Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Movie Review: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

   Director Guillermo Del Toro is truly a master of dark fantasy and horror with his Spanish language films such as “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) and even his mainstream American successes such as “Blade II” (2002) and “Hellboy” (2004). His newest film, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” takes you into a strange and wondrous world filled with magic, myth, and danger.
        Spain, 1944, in the post civil war and fascist Franco reign, a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), travels with her mother (Ariadna Gil) to the country to live with her adoptive father, Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a ruthless military officer. As a group of guerrilla rebels seeks to depose the fascist regime, the nurse of Ofelia’s pregnant mother, Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) serves as an informant for the rebels. Ofelia, still suffering over the death of her father, she refuses to accept her new stepfather and is worrisome over he mother and yet unborn brother.
When Ofelia explores a long-forgotten hedge maze, she is drawn into a world of fantasy where she meets the faun, Pan (Doug Jones), who believes Ofelia to be a legendary princess and charges her with a quest to restore her royal heritage. On her mission, she will face bizarre creatures and horrific monsters, as she must also find a way to help her mother, whose health is rapidly declining despite the efforts of the doctor (Alex Angulo).
“Pan’s Labyrinth” could be compared to the dark fantasies of the earlier films of Tim Burton, as well as a darker version of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” (2005). Like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” I am also reminded of the film “Mirrormask” (2005) directed by artist Dave McKean and written by author Neil Gaiman.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a deliciously dark and wonderful film experience. Despite the appearance of an innocent, fantasy film, it is actually quite a suspenseful and disturbing experience, often with violent and gory imagery. The film is spoken entirely in Castilian Spanish with English subtitles.

MOVE REVIEW: “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

    Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, a pirate’s life for me…” To think, that a 40-year-old amusement park ride could spawn a multi-million dollar blockbuster trilogy. Nonetheless, Disney Picture’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” films have surpassed all expectations in becoming one of the most popular film franchises. With the first movie, “Curse of the Black Pearl” released in 2003 and the sequel “Dead Man’s Chest” in 2006, the third installment in this epic, swashbuckling, and action-packed blockbuster has blown this summer’s competition (literally) out of the water!
    In “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, we reunite with the crew of the Black Pearl, along with William Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), with a little help from the recently resurrected Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to rescue Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jone’s Locker. They reluctantly travel to Singapore to seek the pirate Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat) for aid in their quest all-the-while, dodging their sworn enemies: the East India Trading Company, led by Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and Commodore James Norrington (Jack Davenport) with their unlikely ally, the tentacle-faced Capt. Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). On top of all that, there is still the matter of Will Turner’s promise to marry Elizabeth and his determination to save his father ‘Bootstrap’ Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) from Davy Jone’s eternal clutches.
      While Capt. Jack resides in the “locker,” an alternate dimension, (which looks an awful lot like Utah’s Salt Lake Desert) where Jack is driven to the brink of insanity as he carries on conversations with his numerous other-selves. The crew must now journey to the edge of the world and beyond to bring Capt. Jack back from the dead, because they need him as one of the eight pirate lords to wage war on Beckett and Jones. Now, there is a new twist, as the pirate lords must seek the help of the sea goddess Calypso, to aid them in their battle or all is lost. It’s an all out battle-royal with a ruthless battle between Beckett and the pirates with a face-to-face fight with Capt. Jack versus Davy Jones and a surprise ending that no one would expect. Also, be sure to stay after the credits for another little surprise.
    “At World’s End” combines a uniquely complex plot along with intense supernatural suspense and epic, swashbuckling action in this third and (maybe?) last installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Dead men tell no tales…”

