Blu-Ray Review: The Shining

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
Based on a Book by: Stephen King
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Country: USA, UK
Running Time: 146 min
Year: 1980
BBFC Certificate: 15


With Halloween just around the corner it’s about time I got in on the horror film blogging action, which tends to take place throughout October. And what better horror film to review than Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining. As part of their Premium Collection, Warner Bros. have released the film on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital HD/UV in its original US theatrical form. 25 minutes were cut from the film when it was released in the UK (for time rather than censorship, so gorehounds out there needn’t get excited) and we’ve been watching the truncated version ever since. Back in 2012, the BFI released the US cut in selected cinemas, but it’s not until now that it’s been available for home entertainment. To make the release extra special, they’ve also included plenty of special features too and I’ll talk about those at the end of the review as per usual.

Now, if you haven’t seen The Shining what the hell’s wrong with you? Sorry, I mean, the story (based on a novel by Stephen King) sees Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) get a job as the caretaker of a remote mountain hotel whilst it’s closed for the winter. He brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) and the three of them stay in the vast building, all alone. Jack sees this as a chance to work on a writing project, but the isolation, existing family problems and possible evil spirits living in the hotel prove too much and he gradually goes insane, threatening the safety and lives of his family.

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Blindspotting #5 – Kramer vs Kramer and Terms Of Endearment

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As my tastes have changed and morphed over the years, my willingness to try different things has increased. I now relish, particularly in the universe of film, diving into something heretofore unknown (e.g. I dabbled in some Czech new wave films a little while ago and then couldn’t wait until that Eclipse set rested in my hands). But in my younger days I simply avoided a lot of movies. None with more conviction than the dreaded family drama – especially the ones that were “critical darlings” or multiple Oscar nominees.

I’m not sure why, but at the time most of them struck me as dull, unlikely to have much visual splendor and probably designed to wrench undeserved emotion from their viewers. In recent years, two such films have moved into my “I’m kinda curious now…” ruminations: Kramer vs. Kramer and Terms Of Endearment, both of which hogged Oscars in their respective years. They’ve been staring balefully at me over the last 30 years constantly reminding me at any opportunity that they remained unwatched like that hole in my fence remains unpatched (I swear I’ll get to it in the Spring). I mention the Oscars mostly to tie back to my young feelings of “it won awards, so it must be boring”, but far more interestingly because each film won almost the exact same 5 statues: Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay plus two acting wins (Kramer won for Best Actor and Supporting Actress, while Terms flipped that to garner Actress and Supporting Actor).

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Cinecast Episode 192 – Rub the Fuzzy Wall

 
 
It is a two man operation today, a very casual (and lengthy) conversation of a wide variety of movies. First up is a mixed, but leaning towards positive, review of Edward Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs, which features good chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, but a very mixed bag of tonal shifts. Then we talk a little TV with The Walking Dead. We revisit a number of (relatively) recent films from what is predictable about Predators to what is excellent about Duplicity to what is slightly baffling about Walker, Don’t Look Back and Get Him to The Greek. The video-game as a childrens film in French CGI oddity The Dragon Hunters, and how this similar themed movie differs from Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon is discussed for a while. Then it is back into documentary land for an extensive revisit of King of Kong, as well as credit card debt and the state of the nation (circa 2005-06) documentary, Maxed Out. Andrew makes a case for The Illusionist, and talks about the use of music in Black Snake Moan. We close on all things Kubrick and Steadicam with The Shining and Birth. And some DVD love for Disney and Vikings and Mixed Martial Arts Melodrama. Pull a seat up to the digital fireplace, grab and Brandy and a cigar and lets talk some turkey.

As always, feel free to join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and as always, thanks for listening!

 


 

 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_192.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_192-alt.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: Five Easy Pieces (1970)

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I have a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of Jack Nicholson. There are a handful of his movies I like a lot, but it’s often in spite of his involvement rather than because of it. A unstated side effect of this marathon was supposed to be for me to gain a better appreciation for him. So far, it isn’t working very well. I’ve actually started watching Five Easy Pieces before, and didn’t finish it (I’ve forgotten why, but probably some combination of being distracted and lack of interest). This time I did finish it, and I can find a good bit to like about it, but I still don’t “get it” the way I was hoping.

