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


Tristan & Isolde

By BrianOrndorf

January 13th, 2006

Director Kevin Reynolds manages to stage some terrific action in the gloomy romantic adventure, “Tristan & Isolde.” He has a harder time with the love story, which is hurt by leads that don’t connect. But there’s an effort to the film that interesting, even with its flawed execution.

It is the dark ages, and the war between Ireland and Britain has taken a heavy toll on the land and its people. Tristan (James Franco, "Spider-Man") is a British solider, blessed with devastating fighting skills, and the ear of his guardian, Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell, "The Legend of Zorro"). Isolde (Sophia Myles, "Thunderbirds") is an Irish princess, cursed with a life that she does not want. When Tristan and Isolde meet by chance, they begin a fiery romance in secret, hoping their love will not topple their warring kingdoms at the point when peace seems finally at hand.

Billed as the tragic love story that predates "Romeo and Juliet," "Tristan & Isolde" is a sincere attempt at medieval romance and adventure in a marketplace that often begs the opposite.

The director is Kevin Reynolds, the filmmaker behind such gems as "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and "The Count of Monte Cristo." "Tristan" returns Reynolds to the arena of mud-caked locations and brutal swordfights, and this is where the director shines the brightest. Whether utilizing the desolate locations (strikingly captured by cinematographer Artur Reinhart) or staging a strong skirmish, Reynolds is terrific detailing this era of adventure, and the film reaches exciting high points when it concentrates on the boiling blood between the Britons and the Irish. As strong a PG-13 film as I've seen in recent memory, "Tristan" is a violent production, constructing the chaos of war and the price of glory, maintaining Tristan as a brave soul who will fling himself into any situation without fear. Reynolds (an unfairly maligned director) eschews heroic themes or choreography for his characters, and the effect is icy, but often deeply compelling.

However, when Tristan finds love in the healing arms of Isolde, the film can't quite muster up the same excitement. Already a cold, standoffish production, Reynolds has terrible trouble finding the right emotional core of this relationship. Saddled with thick romantic declarations from screenwriter Dean Georgaris, "Tristan" isn't as convincing with lovers as it is with swords. Part of the problem lies in the chemistry between Franco and Myles. Franco can't quite keep up with his co-star, playing a little too hard on the sullen aspects of his character, and not enough on the lovestruck evolution of a bitter warrior. Myles is much more alive on screen, and she acts circles around Franco with her heartfelt, appealing performance.

"Tristan & Isolde" is certainly a gorgeous film that aspires to pinch a bit of period realism in with all the googly-eyes and brawny swordplay. It's a nice attempt to tell a classic love story with integrity, but the execution falters, leaving the true power of the romance lacking when the film needs it the most.

My rating: C+