Friday, April 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Shining

       A few years ago, my parents went out somewhere, and I was left at home for the day with my best friend keeping me company.  We ended up renting a movie from the video store’s horror section and watched it together as we ate lunch.  As the movie progressed, I slowly came to realize that this movie was sent from above.  There just didn’t seem to be enough words to describe how ridiculously amazing it was.  For that reason, the moment I thought about writing a review for this movie, I realized I absolutely had to do so.  And maybe that way, I can refer people to the review next time they look at me funny when I mention this movie needing a laugh track.  The movie I am referring to is none other that Stanly Kubrick’s cinematic opis, The Shining.

Let’s start off with talking about the trailer for this movie.  Because as everyone knows, trailers are meant to draw you in and give you an idea of what the movie is about.  However, this is one of the trailers I can’t find much to say about.  As the trailer plays, we’re treated to some rather creepy sounding music as the camera focuses on a still shot of a pair of elevators.  What’s particularly attention-grabbing here is that the elevator doors are painted a dull red color.  Not the sort of thing you see every day, since all the elevator doors I’ve seen to date range from silvery-grey to dull gold.  (Unless you count the glass elevators, but that is neither here nor there).  As we’re left to stare at these elevators, the movie’s title pans across the screen, along with some other information, including about how the movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and how it stars Jack  Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.  The moment the last credit rolls by, the elevator doors open, and a large amount of blood pours out, flooding the room.  And that’s all we’re allowed to see.  All-in-all, this trailer is more along the lines of what you'd expect to see in the opening credits to a movie, or maybe an episode of Tales from the Dark Side.  The trailer is about as far from a real trailer as you can possibly get.

            So, let’s move on to the actual movie itself.  We open to a bunch of aerial shots of a lake bordered by mountains before switching immediately to a lone car driving along an otherwise deserted road that navigates through the mountains.  You better get used to seeing the car, because that’s all you see for the entire duration of the opening credits.  That seems to be a recurring theme in movies, doesn’t it?  One day, someone should do a tally about how many movies feature opening credits that focus over a stretch of road that’s only occupied by one solitary car.  I really want to know the precise number, because I’m sure it’s a pretty impressive one.  But I digress.  Once the credits end and the actual movie starts, we see Jack Nicholson’s character entering a hotel lobby and promptly telling the woman at the front desk that he’s here for an interview with Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, which is called the Overlook Hotel.  We’re also told that the name of Jack's character’s is Jack Torrance.  (So Jack is playing Jack?  Bet it was really easy for him to remember his character name in this movie.) 
Right after Jack is brought to Mr. Ullman’s office, there’s a sudden jump-cut (get used to those) to Jack’s family, who are back in their apartment eating lunch, enabling us to meet J ack’s wife,Wendy, played by Shelly Duvall, and their son, Danny.  We also are somewhat introduced to Tony.  As far as Danny’s parents are concerned, Tony is simply Danny’s imaginary friend, but according to Danny, Tony is a little boy who lives in his mouth.  But don’t bother trying to find him, because Tony will hide in his stomach if you try to do so.  Personally, I would think this should have at least caused his parents to hesitate a bit before chalking Tony up as just an imaginary friend.  The whole thing about living in your mouth and hiding in your stomach seems like a pretty elaborate description for a child to give to an imaginary friend.  But then again, maybe I’m not giving enough credit to the imaginations of children with imaginary friends, seeing as I’ve never experienced or witnessed the imaginary friend phenomena in person.
Anyway, as Wendy and Danny eat their sandwiches, Tony tells Wendy that he doesn’t want to go to the Overlook, but won’t give a reason why.  I probably should address this.  Normally, when kids have imaginary friends, they have to tell their parents what the imaginary friend says.  You know, stuff like “Mr. Cuddles would like some ice cream.”  In Danny and Tony’s case, Tony literally speaks through Danny.  Although, when it’s Tony who is talking, Danny’s voice comes out as a rough croak.  The fact that Tony is displaying a characteristic that doesn’t coincide with other imaginary friends probably should tip off the Torrance family that Tony’s something a bit more.  But again, I refer to my statement on how I might not know much about the extent of a child’s imagination.
Once we’ve established that Tony doesn’t want to go to the hotel, we return to the Overlook, where Jack is in the middle of his interview.  Jack, it turns out, is going to look after the Overlook during the winter.  Since it’s too expensive to keep the long mountain road that leads up to the hotel clear of snow during the winter months, the Overlook is always closed between October and May.  Jack is looking forward to the job, and announces that the isolation tied to the position will be most welcome as he’s working on a new novel and would appreciate having no distractions.  During the interview, Jack, and the audience, is told of an incident that occurred at the hotel in the 1970s.  The caretaker of that time, Charles Grady, suffered a mental breakdown and killed his wife and two daughters with an axe before shooting himself with a shotgun.  Well, that’s something you want your caretaker to know about during an interview.  I kinda would have liked to see some brief shots of other caretaker candidates, exiting the office to run screaming towards the hills.  That would have been entertaining to see.
Back in the Torrance apartment, Danny is trying to ask Tony why he does not want to go to the hotel, and Tony still refuses to explain.  However, when Danny pushes the issue, Tony somehow gives Danny a vision of the blood-filled elevators that were featured in the trailer, as well as a brief image of twin girls in identical dresses.  In the very next scene, we see Wendy talking to a woman who I guess we’re supposed to conclude is a nurse Wendy called after Danny suddenly passed out after receiving Tony’s vision.  During this conversation between Wendy and the unnamed nurse, we’re told that a while back, Jack had been out drinking and came home in a bad temper.  In his drunken state, Jack accidentally injured Danny by dislocating his shoulder.  After that incident, Jack swore he’d never drink another drop of alcohol ever again.  In addition, that was also when Tony made his first appearance.
            We now move on to the day when the Torrance family arrives at the hotel.  During the drive, they end up choosing to talk about the Donner party, which is a rather odd topic of discussion considering they’re going to be completely cut off from the outside world for a few months. Something that astounds me about this scene is the fact that Wendy starts to scold Jack for explaining to Danny who the Donner party was, even though she was the one who brought it up in the first place.   Really, lady, did you seriously think your son wouldn’t ask questions about it?   Asking questions about unfamiliar terms is practically a requirement for children Danny’s age.  Even someone like me who has no real experience with children knows that.  Think before you speak, Wendy.
Shortly after arriving, Mr. and Mrs. Torrance are given a tour of the hotel.  During this tour, it’s revealed that the hotel was built on an old Indian burial ground.  Really, people, that’s the BIGGIST no-no of construction that you can possibly make.  Anyone who puts up a building of any kind over a place where people, particularly Native Americans, are buried is just asking for trouble from the other side.  You’re seriously telling me that none of the people who originally built the hotel stopped and said ‘hey, this might be really, really stupid?’  Also, there’s another one of those pesky jump-cuts during the tour.  In this jump-cut, we see Danny, who has been left alone to play darts in the Overlook’s game room.  His game is interrupted when he sees the same twin girls from Tony’s vision standing in the room with him.  Danny, however, appears completely unrattled by this.
            During this point in the movie, we also meet Dick Hallorann, the hotel’s head chef.  He’s played by Scatman Crothers, who you might remember from the 1976 movie, Silver Streak.  While Jack goes off with Mr. Ullman to discuss some stuff, Dick takes Wendy and Danny to the kitchen to show them around some more.  Unbeknownst to Wendy, Dick reveals to Danny that he can communicate with him telepathically.  It turns out that Dick and Danny both have an ability called The Shining, which, from what I gather, is like a sixth sense, and Tony is a manifestation of this sixth sense.  Danny asks Dick if there’s something bad at the hotel, but instead of giving a straight answer, Dick explains that sometimes, an event can leave a trace of itself behind, and only people with the Shining ability can see these traces.  At the same time, Dick specifically instructs Danny to stay out of Room 237.

