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.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Director: F.W. Murnau
Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroeder
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Silent, Horror, Mystery, Fantasy
Runtime: 94 minutes
Other Versions: Dracula (1931), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Dracula (1992)

Nowadays, when you ask someone about a good vampire movie, you’re more than likely going to hear titles like Interview with a Vampire, Dracula, or (God forbid) Twilight.  In my experience, though, I’ve found that the older, “classic” films are usually the best.  And Nosferatu certainly proves this point.  True, it could easily be construed as a bit corny in today’s society, but the iconic nature of this film should absolve it of that scarlet letter.  Personally, I’m a huge fan of classic horror films.  The Wolfman (1941), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) are among my favorites.  And I have a feeling that Nosferatu is going to be making its way onto my shelves at home as well.

When Harker (Wangenheim) receives the assignment of closing a real-estate transaction with Count Dracula (Schreck), he is thrilled with the prospect.  Leaving his wife Nina (Schroeder) at home in England, he goes off to seal the deal, little suspecting that he would become the prisoner of a horrifying vampire.  Nina, meanwhile, is sent to stay with Westenra (G.H. Schell) and Lucy (Ruth Landshoff), who are friends of her husband.  Things go from bad to worse, however, as Harker discovers Dracula’s secret and the Count escapes for England.  Meanwhile, Nina and Harker’s boss Renfield (Alexander Granach) start to suffer from mysterious conditions, characterized with sleepwalking and insanity respectively.  Will Dracula be stopped before he causes too much damage?  Or is England doomed to become a feeding-grounds of a horrifying monster?

One thing I loved about Nosferatu versus the other cinematic vampires was just how creepy he was!  There is nothing attractive about this vampire, which makes him even more unsettling.  Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula was handsome, as was Gary Oldman’s. And apart from his dumb haircut, I’d even say that Edward Cullen has his own level of attraction.   While there is some danger with all of these vampires, Nosferatu reminds us that the original vampires were not so much golden-tongued incubi, but rather, demonic monsters that were supposed to frighten, and not attract.  I’d be far more frightened to find Max Schreck’s vampire standing at my bedside at night than Gary Oldman; that’s to be sure!

I love the use of shadows in this film.  Besides providing an eerie atmosphere, it gives a wonderful added depth to the character of Count Dracula.  Not only does he possess physical power, but he is also able to command shadows; his shadow almost acts as its own powerful being.  In one scene in particular, the shadow’s grip seems almost as powerful as if Nosferatu had used his own hands.  There is little doubt in my mind that this creepy shadow play must have inspired some of the shadow play in both Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), and the highly comedic Mel Brooks spoof Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995).

Shockingly, Nosferatu is one film that should not exist today.  The plot “borrowed” heavily from the plot of Dracula by Bram Stoker, but failed to gain permission to use the plot.  Because of this, various aspects of the plot were changed, including the ending, and various character names.  A few examples are in order…so, listed here are several of the characters, with their names from the original Bram Stoker novel, the original German movie names, and the English adaptation names:

·         Jonathan Harker/Hutter/Harker
·         Mina Murray/Ellen/Nina
·         Rensfield/Knock/Rensfield
·         Count Dracula/Graf Orlock/ Count Dracula

The film survived because a couple of copies were pirated away and hidden until the copyrights were up.  The other copies were rounded up and burned.

I enjoyed this film because I love silent films, old horror films, and vampires.  Max Schreck delivered a deliciously creepy performance, and even though he was only on screen for a very short period of time, I couldn’t help but love his performance.  As with any silent film, it was a bit slow, and a bit corny (especially by today’s standards), but I will say that this Count Dracula had to be the scariest vampire I’ve seen in a long time.  And I don’t mean scary because he was gross or gory; Schreck achieves a certain level of terror just by his appearance and actions.  Too often today, vampire films rely on blood and gore to scare their audiences.  It’s far more difficult to achieve a level of fright by one’s presence, rather than by blood.  I don’t like slasher films, but I love horror films.

Monday, May 9, 2011

More Updates

Hello, everyone!

I've just added a few more updates in the hopes of making Cinema Sweetheart's Film Reviews even better!  First, it's now possible to follow by email!  A Blogger account is no longer necessary! (I honestly don't know why it's taken me this long to add that feature...)  Second, I've added a Search by Genres option to the sidebar, so that you can jump right to the genre you want.  Looking for a Romance?  Just click the tab and you'll be taken to a list of all the movies with the Romance label on them :)  Finally, I've added reaction buttons to the posts.  I've noticed that I've been getting a steady number of visitors, but very few comments.  Now, I love comments like movie-goers like buttered popcorn, so this lack of commentary has been very depressing.  But, it can be tedious to craft out a well-written comment, especially when all you want to say is "I like this".  Well, now you can!  Do you agree with my review?  Disagree?  Want to see this movie?  Have I convinced you otherwise?  Just click the button and tell me!

