Monday, December 10, 2012

Donald Duck A Christmas For Shacktown

Donald Duck vol.2 A Christmas For Shacktown is here! It contains A Christmas For Shacktown, The Big Bin on Killmotor Hill, Gladstone's Usual Good Year, The Screaming Cowboy, Statuesque Spendthrifts, Rocket Wing Saves The Day, Gladstone's Terrible Secret, The Think Box Bollix, The Golden Helmet, Houseboat Holiday, Gemstone Hunters, The Gilded Man, and Spending Money. Plus 9 one-page gags.

I've read some of these before and my initial intention was to have The Gilded Man in better printing. I still love the story: Donald's pursue of a very rare magenta stamp leads him to meet El Dorado, the mysterious gilded man in British Guiana (Guyana).

However, I was very happy to find two stories which I hadn't read for a long time: 1) Statuesque Spendthrifts, where Uncle Scrooge competes with The Maharajah of Howduyustan to build the most impressive statue(s) in Duckburg. 2) Spending Money, in which Donald helps Uncle Scrooge to spend billions because the money bin is too full for them. Below is a panel from Statuesque Spendthrifts, a very memorable one, I must say.

Who can build the biggest Cornelius Coot statue?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Karen Rose's Vartanian Trilogy

This trilogy is one of the best crime thrillers I have ever read. The first book, Die For me, is about Simon Vartanian, an evil artist, who tortures and kills people to get an exact reality how they look when they die so he can capture them into video games and his paintings.

The second book, Scream For Me, stars Simon's brother, Daniel Vartanian, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent, in solving a 13 year-old murder which involved Simon and his photograph collection. This 2nd book is the best among the 3 and I think Daniel is one of the most romantic characters ever written!

The third book, Kill For Me, stars Simon & Daniel's sister, Susannah Vartanian, a New York City ADA, in pursuit of a ring of people who kidnap and sell teenage girls.

The stories of all 3 books are well woven, well connected to each other, with lots of twists and a very satisfying ending. Like all Ms Rose's books, these three also included steamy romances, focus on a certain pair each book. I think all 3 must be read and in the right order.

The titles of book 1 & 3 are appropriate. Die For Me, because Simon wants those people to die (although Scream For Me is also okay, as he wants them to scream). Kill For Me, because the bad guy wants his 'pupils' to kill for him. The 2nd book's title seems not very right...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

La faute de l'abbé Mouret (1970)

Having watched Judex, which is also by director Georges Franju, I expected this movie to be a sort of dreamy-like. It turns out Judex is a better film, although there are those dreamy parts in La faute de l'abbé Mouret. Adapted from Émile Zola's novel, this is a sad movie - as expected.

Young Father Mouret is a handsome priest who believes that he can do good in the world, or at least in the little village where he lives. Almost no one comes to Mass, but when a villager is dying, Father Mouret thinks it's necessary that he gives the person the last sacrament - although when he arrives in that house, no one pay attention to him because they are busy searching the dead person's hidden gold coins. When his uncle, a doctor, comes to see an 'unfaithful man' who lives in a big house called Paradou (Paradise?), Father Mouret goes with him - hoping to be able to make the 'unfaithful man' a believer. He fails, but there he lays eyes on the non-believer's niece: a beautiful girl, wild and free, named Albine. She is as beautiful as the church's new statue of Virgin Mary.

Then Father Mouret falls ill and his uncle doctor takes him to Paradou, where Mouret is taken care by Albine. Because of his illness Mouret forgets everything - sort of amnesia - and as time passes, he and Albine are falling in love. These are the most beautiful parts of the movie. Mouret and Albine are like Adam and Eve in Eden. After they consummated their love, the wall that circles the garden of Paradou is broken by a thunder, and Father Mouret sees his friend, an older priest, and the village. He remembers everything, realizes what he has done, leaves Albine and Paradou, and seeks forgiveness.

Albine tries to make Mouret back to her, but as a priest, Mouret must not touch a woman, let alone marry her. Why such a love so beautiful as theirs, must be destroyed? Why loving her is such a big sin? Albine finally commits suicide and Father Mouret buries her in the church's cemetery, despite the older priest's protest because she was a non believer.

Friday, November 2, 2012

You Belong To Me by Karen Rose

Like 'No One Left To Tell', 'You Belong To Me' was also hard to put down. The story is fast paced, with various characters. A brutal serial murderer is terrorizing Baltimore, leaving bodies and body parts to be found by the heroine : Lucy Trask, a Medical Examiner; so the case must be connected to her somehow. However, Lucy hasn't got a clue about it. Well, in the end, we know that the murderer himself is a mad man who gets the reason of his murders a bit wrong. He becomes an avenging angel for his dead sister. He blames everybody for the ruin of his family, while those he blames, even though they are not angels, they also not that guilty.

The brutality of the murders reminds me of books by Philip Margolin, so it's rather a surprise that a woman can write stories like this.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Un papillon sur l'épaule (1978)

Lino Ventura started out as a wrestler before becoming a movie star and he usually played as a gangster, so he was not exactly what we call a methodical actor; but he was surprisingly very good in this psychological thriller.

Lino Ventura played Roland Fériaud, a Frenchman who just arrived in Hotel Colon in Barcelona. He checks in, goes into the elevator, and when he is entering his hotel room, he hears a moan from the room next-door. He knocks, enters, sees a body on the bed, and somebody hits his head. When he wakes up, he is in a deserted hospital, with only a doctor, a nurse, and a lunatic patient whose face resembles the body he saw back in the hotel. This lunatic man talks to an imaginary butterfly on his shoulder and adores a scarecrow on a bed in his room.

The doctor lets Roland go after convincing him that he has too much imagination. He goes back to Hotel Colon and meets a lady who is looking for her husband whose description matches the lunatic man. Roland tells the lady to make a report to the police. Then Roland's wife comes to join him, but then kidnapped and the kidnappers demands to trade her for a suitcase which Roland has no idea about.

