To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020, Directed by Michael Fimognari) English 6

Starring Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Ross Butler, Anna Cathcart, Holland Taylor, Janel Parrish, John Corbett

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(6-Good Film)

Attractive. Awkward. Dopey.

Recap: a girl writes love letters to all of her past crushes for her own private catharsis but, due to some meddling by her younger sister, the letters get out, ultimately resulting in her falling for one of the recipients. I can just manage to remember feeling satisfied after the first film, To All the Boys I Loved Before, when Laura Jean (Condor) and Peter (Centineo) end up together. What a high. The two young people so different from one another are in love. End of movie. End of story. Happily ever after, but obviously here’s the sequel and so, obviously, it can’t be happily ever after because that would be completely boring. Instead, we’re introduced to John Ambrose (Fisher)-mature, sensitive, musically-talented John Ambrose-another one of Laura Jean’s old crushes, and suddenly Peter and Laura Jean seem all wrong to me. The result is that the ending of P.S. I Still Love You is a great deal less satisfying to me though I enjoyed the film as a whole just as much as the first one. I’m reminded once again that watching two people fall in love is so much more enjoyable than watching them stay together.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Police Academy (1984, Directed by Hugh Wilson) English 6

Starring Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, Michael Winslow, Bubba Smith, Leslie Easterbrook, Don Lake, Donovan Scott, David Graf, Andrew Rubin, G.W Bailey, George Gaynes

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(6-Good Film)

Zany. Enjoyable. Silly.

Steve Guttenberg makes a likable hero. He plays Carey Mahoney, an incorrigible trouble maker who’s been given an ultimatum by a police captain who cares about him: go through police academy or spend time in jail. A new policy by the city’s mayor allows anyone to apply for the police academy so, once there, Mahoney finds a large collection of oddballs trying to make it. There’s Moses (Smith), the seemingly mute giant, Karen (Cattrall), a bored rich girl, and Larvell (Winslow), the human sound effects machine, among others. Meanwhile, the instructor, Lt. Harris, does everything he can to make the new recruits quit. Buried beneath its juvenile sense of humor and obligatory nudity, there are actually some pretty positive things going on in Police Academy. For one thing, there are several prominent black characters, not just one, which, even today seems fresh for a comedy with a white lead. It’s an enjoyable film and even memorable without being exceptionally funny.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Crimson Pirate (1952, Directed by Robert Siodmak) English 6

Starring Burt Lancaster, Nick Cravat, Eva Bartok, Torin Thatcher, Leslie Bradley, Christopher Lee, James Hayter

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(6-Good Film)

Frantic. Fun. Jolly.

Captain Vallo (Lancaster) leads his ship and his crew through the waters of the Caribbean late in the 18th century. He agrees to capture and turn in a man calling himself El Libre, an enemy of the British Empire. Instead, he meets and falls in love with El Libre’s daughter, Consuelo (Bartok), then decides to help their cause. According to Christopher Lee who plays a small part in this swashbuckler, The Crimson Pirate started out as a more serious pirate film. Its director, Robert Siodmak, changed that and what resulted is a light, fast-paced adventure anchored by a charismatic performance by Burt Lancaster. I’m more familiar with Lancaster in heavyweight dramatic fare, so seeing him swinging through the impressively elaborate sets and playing the rogue is a welcome surprise. Though lightning-fast paced and non-stop action, The Crimson Pirate did take a while for me to invest in. Eventually, however, its star and sense of fun win the day.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (2020, Created by Radford Sechrist) English 7

Voices of Karen Fukuhara, Deon Cole, Coy Stewart, Dee Bradley Baker, Sydney Mikayla, Sterling K. Brown, Dan Stevens

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(7-Very Good Show)

Bright. Engaging. Unique.

To my mind, Dreamworks Animation has been complacent for over a decade now when it comes to film. They’ve given us nothing but sequels. Thankfully though, their television offerings have been excellent, specifically She-ra: Princess of Power and now Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts. The titular character, Kipo, is an altruistic teenage girl who’s lived her entire life underground. After her home is suddenly attacked by a giant creature known as a megamute, she’s flushed out into the surface where megamutes and talking animals reign. She teams up with Wolf, a tough young girl, Benson, a resourceful teenage boy, and Dave, a mutant bug that can regenerate, to find her home and her dad. Beautiful, vibrant animation, strong story, a unique sense of humor, fun, oddball soundtrack. This is a fantastic first season. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


El Dorado (1966, Directed by Howard Hawks) English 8

Starring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Arthur Hunnicutt, Charlene Holt, Michele Carey, Christopher George, Ed Asner, R.G Armstrong

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Fun. Endearing. Rousing.

