Charlie’s Angels (2019, Directed by Elizabeth Banks) English 6

Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Honsou, Nat Faxon, Jonathan Tucker, Noah Centineo, Chris Pang

Charlie's Angels': Review | Reviews | Screen

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Likable. Misjudged.

Sabina Wilson: [with a playful giggle] I think women can do anything.

Jonny Smith: Well, just because they can, doesn’t mean they should, right?

The “angels,” Sabina (Stewart), Elena (Scott), and Jane (Balinska)  take on a corporation covering up a newly invented energy device that has the power to be a world weapon. I don’t consider myself the target audience for “girl power,” and most attempts over the past few years at rectifying 80 years of “male gaze” have left me unmoved; mainly because they were ham-handed. This iteration of Charlie’s Angels is still ham-handed but slight too, and, in any case, it’s much better than the last 2 films led by Drew Barrymore. For one thing, this is a pretty solid action flick. The “angels” are likable, there’s a red herring or two to keep us invested and a certain knowingness about the humor that makes the film slightly more intelligent than goofy. This is not a great film by any means but watch Charlie’s Angels after reading the IMDB reviews and it will easily exceed your expectations.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(978)

Princess Mononoke (1997, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki) Japanese 10

Voices of (English Dubbing) Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Keith David, Gillian Anderson

Princess Mononoke

(10-Masterpiece)

Epic. Spectacular. Awesome.

Hii-sama: You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.

We fade in. Keith David’s voiceover sets up the world we’re entering. We’re all of ten seconds into the running time, but it’s clear: this is an awesome movie. The master, Hayao Miyazaki, brings his stunning animation to a unique story about gods and monsters and cursed warriors, with no black and white villains. Its hero, Ashitaka (Crudup), prince of a small village, travels far from home after being cursed from fighting a demon-possessed boar. He stumbles into a conflict between humans (of Irontown) and the forest (the gods and spirits that dwell there) and falls in love with San, a female warrior raised by wolves and taught to hate humans. Princess Mononoke feels like an anomaly in Miyazaki’s career in a few ways. His clear love of flight is nowhere to be found, an adult male protagonist rather than a young girl. There’s a level of violence not seen in any of his other work, as well, but as an anomaly, it only further proves his greatness. He has never stopped evolving though his themes may stay the same. His animation is awe-inspiring (there are a dozen incredible action sequences in this film) and his stories are always infinitely satisfying while never traveling the expected path.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(970)

Artemis Fowl (2020, Directed by Kenneth Branagh) English 4

Starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Judi Dench, Nonso Anozie, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Hong Chau, Nikesh Patel, Joshua McGuire

Artemis Fowl looks like Harry Potter with Men in Black's weaponry ...

(4-Bad Film)

Incomprehensible. Uninteresting. Poor.

Artemis Fowl: I’m the next criminal mastermind.

Having read each of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl novels many years ago, I recall joyously working my way through the self-proclaimed criminal mastermind’s adventures without remembering much of what happened from book to book. Therefore, I cannot summon explicit details to prove to you how different this Disney adaptation is from its source material. As unreliable as memory can be, I remain quite confident in this: the books were good. This film is bad. Artemis Fowl (12) is a local Irish genius devoted to his enigmatic father, Artemis Sr. (Farrell), who goes missing. Some masked antagonist kidnapped him. I didn’t understand the plot past these two points. Somehow this leads to the son searching for the hidden fairy world which leads to him kidnapping a fairy named Holly Short. I can count on one hand the number of films that I don’t understand but still like. Artemis Fowl is not one of them. I gave up trying to follow the plot pretty early and instead focused on the visual spectacle. That proved a meager venture in itself. The cast and crew of this film look good on paper. Disney provided a sizable budget to get this movie made, but the script, above all else, is terrible. Put this on a double bill with Eragon where it belongs.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(965)

Predator (1987, Directed by John McTiernan) English 8

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Elpidia Carrillo, R.G Armstrong, Shane Black, Richard Chaves, Sonny Landham

Predator (1987) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes | Gareth Rhodes Film ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Exciting. Hyper-masculine. Gratifying.

Dutch: If it bleeds, we can kill it.

