Monday, June 30, 2014

Tron ★★1/2

    With the progression of computer generated imaging in today's film industry, it is hard to imagine a time when special effects were influential or groundbreaking. The 1980's was a decade littered with science fiction films that dared to venture into the realm of these efforts and provide an aesthetically pleasing experience for viewers.

    "Tron" is the epitome of these films, as it not only provides an array of newly developed film technologies, but it centers its plot around the inner dwellings of a computer. Although the fascination of this mystical world has all but dwindled, it remains as one of the few pictures to break the barrier of technological limitations. Yet, even with an enticing atmosphere and an original story, "Tron" simply fails to break free from its own constraints.

    Kevin Flynn is essentially a grown child. He spends the better part of his time indulging in video games at the local arcade, which he lives above in a cluttered apartment. Of course, this is on top of the fact that he is a brilliant software engineer, who has created several commercially successful video games, although his name has been unaffiliated with the projects.

    Flynn is not only a former employee of ENCOM but a victim of opportunity. Ed Dillinger, our ruthless antagonist, passed off Flynn's creations for his own, thus seeing himself to numerous promotions and Flynn to unemployment. This leads to Flynn attempting to hack into the system of ENCOM and provide evidence of his victimization; however, this will not be an effortless task.

    Dillinger has constructed the Master Control Program (MCP), an artificial intelligence entity with plans of its own. Flynn will need the help of his ex-girlfriend, Lora Baines, and fellow engineer, Alan Bradley, to sneak into the vast empire of ENCOM to provide Alan's security program, entitled Tron, with a gateway to the MCP and a path to his personal mending.

    Jeff Bridges provides us with the persona of Kevin Flynn. Bridges' performance is routine at best, as it becomes apparent that the characterization of our protagonist was shunned for more time inside the mainframe system of his former employer. The human element is relatively short-lived and, once transported into the digitalized world, we start to wonder if we ever really knew Kevin Flynn at all.

    Flynn seemingly owns the video arcade that boldly displays his name on the brick exterior; however, there is never an explanation as to how he became the founder. (Was there a severance package obtained once released from his position at ENCOM?) Nevertheless, if there is one aspect of Bridges' role that should be commended, it would be his ability to act in the virtually nonexistent and intangible ambiance that the film permits--a skill that every actor or actress has now become very accustomed to.

    Within the confines of this computerized extravaganza, Flynn teams up with Tron and makes a break from the gladiatorial games in which they are forced to participate to advance to the lair of the Master Control Program. There are several obstacles that are avoided and, the film essentially becomes a drawn-out race to beat Ed Dillinger's computerized persona from stopping them at the door of victory. Their journey culminates in a rather tedious fashion, thereby summarizing the picture unknowingly.

    "Tron" is practically a simplistic film that has now become more of a statement than a vessel of entertainment. It is a pure and genuine illustration of what could be accomplished with the combination of computer programming and the medium of film. Although this film competed with the likes of "Blade Runner" and the family inclined adventure of "E.T.," it has remained as the pinnacle of potential.

    In the end, this is a difficult film to critique considering the time period in which it premiered and the influence it subsequently had on the film industry. In order to view this film in all of its technical glory, it would have had to be seen relatively soon after its initial release. Ultimately, "Tron" is a time capsule of a period in film where experimentation was rarely seen; it is a film to be experienced in a particular era, otherwise losing its meaning.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Memoirs of a Geisha ★★★1/2

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    The life of a geisha is one filled with honor, discipline and isolation. These women partake in rigorous training, at a very young age, to become a living and breathing work of art. Their lives serve as a reminder of Japan's prestigious heritage, and they are nothing short of captivating.

    "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a 2005 drama that follows the story of a young girl, Chiyo, and her journey of becoming one of Japan's most renown geisha. This is an inspiring film that showcases the perseverance of human nature and the reluctance to forget true love. With a terrific cast and a spectacular display of cinematography, this film will delight and charm for years to come.

    Chiyo, an innocent young Japanese girl, is given up by her parents and sold into a life not of her choosing--the life of a geisha. Although it may seem like the beginning of an enchanting lifestyle, Chiyo ultimately becomes the lowly servant to Mother, the proprietress of this particular geisha house, and a target to Hatsumomo, the most beautiful geisha in the district.

