Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace) English 6

Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Nancy Kyes, Brad Schacter, Michael Currie

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(6-Good Film)

Underrated. Tense. Mindless.

No, Michael Myers is not in this movie. Somebody decided to call this horror flick Halloween III despite having nothing to do with the previous two installments, and, regardless of what their plan was, they did Season of the Witch a major disservice. It’s no masterpiece but it’s also not the waste of time that so many disgruntled fans say it is on IMDB. It follows Dr. Daniel Challis (Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Nelkin) working to uncover a diabolical conspiracy in the small town of Santa Mira. Local toy company, Silver Shamrock, is making Halloween masks that destroy the wearer. There’s more to it than that but it still won’t make much sense. I admitted it’s not a masterpiece. It is, however, creepy and effective, a tense hour-and-a-half experience; something like an adult Goosebumps.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(751)

Kiss the Girls (1997, Directed by Gary Fleder) English 6

Starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Tony Goldwyn, Bill Nunn, Jay O. Sanders, Jeremy Piven, Brian Cox, Richard T. Jones, Tatyana Ali

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(6-Good Film)

Absorbing. Typical. Effective.

Mysteries go down pretty easy and don’t have to work very hard to be interesting. If a film lets you know that there’s a killer and you don’t know who it is, most people will want to find out. Kiss the Girls gives us a killer wearing a mask; the simplest means of setting up a whodunnit. The killer, Casanova (self-named), abducts beautiful, intelligent women for his collection, then sadistically has his way with them hidden away in his underground lair. One of the girls abducted, Naomi, is the niece of brilliant D.C detective Alex Cross, played by Morgan Freeman, who joins in on the manhunt after a promise made to his sister. Ashley Judd is another of Casanova’s intended victims, only she escapes and helps Cross catch the bad guy. Most films of this sort are pretty shallow and formulaic. Kiss the Girls does nothing to break that mold, but it is competently made and benefits from outstanding leads in Freeman and Judd.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(750)

 

Happy Death Day (2017, Directed by Christopher B. Landon) English 6

Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Phil Vu, Charles Aitken, Rachel Matthews

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(6-Good Film)

Silly. Entertaining. Derivative.

By its own implied admission, Happy Death Day borrows/steals heavily from the Bill Murray classic, Groundhog Day. That’s not a problem though since the premise (an unexplained time loop that causes its selfish protagonist to repeat the same day) is so good, it could go in a dozen possible directions. Here, reworked for the horror genre, a college sorority girl named Tree is stuck on Monday, September 18th, which happens to be her birthday. Repeating your birthday wouldn’t seem so bad, if not for the brutal serial killer murdering her at the end of every loop. I enjoy a good slasher-whodunit, and Happy Death Day delivers on that count, although it’s more funny than scary. Suffers from downright silliness at times, but is engaging enough to be passable entertainment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(749)

American Made (2017, Directed by Doug Liman) English 6

Starring Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domnhall Gleeson, Lola Kirke, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones

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(6-Good Film)

Solid. Interesting. Unspectacular.

Barry Seal, a TWA pilot in the ’70s, spirals into the ’80s as a gun and drug-runner for the CIA, Pablo Escobar, and much of Central America. I knew none of this, and as a story, apparently true, I found it fascinating. As a movie, I found it competently done, but rather safe. Tom Cruise plays Seal, and he still has enough star power and charisma to guide us along the course of the film. I feel American Made aimed for some of that Wolf of Wall Street chaotic, stranger-than-fiction true story energy and it only partly comes off. It’s a good film, but not one you need to see twice.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(748)

The Three Musketeers (1973, Directed by Richard Lester) English 8

Starring Michael York, Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Faye Dunaway, Frank Finlay, Geraldine Chaplin, Roy Kinnear, Simon Ward

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Exuberant. Droll. Arresting.

All for one, and one for all. You’re familiar with this mantra, no doubt, whether you’ve read Alexandre Dumas’ classic 19th-century novel, The Three Musketeers, or not. You’ve heard it an endless amount of times, referenced in other works, or perhaps you’ve seen any number of films based on or influenced by said novel. Apparently, there are close to fifty film adaptations, and though I’ve only seen five, I’m willing to claim this, Richard Lester’s 1973 version, is the best of them. It would be tough to beat and it’s certainly the best of the ones I’ve seen, though the George Sidney-directed, Gene Kelly-led old Hollywood version is fantastic fun.

