Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dracula 2000


#12 - Dracula 2000


 
 
SUMMARY (courtesy of IMDB)

A group of thieves break into a chamber expecting to find paintings, but instead they release the count himself, who travels to New Orleans to find his nemesis' daughter, Mary Van Helsing.

REVIEW (Spoilers ahead)

What? Another vampire movie?  Well, it is the month of October isn’t it?  So, sit back and deal with it.  Yes, this movie is fairly hokey, a bit over the top with the blood and gore, and freak-out factor…but it’s got an amazing cast that did pretty well with what they were given.  It has, brace yourself for it… Christopher Plummer, Johnny Lee Miller, Gerard Butler, Nathan Fillion, Omar Epps, and Jeri Ryan.   Gerard Butler plays the infamous Dracula…and I have to admit that I was very skeptical at first, until I saw him on the screen.  He does an amazing job as being evil and still sensuously seductive, everything that Dracula is supposed to be.  Christopher Plummer as Van Helsing is quite good, and Johnny Lee Miller as his unsure, but dedicated assistant is also very good.  Omar Epps, more famously known for his role in the acclaimed television series, House, is your usual B-movie bad guy, and not much to write about.  Jeri Ryan, most known for playing Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager, ends up as one of the brides of Dracula.  However, the most ironic role must admittedly go to Nathan Fillion.  In the movie he portrays a priest, and later in his career, only three years later, he plays a priest…but instead, he’s an evil priest.  Our leading lady, Justine Waddell, also does a fairly good job, but most of the glory must go to Gerard Butler.

 
(Above) Gerard Butler as Dracula
(Below) Justine Waddell as Mary Van Helsing
 
 

 
(Above) Nathan Fillion as Daniel
(Below) Johnny Lee Miller as Simon


 

The movie plotline is original and un-original at the same time.  It takes the classic tale of Dracula, and then brings it to the modern day.  In a unique twist, we find out that Van Helsing was poisoned by Dracula’s blood many years ago, when he captured him, and decided to use his newfound long life to be the permanent guard over Dracula’s body, making sure that his evil remained hidden and contained.  When Dracula does escape, unwittingly aided by some thieves looking for something else entirely, he brings along with him the history of the character.  He can dissolve into mist, change into animal form, and seduce women at a glance, all of which happen to be in the original book, more or less.  As the movie progresses, we discover that Van Helsing’s daughter is directly of Dracula’s bloodline, as she inherited her father’s blood which was tainted by the master vampire.

Though the blood and gore are a bit, as I said before, over the top, the plotline is actually a good plotline, and I think that that is the only reason why it didn’t completely tank.  Besides, who wouldn’t want to see Gerard Butler as an evil vampire?  If taken into the proper directing hands, along with a bit of an actor shuffle and a clean-up of some of the language and violence, it could be a really good movie.  But, as I said, it’s a B-movie, with A-movie actors in it.  I think it goes to show, that even if you have A-movie actors, you can’t really change a B-movie plotline.  But, as I have said in the past, I’m a sucker for B-movies, and this one’s one of my favorites.

A bit stupid, but fun anyway.
 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Daybreakers


#11 - Daybreakers

 


SUMMARY (courtesy of IMDB)

In the year 2019, a plague has transformed almost every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the fractured dominant race plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of vamps on a way to save humankind.

REVIEW (spoilers ahead)

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Oh no…she’s reviewing another vampire movie…  Please withhold the eye-rolls and deep sighs for afterwards if you still need to. 

This movie is one of the most original vampire movies I have ever come across.  Vampires have spread so much, that most of our civilization is made up of vampires in this movie…so much so that there is only 5% of the human population left.  The idea simply amazes me, and the acting, though many may think, Ethan Hawke? Seriously?, is quite good.  Do not underestimate this actor.  He is very good in this movie, and alongside Willem Dafoe and Sam Neil, he proves himself.  Sam Neil is delightfully charismatic and evil and everything that a vampire should be.  Willem Dafoe gives the movie a feel of being lived in, of having a rugged and natural quality to it, and I simply love him portraying a vampire who has been turned human, but without a heartbeat, making him an eternal human.  I love the concept, and these actors really bring it to life. 





