Thursday, June 21, 2012


Just a quick head's-up.....Cinema Sweetheart will be taking a short break for a few weeks, with no film reviews posted on June 28, or July 5.  Reviews will resume the following week, on July 12.


The Shining (1980)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 6 out of 10
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Rated: R
Genre: Horror, Drama, Mystery
Runtime: 142 minutes
Other Versions: The Shining (1997)

When Jack Torrance (Nicholson) signs up to be the caretaker for the Overlook Hotel while it's closed for the winter, he has no idea what sorts of horrors await him, his loving wife Wendy (Duvall), and their son Danny (Lloyd).  Even stories of some of the horrors that occurred in he hotel are not enough to dissuade him, and he cheerfully takes the job, thinking that it's going to be the easiest money he's ever made.  All he has to do is keep the elements outside from affecting the hotel; keep the boilers burning, etc.  Easy.  And besides, it will give him time to work on his writing; something which Jack has been having quite a bit of trouble with lately.  Everything is going to work out pretty well for the Torrances.  But, there are things lurking in the shadows; things the family is certainly not prepared for.  Danny claims to have an "imaginary friend" named Tony, a little boy who supposedly lives in Danny's mouth and hides in his stomach.  Not only that, but he's having visions.  Visions of things that have happened and things that have yet to occur.  Bloody things happened in this hotel, and bloody things are yet to come.  The hotel starts to have an effect on Jack, as well, turning him from loving husband and father to a maniacal killer; will Wendy and Danny be able to stop him, or will all of Jack's worst nightmares come true?

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is one of those films I felt I just had to experience, especially as a lover of classic horror cinema.  I had constantly seen the title listed alongside with other "classics" such as The Silence of the Lambs and Psycho.  "If you're interested in these sorts of films, " I told myself, "then you had better watch The Shining."  I had been trying for months to watch it, but either found myself too busy, or found that my friends weren't very interested in watching with me.  And half the fun of watching a scary movie is watching it with a friend.  So, finally, I seized my opportunity (and my brother/movie buddy) this summer, and sat down to watch it one rainy Friday afternoon.  While The Silence of the Lambs and Psycho far exceeded my expectations, The Shining left me feeling a bit disappointed as it fell just shy of the mark.

I guess you could say that a chunk of my disappointment stemmed from the fact that I had put too much stock in this movie completely knocking my socks off.  Now, normally, I go into this films, attempting to keep my expectations as neutral as possible.  Not LOW, per se, but neutral.  That way, I won't be swayed by prior prejudices.   But, this was one film that I was excited about.  Probably because it had been on my "To-Watch" list for about three years.  And even before that, it was one of those films that I was pretty interested in watching, but just too scared to actually pick up.  That being said, I've been waiting to watch this movie for years--that's a lot of expectation.  However, high expectations only covered a small portion of my frustrations.  My issue I think, deals with Kubrick's directing style.  I'll have to check out a couple more of his films, but I'm starting to think I'm just not a Kubrick fan.

For me, Jack Nicholson was wonderful.  He absolutely stole the show, and as I watched the film, I found myself silently wishing that there would be more Jack scenes.  He was deliciously creepy.  And I love that sort of character in a horror film.  Not those that are outright scary, or horrible, but those that are creepy and still very human.  I love those sorts of villains.  There is just something so sinister about characters who just become sort of unhinged.  It makes it scarier because it makes you wonder if something like this could happen to anyone; your dad or your brother; neighbor, cousin, sister, grandpa, etc.  Very creepy.  But, there is more to Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrance than just a crazed ax-murderer possessed by evil spirits.  He's a family man, a loving husband and father, and he makes us feel for him.

Villains like Hannibal Lecter don't exactly illicit sympathy.  He's more of the guy who gets voicemail messages sounding something like this: "Hey, Dr. Lecter.  I just wanted to let you know that I'm not going to be able to make it to your dinner party on Saturday.  Nothing personal, but I just don't feel comfortable attending an event where I can't be sure if I'm going to be a member of the party or the dinner."  Jack Torrance, however, is a sympathetic character.  There is one scene, in fact, where my heart simply melts for him.  Wendy rushes to his aid after hearing him screaming and crying in his sleep, apparently from a nightmare.  Startled, he falls to the floor, and sits there, drooling, blubbering, and sobbing, as he tells her that he had the most awful dream, where he killed both her and Danny, chopping the bodies up into little pieces.  The pain is so raw, so real, you can't help but feel for him.  In those few minutes, all of Jack's behavior up to this point and afterward is put into perspective: he's not a bad man.  He's just under the influence of forces he cannot control.

