Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

The last of Stanley Kubrick‘s films, Eyes Wide Shut is an epic two hours and thirty-eight minutes long. When starting the movie, I hadn’t realized just what I was in for, however, I was willing to stick it out for one of my favorite directors. What I also didn’t realize was that this was one of the first digitally filmed movies – and perhaps it is just me but the fuzzy quality of digital really irks me. Perhaps that was his intention – the subject matter isn’t beautiful, nor is the lifestyle.
The film follows Bill (Cruise), a New York City doctor, who is affronted and confused when he hears his wife’s (Kidman) story about a man with whom she fantasized about and felt like she could leave everything – her life with Bill, and their daughter – for him. Bill, after receiving a call about a patient who died, rushes over and begins this wild sexual adventure through New York’s underbelly.
There is excessive nudity and over-the-top sex romps at a creepy orgy, a young girl turned prostitute by her father, and Bill is carried through all of this with the thoughts of his wife having sex with this officer. The film plays with the idea of the actualization of sexual desire and the internalized sexual desire. Bill journeys through the actualization and finds out that he doesn’t want any part of it. Alice dreams about her having sex with untold numbers of men and is haunted by it, however during the dream is reveling in the fact that Bill is there to witness it.
As it is with most of Stanley Kubrick’s films, this isn’t something you should just throw yourself at. This film needs time to digest and swirl around in your mind. It is perfectly timed – it allows for your meditation. The only thing I found hard to digest is the acting. It seemed very melodramatic and the writing – though at times extremely well done – fell flat in other respects. I suppose that has more to do with how the actors portrayed the characters. Both Cruise and Kidman seemed a little too enthusiastic to play these parts and at times it felt like I was watching a play rather than a movie.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

This late nineties film, directed by the incredible mind of Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Brazil), was nothing short of fantastic. It is pretty hard to describe exactly what happened – and I do believe that was Gilliam’s point. It’s a rambling, jolting experience.

What I loved about the film is twofold: I loved Johnny Depp’s performance. This is before Pirates of the Caribbean, but you can see where he began the character. That being said, Depp’s character in this film is weirder than Capt. Jack because well, he’s a drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson running through L.A. with his lawyer (Benicio Del Toro) where they do unknown levels of nearly every drug on the planet. Which is, apparently, nearly autobiographical. Sweet. There isn’t a moment where Depp doesn’t have a cigarette in his mouth – even when a rag is covering it (either for huffing ether or for covering against dust).

The cinematography is the other thing I absolutely adore about this flick. The scenes are consistently jam-packed with stuff – the screen is hardly surrounded by nothingness. The camera is almost consistently on an angle, making everything else seem warped. I suppose  I should say that I was a little bit under the influence while watching (honestly, merely tipsy) and I am unsure if the cinematography or my slight inebriation helped in seeing what the characters saw. I mean, I felt as if I was on their “trip” – everything was so brilliantly colored and crazily shot that it felt like an acid trip. I’m going to give it to the cinematographer.

All in all, the film surprised me with how accessible it was. Despite the length (just over 2 hours), much of the film is accessible in the sense that no one expects it to make sense. With that in mind, the audience is allowed to drift in here and there and not be upset if something is not understood – everyone else is in the same boat.

Terry Gilliam rarely makes a film that I do not thoroughly enjoy and this is no exception. Highly recommended.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Before I start this review, if you haven’t seen this movie I would advise you to not read any further. I’m going to be very excited and write about huge spoilers. If you don’t know what it’s about (and I highly suggest not finding out – the surprise is really worth it) don’t read further. Please don’t. Just watch it. Don’t look at the IMDb either. They give it away in a sentence. Jerks.

Seriously. Don't look it up.

Okay, you have been warned.

I had no idea that this was a vampire movie. I figured, “Oh, it’s a crime action flick with Quentin Tarantino where they say ‘Fuck’ a lot and blow shit up.” Which is what happens in the first half. Then it turns into, “Oh, it’s a crime action flick with Quentin Tarantino where they say ‘Fuck’ a lot and blow shit up, with VAMPIRES.” From the moment Salma Hayek‘s head changed shape my jaw remained dropped for the rest of the film. What the hell? HOW?! There wasn’t any indication that this was going to turn into a monster movie.

Apparently this is a film that has been ruined for people for generations and somehow I, in my 22 years, have never heard anything about it. All I knew was that Robert Rodriguez directed, Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney starred, and there was a lot of gunfire. I mean, that’s all I needed to know to see the darn thing but really? I was completely blown away.

Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney play brothers who are fleeing to the Tex-Mex border to meet a guy who will pay them for their – no you know what? This doesn’t even matter in the end of the film. I mean, this is brilliantly created and Tarantino’s character is a creepy sex offender and he gets his hand blown clean through from a shoot-out at the beginning of the film but I can’t even remember why they went to Mexico in the first place. It doesn’t matter. Vampires.

Danny Trejo as a vampire. F- yeah!

Is this film worth it? Oh my god, yes. Please make it a personal vow to see it. It’s nothing except entertaining. And besides, you get to see George Clooney kick ass and take names. He just wins all over the place. And he doesn’t need Tiger Blood.

One, Two, Three (1961)

This comedy about a Coca Cola business man in West Berlin is a riot. It doesn’t stop with the laughs!

I don’t think I have ever watched a 90-minute film where a man has had more lines in a scene than this movie.

I can’t properly recount the film because it everything moves so fast that you can’t completely follow but it is hysterically funny and completely worth watching!

Also, the entirety of the film is on youtube – so if you are curious, have a watch!

The Last Starfighter (1984)

This campy sci-fi adventure doesn’t seem like something that would belong on an “One Hundred Important Films” list, however it was one of those movies that many of my friends were surprised that I hadn’t even heard of. Exclamations of “You didn’t have a childhood!” and “We are watching this immediately!” were yelled in outrage as one of them pulled it out of his huge CD wallet. It was next to the original Star Wars trilogy.

“Okay, okay – put it on!” I said as we celebrated our day off from school.

I have to say, there were many times when the special effects made me cringe. I mean, it was made after the first Star Wars movie and George Lucas had nearly no budget – but he still made it look good (despite his best efforts to systematically destroy the originals after he touched the CGI button too many times – but that’s an entirely different argument).

The Last Starfighter tells the story of a young man, Alex, who lives in a trailer park and spends his days playing his favorite arcade game “Starfighter”. His girlfriend, who also lives in the trailer park, is afraid to leave despite Alex’s assertions that everything will be alright once he figures out a way to leave. He beats the high score on the machine – which everyone attends as if he just performed open heart surgery and saved a child’s life – and is recruited later that night by a man named Centauri who tells him he created the games. Before he knows it, he is whisked away to another world where open war is upon them and he is recruited to the Starfighter fleet to save an alien planet.

Play any arcade game and become a hero!

It’s the absolute dream of any video-game loving kid. I mean, I always wanted an audience when I beat Final Fantasy IX for the first time! So I understand the appeal of the film to people like, say, my friends. They spend hours playing Pokemon tourneys, play Risk-like board games, and hours of video games. Now, that’s not to say that I am not one of them – I have put my time into many an RPG and am currently in the middle of Half-Life. But the premise is a bit…

No. Okay! I loved it! It was so lame but it was soooo awesome. It is enjoyably bad – but not so bad as to make you want to throw things. The story was well told and fun. It isn’t anything to really make you think, but sometimes having a movie like that is important.

Worth it? If you like feel-good adventure films – you are in.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Once Upon a Time in the West

This classic Sergio Leone “Spaghetti Western” is a lot to undertake. When I looked at the sleeve from Netflix it said at the bottom 2 Hours and 45 minutes. Yeesh.

But I beasted through it. I had to – it is on nearly every list for favorite Western films and it’s Sergio Leone. I mean, come on! Well, I shouldn’t say “beasted” through it. It wasn’t something that had to be dealt with. It was actually really cool! Albeit, a bit long. If there is one thing that I am going to dismiss about this movie is that the film could really have gone through some cutting. I understand that there is a beauty in what he has filmed (the amount of detail that is in this film is astounding) but the beauty could be conveyed in a shorter amount of time.

But back to the story! This isn’t your “typical” western – it is an epic in every sense of the word. I was surprised to find out that Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci  and Sergio Leone wrote the screenplay – three fantastic Italian directors. And then, Henry Fonda plays a villain? What? So strange! Charles Bronson plays the mysterious stranger who knows Fonda but he doesn’t know him. He plays a strange little tune on his harmonica which becomes quite irritating as the film progresses.

Claudia Cardinale plays a newly widowed woman who has a past of being a prostitute. I really wanted her to take revenge for her husband and kill Fonda herself but I think that was too progressive. Besides, she only knew her husband for a month and she’s a prostitute. Can’t really have a heart of gold all the time.

The story is great, but that plays second fiddle to the level of detail that Leone put into his environments. This is going to sound silly, but it really made you feel as if this were actually the Wild West. Also, his use of ambient noise is the best I have ever seen (heard).

Is it worth it? Well, I think so but you have to have a lot of patience and time on your hands. It was cool as hell and of course the ending was excellent. But it was a lot to go through. I’m still sitting here, piecing it together in my head.