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

Lucky Number Slevin

By BrianOrndorf

April 7th, 2006

“Lucky Number Slevin” didn’t strike me as unique, interesting, or even fun. Mostly it’s a laborious exercise in hipster screenwriting, bumbling its way to a wildly miscalculated finale. It tries to roll around in Tarantinoland, but fails to impress at every turn.


Slevin (Josh Hartnett, now experiencing bed head for his eighth straight year!) has just been mugged and beaten, and looks for solace in his friend’s apartment. Mingling with a curious neighbor (Lucy Liu), Slevin is soon hauled away by thugs to meet The Boss (Morgan Freeman), who mistakes the confused young man for his gambling addict friend. Looking for a repayment of debt, The Boss offers Slevin a chance to get himself out of trouble if he murders the son of his rival, The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley). Slevin, in over his head, looks for ways out of this predicament, shadowed at all times by the enigmatic Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis), a hired killer who pulls the criminal underworld strings.

After “Pulp Fiction” exploded in 1994, there was a slew of imitators that followed closely with identical ingredients. They all wanted a slice of the hipster criminal money pie, but soon the genre died and Hollywood moved on to superhero and horror movies. “Lucky Number Slevin” represents the next wave of spunky crime thriller/comedies, and if this film is the warning shot, the future looks bleak.

Written by Jason Smilovic, “Slevin” feels like a lackluster writing sample that somehow bumbled its way into a feature film production. Smilovic’s screenwriting is wordy, self-conscious, and cutesy, propelling itself with “Thin Man” speed, but stuck with film geek references that even fictional characters would never be caught dead speaking. It plays like the “Gilmore Girls” with more bullets and bad haircuts, but without a scrap of charm or artistic proficiency. With lovers comparing James Bond actors in bed, The Rabbi chatting up “North by Northwest” with Slevin, or just general meaningless back-and-forth quipping between enemies, “Slevin” rambles on and on with incessant dialog. It soon becomes crystal clear that Smilovic is trying to cover for the lack of dimension in the film with all his toothless wordplay.

Director Paul McGuigan (who worked with Hartnett in “Wicker Park”) is also incapable of bringing any spark to this dried up story. He’s hedged his bets by casting the film with sparkling stars, and there’s a minor tremor of excitement that comes with watching Freeman, Willis, and Kingsley in a room together. OK, after “A Sound of Thunder” and “BloodRayne,” maybe not Kingsley so much. McGuigan tarts up the film with moody photography and some trick shots, but he is completely unable to find a pulse to the story. “Slevin” arrogantly assumes itself a wickedly clever creation, but there’s little proof during the film that validates the production’s argument.

In the finale, “Slevin” turns into a “Usual Suspects” event, where Smilovic is looking to blow minds by yanking the plot inside out. What the writer and director fail to do with the rest of the film is find a convincing reason why the viewer should even care by this point. There’s so much attention placed on tongue-twisting dialog and showboating characters that to try and reshape this experience as a brain-tickler is unreasonable and quite tedious. The final 15 minutes of “Slevin” are devoted to McGuigan flat-out explaining the plot to the audience, which is now divided into two camps: those that have no desire to learn the “truth” in the first place, and those who figured it out in the opening reel because Josh Hartnett is incapable of a performance that requires a character to convey the illusion of ingenuity.

My rating: D