FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Alfred Hitchcock |||
Alfred Hitchcock

This is perhaps an obvious choice, however, most people tend to overlook the Master of Suspense’s early work as well as the relevancy of his last film as a key element in the continuing transition and development of the genre he defined.

One of Hitchcock's early triumphs, this predecessor to the mistaken identity man on the run scenario Hitchcock turned to time and again, stars Robert Donat as the innocent wrongly accused of murder and pursued by both the police and enemy spies. This is the first example of Hitchcock’s mastery over the suspense tale, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come.

Considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest works, this story of two men who meet by chance on a train and frivolously discuss swapping murders is a prime example of a common Hitchcock theme of the man who suddenly finds himself within a nightmare world over which he has no control. You can easily see how this film lays the ground work for the more popular “North by Northwest”.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film is a light-hearted thriller involving phony psychics, kidnappers and organized religion, all of which cross paths in the search for a missing heir and a fortune in jewels. Here, Hitchcock has brilliantly developed his signature form to include the now common, and often overused, device of plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. Widescreen!

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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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