The Great Mouse Detective (1986, Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) English 8

Voices of Barrie Ingham, Vincent Price, Val Bettin, Candy Candido, Alan Young, Frank Welker, Basil Rathbone

The Great Mouse Detective Movie Review

(8-Exceptional Film)

Nostalgic. Exciting. Unique.

Dr. Dawson: [voice over] From that time on, Basil and I were a close team. We had many cases together, but I’ll always look back on that first with the most fondness; my introduction to Basil of Baker Street, the great mouse detective.

Larger, more beloved films followed in Disney’s great canon of animation-three years later, The Little Mermaid arrived and started the company’s renaissance-but The Great Mouse Detective was always a favorite of mine as a child. I’m pleased to find that it’s still as charming and exciting now as it was to me then. A twist on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s invention, Sherlock Holmes, the great detective, along with every other character, is replaced, here, by a mouse called upon to help a young girl-mouse reunite with her abducted father, and thwart his arch-nemesis, Professor Ratigan (Price), once more. The animation is striking, bolstered by early use of CGI; the climactic showdown between the heroes and Ratigan in Big Ben is a stunning example of this. The voice work by Vincent Price, clearly relishing his role, is fantastic, and the story is compelling and efficient.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,091)

Next (2007, Directed by Lee Tamahori) English 5

Starring Nicholas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschman, Peter Falk, Jim Beaver

Next (2007 film) - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

(5-Okay Film)

Intriguing. Shoddy. Silly.

Cris Johnson: Here is the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes, because you looked at it, and that changes everything else.

When a high concept film is done poorly, it becomes silly. Next, taken from a story by the high concept king, Philip K. Dick, is done poorly. It stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, who also goes by Frank Cadillac, a seemingly inconsequential magician performing in Vegas. But Cris actually has one extraordinary ability. He can see the future up to two minutes in front of him. The FBI are after him because they believe his ability can help them prevent a terrorist plot for nuclear disaster. The terrorists are after him because they agree. It’s a potentially interesting premise, but one that’s difficult to wrap one’s head around. The implications of Cris’ talent and the variations of time that he creates seem infinite. It would take a brilliant mind to make this material work, or at least a thoughtful one. Next is neither thoughtful nor brilliant. It’s fast-paced enough not to be boring but it’s also pretty crudely done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,090)

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Directed by Steven Spielberg) English 9

Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot, Alfred Molina

Raiders of the Lost Ark' cast: Actors and their characters in the 1981  Indiana Jones film

(9-Great Film)

Classic. Expert. Fun.

Indiana: Meet me at Omar’s. Be ready for me. I’m going after that truck.

Sallah: How?

Indiana: I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.

Jaws is considered the first “blockbuster,” but Indiana Jones is the one that I see as the benchmark. Not because Jaws isn’t a great film, but because I see traces of Indiana Jones in just about every major blockbuster since. Starring Harrison Ford as the iconic, titular hero, Indy (an archaeologist, university professor, and globetrotter) is caught up in a race with the Nazis to find the Ark of the Covenant. Helped along the way by an old flame, Marion (Allen), a work colleague, Marcus Brody (Elliot), and a loyal friend, Sallah (Rhys-Davies), Indy works his way through one great action set-piece after another. Like a few other great American classics-Casablanca or Chinatown, for example-Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t necessarily my favorite film. My taste gravitates towards stranger things; movies like its sequel Temple of Doom, which I adore. Raiders of the Lost Ark, however, is a nearly perfect film. It’s tremendous storytelling by the master of blockbuster filmmaking, Steven Spielberg, and in Harrison Ford, he had a star who was instantly compelling. Consider how much is happening to Indy and around him throughout this movie, then consider if you ever felt the character was overshadowed by the action. That’s a tribute to Ford that he’s never lost in the maelstrom. He’s one of the great movie stars.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,089)

Assassin’s Creed (2016, Directed by Justin Kurzel) English 4

Starring Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Irons, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams, Ariane Labed, Carlos Bardem, Essie Davis

(4-Bad Film)

Dreary. Serious. Muddled.

Callum Lynch: We work in the dark to serve the light. We are assassins.

