by Ken B.
I am about to write a statement that I will probably never write again:
See this movie in 3D.
With Gravity, a confident case that 3D doesn’t have to be a gimmick has been made. With Gravity, the feeling of fear is real and powerfully expressed. With Gravity, there is evident proof in the potential of minimalist setup against an epic frame. With Gravity, you feel what is happening. This is a powerful, immersive experience. There is true terror, both thanks to superb direction and incredible acting.
There is a lot of plot, but I’ll only reveal as little as possible. This is something you need to see for yourself. Matt Kowalski (GEORGE CLOONEY) and Dr. Ryan Stone (SANDRA BULLOCK), are two astronauts sent up to do repairs to the Hubble Telescope. Suddenly, a misguided launch of a Russian missile strike sends debris launching into space, knocking out communications satellites around the globe, killing contact with Houston, and wrecking the shuttle, leaving, at first, Kowalski and Stone stuck in the immaculate blankness of space. (There is more – I promise – but it won’t mean as much if I tell you here).
While one might think just from reading the above synopsis that Gravity is about a botched space mission, at its center, screenwriters Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón have written a film that deals with one of our greatest and most unanimous fears: abandonment. (I might write a stray observation soon for those who viewed the film where I try to explain how this is placed in the movie in more ways than one.) In reality, despite the blockbuster budget and the setting in space, this movie conveys a powerful sense of claustrophobia. The most featured performance here is undoubtedly of Bullock’s (for reasons that I’d rather not spoil), and if there was an Oscar-worthy performance to be found in a CGI-heavy movie, this is it. She must convey many emotions in this 90 minute movie, and she handles it with professionalism and raw feeling and power. Carrying a movie of this size, essentially alone, is no easy task on an actor. (That’s not to say that Clooney as Kowalski and Ed Harris as the Mission Control voice over aren’t welcome either – it’s just that at the end of the day, it’s Sandra Bullock’s character who really matters.)
There’s only one proper way to watch Gravity, and that is in a theater and in 3D. Taking off the 3D glasses a couple of times during the film, I observed a notable flatness and distance to what was happening on screen. The 3D is technologically superb, the atmosphere is surreal, and even the smallest details are dealt with in the highest form. The cinematography by Cuarón regular Emmanuel Lubezki does wonders, with occasional POV shots early on, especially in the immediate aftermath of the debris hit. The 10 – 15 minute shot that starts the movie off is pretty great as well, and traditional shots placed in as the adventure moves on are good. As I’m writing this review, I’m listening to Steven Price’s brilliant score. It was noteworthy with the film, but to listen to it isolated is a greater experience. It almost succeeds in telling the movie’s story by itself. It moves perfectly with the film, and is awe-inspiring and massive from its very style and creation.
Gravity features no complex storyline frills. There really isn’t any possible symbolism until towards the very end. A movie that has enough strength working for it in the acting, writing, and technical fields doesn’t need to cram in any more stuff – at its length, it would only backfire. This, indeed, is a masterful entry of the chronicle that is 21st century filmmaking. It must be seen to be known, and when known, won’t be forgotten.
by Bret W.
This review was originally published to the now-defunct website The People’s Reviews in September 2000.
Straight on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick has released a film that goes completely the other way in the manner of a glimpse into the future. Where 2001 showed the future to be serene and peaceful (albeit complex and dark in the incident portrayed), A Clockwork Orange shows a future where the youth are interested only in the Ultra-Violent. A homeless man says it all, when he speaks of the conquest of other planets in space and how men don’t care about the state of lawlessness the Earth has lapsed into.
The central character is Alexander Delarge, or Alex, who is the leader of a band of hoodlums who spend their nights terrorizing the local population, destroying property, stealing cars, and clashing with other bands of hoodlums. The members of his gang, however, find his methods tiresome and desire larger returns for their work. He squashes this brief mutiny only to be betrayed by the mutineers, and finds himself serving time in prison for murdering a woman.
At the prison, he learns of a medical procedure that is being tested that is supposed to get prisoners out of jail quicker. He volunteers for the process, which is a conditioned-response training that makes him ill when he views acts of violence. After two weeks he is released back into the world of violence from which he can no longer defend himself, and ends up more pathetic than the least of his victims.
While A Clockwork Orange is a social commentary on the perils of mind control, it is also a tale of violence in a world gone very wrong. Kubrick’s powerful imagery and shocking use of color, coupled with Malcolm McDowell’s tremendous no-holds-barred portrayal of the most ultra-violent Alex, team up to make this one of the most high-impact films of all time. Even by today’s standards, this is an extremely nasty and violent film which leaves a lasting image in the viewer’s brain. It’s almost frightening to think of the mind that could dream up such violence, let alone visualize it for the big screen.
