License to Drive (1988, Directed by Greg Beeman) English 5

Starring Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Heather Graham, Carol Kane, Richard Masur

Am I too forgiving of ’80s movies? This critically maligned teen comedy stars “the two Coreys,” as they were billed back when people cared, and centers around one night of gleeful and destructive joy riding. The film has its moments. It has a good amount of energy, the acting is all credible, but it stalls at points. I think it could have benefited from an antagonist, or more focus on the romance between our dorky protagonist (Haim) and the girl of his dreams (Graham).

A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995, Directed by Michael Gottlieb) English 5

Starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Joss Ackland, Art Malik, Kate Winslet, Daniel Craig, Paloma Baeza, Ron Moody

Goofy, nostalgic fun adaptation of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. A Californian teen gets time warped to King Arthur’s days of ruling Camelot, just in time to foil a treasonous plot. It’s dumb, entirely inconsequential but also mostly entertaining. Early roles for Winslet and Craig.

Cars 3 (2017, Directed by Brian Fee) English 6

Voices of Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Nathan Fillion, Chris Cooper, Cristela Alonzo, Tony Shalhoub, Kerry Washington

A return to form for the series which was never high on originality, this third installment once again focuses on Lightning McQueen, now a living legend fighting against becoming a washed up has-been. New racers have taken over the sport, Jackson Storm, chief among them. After a major crash, Lightning goes on a journey, along with his overly enthusiastic trainer, Cruz Ramirez, to get his groove back. The story’s been told before, but it’s a compelling one. The animation is technically great, rather than creatively inspired. The voice actors all do good work. My problem, and it’s hard to explain without spoilers, is the film’s resolution. It’s a good message to be sure, but just not as satisfying as the ending they spent much of the movie setting up. It undid much of its own build up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010, Directed by David Yates) English 7

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Warwick Davis, Rhys Ifans, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton

Star-studded, big-budget spectacle adaptation of J.K Rowlings’ seventh book in the Harry Potter series. Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, seek out horcruxes and try to decipher recently deceased Dumbledore’s cryptic instructions to them. Since the filmmakers decided to cut the book in half and make two movies, this first part doesn’t have a very strong structure to it. Also, like other films in this franchise, many plot points don’t make much sense if you haven’t read the books. Still a very compelling narrative despite its problems; well-acted, with three excellent action sequences.

What’s Up, Doc? (1972, Directed by Peter Bogdanovich) English 6

Starring Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neal, Kenneth Mars, Madeline Khan, Austin Pendleton

A ’70s update of the classic screwball genre stars Ryan O’Neal as a professor on an important trip which can determine whether or not he receives a grant. The biggest obstacle for him: Barbara Streisand. As the screwball heroine, she’s a relentless source of trouble for O’Neal who she instantly falls in love with; of course, she’s also a source of joy which he comes to understand eventually. The plot is as intricate as any I’ve seen or read, involving identical luggage, government secrets, jewel theft. It’s a fun excuse for a madcap movie. The writers, director, and stars have the style down pact. My quibble is that it’s almost too fast. There’s no chance to breathe. Some of the big sequences weren’t as compelling as a simple scene in the middle of Streisand and O’Neal falling in love by a piano.

Vertigo (1958, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 8

Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones

Hitchcock’s most critically lauded work sees James Stewart playing a recently retired cop. Due to a traumatic experience with the loss of his partner, he now suffers from extreme vertigo, wherein his legs give out and his head starts spinning when dealing with heights. He becomes a sort of private eye for an old friend who’s worried about his beautiful, but troubled-and very blonde-wife (Novak). While following her, Stewart finds her wrapped up in a ghost story, but still can’t help falling in love with her, complicating everything.  There’s a good little twist that comes rather early for a mystery film, and I’ve read all the essays and reviews on this film which are fascinating. For me, it’s a case of the subtext being more interesting than the movie which becomes a drag in the third act as we spiral to the inevitable conclusion. That being said, the actors are perfect, the score is astounding, and the surrealistic imagery used to suggest Stewart’s psyche is unforgettable.

Hester Street (1975, Directed by Joan Micklin Silver) English/Yiddish 8

Starring Carol Kane, Steven Keats, Doris Roberts, Mel Howard, Dorrie Kavanaugh

A Jewish immigrant from Russia carves out a new life for himself in America. This life is interrupted when his wife (Kane) and son, left behind in Russia, are able to join him. He’s built a persona as a lady’s man, and he’s a real Yankee in his mind, embarrassed by his wife’s old country notions. This is a slice of life drama filmed modestly in black and white with little to no frills. Some might find this movie slight. I found its apparent authenticity fascinating, and Carol Kane (Oscar nominated for this performance) is very engaging with not much dialogue.