Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Hello, Film Fanatics!  I hope all of you have a VERY Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!  I'm hoping to be back after all the holiday festivities are over, with a brand new line up of reviews, movie clips, and more.  Thanks for bearing with me for 2011, and I hope to see all of you in 2012! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 8 out of 10
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
Rated: PG
Genre: Action, Adventure
Runtime: 115 minutes
Sequels: Temple of Doom (1984), The Last Crusade (1989), Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones (Ford), college professor and archaeologist will go to great lengths to obtain rare archaeological finds for museums.  Word of his dedication and bravery has come to the notice of the United States government, who have an important mission for him: to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant, the sacred box claimed to contain the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses.  But this is no ordinary mission.  It's a race against time as Indy struggles to get to the Ark before his rival Dr. Belloq (Freeman) and the Nazis can get their hands on it.  The legends say that if an army carries the Ark into battle, they will be unstoppable.  And Hitler is greatly desirous to obtain such a powerful weapon.

The Indiana Jones movies have been on my "to watch" list for the longest time (just like Star Wars).  I've always been meaning to watch them, but I never got around to doing so.  Now, I'm sure that half of you out there are thinking that I must have spent my childhood living in a cave or something (and the other half really don't care either way).  But, I finally got around to watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I'll be honest; I'm really glad I did!  The movie was not only fun, exciting, and engaging, but it had a colorful cast of characters who balanced off each other perfectly.  Personally, my favorite had to be the villain, Dr. Belloq, but of course, our hero Indy came in a very close second.

Harrison Ford was perfect for Indiana Jones.  And I thought that his character was not only amazing, but amusing as well.  I love that Indy is this great, fearless explorer, but when he's back on campus, teaching a class of college students, he becomes meek, awkward, and easily rattled.  It's a very striking contrast.  I especially loved his reaction to one rather amorous young lady who writes "LOVE YOU" on her eyelids.

Dr. Belloq was a very interesting villian.  When we are first introduced to him, he seems to be quite a threat; commanding, calm and collected, and very calculating.  As the film progresses, you start to hate him (after all, he's working for HITLER!) and later, he actually becomes rather amusing.  One of my favorite scenes had to be when he gets totally drunk in his tent in Egypt.  Personally, I thought it was really amusing. :)

The action scenes were gripping and exciting.  I loved all the creative ideas for booby traps set up in all the rooms of the temples Indiana explores.  Of course, the classic giant rock cannot be overlooked, although I did think it was a bit cheesy and rather wtf (what the fudge).  Personally, I really liked the whole booby trap setup in the first temple-- when Indy tries to get the golden relic.  I also loved the fight scenes.  They were exciting, fast-paced, and just the right length.  I was on the edge of my seat for the epic showdown in Marion's (Allen) pub.

One last thing I would like to add....I know this film is only rated PG, but I would like to remind everyone that there is some things that might be a bit frightening for children, namely the unveiling of the ark toward the end.  If you don't know what happens, I don't want to spoil it for you, but it would most likely be a bit too intense for younger viewers.

Time for an Update....

Hey, guys!  I'm back.  Sorry it's been such a long time.  Even though it's not Thursday, I'll post a movie review to tide y'all over until later this week.  In the meantime, I had a question for you guys: I've noticed that other movie blogs have a lot of different things to offer; not just movie reviews, I mean.  So, I was thinking about adding in little treats randomly as I come across them.  This would include collections of clips for a certain movie or actor, games and parodies related to movies, or just random conversations about things like my top ten horror/romance/comedy/etc. films, or the best films to watch on a rainy day.  I'd also continue to include the weekly reviews on top of that; but it would just be a little something extra (and sometimes, those sorts of things are more fun than the reviews!)

So....what do you think?  If you have any ideas, or liked something I mentioned above, please tell me in the comments!  I'd like to know what you think.  With Christmas break coming up, I'm going to have more time to watch and discuss films, and I would love to have a bit more fun with this blog!  Thanks, guys :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sorry

It's been exactly one month since I last posted a review.  Sorry.  I'll be sure to get on that.  I'm afraid I'm just losing my motivation right now.  Honestly, I'm not sure what's wrong with me.  I just don't quite feel myself.  Nothing to get too worried about, I'm sure....but I just don't feel myself.  As Alice suggests in Alice in Wonderland, perhaps I'm someone else.  But then, who am I?

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Notebook (2004)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Romance
Runtime: 123 minutes

The story starts at a nursing home.  Duke (Garner), an elderly gentleman, comes to read to Allie (Rowlands) one of the patients suffering from dementia.  And he tells her the story of a whirlwind summer romance between Noah (Gosling), a persistent, but poor young man from the country, and Allie (McAdams), a pretty rich girl whose family is staying in the area for the summer.  The two fall deeply in love, but their economic differences threaten to tear them apart.

The Notebook has sort of become one of those films that girls just naturally watch.  Kinda like Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember.  Now, normally, I'm not one for chick flicks.  I mean, I enjoy them every once in a while, and have actually been starting to like them more as I get older, but usually, I tend to shy away from them.  When my roommate suggested we watch it together, however, that was a completely different matter.  Unless I'm completely opposed to the film, I'll almost always watch something with a friend if they suggest it.  After all, if they like the movie enough that they would ask me to watch it with them, then it must be pretty good.

The Notebook was surprisingly good.  I say "surprisingly" because more often than not, Nicholas Sparks' books and movies get a reputation for being drippy, sappy, and pretty terrible.  But, this one was pretty good.  It was sad though; very emotional.  And by the time I was finished, I barely needed even the slightest provocation to burst into tears.  I'm an emotional person, so perhaps it was just me, but I think that most of those who have seen this film will agree with me.

When it wasn't heartrendingly sad, it was very romantic.  I think it's safe to say that many girls secretly want to have a guy like Noah.  He's funny, outgoing, adorable, and totally obsessed with Allie.  Who wouldn't want to be in her shoes?  The many lovely scenes of Allie and Noah together were touching and sweet.  Life just seemed so perfect.  And as the plot begins to complicate itself, the audience is drawn right into the sad and tangled love story, wondering where it will all end, just as Allie wonders what will be the ending of the story Duke is reading to her.