            Cut to a month later, where the movie treats us to some pointless padding.  For example, you see Wendy pushing a cart of food through the hotel lobby and taking it up to Jack to serve him breakfast in bed.  But placed in the middle of this scene is a long shot of Danny riding a plastic tricycle through the hotel.  There is absolutely no point to those scenes that I can see.  I mean, granted that when Jack gets his breakfast, he does tell Wendy how he keeps getting déjà-vu in the Overlook, but the two scenes of Wendy pushing the cart and Danny on his tricycle contributed absolutely nothing to the movie.  They could have been left out completely.  The same could be said to the scene immediately afterwards, when we’re treated to a real nail-biting scene that shows Wendy and Danny walking through a large hedge maze while Jack procrastinates from his writing by wandering through the hotel throwing a ball around.  Once again, absolutely nothing happens at all, and the scenes could have been significantly shortened down.  I get that those scenes are included to establish the fact that there's a hedge maze on the hotel grounds and that Jack's not really focusing on his novel, but the scenes in question really overstay their welcome, and it gets to the point where you just want to tell the movie to get on with it. 

In fact, there’s one scene sometime later where Jack is just staring into space aimlessly.  Out of curiously, I actually timed this scene and clocked it in at a whole 27 seconds.  That’s 27 seconds of nothing but Jack making a weird derp face at the camera.  Riveting, although I guess I should be grateful it wasn’t longer.

