Shame List #25: The Shining (1980)

Shame List Introduction

The Shining is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the movie blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!


Here’s my review of the third film I can cross off my Shame List:

I feel like I can wash my hands of the “shame” a bit after finally viewing The Shining (1980) for the first time. I always wondered where that haunting image of young Jack Nicholson originated. For someone who has seen movies of him only in his older years when he’s sporting gray hair, it was both a pleasure and a horror to see Nicholson in action in this classic horror film.

So I caught this movie back in October, right around Halloween. But I missed out on posting about it right when it was trendy to do so. So as Thanksgiving approaches with Christmas directly on its heels, here’s just a little summary of my thoughts on the classic horror film, The Shining.

Everyone has stuff to say about this movie. And nothing in this post is going to be purely original regarding the film. I truly wasn’t expecting what I saw, and that was probably what gave me the most joy in seeing it. It’s about a madman portrayed by Jack Nicholson, and frankly, with his balding head and crazy eyes, he seemed to have the role down pat.

It’s common knowledge that Stephen King didn’t care for this film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick. Having not read the book myself, I could only naively say that this is a good stand-alone film. Give me the original source material, and perhaps I could say otherwise. But at the end of the day, we’re talking two different mediums, two different viewpoints, and two different pieces of art. And I liked The Shining, even if didn’t pay the proper homage King was expecting or hoping for from Kubrick.

I think what makes the film so good, so iconic, are the performances alongside the eery score and setting. While there ought to be plenty of praise for the lead Jack Nicholson, I was most moved by Danny Lloyd’s performance of Danny, especially when his “friend in his mouth” took over. Children certainly have the chops to play multi-dimensional characters, and Lloyd’s portrayal was chilling.

I’ve wondered if Shelley Duvall has received as much praise as her costars, because she really does play the character that the audience relates with and roots for. For a while, I chalked her up to a simple housewife who didn’t know how to stand on her own. But of course, as time goes by and her husband has truly cracked and gone over to the side of madness, her character, Wendy, does take charge. It was so refreshing to see another female character be strong and courageous.

The Shining Maze

The maze played one of the most interesting set pieces I’ve seen in a film. We get to see it in both the fall and winter seasons, and I think the contrast in seeing it in both weathers really characterized the maze as either fun or terrifying. The hotel plays its own role in the film as both a haven and a terror for the characters, by playing monster to Wendy and Danny, and partner-in-crime to Jack when he starts to see visions of those who used to run the hotel.

While it seems like multiple people contributed to both the score and soundtrack, a large part of the job fell on the shoulders of music editor Gordon Stainforth, and I think he really delivered in matching the music passages to the scenes in the film.

Kubrick truly doesn’t let any one part of the film go to waste, having pulled out the stops in every area. It’s clear why The Shining has reached its iconic status. While it wasn’t necessarily my favorite film, it is one I would definitely revisit over the Halloween holiday. I recently read there were multiple scenes cut from the film, and I think that was a wise decision. At nearly two and a half hours, the run time had me getting a little impatient as the story built to its final act, and the race for Wendy and Danny to escape came to a halt.

I give The Shining

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ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. What do you think of The Shining? Do you think King is justified in his disdain for this film adaptation? Where does The Shining rank on Stanley Kubrick’s filmography? And last, but certainly not least, what movie should I watch and cross off my Shame List next (list here)?

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Ten Critically-Acclaimed Films I Just Don’t Like

It might sound like a bad thing, but truly, you just can’t like every movie, regardless of its popularity with critics, film buffs, or even your casual viewers. While there are positive things I could say about each of these movies (and I will!), I just didn’t care for them, and I don’t imagine I’ll revisit any of them in the future. I got this idea after reading Abbi’s post about Ten Movies People Seem to Love That [She] Just Didn’t Get, over at her site Where the Wild Things Are. She got the idea from Film Nerd Blog. I thought it was a great idea, and just turned it into a list of films most critics (and many viewers) loved (that I didn’t dig).

