The Iron Giant (1999, Directed by Brad Bird) English 6

Voices of Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., John Mahoney, Christopher McDonald, Cloris Leachman, Eli Marienthal

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(6-Good Film)

Nostalgic. Moving. Intelligent.

“You are who you choose to be,” Hogarth tells the iron giant. It’s a strong message and theme of this film as Hogarth (Marienthal), a young adventurous boy, living through the Cold War in 1957 Maine, stumbles upon an otherworldly being made of iron that consumes metal. Oddly enough, the “iron giant” comes in peace, and Hogarth sets about hiding him from the small town’s citizens and the sinister Kent Mansley (McDonald), a government agent sent to investigate some strange happenings. Hogarth gains the help of the town’s scrap metal artist and beatnik Dean (Connick Jr.), but how long can they hide a fifty-foot metal man? The animation, the voice acting, the writing are first-rate, and the central idea that you can rise above your nature, or that you’re defined by what you do and not how you look, are mature and weighty themes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(512)

A Clockwork Orange (1971, Directed by Stanley Kubrick) English 4

Starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Warren Clarke, Adrienne Corri, Michael Bates

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(4-Bad Film)

Bleak. Sordid. Hellish.

Adapted from Anthony Burgess’ equally memorable novel, A Clockwork Orange follows Alex (McDowell) and his gang of deviants through a hellacious and random run of violent acts in dystopian England. Justice eventually catches up to Alex, it appears, and he’s hauled off to prison, but he’s later picked for a new “aversion therapy” that leaves him lobotomized essentially, and raises questions of control and freedom of choice. I’ve never thought much of A Clockwork Orange despite its stature, its iconic imagery, or its ability to get underneath my skin. First and foremost, it’s a drag of a two-hour film. The last half is downright tedious in my opinion. Second, its approach to the violent-sexual scenes of the book is to fetishize them. A Clockwork Orange is a squalid film; one of the most overrated.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(511)

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, Directed by James Cameron) English 7

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Edward Furlong

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(7-Very Good Film)

Compelling. Expert. Cutting-edge.

It’s hard to remember, or even imagine, what it was like to watch Terminator 2 for the first time and find out thirty or so minutes in that Arnold is a good guy this time around. He returns to the year 1991, sent by the all-important John Connor, to protect the younger version of John, played by Edward Furlong. Also sent back in time is the terrifying T-1000 (Patrick), a new model of Terminator, seemingly indestructible, directed to kill John. Terminator 2 is a masterful combination of stunts and practical effects mixed in with, at the time, cutting-edge CGI. The action sequences are still very effective. There’s not much that can be said to be thoughtful or meaningful in this film. It’s a solid high-concept action flick.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(504)

The Faculty (1998, Directed by Robert Rodriguez) English 7

Starring Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Famke Janssen, Shawn Hatosy, Robert Patrick, Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart, Usher Raymond, Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Christopher McDonald

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(7-Very Good Film)

Entertaining. Clever. Messy.

What Scream was to slasher films, The Faculty hoped to be to sci-fi horror classics like The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with its cast of teen stars and a surplus of pop culture references. Written by the same scribe, Kevin Williamson, and directed by a young Robert Rodriguez, the result is an often ridiculous, always a blast film, with a fantastic cast and a handful of bad special effects. Elijah Wood stars as a nerdy student at Harrington High, Casey, who first discovers the weird happenings afoot, hiding in a closet next to mean girl, Delilah (Brewster). An alien race is not so slowly taking over the bodies of Harrington High’s faculty and they’re coming for the students next. Of course, no one believes them, except for jock, Stan (Hatosy), outcast, Stokley (DuVall), bad boy, Zeke (Hartnett), and the new girl, Marybeth (Harris). Rodriguez isn’t what I would call a master of suspense, and The Faculty isn’t very scary at all, but he knows how to entertain, and The Faculty is one of his most entertaining films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(499)

Jurassic Park (1993, Directed by Steven Spielberg) English 9

Starring Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Wayne Knight, Samuel L. Jackson

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(9-Great Film)

Wondrous. Exciting. Spectacular.

Once or twice a decade, a blockbuster will come out that blows everybody away. Spielberg made a handful of them. Jurassic Park, a film deeply entrenched in my childhood memories, remains for me, as an adult, a spectacular piece of entertainment. John Hammond (Attenborough), rivaling the notorious Dr. Frankenstein in audacity, defies nature and brings dinosaurs back from extinction. The purpose? Hammond, an entertainer, envisions a theme park based around these titanic, mysterious creatures. Investors, however, question the park’s practicality. They ask that Hammond get the endorsement of experts. Drs. Alan Grant (Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Dern), along with mathematician Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) are brought in to give their opinions.  Spielberg masterfully takes his time building up the suspense before delivering the thrills. Jurassic Park showcases his amazing abilities in complicated action sequences. It’s never just one thing. It’s not just the heroes and a T-rex. It’s the heroes, a T-rex, the rain, a car slipping in the mud, etc.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(453)

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997, Directed by Steven Spielberg) English 7

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlewait, Peter Stormare, Richard Schiff, Arliss Howard

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(7-Very Good Film)

Grim. Exciting. Anticlimactic.

Jurassic Park is a classic and one of the biggest blockbuster movies of all time, directed by the biggest blockbuster director of all time. Naturally, they made a sequel. Naturally, it’s not as good. It’s bigger, louder, dumber. Surprisingly, it’s much better than I remember it being. For every dumb moment, there’s a genuinely thrilling sequence or jump-scare that gets me out of my seat. I’m not sure how many PG-13 films you can say that about. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) returns, promoted to lead protagonist, to Jurassic Park, this time on a different island, in order to save his paleontologist girlfriend, Dr. Sarah Harding (Moore). Many people won’t enjoy The Lost World forgoing the original’s sense of wonder and adventure. This sequel is a horror flick. Lots of expendable characters making poor decisions (a “scientist” rolling out of a cave where he’s safe from the T-Rex because a snake touches him is so unbelievably silly), but the characters are strong enough and the buildup of tension is superb, so much so that I can forgive a weak third act in which the T-Rex ends up in San Diego in clear homage to Godzilla.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(435)

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)