* Snowblind by Christopher Golden. Claustrophobic snowstorms, monsters, people disappearing... I was hooked from the very first page. But once the exciting set-up was over, I got bored. The action and character development melts away at the same pace as the snow from the story, and while Golden attempts to build-up a return of events in the third act, he never really succeeded in making me curious enough to finish the book. Snowblind is currently been turned into a TV-series by Universal TV.
* Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones by Kaitlyn Dunnett. A woman organizes a Halloween party in a haunted house and weird things happen: objects disappear, secret rooms are discovered, and someone is found dead. Who is the killer? I read Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones based on the cover alone and it delivered exactly what I expected: a fun Halloween atmosphere, a few animals, and an easy to follow story. Perhaps the writing and story were a bit too easy. And, if I'm being completely honest, I was never really invested in finding out who the killer was either. But Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones got me into the Halloween mood early on and definitely made my autumn a little better.
* Chats Chats Chats (Cats Cats Cats) by Lapuss', Larbier and Rabarot. Cats that indulge in typical feline mischief is what this French comic is all about. Funny, highly recognizable and well-illustrated, Chats Chats Chats doesn't need any text to be effective. Recommended to all cat addicts, children included. Unfortunately, chances are slim it will ever be turned into a series.
* Cath et son chat volume 2, Cath et son chat volume 3 and Cath et son Chat volume 4 by Cazenove and Richez. Not all jokes in Cath et son chat are equally funny. Sometimes Cazenove and Richez try too hard to be original, and their jokes just fall flat. The authors' best gags are those where you recognize typical cat behavior, albeit presented in a new light. While not perfect, it's definitely entertaining and funny enough to read the rest of this comic series about a little girl and her problem-causing cat.
* The Leftovers. As soon as I knew this was going to be about sects and 2% of the world's population disappearing, I knew I was going to like The Leftovers. The best part about this HBO series based on the novel by Tom Perrotta wasn't the mystery, though. The characters were fleshed out, the soundtrack by Max Richter one of the best I heard in a long time, and the silent, chain-smoking sect members fascinating. Fun fact: there's a scene in the third episode (where Christopher Eccleston nurses his disabled wife) that inspired me to write my short film script Next To Her.
* Game Of Thrones Season 1, 2, 3 and 4. I'm a bit late to the party with this one, but now I'm OBSESSED. First I thought Game Of Thrones wouldn't be my thing, but when I heard about all the different plot twists and the majority of the cast being slaughtered in a single episode, it was time to check out what the buzz was about. I loved every single second of it. Season three and four are my favorites.
* Thief. Michael Mann's first feature film Thief (1981) bears the characteristics of later blockbusters like Heat. The story isn't all that original (a thief wants to lead a normal life, but has to do one last job for the mafia), but thanks to well-researched realism, an involving soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, and an in-depth, touching performance by headliner James Caan, Thief may be considered one of Michael Mann's very best.
* Jeune et jolie. After losing her virginity during a holiday in the south of France, Isabelle explores her sexuality even further by voluntarily working as a call girl. I really liked that prostitution was presented in such a different way here. For Isabelle, it was a way to test the boundaries of life, a path to growing up. An exciting movie with a good vibe, though I didn't like the ending.
* Palo Alto. I can't decide whether to find James Franco's stories touching or detached. There's this brilliance and beauty in his work that speaks to me profoundly, but his characters are generally the kind I'd steer away from in real life. In the case of Palo Alto (which is based on his book and directed by Gia Coppola), they're too infantile, too irritating, too reckless. I'm just unable to identify with any of them, no matter how well-constructed they are. For that reason alone, I feel like an observer instead of being into the movie. But is it well-done? Absolutely.
* The Purge: Anarchy. While the first installment of The Purge sported an intriguing premise, the execution was largely lacking. The sequel revolves around the same concept – during one day of the year, every crime is left unpunished – but improves upon its shortcomings. Instead of keeping the action indoors, the film follows a young couple trying to survive on the streets after their car breaks down when the annual purge commences. The result is a chase of life and death that doesn't leave the viewer much room to breathe. Despite some lower-tier actors and an ending that didn't quite do it for me, The Purge 2: Anarchy is definitely a step up from the first one.
