Showing posts from May 5, 2013

Review: Zoltan- Hound of Dracula/Dracula’s Dog

An excavating Romanian army accidentally unleash Dracula’s hound Zoltan, who in turn revives manservant Veidt Schmidt (Reggie Nalder). After an unsuccessful attempt at reviving their master, they venture to the US to indoctrinate the last remaining Dracula heir, family man Michael Drake (Michael Pataki). Drake is currently on a camping trip with his wife, kids, and their dogs. Meanwhile, Romanian police inspector and vampire expert Inspector Branco (Oscar winner Jose Ferrer!) investigates the dead bodies left back at the tomb when Schmidt and Zoltan made their escape, and quickly heads to the US to hopefully warn Drake of what is to come.   AKA “Dracula’s Dog” . Yeah, both titles are equally awful, aren’t they? There’s an interesting idea in this 1978 horror offering from director/producer Albert Band (father of Charles and director of Full Moon’s “Doctor Mordrid” ) and writer/co-producer Frank Ray Perilli ( “Laserblast” , the curious “Little Cigars” ) with Dracula essentiall

Review: The Great White Hope

James Earl Jones plays the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion (called Jack Jefferson here, but it’s basically the real-life Jack Johnson), who nonetheless finds himself largely hated and vilified by a great many white people, and not just because his romantic companion is a white woman (played by Jane Alexander). His detractors (including Hal Holbrook, Robert Webber, and an especially racist R.G. Armstrong) are meanwhile determined to find the ‘Great White Hope’ who can finally defeat Jefferson and restore ‘order’. When Jefferson keeps knocking ‘em down, they decide to use even lowlier methods to bring him down. Moses Gunn plays an African-American who basically calls Jefferson out for being a traitor to his race, during a big celebration among his people. Directed by Martin Ritt (The excellent “Hud” , “Edge of the City” , and “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” , the awful misfire “The Outrage” ), and scripted by Howard Sackler (who worked on the scripts for

Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Thomas Horn is Oskar, a 9 year-old boy who was once tested for Asperger’s but the results were ‘inconclusive’. There is no doubt, however, that he is socially awkward. Oskar’s jeweller father (Tom Hanks) always seems to have time for his son and the two play all sorts of brain-teasing games and such (ranging from oxymoron sparring sessions to amateur sleuthing expeditions). His father ‘gets’ him, trying to give him the stimulation and attention he needs. When Oskar’s father dies in one of the 9/11/01 attacks on the Twin Towers, the boy is devastated, as is his mother (Sandra Bullock). About a year later, Oskar accidentally happens upon a key amongst some of his father’s things. The key was in an envelope with ‘Black’ written on the front of it. Being a bright boy, Oskar assumes that because the word begins with a capital, it must be a name. Certain that this is yet another of his late father’s tests laid out for him, Oskar decides to embark on a journey of New York to visit all the

Review: War Horse

Beginning just before WWI in Devonshire, we meet struggling farmer Peter Mullan, his wife Emily Watson, and son Jeremy Irvine as they struggle to pay landlord David Thewlis. Yes, the farm is in threat of foreclosure. Gee, haven’t heard that one before. One day, the ne’er-do-well Mullan decides to buy a horse at auction, much to the displeasure of Watson, though Irvine vows to find a use for the animal on the farm. A bond soon forms between boy and horse, the latter now named Joey. Unfortunately, once the war breaks out, their union is broken in the name of Britain, as Joey is rounded up, and poor Irvine is too young to fight in the war. Joey is then in the care of kindly army Captain Tom Hiddleston, whilst Irvine is back at home hoping to one day ride him again. Or something like that. Benedict plays another officer, as do Eddie Marsan and Liam Cunningham, whilst Niels Arestrup is a French grandfather whose granddaughter takes in the horse at one point

Review: ET: The Extra Terrestrial

After government goons scare of its family, a small alien is left behind on Earth, all alone. A young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) finds the alien and treats it like a pet, naming it ET. A bond is formed, as the boy also introduces the alien to his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton), and adorable younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore). Dee Wallace Stone plays the kids’ recently separated mother, whilst Peter Coyote plays a government agent looking for ET, C. Thomas Howell plays a friend of Michael’s, and a young Erika Eleniak plays one of Elliott’s classmates.   A rare case of movie magic, this 1982 family classic is not only the second-best film from Steven Spielberg after “Jaws” , but one of the very best movies ever made. It’s certainly one of the best family films alongside “Pinocchio” , “The NeverEnding Story” , and “The Goonies” . Things start brilliantly with one of the best John Williams ( “Jaws” , “Star Wars” , “Superman” , “Raiders of the Lost Ark” ) sco

Review: The Last Hard Men

Set in the early 20 th century (with nice attention to detail), no-good bandit James Coburn and his motley crew escape from prison, with Coburn hoping to settle a score with old nemesis, aging lawman Charlton Heston (who arrested him and killed his wife a while back). Barbara Hershey is Heston’s daughter, who is kidnapped by Coburn, with some of the nastier elements in his gang (which includes Jorge Rivero, John Quade- who just plain looks like a creep, the always unscrupulous Robert Donner, and Thalmus Rasulala) threatening to do some very unsavoury things to her. Christopher Mitchum plays Hershey’s boyfriend, who has different ideas to Heston as to how to get her back. Soft-spoken Michael Parks plays the local sheriff, as the days of the Wild West start to give way to modernisation and civilisation.   Imperfect but unfairly maligned 1976 Andrew V. McLaglen ( “The Rare Breed” , “Chisum” , “The Wild Geese” ) B-western is pretty violent (though not nearly as nasty as Leon

Review: Beat the Devil

Bogey is a soldier of fortune in Italy, in league with a motley crew of untrustworthy-types (fat Robert Morley, gaunt Marco Tulli, Hitler-loving rat-like Ivor Barnard, and shifty Peter Lorre, as a German-accented, possibly Chilean man, named O’Hara!) who get mixed up with a daffy British couple (priggish Edward Underdown and his seriously loopy wife, compulsive liar Jennifer Jones) whilst waiting for a ship to East Africa (to prospect for Uranium). Gina Lollobrigida is Bogey’s wife who hooks up with Underdown whilst Jones falls for Bogey. Needless to say, no one is trustworthy, and no one is who they say they are at just about every moment in the film. Future Bond co-star Bernard Lee (that’s M to you and me) turns up memorably at the end in a small but pivotal role.   Interesting but overrated 1954 John Huston ( “The Misfits” , “The Asphalt Jungle” ) film is a semi-spoof, not-so much of “The Maltese Falcon” and film noir specifically, as I was expecting, but the general outl

Review: The Double

When a US senator is assassinated, the FBI believe a supposedly dead Soviet spy named Cassius to be the culprit. Richard Gere plays a retired CIA agent brought out of the cold by former colleague Martin Sheen to be paired with nerdy FBI agent Topher Grace in order to hunt the culprit down. But Gere says it can’t be Cassius, because he was on the case some twenty odd years ago. Odette Yustman (now Annable) plays Grace’s pretty young wife, Chris Marquette plays a co-worker of Grace’s, whilst Tamer Hassan and Stephen Moyer play no-good Russkies, the latter imprisoned.   This 2011 directorial debut by screenwriter Michael Brandt ironically has one of the worst screenplays I’ve come across in ages, by Brandt and Derek Haas (who both worked on the scripts for “Wanted” and the superior remake of “3:10 to Yuma” ). It doesn’t even begin to work. For much of the film’s length, you feel like this is a crappy direct-do-DVD Steven Seagal spy-actioner, except with Richard Gere in the Seag