Nicholson is Bobby Dupea, an oil-rig worker who lives with his shrill but well-meaning girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black), in between killing time bowling with buddies and picking up other girls to break up the monotony of his life. As the film goes on, we discover bit by bit that Bobby wasn’t born a working-class stiff – rather, he comes from a well-to-do family of musicians and artists, who he turned his back on years earlier, feeling pressured and trapped by their expectations of him. When his sister contacts him to let him know of their father’s declining health, he travels back home to visit with Rayette in tow, creating a tense juxtaposition when she and his family meet.

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A Martin Scorsese Marathon

Basically, you make another movie, and another, and hopefully you feel good about every picture you make. And you say, ‘My name is on that. I did that. It’s OK’. But don’t get me wrong, I still get excited by it all. That, I hope, will never disappear.” – Martin Scorsese

For the better part of the last three decades, I have been a fan of Martin Scorsese. My admiration first took bloom in the summer of 1985, and happened to coincide with what I consider to be the discovery of my young adult life; set off the main drag of the town I grew up in, I found a small video store. Now, this in itself was no great revelation; in the years before Blockbuster came barreling into my area, forcing all the smaller video chains out of business, there were at least half a dozen such stores within a 3-mile radius. But the moment I walked into this particular video palace, I knew it was special. Where most were lining their shelves with numerous copies of the ‘hot new releases’, this one had titles like Midnight Cowboy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, films that the others simply didn’t offer. For me, this store was a treasure trove, and I returned there often, sometimes 3-4 times a week, uncovering classic after classic, films that, to this day, I consider some of the finest ever made.

And it was here that I first found Mean Streets.

Tough and unflinching, Mean Streets was like a punch to the head for a 15-year-old from the suburbs; a marriage of images and rock music, violence and pain the likes of which I had never seen before, offering a glimpse into a lifestyle that I found all too real, and a little bit frightening. I must have rented it at least six times that summer, and as a result, Mean Streets fast became my favorite movie. More than this, it was my jumping-off point into the career of Martin Scorsese. After Mean Streets, I moved on to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, two more shots to the head. Through these three films, I realized just how deep, just how down-and-dirty, and just how moving the cinema could be. They marked a turning point in my development as a film fan. Movies were no longer limited to the land of make believe; they would also be a window overlooking the real world.

Now, almost 24 years after I first walked into that video store, I’ve decided to take my admiration to the next, perhaps the ultimate, level. Over the course of the last several weeks, I sat down with everything that home video has to offer of Martin Scorsese’s work behind the camera, 26 films in all, and what I uncovered on this love-fest of mine proved to be just as enlightening as that first viewing of Mean Streets all those years ago.

As I sat watching one Scorsese movie after the other, I found myself asking, “What exactly is it that constitutes a Martin Scorsese film”? It was a question I had to pose, because I quickly realized that most of my initial beliefs, the pre-conceptions I had built up about the man and his career, only told part of the story.

For one, there was my presumption that the recurring trait in every Scorsese film was a down-to-earth quality, where the genuine, the realistic, would be favored above all else. Well, this is certainly true in some of Scorsese’s finest films, especially those where actual events served as a foundation (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Aviator). However, it was wrong of me to discount the role that fantasy played in Scorsese’s work. The opening scene of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore looks as if it was lifted right out of Gone With the Wind, and the musical numbers of New York, New York were obvious nods to the Hollywood big-budget spectaculars of the 40’s and 50’s. There is the dreamy romance of The Age of Innocence, and the hilarious bad luck of Paul Hackett in After Hours; in short, films that have little or no basis in reality whatsoever, proving that the fantastic plays just as important a role in the great director’s work as reality does.
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Spotlight on: Ray Winstone

Having recently seen The Proposition for the first time, I was impressed enough with Ray Winstone’s performance to delve a little deeper into his work. As it turns out, he’s had a very interesting, not to mention impressive, career thus far. I’m not sure exactly how regular a posting this Spotlight On series will become, but I can say that, if it does blossom into a regular offering, it will owe its inspiration to Ray Winstone.

Having achieved a respectable level of fame in the new millennium, the truth of the matter is that Ray Winstone has been around for a while. His breakthrough performance came in Alan Clarke’s Scum, an overlooked gem that started life as a 1977 BBC television drama before being given a theatrical release in 1979. Winstone played Carlin, a young hoodlum locked away in a juvenile detention center, and was excellent in what would prove to be a very demanding role. He was also one of the best things about 1981’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, playing the lead singer of a British punk rock group touring America.

