Monday, April 6, 2015

Offscreen Film Festival 2015

offscreen film festival

The Offscreen Film Festival started on Wednesday with a screening of Roy Andersson's latest A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence. Whereas the film excels in interesting compositions, its theme of life being boring and meaningless results in a film that is as empty as the situations and people it describes. It's all about recurring locations, static actors, endless shots, and repetitive dialogue. “We just want to help people have fun,” one of the characters says. Considering the strong Monty Python-like vibe of A Pigeon..., I'm guessing this was Roy Andersson's objective as well. Unfortunately, he accomplished the opposite.

On Thursday, I spent the day with Tobe Hooper and his girlfriend Rebecca, showing them around all the cozy corners of Brussels. Tobe insisted on having a drink at Le Cerceuil, a bar in the centre of Brussels where you sit around coffins, and drink cocktails with names such as Cadaver's Urine out of skulls. Besides our mutual love of horror movies, we also shared a passion for animals. Tobe stops in the street to gawk at passing dogs, obsesses over Milou (Tintin's dog), and just tries to find as much excuses as he can to talk about his canine loves.

nova offscreen
peter strickland

On Friday, I introduced the movies The Duke Of Burgundy and Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People at Offscreen. The Duke Of Burgundy was an absolute marvel. For the first fifteen minutes, it looked banal and wooden, but that was only because director Peter Strickland was playing his audience's strings like a puppeteer. Once you realize that you're watching a lesbian couple playing out a sexual fantasy, the story becomes really interesting. As the fantasy becomes part of the couple's daily routine, little fissures in the relationship start to show. Both women don't always react the way they want each other to, frustrations build up, and the dominant party in the RPG becomes the dominated one in real life. Despite the weirdness of the film, it's all surprisingly recognizable, a mirror to the reasons why many couples fail after a while. It's smart, multi-layered stuff, and the visual appeal is nothing less than magnetic.

tobe hooper masterclass
tobe hooper

After having attended Tobe Hooper's masterclass on Saturday, I went to see Lifeforce. I can't say I'm a fan of Tobe Hooper's adaptation of Colin Wilson's 1976 novel The Space Vampires. Therefor, the film has too many dull moments (the silly ones are rather charming). On the other hand, Lifeforce contains iconic scenes that you keep thinking about long after the film has ended (London being engulfed by zombies, the look of the victims after they've been sucked from their energy, the hypnotic presence of Mathilda May). It has too many good moments to be ignored, and too many dull ones to be recommendable.

jasper sharp tim grabham

On Sunday, Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham introduced their documentary The Creeping Garden: Irrational Encounters With Plasmodial Slime Moulds in which they explore the frightening intelligence of slime moulds. I expected the documentary to be sensational in nature (the slime moulds' behavior reminds us of The Blob and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers), but Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham go for a realistic, fringe scientific approach. After this documentary, you'll never look at slime moulds the same way. The Creeping Garden is now also available as a book.

Next, I introduced Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive. It was the first movie Tobe Hooper made after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it's easy to spot the similarities between those two films. There's the same gritty atmosphere, the same hopelessness, the same rage. In 2000, Tobe Hooper would make a second killer crocodile film, and herein it's obvious that the director has become more moderate and commercial. Eaten Alive is definitely one of my favorite Tobe Hooper films, mainly because the set pieces are so efficient (everything has been filmed inside the studio, including the exterior scenes in the swamps).

tobe hooper texas chainsaw massacre 2

On Wednesday, we took Tobe Hooper and his girlfriend Rebecca to Bruges. For Tobe, that means spending eighty percent of the day inside the restaurant. He ate mussels for the first time in his life and enjoyed several local beers such as Brugse Zot and Brugse Straffe Hendrik. He loved the sightseeing part, though. His eyes sparkled as he discovered the cobblestone streets and walked along the fairytale-like canals.

