The Flight of the Phoenix (1965, Directed by Robert Aldrich) English 9

Starring James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Hardy Kruger, Ernest Borgnine, Peter Finch, George Kennedy, Dan Duryea, Christian Marquand, Ian Bannen, Ronald Fraser

Cult Movies: Original disaster movie The Flight of The Phoenix rises from  the ashes - The Irish News

(9-Great Film)

Dramatic. Brutal. Character-driven.

Heinrich Dorfmann: Mr. Towns, you behave as if stupidity were a virtue. Why is that?

A cargo plane goes down in the middle of the Sahara desert, hundreds of miles off course and away from any apparent civilization. Its pilot, Captain Frank Towns (Stewart), navigator, Lew Moran (Attenborough), and many passengers face death from all directions: lack of resources, limited water, oppressive heat, and a hostile band of Arab thieves. One passenger, a German and a pariah among the men, Heinrich Dorfmann (Kruger), has an idea that he can rebuild a functioning aircraft, but its up to the others whether or not they put their faith in his unlikely plan. The Flight of the Phoenix is an outstanding survival drama and maybe the best film about leadership, ego, and disparate personalities forced into working together by brutal circumstance. Captain Towns is a proud man with decades of experience fueling his stubbornness, but perhaps there are things he doesn’t know, things the younger men can teach him. Lew is the mediator. He loves and respects his Captain but he suspects that they might need Dorfmann in order to survive. Dorfmann, meanwhile, is a tyrant when it comes to it. He’s petty, arrogant, confrontational, and it’s unclear whether he’s a genius or a madman. Captain Harris (Finch) is the stereotypical British soldier, stiff upper-lip, brave, adheres ceaselessly to the book, even when the elements make that book absurd. Ratbags (Bannen) is sarcastic and apathetic. Dr. Renaud (Marquand) is compassionate. Trucker Cobb (Borgnine) loses his mind. Standish (Duryea) leans on his religion, and Sergeant Watson (Fraser), perhaps the most-loathed character across all film, is a coward. These characters are what make The Flight of the Phoenix so compelling. When the action sequences do come, they’re riveting and impressive, but it starts and ends with the actors and the fine work they do.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,097)

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 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)

Five Elements Ninjas (1982, Directed by Chang Cheh) Cantonese 8

Starring Cheng Tien Chi, Lo Mang, Michael Chan, Chan Shen, Kwan Fung, Chen Pei-Hsi

Five Element Ninja B-Movie Review

(8-Exceptional Film)

Simple. Inventive. Spectacular.

Tagline: Five complete elements, one surviving ninja, what could possibly go wrong?

An honorable and skilled martial arts school in ancient Hong Kong is massacred by foreign ninjas modeled after five elements (wood, earth, water, fire, and gold). The lone survivor flees to a neighboring school for training and ultimately revenge. Five Elements Ninjas is as simple plot-wise as can be, but revenge is always a compelling starting point for an action movie, and the film, instead, focuses all of its creativity on the elaborate fighting sequences, costumes, over-the-top violence, and sets. It’s a blast to watch and one of the best kung-fu flicks.

-Walter Tyler Howard-

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Army of the Dead (2021, Directed by Zack Snyder) English 5

Starring Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notaro, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt, Samantha Win, Nora Arnezeder, Matthias Schweighöfer, Raúl Castillo Jr.

Zach Snyder's 'Army of the Dead' Gets Netflix Release Date

(5-Okay Film)

Aimless. Exciting. Superficial.

Scott Ward: Think about it. Everything we did. All those people we saved. Look what it got us. But what if, just once, we did something for us?

Scott Ward (Bautista) is chosen by a sinister businessman, Bly Tanaka (Sanada), to retrieve a boatload of money locked in the center of Las Vegas, now decimated by the zombie outbreak. Ward puts together a team, and uses the opportunity to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Kate (Purnell). There are certain things I expect from a decent heist film, one example being a degree of cleverness. Army of the Dead lacks this most conspicuously, but it also lacks nearly every other aspect of a good heist the more I think about it. Promoted as a hybrid zombie-heist flick, Army of the Dead never cares much about its heist. The heist is simply a means of gathering a bunch of cool characters and pitting them against the zombies. Naturally, in traditional survival-horror fashion, they’re picked off one by one. This is mostly a brainless action film, which is perfectly fine (I love action), and there are several solid action scenes with a handful of appealing characters (Notaro, a late addition, stands out), but Army of the Dead is well short of what it promises. The humor and style at the beginning of the picture dries up pretty quickly, and the grim second half fails to deliver any scares.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,078)

Five Deadly Venoms (1978, Directed by Chang Cheh) Mandarin 9

Starring Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Kuo Chui, Lo Mang, Wei Pai, Lu Feng, Ku Feng, Dick Wei

Five Deadly Venoms – We've Got (Back) Issues

(9-Great Film)

Awesome. Efficient. Indelible.

