Friday, December 31, 2010

True Grit (2010)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Ethan and Joel Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Western, Adventure, Drama
Runtime: 110 minutes
Original Version: True Grit (1969)

When fourteen year old Mattie Ross's (Steinfeld) father is killed in a drunken rage by gunman Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), she makes it her life's mission to see him hang for his crimes.  However, after the murder, Chaney ran away and joined ranks with a band of outlaws.  To track him down, Mattie enlists the assistance of Marshal Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Bridges), the meanest, drunkest, most ornery marshal around, old and fat and one-eyed.  It's only reluctantly that she is able to get him to come with her, and once he does, they are both aided and hindered by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon), who also wants to arrest Chaney, but plans on retrieving him for a bounty in Texas, where he killed a senator; whereas Mattie wants him to know that he killed her father and that is why he is being hanged.

They often say that the remakes aren't as good as the original, and I'm sure that for most die-hard John Wayne fans, the same holds true for True Grit.  However, since I haven't seen the original, I'll be able to give a less biased opinion.

I thought that True Grit was absolutely wonderful!  Even though it was a drama, and said to be darker than the original, I thought that it was hilarious at many points and very touching at others.  Jeff Bridges was wonderful as the rough, drunken marshal.  His Rooster Cogburn was very funny, especially when drunk.  His sassy attitude and smart mouth made him a character that you liked in spite of yourself.

Matt Damon was wonderful as LaBoeuf the Texas Ranger, and Josh Brolin was a very convincing villain.  However, I have to say that it as Hailee Steinfeld who stole the show.  Her portrayal of little Mattie Ross was not only incredibly convincing, but amusing, too.  She's so serious for someone so young, and absolutely adorable at the same time.  One of the best scenes is where she attempts to bargain a sale of some of her late father's horses back to the man who sold them to him in the first place. 

I think the best part though, would have to be the cinematography.  The scenery was beautiful and made you feel like you were right there in the "Wild West" of Arkansas. 

However, there are a few things that you might want to be aware of.  For those of you who have seen the original True Grit, this film is a lot edgier.  Furthermore, there is one scene in particular which I thought was a little too intense for a PG-13 movie.  I won't provide a spoiler about what happens, but I'll give you a heads up that it takes place when Rooster and Mattie are in the cabin.

All in all, this is a film that I truly enjoyed.  If you like Westerns, then this is a must. Personally, I'm not a fan of Westerns for the most part, but I loved this movie.  Also, to give you the opinion of my dad (a huge John Wayne fan), this was very good for a remake, and better than he expected it to be.  Rating: 8.5

Thursday, December 30, 2010

By the Sun's Rays (1914)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 5 out of 10
Director: Tod Browning
Starring: M.J. Macquarrie, Lon Chaney, Seymour Hastings
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Silent, Drama, Western
Runtime: 11 minutes

By the Sun's Rays is one of silent film star Lon Chaney's earliest films (possibly his earliest surviving), during an era where he was mostly scripted as a villain.  In this short film, even though Chaney is listed second to Macquarrie, its obvious who's the real star.  With his mastery of pantomime and facial expressions, Chaney creates a captivating villain.
Frank Lawler (Chaney) is a corrupt clerk who uses his position to alert a posse of outlaws when shipments of gold are coming through the area using a small mirror to reflect the sunlight and act as a beacon.  Detective John Murdock is called in to investigate the situation, and once Lawler is found out, pretty young Dora Davis (Agnes Vernon), the object of Lawler's affections plays bait to stall for time.

Since this film is so short, instead of posting a trailer, I'm simply going to post the entire film.  It's only eleven minutes, and despite its mediocre rating is still worth seeing.  Mostly, I gave it a lower rating because there's not enough time to build up a great plot, and I couldn't help but wish that Chaney's role had been more substantial.  A nice tidbit, though, for Chaney fans, and enjoyable overall.

