Cats (2019, Directed by Tom Hooper) English 4

Starring Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, Francesca Hayward, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Laurie Davidson, Ray Winstone, Robbie Fairchild

Cats review: The movie Cats doesn't even know what the musical is about -  Vox

(4-Bad Film)

Senseless. Unappealing. Puzzling.

Old Deuteronomy: [to Victoria] I believe you truly are a Jellicle cat, a dellicle cat.

Oscar-winning director, Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), brings Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical, Cats, to the big-screen with an A-list cast and the budget of a blockbuster epic. How did this go so wrong? As someone who has never seen Cats on stage, I admit that it’s unfair to judge it based on this universally-panned adaptation, but I couldn’t see any appeal in this material. A house cat, Victoria (Hayward), wanders out into the streets to find a strange world of cats, known as “Jellicles,” competing for the distinction of being named “the Jellicle Choice” at the annual “Jellicle Ball.” This amounts to a lot of random characters introducing themselves through song and dance. A lot of the blame and criticism went to Hooper, as the director (goes with the job), but what is Cats about? What is the point of this bizarre spectacle? The characters are hard to distinguish, the music is repetitive, and it’s one of the most nonsensical works I have ever seen.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,027)

Over the Moon (2020, Directed by Glen Keane) English 5

Voices of Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, John Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Cathy Ang, Margaret Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles

Netflix's 'Over the Moon' is an animated musical from Glen Keane - Insider

(5-Okay Film)

Pleasant. Diverting. Derivative.

Fei Fei: When she cries, her tears turn to stardust.

Fei Fei is a young Chinese girl whose mother died and is now upset to find her father (John Cho) remarried. Smitten with the tale of the moon goddess, Chang’e (Soo), that was told to her by her late mother, and eager to escape her home life that now involves a step-mother and brother, Fei Fei builds a rocket that will take her to the moon, where she can hopefully meet the goddess. Positives first: this is a nicely animated film with a culture we rarely see in American films. On top of that, a young girl dealing with the death of her mother and learning to love her new family is a good foundation for a film. I’m surprised, however, that no one seems to notice how similar Over the Moon is to the vastly superior film, Up. I don’t consider it a deadly sin for a movie to borrow from another, but it does lose a great deal of its power by not being fresh. Look at the broad strokes of both films: the main character is in mourning, builds a home-made aircraft, meets and gets disappointed by his/her idol, has an annoying stowaway, meets a friendly, overly chatty dog along the way. It’s blatant to me. This story and its elements aren’t as interesting the second time around.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,025)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009, Directed by David Yates) English 8

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - (500) Days of Summer - Death in  Love -- New York Magazine Movie Review - Nymag

(8-Exceptional Film)

Exciting. Intriguing. Satisfying.

Professor Minerva McGonagall: [to Harry, Ron, & Hermione] Why is it, when something happens, it is always you three?

After all that Harry’s done and been through, you would think his friends could give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought about this through most of The Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment, as Harry (Radcliffe) tries to warn anyone who will listen that Draco Malfoy is now a Death Eater and planning something. His warnings fall on deaf ears. Elsewhere, Harry deals with his blossoming feelings for Ron’s sister, Ginny, and is given the difficult task from Dumbledore (Gambon) of prying into Hogwart’s new Potions teacher, Professor Slughorn’s past. This is one of the most entertaining Harry Potter films with a healthy dose of humor, thanks in large part to Jim Broadbent’s Slughorn, and an abundance of romantic intrigue. I do wonder if certain plot points make sense to those who haven’t read the books. Certain elements feel rushed (it’s unavoidable having to condense such a lengthy novel into a film of reasonable length), but, overall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a job well-done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,023)

Bao (2018, Directed by Domee Shi) English 5

In need of some Christmas feels? You can watch Pixar's 'Bao ...

(5-Okay Film)

Bizarre. Original. Confusing.

