Five Elements Ninjas (1982, Directed by Chang Cheh) Cantonese 8

Starring Cheng Tien Chi, Lo Mang, Michael Chan, Chan Shen, Kwan Fung, Chen Pei-Hsi

Five Element Ninja B-Movie Review

(8-Exceptional Film)

Simple. Inventive. Spectacular.

Tagline: Five complete elements, one surviving ninja, what could possibly go wrong?

An honorable and skilled martial arts school in ancient Hong Kong is massacred by foreign ninjas modeled after five elements (wood, earth, water, fire, and gold). The lone survivor flees to a neighboring school for training and ultimately revenge. Five Elements Ninjas is as simple plot-wise as can be, but revenge is always a compelling starting point for an action movie, and the film, instead, focuses all of its creativity on the elaborate fighting sequences, costumes, over-the-top violence, and sets. It’s a blast to watch and one of the best kung-fu flicks.

-Walter Tyler Howard-

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Spiral (2021, Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman) English 5

Starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Max Minghella, Dan Petronijevic, Patrick McManus

Spiral Director Explains Why Chris Rock's Movie Doesn't Have Iconic Saw  Characters Like Jigsaw's Puppet - ePrimeFeed

(5-Okay Film)

Mediocre. Grisly. Ineffective.

Det. Zeke Banks: Whoever did this has another motive – they’re targeting cops.

Hoping to reboot the lucrative Saw franchise, this film, instead, feels like a gorier, less impactful version of David Fincher’s Seven. Chris Rock plays the lead-in one of the few fresh ideas this film has-playing Detective Zeke Banks, son of legendary former police chief, Marcus Banks (Jackson). There’s a killer on the loose, targeting cops- dirty cops, to be exact-and it’s up to Zeke to catch the psycho, along with his new partner, William (Minghella). The point of a reboot is to bring new life to an old idea. That typically means having a host of new ideas. Spiral may be unlike previous Saw movies but it’s not unlike any of the cops-hunting-killers films that have come before. It’s riddled with clichés. Zeke doesn’t get along with partners. He lives in his dad’s shadow. And a few others. Spiral’s just more violent than most police procedurals. Not surprising or exciting enough to make much of an impression. It will most likely be remembered as an outlier in Chris Rock’s career rather than a film that people like.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,080)

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-

(1,079)

Army of the Dead (2021, Directed by Zack Snyder) English 5

Starring Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notaro, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt, Samantha Win, Nora Arnezeder, Matthias Schweighöfer, Raúl Castillo Jr.

Zach Snyder's 'Army of the Dead' Gets Netflix Release Date

(5-Okay Film)

Aimless. Exciting. Superficial.

Scott Ward: Think about it. Everything we did. All those people we saved. Look what it got us. But what if, just once, we did something for us?

Scott Ward (Bautista) is chosen by a sinister businessman, Bly Tanaka (Sanada), to retrieve a boatload of money locked in the center of Las Vegas, now decimated by the zombie outbreak. Ward puts together a team, and uses the opportunity to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Kate (Purnell). There are certain things I expect from a decent heist film, one example being a degree of cleverness. Army of the Dead lacks this most conspicuously, but it also lacks nearly every other aspect of a good heist the more I think about it. Promoted as a hybrid zombie-heist flick, Army of the Dead never cares much about its heist. The heist is simply a means of gathering a bunch of cool characters and pitting them against the zombies. Naturally, in traditional survival-horror fashion, they’re picked off one by one. This is mostly a brainless action film, which is perfectly fine (I love action), and there are several solid action scenes with a handful of appealing characters (Notaro, a late addition, stands out), but Army of the Dead is well short of what it promises. The humor and style at the beginning of the picture dries up pretty quickly, and the grim second half fails to deliver any scares.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,078)

The Woman in the Window (2021, Directed by Joe Wright) English 4

Starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Tracy Letts, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Fred Hechinger

5 Things to Know Before Watching The Woman in the Window Movie

(4-Bad Film)

Clumsy. Butchered. Gaudy.

