Stanley Kubrick

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: The Shining (1980)

Guest review by Holen MaGroin

Welcome back to Halloween Wednesday!  Here’s guest writer HOLEN MaGROIN with the next in his series of Halloween themed reviews.  He’s got a scarrry one today. 

Oct 3:  Soundgarden – Screaming Life/Fopp EPs
Oct 10:  Batman / Batman Returns movie reviews
Oct 17:  Fastway – Trick or Treat Original Music Score 

THE SHINING (1980 Warner Bros.)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the rare instances where the film greatly surpasses the animal hedge madness of Stephen King’s novel. King reportedly hated the film because it changed the details of his book so dramatically, but all of the changes made to the film serve to not only translate it better to a visual medium, but also to create a deeper and more compelling story with a much more satisfying ending.* Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is quite possibly the greatest horror movie ever made. It’s a deeply visceral thrill that deals with the supernatural and the psychological, while managing to include enough slasher elements to satisfy those types of horror fans. There’s really something for everyone in this movie, except Stephen King.

Everyone knows the story by now. Jack Torrance procures a job as winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel and takes his wife and young son to stay with him, alone in the mountains. Jack is a struggling writer looking for a place to concentrate on his work. One day his wife decides to make seafood, and accidentally under-cooks the crabs. Jack’s intestines are sent into an uproar. Unfortunately for him, someone has locked the bathroom door. He doesn’t want to run to another bathroom and risk more leakage, so he axes down the door. This leads to the iconic image of his face sticking through the bathroom door that has been used as the cover for all recent home video editions. If you look closely, you can see that Jack Nicholson accurately portrays a man that has liquid shit running down his leg into his shoe, a man about to have an anal geyser. It’s an absolutely brilliant performance of such raw ass… I mean raw emotion that has stood as one of the defining performances in any horror movie ever. Is there a greater horror than realizing you’ve just soiled yourself?

Unfortunately for our heroes, all the food in the Overlook Hotel has been stricken with Salmonella, leaving their butts so raw that they are shining, hence the title. The only one immune to the bacteria is Danny, as he has supernatural abilities to digest anything. That’s where the paranormal aspects of the film come in. Danny talks to some ghosts that try to help him save his parents from the torment of toilet time. Danny sends a telepathic message to the old Overlook cook, and he immediately moves hell and earth to get over to the Overlook hotel.

Once the cook arrives he brings new food to last them through the winter, and decides to stay and celebrate the holidays with the Torrance family. They all laugh and dance around the Christmas tree as Jack Nicholson does his Tonight Show impression.

“Here’s Johnny!”

The whole family laughs in wholesome unison as Jack professes his unconditional love for both his wife and child. It’s a tender moment, as the whole family embraces cook Dick Hallorann as the newest addition to the Torrance gang. Dick has secretly bought Danny the new fire truck he’d been wanting before he made his way up to the hotel. On Christmas morning, Danny’s eyes light up as he had not been expecting to get it. The four get together in a loving embrace and their hearts fill with jubilant joy. My God, I’m tearing up just thinking about it!

The horror has been evaded, or so they think. Everything turns around when they receive a package in the mail, despite no one being able to get up to the hotel. Who could have left this package? They open up the package, and find a VHS copy of Bobcat Goldthwait’s debut standup HBO special, Share the Warmth. What’s odd about this movie is that the standup special was not taped until 1987, and this film takes place in 1980. To film the movie, Kubrick actually was able to send the cast and crew into the future to 2012 in order to make it even more eerie by predicting actual world events.** Rather than predicting natural disasters, or sports scores or anything like that, Kubrick became highly intrigued by this Bobcat character, and decided to abandon the novel to make his own piece of art. This is ultimately why King was not satisfied by the movie, and didn’t understand it when it came out in 1980 given that Bobcat had not reached a world stage yet. When the family finds the movie, everything goes off the rails. After watching the VHS together, Danny learns a whole lot of naughty words that should never be used by such young children. They also all immediately become big fans of the man with such Kaufman style talents and his penchant for social commentary. Bobcat’s earliest fans!

