Author Archives: Jackie Hawkins

2010: The Year of the Movie

2010 was a really bad year to be an Academy Award nominee, and a great year to be an audience member. Though all the nominees (a whopping ten!) this year were great films, a few stand out from the rest.

  1. The Social Network

Produced with a seductive, artful brand of undeniable generational appeal, The Social Network is about more than just Facebook: it beautifully depicts the modern adaptation of classic teen angst. Brilliant performances from the fast-talking Jesse Eisenberg and effortlessly cool Justin Timberlake help set this film apart amidst this year's selection of truly spectacular nominees. Lusty and almost dark, The Social Network is a cultural phenomenon delivered at exactly the right moment.

  1. The King's Speech

From its first few minutes, The King's Speech does not fail to satisfy. Equipped with a remarkable cast, the film unravels itself to become a truly endearing picture. Heartbreaking and triumphant, The King's Speech familiarizes King George VI's struggle to overcome a handicap when his country needed him most.

  1. Black Swan

This devastatingly beautiful psychological thriller, held together by Natalie Portman's intense and thrilling performance, will make it a memorable pick for IMDB reviewers and ballet fanatics alike. Portman's ballerina's mental struggle for perfection is nothing short of mesmerizing, and the creative special effects complete the film's sense of insanity.

  1. Inception

Refreshingly innovative and original, it is difficult to decide where to begin when describing Inception. It's complex, fast-moving story line will keep the viewer glued to the screen, while its stunning cinematography and truly talented cast garner it well-earned reviews.

  1. True Grit

Led by one of Hollywood's most respected outlaws and a fourteen-year-old girl tougher than nails, True Grit captures the do-or-die motif of the much-loved original American western movie.

  1. The Kids Are All Right

A movie for modern America, The Kids are All Right is not focused on a lesbian marriage but the picture of a contemporary family – broken, blended, and ultimately whole.

  1. Toy Story 3

A movie for the kid in all of us, Toy Story 3 is more than a beautifully crafted children's film: it's a celebration of how far animation has come in the past decade.

  1. The Fighter

Dreaming of greatness, but pushed toward failure by his problematic family, Mark Wahlberg stars in this film chronicling the story of a fighter with heart and talent: Mickey "Irish" Ward. However, lacking dimension and focus, the film falls just short of impressive.

  1. 127 Hours

Faced with the choice of death or self mutilation, this triumphant flick starring James Franco illustrates the power of human choice; a gut-wrenching film sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

  1. Winter's Bone

An interesting take on the concept of dysfunctional family, Winter's Bone depicts the plight of one "good apple" growing up amongst rot.

What's Your Favorite Scary Movie? A look at the Scream Series

What frightens you more: A nightmare with a flesh burned man in a striped sweater or a serial killer with a knife wearing a ghost face mask? You can decide for yourself, but for many, nothing has been more horrifying, more chilling, and realistic, than being stalked by a killer in a ghost face mask in the horror movie hit Scream.

Although both Freddy Kruger and Ghostface were created by notorious slasher-film director, Wes Craven, Ghostface has presumed popularity in the scary movie genre due to Scream’s critically acclaimed success. Since the release of Scream in 1996, Scream 2 in 1997, and Scream 3 in 2000, the Scream trilogy has grossed over three-hundred million dollars. The numbers aren't the only proof that Scream is a box-office triumph; Scream changed the “rules” of the scary movie genre causing even more positive critical response.

Unlike the traditional scary movies, Scream created new rules for surviving: Don’t have sex, never say “I’ll be right back”, never ask “Who’s there?”, and finally, never investigate a strange noise. All of these rules clashed with the conventional horror films, Friday the 13th, Psycho, and Nightmare on Elm Street. 

Scream 2 changed the guidelines even more with the new rules of a horror movie sequel: expect the body count to be bigger, anticipate the murder scenes to be more bloody and elaborate, and never assume the killer is dead. But with the release of Scream 3, the rules changed once again and the audience learned that all bets are off in a trilogy. These rules altered scary movies and Scream created its own category in the horror genre.

