The Horror of Party Beach (1964, Directed by Del Tenney) English 3

Starring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel, Eulabelle Moore, Marilyn Clarke, Agustin Mayor

Image result for horror at party beach

(3-Horrible Film)

Laughable. Mindless. Unscary.

Deep down in the waters off of a Connecticut beach lives a new species of sea life. Grotesquely altered by radioactive waste, these corrupted creatures are heading for land and I’m prepared to be horrified- it is The Horror at Party Beach, after all- but then, the creatures surface, looking like an H.R Pufnstuf character. Once we see the “monsters,” the rest of the movie becomes a bad joke. To be honest, the movie was never good. From the start, the acting is wooden (in that independent-filmmaking, amateurish sort of way) and the dialogue is absurd. The characters are nondescript, all except Eulabelle, the black maid that made me roll my eyes with every line she’s given to read. The music sucks too.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(853)

The Mask of Zorro (1998, Directed by Martin Campbell) English 9

Starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Lescher, Tony Amendola, L.Q Jones

Image result for the mask of zorro

(9-Great Film)

Fun. Exciting. Well-crafted.

I often think that an actor making no attempt to do a realistic accent is less distracting than getting an accent wrong. I submit for evidence Anthony Hopkins in The Mask of Zorro. He’s wonderful in this movie despite not making much sense with his British accent and blue eyes. He plays Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro, a vigilante in corrupt California during the 1800s. After his life is torn apart and his daughter, Elena, stolen from him by Don Rafael (Wilson), twenty years pass before Don Diego gets an opportunity for revenge. Teaming up with the much younger Alejandro (Banderas), whose brother was killed by one of Rafael’s minions, the sadistic Captain Love (Lescher), the two Zorros attempt to thwart Rafael’s plans. Rousing action-adventure with a perfect balance between humor and drama, several outstanding scenes (like the sword duel between Banderas and Zeta-Jones as Elena), and an engrossing plot that borrows shrewdly from Count of Monte Cristo.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(852)

Missing Link (2019, Directed by Christ Butler) English 6

Voices of Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, David Walliams

Image result for missing link

(6-Good Film)

Dry. Rudimentary. Bright.

The premise isn’t terribly original. British explorer, Sir Lionel Frost (Jackman), discovers Big Foot (Galifianakis), far more amiable and eloquent than expected, and must get him back to the English “Society of Great Men” to prove it and thus receive his membership. Society leader, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Fry), goes out of his way to make sure that doesn’t happen, including hiring a dauntless hitman, Stenk (Olyphant), while fierce beauty, Adelina (Saldana), joins Frost and Big Foot on their journey. It’s very reminiscent of Around the World in 80 Days. The humor is pretty dry as well. Missing Link overcomes its shortcomings with typically impressive animation by Laika Studios and a couple of excellent scenes. Particularly, the climax where the trio of protagonists attempts to escape Stenk on a collapsing bridge.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(851)

The Cutting Edge (1992, Directed by Paul Michael Glaser) English 6

Starring D.B Sweeney, Moira Kelly, Roy Dotrice, Terry O’Quinn, Dwier Brown, Michael Hogan

Image result for the cutting edge

(6-Good Film)

Conventional. Appealing. Solid.

Doug Dorsey’s (Sweeney) once-promising dreams of being a professional hockey player are dashed after he suffers a hit that damages his vision. Not having much else to do with his life, a strange opportunity comes his way to partner with Kate Mosely (Kelly), a difficult figure-skater looking to compete in the pairs event at the upcoming Olympics. The two clash as naturally as they fall in love. It’s a romantic comedy. You either like them or you don’t. As far as romantic comedies go, The Cutting Edge is a pretty good one. The leads are appealing and their antagonistic dialogue is attractive.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(850)

Everybody Knows (2018, Directed by Asghar Farhadi) Spanish 8

Starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, Elvira Mínguez, Eduard Fernández, Ramón Barea

Image result for everybody knows

(8-Exceptional Film)

Gripping. Considerable. Adept.

There’s a series of mystery novels-for my money, the best series in all of literature-written by Ross MacDonald and featuring his ace detective, Lew Archer. I think about a certain quote from time to time, written, not in one of those books, but about the series as a whole. I’ve tried for a while now to find out exactly who said it to no avail, but it goes something like this, “Most mystery writers write about crime. MacDonald writes about sin.” With the amount of time I’ve spent reading, rereading, or thinking about Lew Archer’s cases, I come back to this quote often. It’s perfect. It’s exactly and succinctly the distinguishing characteristic of MacDonald’s writing and what I love most about his novels. I was reminded of this quote again while watching Asghar Farhadi’s most recent drama, Everybody Knows. Farhadi, an Iranian director, has made a number of great films in his own country (A Separation, The Salesman, Fireworks Wednesday) and abroad (The Past). He’s won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film twice. Only the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio De Sica, and Frederico Fellini have won that award more times. I have no idea if Farhadi has ever read a Lew Archer novel, but he works in a similar vein. He takes the holistic view of each mystery he untangles. Every character has secrets. Every character’s actions affect someone else in the story significantly. Every character has motives. Motives for Farhadi, and for me, are more interesting than the crime itself. None of his films that I’ve seen have that kind of Agatha Christie summation at the end that’s tremendously satisfying but also simplistic. It’s a release of tension and when that you know everything, when you understand completely, you don’t have to spend any more time thinking about what happened. Farhadi never gives you that satisfaction. He never releases the tension.

