The Parent Trap (1998, Directed by Nancy Meyers) English 8

Starring Lindsey Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Lisa Ann Walter, Elaine Hendrix, Simon Kunz

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Lovely. Charming. Light.

Annie from London and Hallie from California (both played by Lindsey Lohan) meet at a summer camp in Maine and realize (rather slowly) that they are identical twins. One is raised by their dad, Nick Parker (Quaid) and the other by their mom, Elizabeth James (Richardson). Having never met half of their parentage, the two decide to switch places with the ultimate idea of getting their parents back together. Unfortunately, a beautiful gold digger, Meredith (Hendrix), has her hooks in their dad. Lohan pulls the trick off nicely, creating distinct personalities for both characters, and Quaid and Richardson do a nice job as the parents, making us care about them ending up together right along with their screen daughters. Writer/Director Meyers has a deft touch with light comedies. Fantastic family romantic comedy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Vikings (1958, Directed by Richard Fleischer) English 8

Starring Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Janet Leigh, Ernest Borgnine, Frank Thring, James Donald, Alexander Knox, Orson Welles (narrator)

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Spectacular. Exciting. Engrossing.

The Vikings seems influenced more by comic strips and pulp novels than actual history but that’s certainly not a complaint; not from me. Set around the 9th century, a group of plundering Vikings, led by Ragnar (Borgnine), and his handsome but vain son, Einar (Douglas), prepare to invade England. Tony Curtis plays Eric, a slave with a mysterious but powerful origin, and Janet Leigh plays English princess, Morgana, the object of the male leads’ desire. Beautifully, vibrantly photographed by Jack Cardiff, The Vikings is a spirited adventure film with many surprises and a corny but appealing romance. Douglas and Borgnine relish their scene-chewing roles, while Curtis and Leigh ground the picture and have great chemistry.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Pulp Fiction (1994, Directed by Quentin Tarantino) English 8

Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer

(8-Exceptional Film)

Iconic. Inventive. Wild.

Two hitmen discuss fast food on the way to a hit. A gangster’s wife overdoses on heroin. A boxer double-crosses a fix. A lowlife couple rob diners. Episodic to great effect, the film’s a true original. Following Reservoir Dogs, the film that put Tarantino on the map, Pulp Fiction was the egocentric but brilliant filmmaker’s ascension. Samuel L. Jackson, in particular, stands out to me, and his delivery of the movie’s final monologue might be a career-best for him. If I feel the movie falls short of being a true masterpiece, it’s simply that it never touches on any substantial themes or ideas. Nevertheless, Pulp Fiction is ultraviolent, stylish, and odd. It’s 2 and 1/2 hours unfolding in unforgettable fashion.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Little Match Girl (2006, Directed by Roger Allers) English 10

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Consummate. Moving. Beautiful.

Based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen (how many great Disney films has he inspired?), this short follows a young orphan girl as she looks to sell matches from her box for money to live on. Later that night, having not sold any, she strikes up all the matches to find their warmth replay the best memories of her life, and she’s able to sink off into a world of fantasy as life leaves her body. This is an incredibly sad story, all the more so since it eschews the traditional Disney fairy tale ending. It’s beautifully animated and moving. The perfect short.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Book Club (2018, Directed by Bill Holderman) English 5

Starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss, Wallace Shawn, Alicia Silverstone, Don Johnson

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(5-Okay Film)

Appealing. Predictable. Mediocre.

Four women-widowed Diane (Keaton), promiscuous Vivian (Fonda), married Carol (Steenburgen), and successful, but lonely Sharon (Bergen)-  contemplate love, romance, and aging as they read 50 Shades of Grey for their monthly book club. At the same time, some dramatic changes affect their lives. Diane moves to Arizona to be closer to her kids and meets a suave pilot (Garcia). Vivian reunites with the man who got away (Johnson). Carol attempts to spice up her marriage, to no avail, and Sharon tries online dating, reluctantly. I doubt that I’m what you’d call the target audience for this, but I’ve seen my share of chick-flicks. This is an alright one. Not too dull, nor exceptionally witty, it probably checks all the boxes for its focus group. I found Bergen’s character the funniest and most appealing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Bait (1954, Directed by Hugo Haas) English 7

Starring Hugo Haas, John Agar, Cleo Moore, Cedric Hardwicke, Emmett Lynn, Jan Englund

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(7-Very Good Film)

Sly. Bleak. Suspenseful.

Foreign-born, middle-aged Marko (Haas, director and star) has spent most of his adult life mining for gold. Well, more accurately, he’s spent most of his adult life looking for a gold mine he found when he was young, then lost almost immediately due to some extremely bad luck. At the start of this film, it’s been twenty years since Marko first found that mine, but he hasn’t given up. The rest of the town thinks he’s crazy, except for amiable Ray Brighton (Agar) who joins in the search and puts in with expenses. When the two men finally hit pay dirt and rediscover the gold, Marko decides he doesn’t want to share. His plan is simple but seems like a long-shot. He marries a woman in town, Peggy (Moore), with a bad reputation in order to dangle her in front of his unwanted partner. Hoping to catch the two in flagrante so that he can kill them both and get off on “the unwritten rule” of old-school law, Marko plots and prods over the course of a long winter with the three characters snowed into their lodge. Bait spells out its premise through Marko’s narration, which is unnecessary, in my opinion. I would have preferred to figure out Marko’s devious plot myself. I also didn’t see much point to the bizarre opening calling on “the devil” to introduce the story, as amusing as it was. Otherwise, the film, in only 79 minutes of running time, is very effective and efficient storytelling; an engaging noir.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Get a Horse! (2013, Directed by Lauren MacMullen) English 6

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(6-Good Film)

Nostalgic. Zany. Fast.

Attempting to update a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon for modern times, this short starts off with Mickey in a quintessential premise. The big bully, Pete, is after Mickey’s girl, Minnie, and it’s up to Disney’s greatest creation to save her. Complicating matters, and putting a new spin on the material, is the breaking of the fourth wall, almost literally. Mickey breaks through the theater screen and becomes a three-dimensional figure. The short then sees Mickey using the fourth wall and his bag of tricks to stop Pete. Much of the short is clearly designed to show off the then-booming trend of 3-D. Thankfully, the film avoids being outright gimmicky. It’s a solid piece of animation, though Mickey looks a whole lot better in 2-D.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-