    She spends the majority of her days completing chores, serving punishment and dreaming of reuniting with her sister, who was sold into a life of prostitution. After finding the whereabouts of her sister and executing a plan to escape, Chiyo falls off a roof and injures herself, thus diminishing her chances of becoming a geisha. She will spend the remainder of her adolescence as a servant to Mother in the hopes that she can repay the debt she has incurred.

    The tone of Chiyo's early life is set on that fateful and dreary night when she is sold into this rather mysterious existence. It continues on the streets of Japan, as this film provides a dark and despondent depiction of this humbling experience. I wondered why I was so effortlessly captivated by this remarkable tale, and only one answer came to mind: It was the professionalism of Suzuka Ohgo, the young actress who plays Chiyo. Her innocence prevails in a role that intends to defeat the purely guided soul.

    To accompany the aesthetically pleasing portions of this film are the scores written by John Williams. Williams is undoubtedly the most successful composer in cinema history, and his beautifully performed renditions only add to the allure of this film. Considering this is the only picture in which Williams wasn't hired simply for his skill but for his desire to compose, it only alludes to the passion that was invested into the spirit of this fictional tale.

    Meanwhile, Chiyo subsequently slips into a state of depression after her failed attempt to leave this forced and restrained way of life. She is found by an enigmatic Chairman weeping on the rails of a bridge; consequently, allowing this man to bestow an act of kindness on a sorrowful young girl. He buys her a treat of shaved ice and gives her a handkerchief filled with coins. This solitary act of affection will provide the foundation for Chiyo's renewed inspiration to become a geisha and win the heart of this man.

    The second half of this film delves into the adult life of Chiyo, who takes the name of Sayuri, and her struggle to overcome insurmountable odds to gain the lost tenderness of the Chairman. Ziyi Zhang steps into the role of Sayuri and provides a subtle depiction of this young woman who must hide her love in order to fulfill the path that fate has laid down for her.

    Although truly noteworthy, Zhang's performance lacks the continuity set forth by the atmosphere of the beginning of the film, and her dialogue does seem forced at times, especially during a scene in which Sayuri pleads that her innocence has not been compromised. Zhang's beauty conceals the inconsistencies in her exercising of dialogue, and she doesn't quite exude the tangible qualities of her character.

    "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a remarkable piece, and it highlights the talents of several relatively unknown actors and actresses who aid in providing an enchanting story of lost love and redemption. This picture is not suited to provide an in-depth study into the lifestyle of geishas. It is solely a fictional tale of a young woman and her journey through adolescence and despair.

     If there was one aspect of this film that could be emphasized more, it would be the loss of innocence of young Chiyo. This would lend the opportunity for a more emotionally charged film, which would ease the transition between her phases of life; in the second act, Sayuri essentially becomes a character of unfamiliarity.

    This film has been widely criticized for the casting of Chinese actors and actresses to portray Japanese characters. Although I am not as highly critical of this decision as most individuals, there is a slight feeling of a loss of authenticity. Nevertheless, the origins and nationalities of the actors do not compromise the integrity of the film, and it would be thoughtless to revoke the merit of this picture on that sole notion.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Her ★★1/2

    One of the most universally accepted sentiments of humanity in the twenty-first century has to be the notion that technology is a profound instrument that has become an indispensable aspect of our lives. This progression has spanned over a centuries time, and it is rather inconceivable to believe that one could live without such technological advances, even if they tried.

    "Her" is a film that delves into the near future to explore the intricacies of the bond between man and technology. It is a viable conception that man will become so fixated with these advanced devices, that seemingly aid us in our everyday tasks, to the point where the emotion of love becomes discernible. Although this film revels in the delight of this romanticized, futuristic love story, it is far from producing a picture that can yield a palpable atmosphere to elucidate its intentions.

    Theodore Twombly is a reserved and peculiar individual who spends his days as a professional writer creating intimate letters and cards for significant others, not of his own. This only adds to his depression and reluctance to become involved with his surrounding environment, as Theodore is in the final stages of an unwanted divorce. The culmination of life's hardships leads Theodore to purchase an OS1, a highly intelligent operating system, which will assist him in his daily activities and give him a direly needed social outlet to ease the suffocation of loneliness.

