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! 

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 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.

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