His most recent film, Everybody Knows, takes place in Spain; a small town, apparently near Madrid. Cruz stars as Laura, returning home from her life in Argentina to attend her younger sister’s wedding. Laura has two children, a girl named Irene and a younger boy named Antonio, and an Argentinian husband, Alejandro (Darin), that most people in her hometown imagine to be a big-shot, stemming from the devout Alejandro’s generous donations to a local church. Bardem stars as Paco. He’s never left their hometown and from the beginning of the movie, we get the sense that he’s pretty popular. Paco’s married to Bea but they have no kids together. Laura and Paco used to be together and they’re both so attractive, you can imagine how admired they’d be as a couple in such a small town. Everything, every relationship, every past mistake, becomes important later on when Laura’s daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. Everyone becomes a suspect. The kidnappers send their demands to Paco, as well as Laura (who would seem to be the natural target) and the characters, like us in the audience, wonder why would they do that? The things the friends and family members say to each other while they’re wondering form the real basis for the film. What’s interesting about Everybody Knows and, again, Farhadi’s films in general, are the minor twists. This is a very small town he’s using here and everyone knows each other. A lot of what’s revealed is already known by most of the characters. It’s us in the audience who are in the dark; who are learning as the film unwinds. The reveals, the would-be bombshells, the secrets aren’t very secret. The character’s responses suggest that it’s more about hearing it said out loud than it is what was said. The performances, from the supporting cast to the stars, are unaffected and observant. I admired little moments like when Paco has just learned something momentous. The next five to ten seconds or so are devoted entirely to this character thinking; no one speaking. I also appreciate Farhadi’s most common motif throughout his films of kids as witnesses; kids on the periphery of the main plot but still affected by the drama. That Farhadi can not only successfully tell an engaging story in another language, using a separate culture, but for him to make this film, Everybody Knows, fit so comfortably with the rest of work is an impressive testament to his skill. Whether working in his native language, Persian-A Separation, About Elly, etc.-or French-The Past-or now, Spanish, he’s an auteur. His vision transcends and shines through. Everybody Knows is yet another occasion.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(849)

Assassination (2015, Directed by Choi Dong-hoon) Korean 8

Starring Jun Ji-hyun, Lee Jung-jae, Ha Jung-woo, Oh Dal-su, Cho Jin-woong, Choi Deok-moon, Lee Geung-young

Image result for assassination 2015

(8-Exceptional Film)

Stylish. Action-packed. Appealing.

It’s 1933 and Koreans live under the oppressive rule of neighboring Japan. Kang In-guk, a Korean businessman and an ally to Japan, becomes the target for the resistance, along with Japanese general Kawaguchi Mamoru. Three wild card resistance members are picked for the assassination-Big Gun, Duk-sam, and Ahn Okyun (Ji-hyun)-and hired by Captain Yem (Jung-jae), a double agent secretly helping Japan. Ha Jung-woo plays a rogue assassin named Hawaii Pistol who eventually joins Ahn Okyun in her mission as the two imagine life together in easier times. There’s a lot of plot in this film, a lot of interesting turns and suspense. It’s not, however, the somber, earnest type of movie that I imagine when I hear the term “period film;” the prestige pictures that win awards but are usually pretty boring. Assassination uses its historical background as a springboard for an outstanding action flick with romance and intrigue and a group of villains that could give Indiana Jones’ nazis a run for their money.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(848)

The King and Four Queens (1956, Directed by Raoul Walsh) English 6

Starring Clark Gable, Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Jo Van Fleet, Barbara Nichols, Sarah Shane

Image result for the king and four queens

(6-Good Film)

Risqué. Alluring. Tame.

Scoundrel, Dan Kehoe (Gable), wanders into some random, dusty town in the American West and learns about a house full of women guarding an immense fortune that their deceased husbands stole years back. Attempting to worm his way into their house, their hearts, and their pockets proves more difficult than he expects. Not because of the four women themselves but the mother-in-law, Ma McCade (Van Fleet), a harsh, old bird who turns out to be the only one who actually knows where the money is. The setup is there for a fun, bawdy western, and nobody plays a better scoundrel than Gable, but ultimately The King and Four Queens plays it pretty safe and never manufactures much in the way of suspense. Instead, it’s satisfied to merely have Gable flirt with the beautiful ladies on screen. That’s enough to entertain but not to make the film essential.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-
(847)