Punch-Drunk Love (2002, Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) English 9

Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman

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(9-Great Film)

Idiosyncratic. Appealing. Frenetic.

An implosive and lonely bathroom supply salesman, Barry (Sandler), constantly bullied by his seven sisters, finds love when he meets one of those sister’s coworker, Lena (Watson). It’s probably too strange for the mainstream, and some might find its peculiar soundtrack grating, but this is a great movie. The movement, that soundtrack, and the suspense of watching an always on-edge Sandler give the film a sense of energy and a tone sustained to the end. I think it’s the best depiction of the anxiety and desperation that can sometimes come with love.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Luck of the Irish (1948, Directed by Henry Koster) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Anne Baxter, Cecil Kellaway, Lee J. Cobb, Jayne Meadows

Image result for the luck of the irish 1948(6-Good Film)

Light. Whimsical. Enjoyable.

Stephen Fitzgerald (Power), an uptight newspaper journalist, takes a trip with a friend to Ireland and meets a leprechaun named Horace (Kellaway). Rather than take all the creature’s gold as he’s entitled to do, he continues on his merry way, and Horace, out of gratitude sets about repaying him, though his form of help is often more trouble than it’s worth. Anne Baxter stars as a local beauty Fitzgerald meets while in Ireland. A whimsical romantic comedy that’s very well-written and acted. I can’t tell if the Irish accents done by both the American Baxter and the South African Kellaway are done right or not so that never factored in for me.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Gosford Park (2000, Directed by Robert Altman) English 10

Starring Clive Owen, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Richard E. Grant, Kristen Scott Thomas, Charles Dance, Kelly Macdonald, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi

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Intricate. Masterful. Witty.

It’s 1930’s England. Sir William McCordle is throwing together a hunting party and the list of invitees include friends and enemies alike, though there’s little distinction between the two in his case. Soon he is dead, and we’re left with a good old fashioned whodunit, but this is a Robert Altman film, so it’s a little bit more. Full of amusing characters (Maggie Smith’s subtly insulting dame, chief among them). Filled to the brim with secrets. This is an odd whodunit where none of the characters in the film actually care who killed the victim, and a murder mystery film that invites multiple viewings and improves with time. Written by Julian Fellowes who went on to great heights with Downton Abbey, another take on the upstairs-downstairs dynamic of Old English life.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


About a Boy (2002, Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz) English 8

Starring Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, Natalia Tena, Sharon Small

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Endearing. Witty. Appealing.

Hugh Grant mixes both sides of his persona (the cad and the charming leading man) in his role as Will Freeman, a selfish, childless, responsibility-free adult who gets mixed up with a beleaguered preteen boy, Marcus Brewer (Hoult), and gradually begins to care for him. About a Boy, based on a novel by Nick Hornby, is awfully sentimental, but so consistently witty that it never becomes overbearing. Grant and Hoult, as well as their costars, are excellent and the filmmaking team of brothers Chris and Paul Weitz demonstrate an abundance of style.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Strictly Ballroom (1992, Directed by Baz Luhrmann) English 8

Starring Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Barry Otto, Sonia Kruger, Gia Carides

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Vivacious. Uplifting. Fun.

Aussie dance flick from the director of Moulin Rouge (2001), this flamboyant musical follows Scott Hastings (Mercurio) as he goes for Gold in the form of the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix dance competition. His longtime dance partner and girlfriend has left him, leaving him to team up with the shy, frumpy Fran (Morice) in order to achieve his dream. It’s a very fun film. The musicĀ and dancing areĀ great and, the hyperkinetic style of editing, which is initially jarring, settles in eventually.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Definitely, Maybe (2008, Directed by Adam Brooks) English 8

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz, Elizabeth Banks, Derek Luke, Abigail Breslin, Kevin Kline

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Intriguing. Likable. Fresh.

Maya Hayes (Breslin) demands that her father (Reynolds) tell her the story of how he and her mother fell in love. He tells her the story, but includes two other romances in his life and changes the names so she doesn’t know which one ends up being her mother. As Maya puts it, it’s like a romantic mystery. Great or even very good romantic comedies are few and far between. It’s rare that I see one that is actually romantic and funny. Definitely, Maybe succeeds on both counts. The mystery element in the film is interesting, and, ultimately, you want him to end up with the person he ends up with (and isn’t that all that matters). Granted, it’s a little far-fetched that he would be telling a lot that happens to his 12-year-old daughter, but besides that, the film is smart, well-acted, and well-written.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Paranorman (2012, Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell) English 7

Voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garland

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(7-Very Good Film)

Impressive. Fun. Anticlimactic.

Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is an odd little boy. He can see and talk with ghosts, and since no one in his small town of Blithe Hollow believes him, Norman is looked at as a bit of a freak. A reckoning from beyond the grave is coming, however, and Norman is the only one with the power to stop it, with some help from his friends. The combination of stop-motion and computer animation is stunning. It’s a beautiful film and there’s a lot of humor and great detail in the animation. The story, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. The finale is a bit of a let down; not delivering on scares or thrills. Paranorman was set up to be something of an homage to the Goonies but eschews adventure about midway through, and instead becomes more about hijinks and physical humor.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-