Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reading / watching / listening to...

john cleese so anyway

Reading: 

* So, Anyway by John Cleese. I'm a big fan of John Cleese, especially of his work on Fawlty Towers, but his autobiography wasn't what I expected it to be. The main focus is on Cleese's childhood, college years, and early work in theatre. Sometimes he touches interesting parts - such as his survival techniques as a teacher, his reveries about how life could have been easier if he'd become a lawyer or a banker, and his complicated relationship with Connie Booth – but he always returns to the bare facts and most of those aren't very absorbing. He rarely mentions Fawlty Towers and his movies, and only addresses Monty Python in the last chapter as if his editor obliged him to put it in after the book was already written.

* Billson Film Database: Short Reviews Of Over 4000 Films. If you enjoy reading the capsule reviews on my blog, then there's no reason you won't enjoy Anne Billson's collection of movie reviews, all of which have been previously published in The Telegraph and other publications. It's not the kind of book to read in one go, more something to leaf through whenever you're looking for a movie to watch. The author covers every genre, every era, every taste, and does so with both knowledge and humor. It's an inspiring read that will make you want to sit down and (re-)discover films all day long. Fun fact: being a cat lover, Anne Billson makes a special mention of movies with kitties. 

* Globule: Une vie de lapin by Mamemoyashi. Since I have just welcomed a rabbit to the family, my boyfriend now buys me rabbit mangas on top of cat mangas. Globule: Une vie de lapin is the true story of author Mamemoyashi and her rabbit Globule. Books like this have to be recognizable, and Globule: Une vie de lapin definitely is. It's impossible not to recognize your rabbit's special quirks, positions, and behaviors. Gift this book to someone who owns a rabbit, and they will be eternally grateful. 


Watching: 

* The Slayer. It's funny how opinions change depending on when and where you watch a movie. The first time I saw The Slayer, I felt ripped of. Nothing happened in the story, and when the monster finally arrived, he was gone in a matter of seconds. I just saw it again after fifteen years, and I was surprised to discover several efficient murder scenes, some great beach locations, and an addictive vintage atmosphere. It's not as boring as I thought it was. Don't get me wrong. We're far from a horror masterpiece here, but if you're into the eighties slasher genre, The Slayer is actually enjoyable. Just do yourself a favor and skip the last two minutes of the film. 

* Dogs. In a sleepy American town, all the dogs band together to hunt down their former masters. This results in several memorable scenes (such as the canines at a dog show going wild), but, overall, the story is too slow, and definitely not scary or suspenseful. 

* Before I Go To Sleep. I almost forgot to add this one to the list. That's how forgettable Before I Go To Sleep is. Based on the bestselling book by S.J. Watson, Before I Go To Sleep follows a woman (Nicole Kidman) who, after a traumatic incident, can't remember her past, including her husband. Not one second of it is believable, definitely not the so-called twist ending that you can guess just by reading this review. A big miss. 

* Daughter Of Darkness. The first thing that struck me about Stuart Gordon's Daughter Of Darkness was how reminiscent its design was to Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum. Then it dawned on me that Gordon actually remade The Pit and the Pendulum one year after releasing Daughter Of Darkness. It's the atmosphere, as well as the seedy Romanian locations, that make this nineties horror movie worthwhile. On the other hand, the story about the girl (Mia Sara) who goes looking for her lost father (Anthony Perkins) and encounters a clan of vampires, is wooden and silly. 

* Slaughter High. Nothing is plausible in this eighties slasher movie about a nerd who seeks revenge for a prank gone wrong. Should the viewer think it's normal that a girl takes a bath in a closed-down high school after several of her friends have been murdered? Or that the killer is able to put poison in a closed beer can? Or that there's a bed with clean sheets in an abandoned building? Or that the former school janitor is still doing rounds at night? But no matter how silly it gets, I've watched Slaughter High numerous times before and it still stands as one of the coolest slasher movies in film history. It's fast, it's fun, it's gory, and it's great. Strange fact: Simon Scuddamore, who played the nerdy Marty, committed suicide even before Slaughter High was officially released. 

* Birdman. I still think Whiplash should have won the Oscar for best movie, but I certainly enjoyed Birdman. As a writer, I could identify with the idea of being more true to yourself in your art than in real life, and that when you try to please an audience you end up being invisible. I could also go on for hours about the double meaning of the dialogue, the symbolic undertones, the technical stunts, etc. It's a smart film, the kind that has so many undertones you can discover new things with each additional viewing. 

