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)

Naked Lunch (1991, Directed by David Cronenberg) English 5

Starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Roy Scheider, Julian Sands, Monique Mercure, Nicholas Campbell

(5-Okay Film)

Grimy. Disturbing. Superficial.

Bill Lee: Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to.

With this adaptation of William S. Burrough’s drug-influenced classic, I’m not sure where brilliant ends and pointless begins. The author’s alter ego, William Lee (Weller), an exterminator with an insecticide addled mind, drifts in and out of Interzone on a top secret mission delivered to him by a talking typewriter. Bizarre, shocking, always interesting, there is greatness on display scattered throughout this film. That it is wholly unenjoyable is, to some, beside the point. Cronenberg is a master at effects, but this film falls short in terms of affect. There are some truly horrific, memorable moments, and yet, I felt nothing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(990)

I’ll Never Forget You (1951, Directed by Roy Ward Baker) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Ann Blyth, Michael Rennie, Irene Browne, Dennis Price, Beatrice Campbell, Kathleen Byron

Screenshots - I'll Never Forget You

(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Sentimental. Imaginative.

Roger Forsyth: You’re sort of a mystery man even to your friends.

Peter Standish (Power) is a brilliant scientist. Unhappy in his own time, he dedicates his life and research to traveling back through the centuries to the 1700s, just after the revolutionary war, specifically. Eventually, he succeeds but finds that life in 18th century England is not at all what he expected, and his love life is complicated by the kind, understanding Helen Pettigrew (Blyth). It’s beyond me why anyone would think that life would be better in the 18th century, but this is a romantic fantasy not meant to be analyzed to death. The conceit is more or less an excuse to turn the film into a costume drama. Tyrone Power, matinee idol for the ages, is convincing as the fish out of water and romantic lead. The romance is sweet if treacly, and the story is light and compelling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(986)

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)

Under the Silver Lake (2018, Directed by David Robert Mitchell) English 8

Starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome, Don McManus, Zosia Mamet, Jeremy Bobb, Patrick Fischler, Rex Linn, Jimmi Simpson, Grace Van Patten

Fade to Black: Under the Silver Lake (2018) - Morbidly Beautiful

(8-Exceptional Film)

Curious. Alluring. Puzzling.

Comic Fan: Our world is filled with codes, subliminal messages. From Silverlake to the Hollywood Hills.

Noir in cinema has been nearly synonymous with nighttime throughout the years. It’s a nighttime genre. In Under the Silver Lake, a noir-drenched puzzle box of a film, the parts that I comfortably consider noir occur during the day. At night, the film shifts into a surrealist horror flick, not unlike the director, David Robert Mitchell’s previous film, It Follows. I didn’t like It Follows. I’m pretty sure I love Under the Silver Lake. It’s hard to say for certain after one viewing because it’s hard to say what it’s about. Andrew Garfield plays Sam. Sam seems harmlessly middling; unimportant, uninterested in much. The latter part is where he unquestionably proves me wrong. He’s a conspiracy nut, constantly watching the world for clues. A brief romantic moment with his beautiful neighbor, Sarah (Keough), leads him to a labyrinthian circuit of clues essentially in his backyard. I haven’t pinned down anything about this film yet. I noticed and appreciated some of the influences. Rear Window is the most conspicuous (Sam even has a poster of it on his wall). Like James Stewart’s character in that movie, Sam, too, loves to spy on neighbors. Except here, it’s a little more sinister. What I understood of Under the Silver Lake, I loved. What I suspect lies in waiting on further viewings, I look forward to finding.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(980)

Yolanda and the Thief (1945, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 7

Starring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, Leon Ames, Mildred Natwick, Mary Nash

Yolanda and the Thief: An Out of the World Place | Bright Wall ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Lofty. Peculiar. Beguiling.

Yolanda Aquaviva: Mr. Brown doesn’t dance… except, perhaps, on the head of a pin.

Yolanda and the Thief, I gather, was not a success. Astaire retired for a period after and its leading lady, Lucille Bremer, hardly ever worked again. The critics sneered and modern opinion hasn’t exactly warmed to it. As it stands, I think Yolanda and the Thief will have to settle for being a niche picture; a film made for a very select group of people, and if that group doesn’t exist yet, I’ll start it, because this is a film that’s at least as special as it is flawed. Astaire plays the thief, Johnny (some people, evidently, didn’t like the idea of dapper, refined Astaire as a thief) and Bremer plays Yolanda, a young woman raised in a convent who’s suddenly inherited a vast fortune. Several con artists set their sights on her but Johnny’s got the perfect con cooking. Overhearing her prayer for a guardian angel, he poses as one, convincing her to sign over the power of attorney and all of her wealth right along with it. The trick, of course, for Johnny is getting the money and running before he falls for the mark. Set in some imagined Latin-American country, but designed on a Hollywood backlot, Yolanda and the Thief is a gorgeous fantasy with an unforgettable detour by way of a mid-movie dream sequence. In fact, it has a kind of dream-like, illusory quality all over that I enjoy very much. Bremer’s performance is heavily criticized and not without reason, but I, for one, find her artificial, syrupy performance at home with the aesthetics and tone of the picture.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(973)

Princess Mononoke (1997, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki) Japanese 10

Voices of (English Dubbing) Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Keith David, Gillian Anderson

Princess Mononoke

(10-Masterpiece)

Epic. Spectacular. Awesome.

Hii-sama: You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.

We fade in. Keith David’s voiceover sets up the world we’re entering. We’re all of ten seconds into the running time, but it’s clear: this is an awesome movie. The master, Hayao Miyazaki, brings his stunning animation to a unique story about gods and monsters and cursed warriors, with no black and white villains. Its hero, Ashitaka (Crudup), prince of a small village, travels far from home after being cursed from fighting a demon-possessed boar. He stumbles into a conflict between humans (of Irontown) and the forest (the gods and spirits that dwell there) and falls in love with San, a female warrior raised by wolves and taught to hate humans. Princess Mononoke feels like an anomaly in Miyazaki’s career in a few ways. His clear love of flight is nowhere to be found, an adult male protagonist rather than a young girl. There’s a level of violence not seen in any of his other work, as well, but as an anomaly, it only further proves his greatness. He has never stopped evolving though his themes may stay the same. His animation is awe-inspiring (there are a dozen incredible action sequences in this film) and his stories are always infinitely satisfying while never traveling the expected path.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(970)

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)

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)