Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019, Directed by Rob Letterman) English 6

Starring Justice Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Kathryn Newton, Rita Ora, Omar Chaparro, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Suki Waterhouse

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(6-Good Film)

Engaging. Lively. Loud.

Tim Goodman (Smith) lives a quiet, dull existence as an insurance salesman in a world where millions of Pokémon roam. After the death of his police detective father, Tim travels to Ryme City for some closure, but stumbles into a conspiracy and meets his father’s Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds). The two find that they can understand each other, and reluctantly team up to get to the bottom of what happened to Tim’s father. The first thing going for this film, surprisingly the first live-action adaptation of the Pokémon franchise, is the first-rate design of its fantastic creatures. Pikachu is wonderfully brought to life. Consider what we’ve seen of Sonic in his upcoming film, and rejoice at the work of these animators. Ryan Reynolds brings a joke-a-second energy to the role and though only a small percentage of them land in my view, it keeps the proceedings fun. The plot isn’t as grand or deep as the best mystery films, and its solutions are easy and obvious, but I love noir and the premise is good enough and executed well enough to make Detective Pikachu worthy entertainment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Good Dinosaur (2015, Directed by Peter Sohn) English 5

Voices of Raymond Ochoa, Sam Elliot, Anna Paquin, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, John Ratzenberger, Jeffrey Wright

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(5-Okay Film)

Disappointing. Dull. Subpar.

In an alternate history, where the dinosaurs weren’t wiped out by a meteor, a young Apatosaurus named Arlo, with a fear of seemingly everything, gets whisked away from his family after chasing a young human child. The two eventually become close over the course of their journey to return home. For Pixar, the groundbreaking 3D animation studio that is constantly innovating, this effort, The Good Dinosaur is so substandard. True, their standard is so much higher than their competition, and perhaps because of this, I’m being unfair to what is a decent enough picture. For large stretches though, I was bored, and there was never a point where I was excited. A handful of nice ideas and typically stellar animation (though the character designs aren’t satisfying) make The Good Dinosaur watchable. Ice Age dealt with a similar premise and is more appealing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Mrs. Doubtfire (1993, Directed by Chris Columbus) English 7

Starring Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Mara Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, Matthew Lawrence

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(7-Very Good Film)

Sentimental. Funny. Endearing.

After his divorce, irresponsible, relatively unemployed actor, Daniel Hillard (Williams), poses as an elderly British nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire  in order to spend more time with his three kids. Sitcommy sure, overly sentimental maybe, but it turns out to be a perfect vehicle for Robin Williams. Funny and sweet, with a touch of real sadness.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Secret Life of Pets (2016, Directed by Chris Renaud) English 5

Voices of Louis C.K, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Hannibal Burress, Steve Coogan, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks

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(5-Okay Film)

Unisnpired. Derivative. Pleasant.

Beloved, spoiled dog Max (C.K) has a rude awakening when his owner brings home, Duke (Stonestreet), a monstrous dog that he’s asked to see as his brother. The two don’t get along, and this leads to them being lost in New York City for a crazy ninety-minute adventure. The creative staff at animation studio, Illumination, certainly don’t over-exert themselves. On the positive side, they consistently deliver movies that are generally pleasing with enough jokes to pass the time and a whole lot of mass appeal. On the other hand, they’re not aspiring for much. The voice work is super solid. The animation is bright and appealing. There’s just nothing special about this movie. Plus, it’s a blatant ripoff of the first Toy Story.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Paddington 2 (2018, Directed by Paul King) English 7

Starring Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Grant, Julie Walters, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Conti, Jim Broadbent Voices of Ben Whishaw, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon

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(7-Very Good Film)

Clever. Inventive. Fantastic.

After the Brown family takes him in in the first film, Paddington (Whishaw) returns, and this time he finds himself imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. While the Brown family desperately seek to prove him innocent, Paddington melts the hearts of the rough and violent inmates including Knuckles McGinty (Gleeson). Hugh Grant plays the faded star of theater, Phoenix Buchanan, and is the biggest reason this outing is even better than the wonderful first film. Every shot is elaborately crafted (reminiscent of a Wes Anderson feature). The characters, even the nasty ones, are given their moments and come off charming. Possibly the most inventive live-action family film since the Babe pictures in the ’90s.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Iron Giant (1999, Directed by Brad Bird) English 6

Voices of Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., John Mahoney, Christopher McDonald, Cloris Leachman, Eli Marienthal

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(6-Good Film)

Nostalgic. Moving. Intelligent.

“You are who you choose to be,” Hogarth tells the iron giant. It’s a strong message and theme of this film as Hogarth (Marienthal), a young adventurous boy, living through the Cold War in 1957 Maine, stumbles upon an otherworldly being made of iron that consumes metal. Oddly enough, the “iron giant” comes in peace, and Hogarth sets about hiding him from the small town’s citizens and the sinister Kent Mansley (McDonald), a government agent sent to investigate some strange happenings. Hogarth gains the help of the town’s scrap metal artist and beatnik Dean (Connick Jr.), but how long can they hide a fifty-foot metal man? The animation, the voice acting, the writing are first-rate, and the central idea that you can rise above your nature, or that you’re defined by what you do and not how you look, are mature and weighty themes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Freaky Friday (2003, Directed by Mark Waters) English 6

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Chad Michael Murray, Harold Gould, Stephen Tobolowsky

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(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Light. Amusing.

Another remake of a Disney classic starring Lindsay Lohan (after The Parent Trap), Freaky Friday teams her with Jamie Lee Curtis, playing her mother, as the two just can’t seem to see eye to eye. A bit of magic done at a Chinese restaurant has the two waking up in the other’s body. The two stars handle the trick nicely-Lohan as a middle-aged mom and Curtis as an emotional teenage girl-and the screenplay manages a degree of drama and sentimentality that moves it beyond a one-joke movie. Freaky Friday is a good, funny, entertaining film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-