Back in the summer of 2018, I eagerly went to see The Incredibles 2 the first opportunity I had. Anxiously, I ran into the theater 15 minutes late, hoping I hadn’t missed any of the movie. I hadn’t, but I did miss the first half of this insane Pixar short called Bao. If you’ve seen Bao, imagine only seeing the second half, and how confusing that would be. Rewatching it, or finally watching it in its entirety, I discovered it does actually make sense, though it’s still rather bizarre. A middle-aged Chinese woman living in Canada cooks dumplings and watches as one comes to life, which she in turn raises as her son. The years pass and the dumpling grows up and has its own life, causing hard feelings between the over-protective mother and her dumpling son. I spent so much time focusing on whether Bao would make sense or have a point (it does, on both counts) that I wasn’t able to enjoy the ride, if you will. It’s all very strange, from the animation to the story. Perhaps this demonstrates a lack of empathy on my part, but this isn’t my story, and a mother sad that her son is moving on didn’t resonate with me, at least, the way it’s told here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(998)

Ice Age: Collision Course (2016, Directed by Mike Thurmeier) English 5

Voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Adam Devine, Jessie J, Simon Pegg, Wanda Sykes, Nick Offerman, Seann William Scott, Max Greenfield, Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Strahan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jennifer Lopez

Ice Age Collision Course – Animated, Comedy, F, UncategorizedTexas ...

(5-Okay Film)

Stale. Mediocre. Uninteresting.

Buck: The mother of all asteroids, screaming towards us. But I got a plan! Who’s with me?

Ice Age is the epitome of milking a franchise until the well runs dry. After the first one, which was charming and felt fresh at the time, each inevitable sequel has been about the same basic quality; not painful, but mediocre. Instead of fresh new ideas, Ice Age returns each time with one or two new characters voiced by some celebrity earning an easy payday (how much did Jennifer Lopez get paid for her three lines in this movie?). This, the fifth installment, follows Manny, Sid, Diego, and company as their world around them collapses (didn’t this happen already? I forget). Meteors are coming. Their unconventional herd looks to Buck (Pegg) and his eccentric plan to save them.  It’s a pretty busy but nondescript 1hour and 20 minutes. Not a miserable time but not a good time either.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(984)

Son of the Mask (2005, Directed by Lawrence Guterman) English 2

Starring Jamie Kennedy, Traylor Howard, Alan Cumming, Bob Hoskins, Steven Wright, Kal Penn, Ben Stein, Magda Szubanski

Son of the Mask - Is Son of the Mask on Netflix - FlixList

(2-Atrocious Film)

Embarrassing. Painful. Vulgar.

Odin: There was a baby, born of The Mask!

Loki (Cumming), the trickster god born of Odin (Hoskins), Norse mythology’s All-father, created a mask designed to unleash havoc and sent it down to the humans. Somehow this mask ends up in the hands of Tim Avery (Kennedy), a struggling cartoonist. One night, after wearing the mask for the first time, Tim gets his wife, Tonya (Howard), pregnant, and the result is a baby boy, Alvie, with all the powers of the mask without having to wear it. Watching this movie made me appreciate Jim Carrey in a way I never had before. I’ve always been a fan but seeing him in The Mask after seeing this made me realize how good of a performance that was in addition to being funny. Son of the Mask is a miserable experience. There is not a worthwhile idea in the movie. The story and tone are crass and unpleasant; much too vulgar to be a kids’ film. Kennedy’s performance is embarrassing. His character is an idiot. His voice-acting while wearing the mask is annoying. None of the jokes are funny. I’d like to nominate the musical “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” sequence for the worst movie scene of all-time. There’s nothing anybody can do with this film but pile on. There are dozens of angry, hilarious rants about how unfunny this movie is and all I can do is agree.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(981)

Artemis Fowl (2020, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 4

Starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Judi Dench, Nonso Anozie, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Hong Chau, Nikesh Patel, Joshua McGuire

Artemis Fowl looks like Harry Potter with Men in Black's weaponry ...

(4-Bad Film)

Incomprehensible. Uninteresting. Poor.

Artemis Fowl: I’m the next criminal mastermind.

