Fantastic Planet (1973, Directed by René Laloux) French Okay Film

Voices of Jennifer Drake, Eric Baugin, Jean Valmont, Jean Topart, Yves Barsacq

(Okay Film)

In this bizarrely animated picture from French filmmaker, René Laloux, on a distant planet far from Earth, blue humanoids called Draags have dominion. Under their tyrannical feet stand Oms, primitive humans populating this planet sometimes as wild animals and sometimes as pets. Interesting as a spin on the world as we know it, also perhaps a critique on animal treatment or injustice as a whole, Fantastic Planet has an excellent reputation as both an experimental film as well as a cult film, and its ’70s era soundtrack will be familiar to any fan of classic hip-hop. Despite its reputation, it’s not a great film. Its strange setting is kept at a distance, as a concept, rather than an immersive world that we, the audience, can escape into to and enjoy. The story, then, follows the same line. Admirable but never exciting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

-4-

The Matrix Resurrections (2021, Directed by Lana Wachowski) English 5

Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Henwick, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Christina Ricci

The Matrix Resurrections: Did Neo Choose to Be Plugged Back In? | Den of  Geek

(5-Okay Film)

Inessential. Intriguing. Flat.

Neo: I still know Kung Fu.

The thrill of seeing something new, being challenged with fresh ideas, working my way through a complex but involving plot; the Matrix was a colossal experience. In it, Todd Anderson (Reeves), later Neo, learns that the world around him (known as the matrix) is not real, but something artificial designed by machines to enslave humans and distract them from reality. He meets a band of resistance fighters led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) who provokes Neo into opening his eyes, teaches him all the possibilities of the matrix, and professes to him that he is the chosen one, or “the One,” destined to save the human race. Just as importantly, Neo meets Trinity (Anne-Moss), the woman he comes to love and who comes to love him. The original Matrix is a masterpiece in my eyes. Its sequels were a disappointment, to say the least, debased, being a more accurate description. The Wachowskis (writers and directors of the franchise) lost the thread. Now we come to The Matrix Resurrections, a third sequel and possibly a reboot. Nearly twenty years after the last sequel, is the world of The Matrix still worth the trip down the rabbit hole? For the whole of the first half, I was hopeful. It begins again with Todd Anderson, a successful video game designer, whom we come to find invented the events of the first three films in his head for a gaming franchise…or did he? I found this premise to be an interesting one even if it’s not entirely original, but you can likely guess the answer to that question and that’s part of my problem. The Matrix 4 was never going to be as fresh as the original and the franchise hasn’t proven it can deliver without that sense of novelty. Other problems include a dull second half, unappealing visuals (especially during the bullet-time sequences), and a performance by Abdul-Mateen II (taking over from Fishburne) as Morpheus that doesn’t measure up. I’m going to continue pretending that The Matrix has no sequels.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Aliens (1986, Directed by James Cameron) English 9

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein

Retro Review: 'Aliens' (1986) - CROMEYELLOW.COM

(9-Great Film)

Expert. Muscular. Thrilling.

Ripley: Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?

Good question, Ellen Ripley (we find out her first name in this film). Fifty-seven years after the terrifying events in Alien (1979), Ripley wakes up from stasis to find a new generation of “explorers”/idiots want to return to the scene of the massacre to investigate. Accompanied by marines this time around, you’d think the cast of characters had a better shot at surviving, wouldn’t you? Of course not. Hunted by not one but dozens of ferocious aliens, the humans are once again forced into survival mode, with an even more impressive Ripley saving the day. Thrilling to watch, Aliens is, in my opinion, the greatest example of director, James Cameron’s, craft and skill. It’s beautifully designed and perfectly paced with simple but effective characterizations. At its core, you have an iconic character in Ripley, still grieving the death of her own daughter, leading a young orphan girl to safety.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Next (2007, Directed by Lee Tamahori) English 5

Starring Nicholas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschman, Peter Falk, Jim Beaver

Next (2007 film) - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

(5-Okay Film)

Intriguing. Shoddy. Silly.

Cris Johnson: Here is the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes, because you looked at it, and that changes everything else.

When a high concept film is done poorly, it becomes silly. Next, taken from a story by the high concept king, Philip K. Dick, is done poorly. It stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, who also goes by Frank Cadillac, a seemingly inconsequential magician performing in Vegas. But Cris actually has one extraordinary ability. He can see the future up to two minutes in front of him. The FBI are after him because they believe his ability can help them prevent a terrorist plot for nuclear disaster. The terrorists are after him because they agree. It’s a potentially interesting premise, but one that’s difficult to wrap one’s head around. The implications of Cris’ talent and the variations of time that he creates seem infinite. It would take a brilliant mind to make this material work, or at least a thoughtful one. Next is neither thoughtful nor brilliant. It’s fast-paced enough not to be boring but it’s also pretty crudely done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Assassin’s Creed (2016, Directed by Justin Kurzel) English 4

Starring Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Irons, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams, Ariane Labed, Carlos Bardem, Essie Davis

(4-Bad Film)

Dreary. Serious. Muddled.

Callum Lynch: We work in the dark to serve the light. We are assassins.

