Bumblebee (2018, Directed by Travis Knight) English 7

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, John Ortiz Voices of Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Dylan O’Brien

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(7-Very Good Film)

Nostalgic. Fun. Spirited.

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s possible that I’ve never been more surprised to find myself enjoying a movie, as I did with Bumblebee, the newest installment of the Transformers series, a franchise I’d long since stopped caring about. Set in the 1980s, a source of much fun for the film, Charlie Watson (played wonderfully by the engaging Steinfeld) is still grieving the death of her father when young autobot, B-127, enters her life. B-127’s mission is to scout out Earth for the Autobots as they attempt to regroup and fight back against the evil Decepticons. I don’t especially care about the grand plot involving the Transformers. Fortunately, this film plays more like an ’80s monster friendship comedy. Think E.T or Little Monster or even ’90s classic The Iron Giant. Bumblebee belongs in their company. It’s a fantastic flick, directed by Travis Knight, who’d previously worked in animation for Laika studios.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(228)

 

Aquaman (2018, Directed by James Wan) English 4

Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

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(4-Bad Film)

Colorful. Dumb. Senseless.

“Not Orm. Ocean Master” So says Patrick Wilson’s character, the villain of the piece. The general consensus about Aquaman seems to be that it’s “cheesy fun.” I love cheesy fun movies. Remember I liked Venom. Aquaman is bad. I can’t get over the fact that it’s about grown men riding on dolphins. It’s so dumb. Jason Momoa gets his first solo adventure following the woeful Justice League, as the titular hero, Aquaman. He can dwell on land or in water (not unlike a turtle), and can communicate with sea creatures. In the secret underwater world of Atlantis, his half-brother, the evil Orm, later “Ocean Master” (eye roll) plots an attack on land dwellers. Arthur teams up with Princess Mera to find the trident from Little Mermaid that will prove he’s the rightful king of Atlantis. I became bored of this fairly early on, and never recovered. There are moments of vibrant color (not unlike a child’s artwork), but many more of poor jokes, and pseudo-serious lines of villainy. James Wan has made so many good films before this-The Conjuring, Fast and the Furious 7- Aquaman doesn’t belong with those movies. The opening resembles 1984’s Splash minus Tom Hanks, and who wants that?

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(201)

Back to the Future (1985, Directed by Robert Zemeckis) English 9

Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson

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(9-Great Film)

Wacky. Imaginative. Fun.

Life for the McFly family is a disappointment. The only one that seems to still have a chance is Marty (Fox), the youngest son. He gets roped into his genius inventor friend, Doc Brown’s scheme that involves time travel, and ends up stuck in the year 1955; the year his father and mother are supposed to fall in love. However, film time travel rules (written in pop-culture stone with Back to the Future) dictates that if you change one thing in history, you alter the future completely. After Marty interferes with his parents first encounter, he races to get them together, or else he’ll disappear, while searching forĀ  a way to get back to his own time. Complicating matters, his mom has a crush on him. One of the great popcorn flicks, and one of the first films to come to mind when you think of the word fun. Inventive, not only visually (which date, as all special effects do), but in its storytelling as well, which makes it as enjoyable today as ever.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(181)

Sherlock Holmes (2009, Directed by Guy Ritchie) English 6

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Geraldine James, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Fox

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(7- Very Good Film)

Fun. Fresh. Intriguing.

Solutions are never as fun as the setups in Sherlock Holmes’ stories. Like magic tricks, once explained, the tricks lose most of their interest. That’s the case once again, here, in Guy Ritchie’s take on the Sherlock Holmes series with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. That being said, this is an excellent Holmes’ adventure and the reveal is about the only disappointment. I had low expectations when this film first came out. A frenetic, action-packed Holmes’ movie sounded hack, but I was proven wrong. It’s a fresh take that does have trumped up action sequences but not at the expense of Sherlock’s deductive skills, witty banter, or the storied bromance between the hero and his best friend, Watson. Downey Jr. and Jude Law are both excellent in their respective roles, and the premise is an intriguing one. A captured cult leader is executed, but appears to have returned from the dead. Very entertaining film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(168)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, Directed by George Miller) English 9

Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Hugh Keays-Byrne

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(9-Great Film)

Hyperkinetic. Visionary. Exciting.

Mad Max returns after several decades hiatus, this time with Tom Hardy taking over from a Mel Gibson, who at this point was still very much in the doghouse. Max reluctantly joins Furiosa (Theron), who’s helping a group of women escape their lives as concubines to cult of personality, Immortan Joe. Paced and filmed like a comic book, or perhaps like an old road runner cartoon, Fury Road is a complete original. I love every Mad Max film, even Thunderdome, and this is one of the best. I will always wish that Mel Gibson was in this, but Tom Hardy fills in admirably. Theron and the horde of strong women are the real stars though.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(163)

Mortal Engines (2018, Directed by Christian Rivers) English 6

Starring Robert Sheehan, Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang

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(6-Good Film)

Uninspired. Entertaining. Solid.

Alas, this is not a live-action remake of Howl’s Moving Castle, but, thankfully, it’s not a complete waste of time as I once feared either. In fact, I was reasonably entertained for most of the film. Mortal Engines, based on a YA science fiction novel, is set in a post-apocalyptic, steam punk world, where cities have been motorized. The two main characters are thrust together once Tom (Sheehan), a bright young historian, living in mechanized London, stops Hester Shaw (a mysterious young girl on a mission of revenge) from assassinating Thaddeus Valentine (Weaving), something of a leader in this new world. The plot is a bit simple and easy to drift off from, but the special effects are solid and the actors are solid. There’s nothing exceptional about the film, but nothing terrible either. I enjoyed it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(153)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011, Directed by Guy Ritchie) English 7

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan

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(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Stylish. Fun.

Robert Downey Jr. returns to his other film franchise along with Jude Law as the famed detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his loyal partner, Dr. Watson, respectively. This time around, it’s 1891, and Sherlock is facing his greatest nemesis, the equally brilliant, villainous, Professor Moriarty (played to sinister perfection by Jared Harris). It’s an impressive accomplishment that for all this film’s action and noise, it does one of the best jobs of any Sherlock film to convincingly portray not just its protagonist but Moriarty as a genius. That’s a credit to both Downey Jr. and Harris. The action sequences are elaborate and bombastic, which I never thought would work with Sherlock Holmes. The first film showed me otherwise, and this sequel’s better.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(136)