Tag Archives: hollywood hills

Capsule film reviews: Four horror movies from 2016

‘The Invitation’
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard and Michiel Huisman
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: B+

Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films.

In “The Invitation,” Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) drive deep into the Hollywood Hills to attend a dinner party hosted by Will’s ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) at the house Will and Eden used to share. The party is the first time any of their friends have seen them in two years — Will and Eden divorced following the accidental death of their son, and Eden left to join a grief support group in Mexico, where she met David. Throughout the course of the evening, Will becomes increasingly disturbed being back in the house he once shared with a happy family that is no more, and he also begins to grow suspicious of Eden and David, who try to share with the group their new spiritual philosophies that have helped them overcome grief. I like how “The Invitation” slowly turns up the suspense and leaves the audience unsure if there is really something sinister behind Eden’s cultish white dress and David’s calm demeanor, or if it’s just Will suffering from a mental breakdown when confronted with his past. It’s sufficiently creepy and even a bit thoughtful. All-in-all, “The Invitation” is a pretty good thriller.

‘The Neon Demon’
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone and Bella Heathcote
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating: R for disturbing violent content, bloody images, graphic nudity, a scene of aberrant sexuality, and language.
Grade: B

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Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios, Broad Green Pictures, Scanbox Entertainment and The Jokers.

“The Neon Demon” is the most talked-about and most polarizing horror movie of the year. For the most part, I really liked it. Kind of a tired story: Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a young girl from a small town hoping to make it big as a model in Hollywood, but Hollywood is, unfortunately, full of Illuminati and lesbian necrophiliacs. It’s a higher budget version of 2014’s “Starry Eyes,” which is a much better film, plot-wise. But don’t come to “The Neon Demon” for the plot: come for the artistic visuals, evil female leads and the always excellent Jena Malone who steals the show as Jesse’s eerily too nice, there’s-gotta-be-something-wrong-with-her mentor Ruby. My main issue with “The Neon Demon” is the weird casting of Elle Fanning as the lead — she’s not charismatic enough to propel the movie on her own, and she’s cute, but the very embodiment of natural beauty? Eh. At least the costumes are fabulous.

‘Train to Busan’
Release Date: July 20, 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an and Jung Yu-mi
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A+

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Photo courtesy of Next Entertainment World.

“Train to Busan” is one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen in a long while. The Korean horror film expertly showcases comedic moments, high tension, family drama, romance and truly frightening zombie shots. It’s an excellent movie and one of the best horror films of the year. The story follows Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), an absentee father whose focus on his business has crippled his relationship with his 9-year-old daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an). For her birthday, all Su-an wants is to be reunited with her estranged mother, so Seok-woo begrudgingly agrees to accompany her on the high-speed KTX ride from Seoul to Busan. Unfortunately, the train departs just as the country begins to deteriorate into a zombie apocalypse. Only Busan, the country’s southern port city, is safe, and the survivors must fight to get the train to its final destination. The intense zombie action scenes are top tier (my favorite is a stop in Daejeon where the passengers are faced with a horde of zombie soldiers in military uniform charging up the stairs), but where “Train to Busan” really got me is with its heart. The evolving father-daughter dynamic will suck you in, and the supporting characters are all so compelling. “Train to Busan” is not to be missed.

‘31’
Release Date: Sept. 16, 2016
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell and Meg Foster
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use.
Grade: B-

31

Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

As a diehard Rob Zombie fan, I enjoyed “31” and was pleased to find it more straightforward and accessible than Zombie’s last release, 2012’s “The Lords of Salem.” “31” follows a group of carnival workers who are kidnapped on Halloween 1976 and told by three strangers that they will be entered into a game called 31. During the game, they will have 12 hours to escape from a maze-like warehouse of rooms while various clowns will be sent to torture and kill them. The plot isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking, but Zombie’s characterizations are always the most entertaining. His villains are excellent, particularly Malcolm McDowell as Father Murder, an aristocrat in a powdered wig who oversees the proceedings and announces the carnies’ odds for survival over a loudspeaker, and Richard Brake as Doom-Head, the final and most effective obstacle in the gang’s way of survival. As always, Sheri Moon Zombie is a badass and a delight, and I love that she’s still the ultimate scream queen, wielding chainsaws in barely-there crop tops at 46.

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Guide to: Bukchon Hanok Village

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Traditional Korean architecture in Bukchon Hanok Village. SCREAMfmLondon

Bukchon Hanok Village is one of those must-see spots in Seoul where the traditional (a village that has been preserved for about 600 years) is beautifully juxtaposed with the modern (the streets are jam-packed with tourists holding Instagram photoshoots 24/7).

The hanok village is located pretty centrally between Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace. The neighborhood was where high-ranking government officials and nobility lived during the Joseon Dynasty (a Korean kingdom that reigned from 1392-1897).

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SCREAMfmLondon

It’s a bit like the Hollywood Hills of the Joseon Dynasty — especially with its ornately-decorated, exclusive exteriors and the steep, narrow and winding streets showing off an expansive view of the greenery and busy city life below. On the way up and scattered throughout are ritzy restaurants, clothing boutiques, art galleries and cafés. And in between the groupings of traditional houses are ultra-modern apartments that some poor souls currently pay a lot of money to live in, although it must be miserable having so many strange people milling around outside every time you’re trying to drive the car out of the garage.

