Richard takes a walk through the TIFF Bell Lightbox exhibit of the work of Stanley Kubrick. He highlights props from “Full Metal Jacket,” “The Shining,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange” and “Barry Lyndon.” Click HERE to see “The Shining’s” axe and typewriter, Alex’s cane from “A Clockwork Orange” and much more!
TOP THIRTEEN HITS (click on the title to see trailer)
1. 12 Years a Slave. There’s a key line near the beginning of “12 Years a Slave, “ the new drama from “Shame” director Steve McQueen. Shortly after being shanghaied from his comfortable life as a freeman into a life of slavery Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) declares, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.” Based on Northup’s 1853 memoir the movie is an uncompromising story about will, suffering and injustice.
2. American Hustle. “American Hustle” is one of the year’s best. It’s an entertainingly audacious movie that will doubtless be compared to “The Wolf of Wall Street” because of the similarity in tone and themes, but this time around David O. Russell has almost out-Scorsese’d Scorsese.
3. Before Midnight. “Before Midnight” is beautifully real stuff that fully explores the doubts and regrets that characterize Jesse and Celine’s (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) love affair. Done with humor, heart and pathos, often in the same scene, it is a poignant farewell to two characters who grew up in front of us.
4. Blue Jasmine. Darker than most of Woody Allen’s recent output, “Blue Jasmine” doesn’t go for laughs—very often anyway—but is an astutely crafted psychological character study. Jasmine is a modern day Blanche Du Bois, a faded bright light now forced to depend on the kindness of strangers. Getting in her way are delusions of grandeur and a continued sense of denial—likely the same sense that kept her guilt free during the years the illegal cash was flowing—that eventually conspire to fracture her psyche. “There’s only so many traumas one can take,” she says, “ before you end up in the street, screaming.”
5. Captain Phillips. I don’t think it’s fair to charge audiences full price for screenings of “Captain Phillips.” While watching this exciting new Tom Hanks thriller I was reminded of the old Monster Trucks ads that bellowed, “You Pay for the Whole Seat but You’ll Only Need the Edge!”It a film about piracy and I don’t mean the sleazy guys who bootleg movies but the real pirates who were responsible for the first hijacking of an American cargo ship in two hundred years.
6. Dallas Buyer’s Club. In “Dallas Buyer’s Club” Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée has made an emotional drama that never stoops to melodrama. Instead it’s an inspirational film about standing up for what you believe in.
7. Frances Ha. The seventh film from “Greenberg” director Noah Baumbach isn’t so much a traditional narrative as it is a character study of Frances (Greta Gerwig), an underemployed dancer struggling to find herself in New York City. It plays like a cleaned up black-and-white version of “Girls”; an emotionally rich and funny portrait of twenty-something ennui. “Frances Ha” is a collection of details. There is an engaging story, but it’s not exactly laid out in three acts. It feels more intimate and raw than the usual twenty-ish crisis flick and with each detail we get another piece of the puzzle that makes up Frances’ life.
8. Fruitvale Station. It’s important to remember that “Fruitvale Station” isn’t a documentary. Director Ryan Coogler has shaped the movie for maximum heartrending effect, and by the time the devastating last half hour plays out it’s hard to imagine any other movie this year packing such a emotional wallop.
9. Gravity. “Gravity” isn’t an epic like “2001: A Space Odyssey” or an outright horror film like “Alien.” There are no monsters or face hugging ETs. It’s not even a movie about life or death. Instead it is a life-affirming movie about the will to survive.
10. Her. “Her” is an oddball story, but it’s not an oddball film. It is ripe with real human emotion and commentary on a generation’s reliance on technology at the cost of social interaction.
11. Inside Llewyn Davis. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a fictional look at the vibrant Greenwich Village folk scene. Imagine the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” come to life. Sharp-eyed folkies will note not-so-coincidental similarities between the people Llewyn meets and real-life types like Tom Paxton, Alert Grossman and Mary Travers, but this isn’t a history, it’s a feel. It gives us an under-the-covers look at struggles and naked ambition it takes to get noticed.
12. Nebraska. The humour doesn’t come in the set-up-punch-line format but arises out of the situations. A scene of Woody’s gathered family—his elderly brothers and grown sons—watching a football game redefines the word taciturn but the subject of the sparse conversation, a 1974 Buick, is bang on, hilarious and will likely sound familiar to anyone with a large family.
13. Wolf of Wall Street. “Wolf of Wall Street” makes for entertaining viewing, mostly because DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are able to ride the line between the outrageous comedy on display and the human drama that takes over the movie’s final minutes. Both are terrific, buoyed by the throbbing pulse of Scorsese’s camera. With its fourth wall breaking narration, scandalous set pieces and absurd antics “The Wolf of Wall Street” is an experience. At three hours it’s almost as excessive as Balfort’s $26,000 dinners. It feels a bit long, but like the spoiled brats it portrays, it will not, and cannot, be ignored.