 Though the graphics are sub-par, the details that they manage to work into the story are rather nice and caters to a smarter audience.  It makes it a B-movie that is custom-made for a more intelligent viewer.  One of my favorite details that they remember all of the changes that come along with having a society that lives in the dark, but is still stuck on the normal work-during-the-day-sleep-at-night concept.  They have cars that have daylight driving mode for vampires, and the writers even included a feature on the car that when the door is open during the day, it says, “Warning: UV light detection. Warning: UV light detection.”  That is just one of the many details that they follow that makes this one of the more successful vampire movies.

What I enjoy most about this movie is that it doesn’t really deal with any weird romance between a human and a vampire, or even necessarily glamorize vampires.  I mean, they’re pretty, I guess, and they’re also still scary, but it shows how much a vampire can envy the life of a human.  It shows the psychology of a vampire only having half of a life, and not a real one.  Ethan Hawke’s character, a vampire hematologist, shows an envy of the humans and the fact they are not reliant on one source of life.  An envy of the fact that humans can exist in both worlds, without having to rely on only one food for sustenance.  I love seeing the reversal.  Especially when it is shown that there are people who have no desire to become vampires.

In fact, there’s a great set of lines that explains it.  Hawke’s character asks, “Aren’t you scared of dying?” and the woman’s response is, “Yes, but most of us are too scared of death to think of it as an option.  I guess that’s why so many turned.”

Great line.  It sort of explains our fascination with the mythology of vampires.  It’s the idea of escaping death and then having the freedom to do whatever you want without ever having to fear suffering consequences for your actions.  It’s an escape from the normal, human rules of morality and responsibility.
 
All in all, an amazing movie. Language and gore, of course, but worth it for the fascinating ride that it takes you on.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lolita


#10 - Lolita (1997)

 


SUMMARY

 (Based off of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita)  An older gentleman by the name of Humbert Humbert, rents a room from a woman in a New England town, and falls in love with the fourteen year-old daughter of the woman he is renting his room from.  He becomes consumed with her and with his inappropriate feelings, and must come to terms with his conflicting emotions, while under the scrutiny of society all around him.

 REVIEW

 “She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock.  She was Lola in slacks, she was Dolly at school, she was Dolores on the dotted line.  But in my arms, she was always…Lolita.”

This movie (starring Jeremy Irons, Dominique Swain, Melanie Griffith, and Frank Langella) is wonderfully controversial, and for some reason it is one of my favorite romances of all time, even though it’s not really a romance.  I watched the movie when I was at university and then decided to read the book after I saw it, and I just fell in love with it!  This is actually the second movie to be made from the acclaimed book by Nabokov, and it is one that sparks controversy everywhere it goes.

For a little bit of history behind it, the first movie that was made from the novel was done in 1962 and was directed by the well-known Stanley Kubrick.  The move from ’62 starred Sue Lyon, James Mason, and Shelley Winters, and was probably even more controversial than the one released in ’97.  The catch phrase for the movie, as it was repeated throughout the movie trailer, was “How did they ever a movie out of Lolita?”  However, in both movies they changed the age of Lolita to fourteen, instead of twelve, as it was in the book, in order to make it more palatable for audiences.

 



Now, for the artistic side.  Oh, where do I start?  The music?  The cinematography?  The acting?  The cast?  It was all so wonderfully put together, that it’s hard for me to pick one thing that really made the movie an artistic masterpiece, so I simply have to go to the two sources:  Nabokov, the original author, and Adrian Lyne, the man who directed it.  In the special features of this movie, he says something that really made an impression on me and it relates directly to the reason why I love the movie so much. 

He says... “I like movies that create discussion, I love it.  I love it when they haven’t forgotten about your movie by dinnertime, afterwards, you know, and they’re still arguing about it the next day.  That’s what a movie should do; it should make you argue and disagree.”


 I think this is the reason why I love the movie so much.  When I don’t think about it too closely, I love the play by play between Lolita and Humbert throughout the beginning of the movie.  Their flirtation is awkward and real, and the looks that they share, as well as the subtle touches (and not so subtle touches), just seems to capture me. 
 