This is a story of a mistaken identity, a man in the wrong place and in the wrong time. Being in a foreign country, Roland has no one to help him. His holiday turns into a nightmare and nothing will ever be the same.

The movie is rather slow, like Jacques Deray's previous movie La Piscine(1968); but Un papillon sur l'épaule has more suspense. The sight of the second dead body was very horrifying for me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

No One Left To Tell

I had only read one other book by Karen Rose before: Don't Tell. It was enjoyable, but nothing special. It was the usual romance/thriller story. So I expected nothing when I picked up 'No One Left To Tell', but this one turns out to be much much better than Don't Tell, which is her debut, published in 2003, nine years before.

No One Left To Tell has good plots, fast paced, with many body counts. The book is quite thick, but actually all the actions only happen in 4 days. It started 6 years ago, with the murder of a young girl named Crystal Jones. Prosecutor Grayson Smith had sent Ramon Munoz to jail for the murder. Ramon's wife and mother never believe he is guilty, so his wife goes to see Smith to ask for a re-trial, but a week later she is murdered. Shortly before her death, she gave proofs of her husband's innocence to PI Paige Holden, along with a message that 'a cop did this'. Holden then works together with Smith to re-investigate the case.

The title is appropriate: No One Left To Tell - because the killer(s) murdered all the witnesses along the way.[So many deaths in the span of 6 years, yet the police couldn't see the connection.] However there are of course several who are spared by Ms Rose - to help the hero and heroine crack the case (in 4 days!) and save the day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck by Carl Barks

Although now I have 2 ebook readers, 1 Nook Simple Touch and 1 Nook Tablet, there are some books that still worthy to buy in hard copy. I bought these 2 books in July : Uncle Scrooge "Only a Poor Old Man" and Donald Duck "Lost in the Andes".

"Only a Poor Old Man" features "Only a Poor Old Man", "Back to the Klondike", "The Horse-Radish Treasure", "The Round Money Bin", "The Menehune Mystery", "The Secret of Atlantis", "Tralla La", and "Outfoxed Fox", plus 1 short story and 18 one-page gags. The introduction is by George Lucas and there are story notes and some old comic book covers.

"Lost in the Andes" features "Lost in the Andes!", "The Golden Christmas Tree", "Race to the South Seas!", and "Voodoo Hoodoo", plus 9 short stories and 7 one-page gags. There are also introduction, story notes and some old comic book covers.

I am never tired reading the works of Carl Barks and think these stories can still be read by future generations. I am waiting now to be able to buy the next volumes from this series.

Since I missed the first 2 books from Kisah Terbaik Disney Karya Carl Barks from Gramedia, I try to lay my hands on everything by Carl Barks. Maybe it's a sort of compensation.

Daddy's Home (A Holly Jennings Thriller)

I cannot say I like this book by A.K. Alexander very much, but I must admit that I enjoyed reading it. The heroine of this story is Crime Scene Investigator Holly Jennings of the San Diego Police Department, a single mother of a little girl. She is investigating a serial murders of single mothers and their only child. The murderer is then nicknamed 'the Family Man' - a man who dreams to be the perfect father and have the perfect family by kidnapping a single mother and her only child, pretend to be the head of the family, and if things doesn't work out, he kills them. In simple way, a very sick man.

Holly Jennings herself, during the story, meets a man with 2 daughters (the wife has left them) and begins a relationship with him.

I think the style of the writing is similar to Mary Higgins Clark's. We are brought to follow Holly Jennings's mind and the killer's mind. I find the killer's mind is more interesting, although it is sometimes silly and ridiculous.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Artist (2011)

It was a surprise to know a b/w silent movie could win the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards. I myself often think how they don't make good pictures as before, so it is a good thing that this tribute to silent movies era has collected so many awards. Not many dialogues in The Artist, and I feel pity to the writers who always in want of inspirations to write flowered dialogues. Not that I care much about good dialogues because 1) my English is not that good. I only pick up the essential meaning. 2) I prefer good plots over good dialogues.

I find it hard to take Jean Dujardin seriously after watching Lucky Luke, OSS 117 and Brice de Nice. I was amazed to know that he won the Academy Awards for Best Actor. I know he is a wonderful actor, but everytime I see him on screen, he is always funny; that it sounds like a joke that he won the Best Actor award :-) since usually the awards go to serious drama actors.
Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin (a tribute to Rudy Valentino?). The movie begins in 1927 in Hollywoodland, when silent movies era ends. The stubborn Valentin insists to stay in the silent movie business, and as a result, his fans and his wife leave him. When the stock market crash in 1929, he lost his fortune. Meanwhile, Peppy, a young actress who once an extra in his movies, begins to step a ladder of success in talking movies. Peppy tries to help Valentin, who is too proud to receive any help. Another character worth to be mentioned is the dog, which is almost as smart as Luke the dog in Buster Keaton's films.

I think it's rather unbelievable that George Valentin's fans desert him that soon. I get an impression that he is a warranty for box office in the beginning of the movie. People come to the theatre to see him. When talking movies era begins, his movie producer replaces him with new faces; and since then only a few people come to the theatre to watch a movie he stars, produced and directed. Charlie Chaplin still made a silent movie in 1931 (City Lights) and it was a success.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wild Justice

I read Gone, But Not Forgotten by Philip Margolin years ago, borrowed from my cousin, and liked it very much. Only recently I could read more books by the same writer and although they didn't impress me as much as Gone, But Not Forgotten, I thought they were still better than usual thriller novels.

Two days ago I finished Wild Justice. I like reading about serial murders and how the detectives solve them. Mr Margolin's books always have high body counts and horrible tortures. Gone, But Not Forgotten and Wild Justice have similarities, because both the culprits have a hobby to torture people and examine how long they can endure pain, like Nazi experiments.

Like its title, Wild Justice is more violent and the characters take the vengeance into their own hands than let the law take care of it. If in Gone, But Not Forgotten Peter Lake is saved from one of his victim's revenge; it's the opposite with the culprit in Wild Justice. His end is horrible and I was almost sick reading the part, that I had to think something happy (Snow White singing With A Smile and A Song).