All in all, it was a good (if not emotional) movie.  I enjoyed watching it very much.  It was cute, funny, emotional, passionate, and romantic.  Although, I will say that the ending was incredibly sad, so you should probably bring along a box of tissues to go with your popcorn.  Ladies, this is probably not the right movie to make your boyfriend watch with you; I'm sure he won't enjoy it nearly as much as you would, unless he doesn't mind being a cuddly shoulder to cry on.  However, it would be perfect to watch with your gal pals.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Minority Report (2002)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery
Runtime: 145 minutes

In the year 2054, there is no murder.  At least not in the United States capital, Washington D.C.  This is thanks to a anti-crime initiative called Precrime, which predicts a murder before it happens, so that the "murderer" can be arrested and put away before he or she has the chance to actually commit the crime.  Crime rates have never been lower, and things are starting to look great.  That is, until FBI agent Danny Witwer (Farrell) starts nosing around, asking too many questions.  He asks to see the "Precogs," the beings whose premonitions inform Precrime of all impending murders.  John Anderton (Cruise) is leery to admit him, since any contact with the Precogs is looked at as an unwelcome influence on their visions.  Not long after Witwer's visit, the Precogs have a startling new premonition: John is supposed to murder a man he has never met before.  And all at once, his life is flipped upside down, as he runs from the law he swore to protect, and to try and prove his innocence.

Normally, as I'm sure many of you know, I'm not really a fan of action films.  In fact, I don't really watch them much at all.  Mostly, I reserve those for the times when I'm with my brother or my guy friends.  When I sat down to watch Minority Report, not only was I the only lady in a group of guys, but also, I had no idea what this movie was going to be about!  But, after two plus hours, I was not bored, as I feared, but really impressed.  It was quite simply just a good movie!

The futuristic technology was quite impressive.  Computers full of information that move at the slightest gesture of your fingertips, sweet-looking futuristic cars, iris scans, and all kinds of other gadgets populated this film.  Besides being cool to watch, it also tied in an awesome crime/drama plot that was super-engaging.  I was pulled right in!  The only downside was that there was quite simply so much information that sometimes, it was hard to process it all.  However, even with one of my best friends constantly distracting me throughout the entire movie, I was still able to follow the plot line rather well.  So, it probably shouldn't be much of an issue.  There were a couple scenes that were pretty gross, so do be warned.  However, all in all, it was a dramatic, exciting two hours of crime drama, mystery, and suspense!

If you're interested in crime films, like a lot of action, and are looking for a good film for a group of guys to enjoy, then this is a great film to check out!  If you would prefer something a bit more tame and calm, then I would recommend checking something else out.  Still, on a Friday night, with a group of friends and a bowl of popcorn, this is a really good choice.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

City Lights (1931)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Charles Chaplin
Starring: Charles "Charlie" Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers
Rated: G
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Silent
Runtime: 87 minutes

Charlie Chaplin's little Tramp stars in this touching film about friendship and love.  On one of his walks the Tramp befriends a blind flower girl (Cherrill) who sells her wares on the street corner.  Desirous to help her, the Tramp tries to earn some money for her so that she can travel to Vienna and get an operation that will restore her sight.  Meanwhile, the he also befriends an eccentric millionaire (Myers), whom he stops from committing suicide in a drunken depression.  This new friend is only too happy to help the Tramp, but only when he's completely drunk.  When sober, he's a totally different person.  While trying to cope with the split personality of his rich friend, his love for the beautiful flower girl, and the series of rotten jobs he must perform to earn the money, the Tramp struggles for his fairytale ending.  But, will he get it?

I first heard about this movie from a little book about Charlie Chaplin that I found in a used book shop in Florida.  I've always thought Chaplin to be an interesting and iconic character (although I'd only seen one of his films) and still fondly remember my friend Sergio dressing up like the Tramp for a publicity stunt for our college's film club. This, however, was the first time I had actually seen a full-length Chaplin silent film, and I loved it!  The Tramp was both adorable and funny, and the storyline was so perfect, both in writing and performance, that one cannot help but be sucked into the story!  As an introduction to Chaplin's silent performances, City Lights perfectly rises to the occasion!

The plot is both romantic and funny, touching, suspenseful, and heartbreaking.  What more could one ask for in a film?

Chaplin of course, stole the show.  The Tramp is not one of the most iconic figures of cinema because of pure luck!  The character has obvious appeal.  He may be poor as dirt, with a hat and coat that are too small, and pants and shoes that are too big, but he sure doesn't live his life as a poor man!  In fact, this feisty little character seems to imagine himself to be a gentleman, even going so far as to treat his millionaire friend's butler as his own!  However, even though Chaplin is wonderful, I don't think it would be enough for him to carry the entire film on his shoulders.  The Tramp was supported by a delightful cast, with Virginia Cherrill's flower girl completely melting everyone's hearts, Myers's millionaire providing wonderful conflict and comedic relief, and Florence Lee playing the part of Cherrill's kind, gentle grandmother.

Although I enjoyed the entire movie very much, I have to say that for me, the best part was the ending.  The final scene of the film brought tears to my eyes, but, to prevent spoilers, I'm not going to tell you what actually happens ;)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Return Tomorrow

And I just have a quick question for all of you......

How many of you honestly read Cinema Sweetheart's Film Reviews anymore?  Because, while I'm not sure I'll END the blog, I am considering slowing down, or at least taking myself off of an "every Thursday" posting routine.  That would mean that reviews would be more sparse, and randomly posted.  It's just that I'm starting to lose steam for my review writing, and I feel like no one really reads my blog anyway.  I mean, it's not that big of a deal, but it's a lot of work if no one even cares.

I have enough reviews to get through October and a little bit of November, as of right now.  I will post all of these, but I'm not sure what will happen after that.  I guess that's up to you guys.....

Please let me know how you feel in the comments.  Please be honest; you seriously WON'T hurt my feelings, I promise!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Taking a Short Break....