The video in the Kubrick Collection is released in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which means that you get a letterbox effect but one that is not as severe as with 70mm Panavision (1.87:1 aspect ratio). Even if you do not like widescreen editions, it’s very unobtrusive, and still shows the panorama of the widescreen cinema shot. What you lose is a thin line at the top and bottom of the screen, and what you gain is the breathtaking art in Kubrick’s talented eye. You also lose the pan-and-scan video view, which can be very annoying even to those who dislike the widescreen video format.
Regardless, those who haven’t seen A Clockwork Orange would do very well to see it. Fans of Kubrick, as well as fans of Tarantino and Rodriguez, will love this film. I place it in my all-time top ten list of films.
by Bret W.
L.A. Story has a dreamlike quality to it that makes it one of the most beautiful and magical love stories ever put to film. Deeply intense in its visual splendor, timely in its comedy, rich in its romance, L.A. Story is, in my opinion, one of the finest films ever made, which seats it firmly in my top ten list of favorite films.
Harris Tellemacher is the Wacky Weatherman for an L.A. TV station, but is disillusioned with his life. A Ph.D. in Arts and Humanities has failed to put him in the station that he feels he deserves. Everything around him is false and contrite, including his relationship with his girlfriend of three years. Then he meets Sarah, a journalist from London who is writing a story about L.A., and his entire life is turned upside down. He goes on a date with SanDeE, a girl from a clothing shop, then breaks up with his girlfriend when he finds out that she’s been cheating on him with his agent.
His new freedom from his relationship gives him reason to approach Sarah, the woman he feels he cannot be without. Through a series of blunderings it appears that they are never to be, but in the end, love and the weather conquer all.
I’ve always said that I’m not a huge fan of romance films, and yet it seems there are quite a few in my top ten. L.A. Story is surreal at times, flowing in like the tide, crashing like a wave on the beach, flickering like a candle, roaring like a fire. It’s passionate and tender. It’s also immensely funny, with some of the jabs that Steve Martin takes at life in L.A. He paints the city as a pretentious place where everyone is too important to be anywhere on time, where no one can walk to destinations no matter how close they are, where above all else, appearance is the most important thing and must be upheld at all times.
Speckled with an array of stars, L.A. Story is a film that is greater than the sum of its parts. The comedy is extremely funny, the romance is deeply touching, the imagery is awe-inspiring, even the music lends a soft lyrical quality to the film. Put these things together and you have one of the greatest romance/comedies of all time. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never seen it, and even to those who have.
by Bret W.
Many films have been made about the Vietnam conflict and the state of American society at that time. Full Metal Jacket, however, is the definitive Vietnam war film. Kubrick captures the full scope of the journey from boot camp to Mei Cong, and it’s not a pretty trip.
It starts with the dehumanizing of the young Marine recruits, first at the Paris Island barbershop, and later in their first introduction to the Drill Instructor. The D.I. has a job to do and he does it well: he breaks the individual spirit to build a team, a single unit of men from a kaleidescope of boys. The journey for the recruits is long and dark and difficult, and takes each recruit down a different path. For Pvt. Joker, its a journey from the smart-alec kid to the hardened stand-up man. For Pvt. Pyle, however, its a much darker journey that takes him to the depths of his inner evil and ends in two deaths.
From Paris Island to Vietnam, the tone is shifted from the strict regimen of boot camp to the lax atmosphere of death and destruction. Joker has become a field journalist for Stars and Stripes, the military news paper. He’s become disillusioned with his duties in mocking up his stories to make them seem more positive to the soldiers who read them. Sent to the front on a field assignment after the Tet Offensive, he meets up with Cowboy, who was in Joker’s unit at Paris Island. They take their squad into Hue City (pronounced “Way”) to face death and destruction, and the frustration and impotence of war.
Full Metal Jacket is a stark depiction of one of the blackest spots on American History. Kubrick masterfully shows the full range of emotion throughout; the fear and anguish, the anger and loneliness, the frustration and cockiness. He touches on all of it without holding back.
I once said that this was the definitive Vietnam movie, but it’s more than that. It’s the definitive war movie. It shows much more than just the killing and the death. It shows the aloof calm exterior hiding the tense unsure interior. It examines the depths of the war and how the war makes the evil inside men acceptable and justified.
Kubrick puts all of these elements under the microscope and presents them to the audience in their rawest form to give to us the finest war movie ever made.