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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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+