Viy 2: Journey to China (2019, Directed by Oleg Stepchenko) English Bad Film

Starring Jason Flemyng, Xingtong Yao, Anna Churina, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Dance, Rutger Hauer

(Bad Film)

Three disparate men, a Chinese master (Chan), a Russian in an iron mask (Kolokolnikov), and an old westerner, lie locked up in the Tower of London under the thumb of its warden, the bullish James Hook (Schwarzenegger), who ensures that no one ever gets out, but the Russian must get out, you see, because he, we learn, is Peter the Great and his country needs him desperately to avoid war. At the same time, cartographer, Jonathan Green (Flemyng), travels east with a Chinese princess, falling victim to supernatural forces and his wife scrambles to help him. This is surely the most convoluted plot either Jackie Chan or Schwarzenegger have ever been involved in and, despite the film’s promotion, they’re not actually that involved. Their characters are superfluous and their presence does little to elevate the muddled material or its unspectacular effects. From start to finish, I asked myself, “where is this going?” or “how did we get here?” or “why is this necessary?” Scenes from Viy 2 are, at times, enjoyable enough divorced from the whole, but the film, all together, is a mess and never a fun mess.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

-5-

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-

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, Directed by Guillermo Del Toro) Spanish Great Film

Starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdú, Álex Angulo, Doug Jones

(Great Film)

While we (I’m American) were in the grips of World War II, Spain suffered a civil war and lasting strife for years to come. It’s a period I know very little about and a period the young heroine of Pan’s Labyrinth, Ofelia (Baquero), occupies. It’s the summer of 1944 and Ofelia arrives with her pregnant mother to the home of Captain Vidal (López), her new step-father. The fascist Captain Vidal wastes no time in revealing himself to be a deranged bully as he hunts down local rebels, but Ofelia finds escape and adventure away from this terror, a place where fairies and monsters live, a place that offers her a chance at immortality should she prove herself in a trio of frightening tasks. Pan’s Labyrinth is universally beloved, a dark fantasy that can resonate with any viewer. It’s vision of evil is as stark as any I’ve seen- Captain Vidal is a relentless sadist- and Ofelia is pure innocence. It’s the perfect culmination of its director, Guillermo Del Toro’s, talent with its incredible creatures, grotesque imagery, affection for characters who are outsiders, and stomach-turning violence.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

-3-

Silver Lode (1954, Directed by Allan Dwan) English Good Film

Starring John Payne, Dan Duryea, Lizabeth Scott, Dolores Moran, Emile Meyer, Alan Hale Jr., Harry Carey Jr.

(Good Film)

When U.S Marshall, Fred McCarty (Duryea), and his deputies ride into town, what was to be a joyous wedding day in Silver Lode quickly becomes a nightmare of frenzied action and hysteria. They’ve come to collect on Dan Ballard (Payne), the groom-to-be, a popular newcomer to town, and though the handbill says dead or alive, you get the feeling Marshall McCarty would prefer to take Ballard in dead. The town stands behind Ballard at first when he questions the legitimacy of McCarty’s handbill and position as a Marshall, but slowly turn on him as the day wears on. Silver Lode is another ’50s allegory for McCarthyism and compares just as easily to The Crucible as it does to High Noon. Mob mentality reigns in this town despite its population of well-meaning, upstanding citizens, and, by the end, friends turn on friends and relationships are broken. This is a solid western on the surface, expertly staged, with a wealth of subtext making it a favorite of film critics. I appreciate the characterization of Ballard. His stoic, unapologetic demeanor had even me questioning him a time or two and Duryea is, as always, a fantastic creep. I don’t hold it in the same esteem as the very best of the genre-like other critical favorites, it’s more entertaining as a discussion point than it is to watch-but there’s no denying it’s an exceptional film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

-2-

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016, Directed by Travis Knight) English Great Film

Voices of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Brenda Vaccaro, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

(Great Film)

In ancient Japan, with his father dead and his mother sick, young Kubo (Parkinson) is left to fend for himself, relying on his storytelling and musical abilities to fetch a day’s bread. Disregarding his mother’s warning about staying out past dusk, Kubo is soon chased out of his quaint existence by his wrathful, god-like grandfather and aunts. With only a hard-willed snow monkey (Theron) and later a cursed beetle-like warrior (McConaughey) to protect him, Kubo sets out to find his late father’s armor and confront his grandfather. Quibbles about its largely white-washed cast aside, Kubo and the Two Strings is a wonderful film. Its production company, Laika, have made a handful of features, very good films, but to date, this is their most exceptional achievement. A marriage of awesome visuals with a story that’s bold and mysterious. The cherishing of memories and time spent with parents is obviously at the heart of Kubo, but there seems to be a depth beyond that that’s slightly obscure. It gives the film a mystique that I find dazzling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

-1-

The Unbelievable Truth (1989, Directed by Hal Hartley) English 7

Starring Adrienne Shelly, Robert Burke, Christopher Cooke, Julia McNeal, Matt Malloy, Edie Falco, Paul Schultze, Bill Sage

(7-Very Good Film)

Odd. Engaging. Clever.

Josh Hutton: The last time I took a drink, I got into a car crash and I killed a girl.

