Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the tag “Vic De Leon”

One Year Later

One Year LaterOne year ago, this week, I launched my blog. I never thought I’d start one for a variety of reasons, but the past year has been quite a trip. During that time the following things happened:

The second year for my blog is shaping up to be an exciting one. This week, I’m heading to ThrillerFest and will be sharing with you all the wonderful content that will invariably come out of the event. And I’ve got a couple exciting author interviews lined up for later this year. Speaking of which, my first self-published book should be out before year’s end – so stayed tuned for more details.

Thank you for following my blog, as well as liking, sharing and commenting on my posts. Your voice and input is what matters most, and I hope to keep you entertained for many years to come.

Vic De Leon’s Top 5 Wes Craven Movies

Top-5My friend, follower and fellow blogger, Vic De Leon, has returned for another guest blog post. This time, he’s going to share with us his Top 5 Wes Craven movies. I hope you enjoy the post, and make sure to check out his blog, Vic’s Movie Den, for more great content about movies – including my Top 5 Wes Craven movies.

Top 5 Wes Craven Movies

By Victor De Leon

Director and Writer Wes Craven is one of those few film-makers who has become a household name by establishing that he is capable of setting the bar, setting trends and re-inventing the horror genre more than once while remaining fresh and original. Craven for many years has challenged his audiences as well as frightening them and maintaining a high standard of craftsmanship. With an impeccable eye for composition and a keen knowledge of writing and structure, Craven has remained true to the genre and to his adored fans. Craven is a jack of all trades. He has written, shot, edited and even starred in his films. He has shown that he can never get stuck for too long and he embraces new innovations, new ideas and continues to be an exemplary artist of the moving image.

His movies and images have provoked fear, wonder and amazement and he has created some enduring characters and moments that will always be etched in the minds of horror genre junkies young and old. From Freddy Krueger to Horace Pinker, Craven leaves no stone un-turned when exploring the dynamics and complexities of the classic horror antagonist. With “Scream” he once again redefined himself and created the “Meta Horror” genre with a franchise that has spawned 3 sequels and has a TV show in development.

For my fellow blogger, Michael Cavacini I have compiled my Top 5 favorite Wes Craven films. I thank him very much for once again letting me grace his fine site with one of my Top 5 lists. I hope you all enjoy!

– Vic @Vic’s Movie Den

5) New Nightmare

A perfect example of Craven re-inventing himself by taking on his Nightmare franchise in an original, brutal and menacing way. Here, Craven relies on his “Meta” horror tactic and thinks outside the box with a story re-uniting the cast of the first Nightmare on Elm Street entry. New Nightmare is fresh and consistently scary which is something previous efforts lacked. Solid acting, directing, true mood and style makes this an obvious choice for my top 5.

4) The Hills Have Eyes

A outrageous and depraved story marks this early work of Craven’s. This film is perhaps the template for the slew of survivalist horror movies that came after it. Craven succeeds in weaving a true to life and gritty piece of  demented cinema. A strong effort that disturbs, excites and pushes the envelope. Along with Hooper’s “Chainsaw” this 70’s Craven film is timeless and endures in a stark and disturbing way.

3) The Serpent and the Rainbow

This film based on the novel by botanist and scientist Wade Davis is an underdog film entry from Wes Craven. The film stars Bill Pullman in a very difficult role as a Davis like character that has to investigate, for a Drug Company, claims of people returning back to life in Haiti. Actually believing that a powder like substance may be involved, Pullman’s character finds out that more menacing supernatural forces may be at work. Creepy, spooky and nightmarish, Craven revels in keeping his viewers on edge and second guessing what they are watching unfold. A solid performance from Pullman, strong direction and the beautiful locale serves up a very watchable and scary voodoo thriller which explores themes from taboos to political strife. Very recommended.

2) Scream

Hip, stylish and a game changer, Scream remains Craven’s most extraordinary “Meta” effort. A young and handsome cast help to propel the story. Kevin Williamson pens a terrific creep-fest that Craven respects and excels in translating to the screen in an exceptional manner that re-invents the slasher film. A tremendous horror film on many levels, “Scream” remains hip and relevant to this day. A horror film about kids obsessed with horror films. Just brilliant. The film also references many horror movies from John Carpenter’s Halloween to The Howling from Joe Dante.

1) A Nightmare on Elm Street

Original, very scary and beautifully scored and photographed, A Nightmare on Elm Street is Wes Craven’s magnum opus. Craven sets the bar extremely high and with his cast, which includes a young Johnny Deep to the seasoned John Saxon are all amazing  to watch here. Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger is flawlessly horrific and menacing. He IS the bad guy. The film has an almost palpable atmosphere of dread and fear. It is a film that Craven utilizes to provoke a fear of the dark and our own dreams. A film where no one is safe, not even from their slumber. It is a movie which is a fable of the darkest elements and the unease is prevalent from the first to the last nightmarish frame. Craven has created an enduring and legendary picture with both a  great antagonist and protagonist in the character of Nancy played with eager professionalism by Heather Langenkamp. Beautifully unnerving and technically brilliant, A Nightmare on Elm Street is my favorite Wes Craven film. Highly recommended!

