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  • The Fall of the Roman Empire

    The Fall of the Roman Empire

    ★★★★½

    We've been watching a lot of these 1950s/60s historical epics lately, and of the Roman swords-and-sandals pictures of that era I'm surprised to report that this is the best. The lavish scale of the sets and cinematography outdoes pretty much anything else from the time period. Mistakes like the obviously plastic helmets in Ben-Hur or telephone wires in the background in Cleopatra don't make the cut here. These are the largest sets ever created, and the long shots of the…

  • The Thief of Bagdad

    The Thief of Bagdad

    ★★★★½

    This enormously enjoyable fantasy adventure is an eye-popping special effects wonder for 1940 as well as an engaging story in the children's-storybook vein, but still fun for adults. I was amazed the degree to which Disney's "Aladdin" took so many elements, both visual and story, wholesale from this film. Perhaps one of the reasons why Disney's film was so controversial was because the tropes that worked so well in 1940 simply didn't port to 1992.

    The cinematography and set work…

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  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

    ★★½

    So, I finally saw this, and was as underwhelmed as the rest of the world seems to be. It's not bad. It's well-made, generally well-acted, the special effects are dazzling and it's entertaining. But I'm going to use the same two words that I've used for years to describe the third installment of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi: "aggressively mediocre."

    We're going through the paces. Lightsaber battles, Millennium Falcon, action in space, conflicts with epic dimensions...all the stuff…

  • 12 Angry Men

    12 Angry Men

    ★★★★★

    This is one of the greatest films ever made, and it's so incredibly simple...a bunch of guys in a room. The performances are painfully poignant. Set aside Henry Fonda, who is probably never better in his career. Edward Binns, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Robert Webber...were they ever better than in this intellectual courtroom drama? The broad themes of justice, fairness and what it means to be an American play out on a very small stage. Few movies ever made are this perfect. I revisit this film again and again. It's a masterpiece.