Josh Hutton (Burke) seems like a kind, quiet soul. When he returns to his hometown after a stint in prison, he’s mistaken by some for a priest, but the majority of the people in town know what he did. He killed his girlfriend and her father. Meanwhile, beautiful Audry (Shelly) prepares for life after high school deciding between colleges and a burgeoning career as a model. To her overbearing parents’ dismay, she’s attracted to Josh. You’d be correct to think this sounds like the stuff of overwrought melodrama, but The Unbelievable Truth is mostly an irreverent comedy with a deadpan manner. Bizarre conversations, recurring gags, call-backs, and an off-kilter tone may take a while to grow used to, but I found the film clever and eventually charming.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Only Angels Have Wings (1939, Directed by Howard Hawks) English 9

Starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthalmess, Sig Ruman, Allyn Joslyn, Noah Beery Jr.

Only Angels Have Wings 1939, directed by Howard Hawks | Film review

(9-Great Film)

Adventurous. Exciting. Polished.

Bonnie Lee: I’m hard to get, Geoff. All you have to do is ask me.

When Bonnie Lee (Arthur), American showgirl, stops over in Barranca, a remote airbase in South America, she expected to stay for a night. After meeting and instantly falling for the brusque Geoff Carter (Grant), head-pilot and the base’s leader, Bonnie finds she doesn’t want to leave but can’t bear to watch him put his life in danger night in and night out. He loves her but refuses to stop flying. Only Angels Have Wings is an excellent picture. It’s amazing to me how quickly filmmakers figured out the art of filmmaking and how adeptly they expanded its limits. Howard Hawks was a consummate Hollywood storyteller and he’s working with two of its greatest stars in Cary Grant and Jean Arthur. Wonderful, well-drawn characters, romance and action.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,117)

Inspector Clouseau (1968, Directed by Bud Yorkin) English 5

Starring Alan Arkin, Frank Finlay, Patrick Cargill, Beryl Reid, Barry Foster, Clive Francis, Susan Engel

film babble blog: Sequels That You Probably Haven't Heard Of: INSPECTOR  CLOUSEAU Starring Alan Arkin

(5-Okay Film)

Nondescript. Misguided. Mediocre.

Inspector Jacques Clouseau: There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them.

Inspector Clouseau, as played by Peter Sellers, is an iconic comedic character. Inspector Clouseau, here, played by Alan Arkin, is adrift in obscurity. Following the success of the first two Pink Panther movies, studio execs decides to make a third one without Sellers or its director, Blake Edwards. In this one-off performance, Arkin’s Inspector Clouseau is invited to England by Scotland Yard to solve a string of robberies and, at the same time, weed out a potential mole who may be aiding them from within. A fine premise with potential for an intriguing mystery soon devolves into an episodic venture into uninspired slapstick. The director, or maybe the writers, have no handle on this material and no idea what made Blake Edwards’/Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther films work. Alan Arkin is left on an island to make this film funny and to make this film work and that’s unfair to any actor. He ekes out some laughs because he is funny, but the film around him is not interesting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Old (2021, Directed by M. Night Shyamalan) English 6

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Vicky Krieps, Abbey Lee, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Embeth Davidtz, Emun Elliot, Ken Leung, Nikki Amuka-Bird

Old' Film Review: M Night Shyamalan's Rug-Pulling Routine Is Getting, Well,  You Know

(6-Good Film)

Bizarre. Silly. Creepy.

Adult Trent: How would you feel if a fifty-year-old man called and said he was your six-year-old nephew?

Ever since reaching impossible heights so early in his career with The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shymalan has not been a favorite of film critics. Despite this, he keeps making movies and they keep making money, so I’d suggest that he’s much better than they’re willing to admit. His newest film, Old, centers around a family on vacation at a luxury resort. The father, Guy (Garcia Bernal), and mother, Prisca (Krieps), are separating, but want to have one more joyful family trip together before they break the news to their children- daughter, Maddox, and son, Trent. Soon enough, they’re whisked away to a private beach recommended by the resort manager where they find, along with a host of characters already there, that time passes infinitely faster here and leaving the beach is damn-near impossible. You can focus on the clunky dialogue if you’d like or you could enjoy the beautiful visuals and interesting ideas M. Night brings to filmmaking. Old is not a great film but it is impressively creepy and jarringly grotesque in a way that keeps you watching.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Small Soldiers (1998, Directed by Joe Dante) English 6

Starring Gregory Smith, Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, Jay Mohr, Phil Hartman, Kevin Dunn, Ann Magnuson, Denis Leary

Voices of Tommy Lee Jones, Frank Langella, Jim Brown, Bruce Dern, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Ernest Borgnine, Clint Walker, George Kennedy, Harry Shearer

Small Soldiers Soundtrack Music - Complete Song List | Tunefind

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Limited. Retread.

Major Chip Hazard: You’ve got a lot of guts. Let’s see what they look like.

Desperate to impress their boss and keep their jobs after a corporate takeover, two toy designers unwittingly create weaponized toys with artificial intelligence known as the Commando Elite led by Major Chip Hazard (Lee Jones). They also give the same artificial intelligence to a meek set of toys known as the Gorgonites led by Archer (Langella). Unleashed in a small, All-American town, teenager Alan Abernathy (Smith) befriends Archer and gets caught in the middle of the Commando Elite’s relentless pursuit of the Gorgonites. If it all sounds very serious, know that this film is a little strange and difficult to explain, because it’s actually very silly and played almost entirely for laughs despite being somewhat frightening. One critic for Empire Magazine described it as, ” Gremlins with toy soldiers, except not quite as dark or funny,” and I find that to be an apt description. Apparently, director Joe Dante (Gremlins being his most famous film) was held back by the studio from being as dark as he would have liked. The film, as it is, entertains (I particularly liked Chip Hazard’s one-liners) and makes an impression but hardly warrants serious consideration or repeat viewings. It’s spoofing of small-town life, military movies, and corporate greed are nice touches though.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,114)