Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mama (2013)

Director:  Andy Muschietti
Written by:  Andres & Barbara Muschietti
Starring:  Jessica Chastain (Annabel), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Lucas/Jeffrey), Megan Charpentier (Victoria), Isabelle Nelisse (Lilly), Javier Botet (Mama)

"Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years.... but how alone were they?" - IMDb

*    *    *    *

"A ghost is an emotion bent out of shape, condemned to repeat itself time and time again." - Dr. Dreyfuss' secretary

With Guillermo Del Toro's brand on the movie & the Muschietti's promising direction and story, Mama is one of the better horror films I have seen in the recent years. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BOOK + MOVIE: Less Than Zero

Author: Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho)
Country: United States
Year: 1985
Pages: 208
"The rich and spoiled children of Los Angeles have it all -- sex, drugs, fast cars, air-conditioned mansions. Theirs is a world shaped by television, rock music, and too much money; it is a world devoid of feeling and of hope. In a startling, staccato style reminiscent of music videos, Bret Easton Ellis re-creates this world in a dizzying journey through endless parties, seedy rock clubs, and the seamy underworld of drug dealing and prostitution. Haunting, unnerving, Less Than Zero is the inside story of a generation on a desperate search for the ultimate sensation."

Welcome to the world of the Lindsay Lohans, Paris Hiltons, & the Kardashians - and here I thought that Gossip Girl (tv show.. haven't read the books) was too much. Teenagers acting like adults, involved in a lot of sex, drugs, alcohol abuse which would probably make my mom froth in the mouth if she knew I was watching/reading about it.

The book sells itself as "The sensational national book-seller" - well, it is sensational indeed, to think this was published in the 80's, it actually surprised me that I felt appalled, offended, disturbed by what I was reading (I actually thought I have already been desensitized in this day and age of glorified teenage sex & drugs in media. How wrong was I?).

"Written on the bathroom wall at Pages, below where it says 'Julian gives great head. And is dead.': 'Fuck you Mom and Dad. You suck cunt. You suck cock. You both can die because that's what you did to me. You left me to die. You both are so fucking hopeless. Your daughter is an Iranian and your son is a faggot. You both can rot in fucking shitting asshole hell. Burn, you fucking dumbshits. Burn, fuckers. Burn.'"

I felt the angst, really.

"....and she thinks I want to hug her or something and she comes over to me and puts her arm around my back and says something like 'I think we've all lost some sort of feeling.'"

Sex, drugs, alcohol, nihilism. Disappear here. Decline. People are afraid to merge. Clay's detachment or numbness to what's happening around him. I really don't care. Like these kids who apparently have nothing to lose, aside from losing feeling, who resort to rape of a twelve year old girl, drugs, even jerking off to slasher/porn just to feel alive. The main character tries to escape that world, maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, I'm not sure... because I don't like him.

My Rating: 2.5/5 - I get the message. It's a life of ennui and indifference (it's interesting to see a group of kids already feeling this). Party after party, meaningless sex and faceless hook-ups. It's really a good close-up look in that world. And the stream of consciousness narrative works. It's not bad. But did I care for the story and characters? No. There's no connection, aside for the occasional pity towards the kids for the lack of parental love and guidance, and the shock and disgust at the horrible lifestyle of the rich, bored, and drugged. There's no satisfaction. The first word I actually uttered after reading the last page is "Fuck." A lazy, unsatisfied, yet a bit relieved "fuck."

