’s at least as special as it is flawed. Astaire plays the thief, Johnny (some people, evidently, didn’t like the idea of dapper, refined Astaire as a thief) and Bremer plays Yolanda, a young woman raised in a convent who’s suddenly inherited a vast fortune. Several con artists set their sights on her but Johnny’s got the perfect con cooking. Overhearing her prayer for a guardian angel, he poses as one, convincing her to sign over the power of attorney and all of her wealth right along with it. The trick, of course, for Johnny is getting the money and running before he falls for the mark. Set in some imagined Latin-American country, but designed on a Hollywood backlot, Yolanda and the Thief is a gorgeous fantasy with an unforgettable detour by way of a mid-movie dream sequence. In fact, it has a kind of dream-like, illusory quality all over that I enjoy very much. Bremer’s performance is heavily criticized and not without reason, but I, for one, find her artificial, syrupy performance at home with the aesthetics and tone of the picture.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(973)

Guys and Dolls (1955, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 7

Starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Viviane Blaine, Stubby Kaye, Robert Keith, B.S Pully

The Ace Black Blog: Movie Review: Guys And Dolls (1955)

(7-Very Good Film)

Snappy. Colorful. Brash.

Sky Masterson: I am not putting the knock on dolls. It’s just that they are something to have around only when they come in handy… like cough drops.

The good girl falling for the bad guy and then vice versa isn’t a unique concept. It wasn’t a unique concept in 1955 when this film was made, or in 1950 when Guys and Dolls premiered as a Broadway musical. I doubt it was a unique concept in the 1930s when Damon Runyan wrote a pair of short stories that inspired the show. The point is “good girl and bad guy” seems to be an endless source of escapism and, perhaps, wish fulfillment. Guys and Dolls has a lot of fun with it. Sky Masterson (Brando) is a big-time gambler. His newest wager is that he can woo any girl- of Nathan Detroit’s choosing-to go to Havana, Cuba with him. Detroit (Sinatra), a fellow gambler in need of $1,000 quick, chooses prim, proper Sister Sarah Brown (Simmons), a local missionary, to win his bet for him. Sinatra is a natural in his part, turning every song he sings into a great one, and there are great songs all around. Brando is less natural in his role, mainly because of the singing that’s required, but the film doesn’t lose any points from me on that score. Brando is a movie star for the ages; one of the best. Seeing him in a role so far afield his usual dramatic fare is a pleasure, and I feel he and Jean Simmons do work in their roles. The dialogue is as fine as the music.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(972)

The Reluctant Debutante (1958, Directed by Vincente Minelli) English 6

Starring Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, Sandra Dee, John Saxon, Angela Lansbury, Diane Clare, Peter Myers

The Reluctant Debutante | Trailers From Hell

(6-Good Film)

Vibrant. Easy. Slight.

Sheila Broadbent: No, darling, it’s Jane. She’s no good with men. She doesn’t know any, and she doesn’t want to know any.

Vincente Minelli, like most old Hollywood studio directors, was prolific. Through dozens of films of varying quality (all entertaining), his skill and level of craftsmanship were constant. The Reluctant Debutante, in a career primarily made up of musicals and romantic comedies, happens to be one of his lightest of efforts. It’s champagne bubbles and garnish; not a full-course meal. Seventeen-year-old Jane Broadbent (Dee) travels from her home in America to England to stay with her father, Jimmy (Harrison), and step-mother, Sheila (Kendall). Sheila, meaning well, wants to introduce Jane to upper-class society’s finest and most eligible young men. Instead, Jane falls for a drummer, David Parkson (Paxon), a working-class stiff with a bad reputation. The cast shines brightly (Kay Kendall is a fantastic comedienne) and there’s fun to be had in the rapid-fire dialogue.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(971)

Princess Mononoke (1997, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki) Japanese 10

Voices of (English Dubbing) Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Keith David, Gillian Anderson

Princess Mononoke

(10-Masterpiece)

Epic. Spectacular. Awesome.

Hii-sama: You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.

