Saturday, March 29, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Dracula The Un-Dead (The Authoritatively Disappointing Sequel to the Original Classic)

In a nutshell, we get to see how the band of heroes are living 25 years after their encounter with Count Dracula.

Written by:  Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt
Genre:  Horror novel

# of pages:  424
Country:  United States
Year Published:  2009

Sounds interesting, right?

Oh and it's written by Bram Stoker's great grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker! Are you really stoked now? I sure was!

They claim it's the true sequel to our beloved classic. An authoritative sequel in fact. I believed them. How gullible was I? 

Borrowing a quote from the book, Dracula The Un-Dead at its best is made up of only a few, special, scattered moments. I don't know which or how much Dacre or Ian wrote, so I can't pinpoint who is really to blame, but let me just mention (if you haven't googled them yet) that Dacre is a track & field coach, while Ian Holt has previously been a direct-to-DVD horror screenwriter who has been a fanatic of anything Dracula-related for a long time. You can bet a dollar or two who did most of the writing, and which one whose name served as a huge banner ad.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Veronica Mars (2014): And We Thought She Was Out

I'm a Marshmallow, and I'm an addict.

Directed by:  Rob Thomas
Screenplay by:  Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero
Music by:  Josh Kramon
Cinematography by:  Ben Kutchins
Editing by:  Daniel Gabbe
Running Time:  107 mins
Budget:  $6 million (Kickstarter
Box Office:  over $2 million (already considered a success)

There are spoilers in this post, but rest assured you'll be warned.

It's been 7 years since the series ended, 9 years after the events of season 3. I never thought (imagined, yes) I would see this gang again. Hearing "We Used To Be Friends" sung by some street performer a few minutes into the film, goosebumps crawled all over me, and I can't help but scream "Oh my god, oh my god, the feels, the feeeeeelssssss!" repeatedly. That part alone makes the wait so worth it. 

Pure happiness, is what I'm feeling. I watched VM twice in one week.

So did this movie deliver?  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Considered one of the greatest films ever made in the silent era, and cited as having introduced the "twist ending" in cinema, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (which also has a 100% critics rating in Rotten Tomatoes) surely is a must-see for cinephiles & horror film lovers.

Directed by:  Robert Wiene
Written by:  Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer
Music by:  Guiseppe Becce
Cinematography by:  Willy Hameister
Running Time:  71 mins
Country:  German
I started to watch this film without any idea what it's about. I didn't even know it was a silent movie. All I know is that it's a classic and is considered one of the best films ever. And man, it didn't disappoint! 

The first scene, I was a bit hesitant whether or not I was in the mood for that kind of film - but I did notice the unique quality of its cinematography. But the moment the little town was introduced, my attention was caught 100%. Tim Burton "feels". I love it!

the village of Holstenwall

The rare times that I watch a silent film, it's either I'm enchanted with the music, or the acting, or the story. This time, it's the visuals first and foremost that got me curious. Every single scene was like looking at an artwork in a museum. The distorted little houses or architecture makes you feel like you're staring at paintings of Salvador Dali or even Picasso, and the wonderful play of shadow and light (and the color, at times) sometimes reminds me of my favorite Caravaggio. Seriously, it's amazing. But after the feast I got from the artsy background/set & the wonderful colors or cinematography, the characters intrigued me. I rarely get creeped out just by looking at actors with over the top make up, but TCoDC obviously is the king of all creepy characters. The close-up shots, the play on shadows, the make-up which makes The Rocky Horror Picture Show seem tame,  and the jerky dance-like movements of the actors, really unsettles you and creeps you out. In short, everything about this movie has enraptured me!

(Back 2 Back) OLDBOY: Park Chan-wook VS. Spike Lee

Back 2 Back is my comparison review of an original film and its remake/s. 

In this post, I will be reviewing Park Chan-wook's Oldboy (2003), and Spike Lee's 2013 version.