I just read negative reviews about this book in Amazon and mostly they were disappointed because they could guess the culprit right away. I must say that I had my guess, too, and I was right, although that didn't stop me to read until the end to confirm that. I think Philip Margolin books are thriller, not who done it. So for me, it doesn't matter if I can guess the culprit early in the book, because the rest of the book is still exciting.

This book must be a success because the lead character, Lawyer Amanda Jaffe, is brought back in 3 more books.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mirror Mirror (2012)

This is a strange version of Snow White story. Parts of the birth of Snow White until before her 18th birthday are told in very good animation. Her mother died in childbirth, and under a spell, her father, a king, married again to the most beautiful woman in the world. Couple of years later he rode into the woods and never been seen again. Snow White and the kingdom fell into the hands of the step-mother.

The new queen demands the people to pay taxes to pay for her parties and the kingdom now suffers. A baker tells Snow White to come out of the castle to see the people. On her way in the woods, she saves a half-naked prince and his aide who had been robbed by 7 dwarfs and hung from a tree. The prince resumes his journey to the queen's castle and the queen, heard that he is rich, wants to marry him. The prince, already fallen in love with Snow White, refuses, but the queen charms him, that he thinks he is a puppy and the queen in his master.

The queen orders Snow White to be killed in the woods, but the person who carrying the order sets her free. Snow White goes deep into the woods and stays in 7 dwarfs's house, where they teach her to become a thief. When she hears about the upcoming wedding between the prince and the queen, she & the dwarfs go to sabotage it. The angry queen sets out the beast (a dragon), who turns out to be the lost king. Snow White meets her father again and marries the prince, while the queen pays the price for using too much magic: she lost her beauty and becomes old. In the wedding ceremony the old 'ex-queen' tries to give a red apple to Snow White, but Snow White asks the old woman to take the first bite. The old woman eats the apple, falls down, and disappears.

I don't like the humour in this film. It's not funny. Julia Roberts as the most beautiful woman in the world? She is beautiful, but I don't think she is the most. I think animation is the best way if one of the characters is the most beautiful woman in the world. The prince is ridiculous, much more ridiculous than Prince Edward in Enchanted. The ending shows Snow White & co. dance with a Bollywood song, which I don't think match with previous atmosphere.

The scene of Snow White running in the woods is very beautiful

Saturday, May 26, 2012

La bataille du rail (1946)

No matter what kind of job you have, you can always give contribution to your country; I think that's what this movie wants to say. I had wanted to watch this movie for along time because I love director René Clément's works, but the DVD price had never been on discount. Last week I found that this was shown on TV, but I found it too late and only watched it about 15 minutes. So last night I stayed up until 2 a.m. to watch while it's being re-shown. The Battle of the Rails tells about French railroad workers vs Nazi Germans during the occupation. They do anything to create problems for the Germans: send false reports, bomb railroad, ambush trains, prevent trains to leave France, sabotage, etc.

When I saw parts of it last week, I thought it was a war movie in a light tone. Like in a scene when a German officer shouted to a railroad worker to get a crane, the worker shouted back. Compare this to Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. Amon Goeth is so easy to shot people and for him, life of people - other than Germans - doesn't count. No one dare to shout at Amon Goeth. However, when I watched the Battle of the Rails last night in whole, I saw that the movie had at least 2 haunting moments: 1) when the Germans lined up the sabotageurs and shot them all one by one, and 2) when the Resistance tried to overcome the weapon train. The battle was so heavy. There was this French man who had been shot and tried to crawl over the creek to save himself, he could safely reach the woods, only to be flatten by a tank.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

L'enfer (2009)

The movie was never finished in 1964, so this is 'only' a documentary. The movie could have been a breakthrough, but director Henri-Georges Clouzot, who got unlimited budget, kept making experiments. The lead actor, Serge Reggiani, finally walked away. Shortly after, Clouzot himself got a heart attack in the shooting location, while filming a scene of his two lead actresses, Romy Schneider and Dany Carrel, embracing each other. The project was never continued.

The story focuses on a husband's jealousy over his beautiful wife. It seemed Clouzot wanted to use distorted images, bizzare colour, and disturbing soundtrack. The movie is shot in black and white for normal scenes; and colour is used to portray the husband's wild imagination of his wife's betrayal. It's quite interesting, really. The couple lives near a railway and the train comes at a certain hour. The sound of the train triggers the husband to play with his jealous mind.

The documentary presents costume tests, interviews with the director, a selection of Clouzot's experiments, and scenes shot with the cast. The scenes with the cast are without sound/dialogues, but thankfully Jacques Gamblin and Bérénice Bejo read the most important dialogues for us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

L'amant de lady Chatterley (1955)

I watched this last night on TV5 and liked it very much. I have seen the 2006 version with Marina Hands, but that new version contains a big portion of nudity that I lost the meaning of the story.

This 1955 black-and-white version, directed by Marc Allégret, more focuses on the story--> of course in the 50's they couldn't portray nudity as free as nowadays. According to Wikipedia, even this version was banned from the United States. Danielle Darrieux plays Constance/Lady Chatterley. Her husband, a rich landowner named Clifford, returns from war as an invalid man. He wants a son who can inherit his land in the future and tells his wife to find a lover so she can be pregnant. At first, Constance disagree, but after she meets their gamekeeper, Mellors, she gradually falls in love with him. Mellors returns her feeling. When Constance's sister and husband know who her lover is, they are upset. It's okay to have a lover, but why with the gamekeeper? She should have picked someone from her own class. They believe Constance has lowered her down by doing so. Sir Clifford sacks the gamekeeper, but wants to keep Constance's baby. At this point, Constance has loved Mellors so much that she decides to leave Clifford, go with Mellors, and take the unborn baby.

The movie is filled with dialogues which run smoothly. Erno Crisa, who plays Mellors, is very handsome; makes it believable that Constance can love him even though he is only a gamekeeper.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Never Look Away

The story in Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay is full of action. I think it's very appropriate to make into a Hollywood action movie, but it's not my kind of book. The plot is not as complicated as I had expected. I have to admit that it's a page turner, though.

