Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1994, Directed by Stephen Sommers) English 8

Starring Jason Scott Lee, Lena Headey, John Cleese, Cary Elwes, Sam Neill

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Thrilling. Old-Fashioned. Well-crafted.

Loosely inspired by Kipling’s stories of India, here, a grown Mowgli, raised by wolves, reunites with a childhood friend and attempts to find his way in human society (one formed by an imperialist culture). Superb action adventure fantasy featuring several exciting and terrifying sequences like runs from tigers and baddies being buried alive. Lee does a credible job of selling the fish out of water aspect to his Mowgli character. There have been several excellent adaptations of The Jungle Book, and this is definitely one of them.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-
(422)

Jungle Book (1942, Directed by Zoltan Korda) English 9

Starring Sabu, Rosemary DeCamp, Joseph Calleia, John Qualen

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(9-Great Film)

Stunning. Classic. Exciting.

Though made in Hollywood during the war years, this production of Rudyard Kipling’s classic feels very British. Former servant turned star, Sabu, gives his greatest star turn as Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves and coerced into leading a group of greedy men to a lost treasure. This version was filmed in a studio, but the incredible set design and live animals more than make up for the artificial surroundings. It’s a fantasy, but also a strong morality play. Among the best works produced under the Korda brothers.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(421)

Watership Down (1978, Directed by Martin Rosen) English 8

Voices of John Hurt, Nigel Hawthorne, Roy Kinnear, Zero Mostel, Ralph Richardson, Richard Briers

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Faithful. Thrilling. Scary.

An apocalyptic vision of sorts causes Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and a coterie of rabbits to search for a new home in this thrilling adventure film based on Richard Adam’s novel for all ages.  Though animated, this story about this group of rabbits’ odyssey is actually horrific at points. The filmmakers don’t water down the material-rabbits are shown being killed on screen-and its biblical and political undertones (Moses and the Israelites looking for the promised land, totalitarian societies) give the not-so-cute rabbit tale dramatic heft. The 1970s was a poor decade for animation, but this British picture is an exception. Probably the best-animated film of that decade.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(408)

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970, Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass) English 7

Voices of Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Robie Lester, Paul Frees

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(7-Very Good Film)

Nostalgic. Imaginative. Wonderful.

The old Rankin-Bass Christmas specials were fantastic. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is perhaps the best of the bunch.  As told by the great Fred Astaire, Santa Claus/Kris Kringle’s story shows him go from adopted orphan baby to famous toy maker to Christmas saint, at large due to his refusal to stop delivering toys in a town that’s outlawed them. Plenty of catchy music, an inventive story, and classic, unforgettable claymation.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(397)

Treasure Planet (2002, Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) English 7

Voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, Emma Thompson, Jonathan Hyde-Pierce, Martin Short, Roscoe Lee Browne, Laurie Metcalf

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(7-Very Good Film)

Engaging. Action-packed. Misfire.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure novel, Treasure Island, is adapted and animated for the big screen with a unique twist: instead of the 18th century pirate-infested high seas as its setting, Treasure Planet relocates the oft-told story to the wide-open space of some far off galaxy. The move doesn’t really make sense logically (like why would they be flying pirate ships in space?) and Treasure Planet lacks the broad appeal of Disney films like The Lion King or Aladdin, which resulted in it bombing at the box-office and putting 2-D animation on life support. It’s not a bad movie despite this, however. It’s actually a compelling narrative (naturally, given its source) with well-drawn characters, excellent voice acting, stunning visuals, and several exciting sequences. It’s unfairly marginalized and due for reappraising.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(396)

Isn’t It Romantic (2019, Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson) English 5

Starring Rebel Wilson, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Saunders, Betty Gilpin

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(5-Okay Film)

Decent. Conventional. Disappointing.

Natalie (Wilson) has been taught since an early age that Hollywood romance was for model-thin beauties. “Romantic comedies are fairy tales,” says her mother. After a blow to the head, Natalie wakes up in an alternate New York (the New York shown in rom-coms) where everything and everyone is beautiful. Her life’s a romantic comedy!  Despite a clever premise and an unconventional lead, Isn’t It Romantic plays it safe for the most part. It’s likable enough and vibrant and goes down smooth. It’s never laugh-out-loud funny, however, and not very memorable once it’s over.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(386)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010, Directed by David Yates) English 7

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Warwick Davis, Rhys Ifans, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton

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(7-Very Good Film)

Incomplete. Adept. Solid.

Star-studded, big-budget spectacle and adaptation of J.K Rowlings’ seventh book in the Harry Potter series. Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, seek out Horcruxes and try to decipher recently deceased Dumbledore’s cryptic instructions to them. Since the filmmakers decided to cut the book in half and make two movies, this first part doesn’t have a very strong structure to it. Also, like other films in this franchise, many plot points don’t make much sense if you haven’t read the books. Still a very compelling narrative despite its problems; well-acted, with three excellent action sequences.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(382)