Movie Review – Eyes Wide Shut

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– Summary –

Director :   Stanley Kubrick
Year Of Release :  1999
Principal Cast :  Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Todd Field, Sky du Mont, Rade Serbedzija, Vinessa Shaw, Fay Masterson, Leelee Sobieski, Alan Cumming, Leon Vitali, Julienne Davis, Thomas Gibson.
Approx Running Time :   159 Minutes
Synopsis:   A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.
What we think :  Butt-numbing journey into infidelity and relationship conundrums, with the then-hot Cruise/Kidman team-up for legendary Stanley Kubrick becomes an exercise in melodramatic, taboo-shattering tedium. As close as anyone wants to get to Kubruckian porn, Eyes Wide Shut isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, nor does it approach the level of intimate carnal desire the story seems to want to; Eyes Wide Shut is flaccid, sexless eroticism and a stuttering last stroke-out from the famed director.

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All the orgies.

Eyes Wide Shut was Stanley Kubrick’s final film. The director passed away (aged 70) only days after showing the studio heads at Warner Brothers his initial cut. The film’s release, in 1999, came a full twelve years after his previous release, the hugely acclaimed Full Metal Jacket, in 1987. The film’s production, starring Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise and his ten-wife Nicole Kidman, had run between November 1996 and June 1998, a stunning 17 month shoot that caused Cruise to drop out of other projects due to its arduous nature. Sold on its promise of salacious nudity between Kidman and Cruise, as well as some purportedly extravagant orgy sequences, Eyes Wide Shut opened to enormous anticipation – morbid, perhaps, considering the director’s passing prior to release – but the final film’s lengthy running time and plodding, glacial pacing kept general audiences away once word got out that the film was as sexy as embalming fluid.

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Movie Review – Shining, The

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– Summary –

Director :  Stanley Kubrick
Year Of Release :   1980
Principal Cast :  Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Phillip Stone, Joe Turkel, Tony Burton, Barry Dennen.
Approx Running Time :   144 Minutes
Synopsis:   A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
What we think :  Famously denounced by the novel’s author, Stephen King, Kubrick’s version of The Shining is evocative, iconic, and mostly terrifying. Although the book’s psychological aspects are greatly reduced in film form here, Nicholson’s manic performance and Shelley Duvall’s reaction to it sell the tension of one of modern horror’s legitimate classics.

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Heeeeeere’s Johnny!

It begins with a tempestuous rendition of Dies Irae, and ends with one of the more haunting moments in modern cinematic history – Jack Nicholson’s body draped in snow within the Overlook Hotel’s iconic hedge-maze – and cemented itself in Hollywood folklore for any number of reasons, both in front of the camera, and behind. It would become Stanley Kubrick’s magnum opus, the film for which he’s most closely associated, and an example of how terrifying modern horror could be if given the right treatment. The Shining wasn’t always the classic it’s portrayed as, however: in its theatrical debut, it was met with a sense of critical indifference, before audiences began to warm to its open-ended chills and the crystallizing performance of Jack Nicholson. The impact of The Shining has echoed down through the decades since, with many of the film’s memorable scenes and moments of dialogue becoming embedded into popular culture; hell, there was even an annoying one-hit wonder titled “Here’s Johnny”, which sampled Nicholson’s infamous line to Shelley Duvall as he’s axing his way through the bathroom door. Pixar even made reference to it in Toy Story, with the carpeting of the Overlook making a reprise inside key antagonist Sid’s home.

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Horse Flogging – Losing The Battle Of The Digital Age

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For the last few months, people who use P2P torrent programmes here in Australia have been watching with interest the case of the Dallas Buyers Club LLC versus several national Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) in our supreme court, as a case brought against several thousand apparent “pirates” was about to set the tone for fighting piracy in this country. Back in April, Voltage Pictures, the production company behind DBC (and several other high profile films, including The Hurt Locker, recent Adam Sandler bomb The Cobbler, and drone-thriller Good Kill) went to court to obtain an information discovery order that would compel the included ISP’s (of which iInet and several of its subsidiary companies were listed) to provide the names and addresses of people it believed had illegally torrented the film Dallas Buyers Club.

