FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Norman Jewison |||
Norman Jewison

Yes, he directed “Moonstruck” and two unforgettable musicals, but Jewison is also responsible for a trilogy of films focusing on racial-injustice, a whacky Cold War comedy and a signature film of Steve McQueen’s showing that he is one of the most versatile directors since Robert Wise.

This blueprint for good investigation dramas tells the story of a black Philadelphia detective investigating a murder in Mississippi who matches wits with a redneck sheriff. Groundbreaking for it’s time, this Oscar winning film is still relevant today and offers a gripping mystery with terrific dramatic performances by a complete cast of fully realized characters.

This is an amazingly funny and entertaining irreverent "Cold War" comedy about a Russian submarine stranded outside an isolated New England town, which throws the locals into a panic. Jewison does a delightful job of utilizing his all-star cast to their fullest, deftly mixing Capra-esq characters with Mel Brooks’s type situations (and vise-versa).

A bored millionaire (Steve McQueen in his prime) masterminds a flawless bank job as Faye Dunaway (an insurance investigator out to get him) identifies him as the mastermind and falls in love along the way. This is the original and the best, with all the arch stylized movie techniques of the ‘60s (including split-screen and fuzzy shallow focus) and the most erotic chess game ever captured on screen.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Derailed (BrianOrndorf)

By BrianOrndorf

November 11th, 2005

“Derailed” has initial promise to be one of those sexy, exciting adult thrillers that just aren’t made much anymore. Good performances by Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston lead the way, but the film just can’t leave well enough alone. Soon dissolving into twists and multiple endings, “Derailed” had a good thing going, but fails to maintain it.


Facing a life filled with draining family and work commitments, Charles (Clive Owen) is starting to wear out. On a commuter train, Charles meets Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston), an attractive businesswoman who takes an immediately liking to him. The attraction is intense, with Charles considering infidelity to release his frustrations. Electing for a seedy motel, the two rent a room for their tryst, and as the evening progresses, a petty criminal (Vincent Cassel, “Ocean’s Twelve”) bursts in, beating Charles to a pulp and raping Lucinda. Consumed with guilt, Charles is confronted with even more hell when the thug begins to terrorize him, demanding large sums of money or he’ll reveal Charles’s moment of indiscretion to all.

“Derailed” is a modest thriller experience from a bygone era of cinema, spiced up to fit in with today’s “every moment is a con” aesthetic. When it sits there and plays straight, the picture clicks, and benefits from simplicity; yet, the studio (the debut film for The Weinstein Company) couldn’t leave well enough alone, making the title a little too appropriate for the film.

If there’s anything that director Mikael Hafstrom gets absolutely right it’s the claustrophobia in Charles’s life. Dealing with a sick child, a preoccupied wife (Melissa George, “The Amityville Horror”), and a job he’s too smart for, Charles isn’t looking for trouble, but when Lucinda enters his life, the desire for attraction and connection is sold with crystal clarity. Through Owen’s durable performance, the audience feels Charles inching toward that critical decision of unfaithfulness, slowly but surely. Charles pursues Lucinda in highly cinematic ways, but the actors’ chemistry quickly takes over, making that big leap with palpable connection and crucial sexual urgency.

Eventually, “Derailed” swerves over into thriller mode. With Dan’s mistake slowly haunting his every move, Hafstrom keeps the story (based on a novel) briskly moving, covering the plot holes and coincidental whoppers well with sharp direction and good performances. Vincent Cassel makes for an exceptionally wonderful villain; sliming his way around the frame, creating a memorable representation of a threat, Cassell is fun, even when he gets a bit too operatic with the role. With the heat on Charles and Lucinda, “Derailed” heads to many familiar places, but is reliably engaging.

The troubles of “Derailed” only sink in during the film’s final act, when the tale begins to twist in ways that are unnecessary and deal a critical blow to the swift pace. Hafstrom likes to weave in complications for Charles throughout the film with various murders and lies, but the payoff is a little too bombastic for what’s preceded it. “Derailed” eventually becomes a film that never ends, trotting out about three different conclusions, each with the hope of riling up the audience into applause. Instead, the multiple endings just drag the film out way past its expiration, and damage the experience. “Derailed” is swift entertainment, but its greediness poisons the punch.

My rating: C+