Tag Archives: Stanley Kubrick

“The Shining” (1980) – Review

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writer: Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, and Barry Nelson

A long shot follows a small yellow car driving through the mountains. The car eventually arrives at the Overlook Hotel. There, Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) waits for his appointment with Mr. Ullman (Barry Nelson), the hotel manager. After quick pleasantries, the pair get on with Torrence’s interview for the caretaker position at the hotel while it is closed for the winter. During the course of the interview Mr. Ullman reveals the unfortunate past of the Overlook Hotel and a previous caretaker who went crazy with cabin fever and murdered his daughters and wife.

At the same time back at Jack’s apartment, his wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) are having lunch. After lunch, Danny is in the bathroom brushing his teeth when he starts talking with Tony, his imaginary friend that lives in his mouth. Tony reveals to Danny that his father got the job; shortly after which the phone rings and it is Jack telling Wendy he got the job. Tony, after pleading from Danny, then reveals the dangers of the Overlook Hotel which causes Danny to pass-out.

After a visit by the doctor OK’ing Danny and a quick family talk, the Torrence Family is on their way to the Overlook Hotel. Once there, each member of the family is given a tour of the facilities: Jack to his duties, Wendy to the apartment and hotel kitchen, and Danny to the game room. It is during this tour that Danny meets Mr. Halloran (Scatman Crothers), and discovers that Mr. Halloran also has the same telepathic and clairvoyant abilities that he has. Mr. Halloran names it the shining.

Soon the hotel is shuttered for the winter and the Torrence family is left alone. Jack begins writing his novel, and Wendy & Danny make themselves busy. But something is not right in the hotel, and the hotel itself seems to be having a malevolent effect on Jack and a haunting effect on Danny. The fragile Wendy is left to protect herself and her son from the growing insanity of the hotel.

The Shining is the perfect melding of subject and director. Kubrick’s ability to frame shots and maddening need for take after take to get his perfect shot resulted in a visually satisfying picture, as well as career best performance from all involved.

Duvall has called her time filming The Shining her Vietnam, and it shows on-screen. Her character comes across as fragile and barely keeping it together. But due to the circumstances of what is happening around her and what happens to the men in her family, she is able to rise to the occasion to save her and Danny’s lives. Jack Nicholson always has a sense of edge from the first time you meet him, and you instantly know everything is not write with Jack Torrence. This serves the story well because initially you are not sure if the craziness you see around Jack is actually happening or if it is all in his head. Danny Lloyd also delivers an incredible performance as the innocent Danny. He to is able to rise to the occasion, but being so young is not always able to ward off the menace of the hotel that constantly surrounds him.

Through good story adaptation, clever editing, and great performances, Kubrick keeps you guessing as to whether the Overlook itself is actually haunted or if everything you are watching is a manifestation of Jack’s eventual insanity. Before a key point in the story all the disturbing images and “ghosts” that are witnessed in the Overlook are only seen by either Jack or Danny. With Jack you are not sure if they are in his head, and with Danny you are not sure if he is channeling Jack’s craziness. It is only after the key event that you realize the hotel itself is haunted and all hell breaks loose. Throughout the entire film Wendy serves as the audience surrogate. Once she starts to see the ghosts and disturbing goings-on do you know for sure the hotel is haunted.

The Shining is more disturbing than gory. It functions more as a ghost tale told by the fire than a slasher film. With that being said and as with most Kubrick films, it stays with you haunting your dreams.

Grade = A-

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Click on image to view trailer


“A Clockwork Orange” (1971) – Reveiw

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick and Anthony Burgess

Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, and Warren Clarke

We begin in a dystopian future United Kingdom. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his fellow droogs (gang) are having a drink of narcotics laced milk at the Korova Milk Bar. Later they head out for a night of debauchery.

They first run into a homeless drunk beneath a bridge and beat him. They then head to an abandoned casino where they interrupt a rape being perpetuated by a rival gang. After dispatching them, the droogs and Alex then head into the country for more “fun”.

In the country they discover a posh house in the middle of the woods. After worming his way into the house, Alex lets his fellow miscreants in and they proceed to attack Mr. and Mrs. Alexander (Patrick Magee and Adrienne Corri); injuring Mr. Alexander and raping Mrs Alexander.

But Alex is not an orphan of the future. He lives at home with his parents and is checked on by the school authorities. He also lives life on the razors edge, and has made enemies looking for him to fall. Included on this list are his own droogs.

A Clockwork Orange still holds the distinction of being the most disturbing film I have ever watched. What gives it is edge is the actual possibility of the future it predicts. A future where a soldier can be stabbed and hacked on the street, the assailant proceed to someone filming his action and rant a diatribe with blood on his hand, a woman causally walks down the sidewalk carrying groceries through the assailant’s rant, and all while the soldier bleeds to death on the street with no one coming to his aid.

In the end, Alex is a high school student with preoccupied parents in an uncaring and abusive eduction system.

