Category: General

Film Review: The Shining

The Shining is Kubrick’s look at a writer in psychological horror, in a grand-hotel with ample room to think and brood. Jack Nicholson stars as the writer Jack Torrance, who takes this job as a caretaker of a hotel during the harsh winter days, where the set-up for no communication provides a looming doom for the victims of madness. The empty solitude of the hotel provides eerie spacial shots done by Kubrick, most famously Jack’s son Danny’s riding through the hotel on his toddler bike.

The relationship between Jack and Wendy, played by Shelly Duvall, is strained, and their is no doubt signs of Wendy’s inferior nature and fearfulness of Jack. She won’t stand up to him, but she will elude him. She has no idea the depth of Jack’s anger and madness; Kubrick effectively uses the spaciness of the hotel to employ the space between Wendy and Jack, especially in a scene where Wendy is looking to talk to Jack while he is writing and he bursts into an echoing storm of anger. The young boy is played well, in an innocent yet intelligent way, and sees frightening visions of the past and future in the hotel. The young girls, and the blood caving through the walls and into the hallway like a stream, are beyond the sight of children; besides physically, their can’t be much done to Danny by Jack that would frighten him, and in this regard I don’t think Kubrick effectively depict’s Danny’s trauma. The one thing he does show Danny is a bit frightened by is the older black-man, who deals with the food, yet that seems like an almost racial bigotry that is pointless in Danny’s overall psyche.

The movie does not end the same as the novel, and Stephen King disregards it because of the fact; but we can tell that Kubrick wasn’t so much interested in story, but tension; because of the atmosphere, the scenery of the frozen wasteland, we are subjected to great shots of the wintery forests and the strange botany surrounding the Hotel, like a tall, symmetrical shrub that acts like a maze to be lost in.  The movie takes us through  a wild journey of terror and deceit, of visions, and paranoia; It is a true exploration of the human mind, though it doesn’t add much substance to the visions and suspense.

Review: Silent Running

Douglass Trumbull’s eco-heavy film, “Silent Running” has a lot of extravagant special-effects, excluding the circular super-imposed orange of the explosion (you know what I’m talking about), and a character actor that is pivotal to the movies success. The main character, Freeman Lowell, played by Bruce Dern, is a poignant and hippy character of the future: Bruce Dern’s performance is amazing, no hyperbole involved. At the beginning, the ship-mates argue against Lowell about the merits of the Forrest, and he always chimes back with a teary-eyed response, some irrefutable, “Isn’t it sad that a child won’t know the simple wonder of a leaf in the palm of their hand?”

The feature-length story involves Lowell and his desire to save the last remaining forests that are stocked behind domed-glass in space. We must assume that earth cannot sustain an ecosystem any longer; how they survive without this is illogical, nonetheless does create an emotional story. At times, it does seem a little stretched out. It drags in the middle, as little happens except talking between the Androids and little conversation between the receiver and the boys back at home; once again illogical to be talking in real-time from such spatial-distance.

The method Lowell uses to gain control of the forest seems beyond his loving ideology: but one must sacrifice for the better good. He kills off the other engineers on the space-carrier, and does it very ‘economically’, by shutting the doors while they blow up one of his forest’s. With the other engineer elsewhere, he must confront violently, and is injured in the process. He can have medical attention, though, and was the medical-expert for the engineers before the order to destroy the forest came about. We are never really given a reason why they want to destroy them: What would be the reason to destroy plant-life? Fuel capacity? Speed of the space carrier?

The message isn’t always clear either. Like when the always-Eco minded Lowell begins eating the synthetic-food. He stops, but what is being said here? That when their is no bad guy, you have no way to base the ways of the ‘good guy’ upon? The character is poetic, yet exhausting, but Bruce Dern is always in the right colors with a masterful performance. Despite the errors of the film, Douglass Turnbull, part of the special-effects behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, is a master with imagery, and the shots of the transparent domes filled with greenery are awe-inspiring.

Film Review: Scarface

“Scarface”, Brian DePalma’s searing tale of Cuban gangsters forced by Castro into the United States, has a gritty and grainy quality, matching its omnipotent inspiration “The Godfather”. The performances are universally well-pitched, escorting Tony to the infamous and escatic finale.

“Don’t get high on you’re own supply” is said to Tony by his boss Frank Lopez around a table of drinks, who he means to overrule soon, but the concept is effortlessly dismissed. Tony’s a gritty, rags-to-riches gangster, hard-strung and ticking in every shot of the film. His eye is set from the beginning on Frank Lopez’s girl, Elvira, played by Michelle Pfeiffer , and one can’t decide whether its out of desire for her, or for desire to just slap his boss in the face: probably both.