The Three Musketeers, like many 19th-century novels, is fairly long (around 700 pages ), and so, any film adaptation is going to have to make do with a fraction of the plot and story development of its source material. It’s for this reason that I would welcome a mini-series adaptation (apologies if it exists already, I’ve never seen it). Director, Richard Lester, best known to this day for directing the spirited Beatles’ flick, A Hard Day’s Night, teamed up with writer, George MacDonald Fraser, best known for his series of Flashman books, and together- I’m not sure whose decision it was, but it proves wise-their Three Musketeers basically cuts away all of Dumas’ subplots. Here, beginning like the novel and all adaptations, young, provincial Frenchman, D’artagnan (York), is ready to leave the nest and, after his farewells with his parents, travels to bustling Paris where he hopes to make it as a member of the King’s guard, a musketeer. Upon arrival, his unrefined country ways rub several people the wrong way and he, confident young man that he is, accepts three duels on his first day, each with a musketeer; one with the stoic Athos (Reed), another with the extravagant Porthos (Finlay), and a final one with the devout Aramis (Chamberlain). Before he gets a chance to fight any of the three, however, an encounter with henchmen working for the devious Cardinal Richelieu (Heston) sees him teaming up with them instead. Later on and now friends, D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis attempt to thwart one of the Cardinal’s plots by sneaking into England and recovering jewels given by Queen Anne of Austria (Chaplin) to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham (Ward). Faye Dunaway and Raquel Welch play love interests with Dunaway as a femme fatale of sorts, Milady de Winter, and Welch as a spotty but beautiful dressmaker, Constance.

There’s a sequel released just one year later (1974) that I haven’t seen and I can only assume covers more of Dumas’ epic saga. If so, I like that approach. The Three Musketeers warrants two films. At the same time, the clandestine mission to recover the Queen’s jewels has always been my favorite chapter in Dumas’ serial and makes for a fine standalone film and what a spectacular film Lester’s made. It’s marvelous to look at and a witty, almost irreverent take on the swashbuckler tale. Each frame is elaborately designed and each scene offers some surprising, humorous visual detail. I love the swashbuckling adventure stories of old. They’re close to extinct nowadays and that’s a shame because films like Captain Blood, Adventures of Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro, or this one are fun, attractive, romantic, and exciting, while a great deal of modern action flicks are flat and boring. The one criticism I have of this Three Musketeers is that it’s less concerned with the characters’ and their development than other iterations and the three musketeers, in particular, are short-changed a bit. Only Oliver Reed as Athos makes any real impression thanks to his charisma and physical presence. I’m going to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt though and imagine that the characters will develop more in the second part. To be continued…

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(747)

King of the Khyber Rifles (1953, Directed by Henry King) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Terry Moore, Michael Rennie, John Justin, Guy Rolfe, Richard Wyler

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(6-Good Film)

Handsome. Dull. Unmemorable.

Mid-1800s, India. Captain Alan King (Power) serves in the British army and, unknown to his peers, was born to a white father and a Muslim mother. Leading his troops against a local uprising, he learns that the leader of the rebels is Karram Khan (Rolfe), a man he grew up with as close as brothers. There’s also some drama surrounding his romance with the general’s daughter, Susan (Moore). The film is consummately crafted from a technical standpoint but lifeless when it comes to the human element. The lead characters are mainly British soldiers and so the old cliché, the stoic, stiff-upper-lip sentiment abounds. That would be fine if the film had worked in Khan earlier. It’s not until he arrives, near the end, that King of the Khyber Rifles gets interesting. There are a couple of late, suspenseful scenes involving King and Khan that make the film worthwhile. King plots to kill his old friend. Khan’s more cunning than he lets on. I would have extended this portion of the plot; made it the center of the movie.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(746)

 

The Hired Hand (1971, Directed by Peter Fonda) English 8

Starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Verna Bloom, Robert Pratt, Severn Darden, Ann Doran

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Spare. Thoughtful. Poignant.

Two life-long ramblers in the old west, Harry (Fonda) and Arch (Oates), attempt to give up their nomadic lifestyle when the former decides to return home to his estranged wife, Hannah (Bloom) and daughter. Arch goes with him and, as it’s been several years since Harry left her, Hannah isn’t all that excited to see him again. After some coaxing, she agrees to let the pair work around the house as “hired hands” and sleep out in the barn, and thus begins an odd, intriguing triangle between the three lead characters. Dear, loyal friendship between Harry and Arch. Love, responsibility, vows between Harry and Hannah. And a complicated, mostly unspoken attraction between Arch and Hannah (reminiscent of the classic western, Shane). This is a strange, fascinating film. Like many great westerns before it, The Hired Hand is deceptively simple, so much left unsaid. It focuses on a trio of memorable characters and performances and takes it time letting things unfold.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(745)