 
(on the front porch swing)
 
(at his desk)
 
 
 
But when I do think about the movie and what it’s about, I start to question myself, and wonder why on earth I even like the movie!  And then I remember why…because of the moments that linger in the air between the characters on the screen and how the music and camera seem to effortlessly blend together with their actions and it makes me forget that the movie is about a man in his forties lusting after a girl in her teens.  Instead, I see a young woman learning about her power over a man and how to wield it, and I see a man struggling to keep himself composed and in control while in the face of formidable temptation.

It’s a painful movie to watch near the end, and I don’t actually particularly like the ending all that much, but at the same time the bitter ending reminds the viewer, after getting caught up in the “romance” between the two, that it could never be.  She would eventually discover herself and realize that Humbert wasn’t what she truly wanted, and we are then reminded that what he was doing was wrong, after all.

However, in spite of all of this, this movie has one of my favorite kissing scenes.  Below are two screen captures from the movie: Above is the actual kiss, and below is her look afterwards.  Dominique Swain simply steals the scene away (and most of the movie) with her powerful and genuine performance.




 

This movie is a guilty pleasure of mine, and always will be.  I give thanks to both Nabokov and Lyne for their great work in bringing these characters to life!

All in all, five out of five stars.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Howl's Moving Castle


#9 - Howl's Moving Castle




SUMMARY

An animated film that tells of a plain girl who is pulled into the world of wizards and witches, and then has curse placed on her that makes her an old woman. Howl, a self-centered, self-serving wizard, and his fire demon, Calcifer, take her in and she helps them, as well as them helping her. She is then pulled into the war, along with Howl. The question is, will their newfound freindship survive the war?

REVIEW

This movie was beautifully artistic in every sense of the word! With an all voice cast including Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, and Lauren Bacall. I fell in love with the selfless main character who had a good strong sense of work, as well as a sensible head on her shoulders.

The animation in this is simple and wonderful! I love how it's done in drawn format, and not the weird new graphic format that they've been using in the past ten years.





One of the artistic aspects of this movie that I really loved was the organic quality to it, and the natural feel to the movements throughout, which is something that I find lacking in a lot of today's animated films. The most amazing part of this movie, for me, was the way the artists drew the transitions between Howl's two forms; his human one and his bird one. They managed to follow the natural line of the human body and create something stunning to watch. Kids can enjoy this as well as adults, and I loved it!

Highly recommended.

I give it 5 out of 5 Stars! 



Sunday, April 21, 2013

To the Wonder


#8 - To The Wonder


 

A movie that is slightly disjointed and confusing to anyone else’s eyes, but is utterly entrancing if you simply don’t speak or do anything else while watching it.  Even though I denounced it in front of my parents, I was secretly enthralled by it as an artist and found it stunning.  I was enthralled by the artistic shots that were taken.  Every angle made me feel as though I was invisible person that was in the midst of every private moment that they were having and that it was more than a film.

Everything about the film had a sort of natural feel to it, and melded into reality and showed how the sweet things in life are never permanent, only brief, but beautiful, and that those moments are the ones that we hold on to the tightest. 

My parents keep saying that they keep feeling as though the entire movie is an introduction to something, and I know that it’s not their style, but it seems to me to be a movie that captures not just perfect moments but instead the real ones, the ones that keep us honest.  And throughout it, there is the woman speaking of her thoughts about what she is seeing, about what she is feeling, and it just draws me in.  There is a raw honesty to the movie; an integrity to it that I haven’t seen in anything before.

As an artist, I can appreciate it in many ways, but if you’re looking for a movie that is your typical movie, do not look here.  But still…it is beautiful.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Hunger


#7 - The Hunger



SUMMARY (spoilers in Summary and Review)

A vampire couple living in New York in the 1980’s find themselves living very comfortably in a high-rise apartment, with lots of money to spare, prowling the nightlife and preying on the weak in darkened corners of bars and clubs.  But then one of them, the man, begins to age at an alarming rate, while the woman does not…and it seems that she has a secret that she will not share with him.  Desperate to find out what’s wrong with him, he goes to a doctor who ends up being pulled into their twisted world, and soon will be extended the opportunity to join them.  The question is, will she take it?
 