Anna Fox: You don’t think it’s paranoid if I wanna change the locks. Do you?

Who would have thought that a film written by Pulitzer-prize winner, Tracy Letts, directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Hanna), and starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, among others, could be this bad? I’ve read the book; a bestseller and a skillfully written page-turner. Following a former child psychologist, Anna Fox (Adams), agoraphobic after a family accident, who sees, or at least thinks she sees a violent murder across the street, The Woman in the Window is an excellently paced, diverting, and satisfying novel. Its adapation, despite a strong performance from Amy Adams, is clumsy, suspenseless, silly, and dull. I know that the film’s release was hit hard by last year’s covid outbreak, but did something happen during production as well? It’s an inexplicably bad movie. The characters are ill-defined. The cops are useless. The dialogue is full of exposition, and I’m not sure any of it makes sense. Had I not read the book, I don’t know that I’d follow what happened in the film. I probably wouldn’t care.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Five Deadly Venoms (1978, Directed by Chang Cheh) Mandarin 9

Starring Chiang Sheng, Sun Chien, Kuo Chui, Lo Mang, Wei Pai, Lu Feng, Ku Feng, Dick Wei

Five Deadly Venoms – We've Got (Back) Issues

(9-Great Film)

Awesome. Efficient. Indelible.

Yang Tieh: Poison Clan Rocks the world!

Some films don’t need to be intellectualized. Five Deadly Venoms is a film that knows its intent and is perfect in its execution. Wasting no time with lengthy exposition, the opening gives us the only explanation we ever receive and lays out what’s to come. The dying master of the powerful Poison Clan expresses his fears to his newest pupil, Yang Tieh. Having taught five pupils before Yang Tieh, each assuming a different style coined after a venomous animal (centipede, scorpion, snake, toad, lizard) the master fears that some, if not all, of his students are using the skills he taught them for evil. His last request is for Yang Tieh to take out any Poison Clan members who’ve been corrupted. The remainder of the movie blends mystery, intrigue, and kung fu in a way I personally haven’t seen before. It’s incredibly entertaining and the five deadly venoms, each with their distinct characteristics are unforgettable. Fantastic flick.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Sleeping Beauty (1959, Directed by Clyde Geronimi) English 5

Voices of Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Bill Thompson, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen

How Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959) Solidified Animation as an Art Form

(5-Okay Film)

Bland. Superficial. Humorless.

Princess Aurora: Well, I’m really not supposed to speak to strangers, but we’ve met before.

Sleeping Beauty, the movie and the character, is beautiful and not much else. I’ve maintained for many years now that this is the worst official Disney animated feature. It follows the dark, fantastic tale of Princess Aurora, cursed at birth by a bitter fairy, Maleficent, her parents send her away with a trio of kind fairies to protect and hide her until the day she’s old enough to marry. One day, in the woods, she meets and falls for a handsome stranger, only to learn later that she’s already promised to a prince. Not knowing that the prince and the stranger are one and the same, Princess Aurora is heartbroken and lured to Maleficent. The problem in my eyes with Aurora applies really to all the Disney princesses before their Renaissance. She’s boring. She has very little personality and her driving characteristic is her sweetness and innocence. That was okay with Cinderella and Snow White, because they had an outstanding supporting cast of humorous characters. Snow White had the dwarves and Cinderella had the mice. Sleeping Beauty has an incredible villain in Maleficent (though she has little screen time) and several nice characters in the good fairies and the blustering father figures. There are no charismatic characters, little-to-no humor, and only one song.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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National Velvet (1944, Directed by Clarence Brown) English 8

Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Anne Revere, Angela Lansbury, Donald Crisp, Reginald Owen

National Velvet - Posts | Facebook

(8-Exceptional Film)

Charming. Joyous. Old-fashioned.

Mrs. Brown:  You’re twelve; you think a horse of yours can win the Grand National. Your dream has come early; but remember, Velvet, it will have to last you all the rest of your life.

