Wal-Mart for the Win – Dracula Untold & Kiefer Sutherland

I was at Wal-Mart the other day, perusing the movie section while my wife was shopping elsewhere.

Dracula Untold

 

They had an endcap of old and new Universal horror movies. There were single copies of classics like Dracula and Frankenstein as well as multi-packs of more modern fare such as the Tremors series. Most of them had stickers for $7.50 off a movie ticket for the new Dracula Untold movie.

Off in their new release section, I also found the newly released Universal Frankenstein Legacy Collection and Dracula Collection. Each were $19.99 with Dracula Untold tickets. If you own the old versions of these, you might consider upgrading as The Frankenstein Legacy old version contained: Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, and House of Frankenstein. The new version contains all of those as well as Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The only difference in title is, instead of The Legacy Collection, it is The Complete Legacy Collection.

Kiefer 24

 

Hilarity ensued when I got to this option. For a mere five dollars, you can have a 24 hour movie binge with Kiefer Sutherland. This is a brilliant repackaging of two of Echo Bridge’s previous action movie collections. Out of the whopping 17 movies in the two collections, I believe only one of them actually stars Kiefer Sutherland. That would be the better forgotten Brotherhood of Justice from 1986 where Kiefer looks like this:

Brotherhood of Justice

I wonder how many people will buy this thinking that they are getting 24 for $5.

A Tale of Two Hacks – Pompeii

I took a mental health day to clear my head and went to the movies. Unfortunately I had seen most of what was showing so off to Pompeii.

 

Pompeii

 

PompeiiĀ (2014) – Rated PG-13

A slave-turned-gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him.

One Line Review: Jon Snow should have waited for winter.

I hardly know where to begin with Pompeii. I was very fortunate to have visited Pompeii some years ago and the ruins are absolutely fascinating. In this movie, and others depicting this event, Mt. Vesuvius is shown dramatically towering in the background. When I was there, you could barely see Mt. Vesuvius in the distance so it is no wonder that people weren’t alarmed by the early stages.

Although director Paul W.S. Anderson claims a rather lavish reconstruction of the city, Pompeii had no such harbor as depicted in the movie. Nearby Herculaneum (also destroyed) was the harbor city though I guess it doesn’t have the name recognition. Women in Pompeii, particularly Aurelia and Cassia, are portrayed ahistorically, as viewed through modern sensibilities.

Paul W.S. Anderson has a flair for visuals, particularly special effects. Mortal Kombat was a fun albeit dumb movie. Event Horizon was a fun but dumb movie. Resident Evil was a fun but dumb movie. Unfortunately as he is given higher and higher budgets, the special effects go up but the fun goes down.

Two of the three scriptwriters, Janet Scott Batchler and Lee Batchler, are best known for the execrable Batman Forever. I’m not kidding. They also haven’t made a movie in a decade. The third writer, Michael Robert Johnson, was one of four credited writers on Sherlock Holmes (2009) but that is his only other credit.

The writing on Pompeii is just awful. Jared Harris looks pained at every line he has to utter. Unfortunately, Kiefer Sutherland seems to have chosen the Joaquin Phoenix route as a Roman ruler. The leads, Kit Harington (so good in Game of Thrones) and Emily Browning, merely look good. They don’t act well, aren’t charismatic, and have little chemistry on screen. You know nothing, Jon Snow!

The movie is clearly patterned off of James Cameron’s Titanic – so much so that it could be called plagiarism. Young man of the lower classes falls in love with bored, socially progressive, high society girl. Unfortunately parents have arranged her marriage to a very powerful, rich, and evil man. This evil man has a ruthless bodyguard with a weapon and knows how to quash his rival. Plans are set in motion and then calamity strikes. All they did was view this through a standard peplum gladiator plot.

The final act of Pompeii is the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and its impact on our players. The eruption and aftermath are quite well-handled and visually impressive. In reality, there were no fireballs raining down (that’s a different type of eruption) but there was a lot of eye candy. No spoilers but I did enjoy the way the movie ended, particularly as I’d been to the ruins.

Paul W.S. Anderson is currently at work on Resident Evil 6 with his wife, star Milla Jovovich.

Eye of the Killer – The Killer Inside Me week

This is The Killer Inside Me week. Eye of the Killer is currently available on instant Netflix.

PASS: Eye of the Killer (2000) – Rated R for violence, language and brief sensuality.

“After a blow to the head, haggard Det. Mickey Hayden (Kiefer Sutherland) acquires an extraordinary new ability: He can visualize the owner of anything he touches. This homicide-solving talent comes in handy when Hayden gets assigned to the hardest case of his life. A serial killer named Jabberwocky has resurfaced, pinning a note to his most recent victim challenging Hayden to stalk the murderer again in this direct-to-video thriller.”

“Where are you going?” – “To a place called None of your business.”

The actual title of this movie is “After Alice” but apparently that was too obscure so it was changed to the obvious “Eye of the Killer” for video release. That is a shame because I really like the Carroll reference.

Bizarrely this is the only movie writing credit for Jeff Miller. I say bizarrely because he has a very good ear for snappy patter.

Also bizarrely this is the second film I have chosen with Killer in the title and they both involve dysfunctional detectives with unusual abilities tracking down serial killers. I really would love to see one of these where the psychic picks up an object at the beginning of the film and says “the killer is Dean Bowers and he lives at 715 Elm Street” *Boom* End of story.

Kiefer Sutherland does a good job here of playing the world-weary alcoholic detective. His Mickey Hayden is nothing like Jack Bauer.

Henry Czerny plays Harvey, another man who apparently has the same “gift” that Hayden does. His character is a good counterpoint to Hayden.

Polly Walker plays our female lead, Dr. Vera Swann. Polly has since gone on to some fame as Atia of the Julii in the series Rome and more recently Clarice Willow in Caprica.

While I did like quite a bit of the dialogue, many of the story elements are recycled and cliche. With the exception of a particular why (which is inspired) and that they have homosexual characters who are not over the top (it is nice to see one who is not the designated comic relief), the rest of the story felt recycled and somewhat lifeless.

There are good things to recommend about this movie but unless you are a die hard Kiefer Sutherland fan or a psychic detective junkie, I would give this one a pass.

People Watch: I always try to show some love for those unsung heroes, the stunt people. Brittney Banks appears here as Alice. Normally she is a stuntwoman and in that capacity has appeared in 2012, The Incredible Hulk, Dawn of the Dead, and Shooter.