Dune (2021, Directed by Denis Villeneuve) English 4

Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling, Chang Chen, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster

Stunning New 'Dune' Trailer Is Begging You to See 'Dune' in Theaters | WIRED

(4-Bad Film)

Tedious. Hollow. Superficial.

Duncan Idaho: Dreams make good stories, but everything important happens when we’re awake.

How long are you willing to stare at something beautiful that you don’t connect to? The newest adaptation of Dune, directed by Oscar-nominated director, Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), helped me answer this question, because I couldn’t make it past the first twenty minutes without wanting to be somewhere else. With no prior experience with the world of Dune or its source material, my understanding of the plot is certainly limited. As much as I could follow, the story follows Paul Atreides (Chalamet), the son of Duke Leto (Isaac), as he and his family move to a new planet, Arrakis, and attempt to establish themselves there. While acclimatizing themselves to Arrakis, the Atreides are beset on all sides by hostile natives, rivals, and traitors. Dune is often as beautiful as advertised. The problem for me is that it’s devoid of personality. No humor, no distinct characters or character development, no compelling villain, no wit or colorful dialogue. Dune is a chore.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Panic Room (2002, Directed by David Fincher) English 8

Starring Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Kristen Stewart, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Patrick Bauchau


(8-Exceptional Film)

Efficient. Tense. Compelling.

Burnham: This is what I do; if some idiot with a sledgehammer could break in, do you really think I’d still have a job?

Single location thrillers are a dime-a-dozen. I imagine they’re less expensive to make than most movies, and, besides, there’s a large audience for them. If a film of this sort is going to make any real impression, it’s going to be because of the director and maybe the star. David Fincher is the director of Panic Room, with Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker starring. That sets up the film to be pretty good and I actually think it’s better than most people give it credit for. Foster plays Meg Altman, recently separated from her husband, she moves into a beautiful new house in Manhattan with her daughter, Sarah (Stewart), and, on the very first night, a trio of burglars-Burnham (Whitaker), Raoul (Yoakam), Junior (Leto)-show up with intel on where secret money is hidden by the house’s previous owner. Fortunately, the new house comes equipped with a seemingly impregnable “panic room” where Meg and Sarah can hide out. Unfortunately, however, the panic room is where the secret money is hidden and Burnham is the one who installed the room, so he knows a few tricks. Really compelling thriller with a great performance from its star, Foster, who’s supported by a cast of interesting characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Fast and the Furious 9 (2021, Directed by Justin Lin) English 5

Starring Vin Diesel, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Anna Sawai, Shea Wigham, Jason Statham, Cardi B

Fast and Furious 9' Dominating China Box Office: Analysis

(5-Okay Film)

Absurd. Silly. Entertaining.

Tagline: Fast Family Forever

Twenty years ago, when the franchise began, Dominic Toretto (Diesel) was a street racer and Paul Walker was still alive. Times change. Now Dom, wanting to lead a quiet life, is called back into action along with his faithful team to square off with a super-spy who is….surprise! Dom’s brother, Jakob (Cena). Fast and the Furious, which has always been at least slightly ridiculous, gradually more so with each subsequent offering, is no longer about racing at all. It barely seems to be about cars. When you remove the limits of what a car can do, when you replace stunts with CGI, when all of the sudden, cars are able to latch on to loose ropes and swing a hundred yards across oblivion, we’ve officially reached fantasy territory and the cars might as well be flying unicorns. CGI vehicles doing absurd things is simply not interesting to me. Seeing real vehicles doing absurd things is spectacular; see Bullitt (1968) for reference. Fast and the Furious has had its triumphs. Entries 5, 6, and 7 were exceptional. Even this new film has its moments. The frantic drive through land mines and the girl fight in Tokyo are good scenes. As a whole, though, F9 is too ludicrous to be thrilling and, despite frequently being laughable, it’s too serious to be funny. F9 is a return to mediocrity for the franchise.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


He Got Game (1998, Directed by Spike Lee) English 8

Starring Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, John Turturro, Jim Brown, Bill Nunn, Ned Beatty, Lonette McKee, Leonard Roberts, Jennifer Esposito

He Got Game (1998)

(8-Exceptional Film)

Stirring. Messy. Bold.

