Posts Tagged ‘stanley kubrick’

John Carpenter’s The Thing

Posted 07 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

John Carpenter’s The Thing, USA, 1982

Directed by John Carpenter

John Carpenter's The Thing is perhaps the scariest film of the 1980s. Continuing with my Month Of Halloween Movies (MOHM? Think of it more as a modified yoga chant and less as me crying out for my Mommy), it’s time now to revisit one of my perennial favorites, one that first traumatized me as an impressionable seven-or-eight-year-old when I saw it on a dubbed VHS tape, which is probably the best way to be introduced to any horror film from the 1970s or ’80s. John Carpenter’s vastly different, and I would argue superior, updating of the Howard Hawks produced, Christian Nyby directed classic The Thing from Another World (1951) is undoubtedly one of the nastiest, darkest horror films ever to make it to mainstream movie screens, a spiritual descendant of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and a predecessor of David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). Don’t get me wrong – the original is absolutely one of the very best of the 1950s UFO-paranoia movies, with only Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) really equaling or exceeding it. It’s just that Carpenter’s relentlessly dark vision and the supremely grotesque special effects created by Rob Bottin easily trump even the best of the ’50s for sheer terror and awesomeness. Also, Kurt Russell’s iconic turn as the anti-hero of the story, R.J. MacReady, is one of the quintessential performances of ’80s machismo. Let’s look at the three main things that make this movie so great, beginning with Russell. Read More

Absolute Corruption – Three Films About Power

Posted 29 Jul 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead

Citizen Kane has been widely cited as the greatest American film ever made. Citizen Kane, USA, 1941

Directed by Orson Welles

Scarface, USA, 1932

Directed by Howard Hawks

Beauty and the Beast, France, 1946

Written and Directed by Jean Cocteau

Never before or since has any director made such an impressive feature film debut as Orson Welles did, at the astonishing age of 25, with Citizen Kane (1941). Despite having no prior experience in filmmaking, Welles was given carte blanche on the film, and he delivered the most original, innovative and provocative film of its time. Even today it is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it is a standard by which all other films are judged. According to the great critic Andrew Sarris, as quoted in his 1967 book Interviews with Film Directors, “Citizen Kane is still the work which influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation.” Read More

The Art Of Darkness – Apocalypse Now & Full Metal Jacket

Posted 17 Jun 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Apocalypse Now, USA, 1979

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Full Metal Jacket, UK / USA, 1987

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

pocalypse Now is considered by many to be the greatest war film ever made. “War is hell,” the cliche proclaims, but it seems to be entertaining hell. Along with other ghastly subjects such as murder and vampirism, war ranks among the most popular and commonly used subject matter of filmed entertainment, and no war has yielded more or better films than the one in Vietnam between 1955 and 1975. Whether detailing the effects of the war by studying its aftermath or getting right into the heart of the battles, the Vietnam War has proven to be a source of boundless interest for filmmakers and moviegoers alike. Perhaps it is the moral ambiguity of Vietnam that makes it the most interesting war for film adaptations, and no films illustrate this ambiguity better than Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) and Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket (1987). Read More

The Tree Of Life

Posted 10 Jun 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Most Confusing Films of All time, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Tree of Life, USA, 2011

Written and Directed by Terrence Malick

The Tree of Life is a beautiful and extraordinary film that will undoubtedly remain one of the best of this year or any other.

Terrence Malick is a truly extraordinary and enigmatic filmmaker; over the course of the last 38 years, he has directed only five films, each one of which is widely regarded as a consummate masterpiece. The beauty and complexity of his images are almost in a league of their own. Between the sheer cinematic perfection of his work and its anti-prolific output, he is reminiscent of perhaps the cinema’s greatest auteur, the late Stanley Kubrick. His latest film is likely his best work to date (I still haven’t seen 1978’s Days of Heaven, widely regarded as his greatest achievement up until now), and it certainly feels like his most personal, while simultaneously tackling the huge metaphysical ideas of Kubrick’s own greatest work, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