* The Theory Of Everything. Eddie Redmayne, who won the Oscar for his performance, is convincing as Stephen Hawking in this biopic based on Jane Hawking's second memoir Travelling To Infinity. The Theory Of Everything is a cute film, but too sweet and inoffensive. Surely, Hawking accomplished great things despite his disease, but the film was oddly lacking a sense of struggle and inner torment which would have made it so much more interesting and real. 

* Still Alice. I've always mistakenly assumed that people with Alzheimer's aren't aware of their fate and therefor never really suffered. Thanks to Still Alice, I now have a more realistic understanding of the disease. Based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the film shows the degenerative process from the victim's p.o.v. We are confronted with her feelings of being misunderstood as her husband denies her initial diagnosis, with her shame as she realizes she is no longer the intelligent and articulate woman she once was, with her sense of being lost when she can't even find her way to her own toilet, and with her fear of what the future has in store. I shed more than a few tears with Still Alice, but, most of all, it has turned me into a more considerate person regarding those who are suffering from the disease.


Listening to: 

* It Follows (original motion picture soundtrack) by Disasterpeace. This indie game music composer, known for Fez, manages to reproduce the vintage synthesizer sound of the eighties. Just like the movie, there's a strong Carpenter vibe to it. 

* Lost Themes by John Carpenter. The title is misleading, because all the tracks are new. Made in collaboration with his son Cody, the album is in the same vein as Carpenter's earlier work.


What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to? Anything here that piques your interest? 


You can take a peek at all the other books, movies, and music I've blogged about under the "reading / watching / listening to..." tag.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Offscreen 2015: Mushroom people, Cannon films, and Tobe Hooper

During the next three weeks, I will introduce several movies at the Offscreen Film Festival in Brussels. 

Apart from a selection of premieres, Offscreen will showcase a retrospective on Tobe Hooper, a module on botanicals, and some of the most popular Cannon Films. 

I made an overview of the films I'll be talking about. I hope you'll come by if you have the chance. 

the duke of burgundy
The Duke Of Burgundy

The Duke Of Burgundy 

Those of you who saw Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio at Offscreen 2013, know that they're in for a visual and auditory treat with The Duke Of Burgundy (2014). Together with director Peter Strickland, I will introduce The Duke Of Burgundy on March 6 at 8 pm in the Cinema Nova in Brussels. 

matango
matango

Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People

After the screening of The Duke Of Burgundy, at 10 pm, I will also introduce Ishiro Honda's Japanese cult classic Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People (1963), this time in the company of Jasper Sharp (author of the 'slime molds' book The Creeping Garden and director of the documentary by the same name). This story about castaways who turn into mushrooms after having eaten weird fungi has rarely been screened outside of Japan, so don't miss this opportunity.  

Eaten Alive
Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive 

Deep in the Louisiana bayou, travelers find shelter in the dilapidated Starlight Hotel. They never stay long, since the psychotic owner feeds them one by one to his pet alligator. Director Tobe Hooper will join me for the introduction of Eaten Alive (1977) on March 8 at 9:30 pm at Cinematek. 

Salem's Lot
Salem's Lot

Salem's Lot 

I'm proud to present one of my favorite horror movies, Salem's Lot (1979), at the Offscreen Film Festival. Based on the novel by Stephen King, Salem's Lot was first released as a TV mini series before receiving the theatrical cut that will be shown at Offscreen. Don't forget to mark your calendars: March 12 at 9:30 pm (at Cinematek). But be warned: Salem's Lot contains some of the creepiest scenes in vampire movie history. 

street smart
christopher reeve in street smart

Street Smart

On Saturday, March 13th, I'll be introducing the 1987 movie Street Smart at Cinematek. Part of Offscreen's Cannon module, Street Smart was originally an initiative from actor Christopher Reeve. After much insisting, he could convince Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus to finance the film, but he had to agree to star in Superman 4 in return. Yet it was not Christopher Reeve but Morgan Freeman who reaped the biggest success as his career got a big boost thanks to his nominations as best supporting actor for the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. 

invaders from mars
invaders from mars

Invaders From Mars

Invaders From Mars (1986) is the second of the three movies Tobe Hooper shot back-to-back for Cannon. It's the remake from Invaders From Mars from 1953 in which a boy discovers that his parents, and possibly the entire village, has been taken by aliens. I will give an introduction to this movie on Sunday, March 15, at 10 pm at Cinematek. 