            Thrown in amongst these foam peanut scenes is our first indication that Jack really is a pretty rotten guy at the core, even when he hasn’t been drinking.  It starts with Wendy having a conversation with the police department in town using this CB radio.  And this scene never fails to make me laugh with how many times they say ‘over’ while talking on the radio.  I understand how saying ‘over’ when you're talking through a CB radio is something of a requirement, but for some reason, hearing them use that word so much in this scene strikes me as extremely funny.  But again, I digress.  
            During their conversation, the police officer tells Wendy that a bad storm is approaching, and instructs her to keep the radio on at all times, just in case.  After ending her talk with the police, Wendy comes in to visit Jack in his designated work room to see how he’s doing on his novel and tell him about the storm.  She even offers to bring him some sandwiches later on so he can eat while he works.  Perfectly innocent stuff like that.  But Jack responds by being downright nasty to her, verbally bashing her for even being in the same room as him.  He even straight up swears at her.  What makes this scene even more sickening is that Wendy just lets her husband get away with treating her like crap and basically walks off with her tail between her legs.  It just makes you wonder if Wendy is used to having her husband verbally abuse her like this.  She really comes across as a mousy and timid woman who willingly allows people to walk all over her and is incapable of standing up for herself because she’s spent too much time being dragged down.
            Anyway, during this time, we get two more scenes of Danny back on his tricycle, just pedaling through the hotel unsupervised.  In the first of these two scenes, Danny finds himself outside of Room 237, the room Dick told him to never enter.  Even though Danny gets off his tricycle and touches the doorknob momentarily, he heeds Dick’s warning and gets back on his tricycle.  It’s not until the third time we see Danny on his tricycle that we get that iconic scene of Danny turning around the corner and seeing the twin girls again.  The twins, utilizing that creepy talking in unison thing, ask Danny to come play with them 'forever and ever and ever'.  Even creepier is that during this scene, we get brief macabre flashes of the same twin girls lying in a pool of their own blood, having just been killed by the axe.  (Apparently, these twins are supposed to be the daughters of that Charles Grady guy.)  In horror, Danny covers his eyes, and when he looks again, the twins are gone.  Tony reassures Danny, reminding him that Dick told them it wasn’t real, and were just like pictures in a book.

            Time for yet another dialogue scene.  Danny goes into the hotel room he and his parents are occupying to get his fire truck, being very quiet so he won’t wake up Jack who had only gone to bed a few hours earlier.  Only, Jack is not even lying down and simply sitting on the foot of the bed.  It’s revealed that Jack is not sleeping because ‘he has too much to do.’  During this scene, Jack tells Danny he wants them to stay there 'forever and ever and ever,' (now where have we heard that before?) right before promising that he’d never do anything to hurt Danny.  However, Jack has this really creepy grin on his face that makes him look unhinged the whole time.  Yeah, that grin doesn't give this entire scene a creepy overtone at all, does it?
            Shortly afterward, Danny is playing with his cars in an empty hallway when a ball rolls up out of nowhere.  When he goes to try and figure out where the ball came from, he discovers that the door to Room 237 has been left open.  Forgetting Dick’s warning, Danny goes in.  But like most of the other scenes in this movie, this one also ends abruptly.  This whole entire movie is like a drive-by of randomness, with each scene switching to a new one as soon as they start.  Did the entire camera crew have ADD?
Anyway, Wendy, while checking on the Overlook’s boilers, hears Jack screaming and runs into his workroom to find him having a nightmare.  When Jack wakes up, he tells Wendy that in his nightmare, he ended up killing both Wendy and Danny.  As Wendy tries to comfort the shaken Jack, Danny slowly walks into the room, seemingly in a trace and sucking on his thumb.  To top it off, there’s a large bruise on his neck.  Wendy immediately accuses Jack of hurting Danny and runs off.  Now, the logical reaction would be for Jack to try to defend himself and insist on his innocence.  But, of course, we’re supposed to know that Jack’s gone completely cuckoo by now and he therefore just sits there, not saying a single word to refute the accusations as Wendy runs off.  He then walks off into the ballroom, where he has his first visual hallucination that we can see.  Out of nowhere, there’s a bartender standing there, and he serves Jack a drink of some kind.  Jack vents to the bartender about how his wife won’t just go of the incident mentioned earlier, the one when Danny’s shoulder was dislocated.  As if hearing Jack trying to defend his actions on that day and act like he was the victim in that situation wasn’t bad enough, he even refers to Wendy as a sperm bank.  Wow, this guy. Every word out of his mouth just screams abusive husband.
Jack’s crazed ramblings are interrupted when Wendy runs in, visibly scared.  She tells Jack that Danny told her a crazy woman had broken into the hotel, and it was this woman who hurt Danny.
            Immediately, we cut back to Dick, who is back in his home watching a report on the TV.  And as my friend pointed out when we saw this movie for the first time, his room is filled with pictures of naked woman with afros.  Umm, that seems like a rather weird decision by the people who designed the sets.  What exactly were they going for here?  Anyway, as Dick is watching TV, he gets a vision via the Shining, telling him what’s going on in the hotel.  Jack enters room 237, and enters into the greenest bathroom I’ve ever seen.  Out of nowhere, a young woman appears, stepping out of the bathtub, completely naked.  Jack, despite the fact that all evidence points to how this woman may have been the one to hurt his son, proceeds to make out with this naked woman, further proving how much of a vile person Jack is.  As he’s making out with this naked woman, she morphs into a horribly ugly old woman whose skin is well into the stages of rotting away.  In horror, Jack stumbles out of Room 237 and returns to his family’s room.  Jack tells Wendy he didn’t see anything, and suggests that maybe Danny gave himself the bruise around his neck.  Out of concern for their son, Wendy suggests that it might be best to take Danny away from the hotel so he can be seen by a doctor.  However, Jack gets verbally violent again, and begins to yell at Wendy for even suggesting leaving, accusing her of always ruining everything before storming out of the room.
            Okay, so let’s go to the checklist for this guy. Gets violent when he’s drunk, check.  Verbally abusing and slandering his wife, check.  Kissing another woman who may have tried to strangle his son, check.  Putting his own needs before those of his only child, check.  Ladies and gentleman, we officially have a despicable, deplorable man on our hands.
            After Jack marches off, he has another hallucination, which involves a grand party being held in the ballroom.  During this hallucination, Jack enters into a bathroom that’s been painted a very glaring shade of red. What exactly is up with the bathrooms being painted such vibrant colors in this movie?  First it’s the green bathroom with the naked woman, and now it’s the bright red bathroom. Are these colors supposed to be some kind of symbolism?  And why do the glaring colors only appear the bathrooms?