David Harwood, a journalist in Promise Falls, New York, lives happily with his beautiful wife, Jan, and their 4 year old son, Ethan. On that fatal day, they go to the amusement park. David leaves them both to buy ice cream and while his wife looks away, his son is gone - probably being kidnapped. He and his wife then spread to find him. David finds his son, but this time, Jan never comes to the meeting point. Where has she gone? The police think David killed his wife and hid the body somewhere. The proofs all point to David as the killer, but when a dead body turns up, it's not Jan's, but her co-worker's. Realized that the police cannot help him find Jan, David investigates the matter himself and he will find that his wife has a dark secret which will endanger their little boy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Afterwards offers a simple, ordinary plot but very well written that it's captivating and beautiful. I read this book in a week, which was fast, because lately I had been so tired after work.  I have a friend who dislike first-person narrative style, and I think her opinion has affected me a bit. This book is written in that style and as I was reading this, I kept hoping that Ms Lupton used another style.

The story is told from the point of view of Grace Covey, a 39 year old mother of 2 children: Jenny, a teenager, and her little brother Adam. Her husband is a BBC presenter. They live happily until comes the day when Adam's school is on fire on Sport's Day. Jenny is trapped inside the burning building and Grace goes in to save her. Afterwards, Grace is lying in a coma because of a fatal head injury, Jenny is badly burnt, and Adam is accused of starting the fire. Grace and Jenny's spirits roam the hospital following the investigation. During these days, Grace learns more about the people she loves and understands better about them.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Light Bearer

This book's cover is rather vulgar, in my opinion. Just found out that this was the most vulgar among other versions. I think the cover had influenced my opinion about the story. However, I finished it last night and I must say that the story deserved a better cover.

The Light Bearer by Donna Gillespie is a historical fiction set in ancient Rome, in the 1st century. The story begins in the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Claudius and ends when Nerva takes over the power.

The main character is the daughter of a Germanic tribal chieftain, a female warrior named Auriane. The way the Chatti live is still like barbarians, like described in Astérix comics. After defeated by the Romans, the remains of them are taken to Rome, where they are either sold as slaves or trained as gladiators.

In Rome, Auriane has a secret patron who loves her: Marcus Julianus, Emperor Domitian's First Advisor. The people love Marcus Julianus as much as they loathe Domitian. Marcus Julianus is a wise man, a scholar, almost genius. He is the brain behind Domitian's assassination.

The first part of the book mostly tells about how Auriane with her tribe fight the Romans, how she becomes a legend. It also tells about how Domitian and his friend Marcus Julianus climb to the highest place in Rome. The second part is more like a Spartacus story. The book is entertaining and well-written, although I am not convinced with how Auriane and Marcus Julianus becomes each other's second self. It's like a dream for both of them. He first sees her in a war and thinks she is a goddess. While for Auriane, it seems she has always known him from a long time ago.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pippin: His Life and Times (1981)

Never heard about this musical before, bought the dvd, and hoped it would be good. Last night I watched it and yes, it's one of the best musicals I have seen. I think the stage decor is very creative and the choreography is quite complex. It's communicative, too, with the audience and to see it live perhaps would bring more joy (than to see it on dvd).

The music by Stephen Schwartz is nice, but for me, my appreciation goes more for the director and choreographer: Bob Fosse. I just think that I would not have enjoyed it much if it had not been directed and choreographed that way. The cast is also very good.

King Charlemange is the king of the holy Roman empire and Pippin is his eldest son. Pippin is a scholar, while his brother Lewis is a soldier. Pippin tries to be a good soldier, too, at first, but after a gory war and what it does to their people, he begins to question his father's policy. Pippin kills his father, becomes king, and realizes that it's in fact hard to keep peace. Thanks God that this is a musical comedy, so he can bring his father back alive (unlike Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers who cannot bring her twins back). The events are narrated by Leading Player. The settings and costumes change from present to Middle Ages. There are lots of creativity here.

In sort, if you haven't watched Pippin, you must put it on your list now; and for those who don't have enough money to go watch it live, you must at least watch the dvd: rent it, borrow it, or simply buy a copy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Les Misérables (1982)

I had heard before that this version of Les Misérables was one of the best. I did try to find a copy, but wasn't successful; so I was happy when TV5 showed this in 2 parts: last week & this week. Lino Ventura was a wonderful choice to play Jean Valjean. Once a wrestler, we are led to believe that he is the strongest man in Toulon prison.

The story is faithful to the book and as I was watching this, I kept saying in my mind that Robert Hossein (the director) must have loved the book very much. It has parts that I love which are missing from the Schönberg & Boublil musical: Cosette names her doll Catherine, Valjean gets help from Fauchelevent whom once he helped when the man trapped under a cart, Marius's disputes with his grandfather, Éponine shows Marius that she can read and write, the Jondrettes, Gavroche delivers Marius's letter to Cossette.

I like the scene describing the ruin of Fantine, which is shown in a slide show, showing her bust in every step of her ruin. After fired from the factory, she is forced to sell her locket, her hair (gold on her head), her teeth (pearls in her mouth), and then her body. She is getting uglier and uglier. This slide show is used again to describe time passes after Cosette met Marius. They both stand still, but the seasons change around them. They don't see anything else, the world is nothing, only they both matter.

In this film Gavroche sings The Fault of Voltaire, which is from the Schönberg Boublil musical.

I am rather disappointed with the ending, though. After Valjean gives Cosette to Marius's hand, he leaves and lives miserably for about 5 years (if I am not mistaken. I forget the year). He dies with Javert's words in his ear: "Now you are free." Perhaps it's a good decision since Valjean has been trying to run away from his past and Javert throughout the movie. I only wished the part when Cosette and Marius see him on his dying bed was included, because I love the part when Marius asks for Valjean's forgiveness. With this scene omitted (also when the Thénardiers tell Marius who his father-in-law is), Marius never knows who has saved him from the barricade.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marilyn Monroe: Unseen Archives

This biography book by Marie Clayton is really a very good deal. I got it at a low price. There are lots of pictures (rare, they say, but I wouldn't know as there were not many pictures of Marilyn Monroe I had seen) printed on glossy papers. The book is divided into 7 chapters, each begins with (short) facts about Marilyn Monroe. When I was a child, I heard about her mysterious death and the probable conspiracy around it. In this book, Ms Clayton only states the facts - and not myths - which is a good thing.