Hey, guys :)

Just a quick update...first of all, thank you to those few people who actually still read Cinema Sweetheart.  It means a lot to me knowing that someone out there is getting some benefit from this little hobby of mine.  I know there aren't too many of you out there, haha.  (Not that I'm depressed; just that I know my blog is pretty small, and lacks the connections that some of the bigger blogs have).  That being said, I just wanted to let you all know that I'm going to be taking a small break for the month of September.  School's just started up, and quite honestly, I don't have as much time to watch movies as I used to.  So, I'm going to need some time off to get caught up on schoolwork, watch some more films, and write up some reviews.  I hope you guys won't miss me too much, haha.  And, if you want a movie suggestion in the meantime, don't hesitate to email me (cinema.sweetheart@gmail.com).  I'll still be checking my account and emails at least once a week.

Looking forward to seeing you all in October!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Fisher King (1991)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl
Rated: R
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Runtime: 137 minutes

Jack (Bridges) finds his life spiraling out of control after a sarcastic comment he makes on his radio program leads a man to pull off a mass shooting in a local bar. After Jack hits rock bottom, he finds a savior in Parry (Williams), a crazy homeless man who believes in a world of knights, quests, and the Holy Grail. Unknown to Jack, his new friend is actually one of the victims of Jack's thoughtless comment.

I initially picked up this film for two reasons. One, it was starring Robin Williams, and I honestly think that guy is amazing. I could rant on and on about Robin Williams, but I don't think I'll bother you all with that right now. Two, it was about a homeless man who believed in knights, dragons, and the Holy Grail. I've been in love with Arthurian literature since my seventh grade English class where I first read about the adventures of Arthur, Gawain, Percival, and Lancelot. Seeing that both these wonderful components were in the same film was simply tantalizing, and I had to check it out.

I once heard somewhere (and for the life of me, I can’t remember if it was in a movie, YouTube video, or somewhere else entirely) that you know it’s going to be a serious film when Robin Williams has a beard. And, I guess you can say that The Fisher King falls into that category. However, it’s not all sad and serious. There are quite a few rather funny moments, such as when Robin Williams strips off all his clothes and goes running naked through Hyde Park. The serious bits are well choreographed, though, and you can really feel all the pain and the emotion in each of the characters.

I think one of the best things about this film is just how many interesting characters you have. There’s Robin Williams as Parry, the delusional homeless man who believes he must retrieve the Holy Grail from the mansion of a local architect on the Upper West Side. Jack is beaten down, cynical, and depressed, but still shows that spark of humanity that brings him to reach out to Parry, even though all his life, he’s been selfish and unsympathetic. Anne (Ruehl) is Jack’s girlfriend, the tough as nails video rental shop owner with a soft spot she tries so desperately to hide. And don’t forget two of the most interesting characters: Lydia (Amanda Plummer), the offbeat object of Parry’s affections, and “Venice” (can’t find who played him) the emotional, colorful homeless man Jack and Parry meet during their time together.

This is a powerful, gripping movie; alternating comedy and serious drama with relative ease. If you’ve seen some of Robin William’s other films, such as Jakob the Liar (1999), you’ll understand what I mean. All in all, it was a wonderful viewing experience, and provided a good evening’s entertainment. While I won’t go so far as to say it was my favorite movie, I will say that not only does it grab and hold your attention, but it really makes you think. Our actions don’t just affect us. They have consequences that reach out farther than we may realize. And even though we make mistakes, we can still have a chance at redemption. It may not make everything right and normal again (some things simply cannot be undone), but we still have a chance at forgiveness. Also, it shows that you can’t just judge someone because of who they are or what they’re like. Sometimes, we become the way we are because of things that have happened to us; things that are completely beyond our control. Yeah, this movie carries a couple pretty heavy messages, but it does so in such a way that it’s not too much to take in all at once. It's touching, emotional, funny, romantic, all rolled into one.

This is a perfect film for anyone who enjoys Robin William’s drama/comedies, is interested in the Arthurian legends, or wants a movie with a feel-good ending.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Please Poll

Hi, guys!

So, I have a quick poll up on the blog (right hand sidebar) about the characters featured in the new blog header.  The poll will close next Thursday.  I would love to hear you opinions on the characters, so please be sure to respond! 

Thanks,
Cinema Sweetheart

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Help (2011)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Runtime: 146 minutes

Skeeter Phelan (Stone) always seems to be out of place.  After returning from four years of college, she finds that she's not exactly on the same page as everyone else in her town of Jackson, Mississippi.  Her mother (Allison Janney) is pressuring her to find a husband, while her two best friends Hilly Holbrook (Howard) and Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O'Reilly) who are already married and have children, are trying to set her up on a date with Mr. Holbrook's elusive cousin, who can never seem to make any of their dates.  While asking Elizabeth's African American maid Aibileen (Davis) for help on her housekeeping advice column (a job she hopes will be a stepping stone to something greater), Skeeter gets a crazy idea: asking the black maids around Jackson to help her in writing a book about what life is like working for the white people in the racist South.  The two of them recruit Minny Jackson (Spencer), Aibileen's smart-mouthed friend, who besides being the best cook around, also just happens to have been fired by Hilly Holbrook, and is not above getting revenge.

I first heard about The Help through my college book club.  It was the first book we were given to read, and by far my favorite. As soon as I heard there was a movie coming out, I had marked the dates on my calendar, and waited eagerly for August to roll around.  Of course, with any film adaptation there are going to be changes, and I'll admit that I was pretty worried that the movie would not live up to my expectations.  Rather, it far exceeded them!  The Help really brought the characters to life, making an amazingly enjoyable 2+ hours!

I was really impressed with the cast (Stone, Davis, Spencer, and Howard were AMAZING!), but the set was perfect as well.  This wasn't just filmed in some back-lot in Hollywood; it was actually filmed in Mississippi!  You totally got a feel for the location!  For the duration of the film, it almost felt like you were right there in Jackson!  It was engaging, exciting, and very fun to watch.

