Sweetheart (2019)

Sweetheart (2019)

Sweetheart posterDirected by: J.D. Hillard. Starring: Kiersey Clemons, Emory Cohen, Hanna Mangan Lawrence. Runtime: 1h 22 min. Released: October 15, 2019 (premiered at Sundance; January 28, 2019).

A mediocre survival horror-thriller that premiered at last year’s Sundance, Sweetheart blends Cast Away and creature feature, as Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) finds herself stranded alone on an island as she tries to survive and deal with a mysterious malevolent force.

There are some great moments in Sweetheart, especially our first look at the monster from afar – it’s a striking visual as a flare flies above the water and we see him out there and the film’s score sounds – but the film never lives up to its promise of the interesting idea. Stefan Duscio’s cinematography is strong and it looks well-manicured, but the storytelling side of it is vague.

Jenn doesn’t get much in terms of development as when we meet her, she washes up with another friend, Brad (Benedict Samuel), who immediately dies. Things get intriguing later when her boyfriend Lucas (Emory Cohen) and their friend Mia (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) shows up because it seems to promise some development, but it remains vague because of minimal dialogue.

The most we know about Jenn is that she’s a pathological liar so when she tells them there’s a monster on the island, it takes on the Boy Who Cried Wolf fable, but it’s Girl Who Cried Sea Monster. The film does not delve into its characters as much as it should.

There are multiple moments where the film hints at possible sub-plots, but writers J.D. Hilliard (who also directs), Alex Hyner and Alex Theurer shy away from it. In these instances, it’s because of their priority on action and not dialogue. I think J.D. Hilliard brings solid direction and tension here. We’re contained to the island, but it could have been really cool exploring the monster’s home, a small hole in the ocean’s floor.

Sweetheart articleThe film thrives on our fear of the unknown, so he never shows us, though there’s never a reason for Jenn to go inside and she also has no SCUBA gear. I think it would have been a scary scene – kind-of like when the protagonist investigates the villain’s basement.

In terms of acting, Kiersey Clemons is very good as the lead. I liked Emory Cohen in The Place Beyond the Pines and in Brooklyn, but man, I don’t know if it’s his dialogue here but some of his delivery is weak.  I also don’t think it’s a great character.

The film also has no boring moments, and the pacing feels brisk at 82 minutes. This doesn’t do enough with its characters (or story), but three fits better here than just one person stranded. It means a higher body count for the monster side of things. The monster movie aspect is the best part of Sweetheart, and the score keeps things exciting.

The monster isn’t necessarily scary in appearance – he looks like a cousin of Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water, just in a film like Predator – but when we don’t see him and only hear him, the horror is effective. When we see him, it’s not scary, but the monster scenes are fun.

I think the concept is also strong. Kiersey Clemons plays scared well because if there were a creature on my island that could just rip something apart within seconds… Ah, I’d also be trying to get the hell out of there. That’s the thing, though, she can’t really paddle out into the ocean because he’s out there, too. It’s a great concept – it just failed for me in execution.

Score: 50/100

29 Days of Romance: Review #6, Blue Valentine (2010)

29 Days of Romance: Review #6, Blue Valentine (2010)
Blue Valentine poster
IMDb

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel. Runtime: 1h 52 min. Released: December 29, 2010 (US limited release)

I had tweeted before watching this film that Blue Valentine is a first-time watch and I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready for it. That’s because I’ve heard that it’s a “feel-bad” movie. Truly, that’s why I haven’t seen this until now, but I thought it was about time I watched it because I like Derek Cianfrance as a director and this is apparently his best film.

However, I enjoy both The Place Beyond the Pines and even The Light Between Oceans better than this. This just isn’t a film that I was invested in. I find the concept intriguing as the film tells the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) as we see the start of their relationship and the process of them falling in love. These scenes are shown in flashbacks six years ago, as our characters are currently in the present where their current standing is further from a happy marriage.

The writing by Cianfrance and co-writers Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne is also seamless in its transitions for its flashbacks and it’s well-written in its contrast of scenes at the start of their relationship and where they currently stand. The dialogue is also strong in its realism and when the pair argues, it feels like a dance between Gosling and Williams. The best part of the film for me were the performances from Gosling and Williams. They’re raw and their performances near the end of the film is where they are at their most heartbreaking.

