Argento’s Hatfields & McCoys & Dracula Equals Bad Blood

Hatfields & McCoys: Bad Blood and Dario Argento’s Dracula are currently available on instant Netflix

Hatfields McCoys Bad Blood

 

Hatfields & McCoys: Bad Blood (2012) – Rated PG-13

This action-packed Western tells the historical tale of the longstanding feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families, a decades-long grudge neither side will release as they continue to wreak bloody vengeance on each other.”

“He don’t hear you Anse. He dead.”

One Line Review: Bad Blood: bad history, bad movie.

I don’t know why I expect historical accuracy from these things. Here writer/director/producer Fred Olen Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) rushes his movie out to take advantage of all the publicity surrounding the far, far, far superior Kevin Costner/Bill Paxton miniseries. The opening civil war battle scene gives you an idea of the cheapness of this picture.

Strangely, Christian Slater plays Kentucky Governor Bramlette and not one of the Hatfields or McCoys. They make him a much more major player than he was (especially as he wasn’t Governor during much of the feud). Jeff Fahey plays Devil Anse Hatfield and Perry King plays Randall McCoy. I like Jeff Fahey a lot but all he does in this film is wander around saying ‘my leg hurts’, ‘gosh my leg pains me’, etc.

They skip most of Asa’s story and just shoot him outright. Ellison Hatfield’s murder occurs seventeen years later historically but it appears to be two days in the movie. The story then devolves into an ahistorical mess. They make Johnse Hatfield a romantic fool who runs away with Roseanna McCoy. In reality he got her pregnant and then abandoned her for her cousin, Nancy McCoy. Even the postscript screen is inaccurate.

The only thing good I can say about the movie is that it appears to have been filmed in the general vicinity of Kentucky.

Argento's Dracula

 

Argento’s Dracula (2012) – Not rated

When Englishman Jonathan Harker visits the exotic castle of Count Dracula, he is entranced by the mysterious aristocrat. But upon learning that the count has sinister designs on his wife, Mina, Harker seeks help from vampire slayer Van Helsing.”

For those who don’t know, Dario Argento was a master of Italian horror, particularly the subset known as giallo. His films have influenced many low and high budget American horror films. The reason I say ‘was’, is because Argento’s quality has been slipping away. It has been over a decade since he had a really good film.

It take a certain amount of hubris to replace the author’s name with your own and Argento does not deserve it with this effort. Still it distances it from Stoker’s Dracula. The film was originally in 3D, though the uses shown are fairly gimmicky. The entire film appears oddly shot, with lighting appearing particularly off, a weird cross between current high definition and old technicolor. The CGI is terrible.

There is a particularly unsexy seduction scene early on with Tanja (apparently just an excuse to briefly show her topless). The later scene where Dracula prevents Tanja from attacking Harker is laughably bad. I’m not sure how anyone could kill Dracula as he apparently is telekinetic and possesses the speed of the Flash.

The acting, line readings in particular, are pretty awful. It is a mixture of wooden readings and those who feel every line they have is of equal importance. Dario once again employs his daughter Asia, this time in the role of Lucy Kisslinger. While Thomas Kretschmann is not a bad Dracula, the period setting makes me yearn for the Hammer Draculas with Christopher Lee. Somewhat hilariously, Kretschmann played Van Helsing in the recent Dracula television series.

People Watch: Thomas Kretschmann will be playing Baron Wolfgang von Strucker in The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Stranded…in front of this movie

Stranded is currently available on instant Netflix.

Stranded

 

Stranded (2013) – Not Rated

After being bombarded by a meteor shower, the crew of a lunar space station discovers the meteors harbor alien spores, which replicate and mutate into a shape-shifting predatory life form hell-bent on destroying the astronauts one by one.

That description is waaaaaay more exciting than the movie. I think what they ought to put on the box is “From the director of Battlefield Earth!” just to warn you away. Director Roger Christian also co-wrote the snoozer of a script.

This is one of the most generic films that I have ever had the misfortune of sitting through. The budget was less than an Asylum picture. Instead of CGI, they use a number of models. While I appreciate models, the ones used in Stranded were inferior back when Space:1999 was being filmed. The opening meteor shower is a joke.

