Bram Stoker’s most famous novel has been adapted many times, with the titular count making more than 200 film appearances. Though most films featuring Dracula stray far from the source material, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film retains most of the plot, even using multiple narrators and viewpoints to capture the fragmented nature of the novel. For those who haven’t read the horror classic, the story concerns the arrival of the vampire Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) in 19th century London, and the group of people who run afoul of him. Coppola reimagines the count as a tragic figure, but doesn’t sacrifice any of the horror he brings with him. Filmed using practical effects in order to maintain an antique aesthetic, Coppola’s Dracula is a delirious journey through romance and horror, the type of big budget spectacle most directors could only dream of making nowadays.
Summer blockbusters have become so rote that it is hard to remember a time when big budget action films dared to be a little mad. Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, set in the 23rd century, involves a New York taxi driver/special forces soldier (Bruce Willis) helping an ancient woman (Milla Jovovich) locate a superweapon capable of destroying a planet-destroying evil. And that’s just the setup. Depicting a grotesque future where consumerism and industry have ruined the Earth, The Fifth Element is a gutsy sci-fi adventure with an imaginative setting and over-the-top action set pieces. The film’s sound design is also key, immersing the viewer in bizarre machinery and the alien music of Besson’s future.
“So bad it’s good” is a phrase thrown around a little too easily these days. Some films are worth watching not because they’re great or even good in any discernible way, but because they strive so hard to reach new heights that their failures are more spectacular than a typical movie’s successes. Jupiter Ascending, the latest film from the Wachowski siblings is, like pretty much every movie they’ve done since The Matrix, a mess. Unlike the second and third Matrix films, however, it’s a fascinating mess. The story begins when Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) discovers that she is the genetic reincarnation of the Mother Abrasax, the previous queen of the solar system, making Jupiter royalty. Abrasax’s three children want the inheritance all to themselves, and so Jupiter must contend with them and save the universe from their control. She is accompanied on her galactic journey by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a bounty-hunting werewolf who wears rocket boots — a sentence that by itself should convince anyone to watch Jupiter Ascending.
If you like horror films with a bit of a comedy and a dash of “what the hell is happening?” then there’s no better movie available in Dolby Atmos than The Cabin in the Woods. In it, a group of college kids decide to take a break from their studies and have some fun in the woods, only to be interrupted by a family of zombies. Sounds like a pretty standard horror flick, but by the time you’re in the third act, you’re watching people get massacred by everything from werewolves and ghosts to unicorns and a mermaid (sorry, merman). Directed by Cloverfield‘s Drew Goddard and written by The Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon, Cabin in the Woods plays with your psyche as much as it plays with horror tropes, and it treats you to a blood-ridden horror film that never forgets to make you laugh.
For every lightsaber and TIE fighter battle in Star Wars, there’s a deep, sometimes dry, discussion about human nature or physics in Star Trek. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams’ production company saw this as an opportunity to revitalize the Star Trek franchise for the 21st century, and the results were a trilogy of films as explosive as any other action film, while still holding true to the franchise’s tradition of being obsessed with time theory and quantum mechanics. Experiencing Future San Francisco fall to the hands of Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), or watching a young Kirk steal a car and nearly jump off a cliff while blasting The Beastie Boys, makes you realize just how fun it is to witness blockbuster sci-fi films push your Atmos surround system to new limits.
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