By the way, did you know that Tobe is superstitious? Whenever we passed a lantern, he insisted we crossed it from the same side as he feared the lantern would divide the group's energy. He also refuses to toast if you drink water instead of alcohol and forbids his girlfriend to see his introductions as he believes it'll bring bad luck.

When we passed Aalter on our way back home, I mentioned that I saw a UFO there when I was a kid. Tobe replied that he had seen two UFOs as well and that he is absolutely certain these are aliens.

cinema nova

After dinner in my favorite Thai Restaurant Villa Singha, I introduced Salem's Lot on Thursday. I stayed to watch the film for what is probably the thirtieth time in my life. A lot of people consider Salem's Lot one of the creepiest vampire movies ever made. I can only agree. It all started in 1979 with a TV mini series – the most expensive ever made at that time. Because the TV mini series was successful, the material was heavily cut in order to turn it into a film. That was the version we got to see at Offscreen. Tobe Hooper himself loathes this cut, and I can see why. The first thing to go from the TV mini series was the character development. The film feels rushed. Important information is missing so that several scenes become illogical. Ben and Susan go from “Let's have a date” to being a couple without any transition scenes. And when Ben exclaims that Susan has to go back to Boston, the viewer can only wonder why she has to go to Boston if she lives in Salem's Lot (she actually explains in a cut scene that she has to go to Boston for a job interview). And what happened to Susan after she entered the Marsten House? There are more than a few hiccups in this cut, but overall the film version works and the cuts are generally from scenes that only slowed down the TV series.

electric boogaloo mark hartley

I watched Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films again on Friday. You may remember that I had already seen this documentary at the Sitges Film Festival. The fact that I watched it again at Offscreen proves how much I love it. Electric Boogaloo is easily one of the most insightful and funny documentaries I've seen in years. It never bores for a single second. It doesn't matter whether you know Cannon films or not; if you love great documentaries then this one is not to be missed.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films ignited my desire to watch Ninja III: The Domination (1984) later that evening. Ninja III is known as one of the worst movies the Cannon Group has ever produced and there are no words for how silly it is. The story follows a young woman (Lucinda Dickey) who gets possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja who avenges his death from beyond the grave. The audience was laughing hard as Lucinda Dickey stripped in front of the hairy police officer she just met and poured V8 over her chest, when she did aerobics when she was assaulted by the evil spirit, or when laser beams came out of the arcade game. An unmissable “so bad it's good” movie that has often been described as a mix between Enter The Ninja, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, and Flashdance. You have to see it to believe it.

mark hartley

The weekend was spent having dinner with the festival's guests at Houtsiplou and Ricotta & Parmesan. We also went to the Made In Asia convention and Mini Europe (miniature representations of Europe's famous landmarks) with Electric Boogaloo director Mark Hartley.

chuck norris double

On Saturday, I introduced the 1987 movie Street Smart at Cinematek. In this crime drama from Cannon, a journalist (Christopher Reeve) writes an article on a fictitious pimp. By coincidence, the story resembles that of an actual pimp (Morgan Freeman), now convicted of murder. The day afterwards, it was time to introduce Tobe Hooper's Invaders From Mars (1986), an alien invasion movie written by Don Jakoby and Dan O'Bannon (who also wrote the script of Lifeforce).


I watched the new remastered version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre twice in a row on the big screen on Tuesday. The first time was for the sound check of the screening in the Bozar theater and the second time together with the audience. It was a good fifteen years since I last saw the film, but my opinions have remained the same: brilliant shots, broody atmosphere, creepy sound effects that make your bones tingle, a baleful build-up, and a nightmarish scene in which a chainsaw-yielding Leatherface unexpectedly shows up in the woods at night and chases Marilyn Burns for ten long minutes without giving the viewer any second to pause or breathe. Contrary to most viewers, though, I don't like the dinner scene (it breaks the tension as it renders the villains ridiculous). Otherwise, a masterpiece.