The lunar station is horribly generic. Don’t worry about bad special effects on the space suits as all but one of the space suits are destroyed in the meteor shower. The lunar station only has four people manning it yet the escape capsule can only hold two (seems like they might have put a second one on there).

The ‘creature’ is laziness personified. The female cuts her finger, infecting herself which naturally impregnates her. She may give birth to a deformed baby rather quickly or it may be a hallucination so they hardly show it. The creature then duplicates a crewmember so we don’t actually have to have any special effects apart from some random goo that they cover characters with from time to time.

I’d really love to rip on the ending but I don’t do spoilers – even for bad movies like this. Suffice it to say that you’ll likely see the ending coming from quite a distance. All four of the actors show up to collect a paycheck – none of them make an impression. absolutely the only interesting moment in the entire film is the demise of a particular character and that only lasts seconds.

Dolans Cadillac – The King of Horror week

This is the King of Horror week. All of the movies are based on the works of Stephen King. Dolans Cadillac is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Dolans Cadillac (2009) – Rated R for violence and language.

Robinsons (Wes Bentley) life assumes a new purpose when his wife — a witness to an execution-style slaying in the desert — is murdered by a Las Vegas mobster (Christian Slater), and the mild-mannered teacher vows to avenge her death. To overcome his wily adversary — and the thugs heavily armored Cadillac — Robinson devises an ingenious revenge plan that does not rely on raw firepower in this thriller based on a short story by Stephen King.

“When he looks at you in a certain way, your prostate goes bad and your urine burns.”

“I sentence you to life because I know two things. You do not have the stuff to kill me and you do not have the stuff to kill yourself.”

Christian Slater has an absolutely wonderful time chewing the scenery here as Dolan. Dolan is an extremely talkative villain. This is one of the best roles Slater has had in years. Heck this is one of his best roles period. Not quite up there with his iconic Heathers performance, this is pretty close as he goes over-the-top in a role made for it.

Wes Bentley is Robinson, our poor school teacher bent on revenge.. While I would have preferred to see someone who appeared to change physically over the course of events, Bentley appears a little grim prior to the start of events and changes little over the course of the film. Acting-wise he is pretty good here but could have been a little better in the beginning.

Emmanuelle Vaugier is Elizabeth. Elizabeth suffers the fate that pretty much all movie characters do when they try to do the right thing and appear as a witness in a trial. Thankfully this does not end her role in the movie.

Director Jeff Beesley presents some nice imagery here. His direction is not flashy though the film is presented in a nice 2.35:1 format. He sticks mainly to telling this story economically.

This is not to say the film is without flourishes. the scenes involving Elizabeth after her death are particularly well-done as is the image of a female character “shushing” someone.

After one entertainingly abortive revenge attempt, the movie settles down into full-on caper mode. As with most caper movies, there is a lot of preparation and the real enjoyment is in the payoff. Beesley saves a good amount of time for the payoff and it really works.

I really was not expecting much from this movie and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact this is pretty darn good – not great but pretty darn good. I recommend this for a fun 88 minute ride.

For those of you with set top boxes, this movie is presented in HD.

People Watch: Both Al Sapienza (Fletcher) and Greg Bryk (Chief) appears in Saw V together as the chief of police and Mallick respectively.

Broken Arrow – Weapons of Mass Destruction week

This is Weapons of Mass Destruction week. Broken Arrow is currently available on instant Netflix.

Broken Arrow

WATCH: Broken Arrow (1996) – Rated R.

“When rogue stealth-fighter pilot Vic Deakins (John Travolta) deliberately drops off the radar while on maneuvers, the Air Force ends up with two stolen nuclear warheads — and his co-pilot, Riley Hale (Christian Slater), is the only hope for getting them back. Traversing the deserted canyons of Utah, Hale teams with park ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) to put Deakins back in his box. But can they pull it off?”

“I dont know what is scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there is a term for it.”

“You assured me everything would go smoothly.” – “I assure you – everything is going smoothly.”

“Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?”

First, I have to admit that I love director John Woo. His Hong Kong films were great. The Killers, Hard-Boiled and A Better Tomorrow are all classics and gave a much needed shot of adrenaline to the action genre.