Juno (2007)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 10 out of 10
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 96 minutes

There are some movies that are just wonderful every time you see them, and for me, Juno totally makes that list!  When 16 year old Juno MacGuff (Page) learns that her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Cera) got her pregnant, the only option seems to be getting an abortion.  Unable to go through with it, however, she puts the child up for adoption.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Not quite!  Filled with witty dialogue and an amazing cast, this film takes a simple enough plot and blows it out of the water.  Juno is a movie that simply just has to be seen.

Ellen Page is hilarious as the smart-mouthed Juno MacGuff, and Michael Cera is adorable as her clueless best friend.  However, there are several wonderful actors who don't get the recognition they deserve.  Rainn Wilson is hilarious as the weird and snarky convenient store clerk, and J.K. Simmons is one of my favorite characters as Juno's father Mac.

Prepare for a fun-filled hour-and-a-half of hamburger phones, orange tic-tacs, and classic lines like, "That ain't no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, Homeskillet."  Besides that, the soundtrack is amazing!

I totally love this movie, and strongly recommend it.  A must see; put this at the top of your list!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Tooth Fairy (2010)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Michael Lembeck
Starring: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Ashley Judd, Stephen Merchant
Rated: PG
Genre: Comedy, Family
Runtime: 101 minutes

When Derek Thompson (Johnson), a hardened hockey player (stuck in the minor leagues after a shoulder injury) tells his girlfriend’s little daughter that there is no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, he receives a shocking surprise: as punishment for his thoughtlessness, the council in the Fairy World has decreed that he take on the role of Tooth Fairy for one week.  Any attempts to skirt his duties will only end with more time being tacked onto his sentence.  So, dressed in powder-blue satin pajamas and big, fuzzy, fairy wings, Derek has to serve out his sentence AND hide his new “condition” from his girlfriend and teammates.  He is accompanied by Tracey (Merchant), his fairy advisor who keeps track of his progress. 
This is an adorable movie, and a great film for the entire family.  Dwayne Johnson continues to amaze me every time he comes out with another silly children’s movie.  I have a lot of respect for a former pro-wrestler who is totally cool with playing silly, possibly emasculating roles for the sake of a comedic children’s film.  Also, Stephen Merchant is a delight.  This is the first time I’ve seen a film with him in it, and with his considerable height, stick figure build, and large eyes, he’s quite a comedic presence.
For children, this movie provides inspirational lessons, including the importance of following your dreams and never giving up.  In addition, it reminds them that anything is possible and that dreams do come true.  The feel-good nature of this film will be felt by the whole family.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hello Dolly (1969)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 8 out of 10
Director: Gene Kelly
Starring: Barbara Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford
Rated: G
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Runtime: 146 minutes
Hello Dolly is the story of Ms. Dolly Levi, a widow and matchmaker who has decided that she's going to marry her rich client Horace Vandergelder.  Several plots all overlap with each other when Dolly is supposed to take Horace's niece Ermengarde to New York to keep her away from her poor artist boyfriend who wants to marry her against her uncle's wishes.  The plot soon expands to accommodate several subplots as Dolly tries to match up the cast's multiple couples.

This is a wonderful, feel-good sort of musical, with upbeat songs and lots of fun plot twists.  Besides that, you have a wonderful cast, including Michael Crawford, who was the original Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and in London.  Of course, his character, the bumbling clerk Cornelius Hackl is very different from the dark and brooding Phantom, showing the wide range of Crawford’s acting skills.  Walter Mattau is delightfully stubborn as Horace Vandergelder, and of course, Barbara Streisand is a charming, beautiful, and clever Dolly Levi.

All in all, I would recommend this film very highly.  The music is lots of fun and the choreography is BRILLIANT!  However, it is very long, and there did come a point where I was dying to get up and walk around a bit, even though I was enjoying the movie.  Also, I did find the characters of Irene Molloy and Minnie Fay to be a bit annoying; but of course, not enough to make me want to stop watching.  And of course, I’m sure that I’m in the minority on this; Irene/Cornelius and Minnie/Barnaby are often considered the cutest couples in the film.  Speaking of couples, I also found the pairing of Joyce Ames and Tommy Tune as Horace’s niece and her boyfriend, to be a comical choice, since at 6’6 ½”, Tommy towers over tiny little Joyce.