* * * *

Directed by: Marek Kanievska
Screenplay by: Harley Peyton
Music by: Thomas Newman
Year: 1987
Running Time: 98 mins.
Starring: Andrew McCarthy (Clay), Jami Gertz (Blair),
Robert Downey Jr. (Julian Wells), James Spader (Rip)
Loosely-based is the operative word here. And thank god for that. In the book, it's all Clay. In the movie, I'm so glad they gave Julian the central focus, because Clay, for me, is just so damn negative and boring. I'm not saying Julian Wells is all sugar, spice, and everything nice, but at least he's got character. It works too that the actor portraying him is my favorite Robert Downey Jr. - every scene he's in, he steals the show. Andrew McCarthy, oh wimpy Andrew I have disliked you since Pretty in Pink, but I think he's an okay fit as Clay. Because Clay, to me, is just unlikeable. Although if you wanna look for the complexity of the "book Clay", then I don't think McCarthy could deliver in that aspect. He can do "detached" yes, "unlikeable" yes, "wimpy" yep, "complex"? uhmm no i don't think so. Jami Gertz, for me, is a miscast, I was looking for a prettier, more elegant Blair... and better-acting. James Spader did great as Rip.

One thing I like about this movie is that they gave spine and focus on the friendship of Clay, Blair, & Julian - which I didn't really see in the book. It gave the story more substance. But that's just me wanting to get something from it all. I know how Hollywood romanticize everything, and the book isn't that at all.


  • Brad Pitt was paid $38 for his uncredited appearance. (Partygoer /Preppie Guy at Fight) (his second uncredited gig in his early career) 

  • Keanu Reeves was originally cast as Clay Easton. 
  • This is the first film that Robert Downey Jr. is billed as "Robert Downey Jr.". All films previous he was billed as simply "Robert Downey". 

The Verdict:

The movie version is a toned-down, infinitely cleaner & more positive take on Ellis' disturbing novel - it still has captured the decadent lifestyle of the characters, but less of the shock value the novel has presented. I say "more positive" because the characters had redeeming qualities here, which the novel lacked, and the ending was kind of a happy ending despite of what happened. The movie, I felt, went on a cowardly path because it basically changed everything in the book. The Blair-Clay approach of the movie is so typical of Hollywood and it's one of the movie's aspects that I really didn't like. Two things that make this movie legit and worth watching though is the music which gives you that wonderful 80's vibe, and Robert Downey Jr.'s moving performance.

My Rating: 3.5/5 - Not a great one, but if you're an RDJ and 80's fan, then this movie is for you. I gave an extra .5 or so rating mainly for Downey's presence.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Death Takes A Holiday (1934)

DEATH:  I'm about to take a holiday. I shall take only three days. After that, I must go back.
DUKE LAMBERT:  Why, why do you do this?
DEATH:  For a number of reasons.. For one thing, I must discover why men fear me as much as they do.
DUKE LAMBERT:  Don't you know??
DEATH:  How should I know?? What could terror mean to me who have nothing to fear?

Based on La Morte in Vacanza, an Italian play by Alberto Casella, this movie gives us a closer look at Death in his human form - learning and feeling human emotions as he discovers what makes men the way they are - weak, fearful of death, and pathetically clingy to things and people.

I was watching this movie alone at 2am, and this scene made me freak out, with that voice and creepy music O_O

I'm just so happy to have found this on YouTube, as I have tried downloading it before but I couldn't find a copy. Death Takes a Holiday is now permanently included in my list of All-Time Favorite Movies. The film is unique, morbidly funny, and every scene is just so delicious to watch.  To see Death as a human, tasting emotions, questioning his building feelings for a woman, and his leniency or indulgence of human idiosyncracies - it's truly delightful. Each scene I was engrossed, both by the dialogue and acting, as well as the lavishness of the setting that immediately transports me into that world. I also loved the opening credits, quirky fun.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sundance 2013 (Short Films, with links)

I'm still in that too-lazy-to-watch-a-full-movie mood so I'll be checking out some of the short films the Festival has put on Youtube. I know I'm several months too late, but I wasn't into shorts before. But now I am :) So let's watch! Take your pick, or watch them all... you know you have time for short films. :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We all have time for SHORT FILMS (with links)

These past few days I just don't have the patience to sit through full-length films, but I do miss watching something... So other than music videos or whatnot, what better way to satiate my film viewing thirst than to watch SHORT FILMS? They're poignant, funny, creative, unique, interesting, and they're only a few minutes worth of your time. So, no need to overthink it, come watch with me. Take your pick or watch them all, you know you have time for it :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: Belle de Jour (1967)

"Luis Buñuel's Masterpiece of Erotica!"