Here are ten critically-acclaimed films I just don’t like:

Almost Made the List . . .

The Town (2010)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metascore: 74/100

The Town nearly misses the list, even considering it’s the only movie in the list I turned off in the middle of viewing. I loved the cast, excluding Blake Lively. I think Ben Affleck has established himself as a director not to be toyed with. My issue with the film was the overabundant drug use and language. It’s not that I’m not interested in seeing a town, a group of people, realistically displayed. It just took over the film for me, overshadowing the story.


 10) Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Rotten Tomatoes: 87% RT
Metascore: 76/100

The fashion is stunning. It’s Audrey Hepburn, how could it not be stunning? I know I just reviewed Roman Holiday (1953) and loved it! There’s no doubt there are some great elements in this film that make it the memorable movie it is today. For me, however, I just didn’t feel like there was a great story there, and I couldn’t get into it. Sorry, Holly Golighty.

9) The Graduate (1967)

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Metascore: 77/100

The Graduate – another classic I just didn’t care for. It’s one of the first coming-of-age stories that explores a territory not yet tackled in film. Dustin Hoffman gets famous off of The Graduate. The music is great, and the end scene is emotional. But for me, watching it decades later, I just didn’t connect with the film at all.

8) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metascore: 86/100

Considered a must-see by anyone who considers him/herself a film buff, I know some heads are shaking as they see this one on my list. It’s a highly influential science fiction film crafted by Stanley Kubrick. I should like this. I should want to watch this, include it on my top ten lists, boast of its greatness. But I missed it . . . even knowing that this film is a work of art, I don’t care for it.

7) The Exorcist (1973)

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Metascore: 82/100

Now we enter the horror genre. A movie that I watched in high school, The Exorcist scared the crap out of me. It’s a mark on the horror film genre, and I can understand why. But I don’t feel apologetic for disliking this movie. It’s not that I think it’s bad; I just don’t like movies that deal with devil/demon possession. It’s not a fun movie for this film fan.

6) Pulp Fiction (1994)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metascore: 94/100

Perhaps one of the most controversial films on my list, Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction wasn’t a fun ride for me. I won’t say there weren’t moments when I laughed, or thought I had witnessed something very cool in the film. It’s certainly a well-made piece of cinema; I, however, struggled to enjoy it amidst the overt sexual scenes and language, even knowing it was a Tarantino film.

5) Lost in Translation (2003)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metascore: 89/100

Yet another one of the more controversial films on this list, Lost in Translation is a deep film that does succeed to tell its story. I’m not arguing that. It’s just one of those movies I watched and was done with. It includes one of Scarlet Johansson’s best performances, and the movie shows how you can strike up a friendship with the unlikeliest of people. But this movie depressed me to the degree that I have no need to see it again.

4) Avatar (2009)

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Metascore: 83/100

James Cameron brought us Titanic (1997), and of course, he had to bring another enormous budget, technologically ground-breaking film called Avatar. It’s not that I don’t respect the art, the technology, the scope of the film. It’s a feat in movie history. But for all of the special effects and millions of dollars poured into the project, I felt like maybe they could have had a shake down in the writers room and come up with a more original, engaging story. According to my Intro to Film teacher, Avatar was just a rip-off of Dances with Wolves (1990). I haven’t seen it, so I couldn’t tell you. But the movie never stayed with me, no matter how many sequels Cameron’s team has promised.

3) The Tree of Life (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Metascore: 85/100

Jessica Chastain was in four movies in 2011, and this was the only one I really didn’t like. It wasn’t that the cinematography wasn’t gorgeous, because it was. I can’t think of a movie in this decade that is more beautiful to watch unfold on screen. But the idea of being metaphorical doesn’t hold up for me in this movie. I know The Tree of Life aimed to be deep, but Terrance Malick’s film didn’t win me over. To this day, I still don’t understand the appeal. Perhaps I just wasn’t meant to understand.