Having done mostly television throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, Winstone returned to feature films in 1997 with Nil by Mouth, the directorial debut of friend and fellow actor, Gary Oldman. Two years later, he was again cast in a film by an actor-turned-director, this time Tim Roth. The title of that movie was The War Zone, and Winstone turned in a stellar performance as a father who’s sexually abusing his teenage daughter.

Ray Winstone has kept himself busy over the last 11 years, appearing in 29 feature films (while also managing to mix in a few television stints along the way). He’s appeared in everything from Big-budget Hollywood productions (he was solid as Jack Nicholson’s second-in-command in Scorsese’s The Departed) to lesser-known independent features (Face was a sturdy, if somewhat forgettable crime drama). His best performance to date, however, can be found in Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast, where Winstone plays Gal Dove, a retired thief whose utopian life in the south of Spain is thrown into chaos by the arrival of a venomous old associate.

As busy as Ray Winstone’s been over the last decade or so, it doesn’t appear to be tiring him out; he has seven films slated for release in 2009 and 2010.

To catch a glimpse of Ray Winstone at his absolute best, watch the video clips hidden under the “more” link below. If you like the clips, then I strongly recommend checking out the films (links to the DVDs on Amazon can be followed by clicking on the title above each clip)

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Hidden Treasures – Week of June 15th

Welcome to the latest installment of Hidden Treasures. Also, please keep in mind that there’s just one week remaining to make your submission for this month’s guest Hidden Treasures, which will post on June 19th. For more information on how to submit your favorite film, click here

Carnal Knowledge (1971)
When the Broad Avenue Cinema in Albany, Georgia, made the decision to run Mike Nichols’ controversial new film, Carnal Knowledge, I’m sure they had no idea that doing so would land them in a prolonged legal battle, one that would eventually make its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In January, 1972, reacting to the supposed ‘obscenities’ found in the film, Albany deputies raided the small theater. Local courts would later slap the theater’s owner, Billy Jenkins, with a $750 fine and a sentence of one year’s probation for exhibiting ‘obscene material’. As is the case with many such moral crusades, those who attacked Carnal Knowledge never bothered looking any further than the surface, condemning the film for what it showed while ignoring what it was trying to say. Far from glamorizing promiscuous sexuality, Carnal Knowledge attacks that very lifestyle, relating with extraordinary skill the tale of a man torn apart by his inability to connect with women on any level other than a physical one. Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) and Sandy (Art Garfunkel), college roommates in the 1940s, spend a lot of time comparing notes on their concept of the ‘perfect woman’. When it comes to actual matters of the heart, however, Jonathan and Sandy couldn’t be more different. Jonathan is extremely confident, and doesn’t hesitate in going after as many women as he can, while Sandy is shy, and uneasy in the company of the opposite sex. Spurred on by Jonathan, Sandy musters up the courage to talk with Susan (Candice Bergen). From this point on, Carnal Knowledge follows the two friends as they experience a variety of relationships over the course of the next 20 years. Far from the rallying cry of free love the moral pundits professed it to be, Carnal Knowledge is the tale of one man’s descent into the dark recesses of his own sexuality. As Sandy’s relationship with Susan blossoms, he fills Jonathan in on all the details, such as the long talks he and Susan share and the fact that they seem to have connected on a deep, spiritual level. However, it isn’t until Sandy talks about their first sexual encounter that Jonathan finds he’s also attracted to Susan, and begins pursuing her for himself. Before long, Susan is dating both men, and having sex with both as well. Sandy, who knows nothing of Susan and Jonathan’s relationship, continues telling Jonathan about his feelings for Susan, and how well they get along. Jonathan is perplexed. He can’t understand why Sandy and Susan are sharing so much, whereas he and Susan have found nothing in common aside from sex. Jonathan longs to connect with Susan on a deeper level as well, yet is never able to do so. It’s a reality that will haunt Jonathan over of the next twenty years. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that Carnal Knowledge was not obscene, and reversed the findings of the Georgia Courts. With Justice William Rehnquist delivering the unanimous decision, he wrote that “(The Court’s) own viewing of the film satisfies us that Carnal Knowledge could not be found…to depict sexual conduct in a patently offensive way”. I absolutely agree with them. The sexuality depicted in Carnal Knowledge is far from offensive, and farther still from sensual. In fact, if anything, I’d say it’s downright destructive.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Very seldom in life do things come together perfectly. The same can be said for the movies. The cinema’s history is filled with films that are good, many that are even great, yet every once in a while, a seemingly perfect one will come along, an artistic triumph that moves you with its power and imagination. Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc, is one such film. A singular vision with a unique approach to telling its story, The Passion of Joan of Arc is a treasure that should be cherished. The film recounts the trial and subsequent execution of Joan of Arc, the Maiden of Orleans, that was carried out by the religious and political leaders of 15th century France. Much of the dialogue is lifted directly from the surviving transcripts of Joan’s trial; Joan (Maria Renee Falconetti) is accused of heresy for believing that God speaks to her. During the trial, the young girl faced tough questioning from a collection of bishops and priests, all of whom try their damnedest to convince Joan that it was the devil who spoke to her, and not God. Yet Joan remains steadfast in her beliefs, and when she refuses to recant her claims of divine communication, she is condemned to death, and burned alive at the stake. One cannot discuss The Passion of Joan of Arc without delving into the performance of Maria Falconetti. Dreyer made a stylistic decision to utilize extreme close-ups of his characters throughout the film, and the majority of these are of Joan herself. It’s in these close-ups that Ms. Falconetti shines, evoking enough pain and suffering to make each and every tight shot worthwhile. Falconetti shied away from over-the-top theatrics (which were popular at the time) in her portrayal, favoring instead a much more subdued interpretation. As a result, she had to rely not only on her eyes (which are haunting in their depth of feeling) to convey her character’s anguish, but also her pouting lips, her head tilts, and even the occasional slow tear running down her cheek. Falconetti’s Joan of Arc is much more than a girl on trial; she is a tortured soul completely abandoned in her hour of need, and through her the film transforms into an intensely moving experience. I understand my labeling The Passion of Joan of Arc a ‘perfect’ film is a very bold statement, yet I believe this work transcends standard cinema, rising to a level of art that few other films ever reach. The Passion of Joan of Arc not only reached that level; it continues to rest there comfortably, even all these years later.

