Scarface (1983, Directed by Brian De Palma) English 8

Starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, F. Murray Abraham

Image result for scarface

Antonio Montana (Pacino), a Cuban refugee arrives in 1980s Miami committed to making a name for himself. And, with loyal companion, Manolo (Bauer) always at his side, the epic rise and fall of Tony Montana is chronicled in lavish, often explicit detail. Pacino’s Tony swaggers through the picture, snorting cocaine, making threats, spouting ridiculously quotable maxims at every turn, and his demise is as glorious as his road to power. Tony is an iconic and classic character that many will see as too much. Pacino eschews the less is more model he employed to perfection with his earlier characters like Michael Corleone, and instead devours the scenery. Director Brian De Palma is a wizard with a camera and manages to fill each frame with scenery that is suitably big enough for Tony to occupy and not overshadow. The supporting cast is good too, notably Pfieffer looking beautiful, unobtainable, and perennially bored.

Piranha 3D (2010, Directed by Alexandre Aja) English 6

Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Steven R. McQueen, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry O’Connell, Kelly Brook, Jessica Szohr

Image result for PIRANHA 3D

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Polonius may not have been thinking about Piranha 3D when he said that, but the quotation works. This nudity and gore fest features a small town full of idiots and one or two likable characters during a spring break gone terribly wrong due to the horde of killer piranhas. There’s a large number of scantily clad extras used for fish food in hilariously over the top violence. The main actors, led by Elisabeth Shue and Steven R. McQueen, are actually very good and well beyond what a film like this calls for. Even Jerry O’Connell, with his supremely limited range excels as a middle aged frat boy who never grew up. You could call this movie, and the original film that inspired it, a blatant rip-off of Jaws, but, Piranha knows that and has fun with it. I thoroughly enjoyed its nonsense, the high level of skill masked by its lowbrow aspirations, and the surprises of the script.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, Directed by Lewis Gilbert) English 6

Starring Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel

Image result for the spy who loved me

The threat of a complete psychopath bent on sparking World War III forces James Bond (Moore) to team up with Russian spy, XXX (a female counterpart equal to him), to take the villain down. Meanwhile, a henchman named Jaws with metal teeth stalks the heroic duo. I thought about my feelings for this movie long and hard. Many of the elements are great and very memorable. The intro song by Carly Simon might be my favorite Bond song. The villain, who wants to start a new world under water, and his silly but terrifying henchman, Jaws, are unforgettable. I also like that Agent XXX (Lord, that name) is seen as a sort of parallel to Bond. My main problem was that I didn’t find a majority of the action sequences thrilling, and that severely dampened my overall enjoyment of the film.

The Road to El Dorado (2000, Directed by Don Paul) English 6

Voices of Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Kline, Rosie Perez, Armand Assante, Jim Cummings

Image result for the road to el dorado

Two con artists steal a map, and through a zany sequence of events end up in the fabled El Dorado, a city of gold. The two are mistaken by the locals for gods, and use the misunderstanding for their greatest con yet. Unfortunately, a woman comes between them and a fanatical priest gets in their way. Clearly inspired by Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. The two main characters, thanks to great work by Kline and Branagh, and the writing, are fantastic. As witty and compelling as the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby pair that inspired them. Their adventure, however, is caught between being too serious (human sacrifices, flogging) and light-hearted (Elton John songs, the happily ever after). Part of this is due to the intended audience being children, but I think the filmmakers (like Disney did with Hunchback of Notre Dame) could have went with something epic and meaty, closer to its source. Or, like the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby movies, just go full comedy, joke every second. As it is, it’s a decent enough picture. Only a couple of the Elton John songs are good, none of them memorable.

Psychokinesis (2018, Directed by Yeon Sang-ho) Korean 5

Starring Ryu Seung-ryo, Jung Yu-mi, Park Jung-min, Shim Eun-kyung

Image result for psychokinesis 2018

A thoroughly average man (Seung-ryo) working as a security guard mysteriously gains telepathic powers just as he’s reunited with the daughter he abandoned years ago. Initially, he uses the powers to make a quick buck as an illusionist, but he soon pushes his ability to the limit once he finds his daughter wrapped up in a serious battle against a corrupt corporation. It’s a unique take on the superhero genre, but ultimately lacks a compelling protagonist to make the action exciting. The average middle aged man hero is a nice idea, but here, he really is too average. He never comes across as a unique personality. There are some memorable moments, and the over-arching villain, or villainess, Director Hong (Yu-mi), steals the show. Unfortunately, she’s not in it more, and gets no significant closure in the story.

The Wind and The Lion (1975, Directed by John Milius) English 7

Starring Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith, John Huston

Image result for the wind and the lion

An American widow and her two children are kidnapped and held for ransom by a brigand named Raisuli (Connery) in early 20th century Morocco. President Teddy Roosevelt (Keith) gets involved in saving the widow, just as she begins to form some respect for her captor. Okay, so Sean Connery is playing a Muslim leader. Right away, that’s pretty ridiculous. The crazy thing is that, though he makes no discernible effort to be convincing as a Berber, he’s still pretty compelling in this role. My main problem with the film is that at 2 hours (so not a short film), it still felt like it wanted to be much longer. Splitting time between President Roosevelt and Raisuli with the American family didn’t allow enough time with either. I did love the old-fashioned spirit of the movie; soaring score, epic battle scenes, romanticized characters. Overall, it’s a good film.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997, Directed by Jay Roach) English 7

Starring Mike Meyers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Robert Wagner

Image result for austin powers international man of mystery cast

Austin Powers, a ’60s super spy, is cryogenically frozen, literally put on ice, to be thawed out once his arch nemesis, Dr. Evil, returns. Thirty years later, the two return and have to adjust to the ’90s. Very episodic, with a plot that is nearly irrelevant. Mike Myers is, however, a comedic genius of sorts and the characters he creates here are classic. Austin Powers is mostly a feature length series of jokes, but the jokes are very good, and even the lesser jokes are milked for humor by Myers successfully. Works especially well if you’ve seen the Bond films.