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-

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Soul Plane (2004, Directed by Jesse Terrero) English 3

Starring Kevin Hart, Snoop Dogg, Tom Arnold, Method Man, Godfrey, Loni Love, Monique, Missi Pyle, Arielle Kebbel, D.L Hughley, Sommore, Sofia Vergara, John Witherspoon, Terry Crews, Gary Anthony Williams, Brian Hooks, K.D Aubert, Richard T. Jones

Soul Plane 2004 - Worst Movies Ever

(3-Horrible Film)

Irreverent. Unfunny. Embarrassing.

Captain Mack: Testicles, 1, 2… Testicles, 1, 2.

Nashawn Wade (Hart) wins a $100,000,000 in a court settlement after being on the wrong end of an airline’s carelessness. He uses his earnings to start his own airline, one with purple planes, complimentary fried chicken, strippers as stewardesses, and Snoop Dogg as a pilot. If this sounds amusing to you, I’ll admit, as ridiculous as it all is, it had a chance to be the black version of Airplane (1980), which is what it so clearly wants. Airplane, now 40 years old and dated in my opinion, is still funnier than Soul Plane. There are a lot of funny people in Soul Plane and I respect the energy they bring to the project but a film like this needs to be hilarious to warrant the level of silliness and, I repeat, Soul Plane simply isn’t funny. There’s no point in being offended by it, even though there are many opportunities; Monique, as TSA security, takes handsome fliers back to Airport detention and forces them to undress, for example. Like every joke in this picture, I’m just shaking my head saying, “wow.”

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Muppet Treasure Island (1996, Directed by Brian Henson) English 6

Starring Tim Curry, Jennifer Saunders, Billy Connolly, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire, Kevin Bishop

Muppet Treasure Island (1996) - Titlovi.com

(6-Good Film)

Irreverant. Vibrant. Enjoyable.

Rizzo: He died? And this is supposed to be a kids’ movie

Legendary creator, Jim Henson, had already been dead for several years but The Muppets were in good hands with his son Brian Henson. Muppet Treasure Island is a fun romp and musical mixed in with Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel. A young boy, Jim Hawkins (Bishop), sets sail on an adventure to find a long lost treasure with the help of his newly acquired map. The problem is, when there’s treasure involved, it’s hard to know whom you can trust. Along for the voyage are Long John Silver (Curry) and the crew he recommended. Kermit the Frog plays the ship’s captain. It’s all a lot of fun. If you love the characters of both the Muppets and Treasure Island as I do, then Muppet Treasure Island is a slam dunk. Not to be outdone, Tim Curry never holds back no matter how ridiculous the material.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Splash (1984, Directed by Ron Howard) English 6

Starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Jeff Doucette, Howard Morris, Richard B. Shull

Splash (1984) — The Movie Database (TMDb)

(6-Good Film)

Silly. Appealing. Light.

Allen: I don’t understand. All my life I’ve been waiting for someone and when I find her, she’s… she’s a fish.

A hopeless romantic, Allen Bauer (Hanks), meets the girl of his dreams, later named Madison (Hannah), but he doesn’t know that she’s a mermaid. In my opinion, this may be the dumbest good movie ever made. The director, Ron Howard, the writers, and his cast that includes John Candy and Eugene Levy somehow pull it off. They took this lightweight, silly material and made a hit comedy (a classic in many people’s eyes). I like Splash and I certainly like the actors. It’s an interesting twist on The Little Mermaid. Instead of the female perspective, it’s The Little Mermaid turned into a male fantasy. However, I’ve never been able to get past the ending. Spoiler alert: Tom Hanks becomes a merman. The film cuts out but how long do you think he’s down there before he regrets everything. How boring? What is there to do? Nothing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Branzie, Bernard Miles, Daniel Gélin, Christopher Olsen

Image result for the man who knew too much

(7-Very Good Film)

Surprising. Astute. Expert.