Their is a keen sense of repressed suicide inside Tony Montana: he will do anything to get what he wants, and one of those things is simply to seem like he does get exactly that. He visits his mother post-poverty and now flourishing gangster, and wants to give his mother money; she, a mature and wise, straight-brow Cuban, shouts back with indignity in a truly effecting scene: she absolutely refuses the money. She knows what hands its touched. Her eyes glow with longevity of her sons’ kind, and she just straight dehumanizes him for the first time in the film. She wants him out of the house, to never come back. He doesn’t give up on his sister, though: Gina, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, accepts his money and wants to see him. Then Gina is seen throughout the movie, a side-story, Tony’s little baby and protection.

Romantic, fierce, and plain entertaining, Scarface remains a classic in American mob cinema, and a benchmark for street-violence films, where the heart is not shown only in a single character, but expressed in all who surround the character.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

9/10

Peter Jackson follows up his first middle-earth adventure with The Two Towers, beginning where the last left off: Mary and Pippin are separated from the pack, and so are Sam and Frodo. Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli must track down the lost hobbits after the chaotic battle with the Orcs, and insure that Frodo makes it to his destination. The powerful view of the New Zealand landscape coupled with the spellbinding performances by all the character actors, Lord of the Rings, The Two towers, does not disappoint.

What makes The Two Towers riveting, as in all the movies but especially in this one, is the point of view. The world spans across valleys, and we see a big set of different characters in different conflicts. The Gollum-Sam conflict happens as Frodo quests towards the destruction of the ring, which bears heavy on him by now, and Sam desperately feels at a loss; Gollum, he believes, will murder them in their sleep. All he wants is the ring, Sam thinks. And ultimately, being without a ring, he is the most clear-headed and trustworthy.

In a sense, The Two Towers is an introduction to the vast world of Tolkien, where the first one established plot and character,  and dealt little with creatures. In this film, their is an epic fight with horses and Wargs, spotted wolf-like carnivores with big fangs, where they scatter across a mountainside attacking the men on horse, including Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas. Then their is the massive elephants cluttered with bow-wielding minions of Sarumon, and the walking trees that Mary and Pippin befriend wisely. It is a truly epic feat of CGI effects, and in fact creates a human tone to a wooden tree.

The final battle is one of the greatest in cinema: Mixed with signature Orc sound-effects and spanning yards of black Orc persons, it is an amazingly realistic attack on a castle fort. The Orcs rise ladders to climb and raid onto the castle-top, and others use a battery to ram in the main doors of the castle, where women and children dwell. How these beasts come to be strategic is unexplained, and we can only assume that a thing so ugly is just bred to think ugly too.

The film is a beautiful, often emotionally-wrenching epic and a classic if not greatest fantasy film. With creatures, atmosphere, a strong cast of characters, and one more film to conclude it, “Lord of the Rings” is bound to be among legends.

Review: The Woman In the window

Fritz Lang molded this film with precision and conspicuous irony, creating a perspective filled with tension and wavering beliefs. He puts us directly in the mind of the murderer without voice-overs or scenes of confession. A typically moral professor, played by Edward G. Robinson, hits rock bottom when he makes an impulsive and frightened response to a raging boyfriend of a woman he befriends; it results in the death of the alpha-lover and the consequences, emotionally and sociologically, that ensue.

Proffesor Richard Wanley gets in real trouble after the murder he commits; he is a highly unexpected culprit, and in fact has friends in the police department. When they talk about the case, he becomes jittery and wants to change the subject. But he eventually is taken onto the scene of the crime, where the murderer disposed of the body, and is shown the clues and leads the cops have established, which are entirely against him. The characters are always enticing, especially the motivations of Alice Reed, played by Joan Bennett, who witnessed the crime.

The film is an argument against generalizations in crime. In our justice system, we rely partly on the jury to judge the person to the alleged culprit, and like Lumet’s 12 Angry Men shows, it is not always right. The jury would not pick a fatherly-like proffesor like Richard Wanley to be convicted as a murderer; they would pick a young person with lots of energy and less than a reasonable doubt.

The film seams together its intricacies with tact and skill.

Film Review: Lolita

Lolita, directed by Stanley Kubrick, does not have the scope like most of his pictures: It’s a soft, dark comedy in the later tradition of a Coen film. Starring James Mason, Peter Sellers, and Sue Lyon as Lolita, it is about sexual temptation and restriction, chronicling the slow and evolving lust of Humbert, (Mason), towards Lolita, the young daughter of a woman whose husband’s death has left her emotionally-stunted and desperate. Hubert is a sullen and respectable scholarly-type, a proffesor of poetry; he keeps a diary about his stay with the Hazes, avoiding Charlotte and day-dreaming about Lolita.