Each photo in this book is accompanied by a story about it, so it's really enjoyable to read this book. It's like we see a photo book and someone is telling us about each photo.

One particular photo interests me much: when Marilyn Monroe met our first president, Soekarno. During his reign a famous group band, Koes Bersaudara, was sent to jail for playing The Beatles's songs. Soekarno's regime condemned western culture at that time. There is no date for this picture, but I think Soekarno met Marilyn Monroe in 1956. In 9 years he had changed and hated western culture.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Donald Duck Classics: Quack Up

This book is one of my attempts to ride more work by Carl Barks.

There are 6 stories here:
1. Luck of The North (1949)
2. The Master's Touch (1979)
3. The Paper Route Panic (1959)
4. Donald the Milkman (1957)
5. Mission: Goldfinger (1966)
5. Nothing New (2007)

Luck of The North and Donald The Milkman are both by Carl Barks, and both I like very much. Donald The Milkman is my favourite among the two, because it's very nice to see Donald trying to be a perfect milkman. I also love The Master's Touch, which I remember reading years ago. It's Donald the photographer and his various lenses, trying to make a good portrait of Maharaja of Bumpakar.

The rests are not so good, which is a pity, because the book looks physically great.

Kisah Hidup Paman Gober

I was glad Gramedia Bookstore put this book on étalage, so this time I didn't miss it. The retail price is quite high (Rp 160.000,-), but still cheaper compared to the 3 I bought from America. I usually buy online, where I can get 10% - 20% discount, but this book was hard to find so I knew that I had to go to a branch of Gramedia. I brought along a friend who had a BCA card to get the 10% discount.

Kisah Hidup Paman Gober is a compilation from The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck volume 1 & 2, plus the Companion. The chapters are in the right order here, plus 2 chapters: A Letter from Home and The Dutchman's Secret. I am rather disappointed, though, why Sultan Djokja and Sultan Solo were translated to Raja Kulon and Raja Wetan. It reduces the humour, imo.

It's The Dutchman's Secret I particularly wanted. It's the only chapter I haven't read.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nuits rouges (1974)

After watching Judex, which is also directed by Georges Franju, Nuits rouges seems uninteresting. The basic plot is very good, I think, for the topic is popular for the last few years: the search for Knight Templar's treasure. There are also some strange characters: the criminal who wear red mask, a lunatic doctor, sect members, and a man who wear one-black-and-one- transparent glasses.

Jacques Champreux, grandson of director Louis Feuillade, plays the main role (he also wrote the script): the man without a face. He is a master of disguise - like Fantômas and Dr Mabuse. He even can disguise as an old woman. Mostly he covers his face with a red mask. He is ruthless and without mercy.

The story starts with Maxime de Borrego's butler goes to see 'the man without a face' to tell him that his master know about The Knight Templar's treasure. The criminal visits Maxime de Borrego and kills him after failing to dig the secret. Maxime's nephew, Paul, helps the police to investigate the murder. The police is not very smart here. A witness is murdered inside their headquarters, and when they lay traps, they always fail. Luckily, the late Maxime de Borrego was a member of a sect (modern Knight Templar), that is eager to revenge their brother.

Gayle Hunnicutt plays the man without a face's right hand lady. Her scene on the roof is copied from the roof scene in Judex, but longer. Jacques Champreux mentioned in the DVD commentary that he deliberately wrote the scene to please Georges Franju, who thought the roof scene in Judex was excellent but too short. The mannequin scene in the museum reminds me of episode 1 in the new Doctor Who, but of course Nuits rouges made this first.

I would have liked this film more if the police were smarter and the roof scene was shorter.

Friendship Bracelet Maker

My sister sent this Friendship Bracelet Maker from Michigan. At first I thought this was for me, but no, it's not. It's for our niece. Before I forward this toy to her, I had an opportunity to try it out. Fortunately, I have many DMC floss, so I could start my trial rightaway. [There are floss in the box, but I save them for my niece.] I found the direction in the box was not very clear, so I went to FBM website for further information. My first trial was not successful (the floss were not long enough), but I got a clearer idea how the machine worked.

Even after the bracelets are done, I still don't know how to wear one on my wrist. Just by simply making a knot?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933)

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is a sequel to Dr Mabuse: The Gambler (1922). Both are directed by the same director: Fritz Lang. In the end of Dr Mabuse: The Gambler, Dr Mabuse lost his mind and has been sent to a mental hospital. In this sequel, the original Dr Mabuse is still played by the same actor, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Dr Mabuse is treated by Dr Baum, who thinks the patient is not a mad criminal, but a genius. After years of treatment, Dr Mabuse can write again, although his mind is elsewhere. Dr Baum reads his notes and finds that they are details for clever crimes. It is clear that Dr Baum is obssessed with his patient and executes what are in the notes. He hires thugs to do the crimes for him, while the thugs never see him because he hides behind a screen. They know him by the name of Mabuse; and this causes confusion with the police who check the facts.

As his nemesis, we have Commissaire Lohmann. Hearing his name only will make the criminals tremble.

For a sequel, I think the story is very well written. The original Dr Mabuse was a hit, a classic; so I am glad they didn't change direction for this sequel. The doctor stays mad and another person follows his path by taking his legacy. Same like Dr Mabuse, Dr Baum do his crimes to terrorize the world. He likes to spread fear, he doesn't want money. It's scary, really, when we cannot negotiate with the bad guy because he doesn't want anything but our fear.