John Woo was not the first filmmaker to feature a two-gun hero but he was definitely the one who popularized it. Many of his action signatures like that one have been endlessly copied by Hollywood.

Unfortunately when John Woo came to the U.S., he hit a triple wall. None of his American movies have matched the dark poetry of The Killer or the adrenaline rush of Hard-Boiled.

Star interference hurt him twice. For his first American feature he was given the notoriously difficult Jean Claude Van Damme as his star. Worse, Mission Impossible II was a Tom Cruise film. When Tom Cruise is in a film, he has the power to film and edit to feature himself (not the film) to best advantage.

MPAA interference meant that his ballets of violence had to be severely toned down. The worst damage however was that John Woo was used to a great deal of autonomy and that did not sit well with the studios. He also liked operatic endings which do not go over well with American audiences.

Broken Arrow, while not one of his Hong Kong classics, is a quite entertaining film. There are several signature Woo Mexican standoffs here as well as a dual gun-wielding hero.

The action setpieces are great. A mine shootout is a particular standout as is the train assault.

Woo has a wonderful time with transportation themes in this film. With helicopters alone, we have helicopter vs. person on foot, Helicopter vs. jeep, and helicopter vs. train. The film starts with a stealth flight and later features jeep chases, boats, and even a train.

One of the nice things about the film is the give and take. Sometimes our villain outsmarts the hero, sometimes the hero outsmarts the villain. As with most Woo films, the hero and the villain have a close personal relationship.

John Travolta has a ball here. His brand of broad stroke acting wonderfully fits the villain for this film. His performances around this time (Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty) are marvelous but sadly they have devolved into self-parody (Battlefield Earth, Swordfish). John Travolta chews up the scenery here and the film is almost worth watching for his performance alone.

Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis play our heroes. They handle their roles capably but do not appear to be having nearly as much fun as Travolta. Football player Howie Long plays the evil sidekick. He does not have much to do but look imposing but he seems to enjoy himself.

I recommend this as a  Watch for an admittedly hammy yet quite enjoyable performance by Travolta and for some wild action scenes. Keep in mind while watching that this is indeed watered-down Woo.

People Watch: Look for veteran character actor Kurtwood (Robocop, That 70s Show) Smith as the Secretary of Defense. After a disappointing last decade, John Woo returned to China to film Red Cliff, an adaptation of the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It is supposed to feature some amazing battle sequences.

Alone in the Dark – Videogames are bad for you week

Well I hated to see last week’s ‘Don’t Get on That Boat week’ end but it’s time to move to a new topic. This week is ‘Videogames are bad for you week’. All of the movies will be about videogames or are based on videgames. Alone in the Dark is currently available on instant Netflix.

Alone in the Dark

AVOID: Alone in the Dark (2004) – Rated R for violence and language

“Private sleuth Edward Carnby (Christian Slater) specializes in weird supernatural phenomena, and he’ll be forced to work with his archaeologist ex-girlfriend (Tara Reid) to defeat the demonic ancient Abskani tribe, which is set to wreak havoc on Earth. But Carnby already has experience with the evil beings, which also attempt to infiltrate his mind. Stephen Dorff co-stars in this sci-fi thriller based on the popular video game series.”

Ha ha ha – I hardly know where to start. Let’s begin by revising Netflix’ information. All of the above is wrong. The Alone in the Dark they have on instant play is Alone in the Dark II not the film listed above even though that’s the information they have for it. The corrected listing is below.

Alone in the Dark 2

AVOID: Alone in the Dark II (labeled Alone in the Dark) – Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and brief drug content.

“When a 100-year-old witch (Allison Lange) hatches a horrid plot to sacrifice a young girl with a mystical dagger, a team of witch hunters led by Edward Carnby (Rick Yune) set out to stop the killing and retrieve the terrible blade. But soon they discover that anyone who touches the knife falls under the power of the witch’s vengeful bloodlust. Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer direct this horror film that co-stars Lance Henriksen.”

“This is radioactive solution…makes you invisible to the other side. It cancels out the aura.”