Dressed to Kill (1980)
Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill opens with a shot of actress Angie Dickenson standing in the shower. As she watches her lover through the smoky glass of the shower door, Ms. Dickinson alluringly caresses her body with soap, the passion building slowly within her. This erotic scene is suddenly, and quite jarringly, interrupted when another man sneaks up behind her, covering her mouth as he rapes her right there in the shower. What started as a dream quickly becomes a nightmare, and Dressed to Kill has revealed the first of its many surprises. Following a torrid sexual encounter with a complete stranger, New York housewife Kate Miller (Angie Dickenson) is found brutally murdered in an elevator. Prostitute Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) is the only witness to the killing, and is caught between a rock a hard place as a result. On the one hand, the police are pressuring her for information, and threaten to charge her with the murder if she doesn’t cooperate. On the other side is the actual killer, who’s out to silence Liz permanently. With the help of Kate Miller’s son, Peter (Keith Gordon), Liz hopes to clear her name and track down the killer before ending up in prison, or the morgue, herself. Director Brian DePlama flexes his cinematic muscles throughout Dressed to Kill, giving us everything from his patented split screens to the ever-popular dream sequence (which he springs on us a number of times, and usually when we least expect it). Along with his bag of tricks, the director also makes excellent use of the film’s musical score, which performs the dual function of furthering both the passion and suspense of a scene. Take the sequence at the Art Museum, for example, where Kate meets the man with whom she’ll have her first, and last, extra-marital affair. By this point, De Palma had already established that Kate is sexually frustrated in her marriage, having confessed as much to her psychiatrist, Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine), earlier that morning. At the museum, Kate sits quietly in front of a portrait, occasionally glancing around at the various mating rituals playing out around her. In one corner, a young couple resists the urge to become more amorous in this public place, while next to them, a man hits on a pretty blonde. All of this plays out in total silence. Then, as Kate jots something down in her day planner, a man takes a seat next to her. The music swells. She removes her glove, revealing her wedding ring. He notices it and walks away. She pursues him, dropping her gloves to the ground when she stands. She follows him. He follows her. Before long, this passionate chase escalates, and Kate’s walk through the museum hallways becomes more frantic, to the point that we’re not sure if she’s running to, or from, this mysterious stranger. The sequence changes in tone from soft and romantic to quick and frightening, and does so without a single word of dialogue spoken. It’s all the better in silence; the way De Palma constructed this scene, words would have only gotten in the way.