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Movie Review – Full Metal Jacket

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– Summary –

Director :  Stanley Kubrick
Year Of Release :  1987
Principal Cast :  Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, R Lee Ermey, Arliss Howard, Adam Baldwin, Dorian Harewood, Kevyn Major Howard, Ed O’Ross, John Terry.
Approx Running Time :   116 Minutes
Synopsis:   A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
What we think :  Outstanding war film is a tale of two halves: the first, a dehumanizing assault on all that’s good and clean about men becoming soldiers, and the second, a brutal – if somewhat muddled – assault on the senses as those recruits are thrust into combat in Vietnam. R Lee Ermey’s performance is Oscar-caliber (sadly, not nominated), and the film’s opening half is some of the most scintillating regimental emotional carnage ever inflicted upon an audience.

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These boots were made for walkin’.

Seven years after the success of The Shining, director Stanley Kubrick turned his gaze upon the horror of war, ostensibly a serious version considering the black humor of his previous hit, Dr Strangelove. Full Metal Jacket was Kubrick’s attempt at breaking down the… well, breaking down of men during combat, as well as the less likely subject of the good ol’ American Boot Camp. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by former US Marine Corpsman Gustav Hasford entitled “The Short-Timers”, Kubrick, together with screenwriter Michael Herr and Hasford, crafted a film of two distinct halves, echoing the work of the original novel’s duology of narrative. Set during the Vietnam War, and featuring a young, inexperienced cast, Full metal Jacket would go on to become a film mentioned in the same heaving breaths as Apocalypse Now and Platoon, Saving Private Ryan and All Quiet On The Western Front, as a classic of the anti-war genre. Although hindered by a disadvantageous, meandering second half, the film retains its potency thanks to a gallant central performance by Matthew Modine, and superb bit-roles to D’Onofrio, Ermey, Adam Baldwin and Arliss Howard, among others.

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Movie Review – Dr Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

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– Summary –

Director :  Stanley Kubrick
Year Of Release :   1964
Principal Cast :  Peter Sellers, George C Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Tracy Reed, Shane Rimmer.
Approx Running Time :   91 Minutes
Synopsis:   An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.

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I doubt the words “Nuclear Combat” have ever been so funny.

Kubrick’s one and only comedy – a black satire that’s less rib-tickling guffaw and more internal wince at how stupid militarism can be – is still as sharp and relevant in the here and now as it was back in the mid-60’s. The shadows of war in the years since, from Vietnam, to the 1991 Gulf War, to 9/11 and the War On Terror, loom large within the international psyche, contrasting superbly with Strangelove’s brilliant anti-military subtext; the film’s bludgeoning of the military industrial complex and its inherent human faults would be funnier if it wasn’t so possible.

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Movie Review – A Clockwork Orange

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– Summary –

Director :  Stanley Kubrick
Year Of Release :   1971
Principal Cast :  Malcom McDowell, Patrick Macgee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, John Clive, Adrienne Cori, Carl Deuring, Paul Farrell, Michael Gover, Miriam Karlin, James Marcus, Aubrey Morris, Godfrey Quigley, David Prowse, Sheila Raynor, Madge Ryan, John Savident.
Approx Running Time :   136 Minutes
Synopsis:   In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society’s crime problem – but not all goes according to plan.
What we think :  Brilliantly charismatic film echoes the 70’s anarchic-era political subculture in Britain, with Kubrick’s wry humor and sarcastic bipolar sense of violence and thematic absurdity; A Clockwork Orange is devilishly clever and monochromatically destitute in its absurdity. Malcolm McDowell is terrific, anchoring the film with a gilt-edged mania personifying the carefree ramifications of a sociopathic underclass seen by many as gaining a foothold in Britain at the time. Generally hypnotic, Clockwork is as wonderfully brutal now as it was in 1971.

