Above the Rim (1994, Directed by Jeff Pollack) English 6

Starring Duane Martin, Tupac Shakur, Leon, Marlon Wayans, Wood Harris, Tonya Pinkins, David Bailey, Michael Rispoli, Shawn Michael Howard, Bernie Mac

Above the Rim (1994)

(6-Good Film)

Rough. Spirited. Lasting.

Kyle-Lee: Why are you doin’ this man? It’s just a game.

Shep: Not to me.

Basketball is easily my favorite sport to play, but not my favorite sport to watch. More pertinent, it seems to be particularly difficult to portray dramatically. Boxing would appear to be the most cinematic of sports while basketball is way down on the list. The speed and tenaciousness that comes with a good game of basketball have yet to be shown convincingly on film. The basketball sequences are mainly what make Above the Rim an uneven experience. The story and the characters are enduring; engulfed in basketball culture over 25 years later (Drake wore Tupac’s outfit from this film at a recent NBA playoff game). Kyle-Lee (Martin) is a good kid but a little cocky. Growing up in Harlem, raised by a single mother, he might have what it takes to play at the next level; D-1 college basketball, full-ride. Shep (Leon) used to be that guy. He led his school to a championship and seemed destined for big things in the basketball world. Now he’s a security guard with demons. Birdie (Shakur) is his little brother who’s bad news. These three figures are common character types used and performed well here. Tupac’s energy serves the film well, as does the outstanding soundtrack in which he features heavily. Above the Rim moves fast and might have benefited from a slower, more contemplative tone. As it is though, the film feels raw which works in its own way.

-Walter Lee Howard-

(987)

I’ll Never Forget You (1951, Directed by Roy Ward Baker) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Ann Blyth, Michael Rennie, Irene Browne, Dennis Price, Beatrice Campbell, Kathleen Byron

Screenshots - I'll Never Forget You

(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Sentimental. Imaginative.

Roger Forsyth: You’re sort of a mystery man even to your friends.

Peter Standish (Power) is a brilliant scientist. Unhappy in his own time, he dedicates his life and research to traveling back through the centuries to the 1700s, just after the revolutionary war, specifically. Eventually, he succeeds but finds that life in 18th century England is not at all what he expected, and his love life is complicated by the kind, understanding Helen Pettigrew (Blyth). It’s beyond me why anyone would think that life would be better in the 18th century, but this is a romantic fantasy not meant to be analyzed to death. The conceit is more or less an excuse to turn the film into a costume drama. Tyrone Power, matinee idol for the ages, is convincing as the fish out of water and romantic lead. The romance is sweet if treacly, and the story is light and compelling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(986)

Honey Boy (2019, Directed by Alma Har’el) English 8

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, FKA Twigs, Noah Jupe, Maika Monroe, Clifton Collins Jr., Natasha Lyonne, Laura San Giacomo, Martin Starr, Byron Bowers

Watch FKA twigs and Shia LaBeouf in the Trailer for New Movie ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Moving. Insightful. Deft.

James: Yes. She’s filling your head full of fear, I pump you up full of strength. Cause we’re a team and I know you got what it takes. You’re a fucking star and I know it, that’s why I’m here. I’m your cheerleader Honey Boy.

Much is made about Shia LaBeouf’s first script, Honey Boy, as it feels like a revelation from his own life. Not having read the background to this film or any comments LaBeouf may have made about its authenticity, it feels presumptuous for me to guess how much of it is true (taken from the star’s life and written into film). I can say that it certainly feels true. That it’s perceptive and moving, and that it’s exceptionally well-acted, LaBeouf and Jupe especially. Jupe plays Honey Boy, a child star supporting his wildly erratic, often abusive father, James, played by LaBeouf. Har’el does an impressive job directing the story, flashing back in time seamlessly, making the narrative seem real. James is a man of many sides. We see all of his bad sides, but it’s the occasional sweeter scenes that make you think he could possibly change. Those scenes are usually followed by him tearing it all down again. Poignant, fascinating work.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(985)

Ice Age: Collision Course (2016, Directed by Mike Thurmeier) English 5

Voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Adam Devine, Jessie J, Simon Pegg, Wanda Sykes, Nick Offerman, Seann William Scott, Max Greenfield, Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Strahan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jennifer Lopez

Ice Age Collision Course – Animated, Comedy, F, UncategorizedTexas ...

(5-Okay Film)

Stale. Mediocre. Uninteresting.

Buck: The mother of all asteroids, screaming towards us. But I got a plan! Who’s with me?