So what are the rules in the fourth installment of the Scream series? Slasher-film fans will find out this Friday, April 15th when Ghostface returns to Woodsboro ten years later. Ghostface isn't the only one returning however. The original cast members Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox will also enter the wrath of the serial killer once again.

Campbell's character, Sydney Prescott, returns to Woodsboro for the last stop on her book tour for her new self-help book. There she is reunited with Sheriff Dewey (Arquette) and Gayle Weathers (Cox). Alongside the initial cast members are fresh Hollywood actors Emma Roberts, who plays Sydney's cousin, Hayden Panettiere, and Rory Culkin.

With a mix of new and old castmates, it is hard to decipher who the new Ghostface will be and what his/her motive is. However, Wes Craven is sure to bring his audience to screams with a new set of rules in Scream 4.

Scrooge is a Classic Movie

Most consumer movie reviews focus on the big blockbusters of the day, but there is not enough time spent on reviewing the classic movies from days gone by. There are certainly not enough movie reviews on the classic holiday movies that many generations have grown up with. One of the universally recognized classic holiday films of all time is the 1951 adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, simply titled Scrooge. Many people make the mistake of applying the title A Christmas Carol to this black and white cinema classic, but the proper title is Scrooge and it stands as a fine movie any time of the year.

What makes this version of the classic Christmas story stand out is the performance of the lead actor, Alastair Sim. Sim’s seamless transition from miserable old man in the beginning of the movie to a joyous saved soul makes the story very believable and easy to watch. Under the direction of Brian Desmond Hurst, Sim and the rest of the cast pull off their performances with precision and allow the screenplay to move forward without effort.

The scene with Marley’s ghost is often pointed to as one of the more entertaining scenes in all of British cinema, and Sim’s restrained yet energetic performance to close out the movie is a pleasure to watch. Scrooge tells the story without trying to add too much and it stays faithful to Dickens’ original transcript on many ways. Scrooge is a very entertaining movie that can be enjoyed any time of year and by any group of people.

You can purchase your copy of Scrooge at:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com

http://www.amazon.com

http://www.alibris.com/

Cannibals in Movies

has been in the movies since very early on in the industry. Most of this was done in humour, such as the native pinching and going yummy or the joke about having explorers for dinner. Africa Screams, made in 1949, also known as Abbott and Costello in Africa is a good example of this type of movie. In this movie the explorer team arrives at a Ubangi tribal village, where the chief offers several diamonds in exchange for Stanley, who can feed many of his people. Cannibals were very easy to use bad guys with the added shock value that they were not just going to kill, but eat their victims. Put a sexy girl in a jungle out fit or a half on half off explorer outfit and have her become captured by cannibals and then rescued by the hero, like the 1924 movie The Navigator, staring Buster Keaton. You have the sex, the love relationship, and the bad guys with a shocking threat, not to just die but to be eaten.

Then the industry moved from talking about it to actual cannibalism but using zombies to show it in the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead. It was dead people eating live people, an odd twist on the theme. Then you get movies like Eating Raou, 1982 The Silence of the Lambs, 1991 were some of the characters were cannibals although they did not really show it. So we have established the shock value of cannibalism. How can you make it more shocking, well you can have characters forced into cannibalism, Alive mad in 1993. Or you can use the fact that your character is a cannibal to show as much slashing, cutting, gut spilling, blood spraying scenes as you can get past the censors. Shocking people with all the guts and gore you can fit into a single movie. The whole point of the movie is the violence and buckets of blood and guts, need a plot, find some cannibals and then send them out for victims, as in the 1974 movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This movie started a series of films and a cult following. As well as being credited as the start of a new style of slasher flic.

What makes cannibalism so interesting is that it is not a made up bad guy, eating people for the most shock value, but is based on the reality of cannibalism. We know from archaeology digs that cannibalism is real. There have been many human bones found with gnaw marks from human teeth. In some cultures it was believed that you honoured your enemy or you took their strength and power by eating their flesh. Think about what a communion wafer represents, eating the body or flesh of Christ. People will eat any thing to survive, even each other. Look at the 1972 airplane crash in the Andes, survivors ate the dead passengers, this true story was made into the 1993 movie Alive. There are also stories that in times of famine people would turn to cannibalism to survive. There are tails in the Middle Ages; the Hansel and Gretel story is the sanitized version of people killing and eating children. Even as late as world war two there are rumours of cannibalism. One rumour was that the Nazis fed the prisoners other prisoners, usually in soup. Then that people who went missing in the starving towns in occupied areas because some people turned to cannibalism to survive. Then we have the modern cases where people kill and eat parts of their victims. Such as Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer. The cannibal is not a made up bad guy, but a part of human history.