I realize that it’s unfair to judge a video game series by its movie adaptation, but, having never played any of the Assassin’s Creed games, I can’t help never wanting to, after working my way through this seemingly interminable drag of a film. Working with an original story set in the world of Assassin’s Creed, Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a violent prisoner, is coerced into delving into his ancestor’s memories through amazing new technology (so amazing that it’s nonsensical, even in this, a fantasy), in what his captors hope will bring them to the sacred apple of Eden and a chance to eliminate violence in the world. So yes, Assassin’s Creed has a lot of big ideas and explores them seriously, and with the benefit of a sterling cast. Unfortunately, there’s not an ounce of fun to be had watching this picture, as far as I’m concerned, and a little bit of camp might have helped. It’s a sluggish work with too much exposition and not enough character development. With no humor whatsoever and no romance, Assassin’s Creed has the austerity of a classic historical epic, but with none of the spectacle.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,088)

The Croods: A New Age (2020, Directed by Joel Crawford) English 7

Voices of Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Leslie Mann, Peter Dinklage, Kelly Marie Tran, Clark Duke

The Croods: A New Age, a sequel that's unambitious but entertaining | The  Canberra Times | Canberra, ACT

(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Busy. Light.

Guy: The sleep pile reeks, Eep!

Grug: Reeks of love!

I don’t remember much about The Croods (2013), apparently released seven years before this sequel. I remember having no expectations going in and being pleasantly surprised to find that it was, at least, an entertaining distraction. The Croods: A New Age struck me almost exactly the same way. Here is a sequel that nobody asked for, and yet, it turns out to be a worthwhile, if forgettable, flick. The Crood family embark on a journey to find a place to settle, eventually stumbling upon an oasis already occupied by the Bettermans. The Bettermans are pretty stuck-up and the two families clash before, inevitably, coming to accept one another. The Croods feels like old-fashioned animation with a frenetic pace, constant, zany humor and sight gags. It also owes a bit to The Flintstones, of course. I enjoyed its sense of humor and its light touch.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,087)

Luca (2021, Directed by Enrico Casarosa) English 6

Voices of Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Sandy Martin, Sacha Baron Cohen

Luca Images Give First Look At Pixar's 2021 Theatrical Movie

(6-Good Film)

Low-key. Bright. Amusing.

Luca Paguro: This is gonna be the best summer ever! We’ll ride down every road, see the whole world together! It’ll be amazing! But there’s just one thing no one can find out…

Young Luca Paguro is a restless sea monster with over-protective parents. Sea monsters have the ability to transform into humans once they reach land, but their fish-like qualities are revealed with the slightest touch of water, putting them at risk with the prejudiced locals. Still, Luca longs to explore the surface, falling in line with animation’s long tradition of pent-up protagonists with parents that just don’t understand (Ariel, Rapunzel, Remy, etc.). It’s kind of hackneyed at this point, and so, the film’s first 20 or so minutes suffer. I was actually quite bored for the first act of Luca. Thankfully, the film picks up once Luca and his new reckless but loyal friend, Alberto, run away together and do their best to fit in with a quaint seaside town on the Riviera. It’s here that they meet Giulia and team up for an Italian-style triathlon. I consider “cute” a condescending description for an animated flick. I revere animation and the best animated films are as great and as substantial as any Oscar-winning drama. However, in Luca’s case, cute is probably the best way to describe it. Luca holds no surprises. It’s hardly spectacular and never seems to even want to be. I appreciated Luca more as soon as I stopped expecting it to blow me away. Pixar has made some of the best animated films of all-time. Here, they’re content to have fashioned a sweet, simple coming-of-age tale with bright, cheerful animation.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,086)

The Big Lebowski (1998, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen) English 9

Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Tara Reid, David Huddleston, David Thewlis, Sam Elliot, John Turturro, Ben Gazzara, Peter Stormare, Jon Polito, Dom Irrera

Film Forum · Joel and Ethan Coen'sTHE BIG LEBOWSKI

(9-Great Film)

Funny. Eccentric. Original.

The Dude: [repeated line by The Dude and others] That rug really tied the room together.