Having read each of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl novels many years ago, I recall joyously working my way through the self-proclaimed criminal mastermind’s adventures without remembering much of what happened from book to book. Therefore, I cannot summon explicit details to prove to you how different this Disney adaptation is from its source material. As unreliable as memory can be, I remain quite confident in this: the books were good. This film is bad. Artemis Fowl (12) is a local Irish genius devoted to his enigmatic father, Artemis Sr. (Farrell), who goes missing. Some masked antagonist kidnapped him. I didn’t understand the plot past these two points. Somehow this leads to the son searching for the hidden fairy world which leads to him kidnapping a fairy named Holly Short. I can count on one hand the number of films that I don’t understand but still like. Artemis Fowl is not one of them. I gave up trying to follow the plot pretty early and instead focused on the visual spectacle. That proved a meager venture in itself. The cast and crew of this film look good on paper. Disney provided a sizable budget to get this movie made, but the script, above all else, is terrible. Put this on a double bill with Eragon where it belongs.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(965)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 8

Starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Harry Davenport, Marjorie Main, Hugh Marlowe, June Lockhart

Meet Me in St. Louis” is always as cool as a cucumber | Cinefilia ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Endearing. Picturesque. Classic.

Esther Smith: I can’t believe it. Right here where we live – right here in St. Louis.

Like the March sisters of Little Women, the Smiths of Meet Me in St. Louis are a family to cherish. Made up of four daughters-led by Esther (Garland), the second oldest-a son, a loving mother (Astor), a stubborn but caring father (Ames), a spirited grandfather (Davenport), and a sassy maid (Main), the film follows the Smith family through one eventful year in their lives leading up to the famed World’s Fair of 1904. Everything about Meet Me in St. Louis inspires affection. The characters are wonderful. Garland is a star. The production, from the sets to the costumes to the vibrant technicolor, is astounding, and the music is timeless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(961)

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000, Directed by Mark Dindal) English 7

Voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton Wendie Malick, Tom Jones

Film - The Emperor's New Groove - Into Film

(7-Very Good Film)

Funny. Wacky. Small-scale.

Kuzco: D’oh! You threw off my groove!

Originally intended as an epic musical inspired by Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper, The Emperor’s New Groove turns out to be Disney’s first Warner Bros. cartoon. Bearing little resemblance to the hit Disney flicks preceding, it instead features the mischief, irreverence, slyness, and wacky physics of the old Looney Tunes shorts. Kuzco (Spade) is a selfish, tyrannical emperor turned into a llama by his advisor, Yzma (Kitt), in a failed attempt to kill him. Coming to his aid is Pacha (Goodman), despite Kuzco’s promise to build a summer house in place of the peasant’s family home. The Emperor’s New Groove is familiar drama and I can easily point out the comedic influences (again, it’s Looney Tunes), but the film still feels special. It’s an outlier in Disney’s canon. It’s also probably the funniest Disney feature with great voice work to thank for that.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(960)

Penelope (2006, Directed by Mark Palansky) English 6

Starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Nick Frost, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods, Reese Witherspoon, Burn Gorman, Russell Brand

Penelope - Movies on Google Play

(6-Good Film)

Agreeable. Light. Undercooked.

Penelope: They always run. Why can’t you accept that? For seven years I’ve been watching them run. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?

Fairy Tales are an ancient form of storytelling at this point and the idea of a romantic lead being cursed with animal features along with it. Disney reimagined and popularized fairy tales as wish-fulfillment, and now most modern fairy tales, including Penelope, owe more to Disney than they do to the Brothers Grimm or to Beaumont or to whomever else. Penelope is wish-fulfillment. A smart, wonderful girl, the titular Penelope (Ricci), wonders if any man could truly love her as she is, with a nose cursed to resemble a pig’s. The Beast in Disney’s classic not only looked like a beast but acted like one too, and he, of course, found love. I find it amusing that Penelope is virtually flawless aside from her nose and it’s a serious question as to whether or not she’ll find someone. Alas, this is a fantasy. The characters are broad, the reactions extreme. I like Penelope a good deal as entertainment, but find it wanting as a fairy tale. There’s not much depth to the story, whereas the great ones speak volumes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(950)