Directed by: Luis Bunuel (That Obscure Object of Desire)
Written by: Joseph Kessel (novel), Luis Buñuel (adaptation)
Starring: Catherine Deneuve (Séverine Serizy/Belle de Jour)

"In 2010, the film was ranked #56 in Empire magazine's list, The 100 Best Films of World Cinema. Belle de Jour won the Golden Lion and the Pasinetti Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival in 1967" - Wikipedia

Luis Buñuel, probably the king of surrealist films opens Belle de Jour, his first color film, with a couple of lingering shots and minimal sound which makes me feel like I was thrown in a different world or staring at beautiful paintings - which rightly sets the mood for 100 minutes of pure surreal movie experience.

Repressed sexuality, taboos and depravities - the deepest, darkest secret sexual desires of a seemingly frigid rich young woman married to a doctor who gets drawn into the dirty world of prostitution... by choice, and only at 2pm to 5pm, hence her whore name, "Belle de Jour" ("beauty of [the] day")... all that, in a sweetly-packaged mesh of fantasy and reality.

This is only the third movie of Catherine Deneuve that I've seen, and so far I gotta say that she is at her prime here - acting-wise & beauty. Seeing her in a role as a reserved, upperclass wife who refuses her husband's sexual advances (most likely due to traumatic childhood experiences) and yet finds herself getting caught in a sticky web of prostitution with her at the center, spinning thread after thread of sexual depravity, is pure decadent fun. It doesn't hurt as well that she's elegantly garbed by Yves Saint Laurent. Deneuve is really fast becoming one of my cinematic idols.

Anyway, so there's no turning back, she's hooked on being a hooker. She loves it. She knows it's bad & will only produce equally bad results, but she's too far in. She's conflicted but she's not going anywhere. In a scene where she was introduced to S & M, she asks Madame Anais how can anyone sink so low & not be disgusted by their actions. I'm not sure if she found the answer to that question but she certainly has sunk the lowest, then comes back to her husband (who looks like Mark Ruffalo, but prettier), satisfied & slowly changing, surer of herself.. freer.

In a man's world, where women are generally expected to be submissive, pure, devoid of any sexual perversions; while men enjoy the leniency of society, sometimes I wonder when they will realize that women are also sexual beings - not sexual objects - again, sexual beings, with different fantasies, different inclinations - and have the right to realize such fantasies without the fear of being labelled a whore? In this movie we see the lead character, hesitant at first, but coming back to Madame Anais' whorehouse, to cater every man's whims, not for the money but for the pleasure of experiencing her sexual awakening.

On the film's technical aspects, there is no background music except for the all-important bird/bell sounds; and the cinematography & lighting are not as visually satisfying as other films i've seen. It's probably intentional on Buñuel's part, I wouldn't know.. but it doesn't affect the quality of the film at all. The smooth/uninterrupted editing, I think is nicely done because the transition between Belle's fantasies & realities looks seamless which adds to the film's puzzling "which is which" reality. But the "fantasy" scenes, in my opinion, are just excellent in its simplicity, not too much garish artsy fartsy touch, but enough technical creativeness to give the audience a pure surreal treat. 


  • I enjoyed the scenes in Madame Anais' house, Belle's interactions with her and the other prostitutes. They play gin, they do crochet or whatever that is. They chat as if they're gossiping trophy housewives waiting for their hardworking husbands, when in reality, they're waiting for their next clients. There's just a sense of normalcy in that atmosphere. 

  • The characters are all very interesting as well. Marcel, that darker, more exotic James Franco version that is Pierre's antithesis. Husson. Madame Anais & her girls. The Professor. All are worth dissecting. 

