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Crimson Peak (2015)
Crimson Peak review: (Mild spoilers) So I just saw Crimson Peak and yes, it was very good.
Doug Jones was masterful playing all the ghosts (except for certain ones near the end). The score was haunting. The visuals fantastic, particularly the "red clay in the snow." Gorgeously ominous.
The film reminded me a lot of the Vincent Price version of The Fall of the House of Usher and Tales of Terror with Tom Hiddleston in a role that would have befitted Vincent Price in the early to mid-sixties.
Like all Guillermo del Toro films there is at least one subtle Frankenstein reference. In this case it's toward the beginning where the protagonist Edith says she'd rather be like Mary Shelley (a widow) as opposed to Jane Austen (A spinster). This also works for foreshadowing for the end of the film.
Guillermo del Toro really needs to get on the ball about making an adaptation of the Frankenstein novel with Doug Jones as The Creature. Please! I also believe Edith's maiden name (Cushing) was a subtle homage to Hammer horror icon Peter Cushing who starred in many spooky movies of the 1950s into the 1970s.
I strongly recommend the movie. Yes, it is very much a haunted house movie but it is also a gorgeous period piece, a homage to traditional haunted house stories you don't see much of anymore, and a good murder mystery as well. If not for the fact that I know this to be a new story you would swear this was actually a much older sory being adapted into a film, it feels Victorian- as it should.
The subtle inclusion of late nineteenth century supernatural / parapsychology theory was well done. And the fact that the first ghost Edith ever saw (her own mother) was roughly around the time of the first murder was well done too and left open possible twists and interpretations never addressed in the film. Did her mother have something to do with Crimson Peak? Do ghosts have some sense of the future or was her mother's ghost chatting with Thomas' mother's ghost on the other side and went "Uh, Oh. I'd better tell my daughter just to be safe." It's not so much a plot hole as something deliberately ambiguous. Was it really her mother or a premonition taking the form of her mother? Any fans of Penny Dreadful, Hammer horror, Gothic literature, Mario Bava or Guillermo del Toro should really check out the movie.
This is an excellent haunted house movie right up there with The Legend of Hell House.
I recommend this film to anyone who loves traditional Gothic Horror.
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
Decent but there is a part that bugs me
So I just saw Hotel Transylvania 2. And yes, it is funnier and more enjoyable than the first Hotel Transylvania. I just have one complaint. One little thing undermines the entire moral of the film.
The whole film is about how it doesn't matter what you are and that those that love you will accept you. The whole film is about how even if he is human Dennis will be accepted. However Mavis gives serious consideration to moving to California and nearly does even though Dennis AND Jonathan clearly want to stay in Transylvania.
Here's the spoiler. Toward the end of the film it's revealed that Dennis actually is a vampire. His vampirism emerges when his best friend / possible future romantic interest, the little werewolf girl is in trouble. Here's the problem. The whole film has this ham handed message about acceptance and how it doesn't matter what Dennis is. Yet it does. It really, really does. As soon as things calm down he asks "Since I'm a vampire does this mean we can stay at the hotel?" And Mavis says "Yes." Just yes. Nothing about how she might have stayed if she had just known and accepted that's what he really wanted. This "cute" moment under cuts the entire message of the film.
I know that as an adult I'm probably over analyzing but it kind of bothers me because otherwise it's a very sweet and funny film.
I actually don't mind Dennis becoming a vampire. That was kind of cute, especially the reason as to how. What bugged me was "Since I'm a vampire does this mean I can stay ant the hotel?" and Mavis says "Yes." So much for what he is not mattering. What he is should not have anything to do with if they stay at the hotel or not. That undermined everything!
Since there are so many complaints about Hotel Transylvania 2 I will give it this one nod of appreciation. I am very grateful that the cartoon Dracula can shapeshift into multiple forms. I miss depictions of Dracula that can become more than just a bat. Little things like that please me.
I don't usually review individual episodes...
I don't usually review individual episodes but this is the most shameless and insulting cash grab of a cartoon "cross over" event I have ever seen. What does the Disney Channel sitcom Jesse have to do with Spider-man or Halloween for that matter? absolutely nothing. There were more coherent and reasonable cross-overs with the 1970s Scooby Doo.