Blue Valentine article
Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine. (IMDb)

I think my big problem with this is just that the pacing is slow and I found it boring throughout. I liked the scenes of them falling in love and them in the past, but I just never fully clicked with the characters. They’re real, everyday people and while that makes the film feel realistic and allows for very raw performances. And while something like Marriage Story works for me for similar reasons, I thought that drama was captivating and I liked the characters. Here, I just didn’t connect to the characters as much as I wanted to and didn’t feel any emotional reactions to the story until 20 minutes left.

I’d like to talk a bit about what worked for me there, so spoiler alert.

The contrast of Dean trying to fight for their marriage edited with their wedding is great filmmaking. This is one of the points where it worked emotionally for me. Dean walking away and his daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka) chasing after him is also crushing. I think my favourite moment was the heat of anger for Dean when Cindy asks for a divorce and he takes his wedding ring off and throws it away. He then immediately goes through the bush looking for it. This scene worked best for me because it’s a knee-jerk reaction to losing everything, throwing it away and then realizing just what he’s done.

End of spoilers.

The arguments and negativity in the film and its sad story left me exhausted, and I’d be more exhausted if I were invested in these characters. The story here works, and the look of the film does too (with cinematography by Andrij Parekh), but there’s just something about it that underwhelmed me. It’s well-directed, well-acted and well-written but I didn’t like how I felt during this and I didn’t like the characters. It’s an anti-romance film that I appreciated more than enjoyed. However, that end credit sequence with the fireworks exploding over stills of the film is one of the most creative end credit sequences I’ve seen, so kudos for that.

Score: 50/100

Top 20 Films of 2013

This list is a lot late, but I still wanted to see a few more films before making my list. I still have a lot to go, but I’m pleased with the current Top 20 I have at the moment. I might do an article later in the year with an unofficial updated list, just to show how what films might have made the cut if I’d seen them before making the list. Without further ado, here’s my Top 20… I was going to have the whole list displayed in pictures, but the formatting was off for the first half so only the Top 10 are displayed with pictures.

20. Pain & Gain
19. The Kings of Summer
18. Spring Breakers
17. Dallas Buyers Club
16. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
15. The Place Beyond the Pines
14. Captain Phillips
13. Evil Dead
12. The Conjuring
11. The World’s End

10. The Way Way Back
10. The Way Way Back
9. 12 Years a Slave
9. 12 Years a Slave
8. This is the End
8. This is the End
7. Mud
7. Mud
6. The Hunger Games - Catching Fire
6. The Hunger Games – Catching Fire
5. Frozen
5. Frozen
4. Her
4. Her
3. About Time
3. About Time
2. Prisoners
2. Prisoners
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
1. The Wolf of Wall Street

 

Honourable mentions: Monsters University, Fast & Furious 6, 42, Saving Mr. Banks and The Great Gatsby


 

Now this is my bottom 5 of 2013…

The Lords of Salem
The fifth worst film of 2013: The Lords of Salem
The fourth worst film: The Hangover Part III
The fourth worst film: The Hangover Part III
Third worst: Movie 43
Third worst: Movie 43
Second worst: Grown Ups 2
Second worst: Grown Ups 2
The worst film of 2013 is... Scary Movie 5
The worst film of 2013 is… Scary Movie 5

 

Any thoughts on my thoughts? Sound off in the comments if you still want to do a bit of reminiscing of what 2013 had to offer! 🙂

 

Brief-ish Recap of 2013’s Movies So Far

2013 has been a decent year for movies, and it’s improving in both quality, and in regards of box office earnings. And I think it can only get better from here, at least in terms of quality. So far, I’ve seen 36 movies that have been released in 2013, and I’ve missed quite a few as well. Here is my post for the best and worst of 2013 so far. There is a top 10 list, and a bottom five list, and I will post my “Most anticipated movies of Second Half of the Year List” sooner than later. Here’s what I thought of what 2013 has had to offer so far…

The Best of the Year So Far
This is the End“, 2013’s Best Movie So Far & 2013’s Best Surprise

First, the top 10. I have listed the title and the original score in brackets. I’ve decided not to include little blurbs from each review, because that just might become tedious to read with so many titles. If you want to read my thoughts, click on the link to my review. (Note: You might notice that some scores are lower than others, but higher on the list – but that’s because they’ve grown on me since I’ve seen them, and are better than other movies in terms of quality.)