A Few New Developments

Hello, Movie Buffs :)

I just wanted to update you all on a few things that I've added to the blog.  First of all, you might have already seen the new addition to "Pages," namely, "Movie Archives".  This basically lists all the movies I've published reviews for on the blog.  They're all listed by year, and I include links to their individual pages when you click on them.  I'd like to have pages that list movies by director and genre, but for the time being, this is just going to be easier.

Second, I've added another section that lists the movies I'm going to be reviewing soon (namely, I've seen them, but just haven't had the time to sit down and review them.)  This section is listed as "Coming Soon".

I have a few questions now to ask you.  Is there anything I can do to make this blog better? Do you prefer if I just list movies and review?  Would you like trivia posts or actor profiles with a list of some of their movies?  How about comparisons of different versions of the same films?   Do you like the format I currently use?  Please let me know. You can let me know via the comments feed or send me an email at Thanks for your time.  I know there are only six subscribers currently, but your opinions matter to me.  Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the movies :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1999)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 10 out of 10
Director: David Mallet
Starring: Donny Osmond, Maria Friedman, and Richard Attenborough, Joan Collins
Rated:Not rated
Genre: Musical, Religious, Family
Runtime:78 minutes

This is one of my favorite movies.  I've loved Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat since I was in THE FOURTH GRADE, and even now, this is a movie I treasure.  It's cute, quirky, and fun, with music that makes you want to get up and dance!  I can't even remember how many times I've seen this film.....but at least 20, to give a conservative estimate.
This is based off of Andrew Lloyd Webber's first musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, written in collaboration with Tim Rice. It retells the Biblical story of Joseph (Osmand), son of Jacob (Attenborough), and his eleven jealous brothers.  Joseph is his father's favorite, and when Jacob buys him a brilliant coat of many colors so that everyone will know how much his father cares about him, his brothers decide they've had enough of being second best, and decide to get rid of him.  While a slave in Egypt, Joseph gets falsely accused, thrown in prison, and eventually rises though the ranks to become second in command to the Pharaoh, who needs him to interpret his dreams.

This is a movie that the whole family can enjoy; not just the adults or just the kids.  Most of the entries on this blog will be geared toward teens and adults since those are the kinds of movies I choose to watch, however, this is one of the few films that is for everyone.  Full of fun songs such as "Go, Go, Go Joseph," "Benjamin Calypso," and "Any Dream Will Do".

Yes, this production is a bit cheesy, but that's a part of the charm.  Just trust me on this.  So, get some popcorn, a friend, or the whole family, and enjoy this wonderful, energetic film!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 3 out of 10
Director: Norman Jewison
Starring: Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman
Genre: Musical, Religious, Historical
Runtime:108 minutes

Because I had just watched the 2000 version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic "rock opera," I thought it was time to review this one as well.  Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical sensation that details the last few days of Christ's (Neeley) life through the eyes of Judas Iscariot (Anderson).

I had quite a few issues with this version of the film.  Although I love the music, and enjoyed the "Millennium" edition quite a bit, this movie was greatly lacking.  It takes place in the deserts of Palestine, where a group of actors drive up in a bus and proceed to act out the story of Christ's passion.  There were minimal set pieces, but lots and lots of expansive sand, which was very boring after a while.

My biggest issues were with the acting.  Not to be mean, but Ted Neeley cannot sing.  At least, not well enough to play the role of Jesus.  Also, I felt as though his performance was greatly lacking in emotion; he was very flat.  Carl Anderson's Judas was better, but even his singing was not the best.  Joshua Mostel, who played King Herod, some sort of creepy bi-sexual beach bum with a mixed harem of guys and girls covered in paint and body glitter.  In my opinion, the only actors who sang well were Bob Bingham as Caiaphas, Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene, and Barry Dennen as Pontias Pilate.