Thanks everyone!  And if you have any questions, suggestion, etc., please do not hesitate to contact me at!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Couple More Movies....Coming Never

A huge thanks to Joe Marino, my fellow film critic, who suggested several new fake film trailers to include on Coming.....Never.  So, now, you can see trailers for:

  • The Batman Complex
  • Grayson: Robin and Batman
  • The Legend of Zelda
Thanks, Joe!  Enjoy, everyone :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo, or The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 5 out of 10
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Starring: Enrique Irazoqui, Margherita Caruso, and Susanna Pasolini
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Religious, Historical, Drama, Biography
Runtime: 137 Minutes
Language: Italian (dubbed in English)

Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo is not exactly my first choice of film.  That's not to say that I don't enjoy a good theological film or anything like that.  It's just that when looking for the Gospel of Matthew in a movie form, I would normally turn to Godspell.  However, if you're in a somber mood, have about two hours to set aside, and are a well-versed Christian, this is surely a film you would enjoy.

Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo is basically what you would get if you fed the Gospel of Matthew into a screen-writing machine and handed out the completed piece as a script.  That's not to say that there aren't inaccuracies and changes made, but rather that the plot takes you straight from the Nativity to the Resurrection and everything in between--complete with choppy transitions and lots of speeches.

One frustrating aspect of Il Vengelo Secondo Matteo is that you really have to be a Christian to understand it.  Not enjoy it.  Understand it.  The film lacked transitions that make plots easier to follow, and besides that, there were very few details to designate who certain characters were.  Mary and Joseph were not named in the opening scene, and even later on in the film, it was difficult to tell who several of the characters (including John, Peter, and Judas) were.  All viewers had to go off of was the classic actions performed by them in Gospels.  I was also bothered by the lack of transitions between the scenes.  It was almost as though Pasolini decided that he wanted to change the scene, and he wanted to change it right that second, so he just jumped into it.  Now, it’s understandable if this is how the Gospel plays it out, but for the viewer, it can be a bit confusing.  We don’t have chapters and verses to break it up for us.

And of course, who can forget the dubbing?  Personally, the one thing I love so much about foreign films is the language.  I can’t understand any of it, but there is something delightful about listening to the sound of the French in Germinal or the Italian in Life is Beautiful.  However, with a dubbed film, I usually feel like I’ve been force-fed some sort of nasty meat-substitute in place of real beef.  What I mean to say is that it’s kind of shitty.  This was one of the better dubbings I’ve heard, but even so, I would have greatly preferred subtitles instead.  It was annoying when the English-speaking actors would rush through their lines because the Italian was shorter, or when you could see that the lips obviously didn’t match what was being said.

However, putting all my complaints aside, I have to say that there were several things that I really liked about this movie.  First, I loved the cinematography.  The sets were amazing; and when you were shown a scene, it wasn’t just a little piece of it.  Actually, the camera would pan out and show you everything…and it was beautiful!  When you weren’t panned out on the scenery, the camera was drawn close to all the faces…I loved seeing the faces.  There were so many people with so many unusual faces and expressions….it made you feel as though you were right there in the crowd coming to see Jesus; a sense of intimacy was produced with the film and the audience. 

Enrique Irazoqui was an amazing Jesus.  His commanding presence among the people was perfectly offset by the gentle smile he gave the children.  What interested me the most, though, was his appearance in general.  Strange as it may seem, I was surprised to see a short-haired Jesus.  The long-haired, bearded Jew has become the iconic picture of Jesus.  This one was a bit different from how I pictured him looking.  I was also a bit surprised by how serious he was.  I guess I always thought of Jesus as someone a little more kindly.  That’s not to say that Irazoqui was too harsh; just different.

All in all, I would say that this was a good film.  If you’re interested in Christian Theology, then you would probably enjoy this.  (I enjoyed it for that reason).  However be forewarned about the length and the terrible dubbing.  If you are able to find a DVD copy, you’ll have to tell me if they have it in the original Italian or not.  I had to watch an old library VHS, haha.

(On a side note, there is a version of this film in color.  Get the black and white variation; something is lost in the transition to color!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Page: Coming.....Never

Hello, film fans!  Just an update to let you know that I've added a new section to the blog: Coming.....Never.  This page will include all the bonus trailers for movies that don't actually exist!  Lot's of fun; be sure to check it out :)

Currently, I've uploaded two:

  • Trailer for Every Award Winning Movie Ever
  • Monopoly: The Movie
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