The first Ultimate Spider-man Halloween special involved "The Howling Commandos" and that version of the Howling Commandos was more or less a compilation of the modern Legion of Monsters and The Midnight Sons but for some reason lacking the character of Michael Morbius AKA Morbius The Living Vampire. Oh, don't let the name fool you. Morbius isn't quite living or dead, he's very much a vampire but unlike the supernatural vampires of Marvel he was accidentally created through scientific means, making him a uniquely self-made breed of vampire with all the traits of the supernatural vampires but lacking the aversions to symbols of faith, silver, or a need for an invitation to enter the home.
I had hoped that this year's Halloween episode would finally get us to see this animated universe's incarnation of Morbius. Poor Morbius has only had one TV incarnation and that was the 1994 Spider-man animated series. Admittedly he had appeared in several episodes, roughly equal to the number of episodes Loki has appeared in the current cartoon universe but Morbius hasn't had a TV incarnation since then.
So instead of giving us Morbius or any of the other Marvel monsters we get... A cross over with a tween sitcom... A tween Sitcom that most Spider-man fans had never even heard of. This was probably the most disappointing thing Marvel has done since canceling Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Dracula Untold (2014)
Much better than I expected
So I just got done watching Dracula Untold. And to my surprise... I liked it. I really liked it.
I'll start with what I didn't like about it before I get into what's good about it. First, there was one thing I liked in the original Dracula: Year Zero script I wish they had left in, his ability to become a wolf and mist. Here all we see is him transforming into a flock of bats but his ability to control the weather was nicely left in tact and made practical.
Though in the original Stoker novel the sunlight could not kill Dracula I patiently looked the other way about that because he is a newborn vampire at this point in his story.
Another part that bothered me was the idea that Dracula had previously killed for the Turks. This is not historically accurate but it really drives home the point that yes, he suffered as a child for The Ottoman Turks and yes the Turks did want young boy slaves to be used as soldiers or eunuchs for them.
Now for the things I like: The plot is well paced. It moves quickly. It's well paced. It sheds the pretty boy vampire trend and balances a protagonist that is both predatory yet somewhat sympathetic. Now THIS is the type of vampire I have been waiting for! Let the trendy vampires that were polarized between broody pretty boys and mindless killing machines die! Long live Dracula!
I like that unlike the early script this script acknowledges that Dracula was used to mean "Son of the Dragon." (until Dracula deliberately chose the darker meaning of the name.)
I liked Caligula's twisted game of Hope vs. Despair and surprisingly Dracula was of the side of hope (while impaling entire armies!). I liked that Caligula was a Count Orlock-esque ugly SOB vampire. I liked his claws. I liked his dialogue. I liked him!
I liked the use of real Vlad the Impaler history for the backstory. I liked the creative use of violent imagery while managing to maintain a PG-13 rating.
I liked the subtle nods to other incarnations of Dracula such as the mad monk (or whatever he was) speaking like the 1931 Dwight Frye depiction of Renfield (character from the 1897 Dracula novel).
Dwight Frye, as you may know, also played Fritz in the 1931 Frankenstein movie starring Boris Karloff and because of cultural consciousness merging these two characters together into "Igor" a lot of people mistakenly associate that dialogue from Frankenstein though it had it's origin in the Dracula novel and was never uttered by any character in the 1818 Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelley.
Trivia: The name Igor was actually spelt Ygor and was the character portrayed by Bela Lugosi in Son of Frankenstein and Ghost of Frankenstein. The character had a damaged neck, not a crooked spine. Somehow the zeitgeist cultural consciousness changed how we perceived him.
The mad man that calls Dracula "master" was Renfield and that has it's origins in Bram Stoker's original 1897 Dracula novel.
I loved that there was even a subtle quoting of the song Life after Life from Frank Wildhorn's Dracula The musical (one of my favorite depictions of Dracula).
This film had an almost Fred Saberhagen feel to it and I actually liked it a lot.
I particularly adored the new ending. That was a LOT more satisfying than the ending of the early script. This is definitely going on my list of top twenty Dracula films.
Sorry for any typos, I'm typing at a mile a minute. I'm gitty from the euphoria that finally after years of waiting there was a truly good Dracula film again.
My biggest complaint is that I miss the wolf and mist transformations from the early script. Those were excellent powers. Other than that this was a fantastic depiction of Dracula.
Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy (2014)
| used to love the animated Scooby Doo movies that get released to video each Halloween season. There have been some gems such as Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby Doo and the Alien invaders. Even the 1980s Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School was fun.
In recent years they have become more and more disappointing and this one tops the list. Daphne gets "cursed" to be a size 8 and the body images they depict are beyond terrible. The average woman is a size 12 to 14 yet this carton makes 8 look like you're the Proverbial Operatic Fat Lady. Did the writers and animators have no actual grasp of what a woman's size 8 actually is? The one shining ray of hope in the whole thing is how the only one truly bothered by it is Daphne herself, the man who loves her does not notice or care. Some have complained that this just perpetuates the idea that a man's approval is necessary for a woman's happiness but I disagree. I think it shows that those that truly love you don't mind how you look.
But the general depiction of "Size 8" is kind of offensive in and of itself. If they had said size twenty it would have been more believable.
I know it was mostly Daphne's imagination and was to show her own unhealthy body image but I think it could have been handled much better.
Weird Science (1994)
I was a fan of the TV series Weird Science (based on the movie) back when it first aired on USA network in the Mid-90s. I recently re-watched it on Hulu.
The premise was this. Two teenage boys use a 1990s PC (Don't laugh!) to try to create a perfect woman. Lightning strikes while they are trying to make this creation and somehow it creates / summons an actual (magical) Genie that resides in their computer much like Aladdin's lamp.
The two boys each put their own ideals into her so she is both beautiful and witty and intelligent and kind. But she is no submissive servant for them. Instead she uses each wish they make (which is always only temporary) to subtly teach them an important life lesson. And as the series goes on the boys slowly grow as people.
Though it was a teen friendly sitcom you actually saw the two boys evolve as people. Even Chett (the bully older brother of one of the boys) starts to become a decent person and even gains moments of selflessness and love as the show goes on.
It was a surprising gem for a show that originally aired on USA Network at ten PM (Right before Duck Man) on Saturday Nights. As a kid I would watch Are you Afraid of the Dark on Nickelodeon's Saturday Night block of programming (Snick) and then switch over the USA Network when that was over for Weird Science.
Weird Science was something that caught my attention as someone who loved Aladdin and Frankenstein (and it made many references to Frankenstein). I was / am also a huge fan of Danny Elfman. Danny Elfman wrote the title track for Weird Science back when he was the front man for the band Oingo Boingo.
Each episode felt fun, felt good and left me with an "up" feeling. My only complaints ever were the "destruction" of Wyatt's hampster's ghost (That wasn't funny. That was horrible, and that very last episode).
My only complaint is the final season had a few issues near the end. I feel the show should have ended with the Genie baby episode. That was a fine ending. We got to see how much Chett truly cared for Lisa, the extent he would go for her (including giving birth), how much he had grown as a character. And all the characters seemed to be in a satisfying place in their development. Gary and Wyatt were getting ready for collage and Chett had become responsible and warm toward Lisa and his brother. It felt right.
That last episode where Gary married an alien, Chett was revealed as being Principal Scampi's son, Wyatt and Lisa were a couple (for some reason, despite her season long developing relationship with the maturing Chett...) it just felt off. In fact it felt wrong. Skampi died and it was meant to be funny because they made the scene Darth Vader-esque? Seriously? Gary marries an alien who wanted to conquer Earth but each touch brings an orgasm Wyatt and Lisa have a shoe horned temporary relationship, abruptly dropping the one Lisa had with Chett. It made no sense.
I just felt that the final episode was wrong somehow. They should have ended it with Lisa's baby. It felt right and all the characters were in tact. It wasn't an annoying and poorly written WTF moment. The only other episode I didn't care for dealt with a deranged ghost hunter killing the soul of Wyatt's dead hampster. Destroying the spirit of a beloved pet = No.
Skip those two episodes and you'll be fine. Enjoy the brain candy and the highly catchy theme song.
Trivia: Gary and Wyatt's hair exactly matches the hair cuts of the characters Dr. Pretorius and Henry Frankenstein from Bride of Frankenstein. Also I'm pretty sure if this was made today there would be fans who ship Gary and Wyatt.
Maleficent is a beautiful movie. It has plot holes that are very easy to poke at but it's still decent and sweet. The "true love" aspect felt like a slight rip off of Frozen and I wish they could have given the prince a bigger role and or let there be romantic true love in there somewhere even if it was between Diaval and Maleficent. I freakin' love Diaval by the way.