avenging force
avenging force

Avenging Force 

On Wednesday, March 18, I'll be introducing Avenging Force from director Sam Firstenberg (Ninja III: The Domination) at Cinematek. It's about a paramilitary group that organizes hunts on human prey. Yet it wasn't an original topic when the film was released. We already had The Most Dangerous Game in 1932 and Turkey Shoot (aka Escape 2000) in 1982. 

andrew stevens charles bronson
10 to midnight

10 To Midnight 

Also on March 18, I'll be introducing 10 To Midnight (1983). Charles Bronson headlines as the police detective who chases a serial killer who strips his clothes before chasing and killing his victims. In the supporting roles, you'll recognize Andrew Stevens (The Fury, The Seduction) and Geoffrey Lewis (Salem's Lot). Roger Ebert called 10 To Midnight “a scummy little sewer of a movie.” Don't say I didn't warn you. 

the mangler
the mangler

The Mangler

Tobe Hooper based The Mangler (1995) on Stephen King's short story about a demon-possessed ironing machine in an industrial laundry. It was supposed to be part of the anthology film The Machines in which King's stories Trucks, The Lawmower Man, and The Mangler would be adapted. The death of the producer made sure that didn't happen. Despite Hooper-King-Englund combination, The Mangler was a flop. Yet, two sequels were made: The Mangler 2 (2001), which had nothing more to do with a mangler but with a computer virus that kills people, and The Return Of The Mangler (2005), which re-introduced the evil ironing machine. King wrote about the film: “Tobe Hooper is a genius. But when genius goes wrong, brother, watch out...” I'll be introducing The Mangler on Sunday, March 22 at Cinematek.  

Which movies would you like to see? Anything you've seen that you'd recommend?
 

Monday, February 2, 2015

New story out!

next to her screenplay

You may recall the cover reveal I did a couple weeks ago for the new short film script I wrote called Next To Her. It's out now, and I'm really excited for you to check it out.  

Here are some links so you can get Next To Her if you're interested: 

Let me know what you think of the story in the comments and on Twitter using @eeriestories and/or the hashtag #NextToHer. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reading / watching / listening to...

cozy reading

Reading:

* The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond edited by Alex J. Cavanaugh is a collection of essays on writing, publishing, and marketing by more than one hundred independent authors such as L. Diane Wolfe, Chrys Fey, S.A. Larsen, Crystal Collier, and Lexa Cain. The advice itself is basic, but the book excels in explaining how insecure most writers feel, and in the encouragement to keep on writing and improving.

* Horror 101: The Way Forward edited by Joe Mynhardt is similar in concept as The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide To Publishing And Beyond, except that the essays are by household names in the horror genre (Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Jack Ketchum, Harry Shannon, Edward Lee, etc). The essays are rarely focused on horror alone, though, and Horror 101 covers everything from character development to finding additional sources of income through screenwriting and ghostwriting. “I've seen authors lose their way, authors doubt themselves, when all they need is a push in the right direction,” the editor says in the beginning of this book. However, insecurities are hardly a topic here. Most authors of Horror 101 believe it's possible to make a living as a writer, even if you don't necessarily know what you're doing, and, even more importantly, they show us the way forward.

* How Not To Run a B&B: A Woman's True Memoir by Bobby Hutchinson. Romance author Bobby Hutchinson recounts her experiences of how she turned her Vancouver house into a B&B to supplement her writing income, and introduces us to all the weird people she met along the way. How Not To Run a B&B is a fast-paced and entertaining read; definitely recommended if you're looking for something light to pass the time. The only downside is the author's arrogance and lack of compassion towards people that are less fortunate.

* On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King. On Writing has a strange structure; it reads like two different books that have accidentally been thrown together. It starts as a memoir in which Stephen King attempts to show some of the incidents and life-situations which made him into the writer he turned out to be. Then he gives some straight-forward (and obvious) writing advice, and ends the book with another autobiographical part. But I did enjoy reading this book. King just knows how to keep the reader's attention. But, most importantly, On Writing awoke in me the desire to sit down and start writing a new book, not knowing where the story and characters will lead me. That in itself is an accomplishment.

* Baking Bad: A Parody In A Cookbook by Walter Wheat. Do you know any Breaking Bad fans? Then make sure you buy them this hilarious little cook book. Baking Bad is a collection of recipes inspired by the Breaking Bad TV series. What do you think of Ricin Krispie Squares, Blue Meth Crunch, pink bear bites, a jell-o representation of Jesse's acid tub, or hot dogs resembling Saul Goodman? Don't give the book to someone who hasn't finished the series yet, though, because there are spoilers. Otherwise, let's cook.