  • In Severine's mind, she gives in to Pierre's mischievous friend's proposition. The humor in this scene is so refreshing, as Husson asks her if he can "give her a letter" & she agrees. He asks, "here? In front of all these people?" to which Severine answers "Even better." Then they go under the table & proceed to give/take the "letter", while Pierre asks Charlotte what they are doing under the table. 
"what are they doing?" ..."nothing. fooling around. take a look." ... (table shakes) "no just tell me." .... "he's giving her an envelope." "and now?"....."it has some lily seeds." -- LOL 

  • Belle's scene with the Oriental guy. There was something endearing in that scene. They didn't understand each other, but in a way it seems that they have connected. The mysterious box with a buzzing thing in it (I would like to think it's just a vibrator. Less headache.) symbolizes Belle's willingness to try something new, when the other girl (who has been in that profession longer, thus more experienced) has refused it. 

In the end, she looked so satisfied, so I guess it is a vibrator. LOL 

In this scene, after the Oriental guy left, Belle was seen by Pallas face down, seemingly exhausted or thoroughly abused. How wrong she was, when Belle looks up with a totally satisfied look.

People and their opinions..... When in fact, they don't know anything. Unless you are in a similar situation, you have no right to judge or assume things. 

In conclusion, Belle de Jour is not a bad choice for a Buñuel virgin. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing his masterful manipulation of his surrealist techniques and his tasteful execution of "sexual depravities" without having to resort to showing any nudity or crass sex scenes. At the end of the film, it's interesting to note that in a way, this is like a mix of Inception, The Housemaid, and Mulholland Drive, but satisfyingly less complicated. It doesn't mean that it won't leave you scratching your head, as Buñuel decides to keep this film open to your own interpretations.

Catherine Deneuve IS Belle de Jour. I just love her in this one.

My Rating:  4.5/5 - gets better after each re-watch.

YOUR POINT OF VIEW: What's your interpretation of the final scene, or the whole movie for that matter? 

Let me know what you think, LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, let's talk!  
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Kafka on the Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami (2002)
Country: Japan
Published in English: 2005 (Vintage)
Pages: 505
“Taking crazy things seriously is a serious waste of time.” - Kafka on the Shore

In all seriousness, this is crazily one of the most serious books that seriously talks about serious craziness.

Talking cats, leech-rain, flying fish, a pimp Colonel Sanders, a cat-napping Jack Daniels, a flute made from cats' souls, some kind of Pleasantville purgatory, a backpacking 15-year old runaway with patricidal thoughts and oedipal complex, an illiterate old man talking to a stone.

Consider yourself warned.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Hunger (1983)

This is Tony Scott's directorial debut, and after watching it, I wouldn't have guessed this was his, considering his filmography basically consists of more commercial movies. The Hunger is like a black sheep from Scott's white-fleeced flock. 

It's true that it has an MTV video feel to it especially with that discotheque opening with Bela Lugosi's Dead (Bauhaus) playing almost dissonantly complete with the bizzareness of the goth nightlife that serves as the Blaylock's hunting ground for the night. The dream-like, filtered ambience of the film is also reminiscent of most 80's videos.

But unlike music videos, despite of its minimal dialogue, slow pace, and more artsy execution, this film deals with something deeper other than the hunger for blood which is another reason why the audience is drawn in.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Warm Bodies (2013)


"Cold body. Warm heart."
"Dead sexy."

Directed and Written by:  Jonathan Levine

Starring: Nicholas Hoult (R), Teresa Palmer (Julie), Rob Corddry (M), Dave Franco (Perry), Analeigh Tipton (Nora), John Malkovich (Grigio)

Plot Synopsis:

After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world. - IMDb

*   *   *   *

Warm Bodies is a nice twist on a typical zombie flick. Seeing SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT stamped on this movie made me half-expect (and dread) a cheesy supernatural love story, then the camera zooms in on R's face and unnatural pale make up and I was like "Uh-oh, Edward Cullen flashback". 