As the weeks go by, the family is pleased to find another VHS of a film called Shakes the Clown in the mail. It’s a lot different than his standup special, and exceptionally strange, but they ultimately enjoy the ride, even if it was not nearly as strong as his standup special. The next week, the family receives the holiday Bill Murray film Scrooged that features Goldthwait as the fired assistant. They determine that the movie ultimately sucks hard, but they love the parts containing Bobcat as the holiday liberator. That’s when the spirits sending the tapes stop being so kind to the family. Next they receive Police Academy 2Police Academy 2 is easily the shittiest of an incredibly shitty franchise (only speaking for the first three, as that’s when I checked out forever), a series of films Bobcat himself would later call Police Lobotomy. The family is distraught over the wasted talents of Bobcat. Another week goes by and they find instalments 3 and 4 in the mail, and are just as horrified at the glaring examples of shit personified in Police Academy fashion. This is a franchise so shitty that the best joke involving them was actually in Wayne’s World. At this point in the film, Danny and Dick begin to have psychic visions. They can’t make out exactly what’s going to happen the next week, but they begin to have visions of a horse, and Bobcat. The horse seems to be talking. Their worst fears are realized the next week when a fresh copy of Hot to Trot is sent to the house.

The family is so horrified by the turn Bobcat’s career has taken that they all suffer terminal illness, an eerie omen of the five Razzie Awards nominations that this piece of shit would be nominated for. The next week, the critically acclaimed Bobcat film World’s Greatest Dad shows up, proving to be a chilling end to the Torrance family. If they had just hung in one more week, they would have been saved by seeing the great movie.

Years later in the early 1990s, Bobcat shows up at the Overlook Hotel to perform for the guests. He’s greeted by a bell boy, and tells him that it’s nice to perform at the hotel for the first time. The bell boy cryptically replies by saying, “I’m sorry to differ with you sir, but you are the comedian here. You’ve always been the comedian.” Bobcat looks puzzled, and spots a peculiar picture on the wall. He looks at it further and sees the picture on the wall from 1980 of the Torrance family all crying holding Hot to Trot in their hands. Bobcat lets out one of his trademark screams, and the credits role.

Kubrick knows to end the film on such a disturbing note, because he knows how to play his audience. That’s why this film is considered to be one of the most classic examples of modern horror cinema released today. The feelings that you experience watching this movie moves you in such a way that you feel afraid to ever travel to a hotel, or watch one of Bobcat’s many shitty movie decisions from the 1980s. This is the greatest horror movie ever made, and there’s simply nothing else to say.***

5/5 Pumpkins

* LeBrain agrees wholeheartedly and is jealous he hasn’t written this one up yet.  But he will.  The soundtrack including music by Wendy Carlos is genius too.

** Not to mention the NASA conspiracies.

*** That sure was something!  I hope readers get it.

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#671: A Clockwork Orange

Expanding on Record Store Tales Part 58 – Klassic Kwotes VII

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #671: A Clockwork Orange

“Do you like the drugs?” asked the creepy customer looking for the A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.

Let’s back up a bit.

One of our early employees, Scott, made a critical error one Sunday at the Record Store.  This is a great lesson for every retail employee, everywhere worldwide.  Never, ever, ever tell a customer that you have something if you can’t sell it to them.  Just lie.  Claim you don’t have it.  If you say, “We have it, but I can’t sell it to you,” then you are opening a potentially big can ‘o worms.

A very creepy dude came in one afternoon asking for the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange by Wendy Carlos.  It is a potent mix of classical music and synthesizer compositions.  Beethoven was a major part of the film’s plot, and Beethoven is also a huge chunk of the soundtrack.  This customer wanted the soundtrack to psych him up for his court date.