* Poussy: l'int├ęgrale by Peyo. Poussy (Pussycat in English) was my favorite comic strip as a kid, and a major inspiration for my Avalon cartoons. I haven't been able to find them ever since, but now they just released in a complete edition containing ALL the comics (including the ones that have only appeared in newspapers), as well as preliminary sketches and background information on Peyo's career. Poussy may be Peyo's least known comic (he's the creator of The Smurfs), but it's doubtlessly his best.


Watching:

* [REC] 4: Apocalypse. Right after her adventures in [REC] 2, Manuela Velasco's character wakes up on a ship and is soon chased by zombies. [REC] 4: Apocalypse was much better than [REC] 3, but only mediocre compared to the first two installments. Luckily, Jaume Balaguero brings enough visual flair to the project to lift it to a higher level.

* The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. It's still as beautiful to look at as the previous films, but our hobbit is way too passive for the story's good. He's an observer, and has hardly any control over what happens. That makes us as viewers passive as well; we don't really care about who'll vanquish or not. Still, having seen all the previous Ring and Hobbit movies in the cinema around Christmas time, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies gave me a feel-good vibe out of nostalgia.

* Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Kevin finds himself accidentally lost in New York City, just when the same criminals from Home Alone 1 are visiting as well. The first two Home Alone movies were among my grandfather's favorites, so I couldn't help but watch this one again with my grandmother on Christmas Eve. It's pretty funny, though. Almost as good as the first one.

* The Interview. The host of a celebrity TV show lands an interview with an unexpected fan - North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un - and the CIA wants to turn their trip into an assassination mission. I started watching The Interview half-heartedly to see what the buzz was about (Kim Jong-un prohibited the screening of the movie because he was made fun of), but I didn't expect too much of it as most people thought it was silly and too easy. However, I was sold after a few minutes. Actually, this was one of the most hilarious films I've seen in a long time. Seems like Seth Rogen and James Franco are the perfect combination to make me laugh.

* Penguins Of Madagascar. This one is almost embarrassing to have on here. I loved Madagascar and The Christmas Caper, so the least I could do was to give Penguins Of Madagascar a try as well. Big mistake. The first few scenes are cute, but as the movie trundles on, the more it gets silly and chaotic.

* Anthony Zimmer. American readers will probably be more familiar with its Hollywood remake: The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Anthony Zimmer is the original French version from 2005. The basis of the story is the same: the international police force and Russian mafia are chasing a man responsible for laundry of dirty money. His mistress (here played by Sophie Marceau) lures his pursuers into believing that a man she met on the train (Yvan Attal) is the one they're looking for. Despite a few slow moments, Anthony Zimmer works much better than The Tourist. Reason for that is its more natural approach, especially when it comes to the look of the actors and the portrayal of the action. Whereas Angelina Jolie made The Tourist look ridiculous, parading like a diva with too much make-up, Sophie Marceau uses her natural charm to create an image of a strong woman that lingers on long after the movie is over.

* Paddington. Holy cuteness. This must be the most magical feel-good movie I've seen in years. Based on Michael Bond's children's books about an unusual bear's life with the Brown family, Paddington is utterly charming, hilarious, produced to perfection, and written in a more original voice than other similar movies. To top it off, London never looked so good. Could this be my new favorite winter movie?

* Whiplash. A promising young drummer enrolls at a music conservatory where his willingness to stop at nothing to become the best in his profession is tested by an instructor who believes that mentally abusing his students is the only way to drive them to greatness. The basis of the story is something we've seen before, but Whiplash is done so much better than others in the genre. Every single element oozes intensity and brilliancy. What stands out, though, is the acting. J.K. Simmons may be nominated for best supporting actor at the Oscars, but it's headliner Miles Teller who makes your skin crawl with emotion.


Listening to: 

* Forest Swords (trip hop with Japanese influences).


What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to? Anything here that piques your interest? 

You can take a peek at all the other books, movies, and music I've blogged about under the "reading / watching / listening to..." tag. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Next To Her | COVER REVEAL

short film cover

The cover of my new short film, Next To Her, has just been finalized. The official release date is set for January 31.

