The Best 'Dracula' Film Ever Made
He’s the king of vampires. He’s been in movies, books, comics, and theatre. Hell, there’s a puppet on Sesame Street and a cereal mascot modeled after him. Let me tell you something: Count Chocula is pretty goddamn delicious. I used to eat it while watching Dracula movies. Huh. Just typing that gave me some insight into myself. Anywho, Dracula is probably the most adapted literary character in any medium. If he’s not being adapted outright, there are characters that invoke him. Whenever vampire stories are created, he’s always on the artist’s mind, whether they are influenced by him or not. In fact, Dracula has become such a staple, some people think Dracula is the first fictional vampire ever created. That distinction goes to a guy named Varney. Varney the Vampire. No. I’m not making that up.
Filmmaking Lessons from “The Ocean’s Trilogy” — ‘Ocean’s Eleven’
Ocean’s Eleven was released in 2001. The world was kind of in a weird place. It felt like everything was on fire. I was nine years old and I was at the Regal Theater in New Rochelle. I was watching one of the coolest movies I have ever seen. George Clooney and Brad Pitt, the epitome of gentlemen thieves, were on the screen looking like absolute rock stars; movie royalty. At the end of the film, the villain, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), a ruthless mogul and casino owner, has just called the SWAT team to stop thieves from robbing his vault. The thieves escape and the SWAT team leaves. Terry Benedict stands in the middle of the vault and tries to piece together what just happened. His second in command asks him on the walkie-talkie, “What happened to all that money?” We cut to the SWAT team walking through the casino floor, bags in hand. One of them flips up their helmet to wipe the sweat off his brow. It’s Brad Pitt.
Time is Luck: 'Heat' and the Darkness of Filmmaking
Michael Mann is not only a celebrated writer/director, television producer, and the reason we all love Phil Collins (Thank you for that, by the way), he’s also an author. He’s written a sequel to his magnum opus, Heat. It’s called Heat 2, which is kind of awesome. If someone says, “Hey. I haven’t read the first one,” you can say, “You don’t have to read it, fam. You have to watch it.” Then that person would definitely look at you like you’re crazy then you’d have to explain the following: Heat is a crime thriller written and directed by the guy who gave us the living embodiment of the 80s, Miami Vice (and the amazing movie adaptation).
Dance with the Devil: The Joker in Cinema
Every few decades, something very unique happens: An audience sits down in a movie theater, the movie screen illuminates and the audience is swept away. The energy of the auditorium changes and everyone realizes they are watching something special. This happened when audiences were introduced to Darth Vader. It happened again two decades later when Clarice Starling walked into that dungeon, down the corridor, and was greeted by Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And it happened in 2008 when this masked figure robbed a bank in Gotham City. The Joker arrived. He’d been in live-action movies before but this time something was different; something we could not articulate. Cinema had changed.
Which Director Understood Batman?
Batman is one of the best characters in fiction. Not just comic books. Fiction; a tragic figure with identity issues, post-traumatic stress, perhaps sociopathy. Batman’s popularity has outlasted most of the heroes that debuted in his day because you can take him, drop him on an alien planet and he’d still be Batman. At first, he was a pulp hero; a crazy masked guy with a gun. This was wisely retconned, making Batman more layered, the reason he’s one of the most popular comic characters ever. But what makes Batman…Batman? The costume, Bruce Wayne’s handsome billionaire playboy persona, martial arts expertise; a man in peak physical condition who’s also a genius. He fights extravagant psychotic villains. He has complicated relationships with his butler/father figure, Alfred, and his surrogate Bat Family. He has a strict moral code, refusing to murder even the most violent criminals, and finally his compassion, the core of Batman. I’ve obsessed over him my whole life. I’m not exaggerating. It’s bad.