            Anyway, it’s in this hallucination that Jack meets a butler who identifies himself as Delbert Grady.  When Jack tries to get Delbert to admit how he’s Charles Grady, the caretaker at the Overlook who murdered his family, Delbert insists that Jack has always been the caretaker of the Overlook.  However, Delbert does inform Jack about how Danny is trying to use the Shining to call Dick back to the hotel.  In addition, Delbert talks about how his two girls once disliked the Overlook so much, they tried to burn it down with matches.  This led to Delbert ‘correcting’ them, also ‘correcting’ his wife when she tried to stop him.
            Back in their rooms, Wendy is giving herself a pep talk, hoping to encourage herself to stand her ground about leaving the hotel, deciding that she and Danny will leave without Jack if he refuses to go with them.  She’s interrupted by the sound of Danny, who has now been completely possessed by Tony, chanting the word ‘Redrum’ over and over again.  In spite of Wendy’s best methods, she cannot revive Danny, and Tony even tells her that ‘Danny’s gone away.’
            What follows are a few scenes that show Jack removing a few parts from the CB radio that connects the hotel to the outside world, as well as Dick attempting to return to the Overlook, fueled by his concern for Danny and his family, even if it means braving a harsh winter storm.
            Back at the Overlook, Wendy goes to talk to Jack, but in doing so, she finds that he has not been working on his novel this whole time.  Instead, he’s been spending this entire time writing page after page of the phrase, ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ repeated over and over again, indicating that he’s been bonkers for a very long time.  As Wendy is making this discovery, Jack appears behind her and proceeds to intimidate, belittle, and patronize her before announcing his intention to kill her.

            And here is when we see that perhaps Wendy might actually have a backbone after all.  Even though she spends a long time whimpering and waving a bat around pathetically as Jack continues his threats, she eventually manages to connect with Jack’s head, knocking him out.  Before Jack regains full consciousness, she even locks him into the kitchen’s walk-in pantry.  Unfortunately, she’s too late, as Jack has already sabotaged the Snowcat, making it impossible for Wendy to use it to leave.  Jack even trashed the CB radio, so Wendy can’t even call for help.
            Sometime later, while Wendy is sleeping in their personal room in the hotel, Danny, who’s still possessed by Tony, uses Wendy’s lipstick to write ‘Redrum’ on the bathroom door, all while chanting that word repeatedly.  The moment he’s finished writing his message, he starts screaming ‘Redrum.’  As he’s screaming this, Tony’s voice is replaced by Danny’s, indicating that Danny is no longer possessed.  In addition, Wendy wakes up and is shocked to find Danny standing there with a large knife in his hand.  As she takes the knife from him and tries to tend to her son, she happens to glance at the mirror and sees the ‘Redrm’ message reflected in the glass.  It is only now that we see that ‘Redrum’ is ‘Murder’ spelled backwards.

            Meanwhile, Jack had managed to escape from the walk-in pantry with the help of Delbert Grady.  This makes you question if all those hallucinations really were hallucinations.  If Jack was only seeing those people in his head, then how could they unlock the door?  Come on movie, don’t leave us in the dark. 
The instant the ‘Redrum/Murder’ thing is revealed, Jack initiates his attack by chopping down the hotel room door with an ax.  Wendy and Danny make it to the bathroom in their attempt to escape, but only Danny can make it to safety as Wendy is unable to get through the bathroom window.  This forces Wendy to give us a second sign that she’s only meek because of the constant presence of her husband.  Just as it looks like Jack will manage to get into the bathroom, she attacks him with the large knife she’d taken from Danny.  Luckily, before Jack can retaliate, Dick returns to the Overlook.  As Jack leaves the hotel room, Dick wanders through the lobby, calling out ‘Hello? Anyone here?’ repeatedly every few seconds.  Okay, Dick.  I understand you’re worried, but it’s not as if you’re a stranded passerby whose car broke down, and you’re ducking into the Overlook trying to find a phone.  As the head cook and employee of the hotel, I’m sure you know perfectly well where the room that’s occupied by caretaker is located.  Wouldn’t the sensible thing be to go right up there instead of skulking around in the lobby?  I mean, unless I'm mistaken, this is either late at night or early morning, and therefore they might be in bed at that point.
            Unfortunately, Dick is killed by the axe-wielding Jack, and Danny, who is hiding nearby, witnessed the murder via the Shining and starts screaming.  Danny’s scream alerts Jack to Danny’s presence, and to try and avoid being found; Danny abandons his hiding place and runs off.  (Which would be fine if he didn’t abandon his hiding place in full view of his father!  Stupid kid.)
            And that brings us to the biggest piece of insanity in this movie.  While all this has been going on, Wendy’s off wandering through the hotel, seemingly aimlessly, looking for Danny.  As she searches, she comes across one of the most visually scarring scenes ever.  Upon reaching the top of a set of stairs, Wendy manages to bear witnesses to some guy in a bear costume, performing what appears to be oral sex on a guy in a tux.  You heard me right.  Guy in a bear costume!  And if that wasn’t shocking enough, the camera quickly zooms in, making sure we’re even more confused.  Not to mention scared on a lot of levels.