While The Help is mostly billed as a drama, it does have it's comedic bits.  Minny is hilariously sassy, and I just loved the antics of little Mae Mobley (Eleanor Henry) and the ditsy Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain).  By filling the cast full of such interesting characters, the heavy topic of the story was lifted somewhat, and made more bearable.  After all, this is a film about racism in the South.  It feels real, it feels powerful.  It was both eye opening, and realistic to see a story like this told from the point of view of the African Americans involved.  Especially, growing up as a white woman in today's world, I never really saw the story from this side.  I always knew that racism was wrong and that it was an ugly thing, but I never got to see right into the minds of the women who were a part of it.

All in all, this is a wonderful movie.  It was uplifting, humorous, inspiring, and powerful.  If you read the book, don't hesitate to see this; for the most part, I felt that it stayed pretty true to the original story.  On the flip side, if you like the movie, be sure to read the book!  This is a great film for all kinds of people-- go with your book club, your gal pals, your mom or your daughter; women of all ages (13+) will be able to find something to love about this movie :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A New Header!

Hello, film fanatics!  I just wanted to update you all on some of the goings on of Cinema Sweetheart as of late.  Namely, I've added a new header.  I'm not going to be changing the headers every month anymore (or at least not for a while) because with school starting up again, I know I'm not going to have as much time to devote to the blog, and I'd rather use the time I had to write reviews, rather than play around with pictures.

I think that this new header is going to be pretty fun, though.  All the characters depicted here were personally made by me using an online avatar maker.  They're all movie characters (as I'm sure you guessed), but can you guys tell me who's who?

You can either email me your answers at cinema.sweetheart@gmail.com if you want, or easier yet, you can just leave your answers in the comments.  In about a week, I'm going to post a little poll to see which character was everyone's favorite, so if you want to have a chance to guess before the answers are given, then please make sure to submit your thoughts before the week is out.  When submitting your answers, how about guessing in a clockwise pattern, so that the lady with the big hair and bandages is #1, and the skull-faced man with the music notes is #6?

Best of luck, and I look forward to hearing your guesses :)

The She-Wolf of London (1946)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 8 out of 10
Director: Jean Yarbrough
Starring: Don Porter, June Lockhart, Sara Haden
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Horror
Runtime: 61 minutes

Life for Barry Lanfield (Porter) and Phyllis Allenby (Lockhart) is quite simply wonderful.  The two are engaged to be married, and they could not be happier with the thought of spending the rest of their lives together.  Tragedy strikes, however, in the form of a string of gruesome murders at the local park; all the victims have their throats ripped out, and it is suspected that a wolf or other large animal is behind the killings.  Phyllis, suspects the worst, as she follows a trail of clues that point to her as the murderer, thanks to the horrible Allenby curse, which has plagued her family for generations.

Before I say anything else, I do just want to warn you all that this is not your average werewolf movie.  What I mean is, you never actually see the she-wolf of London, a woman with fur, fangs, claws, and a menacing growl.  She's always covered up by a cloak. Mysterious?  Yes.  Monstrous?  No.  So, in that respect, I guess you could say that She-Wolf of London is more of a mystery/crime film than a moster movie.  However, the plot is thrilling and engaging.  I was hooked until the very end, just wanting to figure out what was going to happen in this drama-packed film.

June Lockhart is adorable.  And her character is adorable, too.  Phyllis seems to be a female Larry Talbot (The Wolf Man), sweet, innocent, and sickened to the core over what they have become.  And just one look at Phyllis, and your heart just melts with pity.  Sadly, I felt that Don Porter slipped into the background as one of the many anonymous boyfriends from these sorts of movies that no one really remembers.  I felt the character wasn't super developed; rather, he filled a role but nothing more.  Although, to be honest, I feel as though the love interest character in most of these classic movies comes out a bit two-dimensional.  It must just be a flaw within the genre, to make the main, afflicted character more interesting, forcing them into the spotlight and giving them more dimension.

The best part of this movie (for me) had to be all the opportunities for silly interpretation.  Watch it for the first time when you're slap-happy, and it'll be hilariously funny, even the parts that are supposed to be super serious.  I have a feeling that this film, like The Werewolf of London is one of those movies that is honestly trying to be serious and dramatic (and probably was back in the 1940s), but is more silly today.  Still, all in all, it's a very good movie. I'd like to watch it again when I'm in a more sober mood.  Slap happy is fun, too, though.

This is a good film for anyone who enjoys mysteries, crime movies, or the classic Universal horror films.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kidnapped (1971)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 7 out of 10
Director: Delbert Mann
Starring: Michael Caine, Lawrence Douglas, Vivien Heilbron
Rated: G
Genre: Drama, Historical, Adventure
Runtime: 100 minutes
Other Versions: Kidnapped (1938) (1948) (1952) (1956) (1960) (1963) (1978) (1986) (1995) (2005), Schusse unterm Galgen (1970)

Based off of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novels Kidnapped and Catriona/David Balfour, Kidnapped is a story of revenge, adventure, and patriotism.  When David Balfour (Douglas) (following the death of his father three years previously) goes to his uncle Ebenezer (Donald Pleasence) for his inheritance, he gets far more than he bargained for, including a murder attempt and being sold into slavery by his uncle.  While on a ship heading to the Carolinas, he makes the acquaintance of Scottish revolutionary and rebel Alan Breck (Caine) and warns him of the captain’s plan to rob and possibly murder him.  After fighting off the corrupt crew, the two form a fast friendship that continues from the ship to the Scottish highlands, where they are on the run from the British soldiers who want Alan dead.  Complications arise, however, and soon they are not only trying to keep themselves out of prison (or worse: the gallows), but they also have to clear the name of Alan’s kinsman James Stewart (Jack Watson) who is to hang for a murder that Alan committed.

