The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013, Directed by Ben Stiller) English 6

Starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Kathryn Hahn

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(6-Good Film)

Uneven. Likable. Imaginative.

Walter Mitty (Stiller) is a timid, kind, middle-aged employee at LIFE magazine, prone to bouts of intense day-dreaming. He has a crush on fellow employee, Cheryl (Wiig), whom most of his daydreams focus around, but feels that he has little to offer. A work crisis forces Walter out into the world and to the first real adventure of his life; one that eclipses his fantasies. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is ultimately very endearing and the lead romance is compelling, but visually, it’s unsatisfying at times or simply just distracting. Certain impromptu action sequences shift the tone too harshly. I like the supporting cast of characters (Patton Oswalt as a concerned EHarmony employee’s interactions especially). I like Walter Mitty and I like Cheryl. It’s a nice film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(566)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer (2012, Directed by Timur Bekmambetov) English 6

Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Ludicrous. Exciting.

Did you know that while our sixteenth president was working on restoring the union and ending slavery, he was also battling an immortal enemy? According to this film, Abraham Lincoln’s mother was raped and murdered by a vampire, his son was murdered by a vampire, and the South employed vampires in their army. The premise of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer is ridiculous bordering on offensive. That being said, I found the over the top action scenes and gothic comic book style exciting. It’s all fairly well-done and appealing for those who appreciate camp.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(562)

Aladdin (2019, Directed by Guy Ritchie) English 6

Starring Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Nasim Pedrad, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Billy Magnussen

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(6-Good Film)

Enjoyable. Goofy. Secondhand.

A charming street-rat, Aladdin (Massoud), meets the beautiful princess, Jasmine (Scott), and is inspired to improve his station in life. Given an opportunity by the scheming vizier, Jafar (Kenzari), Aladdin ends up with a priceless and magical lamp that contains an all-powerful genie (Smith). Granted three wishes by the genie, Aladdin becomes Prince Ali and a potential suitor for Jasmine. This film’s faults are built into it from conception. It’s a live-action remake of a classic animated Disney film and can never hope to equal, let alone better the original. Fortunately, aside from this limitation, and despite Disney’s apparent lack of originality, this version is engaging, brightly colored, and enjoyable. The two leads along with Will Smith make the familiar spectacle worth revisiting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(560)

 

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-

(550)

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-

(544)

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-

(542)

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-

(541)