    He effortlessly decides to give the system a female voice and disposition, which lends the opportunity for romantically inclined attachment. Theodore and Samantha, the name chosen personally by the OS, bond almost immediately, and they indulge in conversations about life, love, and happiness. Samantha shows continual evolution throughout the beginning of the relationship and even claims she can feel Theodore's touch during a late night encounter. Love has blossomed.

    The role of Theodore is extremely difficult in theory. There is virtually no physical interaction with the other leading role, and the majority of the dialogue is limited to conversations in time and space. Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of Theodore is a stimulating experience that ultimately becomes bogged down by the ramifications of the forefront relationship. (Imagine viewing conversations between two individuals in a long distance partnership.) Nevertheless, Phoenix eases the discomfort with his delicate approach to the character. Theodore's soft toned personality intrigues us even if his character lacks the appeal of most lead performances.

    Scarlett Johansson provides us with the sultry and intelligent voice of Samanta. This is another role that justifies a certain level of professionalism to ensure that the portrayal adds substance to the film. We never physically view Samantha as she is not a human being, but a program within the confines of a computer. This is a burdensome role to critique, as Johansson is seemingly just a voice that communicates with the lead character through an earpiece.

    What I can comment on, however, is the chemistry that is provided by Johansson. Her dialogue flows naturally, and her voice charms in a way that cannot quite be defined. She breathes life into this program, and she undoubtedly becomes the star of the show. Additionally, Samantha is entirely genuine, which helps us to believe in this unlikely association.

    With their new found love in tow, Theodore and Samantha become inseparable. They spend time at the beach and even go out on a double date, as dating an OS has grown to be socially acceptable. However, the issue of physical intimacy remains and the fact that Samantha is evolving into something more than just an operating system lingers. This relationship will test the integrity of Theodore and the perceived thought that love can survive between man and an intangible entity.

    Love is indeed a mysterious force; it is both powerful and haunting. It can consume oneself at the most opportune time and flourish when the connection is sincere. Although this unusual love story provides an interesting perspective into how nature in itself functions, the fascination subsides as Samantha grows. She simply becomes a more interesting character that is restricted to the length of Theodore.

    The tone of the film also loses its continuity with stints of unnecessary and rather vapid dialogue. Samantha can communicate with thousands of other beings and can learn an infinite amount of knowledge within a minuscule time period. With the boundless mysteries and unknown answers to life's existence at hand, it is extremely unlikely that she would lend herself to ignorant thoughts as to why our anuses are located where they are and not in a place such as our armpits. Unfortunately, we not only have to endure this benighted conversation but must observe a graphic depiction as well.

    There once was a fear that technology would separate man from his family and community. A fear that we would become less concerned with these values and transform into introverted human beings, who only preoccupy themselves within the boundaries of the World Wide Web. Although this notion has arguably come true to this point, it is an entirely different discussion when the attachment progresses to emotions of the sensual matter. "Her" is the personification of this theory that would see humanity become nothing more than an extension of his own creation. When the love for material objects has gotten to this pinnacle, it is no longer an obsession, but a sickness.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

12 Years a Slave ★★★★

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    If there was ever a film to achieve the insurmountable task of capturing the barbarous realities of the nineteenth-century American South, it would be the 2013 historical drama entitled "12 Years a Slave." Adapted from the memoirs of Solomon Northup himself, this is a powerful film that seeks to delve into one of the darkest hours of humanity; it is a film that forces us to endure the sorrow and alienation set forth by our ancestors. With superb direction and limitless performances, this picture cements itself as the epitome of human struggle and redemption.

    Solomon Northup is a free African-American man in a time when freedom was a despairing notion. He makes an honest living as a musician whose expertise is that of the violin. Northup also has a loving family consisting of a wife and two children. Never has he experienced the hardships endured by the countless number of his peers.

    However, after accepting a job in Washington, D.C. that would see him to be absent for a fortnight, Northup will become the victim of a treacherous effort to exploit an African-American male for prosperity; a devious act that will change his life forever.