I first became interested in the story of Kidnapped when my friend Sarah gave me a copy of the book, which I loved.  So, when Sarah mentioned that there were several movies, my interest was piqued.  When she mentioned that the 1971 version starred Michael Caine as the dashing Alan Breck, I couldn’t resist.  After weeks of trying to get our schedules to work, we were finally able to watch this allusive film.  And….it was pretty bad.  I’m not going to lie; this film was kinda dreadful.  But, I still gave it 7 out of 10 for a very important reason; it was one of those films that is so bad that it’s good.  Unlike many of my fellow film critics, I don’t review films strictly based off of how good it was as a film.  For example, I don’t solely focus on the cinematography or the sets, acting, or screenplay.  I tend to focus more on how the film made me feel in general; on how my overall viewing experience was.  That’s because I hope that the people who read Cinema Sweetheart aren’t just looking for films that are “cinematographically” perfect, but rather films that are enjoyable to watch.

There are so many things I could say about this film.  The screenplay, for example, seemed to jump all over the place.  If you’ve not read Kidnapped or Catriona, you’re bound to be confused for quite a bit of the movie. (I’ve only read Kidnapped, so I was confused for a lot of it, myself!)  Everything seems to jump around.  Large pieces of Kidnapped are removed, and are replaced with wonderful selections of awkward starring, awkward touching, and awkward camera angles that pan in on faces with blank or awkward expressions.  Oh, and don’t forget awkward phrases that can be construed as something very different, like when Alan commands David to quickly “rub” himself.  Furthermore, the entire timeline from Stevenson’s novels seems to be altered in a very unusual way.  David’s story begins years earlier than it was supposed to, and yet, scenes from the second book are inserted into the plot of the first as though they were always there.  This includes characters like James Stewart and his daughter Catriona (Heilbron), who don’t come into play until the second novel.  The whole beginning is sped through at mach-10, and the ending leaves the audience confused and a bit dissatisfied.

The characters were hilarious.  Michael Caine’s adaptation of Alan was very different from the version in the books.  First, he had a ridiculous hair style that curled at the edges.  How he managed to keep his hair looking foppish and undisturbed for the entirety of the film is beyond me.  Plus, he lacked his characteristic blue jacket, and wore an interesting number done in brown plaid.  Everything matched.  He was also far more serious than the character in the book.  Stevenson’s Alan is short, pock-marked, unattractive, and vain (almost comically so).  Caine’s Alan was tall, handsome, regal, and proud, with a serious, purposeful air about him for the entire film.  His Scottish accent, however, left much to be desired.  Even though Caine is British, he almost sounded like an American trying to pull off a really bad Scottish accent, although I will say that it got better as the film progressed.  Speaking of which, Vivien Heilbron also had an accent worth mentioning.  When she is first introduced, it was impossible to detect a Scottish accent at all.  But, by the end, she had a pretty decent one.  How does that make any sense?  You either have an accent or you don’t.  You don’t go from sounding like an American to sounding like a Scott over the course of a couple of weeks, especially if you’re born in Scotland to Scottish parents in a Scottish highlands clan!

I also found David to be very funny.  First of all, he had the most interesting hair style, with a silly little ponytail that was impossible to identify for most of the film.  Was it a bun?  Was it a random clump of hair?  Was it a ponytail?  Yes it was!  Plus, he goes from clueless, slightly stupid youth to an intense rebel, determined to do everything in his power to see James Stewart cleared of the murder charges against him.  What makes this humorous is just how dedicated he is.  In fact, he’s more interested in saving James than James’s cousin (Alan) and daughter (Catriona) are!  Why?  I honestly have no idea!

Despite all its faults, there is one thing that the movie had going for it.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful.  Filmed on location in Scotland, it was easy to see just why Alan was willing to die for his country.  It was gorgeous.  I’m sure that Scotland has become more urbanized since 1971, but I would still love to travel there someday, just to get a glimpse of the scenes I saw in this movie.

There was one other thing that worked to this film’s benefit: it was funny.  Even when it wasn’t meant to be funny, it was funny.  Sarah and I could not help laughing at all the awkward close-ups, starring, expressions, wtf moments, and dialogue.  Sometimes, the best movies are those that are so bad that they are good.  Those are the ones that make you laugh out loud, and are the ones that friends tend to talk about for a long time afterwards (well, at least my friends and I do).  These are the ones you reach for on a rainy day or on a late sleepless night, simply because you know you’re going to enjoy the experience.

This is a good movie for anyone who has read Kidnapped and Catriona, and is looking for an interesting (albeit confusing) film adaptation.  It’s also good for anyone who doesn’t always need to take their film viewing too seriously, or for anyone who enjoys watching films that are (as Sarah's dad so eloquently put it) "not great cinema".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Werewolf of London (1935)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Director: Stuart Walker
Starring: Henry Hull, Walker Oland, Valerie Hobson
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Horror
Runtime: 75 minutes

Dr. Glendon (Hull) is a botanist travelling through Tibet in search of a rare flower that only grows when under the light of the moon.  After ignoring the pleas of the peasants to avoid a certain mountain top which is believed to be guarded by demons, Glendon finds his flower, and is attacked by a wolf-like creature which bites his arm.  Upon returning to London, he makes the acquaintance of Dr. Yogami (Oland), who claims to have made his acquaintance one night in Tibet (although Glendon does not recall their meeting).  Yogami warns Glendon about the curse of the werewolf, and tells him that the strange flower that he found in the mountains is the only antidote.  Glendon ignores him, having far more issues to deal with.  First, he cannot get the strange flower to bloom.  Second his wife has recently become reacquainted with her childhood sweetheart.

Those of you who have been reading my blog recently will know that I really love classic horror films.  Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy...I can't get enough of them!  My favorite monster has always been the werewolf, though.  I've always been fascinated by the thought that in so many myths and legends, it is believed that a man can be turned into a wolf.  Besides that, I've always found werewolves to be the most human of the monsters.  True, they change into evil beasts with fur and fangs, but unlike Dracula and his vampiric brood, werewolves do not choose to act out the way they do.  For this reason, Dracula is evil, whereas Larry Talbot (The Wolf Man) is not.