Kubrick’s cold flat shots serve the material well. You are given no one to care about and you shouldn’t. Kubrick removes the one character you should be sympathetic about, Mr. Alexander, by purposely having Patrick Magee overact the part. You can’t care for him because you are laughing at him for the ridiculousness of his actions & reactions.

A Clockwork Orange use of music and sound is exemplary. From Beethoven’s 5th to Singing in the Rain, to the original score, all the music used enhances the disturbing quality of watching the film.

Though not for everyone, A Clockwork Orange is a film that should be watched at least once. You may say to yourself you will never watch again, but don’t be surprised if you do.

Grade = A

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Dr. Strangelove” (1964) – Review

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George

Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, and Peter Bull

Brig. Gen. Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) initiates Plan-R and orders the American B-52 Nuclear Bomber wing to attack the Soviet Union. He orders his base to go into lock-down, go on radio silence, and confiscate all outside communication devices. He also informs his men, including Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), that the US has entered a shooting war with the Soviets, and the personnel are to defend the base at all costs.

Though initially skeptical of the Plan-R orders, Maj. Kong (Slim Pickens) alerts his crew of their mission and sets course for his target in the USSR.

While on the toilet Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) receives the call about the attack orders issued by Ripper with the authority of Plan-R. After verify the current state of affairs Turgidson meets President Muffley (also Peter Sellers) to brief him on the situation, as well as explain how Ripper exceeded his authority and was able to initiate an attack without the President’s authorization or knowledge.

Dr. Strangelove is a good entry film to Stanley Kubrick’s work if you are not familiar with it. While most Kubrick films are initially off-putting and only grow in appreciation after repeated viewings, Dr. Strangelove grabs & holds it after the first.

It is a dark comedy about nuclear war. The story is entirely believable, and the procedures shown to actually initiate & drop the bomb are meticulously detailed & accurate. But it is through the dialogue and absurd scenarios where the humor comes through.

Kubrick shows his talent by having Scott go over the top against Sellers’ subdued performance as the President, and then allowing Sellers to do whatever he wants as Dr. Strangelove. Sellers also provides the calm rational voice of Mandrake against the calm irrational voice of Sterling Hayden as Ripper.

Kubrick also decided to film in Black & White. The scenes in the War-Room are shot in high contrast and well composed. The scenes of the attack on the base are washed-out and filmed as if the cameraman was part of the action. The use of Black & White brings starkness to the movie.

Though the exterior B-52 shots have not aged well, it is the only thing that hasn’t. The story, acting, and cinematography are all top-notch, and well worth the time to watch this classic film.

Grade = A

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“Room 237” (2013) – Review

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Director: Rodney Ascher

With: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, and Jay Weidner

Room 237 is proof positive that if you are looking for hidden meaning in something, you’ll find it even if it isn’t there. Room 237 is a documentary about people who are overly obsessed with the movie The Shining. In voiceover only we are introduced to the principal theorists: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, and Jay Weidner. With the use of film clips, animation, and dramatization, we are presented their suppositions.

One person believes the entire film is about the Native American genocide as Americans moved West. There are obvious Indian motifs in the film:  the photos of chiefs on the wall, images of buffalo throughout the hotel. Another person believes the film represents Kubrick’s research of the Nazi’s and their final solution, which went into effect in 1942. He finds the number 42 everywhere. There are forty-two vehicles in the hotel parking lot; forty-two pieces of cutlery, utensils, and plates on the floor of the kitchen after they have been spilled; two times three times seven is forty-two. What about the hotel itself. It’s layout is impossible. How can the hotel manager’s office have a giant window with trees. What about the hotel manager during Jack’s interview? When he shakes Jack’s hand his crotch lines-up with his “in” tray and it symbolizes an erection. Still another person believes The Shining is infested with clues that the lunar landing footage was a hoax–just the footage not the landing–and the entire film he Kubrick’s guilt-trip about being the person who staged the landing for film. Jack’s tirade about his responsibilities to his employers is actually Kubrick’s tirade about why he filmed the staged landing.

Ascher’s, the director, decision not to show the theorists is a wise one. The style lends itself to a “Deep Throat” quality. Their anonymity adds weight to their testimony. It’s only after their views and ideas get more and more outlandish do we start to doubt their credibility. Can’t you see that “Ski” poster in the Game Room? From a distance doesn’t it look like an outline of the Minotaur. Obviously this foreshadows Jack in the Maze.

In the end this is a documentary about obsession. How left unchecked it can take over your life. One of the theorists believes he will be audited by the IRS next year and is being watched by the Federal Government. Another believes his life is now very similar to Jack’s.

Room 237 is best enjoyed if you have watched and are a fan of The Shining, and know how Stanley Kubrick operated. But as a stand-alone film without the required background information it cannot hold your attention.

Grade = C

PS I watched The Shining the following day, and I did look at it differently. I will admit I noticed something in story development I did not before. I’ll follow-up with that thread in my upcoming review in two weeks.

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.