The Shining (1980)

What happens when you combine the distinguished directing style of Stanley Kubrick and the incomparable acting of Jack Nicholson? You get one of the most poignant and effective horror films of the century. Deeply psychological and utterly brilliant, The Shining sends the viewer to a world where evil reigns over all with a chilling force. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who is just trying to make ends meet for his family. Shelley Duvall plays his wife Wendy, a woman who has accepted her husbands past mistakes and is looking to move onto better things for her family. His son Danny, played by Danny Lloyd, possesses a special power that he doesn't quite understand yet. When Jack gets a job as caretaker of The Overlook Hotel for the winter, Danny soon begins to feel that the hotel's walls contain more than just comfy beds and colorful carpeting. After a blizzard strikes and separates the family from the rest of the world, Jack begins to feel the strain of seclusion.
Through the use of frightening images and unforgettable camera work, Kubrick guides us on a paranormal journey that is sure to be cemented in our dreams forever. His use of the tracking shots gives an atmosphere of a creeping evil that is lurking around every corner. When we are in Stanley's world, nowhere is safe. Very few people are capable of capturing sheer terror in such a raw form. Fans of the original novel, written by Stephen King, will probably be quite upset with the director, as his adaptation is very different than the source material.
Jack Nicholson is outstanding as his character slowly slips into the murky depths of insanity. His performance seems all too real as he begins to see people around the hotel that aren't really there. The authenticity of his hatred and malevolence will frighten you to no end, as will his devilish smile that epitomizes evil.
The one problem I had with this film was Shelley Duvall. Granted, her job was mainly just to look scared and act helpless, but she did so in the most irritating way. Her over-acting ruined some scenes that were otherwise great. Luckily, Jack was there to make up for every mistake she made. But I will say one good thing about Duvall. She truly looked terrified as she saw that axe drive it's way through the door. That one image does a very nice job of summing up the overall feeling of the entire movie.
The Shining has proved to be a timeless horror film, as it has now been over 25 years since it's release. In this day and age, films of this genre focus on the blood and gore aspects of horror. It is very refreshing when you are able to watch a scary movie that focuses on the suspense rather than the actual kill. As a matter of fact, there is only ONE on screen killing in the entire film. By today's standards, that is considered very tame. But then again, the majority of horror movies released now suck. (See my review of Halloween). My rating: (10/10)

Death Sentence (2007)

Kevin Bacon takes on the role of a vengeful father in Death Sentence, a revenge thriller directed by James Wan. Bacon plays Nick Hume, a man whose life is in complete order with a wife and two sons. But one day, Nick's oldest son Brendan is murdered when he was found in the wrong place at the wrong time during a gang induction ritual. Nick witnesses this tragic event, and catches the man who committed the crime. But due to some underthought plot contrivance, he is let free. It is at this time that Nicholas decided if the law won't help him, he will simply have to deal out justice himself. Cue the increase in body count. After incurring the wrath of the angry gang leader, Nicholas must fight to save himself and the rest of his family from the same fate as his son.
A movie that takes itself way too seriously, Death Sentence rides on the train tracks of implausibility as Hume transforms into a near superhero on his vengeful quest. How one could drive a small car straight through a van, splitting the van completely in two, and simply walk away from it unscathed is beyond me. Kevin Bacon delivers a performance verging on melodrama as he takes on the task of the action hero. It is very difficult to accept Bacon into this role, because he doesn't exactly give off the bad boy tone...especially since he starred in Footloose.
Wan, director of films such as Saw and Dead Silence, usually knows how to keep a viewer on edge through every turn of the story. There is no exception here, as his directing style saves this movie from becoming an overly dramatic, self indulgent bore. My heart remained at an upbeat pace throughout a very well shot chase scene through a parking garage. But even Wan is not without fault, as he often indulges in the well known cliches of directing. There is just something so familiar of slow motion walking in the rain.
Aisha Tyler has a supporting role as a police detective whose most effective weapon is giving a stern talking to. As far as police work goes, not so much. As a matter of fact, all the police in this movie are portrayed as completely helpless and deeply inept. The most notable performance is this movie was given by John Goodman, who plays the gang leaders father.
Goodman's performance was above average, as he was able to characterize an acrimonious character, but still didn't take the role too seriously. It was a relief to see one person in the film with a bit of a sense of humor.
Death Sentence starts off very slow, but ends with a very loud bang once Bacon's character starts his slaughter of gang members, ultimately leaving you with a subpar ending. Overall, this movie was OK, but I would recommend renting it, don't waste your money. My rating (5/10)

