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 tête-à-têtes, 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.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

Advertisement

Coach Carter

By BrianOrndorf

January 14th, 2005

Yes, there’s no doubt that “Coach Carter” willingly goes after every last possible cliché imaginable. And over a staggering 140 minute running time too. However, underneath all the nonsense are some good messages for urban audiences, and a sturdy lead performance from Samuel L. Jackson.


Though a successful businessman in his rough Californian inner-city neighborhood, Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) accepts a request to coach his ailing high school alma mater basketball team. Seeing a group of thugged-out, uneducated boys in front of him, Carter begins to shape young men out of these ruffians through education, lessons on respect, and important basketball fundamentals. The changes are seen immediately, with the basketball team dominating their opponents and enjoying their newfound fame. However, once the squad loses sight of their academic goals, Coach Carter stops the season, which enrages the locals and casts a light on the importance of education over urban hoop dreams.

Complaining of predictability is not permitted when viewing “Coach Carter.” This is a film (“inspired by” a true story) based solely around known quantities, and it quests to carry out every last cliché imaginable, but you should already know that going in. Predictability isn’t an inherently evil thing, but when it’s delivered without heart and soul, the result can be cinematically crippling. “Coach Carter” is a film without much soul, but it certainly doesn’t lack in the heart department, even if it’s sold with lethargic delivery.

It’s Samuel L. Jackson’s commanding lead performance that takes “Carter” to heights the thuddingly insipid screenplay will not allow for the rest of the production. Jackson is playing below his strengths here, but his charisma and presence is exactly what the film needs to keep its head about water. “Carter” is a film stuffed with vital messages about the improvement of bleak lives, and while the vessels for these messages are poorly arranged by the filmmakers, they do strike an effective and long overdue chord with the urban crowd.

It’s tough to fault “Carter” for stressing education and self-esteem, two entirely important themes in the movie, and the film even goes so far as to address the use of the dreaded N-word in everyday hip-hop speak. This is all applause-worthy. Director Thomas Carter (the dreadful “Save the Last Dance”) isn’t exactly sure what to do with the downtime on his hands between the sermonizing, and that’s where “Carter” derails in a big way. If you can believe it, the picture runs a whopping 140 minutes, and for no good reason either. Carter layers on considerable screentime for some of the player roles, and to give singer and newcomer actress Ashanti something to do (she plays a pregnant girlfriend), but oddly, considering the film’s luxurious running time, he doesn’t clear much space for Coach Carter’s personal life, or even the majority of the basketball squad – odd for a film about teamwork. The direction is wildly uneven, hitting an all time low with an uncalled for sequence that finds the team in an extremely cartoonish Caucasian suburb getting high and having sex with white girls. How this scene fits into the overall story is something maybe Carter could explain to me one day. For now, it’s a reprehensible departure in a film supposedly about values and respect.

Yes, there is the “big game” against the dreaded rivals, Carter’s important speech to the school board, a violent revolt from the basketball-loving community to Carter’s lockouts, educational tough love, the hood-rat gunshot victim, and the power of good grades. “Coach Carter” might be poisonously derivative, but if you can claw your way through some ugly material and shoddy direction, there are some good messages here that can be warmly received.

My rating: C