Sunday, January 3, 2010

Movie #137 - The Shining

"A masterpiece of modern horror."

As one of the biggest fans of this movie, you really cannot argue with this tagline. Not surprisingly, this movie is in my personal top three movies of all time, with the list being somewhat interchangeable with The Exorcist and Psycho included.

This movie is Jack Nicholson at his best - way before he just became a shell of the actor he was in the late 70's and early 80's. Nowadays, Nicholson is playing himself, as opposed to actually adopting roles and flexing his acting prowess.

The movie has some slow points and after watching it on average seven to nine times per year when it's on television, this movie is no longer scary for me. It probably didn't help because it is one of the first movies I remember ever watching when I was a kid, so I probably saw this movie back when I was about three or four years old. Great parenting eh? No big deal, not like it made me into an ax murderer or something, just made me pretty jaded and not afraid of most current horror movies.

Plus, not to sound too old (29 turning 30 in 2010), this movie is still quite good compared to some of the crap that is being churned out these days. Current horror movies are glorified slasher films, using gore tactics and loud music. Gone are the days of the classic musical score, elite level acting, and just a good story to tell and a great screenplay. Cinematography is no longer an art form, as CGI and horror costumes are taking over... sorry, but the Saw series and anything by Eli Roth for example cannot hold a candle to this movie.

The acting is superb, even with a small cast of characters. The movie is about cabin fever combined with what a haunted hotel will do to someone. Nicholson is complemented well with the frantic acting of Shelley Duvall, while Scatman Crothers makes another appearance with Jack in this film - seek out One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for the other collaboration between these two. However, for those who have seen this film, Crothers and Nicholson are only briefly on screen together.

Danny Torrance is the real treat of this movie. Not only is he creepy (portrayed by Danny Lloyd), but his character is what makes this movie work. He sees all of the echoes of the past and he sees all that is bad with The Overlook Hotel. The explanation of the "shining" power is better explained in the book by Stephen King, however, I like Stanley Kubrick's adaptation here, although there is much lost, despite the length of the movie.

There was a remake of this movie done about 12 years ago starring Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay, however, I will leave that poorly done adaptation out of this discussion. I personally saw that mini-series, and although it is closer to the work of King's novel, it was so poorly done and over-hyped, that is was quite the disappointment.

Overall, I will never get sick of this movie. I love the score and there are some great scenes to this film. That's all I do now - watch these classic films for my favourite scenes.

I've got a few, but I decided to go with this one instead - it was a tough decision, but I think I made the right one:

As for the trailer, here you go... not a bad way to entice audiences back then. If they re-released this movie in theatres now, I would present it in the same way. Maybe upon the 30th anniversary in May 2010... methinks this is a good idea.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Movie #136 - Sleepless in Seattle

"What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?"

One of the many romantic comedies written and directed by Nora Ephron. The only difference between this movie and some of her other movies, she cast Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together. This is one of three films in which the two are paired, and apart from the flop, Joe vs. the Volcano, this movie and You've Got Mail are definitely keepers.

I am not one to openly claim that I like many romantic comedies, but I do like this movie. Not only is it well written and has an elaborate plot, it is well cast, a recipe that makes for a great movie in the end.

To complement Hanks and Ryan, you have appearances from Rob Reiner, Bill Pullman, David Hyde Pierce, Rosie O'Donnell, and Rita Wilson. However, the driving force behind this movie is the work of Ross Malinger, who portrays Jonah Baldwin, the son of Hanks' character. He is the main reason why this romance starts off in the first place and the main reason why it comes to fruition in the end.

Also, to add, Meg Ryan is again bubbly, perky, and beautiful in this film... too bad she looks somewhat scary nowadays with botched plastic surgery and time catching up with her. I believe she would've maintained that level of beauty from her earlier roles if she just let time do what it had to... instead, she caused her own demise.

And yes, I know... I've spoiled the ending so to speak. But Ephron romantic comedy have you seen where the two love interests didn't get together in the end? If you haven't watched this film after 16 years on the video shelves, pick it up. Not only will your wife, girlfriend, or fiancee thank you for it... but you'll definitely show a softer side... a level of sensitivity that she's never seen before.

However, if you are a female reader and want to pick this movie up on a date night with your boyfriend, husband, or fiancee... please don't. It's not fair to subject most men to these films... I am capable of sitting through them at nausea and I seek them out in order to amass more films on my database, however, I wouldn't openly recommend this film to punish men who would rather enjoy films such as Aliens or The Terminator or Rocky IV. There is romance in all three of those films... you'll greatly appreciate it. Get any of those films instead!