While the 2000 version of Jesus Christ Superstar focused on Judas as the main character, this movie pushed him into the background, making it hard to understand what his motivation was for his betrayal.  Jerome Pradon's Judas was distressed, overwrought, and easy to sympathise with.  You could understand his motives, whether you agreed with him or not.  Anderson's performance left me scratching my head, wondering what his justification was, seeing as I didn't understand it myself.  Whereas Pradon seemed to be doing everything for the greater good when Jesus wouldn't listen to him, Anderson just seemed to be smoldering in his own jealousy of what Jesus had.

All in all, I found this whole film to be a huge disappointment. If you're interested in this rock opera, I would suggest staying away from this production and watch the 2000 version instead.  It's so much better!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 5 out of 10
Director: Gale Edwards, Nick Morris
Starring: Glenn Carter, Jerome Pradon, Renee Castle
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Musical, Religious
Run Time:107 minutes

Based off of Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous "rock opera" of the same name, Jesus Christ Superstar is an epic musical production.  The story details the last week of Jesus' (Carter) life through the eyes of Judas Iscariot (Pradon), his best friend and right-hand man, who will later betray him.  Although a delight to watch, this movie is filled with Biblical inaccuracies, portraying Jesus as a self-centered, ignorant young man who has allowed his new-found popularity to go to his head, while Judas is the level-headed apostle who tries to keep him on the right path.  The setting is more modern than its 1973 counterpart, with revolutionaries and gangs instead of hippies.

I enjoyed this movie, however, there were quite a few things that bothered me.  First of all, I don't agree with how Jesus was portrayed as naive, oblivious, and a conceited drama queen.  Plus, I was not a fan of how they overly sexualized his  relationship with Mary Magdalene.  Also, Carter has a wonderful voice, but he launched into falsetto tones far too many times, and at parts that didn't need falsetto.  The chief priests, especially Annas (Michael Shaeffer), besides looking like a cross between The Matrix and the Spanish Inquisition, were absolutely demonic (but wonderful), making it nearly impossible to understand why Judas would go to them to betray his friend.
Speaking of Judas, I have to say that next to Ben Vereen, Jerome Pradon is my favorite Judas.  His performance is powerful, moving, and emotional, making the viewer really sympathise with him.  I loved his role, and honestly, Pradon made the movie for me.

All in all, an okay movie.  Not the best I have seen, but enjoyable, and reminiscent of Donny Osmand's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Although, I have to say that I preferred Godspell to Jesus Christ Superstar.  However, if you enjoy the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, I would say that this film is worth it.  If musicals really aren't your thing, then I'd suggest looking for a different movie.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Inception (2010)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 7 out of 10
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring:Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levit, Ellen Page
Rated: PG-13
Genre:Action, Crime, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Run Time:148 minutes

Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) can go into your dreams.  As a highly skilled thief, Cobb and his team enter the dreams of others as well as bringing them into their own dreams to extract information from them.  However, this line of work is slowly tearing his life apart.  Kept away from his family, and harboring a dark secret, he grasps the only redemption he has left: perform the most intense dream invasion possible: 5th level inception.  This involves going into a dream within a dream and planting an idea in the subconsciousness of a person, in the hopes that they will accept it as their own upon waking.  However, as he dives deeper and deeper into the dream layers, will Cobb be able to come back out?  Or will he be consumed by the darkness hidden away in his deepest subconsciousness?

Before I say anything more, I'd just like to admit that action films are really not my thing.  I just don't really like them.  However, Inception was amazing.  I saw it with a group of friends, and was blown away by the amazing plot, acting, and special effects that the film contained.  DiCaprio and Page were both amazing, but DiCaprio really stole the show. The intensity of his performance was thrilling.

Although the plot of this movie sounds a bit complex, its really easy to pick up on.  This is totally a group film, and I highly recommend checking it out.  You won't be disappointed.  There is something for everyone, with lots of action and suspense, drama, romance, and redemption.  And as I've said before, the special effects are to die for!

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