Enchantment (1948, Directed by Irving Reis) English 7

Starring David Niven, Teresa Wright, Farley Granger, Evelyn Keyes, Jayne Meadows

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(7-Very Good Film)

Engrossing. Sentimental. Romantic.

Based on a novel by Rumer Godden, Enchantment weaves through separate time periods, first recounting the romance of General Roland Dane (Niven) and Lark (Wright), a romance that started with their friendship as children and is tragically never fulfilled. Many decades later, at the height of World War II, the now elderly general meets his grand-niece (Keyes), in love herself, with a wounded soldier, and urges her not to make the same mistake he did. Melodramatic, but beautifully rendered and performed, this is an excellent romance of the old Hollywood style. The special effects to close out the picture are unexpected and spectacular.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Shall We Dance (1937, Directed by Mark Sandrich) English 8

Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blower, Jerome Cowan, Ketti Gallian

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Iconic. Charming. Joyful.

Fred Astaire looks like a cartoon caricature. The ones artists draw of you at fairs or on bustling piers. His unique appearance, creativity, and gentleman persona make him one of the most charming stars of classic Hollywood. His partnership with the beautiful and prodigiously talented Ginger Rogers is iconic and lasted over the course of ten films, of which, I would say Shall We Dance is probably the second best; Top Hat being tops. Shall We Dance follows the formula laid out by their previous collaborations. Gershwin music, great dance numbers, romance, light comedy, and misunderstandings. Astaire plays Peter P. Peters, or the great “Petrov,” an American ballet dancer posing as a Russian. He’s instantly smitten with tap dancer, Linda Keene (Rogers), and wants to team up. She’s not so sure about him, but tabloids mistakenly believe the two to be married and spread the false rumor, forcing Linda and Peter to masquerade as husband and wife or face scandal. Wonderful entertainment and timeless songs like “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



Sparkle (1976, Directed by Sam O’Steen) English 7

Starring Irene Cara, Philip M. Thomas, Lonette McKee, Dwan Smith, Mary Alice, Dorian Harewood, Tony King

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(7-Very Good Film)

Melodramatic. Effective. Memorable.

Before directing such classic stinkers like Batman and Robin and guilty pleasures like 8mm, Joel Schumacher wrote Sparkle, a low-rent version of A Star is Born if I were inclined to be harsh. The truth is though that I like this film. Starring Irene Cara as the titular protagonist, a young girl in 1950’s Harlem who joins her older sisters in a soul-singing trio but who soon breaks out as the star. Directed by Sam O’Steen, famed editor who never returned to the director’s chair after this film, Sparkle has a curious lack of emotions for a melodrama. It also feels rushed at times. The positive side to that though is that because it lacks common cinematic qualities, I think Sparkle seems authentic and offers an interesting glimpse at ghetto life in the 1950s. The acting is solid if slightly stilted early on, but the soundtrack is the real star. Curtis Mayfield, unsurprisingly, does terrific work. “Giving Him Something that He Can Feel” is a classic to this day.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Blood Simple (1984, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen) English 8

Starring Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, John Getz, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams

(8-Exceptional Film)

Suspenseful. Lean. Effective.

The debut feature film from the Coen Brothers about a cuckolded husband, Julian (Hedaya)  who hires a sleazy private detective, Lorren Visser (Walsh), to do his dirty work established them right from the start as masters of filmmaking. Though very inexpensive and sparse, Blood Simple works by relying on visual suspense, such as the brilliantly bloody sequence of one of the characters’ hands being impaled, but the entire film showcases their talent for tone, dark humor, and unforgettable violence.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989, Directed by Masami Hata and William Hurtz) English 7

Voices of Mickey Rooney, Rene Auberjonois, Gabriel Damon, Laura Mooney, Bernard Erhard

(7-Very Good Film)

Wondrous. Imaginative. Attractive.

A dark children’s fantasy adapted from Winsor McCay’s extraordinary comic strip, Little Nemo follows its titular hero, a precocious young boy with sleeping problems, who finds himself transported to the kingdom of Slumberland.  He’s meant to replace King Morpheus on the throne, but, after falling in with the mischievous Flip (Rooney), Nemo’s carelessness puts the whole kingdom in jeopardy. Beautiful animation and dubiously joyful music add a sense of wonder and menace to this lucid adventure. If you’re a fan of animation or Windsor McCay’s art Little Nemo offers plenty to marvel at, even if it is a little simple story-wise.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019, Directed by David Leitch) English 6

Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Eddie Marsan, Eiza González, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Hart, Helen Mirren

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(6-Good Film)

Ridiculous. Over-the-top. Fun.

Remember when the Fast and the Furious franchise was about stealing cars? At some point, the Fast and the Furious adventures merged with James bond-like sci-fi and end-of-the-world scenarios and, in my opinion, they’re all better for it. Hobbs and Shaw is a spinoff of the last Fast and the Furious with superhuman heroes Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Statham) teaming up to save the world despite not liking each other. They’ll have to put aside their antagonism in order to help Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Kirby), herself a British spy, who’s carrying a catastrophic virus that a mysterious agency known as Eteon is after. Idris Elba lends some gravitas to his fairly silly role as Brixton Lore, part-robotic villain and mercenary for Eteon. Hobbs and Shaw is clearly setting up its own franchise and I’m down with that. The leads were the best thing about the last Fast and the Furious film and carry that chemistry into this one. Physics fly out the window pretty fast in this movie (Hobbs somehow lassos a metal chain around a plane in midair) but once you let that go, you can have a pretty good time. The big issue for me is the over-use of CGI as opposed to stunt work which the director, David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) has shown a great talent for.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



Holmes and Watson (2018, Directed by Etan Cohen) English 4

Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Rebecca Hall, Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Ralph Fiennes, Kelly Macdonald, Pam Ferris, Hugh Laurie

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(4-Bad Film)

Crude. Ham-handed. Bomb.

Roger Ebert had a theory about comedies only working if the characters weren’t in on the joke. Michael Scott in The Office, for example, has no idea how ridiculous he is. This theory explains in part why Holmes and Watson, yet another take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, doesn’t work. The actors, including stars Will Ferell and John C. Reilly (hilarious together in Talledega Nights and Step-Brothers), are too aware of their punchlines. There’s a lot of mugging and hammering home each obvious line. The plot offers little to amend for the lack of wit as Holmes and Watson set out to catch a mysterious threat to the Queen posing as Moriarty. Not the worst movie ever made, but probably the worst Sherlock film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-