Hehehe... I love double standards.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Movie #135 - The Terry Fox Story

"Courage. Heartbreak. Romance. Determination."

One of the greatest true stories of a life that inspired a nation, and now inspires millions worldwide to fight cancer. The story portrays the life of Terry Fox and his determination to raise money for cancer research.

I will not attempt to comment on the compelling life story and tremendous courage, passion, and leadership this many showed fellow Canadians with his Marathon of Hope. However, this movie captured a great deal of that story and did its best to hold true to it.

The movie is cast with Eric Fryer, a real-life amputee who won a Genie award for Best Actor. The Genies are the Canadian equivalent to the Oscars. His portrayal of Fox was spot on and since the film was only made shortly after Fox's death, it must have been difficult to portray such a Canadian hero at the time of production.

The story follows the interaction between Fox and Doug Alward (portrayed by Michael Zelniker). Alward and Fox traveled together throughout the Marathon of Hope and its through the perspective of Alward that part of the story is told. Although Fox is not showcased through much heroism in his treatment of Alward throughout the journey, it shows the pain and suffering Fox had to endure to complete it, not to mention that he didn't intend to be a hero, but just someone who wanted to motivate others and prove a point. I believe he accomplished that as he is known as one of Canada's treasures in history and still impacts the lives of many every September.

There aren't many names in this film as the cast is composed of many Canadian actors. The only true headliner is Robert Duvall, who gives this film credibility and exposure to the U.S. film audience, but his role is more narrative and minimal to the entire storyline. Rosalind Chao (Rika Noda) is probably the only other recognizable name from this cast, known for her minor television roles and appearances.

In the end, I don't think the intent of this film was to make money or win accolades. It was to tell a compelling story, one that everyone in Canada knows about. It did win almost every award available in the dramatic movie categories at the Genies that year, however, telling a brief snapshot of the life and times of Terry Fox was the main reason it was made.

I apologize that I could not find a trailer for this film, but if I do, I will add it to the post afterwards.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Movie #134 - Gremlins

"Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous."

I remember seeing this film as a child and didn't think twice about it scaring me or not. Was probably already desensitized at an early age with exposure to horror films such as Psycho, The Shining, or The Exorcist, so Gremlins was pale by comparison.

However, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg got a great deal of flack back in 1984 when this movie was first released. Coming off of his box-office and critical success with E. T. The Extra Terrestrial, Gremlins was marketed as a holiday film, especially with cute Gizmo on the poster.

Parents unwittingly took their young children hoping to see a feel good story, only to be surprised to watch a film filled with violence and death. Yes, although cute and silly, Gremlins is actually a very violent movie, but made to be more of a dark comedy... something that is quite common in the here and now.

Despite the protests of the select few who got offended, this is a great movie from the 80's. Another member of the quintessential 80's films, its also a classic to enjoy during the Christmas season because its unconventional and definitely worth a laugh instead of the warm, fuzzy feeling from some of the other Christmas standards.

The cast itself is somewhat forgettable. Zach Galligan is the protagonist. Also, see if you can spot a young Corey Feldman and even Judge Reinhold is here - he's in almost every 80's film. Many young boys were distracted by the casting of Phoebe Cates - who didn't have a crush on her back in the 80's? I was only 4 years old when this film was released, but later developed that crush too watching these various 80's films over and over again in the early 90's.

The true star of this movie is the special effects utilized to create Gizmo and the entire cast of Gremlins monsters. Using specially designed puppets and animatronics, this type of technology was cutting edge before CGI was ever used on a regular basis. In addition, the cute character of Gizmo was accomplished by the voice over work of Howie Mandel... way before Bobby's World or Deal or No Deal.

In the end, the most infamous aspect of this movie is the rules. The Gremlin rules... coincidentally, similar rules that pertain to me:

1. Keep them away from water.
2. Keep them away from bright light.
3. The most important rule. No matter how much they cry, no matter how much they beg, never, never feed them after midnight.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Movie #133 - I Know What You Did Last Summer

"He's got a hook on them..."

One of those summer thrillers from 1997, this movie was the start of the wave of successful teen and young adult movie actors and actresses.

From this movie you have Jennifer Love Hewitt, who at the time was known for her work on Party of Five, but is know a recognized movie and television actress with her recent success on Ghost Whisperer.