Halloween (2007)

First I must clarify that this is not a review of the original Halloween, which was near pefect. This is a review of Rob Zombie's far from perfect remake of Halloween. With that being said, who told Rob Zombie it was OK for him to direct movies? Bad! That's a bad Rob Zombie! Who told you it was OK to take a great movie and redo it with your own interpretation! You should be ashamed of yourself. Now let me explore the atrocity that is Halloween.
The movie reintroduces us to Michael Myers, part time psychopathic killer, part time mask maker. Unlike the first film that only included a 5 second clip of young Myers, we get to watch an entire hour of original material about him, thought up straight from Rob Zombie's twisted imagination. After living in a degenerate household with degenerate parents and a degenerate older sister, young Michael turns into the maniac that we've come to know and love. Well, at least before this movie was released.
We are then subjected to 45 minutes of uninteresting blather before we finally pick up to where the original film started. At last, we are introduced to Laurie Strode, played by Scout Taylor Compton, and her two friends, played by miscellaneous actresses who were probably cast for the sole reason of needing money and a willingness to be nude in front of a camera. We then get to watch basically the original Halloween only without the suspense, horror, character development, and excellent directing of the original. The suspense was replaced with sex, the horror was replaced with cheap scares, the character development was replaced with sex, and the great directing was replaced with Rob Zombie.
Some of you may feel I'm being unfair because I continually compare this film to the original. Well here's a sentence that describes this film just as a singular movie: This movie had poor directing, bad acting, no suspense, no scares, no characters worth caring about, and overall nothing redeeming whatsoever. Oh yea, Malcolm McDowell is in it too, because apparently his career has spiraled since A Clockwork Orange. My Rating (2/10)

Cloverfield (2008)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see a city get destroyed from a first person point of view? Well then today is your lucky day. Cloverfield is just like any other generic monster movie in creation, with a bit of a twist. The entire action is seen from the view of a handicam recorder. It is this cheap gimmick that actually gives this movie a one up over other films of the genre. As far as the plot goes, there is a monster attacking New York City and we get to follow a small group of friends who are trying to escape. There's also a love story thrown in just to give the movie some substance. Didn't I say it was generic?
In the movie we see a lot of the same old, same old. People die, people are crying, more people die, the military comes, even more die, so on and so forth. But due to the cunning mind of JJ Abrams, all of these things are seen in an unchartered way with the use of a handicam. It is this strategem that manages to pull the viewer into New York City and truly feel the horrors that you've seen so many characters go through in other movies of this sort. There was actually a point in the film where I literally jumped out of my seat because of the realism of an explosion that had just taken place. But at times, this camera ploy hurt the film and made it less enjoyable. Times in the film when the director wanted to explore the love story, the handicam angle really removed you from the film and hinders your ability to enjoy it.
There is also one more very important caveat that you must take into account. Those with motion sickness should steer clear of this film. Oftentimes while watching it, I began to feel dizzy and had to look away for a minute or two.
There isn't much to comment on as far as acting goes. Every performer pretty much accomplised the "scared onlooker" role. One thing that impressed me was the actual appearance of the monster. When a new monster movie is released, there is always a fear that the creators will render the beast in a silly fashion. Luckily, this was not the case here. Adding to the list of positives, a short running time ensures that Cloverfield and its handicam gimmick does not wear itself out. Overall, Cloverfield was a solid monster flick, with a few scares, and lots of heart pumping action to keep you interested. My rating (7/10)

Good Luck Chuck (2007)

Ugh. This was horrible. Not even close to being good. Dane Cook was horrible. Jessica Alba was terrible. That fat guy with the stupid hair was dreadful. Just.......ugh. I didn't even finish watching it. I don't even know how it ends. Frankly, I don't care. My rating: (0/10)

Superbad (2007)

