Film Review: Barry Lyndon (1975)

Release Date: December 11th, 1975 (London premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick
Based on: The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray
Music by: Leonard Rosenman, Ralph Ferraro (uncredited)
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Diana Koerner, Gay Hamilton, Steven Berkoff, Andre Morell, Anthony Sharp, Philip Stone, Pat Roach

Peregrine, Hawk Films, Warner Bros., 185 Minutes

Review:

“Well then, look you now… from this moment, I will submit to no further chastisement from you. I will kill you, if you lay hands on me ever again! Is that entirely clear to you, sir?” – Lord Bullingdon

This is the only Stanley Kubrick film I had never seen, apart from his early documentary work. I always wanted to see this but I was intimidated by its length and usually, once I start thinking about Kubrick, I tend to go back to watching one of my three favorite films by him: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange or The Shining. I often times mix in Dr. Strangelove and Eyes Wide Shut, as well.

I thought that I needed to see this, greatly, and that not having seen it already was a bit of a crime against myself, as I consider Kubrick to be one of the three men in my personal Holy Trinity of Directors. I do think I need to expand that to a Mount Rushmore of Directors, though, as there are really four at the highest level of craftsmanship that I always go back to, again and again. However, this isn’t about that.

This is a long, epic film but man, it’s pretty exceptional.

While I found it slow in parts and there were chapters in the story that weren’t as interesting as the best bits, I really enjoyed this and thought that if it were ever remade, it should definitely be expanded into a limited television series, as there’s just so much story. I have never read the book, though, so I’m not sure how much of it this film actually covered.

Still, this shows the entirety of a man’s adult life where he initially starts out as pretty likable but then slowly dissolves into a real piece of shit. The picture does a great job of showing you all the major events and turning points in his life, however, and it builds towards something quite incredible.

As should be expected, the cinematography is magnificent, as is the acting and the use of music.

In regards to the film’s score, Kubrick went a similar route to what he did with A Clockwork Orange in that he uses many classical masterpieces but often times uses distorted versions of them, which give off their own unique feel that does more for the tone of specific scenes than the visuals and the acting. If you’ve never seen this but are familiar with A Clockwork Orange, you probably know what I’m talking about. However, his use of altered classical works is more limited here and less noticeable, initially.

There is one character in this that you do grow to care about, as Barry Lyndon devolves into a pure prick, and that’s his stepson. Their hatred for each other climaxes in an old fashioned duel. It’s a fucking tragic scene where you can’t guess what’s going to happen and every single frame of film adds to the building tension in a way that I haven’t felt in a film in a really long time. It’s actually a breathtaking sequence that’s impossible to look away from.

They really don’t make movies like this anymore and honestly, it truly makes me appreciate this near masterpiece that much more.

Barry Lyndon is as great as I had always hoped it would be.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other Stanley Kubrick films, as well as other epic, fictional biographical movies.

Film Review: A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Release Date: December 19th, 1971 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick
Based on: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Music by: Wendy Carlos
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Miriam Karlin, Michael Bates, Warren Clark, Clive Francis, Michael Gover, James Marcus, Aubrey Morris, Godfrey Quigley, Sheila Raynor, Philip Stone, Madge Ryan, Anthony Sharp, Michael Tarn, David Prowse, Steven Berkoff

Polaris Productions, Hawk Films, Warner Bros., 136 Minutes

Review:

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.” – Alex

As of this review, Stanley Kubrick is the one director that I have awarded four 10 out of 10 ratings to. He is my favorite director of all-time, as he’s just able to captivate me like no one else. Granted, Orson Welles, Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa are pretty damn close too and I often times debate which director truly takes the cake but I always come back to Kubrick. But hey, at least I know who’s on my Mount Rushmore of film directors.

Similar to my mental debate over directors, I often times ponder which of Kubrick’s films between this one, 2001 and The Shining are my favorite. The answer is usually the most recent one that I’ve watched but it seems like A Clockwork Orange tends to rise to the top more often than the other two.

While all three films are masterpieces, as is Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, this one seems to resonate with me the most.

This may be the most perfectly cast film from top-to-bottom, as there isn’t a single person, regardless of the size of their role, that hinders this film in any way. Additionally, every actor feels exactly as they should and despite recognizing many faces, you still get lost in the film and aren’t necessarily distracted by who’s in it.

As fantastical as this film’s world may seem, you are still drawn into it’s gritty, harsh realness while also admiring its surreal and sometimes opulent environment. It’s a film with a lot of visual and narrative contrast but in both regards these things feel like perfect marriages and perfectly balanced.

Beyond that, this is, by far, one of the most mesmerizing and impressive films ever shot. Kubrick uses a lot of his stylistic tropes to great effect. 

Furthermore, out of all the novels and stories that Kubrick has adapted, this one is the closest to its source material. In fact, nothing has really changed and there are just a few things omitted, probably due to running time and also because Kubrick was given the American version of the novel, which, at the time, was missing the book’s epilogue.