My favorite scene in Lolita happens right at the beginning: an unknown character dressed in a raincoat walks into a bachelor’s pad, stepping on wine-glasses and party nick-knacks. He has a pistol in his hand and he finds Claire Quilty, the famous author, laying on a chair, hungover. The whole scene is a parody of film-scenes where a gun is being pointed at an armless man. Quilty plays a song for the gun-wielder, asks him if he wants a drink, and just makes a mockery of his position of power, when he’s supposed to be begging for his life.

The performances in Kubrick’s Lolita are all fantastic, especially the young Lolita, a rebellious teenager who her mother eventually impulsively sends to an all-girl boarding school. Humbert can’t hold out without Lolita around any longer: who knows how he will react to her leaving. Darkly funny, engaging, and still somehow true, “Lolita” is a sad story of a man desperate for a young woman’s affection, to the point of her being an object needing to be won.

Review: Spider-Man

Spider-Man

Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” soars with strong characters and breathtaking sky-scraper cinematography, the emotional tone ably matched with the often overdone action tone of comic-book films. Creator of ‘The Evil Dead’ B-franchise, Director Raimi has a knack for dynamic set-pieces; each one livens the movements of the super-reflexive Spider-man, and leads him into the next destruction-ridden scene.

Peter Parker, played by Toby McGuire, is a reserved high-school student with a Romeo-like passion for the girl who lives next door, Mary Jane, played by Kristen Dunst. Possibly as a result of his humility and pity, as Peter often overhears the harsh screaming and glass-shattering chaos of Mary and her father fighting. The two have a very touching encounter as she runs out the back in one of those dramatic situations, and he tenderly approaches her with his hands folded on the fence that divides them, on the way to taking the garbage out for his caring Uncle Ben and Aunt May.

Peter Parker’s social position is flipped, quite literally, when he’s on a field-trip at a Spider genealogy institute, and a loose spider-experiment seeps down from the ceiling on a silk web and bites his finger as he snaps a photograph. His physique goes from scrawny to built soon after, and his super abilities give him much spider play-time for us and him to have fun with. With these powers, his Uncle Ben says, comes great responsibility; and so it goes.

Mary Jane is the romantic focus of the first and following Spider-Man sequels. She symbolizes the universal bound of love, one of the only normal things Peter is acquainted with, and is a sobering reminder to the audience of the sacrifice Peter is making as the masked vigilante. The capitalist villain Green Goblin, played by a wide-smirking Willem Dafoe, combats Spider-Man throughout, while also having Thanksgiving dinner with Aunt May, his son Harry and Mary Jane, presently Harry’s girlfriend. The dramatic irony leads us into the final-sequences with grave suspense and anticipation.

Spider-Man is a versatile and well-acted adaption of Stan Lee’s comic series and stands as further of Director Sam Raimi’s talents with both the actors and the extravagant, practical set-design. The plot has many loopholes for Peter to avoid, like his best friend Harry being the son of a villainous bio-rat goblin, and they are left untouched with grace and dignity. The film makes a strong mark for the future sequels.

Review: Splice

Splice, directed by Vincenzo Natali, is a strange concoction of genres: It’s horror and science-fiction, erotic and beautiful; the film as a whole will have most deeming it as uncomfortably strange, a solid wave of repulsed viewers already floating up around the surface. The film stars the gentle-faced Adrien Brody as Scientist Clive Nicoli, alongside his Scientific partner and girlfriend Elsa Kast, played by Sarah Polley. Their scientific goal is to genetically-engineer the DNA of several animals in order to create a hybrid-organism; however, this Prometheus-like attempt results in an uncontrolled accident hybrid that takes a subtle course of strange and circumstantial events upon birth and natural growth.

There is a well-executed device of foreshadowing early in the film, where the scientists create a pair of DNA-species that turn amok on each other to a splattering death, in front of a querying crowd of Scientists and patent-ready business men. If a cult-horror club had been flipped instead into the room, applause would surely spark at such a graphic, primitively violent presentation. What does one say when their genetically-engineered animal catches the rabies in a vacuum-cleaned glass chamber? Oh, damn.

The task of hiding the new animal-species, a placid round-headed humanoid with a tail and a vertical incision-like mark on her skull, whom the scientists name Dren, is very difficult, as Dren displays keen curiosity resembling that of a budding human child. She rummages through scientific-materials and refuses to eat the food set out for her, when finally Scientist Clive removes her from the lab, relocating her out in a barn in a cold and desolate forest. He and Elsa sporadically visit, and the strangest act of the film ensues. Dren gradually begins to quietly resent Elsa and starts growing flirtatiously clingy towards Clive.

The film has an unnerving bizarreness to it, but it’s also very effective with legitimately scary moments and some uneasy but nonetheless thought-provoking questions. It’s dark, Orwellian, and unpredictable.