2) Melancholia (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Metascore: 80/100

Perhaps the must unmemorable movie on this list for me, Melancholia bored me to no end. I distinctly remember forcing myself to sit through this film just so I could watch all of the Oscar-nominated films that year. Like The Tree of Life, it offers some of the most beautiful scenes to watch. But I missed out on watching an actual story. I just remember Kirsten Dunst getting angry, and Kiefer Sutherland popping up in a movie after his 24 (2001-2010) run.

1) Prisoners (2013)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Metascore: 74/100

It’s difficult for me to find words for how much I disliked Prisoners, especially considering how big a fan I was of the cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, Wolverine, and Viola Davis – it’s got to be good, right? The plot is interesting: someone’s kidnapped children. But it was painful for me to watch Hugh Jackman torture Paul Dano. From start to finish, it was disturbing for me to watch, and I have no desire to revisit it ever again, regardless of its critical success.

It’s your turn now. What critically-acclaimed movies do you not dig? Which ones on my list do you think I need to watch again to consider otherwise? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

The Woman in Black: Play vs. Film

In a previous post, I mentioned my excitement to see The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, because only months before I had gotten to see the play version. Weirdly enough, when I went to see the play, I had not even realized that a film version was due out in February of this year. So instead of a regular review, I’ll be pitting the two formats of the story of “The Woman in Black” against one another. Be aware that there are SPOILERS, so if you do not want something spoiled for you, I recommend either seeing the film first, or reading about the play only.

Number of Characters

In the play, there is a total of 4 characters. Each actor plays a character, who then, in turn, act out a play within the play as two other separate characters. This sounds confusing, but watching it wasn’t difficult. I couldn’t imagine how harrowing it must have been for the two actors on stage to have to memorize so many lines!

In the film, there are multiple characters. While Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) leads the film, often playing scenes against sound and special effects in the house, a supporting cast plays a bigger role in the film version.

The Element of Time

The play serves time in two parts: in the beginning, there’s an older fellow seeking public speaking assistance from a young actor. The old man is Arthur, and the story he wishes to tell is the story we see in the film. Essentially, we get a play within a play. The actor plays young Arthur back in time, and the older, current Arthur plays the rest of the supporting characters.

The film is told in real time. From the get-go, a crisis emerges, forcing Arthur to travel and locate all the necessary documents of a passed client named Alice Drablow in the town Crythin Gifford, where the people aren’t exactly welcoming.

The Rocking Chair

The rocking chair plays a large role in both the play and the film. Less information regarding the chair is given in the play, however. We see it in the play, we hear the terrible creaking noise throughout the play, and we know it’s located in the locked room that Arthur finds himself wanting to get into while he stays in the house.

The film builds on the story of the rocking chair. In film format, more allowances are given – we receive more background information by watching and listening. While the play offers viewers the same opportunities, the format is more limited in what it can show us, given that there’s fewer special effects. We learn in the film that the rocking chair served a big purpose in helping the woman in black commit suicide, by her standing on it in order to hang herself. Perhaps the chair creaks because her dead body fell on the chair when she hung herself. The film also includes far more items in the room, such as moving toys and a cymbal-playing monkey that reminded me of the one in the Phantom of the Opera.

Arthur

My comparison of the Arthur in the play from the one in the film moves into more subjective territory. The Arthur character painted in the play was far more fearful and reluctant than the one in the film. He was constantly on edge. Even as the actor who played young Arthur from the past, there was this great portrayal of fear that worked effectively to insert fear into viewers’ minds.

The Arthur in the film appeared less phased by the events happening. He seemed to have a greater confidence and desire to end the madness caused by the woman in black. He was more determined to meet the woman in black head on, rather than reluctantly face the cause of the noises in the house.

The Ending

If you haven’t realized already, this post is filled with SPOILERS. So if you haven’t seen the film, I’d recommend reading only what happens in the play and not the film, because the ending is incredibly different in the two formats. Since the play is really a play within a play, the woman in black seems to make appearances in both times. As viewers, we learn of her from the play within the play, but we notice that the actor (who is playing young Arthur) is recognizing her in real time – and making this idea evident to the older Arthur, who seems to wave him off (ironic?). In the end, we learn the woman in black is still around, because the final line of the play has the actor asking Arthur who the lady is that keeps lurking in the shadows.