Jeff Lebowski (Bridges), or “The Dude,” would seem to be the last person to get involved in an elaborate kidnapping plot. He doesn’t do much with his life but bowl, smoke weed, and drink White Russians. That is, until a couple of thugs soil his rug, mistaking him for another Lebowski, forcing The Dude to seek reimbursement and involving him with a lot of characters that use to populate Raymond Chandler novels. I love those Raymond Chandler novels and would like to see the Coen Bros. adapt one outright. That’s unlikely to happen, but The Big Lebowski, as offbeat as it is, still satisfies as a crime flick while working on so many other levels that its become a cult classic. Wildly original storytelling and characters with dozens of quotable lines.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,085)

Panic Room (2002, Directed by David Fincher) English 8

Starring Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Kristen Stewart, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Patrick Bauchau

David Fincher's PANIC ROOM (2002) – THE DIRECTORS SERIES

(8-Exceptional Film)

Efficient. Tense. Compelling.

Burnham: This is what I do; if some idiot with a sledgehammer could break in, do you really think I’d still have a job?

Single location thrillers are a dime-a-dozen. I imagine they’re less expensive to make than most movies, and, besides, there’s a large audience for them. If a film of this sort is going to make any real impression, it’s going to be because of the director and maybe the star. David Fincher is the director of Panic Room, with Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker starring. That sets up the film to be pretty good and I actually think it’s better than most people give it credit for. Foster plays Meg Altman, recently separated from her husband, she moves into a beautiful new house in Manhattan with her daughter, Sarah (Stewart), and, on the very first night, a trio of burglars-Burnham (Whitaker), Raoul (Yoakam), Junior (Leto)-show up with intel on where secret money is hidden by the house’s previous owner. Fortunately, the new house comes equipped with a seemingly impregnable “panic room” where Meg and Sarah can hide out. Unfortunately, however, the panic room is where the secret money is hidden and Burnham is the one who installed the room, so he knows a few tricks. Really compelling thriller with a great performance from its star, Foster, who’s supported by a cast of interesting characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,084)

The Flying Guillotine (1975, Directed by Meng Hua Ho) Mandarin 6

Starring Kuan Tai Chen, Hung Wei, Ti Ai, Feng Ku, Wu Chi Liu, Yang Chiang, Yue Wong, Ricky Hui

Hong Kong Cinemagic - Gallery Chen Kuan Tai

(6-Good Film)

Gory. Compelling. Odd.

In ancient China, a paranoid emperor commissions a lethal weapon known as the flying guillotine (it flies through the air and decapitates its target from a distance), as well as an elite unit taught to master the invention. One member, initially loyal to the emperor, gradually realizes that he’s fighting on the wrong side of things and runs away. Years later, now a fugitive, the home and family he’s built in the interim come under attack when his old team come looking for him. Apparently, improbably much of this story actually happened, but the main conceit, the flying guillotine, by itself, makes the film a fantasy. It also makes hand-to-hand kung fu largely obsolete which means that most of the film focuses on the bizarre central weapon rather than stunts and fighting sequences. The flying guillotine is a strange, impractical, never-ending source of amusement as a weapon and that becomes true of the film as well. It’s not one of the Shaw Brothers more polished productions, but it’s entertaining and memorable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,083)

White Men Can’t Jump (1992, Directed by Ron Shelton) English 6

Starring Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, Rosie Perez, Tyra Ferrell, Kadeem Hardison, Marques Johnson, Freeman Williams, Duane Martin

Pictures & Photos from White Men Can't Jump (1992) | Iconic movies, Tv show  couples, White man

(6-Good Film)

Fast. Fresh. Memorable.

Sidney Deane: [before winning a bet with him] Billy, listen to me. White men can’t jump.

White men can’t jump. Can clichés be iconic? The spirit of the film, the originality of its characters, and its cleverness went a long way to popularizing the myth that all white men aren’t athletic. It stars Woody Harrelson as a basketball hustler, Billy Hoyle, who doesn’t know how to walk away from a bet, much like Paul Newman’s Eddie Felson. Unlike Eddie, however, who always looked smooth and competent, Billy looks like a fool, and besides that, he’s white, so when he shows up to courts in southcentral L.A, the locals assume he can’t play. One of these locals, hardworking Sydney Deane (Snipes), sees the potential in Billy’s hustle and decides to team up with him. Rosie Perez plays Billy’s supportive but exhausted wife, Gloria, always studying for a chance on Jeopardy. White Men Can’t Jump isn’t a great movie in my estimation (despite being a favorite of Stanley Kubrick of all things). It’s not realistic enough for serious social commentary, it’s not a satire, and it’s not hilarious. I would also argue that basketball is one of the least compelling sports cinematically and one of the most difficult to portray accurately. What works are the characters who smart, fresh, and perfectly cast.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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