Velvet Brown, played by a preteen Elizabeth Taylor, is the wonderful heroine of this impossible-not-to-like sports classic. Velvet lives in a small English town with her loving family that includes her patient father (Crisp), wise mother (Revere), two sisters, and a younger brother. When a vagrant young man, Mi Taylor (Rooney), a stranger to the family, but the son of an old friend, shows up one day, he sets in motion a series of events that lead to Velvet and Mi training a wild, local horse for the Grand National’s. National Velvet is likely the most beloved horse movie, which is a niche, sure, but a popular one. It’s also an endearing family film with the Browns ranking with the Marches (Little Women) and the Smiths (Meet Me in St. Louis) as my favorite family from classic Hollywood. It’s a simple story that trusts its distinct characters and setting to hold your attention.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Presumed Innocent (1990, Directed by Alan J. Pakula) English 7

Starring Harrison Ford, Raul Julia, Brian Dennehy, Gretta Scacchi, Bonnie Bedelia, Paul Winfield, John Spencer, Sab Shimono, Bradley Whitford, Jesse Bradford, Jeffrey Wright

Presumed Innocent (Film) - TV Tropes

(7-Very Good Film)

Alluring. Intriguing. Deceptive.

Rusty Sabich: I’m going to need a lawyer, a very, very good lawyer, an expensive lawyer. It could break us.

Murder novels, like the one this film is based on, aren’t generally considered great literature, though they dominate the bestseller lists, and this attitude carries over to cinema as well. Very rarely will you see anyone receive an Oscar nomination for a murder mystery, because they very rarely offer any amount of depth. They go down easy and they usually satisfy, but how many murder mysteries have you seen or read more than once? Presumed Innocent is a murder mystery in the classic tradition and a courtroom drama with Harrison Ford playing Rusty Sabich, a lawyer investigating the brutal murder of his work colleague and mistress, Carolyn Polhemus (Scacchi). Soon, the evidence stacks up against him and he’s tried for the killing, while his wife, Barbara (Bedelia), who knows of his affair, stands by his side. Whether Presumed Innocent warrants and rewards a second viewing remains to be seen for me, but I’m confident that it’s, at the very least, a superior mystery film. It features a strong lead performance from Ford, a sure, seductive tone, and a rich sense of atmosphere to go along with a slowly surprising story.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Love and Monsters (2020, Directed by Michael Matthews) English 7

Starring Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Dan Ewing, Ellen Hollman, Bruce Spence, Ariana Greenblatt

Review] Delightful Monster Mash 'Love and Monsters' Embraces the  Comedy-Horror Spirit of 'Zombieland' - Bloody Disgusting

(7-Very Good Film)

Fantastic. Exciting. Fun.

Joel: Don’t settle. You don’t have to. Even at the end of the world.

Toxic chemicals cover the earth and monsters are born. Now, your garden-variety slug could be a giant flesh-eating mutant. Seven years into this new world, the good news for Joel (O’Brien) is that he’s more or less safe within an underground community that takes care of each other. The bad news for Joel is that everyone within the bunker is paired off, except for him. He’s lonely and he misses his girlfriend, Aimee (Henwick), from before the apocalypse, who told him she loved him as they were dragged away from each other. After, finally, finding out her location, Joel sets out on journey across the monsterpocalypse to make it to her, meeting new friends along the way. Love and Monsters is a simple story done surprisingly well. The monsters, in particular, are a major triumph; well-designed and rendered with impressive special effects. Characters usually take a back seat in monster movies, but here, there are at least 2 to 3 humans we care about. The disappointment comes from the love story, which the filmmakers described as a John Hughes style romance. Love and Monsters goes for a bittersweet conclusion and that’s probably less corny and more realistic than what I might have hoped. I still think in a movie featuring massive toads and leeches the size of baseballs, an unrealistic fairy tale romance wouldn’t have seemed too crazy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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