    The role of Solomon Northup is characterized by a complex amalgam of despair and hope. Chiwetel Ejiofor, an established actor with a relatively unknown body of work, portrays this kidnapped and tortured soul. This is an extremely delicate role to embrace, and it is clear that Ejiofor was prepared for the undertaking. This character all but encompasses our actor, as it is rare to see such professionalism executed through dialogue and emotion.

    Ejiofor's tools as an actor are as sharp as can be permitted, thus penetrating our blockade of impartiality scene after tension-filled scene; consequently, charming our hearts with an unforeseen zealousness. It becomes apparent that we are no longer viewing an actor in a specific role, but a man who is battling his inner encumbrances to provide us with a tapestry of emotion.

    After the abduction is complete, Northup is branded with the name of Platt and sold to a plantation owner in New Orleans, Louisiana. His life becomes routine and, although he isn't dealt much brutality or mistreatment, a lowly overseer does begin to agonize him--not for the color of his skin, but for his excelling skill as a craftsman and for his intelligent solutions to problem-solving. His life ultimately becomes endangered and the owner, who is a relatively compassionate man, agrees to sell him to another plantation in order to relieve him of peril.

    Edwin Epps, a stern and uncompromising plantation owner, becomes the recipient of Northup. This man will test Northup's ability, not only as a field worker but as a dignified human being. The work is unrelentingly rigorous, and it is clear that Epps' empathy for African-Americans has vanished, along with the perceived notion that a man with a darker complexion is still indeed a man and not a disposable piece of property. This relationship will culminate in a series of tension-filled scenes that will put you on edge and astonish the facets of the mind.

    Michael Fassbender, a personal favorite of mine among today's young collection of actors, is Edwin Epps. This depiction is a very important display of human nature found among nineteenth-century plantation owners. Epps not only believes that it is his God-given right to detain his slaves, but feels that he may do so with guiltless pride. One of the more startling relationships that contributes to this film is the dynamic bond between Epps and a young female slave named Patsey.

    Epps loves Patsey for her work ethic and is bound to her by his unwarranted sexual desires. This leads to an inner feeling of mortification and revulsion, which he subsequently releases in the form of anger upon his workers. Fassbender is impeccable as this portrait of a man fueled by self-righteousness. His delivery is unmatched in confidence and passion.

    A vital aspect of Fassbender's performance can be attributed to his chemistry with his fellow actors and actresses off screen. This includes Lupita Nyong'o, the Academy Award winner for best supporting actress for her portrayal of Patsey. Nyong'o brings a fresh face to a role filled with chaos. It is quite refreshing to see a young and talented actress succeed with little experience on her resume. Although Patsey may not be an integral constituent of the film, her importance lies within her relationship to Solomon and Epps; without Patsey, Epps loses all sense of temperament.

    "12 Years a Slave" is a film enshrouded by pain. There are several beautiful sequences and shots featuring the serene and tranquil atmosphere of the surrounding nature, as the film progresses in a completely opposing manner. And here lies the elegance of film. For, it is not so much about what's said by the characters or actions that are boldly highlighted to exercise a certain point, but what the camera relinquishes to the viewer.

    There is a scene that features Solomon near death, unable to speak or virtually move. As the camera settles on this horrendous scene, we almost certainly assure ourselves that something will happen to relieve the silence. That moment does come, but not for a few anxiety-filled minutes, which enables us to calmly examine the circumstance at hand. It is within this silence that we begin to become one with this tormented individual. Without that bond, a film will essentially become a fragment of incapability.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ★★★1/2

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    Sometimes in life it is inevitable that we become engrossed with our daily lives and routine occupations, never finding the time to involve ourselves with spontaneity or adventure. Walter Mitty is the personification of these values and this mundane life of his (which is often filled with spans of impractical delusions of grandeur) becomes the focal point of the 2013 film entitled "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

    Walter is a reserved and rather diffident individual, who spends the majority of his hours in the darkness enshrouded basement of Life magazine headquarters. His responsibilities include prepping cover photos and being virtually nonexistent in the eyes of his peers. Additionally, Walter's love life is as desolate as the desert is dry, unless, of course, you find his hopeless crush on a female co-worker to be of any significance.