Werewolf of London is rather different from the werewolf movies Universal horror fans have to expect after watching films such as The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, or Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  The most notable difference is the fact that while The Wolf Man series is about the supernatural, Werewolf of London focuses more on the scientific aspects of lycanthropy.  For example, Dr. Glendon is able to use a plant to ward off his symptoms, while Larry Talbot has to use a medallion.  Also, for an added twist, the victims of werewolf attacks are not always random, but the beast will attack whatever matters the most to him.  In this case, Glendon's wife, Lisa (Hobson).  And to make matters worse, not only does his wolf-self want to kill his wife, but he cannot use the flower's juice for an antidote, because someone is stealing the blooms from the laboratory!

I think the funniest part of this film had to be the transformations.  Not only does he grow fur and fangs (and it does look really cool), but before running out of the house to go and rip some throats out, he makes sure to stop at the coat rack and bundle up.  And yes, that means hat, coat, and a scarf!  What??  Furthermore, the ending (even though I'm sure it was supposed to be depressing or emotional) made me simply laugh out loud. I'm not going to tell you what happens, but I thought it was pretty funny, simply because it was so unrealistic.

All in all, a decent movie.  Not the best I've seen from the werewolf canon, or Universal horror films, but entertaining nonetheless.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Charles Crichton
Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin
Rated: R
Genre: Crime, Comedy
Runtime: 108 minutes

Four jewel thieves set out to commit the perfect crime, then double cross each other in order to secure the loot for themselves.  At the heart of the treachery is Wanda Gershwitz (Curtis), a clever and cunning young woman, posing as the girlfriend of ringleader George (Tom Georgeson) while actually dating her supposed nutcase "brother" Otto (Kline).  Playing on the emotions that the men have for her, Wanda manages to outwit the group's stammering, animal-loving hit-man Ken (Palin), and seduce George's lawyer, Archie Leach (Cleese) in order to find out vital information about the location of the stolen diamonds, in a crazy laundry list of double-crossings, mixed alliances, and sexual liaisons.

This was quite simply a fun movie!  The plot was engaging, fast-paced, and comical, and the cast was stellar!  I loved these characters!

Jamie Lee Curtis was perfect for the title role.  Her Wanda was despicable enough for us to dislike her, but charming enough that you still secretly hoped she would get a happy ending.  It was perfectly obvious why four of the leading males (Otto, Archie, Ken, and George) were in love with her!  She's classy, sly, and very interesting.  I was never quite sure what Wanda would do next!

Otto was the one character I just loved to hate.  Kevin Kline did a wonderful job at shaping this twisted, nutty, and (don't call him stupid) character.  Despite the fact that he claims he doesn't get jealous, it's obvious that Otto isn't content with pretending to be Wanda's brother if she's seducing other men to further their get-rich-quick scheme.  He's bumbling, annoying, intrusive, in-your-face, and mean, but somehow, I don't think the film would be half as good without him!

Ken and Archie were my favorites, perhaps because they were played by Monty Python alumni Michael Palin and John Cleese respectively.  Perhaps, it was because they were both incredibly endearing, hopelessly in love, and both seemingly destined for failure. Ken, the stuttering, animal-loving hit-man can't bring himself to profess his love for his roommate's girlfriend, especially not with her unstable brother Otto sniffing around.  Archie believes that Wanda is in love with him, but doesn't realize that not only is she dating two different men (his client George being one of them), but that she's only showing interest in him to find the location of the stolen diamonds so that she can take all the profit for herself.  But, he's sweet and sad; his home life is crumbling, and he finally finds someone who makes him feel alive again.  During his scenes with Wanda, I couldn't decide if I wanted them to break up (to spare him worse heartbreak later) or stay together because it made him so happy!

All in all, this is a hilarious film!  I could not stop laughing.  Besides a wonderful plot, there is a stellar cast of unique and interesting characters.  (And might I mention that there is a cameo of sorts with a rather young Stephen Fry in the second half of the film? ;)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dracula (1931)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 8 out of 10
Director: Tod Browning
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Horror
Runtime: 75 minutes
Sequels: Dracula's Daughter (1936), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Dracula (1945), Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Other Versions: Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922), "Spanish" Dracula (1931), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

When the unsuspecting real estate salesman Mr. Renfield (Frye) travels to Transylvania to sell some London property to the Hungarian aristocrat Count Dracula (Lugosi), he has no idea the terror that will soon be inflicted on the people of England.  Dracula, a vampire, drives Renfield to madness and then seduces and kills Lucy (Frances Dade), the friend of Mina Seward (Chandler), whose father owns the lunatic asylum that houses Renfield.  Concerned about his daughter's failing health, Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston) enlists the help of his old friend Dr. Van Helsing (Van Sloan) who delivers the unbelievable truth: Count Dracula is a vampire, and together, Dr. Seward, Van Helsing, Mina's fiancĂ© Jonathan Harker (David Manners), and the reluctant madman Renfield, must find and destroy him.

I'm a huge fan of classic horror films as a whole, and because of that, Dracula did not disappoint.  It was creepy, powerful, and interesting all throughout.  I adore Bela Lugosi, and his Dracula is the one responsible for the classic image of the immortal Count: a dark, handsome aristocrat with a strong foreign accent and suave manners.  Most of the time, when someone mentions Count Dracula, the first image that comes to mind is NOT Max Schreck's Graf Orlock, but Lugosi’s immortal Count!

Even though the story of Dracula really is about the vampiric Count, I will admit that I've always had a soft spot for the deranged lunatic Renfield.  Dwight Frye is known for his portrayal of creepy characters, from Renfield in Dracula to Igor-like Fritz in Frankenstein.  This guy is simply creepy!  By far, Frye's performance was the best in the film.  While most actors play Renfield like he’s just plain nutty, Frye’s Renfield is sympathetic and pitiful; your heart goes out to him.  Even though he’s the weak-willed, insect-eating slave to the heartless Dracula, his love for Mina Seward is a strong redeeming feature.  At one point in the film, after he has escaped from his cell, he begs Dr. Seward to move him to another asylum so that he will not wake “Miss Mina” in the middle of the night with his screaming.  His role as a madman, however, is more than just munching on flies and screaming in the night.  Everything about Renfield seems “off”.  From the way he talks, to the way he moves, to the freakishly creepy laugh which almost makes him sound like he’s crying.