Top 5: James Newton Howard Scores

The post below was written by my good friend Vic, from Vic’s Movie Den.You can see my version of this post on Vic’s blog here. If you love movies, make sure to visit Vic’s blog regularly; he’s always posting interesting news, reviews and more. Enjoy!

James Newton Howard

Even though I had heard of James Newton Howard (JNH) and knew of some of his works by reputation, it wasn’t until 2005 after the score to King Kong was released that I began to go back and go through his extensive library of films before 2005; scores like Waterworld, Glengarry Glen Ross, Dinosaur, and even Stir of Echoes. Upon discovering his unique style of piano, horn and string compositions, I began to see a wonderful pattern in his soundtracks. I was glad to find out that his scores have an incredible replay value and revisiting them often resulted in my finding even more unique and stylish layers in them. Outbreak, Snow Falling on Cedars and the score to the sci-fi Stephen King film Dreamcatcher all have stunning merit and serve as a wonderful tapestry for his kind of individual vision. He is indeed a fast and hard working composer who at times can be working on two or more scores at once. Soon to come he has After Earth and the next hunger games movie: Catching Fire. I recently also was turned on to The Prince of Tides, The Bourne Legacy and Salt from Newton Howard. So, in conclusion I will give you all my Top 5 favorite scores by James Newton Howard. This won’t be easy. I hope you enjoy and discover the work of this masterful composer if you haven’t yet.
The Village5 – The Village 
An incredibly well crafted work of musical art. It has an ethereal flow and wonderful atmosphere. It is serene then menacing then other-worldly in it’s passion. It is beautifully melodious and features the incredible work of Hilary Hahn on the violin. The almost five-minute long “Those We Don’t Speak Of” is a stand out piece that will get under your skin and move your soul in it’s haunting beauty.
I Am Legend
4 – I Am Legend
What I love about this score is how simplistic and understated it is. It is indeed close in tone and style to some other of his scores like Batman Begins. This score is sentimental, dramatic and rich. It proceeds in layering hope and despair in some very beautiful tracks like “My Name is Robert Neville” and the heart breaking “Sam’s Gone.” While it does have some action cues, this score will remain as a very thought provoking composition for me.
Signs
3 – Signs 
This score is a very unique JNH composition for me in that it evokes a sense of spirituality and mood. It is a deep and atmospheric piece of work that includes some vicious piano cues and minimal and suspenseful techniques. JNH provokes, in the first half, real suspense and mood. It is almost two scores in one. One is melodious and ethereal and the second half which includes the sonic “The Hand of Fate: Pts. 1 and 2” is hands down (no pun intended) one of the best tracks on the score. Signs builds tension and strength using the minimal approach that James Newton Howard is so good at.
King Kong
2 – King Kong
This is the score that really won me over on James Newton Howard. Until then I just knew of his scores to animated movies and such. It wasn’t until I watched and closely listened to this incredible composition that I knew I had to go back and revisit some of his earlier works. In the meantime I bought the score to King Kong and listened to it night and day. It is rousing, sweeping and quite emotional. During the action pieces of course we do get the big, loud and deeply percussive rumblings like in “Head Towards the Animals” and “Beauty Killed the Beast.” It is when Newton Howard takes the time to slow down and serve up a more emotional and contemplative composition like “A Fateful Meeting” and even the striking “Central Park” is when this score stands apart from the rest of the pack. Despite not sticking to much of the period, this score is incredibly fast, unique and big. The replay value is incredible. Highly recommended!
Lady In The Water
1 – The Lady in the Water
It seems that whenever Newton Howard does a score for director M. Night it always ends up being a resounding effort. Unfortunately, in most regards the score ends up being so much better than the film itself. Examples are “The Happening” and of course “Lady in the Water.” My wife and I rented said film one night and I could not follow the movie because the score was so darn melodious, soulful and lyrical.It is the purest score that James Newton Howard has ever done in my opinion. The first track “Prologue” demonstrates how well Newton Howard can showcase layers and threads throughout his scores. The incredible motif of the “Lady” runs through the entire score with different expressions and ethereal musicality. I was so impressed by the haunting beauty of this score and it is so effective in provoking a sense of peace and alarm (like in the moody “The Party). The climactic track “The Great Eatlon” shows off Newton Howard’s bombastic nature in the ways of John Williams. “The Healing” is perhaps my favorite track. It is haunting and precious as is the majority of this stunning score. Do not miss it!

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