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)

Predator (1987, Directed by John McTiernan) English 8

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Elpidia Carrillo, R.G Armstrong, Shane Black, Richard Chaves, Sonny Landham

Predator (1987) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes | Gareth Rhodes Film ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Exciting. Hyper-masculine. Gratifying.

Dutch: If it bleeds, we can kill it.

Perhaps the manliest movie ever produced, Predator teams Arnold Schwarzenegger with Apollo Creed, or Carl Weathers, if you prefer, and a bunch of other buff guys thrown into the Central American jungle. Arnold leads a band of mercenaries sent to rescue an official but instead discover the ultimate killer/predator, an alien who crash-landed on Earth and seems to spend his time hunting other predators. Critics complained about the alien’s unclearly defined motivation. I disagree. Very few films have such a firm grasp on what they’re trying to be and accomplish that ambition so efficiently. Motivation is superfluous here. What we want is Arnold versus alien and we get it. We also get a handful of cool characters, Mac (Duke) being my favorite, and a great location for an action film. Predator is a contender for the best action flick of that decade.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(963)

Rules Don’t Apply (2016, Directed by Warren Beatty) English 5

Starring Warren Beatty, Lilly Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Haley Bennett, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Candice Bergen, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Taissa Farmiga, Paul Schneider, Steve Coogan, Dabney Coleman

Rules Don't Apply - NYT Watching

(5-Okay Film)

Promising. Muddled. Unsatisfying.

Frank Forbes: [to Marla] You’re an exception. Rules don’t apply to you.

Howard Hughes. The man, the myth. Only I’ve never really understood the fascination with him. Perhaps it’s obvious to some: he was obscenely wealthy, an influential Hollywood figure, an aviator, and dated some of the most desirable women of his time. Yet, I have never been that interested in him or his story and no film has come along to make me feel otherwise (haven’t seen Melvin and Howard). The most recent attempt is Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply. Opening in the late ’50s, a young driver, Frank (Ehrenreich), gets a job chauffeuring a young Hollywood hopeful, Marla (Collins), around L.A. The two begin to fall for one another and the film is off to a great start. It’s when the main star of the piece, Howard Hughes (Beatty), shows up that the film loses its way. Shifting tones should feel like a journey not like a distraction. There are two stories at play here and though they are linked, they don’t compliment each other. One subtracts from the other. The result turns Hughes into a creepy older guy who interrupts an intriguing romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(962)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 8

Starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Harry Davenport, Marjorie Main, Hugh Marlowe, June Lockhart

Meet Me in St. Louis” is always as cool as a cucumber | Cinefilia ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Endearing. Picturesque. Classic.

Esther Smith: I can’t believe it. Right here where we live – right here in St. Louis.

Like the March sisters of Little Women, the Smiths of Meet Me in St. Louis are a family to cherish. Made up of four daughters-led by Esther (Garland), the second oldest-a son, a loving mother (Astor), a stubborn but caring father (Ames), a spirited grandfather (Davenport), and a sassy maid (Main), the film follows the Smith family through one eventful year in their lives leading up to the famed World’s Fair of 1904. Everything about Meet Me in St. Louis inspires affection. The characters are wonderful. Garland is a star. The production, from the sets to the costumes to the vibrant technicolor, is astounding, and the music is timeless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(961)

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000, Directed by Mark Dindal) English 7

Voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton Wendie Malick, Tom Jones

Film - The Emperor's New Groove - Into Film

(7-Very Good Film)

Funny. Wacky. Small-scale.

Kuzco: D’oh! You threw off my groove!

Originally intended as an epic musical inspired by Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper, The Emperor’s New Groove turns out to be Disney’s first Warner Bros. cartoon. Bearing little resemblance to the hit Disney flicks preceding, it instead features the mischief, irreverence, slyness, and wacky physics of the old Looney Tunes shorts. Kuzco (Spade) is a selfish, tyrannical emperor turned into a llama by his advisor, Yzma (Kitt), in a failed attempt to kill him. Coming to his aid is Pacha (Goodman), despite Kuzco’s promise to build a summer house in place of the peasant’s family home. The Emperor’s New Groove is familiar drama and I can easily point out the comedic influences (again, it’s Looney Tunes), but the film still feels special. It’s an outlier in Disney’s canon. It’s also probably the funniest Disney feature with great voice work to thank for that.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(960)

The Last Dance (2020, Directed by Jason Hehir) English 8

Featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, John Stockton

ESPN Last Dance audience up 128% via VoD; Netflix success |

(8-Exceptional Film)

Expansive. Thrilling. Compelling.

Following Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls teammates through the 1997-1998 campaign (what would be his final season as a Bull), The Last Dance weaves across the careers and upbringings of several of the key contributors, showing what made that team and that season so special. If someone contends that they don’t understand why people care about sports, let them watch an ESPN documentary, and The Last Dance is one of ESPN’s finest. Epic in length and coverage, it will likely be a new standard setter. It’s not a fly-on-the-wall documentary. It’s clearly shaped mostly around Jordan, and though it does reveal a little of his vulnerable side, his sociopathic side, what-have-you, it is still told largely with him as the protagonist. As a result, you might have heard other players complaining about certain things being depicted and other things left out. That’s a creative choice. That’s a story-telling choice. Michael Jordan is a sports hero for the ages, and what I think The Last Dance does best is reveal the human side of MJ that makes his superhuman athletic triumphs all the more impressive. In any case, it is massively entertaining.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(959)

Shaolin Soccer (2001, Directed by Stephen Chow) Cantonese 6

Starring Stephen Chow, Ng Man-tat, Wong Yat-fei, Tin Kai-man, Zhao Wei, Lam Chi-chung, Patrick Tse

Shaolin Soccer - Wikipedia

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Original. Absurd.

