Film Review: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Also known as: Traumnovelle, Rhapsody (working titles), EWS (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 13th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael
Based on: Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler
Music by: Jocelyn Pook
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Todd Field, Sky du Mont, Rade Šerbedžija, Thomas Gibson, Vinessa Shaw, Fay Masterson, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski, Leon Vitali, Julienne Davis, Madison Eginton, Abigail Good, Cate Blanchett (voice, uncredited)

Hobby Films, Stanley Kubrick Productions, Warner Bros., 159 Minutes

Review:

“Bill, I don’t think you realize how much trouble you got yourself into last night just by going over there. Who do you think those people were? Those were not just some ordinary people. If I told you their names… no, I’m not going to tell you their names… but if I did, I don’t think you’d sleep so well at night.” – Victor Ziegler

Stanley Kubrick has multiple films that I consider masterpieces and this is one of them. In fact, while re-watching this, I tried to look for things to pick out as negatives and I didn’t find any.

While this motion picture has a long running time, it’s one of those special films that has a real mystique about it and it just lures you in and holds your attention from scene-to-scene.

It stars then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and as good as both of them have proven to be at their best, this is possibly both of them at their absolute best.

The scenes between Cruise and Kidman are intense and magnetic. While they were divorced a few years after this movie’s release, their love transcends the screen, as does their pain and then their shared truths potentially strengthening their bond by the end of the film. If they were no longer in love in real life, their performances just solidified how great both of them are at their craft. I also think Kubrick saw this in them and that’s why he cast both of them as a married couple.

The bulk of the story deals with Cruise having discovered that his wife nearly had an affair and it makes him question their marriage and sets him off on a quest of sexual exploration. While he is confronted by a lot of things, he never really cheats on her either. However, along the journey, he uncovers a billionaire sex cult in a mansion outside of New York City. He is immediately discovered and then ousted from this secret meeting but it creates an obsession within him, where he needs to uncover the truth behind it. He then finds himself in a cat and mouse game as the reach of this group is much larger than he could’ve imagined. Eventually, a very rich, close friend has to give him his final warning to stop pursuing this mystery.

The end of the film, sees Cruise breaking down and confessing to his wife in a similar manner that she confessed her near affair to him.

The sex cult stuff is the highlight of the film, really. And no, not because it’s a sequence with a sex cult but because of how opulent the setting was and how mysterious and unsettling the whole thing was despite the affluent atmosphere. This sequence was one of Kubrick’s best in his long career and it’s neat that it came in his final film, as so many auteurs tend to lose “it” towards the end of their careers.

The sex cult sequence, like the rest of the film, is hypnotic and enchanting. This is not just due to the acting, the pacing of the film, the score and the mysterious, disturbing circumstances but also the tone and atmosphere, which came courtesy of Kubrick’s wonderful eye for shot-framing, as well as the stellar cinematography of Larry Smith. Shockingly, this was Smith’s first film and he also did double duty, serving as the lighting cameraman, as well. He’d eventually go on to work with Nicolas Winding Refn on Fear X, Bronson and Only God Forgives, three films that also look amazing.

Eyes Wide Shut is a picture that isn’t for everybody. It actually asks a lot of its audience, as there are a lot of deep things to ponder. While Cruise’s obsession with the cult might seem like a large distraction from the real point of the plot, it’s actually just what he latches onto to simultaneously ignore and process his feelings of sadness, anger, growing guilt over his own actions and the overbearing thoughts of marital betrayal. 

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Aquaman (2018)

Release Date: November 26th, 2018 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johns, James Wan
Based on: Aquaman by Paul Norris, Mort Weisinger
Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Djimon Hounsou, Julie Andrews (voice), John Rhys-Davies (voice)

Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, The Safran Company, Cruel and Unusual Films, Mad Ghost Productions, 143 Minutes

Review:

“You think you’re unworthy to lead because you’re of two different worlds? But that is exactly why you are worthy!” – Mera

People talked this movie up quite a bit when it came out but I didn’t see it in the theater because the holidays are busy for me and this is not a Tolkien movie.

But I had high hopes as several people I tend to trust told me that I’d like it. Well, they were wrong. I mean, I didn’t hate it and if you are comparing this to the other DCEU films, it’s actually the second best. However, that’s not a high threshold to try and beat.

First off, I like Jason Mamoa and I like Jason Mamoa in this movie. However, he’s basically playing Jason Mamoa and not Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman. Well, at least not how Aquaman has been written for decades. And couldn’t he have gone blonde? He could’ve kept the long hair and beard, as Aquaman has had that look before but I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger did a good job of once playing Conan without brunette locks.

But the thing is, he doesn’t feel like Aquaman and he really just feels like a badass buff dude with similar powers to Aquaman.