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

It kinda makes a point about success when you look at Kubrick trying to follow up his gargantuan cult classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, that he chooses hugely controversial novel (by Anthony Burgess) as his next project. I mean, only Kubrick could have got away with it. To wit, Burgess’ book was accompanied by the removal of a “redemptive chapter” for the US publication (the publishers wanted the book to end on a darker note), as well as being outright banned in some quarters for offensive language; I guess it was only natural for a film-maker of Stanley Kubrick’s stature to even attempt to make a mainstream film out of it. The end result of it is that Clockwork remains one of Kubrick’s most divisive films, at least in terms of its imagery and counter-cultural narrative, which portrays “the establishment” as cruel and unusual – or perhaps just misguided – while attempting to create a villainous character into a heroic, albeit demonic, one. The film was so controversial in both the UK and the US, particularly for its sex scenes and depictions of sexual violence, it was either trimmed or banned altogether in those markets. Kubrick famously withdrew the film from being available to the public in the UK, a decision which was only lifted following the director’s death in 1999.

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Movie Review – Barry Lyndon

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– Summary –

Director :  Stanley Kubrick
Year Of Release :   1975
Principal Cast :  Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Macgee, Hardy Kruger, Gay Hamilton, Godfrey Quigley, Steven Berkoff, Marie Kean, Murray Melvin, Frank Middlemass, Phillip Stone, Leon Vitali, Dominic Savage, Narrated by Michael Hordern.
Approx Running Time :   187 Minutes
Synopsis:   An Irish rogue wins the heart of a rich widow and assumes her dead husband’s aristocratic position in 18th-century England.
What we think :  Towering period epic that captures the sodden, grimy mess of mid-1700’s Europe, as well as the beauty and majesty of some of the worlds most stunning locations. Led by Ryan O’Neal’s brilliant performance, and given visual heft by Kubrick’s stately direction (and some equally stately cinematography), Barry Lyndon’s dramatic arc cannot be overstated.

*****

I have now come to claim that satisfaction.

Stanley Kubrick was on a career high when he made Barry Lyndon – his previous films, including the controversial A Clockwork Orange, had met with remarkable critical success, and so the famed director’s take on the William Makepeace Thackary novel, “The Luck of Barry Lyndon”, had a high degree of anticipation about it when released in 1975. Inevitably, even the mighty Kubrick fell on the rocks of anticipatory failure; Barry Lyndon’s reception on release was tepid, to say the least. Although more than a few critics hailed it as a creative success, it was not the financial boon Warner Bros had hoped. Lengthy, slowly paced, and considerably distant in Kubrick’s inimitable style, Barry Lyndon’s technical outreach failed to grab an audience clamoring for more commercial fare. While Kubrick would go on to direct The Shining, and achieve the commercial success the studio wanted, Barry Lyndon’s status as one of his “lesser” films persists even now: you’d have to find a dedicated film fan who would place it among Kubrick’s pedestal films, such as 2001 or The Shining, or even have seen it, for that matter.

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Movie Review – Truman Show, The

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– Summary –

Director :  Peter Weir
Year Of Release :   1998
Principal Cast :  Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Brian Delate, Holland Taylor, Paul Giamatti, Peter Krause.
Approx Running Time :   103 Minutes
Synopsis:   An insurance salesman/adjuster discovers his entire life is actually a T.V. show.
What we think :   Peter Weir’s fabulous meditation on “reality television” (what a scourge) is cinematic delight, thanks to a tremendously emotive performance from Jim Carrey, a ripping supporting role from Laura Linney, and a fascinating script from Gattaca helmer Andrew Niccol. Featuring terrific production design and a glorious score by Phillip Glass (evoking shades of Vangelis, occasionally), The Truman Show hasn’t aged a day and reminds us all that we’re merely consumers of product, passive and flock-like, which is something uncomfortably prescient given the proliferation of the reality genre all these years later.

*******

On the air. Unaware.

At the time The Truman Show was released, the reality television genre was nowhere near as prolific as it is now – now, entire channels are dedicated to insipid crap designed to reflect society back upon itself: shows such as the X-Factor/Idol templates, the Big Brother, the Duck Dynasty and Pawn Star shows – not to mention those ubiquitous Kardashians – highlight just how desperate people are to fill the gaping void in their lives with unmitigated trash simply to pass the time. Nope, not a fan. The pre-milennial Truman Show is something of a precursor to what would become almost passe today, a 24-hour channel dedicated to the ultimate social experiment, and although human rights advocates would no doubt find the reality of this scenario utterly deplorable, in cinematic fiction it provides us with an intellectual “think piece” designed to offer moral and ethical trip hazards to make us think.

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