Cannibal movies are so popular there is a web site called the Encyclopaedia of Cannibal Movies where people list all the cannibal movies that have been made and what they are about. As of October 2007 they had 377 movies listed.

Happy Birthday, Melvin!

Who am I?," I once asked in my diary. "My father maybe, or one of those French film snobs I've been reading for years? What is suddenly responsible for my revisionist appreciation of Jerry Lewis? Granted, the films aren't great, marred by bouts of off-key song and over the top sentimentality. But there are some wonderful gags in them, moments of memorable surrealism that no doubt influenced The New Wave, and irrefutable evidence that Lewis is the finest physical comic of the post war era. None of his current imitators – Carrey, Sandler, Ferrell – can hold a candle to him."

And this month, as he turns an undeterred eighty, latent praise again wells up from me: I don't think anyone has ever written about his unique art direction, that bright, distinctly American collegiate look, like an Archie comic come to life, nor of his often clever editing, a process he particularly took pride in.

If Lewis never amassed laurels, it isn't because of that popular theory: that his Melvins, Stanleys and Harveys embody the schizophrenic nature of America, squeaky and Puritan on the outside, devious as a misbehaving nine year old on the in, and that domestic audiences smart enough to recognize that hold him in disdain for the assualt on their character.

It's simply due to a lack of people accepting him for whom, as a talent, he is. Lewis is a gagman through and through, not, as was too often the expectation, a storyteller – and as such, he had the misfortune of making films in an age where the only cinematic vehicle left the comic was the feature. Had he come along at an earlier time, the golden era of Chaplin, Keaton, Langdon and Lloyd, he would be as revered on home soil today as he is in the land of Bardot and brie. The French still honor the episodic – what are films like Ameliebut a collection of little bits? – while America stands firm in its belief that it's the situation, regardless of how inconducive to gags, that's the sell.

What gift, then, to bestow upon you, Jerry? How 'bout a time machine? You can travel to the past, help yourself to your ideal vehicle, and secure your rightful due? Sorry, pussycat. You'll have to ask the Nutty Professor to build you one of those. All I can give you is that small, personal appraisement I once penned. It isn't much, but hey, it's in English.

Top 5 Movies of 2010

Despite the occasional lack of originality in movies, I feel like recent years have led to an even bigger gap between the complete crap and the true inspiration. More and more terrible movies come out, but they are sometimes juxtaposed with great ones, and 2010 was a year that showed inspiration was not dying in the movie industry. Here are my 5 favorite movies of the year.

  1. Waiting for Superman

This gripping documentary about the state of the education system in America was eye-opening and desperately sad at the same time. It followed a few different students through their experience with the system, and though it was easy to pray that it would all turn out okay for them, this is no fictional story, and the devastating truth that America’s students are being neglected comes to light. There were a lot of amazing facts here, and it was all presented in an interesting and easy to follow way. This was the best documentary I’ve seen in a while, and it’s one that I really hope makes a difference in the education system here.

  1. Never Let Me Go

This is a strange sci-fi movie (though it’s sci-fi only in concept, rather than visually) that follows the romance of people who learn they were born and raised to be organ donors and nothing more. It’s full of devastating sadness, but has some of the most heartfelt and raw emotion I’ve seen in a while. It takes a lot for a movie to get to me, but the end definitely had me crying. Though it’s a difficult to watch film, it’s one of the most incredibly personal and moving stories I’ve seen in a long time, and exactly the kind of romance story that deserved a lot more attention than it got. Pay close attention to this film, because it should not be overlooked.

