Red Sonja (1985, Directed by Richard Fleischer) English 6

Starring Brigitte Nielsen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ernie Reyes Jr., Paul L. Smith, Sandahl Bergman

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(6-Good Film)

Clumsy. Silly. Extravagant.

The great Schwarzenegger declared that Red Sonja is, “the worst film I have ever made.” Critics mostly agreed. I’ll concede some of their points. The acting is wooden. The dialogue reminds me of bad fanfiction, and yet, I would watch Red Sonja 100 times before sitting through Amour ever again. This tale follows the eponymous character (Nielsen) as she sets out on a quest to rid the world of the mystical Talisman and the evil tyrant, Queen Gedren (Bergman), who wields it. Along the way, she bands together with Lord Kalidor (Schwarzenegger), a mouthy child-prince named Tam (Reyes Jr.), and the Prince’s last faithful servant, Falkor (Smith). These actors weren’t chosen for their line-reading ability. They were chosen for their looks, and, on that end, Nielsen and Schwarzenegger are quite memorable. Nielsen with her flowing red hair and Schwarzenegger in his prime, impossibly buff form. This is a visual movie. Plenty of outlandish costumes and stunning colors. It’s also extremely entertaining.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Dinosaur (2000, Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton) English 6

Voices of D.B Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, Ossie Davis, Alfre Woodard, Joan Plowright, Della Reese

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(6-Good Film)

Compelling. Minor. Aged.

A meteor crashing down causes all types of displaced dinosaurs to band together in order to find a new home. Aladar, an Iguanodon raised by Lemurs, does his best to help the weaker ones make it as the brutish leader, Kron, practices survival of the fittest. The plot is very simple (some might even say thin), but I find it enjoyable. The characters are strongly defined and the voice work is excellent. Known mostly as a technical marvel when first released, the special effects have naturally aged, but well enough. It’s minor-league Disney but still very enjoyable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Howard the Duck (1986, Directed by Willard Huyck) English 4

Starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, David Paymer, Holly Robinson, Paul Guilfoyle

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(4-Bad Film)

Inane. Unpleasant. Unfunny.

Beverly says it best, “Howard, you really are the worst.” I don’t know a thing about Marvel’s comic book series from which this movie was made, but as voiced by Chip Zien and portrayed in this film, Howard has to be one of the least charming heroes of all-time. Combining not-so-witty duck puns, general hostility, sarcasm, sleaziness, and bad animatronics, Howard’s pulled away from his planet and brought to Earth (Cleveland, to be specific) where he befriends Beverly (Thompson) and gets roped into stopping a violent alien form, the Dark Overlord (Jones), from taking over. This isn’t the worst film ever. It’s not even the worst Marvel adaptation. I’d vote one of the Fantastic Fours for that distinction. But I didn’t like anything about Howard the Duck. I have an affinity for the ’80s, its aesthetic and vibe, there being a number of bad films from that decade that I love, but Howard the Duck is an eyesore and painful to listen to.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Suspiria (2018, Directed by Luca Guadagnino) English 5

Starring Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Grace Moretz, Angela Winkler, Elena Fokina, Jessica Harper

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(5-Okay Film)

Opaque. Pretentious. Meandering.

I generally take my time evaluating something like 2018’s Suspiria. Nobody wants to admit that they didn’t get a film; myself included. It polarized critics. Visually striking, baffling, and running nearly 2 1/2 hours, it’s the kind of film I like to get behind. There’s a feeling among cinephiles that the greater the length, the greater the film, but we all know that’s not always true and for all of Suspiria’s subtext, it’s not a work of genuine depth.  Dakota Johnson stars as Susie, a sweet, wide-eyed newcomer to a ballet school secretly run by a coven of witches, led by Madame Blanc (Swinton), in 1970s Germany. The setting is Suspiria’s first clue that it’s going in some unnecessary directions. Meanwhile, don’t be fooled by the intriguing premise (taken from Dario Argento’s classic original) or the flood of academic essays that are sure to be written about this film. It’s not that interesting. Like an essay with no outline, Suspiria wanders through a collection of ideas that occasionally hit paydirt. The climax (what should have been the film’s end) is mesmerizing but I didn’t enjoy the journey.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



Ratatouille (2007, Directed by Brad Bird) English 9

Voices of Patton Oswalt, Brad Garrett, Peter O’Toole, Janeane Garofalo, Brian Dennehy, Ian Holm, Will Arnett, Lou Romano

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(9-Great Film)

Unique. Sophisticated. Intelligent.

A rat living in the French country dreams of being a great Parisian chef. What a dumb idea, or else, that’s what I would have said if presented with this idea on paper. The resultant film, however, brought to life with some of Pixar’s finest animation, writing, and voice acting, is a triumph. Remy (Oswalt), the rat with grand ideas, gets his chance in a Parisian kitchen but needs the help of a garbage boy,  Linguini (Romano), to act as a sort of puppet for the operation, seeing as rats aren’t well-received in kitchens. The first step in making this odd story work is the design of Remy and all the rats. Nobody hates rats more than me, but Pixar successfully makes them cute. Secondly, they establish Remy as hygienic. It seems silly but it’s an important part of helping accept him as a chef.  After that, disbelief suspended, Ratatouille is one of the most enjoyable films, animated or otherwise, of the past 15 years.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017, Directed by Guy Ritchie) English 4

Starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Annabelle Wallis, Aiden Gillen, Eric Bana

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(4-Bad Film)

Dull. Uninteresting. Uneven.

Vortigern (Law) usurps his brother, Uther, for the throne of Camelot, but Uther’s young son, Arthur, escapes, destined to one day return and claim his birthright. As an adult, Arthur (now played by Hunnam) joins the resistance after pulling the powerful sword, Excalibur, from the stone. This dingy rehash of the oft-told tale had me bored from the jump. It’s not that Guy Ritchie’s film is unoriginal. Though I’ve seen many of his tricks before in better movies (funky soundtrack, disorienting editing, slow-mo), I will say that I’ve never seen a King Arthur story told like this before. It fails, however, to create any compelling characters. I’ve yet to see Charlie Hunnam emote on screen, and continue to be skeptical of his leading man ability. The side characters are forgettable. Jude Law’s villain is the most interesting character in the film, and even he feels like a miscalculation (too much emotion with no obvious motivation except I guess he’s power hungry). The action and moments of spectacle also fail to connect. Overall, a harmless but definite misfire from a director I like.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Turbo (2013, Directed by David Soren) English 4

Voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Snoop Dogg, Bill Hader, Chris Parnell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez

(4-Bad Film)

Rip-off. Inferior. Unfunny.

Turbo (Reynolds) is a snail that dreams of racing in the Indianapolis 500. Seemingly impossible, a miracle leaves him blessed with super speed and gives him the opportunity he’s always wanted. This weaker effort from DreamWorks animation feels like a blatant rip-off of Pixar’s fantastic Ratatouille. What the antithesis of a gourmet chef and fine dining? Rats. What seems like the antithesis of speed? Snails. Their family tells them it will never happen. A human befriends them and helps them achieve their dreams. It’s a completely unnecessary if not downright terrible movie.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-