Thursday, May 10, 2007


   Movies based on Marvel Comics have gone out of control; and this year above all, is the final insult! After last summer’s disappointing “X-Men 3: The Last Stand”, this year we get “Ghost Rider” in February, “Spider-Man 3” this May and then comes in “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” in June! I can remember a time (oh, about 8 years ago) when rumors spread that Marvel would be producing several movies based on popular Marvel Comics characters for the new millennium.
   1998 began the “Blade” saga, a relatively obscure Marvel character from the 1970’s, you put blood, violence, techno music, black leather and Wesley Snipes together and you get a relatively impressive action/horror film. Mind you, this is before “The Matrix” craze (it’s hard to remember action movies before “The Matrix”, but there was.) Then in 2000 Marvel’s “X-Men” came out and it was the dawn of a new era when the comic book characters we know and love become a Hollywood cash cow. Sure we remember the “Superman” and then “Batman” franchises of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s but lest we forget like those films, we are doomed to witness the inevitable coming of… the SEQUAL!
            Comic book movie fans have but to remember the one name that will forever be synonymous with the inexcusable and unbearable comic book movie sequels, dare I say it…Joel Schumacher! We know where this is going, sure the first movies or so come out and the people rejoice. But after the first sequel we get into the 3’s and 4’s and then it goes completely nuts.  Okay I admit it, I love “X-Men” and “X-Men 2: United”, thank you Bryan Singer, but wait, where are you going Bryan, you’re leaving us to do… “Superman Returns”, please say it isn’t so! So what we are left with is Brett Ratner’s: ‘lets kill all the main character’s off and end this fiasco’. Don’t get me wrong I am a die-hard Wolverine fan but I guess I’ll have to wait to see Wolverine’s movie to get some kind of satisfaction (But…guess what, it’s still a sequel).
            Now, we come to Spider-man. In 2002 we are blessed with the holy grail of Marvel movies, “Spider-man”. Sam Raimi, once the purveyor of B-movie schlock (but good schlock) now presents us with the perfect Marvel movie. The film went nuts at the box-office, merchandising galore, millions of bucks were made and young stars such as Tobey ‘my voice still cracks at 30’ Maguire and of course the lovely Kirsten ‘bitchy vampire brat’ Dunst. Still, think me not a blasphemer, for I too kneeled at the wondrous new Spider-man and of course it’s sequel, Spider-man 2. Again, the Spidey greatness flowed and…so did the money. It left us wanting more and so…behold it came! Here’s the skinny of it, Spider-man 3 is a great movie, the CG special effects are mind-boggling, the action is intense, the love-triangle soap-opera crap is ever present and of course we have not just one villain, but 3! (3 ½ if you want to get technical).
            The main plot of the movie comes from Spider-man finding the alien symbiotic costume which just happens to fall to Earth inside a small meteorite that lands coincidentally too close to Peter Parker and Mary Jane while they flirt in a gigantic spider web. Thus begins Spider-man’s new look with the ever-popular black costume, which first made its appearance in the comics in 1984. (Remember the “Secret Wars? Nope? I guess not…) As they said in the first movie, “with great power, comes great responsibility”, so now in Spidey 3 we get: with the black costume comes Spidey turning into a real asshole! Then we have The Sandman, Harry Osborne as a half-assed Green Goblin, and Venom, who all take a shot at Spidey. And lets not forget the introduction of Gwen Stacy (Bryce-Dallas Howard) for no apparent reason except for a little tension between Peter and MJ. As a big Spidey fan myself, I also consider Venom to be one of my favorite modern villains, but lets face it, they just didn’t do him justice!
            So, will this be the end of the Marvel movies, take a look back at the last decade of failures such as “The Punisher” (1989) with Dolph Lundgren and there was also “Captain America” (1990). Who knows we might just get “Daredevil 2” next year or how about “Blade 4” in a team-up with Ghost Rider, the possibilities are endless, but do you really want them to go that far?
They say if you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it, so… Mr. Sam Raimi if you can look back at a little movie (or atrocity) known as “Batman and Robin” (1997) you will see what too many characters, too many subplots and too many damn villains will and did to destroy a beloved comic book movie franchise. I predict, “Spider-man 4” will come out in May 2010, here’s the “plot”: Spider-man versus The Lizard, The Vulture and oh, why not The Rhino too (going with the whole animal theme here, lol). Gwen Stacy will be killed by…lets say out of jealousy by Mary Jane and then she forces Peter to marry her and then goes all Lorena Bobbit on him! LOL! OK, I was just joking but hey, you know there’s going to be a Spidey 4 and they will have to end it by finally getting Peter and MJ married, its inevitable, they’ll throw in a villain or two and then we have a happy ending. Now, go back to your lives citizens, nothing more to see here. Move along…

Music Review: Dimmu Borgir - “In Sorte Diaboli”

Dimmu Borgir - “In Sorte Diaboli” (2007)
“What you believe is true is false. What you thought right, wrong.”
      In the beginning, there was Metal, and it was good. Then, there came Dimmu Borgir, the most brutal black metal band to come out of the ancient land of Norway! Why this attempt at a blasphemous parody? When you hear the new album from Dimmu Borgir, “In Sorte Diaboli”, you will think my little joke is nothing compared to the blatant dark and disturbing imagery in this new album. The deluxe version of this 10-track album includes the exclusive U.S. bonus track “The Heretic Hammer” and a bonus DVD which contains several features such as the music video for “The Serpentine Offering”, the making of the video featurette, the making of the album featurette, and a photo gallery!
        The deluxe edition is worth the extra price for there is also an intriguing booklet containing the narrative behind the album’s storyline in the form of a wayward monk’s thoughts on forbidden truths and diabolical revelations.
        I thought nothing would surpass the masterpiece that was their 2003 album “Death Cult Armageddon” with the epic “Progenies of The Great Apocalypse” but with this new album, tracks like “The Serpentine Offering”, “Sacrilegious Scorn” and “The Sinister Awakening” Dimmu Borgir has improved upon itself in its quest to express their ideals of the hypocrisy of religion and embracing the darker aspects of the human condition in their music. If you have never experienced Dimmu Borgir and crave an intense, mind-blowing, metal onslaught than check out “In Sorte Diaboli”!

Also recommend: Cradle of Filth – “Thornograophy” (2006)