Perhaps the manliest movie ever produced, Predator teams Arnold Schwarzenegger with Apollo Creed, or Carl Weathers, if you prefer, and a bunch of other buff guys thrown into the Central American jungle. Arnold leads a band of mercenaries sent to rescue an official but instead discover the ultimate killer/predator, an alien who crash-landed on Earth and seems to spend his time hunting other predators. Critics complained about the alien’s unclearly defined motivation. I disagree. Very few films have such a firm grasp on what they’re trying to be and accomplish that ambition so efficiently. Motivation is superfluous here. What we want is Arnold versus alien and we get it. We also get a handful of cool characters, Mac (Duke) being my favorite, and a great location for an action film. Predator is a contender for the best action flick of that decade.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(963)

Shaolin Soccer (2001, Directed by Stephen Chow) Cantonese 6

Starring Stephen Chow, Ng Man-tat, Wong Yat-fei, Tin Kai-man, Zhao Wei, Lam Chi-chung, Patrick Tse

Shaolin Soccer - Wikipedia

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Original. Absurd.

Sing: That’s a great idea – kung fu soccer! Why didn’t I think of that?

I wonder how the prolific Stephen Chow’s films are viewed over in mainland China or his native Hong Kong. He’s obviously insanely popular (The Mermaid, one of his more recent works, made over $500 million) and though the idea of a “spoof” isn’t a new concept, his movies tend to baffle me. In Shaolin Soccer, Chow spoofs sports films (the rival team is known as “Team Evil”) and probably more Kung Fu films than I even recognized (although I could at least appreciate the Bruce Lee reference). Chow plays Sing, a peon with extraordinary Kung Fu skills, discovered by Fung (Man-tat), a former soccer great looking to coach his way back to the big-time. The two assemble a team of Shaolin monks and find that the monks’ Kung Fu skills translate remarkably well on the soccer field. Like many Chinese or Hong Kong classics I’ve seen, Shaolin Soccer is a bizarre treat. I laughed often and was bemused often. Chow, for example, uses CGI frequently and crudely, but it seems to be integral to the humor. His humor in general is one of excess and absurdity. I simply wonder if his films are as bizarre to his native audience or if films like Shaolin Soccer qualify as a culture shock.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(958)

Pompeii (2014, Directed by Paul W.S Anderson) English 4

Starring Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie Ann-Moss, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris

Movie Smack Talk | Movie Review: Pompeii (2014)

(4-Bad Film)

Crude. Unoriginal. Entertaining.

Cassia: Is this the end of the world? Why would the gods let this happen?

Entertainment is something I value in nearly all contexts, so I do give Pompeii some credit for being entertaining despite not being much of anything else. Directed by Paul W.S Anderson, the king of garbage entertainment (though Michael Bay might argue that distinction), Pompeii follows orphaned slave, Milo (Harrington), as he’s taken to the famed Roman city to compete in gladiatorial matches where he meets fellow slave Atticus (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and later, Cassia (Browning), the instant love of his life (rolling my eyes). This is an awfully silly film heavily indebted to much better ones, chiefly Gladiator and Titanic. There’s plenty to enjoy for those like me who appreciate camp and crude craftsmanship but almost nothing to admire.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(957)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, Directed by Goerge Miller) English 9

Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Zoë Kravitz

Mad Max: Fury Road Review | Den of Geek

(9-Great Film)

Frenetic. Exciting. Classic.

Nux: If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die historic on the Fury Road!

Five years later and I’m still disappointed that Mel Gibson isn’t in this movie. Gibson’s Mad Max Rockatansky is iconic and I believe the actor’s growing age would only add to the mystique of the character. Imagine a grizzled, bearded Gibson wandering through the Australian wasteland. That’s a movie I’d like to see, but that doesn’t happen to be what Fury Road is, and it’s a real credit (as backhanded as it sounds) to Tom Hardy that I’m able to overcome my initial disappointment and appreciate the film for what it is; a benchmark action film. Hardy takes over the Mad Max role, reluctantly helping a group of women, led by Furiosa (Theron), escape their tyrannical husband, Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne). Theron is nearly as iconic in her role as Gibson was all those years ago. Director, George Miller, reimagines his own creation and delivers something visionary.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(954)

Dragonball: Evolution (2009, Directed by James Wong) English 3

Starring Justin Chatwin, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Chow Yun-fat, James Marsters, Joon Park, Randall Duk Kim, Ernie Hudson, Megumi Seki

15 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Dragonball Evolution – IFC

(3-Horrible Film)

Inept. Lame. Childish.