Jake Shuttlesworth: I pray you understand why I pushed you so hard! It was only to get you to that next level, Son. I mean, you’s the first Shuttlesworth that’s ever gonna make it out of these projects, and I was the one who who put the ball in your hand, Son! I put the ball in your crib!

There’s a lot more to it, but at its heart, He Got Game is about a father who pushes his son too hard. There have been countless versions of this story. It’s potent material. He Got Game is one of the more moving examples. Denzel plays Jake Shuttlesworth, a convict given a week’s chance to convince his son, Jesus Shuttlesworth (future NBA star, Allen), the nation’s top high school prospect, to play basketball at the governor’s alma mater. Despite the implausibilty of this scenario and the apparent unrealistic moments involving college recruiting, this movie hits home. I think it’s because character is more important than plot, and Jake is one of Denzel’s finest; as flawed as he is charismatic. The final duel between father and son is powerful, and I even enjoyed the grandiose fantastical touches to end the film. Like several great filmmakers that I admire, Lee doesn’t care much for subtlety. With him, it’s bold stories told boldly. He Got Game reminds me of the flamboyant melodramas of the ’50s. I happen to love those films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Beat the Devil (1953, Directed John Huston) English 4

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollabrigida, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Bernard Lee, Edward Underdown

Beat the Devil - Blueprint: Review

(4-Bad Film)

Silly. Uneven. Unfocused.

O’Hara: Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.

Billed as a spoof of the director-star’s earlier success, The Maltese Falcon, Beat the Devil seems to me, not a spoof but an incompetent retelling. With John Huston directing, Humphrey Bogart starring, and Truman Capote writing, somehow Beat the Devil still manages to be a stinker. Bogart is Billy Danreuther mixed up with a gang of crooks on their way to Africa. Biding their time, things grow complicated when Billy and his wife, Maria (Lollabrigida), fall in with a British couple, the Chelms (Jones and Underdown). A great spoof to me should still operate within the genre or story its spoofing. Young Frankenstein, for example, is broad and silly, but it also tells a fun story. Same with Shrek or The Incredibles or Scream or The Princess Bride. Beat the Devil is a film made by people who clearly didn’t know where they were going. Its following describe it as “campy” but it’s not campy enough in my estimation. It’s more like a thriller that couldn’t be bothered to take itself seriously.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Game (1997, Directed by David Fincher) English 6

Starring Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Carroll Baker, Peter Donat, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Tim Robey recommends... The Game (1997)

(6-Good Film)

Intriguing. Adept. Preposterous.

Daniel Schorr: Discovering the object of the game *is* the object of the game.

The Game follows Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas), a big-time businessman that seems to value money over the people in his life. He’s approaching his 48th birthday (his father’s age when he killed himself) and his ne’er-do-well brother, Conrad (Penn), shows up with a surprise gift; an elaborate and mysterious set of experiences known simply as “The Game.” It doesn’t take long for it to get out of hand. David Fincher, in his own assessment, lamented this film’s final act. They never did figure it out and it doesn’t really work. What does work is The Game’s first 2 acts; suspenseful, gripping, atmospheric, handsome, and well-acted. Douglas made a long, successful career largely built on roles like this one; the ice-cold, intelligent man in power. Fincher proves to be a modern master of suspense. Both men are in their element.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Princess and the Pirate (1944, Directed by David Butler) English 7

Starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak, Victor McLaglen, Hugo Haas, Mike Mazurki, Maude Eburne

The Princess and the Pirate (1944) David Butler, Sidney Lanfield ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Madcap. Irreverent. Fun.

Sylvester: My act is known all over Europe; that’s why I’m going to America.

