Tremors (1990, Directed by Ron Underwood) English 6

Starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Victor Wong, Michael Gross, Finn Carter, Reba McEntire, Bobby Jacoby

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(6-Good Film)

Fun. Well-paced. Tense.

In the dusty old town of Perfection, Nevada, two handymen, Val (Bacon) and Earl (Ward), vow to move on from the familiar and chase their fortunes elsewhere. Just as they set out to leave, a couple of strange deaths pull them back as they and the rest of the town’s citizens work out the cause: three giant worms with teeth. Unable to escape or call for help, they ‘ll have to fight the monsters themselves or die trying. Tremors is a surprisingly well-written movie with a bevy of strong characters. Bacon and Ward make the lead characters’ camaraderie and chemistry feel natural, and the monsters are still effective almost thirty years after the film’s release. My one problem with Tremors is the setting, which is simply unattractive. It works for the film’s story, but as for the aesthetics, it’s unappealing and grungy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(596)

 

The Three Musketeers (2011, Directed by Paul W.S Anderson) English 5

Starring Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Ray Stevenson, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Juno Temple, Freddie Fox, Luke Evans, Matthew Macfadyen, James Corden

(5-Okay Film)

Painless. Unimpressive. Witless.

Vapid adaptation of Alexander Dumas’ classic adventure novel about D’Artagnan’s (Lerman) exploits with three rogue members of the King’s musketeers: Athos (MacFadyen), Porthos (Stevenson), and Aramis (Evans). This film focuses on their mission to foil a plot of the ruthless Cardinal Richilieu (Waltz) by returning the Queen’s stolen necklace in time for a royal ball.  Instead of a clever, sneaky job of procuring the necklace-there is some exposition about it being held in England’s most secure palace,which could have been interesting- they pretty much blow the place up and take it. How exciting. Better than the director’s past work on such manure as Mortal Kombat (1995) and Pompeii (2014), but still not good enough to recommend to someone you like. No character development and brainless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(594)

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016, Directed by Zack Snyder) English 5

Starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Holly Hunter

(5-Okay Film)

Joyless. Dull. Bloated.

Bitter towards Superman after the events of Man of Steel, Batman decides to take him out. To be fair, I haven’t seen Man of Steel, and so, much of Superman’s narrative felt underwhelming, but I don’t think that installment’s backstory could make up for the second class treatment Clark Kent receives in this film. We all know Batman has been cooler than Superman for a long time now in film, but how was giving Superman an arc that would better serve a monster movie supposed to work. There are some grand moments in the picture. It’s not a complete mess like Suicide Squad, but they didn’t get the characters right. Both heroes just seem like tools, and Eisenberg was not a good choice for a supervillain. He can’t conjure up any real sense of menace, and so he hams it up. Jeremy Irons, though also far afield of your ideal Alfred, is a scene-stealer.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(592)

The Golden Child (1986, Directed by Michael Ritchie) English 5

Starring Eddie Murphy, Charlotte Lewis, Victor Wong, Charles Dance, James Hong, J.L Reate

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(5-Okay Film)

Cheesy. Odd. Guilty-pleasure.

Despite making money, The Golden Child is pretty universally disliked, or at least remembered (if remembered at all) as a stinker. Its star, Eddie Murphy, even admitted that it wasn’t very good. He plays Chandler Jarrell, a kind, urban detective dedicated to finding missing children. He gets dragged into a case tracking down the mysterious Golden Child, a Tibetan boy (played by a girl, I’ve just discovered) with mystical powers, captured by the evil Sardo Numpsa (Dance). With help from the beautiful Kee Nang (Lewis), Jarrell travels to Nepal in order to save the boy. I wonder why I like this movie. Is there enough to recommend it as a good film despite what others think? No. It has a charismatic but unfunny lead performance from Murphy, amusing but terrible special effects, and a lackluster climax. I enjoy the scenery, the darkness, the over-the-top violence, and those special effects I said were terrible. The Golden Child is a guilty pleasure.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(590)

Ip Man 3 (2015, Directed by Wilson Yip) Cantonese 6

Starring Donnie Yen, Zhang Yin, Lynn Hung, Patrick Tam, Mike Tyson, Karena Ng, Kent Cheng

(6-Good Film)

Solid. Entertaining. Overworked.

Ip Man (Yen) returns, the famed disciple and teacher of Wing Chun, a branch of martial arts. In this sequel, Man battles personal tragedy, his wife is diagnosed with cancer, along with social strife as local triads beleaguer his town. Man’s friendship and later rivalry with Cheung Fung, a man who claims superior and true Wing Chun skills, gradually moves from the background to the forefront of the story just in time for the climax. The inclusion of Mike Tyson signifies the film’s all around appeal to commercialism. It loses some of its previous installments grit and realism on that account, but it remains a well acted, well-choreographed action film with a number of impressive fight scenes and a protagonist we love.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(589)

Batman Begins (2005, Directed by Christopher Nolan) 8

Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe

(8-Exceptional Film)

Fresh. Compelling. Masterful.

It’s hard to look back and remember what it was like to be surprised by this film, a comic book film with serious ideas. It kicks off Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy that many feel set the bar for superhero films. In Nolan’s world, a brooding Bruce Wayne (Bale) trains as a ninja assassin, then returns to the state of nature that Gotham’s become to clean up the mess. The ensemble performances are uniformly excellent, and Bruce Wayne’s evolution from vigilante to author of justice is compelling, though we know the best is to come later in the series.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(588)

 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005, Directed by Shane Black) English 6

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Corbin Bernsen, Larry Miller

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(6-Good Film)

Funny. Slight. Clever.

Private detective mysteries aren’t like Agatha Christie mysteries. The plot doesn’t need to be airtight. Roger Ebert argued that the plot doesn’t matter at all in his review of The Big Sleep, one of the best of its kind. He’s right to an extent, but I think the plot needs to feel like it matters at least for the course of the movie, or else there’s no suspense. Case in point, the very funny but mostly meaningless Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Robert Downey Jr. is Harry Lockhart, a minor league thief that stumbles across an opportunity at acting in a Hollywood movie in a major role as a detective. This leads him to study Gay Perry (Kilmer), an actual detective, on a case that coincidentally involves Lockhart’s childhood sweetheart, Harmony (Monaghan). The film barely cares about its plot and instead becomes a series of comic setups based on other films of this subgenre. I don’t mind too much. Downey Jr., Kilmer, and Monaghan are excellent and there are several memorable scenes. I do think there was an opportunity to be more, but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a pretty cool, clever film as it is.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(585)