We fade in. Keith David’s voiceover sets up the world we’re entering. We’re all of ten seconds into the running time, but it’s clear: this is an awesome movie. The master, Hayao Miyazaki, brings his stunning animation to a unique story about gods and monsters and cursed warriors, with no black and white villains. Its hero, Ashitaka (Crudup), prince of a small village, travels far from home after being cursed from fighting a demon-possessed boar. He stumbles into a conflict between humans (of Irontown) and the forest (the gods and spirits that dwell there) and falls in love with San, a female warrior raised by wolves and taught to hate humans. Princess Mononoke feels like an anomaly in Miyazaki’s career in a few ways. His clear love of flight is nowhere to be found, an adult male protagonist rather than a young girl. There’s a level of violence not seen in any of his other work, as well, but as an anomaly, it only further proves his greatness. He has never stopped evolving though his themes may stay the same. His animation is awe-inspiring (there are a dozen incredible action sequences in this film) and his stories are always infinitely satisfying while never traveling the expected path.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(970)

The Cat and the Canary (1939, Directed by Elliot Nugent) English 8

Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Gale Sondergaard, John Beal, George Zucco, Douglass Montgomery, Elizabeth Patterson

The Cat and the Canary (1939) – Journeys in Classic Film

(8-Exceptional Film)

Funny. Creepy. Effective.

Cicily: Don’t big empty houses scare you?

Wally Campbell: Not me, I used to be in vaudeville.

Quentin Tarantino once explained why Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was his favorite film as a kid, “it bent my mind that my two favorite genres could be put into one movie.” Bob Hope, my favorite classic Hollywood comedian, made a career’s worth of films in this mold-he’s lampooned westerns (The Paleface), private detectives (My Favorite Brunette), spies (My Favorite Blonde), costume dramas (Monsieur Beaucaire), and pirates (The Princess and the Pirate). Among his best films, however, are his ventures into horror. Horror and comedy (both dependent on the element of surprise) go well together and they go well together here. The Cat and the Canary is one of Hope’s finest. He arrives at a creepy secluded mansion on the bayou along with a host of other guests including Joyce Norman played by Paulette Goddard to find out the will of their wealthy deceased relative. When Joyce is named the sole heir, she spends the rest of the night with a target on her back with only Bob Hope as an ally. Psychics, murder, mystery, secret passageways, monsters in masks, and Bob Hope, it’s Scooby-Doo meets Agatha Christie. Sheer fun.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(969)

Satan Met a Lady (1936, Directed by William Dieterle) English 5

Starring Warren William, Bette Davis, Arthur Treacher, Marie Wilson, Alison Skipworth, Winifred Shaw

HAMMETT, DASHIELL, ADAPTED FROM) SATAN MET A LADY (1936) | WalterFilm

(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Watered-down. Forgettable.

Valerie Purvis: Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?

Private detective, Ted Shayne (William), finds his partner, one he’s not particularly fond of, murdered, and weaves through a complicated search for lost treasure to find the killer. A film with Bette Davis as a femme fatale ought to be more memorable than this. Too much playing around with the source material. Based on Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece The Maltese Falcon, this is an okay adaptation, but five years later John Huston made the ultimate adaptation by sticking to the book.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(968)

Gunfight at the O.K Corral (1957, Directed by John Sturges) English 6

Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, DeForest Kelly, Dennis Hopper, John Ireland, Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef

Classicman Film en Twitter: "'Gunfight at the OK Corral' (1957 ...

 (6-Good Film)

Solid. Dramatic. Rousing.

Wyatt Earp: All gunfighters are lonely. They live in fear. They die without a dime, a woman, or a friend.

You can see the outlines of a more thoughtful western in Gunfight at the O.K Corral. Wyatt Earp, as portrayed in the film, is unmarried (historically inaccurate, for those who care) and we see the toll his duty, his profession take on his personal life represented by miss Laura Denbow (Fleming). He’s a marshall in title, but above all, he’s a man who brings law and order to western towns without scruples. Why does he do this? It’s a thankless job. One that pays in notoriety rather than material wealth. This is the root of John Sturges’ take on Wyatt Earp and it’s an interesting take, but apparently, Sturges had his hands tied to a degree by Paramount and producer, Hal B. Wallis. The result is a film that feels compromised and unfulfilled intellectually while still delivering as a rousing, solidly made western superficially. Kirk Douglas plays Doc Holliday and the strength of this movie is the compelling, budding friendship between him and Earp. The ending, eponymous gunfight is also nicely done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(967)

Dragonwyck (1946, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 6

Starring Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Glenn Langan, Walter Huston, Anne Revere, Jessica Tandy, Spring Byington

Dragonwyck (1946) with Gene Tierney – Classic Film Freak

(6-Good Film)

Atmospheric. Eerie. Grandiose.

