My Favorite Year (1982, Directed by Richard Benjamin) English 7

Starring Peter O’Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna

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Very funny and nostalgic comedy about the golden age of television, in the 1950s, when American families first fell in love with this new form of entertainment. Benjy Stone works as a writer on one of T.V’s biggest shows “Comedy Cavalcade,” and, being the errand boy that he is, gets assigned to keeping the programs’s big guest star, matinee idol Alan Swann (O’Toole), out of trouble. Peter O’Toole is so good here. As ridiculous and wonderfully over the top as he is at times in the role, it always seems perfectly in tune with the character. He’s also incredibly moving at other times.

Allied (2016, Directed by Robert Zemeckis) English 6

Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, August Diehl, Matthew Goode

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Love and betrayal go hand in hand in espionage movies. Allied makes those two themes the whole film as Canadian Officer, Max Vatan (Pitt) begins to suspect his French wife, Marianne (Cotillard), is a spy. Entertaining, moderately romantic and intriguing, though not as sexy as it attempts to be, or needed to be in order to be memorable. A fine diversion, but not spectacular.

The Royal Wedding (1951, Directed by Stanley Donen) English 8

Starring Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Keenan Wynn

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Bright. Inventive. Lovely.

Brother-sister  dancing pair, Tom and Ellen (Astaire and Powell), take a tour through London while the city gets ready for a royal wedding. There, the siblings, against their better judgment,  each find themselves falling for a local. Colorful, stylish musical, with excellent dance numbers throughout, and one truly astounding, unforgettable Astaire dance scene where his love for a woman causes him to tap dance on the ceiling. Wonderful movie despite a fairly uneventful  story-line.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Boss Baby (2017, Directed by Tom McGrath) English 6

Voices of Alec Baldwin, Toby Maguire, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Steve Buscemi

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(6-Good Film)

Clever. Imaginative. Quick.

An imaginative seven year old finds his happy home invaded by a new baby brother, but, unbeknown to his parents and other adults, this newcomer is actually a shrewd businessman (with the voice of Alec Baldwin recalling his Glengarry Glen Ross performance). Surprisingly clever and creative throughout with wildly imaginative visuals, a fast-paced energy, and a diverse use of animation styles. Amusingly establishes its unreliable narrator and does a pretty solid job of sustaining its gimmick from start to finish. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017, Directed by Martin McDonagh) English 8

Starring Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrellson

It wasn’t an accident to use Missouri as the film’s setting. With all the recent baggage coming from that state (one not often thought of as southern), McDonagh sets his tale of a single mother going full vigilante after her daughter’s rape/murder goes unsolved. Mildred Hayes (played by McDormand, who will most likely get an Oscar nod) is not a very charming woman. She’s bitter and mean, and, after aiming some rather pointed criticisms of the town’s well loved sheriff (Harrellson), she becomes a pariah. Sam Rockwell plays Officer Dixon, a dumb, racist, and inept cop at war with seemingly everybody. How the characters come together is surprising and satisfying though the path getting there seems  dramatically uneven. That would be a fatal shortcoming in most films, but here, perhaps because the writing is so sly, savage, and challenging, with the actors fully up to the challenge, that its bizarre shifts in tone become part of its strength. It feels like McDonagh was rebelling against tone. McDormand is sensational, Harrellson makes a moving tragic figure, and Rockwell turns an over the top characterization into an unforgettable character. I’m still questioning whether my problems with the film actually were problems, which is a sign that Three Billboards is something special.

Justice League (2017, Directed by Zach Snyder) English 4

Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, J.K Simmons, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons

A DC counterpart to Marvel’s The Avengers, Batman and Wonder Woman construct a team that consists of Victor Stone a.k.a Cyborg, Barry Allen a.k.a Flash, and Arthur Curry a.k.a Aquaman to combat the nearly unstoppable Steppenwolf from destroying Earth with his army of “parademons.” A film that oscillates between good and bad at every turn, I was once again (as has been the case for most superhero fare) bored to death by the plot and its villain. I was, however, mostly happy with the cast (though Miller as Flash was overly silly at times). The members of the Justice League were given distinct personalities, and that in itself makes the proceedings much more enjoyable. Fisher and Momoa especially do a nice job with what, in my opinion, are lame characters. The CGI was weak though, and that’s shocking for, “one of the most expensive films of all-time.” I’m willing to watch more adventures with these characters, but find a filmmaker with some unique ideas.


My Week(s) of Film (October 14-October 27) Part 2

Julieta  82% on Rotten Tomatoes                     7 (Amazon Prime)

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Starring Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Inma Cuesta, Michelle Jenner

Plot Summary-A chance reunion with the friend of her estranged daughter sets Julieta down memory lane, as she tries to recall the events that led to her daughter leaving.

My Take-Julieta lets its slight plot unfold slowly which gives it a weight that would otherwise not be there. We see an older Julieta think back on why her daughter left, and flashbacks reveal a younger Julieta who has turned her back to her father for cheating when she herself is engaged in an affair. The film feels less thematic than some of Almodovar’s best work, but Julieta is masterfully done and intriguing.

-Directed by Pedro Almodovar, 2016

Dinosaur    65% on Rotten Tomatoes                       7 (DVD)

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Voices of Ossie Davis, Alfre Woodard, D.B Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, Della Reese, Joan Plowright

Plot Summary-A meteor crashing down causes all types of  displaced dinosaurs to band together in order to find a new home. Aladar, an Iguanodon raised by Lemurs, does his best to help the weaker ones make it as the brutish leader, Kron, practices survival of the fittest.

My Take-The plot is very simple (some might even say thin), but i find it enjoyable. The characters are strongly defined and the voice work is excellent. Known mostly as a technical marvel when first released, the special effects have naturally aged, but hold up pretty well.

-Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric leighton, 2000

Chances Are 64% on Rotten Tomatoes                        6 (VHS)

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Starring Robert Downey Jr., Cybill Shepherd, Ryan O’Neal, Mary Stuart Masterson

Plot Summary-A lawyer dies suddenly just as he stumbles on a huge scandal and his wife gives birth to a daughter, causing him to seek reincarnation as a way of getting back. Granted, he is reborn as Alex Finch (Downey Jr.). Twenty or so years later he runs into his old family and best friend (O’Neal), bringing all the memories from his old life flooding back.

My Take-Deliberate attempt at a lighthearted and charming old-time movie comes out mostly successful. Awkward moments distract from the film’s romantic nature at times.

-Directed by Emile Ardolino, 1989

-Walter Howard-

My Week of Films (September 30-October 5)

Excellent week, mixing in old favorites with multiple trips to the theater (seeing American Made and Blade Runner 2049).

Rio Bravo 100% on Rotten Tomatoes                      9 (BLU-RAY)

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Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Angie Dickinson, Ricky Nelson

Plot Summary-After arresting a wealthy and corrupt man’s brother, Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) must hold his small town prison off from a horde of deadly mercenaries. The only help he has are his two deputies, the self-destructive Dude (Martin), and the lame Stumpy (Brennan).

My Take-Classic western, one of the last and best of the old Hollywood style, coming right before the genre would be redefined by Italians and Sam Pechinpah. Centered more on characters and dialogue than most westerns, Rio Bravo is a terrific entertainment, kind of a boy’s fantasy. Hanging out with friends. Facing off against villains. Romancing a beautiful woman.

-Directed by Howard Hawks, 1959

Aladdin 94% on Rotten Tomatoes                        8 (VHS)

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Voices of Robin Williams, Gilbert Goddfried, Scott Weinger
Voices of Robin Williams, Gilbert Goddfried, Scott Weinger
Plot Summary-A common street thief, Aladdin, gets caught in the evil schemes of a
power-hungry Vizier. This leads him to a magic lamp holding an all-powerful, wish-
granting genie (voiced by Robin Williams), which Aladdin uses to make himself into
a possible suitor for Princess Jasmine.
My Take-Not much in terms of substance, but easily one of the most entertaining
films in Disney’s canon. Williams’ Genie steals the show, and the songs are extremely
-Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, 1992
Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book     79% on Rotten Tomatoes             8 (VHS)
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Starring Jason Scott Lee, Sam Niel, Lena Headey, Cary Elwes, John Cleese
Plot Summary-Loosely inspired by Kipling’s stories, here, a grown Mowgli, raised by wolves, reunites with a childhood friend, and attempts to find his way in society (one  formed by an imperialist culture).
My Take-Superb action adventure fantasy. Several exciting and terrifying sequences including runs from tigers and baddies being buried alive. Lee does a credible job of selling the fish out of water aspect to his character. There have been several excellent adaptations of The Jungle Book, and this is definitely one of them.
-Directed by Stephen Sommers, 1994
Beautiful Creatures   46% on Rotten Tomatoes                  5 (Netflix)
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Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum
Plot Summary-A teenage boy in a hick town dreams of getting away. Soon he falls fort the weird new girl, and discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, or “casters.” The family disapproves, and a more serious plot involving an evil caster surfaces.
My Take- Lame, if not completely terrible, teen romance. The acting is uniformly good. Ehrenreich, set to star in the Han Solo spinoff, shines here, and will likely go on to much better things. The story is rife with cliches, and the portrait of a southern town as full of idiotic bible-thumpers is tiresome.
-Directed by Richard LaGravenese, 2013
Insiang    No Rotten Tomatoes Score                 8 (Filmstruck)
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Starring Hilda Korenel, Mona Lisa, Rez Cortez
Plot Summary- In poverty stricken Manila, beautiful Insiang deals with a boyfriend unwilling to commit, a mother who is critical of everything and everyone, and her mother’s brutish boyfriend who has eyes Insiang.
My Take- Lurid, melodramatic story mixed with gritty, documentary style filmmaking. Effective drama, with a beautiful leading lady.
-Directed by Lino Brocka, 1976
Pocahontas    56% on Rotten Tomatoes              7 (VHS)
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Voices of Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Christian Bale, Irene Bedard
Plot Summary-Fantasizing of the historical meeting between Pocahontas of the Powhatan tribe and John Smith of the British imperialists. In this Disney interpretation, the two fall in love and do their best to stop the oncoming violence that threatens the people they love.
My Take-Weaker work from Disney’s greatest era. It is still an absorbing story with beautiful animation, music, and voice work, but he ending is unsatisfying. Too much of a wrap-up.
-Directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg, 1995
-Walter Howard-


