Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Lee’

Media Update 1/19/2017

January 19, 2017


A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)

I have never read the books by “Lemony Snicket” because I did not hear about them until well after they were released. I think I might have liked them if I had had the chance but instead, my introduction to the franchise (because it is a franchise now) was the 2004 movie. When I was growing up, I was a huge Jim Carrey fan. The 2004 movie was something I watched in 2006, while in the wilds of New Jersey and affirmed that Jim Carrey had grown up a little bit. I thought it was a good movie. This series is so much better. They replaced Carrey with Neil Patrick Harris who knows when to ham it up and when to play it darkly serious. As a result, the whole production shifts into something darker and more disorienting. Even knowing the rough plots of the first three books, I felt like I might not know what was happening next. On top of that, the kids playing the Baudelaire Orphans are awesome. The character actor’s playing Count Olaf’s acting troupe/henchpeople are really brilliant. There are a ton of great actors swooping in and making great cameos or two episode runs. Patrick Warburton (as Lemony Snicket) is the best I have ever heard or seen from him and that includes The Tick. There is a weird rhythm to the show which is both funny and unsettling and they lean into the gimmick hard. I definitely recommend this one.


Hugo

When I first saw the posters for this movie, I thought it was a cheap kids movie with some bland yet whimsical premise and moved on. However, I have discovered a regularly updated list called 1001 Movies to See Before You Die and this movie made the list in 2011. When I found out that it was on Netflix, I decided to check it out. The Netflix description is horribly bland and would have confirmed my suspicions but thankfully I pressed on. This movie is actually a bit of historical fiction based on a book called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It is set in the early 1930s in Paris, France. Like most parts of Europe, many adults were still rattled by the Great War but were enjoying a period of relative peace. The movie actually took a while to get into but after a bit, the movie grabbed me and never let go. The movie concerns itself with the early film industry (predating movie stars and the glitz and glamor of Hollywood) and specifically Georges Melies who directed silent films and worked with Houdini’s mentor Robert Houdin. The movie is directed by Martin Scorsese and it shows. The thing is put together in such a way that it builds and builds into an emotional crescendo at the end. I have to give all the credit in the world to Ben Kingsley and the legendary Christopher Lee. Sascha Baron Cohen appears and actually delivers a pretty subtle performance that I did not think he was capable of. I recommend this as it surprised me although be warned that it is a bit long.


Trollhunters

I believe I have spoken here about my love for Guillermo Del Toro and the intricate worlds he crafts. He is one of the best writer/creators at building worlds simply by including a lot of background detail and creating beautiful/horrifying imagery. I was surprised when I found out that he had teamed up with Dreamworks to create an all ages show. When I found out what the show was, it made more sense. If you take the Troll Market scenes out of Hellboy 2 and extrapolate that into an animated television show then you can see where Trollhunters comes from. Of course, that is not the whole story. Del Toro is also good at creating relatable characters who talk to each other like human beings. We get a lot of story about the main character’s life as a middle schooler (I assume) who is living with his single mom. His story is actually kind of touching. The other aspect of the show is what made me jump at watching this show this week. The main character’s story is basically the same as a magical girl story (from anime) but he is male. The main character uses magic to transform into fighting form and has to deal with self-doubt, fear and a whole list of swirling emotions so that he can stay in fighting form. I am interested to see where this one goes as I have not watched the entire first part yet but I will. If you like Del Toro and you like stuff similar to How to Train Your Dragon then I recommend this one.

Music of the Week:

Lily Allen – Fuck You

Charlotte Church – Back to Scratch

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Concrete Blonde – Everybody Knows

Frank Sinatra – High Hopes

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Kid Power”
– I am onto Season 6 of The Office
– I am into Season 4 of Parks and Rec
– I am halfway through Season 4 of Arrested Development
– I am still watching Season 2 of Dusk Till Dawn
– I want to see Hidden Figures so bad
– I’m looking forward to pulling from the 1001 list more and more

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The Satanic Rites of Dracula

October 28, 2015

I was born in the early eighties so I was just a little kid during the great Satanic Panic of the eighties. First and foremost was the McMartin Preschool affair where employees were falsely accused of Satanic ritual abuse (SRA). The charges were trumped up and borne of paranoia and only fed heavily by the coached testimony of preschool kids. However, worry over Satan has been around for a long, long time before the eighties. In the seventies the players of Dungeons and Dragons were painted as Satanists and many other people were marked by similar witch hunts (including actual witch hunts). As far as I know, most (if not all) victims of these investigations have not been guilty of Satan worship. Even the Church of Satan doesn’t actually worship the biblical Satan. Still, we fear that somebody is out there actually worshipping evil and using an evil figure as a template for their life.

Count Dracula is a well known horror character modeled after Vlad Tepes, a brutal ruler whose evil deeds were probably a bit exaggerated after his death. Bram Stoker combined Vlad’s history with existing vampire mythology and formed the basis for vampires in fiction from then on. Pretty much every vampire since has shared some traits with those laid out in Stoker’s novel. Universal Pictures was the first to officially cover the Dracula story and therefore had a massive impact on how people imagine Dracula looked. Since Stoker never correctly copyrighted his work, pretty much anybody could make a Dracula movie especially after his widow had passed away. In the fifties British film company Hammer Films made a string of horror movies starring Dracula, going well beyond the Stoker’s original story for the Count.

One of the reasons that I chose this movie to review was because of Christopher Lee who plays Dracula. Sir Christopher Lee died this year and I wanted to honor him because I am a huge fan of his. This was my first time seeing him in the role and he did not disappoint. He is a mostly silent, steely eyed Dracula who looks both unstoppable and undeniable. There is a force of will behind his performance that makes him incredibly imposing. Of course, he’s opposed by Peter Cushing who plays Van Helsing, a descendant of original vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. Cushing is a very intense man. He plays a very determined man who wishes to protect his family by ending a centuries old feud. He is an expert of the occult but he is aided by his granddaughter (Joanna Lumley!?) and Special Branch.

I confess I haven’t watched the rest of the series but they introduce a lot of new elements into the Dracula story with this chapter. Dracula can apparently be reincarnated which explains why he keeps coming back but the spell must be cast by a loyal follower. Dracula co-opts a Satanic cult to find followers and to protect his interests. These cult members are not vampires and merely human servants who have entered the 20th century by using guns and computers. Part of Dracula’s plan includes manufacturing a bioweapon from the bubonic plague which is a new one on me. Still, he also relies on some old standbys of his by posing as a wealthy human, amassing a collection of “brides” and using hypnosis to subdue his victims.

The soundtrack is suitably dramatic but interestingly it’s a little dated and full of brass instruments whereas usually stringed instruments are more common in horror. It’s an English production so they aren’t afraid to use people who aren’t traditionally attractive. The acting is enjoyably subtle until the perfect moment for it not to be. The plot is surprisingly complex but easy enough to follow. It’s cheesy but just the right amount of cheesy for it still to be a little scary. If you’re looking for some light Halloween entertainment I would suggest searching this one out.


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