A criminal waste of talent and the audience's time, this No Good flick… MoreA criminal waste of talent and the audience's time, this No Good flick only ends up punishing viewers of its insufferably formulaic deeds. With dialogue borrowed from two dozen much better B-Movies, cheap scare tactics stolen from two dozen other dark 'n' stormy night thrillers, and a decent twixt twist that's still not good enough to save it, this potboiler seemed destined for Lifetime Movie-of-the-Week status and yet somehow made it to the big screen. Instead of a strong female, we get a supposed criminal defense lawyer pulling bonehead moves, one dumber than the last. The scariest thing about this flick is that this woman passed the bar.
In this PG-13-rated thriller, a devoted wife and mother (Henson) finds herself fighting for survival when a charming but dangerous escaped convict (Elba) shows up at her door claiming car trouble invades her home and terrorizes her family. Oh, and it's during the most torrential rainstorm ever.
Here, the stars prove much better than the material. Why Idris Elba, so brilliant in Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom, chose this pedestrian home invasion flick, defies logic. Though he may feel comfortable being helmed by Sam Miller, his regular director on BBC's Luther, moviegoers feel anything but comfortable presented with cold leftovers. This goes for Taraji P. Henson too. So beneath them, this movie could very well qualify as a career killer.
Bottom line: Good for Nothing
A shopworn method of modern love played out in a slightly older… MoreA shopworn method of modern love played out in a slightly older storefront, the cute but hardly cutting edge Enough Said boasts an ace cast navigating the ups and downs of middle age dating. Thankfully, character steps to the forefront more than romance, which grounds the story and connects the audience all the more. Awkward and explosive, comfortable and fuzzy, the script puts the 50+ year-old leads through paces familiar to anybody who's ever gambled on love. Specifically skewing older, Enough Said's demographic - like the setting in particularly atmospheric flicks - BECOMES the story as well as drives it. Were it designed around younger prettier actors, the end effect would prove something short of unremarkable, another PYT rom-com in an endless parade of PYT rom-coms...or rom-coma for lack of a better phrase. Still, the whole he-meets-shebang needs more standalone pizzaz than a twist practically given away in the 1st act. Being Over-the-Hill divorcees doesn't equal out-and-out magic, but it does yield a charming sleight of hand.
In this PG-13-rated dramedy, a divorced woman (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who decides to pursue the man she's interested in (James Gandolfini) learns he's her new friend's ex-husband.
Enough Said's bent works as well as it does because writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Friends with Money) demonstrates such a finely tuned ear for witty truth-ringing dialogue. Delivered by always on-point comedienne Julia-Louis Dreyfus and sometime comedian James Ganfolfini, the back and forth evinces such an authentic lived-in ebb and flow that it raises the material a star.
Bottom line: Just Enough
An excellent short story hard-boiled into a exceptional feature length… MoreAn excellent short story hard-boiled into a exceptional feature length crime-drama, Tom Hardy's great and gritty latest definitely gets The Drop on award season. Every beat - from the way the blue collar city dwellers converse to the specific mechanics of the criminal underworld - rings with such authenticity that the Brooklyn pavement and smog is almost palpable. If the Devil is in the details than this carefully plotted thriller is downright hellish. Every set, wardrobe, and line of dialogue comes off as lived in and rolled around the tongue as Brooklyn itself. Better yet, there's a brilliant twist that stands in your blind spot through the third act, exquisitely laying unsuspecting filmgoers out like suckers. Brimming with suspense at so many corners, the film threatens to but rarely actually uses the R-rating. When it does, however, the violence comes quickly and realistically, underlying the need for brute force in this hardscrabble urban jungle gym.
In this R-rated crime-drama, Bob Saginowski (Hardy) finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry at a bar thats the drop-off point for mob money.
