Quest for Camelot (1998, Directed by Frederik Du Chau) English 4

Voices of Cary Elwes, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gary Oldman, Pierce Brosnan, Eric idle, Don Rickles, Jane Seymour, Sir John Gielgud, Jaleel White, Gabriel Byrne

WarnerBros.com | Quest for Camelot | Movies

(4-Bad Film)

Smarmy. Unpolished. Cookie-Cutter.

King Arthur: You have reminded us that the strength of a kingdom is not based on the strength of the king, but on the strength of its people.

Even by the late ’90s, Disney still had a monopoly on mainstream animation. Competitors had cropped up. Don Bluth, mainly. Dreamworks was up and coming (they released the fantastic Prince of Egypt this same year), and Warner Bros. was trying their hand at reestablishing themselves as animation giants. Quest for Camelot comes off the heels of Cats Don’t Dance, a film I liked, and spins a fresh tale around the legend of King Arthur and his sword, Excalibur. Kayley’s (Gilsig) father is a knight of the famed round table-loyal and brave-but he dies trying to protect the king from a power-mad, Ruber (Oldman). Once Excalibur is lost, it’s up to Kayley to retrieve it with the help of a blind swordsman, Garrett (Elwes), and a double-headed dragon, Devon and Cornwall (Idle and Rickles). As a passionate fan of King Arthur’s tales, I believe there’s plenty of material here for a good film and I like many of the ideas floating through Quest for Camelot. So naturally with a movie this subpar, it’s all in the execution. Its chief sin? The music is god-awful. Beyond that, everything else is simply mediocre and a couple of notches below the immense standards Disney was setting at the time.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,028)

Cats (2019, Directed by Tom Hooper) English 4

Starring Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, Francesca Hayward, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Laurie Davidson, Ray Winstone, Robbie Fairchild

Cats review: The movie Cats doesn't even know what the musical is about -  Vox

(4-Bad Film)

Senseless. Unappealing. Puzzling.

Old Deuteronomy: [to Victoria] I believe you truly are a Jellicle cat, a dellicle cat.

Oscar-winning director, Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), brings Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical, Cats, to the big-screen with an A-list cast and the budget of a blockbuster epic. How did this go so wrong? As someone who has never seen Cats on stage, I admit that it’s unfair to judge it based on this universally-panned adaptation, but I couldn’t see any appeal in this material. A house cat, Victoria (Hayward), wanders out into the streets to find a strange world of cats, known as “Jellicles,” competing for the distinction of being named “the Jellicle Choice” at the annual “Jellicle Ball.” This amounts to a lot of random characters introducing themselves through song and dance. A lot of the blame and criticism went to Hooper, as the director (goes with the job), but what is Cats about? What is the point of this bizarre spectacle? The characters are hard to distinguish, the music is repetitive, and it’s one of the most nonsensical works I have ever seen.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,027)

Over the Moon (2020, Directed by Glen Keane) English 5

Voices of Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, John Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Cathy Ang, Margaret Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles

Netflix's 'Over the Moon' is an animated musical from Glen Keane - Insider

(5-Okay Film)

Pleasant. Diverting. Derivative.

Fei Fei: When she cries, her tears turn to stardust.

Fei Fei is a young Chinese girl whose mother died and is now upset to find her father (John Cho) remarried. Smitten with the tale of the moon goddess, Chang’e (Soo), that was told to her by her late mother, and eager to escape her home life that now involves a step-mother and brother, Fei Fei builds a rocket that will take her to the moon, where she can hopefully meet the goddess. Positives first: this is a nicely animated film with a culture we rarely see in American films. On top of that, a young girl dealing with the death of her mother and learning to love her new family is a good foundation for a film. I’m surprised, however, that no one seems to notice how similar Over the Moon is to the vastly superior film, Up. I don’t consider it a deadly sin for a movie to borrow from another, but it does lose a great deal of its power by not being fresh. Look at the broad strokes of both films: the main character is in mourning, builds a home-made aircraft, meets and gets disappointed by his/her idol, has an annoying stowaway, meets a friendly, overly chatty dog along the way. It’s blatant to me. This story and its elements aren’t as interesting the second time around.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,025)

The Wicker Man (1973, Directed by Robin Hardy) English 9

Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsat Kemp

The Wicker Man (1973) | BFI

(9-Great Film)

Odd. Striking. Brilliant.

Sergeant Howie: Oh, what is all this? I mean, you’ve got fake biology, fake religion… Sir, have these children never heard of Jesus?

Nearing fifty years old, The Wicker Man, nevertheless, strikes me as a modern film, and, as such, its steadfast and impossibly earnest protagonist, Sergeant Howie (Woodward), seems misplaced. You won’t find many movies post-Hollywood’s studio era with a hero as moral and upright as Sergeant Howie. He’s more like a hero out of an old western. This, of course, is the point. Sergeant Howie is sent to the Island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young school-age girl. Once there, the devoutly Christian Sergeant finds himself in the center of a sex-obsessed pagan cult led by Lord Summerisle (Lee). Tempted at every turn, The Wicker Man is, on one hand, Sergeant Howie’s horrific, nightmarish descent. More conspicuously, however, this is one of the strangest films ever made; fish-out-of-water humor, Christopher Lee wigs, a catchy and perverse soundtrack. At its center though, is Sergeant Howie and the towering performance by Edward Woodward.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,018)

Hellzapoppin’ (1941, Directed by H.C Potter) English 6

Starring Ole Olson, Chic Johnson, Martha Raye, Mischa Auer, Hugh Herbert, Shemp Howard, Robert Paige, Elisha Cook Jr.

