April and the Extraordinary World (2015, Directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci) French 6

Voices of J.K Simmons, Susan Sarandon, Tony Hale, Paul Giamatti

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(6-Good Film)

Imaginative. Beautiful. Shallow.

High concept meets alternate history in this animated film about a family of scientists seeking to create an elixir that cures mortality. Standing in their way is the French government who enslave all scientists in order to monopolize their creations. The youngest of the family, April, is left alone after her parents mysteriously disappear, and finds herself in the middle of a nefarious end-of-the-world level plot. The comic strip art style is appealing and the world it creates is enticing, but the film lacks depth in certain aspects (namely character) that keep it from achieving the epic status it strives for. As is, it’s creative and diverting, without being spectacular.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Heaven Can Wait (1943, Directed by Ernst Lubitsch) English 6

Starring Don Ameche, Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn, Eugene Palette, Marjorie Main

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(6-Good Film)

Outlandish. Witty. Lavish.

Not to be confused with Warren Beatty’s ’70s film, this comedy starts with Henry Van Cleve (Ameche) descending to hell where he must explain to the head honcho why he belongs there. The film then flashes back as he tells his life story from his days as a precocious kid to meeting his wife to his tenth wedding anniversary when she walks out and he has to win her back. It’s a unique comedy, and a perfect example of the “Lubitsch touch,” the quality this film’s director gives his comedies that make even the darkest of material seem light and charming. Don Ameche, remarkable for the matinee idol type, has an incredible comedic range and a very expressive face. He’s fantastic, and the aging process he goes throughout his story is rendered better than many modern films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Beetlejuice (1988, Directed by Tim Burton) English 8

Starring Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Sylvia Sidney, Glen Shadix

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Fun. Original. Eccentric.

A straight-laced, small-town couple, Barbara and Adam Maitland (Davis and Baldwin), die suddenly and randomly one idle day, and find their afterlife is an indefinite amount of time stuck in their house, now occupied by a family from the city. Wanting to get rid of the newcomers, Barbara and Adam get mixed up with a shady character named Betelgeuse (played hilariously by Keaton) as they do what they can to scare the family out of the house. Several odd, surprising, wonderful moments (the impromptu “Banana Boat Song” scene is a classic) all built around terrific characters. Great small supporting turns from Sylvia Sidney, Glen Shadix, and Robert Goulet and the claymation, as opposed to most special effects, gets more charming with age.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


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-


Beautiful Creatures (2013, Directed by Richard LaGravanese) English 5

Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum

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(5-Okay Film)

Mediocre. Well-acted. Unexciting.

A teenage boy (Ehrenreich) in a hick town dreams of getting away. Soon he falls for the weird new girl, and discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, or “casters.” The family disapproves, and a more serious plot involving an evil caster surfaces. Lame, if not completely terrible, teen romance, though the acting is uniformly good. Ehrenreich, set to star in the Han Solo spinoff, shines here, and will likely go on to much better things. The story is rife with cliches, and the portrait of a southern town as full of idiotic bible-thumpers is tiresome.
-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-