TOP FIVE MISSES
TREND: Big stars don’t guarantee box office!
1. The Fifth Estate – Budget: $28 million, Global box office: $6 million, Return: 21% Late into “The Fifth Estate” Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies (David Thewlis) says, “most good stories start at the beginning.” I argue that he’s right– about 99% of the time. Unfortunately this look at WikiLeaks and hacker-turned-whistleblower Julian Assange falls into the 1%.
2. Bullet to the Head – Budget: $25 million, Global box office: $9 million, Return: 36% With a name like Bullet to the Head you know the new Sylvester Stallone movie isn’t a romantic comedy. Although he paraphrases the most famous rom com line of all time, “You had be at BLEEP BLEEP!” the movie is nothing but an ode to testosterone.
3. Getaway – Budget: R180-million, Global box office: R105-million, Return: 58 percent. On a scale of zero to stupid, ”Getaway” ranks an eleven. It is what we call in the film criticism business a S.D.M. (Silly Damn Movie). OK, I made that last part up, but I couldn’t really think of any other category to place this movie under. Maybe E.S.D.M. (Extremely Silly Damn Movie).
It’s one thing to feel cut off from other people. It’s another thing to be alone thousands of miles above the earth.
A new film from Children of Men director Alfonso Cuarón does a great job of showing the isolation felt by two cosmonauts who, in the words of David Bowie, are “sitting in a tin can, far above the world.”
Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts who get pelted by a debris storm, comprised of bits and pieces of old satellites. With their space shuttle disabled and their communications offline and they are forced to become Space MacGyvers in order to survive.
Bullock and Clooney aren’t the first movienauts to be cut adrift in space. From animated films like WALL-E to epics like 2001: A Space Odyssey Hollywood has mined the vastness of space in some unforgettable movies.
In the film Moon Sam Rockwell is astronaut Sam Bell, a Lunar Industries employee living and working on a space station on a three year contract.
His job is to tend to machines that are “harvesting solar energy from the dark side of the moon” and providing almost 70% of earth with power. His only companion is a robot / cup holder named Gerty (voiced by the appropriately named Kevin Spacey) although he can receive taped messages from his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott). The loneliness of the job is broken, however, when he discovers that he may not be truly alone.
The comparisons to 2001 are obvious, made even more apparent by Spacey’s HAL-like delivery of his robot lines, but director Duncan Jones has simply used Kubrick’s film as a visual reference on his way to creating a unique and fascinating film. Another thing he borrowed from Kubrick and many other sci-fi films of the 60s and 70s is his emphasis on ideas rather than special effects. Michael Bay this ain’t.
One of the earliest alone-in-space movies came in 1950. Destination Moon is noted as the first Hollywood movie to contain scientific representations of space travel. The story involves a two-man journey to the fifth largest moon in the Solar System and the difficult decision to leave one behind. Heralded at the time for its realism, through today’s eyes it looks somewhat corny. For example: “I know one thing,” says a spacesick General Thayer (Tom Powers), “unless these pills work, space travel isn’t going to be… popular.”
Twenty three years have passed since the original film won an Academy Award for lead actor Michael Douglas and a Razzie for supporting actress Daryl Hannah which means that many current second year university students weren’t even born when Gordon Gekko made the words “Greed is good” famous.
Twenty-three years is a stretch but it is more common than you think for years, and sometimes even decades to pass between source and sequel.
Return to Oz, based on the second and third Oz books and made forty-six years after the classic MGM film, picks up the story six months after Dorothy returned to Kansas. The film held a Guinness Book of World Records notation as the sequel with the longest gap from its original until it was bumped off by Fantasia/2000, which came a whooping fifty-nine years after Fantasia.
Not record breaking, but still substantial are The Color of Money, which trailed The Hustler by twenty-five years and An American Werewolf in Paris which bounded into theatres sixteen years after An American Werewolf in London.
Sci fi fans also had to wait sixteen years for the follow up to 2001 A Space Odyssey. 2010: The Year We Make Contact featured a whole new cast (save for Douglas Rain who reprised his role as the voice of HAL 9000) but original director Stanley Kubrick was given a cameo of sorts. He can be seen as the Soviet premier on the cover of Time magazine.
Speaking of directors, it’s unusual for the original director to come back and direct a sequel a decade later, but Troy Duffy, stuck to his guns (literally) and ten years after The Boondock Saints came The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. “To me, the successful sequels in the past have given you everything you’ve loved from the first film, plus a brand-new storyline that you could never have predicted,” said Duffy.
Oliver Stone, who had never made a sequel to any of his films before remounting Wall Street, seems to have followed Duffy’s advice filling his new film with touchstones from the original, but let’s hope he’s joking when he says, “I should go back and do ‘Son of Scarface’ or something!”