Miranda Wells: Nicholas – you do believe in God?

Nicholas Van Ryn: I believe in myself, and I am answerable to myself! I will not live according to printed mottoes like the directions on a medicine bottle!

Miranda Wells (Tierney) has lived a cloistered life courtesy of her strict, religious parents in early 19th century Connecticut. When the opportunity comes for her to live with a wealthy relative, landowner Nicholas Van Ryn (Price), she leaps at it and quickly finds herself drawn to the imposing figure, despite his being married. I imagine Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is the standard for all romantic gothic novels and their adaptations, though I haven’t read any of the books and have only seen a handful of the movies. There’s an affected, very mannered air about the dialogue and acting in these films. As a result, Vincent Price is perfect for his gaudy role here. He once remarked about many of his films, “(they) don’t date because they were dated to begin with.” I think that’s accurate, in general, and accurate about Dragonwyck in particular. Dragonwyck is a handsome, elaborately staged affair. The costumes, the house, and all of the trinkets inside it are expertly crafted. That’s the main pleasure of watching most period films and, on that score, Dragonwyck delivers while its story happens to be predictably maudlin and ultimately not up to as much as its busy, intriguing premise suggests. And I’m putting it as a side note but it’s very much front and center in the film: Gene Tierney is staggeringly, timelessly beautiful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(966)

Artemis Fowl (2020, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 4

Starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Judi Dench, Nonso Anozie, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Hong Chau, Nikesh Patel, Joshua McGuire

Artemis Fowl looks like Harry Potter with Men in Black's weaponry ...

(4-Bad Film)

Incomprehensible. Uninteresting. Poor.

Artemis Fowl: I’m the next criminal mastermind.

Having read each of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl novels many years ago, I recall joyously working my way through the self-proclaimed criminal mastermind’s adventures without remembering much of what happened from book to book. Therefore, I cannot summon explicit details to prove to you how different this Disney adaptation is from its source material. As unreliable as memory can be, I remain quite confident in this: the books were good. This film is bad. Artemis Fowl (12) is a local Irish genius devoted to his enigmatic father, Artemis Sr. (Farrell), who goes missing. Some masked antagonist kidnapped him. I didn’t understand the plot past these two points. Somehow this leads to the son searching for the hidden fairy world which leads to him kidnapping a fairy named Holly Short. I can count on one hand the number of films that I don’t understand but still like. Artemis Fowl is not one of them. I gave up trying to follow the plot pretty early and instead focused on the visual spectacle. That proved a meager venture in itself. The cast and crew of this film look good on paper. Disney provided a sizable budget to get this movie made, but the script, above all else, is terrible. Put this on a double bill with Eragon where it belongs.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(965)

Only Yesterday (1991, Directed by Isao Takahata) Japanese 7

Voices of (English Version) Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel, Alison Fernandez, Tara Strong, Grey Griffin

Only Yesterday (1991) - Little White Lies

(7-Very Good Film)

Evocative. Contemplative. Beautiful.

Hirota: Rainy days, cloudy days, sunny days… which do you like?

Taeko: …cloudy days.

Hirota: Oh, then we’re alike.

Taeko (Ridley), a young woman from Tokyo, was raised to feel like an anomaly. We see her childhood in beautifully animated flashbacks where her adventurousness was called selfishness by her family and her older sisters were constantly calling her a brat. Now an adult in her late twenties, Taeko, takes a working trip to the countryside where she meets Toshio and thinks back on some of the small but significant moments of her youth. There are a number of interesting aspects to Only Yesterday making it unique, the most conspicuous being its alternating between two distinct animation styles to portray the change in time periods. Less prominent but still uncommon is having such a seemingly passive protagonist. Taeko, mostly because she spends the majority of the film as a child, has her decisions made for her, but we get the sense watching her adult form that she still hasn’t made many choices for herself. The ending, so simple, is a perfectly satisfying turning point.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(964)