Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005, Directed by Jon Favreau) English 7

Starring Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins, Frank Oz

Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005) Review |BasementRejects

(7-Very Good Film)

Solid. Surprising. Restrained.

Walter: Don’t push that button.

I’ve put off every opportunity that I’ve had to watch Zathura for many years now. The spin-off of a popular childhood favorite, Jumanji (1995), I saw its cover and judged it to be an unnecessary, special-effects laden rip-off. Finally, having watched it, I was happily surprised. Following bickering brothers, Walter (10) and Danny (6), the two stumble upon a gaudy board game called Zathura, a sci-fi version of Jumanji. In other words, a game with drastic consequences and much too much excitement for its players. If it was left up to the action, this film wouldn’t make much of an impression, though the special effects are excellent. A matter of preference, Jumanji’s animal adventures and urban jungle mash-up is considerably more exciting to me than this minor space escapade. Also, despite comparable runtimes, Jumanji felt epic while Zathura feels intimate. What Zathura does well, though, is establish a dramatic relationship between the two brothers and build an adventure around it. It’s well-acted, intriguing material with an especially strong ending.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Raya and the Last Dragon (2021, Directed by Carlos López Estrada and Don Hall) English 7

Voices of Kellie Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Alan Tudyk, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Lucille Soong, Benedict Wong

Raya and the Last Dragon movie review: Disney animation inspired by  Southeast Asian culture | South China Morning Post

(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Beautiful. Engaging.

Raya: My whole life, I trained to become a guardian of the Dragon Gem. But this world has changed, and its people are divided. Now to restore peace, I must find the Last Dragon. My name is Raya.

There aren’t many people left after an apocalyptic storm blows through, turning bodies into stone. Raya (Tran) lives in its aftermath; a world of five kingdoms at war and little to defend against the darkness quickly spreading. She’s still fighting though, searching for Sisu (Awkwafina), a legendary dragon that might be the world’s only hope. The plot and tone are reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender (my favorite show) and if Raya and the Last Dragon was a television series, I would say I can’t wait for season 2. The characters are charming and distinct, the world is beautifully animated. I wanted to stick around. But Raya and the Last Dragon is a movie, Disney’s latest animated production and their 59th overall. The chances for a follow-up are pretty slim. Disney has made less than a handful of theatrically released sequels in their long history, so I have to look at Raya as a stand-alone piece, and on that score, it suffers a bit in my estimation. I wanted more which is both a compliment and a criticism. The world is so epic. The story, while solid, is less so.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Lady Snowblood (1973, Directed by Toshiya Fujita) Japanese 8

Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon, Eiji Okada, Miyoko Akaza, Takeo Chii, Kō Nishimura, Noboru Nakaya

Lady Snowblood: Blizzard from the Netherworld

(8-Exceptional Film)

Glorious. Simple. Resplendent.

Narrator: People say you can’t wash away the mud of this world with pure white snow. You need asura snow – stained fiery red.

Yuki Kashima, deadly assassin, righteous avenger, and the basis for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, is the product of a savage beginning. Her mother’s husband and son were murdered brutally by four bloodthirsty schemers-Takemura Banzō, Shokei Tokuichi, Tsukamoto Gishirō, and Kitahama Okono. Her mother, then, raped and passed around before dying in prison, giving birth to Yuki. Yuki, also known as Lady Snowblood, was born with vengeance in her heart. Consumed by violence and anger, is there any room for anything else? Yuki meets and falls for a young writer, Ashio, in the pursuit of killing her mother’s tormentors. Great pulpy material married to awesome visuals, Lady Snowblood is a gorgeous action flick with over-the-top violence and several twists.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Dr. No (1962, Directed by Terence Young) English 6

Starring Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, John Kitzmiller, Anthony Dawson, Lois Maxwell

Dr. No (1962) directed by Terence Young • Reviews, film + cast • Letterboxd

(6-Good Film)

Solid. Well-paced. Low-key.

James Bond: I admire your courage, Miss…?

Sylvia Trench: Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr…?

James Bond: Bond. James Bond.