The film offers an entirely different ending. Arthur has witnessed several children killed at the hand of the woman in black. The story goes that she kills children because according to the paperwork left behind, her own child died out in the marshes and his body was never recovered. She seems to seek to be reunited with her son, but she rather kill everyone else’s children to avenge his death. Arthur believes he has ended the woman in black’s curse by uncovering her dead son’s body and placing it on her bed, joining mother and son together. His four-year-old son has just arrived to meet Arthur in the city of Crythin Gifford, where the woman in black’s home resides. Arthur has decided that everything is finally over, so he and his son decide to take the next train home. But while Arthur is talking with someone, his son seems to have run off and is now walking in the train tracks while an incoming train is headed toward him. Arthur realizes it and suddenly jumps into the track to retrieve his son – and the train goes bustling into them. We’re not sure whether they made it out alive or not. We think they might have–and the film does a nice one over on us–until we realize that both father and son are dead. Need reassurance? Out from the back emerges the woman in black.

All that to say that the play’s ending is vastly different from the film’s ending: real time would not be plausible in its scenario if Arthur had died when he was young.

The strength of the story of “The Woman in Black,” I believe lies in the woman’s character. She remains the same in both formats. She never speaks, but she appears mysteriously throughout both. She’s very creepy, and she acts sort of like an angel of death, especially in the film.

Which do I prefer? I enjoyed both. They’re both incredibly different from one another, that I wouldn’t want to choose. They both work effectively in their own formats, and I enjoyed both for different reasons. I enjoyed all of the background information the film offered regarding the woman in black, but I appreciated how the play ended more than the film. Both seemed to suffer from a slightly laborious and long beginning, as mentioned in Dan the Man’s review on the film. I’d equally recommend both for viewing. I know there’s also a book (written by Susan Hill) on which the play was based off that shares similarities and differences with the play and the film.

Did you enjoy the film? What do you think of the differences? Would you have preferred the ending from the play or the film better?

Tim Burton’s Upcoming Projects

It has long been known that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on many films, from Burton’s latest take on Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to some of his 90s films such as Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow. Regardless of his take on whatever film, viewers can safely assume that it will be dark, edgy, weird and perhaps the combination of all those adjectives–unique.

This year, Burton has his name on three film projects going out the door: Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and a remake of the 1984 Frankenweenie.

Two years before its inception, the original Dark Shadows TV series creator Dan Curtis had a dream on a train and told it to the ABC network. Soon after, Curtis received the green light to begin the proejct, and from 1966 to 1971, Dark Shadows, pegged a gothic soap opera, aired on television.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, a synopsis of Burton’s film adaption of Dark Shadows:

In 1752, the Collins family sails from Liverpool, England to North America. The son, Barnabas, grows up to be a wealthy playboy in Collinsport, Maine and is the master of Collinwood Manor. He breaks the heart of a witch, Angelique Bouchard, who turns him into a vampire and buries him alive. In 1972, Barnabas is freed and returns to find his manor in ruin. It is occupied by dysfunctional descendants and other residents, all of whom have secrets.

Burton will serve as director and producer on the project, and it’s no surprise that Depp will be leading this cast, especially given the fact that as a child, he actually wanted to be Barnabas Collins. Aside Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, and Helena Bonham Carter will star. Danny Elfman, no stranger to working with Burton (Edward Scissorhands to name only one of the many), will be composing the soundtrack.

Although pictures have been leaked from the film since September of last year, Rotten Tomatoes recently posted three photos of the film on their site. Dark Shadows will be released in theaters on May 11, 2012.

Only a little over a month later, Burton’s second project, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, will be hitting theaters. Burton will be acting as producer along the film’s director, Timur Bekmambetov.

