Thursday, July 31, 2008

Review – The Brides of Dracula

No Dracula. Not really much in the way of brides. Instead Hammer serves up a muddled mess of a picture, one of those things that looks like it was torn apart at some point in the production process and never sewed back together quite right. Ingénue gets stranded at an inn and then taken in by a baroness who keeps her handsome-yet-creepy son chained in his room. Do I even have to say that he’s a vampire? When our gullible heroine unchains him a festival of sucking (literally and figuratively) commences. Even Peter Cushing can’t do much to save this one. See if desperate

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Review – The Evil of Frankenstein

Actually, if we really want to lay the blame at the proper doorstep, this movie should be called The Evil of the Guy Who Hypnotizes Frankenstein’s Monster and Orders Him to Commit Crimes. Freddie Francis directs and Peter Cushing stars in this Hammer production. The Baron returns to his old haunts and resumes his old habits, a task made easier when his original monster turns up frozen in a glacier. When the creature proves unruly, the doctor enlists the aid of Zoltan the carnival hypnotist (Peter Woodthorpe) to rein him in. Unfortunately, Zoltan is more interested in theft and revenge than in advancing the cause of science. Though this isn’t the worst Frankenstein movie I’ve ever seen, it’s a fair distance from the best. The monster makeup in particular stands out, looking like a cheap copy of the box-headed look that made Karloff famous, only layered on thickly enough to disguise the fact that Kiwi Kingston – whoever he might be – isn’t Christopher Lee. Mildly amusing

Friday, July 25, 2008

Review – Black Friday

This has to be one of the all-time weirdest explanations for the Jekyl-Hyde dual personality plot: when a surgeon’s friend is mortally wounded in a car crash, the doctor saves the man’s life by giving him a partial brain transplant from the other crash victim, a notorious gangster. Thus a mild-mannered professor by day is transformed into a brutal, vengeance-bent thug at night. The result is more boring than it has any right to be. Boris Karloff stars as the mad doctor, and Bela Lugosi puts in a brief appearance as one of the mobster’s double-crossing ex-cronies. Mildly amusing

Review – Diplomatic Courier

Though I Tivo’d this on a whim, it actually turned out to be kinda good. Tyrone Power stars as a courier assigned to pick up a secret document from a spy in Eastern Europe. But when the spy is killed before making the hand-off, suddenly our hero finds himself neck-deep in deadly intrigue. Though not as classy as The Third Man, this movie has some of the same look and feel of Carol Reed’s masterpiece. However, you’ll need to pay close attention when you watch this. The plot occasionally hinges on blink-and-you-miss-it moments. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for small parts played by future stars. In addition to supporting roles by Patricia Neal and Karl Malden, we also get brief appearances by Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin. Though this isn’t one of the eight best spy movies ever made, it’s nonetheless worth a look. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review – Death and the Maiden

This is one of those productions that was obviously a stage play before it became a movie. Director Roman Polanski decided to preserve the stiff theatricality of the drama, keeping almost the entire story in one location, sticking with the play-it-for-the-back-row dialogue, and so on. Sigourney Weaver turns in a nuance-free performance as a former political prisoner in an unnamed South American country. Fate brings a man (Ben Kingsley) to the country house she shares with her husband. Claiming to recognize his voice, she identifies him as her torturer, ties him up at gunpoint and conducts a half-baked trial with hubby as counsel for the defense. The script is an uneven mix of artificial power-jockeying and graphic descriptions of torture. Though the unrealistic feel of the picture provides some safe distance between the audience and the difficult subject at hand, that buffer zone is a detriment as well as a benefit. In particular, it makes the end merely convenient rather than thought-provoking. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Review – The Birds 2: Land's End

Following the general trend in sequels made decades after popular originals, this is both dumb and largely unrelated to the Hitchcock classic (other than large flocks of angry birds and a brief appearance by Tippi Hedren). It also pretty much goes without saying that the picture is pretty hard on the birds. The family dog, too, though at least he gets a decent funeral (one of the few expressions of compassion for an animal I’ve ever seen in a horror movie). Further, the deadly birds don’t seem to supply enough of a plot to sustain the whole 90 minutes, so as filler we get the lead couple’s lame marital woes. Then the whole thing ends abruptly with nothing but set-up for an as-yet-blissfully-unrealized Birds 3. See if desperate

Review – Amityville 2: The Possession

This picture takes a worst-of-both-worlds approach to combining the original Amityville Horror with The Exorcist. Of course by the time this one went into production the whole “true story” gag had fallen through, so it was either come up with something new or fall back on demonic possession clichés. Guess which path got chosen. The first half of the movie is okay despite inept film-making and an especially icky incest subplot. However, the inevitable family massacre occurs with a considerable amount of the movie still to go, and most everything after that is a dull battle between a latex-slathered teenager and James Olson as a lackluster priest. See if desperate

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Review – The Cars that Ate Paris

In the last ten minutes or so of this movie, a small Australian town is attacked by vicious art cars led by a spiny VW Beetle. Though the cars were sort of fun, they did little to justify the first 80 minutes of the production. Almost all of the rest of the thing is an excessively boring tale of a guy who suffers from a phobia of cars. He interacts with the locals in many spectacularly dull ways, all involving speech so thickly accented that it’s sometimes hard to understand. So basically if you’re going to watch this at all, go ahead and fast-forward to the end. See if desperate

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Review – The Eye (2008)

The Asian original was the first movie I ever saw from Netflix, and that’s been awhile. So sadly I don’t recall enough about the Chinese version to make much of a direct comparison, but I remember liking the first round better than this remake. Jessica Alba does an okay job as a blind violinist who has surgery to restore the sight she lost when she was a kid. Unfortunately for her, her donor was a psychic who could see ghosts and predict disasters. The set-up is good enough, if a bit cliché. Unfortunately the picture itself is riddled with questionable logic and depends far too heavily on booga-booga moments. And that’s a real shame. On the rare occasions when it masters a bit of subtlety, it’s not a bad movie. See if desperate

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Review – Darkman 3: Die Darkman Die

The Darkman set should have followed this title’s advice at the end of the first one. If the series had died before it even became a series, it would have finished on a high note and spared us all a pair of unnecessary sequels. I’ve already accused the second one of being leftovers, and by the time they serve this one the reheated plot is getting pretty skimpy (and maybe a little moldy around the edges). While our hero (Arnold Vosloo in a repeat performance) continues to slave away on his synthetic skin formula, Jeff Fahey steps into the villain role as a crime boss seeking a extra-strengh steroid formula in order to produce super street thugs. Like the first sequel, this one takes some visual tricks from the original and uses them to mostly mediocre ends. See if desperate

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Review – The Bourne Ultimatum

Third verse, same as the second. Honestly, I’m surprised this was ever a novel. The whole thing seemed to be one chase scene and/or gun battle after another. Occasionally a minor plot twist would get stirred in here and there, but for the most part it’s wall-to-wall action and not much else. If number two floated your boat, this one will keep you sailing merrily along. Mildly amusing