Sing: That’s a great idea – kung fu soccer! Why didn’t I think of that?

I wonder how the prolific Stephen Chow’s films are viewed over in mainland China or his native Hong Kong. He’s obviously insanely popular (The Mermaid, one of his more recent works, made over $500 million) and though the idea of a “spoof” isn’t a new concept, his movies tend to baffle me. In Shaolin Soccer, Chow spoofs sports films (the rival team is known as “Team Evil”) and probably more Kung Fu films than I even recognized (although I could at least appreciate the Bruce Lee reference). Chow plays Sing, a peon with extraordinary Kung Fu skills, discovered by Fung (Man-tat), a former soccer great looking to coach his way back to the big-time. The two assemble a team of Shaolin monks and find that the monks’ Kung Fu skills translate remarkably well on the soccer field. Like many Chinese or Hong Kong classics I’ve seen, Shaolin Soccer is a bizarre treat. I laughed often and was bemused often. Chow, for example, uses CGI frequently and crudely, but it seems to be integral to the humor. His humor in general is one of excess and absurdity. I simply wonder if his films are as bizarre to his native audience or if films like Shaolin Soccer qualify as a culture shock.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(958)

Pompeii (2014, Directed by Paul W.S Anderson) English 4

Starring Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie Ann-Moss, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris

Movie Smack Talk | Movie Review: Pompeii (2014)

(4-Bad Film)

Crude. Unoriginal. Entertaining.

Cassia: Is this the end of the world? Why would the gods let this happen?

Entertainment is something I value in nearly all contexts, so I do give Pompeii some credit for being entertaining despite not being much of anything else. Directed by Paul W.S Anderson, the king of garbage entertainment (though Michael Bay might argue that distinction), Pompeii follows orphaned slave, Milo (Harrington), as he’s taken to the famed Roman city to compete in gladiatorial matches where he meets fellow slave Atticus (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and later, Cassia (Browning), the instant love of his life (rolling my eyes). This is an awfully silly film heavily indebted to much better ones, chiefly Gladiator and Titanic. There’s plenty to enjoy for those like me who appreciate camp and crude craftsmanship but almost nothing to admire.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(957)

The Mercenary (1968, Directed by Sergio Corbucci) English 5

Starring Franco Nero, Jack Palance, Tony Musante, Giovanna Ralli, Eduardo Fajardo, Franco Giacobini

Jack Palance as Curly in The Mercenary (1968) | Once Upon a Time ...

(5-Okay Film)

Jumbled. Undeveloped. Uneven.

Kowalski: When our story began, Paco was only a peon. But one… with a difference.

Sergio Leone made great spaghetti western epics by stretching about twenty minutes of plot into 3-hour films. He understood revenge is an infinitely compelling character motivation. The Mercenary, directed by Sergio Corbucci (a talented director of many excellent westerns, some great), tries to condense several hours worth of plot into an hour and fifty minutes. The film follows Paco (Musante), who goes from peasant to revolutionary, through the eyes of a seemingly indifferent Polish mercenary, Kowalski (Nero), and a garble of flashback, obscure narration, and Mexican history. The result is an often confusing film with scattered moments of inspiration and sometimes greatness. The score, for instance, by Ennio Morricone, is as beautiful a piece of music as you’re ever likely to hear. Jack Palance plays the villain, Curly, sporting one of cinema’s worst haircuts (he resembles Little Debbie and it’s frightening). Unfortunately, The Mercenary squanders his performance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(956)

Whisper of the Heart (1995, Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō) Japanese 8

Voices of Brittany Snow, David Gallagher, Jean Smart, Cary Elwes, James Sikking, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Ashley Tisdale

Whisper of the Heart – IFC Center

(8-Exceptional Film)

Charming. Vibrant. Light.

Shizuku: Stupid jerk, stupid jerk, stupid jerk!

Who knew Studio Ghibli produced so many wonderful light romances? While I ask that rhetorical question jokingly, certain that millions of the studio’s large fanbase have known for ages, I’ve only recently discovered Ocean Waves, Only Yesterday, and this film, Whisper of the Heart. Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku, a young girl dealing with teenaged romance and all the drama that goes with it. She meets Seiji, a boy at school who is always rude to her, and she’s determined not to like him though the rest of the school believes that they’re a couple. I was most surprised to find that the great Hayao Miyazaki wrote this screenplay as it bears little resemblance, as far as I can tell, to any of his other work. Otherwise, Whisper of the Heart has all of the distinction, the artistry, and the confident storytelling of Ghibli’s work. I see now that they are equally skillful at these lovely small-scale dramas as they are at epic fantasy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(955)