Following the success of Knocked Up and the 40 Year Old Virgin, Judd Apatow brings us another comedic gem in the form of Superbad. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the story revolves around 2 best friends, Seth and Evan (coincidence?), on a quest for booze and girls. When their spastic friend Fogell tells them he is about to get a fake ID, the guys think they are all set to be the saviors of a party and would be thanked by the partys hostess in a most graphic manner. But all doesn't go to plan as the day progresses, introducing Seth and Evan to an array of inconveniences. The language used in Superbad is vile, crude, disgusting, obscene, inappropriate and downright filthy. But despite all that, it's funny as hell.
Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are making a name for themselves as they show off their keen ability to improvise and deliver a punchline like a professional. But the real golden star of this movie is their quirky sidekick Fogell, better known as, McLovin'. Christopher Mintz-Plasse secures himself a place in the world of comedy as he brings to life one of the funniest and most awkward characters ever to be conceived. Much like Borat had us saying "Very nice!" to anything and everything, Fogell will have the entire world exclaiming, "I am McLovin!". Seth Rogen and Bill Hader give the movie an extra boost as the two policemen who seem a little too childish to be in a position of authority.
Superbad is the kind of movie you have to watch multiple times. It's not because it's confusing; It doesn't exactly have the most complex plot, but simply because you will laugh so hard the first time you see it that you will probably miss even more jokes. However, this movie is not perfect. At almost 2 hours long, you almost feel as though the movie begins to wear out its welcome. This is most noticeable right in the middle of the film, where the tone seems to get more serious, and the comedy is carried on the shoulders of Mintz-Plasse, Rogen, and Hader. There are also some tender moments in Superbad that are actually quite heartfelt and really do convey a meaning to the audience. Much like Knocked Up, this movie looked like any other comedy on the outside, but on the inside it's a sweet film with a message: don't rush yourself into situations you're not 100% ready for. Just be careful, don't watch this around your parents, unless you've got the coolest parents ever. There isn't 5 minutes that goes by without mention of some body part doing something to another. My rating: (9/10)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Where to begin about a film like A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick's visceral futuristic thriller told in a way only Stanley Kubrick could tell it, A Clockwork Orange is just as effective and disturbing today as it was upon its original release. Malcolm McDowell stars as Alex, a teenager whos main interests are rape, ultra-violence, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Upon being sold out by his fellow "droogs", Alex is sent to prison, where he hears of an experimental procedure that will get him out of prison and make sure he never gets back in...but at what price?
McDowell gave an Oscar worthy performance, although he was snubbed by the Academy and wasn't even nominated. His portrayal of a morally wayward teenager not only grips you into loving him but scares you into hating him. I have not seen a performance of equal caliber by such a young actor in my entire life. Alexander DeLarge will go down in history as one of the greatest characters in cinematic history.
But how could I continue without mentioning the amazing direction of Stanley Kubrick. What other man would take such a happy and endearing song like "Singin In the Rain" and relate it to such an appalling act as a rape. But besides that, Kubrick consistently keeps the viewer interested with his use of camera work, classical music, and awe-inspiring sets.
With a running time of approximately 2 hours, A Clockwork Orange manages to keep the audience enthralled and immersed in its world of horror and beauty and is guaranteed to entertain. But be warned, this movie is not for the faint of heart, and is in fact deeply disturbing. When first released, A Clockwork Orange was a center of controversy in England. All over people were committing crimes resembling those in the movie. After threats made on him and his family, Kubrick pulled the movie from theaters. My rating: (10/10)

American Gangster (2007)

One would think that putting both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the same movie would be a golden ticket to an amazing movie. Well one would be wrong. What you end up getting is a subpar film that is begging to be considered epic, but falls far short of that title. To give a short summary, Washington plays Frank Lucas, basically a drug kingpin who smuggles heroine into the country using the caskets of fallen soldiers in Vietnam. Crowe is Richie Roberts, an honest detective who is put in charge of the Narcotics Unit in the New Jersey Police Department. After way too much time, these characters eventually become connected to each other.
There aren't many good things to say about this film. The main problem I had with it was length. An interesting story that could've easily been told in an hour and a half was spread out into a dull, sleep inducing, near 3 hour mess. It seems nobody told director Ridley Scott that if one was going to make such a long movie, he should try to throw in something exciting in order to the keep the viewers wanting more. Maybe the Coen Brothers wouldn't mind taking the time to teach him.
The only thing comparable to the wretched length of this mediocre movie was the incredibly poor performance given by Russell Crowe. To say he sleepwalked through the role would be an understatement. In fact, not until there was 20 minutes left in the movie did he begin to show any sign of real acting. It's as if he said one day, "Oh wait, this is supposed to be a respectable movie. Let me put forth some effort". Unfortunately, it was too little too late, as the movie previous 2 hours and 10 minutes had already destroyed the viewers interest.
If i were to suggest this film, (which I'm not), it would only be because of Denzel Washington's great performance and of the final 20 minutes, which I must admit was quite exciting. Sadly, the ending nor his performance make up for the 2 hours and 10 minutes that precede the final events, making the previous compliment completely moot. Please, don't watch this movie. My rating: (4/10)

Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange