Creed (2015, Directed by Ryan Coogler) English 8

Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, Wood Harris

(8-Exceptional Film)

Compelling. Gritty. Convincing.

As the film’s protagonist attempts to walk in the shoes of his legendary father, Apollo Creed, so does this boxing picture walk in the gigantic footsteps of the original, Rocky. Starring Michael B. Jordan as the illegitimate son of Carl Weathers’ character from the franchise, this film delivers great drama using sports as a metaphor for life. Sylvester Stallone has played Rocky Balboa now seven times, but he has never been better than he is here. The film’s lone flaw is its villain, Pretty Ricky (Bellew), who’s convincing as a fighter for obvious reasons but isn’t intimidating enough as a film villain.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(762)

Rocky III (1982, Directed by Sylvester Stallone) English 8

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Mr. T, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Tony Burton, Hulk Hogan

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Triumphant. Rousing. Classic.

Rocky III is a smorgasbord of pop culture icons, offering Mr. T, Hulk Hogan, Kermit the Frog, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” and Apollo Creed to go along with Sylvester Stallone’s defining character. In this, Rocky Balboa’s third outing, he, reigning heavyweight champion of the world, takes on the cocky, fearsome Clubber Lang (played unforgettably by Mr. T). The results may be unsurprising but the craft is in making us care. This is my favorite Rocky movie. He is an indelible character and, when paired with a strong villain, as he is here (each of the first four Rocky’s had proper antagonists), the formula is undefeated. Never mind the lack of subtlety or defensive boxing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(754)

Nacho Libre (2006, Directed by Jared Hess) English 7

Starring Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez, Silver King, Carla Jimenez, Richard Montoya, Peter Stormare

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(7-Very Good Film)

Silly. Eccentric. Winning.

How amusing do you find the thought of Jack Black doing a Mexican accent? Or Jack Black playing a luchador? Your enjoyment of Nacho Libre starring Black as Ignacio, a cook at a quiet monastery who dreams of making it big as a wrestler, will likely depend on your answers to those two questions. Nacho Libre is a kind of a one-joke film. It milks all of the humor it can from its premise and does little beyond it. Rather than that being a complaint, I actually consider the film a triumph in style. Director, Jared Hess, who was coming off of Napoleon Dynamite at the time, has a very distinct visual approach and I’m a fan. On top of the idiosyncratic humor, the story ultimately manages to be fairly involving as well.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(729)

 

The Cincinnati Kid (1965, Directed by Norman Jewison) English 8

Starring Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Karl Malden, Tuesday Weld, Ann-Margret, Cab Calloway, Rip Torn, Joan Blondell

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Fast. Gripping. Cool.

How much time does Steve McQueen shave off a film by making traditional character development unnecessary? Edward G. Robinson, as well? As soon as the two legendary actors walk across the screen, I’m invested. The entire cast is fantastic though (all the way down to Blondell and Cab Calloway in small supporting roles) in this story of a hotshot stud’s poker player, Eric (McQueen), out to prove he’s top dog against Lancey Howard (Robinson), who’s been top dog for decades. That aspect of the film may sound derivative of The Hustler but that’s where the comparison’s end for me. The Hustler is a bleak, powerful character drama. The Cincinnati Kid is star-driven, stylish, grand entertainment. Consider that I know nothing about poker and the film’s climax, an extended game between world-class players, became a foreign-language film to me. How remarkable is it then that this portion of the film was as exciting and tense as any I’ve seen in a long time. Its outcome, both unexpected and welcome.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(648)

 

Turbo (2013, Directed by David Soren) English 4

Voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Snoop Dogg, Bill Hader, Chris Parnell, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez

(4-Bad Film)

Rip-off. Inferior. Unfunny.

Turbo (Reynolds) is a snail that dreams of racing in the Indianapolis 500. Seemingly impossible, a miracle leaves him blessed with super speed and gives him the opportunity he’s always wanted. This weaker effort from DreamWorks animation feels like a blatant rip-off of Pixar’s fantastic Ratatouille. What the antithesis of a gourmet chef and fine dining? Rats. What seems like the antithesis of speed? Snails. Their family tells them it will never happen. A human befriends them and helps them achieve their dreams. It’s a completely unnecessary if not downright terrible movie.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(642)

The Caddy (1953, Directed by Norman Taurog) English 6

Starring Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Donna Reed, Barbara Bates, Joseph Calleia, Fred Clark, Clinton Sundberg

Image result for the caddy 1953

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Zany. Enjoyable.

“That’s Amore,” sings Dean Martin as Joe Anthony, a blue-collar drifter working his way up in social class through golf. He meets and falls in love with the lovely socialite, Kathy Taylor (Reed), but his caddy, future brother-in-law, and friend, Harvey Miller Jr. (Lewis), is embarrassing him in front of his new friends. The Caddy is a fast-paced, irreverent comedy with a few great musical numbers. It teases a sports story but ultimately lets that aspect fizzle out. Lewis is mostly annoying but paired with Martin, it doesn’t keep the film from being enjoyable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(627)

 

Tin Cup (1996, Directed by Ron Shelton) English 7

Starring Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin

(7-Very Good Film)

Solid. Entertaining. Knowing.

Kevin Costner reteams with the director of his early career classic, Bull Durham, to once again merge the sports film with the romantic comedy. Costner plays a chronic hot head and underachiever hoping to impress the woman he loves, a therapist played by Rene Russo, by competing in the U.S Open. Tin Cup hits many of the same notes as Bull Durham, and the result is a movie that at times feels familiar or reliant on charm borrowed from another film. However, this golf flick has qualities of its own that make unfavorable comparisons to its predecessor unfair. It’s a really entertaining, solid gold movie with compelling leads.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(595)