I thought that Amber Heard was pretty on point as Mera, though. She needs a bit more confidence if she’s to be the tough as nails future queen but this was a good start, assuming they make more of these, which they probably will.

Most importantly, though, Mamoa and Heard had damn good chemistry and that’s what had to carry this movie and it was certainly a strength when everything else around it felt like aquatic Candyland.

Other than a handful of good actors, mainly Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Wilson and Temuera Morrison, the rest of the film was pretty lackluster and underwhelming.

It had action, it was fun for the most part, but a lot of the film felt too dragged out once you got to the middle. It had really good pacing for about 45 minutes but then the plot just seemed to be a mixture of different genres and this didn’t have a clear identity as to what it was. Some of these genre twists seemed like they were more in conflict with the film as a whole than being a collection of interesting ingredients there to make the dish taste better.

I didn’t like how Black Manta was handled and he’s just sort of a henchman and an afterthought in this film. He’s much more badass than that. Read Dan Abnett’s first few story arcs on his run of the Aquman comic. There, Black Manta was a dangerous terrorist that had Aquaman and Atlantis in the palm of his hand. I know that they introduced him in this film to build him up for later but I just don’t feel like they did it effectively and it’ll be hard to take him seriously as the big baddie when he was just portrayed as Mr. Laserface and then get knocked down a cliff. Plus, with his helmet on, the effect they used on his voice mixed with the actor’s line delivery, reminded me of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs.

Patrick Wilson was pretty good as the Ocean Master but the way he was written was confusing. He’s willing to do pure evil to maintain his throne but he doesn’t seem to commit to the bit and he just sort of accepts his fate when his mom shows up and tells him to love his brother.

This film is an example of something being fun and entertaining but not being good and not being something that I particularly like. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again and that goes for all the films in the DCEU. But that also doesn’t mean that I won’t watch the sequel, I probably will but I doubt I’ll see that one in the theater either.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics movies within the same shared universe.

Film Review: Batman Forever (1995)

Release Date: June 9th, 1995 (Mann Village Theater)
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, Akiva Goldsman
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, René Auberjonois, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, En Vogue, Ed Begley Jr.

Warner Bros., 122 Minutes

Review:

“Can I persuade you to take a sandwich with you, sir?” – Alfred Pennyworth, “I’ll get drive-thru.” – Batman

People like to trash Batman & Robin as one of the worst films ever made. It’s far from one of the worst ever. But most people haven’t really dug as deep into the shit barrel as I have. And truthfully, this movie is much worse.

People also love trashing the Schumacher Batman films as a whole but typically say that Batman Forever is okay. No, it absolutely is not okay. It is one of the worst comic book adaptations of all-time. It doesn’t understand the source material at all and it is a clusterfuck of biblical proportions capped off by horrible characters, horrible acting, ugly as hell sets and a hefty helping of several awful ’90s tropes.

Generally I like Val Kilmer. He’s horrible in this and either severely miscast or had such a bad script and direction that he just showed up, read his lines dryly and went back to his trailer to bang babes. I’m going to say that it is both of those things. It’s like no one that made this movie gave a shit about it at all and they just did a bunch of cocaine and then took a shit ton of downers before going on set.

Well, except for Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, they acted like they were on cocaine mixed with speed. And really, their versions of Two-Face and the Riddler made no sense within the context of who those characters are.

Tommy Lee’s Two-Face was like a crazier version of the Joker and turned up to 11. He was a coked up gorilla dressed like a circus performer. Carrey’s Riddler was another crazier version of the Joker mixed with his Fire Marshall Bill character from the sketch comedy show In Living Color. But I’m also someone that never got Jim Carrey’s appeal and always thought of him as an annoying asshole, excluding Dumb and Dumber and his dramatic work after the ’90s.

Nicole Kidman is completely wasted as the overly horny psychiatrist trying to get into Batman’s head and pants. Chris O’Donnell wasn’t necessarily a bad Robin but the character is a kid, not a thirty year-old. It’s like they took their casting cues from Beverly Hills 90210, a show synonymous for trying to pass off thirty year-olds as high school students.

Well, at least Pat Hingle and Michael Gough are back as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred but really, I just feel bad for them. Hopefully they got paid well.

The film also features nipples being added to the Bat-suit, I’m not shitting you. Plus, it has gratuitous Bat-butt and Bat-crotch action shots.

Lastly, the beautiful Danny Elfman score has been replaced by an awful brassy explosion that never lets up, courtesy of Elliot Goldenthal, who was apparently trying to destroy our eardrums. The Elfman theme and scores were a magnificent part of the Burton films but I guess if Warner Bros. wanted to distance themselves from quality and align themselves with a foot long double meat shit sandwich, than this was a necessary change.

This movie is a steaming pile of neon accented bear droppings. It most certainly needs to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 3.25/10