Thirteen ghosts

Poor William Castle. The gimmick filmmaker may be dead, but his spirit sort of lives on in this gory remake of his classic black and white chiller about a family trapped inside a house with a spirited baker’s dozen. What was once a simple but effective idea has been turned into a larger-than-life but ultimately less satisfying fun house attraction. Director Steve Beck does manages to wrangle a modicum of thrills from the premise, and the cast seems up to the challenge, but the plot relies more on gore than chills to make its point.

Tony Shalhoub stars as recently widowed father Arthur, who is at the end of his financial rope. When he receives news that his uncle has left him his estate, Arthur believes that all of his troubles are solved. With his son, daughter, and maid in toe, Arthur moves the family into the expansive mansion. Too bad the will didn’t mention that the basement is filled with holding tanks containing the spirits of twelve nasty ghosts, or that they can only be seen with special glasses. The film contains a couple of “Omen” type gross-out moments (someone gets cut in half, but you have to see it to believe it), but the ending is so outrageous that it totally takes away from all that came before. (Warner Bros.)


The first film in the “Drunken Master” series was the second pairing of director Yuen Woo Ping (fight coordinator on “The Matrix”) and action star Jackie Chan. As usual, Chan is engaging as Won Fei Hung, the young son of a martial arts schoolmaster who wishes his son would concentrate more on kung fu and less on clowning around. Hung can’t resist goofing off, but when he injures the son of a local man, his father recruits Hung’s stern uncle to teach him a lesson in self-discipline. While not exactly wax on, wax off, the relationship between uncle and Hung gets off to a rocky start, but it’s not long before Hung realizes that his father and uncle have his best interest in mind. Filled with dazzling martial arts action as only Jackie Chan and Ping can deliver, “Drunken Master” delivers more than a passable story to frame the action, and handsome production values. (Columbia-TriStar)


This smoldering romantic melodrama set in Cuba in the 1800s reminded me of the covers of the books that my mom used to read when I was younger. They had titles like “Mandingo” and “Falconcrest,” and featured a hot and sweaty couple on the front of the book. There’s a lot of heat and sweat in this tale of Cuban coffee merchant named Luis Vargas (Antonio Banderas) who makes arrangements to marry American Julia Russell (Angelina Jolie), whom he only knows through her letters and photo. Luis is stunned when Julia looks nothing like her photo, a ploy she used to make sure that he didn’t marry her for her looks. Julia is equally stunned to learn that Luis also held back the truth, and is actually the owner and not an employee. Ah, true love, Their marriage gets off to a shaky start, but it’s not long before they’re engaged in hot monkey love. Then Luis really gets screwed when he learns that Julia is an impostor and has just cleaned out more than his pipes. Not bad, a pulp novel brought to life with some degree of care and respect. (MGM)


Gruesome little entry in Columbia-TriStar’s Creature Feature series that premiered on Showtime. This blast from the past stars Rufus Sewell and Carla Gugino as Angus and Lillie, whose traveling carnival sideshow features Lillie as a mermaid. While touring through the Irish countryside, Rufus encounters an elderly gentleman who claims to have the real thing. A trip to his castle confirms his claim, and soon Rufus and his men set about to kidnap the mermaid and take her to America. When the captain of the ship discovers their cargo, he reluctantly agrees to allow her to stay, much to his regret. She may be pretty, but the mermaid also has a vicious streak, which she exercises with great abandon. It’s not long before the crew becomes unwitting fish food and Angus and Lillie must square off against one angry fish. Writer-director Sebastian Guitierrez sustains the suspense, while the actors all seem to be on the same page. Good Stan Winston effects and period detail make this a fish out of water story worth catching. (Columbia-TriStar)

Comments are closed.