Universal’s second attempt…Dracula Untold was the first, but they distanced themselves from it when it failed to draw box office blood… to start their Dark Universe is a bigger clunker than their Dracula flick. Convoluted plot has adventurer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) finding the tomb of cursed Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who gets unleashed and now raises the dead across England as she tries to find both Morton…who she has plans for…and a sacred dagger…which she also has plans for. Also interested in the little mummy honey is a certain Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe)…who has his own plans for the Egyptian princess.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman from a messy script by three writers, the flick is a CGI drenched bore that won’t do Universal any favors in starting it’s Marvel-esque monster series. Cruise is strictly phoning it in and has far more screen time than the actually mummy whose schtick is basically rehashing the same gimmick from the Stephen Sommers movies, but with a girl mummy this time. It’s just plain silly to have Jekyll involved, though at least Crowe got the material and would probably be a fun Jekyll/Hyde in a much better movie. Boutella had a few effective scenes, but otherwise it’s a snoozefest of CGI and a very miscast TomCruise.
The idea of teaming up comic legend Goldie Hawn and funny girl of the moment Amy Schumer wasn’t a bad one, it’s just too bad they weren’t in a much more solid comedy. Flick has recently dumped and fired Emily (Schumer) going on a vacation originally planned with her now ex-boyfriend. She takes her mom (Hawn) instead and the two head off to Ecuador. The mother and daughter are kidnapped by an Ecuadorian crime lord (Óscar Jaenada) and now must find a way to escape both the criminal and the jungle in one piece.
Directed by Jonathan Levine from a so-so script by Katie Dippold, this flick starts out funny when it is about mother and daughter trying to bond and get along at the resort. It takes a more serious and far less funny tone once they are kidnapped and then escape with the vengeful criminals hot on their heels. There are some deaths along the way, which the film unsuccessfully tries to make funny and the film only regains a little of it’s comic footing when Schumer’s Emily and some strange women (Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack) mount a half-assed rescue when Hawn is recaptured. Shame the script wasn’t funnier as Schumer and Hawn had a nice chemistry.
Written by Tim Tori and directed by Patrik Syversen, horror flick tells the story of a group of teens who breakdown on the way to Chicago and hitch a ride with a truck driver, who brings them to an abandoned slaughterhouse filled with vampire-like creatures. If the contrived premise is OK with you, this is actually a mildly amusing horror with some vicious action sequences. Leading lady Courtney Hope (Shark Night) is a likable and strong-willed heroine, our vampires are right out of 30 Days of Night and this flick is actually better than the direct to DVD sequel to that movie. Vampire horror does take an interesting turn in it’s final act as well, but also has an abrupt, open ending. So, take it for what it is and as long as you don’t expect much, it’s an entertaining rental.
WARM BODIES (2013)
Silly, yet engaging enough…if you can get past the preposterous-ness of it all. During a zombie apocalypse, a young girl named Julie (Theresa Palmer) is trapped outside her walled city and is befriended and then falls in love with a zombie boy (Nicholas Hoult), who appears to have retained some of his humanity. The more the two spend together, the more human he appears to become. Can love heal all wounds including zombie-ism? Movie is very silly, but well directed by Jonathan Levine, well enough to make it somewhat entertaining as the two try to convince both the humans and the zombies to get along. Palmer makes an engaging heroine and Hoult does well making ‘R’ endearing with minimal dialog. Also stars John Malkovich as Julie’s dad and the city’s stern leader with a personal grudge against the flesh eating undead. An amusing enough watch, but nothing really special.
Interesting flick evokes both the horror films of the 70s and the slashers of the 80s as it tells the story of the beautiful and virginal, high school student Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) and what befalls her and her friends at a weekend getaway at a secluded ranch. Mandy is the beautiful object of every boys’ desire and as she and her group of friends party and all the boys plot to get into her pants, someone else stalks the group with far more homicidal desires.
Director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) gives Lane a visual style that evokes 70s flicks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but his story is very 80s slasher complete with promiscuous teens meeting gruesome deaths. Despite the similarities with past horrors, Levine adds his own slant to the proceedings and Mandy Lane is not your typical slasher, as Jacob Forman’s script has it’s share of twists and surprises. There are some arty touches and a deliberately slow burning pace to go along with some vicious kills, and you never feel things are quite right, even when nothing wrong is going on. The cast are all fine with leading lady Heard fitting the bill as the beautiful nymph every boy wants and you can’t quite tell if she’s oblivious to her effect on the young men around her, or if she’s just playing them all like the love sick puppies they are. Once the bodies start to pile up, though, her Mandy shows she’s more than just a pretty face.
It’s an odd little horror that will probably evoke very mixed feelings from movie and horror fans alike. Not a great flick…It has it’s faults such as revealing the killer’s identity a bit too early…but one that has it’s own identity among-st the many other horrors of it’s kind. When all is said and done, it is an effective slasher.
Originally set to be released by Dimension Films, they sold it off to Senator Entertainment who then went out of business leaving Mandy Lane unreleased here in the US, adding to it’s reputation. After 7 years it finally saw a release October 11, 2013 on Blu-Ray, VOD and DVD by new distributor RADiUS-TWC, who are part of The Weinstein Company, which, ironically, also includes Dimension Films. Mandy Lane has finally come home. Also stars Hell On Wheels’ Anson Mount.