Apparently, its director, the legendary Howard Hawks, claimed this film wasn’t a remake of Rio Bravo, one of his earlier works and one of his best. I’m not sure who he was trying to fool. It clearly is, and more than that, I don’t know why he felt the need. No one’s complaining. At least not now, forty years later. I’m certainly not. Rio Bravo is a bonafide classic. So is El Dorado. It stars John Wayne as Cole Thorton, a gun for hire, who strolls into the troubled town of El Dorado to find an old friend, J.P Harrah (Mitchum), is the sheriff. Harrah fills Cole in on the situation: a greedy businessman, Bart Jason (Asner), is hiring men to bully land away from a local family, the McDonalds. Time passes before anything comes of this situation and when it comes, Harrah has devolved into the town drunk after a woman leaves him. It’s up to Cole, Harrah’s loyal friend and Indian fighter, Bull (Hunnicutt), and a young hotshot named Mississippi (Cann) to protect the McDonald family while helping Harrah to come to in time to turn the tide. Jason has a lot of men led by a mercenary, McLeod (George), who knows what he’s doing. Fantastic classic western made in a time when revisionist westerns ruled, El Dorado is terrific fun. The ending is slightly unsatisfying. Not that it’s a bad ending; it might even be the right ending, but like its characters, I wanted to see Thorton and McLeod face off. As it stands, the good guys basically cheated. Also, you’ll have to ignore a quick interlude in which Caan pretends to be a “chinaman.” Other than that though, this is one of my favorite westerns.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Birds of Prey (2019, Directed by Cathy Yan) English 6

Starring Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong

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(6-Good Film)

Frenetic. Superficial. Satisfying.

I like all types of movies but if I had to put my finger on one type that wasn’t my cup of tea, it would be ultra-violent superhero flicks. Naturally then, I didn’t go into Birds of Prey very excited.  The material covered by a lot of DC adaptations but now Birds of Prey strikes me as pretty ridiculous-a woman with a voice that can fight bad guys, a psychiatrist who comes across as a martial arts master despite not having any training. There’s no sense of logic in these characters but Birds of Prey handles that the right way. It tells a simple story in a manic, hyper-stylized manner. Harley (Robbie) has been kicked to the curb by the Joker and no longer has any protection from the low-lives she’s hurt in years past. Rosie Perez plays a jaded cop, Renee Montoya. Smollett-Bell plays lounge singer-turned-vigilante, Black Canary, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a mysterious assassin calling herself Huntress. The women eventually team up for separate motivations to protect a young girl, Cassandra, who made the mistake of robbing a local mob boss, Roman Sionis (McGregor). Much of Birds of Prey is underwhelming to me. McGregor’s bad guy is only intimidating with a weapon in his hand. Anybody can be scary with a gun in their hand. Thankfully, the women make more of an impression. It’s their film and they’re suitably convincing. I genuinely felt like an hour and a half flew by which is a positive on the one hand-the film was going for a madcap pace and style and succeeds-but is also the reason the overall experience feels fairly insubstantial.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Time to Kill (1942, Directed by Herbert I. Leeds) English 6

Starring Lloyd Nolan, Heather Angel, Doris Merrick, Ralph Byrd, Richard Lane, Sheila Bromley

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(6-Good Film)

Brief. Light. Appealing.

Raymond Chandler’s series of private eye novels following Phillip Marlowe are masterpieces of style and content for those who are willing to give them their proper consideration (which includes most people now, decades later). I’m guessing back in the day, however, many only saw the style, with early adaptation, Time to Kill, as evidence. Taking Chandler’s third novel, The High Window, and mixing it in with a popular movie series featuring the character, Michael Shayne (Nolan), Time to Kill is awfully slight. About an hour-long and offering very little in the form of stakes, Time to Kill instead aims for humor with quick setups and payoffs. The plot is a bastardized version of the one Chandler wrote. Private detective, Shayne, is hired by a rich old battle-ax to get back a rare coin stolen, convinced that it was her no-good daughter-in-law. The real selling point, as with all films in this series, is Shayne himself. He’s a slick, likable character. Not much of an adaptation though.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-