And thus, a franchise was born. Dr. No set the mold. From Sean Connery’s often imitated introduction, to the Bond girls, to the eccentric villain, to the title sequence and the music, Dr. No led Bond off to an iconic start. It also happens to be a very solid action film. Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow MI6 agent. All roads lead to Dr. No (Wiseman), a genius, whose intricate plot escapes me (I’m not sure I was paying attention during his monologue), but you can rest assured it has something to do with taking over the world. The main Bond girl, Honey Rider (Andress), is a little too naive and uninvolved in the action to be very memorable, in my opinion. I would argue that her status as the first Bond girl is more significant than the performance or the character. That’s not the case for Bond, himself, though. Sean Connery remains the best one.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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El Cid (1961, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Herbert Lom, Raf Vallone, Jon Fraser, Geneviève Page, Douglas Wilmer

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(7-Very Good Film)

Grand. Bombastic. Earnest.

El Cid: You will soon be a King, you must start to think like one, any man can kill, only a King can give life!

Is it possible for a film to be bombastic and earnest? To feel that every single detail was done for effect, but by craftsman and artists who held this man, El Cid, Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (Heston), in reverence. After all, some stories do warrant the epic treatment and his story is certainly one of them. During the 11th century, at a time when Spain was divided in war between the Moors (Muslim) and the Christians, El Cid united the country in order to protect it from North African invaders led by Ben Yusuf (Lom). All while personally struggling with the disdain of his wife, Doña Jimena (Loren), whose father he killed, at home. El Cid is dated in several ways, not all of them negative. On the one hand, the cast of Spaniard and Muslim characters is largely filled out by white actors (sometimes in blackface makeup as with Ben Yusuf). On the other hand, a film of this size and scope is a marvel to behold and one that simply will not likely ever be made again; not by Hollywood anyways. There are thousands of extras used and massive sets to admire. CGI is a tool for filmmakers to work with and a useful one, but there are two areas where it simply fails to measure up to the real thing: animals and crowds of people. Some might argue that El Cid is overly serious or even corny at times, but this is a real person and his real story. I was prepared to take it seriously.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Guns of Navarone (1961, Directed by J. Lee Thompson) English 7

Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, Anthony Quayle, Stanley Baker, Richard Harris, Gia Scala, James Darren

Image result for the guns of navarone

(7-Very Good Film)

Epic. Thrilling. Tense.

Corporal Miller: So what? Let the whole bloody world come in and blow itself to pieces, that’s what it deserves!

Six disparate men are given a suicide mission of sorts: take out the guns of Navarone. Set during World War II, these gargantuan guns held in a fictional island in Greece and controlled by the Nazis are single-handedly keeping the Allied Forces from taking back their captured soldiers. Sending in Captain Keith Mallory (Peck), Corporal Miller (Niven), Colonel Stavros (Quinn), Major Franklin (Quayle), CPO Brown (Baker), and Spyros Pappadimos (Darren), as brilliant and capable as they are, seems reckless. The Guns of Navarone is one of those films off the heels and in the vein of Seven Samurai where a team is assembled to do a seemingly impossible job. More often than not, these films turn out to be excellent entertainment despite little to no character development and rarely any three dimensional characters. That’s the case here. These are characters that don’t reveal much anyways. They’re intelligence and resistance fighters. They don’t trust easily and they’re generally pretty stoic. The majority of the interior drama between them comes from Corporal Miller’s antagonism towards Captain Mallory, and the uneasy alliance between the latter and Colonel Stavros. These three characters played by three great actors are more than enough to hold our interest. If I have a complaint, it’s that the climax itself, the dismantling of the guns, is less compelling than earlier scenes, most notably the execution.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Adventures of Don Juan (1948, Directed by Vincent Sherman) English 7

Starring Errol Flynn, Viveca Lindfors, Robert Douglas, Alan Hale, Romney Brent, Ann Rutherford, Robert Warwick, Una O’Connor, Raymond Burr

the adventures of don juan 1948 이미지 검색결과

(7-Very Good Film)

Festive. Handsome. Fun.

Don Juan: My dear friend, there’s a little bit of Don Juan in every man, and since I am Don Juan, there must be more of it in me!

Don Juan. The man. The myth. The legendary lady-killer. Apparently, not far off from star, Errol Flynn’s own reputation. The perfect marriage between star and role. Flynn’s Don Juan passes from town to town, accompanied by his loyal servant, Leporello (played by Flynn’s loyal real-life friend, Hale), fleeing cuckolded husbands and alternating between trying to live down or live up to his reputation. Eventually, he meets the queen, Margaret of Austria (Lindfors). Falling for her, he fights to protect her from conspirators and enemies of Spain. Not as exciting or memorable as Flynn’s best (Captain Blood, Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk), The Adventures of Don Juan is, however, a fun, romantic romp made with an abundance of skill and money.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Vera Cruz (1954, Directed by Robert Aldrich) English 8

Starring Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel, Cesar Romero, Sara Montiel, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Macready, Morris Ankrum, Jack Elam

The Ace Black Movie Blog: Movie Review: Vera Cruz (1954)

(8-Exceptional Film)

Violent. Exciting. Compelling.