Shelley Duvall was also wonderful as her respective character Wendy.  With her big eyes and sweet disposition, it was hard not to like her.  I think she also provided a wonderful foil to Jack's character, in that while he was dealing with frustration, anger, addiction, and possessive spirit, she's a quiet, gentle presence, who calmly puts up with everything that happens, while still maintaining order and reason in the family.  She's reserved, but strong.  And even though she's strong, she's still vulnerable, and that makes us root for her.  She's the underdog, and we don't want anything to happen to her.

Above all else, this movie was just very strange.  Much of it didn't make any sense.  I was confused, very creeped out, and mostly left with more questions than answers when all was said and done. All in all, it was a decent movie, but it just didn't wow me.  I guess if someone came up to me and said, "CS, should I watch The Shining?"  I guess I would say yes.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either.  Still, if you're interested in the genre like I am, I think it's just something you should check out.  At least you'd get all the references from Internet memes, right?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus (2009)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 2 out of 10
Director: Jack Perez
Starring: Deborah Gibson, Vic Chao, Shawn Lawlor
Rated: R
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 85 minutes

Thanks to human folly and global warming, the polar icecaps begin to melt and release two of the most horrifying creatures the world has ever known: Mega Shark and Giant Octopus!  Free from their frozen prison once more, they strike terror into the seas in their devastating attempt to find one another and finish the death match that started many centuries before.

I picked up this film expecting a funny, campy horror flick with lots of fighting, giant monsters, and cool CGI special effects.  Instead, I got a shitty film that broke every rule of screenwriting and acting, with sub par CGI effects reused scene after scene.  In fact, if I may be so bold, I would even go so far as to say that this is the worst movie I've ever seen.

But, a movie this bad has to really be savored.  It takes real effort to be this bad.  So, let's just take it one aspect at a time...First, the script.  The writing for this film was just dreadful.  Besides including so many painful cliches and "classic" stereotypes such as the customary agents in black suits, this film also included drinking alcohol from paper bags, the overly-violent American military stereotype, and of course, the cheesy mentor figure and the customary romance where everything just matches up so perfectly.  It's like these characters were written for each other!  Oh yeah...

I also loved the fact that everyone felt the need to remind everyone that the foreign characters were foreign.  From wonderful lines like "a Kewpie doll for the Irishman" (as if we couldn't figure out he was Irish from the HORRIBLE accent that was sometimes Irish, sometimes American, and sometimes boarderline Scottish), or when the Japanese scientist references "my Japanese government..."  Wow!  I had no idea you were Japanese!   And even if the audience wasn't sure, why would he refer to it like that?  Everyone he is talking to knows that he is Japanese.

I'm including the link to IMDb's collection of quotes from this movie.  They are golden.  Just for shits and giggles, you can check them out here.

Even though the writing sucked, the plot had some potential.  But, no....the script mostly focused on the three main characters: a "washed up" oceanographer, her salty Irish professor/mentor, and her Japanese scientist love interest.  There was almost nothing at all about the shark and octopus...the reason that just about everyone picked up this film in the first place.  I can tell you it wasn't for the romance or the bad accents.  It was for the title characters!

But, I digress....on to acting.  The acting was just dreadful.  Do I need say anything more?  I didn't believe these characters.  At their best they were laughable.  At their worst, they were annoying.  The Irishman's accent faded in and out between scenes, and I think only one member of the Japanese submarine crew spoke with even the slightest hint of an accent....and it certainly wasn't the main character.  The whole thing was just ridiculous.

If you're looking for a movie that is so bad it's good....then this is not that film.  This is just bad.  Really bad.  And you might get a couple good laughs out of it, but it's certainly not worth spending any real money on.  The acting sucks, the special effects are terrible, and the script is in the toilet.  Now, normally, I have a select audience to recommend these films to.  Right now, I'm not sure who would want to see this film.  I guess if you like really bad movies, then this is a good one.  Or, if you're a film professor or film student, you might like a sort of "what not to do" cautionary tale.  As an amateur screenwriter myself, I think this really helped me.  It was kinda fun being able to say " THAT'S why I'm not supposed to do that!"