Yang Tieh: Poison Clan Rocks the world!

Some films don’t need to be intellectualized. Five Deadly Venoms is a film that knows its intent and is perfect in its execution. Wasting no time with lengthy exposition, the opening gives us the only explanation we ever receive and lays out what’s to come. The dying master of the powerful Poison Clan expresses his fears to his newest pupil, Yang Tieh. Having taught five pupils before Yang Tieh, each assuming a different style coined after a venomous animal (centipede, scorpion, snake, toad, lizard) the master fears that some, if not all, of his students are using the skills he taught them for evil. His last request is for Yang Tieh to take out any Poison Clan members who’ve been corrupted. The remainder of the movie blends mystery, intrigue, and kung fu in a way I personally haven’t seen before. It’s incredibly entertaining and the five deadly venoms, each with their distinct characteristics are unforgettable. Fantastic flick.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,076)

Love and Monsters (2020, Directed by Michael Matthews) English 7

Starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Dan Ewing, Ellen Hollman, Bruce Spence, Ariana Greenblatt

Review] Delightful Monster Mash 'Love and Monsters' Embraces the  Comedy-Horror Spirit of 'Zombieland' - Bloody Disgusting

(7-Very Good Film)

Fantastic. Exciting. Fun.

Joel: Don’t settle. You don’t have to. Even at the end of the world.

Toxic chemicals cover the earth and monsters are born. Now, your garden-variety slug could be a giant flesh-eating mutant. Seven years into this new world, the good news for Joel (O’Brien) is that he’s more or less safe within an underground community that takes care of each other. The bad news for Joel is that everyone within the bunker is paired off, except for him. He’s lonely and he misses his girlfriend, Aimee (Henwick), from before the apocalypse, who told him she loved him as they were dragged away from each other. After, finally, finding out her location, Joel sets out on journey across the monsterpocalypse to make it to her, meeting new friends along the way. Love and Monsters is a simple story done surprisingly well. The monsters, in particular, are a major triumph; well-designed and rendered with impressive special effects. Characters usually take a back seat in monster movies, but here, there are at least 2 to 3 humans we care about. The disappointment comes from the love story, which the filmmakers described as a John Hughes style romance. Love and Monsters goes for a bittersweet conclusion and that’s probably less corny and more realistic than what I might have hoped. I still think in a movie featuring massive toads and leeches the size of baseballs, an unrealistic fairy tale romance wouldn’t have seemed too crazy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,072)

Mortal Kombat (2021, Directed by Simon McQuoid) English 6

Starring Lewis Tan, Joe Taslim, Jessica McNamee, Hiroyuki Sanada, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks, Tadanobu Asano, Chin Han, Ludi Lin

Mortal Kombat (2021) Movie Trailer Song Officially Released

(6-Good Film)

Satisfying. Silly. Bloody.

Sonya Blade: Throughout history, different cultures all over the world reference a great tournament of champions. That dragon marking, I think it’s an invitation to fight for something known as Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat is one of the most popular game franchises in the world and spawned some of the earliest attempts at adapting a video game into a movie back in the ’90s. Those films, like nearly all video game adaptations, were entertaining but low-quality. Happily, it wasn’t but five minutes into this new Mortal Kombat before I knew that it was better than all previous attempts. It begins in medieval Japan, where fan-favorite characters Scorpion and Sub-Zero duke it out against a beautiful landscape and a tragedy. It a fantastic opening. The rest of the film sets up a mythic fighting tournament where heroes from Earth- Cole (Tan), Sonya Blade (McNamee), Jax (Brooks), and co.-will face off against the deadly foes of Outworld. Personally, I wasn’t all that interested in the lore and exposition that’s in this film, but I suppose it’s a small price to pay for a video game adaptation that’s actually enjoyable without a surplus of camp. Mortal Kombat (2021) takes its story and its characters seriously, which is not easy to do considering how outlandish they all are. I also found myself taking it seriously which is an impressive achievement on its part. Most importantly, though, because this is an action flick, the new Mortal Kombat is entertaining and a pleasure to watch with its exciting fights and gruesomely satisfying kills.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,071)