Ice Age is the epitome of milking a franchise until the well runs dry. After the first one, which was charming and felt fresh at the time, each inevitable sequel has been about the same basic quality; not painful, but mediocre. Instead of fresh new ideas, Ice Age returns each time with one or two new characters voiced by some celebrity earning an easy payday (how much did Jennifer Lopez get paid for her three lines in this movie?). This, the fifth installment, follows Manny, Sid, Diego, and company as their world around them collapses (didn’t this happen already? I forget). Meteors are coming. Their unconventional herd looks to Buck (Pegg) and his eccentric plan to save them.  It’s a pretty busy but nondescript 1hour and 20 minutes. Not a miserable time but not a good time either.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(984)

Detour (1945, Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer) English 7

Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald, Esther Howard, Tim Ryan

Film Classics: Detour (1945) | The Frame

(7-Very Good Film)

Lean. Mean. Cheap.

Al Roberts: That’s life. Whichever way you turn, Fate sticks out a foot to trip you.

Al Roberts (Neal) hitchhikes his way from New York to Hollywood, or, at least, that was the plan. He’s got a great girl waiting for him in L.A that he intends to marry. His plans, however, get derailed by bad luck and bad accidents the way you hear him tell it. Sitting alone, ragged, vagrant, in a Reno diner, Al tells us his side of things. How he played no part in the death of Charles Haskell Jr. (a shady philanthropist of sorts, who offers him a ride). How he became mixed up with Lucifer in female form, also known as Vera (Savage). How he didn’t want to go along with her schemes and how the conclusion of their partnership was just one more trick of Fate that he had little control over. He mentions that the cops would never believe his story. I don’t, but that’s just part of what makes Detour such a fine, compelling noir despite its noticeable limitations. It’s dark, it’s clever. It gives its inexperienced actors one note a piece to play and they play it to perfection. Perhaps no noir, known for its use of narration, used the device better than this one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(983)

Child’s Play (1988, Directed by Tom Holland) English 6

Starring Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin

Child's Play | Netflix

(6-Good Film)

Creepy. Humorous. Safe.

Chucky: Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?

Chucky is one creepy doll. Hat’s off to whoever built the iconic horror character because I’d say just the design alone propels much of this film. The story is secondary. A  deranged serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (Dourif), transfers his soul to a nearby children’s toy. Young Andy Barclay (Vincent) is the lucky boy to get stuck with the result. Convinced that Chucky and he are destined to be friends until the end, Andy is quickly disillusioned after a couple of violent deaths materialize. Catherine Hicks plays his worried single mother, Karen, and Chris Sarandon plays the selectively effective cop, Mike, and they do dutiful work, but it’s the boy and Chucky’s movie, and they carry this film. The boy is very good and Brad Dourif is always excellent. Though existing mainly through voice work, his brief early appearance and exit make an important, lasting impression. Child’s Play is big on laughs and light on scares which is slightly disappointing. I feel it grows complacent over the course of the story, relying almost entirely on its superficial brilliance and shirks in the suspense department. That being said, there are some quality scenes and, overall, Child’s Play is fun and memorable.

 -Walter Tyrone Howard-

(982)

Son of the Mask (2005, Directed by Lawrence Guterman) English 2

Starring Jamie Kennedy, Traylor Howard, Alan Cumming, Bob Hoskins, Steven Wright, Kal Penn, Ben Stein, Magda Szubanski

Son of the Mask - Is Son of the Mask on Netflix - FlixList

(2-Atrocious Film)

Embarrassing. Painful. Vulgar.

Odin: There was a baby, born of The Mask!

Loki (Cumming), the trickster god born of Odin (Hoskins), Norse mythology’s All-father, created a mask designed to unleash havoc and sent it down to the humans. Somehow this mask ends up in the hands of Tim Avery (Kennedy), a struggling cartoonist. One night, after wearing the mask for the first time, Tim gets his wife, Tonya (Howard), pregnant, and the result is a baby boy, Alvie, with all the powers of the mask without having to wear it. Watching this movie made me appreciate Jim Carrey in a way I never had before. I’ve always been a fan but seeing him in The Mask after seeing this made me realize how good of a performance that was in addition to being funny. Son of the Mask is a miserable experience. There is not a worthwhile idea in the movie. The story and tone are crass and unpleasant; much too vulgar to be a kids’ film. Kennedy’s performance is embarrassing. His character is an idiot. His voice-acting while wearing the mask is annoying. None of the jokes are funny. I’d like to nominate the musical “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” sequence for the worst movie scene of all-time. There’s nothing anybody can do with this film but pile on. There are dozens of angry, hilarious rants about how unfunny this movie is and all I can do is agree.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(981)

Under the Silver Lake (2018, Directed by David Robert Mitchell) English 8

Starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome, Don McManus, Zosia Mamet, Jeremy Bobb, Patrick Fischler, Rex Linn, Jimmi Simpson, Grace Van Patten

Fade to Black: Under the Silver Lake (2018) - Morbidly Beautiful

(8-Exceptional Film)

Curious. Alluring. Puzzling.

