Around the World in 80 Days (2004, Directed by Frank Coraci) English 6

Starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile de France, Jim Broadbent, Kathy Bates, Ian McNeice, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Rob Schneider, Ewen Bremner, Mark Addy, Will Forte

Around the World in 80 Days (Review) | Tars Tarkas.NET

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Fun. Spectacle.

Phileas Fogg: One day, I will build a machine that will allow a man to fly!

Hollywood’s first big-budget adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel came in 1956 and boasted over 40 cameos from major stars including: Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Red Skelton, and Marlene Dietrich, to name a few.  Hollywood’s second adaptation came in 2004 and may not come anywhere near its predecessor in terms of cameos, or success for that matter, but I think it’s better. Instead, it weaves in a goofy plot involving Chinese mercenaries so Jackie Chan can be the star and I say, “yes.” I love Jackie Chan and all of his adventures including his lesser, sillier exploits although I do think Around the World has some merit apart from any Chan devotion on my end. It’s a big-budget adventure with lots of colorful settings for one thing and it might not have made me laugh but I smiled throughout.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951, Directed by Raoul Walsh) English 5

Starring Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty, James Robertson Justice, Terence Morgan, Denis O’Dea, Christopher Lee

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(5-Okay Film)

Serious. Dry. Well-Acted.

C.S Forrester’s famous literary hero, Horatio Hornblower, is adapted for the big screen, played by Gregory Peck with his natural austerity. English Naval Captain Horatio Hornblower guides his ship through every possible hardship during the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century. Along the way, although married, he falls hard for Lady Barbara (Mayo). Compared to the jolly romps of Errol Flynn, this film seemed to me, overly serious. Well-crafted, well-acted, Captain Horatio Hornblower simply wasn’t much fun. Perhaps it’s an issue of expectations. This isn’t a swashbuckler. It’s a romantic drama set on a ship. Many people would welcome that. I didn’t care.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Big Trouble in Little China (198, Directed by John Carpenter) English 7

Starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton, Carter Wong, Suzee Pai

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(7-Very Good Film)

Chaotic. Bizarre. Cool.

Jack Burton’s (Russell) just a truck driver looking to collect on the money his friend, Wang Chi (Dun), owes him. Led into San Francisco’s famed Chinatown, Burton’s tossed in the middle of a plot formed by an evil ghost, Lo Pan (Hong), to marry a green-eyed girl and break an ancient curse put upon him. Is this cultural appropriation? I’d argue that it makes fun of the white savior trope more than anything. Russell obviously looks the part- cool, tough, handsome-but often in this film, he has no idea what he is doing and its the supporting Asian cast that are in control. Much of Carpenter’s bizarre humor comes from the idea of this white guy trying to take control of the situation. The story is chaotic and not overly serious. It’s best to appreciate the various parts (the humor, the effects, the setting) and follow Carpenter down whatever weird path he wants to take.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


They Live (1988, Directed by John Carpenter) English 7

Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, Peter Jason, Sy Richardson, Raymond St. Jacques

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(7-Very Good Film)

Satirical. Biting. Ingenious.

“They live. We sleep.” John Carpenter’s satire imagines a world where aliens disguised as humans represent the elite, upper class, controlling the media and enslaving people’s thoughts through subliminal messages. Famed wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper is a limited actor but a likable, working-class hero playing a drifter named George. George stumbles upon a pair of glasses that see through the aliens’ artificial walls and reveal the truth (conveyed in black and white with vintage special effects). But people are so comfortable in their sleepwalking, mass-controlled lives, it seems impossible for George to convince anyone of what’s going on. They Live is prime satire mixed in with ’50s sci-fi storytelling. It’s smart, funny, as relevant as ever, and creative as hell. Its theme would be expanded years later in the Wachowski siblings’ classic The Matrix.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Casino Royale (2006, Directed by Martin Campbell) 9

Starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Tobias Menzies, Jesper Christensen, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaac de Bankolé

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(9-Great Film)

Exciting. Witty. Superior.

For a franchise to go on for over fifty years, it needs to grow, to reinvent itself, to feel fresh again. Before Daniel Craig, James Bond had been treading water for far too long. Casino Royale reenergized the Bond series. Craig plays a younger Bond, only just promoted to 00-status and still not fully trusted by his superior, M (played by Judi Dench). He’s tasked with beating a nefarious figure, Le Chiffre (Mikkelson), at a high-stakes series of poker in order to push the villain into a corner, where presumably he’d be forced to give up valuable information to MI6 in order to stay alive. This is the best Bond film in my opinion. There’s actual romance instead of the ultra-casual flirtations that had dominated the series to this point and, in my eyes, are almost self-parodying now. Eva Green makes a wonderful Bond Girl, establishing herself from the first scene as an equal when she sizes Bond up, and Mads Mikkelson leaves an indelible impression on presence alone. More than anything though, and the supporting elements are superb, Casino Royale is about Daniel Craig. He gives a full, rich performance that goes beyond the posturing. He makes the swagger look like a defense.

 -Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Flame and the Arrow (1950, Directed by Jacques Tourneur) English 5

Starring Burt Lancaster, Virginia Mayo, Nick Cravat, Robert Douglas, Frank Allenby, Norman Lloyd, Robin Hughes

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(5-Okay Film)

Handsome. Undemanding. Uninspired.

Dardo Bartoli (Lancaster) is a bit of a wild-card. Living in 12th century Italy with his young son, Dardo comes and goes as he pleases, spending the majority of his time hunting in the woods, away from the Hessians’ oppressive rule. While many of the local townspeople prepare to fight back, Dardo remains apathetic, even after his wife leaves him for the Hessians’ leader, Count Ulrich (Allenby). It’s not until Ulrich abducts Dardo ‘s son that he decides to revolt, quickly becoming the movement’s leader. An interesting premise unfulfilled due to what I feel are nondescript characters. Count Ulrich has the opportunity to be an especially vile villain but instead just lies flat for the majority of the story. The one colorful character is the Marchese Allesandro, but his decision to switch teams leaves a bitter taste in the end, and Lancaster isn’t given much to do but play the beefcake.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Karate Kid Part II (1986, Directed by John G. Avildsen) English 5

Starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Rob Garrison, Nobu McCarthy, Tamlyn Tomita, Yuji Okumoto, Joey Miyashima

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(5-Okay Film)

Retread. Unnecessary. Inferior.

When you see a film you love, you may have the feeling that you want to find something else just like it. Studios cash in on this feeling, leading to a lot of unnecessary sequels (or even worse rip-offs), but usually, what we actually want is to be surprised and blown away again. I love The Karate Kid. Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Morita) are iconic characters but they only needed one film. They went on for three together, and, for Mr. Miyagi, four films total. Each subsequent film got worse and worse (more over-the-top and unnecessary with each sequel). Part II sees the pair traveling to Mr. Miyagi’s home in Okinawa, where a decades-old feud with a former friend, Sato, resurfaces. Part II is, to me, very watchable. I like it actually. The returning heroes and their corny romances are very enjoyable to me, but can I call it a good film? I don’t think so. It meanders in the back end and the conclusion is far less satisfying than its predecessor. Mainly, because the villain, Chozen, is psychotic and unbelievable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-