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Taken (2008)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Runtime: 93 minutes

Bryan Mills (Neeson) only wants to have a real relationship with his daughter Kim (Grace) again.  But, being a retired CIA agent really makes things difficult for their relationship; he was never there for her as a child, and now, his background makes him constantly paranoid. So, when she asks for his permission to go to France with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), Bryan is naturally cautious.  Both Kim and Bryan's ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) are quick to reassure him, and he allows her to go with some strict conditions.  But, upon his daughter's arrival in France, Bryan's worst fears are realized.  A panicked Kim calls him, telling him that she and her friend are in the process of being kidnapped.  When one of the kidnappers picks up the phone, Bryan tells vows that he will find and kill him if he does not release Kim.  With the kidnapper's final taunting words "Good luck," Bryan sets out to save his daughter, no matter who or what stands in his way.

If there was one thing that this movie really struck home for me, it was to listen to your parents.  They know what they are talking about.  Even when they're cramping your style or taking your fun away.  Oftentimes, they do it because they are speaking from experience, and don't want to have something happen to you.  When you don't listen, things can happen.  I had one of those moments not that long ago, and while I won't go into details, I can safely say two things: 1.) It did not involve the Albanian sex trade in France and 2.) My dad was absolutely right, and I should have listened to him.  So, as I was watching Taken, my dad was constantly on my mind.

This really was a great film.  It had everything one would want in an action thriller: there was suspense, awesome fight scenes, not a lot of blood and gore, and a really epic storyline.  I watched this one with my brother, and we were on the edges of our seats from start to finish.  It was GREAT!  And besides just an awesome plot, the audience was presented with a main character we could all love and connect with.  Most of these action films have characters you can't fully understand because they're too hardened, too tough, or too cool.  Bryan was tough, but he also had a softer side which made him easier to understand.  In many ways, he reminded me of my own dad, and personally, that made him even easier to understand.  Liam Neeson played a wonderful father figure, and I loved the thought that even though he was a kick-ass CIA retiree, he was still a sweet, caring, gentle father.

I think what also made this movie so intense for me was that the sex trade is alive in Europe (and all over the world).  Sex trafficking is far scarier than monsters because it's really happening.  And as a woman, it's something that I hear about quite a bit.  Not saying that every time I leave the house, I'm afraid of getting roped into the sex trade, but it is something that you think about from time to time.  And since I've done some research about it for classes and such, I was able to nod my head and say "Yep, that's a huge red flag. Kim, don't listen to him!"

I think another thing I really loved about this film was that it handled its topic in a tasteful manner.  True, it was an action film, and there was a lot of violence.  But, the violence was handled in such a way as to make it bearable.  It wasn't overly violent.  There was not an overabundance of gore.  We got the point without having it shoved down our throats.  Also, this film IS about the sex trade, but I didn't feel that they over-sexualized any of the prostitutes.  I don't think I saw a single exposed breast.  Instead of taking advantage of the topic to make a sexual movie about sex, they kept it in its proper place.  The sex trade was not made glamorous; it was made disgusting.  And I think that was something that must have been difficult to do; it would have been easy to make it overtly sexual.

All in all, an amazing movie.  Liam Neeson was amazing, his co-stars were amazing, and the plot felt real and convincing.  Sure, there were some blips, but for the most part, I was convinced.  If you're a fan of action thrillers, international intrigue, epic fight scenes, or are a father who would anything to help your child in a time of distress (or perhaps the daughter who knows that her father would do anything for her), then you would love this film.  I know I did!

And I know this is not something I'd make a habit of doing on this blog, and I know he might not read this, but I just want to say THANK YOU to my dad....Thank you for being MY hero.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Hello, Movie Maniacs, Film Fanatics, and my Cinema Sweeties!

This is just a quick update to let you all know that I'm still alive and writing.  The reason for my lack of posts was the fact that I fell into the dreaded end of the school year arena, and just made it out.  That being said, I didn't really have a lot of time to watch movies, and even less time to review them.  But, that's the end of the bad news.  Now comes the good news!  With my summer free to watch movies and review them again, I'll have plenty of films for you!  I'm watching a movie a night, but I'm not sure if all of them will make it to the review process.  But, even so, there are going to be plenty of reviews shuffling their way into the que.  I'll still be posting them on Thursdays only, though, so that means that I'll still have plenty of reviews built up to go well into the school year.  No time to review movies?  No problem; I've already got plenty of reviews :)  See?  It's going to be great!  That being said, I have just finished my review for the 2008 film Taken, which you can find here this coming Thursday.  I also have reviews in the works for Tommy Boy, The Shining, and Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, so be sure to look for those in the coming weeks :)

I look forward to seeing all of you again on Thursday!  I'm sorry I've been gone for so long, but it's good to be back! :)
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