Alita: Battle Angel (2019, Directed by Robert Rodriguez) English 7

Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earl Haley, Edward Norton

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(7-Very Good Film)

Visually-stunning. Rousing. Unfinished.

Dr. Dyson (Waltz) discovers and salvages an ancient cyborg (Salazar), giving her parts originally intended for his now deceased daughter. Naming her Alita, the two grow close and fight their way through the seedy, futuristic city known as Scrapyard. Alita has a surprising amount of depth to it. No, it’s not significantly thoughtful or thematic, but the characters are well-defined and well-acted and the world is lively and spectacular. In fact, there’s much to marvel at in Robert Rodriguez’s first installment, an adaptation of the manga series Gunnm. I suppose it can’t be helped if the film ends on a cliffhanger, with so much unresolved, setting up its sequel(s). I just can’t fully invest knowing that this could all be ruined by a disastrous sequel. Aside from that, Alita is an excellent manga adaptation that sacrifices some of its uniqueness in the third act but remains an exciting action pic until the end.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(328)

The Kid Who Would Be King (2019, Directed by Joe Cornish) English 6

Starring Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Rebecca Ferguson, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart

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(6-Good Film)

Solid. Exciting. Light-weight.

The Kid Who Would Be King feels old-school. It’s a kid-centric adventure fantasy following a young boy, Alex, who draws the fabled Excalibur from a stone, and discovers that he’s destined to protect modern day England from an evil sorceress, Morgan Le Fay (Ferguson). There are, naturally, a few modern wrinkles to the classic King Arthur story, a few laughs, but mostly, the film plays it pretty straight. The Kid Who Would be King is solid, without being spectacular.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(291)

Green Book (2018, Directed by Peter Farrelly) English 7

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, P.J Byrne, Iqbal Theba, Tom Virtue

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(7-Very Good Film)

Likable. Winning. Appealing.

I resist the best I can the sort of made-to-be-inspiring , “based on a true story,” flicks that the Oscars and other award shows love. Everyone once in a while, a film such as Green Book slips past my defenses. It stars Viggo Mortensen as a bit of a meathead bouncer named Tony Lip, a New York Italian, who becomes a bodyguard/ driver for black pianist Don Shirley (Ali), making a tour across America’s deep south. The humor comes fast and frequent. Mortensen, impressive in a rare comedic role, makes Tony Lip, a caricaturesque personality, human and likable, while Ali shows a deep sense of dignity in his portrayal of Don Shirley at all times. The film is a blast because of its leads. You can complain about historical accuracy or contrived Hollywood happy endings, or whatever, but this is a film that you’ll enjoy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(271)

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018, Directed by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston) English 5

Voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Bill Hader, Alan Tudyk, Taraji P. Henson, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Jane lynch\

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(5-Okay Film)

Dragging. Flat. Creative.

There are some nice ideas in Ralph Breaks the Internet, sequel to 2012’s Wreck-it-Ralph. It explores friendship, insecurity, and visually articulates what it might look like inside the internet in an appealing way. However, for all of its cleverness, there aren’t many laughs to be found, and the story never pulled me in completely at any point. This new Ralph resembles Homer’s Odyssey in structure: kind of wandering, with no apparent villain, and slow to reach its point. I was slightly bored for much of the running time. The plot is rather simple: Vanellope (Silverman) and the gang at Sugar Rush are in danger of becoming homeless as their game is close to being shut down. Their only hope is that the arcade set gets a new wheel to replace the broken one, so the game can go on, and the only way to get a new wheel is for Ralph and Vanellope to enter the internet and find one. There’s not a lack of action. Plenty happens. The animation is vibrant. I just never truly cared.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(251)

Bumblebee (2018, Directed by Travis Knight) English 7

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, John Ortiz Voices of Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Dylan O’Brien

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(7-Very Good Film)

Nostalgic. Fun. Spirited.

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s possible that I’ve never been more surprised to find myself enjoying a movie, as I did with Bumblebee, the newest installment of the Transformers series, a franchise I’d long since stopped caring about. Set in the 1980s, a source of much fun for the film, Charlie Watson (played wonderfully by the engaging Steinfeld) is still grieving the death of her father when young autobot, B-127, enters her life. B-127’s mission is to scout out Earth for the Autobots as they attempt to regroup and fight back against the evil Decepticons. I don’t especially care about the grand plot involving the Transformers. Fortunately, this film plays more like an ’80s monster friendship comedy. Think E.T or Little Monster or even ’90s classic The Iron Giant. Bumblebee belongs in their company. It’s a fantastic flick, directed by Travis Knight, who’d previously worked in animation for Laika studios.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(228)

 

Aquaman (2018, Directed by James Wan) English 4

Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

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(4-Bad Film)

Colorful. Dumb. Senseless.

“Not Orm. Ocean Master” So says Patrick Wilson’s character, the villain of the piece. The general consensus about Aquaman seems to be that it’s “cheesy fun.” I love cheesy fun movies. Remember I liked Venom. Aquaman is bad. I can’t get over the fact that it’s about grown men riding on dolphins. It’s so dumb. Jason Momoa gets his first solo adventure following the woeful Justice League, as the titular hero, Aquaman. He can dwell on land or in water (not unlike a turtle), and can communicate with sea creatures. In the secret underwater world of Atlantis, his half-brother, the evil Orm, later “Ocean Master” (eye roll) plots an attack on land dwellers. Arthur teams up with Princess Mera to find the trident from Little Mermaid that will prove he’s the rightful king of Atlantis. I became bored of this fairly early on, and never recovered. There are moments of vibrant color (not unlike a child’s artwork), but many more of poor jokes, and pseudo-serious lines of villainy. James Wan has made so many good films before this-The Conjuring, Fast and the Furious 7- Aquaman doesn’t belong with those movies. The opening resembles 1984’s Splash minus Tom Hanks, and who wants that?

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(201)

Mortal Engines (2018, Directed by Christian Rivers) English 6

Starring Robert Sheehan, Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang

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(6-Good Film)

Uninspired. Entertaining. Solid.

Alas, this is not a live-action remake of Howl’s Moving Castle, but, thankfully, it’s not a complete waste of time as I once feared either. In fact, I was reasonably entertained for most of the film. Mortal Engines, based on a YA science fiction novel, is set in a post-apocalyptic, steam punk world, where cities have been motorized. The two main characters are thrust together once Tom (Sheehan), a bright young historian, living in mechanized London, stops Hester Shaw (a mysterious young girl on a mission of revenge) from assassinating Thaddeus Valentine (Weaving), something of a leader in this new world. The plot is a bit simple and easy to drift off from, but the special effects are solid and the actors are solid. There’s nothing exceptional about the film, but nothing terrible either. I enjoyed it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(153)