Tag Archives: Dominic Cooper

Bat Man

Dracula Untold

Misguided Dracula mash-up has few teeth, even less bite

Dracula Untold

Starring Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper & Sarah Gadon

Directed by Gary Shore

PG-13

Dracula, the world’s most famous vampire, has spread all across the pop-cultural spectrum, from Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel and actor Bela Lugosi, to goofball cartoons and the inspiration for chocolate breakfast cereal. Historically, he’s been linked—at least in name—to the 15th century Romanian ruler Vlad III, “the Impaler,” whose grotesque signature touch was decorating the Balkan countryside with the writhing bodies of his enemies stuck on poles.

This misguided monster mash of a movie tries to bring the two legends together, in a tale that seems like a 90-minute episode of TV’s Game of Thrones garnished with lots of computer-generated bats.

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Luke Evans and Sarah Gadon

We meet Vlad (Luke Evans, a “days of yore” veteran of two Hobbit movies, Immortals, Clash of the Titans and The Three Musketeers, plus Fast and Furious 6) after his “impaling” days are over and he’s settled down as a benevolent monarch, carving out a kingdom and making peace with the neighboring Turks that were once his favorite Pinterest subjects. But when pushed again toward an unjust war, he makes a desperate deal to protect his castle, his people, his wife and his son.

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Charles Dance from TV’s ‘Game of Thrones’ places an ancient vampire.

That “deal” is the back story of how Vlad became count Dracula, and it involves an encounter in a bat-filled cave with an ancient über-vampire (Charles Dance from Game of Thrones), who offers him a “test drive” of supernatural powers—with a devil of a catch-22. If Vlad can last three days without feeding on human blood, all is well. If not, he’ll become an undead bloodsucker for eternity.

Vlad’s new powers include super-strength, super-speed, super-hearing, super-sight, and the ability to summon bats, control bats, become a swarm of bats, or un-become a swarm of bats.

One of the movie’s major misfires is trying to meld “historical” Vlad into “mythical” Dracula. It just doesn’t work—the handsome Evans makes his character seem way too nice to ever be convincing as someone who terrorizes his opponents by putting them up on pikes by the thousands. First-time director Gary Shore never finds the right tone—be it frightful, funny, funky, horrifying, shocking or sexy—that viewers would expect from a modern flick about the most neck-fetish-ed, nocturnal daddy-o of them all. The whole production looks pieced together from murky videogame graphics, cable-TV soundstage sets and leftover Lord of the Rings costumes.

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The mostly British cast also includes Dominic Cooper (from Captain America: The First Avenger), Zach McGowan (TV’s Black Sails), Sarah Gadon, and young Art Parkinson (another import from Game of Thrones). The movie ends with a couple of jarring leaps, one of them into what’s reportedly intended to be the beginning of a new modernized “monster squad” franchise based on the iconic beasties of Universal Studios, which also includes the Wolf Man, the Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster.

“Sometimes the world no longer needs a hero,” says Vlad. “Sometime it needs a monster.” And sometimes it needs a monster movie—hopefully one with a bit more bite than this one.

 —Neil Pond, Parade and American Profile Magazines

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Vrooom For Improvement

Disney’s video-game-based racing movie coasts on other films’ fumes 

NEED FOR SPEED

Need For Speed

Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper & Imogene Poots

Directed by Scott Waugh

PG-13, 132 min.

“This ain’t just about racing,” says one of the characters in Need For Speed in a conversation that scrapes momentarily up against something other than what the rest of the movie is all about.

OK, if want to be picky, you might also say it’s about love, rivalry and retribution, and the Cinderella story of a young mechanic, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul of TV’s Breaking Bad), out to save his family business and clear his name.

NEED FOR SPEED

Aaron Paul plays mechanic-racer Tobey Marshall.

But let’s cut the crap—it’s really about racing. It’s the movie version of a popular video-game about fast cars and the adrenaline junkies who push them beyond limits any sane person would consider normal.

There’s a suped-up, 900-hp 2015 Mustang GT, a Lamborghini, a McLaren and several other exotic pieces of world-class automotive muscle. There are also airplanes, helicopters, goons with guns, and things going on road, off road, into the air, and in one memorable scene, over the side of a deliriously high desert cliff.

If all that gets your saliva glands glistening, well, this big, grinding gear-fest is for made for you. The folks at Disney are hoping you won’t notice that this low-star-wattage clone of the wildly successful Fast & Furious franchise is mostly running on empty, coasting on fumes from other, better movies.

And Disney surely must be turning a big blind mouse-eye to the fact that everything in it glorifies an illegal, dangerous activity, and that even its “good guys” show no regard for the lives of the innocent bystanders they imperil, whether they’re plowing around a poky school bus full of kids or smashing into a homeless man’s shopping cart as he pushes it across a city street—then laughing about it.

The only time you see anyone even buckle up a seat belt, it’s also also used as a punchline. Safety, yeah—ain’t it a hoot?

NEED FOR SPEED

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton plays the manic promoter of an invitation-only, secret-location race to which only the best drivers get invited. Tobey’s foil is a stinking rich piece of car-collecting Euro-trash (Dominiqic Cooper). There’s a token female (Imogene Poots), who gives her subplot a whiff of Smokey and the Bandit.

In fact, director Scott Waugh tips his hat several times to car movies of the ’70s, and viewers who are inclined can pass the time between vroom-vrooms connecting the tire tracks to American Graffiti, Bullet, Two Lane Blacktop, Duel and other iconic flicks about the rubber hitting the road.

The plot is about as thin as the wisp of air between vehicles swishing past each other on a narrow highway, and the actors say empty-headed things like “I’m never gonna stop,” “You are out of your mind—and I love it!” and “We’ll settle this behind the wheel.”

But blah, blah, blah. People who go to see this movie are going to go for the cars, the rush, the roar, and the fact that this is real metal, real roads and real stunts, with a minimum of added special effects.

Anyone who doesn’t have quite the same compelling “need for speed” can just putter along in a slower, safer, saner lane—and pray that you don’t get flattened by some revved-up grease monkeys like the ones in this movie.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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