    However, as Life magazine prepares to make the transition into cyberspace, Walter's life is suddenly thrown into a tumultuous frenzy of exhilaration, as he finally sheds his tedious personality and becomes the man he has only dreamed of being in the past.

    This is a film that contains a heartwarming story and relatively silly sequences of fictitious events depicting Walter's daydreams. Ben Stiller, who makes this picture his fifth directorial venture, portrays this character with a sense of authenticity as he channels his inner awkwardness to fill the shoes of Walter Mitty. Stiller excels in both respects, providing us with a surprising yet appreciative display of cinematography and a memorable characterization of this reclusive and introverted individual.

    A conversion to an online format means Walter is in charge of the last cover photo of a tangible Life magazine. Sean O'Connell, a mysterious and brilliant photographer, has been one of the most integral contributors to the photojournalism department, thus cementing himself as the only logical choice for providing the cover of the final print issue aptly entitled "the quintessence of life."

    When the negative for this photograph appears to be missing, Walter finds himself on a manhunt to locate O'Connell and save his job; for, the online transformation may displace many in-house positions. Little does Walter know that this seemingly required action of traveling and go getting will become the single most important outing he has ever experienced and the defining moment of his life.

    The events that come to pass take us from the busy and crowded streets of inner city New York to the beautiful lush landscapes of Iceland, and, ultimately, to the breathtaking Himalayas where Walter not only finds the elusive photographer, but he realizes just how delicate and meaningful life can be. His voyage is filled with instances of humor, elation, and despair, which results in an enjoyable experience for anyone who needs to escape from the strains of reality.

    Sean Penn, a renowned actor with exceeding talent, steps into the role of Sean O'Connell. This performance is less than honorable, as Penn is limited in his time on screen and dialogue; consequently, becoming nothing more than a plot pusher. Nevertheless, an aging Penn is a delight to see, and he adds star power to a relatively unknown cast. Kristen Wiig, an up and coming actress in Hollywood, portrays the charming love interest of Walter.

    Cheryl Melhoff is a low-level employee at Life magazine and becomes attracted to Walter's quirky personality. Wiig provides our lead character with a romantically inclined release from his everyday anguishes and becomes his inspiration for adventure. Wiig's performance is quite noteworthy and provides one of the most engaging scenes of the film, as she sings her rendition of David Bowie's timeless "Space Oddity."

    "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a successful and encouraging film simply because of its ability to explore the imagination--to divulge into the uncertain and give rise to hope. Although there are numerous scenes that warrant laughter, the tone of the film is solemn in its presentation, and it does not exert itself solely on comedic circumstances. Stiller has created a picture that showcases the triumph of living.

    Who is Walter Mitty? Essentially, he is concealed inside every one of us at one time or another. No matter where life's unexpected journey may take us, there is certainty in the fact that we will become submerged in the nuisances of everyday life. There will always be the need to break free and indulge in atypical events.

    I have previously asked my readers to enjoy the simplicity that this world offers. Too many times we are trapped inside our respective homes, transfixed by the technological hindrances that this twenty-first century imposes on our will. Too many times have I seen unfamiliar faces staring down at their smartphones when a magnificent sunset is just a head turn away. If there is one thing this film urgently suggests, it is the fact that life is short. In the iconic words of Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Maleficent ★★★

    Walt Disney was one of the most important minds to ever grace this Earth. Not only was his contribution to animation and magical storytelling substantial, but Walt was the epitome of a successful businessman. His ambition was to bring happiness to everyone so that they could also share in the joy of his creations.

    Today's Disney is vastly different. Much of the same innovative thought and originality has disappeared, and storyboards have lost the allure that once propelled the company through their golden and renaissance periods. Disney has ultimately been reduced to conjuring up stories of old and re-imagining them as if the original had ceased to exist.

    Nevertheless, if there is one thing that has remained in the repertoire of Disney, it is the look of elation brought to children's faces as they experience these remarkable characters for the first time. Of course, this is all that mattered to Walt.