1. This is the End (91), 2. Monsters University (90), 3. 42 (90), 4. The Place Beyond the Pines (88), 5. Fast & Furious 6 (90), 6. Mud (86), 7. Evil Dead (88), 8. Pain & Gain (83), 9. Spring Breakers (75), 10. The Croods (83).

Here’s 11-15: 11. Star Trek Into Darkness (83), 12. The Great Gatsby (82), 13. Warm Bodies (80), 14. Now You See Me (80), 15. Iron Man 3 (80).

Here’s the rest of the movies I’ve seen, ranked from best to worst (in blocks of five, so it’s easier on the eyes): The Last Stand (80); World War Z (75)The Heat (75) Mama (78)20. Oz the Great and Powerful (75).

Epic (74)The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (73); Identity Thief (72); Olympus Has Fallen (70); 25. Snitch (71).

Oblivion (67); Gangster Squad (63)The Purge (57); Man of Steel (50)30. Admission (56), Safe Haven (54).

2013's Worst Movie So Far
Scary Movie 5“, 2013’s Worst Movie So Far (But I don’t think there will be a bigger shitfest this year). 

Here’s the List of Shame, the Bottom Five of the year: After Earth (40)Peeples (38); The Hangover Part III (25)Movie 43 (30); 36. Scary Movie 5 (0).

Here was my Top 12 Most Anticipated Movies of the First Half of the Year: 1. Monsters University; 2. The Place Beyond the Pines; 3. Identity Thief 4. Oz the Great and Powerful; 5. Gangster Squad; 6. 42; 7. Now You See Me; 8. Fast & Furious 6; 9. Man of Steel; 10. Oblivion11. The Purge: 12. Mud.

5 of my 12 most anticipated movies made the Top 10, and 6 made my top 15. “Oz the Great and Powerful” was only slightly satisfying. “Identity Thief”, and “Oblivion” were mildly disappointing. “Gangster Squad” was quite disappointing because it could have potentially been an Oscar contender, but it ended up not knowing if it wanted to be serious or just silly. It was a lightly entertaining gangster movie, apparently much like “The Untouchables”. I’d put “The Hangover Part III” in my Top 15 Anticipated of the First Half, so that is the biggest disappointment of the year because it just wasn’t funny. The third biggest disappointment would be “The Purge”, and the second would be “Man of Steel”.

"The Hangover Part III", 2013's Biggest Disappointment So Far
The Hangover Part III“, 2013’s Biggest Disappointment So Far

The best surprise of the year definitely has to be “This is the End”, even if I was quite excited for it. I knew it was going to be good, but not that good, and especially not movie of the year worthy. Out of the films I wasn’t anticipating at all, “World War Z” was probably the nicest surprise.

These are the movies I missed, but will be checking out. I’ve only included the ones I could envision myself either popping into the DVD player, watching online, or going out to the theater and watching: A Good Day to Die Hard, Aftershock, Antiviral, Before Midnight, Berberian Sound Studio, The Bling Ring, Byzantium, The Call, Dark Skies, Dead Man Down, The East, Frances Ha, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Ginger & Rosa, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Host, The Iceman, The Internship, The Kings of Summer, The Lords of Salem, Maniac, Much Ado About Nothing, Quartet, Room 237, The Sapphires, Side Effects, Song for Marion, Stand Up Guys, Stoker, To the Wonder, Trance, Upside Down, Upstream Color, Violet & Daisy, Welcome to the Punch, White House Down.

And finally, here are some statistics: 

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Average Score: 72.55

My Average Score: 69.22

IMDb Average Score: 66.05

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Average Score: 56.55

So there you have it… What’s your favourite movie of the year so far, and your least favourite? I won’t put a poll because there are just too many titles, so let me know in the comments!