Next you have Sarah Michelle Gellar, who has recently quieted down on leading movie roles and is probably living off her syndication money from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In terms of long-term acting potential, you have Ryan Phillippe, who has not only appeared in some critically acclaimed films over the past decade, but has shown that he can act in some serious roles, action movies, and even dark comedies. He has showcased the most versatility and could end up being the most recognized member of this film cast.

The one with the least success thus far is probably Freddie Prinze Jr. I believe he was originally in line to become the next Keanu Reeves, but his time might have passed to supplant Reeves in the roles in which solid acting and even facial expressions are not necessary. Prinze Jr. has chosen some poor roles since this movie, especially with a recurring role in the Scooby Doo franchise... yikes!

Other cameos from semi-stars you might recognize are Bridgette Wilson (Mrs. Pete Sampras), Johnny Galecki (known for his roles on Roseanne and the clever comedy The Big Bang Theory), and even Anne Heche, who seems grossly out of place with these younger stars.

In the end, they made a sequel to this film, which they only made because of the success of the original. The cast and popularity of these teenage / young adult actors is what sold this movie... not the plot or storyline. I also discovered that they made another sequel sans Hewitt - probably a straight to video type of thing, but hopefully, with some nudity. Hey, you gotta have a positive somewhere... this is a 14-A horror movie. Back when I was 17, this was a total rip-off.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Movie #132 - Spaceballs

"May The Farce Be With You."

You have to hand it to Mel Brooks. He took one of the biggest franchises in movie history in Star Wars and made one of the most clever spoof comedies. Not only was Brooks able to accomplish such a feat, but he used a large movie production budget and was very respectful to the Star Wars franchise in the jokes that were told.

This is definitely how movie spoofs should be made. The Airplane franchise is another set of movies that does it right. More recently, the disastrous movies such as the ones made by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are horrible. Poor examples of super spoofs in which every movie of the summer is made into a spoof segment of the film. Stay away from these films.

Mel Brooks did it right with this film. The cast is remarkable in the use of top actors of the 80's such as John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Bill Pullman. Also, the other cast members are pretty good too such as Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, and Joan Rivers. Mel Brooks is also in this film along with some clever cameos from John Hurt and George Wyner.

Of the Brooks films, this is one of his best. I appreciate his brand of humor, because its creative and unique. He utilizes a basis for his plot, but takes the film into a whole new direction, telling an entirely different story that is only loosely based on the original film.

For you Star Wars fans out there... you'll love the use of various references from the franchise such as the Schwarz instead of the Force, Yogurt instead of Yoda, Dark Helmet instead of Darth Vader, and Pizza the Hut instead of Jabba the Hutt. Overall, Star Wars fans should enjoy this movie, not only for its farce comedy, but for the efforts made to pay homage to the original franchise.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Movie #131 - The Siege

"On November 6th our freedom is history."

I recently caught this 1998 film by Director Edward Zwick, and I noticed how prophetic this film was. Released three years before September 11, 2001, a day in which similar attacks on the U.S. was orchestrated by terrorists, Zwick's film discusses a number of major issues related to government policy and reactionary measures made during the fictional terrorism threats to New York City.

The reason this film was so compelling was that I watched it in 2009, during the post 9/11 era. Looking back, the reaction of the government and the paranoia that ensues in the film is quite similar to what the U.S. and other first world countries decided to do in order to combat terrorism.

Martial law was a very close reality for Americans and the threat that they faced in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11 were real. Zwick's commentary to how society would crumble and the removal of constitutional rights and freedoms on its own citizens due to racial profiling is still abundant today, albeit to a lesser extent. However, shortly after 9/11, this was a reality for many people and thus, this film is a must see for how accurate the commentary truly was.

Although the action sequences, suspense, and acting of this film are top notch with roles portrayed by Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Annette Benning, and Tony Shaloub, the movie takes some wild turns in the end, almost like a rush to finish the film. Throughout the movie, you are compelled to find out what happens - but in the end, you are left wanting more.

If you ever want to see a fictional 9/11 story, this is one to watch. There have been many 9/11 films documenting the heroic stories of the passengers of the planes and the World Trade Center victims, but this film looks at a fictional representation of what could happen if the terrorism threat in the U.S. becomes real.

Looking back at recent history, Zwick's predictions and conclusions aren't off base and it shows that fiction can become reality at times. I won't use this post to comment on my personal views of the state of society in relation to 9/11, but I urge readers to seek out this film to see its fictional parallels to the events that followed this important time in our history.