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.

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Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker

By BrianOrndorf

October 13th, 2006

“Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker” is meant to kick off a teen Bondian franchise. I doubt we’ll ever see a sequel to this “Spy Kids” like adventure, not due to a lack of production values, but more than the whole enterprise is lacking the critical entertainment value that this genre needs to succeed.

Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker

After his hotshot, superspy uncle (Ewan McGregor in a very brief cameo) is killed while undercover, 14 year-old Alex Rider (newcomer Alex Pettyfer) is curious about who took his uncle’s life. Brought under the wing of MI6 (led by Sophie Okonedo and the always welcome Bill Nighy), Alex is groomed to be the next generation of secret agent. His first mission is to infiltrate the compound of billionaire Darius Sayle (Mickey Rourke), who plans to launch a cutting edge computer system designed to murder millions of schoolchildren across the United Kingdom. Using gadgets and freshly-sharpened wits, Alex is the last hope to stop this madman before tragedy strikes.

“Stormbreaker” is the first feature film adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s best selling teen adventure series. You can think of it as “Spy Kids” meets “James Bond Jr.,” but lacking the energy of the former and the charisma of the latter. It’s a cold fish of a spy film, absent the necessary punch and kick that normally accompanies tales of super kids like this.

Not being too familiar with the Alex Rider saga before viewing the film, it would appear that Horowitz either isn’t a very clever scenarist or he has dumbed down his prose considerably for the big screen treatment (he also wrote the script) of his work. “Stormbreaker” offers nothing new to anyone who has seen a spy film, or even the moderate charms of something similar, such as “Agent Cody Banks.” Odd, though, is the overall tone, which seems preoccupied with keeping merriment out. “Stormbreaker” isn’t a sour film, but it doesn’t have a pulse; limping through extended action beats with cookie-cutter authority and often horrific direction.

Longtime BBC director Geoffrey Sax certainly can capture a glossy sheen to the proceedings, but give the man a sequence that involves combat, and it all falls apart. The film oddly relies on a plethora of martial arts sequences, and if you can imagine pasty British actors and Alicia Silverstone (as Alex’s nanny) zipping around the frame pulling off highly choreographed moves, you should be able to see why “Stormbreaker” is a veritable catalog of bad ideas. Because action is like cooties to Sax, he lazily displays the mayhem through rapid-fire cutting, backed by four-year-old techno hits. Typically, this type of cinema is defined by the quality of adventure; however, “Stormbreaker” will make you beg for the next scene of dialogue.

In the lead role, Pettyfer doesn’t possess a sliver of charm in what should be a very enthusiastic and authoritative role. Frankly, he looks bored, and hardly matches up with the interesting British cast, or the kooky American actors. Pettyfer was obviously cast for his looks rather than skill, and that alone sums up the experience of watching “Stormbreaker” quite well.

My rating: D+