May 3-5 Box Office Predictions: ‘Iron Man 3’

Iron Man 3Movies similar to Iron Man 3 open to an average $87.72 million. The first Iron Man opened to $98.62 million while the second opened to $128.12 million. The Marvel franchise has an established fan base, and this movie’s going to have one of the best opening weekends ever. The popularity of The Avengers has helped gain the Iron Man movies more fans, and this is the first Avenger-member super hero movie since the release of The Avengers, this same weekend last year. While this doesn’t stand much of a chance at matching The Avengers‘ record-shattering $207, 438, 708 opening, nor am I imagining it topping the number two opening weekend record of $169, 189, 427 held down by the eighth Harry Potter movie. Though, because of the franchise’s increased fan base thanks to The Avengers, and the fact that the excellent Ben Kingsley might attract older audiences, I can really visualize this topping The Dark Knight Rises‘ $160, 887, 295 (the third opening weekend all-time record) and finishing the weekend with $166, 016, 000.

Here’s how I see the top 10:

1. Iron Man 3: $166, 016, 000
2. Pain & Gain: $9, 595, 900
3. Oblivion: $8, 259, 800
4. 42: $6, 219, 950
5. The Croods: $4, 670, 500
6. The Big Wedding: $4, 360, 210
7. Mud: $2, 300, 000
8. G.I. Joe: Retaliation: $2, 200, 000
9. Scary Movie 51, 770, 305
10. Olympus Has Fallen: $1, 740, 000

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines

Release Date: March 29, 2013

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Stars: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes

Runtime: 140 min

When one thinks of an epic, they might think Titanic, Braveheart or maybe Avatar. Even though this doesn’t have huge sinking boats, large wars or stunning visual effects; this truly deserves to be called an epic.

Derek Cianfrance (of Blue Valentine fame) brings us an small-town epic called The Place Beyond the Pines; a thought-provoking and realistic tale of generational feuds, fathers and sons, and corruption. It’s set in the small town of Schenectady, New York, that follows two families over a period of fifteen years. It’s essentially a trilogy of tales, going from chapter to chapter.

Glanton is a stunt motorcycle rider who, after finding out he has a son named Jason, begins to rob banks as a way to provide for his son and his lover, Romina (Eva Mendes). He does with the assistance of his employer, an auto repair shop owner Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), and his superior motorcycle riding skills. His motivation for this is easy to understand as he wants to provide his son and he sees this as the best way fit. He’s a guy who has his priorities in order, even if it implies reckless behaviour and breaking the law time and time again.

Cross’s motivations are harder to comprehend. He’s an ambitious young cop who wants to make his way up in the police force in as little time as possible, as he’s following in his father’s footsteps. The corruption of the police force itself poses enticing decisions for the young rookie.

The strong third act is difficult to discuss without giving too much away, but there are a few things that can be said. It’s admirably carried by young, up and coming stars Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. Cohen plays a character that is an irritating kind-of Eminem-esque wannabe  but he is portrayed adequately and his character is essential to the film.

The third tale explores the idea of legacies and how one split-second decision can send incidental shockwaves through generations. It also explores fatherly influences in a beautiful way; which is a theme that is also highlighted with Glanton and Cross, where Cross has a father figure, and Glanton is the opposite. Corruption and personal gain is best explored in the middle act involving Bradley Cooper’s haunted character. Finally, the bond between fathers and sons and the lengths they’d go to in order to protect their young is very well explored. One of the most prominent themes is, though, is there are (usually) consequences for your actions, admirably said in the movie’s most memorable quote, “If you ride like lightning; you’re gonna crash like thunder.”

The epic crime drama shifts focus a lot, and since it is a trilogy of intertwining stories, it really feels like it could end at any point. In this way, it might work better as a book – but the narrative feels fresh. It’s still one of the lengthy film’s main faults, that the film feels like it’s just coming around the bend to its climax. Thankfully, the ambiguous and hopeful ending at the place beyond the pines is more than pleasing. Some of the characters’ motivations can be also hard to comprehend, but despite the movie’s faults, it’s engaging and it packs a mighty, emotional one-two punch.