Hitchcock reworked the “ordinary man thrust into action” theme throughout his career. This particular film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, is, in fact, a remake of a picture he made twenty years prior with Peter Lorre. This time around, he uses major Hollywood stars in James Stewart and Doris Day. They play an old married couple, Ben and Jo McKenna, who travel to Morocco with their school-aged son. A seemingly random encounter with a Frenchman named Louis Bernard puts them right in the middle of an assassination plot and, making matters worse, their son is kidnapped. Typically grand entertainment by the great Hitchcock, The Man Who Knew Too Much does suffer slightly from being better in its first half (there’s a really effective misdirection in its opening act to follow its intriguing setup) than in its second half, but that doesn’t take away from its charms. The performances are excellent, including Doris Day, whom I’m a fan of, but stood the risk of being distracting in a genre we’re not used to seeing her in. Most of Hitchcock’s films along these lines feature a male protagonist boosted into the espionage world. This film offers an interesting twist in that you have a married couple both thrown in, and Hitchcock lets us know from the start that they’re not great with new situations (Stewart’s character very awkwardly does his best with local customs in a Morrocan restaurant). This makes their later ingenuity and success more appealing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Unaccompanied Minors (2006, Directed by Paul Feig) English 4

Starring Dyllan Christopher, Tyler James Williams, Gia Mantegna, Quinn Shephard, Wilmer Valderrama, Lewis Black, Rob Cordry, David Koechner, Brett Kelly, Jessica Walter, B.J Novak, Mindy Kaling, Teri Garr, Rob Riggle

Image result for unaccompanied minors

(4-Bad Film)

Unfunny. Spiritless. Aggravating.

A group of kids-Spencer, Grace, Charles, Donna, and “Beef”-are cooped up in D.C’s international airport on Christmas Eve thanks to a snowstorm. Grouchy Head of Passenger Relations, Oliver Porter (Lewis Black), seems determined that they have no fun during their stay, so the children respond by running wild and “outsmarting” him at every turn. Maybe the filmmakers thought they had a bit of the Home Alone formula in hand. Neglected, resourceful child (in this case, children) versus dimwitted adults. The problem is, in Unaccompanied Minors, the children’s cleverness isn’t all that clever, the adults, though militant, aren’t necessarily even wrong, and the children are basically brats for most of the film. Unaccompanied Minors is never funny and often annoying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948, Directed by John Paddy Carstairs) English 6

Starring Jean Kent, Albert Lieven, Derrick De Marney, Paul Dupuis, Rona Anderson, David Tomlinson

Image result for sleeping car to trieste

(6-Good Film)

Light. Intelligent. Exciting.

Spies, murderers, adulterers, and the French police collide aboard the Orient Express on its way from Paris to Trieste (evidently a small town in Italy). Two agents, Zurta and Valya, kill a man and steal an important diary from the embassy in Paris with secrets that could prove catastrophic in the wrong hands. A man, Poole, thought to be an accomplice, double-crosses them and takes off aboard the train through Europe, hoping to sell the diary for himself. Zurta and Valya catch the train too and a host of characters are introduced as Poole evades his old partners. Short, with no stars or substantial characters, Sleeping Car to Trieste focuses on suspenseful situations, witty dialogue, and an exciting setting. It was an enjoyable old-fashioned thriller though I’ve already started to forget what happens.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019, Directed by John Schultz) English 5

Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Sarah Douglas, Tahirah Sharif, Theo Devaney, Crystal Yu

Image result for a christmas prince 3

(5-Okay Film)

Retread. Predictable. Corny.

There’s no reason, as far as I can tell, that Netflix shouldn’t just keep rolling out these ultra-cheesy, predictable Christmas Prince movies every year. The Royal Baby, the third film in this watershed trilogy, brings back Queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) as they prepare for the birth of their first child and also to sign a treaty that would continue the alliance between their made-up country, Aldovia, and some other made-up country, Penglia. When someone steals the treaty before it’s signed, the king and queen go into detective mode. Enjoyable, treacly to the extreme, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is satisfying viewing for those who like laughable, corny entertainment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, Directed by Martin Scorsese) English 5

Starring Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, David Bowie, Harry Dean Stanton, Verna Bloom, Irvin Kershner, Andre Gregory, John Lurie

Image result for the last temptation of christ

(5-Okay Film)

Challenging. Raving. Fervid.

