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-

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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)

This Means War (2012, Directed by McG) English 5

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, Angela Bassett, Abigail Spencer, Jenny Slate, Rosemary Harris

This Means War << Rotten Tomatoes – Movie and TV News

(5-Okay Film)

Ridiculous. Flat. Diverting.

Lauren: I’m going out. I’m dating. I’m having fun.

Two spies-best friends-happen upon the same woman. Tuck (Hardy) is a divorced father. Franklin (Pine) is a womanizer. When the two realize that they’re both chasing Lauren Scott (Witherspoon), a competition ensues. They’ll let her decide, but they don’t tell her that they know each other or tell her that they know about her seeing two men at the same time. As their feelings for her deepen, they resort to using their CIA tricks to get the upper hand. It’s a ridiculous premise not meant to be taken too seriously but with the proper execution, could have made an interesting throwback to the old screwball classics of the 1930s. The leads are certainly likable enough, but This Means War is not very funny which leaves it feeling like chaotic nonsense.  Chelsea Handler as Witherspoon’s friend is given most of the comedic lines but delivers them monotonously, never appearing comfortable on screen. At no point did I mind watching this fast-moving dud, but there are thousands of better movies to watch in the world.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(944)

Iron Monkey (1993, Directed by Yuen Woo-Ping) Cantonese 6

Starring Donnie Yen, Ringo Yu, Jean Wang, Angie Tsang, James Wong, Yuen Shun-yi, Lee Hai

Iron Monkey

(6-Good Film)

Action-packed. Fun. Outlandish.

Wong Kei-Ying: A man should shed blood, not tears.

One of the dozen or so pictures I’ve seen depicting Wong Fei-Hong, this is the only one that shows the legendary Chinese hero as a young boy. It’s the 19th century and he wanders into some small town with his tough, widowed father, Wong Kei-Ying (Yen), to find that the local officials are corrupt and a masked vigilante known as the Iron Monkey is terrorizing them, doing his best impression of Robin Hood. Father and son get involved in the action once Kei-Ying agrees to catch the mysterious hero. Fast-paced and full of action, Iron Monkey is a lot of fun. It’s also a bit bizarre to me as a westerner, though I’ve seen a number of martial arts films. Iron Monkey feels particularly foreign in its style, sense of humor, and artistic flourishes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(939)

My Spy (2020, Directed by Peter Segal) English 5

Starring Dave Bautista, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Greg Bryk, Chloe Coleman, Devere Rogers, Noah Danby

My Spy Heads to Amazon Instead of Theaters Amid Shutdowns – Adweek

(5-Okay Film)

Unambitious. Hackneyed. Enjoyable.

Tagline: He works alone…She doesn’t care.

JJ (Bautista) is former special forces turned CIA, but after a botched job, his boss, David Kim (Jeong), gives him the lowly surveillance assignment of watching a single mother and her daughter, Sophie (Coleman), since they’re connected to a big-time international arms dealer. Sophie finds out about his little operation and blackmails him into spending time with her. It’s a pretty well-worn formula and I was surprised to see it used for a film made more for adults (this isn’t the kids’ film I expected, going in). Bautista is the antithesis of what a spy should be; inconspicuous, versatile, patient, average. He’s a massive man who stands out like a sore thumb. The film doesn’t make any effort to show him as a capable spy either. He’s pretty bad all the way through to the end. There’s a difference between an action hero and a spy but this film disregards that distinction. That being said, My Spy is actually quite enjoyable. Despite no big laughs and its typical premise, My Spy has a lot of likable faces, chiefly the young girl, Chloe Coleman, playing Sophie, and is much more pleasant than I anticipated.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Magnificent Seven (1960, Directed by John Sturges) English 7

Starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, Horst Buchholz, Eli Wallach, Vladimir Sokoloff, Rosenda Monteros

The Magnificent Seven

(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Rousing. Derivative.

Chris: You forget one thing. We took a contract.

Vin: It’s sure not the kind any court would enforce.

Chris: That’s just the kind you’ve got to keep.

Based on Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven moves the story to the old west, south of the border, to a small village in Mexico. Terrorized routinely by a nearby gang of thugs, led by Calvera (Wallach), the village has had enough and looks to hire outsiders to come and protect them. They find honorable drifters Chris Adams (Brynner) and Vin Tanner (McQueen) who do the work of assembling a team that includes the soft-hearted local mercenary, Bernardo (Bronson), the mysterious outlaw, Lee (Vaughn), the fortune-seeking friend of Adams, Harry (Dexter), the young hot-head, Chico (Buchholz), and my personal favorite, laconic Britt (Coburn). The Magnificent Seven works from an infinitely promising premise. There have been a number of variations of this theme; the bereaved town, the stranger who comes to save them (or in this case strangers). It’s a thrill and The Magnificent Seven adds to this an iconic score and an indelible cast of some of the coolest guys to ever grace the screen. If it pales in comparison to Seven Samurai, that’s okay, most films do.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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