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

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(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)

The Karate Kid part III (1989, Directed by John G. Avildsen) English 4

Starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Robyn Lively, Thomas Ian Griffith, Sean Kanan

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(4-Bad Film)

Over the top. Rehash. Drudgery.

Daniel and Mr. Miyagi return to California and open a store selling bonsai trees. Their enterprise is interrupted by Terry Silver (Ian Griffith), a member of the Cobra Kai who was humiliated by the protagonists a year earlier at the Karate tournament. Silver vows revenge and enlists a superstar hotshot to compete against Daniel to reclaim the title. Utterly unnecessary first and foremost. Completely devoid of fun or humor. Daniel is too manic in this entry. The villains are way over the top; in their actions and in their acting. And the love interest, if she can be called that, is more like a friend zone relationship. Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi is wonderful as always.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(509)

The Karate Kid (1984, Directed by John G. Avildsen) English 9

Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, Martin Kove

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(9-Great Film)

Crowd-pleasing. Rousing. Classic.

A New Jersey boy named Daniel (Macchio) moves to California with his single mother and immediately runs into a gang of bullies. They torment him ceaselessly until the Okinawan maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi (Morita), stands up for him, and offers to teach him karate, in preparation for a massive tournament at the end of the year. Your standard sports film in many ways, The Karate Kid gets over the top by being better than the rest. The relationship and friendship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi is the heart of the film, and I enjoy the corny ’80s trappings and teen romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(500)

The Karate Kid (2010, Directed by Harald Zwart) English 7

Starring Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Ringo Lam

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(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Triumphant. Enjoyable.

Reworking the original’s premise, this time with a younger lead and a foreign setting, The Karate Kid centers around Dre, a 12-year-old boy from Detroit who moves to Beijing with his single mother, and makes enemies with a gang of sadistic kids right off the back. His only friends are Meiying, the girl he has a crush on, and Mr. Han (Chan), a meek maintenance man. Eventually, as the bullying persists, Mr. Han steps in and offers to teach Dre Kung Fu. The deal: the kids will leave Dre alone as long as he shows up for the tournament at the end of the year. As far as remakes go, this one is remarkably successful. Captures much of the joy of the original, and still feels fresh much of the time. The locations are beautiful and are a major reason for this success.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(475)

Bull Durham (1988, Directed by Ron Shelton) English 8

Starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl, William O’Leary

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Fresh. Appealing. Knowing.

As equally fantastic a romantic comedy as it is a baseball movie, Bull Durham stars Sarandon, Costner, and Robbins caught up in a heavily imbalanced love triangle. Sarandon plays kind of a baseball groupie who takes in a different player every season. This season though she finds herself falling for a dogged veteran (Costner) as she takes in the talented meathead (Robbins). Sarandon has a difficult role. Her Annie Savoy wouldn’t normally be the hero in a romantic comedy, and Sarandon makes her charming and the work seem effortless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(462)

Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (2009, Directed by Dan Klores) English 7

Featuring Reggie Miller, John Starks, Spike Lee, Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson

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(7-Very Good Film)

Engaging. Funny. Insightful.

Another fascinating entry in ESPN’s running 30 for 30 series, this one follows the early to mid-’90s,  NBA rivalry between the Reggie Miller led Indiana Pacers and the Patrick Ewing led New York Knicks. The story is set with the retirement of Michael Jordan, who, with the Chicago Bulls, dominated the Eastern Conference as well as the rest of the NBA. With MJ gone, the rest of the league felt stronger than ever that their time was now, and the pressure was higher than ever. Two of the biggest contenders are chronicled in this funny and illuminating documentary, highlighting the teams’ similarities, Reggie Miller’s antagonistic persona, and Spike Lee’s passionate courtside fandom. The film is a lightweight compared to some of the other more substantial 30 for 30s, but it still demonstrates the power of sports, which I believe is the key to the series greatness. It answers the question of why we love sports.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(443)