I realize that it’s unfair to judge a video game series by its movie adaptation, but, having never played any of the Assassin’s Creed games, I can’t help never wanting to, after working my way through this seemingly interminable drag of a film. Working with an original story set in the world of Assassin’s Creed, Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a violent prisoner, is coerced into delving into his ancestor’s memories through amazing new technology (so amazing that it’s nonsensical, even in this, a fantasy), in what his captors hope will bring them to the sacred apple of Eden and a chance to eliminate violence in the world. So yes, Assassin’s Creed has a lot of big ideas and explores them seriously, and with the benefit of a sterling cast. Unfortunately, there’s not an ounce of fun to be had watching this picture, as far as I’m concerned, and a little bit of camp might have helped. It’s a sluggish work with too much exposition and not enough character development. With no humor whatsoever and no romance, Assassin’s Creed has the austerity of a classic historical epic, but with none of the spectacle.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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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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Tenet (2020, Directed by Christopher Nolan) English 5

Starring John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel, Martin Donovan, Michael Caine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy

Christopher Nolan's movie 'Tenet': What is this movie about? – Film Daily

(5-Okay Film)

Tedious. Solemn. Convoluted.

Lady in a Lab Coat: Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.

“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it,” a lady in a lab coat tells our protagonist, simply referred to as Protagonist (Washington), for the whole of the film. Protagonist appears to accept this there and then-though it’s hard to determine what he’s thinking, if he’s thinking, at any point. I could not accept it. I don’t want to not understand. I don’t enjoy being lost, in general, but if I am to be lost, I’d prefer a vibrant setting, a character or two to care about, and a sense of humor. Not this gray oblivion devoid of humor that touts intelligence and sophistication at the expense of humor, entertainment, and emotion. In thinking about it, it’s strange what the lady in a lab coat says to Protagonist. The line is clearly meant as a clue to the viewer on how to experience Tenet and in this sense, it does its job, but within the context of the film, does Protagonist ever “feel” anything? Don’t try to understand it? I don’t even understand who she is.

Any film made by Christopher Nolan bears the weight of exceptional expectations. Nolan is quite possibly the most popular filmmaker working today and, perhaps more impressively, he’s also almost universally admired by his peers. His popularity was built chiefly on his take on the superhero genre with Batman and The Dark Knight saga. Since the final film in that trilogy though, The Dark Knight Rises, his films have grown increasingly austere and opaque. Those two words combine to mean pretentious in my eyes. I was not a fan of Interstellar (the second half meandered its way to the goofiest ending I’ve seen in years), I was apathetic towards Dunkirk (admittedly, I’ve seen this once and I’m willing to see it again before I mark my opinion in stone), and now, Tenet, Nolan’s worst film; an interminable barrage of noise and poor sound design, unintelligible, obscure dialogue, superficial characters, wrapped around a “high-concept” central conceit that I don’t give one damn about.

The story follows Protagonist, hired by some unknown figure to…(I don’t know what this film’s about and you probably don’t want me to tell you anyways.) Let’s go broad strokes instead. John David Washington is the good guy. Kenneth Branagh is the bad guy. The end of the world is at stake. Time can be manipulated. Robert Pattinson is in this movie. He’s helping the good guys. Elizabeth Debicki is married to the bad guy, but reluctantly helps the good guys. Will subtitles help? Do I want to give Tenet a third try on DVD where I’ll at least know what’s being said? Half of the dialogue is spoken through thick accents or obscured by masks which has become a trademark for Nolan and not one of his better ones.

In order for there to be suspense, the audience needs to be in on what’s going on. Alfred Hitchcock famously explained (explained it best, in my opinion), saying, ““There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” There’s no anticipation in this film because we’re never given a solid enough picture of what is happening. We’re meant to be overwhelmed. Everything, from the bombastic sound design to the narrative structure, conspires to overwhelm us. This is not a spy film like some critics claim it is. Cinematic espionage is not knowing who to trust but knowing that good and bad will reveal itself by the end. Tenet is knowing who’s good from the start, Protagonist, but not knowing who he is or why he does anything. The good guys are emotionless suits with no backstory whatsoever and no clear motivation.

Perhaps the large-canvas, awfully convoluted plot is simply a means to an end; an excuse for large-scale spectacle and masterfully crafted action sequences. I’d never accuse Nolan of being a hack. He’s a technician. Many of the action set-pieces are incredible. Tenet is consistently beautiful and well-acted in the rare moments when acting is called for (aside from Debicki, the cast is mostly called on to look good in a suit and spout pseudo-clever dialogue). However, as I said in a different review (Highlander 2, I believe, another nonsensical sci-fi flick), when I can’t follow the plot, I have no sense of what a scene’s purpose is in the grand scheme. Then, I can only hope to enjoy each scene independent of context. There are a number of scenes in Tenet in which I was able to do this, but it’s hard to do for 2 and a half hours. “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” No lady in a lab coat. I felt nothing, and in the time spent between seeing Tenet and writing this review, I didn’t think about the film once.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Predator (1987, Directed by John McTiernan) English 8

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Elpidia Carrillo, R.G Armstrong, Shane Black, Richard Chaves, Sonny Landham

Predator (1987) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes | Gareth Rhodes Film ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Exciting. Hyper-masculine. Gratifying.

Dutch: If it bleeds, we can kill it.

Perhaps the manliest movie ever produced, Predator teams Arnold Schwarzenegger with Apollo Creed, or Carl Weathers, if you prefer, and a bunch of other buff guys thrown into the Central American jungle. Arnold leads a band of mercenaries sent to rescue an official but instead discover the ultimate killer/predator, an alien who crash-landed on Earth and seems to spend his time hunting other predators. Critics complained about the alien’s unclearly defined motivation. I disagree. Very few films have such a firm grasp on what they’re trying to be and accomplish that ambition so efficiently. Motivation is superfluous here. What we want is Arnold versus alien and we get it. We also get a handful of cool characters, Mac (Duke) being my favorite, and a great location for an action film. Predator is a contender for the best action flick of that decade.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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

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

Image result for they live

(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-

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