That’s right.  For his court date.

Too much information?  Customers often shared with us the weirdest details of their lives.  We didn’t need to know he wanted A Clockwork Orange to pump himself up for court.

Thinking he was being helpful, Scott said, “Yes we have a used copy, we just bought it today.  But we have to hold it for 15 days before we can sell it.”

Scott was an honest guy.  According to the bi-laws, all used inventory had to be held for a 15 day waiting period.  In a business where buying and selling stolen goods was always a danger, this helped protect us, and any victims of theft.  15 days gave the cops time to go over our purchase reports and see if anything matched up.  If they did, then we already took the seller’s ID.  The cops can track the thieves that way.

The 15 day holding period was standard but not all stores honoured it.  We did, without fail.  There was no breaking the 15 day hold.  Not even for your court date.

The creepy guy tried to cajole Scott into selling the CD early and wouldn’t let up. He needed it before the court date, not after!  He had to get psyched up!  So much was riding on this one CD.  The soundtrack was still somewhat rare as a used CD.  The 1998 reissue was yet to come.

Eventually the creep tried to bribe Scott.  “Do you like the drugs?” he asked, implying he could get Scott anything he needed.

To his credit, Scott didn’t budge, though he certainly wished he never told the guy about A Clockwork Orange in the first place.  The customer asked to speak to the manager instead (me).  He came back then next day when I was working.

The guy walked in, wearing a green suit and carrying a briefcase.  He told me the whole story about how he “needed” that CD to get ready for court, but that nobody else in town had it.  He begged me for the CD, though with me he neglected to ask if I “like the drugs”.  He even said he’d pay over sticker price, but there was nothing I could do.

Scott was a little shaken by the creep.  It’s not every day you are solicited at your workplace by a drug dealer bound for court.  I can’t help it, but I think of him every single time I see the soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange.

Oh, and by the way:  he did buy the CD when the 15 day waiting period was up!  I didn’t ask how his court date went.  Apparently well enough.

 

REVIEW: 2001: A Space Odyssey – Original motion picture soundtrack (1996 remaster)

Hosted by Vinyl Connection, it’s the inaugural…
LP stack white soundtracks – Version 2

November 1 – November 14

scan_201611052001: A Space Odyssey – Original motion picture soundtrack (originally 1968, 1996 Rhino remaster)

Stanley Kubrick changed the sci-fi playing field with 2001: A Space Odyssey. When he and Arthur C. Clarke sat down to write the “proverbial good science fiction movie”, they strove for a depth and realism that had yet to be attempted.  No sounds in space.  No thruster sounds, no pinging space radar.  Music (or even lack thereof) would be required to tell the audio story.  Kubrick initially contacted Spartacus composer Alex North.  The plan changed, however.  Stanley had been editing the film to a temporary score of classical music.  Nothing North could come up with satisfied the fussy director as much as the classical pieces, so that is what was used on the final film.

The film was fiercely different, free of cliches and intensely determined not to dumb things down.  The same could be said of the soundtrack, reissued on CD by Rhino with four supplementary bonus tracks.  This fine release enables the listener to delve deeper and unlock even more of the secrets of the universe.  Ligeti’s dissonant “Atmospheres” delivers an uneasy feeling; after all we humans know nothing of what is really out there.  The conflicting (and conspiring) tones of “Atmospheres” is supplanted by the main title, “Also Sprach Zarathustra”.  The music implies great revelation, standing on the cusp of universal breakthrough.