Dr Baum doesn't really hide behind the screen. When one of his thugs - Kent- rebels, he finds that behind the screen there is only a microphone/radio, a desk, and a carton silhouette. I think somewhere in the movie, a thug dies for trying to find out who is behind the screen, so why Kent gets lucky?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dream House (2011)

In Dream House, we are taken by the lead character, Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), in a journey where he lives his dream, in a perfect house with a perfect family: his beautiful wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two little daughters, Trish and Dee Dee. Will Atenton just left his job in the city so he can spend more time with his family in their country home. When he arrives in that little town, the agent who has sold him the house gives him a ride and almost takes him to a wrong house, which belongs to the neighbours' who live opposite. This little mistake gives us an explanation about what is about to happen in the movie.

After a while, Atenton learns that in his house there were triple murders. The townspeople believe that the father of the house, Peter Ward, shot his wife and their 2 daughters. Peter Ward himself was shot back by his wife. There was not enough proof against him, so after 5 years in a mental hospital he was released. This is the same time when Atenton arrives in the country. His peaceful life is disturbed when the Atentons sees someone is spying on their house. Is it Peter Ward? Is he returning to his old house?

The plot is original for me, so I enjoyed watching this very much.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Judex (1963)

I was afraid at first that this movie was an art film and perhaps the story was boring. I read reviews that described this movie as 'dreamy like', 'mesmerizing', 'poetic'... but now that I've seen it, I'm glad I've seen it. I didn't even have to worry about the plot because it is very good. I know this is a remake of Louis Feuillade's work. Surely the original must be enjoyable to watch - as I have seen Louis Feuillade's other work: Fantômas, which is highly entertaining. Only then I read that 1963 version of Judex was a bit different from the original, that was why the reviews described it that way.

The beginning of the story reminds me of The Count of Monte Cristo. The character Favraux reminds me of Villefort. Like Villefort has a kind-hearted daughter Valentine, Favraux also has Jacqueline. The movie starts with Favraux, a banker, receives a threatening note from a mysterious man who called himself "Judex" (a latin word for 'judge'), who demands him to pay back the people he has swindled. Favraux's refusal results in his death by midnight during a masked ball when they are celebrating his daughter's engagement. Actually, he is only drugged by Judex, and then his 'body' is kidnapped from the cemetery. His life is spared after Jacqueline refuses the inheritance. Meanwhile, his mistress, Diana, who after his 'death' is left with nothing, plans to steal valuable papers from his house, with the help of her boyfriend. They feel Jacqueline is an obstacle and plan to get rid of her.

I think I prefer Judex as an merciless avenger. There is no explanation in the movie why he wants to punish Favraux, but I think he wants to revenge his father. My feeling turns to be right when in the DVD bonus, fragments from the original film by Feuillade are shown. The banker was Judex's father's partner who drove him to bankruptcy and committed suicide. Favraux also made odious advances to Judex's mother, who made young Judex and his brother to swear revenge. Judex's costumes, a cape and a broad-brimmed hat, are hardly a disguise. They only make him more handsome :-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler - Ein Bild der Zeit (1922)

This is a 4-hour silence movie directed by Fritz Lang, divided into 2 parts: Der grosse spieler and Inferno. Dr Mabuse is a master criminal and very dangerous because he is also a telepathic hypnosis. In the beginning of the movie, he makes so much money by manipulating the stock market. He is also a money counterfeiter. Therefore, he is a scary character because he doesn't do crimes for money, but to make harm. In the first part, he destroys the life of a young man named Edgar Hull. In the second part, he destroys Russian Count Told's life because he wants Countess Told. Dr Mabuse also has his nemesis: state prosecutor Wenk. Wenk encounters Dr Mabuse several times, but as Dr Mabuse is a master of disguise, it's difficult to recognize him.

The movie is called Dr Mabuse The Gambler. Beside gambling with the stock market, that is how he destroys the life of Edgar Hull and Count Told. He hypnotized them so they gamble a whole night long. He also hypnotizes his opponents, so they think they lost the game - when actually they are holding the winning cards. In the 2 pictures below, he hypnotizes Inspector Wenk, who in his investigation disguised as a gambler, so that Wenk only see the words Tsi Nan Fu - and not what's on his cards.

In my opinion, compared to Louis Feuillade's Fantômas, Dr Mabuse is better structured; perhaps because Dr Mabuse was made in later date. At least the DVD of Dr Mabuse is much better, because Fantômas has more missing and destroyed frames. Fantômas has more followers in the criminal world, yet I think Dr Mabuse is more dangerous. Fantômas is actually caught by his nemesis, Inspector Juve, at least once; while it's so hard for Wenk to catch Dr Mabuse. Wenk doesn't even know whom he is looking until the end and when he finally jails Dr Mabuse's accomplice, they are too afraid to or won't speak. Near the end, Wenk is hypnotized again by Dr Mabuse who tells him to commit suicide!

The ending is very good: Dr Mabuse lost his mind. I think if Wenk sends him to jail, he can easily hypnotize the guards to let him go.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Ninth Gate (1999)

The Ninth Gate is based on Spanish novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, although in the movie all reference to Alexandre Dumas has been removed. Directed by Roman Polanski, this is one of must-see movies. Johnny Depp plays Corso, a book dealer, or a rare-book hunter. In the beginning of the movie, we are shown that Corso will not hesitate to do dirty tricks to make as much profit as possible. It's a very good scene: Corso offers a sum of money for 4 volumes of Don Quiotte to an heir who doesn't know the true value of those books. She is very happy to receive the money. Obviously the price offered is much higher than she has expected. Meanwhile, we see the owner of the book, who suffers a stroke and cannot move or speak, is silently furious.

Corso is hired by Balkan, a book collector, to authenticate his rare book "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows". There are only 3 copies left, but as Balkan believes the book can summon the devil, and he cannot summon the devil with his, he thinks perhaps his copy is fake. Corso must compare his book with the other two and find which one is the original. In his quest, Corso finds that the words in the 3 books are the same, but of the 9 pictures/drawings, only 3 are original. To collect all 9 original pictures drawn by Lucifer, one must have all 3 books.