The large and talented cast carries the movie extremely well. Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan (Am I the only one who thinks he’ll, at least, be an Oscar nominee someday?), Bruce Greenwood and Emory Cohen are among the cast, and they help carry the film and they make one heck of an ensemble. The tatted-up Gosling is by far the best of them all. The movie’s at its most booming and usually the most intense when he’s on-screen. He is most deserving of an Oscar nomination, and his powerful performance will remain one of the year’s most memorable. His character is as great and as mysterious as The Driver in Drive, and his performance is as good, if not better; he better not be overlooked by the Academy this time around. Even when he isn’t on-screen, his impact and legacy is felt. Other than Cooper and Gosling, DeHaan and Mendelsohn are the most notable. The score is also very memorable; with Mike Patton’s “The Snow Angel” playing in the background of some of the movie’s strongest and most emotionally sweeping scenes. Who woulda thunk one tune could be so haunting, but filled with such poignancy?

Gosling’s tale is by the far the strongest act of the three, Cooper’s sandwiched between in terms of quality, and DeHaan’s is the weakest, but saved by a fantastic ending. With an epic and beautiful drama like this, “weak” is used lightly – because it is by no means a bad act. They all just happen to pale in comparison to the act where Glanton is the focus. The intense crime drama is riddled with great performances, impressive writing, amazing emotional moments; and no matter how much the film may shift focus from story to story, all in a very lengthy flick, it all intertwines admirably in the end and Cianfrance never loses sight of his stunning and beautiful vision.

88/100

‘Oblivion’ Starts off Blockbuster Season with $37M

The following article is courtesy of Joe over at Two Dude Review. Also, I’m a part of a box office game with him and a few others (Nick of Cinematic Katzenjammer, Shane of FilmRehab, and Jason and Trevor, both of Movie Mavericks). It’s pretty fun, silly me for waiting until now to mention it. Trevor of Movie Mavericks has also started a user-friendly website called Box Office Ace where anyone can predict the box office. If you’re interested in predicting, just register and test your luck, it’s free and fun! 

Unlike last weekend, where the box office was off just a slight bit from the same weekend last year, this past weekend’s difference was significant. 2013′s weekend #16 was off by 18.1% compared to 2012, bringing the current year’s deficit back up to 11.3%. With some big names attached to Pain and Gain and Big Wedding this coming weekend offers a little bit of opportunity for ground to be made up, thanks in part to last year’s weak offerings for the same weekend. Unfortunately, after this weekend it’s going to take a lot of box office hits to match-up with the box office greatness that was The Avengers.

Opening at more than $37 million, Oblivion gave Tom Cruise his biggest opening weekend since Mission: Impossible III. The opening weekend figure may not seem all that impressive, when you take its $120 million budget into consideration. However, once you factor in Oblivion‘s $112 million haul overseas already, the film is a definite hit. Its ‘B-’ Cinemascore tells us that film wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t all that buzz worthy and Rotten Tomatoes pretty much echoes that sentiment with critic scoring the film 57% fresh and 68% of audience liking the film. IMDB’s 7.2 rating, however, indicates there is an audience for the film.

To go to any of my reviews, just click the link.

Title: Result — Prediction — Difference (Over/Under)
1. Oblivion: $37,054,485 — $38, 900, 000 ­– $1, 845, 515 over
2. 42: $17,721,410 — $20, 850, 000 — $3, 128, 590 over
3. The Croods: $9,235,295 — $8, 920, 000 — $315, 295 under
4. Scary Movie 5: $6,150,584 — $5, 420, 000 — $730, 584 under
5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation: $5,763,891 — $6M — $236, 109 over
6. The Place Beyond the Pines: $4,917,545 — $6.25M– $1, 332, 455 over
7. Olympus Has Fallen: $4,475,543 — $4.9M — $424, 457 over
8. Evil Dead (2013)$4,112,001 — $4, 500, 000 — $387, 999 over
9. Jurassic Park 3D: $4,054,285 — $5, 000, 000 — $945, 715 over
10. Oz The Great and Powerful: $3,004,644 — $2.8M — $204, 644 over

Total difference for one (1) new release: $1, 845, 515

Total difference for nine (9) holdovers: $7, 705, 848