    "Maleficent" is this year's rendition of the classic tale of "Sleeping Beauty." The lead character of Aurora has been relegated and Maleficent, the ever dark and powerful enigma, has been ushered to the forefront. The essential backbone of the story remains the same; however, the point of view has been shifted in favor of the omniscient queen of the Moors.

    A vibrant young fairy named Maleficent oversees the daily activities of all the magical beings in the fair land known as the Moors. Creatures of virtually every size and shape inhabit this beautiful terrain, which borders the world of man. The fateful day that sees a boy enter into this kingdom will change the shape of this world and Maleficent's heart forever.

    Stefan, a peasant born yet ambitious young man, begins an ingenuous relationship with the youthful Maleficent, and they continue to bond over the course of their early lives. Their love for each other climaxes with a "true love's" kiss, in which Stefan bestows upon Maleficent; however, the magic was not to last. Distance grows between them and love is all but forgotten.

    After Stefan betrays Maleficent's trust and becomes king, she transforms into the wicked and evil spirited image seen in the original depiction of this timeless classic. Broken and filled with sorrow, Maleficent is fueled by revenge once she hears of the christening of the newborn princess. A curse is placed upon the infant, Aurora, and Maleficent retreats into the depths of the forest.

    If there was ever a shining star in this production, it would be the performance of Angelina Jolie. And rightfully so. Jolie embodies the character of Maleficent with relative ease and delivers on all accounts. She is as formidable and elegant as one would imagine her to be. She provides an enticing magnetism while fulfilling the menacing characteristics of the original adaption. Jolie is the quintessential actress for this role, and I cannot fathom any other woman who could fill the black dress of Maleficent with such dignity. With cheekbones so indestructible they could seemingly penetrate steel, Jolie not only looks the part but will linger in our hearts forever as the villainous beauty to rule them all.

    The treatment of Maleficent in this film is dissimilar with regard to the original tale and intends to stray from the treachery to give us more of a heartwarming story of redemption. The ill-fated fairy becomes the caretaker of young Aurora, even from a distance, and does not fully believe in the spell once cast to anathematize the innocent princess. That action was performed in haste and Maleficent's true conflict is feelings of disdain that flow from within.

    This is a film that strives for success simply because of the reputation of the story and the brand attached to the production. I was not overly impressed with the special effects as much as I was with the costumes and wardrobe. Other performances are bland and passionless. A climatic ending falls short of admirable.

    If there is one aspect of this picture to revel in, it is the conviction that Maleficent truly deserves the spotlight in which she so humbly seizes in this moment. The added depth to this characterization is believable and encouraging. Additionally, the depiction of man as a paranoid and greed-induced entity has been overemphasized; however, it is still relevant to this day.

    With all of that being said and expressed, there is a much more profound statement that should be scrutinized here. It is blatantly obvious that Disney has altered the interpretation of true love. Beginning with the 2012 film "Brave" and continuing with last year's critically acclaimed "Frozen," Disney has tarnished the bond of man and woman, opting instead for sibling and parental affection.

    Where is the inclination for this unforeseen metamorphosis? Although the above-mentioned perceived ideals are reputable, there is a feeling of emptiness when viewing these peculiar resolutions. Love indeed comes in numerous forms; however, there is a precise difference between unconditional warmth imposed by a parent or sibling and the love of a soul mate. I understand the need to bring a reinvigorated sense of fulfillment to the brand of Disney in the twenty-first century, but this change simply undermines the essence of what Walt Disney began all those years ago.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bram Stoker's Dracula ★★★

    Dracula is indubitably one of the most significant characters ever developed in the vast world of literature. His likeness has been adapted into virtually every conceivable medium, including film.

    "Bram Stoker's Dracula" contains one of the more flattering depictions of the prince of darkness, and it provides a startling atmosphere brimming with seductiveness. Francis Ford Coppola lends his hand to the direction of this film, which is arguably his last notable appearance in that position. Coppola has an illustrious career as a filmmaker, which, for the most part, is filled with timeless masterpieces.

    Although this picture isn't the swan song we would imagine from Coppola, it is a compelling and bold adventure that stays true to the classic novel written at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Our story begins with the introduction of Vlad Dracula, a highly regarded warrior who relishes in the slayings of his enemies. He is a protector of Christianity and the Romanian population. After defeating the Turks in a merciless battle, Vlad returns home to see that his wife, Elisabeta, has taken her own life. Unfortunately, she was given false information regarding Vlad's death and decided she could not live without him.