Hellzapoppin' - Film | Park Circus

(6-Good Film)

Trailblazing. Crazy. Memorable.

Louie: What’s the matter with you guys? Don’t you know you can’t talk to me and the audience?

Ole Olson: Well, we’re doin’ it, aren’t we?

Comedians Ole Olson and Chic Johnson interrupt classical dancers being tortured by demons in hell to adapt their stage hit, Hellzapoppin’. A young scriptwriter (Cook Jr,) lets them in on how he plans to update the show and mix in the cursory Hollywood romance. Olson and Johnson, then, wade their way through his Hollywood script, breaking the fourth wall every step of the way. This is an insane film. There’s no old Hollywood classic like it and there’s nothing to prepare you for the mile-a-minute screwball action that’s overwhelming. Even the later Road to…movies featuring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour played by the rules in comparison. As an exercise in style and in originality, Hellzapoppin’ is a brilliant film. As an isolated piece of entertainment, it’s simply passing. More episodically enjoyable than a whole work. There are a few sequences, however, that are absolutely incredible. First and foremost, the dance number by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. If you’re unwilling to see the movie, you must, at least, check out this dance scene because it’s awe-inspiring.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,008)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Directed by Howard Hawkes) English 6

Starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, Steven Geray, Taylor Holmes

American Dreams: How Joyce and Faulkner Fell For a Blonde

(6-Good Film)

Breezy. Witty. Fun.

Lorelei Lee: Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?

Much like the stereotypical, ditzy blondes being lampooned in its story, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is mostly superficial amusement, but that’s not to say it isn’t charming, at times witty, filled with catchy songs, or filmed with panache by Howard Hawkes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell get a great vehicle for their personas. Monroe is the money-crazy, beautiful chorus girl (Lorelei); perhaps a little naive. Russell is the tough-talking dame (Dorothy) who does her best to look out for her friend. When Lorelei gets engaged to a millionaire’s son, the father hires detectives to dig up some dirt on her and break up the engagement. Fun, light entertainment that makes good use of its stars and Charles Coburn is always a scene-stealer.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(999)

Flower Drum Song (1961, Directed by Henry Koster) English 6

Starring Miyoshi Umeki, Nancy Kwan, Jack Soo, James Shigeta, Juanita Hall, Reiko Sato, Benson Fong, James Hong

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN'S JOURNEY / FLOWER DRUM SONG ...

(6-Good Film)

Unique. Important. Enjoyable.

Wang Ta: This is not China. This is a different world. And here a man has the right to choose his own wife.

The Orient has always held a strong fascination for us westerners as a world so unlike our own; it’s exotic. Flower Drum Song isn’t so much about that as it is the inverse. A Chinese father and his daughter, Mei Li (Umeki), sneak into America on an arrangement for a wedding. Mei Li is set to marry the fully Americanized, Sammy Fong (Soo), but he’s in love with nightclub performer, Linda Low (Kwan), and Mei Li falls for Wang Ta (Shigeta). Flower Drum Song offers many fish-out-of-water moments, some nice Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, and a look at the sixties from a unique perspective. Mainly, it’s notable for being a rare vehicle for Asian-American performers and they make the most of it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(997)

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)

Guys and Dolls (1955, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 7

Starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Viviane Blaine, Stubby Kaye, Robert Keith, B.S Pully

The Ace Black Blog: Movie Review: Guys And Dolls (1955)

(7-Very Good Film)

Snappy. Colorful. Brash.

Sky Masterson: I am not putting the knock on dolls. It’s just that they are something to have around only when they come in handy… like cough drops.

The good girl falling for the bad guy and then vice versa isn’t a unique concept. It wasn’t a unique concept in 1955 when this film was made, or in 1950 when Guys and Dolls premiered as a Broadway musical. I doubt it was a unique concept in the 1930s when Damon Runyan wrote a pair of short stories that inspired the show. The point is “good girl and bad guy” seems to be an endless source of escapism and, perhaps, wish fulfillment. Guys and Dolls has a lot of fun with it. Sky Masterson (Brando) is a big-time gambler. His newest wager is that he can woo any girl- of Nathan Detroit’s choosing-to go to Havana, Cuba with him. Detroit (Sinatra), a fellow gambler in need of $1,000 quick, chooses prim, proper Sister Sarah Brown (Simmons), a local missionary, to win his bet for him. Sinatra is a natural in his part, turning every song he sings into a great one, and there are great songs all around. Brando is less natural in his role, mainly because of the singing that’s required, but the film doesn’t lose any points from me on that score. Brando is a movie star for the ages; one of the best. Seeing him in a role so far afield his usual dramatic fare is a pleasure, and I feel he and Jean Simmons do work in their roles. The dialogue is as fine as the music.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(972)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 8

Starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Harry Davenport, Marjorie Main, Hugh Marlowe, June Lockhart

Meet Me in St. Louis” is always as cool as a cucumber | Cinefilia ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Endearing. Picturesque. Classic.

Esther Smith: I can’t believe it. Right here where we live – right here in St. Louis.

Like the March sisters of Little Women, the Smiths of Meet Me in St. Louis are a family to cherish. Made up of four daughters-led by Esther (Garland), the second oldest-a son, a loving mother (Astor), a stubborn but caring father (Ames), a spirited grandfather (Davenport), and a sassy maid (Main), the film follows the Smith family through one eventful year in their lives leading up to the famed World’s Fair of 1904. Everything about Meet Me in St. Louis inspires affection. The characters are wonderful. Garland is a star. The production, from the sets to the costumes to the vibrant technicolor, is astounding, and the music is timeless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(961)