* Spring Breakers. Four bored college girls hold up a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation and befriend a drug dealer (an almost unrecognizable James Franco, with rasta hair and silver teeth) who brings them into contact with a world of sex, drugs, and murder. As spring break is like a dream for these girls, the film is made in such manner as well – dreamy images, repetitions, and lots of bright colors that clash with the decadent nature and violence of the film. We're far from the intensity and weirdness from Harmony Korine's early projects such as Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy, but it's still an enjoyable film is you manage to see its second-degree nature.
* Horns. The film adaptation reflects the novel rather well, so I had the same issues with both of them. The beginning is highly original, with a young man (Daniel Radcliffe) discovering he has grown horns over the night and realizing that these horns make those around him say the truth. It's only when he starts using this gift to find out what happened to his dead girlfriend for whose murder he's accused, that the movie becomes common. Overall, Horns reminded me of The Lovely Bones, both in terms of tone and story. There is one scene near the end (in which Daniel Radcliffe uses his sudden power to control snakes to seek revenge) where I thought Horns was going to become more exciting, but it ended just like you'd expect most such stories to end.
* This Is The End. You know the concept, right? A bunch of celebrities (Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Rihanna, Emma Watson) play themselves. They gather for a housewarming party at James Franco's and then the apocalypse sets in. The entire movie is one big joke, but an incredibly good one. Without the gimmick of the actors playing themselves, the story wouldn't have been efficient at all. But in the context of this being 'real', it's absolutely hilarious. I loved how they are backstabbing each other and that they all die in the most horrible of ways. The actors had visibly a lot of fun making This Is The End and that fun flows onto the viewer. Not sure what to expect? Consider the dialogue: “A huge earthquake happens, who do they rescue first? Actors. They'll rescue Clooney, Sandra Bullock, me. If there's room, you guys will come.” / “I fucked Lindsay Lohan at the Chateau Marmont. She kept knocking on my door, she was high. She kept calling me Jake Gyllenhaal. I said: just call me your prince of Persia.” / “Shoot her in the head!” “I'm not killing Emma Watson.”
* The Houses October Built. This new found-footage horror movie is slightly superior from others in the genre. It takes place during Halloween with a group of friends going on a road trip to visit the most notorious backroad haunted houses. The film consists, for the most part, of visits to these Halloween haunts and generally has the feel of a documentary where the crew takes the camera with them inside the attractions. Unfortunately, The Houses October Built is a bit feeble story-wise, but it has enough creepy scenes and Halloween atmosphere to be recommendable for this time of year. The film won the award for best midnight movie at this year's Sitges Film Festival.
* Killer Legends. This was the perfect documentary for Halloween. Delving into the true killer stories that have inspired some of the most terrifying urban legends such as poisoned Halloween candy, the hook, the babysitter in danger and the evil clown, filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills have concocted a fascinating documentary, backed up with so much research that they even shed new evidence onto certain criminal cases. What makes Killer Legends so ideal for Halloween are the vintage Halloween images and the many scenes from classic horror movies such as When A Stranger Calls, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Halloween, Urban Legend, and Candyman.
* Music For Insomniacs by Matt Berry. Best known for his role of Douglas Reynholm in the IT Crowd, Matt Berry might not be the person you'd expect a new-age influenced, ambient album from. But it's actually beautiful and moody, and also quite different compared to his previous albums.
* Zombie Playground by Shawn Lee. This soundtrack for a zombie game reminded me a lot of the many zombie movie soundtracks from the seventies. Not quite the best of the bunch, but nevertheless pleasant and captivating. By the way, did you know that Shawn Lee has worked before with singers such as Lana Del Rey and Amy Winehouse?
* Soundtrack for The Double by Andrew Hewitt. I'm as much in love with the soundtrack as with the movie. Andrew Hewitt's music blends score and sound design elements. It's rich, utterly engaging and perfectly matches the visual artistry and musical editing of the picture. The album also includes classics such as Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto, East Virigina by Danny & The Islanders and the credit song The Sun by Kim Jung Mi.
* Last but not least, I also went to the World Soundtrack Awards which included a philharmonic interpretation of several soundtrack scores by Cliff Martinez (Only God Forgives, Contagion, Wicker Park, Solaris, Kafka, A l'origine, and Espion). Given the many celebrities that attended the awards (Brett Easton Ellis, Gabriel Yared, etc) I expected something exceptional, but the end result was lifeless and too short. Also, though Cliff Martinez was present at the concert, he didn't play or conduct music himself.
What have you been reading, watching, and listening to lately?