Swiss Army Man (2016, Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) English 5

Starring Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Timothy Eulich, Andy Hull

(5-Okay Film)

Strange. Eccentric. Tiresome.

A man (Dano) stranded on an island finds a chance at escape when a dead body washes up on shore (Radcliffe). To his amazement, this dead body possesses all kinds of extraordinary abilities including flatulence that can act as jet propulsion, for example. It’s an extremely strange and quirky picture which naturally makes it an indie darling. I give it all the points in the world for originality, plus the two leads perform the hell out of it, but I was turned off from the jump, and found myself shaking my head in bemusement for much of the film’s remainder.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Sister Act (1992, Directed by Emile Ardolino) English 6

Starring Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Najimi, Bill Nunn, Mary Wickes, Wendy Makkena, Jim Beaver, Jennifer Lewis

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(6-Good Film)

Enjoyable. Silly. Fresh.

Whoopi Goldberg in a habit was apparently enough to pack them in the theater back in 1992, and it’s enough to pass the time closing in on thirty years later. She plays a Reno lounge singer named Dolores who sees her gangster boyfriend, Vince LaRocca (Keitel), murder a man, and must go into the witness protection program after deciding to help the police put him away. They put her in a convent in inner-city San Francisco led by the old-fashioned Reverend Mother (Smith) and your classic fish-out-of-water comedy begins. Sister Act is light on laughs for me but makes up for it with charm and a host of appealing characters. Whoopi, of course, leads the way but the supporting cast is wonderful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Bye Bye Birdie (1963, Directed by George Sidney) English 7

Starring Ann-Margret, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde, Janet Leigh, Ed Sullivan, Jesse Pearson, Maureen Stapleton

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(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Satirical. Memorable.

Inspired by the national obsession with Elvis at the time, Bye Bye Birdie goes from stage to film, adapting its story about a teen idol named Conrad Birdie (Pearson) who gets drafted into the military. His almost psychotic fan base made up of young women is devastated but so is Albert Peterson (Van Dyke), a struggling songwriter whose breakthrough in selling a song is undone by the news. Albert’s loyal girlfriend, Rosie (Leigh), concocts a scheme that might turn things around for him though. Birdie will perform a final time on The Ed Sullivan Show, before kissing one lucky fan, Kim (Margret). Maybe Conrad will sing Albert’s song after all. I didn’t fully understand how Rosie’s scheme came together. She seemed to have better connections than makes sense. I also felt the director or the producers maybe had a massive crush on Ann-Margret. It’s understandable but hurt the overall film to a degree. She’s excellent in her role and a star but so are Van Dyke and Janet Leigh who get short-changed. Besides, by focusing so much on her, the story which should really be an ensemble show becomes too episodic. That doesn’t stop it from being entertaining. There are a number of great scenes and musical numbers in Bye Bye Birdie. Conrad Birdie’s “Honestly Sincere” is my favorite. All in all, it’s a top-notch show.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016, Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni) English 5

Voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J.K Simmons, Bryan Cranston, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Kate Hudson, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim, Jean-Claude Van Damme

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(5-Okay Film)

Amiable. Attractive. Worn.

The third installment in the saga following the legendary dragon warrior, Po (voiced by Black) features more backstory as we meet his father (Cranston) and an entire Panda community. Meanwhile, an undead warrior, Kai (Simmons) returns to wreak havoc and establish himself  as the ultimate kung fu master. Like its predecessors, it goes down easily enough, and some of the diverse animation is spectacular, but the substance isn’t there. There’s nothing very compelling pushing the story forward and the humor isn’t there. It relies too heavily on the cuteness factor of the new panda characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Cover Girl (1944, Directed by Charles Vidor) English 6

Starring Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Otto Kruger, Eve Arden, Lee Bowman, Jess Barker

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(6-Good Film)

Grand. Skilled. Lacking.

Chorus girl, Rusty Parker (Hayworth), has a decent job and a boyfriend, Danny McGuire (Kelly), she loves dearly but can’t help but aspire for more. An opportunity to pose for Vanity magazine comes her way and she makes the most of it, but her newfound success puts a strain on her relationship with Danny. Like most if not all of the old, classic Hollywood musicals, this is a well-crafted, staged, and performed picture. The technicolor cinematography is bright and appealing and there are a number of inspired musical numbers. The story, on the other hand, is less inspired. Most romantic musicals are hackneyed to some degree but there’s not enough happening in Cover Girl that’s compelling. Danny and Rusty already love each other at the start of the film so they’re kind of boring as the story moves on.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Nine Months (1995, Directed by Chris Columbus) English 5

Starring Hugh Grant, Julianne Moore, Robin Williams, Tom Arnold, Joan Cusack, Jeff Goldblum

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(5-Okay Film)

Mediocre. Overbearing. Manic.

Surprise! Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore are going to have a baby. The problem is Grant’s not sure he wants to be a father or even a husband for that matter. Written and directed by Chris Columbus, who worked a number of times with the great John Hughes, seems to strive for the latter’s ability to take mundane, middle-class situations and mine them for comedy. The zaniness, slightly over-the-top acting, annoying side characters, and eventual sentimentality are all hallmarks of Hughes’ work, so the ideas behind this romantic comedy could have worked. They just don’t. The jokes largely fall flat. The performances are overdone even for a comedy, and the annoying side characters are just annoying. Julianne Moore does a lovely job as the stoic centerpiece, but the film loses believability with its remaining cast, as talented as the actors are, and I would have greatly appreciated more Goldblum.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Artists and Models (1955, Directed by Frank Tashlin) English 7

Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine, Dorothy Malone, Eva Gabor, Anita Ekberg

(7-Very Good Film)

Colorful. Zany. Fun.

Colorful, manic collaboration between Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, this musical comedy marks the pair’s 14th film together. Martin plays a struggling comic artist who uses the dreams of his hapless roommate for material. Madness and romance ensue. I personally preferred Martin’s smooth crooning to Lewis’ over the top wackiness but Artists and Models is consistently fun and entertaining. Lots of beautiful women including Dorothy Malone and Shirley Maclaine is a plus.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-