Movie Double Feature: Dracula (1931)/Near Dark (1987)

So, here’s a confession that will surprise nobody who knows me: I rarely like the hero in a story.

Ever since I was a child, I vastly preferred villains in books, movies, and television. And I don’t mean anti-heroes who you’re supposed to like or squishy villains who feel bad about themselves. No, the badder, the better.

Compared to the hero, good villains–by which I mean really bad villains–almost always have more memorable lines and better clothes. They always seem to be enjoying themselves way more than the hero ever does and usually have a great sense of humor (okay, a dark sense of humor but still a sense of humor) and usually are smarter or at least seem to display more ambition and basic organizational skills than the hero.

This love for villains started early. When I was 5 or 6, my favorite television show was Skeleton Warriors. I watched it faithfully every Saturday morning to see the adventures of Skeletor and, well, his skeleton warriors. I was so disheartened to never find anyone who knew what I was talking about anytime I talked to someone my age about cartoons.

It was only years later when I was in my mid-20s that I realized I had been watching He-Man and had somehow convinced myself that the show was actually about the bad guy. I still think rather fondly about Skeletor and his pet Panthor, but for the life of me, I cannot remember a single thing about He-Man himself. I don’t think I noticed him as a child, either. He wasn’t on my radar because he had nothing on Skeletor!

I have changed little as an adult in that regard. And since it is Halloween, I thought I’d pay tribute to some of my favorite vampiric villains in cinema.

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Silence (2016)

Silence

A long weekend is coming up for most of us! What better way to spend part of it than indulging in a little big screen time from the comfort of your couch? Here’s one film I would say is a must-see that you might have missed. . . .

In the midst of intense persecution of Japanese Christians in the 17th century, Portuguese Jesuits Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) insist on traveling to the country to find their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Reports have surfaced that he has apostatized, and they refuse to believe it. Despite the danger, they enter the country and quickly find themselves in a world of concealed faith, persecution, and difficult moral dilemmas.

I was intrigued by this movie when it was first announced for several reasons. One is that it was a Martin Scorsese film, and as I mentioned earlier this year, I enjoy his work. I was also intrigued that this movie seemed different from many of his recent efforts. Beyond the specific historical time period–not commonly covered in popular culture–it also didn’t feature many of the actors who frequently pop up in his movies. Some of the themes in the movie–guilt, sin, salvation–are recurring in his work, but still, it seemed like a change from business as usual, and I was intrigued.

And I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed! Though the basic premise sounds like a rescue mission, that’s really not what ensues. It’s hard to explain the rest of the movie without providing spoilers, but I appreciated how ultimately complex it was. The movie isn’t very interested in demonizing one side or the other and is instead more focused on probing different characters’ responses to their situation.

I appreciated that, and I thought the actors did a great job of conveying that. In fact, one of the best performances in the film for me was that of Yōsuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro, the priests’ nervous, potentially shady guide. His character was one that could easily have fallen into well-worn tropes, but the movie avoided that and was all the better for it.

The movie has an offbeat sense of pace, too. It isn’t action-packed, but it also isn’t boring. It’s a long movie–over 2.5 hours–but I found it absorbing throughout. As a given in any film about persecution, there was violence, and it was disturbing, but it wasn’t as graphic as I was expecting. That in no way made it less disturbing, but I did find that surprising, especially given how spectacularly violent so many of Scorsese’s other movies are.

In a way, this movie probably felt the least like a Scorsese film of all the ones I have seen, but I don’t think that’s a problem. There are some really interesting camera angles at times and a dark sense of humor pervading several scenes and some other touches that I think of as being quintessentially Scorsese. The book is based on a novel by Shūsaku Endō, which I would like to read and haven’t had time for, and I suspect the fact that it is an adaptation is one reason for its differences with the rest of his work.

The film is not without its flaws, though I found them pretty minimal. I thought the cast did a great job, but I did find some of their attempts at Portuguese accents uneven. Their efforts ranged from “generically foreign” to “Irish and not even trying,” but I didn’t find it as distracting as I usually do, which I consider a testament to the overall quality of the movie. I also thought that there was a touch too much narration, usually one of my favorite parts of a Scorsese movie, but I assume that was excerpts straight from the book.

Overall, I thought this was an excellent movie. If you like historical drama or thought-provoking drama, this one is well worth watching. As always, follow this link to our online library catalog to place a hold or learn more about the movie.

Recommended if you enjoyed The Mission.

Have you watched this movie? Have you read the book? How do you feel about movie accents? Tell us in the comments!

From Page to Screen: The Girl on the Train

Rachel Watson has, to put it mildly, seen better days.

An unstable alcoholic who is prone to blackouts, she no longer has a husband, job, or home. Instead, she’s reduced to living with a friend and spending her days riding the train because she has nothing better to do with her time. She distracts herself by watching a couple who live in a house next to the railway track.

As she rides by every day, she crafts a story in her head about this seemingly perfect couple. She gives them names and occupations and hobbies. And, yes, that’s as creepy as it sounds. This unhinged respite from her own troubled life is shaken one day when she rides by and sees something that shatters the illusions she has created in her own imagination.

Even more worryingly, she learns soon that the woman who lives in the house has disappeared. Rachel starts to suspect that she may know more about the case than she realizes, but she can’t remember anything. Complications ensue.

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Ask The Blogger: Harvey (1950)

Harvey

A few months ago when our blog first debuted, we hosted a “meet the blogger” reception at the library to boost patron awareness and also to provide readers with a forum for suggesting topics/books/movies for me to write about. One of the people I chatted with that day–Stephanie–asked me if I’d ever watched the classic comedy Harvey. When I told her that I knew the basic story line but had never seen it, she requested that I write about it.

Harvey is one of those movies that I’ve always heard about. I knew it starred Jimmy Stewart and that he has an imaginary friend, a giant rabbit. But that was about all I knew about the film. I’m glad Stephanie recommended it to me because it’s hilarious!

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Ask The Blogger: Mr. Holmes (2015)

Last month, we debuted the “Ask the Blogger” series, in which I answer reader questions/review reader-recommended material. This post comes courtesy of Carol Ann, who suggested I review this recent movie because it’s wonderful but under-appreciated.

cover

I actually remember seeing some advertising for this movie when it came out, made a mental note that I should see it, and then forgot about it until I read the request Carol Ann submitted. I’m glad she suggested it because she’s right–it is a great movie that more people should see.

I should probably preface this review by admitting that I am a devoted Sherlock Holmes fan. I’ve loved the character since I was a kid. In fact, I own several different editions of the complete works of Sherlock Holmes, and I’ve read all the stories twice–once in the order they were published and once in a sequence that someone proposed representing the chronology within the stories themselves. (I realize that makes me sound like a complete dork–and there’s some truth to that accusation–but it was actually an interesting experiment in watching a series evolve. I have no regrets.)

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