Comic Fan: Our world is filled with codes, subliminal messages. From Silverlake to the Hollywood Hills.

Noir in cinema has been nearly synonymous with nighttime throughout the years. It’s a nighttime genre. In Under the Silver Lake, a noir-drenched puzzle box of a film, the parts that I comfortably consider noir occur during the day. At night, the film shifts into a surrealist horror flick, not unlike the director, David Robert Mitchell’s previous film, It Follows. I didn’t like It Follows. I’m pretty sure I love Under the Silver Lake. It’s hard to say for certain after one viewing because it’s hard to say what it’s about. Andrew Garfield plays Sam. Sam seems harmlessly middling; unimportant, uninterested in much. The latter part is where he unquestionably proves me wrong. He’s a conspiracy nut, constantly watching the world for clues. A brief romantic moment with his beautiful neighbor, Sarah (Keough), leads him to a labyrinthian circuit of clues essentially in his backyard. I haven’t pinned down anything about this film yet. I noticed and appreciated some of the influences. Rear Window is the most conspicuous (Sam even has a poster of it on his wall). Like James Stewart’s character in that movie, Sam, too, loves to spy on neighbors. Except here, it’s a little more sinister. What I understood of Under the Silver Lake, I loved. What I suspect lies in waiting on further viewings, I look forward to finding.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(980)

The War of the Roses (1989, Directed by Danny DeVito) English 7

Starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Sean Astin, Daniel Castellaneta, Marianne Sägebrecht

THE WAR OF THE ROSES in the Media: A Compilation of Dysfunction in ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Manic. Funny. Bleak.

Oliver Rose: I think you owe me a solid reason. I worked my ass off for you and the kids to have a nice life and you owe me a reason that makes sense. I want to hear it.

Barbara Rose: Because. When I watch you eat. When I see you asleep. When I look at you lately, I just want to smash your face in.

There isn’t a clearly defined reason why the Roses’ marriage doesn’t work out after nearly twenty years together. True, Oliver (Douglas) works extremely hard, often at the expense of his family life. True, he doesn’t really listen very well, but look at it from his side. He’s worked extremely hard for his family; so that they can have that beautiful house, the fancy kitchenware, and the like. I empathized with both Barbara (Turner) and Oliver at separate times in the film, but, ultimately, none of it matters. Neither one is right and, by the end, their efforts to out-petty each other lead to the logical conclusion. Along the way, however, The War of the Roses is a very funny picture. Told at a fever pitch, we watch the Roses devolve slowly but surely until it goes from a few childish antics to seriously demented violence and destruction. DeVito, starring and directing, gives the movie a faux-cheeriness and a Looney Tunes level of mayhem. It also manages a few perceptive moments. I enjoy Throw Mama from a Train (DeVito’s film prior to this one) but felt it was let down by softening the material and not going all-in on the black humor. The War of the Roses threatens at a few points to go soft but thankfully never does. Kathleen Turner, though something more here, is one of film history’s greatest femme fatales. I’m not sure anyone does contempt better.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(979)

Charlie’s Angels (2019, Directed by Elizabeth Banks) English 6

Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Honsou, Nat Faxon, Jonathan Tucker, Noah Centineo, Chris Pang

Charlie's Angels': Review | Reviews | Screen

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Likable. Misjudged.

Sabina Wilson: [with a playful giggle] I think women can do anything.

Jonny Smith: Well, just because they can, doesn’t mean they should, right?

The “angels,” Sabina (Stewart), Elena (Scott), and Jane (Balinska)  take on a corporation covering up a newly invented energy device that has the power to be a world weapon. I don’t consider myself the target audience for “girl power,” and most attempts over the past few years at rectifying 80 years of “male gaze” have left me unmoved; mainly because they were ham-handed. This iteration of Charlie’s Angels is still ham-handed but slight too, and, in any case, it’s much better than the last 2 films led by Drew Barrymore. For one thing, this is a pretty solid action flick. The “angels” are likable, there’s a red herring or two to keep us invested and a certain knowingness about the humor that makes the film slightly more intelligent than goofy. This is not a great film by any means but watch Charlie’s Angels after reading the IMDB reviews and it will easily exceed your expectations.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(978)