FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Francis Ford Coppola |||
Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola is an amazing talent whose inspiration and influence spans many generations. Virtually the link between the studio system of yesteryear and the independent minded filmmaker of the modern age, Coppola became the first major film director to emerge from a university degree program in filmmaking, thus legitimizing a now common route for many future filmmakers.

This Academy Award winner continues to enjoy an enormous critical and popular success due in large part to Coppola’s ability to break down an epic saga of crime and the struggle for power into the basic story of a father and his sons, punctuating the prevalent theme throughout Coppola’s oeuvre: the importance of family in today’s world. His personal portrait mixed tender moments with harsh brutality and redefined the genre of gangster films.

This intense, yet unassuming thriller has an impact that touches the viewer on a personal level and raises the question of privacy and security in a world of technology – thirty years ago! Coppola’s then virtually unknown cast is a roster of inevitable superstars, including Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, and Robert Duvall. This Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Sound lost out to Coppola’s other great effort of the year, The Godfather: Part II.

Coppola's masterful Vietnam War-updating of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" was the first major motion picture about the infamous “conflict”. This colossal epic was shot on location in the Philippines over the course of more than a year and contains some of the most extraordinary combat footage ever filmed. Unforgettable battle sequences and sterling performances from every cast member (including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Scott Glenn, and Martin Sheen) mark this Academy Award-winning drama as a must-see for any true film fanatic.

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Shadowboxer

By BrianOrndorf

August 4th, 2006

“Shadowboxer” is aspiring to be a sensual, violent look at life lived behind the gun. What it resembles more is a pay cable porn leftover, complete with a full frontal from Stephen Dorff, and Cuba Gooding Jr. diddling Helen Mirren in what looks like outtakes from “Legend.” “Shadowboxer” is a lot of things, but “good” just isn’t one of them.

Shadowboxer

When contract killer Rose (Helen Mirren) is diagnosed with cancer, she elects to continue with her work, aided by her stepson/lover Mikey (Cuba Gooding Jr.). When on a routine assignment, Rose balks at killing the pregnant wife (Vanessa Ferlito) of a gangster (Stephen Dorff), instead hiding her away as the three raise the child in seclusion. As the years pass, the frosty and distant Mikey becomes a father figure to the child, which endangers his life and profession when his past comes looking for revenge.

The way “Shadowboxer” moves, you can understand that it’s a film that wants to set itself apart from the routine hit man cinema agenda. Director Lee Daniels is hunting for anything that will stand out to the audience, so he goes to a very unexpected place: sex.

“Shadowboxer” is a mash-up of Luc Besson’s “The Professional” with one of those late night Cinemax films you watch when the kids are finally put to bed, with titles such as “Cancun Desire” or “Masseuse Nights.” The producer of “Monster’s Ball” and “The Woodsman,” Daniels know his way around making the viewer uncomfortable, but there’s a fine line between genuine, pants-tickling eroticism and “I can’t believe I’m watching this surrounded by strangers” soft-core porn.

Now, it’s not like I roll up the welcome mat at nudity, but the sexual material in this picture is gracelessly staged, frightfully filmed, and directed with all the zeal of a Shannon Tweed/Andrew Stevens epic. It’s gets embarrassing in a hurry. A majority of the cast strolls around naked (the notable exception being Mirren), and there’s a strong subplot covering incest in the threadbare script by William Lipz, but Daniels can’t find a secure way to develop that lust beyond mere raincoat voyeurism. Already cursed with bare-bones production values, the sex only manages to confuse “Shadowboxer,” and lure it away from anything close to a coherent and unique plot.

The other speed in Daniels’s repertoire is violence, which “Shadowboxer” features plenty of. The characters are cold-blooded assassins, and they act accordingly. There are blunt moments in the film which demonstrate Daniels has some ability as a filmmaker, but those are undercut with liberal usage of ugly step-frame processing pushing the look of the picture further into pay cable land.

“Shadowboxer” is something of a mess, but Daniels seems committed to seeing it all the way to the end and there’s something commendable in that defiance. Trouble is, he’s surely the only one who wants to stay until the end.

My rating: D