Inspector General (1949, Directed by Henry Koster) English 5

Starring Danny Kaye, Barbara Bates, Walter Slezak, Elsa Lanchester, Gene Lockhart, Alan Hale Sr.

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(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Light. Unexceptional.

A Gypsy clown, Georgi (Kaye), is mistaken for a high-ranking public official in a corrupt town in an unclear 19th-century European country. Having to keep up the charade or face execution, all while fending off the mayor’s wife (Lanchester) and resisting his feelings for the servant girl Leza (Bates), Georgi’s adventures should be much more entertaining and suspenseful. This film misses the satire of Gogol’s play and squanders the intrigue. It’s too preoccupied with the comedy. The best Danny Kaye films rein him in a bit and allow his talent to service the plot rather than the other way around. The Inspector General is a decent picture but had the potential to be more.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Son of Paleface (1952, Directed by Frank Tashlin) English 7

Starring Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Roy Rogers, Bill Williams, Lloyd Corrigan, Paul E. Burns

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(7-Very Good Film)

Inventive. Zany. Fun.

A loose sequel to The Paleface (1948), Bob Hope and Jane Russell return in new roles, once again facing off against the Indians (played by white people), outlaws, and ravenous townspeople who have been cheated out of money by Hope’s father. Like all Hope films that I’ve seen, there is a lot of witty one-liners, clever use of the fourth wall, and self-deprecating humor. Standing out from some of his others though, this film has some truly incredible stunts that rank among the best and most creative put on screen.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Princess and the Frog (2009, Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) English 8

Voices of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Jim Cummings, Keith David, Jennifer Lewis, John Goodman

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Gorgeous. Old-fashioned. Lovely.

Well past Disney’s glorious ’90s renaissance, The Princess and the Frog was intended to be a throwback, and, at the time, hoped to be a rebirth for 2D animation. It failed on that score, and now, stands out as an outlier in a time dominated by 3D animation. It’s a shame because the animation in The Princess and the Frog is truly stunning. Tatiana (Noni Rose), a hard-working black girl in 1910’s New Orleans, gets caught up in visiting royalty, Prince Naveen’s misadventures. Turned into a frog by the sinister Doctor Facilier (David), Naveen promises to give her the money she needs to open a restaurant in exchange for a kiss, which should break the curse. Instead, she too becomes a frog, and the two set out to find kind voodoo priestess, Mama Odie, to make things right. The Princess and the Frog falls short of the lofty, iconic status of some of Disney’s finest, but Tatiana is a wonderful princess, the characters are memorable, the music is lively, and the visuals spectacular.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Easter Parade (1948, Directed by Charles Walters) English 7

Starring Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford, Ann Miller

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(7-Very Good Film)

Colorful. Exuberant. Superficial.

Two song and dance greats, Astaire and Garland, pair together and make an entertaining if not quite essential film musical. Astaire plays Don Hewes, a successful performer part of a winning duo with Nadine Hale (Miller), his dance partner and romantic flame. The two fall apart, however, when he discovers she’s in love with his best friend, and he vows he can take any girl to replace her, and be as successful, part of a pygmalion type wager he makes while drunk. As part of his bet, he takes on Hannah Brown (Garland), a dancer at some local dive. The Hewes-Brown partnership doesn’t take off until he lets her be herself instead of trying to emulate Nadine. The conflict and antagonism between Astaire and Garland’s character is tame to the point of being non-existent. I would have preferred some more push and pull before they end up together inevitably. Set just in New York just a few years before the first World War, the period costumes set design, along with the sparkling technicolor are spectacular. The songs and dance numbers, while being middle of the pack for Astaire and Garland and Irving Berlin (who wrote the music), are still head and shoulders above most musical numbers. And the age difference between the two stars doesn’t detract as much as it would under different circumstances, as she’s playing basically the lovestruck pupil.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Anything Goes (1956, Directed by Robert Lewis) English 5

Starring Bing Crosby, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Zizi Jeanmaire, Phil Harris

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(5-Okay Film)

Appealing. Undramatic. Modest.

Young and old join forces when Bill Benson (Crosby) and Ted Adams (O’Connor) team up for an upcoming show. Everything is going well until both men cast their own girl as the leading lady. Ted finds french performer, Gaby, and Bill discovers American singer, Patsy. One of the women will have to go, but the matter is complicated when both men fall for the other’s girl. The plot’s not complicated enough, however, for my taste. There’s very little dramatic tension between the women or the men. I’d prefer there to be more antagonism between the core characters. The actors are all terrific performers. That goes without saying, so the film does have its moments of inspiration, including a dance sequence where O’Connor plays among a children’s daycare. With no buildup though, there’s no payoff in the end.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Bohemian Rhapsody (2018, Directed by Bryan Singer) English 6

Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Ben Hardy, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Mike Myers, Gwilym Lee

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(6-Good Film)

By-the-numbers. Engaging. Entertaining.

Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the ups and downs of legendary rock group, Queen, with an emphasis on Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malek. This is basic biopic storytelling, complete with historical inaccuracy and carefully placed uplifting moments. Naturally, the soundtrack is great, the crowd scenes, and concert recreations are elaborate and impressive, and Rami Malek is astounding.  It isn’t a very insightful biopic, nor is it original at any point in its telling of this story, but it is very entertaining, and well-acted, and that’s good enough for me.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Frozen (2013, Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck) English 6

Voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana

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(6-Good Film)

Strong. Bright. Satisfying.

Before Tangled was released in 2010, Dinsye bigshot Ed Catmull said it would be the last Disney princess film. Tangled was a huge success, and four years later comes Frozen, with two princesses for the price of one. Anna (Bell) feels shut off from her sister Elsa (Menzel) after the death of their parents. On Elsa’s coronation day, Anna, as well as the rest of the kingdom, learn the secret she was concealing when she turns the land into a frozen tundra and runs away. Anna sets off to find her with the help of her new companions: courageous Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and the loyal snowman Olaf. Frozen was a colossal success, and it’s easy to see why. It has all the hallmarks of a Disney classic. It fails to rank for me with the cream of Disney’s crop, however, falling somewhere in the middle of the studio’s canon. Mainly, I feel there’s a huge gulf between the classic work of Alan Menken with the various brilliant songwriters on old Disney films during the Renaissance, and the soundtrack to Frozen, as popular as it is. There are plenty of catchy tunes, but they’re just not on the level of, say, The Little Mermaid, or Beauty and the Beast. The story lacks a strong villain in my eyes, and though the female empowerment elements prove a nice message, films like Mulan and The Princess and the Frog covered similar territory with more compelling endings.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-