My Week of Films (September 9-September 15)

Solid week. Watched a number of good films. Saw It in theaters. Meanwhile, I’ve been watching a few television series: Sneaky Pete, Gravity Falls, and Glow. The week’s highlight? Seeing Jaws again for the first time in over ten years.

The Naked Spur   100% on Rotten Tomatoes                  8 (Filmstruck)

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Starring James Stewart, Ralph Meeker, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan

Plot Summary-Wanting to begin again in life, Howard Kemp (Stewart) tracks down a wanted fugitive and plans to collect on his bounty. The venture is complicated by two strangers-one a caddish soldier and the other a deceptively meek prospector-who want a piece of the pie. The three men transport the criminal and his girl, while always keeping an eye on each other.

My Take-The best of what are termed the Anthony Mann psychological westerns. With shades of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the chief pleasure of the film is its clash of distinct characters. As a Hollywood western of the classic tradition, it’s a little too glossy at times. Still a superb picture. Simple story, complex western.

-Directed by Anthony Mann, 1953

Jaws       97% on Rotten Tomatoes                        9 (Netflix)

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Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Plot Summary- An island resort town is in chaos when it’s found out that a shark is terrorizing their water in the heart of the summer season. A bereaved mother puts a bounty on the shark’s head, after it kills her son, which brings dozens of insane hunters to the beach. Sheriff Brody (afraid of water) deals with all of this.

My Take-Exemplary monster film. Holding off on revealing the monster is cliche now thanks to how perfectly that technique was demonstrated here, and then copied by later films. There are only three real characters with any depth here, but Spielberg makes them interesting enough to carry the action. Quint (played by Shaw) steals most of the scenes as the most colorful character. Later scenes drag a little. I’d say early in the third act. The first half and the movie’s conclusion though are top notch.

-Directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975

Road to Hong Kong     No Rotten Tomatoes Score                          7  (Youtube)

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Starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Joan Collins

Plot Summary-Zaniness, gags, and meta humor abound as Hope and Crosby (both long in the tooth) get roped into a world domination plot that brings them to Hong Kong.

My Take-The last in the Road to… series maintains all of the humor and fun of the previous movies. Bob Hope has at least a dozen clever one-liners, the songs are catchy, and I really enjoy the exotic locales. Naturally there’s plenty here in terms of cultural representations that is outdated. (Whites playing Asians or Indians mainly.) Peter Sellers is hilarious though as a shady Indian doctor.

-Directed by Norman Panama, 1962

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery   70% on Rotten Tomatoes           7 (VHS)

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Starring Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Robert Wagner

Plot Summary- Austin Powers, a ’60s super spy, is cryogenically frozen, literally put on ice, to be thawed out once his arch nemesis, Dr. Evil, returns. thirty years later, the two return and have to adjust to the ’90s.

My Take-Very episodic, with a plot that is nearly irrelevant. Mike Myers is, however, a comedic genius of sorts and the characters he creates here are classic. Austin Powers is mostly a feature length series of jokes, but the jokes are very good, and even the lesser jokes are milked for humor by Myers successfully. Works especially well if you’ve seen the Bond films.

-Directed by Jay Roach, 1997

-Walter Howard-