Then I see the leading lady and omg, the similarity to a blonde Kristen Stewart is unnerving. 

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)


"Like father. Like son. Like hell!"                    "Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia"

Directed by:  John Moore

Starring:  Bruce Willis (John McClane), Jai Courtney (Jack McClane)

Plot Summary:

John McClane goes to Russia to see his son. His son hates him. There's an American-hating Russian terrorist group. WMDs. Lots of action. Lots of awful one-liners. Just leave your brains and follow where the explosion and gunfire is, you won't get lost in the plot.

*    *    *    *

Really, it's A GOOD DAY TO WRECK CARS. That's the only thing I enjoyed in this movie. 

I know that in a typical Hollywood action movie, an intricate plot seems to be the director's last priority. Just put in a lot of action scenes, a lot of gunplay, a lot of explosions, and who cares about the plot right? I for one can easily forgive a plotless action flick as long as it delivers on other aspects. But really, Yippe Ki-Yay Mother Russia?? Really?? A sign of a lazy plot is when it involves the CIA and stereotyped Russia. That's just so archaic. They weave this Chernobyl mastermind plot, yes it may sound exciting, but then they just leave it as it is. With no real villain, no real terrorist threat, no real conflict, and no surprise twists. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Daughter of Horror (1955)

Tagline:  "Not ONE WORD is spoken on the screen!"

Directed by:  John Parker

"Producer–writer–director John Parker is only credited as producer in the titles. In later years, actor and associate producer Bruno VeSota claimed to have co-written and co-directed the film with Parker." - Wiki

Dementia was produced in 1953, but was only released until 1955. It was also slightly altered and re-titled Daughter of Horror, with an added narration read by comedian Ed McMahon.

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The narration may sound hammy with it's drawn-out, overly-enunciated words, but I did enjoy it. The first words uttered "You.... you out there.... Do you know what horror is?", voice over the slow build up of its musical score, full darkness before it shows the view of the street and the room, actually made me smile with nostalgia. This is what I love about old horror films: it has a campy feel to it and yet it's more solid than modern-day horror movies (or most movies for that matter). Nowadays, you don't hear these words anymore....

"Come with me into the tormented, haunted, half-lit night of the insane. This is my world. Let me lead you into it. Let me take you into the mind of a woman who is mad. You may not recognize some things in this world, and the faces will look strange to you. For this is a place where there is no love, no the pulsing, throbbing world of the insane mind, where only nightmares are real, nightmares of the Daughter of Horror!"

Monday, June 3, 2013

Eraserhead (1977)


Go HERE to watch the full movie.

Written, Produced, & Directed by DAVID LYNCH


"Be warned. The nightmare has not gone away..."

"In Heaven Everything Is Fine."

"A dream of dark and troubling things"

- - - - - - - - - - -

As the taglines imply, this movie will keep you floating in a weird & troubling dream-like state of mind. It's dark - technically and thematically speaking. It requires an open mind, a desire to watch something new or challenging, and rapt attention for the viewer to fully appreciate it. Eraserhead is the kind of film where you can analyze it for years and still you wouldn't be 100% sure. Watch it with ten of your friends and you'll get different opinions and interpetations. 


First few minutes, I was reminded of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The long, lingering shots. The seemingly random images or sequence. The unsettling sound. It takes you out of your movietime comfort zone. And I liked it. So I continued watching. 

The first scene, I have to admit, I didn't get. I had to rewind it to somehow make sense of it. Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) appears to be dazed, seeing that weird brown thing in space or wherever. And then there's a shot of a weird man who I first thought to be sitting in a toilet, covered in poop. And there's this giant sperm-like, snake-like thing coming out of Henry's mouth. I was watching it with a friend, and we had different opinions of what it was. I said it looks like sperm, she said it looks like a fetus. Then we both replied at the same time, (me) "Well, that's a loooong fetus don't you think?" & (she) "That's a giant sperm hahaha!" 


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