Comparing the book to the movie, I like both just about equally. However, for the film, I feel that the ending is perfect and that the epilogue might have taken some of the cinematic magic away, as it would have made the film’s climax less open for interpretation. For fans of this picture, I would most definitely suggest that you read the original Anthony Burgess novel if you haven’t already.

A Clockwork Orange is a terrifying, emotional and amusing film. It’s also perfect, as far as I’m concerned. They don’t make movies like this anymore and they probably never will with how the film industry has evolved, especially as of late.

Stanley Kubrick was a fucking legend. This is just one of several motion pictures that cements that.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Stanley Kubrick’s other films and other great movies that feature a sort of dystopian, bleak future.

Film Review: Thunderball (1965)

Release Date: December 9th, 1965 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Terence Young
Written by: Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins, Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, Ian Fleming
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Philip Stone, Martine Beswick

Eon Productions, United Artists, 130 Minutes

Review:

“My dear girl, don’t flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for Queen and country. You don’t think it gave me any pleasure, do you?” – James Bond

After Guy Hamilton directed Goldfinger and took the Bond film franchise away from focusing on SPECTRE, Terence Young came back to direct the fourth film and made SPECTRE a focal point once again. And I’m glad because as much as I like Goldfinger, I’d rather see Connery’s Bond duking it out with Blofeld’s minions on a grand stage. Auric Goldfinger just seemed like a chump when compared to a high ranking SPECTRE agent.

This chapter in the franchise also feels a bit like a call back to the original film, Dr. No. Mainly just in aesthetic and geography though, as this film’s big finale takes place in the Bahamas, which draws some similarities to Dr. No‘s Jamaica sequences.

Also, the villain in this is Emilio Largo, one of the all-time greatest Bond villains of all-time. See, I said “all-time” twice to solidify the point. In fact, I ranked him third on a list where I did a countdown of James Bond baddies. The only villains I ranked higher were Blofeld (obviously) and Francisco Scaramanga because c’mon man, that’s Christopher Lee. Largo is just perfect as a top SPECTRE operative and “Number 2” to Blofeld, who Bond would finally face in the film after this.

In a lot of ways, this sets up the big Bond vs. Blofeld showdown that was coming in You Only Live Twice while also being a culmination of the events that started in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. This is a vital chapter in the Connery era, as it acts as a bridge linking the important SPECTRE plot points. Plus, it’s just damn good.

While this Bond film is tropical and beautiful, it also has a grittiness to it. It feels more real than the previous outing. Granted, that’s a bit undone by the hokey speed boat finale but the technology to make that sequence less cheesy, didn’t exist yet. And really, that whole stopping the super speedy boat from crashing is really my only complaint about the film.

I love Connery’s James Bond. I also love Largo, as I have already pointed out. The scenes that the two share together really take this film to a different level though. Red Grant was good in From Russia With Love and Dr. Julius No was solid in Dr. No. But there is just something larger and more threatening about Largo. Sure, he can’t physically match Bond like Red Grant but he effectively uses other tools and plays to his strengths.

Underwater sequences in movies usually suck, let’s be honest. But the ones in this film just work and there’s a lot of underwater stuff. Plus, you get to see Bond literally swimming with sharks and I mean “literally” in the grammatically correct way and I’m not using “sharks” as a metaphor. I mean actual sharks.

Thunderball is better than just being a popcorn movie set in majestic scenery. If you ever wanted to pick a handful of Bond movies to have a mini marathon with, than this should definitely be in that handful.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Sean Connery James Bond movies, as well as that George Lazenby one.

Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Release Date: May 8th, 1984 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, George Lucas
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Jonathan Ke Quan, Roy Chiao, Pat Roach, David Yip, Dan Aykroyd (cameo)

Lucasfilm Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” – Indiana Jones

The debate has raged on almost my entire life but whenever I get together with people and we discuss our favorite Indiana Jones movie, people are usually baffled that this one is my favorite. In fact, in some cases, baffled became anger and I had nerds foaming at the mouth pontificating about the perfection that is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yeah man, I get it. But I like Temple of Doom, so to quote D-Generation-X, “Suck it!”

But why do I like this entry into the Indiana Jones franchise the most?

Well, it is the one chapter that is most unlike anything else. There are no Nazis (or Soviets), there is some real horror here, the Thuggee cult is much more fascinating than any villainous group Indy has encountered on the big screen, Mola Ram is the Darth Vader of Indiana Jones lore, the opening sequence is great with Lao Che and his sons and I love Short Round and Willie Scott. That’s not to take anything away from Karen Allen or Indy’s other great sidekicks because I also love Sallah and Marcus Brody.

Temple of Doom is just such a dark movie. Sure, it has some hokey bits but they work and this film wouldn’t be the same without them, as Star Wars and the other Indy movies wouldn’t be the same without theirs. Something about the hokey bits in this one just gel in a way that they don’t in the other films though. I think a lot of that has to do with the chemistry between Ford, Capshaw and Ke Quan. All three of them were great together and it didn’t matter if it was all three or any combination of the three playing off each other, one-on-one.