I’m not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed that I won’t have to watch Uwe Boll’s original film. This direct to video sequel replaces Christian Slater with Rick Yune as Edward Carnby. It is written and directed by Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer.

First off I have to say that I’m glad this wasn’t a theatrical release. The combination of shaky cam, jump cuts, shifting camera angles and out of focus photography would probably have made me very ill. It is still almost headache-inducing to watch.

It really has no connection to the first film except that one character is called Edward Carnby. The film revolves around a group of hapless Ghosthunter-wannabes. They might as well be wearing red shirts or bullseyes.

The film is ridiculously heavy-handed. You see everyone hiding in an electrified cage so you know the power is going to go out. It does so almost immediately. You see a device with a large spike so you know someone will get impaled on it. Lo and behold, moments later someone is impaled on it.

Hilariously there is a door that opens partway up from the ground. Clearly Carnby can crawl through but Natalie (Rachel Specter) declares only she can squeeze through. Later on the door closes and the heroes spike it to keep it from closing completely. When it opens to about the same height as before, Carnby removes the block (even though he could go through and leave it there) and crawls through. The door promptly tries to shut on his foot. Then another character says that they’ll go get the car jack – something that would have made the whole sequence moot.

It is a shame that this movie isn’t any good. They assembled a genre fan’s dream cast which is surprising for a direct to video feature. It is not surprising that these people would be in a DTV movie – it is just surprising that so many of them are in the same one.

In addition to the always wonderful Lance Henriksen, Michael Pare (Bad Moon, Gargoyles) pops up briefly as Willson. Danny Trejo (Grindhouse, From Dusk til Dawn) and Ralf Moeller (best known as the giant German from Gladiator). Also putting in appearances are Zack Ward (Freddy vs. Jason, Transformers), Bill Moseley (Grindhouse, The Devil’s Rejects), Natassia Malthe (DOA, Elektra) and Jason Connery (son of Sean).

In spite of the ineptitude the film almost ends well and then we have a cheap cop-out. After the cheap cop-out, we have an obligatory second cheap cop-out which makes absolutely no sense given what went on throughout the entire film. Sorry to keep that vague but I hate spoiling even the bad films.

People Watch: Who should pop up as Lance Henriksen’s wife but P.J. (Carrie, Halloween) Soles.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Hot off his successful turn as director and actor on Dances with Wolves (the first western my wife ever liked), Kevin Costner assayed the title role in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves while leaving the directing chores to Kevin Reynolds. The title itself seems a dumbing down of the legend – an implication that one wouldn’t know who Robin Hood was without appending ‘Prince of Thieves’ to his name. It is yet another Robin Hood film available on instant play and in its own way is funnier than Robin Hood Men in Tights.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

AVOID: Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (1991) – Rated PG-13

“Kevin Costner stars as Sherwood Forest’s outlaw hero in this 1991 version of the classic tale of intrigue, romance and pageantry. When the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) murders Robin’s father, the legendary archer vows vengeance. To accomplish his mission, Robin joins forces with a band of exiled villagers (and comely Maid Marian), and together they battle to end the evil sheriff’s reign of terror.”

I hardly know where to begin. This movie is staggeringly awful. I thought it was bad in 1991 but I decided for our third entry of swashbuckler week to give it another try. Robin is played as a complete idiot – how he survived to adulthood is beyond me – even Azeem (Morgan Freeman) comments on it.  At one point they mention that Robin has stolen 3-4 million over the past 5 months. King Richard’s ransom was only 150,000 marks just as a point of reference. Shortly after that they ooh and aah over a tiny chest of money they recover – which would barely even be noticeable at the rate they are supposedly stealing money. Friar Tuck has no problems murdering – no self-defense here – a member of the clergy. A scribe uses modern contractions on paper and the bishop uses the word husband in the marriage ceremony. I could spend an entire day cataloging the anachronisms and then another day cataloging all the continuity errors (Kevin’s hair is wet! it’s dry! it’s wet! it’s dry! plus checkout his Speedo tan line in the nude scene.). There is even a late for the 80s training montage thrown in the mix!

