April and the Extraordinary World (2015, Directed by Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci) French 6

Voices of J.K Simmons, Susan Sarandon, Tony Hale, Paul Giamatti

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(6-Good Film)

Imaginative. Beautiful. Shallow.

High concept meets alternate history in this animated film about a family of scientists seeking to create an elixir that cures mortality. Standing in their way is the French government who enslave all scientists in order to monopolize their creations. The youngest of the family, April, is left alone after her parents mysteriously disappear, and finds herself in the middle of a nefarious end-of-the-world level plot. The comic strip art style is appealing and the world it creates is enticing, but the film lacks depth in certain aspects (namely character) that keep it from achieving the epic status it strives for. As is, it’s creative and diverting, without being spectacular.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(550)

Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017, Directed by Imtiaz Ali) Hindi 5

Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Evelyn Sharma, Chandan Roy Sanyal

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(5-Okay Film)

Mediocre. Meandering. Uneven.

A womanizing tour-guide, Harry (Khan) teams up with an assertive bride-to-be, Sejal (Sharma) in order to track down her missing engagement ring. The problem is that she doesn’t remember where she lost it, and she’s traveled through most of Europe. The two fall for one another along the way. A vehicle for Khan and Sharma to reteam after the two wonderful movies Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) and Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), they maintain their superb chemistry, but it’s not enough to cover for the film’s lack of new ideas and meandering adventure. The supporting cast is also left wanting for memorable players.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(545)

English Babu Desi Mem (1996, Directed by Praveen Nischol) Hindi 4

Starring Shahrukh Khan, Sonali Bendre, Sunny Singh, Rajeshwari Sachdev

(4-Bad Film)

Awry. Over-cooked. Unsatisfying.

A Bollywood  romance with mega-star Khan playing three roles; a father and later, his two dissimilar sons. As a prologue, he plays the father, an Indian man who moves to England with his family. Jumping ahead, the oldest son returns to India, falls in love with a local, and has a son of his own. Sadly, he and his wife die and are unable to care for the boy, who is instead raised by his young Aunt. Jumping ahead again, the second son finds out about his older brother and his nephew. He goes to India in order to bring the boy to his rightful home, only to find the boy is devoted to his Aunt and refuses to leave. Did you get all that? The opportunity for a classic cross-generational, fun, romantic, Bollywood story is all in place for most of the movie, but the second half falls off. It switches tone poorly from an antagonistic romance between Khan and his nephew’s aunt to a violent street tale. I just wanted the romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(543)

Summer with Monika (1953, Directed by Ingmar Bergman) Swedish 5

Starring Harriet Andersson, Lars Ekborg, John Harryson, Dagmar Ebbesen

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(5-Okay Film)

Banal. Unromantic. Modest.

One of Ingmar Bergman’s earlier works and some consider it his first great film, Summer with Monika is a bleak, remote tale about a hard-working but beleaguered young man, Harry (Ekborg), who falls hard for a local beauty, Monika (Andersson), abused by her alcoholic father. They run away together, have a passionate summer together, and return home once she gets pregnant to find that they’re not very compatible. The main draw for the film seems to be Bergman’s muse, Andersson, who had a tremendous career and many interesting roles. I don’t think Monika is one of them. As an object of affection, she’s certainly believable, but as a personality, she’s awfully dull and eventually unpleasant.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(521)

Il Mostro/ The Monster (1994, Directed by Roberto Benigni) Italian 7

Starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Michel Blanc, Dominique Lavanant

(7-Very Good Film)

Clever. Silly. Appealing.

Inspired comedy playing off of Hitchcock’s classic, Frenzy, Loris (Benigni), through a series of misunderstandings, becomes the lead suspect in a string of sexual murders. As the lead cop, Nicoletta Braschi (Benigni’s real-life wife), investigates, she finds herself falling in love with the man. Showcases Benigni’s skill at physical humor and clever use of comic foreshadowing. Much fun.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(506)

Frantz (2016, Directed by François Ozon) French/German 7

Starring Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber

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(7-Very Good Film)

Intriguing. Gripping. Appealing.

In the aftermath of World War I, a young German girl, Anna, mourns the loss of her fiancée, Frantz, when, one day, she notices a mysterious Frenchman visiting her beloved’s grave. “Who is he?” Anna wonders, as he begins spending time with her and Frantz’ family, and as she slowly begins to fall for him. At its core, the film is a fairly simple story, but it’s strengthened by themes of forgiveness, xenophobia, truth versus lies, and illicit romance. Plus, Ozon’s direction gives the film the suspense and tension of a classic Hitchcock. Switching between black/white and color, I believe to signify times of mourning versus post-war closure, Frantz is an excellent foreign drama, though I can’t shake my disappointment with the resolution, despite it probably being the right ending for the film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(438)

La Notte (1961, Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni) Italian 8

Starring Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti, Bernhard Wicki, Maria Pia Luzi

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Bleak. Beautiful. Brooding.

La Notte, Antonioni’s mood piece, seems influenced as much by jazz music as by any film that came before it. The plot, if one exists, is irrelevant. The dialogue is almost exclusively small talk and the characters, specifically, the two leads, unhappily married couple, Lidia (Moreau) and Giovanni (Mastroianni), seem to consistently circumvent what it is they mean to say. Their story is told over the course of a night, beginning with a visit to a dying friend, and ending with a dubious reconciliation, and dubious reconciliation is actually my optimistic reading. A more negative view of the finale in which husband and wife talk, at last, would be to note that the wife is attempting to speak honestly and the husband is in denial. You could say that his kissing her in the end, rather than being romantic, is him willfully ignoring her. The entire film drifts through, a beautiful malaise. I look forward to revisiting La Notte at some point down the line.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(420)