  1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World

Nobody went to see this movie, and I have no idea why, because it was simply awesome. Everything about it screamed awesome. And though I hate to put such a goofy, campy movie above serious and important films like Waiting for Superman or Never Let Me Go, everything Scott Pilgrim did was something done with nearly perfect style, humor, and self-awareness. This was the perfect action movie, the perfect comedy, the perfect teen movie, the perfect comic book movie, almost everything you’d want it to be. Is it shallow in the end? I suppose, but it wasn’t meant to be anything more than an awesomely entertaining thrill ride. I can’t think of a single thing that was wrong with this film, and everything it accomplished was leaps and bounds better done than any comedy or throwaway action film I’ve seen in a while.

  1. Black Swan

I love this movie. Darren Aronofsky has shown he is a strange filmmaker, and though Requiem for a Dream was one of my favorite movies, Pi didn’t exactly agree with me. Given that, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Black Swan that much. But Black Swan was more than just a visual treat – it was everything a psychological thriller should be – confusing, dark, scary, intense, immersive, gorgeous, well acted, well shot, everything. And it had an ending that could only be described as perfect. This is not only one of the best movies of the year, but one of the best of the last few years, and should not be overshadowed, if only by a single film, which is…

  1. Inception

A lot of people will think this is a typical choice, an unoriginal one, even an immature one. And to them, I say just because a movie is mainstream doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic. I feel as though there was a group of people that was destined to hate Inception because it was a deep, thought-provoking, amazingly constructed film that happened to appeal to a mainstream audience. It had incredible CGI, but also an incredible and original plot. One critic even went so far as to say that the movie wasn’t as complex as people thought it was, and that bothered him. However, the movie is, in fact, very complex, but easy to follow. And shouldn’t it be the goal of a complex story to convey itself in a way that people understand it? Inception is one of the most amazingly original stories to come out in a while and featured amazing action, amazing acting, amazing plotting, amazing pacing, and so many jaw-dropping moments I could barely keep myself in my seat. This is one of the most perfect films ever released in my opinion, and certainly the best of the past few years. This movie won’t win best picture just because it’s so CGI heavy and unrealistic, and honestly, I feel like the Academy is biased towards everything that Inception is not. But I think it’s one of the most fantastic things to be released into theaters in a long time, and like it or not, that’s how I feel.

If you missed any one of these movies this year, do yourself a favor and go see them, because they are definitely worth your time and money!

Top 5 Movies of 2010

Top 5 Movies of 2010

Classic Movies in Today's Theaters? Yes, Please!

Classic Movies in Today’s Theaters? Yes, Please!

This year, Turner Classic Movies, a unit of Time Warner (which encompasses Warner Brothers Pictures), presented a one-day-only limited US showing and subsequent encore of the iconic 1942 Warner Brothers motion picture that further pushed names such as Bogart, Bergman, Rains and Lorre to movie icon status: CASABLANCA.

Twice I found out about this on the official Humphrey Bogart Estate Facebook page, and twice I bought my tickets and went. I never thought I’d experience something like this in my lifetime. Compared to my past experiences going to the movies, I have to say it was a real-life peek into the past and a crash course in movie viewing etiquette minus the fancy clothes. The theater was packed both times I went. Ages ranged from 6 to 96. The younger people really enjoyed the experience, and those young at heart, enjoyed it even more. People were quiet and respectful during the picture, although you could hear enthusiasts quietly murmur the dialogue word for word, line by line. There was absolutely no talking except when laughter or anger was appropriate, no cell phones and electronics went off, and if someone did make a peep, you heard hushed threats including, “Quiet,” “Shut up,” and the like.

It was fantastic. Studios need to take notice of something.

People are sick and tired of the remakes, reboots, or whatever the buzzword of the day is. Many films released today should never have been made. Pick one.

If studios want to make some EASY money, go in the vault, pull the original reels/masters/tapes/files, remaster them, and show them! No production costs, no ‘actor’ salaries that look like a phone number with an area code, and best part of all, digital distribution costs them nothing.

This could even be done with classic TV shows……by the way, the Met does this now since many PBS stations don’t want to……with raving success.

So, when’s the next classic coming to my local theater? Warner Brothers? Columbia? RKO? Sony? 20th Century Fox? Universal? Are you listening?

Classic Movies in Today's Theaters? Yes, Please!

Classic Movies in Today’s Theaters? Yes, Please!