Though filmgoers rightly think of the late James Gandolfini as the focal point here (it is, after all, his final role), all eyes inevitably fall on the electric Tom Hardy, who plays a deceptively simple kind of man in a complicated kind of numbers game. When his dog and lady friend get threatened, you truly feel a snapping point, eye twitch and all. In one of the bar scenes, you actually see dirt under his finger nails as if he just worked open to close in an actual watering hole. Gandolfini and Rapace, meanwhile, play every scene with such menaced and dreadful qualities that legitimately feel sorry for them. Director Michael R. Roskam, working from Dennis Lehane's (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) screenplay of his own short story, gives H'Wood a hypnotic crime story with this, his first U.S. feature length project.
Bottom line: Dropping Da Bomb
Fully committing Bram Stoker's classic Gothic character to unfortunate… MoreFully committing Bram Stoker's classic Gothic character to unfortunate camptastic heights, this unnecessary but occasionally fun monster mash-up mercifully put the stake in the original Dracula franchise's heart. Here, everybody wants to get cured but not without a monstrous dust-up. Before it's all done, the mad scientist who tries to cure the Wolfman and fend off Dracula injects himself with the Invisible Man serum and tries to reanimate Frankenstein's monster. Wowee, it's every '40s kid's dream and every '40s adult filmgoer's muddled mess of a nightmare. Perhaps lending credence to the argument that HWood just doesnt learn from its mistakes, 2004's Van Helsing tried the same monster fighting shenanigans with the same laughable results. The best part about this film inadvertently calling the down Count is the fact that it gave full license to England's Hammer Studios to pick up the Gothic horror torch in the '50s. Without a doubt, their Dracula franchise fleshed out the undead better over the years.
In this unrated continuation of Universals Dracula series, Count Dracula (John Carradine) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.) seek a cure for their afflictions while a hunchbacked woman, mad scientist and the Frankenstein monster have their own troubles.
As always, Lon Chaney's in fine tortured form as the Wolfman but John Carradine turns Dracula into a scrawny pushover of a dandy all while a gray hair-colored Lionel Atwill nearly collapses under the weight of playing mad scientist to the arch degree. Oh, and the scientist!s female? Yep, she's a hunchback. Game. Set. Meh.
Bottom line: House of Pain
Sucking out whatever blood remained in the inspired and inspiring… MoreSucking out whatever blood remained in the inspired and inspiring original, this oftentimes silly creature feature turns a Gothic classic into classic Southern-fried camp. Of course, when the antagonists name - Count Alucard - is Dracula spelled backwards, you know youre in trouble. The film doesn't spool out but one reel before gifting audiences with the following line of dialogue: "There's no magic in dried lizards and dead chickens." It's an unfortunate line spoken by an unfortunate actor. Bestowing doltish supporting roles on a third tier HWood cast doesn't help matters either.
In this unrated continuation of Universals Dracula series, a mysterious count (Lon Chaney, Jr.) finds his way from Budapest to the swamps of the Deep South and finds himself fighting a medical doctor, a university professor, a jilted fiancé and the woman he loves.
The worst part of this flick ends up to be the lead performance. In taking over the role that his father was suppose to make famous before cancer took him, humdrum vampire Lon Chaney, Jr. brings about as much terror to the proceedings as fuzzy Muppet Count Von Count on Sesame Street. Oh, his tenure as a werewolf shows that he's capable of such range but there's none of that evident in this monstrously unscary Dracula follow-up. Robert Siodmak, who directed undisputed horror classic The Wolf Man in 1940, brings a great deal of atmosphere to the photography but not so much to the script. Rather than the sequel that Dracula deserves, he turns out some vamped up voodoo phooey. J. Edward Bromberg even sports an Eastern European accent in his thankless role as Professor Lazlo, a discount bin Van Helsing.
Bottom line: Slow Count
Making little effort to raise the hairs on the back of your neck but… MoreMaking little effort to raise the hairs on the back of your neck but much effort to raise film fans' ire, Dracula's Daughter exchanges Gothic horror for horrifically god awful within the first half hour. The first 20 minutes isn't even that bad, bringing in Everett Sloan as Van Helsing (the only holdover from the 1930 classic) to bridge the gap and spotlighting both crypts and corpses to set an ominous tone that continues only for a few more scenes. Instead, the action shifts to the Count's offspring, a non-threatening dowager wishing to be freed from a vampire curse by psychiatry.