Who would think that being a book hunter can be dangerous, eh? Corso's friend is murdered and he himself is almost killed several times. It's only a book! I myself love reading, but for me the 1st or 50th edition is the same. I only need to read the words in the book and don't bother with the binding, paper, etc.

The Ninth Gate was marketed as a horror movie, so a friend of mine refused to watch this. I told him this was actually a thriller and that was no ghost in it. As much as he liked Johnny Depp, he still refused. Emmanuelle Seigner does look scary sometimes, but I always turn my face away every time she stares into the screen and tries to break the 4th wall. The scariest moment, in my opinion, is when the dead face of Baroness Kessler shown in a close-up. The original page of the 9th picture also makes me shivered. The burning castle picture is very shocking.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Conspirator (2011)

I am not familiar with this American history, but I believe most facts in this movie are true. So Abraham Lincoln was shot when watching a play. The movie runs smoothly and we feel the injustice and prejudice after the assassination. I think in most countries, even if one's part in an assassination is so little, he/she still to be punished. However, this is America, where some lawyers still have ideal ideas.

Mary Surratt (played excellently by Robin Wright)'s part in this tragedy, is to give rooms to John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, and his friends; for she runs a boarding house. Her other fault, is to give birth to John Surratt, Booth's right hand. Does it means she takes part in Lincoln's assassination?After the assassination, the army cannot find John Surratt, so they arrest her mother and do everything to convict her, including with false testimonies. James McAvoy plays a young lawyer who at first is reluctant to defend her -because like all good Americans, he is also angry with the assassins, but as time passes by, he believes that she should not punished because of her son's crimes.

The movie is emotionally moving. I think Robert Redford as the director did a wonderful job.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

The involvement of Guillermo del Toro made me want to watch this movie, and the title made me decide to watch this at daytime. Pan's Labyrinth is a great movie and I expected something like that, but it turns out Don't Be Afraid of The Dark's plot is not rich like Pan's Labyrinth. I think Don't Be Afraid of The Dark is equal, maybe even worse, to Mimic, which was made almost 15 years ago.

I enjoyed watching Bailee Madison, though. She plays the main character, Sally, a little girl of 10 or 11 years old. Sally's mother sends her to live with her father, played by Guy Pearce, who I think is wasted here. The father now lives with Kim (Katie Holmes - who looks very thin) and both have been decorating a big Victorian house, once belonged to a famous painter named Blackwood - who mysteriously disappeared in the end of his life (but his disappearance is not mysterious to the audience). Sally is lonely and sad, thinking that her mother has given her away. Then, Sally finds the house's basement. There live little creatures who say that they want to play with her. Soon Sally knows that the little creatures are dangerous, but no one listens to her.

Bailee Madison looks like young Katie Holmes and I think she is more suitable to be cast as her daughter than Guy Pearce's.

The plot needs more character development or side stories, in my opinion. There are also some annoying situations. We kind of want to yell, 'Oh, come on. Why don't you believe her? Can't you see?' Why the gardener keeps shutting his mouth and only says 'you must get her out of the house'? - but not saying the reason? If the monsters are many, then surely Blackwood & his son were not the only ones missing [because those are taken by them would become them]. There should be a rumor spreading in the village about the basement's house. At least the pictures taken by Sally can be a good proof.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Les yeux sans visage (1960)

"Although too much for many critics of the day to stomach, Franju's masterpiece is now considered to be one of the greatest, most influential and disturbing horror films ever made." ~ written on the back DVD cover, which made me put off to watch this until my stomach was ready. Last night I finally decided to watch this and I was relieved to know it wasn't as scary as I had imagined. Les diaboliques (1955) is more thrilling.

Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur), a brilliant surgeon, helped by his assistant Louise (Alida Valli), kidnap young women and take their faces for his daughter Christiane (Edith Scob) whose face is gone during a car accident, which her father drove the car.

Of course it is not just an easy task to remove one's face and put it on another. If the skin doesn't match, it will not stay healthily and will be spoiled. Today perhaps they would do a DNA test first or something before start butchering, but in 1960, they only choose the victims by looking at their beauty skin. When the police finds a body drown in the river, Dr. Génessier acknowledges that it was Christiane's, leaving another father whose daughter is missing heart broken. Christiane herself wants to be dead. One thing that she really longs for, is to be with her fiancé Jacques; but this is impossible since she doesn't want Jacques to see her in her present state and he himself only knows that she has been dead. She sometimes calls him on the phone just to hear his voice, until the time she cannot take it anymore and whispers his name. Jacques goes to the police, but they only say that he is imagining things. They later send a young girl, Paulette, to Dr. Génessier's clinic. After examining her, the doctor sends her home, but she never reaches her home because Louise has kidnapped her. When asked about this, Dr. Génessier says that after leaving the clinic, a patient is no longer his responsibility. Therefore, he is cleared by the police.

The nightmare, however, must ends. Christiane lets Paulette go, kills Louise, and free the dogs, who all this time have become objects for Dr. Génessier's experiments. The dogs kill the doctor and Christiane walks towards the street. What becomes of her, I wonder.

The Edna's surgery scene is quite scary, although it's nothing compared to today's standard. I watched Conan a couple of days ago and the level of violence in that movie was very high that I had to turn my face away from the screen several times. I am not sure how it is with horror movies as I tend to avoid this genre. The surgery scene is not very scary for me because I figured out how it could be done.

I also wonder about the car crash, why Christiane's face is totally ruined but the eyes, hair, and body are intact. For the sake of art, perhaps.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Debt (2010)

The title is intriguing. What kind of debt is it? Who own the debt?

It's about 3 Mossad agents: Rachel, Stephan, and David who went to Germany 30 years ago to kidnap a war criminal, Dieter Vogel, known as the Surgeon of Birkenau, who used Jews for his horrible experiments during WW2. Vogel hid/worked as a fertility doctor in East Germany using an alias and the 3 agents successfully kidnapped him, but the escape-from-East-Germany mission went wrong. They had to guard him until they have another opportunity to cross the border and bring him to Israel to face trial. In short, Vogel escaped his guards. The 3 agents couldn't tell the truth to their bosses and to make everybody happy, they made a story about how Rachel shot Vogel to death when he was trying to escape. They returned to Israel as heroes.