            Meanwhile, Jack has followed Danny outside, where the storm is raging.  Danny takes refuge in the large hedge maze with Jack in hot pursuit.  Danny manages to loose Jack by cleverly making it appear like his footprints have stopped abruptly while erasing the footprints that reveal he’s really hiding behind one of the hedges a little ways back. (I take back my stupid kid comment.)  Anyway, poor Wendy, who is no doubt scarred for life after coming across Dick’s bloody body, seeing a ghost with a gaping head wound, finding a roomful of cobwebs and skeletons, all before coming across that blasted blood-filled elevator, gets out of the hotel and reunites with Danny.  They escape together using the snowcat poor Dick had used to drive up to the Overlook, leaving Jack behind as he continues to wander through the hedge maze, screaming into the night.

Bwahhhaha!  That’s not an exaggeration, either.  That was my actual reaction to this scene upon my initial viewing of this movie, and all subsequent viewings as well.  That’s an even bigger derp face than the one that lasted 27 seconds earlier on.  Right after that image of the dead  frozen Jack, we cut back to the hotel, as we slowly zoom in to a picture taken at the hotel back in 1921s.  BIG SHOCK!  Jack Torrance is right there in the forefront, revealing, I guess, that he’s stuck in some sort of reincarnation loop, and returns to the hotel in each of his lives, with that Charles Grady person being one of those reincarnations.
            So that was The Shining.  Was it scary? Meh.  Was it silly beyond belief?  Yes it was.  Did I like it?  You bet I did.  The whole movie is just so bizarre, you can’t help but love it.  Half the time, you’re not even sure what it is you’re even looking at.  I get that it’s supposed to psychological horror and all, and we’re supposed to be left wondering if all the weird stuff was actually happening, if it was all just in Jack’s head, or a combination of the two possibilities, but good grief, there’s such a thing as using too much symbolic visuals in movies.  I really think that Kubrick put WAY too much effort into the artistry of camera angles and set design and not enough on the actual story. What's with the oddly-colored bathrooms?  What's with all the perfectly symmetrical set designs?  Horror movies kind of loose their scare factor when you need to constantly reference the movie’s cliff notes to understand all the nuances.  This is a horror movie, not an interpretive art exhibit.  Don’t be so artsy-fartsy about it, okay?
            Then, there’s the constant use of jump-cuts.  Kubrick must not have heard of the benefits of a seamless transition when he directed this film.  The entire movie was filled with quick scenes that were slapped right in the middle of longer scenes.  It’s particularly irritating when the quick scenes don’t even go anywhere.  Combine this with the scenes that just overstay their welcome, and it’s a wonder that the audience didn’t go completely bonkers like Jack.
Also, there’s the fact that the whole angle with Jack apparently loosing his mind due to the isolation and trying to murder his family in a state of madness doesn’t have the impact it was obviously intended to, especially since there’s more than enough signs to indicate that Jack was always an abusive timebomb, even before he set foot in the Outlook.  I mean, why else would Wendy take a passive backseat whenever Jack verbally assaults her, or act so terrified of standing up to him when Danny’s mental health is in question?  The only conclusion I can make is that she’s always been dragged down by her husband.  Hopefully, now that she’s free from him and his abusive influence and has to become a single parent to Danny, she’ll slowly start becoming a stronger woman.  (Remember ladies, if your husband starts trying to bring you down and attacking your self esteem, just pack your bags.  No matter what he might say to you, you do NOT deserve to be treated like that.)
            Anyway, despite all these problems, The Shining is still a movie that should be on everyone’s must-see list.  I guarantee that even if you’re only seeing it for the awesomely epic craziness, it’s well worth it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Introduction and Movie Review

Welcome to  Tome and Flick Corner.  I have been thinking about creating this blog for quite a while, and today, I have decided to make it a reality.  Here, I hope to post my personal reviews and thoughts on various movies, with the occasional book report thrown in.  And I feel that I should make it known that I will accept review requests.  So if there is a particular movie or book you think I should post a review for on this blog, please don't hesitate to say so.

However, if you do decide to make a review request, I humbly ask that you keep in mind that I have a set criteria, and there are three types of movies I generally refuse to watch, which are listed as follows:

1)Movies that I classify as 'Cut-em-up' films.  Examples of movies in this category include the Hostel and Saw franchise.  Now, please don't misunderstand me, because I do enjoy the slasher films from the 1980s era, such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.  But when it comes to the movies that pretty much advertise themselves as bloodbaths filled with people getting tortured, I draw the line.  The reason for this is because I do think stuff like that really does happen in real life, and I don't feel like we should be desensitized to it.  You are free to disagree with me, but that's where I stand.
2)Movies with extremely graphic sex scenes.  I can handle a sex scene when it's done right, but if the movie starts moving into pornography territory, that's when I walk out of the cinema.  Call me a prude if you want, but I'm simply not comfortable with the thought of actually seeing a actor or actress' private areas on-screen.
3)Horror movies with bad endings.  While I realize that this most likely takes a big chunk out of the horror genre, I simply don't understand the entertainment value when the monster or ghost wins in horror movies.  I find it completely depressing when everything the protagonist(s) did to survive the movie proves to be in vain in the end.  When the movie ends on that kind of note, I find myself questioning what the point of the movie even was.  Although, for the record, I can be convinced to be more lax on this third criteria, as long as people remember that I won't budge in regards to the first two.