In this unrated continuation of Universals Dracula series, Hungarian countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) seeks the aid of a noted psychiatrist (Otto Kruger), in hoping to free herself of a mysterious evil influence.
Oh, the cast tries their best, third tier status or not. There's just no beating heart behind the story, which exhibits so few moments of menace and dread that the picture plays out like a bad drawing room mystery. Based on the pure caliber of quality on display in Universal's Bride of Frankenstein, it seems downright criminally insane that that same studio didn't invest in a direct sequel to Dracula, especially since author Bram Stoker wrote a follow-up short story to his novel, "Dracula's Guest." After all, Bela Lugosi and director Tod Browning were still around the Universal lot (working together on Mark of the Vampire in 1935), but nothing ever materialized...until this unfortunate coma, er, coda six years later.
Bottom line: Lady Sings the Blah Blah Blah
A stunningly atmospheric horror tale shot during 1931 Dracula's off… MoreA stunningly atmospheric horror tale shot during 1931 Dracula's off time, this Spanish language version bests it's legendary English counterpart by a bloody great degree. Like English version director Tod Browning, George Melford came from an impressive run in silent film (The Sheik). It shows. Whereas the former evinces a sloppy Devil-May-Care approach to Bram Stoker's novel, the latter took full advantage of the production's studio resources, crafting an oftentimes more frightening scaremaker. Admittedly, the English language version remains more iconic for two reasons: Lugosi's introduction and Browning's spine-tingling take on the ghost ship just can't be touched.
In this unrated Spanish language version of the horror classic, the ancient vampire Count Dracula (Carlos Villarias) arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina (Lupita Tovar).
Granted, some tropes came down to culture (Mexico allowed for more cleavage and actual rats used in place of opossums), but the shadows fall in the right place as did the thrills. Of course, nothing at the time trumps Bela Lugosi in the titular role. In fact, wild-eyed vampire Carlos Villarias sometimes looks like a goofy game show host when he should be playing up the Latin lover angle. Vibrant Lupita Tovar and seemingly psychotic Pablo Alvarez Rubio (as Renfield), however, make up the difference.
Bottom line: Fangs for the Memories
Memorable for it's mostly dead right casting more than it's often dead wrong… MoreMemorable for it's mostly dead right casting more than it's often dead wrong direction, classic Universal horror flick Dracula rightfully birthed a worthy screen legend regardless of sloppy flubs. Owing more to Lon Chaney than Bram Stoker, the story gives filmgoers the silent treatment more often than not. After all, director Tod Browning helmed the subtitled '20s gem The Unholy Three starring Chaney and had that very same acting royalty lined up for this Stoker adaptation before the actor died from lung cancer. True-blue Hungarian Bela Lugosi assumed the role and the rest is film history. Heavily accented and looking VERY Eastern European, he brought a menacing authenticity to the part even if he hardly matches the book's description of a gaunt bearded count.
In this unrated horror classic, the ancient vampire Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina (Helen Chandler).
Actually, the film takes a lot of liberties (besides not taking an epistolary angle, the plight of daffy solicitor Renfield - not dashing solicitor Jonathan Harker - becomes the early focus), but the nips and tucks streamline Gothic terror to an appropriate degree given the rather Puritan era. And mind you, this is a pre-Code film! The graphic nature of Dracula is not the problem, however. Any bad blood gets spilled due to Browning. Given his often A-Grade horror pedigree (besides The Unholy Terror, The Unknown, and London at Midnight, he later helmed the excellent piece of shock theater called Freaks), much more was expected from his H'Wood talents. Continually seeing pieces of cardboard taped over bedside lamps to offset the studio lighting, for example, demonstrates a sloppy Devil-May-Care attitude that often kills the film's atmosphere. This is not to say that Dracula's not atmospheric, however. The low budget and early talkie parameters alone make the goings feel rather otherworldly and - cardboard aside - the shadowy backdrop sets an ominous tone. These proved to be the hallmarks of Universal Horror - Gothic horror tales that're oft-kilter casted and aesthetically dark in an age when movies were NEVER set entirely at night - and they started with this, a still impressive bloodless bloodletter.