There are a few things I prefer from the earlier script such as king Stefan secretly being half-faery and the bastard of a faery king so Aurura could end up developing her own faery magick (that was in the earlier script but not the finished movie). The three pixies are done better in the movie than in the earlier script though. In the earlier script they were kind of bitchy. Now they are just bungling.
Angelina Jolie plays the role so well that I actually felt bad when she woke up with her wings missing. Visually it's gorgeous. The creatures all resemble Brian Froud illustrations. My biggest complaint is Stefan. He was a bit over-the-top. Diaval is my favorite character though. He has this adorable, dysfunctional relationship with Maleficent.
For purists to the original fairy tale, the best way to look at it is it's an alternate reality because this is certainly NOT the Maleficent of the animated Sleeping Beauty. The fact that the three pixies don't even have the names from the animated film make that apparent.
You do have to shut your mind off a little but it is good enough a movie that you can ignore it's flaws.
Penny Dreadful (2014)
The Best Gothic Horror TV series currently on the air
The cynic in me is dead. Long live Penny Dreadful! I do not want to sound like I am giving you a lot of hyperbole but it's difficult not to. I have not liked a show this much since I first discovered Dark Shadows when I was thirteen-years-old.
Penny Dreadful begins with a slow burn pace but by the end of episode 2 everything had kicked into gear. I cannot put into words how well this show has taken my breath away. I would like to fully apologize for the doubts I had toward it upon seeing the early preview clips. I was utterly wrong. Nothing is what it seems and this show is the best Gothic Horror TV series I have seen in years.
After dealing with the mediocre and pandering likes of Bitten and NBC's Dracula I had all but given up hope on my favorite genre of fiction but Penny Dreadful salvaged my faith in creativity.
Penny dreadful is named for the 19th century slang term for a cheap pulp novel or serial such as Varney The Vampire or other Gothic classics that were originally often published in installments. Most of these works of literature dealt with terrifying and morbid premises and so were "dreadful" and obviously only cost a penny.
The TV series Penny Dreadful pits the likes of Victor Frankenstein, his creation, the immortal Dorian Gray (from the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde) and the characters of Dracula all in the same late nineteenth century setting.
The show has managed to surprise me already within it's first two episodes and it keeps me guessing.
The show is well acted with impressive and realistic production values. It also bears detailed and clever writing. Subtle nods to other works of classic literature are scattered through out in delightful Easter Egg quotes and references. Also so far I have not caught a single glimpse of computer generated monster effects. No. Everything I have seen thus far has been done with skillful and realistic practical effects so that everything feels real and tactile. There is no cheap, cartoonish or watery CG to draw me out of the story.
I cannot put into words how much I love this show and hope that the third episode continues to impress me as the first two have.
Doctor Strange (2007)
This is a far superior Doctor Strange movie to the version made in the 1970s. Though this is animated it's actually a very complex and mature story. That's not to say a younger viewer can't appreciate it, but it's mature enough where an adult should not feel ashamed to watch it.
If you want a retelling of Doctor Strange's backstory this film covers the bulk of it quite well. The animation is lush and vivid. The writing is so well done that you would hope that this is what the live action Doctor Strange movie would look like. This is a very under-rated animated feature.
I highly recommend this film for any Marvel fan or anyone just starting to get into the supernatural aspects of the Marvel universe.
Lost Girl (2010)
I love this show
After seeing the wretched show Bitten I have a renewed appreciation for Lost Girl. Despite the unfortunate way Lost Girl is advertised it is not what many may think. It's an intriguing urban fantasy in the vein of Dresden Files. It has strong, well-written female protagonists who are actually likable and with well developed and realistic personality types. I strongly recommend Lost Girl.
The show deals with the misadventures of a woman who discovers she is a part of the world if the sidhe (faery folk) and is pressured to choose a side in a battle between Light vs. Dark. She chooses her own path and takes it upon herself to work as a sort of private investigator, protecting innocent people from the cruelty of the supernatural world. The main character, Bo, is a great deal like a cross between Harry Dresden and Thomas Raith from The Dresden Files.
I was also pleased to see one character who could take on the form of a literal wolf as opposed to the obnoxious TV and movie trope of the bipedal man-wolf..