 

REVIEW

Yes, vampire movies are so over, but despair not…for a realistic approach, as well as a visceral and raw approach to these creatures of the night, The Hunger does not lack in the least.  Made in 1983, starring David Bowie, Catharine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon, this particular vampire story is raw, primal, and also scary in its portrayal of the dark world of these supernatural creatures.  However, a WARNING! The movie is graphic (nudity, blood, violence) and extremely dark...but if you don't mind, then forward we go.

The casting of David Bowie in the role for this movie was particularly genius, in my opinion, as he is one of those people who seems to not truly be of the normal, mortal role.  In a few other movies he has also been given roles of characters that are not human, though they look to be.  The angles of his face and the elegance of the way he moves and speaks combined together with the role of playing the vampire is very well thought out. 

 

Made in the eighties, the music ranges from the typical synth and techno, all the way to wonderfully played classical pieces, including the great classic Suite #1 for Solo Cello in G-Major, Prelidium (Excerpt, First Movement).  Catharine Deneuve is fantastic as the sadistic vampire who secretly takes pleasure out of seeing her lover panic and age before her eyes.  When Bowie’s character goes to the doctor and meets Sarandon’s character, he is fighting the urge to kill out in broad daylight, and Bowie does a marvelous job in portraying the internal and external struggle that he is going through.  My favorite line in the movie is when he first realizes what is happening to him, and he yells out… “What am I going to do?!”, but receives only silence as his answer. 

 

In a macabre twist near the end of this movie, there is an explicit love scene between Deneuve and Sarandon that is not really necessary for the movie, but it does a little in helping to explain how Sarandon’s character is pulled into the darkness of that particular world.  The true twist at the end of the movie, however, is one that I cannot put here as it would truly ruin the climactic and jarring ending of the movie.

 This movie is a piece of art, though in a very dark way, and I think it is one of the most accurate films about vampires in terms of atmosphere and seduction.  There’s a constant bittersweet feel to the characters that Bowie and Deneuve portray; immortality, but no true happiness, only fleeting pleasure that never lasts.

Equilibrium


#6 - Equilibrium

 

SUMMARY (spoilers in Summary and Review)

 In a future where all emotion is suppressed and considered to be the cause of every bad thing that’s happened in the world’s history, a law man who is dedicated to serving this cause finds himself mixed up in a plot to destroy the drug that’s keeping everyone in check.  The question is will he continue to fight for what he thinks to be right?  Or will he fight for the right to be free to feel once more?

REVIEW

This is one of those all-star cast movies that slipped through the cracks and somehow only got one star out of four.  Starring Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, and William Fichtner, it’s a movie that is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, but with a dangerous twist.  Instead of Big Brother controlling you…you are controlling you, with a drug called Prozium that suppresses any and all emotion.  Emotion is outlawed, and feeling anything at all will, at the very least, land you in prison for what are called sense crimes.  In the very beginning, his partner is arrested for breaking this law simply by reading a book.
 
 
 

Recently, I watched this movie for the second time and paid closer attention to the music and the atmosphere of the movie, as well as the acting, and I was amazed by the performance given by Christian Bale in his character of John Preston.  In this role, Bale has to portray a man with no emotion slowly giving into emotion and trying to deal with it, and he does a beautiful job at doing so.  In one particularly intense scene, Preston and his new partner find a pack of dogs behind a building and his partner gives the order to kill them, and with each shot that is fired, Preston (Bale) twitches just slightly, but it’s enough of a reaction to have us reacting right along with him, as well as seeing the contrast with his unresponsive partner.  It gives us a reference for the true horror that is going on in our world deprived of all emotion.
 
This movie is one of those side movies that is made for those kind of people who like to think the dangerous thoughts about the direction that our society is heading towards.  The writers for this movie took a simple plotline and made it psychologically complex, as well as making us look to the future not necessarily with hope, but with utter fear.

 
 
Done in monochromatic shades throughout, the colors do not change until we arrive at the end of the movie and come to the climactic ending scene; the fight in the inner chambers of the government.  Beautiful, amazing, and stunning, Bale was perfect for his role and truly made this movie an artwork.

I would recommend it, and say to those reviewers who only gave it one out of four stars, that they do not know what they’re talking about… it got four out of four in my book!