So, now that I've gone into a bit about what this blog will be about, let me start things off by posting my first Tome & Flick review.  Since this will be my first installment, I thought it would be best to start things off with a bang.  And what better way to do that than to review what is quite possibly one of the worst movies ever made.  And when I say this movie is bad, that isn’t just my opinion.  Just about everyone who has seen this particular piece of drivel has also described it as such.  So, what movie have I chosen to cover in my first-ever review?  None other than…….

Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue.

Now, as a kid, I loved Don Bluth’s masterpiece, the Secret of NIMH.  It actually got me to the point where I wanted to be a mouse.  And to this day, it remains one of my favorite movies.  So when I was watching the Disney Channel one day, a few years back, I saw them advertising a movie entitled Secret of NIMH 2.  When I saw that advert, my curiosity was instantly peaked.  They made a sequel to one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of animated movies?  This I gotta see!  Thus, I set the VCR (this was in the days when we needed a blank VHS cassette to record shows) to record the movie when it aired that night.  However, as I began watching it the next day, I slowly came to realize that I would regret it ever since.

As the movie begins, we’re treated to a bit of stock footage taken from the original movie.  In this prologue, we’re once again told about how NIMH once collected a bunch of rats and mice and conducted experiments on them, resulting in the rodents gaining enough intelligence to read and escape from NIMH, which they were able to do so with the help of one of the mice, Jonathan Brisby.  (Although, in this prologue, they spoke of Jonathan’s ‘incredible bravery.’  Looking back, I have to raise an eyebrow at this.  How does opening the locked door on the roof require bravery?  The only reason Jonathan was the one that opened the door was because the rats were too big to do so.)  Anyway, we’re then told that Nicodemous, the wise old rat who had been the leader of the rats in the first film, had made a prediction that they would one day face NIMH again, and Jonathan’s son would save them.  To be fair, while I do think at the time I found it odd that they called Nicodemus a prophet, I decided to let that little bit of confusion slide.  After all, it was probably just some sort of creative license the movie writers were taking, right?

And on that note, our main story begins. And once it does, I was completely shocked. The whole realism of the first movie had gone up in smoke. In the first movie, the animation was incredible, and you could tell the production crew had worked rather hard to make the characters move in a realistic way. The colors used also gave it that realistic feel that just draws you in. But in this movie, we're treated to a very bright and cheery world that looks animated. To make matters worse, Timothy and Martin are in the middle of a chariot race with rabbits acting as their horses. Even with suspended belief, there is NO WAY you are going to get me to buy that. That should have been the warning sign to me that I should just turn the stupid movie off right then and there, but apparently, I was a glutton for punishment.

So, anyway, after the far-fetched chariot race, which is interrupted by Timothy getting caught in a trap set by NIMH scientists, forcing Martin to save him, we're treated to something somewhat enjoyable and believable: the brotherly love moment between Timothy and Martin, as they have their last moments together before Timothy is to head off to Thorn Valley, where he's supposed to learn how to prepare for the day when he’ll fulfill the above-mentioned prophesy. While Martin displays his jealousy that Timothy was chosen instead of him at first, he quickly shifts gears upon seeing how upset Timothy is and tries to boost his brother's confidence.  Shortly after this, we get to see the rest of the Brisby family, as well as Auntie Shrew, who have gathered to see Timothy off.  And they're all there, too, although they've all been drawn to appear older than they did in the first movie, which is clearly meant to indicate some time has passed.  Mrs. Brisby is now starting to show some gray hairs and has obtained some bifocals. Teresa looks a bit older but is still generally the same.  But then, there's Cynthia.  Or rather, what is supposed to be Cynthia, because there is little to no similarity that I can see.  If it wasn't for the fact that there was no other character that chubby overall-wearing mouse could have been, I would never have believed that it was her.

After tearful goodbyes to his family, Timothy gets a ride to Thorn Valley on the back of Jeremy, his mother's crow friend. Once Timothy and Jeremy leave, Martin angrily vents to his mother his annoyance that Timothy was selected and not him, using his status as the older and stronger brother as his reason why he should have been chosen instead.  And who do you think defends the decision the rats made by picking Timmy?  Auntie Shrew.  Yes, that’s right, Auntie Shrew defending the rats of NIHM.  This brings us to our first sign of major continuity issues. In the first movie, Auntie Shrew HATED the rats, and to our knowledge, she never gets over her prejudice.  But here, she's talking about Nicodemus as if he was the greatest creature who ever lived. What gives?