While Lugosi’s performance is wonderfully mysterious, this was not his best performance by far.  In fact, many film historians specializing in the Universal horror films actually find that Lugosi's Dracula role is perfected in the humorous sequel Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. 

All in all, I think that Dracula is a wonderful film.  It has just enough suspense and atmosphere to sufficiently give you the chills, while avoiding sexual references and gore that are normally associated with vampires in today's films and books.  Lugosi is wonderful as the creepy archetypal Count Dracula, Dwight Frye the perfect, unhinged Renfield, and Edward Van Sloan is by far my favorite Van Helsing. 

Van Helsing is a very hard character to pull off.  The actor portraying him must have the proper balance of mystery and brains, as well as appearing a bit off, so that it's hard for the other characters to really believe him; at least at first.  Van Sloan, however, is perfect for the role.  Unlike performances like Anthony Hopkins’s role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Van Sloan’s Van Helsing is calm, collected, and always in control.  He comes across as a rather quiet, unassuming man, and his subtlety is a perfect match for Dracula’s own dark brand of subtlety. The tension is just right in the scenes where the two characters face off, because you never know who is going to come out on top.

If you enjoy the classic Universal horror films, or have seen Frankenstein or The Wolf Man and are looking for something new, then this should be the next on your list.  Also, if you’re seen some of the more recent vampire films, then you quite simply need to see this one as well!  This is by far one of the best vampire movies of all time, and an enduring classic.  It’s the perfect film for a dark, rainy night.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 5 out of 10
Director: Danny Leiner
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris
Rated: R
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Runtime: 88 minutes
Sequel: Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)

When stoners Harold Lee (Cho) and Kumar Patel (Penn) get a sudden case of the munchies, the two totally high roommates decide to go and get White Castle burgers, no matter what it takes.  In the meantime, they are arrested, harassed, attacked by a rabid raccoon, a terrifying Jesus-freak truck driver, and a cheetah, and have their car stolen by a very stoned Neil Patrick Harris.  Rather amusing bits of humor and mixed in with raunchy jokes, sexual humor, and nudity.

I was not really a fan of this movie.  To be honest, the only redeeming aspects of the film were the humorous bits interspersed in the midst of the graphic, raunchy muck that made of this film.  This is not one of those films that you could say "had so much potential, but was a total flop because of too much sex, violence, etc."  Harold and Kumar go to White Castle simply could not be Harold and Kumar go to White Castle without the nudity, coarse language, and sexual references, and that's a shame.  Some parts were genuinely very funny, and I would have liked the film a lot more if it was more "clean".  Perhaps, I'm just a prude, but, I'm just being honest.  I think it might be more of a guy movie, and maybe, because I'm a girl, I don't "appreciate" the humor of the piece.  I will say, however, that I'm now dying for some White Castle burgers!

If you're bored and looking for something crude but funny to watch, then Harold and Kumar go to White Castle might be the film for you.  However, if you're looking for a funny movie about people getting high and doing stupid things I would highly suggest you check out The Hangover instead.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Wolf Man (1941)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 10 out of 10
Director: George Waggner
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Maria Ouspenskaya
Rated: PG
Genre: Horror, Drama
Run Time: 70 minutes
Sequels: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Remake: The Wolf Man (2010)

After his brother's tragic death, Lawrence "Larry" Talbot (Chaney) returns from America to his family's estate in Wales.  While fixing his father's telescope, he catches sight of the beautiful Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) whose father owns the antique shop in town.  When he takes Gwen and her friend Jenny (Fay Helm) to see the Gypsy camp and get their fortunes told, Jenny gets attacked and killed a wolf who turns out to be Bela (Bela Lugosi) the Gypsy fortune teller who is cursed to become a werewolf.  When Larry goes to save Jenny, killing the wolf, and finding himself bitten in the struggle, Bela's mother Maleva (Ouspenskaya) warns him that now, he too will become a werewolf when the moon rises. 

I discovered the classic Universal Horror Films when I was either a sophomore or junior in high school.  I used to watch them with my dad (still do sometimes, although not much anymore, since I started college).  This was the first one we watched together and it has always been my favorite.  Larry is so human, so easy to connect and sympathise with.  I instantly fell in love with the character (it also helps that he's played by the incredibly handsome Lon Chaney Jr., but that's beside the point).  After watching this film, I threw myself into checking out all the other Universal Horror Films, and I've seen most of the standard cannon: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Mummy (1932), and The Wolf Man.  I still need to see The Invisible Man (1933).

I love everything about this movie, but since I could rant on and on for ages, I'll be extra sure to keep it short.

I've always been squeamish about horror films because there was too much blood, or too much violence.  However, older films prove that you don't need blood and violence to be scary.  And even better, they don't need to rely on sex to hold the audience's attention.  In fact, the audience of The Wolf Man doesn't even get to see that much skin, not even Larry's.  When he opens his shirt to show Maleva his wound, he barely even unbuttons it.  One or two buttons are undone, and you don't even get to see anything.  Not saying that I think it was necessary, but I think it was nice that the director didn't need to focus on sex appeal like today's films do.

The Wolf Man is a wonderful springboard into the other Universal Horror films.  I've thoroughly enjoyed watching it again, and again, and again.  If you're interested in scary movies, but don't like sex and gore, then this is a good film to start with.  If you've enjoyed Bela Lugosi's Dracula and Boris Karloff's Frankenstein, then The Wolf Man might be a good film to watch next.  Interesting fact, Lon Chaney Jr. was one of the only Universal actors (if not the only one) to play all of the classic horror monsters: the Wolf Man (The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, etc.), Frankenstein's Monster (Ghost of Frankenstein), Dracula (Son of Dracula), and Kharis the Mummy (The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Curse, etc.).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 10 out of 10
Director: William Asher
Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Chick Flick, Musical
Run Time: 97 minutes
Sequel: How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965)

Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Funicello) are the cutest couple on the beach, but when singing sensation Sugar Kane (Linda Evans) drops right out of the sky and is saved by Frankie, Dee Dee can’t help but feel a little bit jealous.  To make matters worse, when the couple decides to try out skydiving lessons, and Dee Dee finds herself with yet another rival to deal with.  This time, it’s Bonnie Graham (Walley), a too-cute skydiving instructor who decides to make Frankie her new romantic interest.  Meanwhile, the gang’s friend Bonehead (Jody McCrea) falls in love with Lorelei (Marta Kristen), a mysterious girl who saves him from drowning.  Add Sugar’s crafty manager Bullets (Paul Lynde), a biker gang led by none other than the “infamous” Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck), skydiving instructor Big Drop (Don Rickles), Buster Keaton as his assistant, and lots of music and fun; and you have Beach Blanket Bingo.