Playing devil’s advocate, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, upon release, was widely accused of blasphemy. His film depicts Christ (Dafoe) sitting in brothels, watching with anguish as Mary Magdelene services customers, Christ coaxing Judas (his most devoted disciple) into betraying him, and, most saliently, Christ in a state of doubt. This doubt eventually weaves its way into a dream sequence that became one of the most controversial moments in film history. Stranded on the cross, Christ fantasizes about a life lived fully, married to Mary of Bethany, with a litter of children, and seeing himself in old age. Made to be provocative, the question is then (since this is a Scorsese film and not Bunuel who was a gleeful provocateur), is any of it substantial, or moving? For me, not so much. It resembles the message of some street corner disciple handing out pamphlets with some alternative theological ideas (in Korea, where I live at the moment, you get a ton of people preaching “God the Mother”). These conversations, like this movie, are interesting, odd, but most of all, uncomfortable. Can there be value in a film that’s so deeply unsettling? Certainly. But it means that entertainment value is null and void-at 166 minutes, The Last Temptation of Christ is a bit of a slog-and what’s left better be worth the toil. There’s plenty to admire in this film. Dafoe, being miles away from your traditional portrayal, is fiercely moving. Rather than Christ, the austere figure, robed in white, Dafoe’s Christ is enigmatic, passionate, and not afraid to get his hands dirty. And obviously, Scorsese is a master craftsman. In the end, though, I wasn’t willing to go out on the ledge that this film exists on. Its questions are wild and self-defeating, and I’m pretty disenchanted by all-white casts in Biblical pictures at this point.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Blood and Black Lace (1964, Directed by Mario Bava) English 5

Starring Eva Bartok, Cameron Mitchell, Thomas Reiner, Mary Arden, Lea Lander, Arianna Gorini, Dante DiPaolo

Image result for blood and black lace 1964

(5-Okay Film)

Gruesome. Skilled. Disjointed.

A killer in a blank mask. A damsel in distress. I’ve seen enough of these films to know that no one is coming to save her. She’ll die. Much of the director, Mario Bava’s, skill lies in how creatively and artfully he kills off his cast (primarily women from what I’ve seen). By the way, that wasn’t just one scene from Blood and Black Lace that I was describing. That’s about six or seven consecutive scenes. That’s the whole movie, and it would become so influential that it spawned dozens of like-minded pictures to the point that these films became their own sub-genre (specific to Italian cinema) known as Giallo films.

  I’ve seen about a dozen now of varying quality and there are certain details that you find in most, if not all of them. Large cast of female characters. This one isn’t true of all Giallo films but it’s true of some of the best I’ve seen (Suspiria, What Have You Done to Solange, Phenomena). You find this a lot in American horror films as well and I don’t think it’s a matter of pure misogyny. I’ve always defended horror films on this matter. I think a woman (or a child) in peril is simply more terrifying than a grown man, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. The gratuitous nudity in American horror films is a different matter but I haven’t noticed any of that in the Giallo pictures I’ve seen, although the women characters are always gorgeous, regardless of the setting. Another common characteristic is the whodunnit, killer in a mask aspect of all these movies. It’s a gruesome shift from the friendly, witty whodunnit pictures of classic Hollywood that were entertaining but devoid of any malice or horror. Also, Giallo films all emphasize color. Lush, over-saturated color. Even the ones from the ’60s when most films were still using black and white. They all seem to have the same strengths and weaknesses too. Though they may differ in overall quality, all of these films eschew witty dialogue, character development, plot logic, and believable acting in favor of fluid camera movement, mise en scène, set pieces, lighting, and gore. Mario Bava and Dario Argento are masters of the latter crafts. 

Blood and Black Lace features an ensemble cast of beautiful women and creepy looking men all working at a fashion house in…Italy, I suppose. The top-billed character, played by Eva Bartok, is named Countess Christina Como, but then the rest of the characters are Nicole, Peggy, and Greta so I don’t know. I’ll have to pay more attention to the location next time. In any case, one of the girls is killed, and everyone working there is a suspect. Everyone working there is in danger for that matter. You can’t have a slasher film (which Giallo films ushered in) and have only one victim. The majority of Blood and Black Lace is extended scenes of random female characters (all the characters feel random with the complete disregard for development) being killed off. If there’s a plot, it wasn’t understood by me, and the final act, rather than upping the ante, simmers down to a dull rather unsatisfying conclusion. The dialogue and acting are unsurprisingly asinine, and the previously mentioned, generously deemed ensemble acting is actually just an exercise in episodic horror that amounts to an awfully disjointed whole. What stands out and what’s positive about Blood and Black Lace is the visual elements. The killer’s mask, the elegant camera movement, the command of space. Bava is great and he’s done better than this film. What I appreciate most about Blood and Black Lace is the obvious influence it had on much better pictures. As an early example of the Giallo film, it seemed to spark something deeply appealing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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