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the book the film is based off, adapted his novel for the screen as well. IMDB summarizes the film as follows:

President Lincoln’s mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers.

I’m very excited to see this film, although I’d like to take a crack at the book first. Grahame-Smith also put an interesting spin on the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice by inserting a few zombies and zombified-language of sorts, re-naming the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It is no wonder that Burton had a hand in bringing Abraham Lincoln to the film format.

In 1984, Walt Disney released Burton’s short film stop-motion animation film, Frankenweenie. Burton now is recapturing it, bringing it back to the big screen for a second time. The black and white film will be shot in 3D, which may serve the format well, given that it is stop-motion.

Frankenweenie will be the second stop-motion animation film under the direction of Tim Burton, Corpse Bride being his first. According to WikipediaFrankenweenie will pay ” homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein based on Mary Shelley’s book of the same name. In the film, a boy named Victor loses his dog and uses the power of science to bring it back to life. Once the others learn of his secret, they set out to create their own monsters, each based on their respective pets and personalities.”

Burton has written, directed, and produced Frankenweenie.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is set to be released on June 22, 2012. Frankenweenie will hit theaters October 5, 2012.

Trailer Friday – The Raven

When you hear the name John Cusack, you do not think character role. You do not think historical character, and you most certainly do not think historical character role. Why? Because it’s John Cusack. John Cusack is the guy in the rom coms, holding the stereo over his head to get the girl in Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything (1989) or leaving fate to decide his destiny in Serendipity (2001). Yes, Cusack has filled various roles over his long career, such as a Jewish art dealer in Max (2002) or as a puppeteer in the Oscar-nominated Being John Malkovich (1999). He’s even in dipped his toes in the screenwriting business when he co-wrote and starred in the political film War, Inc (2008).

No matter how you look at it though, his most well-known roles are romantic comedies or thrillers such as the over-the-top 2012 from 2009. Cusack is your everyman who looks and talks the same in just about everything he’s in. He’s usually very likable, but it seems like there’s often an “X-factor” that he’s lacking. Or maybe it’s that most of us are so accustomed to watching him play the underdog, that his talent is far more underrated. Born in Chicago, Cusack has retained a low profile, staying out of the media limelight.

And now we have this awesome trailer for The Raven, which actually came out in early October of last year. Perhaps I was sleeping or completely unaware of its release, but after a viewing, I was immediately pulled in. Now I have to see this movie. From the trailer, one can assume a few things:

–John Cusack is playing the legendary Edgar Allen Poe

–The movie is more of an action/thriller than a drama

–There’s a story being told here that is atypical of what many of us assume Edgar Allen Poe is about

Cusack’s done the thrillers before, as well as portrayed a writer in Stephen King’s adapted book-to-movie 1408 (2008), and now he’s playing the historically dark and edgy writer Edgar Allen Poe. As someone commented on the YouTube video, the movie appears to have a very Sherlock Holmes-like feel and look to it, as well as similar type story line.

Director James McTeigue is no stranger to the action genre, having assisted in directing both Matrix sequels (1999, 2003), V for Vendetta (2005), and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002). Watch for The Raven to open in theaters March 9.

Trailer Friday – The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black originally was a novel written by Susan Hill, which was later adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt. Six years after the book was published, in 1989, screenwriter Nigel Kneale wrote a TV movie version based off the play. Twenty-three years later, Daniel Radcliffe moves into full post-Potter mode to star in this horror movie directed by James Watkins, who is known more for his writing (The Descent: Part 2, Gone) then his only other film to have directed, Eden Lake.

Last fall, I was able to see the stage play that had only two actors on stage the entirety of the play, with the exception of the “lady in black” making silent, momentary appearances. I really enjoyed the play and the feeling of an old-time, well-structured horror story that worked well without the massive special effects and bright lights that many of today’s horror movies depend on to gain an audience.

From the looks of the trailer, it appears very similar to the play I saw, and I look forward to Radcliffe making his movie debut since Harry Potter. Check out the trailer below and let me know what you think of it!