One thing I will say is that this movie is incredibly corny.  I don’t say that to be mean.  In fact, I just LOVED it!  But, it is very corny.  It’s obvious that it’s very dated.  However, even though it might not be enjoyable for the same reasons as in the 1960s, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a good time watching it.  What might have been considered “cool” back then is perhaps a bit “corny” now, but that makes it funny, and who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh?  This is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I love that!

Avalon and Funicello are of course the principle love interest of this film, but to be honest, I think that Dee Dee should have ditched Frankie before the first half of the film had even finished.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it; the boy is such a player!  Yes, he’s a cutie, and yes, the girls seem to love him, but really, he should show a bit more respect for the girl he already has!  Whether he’s hanging off the arm of Sugar Kane, or “helping” Bonnie with her skydiving gear, Frankie is always putting the moves on the ladies, whether he realizes it or not!  Plus, his rather juvenile comments about Dee Dee’s desire to learn skydiving (a girl’s place is in the kitchen, not jumping out of a plane) should be enough to earn him a good tongue-lashing for his insolence).

I personally thought the romance between Bonehead and Lorelei was just adorable.  In case you couldn’t guess from his unfortunate nickname, Bonehead is certainly not the most observant young man.  However, when Lorelei catches his eye, he really starts to pay attention.  McCrea was super sweet, and downright adorable; and of course, the viewer instantly feels for him.  Not only does he fall in love with a mermaid, but no one believes him!  And of course, Marta Kristen was beautiful; what a perfect mermaid!

The Rats (a biker gang) were obviously meant to be the main comic force.  Led by the slapsticky Eric Von Zipper, with his “Mice” Puss and Boots (Alberta Nelson and Myrna Ross, respectively), and the dastardly South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey), they always manage to provide plenty of laughs.  (Although, I’m not going to lie; it’s pretty corny stuff).

All in all, this was a fun movie.  It may not be an Oscar-winning performance, or anything, but it was good enough.  This is not the kind of movie someone watches expecting some greater truth to be revealed, or that they will be treated to award-winning acting or the greatest cinematography of the decade.  They expect music, bikini-clad girls, and a lot of fun.  And that’s what they get.  No more, no less.  I guess it’s one of those films that you have to go into with certain expectation in mind.  But, if you want something light-hearted and fun for a nice summertime diversion, then you should be sure to check this out, “bubbie”!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Becket (1964)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 10 out of 10
Director: Peter Glenville
Starring: Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Historical, Religious
Runtime: 150 minutes

A story of friendship, betrayal, and honor, Becket is a stirring drama that is not to be missed.  King Henry II (O’Toole) is a mischievous rogue, spoiled rotten twat, and the ruler of England a few generations after the Norman invasion.  Thomas Becket (Burton), his best friend and partner in crime, is a bitter Saxon, who is unable to find real love or compassion for anyone but himself.  After making him a nobleman in Norman society, Henry gets his friend appointed first as archdeacon, then as Chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury.  However, once he gains this high position, Thomas comes to find religion and compassion, and for the first time, he begins to defy the will of the king, rather than accepting his every order without question.  What results is a series of events that would shake the very foundations of their friendship.

I was first drawn to this film for two main reasons: one, Richard Burton was acting in the title role.  Although I’m not extremely well-versed in the filmography of this actor, I’ve always been a fan.  My first introduction to Burton was through the musical Camelot, where he played the role of King Arthur.  And in my Classical film class, I was able to view scenes from a few other Richard Burton films, including The Robe (1953).  There is something about Richard Burton, some commanding force that he displays so perfectly, that makes him wholly delightful to watch.  The second reason I wanted to watch this film was because of the story.  After having studied The Canterbury Tales three times now for school, the name Thomas Becket is very prominent in my literary vocabulary; after all, the whole point of the book is a pilgrimage to his grave!

Even though Richard Burton was obviously my reason for watching the film, I must say that Peter O’Toole was wonderful as well.  While Becket obviously made changes in his philosophies as the movie progressed, it was a bit subtle.  However, it was very powerful watching the changes that Henry was forced to go through because of his friend’s decision. The movie opens with a very serious, mature Henry II at the tomb of Thomas Becket.  Not more than ten minutes later, we see Henry as he used to be: mischievous, immature, and free.  It leave the audience wondering what had happened to this man that he would be in the condition we see at the start of the film.   O’Toole plays the transformations flawlessly.

This was a wonderful, wonderful movie.  Despite the length (two and a half hours), I sat enthralled by the story and the characters.  Even though we know what is going to happen at the very start of the film (Becket will die), we do not actually know how these events are to come about, and therein lies the suspense.  It is not a clean cut plot, either.  I mean to say, there is not just one reason why everything falls apart.  When Thomas starts refusing to listen to Henry’s commands, sides are taken, and things start to build up.  Becket finds an ally in King Louis VII of France (John Gielgud) and the tenacious young monk Brother John (David Weston).  Henry, in turn, appeals to corrupted members of the Church, who are upset that Thomas has taken power away from them.  But, through it all, despite their differing loyalties, one cannot forget that these two men once had a beautiful friendship; and where did it go?

This was a powerful, very moving film.  If you’re a fan of either Richard Burton or Peter O’Toole, I would highly suggest watching Becket.  Also, this might be of interest to English majors (especially those with a concentration in Medieval literature), because if it were not for Thomas Becket’s martyrdom, there would be no Canterbury Tales.

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