Anyway, Martin runs off in a huff, and we switch back to Timothy and Jeremy, who are just arriving in Thorn Valley.  It is here that we're treated to the first song and dance number. Yes, the sequel has been reduced to an animated musical. However, the song aside, I’ll admit that I'm rather impressed with some of the things they have done in Thorn Valley. The rats of NIMH really are super smart, and they did a pretty good job in establishing a rodent city and farmland in Thorn Valley. On the other hand, I have huge problems towards the end of the song. First of all, Mr. Ages is there. Why? He's the main medical expert from the farm where the Brisby family lives. With him gone, who are the sick animals going to turn to? Also, where's the amulet? You remember that super-cool amulet? The one Mrs. Brisby says she gave to Justin at the end of the first movie? Where is it? It's disappeared off the face of the earth, apparently. As a kid, I WANTED that amulet with a passion, mostly because I thought it was extremely pretty, and I even tried to recreate it a few times without much success. Not having it make at least a tiny appearance in this movie was a major let down.
(Also, has anyone else noticed this?  At the very end of this musical number, when Timothy is having all those gifts thrown at him, you see Martin, or his long-lost twin, in the crowd! Was he supposed to be there, or were the animators just getting lazy at that point?) 

So, now Timothy has been welcomed into Thorn Valley, and Justin and Mr. Ages become his teachers, instructing him in the skills he'll need to fulfill this prophecy. However, Justin states that no one knows what Timothy is supposed to do. That kinda makes their lessons seem like a waste of time, but I suppose they want their savior to be ready for anything. But now, we suddenly forget about this great prophesy. After Timothy gets rid of a snake that's gotten into Thorn Valley, Mr. Ages ends up talking to him about NIMH, to which Timothy asks 'What's NIMH?'

WHAT???? How could he forget that? Isn't NIMH the whole reason why he's here? Mr. Ages, however, doesn't remind him about that, and just prays Timothy won't find out. I swear, everyone must have fallen on their heads and suffered amnesia at one point. They don’t mention the prophesy again until the very end. I believe someone once theorized that the prophesy was just invented by the rats of Thorn Valley, in order to steal away one of the sons of Jonathan Brisby. Why, you might ask? Well, there's no time to figure that out, because this is where the second musical number comes along, which serves as a way to show Timothy growing up. Incidentally, while I’m sure a lot of people hate this song like all the others in this sequel, I will confess I did enjoy the overall feeling behind it.  I mean, I’m sure many young boys have felt the need to live up to your father, especially if your father is well known and highly praised.  And that’s what’s going on here.  Timothy, at first, is feeling like he could never live up to his father, but by the end of the song, he’s voicing his determination and confidence that he'll eventually show everybody that he deserves his father’s name.  So, I guess I gotta give points to the songwriters for effort on this one.

Anyway, throughout the musical number, you see Timothy, (or Tim, as he’s known as an adult) undergoing manual labor, from shoveling snow, to scrubbing the footpath, to fetching water. Before long, Tim's little song ends, and Justin appears to invite him to a collection expedition, in which the rats go off to gather more supplies from the stuff humans have thrown away. This is something else I have trouble with. What happened to the rats' vow in the first film, in which they acknowledged that it was wrong to steal from the humans, and that they could no longer live as rats? Add that to the list of things they clearly forget all about in this movie.

This expedition actually serves as a plot device. Tim, it turns out, was only brought along for sentry duty, and has to keep watch for the guard dog, something he's not at all pleased about. For this reason, he abandons his post and ends up meeting the movie's main female, and Tim's love interest, Jenny. When he takes her back to Thorn Valley, Jenny identifies herself as the only child of a mouse couple known as the McBrides, who were among the 'Lost Six' who fell down the air shafts during the famous escape from NIMH. (Compare this number with the one from the original movie. Nicodemus stated that eleven mice received the injections. Since two of them were Mr. Ages and Jonathan Brisby, who we know were the only mice who escaped NIMH alive, it really should be the 'Lost Nine.')

Returning to the storyline, Jenny wants the rats of Thorn Valley to return to NIMH and help her rescue her parents and the other mice. Unfortunatly, they refuse, so Jenny ends up sneaking off on her own. Tim decides to go with her once she tells him Martin's also been captured by NIMH.  Here, we also learn Tim received a letter from his mother at one point, which stated that Martin had gone missing. At the time, I thought that, since I taped this movie off the Disney Channel, the scene where Tim first got this letter might have been cut for time constraints.  However, I have since learned, by listening to and reading what others have said about this movie, that this was not the case.  They really didn’t have a scene that told us about this letter earlier.  So, thank you movie for pulling this development out of nowhere.

Right. So now Tim and Jenny are off to NIMH, via a hot air balloon they hijacked from Thorn Valley. En route, they are attacked by a hawk, and are saved by some quick thinking of a caterpillar named Cecil. Cecil ends up directing them to the Great Owl, whom Tim remembers his mother going to for help once. However, the 'Great Owl' isn't really the real Great Owl, but a disguised Jeremy, who's been conning the animals of the wood with the assistance of Cecil. I don't think I need to point out how utterly ridiculous this is. What exactly happened to the real Great Owl? We never find out.  They really should have explained this in the movie, but the script writers clearly didn’t care enough about us to do so. Anyway, Jeremy's cover is soon blown, after what I believe is the third musical number in this film. As a result, he and Cecil have the choice of either facing the wrath of the conned animals, or take Tim and Jenny to NIMH. Pretty obvious which option they end up choosing. Upon arriving at NIMH, Jeremy and Cecil abandon Tim and Jenny once they figure out where they've taken the two mice, leaving them to break into NIMH alone.