Bottom line: Vampire Bask
An at times overly sentimental favorite that just keeps running,… MoreAn at times overly sentimental favorite that just keeps running, Forrest, running, Gump & Company still says very little but nevertheless maintains its aw shucks charm and history-retelling whimsy in the post-9/11 age. Though the film panders too much to a Disney-fied sense of nostalgia and romanticism, there's no denying the compelling decades spanning narrative, murky message and all. Yes, Forrest Gump proves childlike and syrupy, but so does the title character, which all involved knew all too well and played to the hilt. What this collective gets wrong, however, is in insisting that the film is weightier than it actually is. There appears to be a heavy-handedness but where does it lead the audience? To the fact that ignoring the harsh realities of life paints a dishonest historical portrait? Regardless, it's an intriguing concept that's beautifully presented and amazingly acted. Ridiculously ambitious, this often offbeat but always entertaining gem mostly hits the mark. At times, Groom's story as adapted by Eric Roth seems like a blue collar Zelig. Woody Allen's 1982 mockumentary at least ruminated on individuality and American ideals amid the historic cameos.
In this 20th anniversary re-release of the Oscar winning PG-13-rated dramedy based on Winston Grooms celebrated novel, simpleton Forrest Gump (Hanks) accidentally finds himself present at many historic moments while searching for his true love, Jenny (Robin Wright).
Having crafted Back to the Future into the almost quintessential time travel classic and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? into the greatest live action-animation mash-up ever, Robert Zemekis handles the epic scope and monumental scale special effects (still quite effective, mind) with a strong but ingeniously creative hand. Sure, he creates an easy-to-swallow feel-good pill but - without a suitable actor to play the main man - this would all be for naught. Thankfully, Tom Hanks gives a nuanced performance of a very simple man. When he finds out that he has a son and tears up in asking if the boy is as 'slow' as his father, the result proves heartbreaking, heart-tugging, and heart-soaring in just mere words. It's a masterful turn, perfectly played such that any impressionable qualities get overshadowed but his eternal heart and optimism. Corny? Yes. Forgettable? Not a chance.
Bottom line: Super is as Super does
A riotously funny inter-dimensional channeling of high concept sci-fi… MoreA riotously funny inter-dimensional channeling of high concept sci-fi and low concept comedy, Ghostbusters scares up just as much adulation today for the same reasons it did back then: Bill Murray's deadpan delivery and Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis's hilariously fun script. Aside from the scarily poor special effects, the climax still ranks as Ghostbusters' chief sticking point. The 3rd act lead-up drags and the rooftop showdown is never as out-and-out funny as anything in the first two acts. When this is all you have to complain about, then - ahem - Boo Hoo. The arrival of the skyscraper-height Stay Puft Marshmallow Man more than fills the final act's joke quotient and, frankly, the dodgy SFX weren't paraded around as the best of the best back then either.
In the 30th anniversary re-release of this PG-rated modern classic comedy, three unemployed parapsychology professors (Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis) set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.
From the get-go, this is Murray's vehicle--we're just riding in it. Sure, he's often more readily identified with Groundhog Day than this ensemble piece, but the actor's perfectly played performance as a dubious scientist - one who rarely takes anything seriously - never lets up with laughs. Seriously, root through the now-iconic scenes and dialogue to re-discover the rich wealth of one-liners he delivers at an almost machine gun clip. Reveling in showing audiences both oddball actors at the top of their game and literally otherworldly situations, Ivan Reitman's direction points up the academia and modern science-skewing humor in the script while making you wonder how this often biting flick could've ever only be rated PG.
Bottom line: Who Ya Still Gonna Call?