FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Stanley Kubrick |||
Stanley Kubrick

A filmmaker of international importance, Kubrick was one of the only directors to work within the Studio System and still have full artistic control over his films from scripting through post-production, prompting Time Magazine to compare Kubrick’s early independence with the magnitude of Orson Welles.

An uncompromising antiwar film, this gut-wrenching drama depicts a World War I officer as he labors with an ultimately futile defense for three painfully sympathetic men tried for cowardice. Kubrick artistically utilizes a beautifully washed-out black and white photography to represent the muddied boundaries of right and wrong, and the many gray areas that lay between.

A fabulous and inspiring adventure, this visually stunning epic stars Kirk Douglas as the heroic slave who fights to lead his people to freedom from Roman rule. Although a clear departure from Kubrick’s oeuvre, “Spartacus” is an all time classic helmed by a man with a precise vision who is equally capable of crafting colossal spectacle, tense tęte-ŕ-tętes, and a tender moment between lovers.

This film is so stylish it’s easy to forget it’s a horror film at heart. Considered to be the thinking man’s thriller, Kubrick molds this very particularly “Stephan King” material into the portfolio of his films about human failure, as the hero’s desperate desire to become somebody ends in frustration and tragedy.

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Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

By BrianOrndorf

July 30th, 2004

There have been better stoner comedies in the last ten years, but when "Harold and Kumar" decides to get weird and funky, the laughs do follow. But that's a rare occasion for this unevenly performed comedy, which features quite possibly the worst, most unfunny scene of the 2004 film year.


Harold (John Cho, or as the trailer calls him, “that Asian guy from ‘American Pie’”) is an uptight investment banker who is continually dumped on by his superiors. Kumar (Kal Penn, “that Indian guy from ‘Van Wilder’”) is an underachieving medical genius who doesn’t feel the need to join the adult world. To celebrate their Friday night together, the two friends decide to get high and score some White Castle hamburgers. But on the way to the Palace of the Slyders the duo are constantly sidetracked by an abundance of distractions, including racist bullies, Neil Patrick Harris, and a roaming cheetah.

The stoner comedy died a dignified death back in 1998, with the dual release of cult classics “Half-Baked” and the Coen Brothers’ “The Big Lebowski.” “Harold and Kumar” is the first film in a long time to attempt to string together an entire movie out of two guys who have the munchies, which, and this should come as no surprise, comes from the director of “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Can you smell the quality ahead?

In fact, “Harold and Kumar” isn’t the eyesore all the signs point to, but as a marijuana comedy, there’s little to toke on. This is mainly the fault of the two leads, John Cho and Kal Penn, who have managed to work their way up to comedy leading man status, but both remain deeply unfunny performers. Thankfully, Cho plays the straight man, so he doesn’t get a lot of the punchlines, but Penn fancies himself a stoner Ferris Bueller, and his smart-alecky acting is excruciating. Supposed to be the laid back component of the duo, Penn just doesn’t look the part, and his acting is labored and tedious. Director Danny Leiner gets a lot of mileage out of Cho and Penn’s ethnic backgrounds for laughs, so maybe there’s a clue why these two actors were specifically picked to guide the jokes. Too bad.

Leiner isn’t a mastermind either when it comes to delivering quality laughs, which, in “Harold and Kumar,” hits an all-time low for 2004 when the duo secretly spy on two gorgeous women in the bathroom, who promptly decide to have a bowel movement contest. Yes, you read that right. And yes, that horrified feeling is natural.

If you can believe it, the film does recover, but only when Leiner becomes brave enough to let the gags get weird. “Harold and Kumar” follows the exact same plot as “Dude;” idiots get into trouble while searching for title treasure. Some of the highlights include Kumar’s literal relationship with a bag of weed, Harold’s problematical run-in with a bored cop, and the final destination of White Castle, which receives its largest cinema endorsement the screen has seen to date, and it’s about time. Leiner also peppers the picture with low-wattage cameos, including the film’s funniest, yet most self-conscious: an appearance by Neil Patrick Harris (“Doogie Howser, M.D.”), who plays himself strung out on ecstasy and in a stripper-feeling-up kind of mood.

My rating: C