For 30 years they have lived with this lie. Then David died. Also at the same time, 1) Rachel's daughter published a book about their heroic deed and 2) a shocking news came from Russia. Someone had told a journalist that he was the Surgeon of Birkenau.

To pay the debt, Rachel goes to Russia (Stephan lives on a wheelchair, so he cannot do the task) to find this Surgeon of Birkenau to kill him, as she should have done 30 years ago. The ending has some surprises and this is an enjoyable film. Both Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren who played Rachel were very good.

Michael Ball - Heroes Live

Filmed at Birmingham Symphony Hall in June 2011, the show started with instrumental medley of film themes about heroes such as Superman, Indiana Jones, Flash, Batman, The Saint, The Avengers; which was amusing. Michael Ball was as wonderful as always and his voice was at top form, although the sound in the DVD was not as good as I expected. Like in his previous concert DVD, Past & Present Tour Live, he made maximum use of his backing vocalists. I loved the tribute to New York medley and the rock'n roll part; but personally I think he used the backing vocalists better in Past & Present Tour Live; I really really loved the musical medley.

I had heard Michael Ball singing Sunset Boulevard a couple of times, yet when he sang that song again for the DVD, it seemed better than in previous occasions. He also sang Empty Chairs at Empty Tables very well (although I thought he had recorded it on DVD too many times), perhaps because I just watched The 25th Anniversary of Les Miz DVD last month and Michael Ball sang that song much more powerfully and emotionally than Nick Jonas. Another favourite performance is Not While I'm Around from Sweeney Todd. Stephen Sondheim songs are not easy to sing, in my opinion, because if one sings it badly, the songs become awful. The way Michael Ball sang Not While I'm Around made the song one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Before I watched this DVD, I read a complain that the songs sung were the same as in the previous concerts. I prepared myself for this and in the end I thought that no, it was not true. There are many new songs and how I enjoyed the 'old' songs he had sung in previous DVDs. My conclusion: it was a wonderful show, but I prefer the Past & Present Tour Live.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

To celebrate its' 25th anniversary, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of The Opera was presented at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was filmed. At first I was very excited to hear this, because I could finally see (again and again) the wonder of the show. The version with Gerald Butler is not the show itself, where on one same stage we can see how the designers cleverly show several locations: on stage, behind stage, under the opera house, the cemetery, etc.

Obviously I have never been in the Royal Albert Hall and didn't know that they cannot hang curtains there. OK, so the show has been modified, and I must say that I miss the big elephant and the mannequin. However, I must say that the Masquerade scene is much better than in the original show because for the anniversary they could afford more people.


You little demon - is this what you wanted to see?

Sierra Boggess is wonderful as Christine. I also love Hadley Fraser's Raoul. Wendy Ferguson's Charlotta is funny and she made me laugh a couple of times. As for The Phantom, I don't like Ramin Karimloo since he ruined the only POTO live show I can see. I must say that he did a good job, but I still don't like his voice, which I think lack of emotion. It's a surprise to see Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow and John Owen-Jones came. With Peter Jöback (he was the only one of the four I didn't know), they sang the title song with Sarah Brightman. Michael Crawford was also present (he didn't age a bit for the last years), but he didn't sing with them. They also didn't give him a microphone.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Unknown (2011)

Liam Neeson plays Dr Martin Harris, who comes to Berlin with his wife for a conference. On his arrival at the hotel, Martin realizes that one of his suitcases is left at the airport, so he leaves again immediately. On his way back to the airport, he has a car accident and has to be fished from the river. He wakes up in a hospital without any ID and when he goes to the hotel, his wife doesn't recognize him, and there is someone else with the name of Dr Martin Harris. Why he is so important that someone else wants to take his identity?

He seeks help from the taxi driver who was in the same car with him when the accident happened. The nurse from the hospital also sends him to a detective. Meanwhile, someone wants him dead.

The movie is quite enjoyable, particularly because of its lead actor - although the story is not very original. The story where the lead character lost his memory is not new. One movie I can think of is Vincenzo Natali's Cypher.

The first half of the movie is the best part because it's so exciting and like Martin, we are also in the dark. Like him, we regret why he didn't check in with his wife at the hotel's receptionist. However, a big hotel such as that should have installed CCTV camera at the front side so they can see guests arriving.

Death Wish (1974)

This original Death Wish movie turns out to be not as barbaric as I have imagined. Charles Bronson plays Paul Kersey, an architect who works in a real estate development. The movie begins with Kersey and his wife in Hawaii, very happy in their holiday. After returning to New York, his colleague tells him about how high the crime rate, but Kersey doesn't take it seriously. Soon, 3 muggers come into his apartment, kill his wife and rape his daughter - which makes her so traumatized that she has to be sent to a mental hospital. The daughter also cannot describe those who have attacked her and her mother, means there is little possibility the 3 muggers can be caught.

Kersey's work brings him to Arizona, where he learns about the wild west and how to shoot with a gun. On his return to New York, he receives a gun as a gift. So what is wrong, when Kersey defends himself and shoots his attacker with that gun? However, it becomes a habit. Kersey then deliberately puts himself as a bait and shoots whoever want to harm him.

The NYPD must treat those unnatural deaths as homicide and they begin to investigate. On the contrary, those on the political side are happy with the vigilante action as the crime rate is down by half and the New Yorkers start to learn to defend themselves. The crime rate in the movie is so worrying. In a scene in a subway train, we see that a police/guard disappears after seeing 2 muggers approaching; he gives them liberty to do what they please.

It's interesting that Kersey never catches the 3 muggers who have killed his wife and raped his daughter, for he doesn't know who they are. [In 1974 they didn't have CCTV.] It sorts of giving this movie a bit reality, not like some revenge movie. Kersey is also described not as a cold blooded robot who shoots muggers for only revenge. He only shoots those who are attacking him. After his first killing, he even gets sick.