Though small in size, Next To Her is important to me as it is based on my grandfather's last years of his life. When he was terminally ill, I was surprised to see how rude my grandmother was to him, and how much she hurt him, both physically and emotionally. This was only because she was exhausted and didn't know how to handle the situation. Yet, she never gave up on my grandfather. She could have easily put him in the hospital and have professionals take care of him, but her love was so strong that she wanted to be there for him as long as she could. Next To Her is a reflection of those observations. It's hard at times, but also sweet. Just like life itself...

And, of course, I couldn't help but sneak in a big part for Avalon in the story.

The film based on the script is officially in pre-production. I'll keep you all updated with set photos and official release dates.

Meanwhile, the script of Next To Her is available for pre-order if you're interested:



Let me know what you think of the cover in the comments and on Twitter using @eeriestories and/or the hashtag #NextToHer.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How romantic movies shaped my writing

80s romantic movies

I'd like to welcome guest author Stephanie Faris on the blog today. Stephanie is the author of 30 Days Of No Gossip and 25 Roses. When she isn't crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all-fashion. Today she'll reveal how romantic movies shaped her writing.


***

Having been a teen in the 80s, I grew up on romantic movies. My favorite movies as a teen were those set in the high school environment. I assumed it was because I was in school myself at the time, but I didn’t realize someday I’d be a writer, with most of my books set in the school environment.

I got the idea for 25 Roses from my own life experience, but there is an underlying romantic tone throughout the book. That romantic tone is always flavored by the books, TV shows, and movies I enjoyed growing up—they shaped my view of fiction today. Here are five of my all-time favorites, four of which start with the letter “S,” oddly!

Clueless

Every girl loves a good makeover movie, right? That moment when an ordinary girl emerges looking amazing gets us all. Based on Jane Austen’s Emma, Clueless features a privileged girl who decides to help out the less fortunate by providing makeovers and matchmaking services. While 25 Roses has similar elements, unlike Cher in Clueless, Mia is hardly privileged. She helps out her fellow classmates because she relates to always being invisible. She feels as though she is one of them.

clueless

Secret Admirer

I remember seeing Secret Admirer on cable as a teen and loving it. I thought Lori Laughlin was so beautiful and I didn’t see how C. Thomas Howell could see her as a buddy. A secret admirer starts sneaking secret admirer notes into C. Thomas Howell’s locker and he assumes it’s from the prom queen. Because, of course, everyone knows prom queens have nothing better to do than sneak notes into boys’ lockers. I tried the “note in a locker” secret admirer thing when I was in school but it never quite worked out for me!

secret admirer

Sixteen Candles

We all love Sixteen Candles so much because Molly Ringwald’s character is so relatable. She has a crush on a boy who (she thinks) doesn’t even know she’s alive. She feels awkward and invisible compared to her beautiful big sister…Mia has that same feeling about her big sister in 25 Roses. Aside from My So-Called Life, I can’t think of another piece of entertainment that has more accurately depicted what being a teenager is like than Sixteen Candles did.

sixteen candles

She’s All That

Freddie Prinze Jr. bets a friend he can turn the school dork into the prom queen. In the process, he falls in love with her. This film mixes commentary on school hierarchies with that makeover magic we all love.

she's all that

Some Kind of Wonderful

I’m including this one because many of you may have missed it. While Mary Stuart Masterson was a little too hostile to be likeable, I loved the girl-likes-boy-who-likes-other-girl theme of this one. It also makes me feel a little better about the fact that my books seem to focus heavily on the social hierarchy in school.

some kind of wonderful

There they are! I won’t say they all directly influence my writing, but they were partly responsible for my views on romance and high school. I’d be interested to hear what movies influenced other people during their tweens, teens, and early 20s.


***

romantic story

About Stephanie's latest novel, 25 Roses:

Mia moves from the shadows to the spotlight when her matchmaking plans go awry in this contemporary M!X novel from the author of 30 Days of No Gossip.

Mia is used to feeling overlooked: her perfect older sister gets all the attention at home, and the popular clique at school are basically experts at ignoring her. So when it’s time for the annual Student Council chocolate rose sale, Mia is prepared to feel even worse. Because even though anyone can buy and send roses to their crushes and friends, the same (popular) people always end up with roses while everyone else gets left out.

Except a twist of fate puts Mia in charge of selling the roses this year—and that means things are going to change. With a little creativity, Mia makes sure the kids who usually leave empty-handed suddenly find themselves the object of someone’s affection. But her scheme starts to unravel when she realizes that being a secret matchmaker isn’t easy—and neither is being in the spotlight.

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