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Kkoktu museum in Bukchon Hanok Village. SCREAMfmLondon

One of my favorite parts of Bukchon is the miniature kkoktu museum hidden inside one of the hanoks. Kkoktu are small, wooden funerary figures used to decorate funeral biers during the Joseon Dynasty. Basically, they are colorful little buddies that accompany your spirit on its journey to the afterlife.

Kkoktu come in a variety of styles and, together, form a complete little gang. Some are guides that ensure the spirit doesn’t get lost. Some are fierce guardians carrying weapons to fight off any evil spirits the group might encounter. Some are mother figures that provide comfort in case your spirit feels scared or sad about having left the mortal realm. And some are entertainers who play music or perform acrobatic tricks to keep the mood from getting too somber as the procession makes its way to the hereafter.

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Inside a hanok in Samcheong-dong. SCREAMfmLondon

The kkoktu museum itself is pretty tiny, but the figures (and the stories behind them) are so neat. The museum also offers the unique chance to walk around and check out the inside of a hanok. It’s a win-win. I love this place.

Everything in Samcheong-dong is pretty delightfully scenic, from the street artists to the architecture (both modern and historical, really). Nothing beats the view of those tiled roofs in front of great, silvery skyscrapers and the Namsan Tower in the distance. At Bukchon Hanok Village, you can do it all: drink some coffee, study some history, buy some expensive jewelry, photobomb some selfies.

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I thought about cropping out the random dude, but it gives a more accurate representation of the area to depict all the camera-flashing that goes on here. SCREAMfmLondon

My picks: Best brunch spots in Los Angeles

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The cobb omelette at Alcove Café and Bakery in Los Feliz. SCREAMfmLondon

The worst thing about breakfast is that it takes place so early in the day. Who even wakes up before noon? On a weekend? Not me. But if, by some strange twist of fate, you happen to find yourself both alert and hungry in the wee hours of the morning, there are some great breakfast and/or brunch spots in Los Angeles for you to check out.

Eat This Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood

I was already fond of this restaurant long before I managed to try the brunch, and, man, did that change everything. The truffle cheese and egg panini moved me. To put it into perspective: the first time I ordered this sandwich, I actually called someone on the phone afterwards to tell them that I’d just had the best breakfast of my life. Now I bring everyone there to drink bottomless mimosas with me. The sandwich is served on toasted sourdough bread and is made with fried eggs, truffle cheese, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, provolone cheese and a balsamic glaze. It’s all served with seasoned roasted potatoes and a small cup of fruit. Wow! It’s magnificent.

Larchmont Bungalow
Neighborhood: Larchmont Village

Larchmont is the kind of cute neighborhood that gives off a “brunch” vibe all day long, you know? There’s a Sunday morning farmer’s market and streets lined with expensive, kitschy boutiques and cafes. And Larchmont Bungalow is the best place to brunch there. If you’re into extravagant dessert, you will be into their red and blue velvet pancakes, which are not pancakes as much as they are moist little cakes filled with cream cheese spread, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with walnuts. So indulgent. So good.

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The truffle cheese and egg panini at Eat This Café in Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

Eggslut
Neighborhood: Downtown

If you find yourself cruising through Grand Central Market between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., it would be wise to stop by the Eggslut kiosk, where they serve up super deluxe egg-based breakfasts that you can eat at their counter or across the street at Pershing Square. The food rules. There’s the Fairfax: a sandwich on a brioche bun with soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and Sriracha mayo. And there’s the cheeseburger: wagyu beef, caramelized onions, pickles, cheddar cheese, dijonnaise and an over-medium egg on a brioche bun. This food will get all over you, and it will be worth it.

The Griddle Café
Neighborhood: Hollywood Hills

The line is long, and the portions are gigantic. I was completely prepared for everything to be huge, and it still surprised me how huge it really was. That’s how it goes at the Griddle Café: your plate will be overflowing with toppings. You roll with it. There are pages and pages of pancake options — they’re all served three to a plate, and they’re bigger than your head. Some of the choices are just amazing. The Black Magic pancakes are filled with crushed Oreos and topped with whipped cream and Oreo cookie pieces. The Red Velvet pancakes are topped with swirls of cream cheese icing. Mhm.

Alcove Café and Bakery
Neighborhood: Los Feliz

At Alcove, you place your order and pay inside, then find a server to seat you (preferably on the spacious outdoor patio on a lovely Los Angeles day). It’s a little stressful, and you occasionally have to wait 50 years to get up to the counter. But once you do, the food (and dessert!) is delicious. The cobb omelette is a truly fabulous piece of brunch art, stuffed with warm grilled chicken, bacon, blue cheese and tomato and topped with large slices of avocado. The omelette itself is huge, but it also comes with a large portion of delicious rosemary potatoes and four slices of toast. I don’t even like toast, but I still finished mine because it came with butter and a tiny, personal-sized glass jar of strawberry jam. It’s adorable.

Blu Jam Café
Neighborhood: Fairfax

Blu Jam is another must-try brunch location in an area full of brunch locations. There’s a little something for everybody. If you’re into savory breakfast: order Kamil’s Breakfast, which is pan-roasted macaroni scrambled with eggs, smoked bacon, ham, garlic, chives and cheddar cheese. If you’re into sweet breakfast: order the crunchy French toast, which is egg brioche dipped in batter, rolled in crunchy corn flakes, grilled and topped with fresh fruit and vanilla bean sauce. If you’re me, order a California omelette, which has three eggs, smoked bacon, tomato, avocado, sour cream and cheddar cheese.