The Tree of Life is a staggeringly ambitious film that evokes not only the monumental beginnings of all existence in the universe, but also the tiny, specific details of ordinary lives; the result is a flawed but profound epic on the scale of 2001 with the emotional resonance that Kubrick’s more detached approach is often accused of lacking. It is also a film that deserves comparison to Darren Aronofsky’s extremely underrated masterpiece The Fountain (2006) in its themes of the interconnectedness of all time and space and the way in which we are all affected by forces beyond our control and understanding. It is the rare film whose flaws only make it more intriguing, since life itself is flawed and disconnected in much the same way. Above all, while comparisons can be made to other masterpieces in Malick’s own career as well as those mentioned above, this is a wonderfully unique and original film, with a style and voice unlike any I can recall. Read More

13 Assassins

Posted 08 May 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 13 Assassins kicks mountains of ass!

13 Assassins, Japan / UK, 2010

Directed by Takashi Miike

This movie kicks mountains of ass! From the opening scene, which depicts the ancient Japanese ritual suicide method known as harakiri or seppuku, Japanese provocateur Takashi Miike’s latest film is clearly not screwing around. The opening scene is a textbook case of the effectiveness of sound design in film: we are mercifully spared the visual details of the disgraced samurai slicing open his own belly with his sword, instead focusing on a long take of his agonized face with the hideous squelching sounds of the violent act filling the soundtrack, an effect that is arguably even worse than onscreen violence. I remember being surprised to hear that the latest film from Miike (Audition, Gozu) managed to get an R-rating, and the fifteen minutes cut from the original Japanese release for the international version probably accounts for this, but I have little doubt that this scene has been presented exactly as Miike intended. It is a brutal beginning to an extremely violent film, a scene that really lets the audience know what it is in for.

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Armadillo

Posted 22 Apr 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Armadillo, Denmark, 2010

Directed by Janus Metz

Armadillo is a brutal, gripping look at war.

Danish director Janus Metz’s Armadillo has been criticized by some for its use of fiction film techniques in depicting the day-to-day lives of Danish soldiers stationed in Afghanistan; many of these detractors point to the very similar American film Restrepo (2010) as a model of documentary realism, seeming to indicate that the use of color correction and non-diegetic music in Armadillo makes it somehow less “real” than that film. Restrepo also had the advantage of an earlier U.S. release date and subsequent Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, so Armadillo, which also features a small film crew embedded with a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan, became somewhat overlooked. However, it is largely because of the film’s post-production techniques that, for me at least, it emerges as the more gripping of the two films.

While Restrepo‘s directors, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, certainly deserve at least equal commendation for their bravery in making the film (they spent a year with their platoon, while Metz’s film covers only half that), it is precisely Metz’s more narrative-driven approach that draws the viewer in and makes his film all the more haunting. A viewer’s enjoyment of both films hinges to a great degree on their ability to be entertained by relatively unadorned reality, as much of the time spent outside of patrols and combat situations is whiled away in sheer boredom, so Metz is wise to present this reality with the gorgeous cinematography audiences have come to expect from fiction films. Whereas Restrepo‘s more traditionally documentary-style approach makes the experience akin to watching the news, Armadillo paradoxically feels more real because it is presented in the way most audience members have grown accustomed to seeing war: through the dark but beautiful visions presented in films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987). Read More

Movie Geek Manifesto

Posted 08 Apr 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay

By Ezra Stead

Ezra Stead is really serious about filmed entertainment.

“My love of cinema supersedes all moral considerations.”

– Alfred Hitchcock

There are many different opinions on this, all of which would undoubtedly be geeky to discuss at length, but in my opinion, a geek is someone deeply obsessed with a particular field of knowledge, as opposed to, say, a nerd – who excels at all things scholastic and probably ends up owning a Fortune 500 company – or a dork – who most likely spills a drink all over a beautiful woman in his eagerness to buy it for her. Now, a nerd or a dork could also be a geek, but the terms are not interchangeable, nor are “dweeb,” “spazz,” “melvin,” “poindexter,” “four-eyes,” “putz,” or any other similar nomenclature. Read More