Beverly Hills Ninja (1997, Directed by Dennis Dugan) English 5

Starring Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Robin Shou, Nathaniel Parker, Will Sasso, Nicollette Sheridan, Soon-Tek Oh

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(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Affable. Unexciting.

The story goes that there will come a day that a Great White Ninja emerges and saves the day. Somewhere in Japan, at a temple, Haru (Farley) trains, hoping one day to fulfill that prophecy. When the chance come to prove himself by helping the beautiful Alison Page (Sheridan), Haru, in true Inspector Clouseau style, proves only that he’s a fool. This is a fairly likable comedy brimming with Farley’s kind persona, but fails to deliver the big laughs of its clear inspiration, The Pink Panther. I liked some of the supporting characters: Rock as the over-enthusiastic bellhop/ disciple and Robin Shou as Haru’s far more competent brother, Gobei (reminiscent of Fran├žois, going back to Pink Panther). The action sequences are all very dull, which is forgivable in a comedy if it’s laugh out loud funny. Beverly Hills Ninja is not laugh out loud funny.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(288)

 

Last Action Hero (1993, Directed by John McTiernan) English 7

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O’Brien, Charles Dance, Robert Prosky, Tom Noonan, F. Murray Abraham, Mercedes Ruehl, Anthony Quinn, Bridgette Wilson

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(7-Very Good Film)

Over-stuffed. Clever. Underrated.

Danny Madigan (O’Brien), is having a tough time in life. His father’s died, his neighborhood is rough, and he can’t seem to concentrate in school. His one escape is the movie theater, where he enjoys the action packed movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger (playing himself), and the company of Nick (Prosky), an older projectionist. One day at the theater, while watching Schwarzenegger’s latest, Jack Slater IV, Danny gets warped into the picture, and teams up with Jack Slater himself to take down the bad guys. Last Action Hero is action-packed, yes, but more amusingly, it’s packed with in-jokes, meta-humor, and cameos. Considered a dud at its release, I think action fans will love it. Schwarzenegger, as a character that knows he’s a character in a movie, is a blast. This is one of his best vehicles. The film blossoms from the question of what it is that brings people to the movies, specifically action flicks, and why they’re more meaningful than given credit for. As someone who escapes into movies similar to Danny, the film speaks to me.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(285)

 

Just Go With It (2011, Directed by Dennis Dugan) English 6

Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Kevin Nealon

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(6-Good Film)

Childish. Entertaining. Amusing.

Puerile remake of Cactus Flower (1969) it may be, Just Go With It nevertheless entertains as a light romantic comedy. Daniel Maccabee (Sandler), a wealthy plastic surgeon, is a middle aged player. He tells his conquests that he’s married as a ploy, but it comes back to bite him when he falls in love with the young, stunning Palmer (Decker). He responds with a half-baked idea involving his devoted assistant, Katherine Murphy (Aniston), her two kids, his best friend, Eddie (Swardson), and a trip to Hawaii. The hallmarks of an Adam Sandler movie have been consistent for twenty years now: affable leads, sweet and cutesy moments, absurd silliness. He hasn’t made an outright hilarious movie in a long time. Every once and a while, he can still make an enjoyable film like Just Go With It, that benefits from its two stars chemistry (something that was missing from Cactus Flower despite that film’s superior quality), and the appealing location.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(282)

Kung Fu Panda (2008, Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson) English 8

Voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Bright. Exciting. Appealing.

Kung Fu Panda is one of Dreamwork’s best films. If you’ve fantasized about being a great ninja warrior, Kung Fu Panda is all the more appealing. It follows the unlikely hero, Po (a panda voiced by Jack Black), as he attempts to fulfill the prophecy that announced him (overweight and out of shape) as the dragon warrior of legend, destined to defeat the fearsome Tai Lung (a snow leopard). The animation is inventive and vivid, and the vocal performances, especially among the leads-Black, Hoffman, and McShane-are first-rate. At times, Dreamworks delivers big name casts at the expense of character building, but here the cast do great work.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(275)

Jack and Jill (2011, Directe by Dennis Dugan) English 4

Starring Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, David Spade, Tim Meadows, Eugenio Derbez

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(4-Bad Film)

Annoying. Hack. Inexplicable.

Adam Sandler plays Jack Sadelstein, a wealthy, accomplished advertisement executive, and unfortunately for comedy, he also plays Jill Sadelstein, Jack’s annoying, obnoxious, twin sibling visiting for the holiday season. Sandler’s Jill makes me appreciate the greatness of the late John Candy, who had a knack for playing annoying characters, but gave them depth and made them redeemable. Jill makes you want to turn off the movie. I’m not one of Sandler’s critics. I enjoy a solid portion of his filmography. Even this film, as bad as it is, isn’t quite as horrible as its reputation. I laughed something like once every 25th joke, but I did laugh. Al Pacino’s supporting performance as himself elevates the entire movie a full letter grade in my book. Pacino hasn’t done many comedies. He goes for it in this film, and is genuinely funny. I admire his full speed ahead turn despite his dismal surroundings. It’s bizarrely wonderful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(272)

 

 

 

Green Book (2018, Directed by Peter Farrelly) English 7

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, P.J Byrne, Iqbal Theba, Tom Virtue

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(7-Very Good Film)

Likable. Winning. Appealing.

I resist the best I can the sort of made-to-be-inspiring , “based on a true story,” flicks that the Oscars and other award shows love. Everyone once in a while a film such as Green Book slips past my defenses. It stars Viggo Mortensen as a bit of a meathead bouncer, Tony Lip, a New York Italian, who becomes a bodyguard/ driver for black pianist Don Shirley (Ali), making a tour across America’s deep south. The humor comes fast and frequent. Mortensen, impressive in a rare comedic role, makes Tony Lip, a caricaturesque personality, human and likable, while Ali shows a deep sense of dignity in his portrayal of Don Shirley at all times. The film is a blast because of its leads. You can complain about historical accuracy or contrived Hollywood happy endings, or whatever, but this is a film that you’ll enjoy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(271)

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018, Directed by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston) English 5

Voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Bill Hader, Alan Tudyk, Taraji P. Henson, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Jane lynch\

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(5-Okay Film)

Dragging. Flat. Creative.

There are some nice ideas in Ralph Breaks the Internet, sequel to 2012’s Wreck-it-Ralph. It explores friendship, insecurity, and visually articulates what it might look like inside the internet in an appealing way. However, for all of its cleverness, there aren’t many laughs to be found, and the story never pulled me in completely at any point. This new Ralph resembles Homer’s Odyssey in structure: kind of wandering, with no apparent villain, and slow to reach its point. I was slightly bored for much of the running time. The plot is rather simple: Vanellope (Silverman) and the gang at Sugar Rush are in danger of becoming homeless as their game is close to being shut down. Their only hope is that the arcade set gets a new wheel to replace the broken one, so the game can go on, and the only way to get a new wheel is for Ralph and Vanellope to enter the internet and find one. There’s not a lack of action. Plenty happens. The animation is vibrant. I just never truly cared.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(251)