Peter Pan (1953, Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske) English 6

Voices of Bobby Driscoll, Hans Conreid, Kathryn Beaumont, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel

Image result for peter pan 1953

(6-Good Film)

Inventive. Spirited. Winsome.

A flying boy, with the help of his loyal friend and fairy, Tinker Bell, takes a trio of couped-up children to the magical, adventure-filled world of Neverland, where nobody ages. Peter Pan is an extraordinary story (by J.M Barrie) that has never translated into an extraordinary film. As nostalgic as Spielberg’s Hook is or as wonderfully animated as this, Disney’s 1953 version is, they lack the depth and the magic of Barrie’s original. Disney instead goes for pure adventure and succeeds on its terms. The animation is impressive, exciting, what-have-you. The designs of each character, especially Pan and Tinker Bell, are iconic. The story, however, loses something with very little time given to character development. It’s more about personalities than characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(810)

Holiday Inn (1942, Directed by Mark Sandrich) English 8

Starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Virginia Dale, Marjorie Reynolds, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers, Irving Bacon

Image result for holiday inn 1942

(8-Exceptional Film)

Endearing. Sparkling. Consummate.

Glossing over a couple of benign, but still problematic scenes involving blackface, Holiday Inn is a fantastic musical.  You can’t do better than Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Irving Berlin together. Crosby plays Jim Hardy, a showbiz veteran who’d like a simpler life for himself and his wife-to-be, Lila, living on a farm in quiet Connecticut. Then, Lila runs off with his dance partner, Ted Hanover (Astaire), and his farm turns out to be a lot of work. Time passes and Jim gets a new idea. A themed-based hotel only open on holidays complete with complimentary music shows. Working to put it together, he gets the lovely, talented Linda Mason (Reynolds) to work for him, but Ted, already kicked to the curb by Lila, has plans to lure Linda away. Great music, dancing (Astaire’s drunk number is incredible), shimmering black-and-white photography, and impressive sets. Holiday Inn puts on an outstanding show.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(809)

The Knight Before Christmas (2019, Directed by Cara J. Russell) English 5

Starring Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ella Kenion, Mimi Gianopulos

Image result for the knight before christmas

(5-Okay Film)

Modest. Pleasant. Fair.

As I’ve observed before, Netflix seems to be going after the Hallmark Channel’s audience. As a result, many of their original films in the past have bordered on made-for-television quality. With The Knight Before Christmas, the border is gone. This film has moved well beyond it. This is a made-for-television movie. It stars Vanessa Hudgens as a kindly school teacher who’s boyfriend cheated on her, preparing for Christmas in some quaint little town of Ohio. Josh Whitehouse plays Sir Cole, a 14th-century medieval knight, sent to modern times in order to fulfill a quest given to him by a sorceress. How will a 14th-century knight function in modern America? Pretty well, according to The Knight Before Christmas. It takes him all of a day to learn a good deal of modern vernacular. This is also not the kind of film to have him declared insane upon arrival and locked inside a mental hospital. Everything about The Knight Before Christmas is pleasant. The town is beautiful, the actors are all attractive and kind, even the “flirtatious girl” who might have been a rival to Hudgens quickly bows out the race for Cole’s affection gracefully and without conflict. I do think there is value in a movie that is pure sweetness. I’m sure many people are looking for a film just like this one and will be glad to find it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(808)

The Grinch (2018, Directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney) 6

Voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Pharrell Williams, Angela Lansbury

Image result for the grinch 2018

(6-Good Film)

Sweet. Appealing. Unspectacular.

Dr. Seuss’ wonderful stories have yet to translate to cinematic gold. There’ve been commercial hits, this version of The Grinch included, but none of them are great and I do think the potential is there for something exceptional. Nineteen years after Jim Carrey’s bizarre but interesting take on the green misanthrope, Benedict Cumberbatch takes over in a much sweeter, animated version. You likely know the story but in case you don’t, it features a hairy green creature, known as the Grinch, who lives life as an outcast in the jolly land of Whoville.  Christmas is the town’s favorite time of year but the Grinch hates Christmas and decides to do something about it. He pretends to be Santa Claus in order to steal everyone’s gifts and sabotage the holiday. The Jim Carrey led Grinch was pretty obnoxious and the Whos were materialistic and unlikable, although I think Carrey was a force of nature in the role. This Grinch is much more likable. It’s a pleasing, beautifully animated picture but suffers from a lack of real menace out of its title character. That’s disappointing. As a result, it’s not funny enough, his transformation not astounding enough, and this rendition of The Grinch ends up being pretty forgettable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(807)

Love Actually (2003, Directed by Richard Curtis) English 8

Starring Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Rowan Atkinson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert

Image result for love actually

(8-Exceptional Film)

Messy. Appealing. Wonderful.

Multiple storylines weave together on the road to Christmas ranging from dramatic (Alan Rickman is tempted by his secretary to cheat on his wife, Emma Thompson) to humorous (Hugh Grant is a charming, meek Prime Minister of Great Britain who falls for someone in his staff). Love Actually is a wonderful, unapologetic mess. It embraces its muchness and wears its emotions right on its sleeves. You can be cynical, roll your eyes at the contrivances, the “office workers” that look like supermodels or make a joke about the corniness, but I choose to enjoy the spectacle of it all. It’s a spectacle without special effects. Some of the storylines are more interesting than others, but all of the performances are good.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(806)

Three Men and a Little Lady (1990, Directed by Emile Ardolino) English 5

Starring Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson, Nancy Travis, Robin Weisman, Fiona Shaw, Christopher Cazenove

Image result for three men and a little lady

(5-Okay Film)

Sitcommy. Mindless. Inoffensive.

There are many levels of film quality provided you’ve seen enough of them. Three Men and a Little Lady, the uncalled-for sequel to the equally silly Three Men and a Baby, is on the most common level. The level of harmless, enjoyable mediocrity. If the title seems better fit for a sitcom, it’s probably because the plot is as well. Peter (Selleck), Michael (Guttenberg), and Jack (Danson) live comfortably with Sylvia (Travis) and her daughter, Mary. They dote on Mary but Sylvia feels it’s time for a more typical family arrangement and becomes engaged to the wealthy Brit, Edward (Cazenove). Edward turns out to be a jerk, which is convenient since Peter realizes that he loves Sylvia and flies over to England to stop the wedding. Three Men and a Little Lady is overly sweet, of course. Predictable. Likable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(805)

The Crow (1994, Directed by Alex Proyas) English 7

Starring Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Rochelle Davis, Bai Ling, Sofia Shinas, Jon Polito

Image result for the crow 1994

(7-Very Good Film)

Stylish. Gothic. Striking.

Good versus evil atop an old cathedral, sword fighting in the rain. This is my favorite image in The Crow, a cult-classic full of striking imagery and exciting moments. Brandon Lee’s last film, tragically, stars the late actor as Eric Draven, a rock musician with a great girlfriend in a bad city. Eric is killed one night, just after watching his girlfriend raped and murdered, but he returns a year later as a vengeful spirit out to kill each member of the gang that did it. This leads all the way to the top of the criminal world or, in this case, Top Dollar (played memorably by Michael Wincott). There’s enough pathos through the flashbacks and Ernie Hudson’s kind character to give the film a bit of substance but ultimately, it is a visual piece. Relentlessly dark without being grim, The Crow is an attractive and imaginative action spectacle.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(804)