 Loosely based on the Japanese manga, Old Boy, written by Nobuaki Minegishi & Garon Tsuchiya
      (2003) Directed by:  Park Chan-wook                                     (2013)  Directed by:  Spike Lee
       Starring: Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jung                         Starring: Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen
       Running Time:  120 mins                                                           
Running Time:  104 mins                                                                      Budget:  $3 million                                                                      Budget:  $30 million
       Box Office:  almost $15 million                                                Box Office:  almost $5 million

Let me just say this first: NO I don't care that a remake of Oldboy has been done. I have stopped hating on remakes for awhile now. To those who keep on saying that it's a disgrace to the original blah blah (and I'm speaking generally here), that the original should never ever ever have been re-made etc. etc., all I can say is this: remakes, however unnecessary, are inevitable & to be expected. There will always be other attempts to re-create or surpass what we deem as an already great work of art. Why? Because humans are perfectionists.. or we just love to rip off stuff (and by we, I mean Hollywood). And while the remakes are usually sub-par & disappointing, to me, that's part of the fun. It only makes the original shine brighter, and those who haven't even heard of it in the first place might be curious enough to want to watch it - and isn't that a good thing? Lastly, a bad remake would never be a disgrace to the original because they are two separate films, made by different directors, with different casts - the only one disgraced or put in a bad light is the one who made the remake. So guys, chill!

Now let's talk about the movies.

I'll go straight to the point. There's no contest here, the 2003 version is a masterpiece, and obviously the superior film between the two. I'm pretty sure anyone who have seen both movies will agree and won't need any convincing. 

But just humor me, here are the reasons why the South Korean film is great, while the Hollywood remake is just average at best.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

This was recommended to me by my good friend Robbie, and while I was grateful for discovering another great film, I also wanted to sucker punch him in the face. A million times! Why? 

"Hotaru no haka"
Written & Directed by:  Isao Takahata
Based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka
Music by:  Michio Mimiya
Cinematography by:  Nobuo Koyoma
Editing by:  Takeshi Seyama
Running Time:  89 mins

Because this is one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever seen in my life. To think that this is a cartoon, I mean, why don't they just stick to that wonderful concept that animations are supposed to entertain? 

There are sad movies and I have seen quite a few. Yes, they make me shed a few tears, but after that, I shrug it off and mumble "Good film! Onto the next one!". Then there's Grave of the Fireflies. A movie in a category of its own. A story filled with grief beyond expectations. A film that after watching it, I tell myself "I don't want to watch something like this anytime soon. Please noooo!"

BOOK REVIEW: The Shining

“Any big hotels have got scandals," he said. "Just like every big hotel has got a ghost. Why? Hell, people come and go. Sometimes one of em will pop off in his room, heart attack or stroke or something like that. Hotels are superstitious places. No thirteenth floor or room thirteen, no mirrors on the back of the door you come in through, stuff like that."

Written by:  Stephen King
Year:  1977
Genre:  Horror, gothic novel
Followed by:  Doctor Sleep
Pages:  447
I have read The Shining before, but my memory of it was hazy I needed to read it again when it was voted Book of the Month by my bookclub/group. Now I'm sure that the movie is indeed better. Stanley Kubrick's version still scares the hell out of me! He delivered the creep/chill factor that I should have felt from reading the book. Sure, King has the right to complain if he didn't like Kubrick's version, it's his novel after all. But Kubrick's movie will forever be remembered as a cinematic masterpiece... while the more faithful tv adaptation (which I haven't watched, but I'm planning to) will be further pushed into obscurity. King should at least be thankful for that. Just sayin'.

Stephen King may not be the greatest writer in the universe, but he is a great story teller. I have loved several of his short stories & novels, and I have constantly defended him whenever people say he's a talentless hack. So imagine my dismay with The Shining

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Loki is a brooding vampire musician. If that doesn't grab your interest, I don't know what will. 

Finally, after a long time, here's a vampire movie as how it should really be. Or how I really wanted it to be. Alluring, without the sparkles & excess of emo eyeliner. Just a bunch of vampires who practically have seen it all - some jaded, some YOLO-ing, some just absorbing what simple pleasures life has to offer. 

Written & Directed by:  Jim Jarmusch
Starring:  Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt
Cinematography by:  Yorick Le Saux
Editing by:  Alfonso Goncalves
Music by:  Jozef van Wissem, Squrl
Running Time:  122 mins
Budget:  $7 million


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