Benjamin Trane: You just can’t do enough for me, can yuh, Joe?

Joe Erin: Why not? You’re the first friend I ever had.

Friends, indeed. Much of the underlying drama in Vera Cruz centers around this so-called friendship. Ben Trane’s (Cooper) older, seems wiser and less violent, but that doesn’t stop him from being mercenary when he can. He’s an ex-confederate soldier trying to start again below the border, during the Franco-Mexican War. His new partner, Joe Erin (Lancaster), has been there longer and built up a reputation as the most lethal crook around. They’re hired by Emperor Maximilian (Macready) himself to escort the beautiful-and treacherous-Countess Marie (Darcel) to Vera Cruz. There’s a good deal of plot in this film for a western and a number of relationships. The two male stars’ is the most interesting. The relationships between the stars and their love interests aren’t hard to figure out and their outcomes are more or less predictable. Trane and Erin’s relationship is more tenuous and I, for one, wasn’t sure how it would shake out. Vera Cruz, though slight in running time, feels like a great big western. Expansive setting, a large cast of characters, an abundance of plot, as mentioned. Despite finding Cooper unimpressive and rather stiff in westerns, he gets the job done here, and Lancaster wasn’t afraid to put his star power on the line to play crazed characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Diamonds are Forever (1971, Directed by Guy Hamilton) English 5

Starring Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Lana Wood, Charles Gray, Bruce Glover, Putter Smith, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot

Diamonds Are Forever Movie Review

(5-Okay Film)

Substandard. Campy. Uneven.

Blofeld: Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in.

That’s right. Sean Connery is back as James Bond, after Australian and subpar actor, George Lazenby, briefly took over the role. A return like this should exist in the same sphere as Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA. Instead, it’s a bit of general trivia for Bond aficionados. The reason? It’s because the film, itself, is mediocre. In fact, I might argue that it’s the silliest of the Bond films (not having seen Moonraker yet), which is saying something. Diamonds are Forever has Connery talking to rats, making out with his self, and driving a space buggy of sorts. It’s also set mainly in Vegas which, after Japan and Switzerland in the previous outings, comes as a letdown. Bond poses as a a diamond smuggler to infiltrate a high-level operation, but the plot is one of the franchise’s most irrelevant, the main villain represents an uninspired take on the role, and the henchman are laughable (maybe they were supposed to be). What are Diamonds are Forever’s redeeming features? It’s entertaining, up until the end which is surprisingly uninteresting. Jill St. John, the first American Bond woman, is fun and memorable. The theme song, of course, is one of the best, and, above all, Sean Connery. I can see why he was tired of doing this material, but he made it iconic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Mulan (2020, Directed by Niki Caro) English 4

Starring Liu Yifei, Yoson An, Gong Li, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, Ron Yuan

What Time Will Mulan Be on Disney Plus? How To Watch With Premiere Access

(4-Bad Film)

Inferior. Misguided. Dreary.

Mulan: Yes… I will bring honor to us all.

If you asked me ten years ago for one classic Disney animated film that could be interesting as a live-action remake, Mulan would likely have been my choice. The original is one of my favorites of all Disney films but I feel (or felt) that there was plenty of directions its story could go. It didn’t need to be a carbon-copy of the original to work. The folks at Disney obviously agreed and this new Mulan, Mulan 2020, is, in a lot of ways, a new film; its own film. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good film. Mulan 2020 starts out the same. She takes her aging father’s place in defending the country. The enemy is different, however. China’s facing Rouran warriors being manipulated by a vengeful witch (Li). Most people would have probably preferred that it recycle what worked so well in the animated version (catchy songs, colorful adventure, funny characters like Mushu, and light romance between Mulan and Li Sheng). I like the initiative to make something different, but every choice seems like a slap in the face to the original. It feels like the filmmakers were embarrassed by the original and spend the majority of this movie catering to China (turns out China hates it too). Everything is described as an effort to be “more historically accurate.” They forgot to make it entertaining. Everything that was fun about the first film is gone now. What’s left is dreary (and somehow still campy at the same time). There is nothing wrong with musical fantasies. I can’t believe Disney tried to make a fantasy “more realistic.”

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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