They give Sir Guy of Gisbourne bad teeth to show that he’s evil as Robin who has clearly been in prison quite a while in the holy land has good teeth. In a move straight out of a Bond film, The Sheriff of Nottingham is so evil that he kills his own men. The Sheriff claims to belong to the old religion – a reference to paganism and/or Celtic beliefs and yet he is shown with a witch in front of an inverted cross. He also appears to only have about 6 henchmen until he takes Robin’s camp completely by surprise with dozens of his own men plus hired Celts (hundreds of years anachronistic but hey why stop now) and catapults. How you surprise a camp hidden in the middle of a forest with catapults is only one of the many mysteries in this film. They don’t even bother with Prince John as the Sheriff himself plans to be king. Heck they even reveal later that he isn’t even the Sheriff. He is most put out when Robin interrupts him trying to rape Marian while being married on the church floor. No seriously!

It is also hard to find a movie that reeks more of political correctness than this one. Presumably to balance out people who might be aware of the Christian atrocities during the Crusades, Robin is given a Moor companion, Azeem (Morgan Freeman). In jail all the Christians are bound with chains bolted to the wall but the Moor who is under a sentence of death is merely tied with a bit of rawhide. Azeem spends the entire film spouting platitudes and even, in one howlingly funny scene, performs a C-Section. According to Wikipedia. the first successful C-section in which the mother survived occurred during the 1500s. Azeem also sports a telescope! And makes incredible explosives! And spouts off about FREEDOM! in fluent English! The truth is that Robin is just a hindrance and Azeem could probably have taken Nottingham single-handedly. Maid Marian fights Robin while dressed as a man in her first scene and is shown to be a capable fighter in another later scene. They also take great pains to point out that Robin is rich and privileged.

And then there is the ‘acting’. Kevin Costner mugs his way through the whole film. Morgan Freeman tries to keep a straight face while speaking wisely. Christian Slater shouts and snarls every line that he is given. The only ray of light is Alan Rickman who seems to realize just how awful this movie is and is determined to outdo it with his performance.

People Watch: Sean Connery has an unbilled cameo as King Richard and Brian Blessed has a brief role as Lord Locksley (who must have dropped Robin on his head repeatedly as a young child)

Interview with the Vampire

Unfortunately I was out of town all day yesterday so I missed my chance to post every day in October. I’ll post twice today to make up for it. I thought first we’d take a look at some vampires adapted from other medium.

Interview with the Vampire

WATCH: Interview with the Vampire (1994) – “Director Neil Jordan’s Oscar-nominated tale of bloodsucking immortals moves from 18th century New Orleans to a Grand Guignol theater in Paris to present-day San Francisco as it explores betrayal, love, loneliness and hunger. The lives of a trio of vampires — cavalier Lestat (Tom Cruise), tormented Louis (Brad Pitt) and childlike Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) — are interconnected for centuries in this adaptation of Anne Rice’s romantic horror tale”

Anne Rice was livid when she found out her vampire Lestat was going to be played by noted Scientologist Tom Cruise. Pretty much any film Tom Cruise is in becomes a Tom Cruise film (due in part to Tom Cruise being so powerful that he often retains final cut and has no problem overruling directors though in this case Neil Jordan retained final cut) so she certainly had cause for alarm. It was a wonderful surprise then when Tom Cruise gave a riveting, masterful portrayal of Lestat – indeed in my opinion it is his absolute best performance. For those who adore male scenery, in addition to stars Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, we also have Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea. A very young Kirsten Dunst almost manages to steal the show from Cruise as a gloriously creepy young lady. Anne Rice does a wonderful job of adapting her own novel amd Neil Jordan’s direction is superb. The cinematography and atmosphere in the film is wonderful as well if you can manage to tear your eyes away from the performers long enough to enjoy it. To her credit, Anne Rice not only apologized to Tom but took out a two-page ad in Vanity Fair and the New York Times endorsing the movie.

AVOID: Bloodrayne (2006) – This film is simply dreadful. Uwe Boll is widely recognized as one of the (if not the) worst genre director in the world. His films are not hilariously incompetent like Ed Wood’s but simply unwatchably incompetent. I swear that I needed a dramamine to sit through House of the Dead with my daughter. This one is no different in spite of the presence of slumming actors Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Michael Pare, Billy Zane and Udo Kier.