Goku: Teach me, how to talk to a girl. I mean, I’m different, and everyone at school can see that, teach me how to get a girl, how to be smooth… how to be normal!

Evil Lord Piccolo returns to Earth after millenniums emprisoned. He seeks the seven magic Dragonballs that grant the owner one wish. The young, powerful hero, Goku (Chatwin), teams up with Bulma (Rossum), Chi-Chi (Chung), Yamcha (Park), and Master Roshi (Yun-fat) to unite the Dragonballs before Lord Piccolo can get to them and unleash his minion, Ōzaru. This is not a good film. The immediate comparison is The Last Airbender because the two movies vie for worst adaptation of something great in film history. Like The Last Airbender, Dragonball: Evolution feels like it was made by people who didn’t even like the source material. They hack it to bits. Here, at least, the characters’ names are the same (this much is not true of The Last Airbender). It’s not a painful watch, unlike a number of terrible films, but it’s consistently poor, juvenile, and unexciting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(948)

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991, Directed by Russell Mulcahy) English 3

Starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, John C. McGinley, Allan Rich

7 Ways Highlander 2 is the Most Ultimately Awful Action Movie of ...

(3-Horrible Film)

Incomprehensible. Hack. Laughable.

MacLeod: There can be only one.

I’m not a fan of the original Highlander, though the cult classic has a cool concept. MacLeod (Lambert), a 16th-century Scottish warrior, is immortal, fighting his arch-nemesis, The Kurgan, and romancing women through the centuries. Highlander II brings back its stars, even Sean Connery inexplicably (he died in the first one), and shoves them into a science fiction plot involving Ozones, immortal aliens, and a dystopian future. These things may sound cool and maybe that was the problem. I imagine that in the brainstorming stage for whoever wrote this, every idea seemed like a good idea, and no one ever cared to do any editing. Highlander 2 makes no sense. I’m confident about this. It’s not that I didn’t pay attention or that I didn’t get it, it’s that this film makes no sense. I couldn’t tell you with any certainty the motivation behind why anything happens. I don’t know how MacLeod and Virginia Madsen’s characters fall in love after knowing each other for two minutes. There are a couple of sequences that I can enjoy individually apart from the movie and without any context-because, again, I don’t know what is going on. I mainly didn’t like the first one because of Christopher Lambert’s performance. He’s even worse here. He’s a charisma vacuum-at least in English. I’m sure he’s better in his native language, but his nonexistent Scottish accent never gets mentioned when people discuss all-time bad movie accents and it should.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(946)

The Tai Chi Master (1993, Directed by Yuen Woo-ping) Cantonese 6

Starring Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Chin Siu-ho, Fennie Yuen, Yuen Cheung-yan, Lau Shun, Yu Hai

Tai Chi Master 1993 – Enter the Dragon

(6-Good Film)

Action-packed. Uneven. Frenetic.

Junbao: The past is what makes up who we are. Don’t let it become your burden.

Junbao (Li) and Tienbo (Siu-ho) grow up together as brothers in a Shaolin Temple studying as monks in the ways of martial arts. After the generally misbehaving pair are expelled, they move out into the world and see first-hand their new town’s rampant corruption. Junbao joins a group of rebels in response, while Tienbo lusts for power and joins the soldiers. Shocked by Tienbo’s betrayal, Junbao loses his mind and it’s up to his new friends, Siu-lin (Yeoh), for one, to help him find himself in time to master Tai Chi and save the people. This is a fast, fun action flick with a heavy dose of legend and history mixed in. There’s always a bit of a bizarre acclimation process that goes on when I watch these Hong Kong action epics-the flying, the defying of physics, what-have-you. I know we, of course, have fantasy in western culture but I’m never quite prepared for it. I think maybe because films like this one look so grounded in history and reality. The action scenes are well-done, showing off the impossible speed of its performers, particularly its star Jet Li, naturally. The story, however, falls short of the epicness it strives for and underuses its supporting cast.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(945)