    Subsequently, this leads Vlad to renounce Christianity and God because of the inevitable eternal damnation of his precious Elisabeta. He strikes the cross with his sword and drinks the blood that gushes outward. (This particular scene is quite disturbing and will leave you somewhat perturbed.)

    Centuries pass and Vlad, now known as Count Dracula, has become a shell of his former self. He is consumed with the vile and wicked powers that he embraced over four hundred years earlier and has confined himself to a castle in Transylvania. Apart from dwelling on the loss of his former true love, Dracula has become a notable real estate consumer and has become infatuated with buying numerous properties in London. This brings newly qualified lawyer Jonathan Harker to Dracula's home as an aid to see him through his most recent acquisitions.

    The subtle and fascinating personality of Dracula is a rather burdensome task for one to portray; however, Gary Oldman leaves no doubt as to why he was chosen for the part. Oldman excels in the role of Dracula and astonishes with the tone and style that he brings to this famed character. He embraces Coppola's vision of this portrayal and exhibits an air of sensuality throughout the film. Oldman's charisma and visible chemistry with his fellow actresses allow this film to conform to its own perception of thought. Without the charm of Oldman, this film would not revel in the perceived notion that Dracula is still a man with a heart, even if it is undead.

    The presence of Jonathan Harker in Dracula's humble abode provides the count with a new ambition. Harker's fiancee, Mina, is an uncanny reincarnation of Dracula's beloved Elisabeta. After seeing a picture of her, Dracula proceeds to visit London in an effort to search for this beautiful Mina, and Harker is left to be fed upon by his three seductive brides.

    While in London, Dracula begins his seduction of Mina and, after a blood-lustful night, has a sexual encounter with Mina's well to do friend, Lucy. This culminates in the transfer of blood into Lucy, who consequently becomes a spawn of Dracula. Her change is quite obvious to the loved ones that surround her, and this leads to the summoning of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing.

    Van Helsing is an eccentric fellow, who knows what Lucy is becoming. After much thought and research, he comes to the precise conclusion that Dracula is among the inhabitants of the cobblestoned streets of London; a shadow lurking in the blackness enshrouded halls of man. Van Helsing and a group of Lucy's former suitors begin to track down Dracula before he can entice Mina into a world of darkness.

    Other memorable performances in this film include that of Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing and Winona Ryder depicting Mina. Hopkins is highly entertaining and quite brilliant as the local doctor, who also divulges in the knowledge of the underworld. (He exercises demons and beheads vampires as if it were his pastime.) Despite the fact that Hopkins' time on screen is limited, he delivers a much-needed release from the sexually tension-filled atmosphere.

    Ryder is a wonderful actress whose presence here is extremely integral to the production of this film. She provides a tangible sense of elegance and chemistry with Oldman, which helps to ignite the four-hundred-year-old romance that Dracula has been direly in search of. Her innocence and allure make her one of the most believable characters in a film where conceivability is hard to come by.

    The emphasis on costume and wardrobe is conspicuous and impressive to say the least. It lends credibility to the eye in the form of accurate presentation. It is much easier to believe events are taking place when the characters and locations look the part. Another commendable notion to be applauded is the stubbornness of Coppola.

    Although computer graphic imaging was not as sophisticated or widely utilized in the early 1990s as it is today, it still found its way into multiple films of this era. Coppola refused to use CGI in this rendition of Dracula and opted instead for the use of on set and in-camera techniques. I can only praise him for these actions. Nevertheless, with today's modern film production, these methods are all but unimaginable.

    If there is one prominent emotion relevant to Coppola's "Dracula," it is one of carnal sensation and desire. These are temptations that envelop us all, whether they are warranted or not. Lust has persisted throughout the age of man and will most certainly continue to linger for centuries to come. However, it should never be confused with love. Love is something every creature on this Earth needs to survive. Lust is experienced, then lost in the winds of time. This is why Dracula longed for love and was never content with the lustful demons within his home, who attempted to steal his heart.