10 to midnight

After having spent the day with Tobe Hooper and his girlfriend Rebecca again on Wednesday, I introduced the 80s action movies Avenging Force and 10 To Midnight at Offscreen. I stayed for Avenging Force which turned out to be banal for the first hour, but once Michael Dudikoff is being hunted in the swamp, the film picks up and becomes huge fun. Another good thing about Avenging Force is that the script is varied and that it features some unexpected death scenes.

julian marsh
gilles vranckx

You may remember from last year that I had the opportunity to take photos in the abandoned porn cinema ABC (you can find the pictures here ). Offscreen, Cinema Nova, and La Rétine tried to save the cinema and managed to collect 60,000 euros in crowd funding. Just when they were about to sign contracts, the owner of the ABC died. Unfortunately, his son had other plans with the place. While the ABC cinema may not have been saved, Cinema Nova did manage to salvage more than 600 films, three of which have been shown at Offscreen on Friday when Offscreen paid tribute to the ABC cinema with an evening full of movies, trailers, striptease acts, games, etc.

cannon films
nova brussels

On Saturday, I watched Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People. The fact that it was a pristine 35mm print that had traveled the world in order to be shown at Offscreen, made the screening worthwhile. Nothing really happened during the majority of the film, though, and when the mushroom people finally arrived, they didn't do much but stand there.

I ended the day with a screening of Masters Of The Universe, long revered as one of the campiest films ever. Courtney Cox and her boyfriend find a cosmic key that can open a portal to any point in time and space, and are being hunted by an evil creature wearing a Halloween mask. Luckily, there's He-Man Dolph Lundgren and his team to save them. The costumes and dialogue in Masters Of The Universe will push your limits of bad taste.

cannon films posters

On the last day of Offscreen, I introduced Tobe Hooper's The Mangler. I'd seen this film back in 1995 when it came out and didn't like it. Twenty years later, my opinion still hasn't changed, but I had forgotten how gory and gruesome The Mangler was.

The festival closed with a screening of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (which I had already seen at the Sitges Film Festival) and lots of themed treats.

Have you seen any of the Offscreen films? Which ones are your favorites?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BIFFF: Chatting with Joe Dante and other filmmakers

I'll be hosting several Q&As with filmmakers at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) in April. Check it out. 

burying the ex
burying the ex

Burying The Ex 

On April 7, at the openings night of BIFFF, I'll be hosting a Q&A with American director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Piranha). We'll be addressing Dante's entire career, but the focus will be on his latest horror comedy, Burying The Ex, in which a bitchy girl crawls out of the grave to stalk her ex-boyfriend. 

german angst
german angst

German Angst 

No one knows how to transgress the boundaries of gore like Germans. If you've ever seen films by Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik), Olaf Ittenbach (Premutos – Der gefalenne engel), Andreas Schnaas (Violent Shit), and Andreas Marshall (Tears Of Kali), you know what I mean. Three of those German filmmakers – Buttgereit, Kosakowski and Marshall – collaborated to bring us a tryptic of stomach-churning stories. After the screening of German Angst, on April 14, I'll be chatting with Michael Kosakowski and Andreas Marshall about their respective stories. 

stung horror movie


On April 18, I'll be hosting a Q&A with actor Daniele Rizzo, sound designer Tilman Hahn, and sound editor Emil Klotzsch (sound editor) on Stung, a hilarious horror comedy about wasps intruding on a chic garden party. The wasps return meaner and bigger when treated with chemicals.

goodnight mommy
goodnight mommy

Goodnight Mommy 

Later that evening, you can also go to a Q&A with directors Severin Fiala and Veronic Franz where we'll discuss their new movie Goodnight Mommy. This unsettling story about a mother who returns from hospital with her head covered in bandages and starts mistreating her identical twin kids, has created a buzz at the latest Sitges Film Festival, especially regarding the twist ending. By the way, Veronic Franz was also the screenwriter for Ulrich Seidl's Paradise Trilogy

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reading / watching / listening to...

john cleese so anyway


* 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. 


* 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: 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


* 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'intégrale 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.


* [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.