More than anything else, I really think that it’s the tone of the picture that does it for me. The set design is incredible and the locations are more alluring and more visually attractive than seeing Indiana Jones rummaging through a desert. Indy needs more jungle in his life and this film gives it to you. Plus, the temple is the most exciting and mysterious structure that Indy has encountered in his film adventures.

Additionally, the score for this chapter is my favorite that John Williams did for this film series. All the stuff in the temple plays really great and it truly expanded on the vibe of Raiders‘ score while adding in some Indian feeling flair. But then again, how can you not hear any of Williams’ Indy scores and not have a smile on your face?

Plus, Mola Ram is just a complete badass. He looks menacing, he feels truly scary and he rips hearts out of the chests of his human sacrifices, laughing like a madman as those hearts burn in flames while he holds them above his head for his minions to see. Sure, Indy can smack around random Nazi officers and fellow archaeologists turned evil but none of them hold a candle to the sheer terror that is Mola Ram.

I honestly can’t comprehend how someone wouldn’t absolutely love this film. Sure, there are some plot holes and things that don’t make a lot of sense but you don’t see this type of film to complain about the small shit, you see it to go on an adventure and to feel good. This accomplishes all of that and frankly, I’ve probably watched this movie like ten dozen times. There’s a reason for that, it’s pretty much friggin’ perfect.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The Shining (1980)

Release Date: May 23rd, 1980
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
Based on: The Shining by Stephen King
Music by: Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd, Joe Turkel, Philip Stone, Tony Burton

The Producer Circle Company, Peregrine Productions, Hawk Films, Warner Bros., 146 Minutes (premiere), 144 Minutes (US cut), 119 Minutes (European cut)

Review:

“Here’s Johnny!” – Jack Torrance

My big Halloween treat this year was getting to see The Shining on the big screen!

People often ask me what the greatest horror movie of all-time is. The Shining is always the first motion picture to pop into my mind and frankly, it has always been my favorite. John Carpenter’s The Thing is a very close second.

The reason I love this film so much is because it is a masterpiece. It is perfect in every regard. The direction, the acting, the cinematography, the music, the sound, the lighting, the whole overall ambiance: everything.

Some people, Stephen King included, were critical over the fact that Stanley Kubrick didn’t include some of the elements of King’s novel. King was even instrumental in the film being remade as a miniseries for television in the 1990s but that version falls short in every way. While this is based off of King’s writings, the film is very much a Kubrick picture and to be honest, Kubrick is the stronger artist of the two, especially behind the camera, because do you really want to try and compare King’s directorial effort Maximum Overdrive to The Shining?

Books and film are two different mediums and even then, The Shining film is better than The Shining book. Besides, walking shrub animals just wouldn’t fit into this film in a believable way.

As great as Jack Nicholson has always been, it is hard to think of a film where he shined more than he did here, pun intended. As Jack Torrance, Nicholson became the top movie monster, as far as a singular performance goes. Sure, he might not look as cool as Dracula or Freddy Krueger but he is much more terrifying and has a presence that no other actor has matched in a horror picture.

Shelley Duvall also nailed her role and honestly, she has never been better than she was in The Shining. A lot of her performance was enhanced, behind the scenes, by Kubrick terrorizing her on set. He did this in an effort to generate an authentic performance and it worked. His technique was harsh but it wasn’t any different than what many auteur directors have done in the past. I can’t think of a better actress for the role and Duval really is the character of Wendy. She’s terrified, frail but sweet in a way that your heart goes out to her and you wish you could go into the film and pull her and Danny away from mortal danger.

The film also has a few character actors sprinkled in. There is Scatman Crothers, who plays Mr. Holloran, an older cook that has the power to “shine” like the child Danny. His death still bothers me every time I watch the film because all he wanted to do was help Wendy and Danny escape the hell they were trapped in. Joe Turkel, most known as Tyrell from Blade Runner, plays the hotel bartender. Tony Burton, Apollo Creed’s trainer from the Rocky films, also has a small role as the owner of a garage.

While this is considered a ghost story and a haunted house movie on the grandest scale, it is more about madness and isolation. While the Overlook Hotel is incredibly haunted and ghosts appear to steer Jack into his state of madness, you feel as if none of this wouldn’t happen if the family wasn’t trapped in this massive snowed in lodge, by themselves for five months. You also get the feeling that Jack was already going to lose his mind and just needed a little push. It is also a film about abusive relationships taken to the extreme.

The film is full of violence, a good bit of gore and grotesque things but it is so artistic in the application of its imagery that everything seems to have some sort of deeper meaning than what is seen on the surface. People have been debating the “hidden messages” in this movie for years. There is even a whole documentary that analyzes that stuff. It’s called Room 237 and I already reviewed it here. It’s not great but for fans of this film, it is still a fun experience.

The Shining is a perfect motion picture. Some people take issue with the way Kubrick handled certain parts of it. Some people also think that it is lacking in substance. It really isn’t something that should be compared to King’s style or other haunted house stories. It is as unique as Stanley Kubrick was. It is the most terrifying tale that the auteur director has ever crafted and horror films like this just don’t exist anywhere else.

Rating: 10/10