Arrival (2016, Directed by Denis Villeneuve) English 5

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma

(5-Okay Film)

Slow. Monotonous. Opaque.

How to describe this film’s plot? I suppose it is fitting for a film so concerned with the passing of time to be an unbound, nonlinear work. All I can claim to understand clearly is that Amy Adams plays a linguistics professor asked to assist in communication with a group of aliens that have recently materialized. Critics have praised the confident pacing, but, in my book, that usually means slow and boring. I’ve also realized about myself that I don’t care for friendly aliens when it comes to movies. Give me the childish aliens vs. humans narrative every time over this well-crafted “intelligent” film. A film has to be entertaining before it can be anything else.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Videodrome (1983, Directed by David Cronenberg) English 8

Starring James Woods, Debbie Harry, Sonja Smits, Leslie Carlson, Peter Dvorsky, Jackl Creley

Image result for videodrome

(8-Exceptional Film)

Bizarre. Unnerving. Unforgettable.

Max Renn (Woods) runs a sleazy television station that pushes sex and violence with its programming. Always on the lookout for new material, Renn stumbles upon Videodrome, a pirated show made under mysterious circumstances that takes gratuitous sex and violence to new heights. Renn becomes obsessed with the show but when he does a little digging, reality and Videodrome begin to blend together, and he finds that what he thought was staged might actually be genuine snuff films. Directed by David Cronenberg, master of body horror, this movie alternates between seeming to have a lot of plot to digest and the plot apparently not mattering at all, and yet, I was never frustrated. From wonder to disgust, it’s best to watch and move with Videodrome as it goes from one striking image to the next. What’s it saying though? Is Renn corrupted by what he’s watching? Desensitized by sex and violence on television to the point where he has to look for stronger material to feel anything? I don’t have an answer but I’m certain I’ll watch this film again and again searching.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016, Directed by Gareth Edwards) English 6

Starring Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelson, Alan Tudyk, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen

(6-Good Film)

Solid. Overly-serious. Anticlimactic.

A rebellious youth, Jin (Jones), teams up with the resistance to steal the Empire’s plans
for the Death Star; set between episodes 3 and 4 of the Star Wars Saga. The character building and diversity of the cast really shines through in the film and makes the first two acts (which are essentially build-up) fly by, but the third act, which was probably 40 or so minutes of straight action, was immensely disappointing to me. I became disinterested at the part that I should have been most engrossed in. It seemed to drag on monotonously as random things blew up. There was no discernible strategy that I could follow and invest in. The combat scenes were uninspired, and the villain could not measure up to Vader (which is to be expected). In fact, the best scenes in the film were Vader’s.  The movie was also not imaginative enough. Awe and wonderment were replaced by grit. And the ending, which I don’t want to spoil just in case you’re the one person who likes Star Wars but hasn’t seen it yet, made the film feel too much like the spinoff it is. I thought the filmmakers had done a good job up to that point of letting the film stand on its own. I also don’t like the use of Peter Cushing (who is dead) in CGI form. Apart from being distracting, it was kind of creepy. A good film, but not a great one.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-

Krull (1983, Directed by Peter Yates) English 4

Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Liam Neeson, Robbie Coltrane, Alun Armstrong

(4-Bad Film)

Bizarre. Campy. Dull.

In this film, an odd mash-up of the sword-and-sorcery genre and the sci-fi genre, a distant planet called Krull is invaded by aliens known as slayers on the day the Princess is to be married. These slayers are light-years ahead in technology, so fighting back seems hopeless, but Colwyn (Marshall), the Princess’ intended, is willing to go to any length to save his bride and protect his home. Alternates between inspired visuals and corny ’80s effects. The story isn’t compelling, and the characters get shortchanged.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019, Directed by David Leitch) English 6

Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Eddie Marsan, Eiza González, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Hart, Helen Mirren

Image result for hobbs and shaw

(6-Good Film)

Ridiculous. Over-the-top. Fun.

Remember when the Fast and the Furious franchise was about stealing cars? At some point, the Fast and the Furious adventures merged with James bond-like sci-fi and end-of-the-world scenarios and, in my opinion, they’re all better for it. Hobbs and Shaw is a spinoff of the last Fast and the Furious with superhuman heroes Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Statham) teaming up to save the world despite not liking each other. They’ll have to put aside their antagonism in order to help Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Kirby), herself a British spy, who’s carrying a catastrophic virus that a mysterious agency known as Eteon is after. Idris Elba lends some gravitas to his fairly silly role as Brixton Lore, part-robotic villain and mercenary for Eteon. Hobbs and Shaw is clearly setting up its own franchise and I’m down with that. The leads were the best thing about the last Fast and the Furious film and carry that chemistry into this one. Physics fly out the window pretty fast in this movie (Hobbs somehow lassos a metal chain around a plane in midair) but once you let that go, you can have a pretty good time. The big issue for me is the over-use of CGI as opposed to stunt work which the director, David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) has shown a great talent for.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-



The Unearthly (1957, Directed by Boris Petroff) English 4

Starring John Carradine, Myron Healey, Allison Hayes, Tor Johnson, Sally Todd

Image result for the unearthly 1957

(4-Bad Film)

Schlock. Flat. Doltish.

The Unearthly may be the best film featured on the cult t.v series, Mystery Science Theater, but that’s hardly a recommendation. It actually means that, while still not being good, it also lacks the requisite trash value to be so bad it’s good. It’s not entertaining. The premise is promising. A mad scientist played by Carradine tests out his theories on his distressed patients searching for immortality. A fugitive, Mark Houston (Healey), wanders into this house of horrors and unearths its secrets. Wittier dialogue, more colorful characters, and a director with any talent for suspense could make The Unearthly a worthwhile B movie. Instead, it’s ample fodder for the crew on MST3 to lampoon. “My Dinner with Andre had more locations.”

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Howard the Duck (1986, Directed by Willard Huyck) English 4

Starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, David Paymer, Holly Robinson, Paul Guilfoyle

Image result for howard the duck

(4-Bad Film)

Inane. Unpleasant. Unfunny.

Beverly says it best, “Howard, you really are the worst.” I don’t know a thing about Marvel’s comic book series from which this movie was made, but as voiced by Chip Zien and portrayed in this film, Howard has to be one of the least charming heroes of all-time. Combining not-so-witty duck puns, general hostility, sarcasm, sleaziness, and bad animatronics, Howard’s pulled away from his planet and brought to Earth (Cleveland, to be specific) where he befriends Beverly (Thompson) and gets roped into stopping a violent alien form, the Dark Overlord (Jones), from taking over. This isn’t the worst film ever. It’s not even the worst Marvel adaptation. I’d vote one of the Fantastic Fours for that distinction. But I didn’t like anything about Howard the Duck. I have an affinity for the ’80s, its aesthetic and vibe, there being a number of bad films from that decade that I love, but Howard the Duck is an eyesore and painful to listen to.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-