In a long, prolific career with several dozen films, each chock-full of snappy one-liners, Bob Hope’s best lines might be found in The Princess and the Pirate. It also happens to be a pretty good swashbuckler. Hope plays The Great Sylvester, a not-so-great performer working in 18th century Europe, who gets caught up in the middle of feared pirate, Captain Barrett (McLaglen), and his crew’s abduction of Princess Margaret (Mayo). The production is first-rate and Hope is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast. Mayo is winning as his love interest. Brennan is a blast as Featherhead (bearing a strong resemblance to Dopey from Snow White) and McLaglen lends the film just the right amount of austerity to work even apart from being funny.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


One-Armed Swordsman (1967, Directed by Chang Cheh) Mandarin 8

Starring Jimmy Wang, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Tien Feng, Angela Pan, Yeung Chi-hing, Tang Ti, Wong Sai-git

The One Armed Swordsman (first film of 2013) | voidagger

(8-Exceptional Film)

Rousing. Vibrant. Glorious.

Shih Yi-fei: Pei, don’t worry. So what if you cut off his arm? He’s not coming back anyway. We’ll just never bring it up in front of Sifu.

The opening chapters, Fang Kang’s (Wang) origin story, if you will, are to me, a product of the western world, comparable to the story of Joseph’s misfortunes in the Book of Genesis; jealousy, betrayal, conspiracy. Here, Fang Kang is lured into a trap by his peers at a martial arts school, tired of being shown up by his skill and strength of character. He loses an arm but is saved by a kind, beautiful farm girl, Xiao Man (Chiao Chiao), who eventually gets him back on his feet and watches him regain his fighting prowess, this time with the handicap. Later the honorable Fang Kang is called upon to save his old school from a rival gang of thugs. Deeply compelling, this film is classic action entertainment. Vibrantly filmed and creatively choreographed, the One-Armed Swordsman is rightly iconic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


I’ll Never Forget You (1951, Directed by Roy Ward Baker) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Ann Blyth, Michael Rennie, Irene Browne, Dennis Price, Beatrice Campbell, Kathleen Byron

Screenshots - I'll Never Forget You

(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Sentimental. Imaginative.

Roger Forsyth: You’re sort of a mystery man even to your friends.

Peter Standish (Power) is a brilliant scientist. Unhappy in his own time, he dedicates his life and research to traveling back through the centuries to the 1700s, just after the revolutionary war, specifically. Eventually, he succeeds but finds that life in 18th century England is not at all what he expected, and his love life is complicated by the kind, understanding Helen Pettigrew (Blyth). It’s beyond me why anyone would think that life would be better in the 18th century, but this is a romantic fantasy not meant to be analyzed to death. The conceit is more or less an excuse to turn the film into a costume drama. Tyrone Power, matinee idol for the ages, is convincing as the fish out of water and romantic lead. The romance is sweet if treacly, and the story is light and compelling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Animal (2001, Directed by Luke Greenfield) English 4

Starring Rob Schneider, Guy Torry, Colleen Haskell, John C. McGinley, Ed Asner, Louis Lombardi, Michael Caton, Norm MacDonald, Adam Sandler

Ten Years Ago: The Animal – 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective

(4-Bad Film)

Idiotic. Bemusing. Brief.

Rianna: I just want to thank everyone who sent me food and letters of support, especially the mentally handicapped child who sent me this sweet book of poems.

Marvin Mange: She read my poems.

Rob Schneider gets plugged into the Adam Sandler formula for comedy: a kind goofball protagonist learns how to stand up against the jerks in his life. As dumb and as poor as some of the Adam Sandler films are, I’m basically a fan. He also has plenty of movies that I consider good comedies (not to mention his impressive dramatic turns). I get the feeling that he turned this role down before it fell to Schneider who is convincing enough as the kind, put-upon hero but never delivers any laughs with this broad comedy’s ludicrous premise. He plays Marvin Mange, a police-hopeful, who gets badly hurt in a car accident and is put back together by a mad scientist who endows him with animal parts. The animal parts make him a natural as a police officer but eventually begin to run rampant, just as he’s getting close with a beautiful animal lover, Rianna (Haskell). There’s some promise with this material. I think perhaps with Jim Carrey, although it’s probably too close to Ace Ventura for him to ever be interested. As it is, The Animal is a brief ordeal, at times watchable, amusing, bizarre, unfunny, but always completely moronic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-