After infiltrating NIMH, Tim and Jenny run into Justin and a few other rats, who have changed their minds and decided to help rescue the 'Lost Six' after all. Once again, Tim is picked as sentry, and like before, he abandons his post to try and find Martin. Because of Tim refusing to follow orders again, everyone is captured by the two cats we saw being lured into NIMH earlier in the movie.  Because of the experiments that have since been performed on them, the cats have been turned into mindless slaves, and, it turns out, so has the head scientist of NIMH, whose brain has clearly been turned to jelly. And now, we're shown the REAL villain of the story. 

Surprise!  It's Martin! When he was recaptured by NIMH, he got zapped by this brain-modifying device, which resembled an electric chair (Wow, so we’ve abandoned the injections altogether, huh?) Since Martin was already smart on account of his father coming from NIMH, the experiment resulted in Martin becoming a deranged mad mouse who took over NIMH, and has his mind set on overthrowing Thorn Valley.

Tim is thrown into a cage, which a few people have pointed out has bars he could easily have squeezed through. He mopes around for a bit, seeing how he let his father down. Suddenly, Cecil pops up, and.... does nothing. He just has a friendly chat with Tim for a moment until Tim remembers that, upon his entry into Thorn Valley, he was given a key, which he conveniently has been carrying around since. Tim uses the key to remove the pins from the cage door's hinges, and heads off to face Martin while Cecil is sent to rescue the 'Lost Six' and the rats of Thorn Valley. A fight ensues between Martin and Tim, with the help of Jenny, whom Martin was trying to make his queen. Jenny ends up knocking Martin out with a pile of books, which really should have killed him. (A book falling on a mouse, people.  Realistically, he should have been crushed into a bloody pulp, but no one ever dies in this horrible film.  They just get knocked out in classic-cartoon-style.  Gag me.)


With Martin out of it, Tim manages to stop the attack on Thorn Valley by turning Martin into a puppet and tricking the army into heading off in the wrong direction.  However, I got a slight issue with this.  It’s stated repeatedly in this movie that to get to Thorn Valley, you’re supposed to go ‘South by south by south, as the crow flies.’  So when Tim tries to send the army in the wrong direction, he tells them to go north instead of south.  But as anyone who knows their compass directions can tell you, if you go north long enough, you’ll eventually end up traveling south.  So, all Tim really did was send the army to Thorn Valley via the scenic route.  But then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into this.  

Anyway, now that the crisis is averted/postponed, Tim and Jenny head off to help Cecil get the other captives out. Just as they're all about to escape, a fire starts up. Remembering Martin's still inside, Tim goes back to get him out. Martin might be an evil villain, after all, but he's still Tim's older brother, and he loves him, dagnabbit. With the help of Tim's slingshot, which Martin had given him as a going-away present in the beginning, and a convenient reappearance of Jeremy, the two brothers manage to escape NIMH before it explodes from the fire.

Back in Thorn Valley, Tim's welcomed back as a hero, even getting a kiss from Jenny. Martin has also been returned back to normal. How they did it is never explained, but it must have been something like brain surgery, since he's now sporting a bandage on his head, along with a cane. (Yeah, okay. I get the rats are super smart and all, but how are they able to perform something as advanced as brain surgery? It's just not possible, is it?) As this movie ends (finally) we see the statue of Jonathan Brisby that stands in the center of Thorn Valley has been modified, and now includes Tim.

So, there you have it.  A cartoony sequel with a plot that’s nothing short of abysmal. Almost no continually was maintained, and there was the fact that the prophesy subplot seemed to fizzle out completely. The animation was also a huge insult to the original. As I mentioned before, the original movie had animation that still looked rather realistic, but in this sequel, the animation was clearly cartoonish. This might be contributed to the fact that, according to the end credits, almost everyone who worked on the movie was of Asian decent, or at least had Asian-looking names. Don’t get me wrong, ‘cause I have nothing against Asians, or animation that's done by them. I love quite a few Anime shows after all, and I’m fascinated by the Asian culture.  I just think Asians need to stay far away from things like NIMH movies. All-in-all, it was perfectly clear that Don Bluth had nothing to do with this film.  If he had, he would need to have had a huge supply of Valium on hand. If I were him, I would have sued the people who brought this terrible movie to life, because even though MGM owns the rights now, it was still HIS movie.  They’ve ultimately killed his greatest contribution to children’s moves, and I’m amazed that I still see it being sold at Wal-Mart.  Granted it’s in the five dollar bin, but in the DVD set that features both the original Secret of NIMH and this stupid sequel, it’s the image of Timothy from the sequel’s box art that appears on the cover.  As if the promotion of the sequel is more effective them promoting the original!

So, the moral of this review is: if you see this horrible movie sequel on the shelf at the video store, do not get it. Just stick with the original, because if you do pick up this pathetic excuse for a sequel, you may very well regret that waste of 80 minutes to your life.