Unease returns with the bee-like swarms of “Requiem” also by Ligeti.  Voices sing, each one in their own world, but joining together to join a coherent piece.  In the film, this unsettling music appears when we encounter the enigmatic Monolith.  The Monolith is a tool of our growth as a race and a stark warning that there are things beyond that our science is not equipped to explain. Arthur C. Clarke’s “third law” states “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that describes one aspect of the Monolith in 2001.  (The other two laws:  1. “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”  2. “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”)

scan_20161105-4After the chaos of “Requiem” and “Atmospheres”, Strauss’ “Blue Danube” offers a warm respite.  The brilliance of the “Blue Danube” in the film is how Kubrick managed to capture the dance-like coordinated movements of objects in space.  A shuttle docks with a spinning space station; spinning of course to create artificial gravity that humans need to survive long-term in space.  This complex docking maneuver requires no dialogue, just Strauss.  But space is a cold deadly place, hostile to almost all known life.  Ligeti returns, as he must, with “Lux Aeterna”.  This music was used to back Dr. Floyd’s trip across the lunar surface to meet the Monolith.  It is mildly disconcerting, as is what Floyd’s team finds.

Khachaturian’s “Gayane Ballet Suite” is a somber piece, depicting the boredom and routine of interplanetary space flight.  Astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole seem disconnected from their humanity; the music has more feelings than they do.  The coldness of space is easy to feel from inside their stark white starship, and Khachaturian painting the tone.

Mankind meets its future on “Jupiter and Beyond”, a combination of three Ligeti pieces.  Once again, we must face the Monolith and what it means.  Dr. David Bowman experienced great terror as he plunged inside it, and this is the music that accompanied his long trip into the beyond.  The film at this point became its most experimental: impressionist images and obscure dissonant music put many viewers off balance as they struggled to comprehend just what the hell was going on.  It is over only when Zarathustra speaks again, and humanity has taken its next giant leap.

These are challenging pieces of music, but not difficult to enjoy.  They have all become intertwined with the film forever.  Even The Simpsons used “The Blue Danube” for a space docking scene (Homer and a potato chip) in an homage to 2001.  Whatever the original composers intentions were, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the pieces used in this movie are now associated with it forever.  You simply cannot hear these Ligeti pieces without seeing Bowman’s journey in your mind.  You cannot hear “Thus Spake Zarathustra” without feeling the awe of 2001‘s revelations.

The Rhino edition adds some bonus material.  Ligeti’s “Adventures” was altered for the film to add an impression of laughter.  Ligeti himself was not amused.  The original complete “Adventures” is on this CD.  From the archives is a different recording of “Thus Spake Zarathustra”.  The version used in the film and on the CD was conducted by Von Karajan, but the original LP had a version by Ernest Bour.  The latter version has been added to the Rhino CD release.  “Lux Aeterna” was longer on the original LP than the film, and the long version is also restored to CD.  Perhaps most valuable of all is a track of Douglas Rain’s dialogue as HAL 9000.

The excellent liner notes state that this CD release is the definitive one.  It contains all the music from the original soundtrack LP, and all the music from the film.  It’s a one-stop shop to get your musical mind blown.

5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: 2010: The Year We Make Contact

Welcome back to the Week of Rockin’ Movies.  Each movie we take a look at this week will have a significant connection to rock music.  Today’s installment may surprise you. 

MONDAY:  House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
TUESDAY: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Directed by Peter Hyams

 

Was there ever a film that needed a sequel less than 2001: A Space Odyssey? If any movie had ever defied sequel-making, it was the original 2001. It is impossible to talk about 2010 without mentioning Stanley Kubrick and the groundbreaking film that started it all. With that in mind, 2010 is still a great science fiction film, intelligent and exciting, while feeling light years away from the original.

Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) has taken the fall for the disasters that occurred aboard the Discovery back in 2001. The infallible supercomputer H.A.L. 9000 (Douglas Rain) did fail, four astronauts were murdered, and Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) has disappeared (presumed dead). Nobody knows why, not even H.A.L.’s creator Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban) . The Discovery is in a decaying orbit around Jupiter, and the Americans plan on sending a team there to find out just what happened. One problem:  the Russians will get there first. Floyd has been offered a ride on the Russian ship, the Alexei Leonov, to combine missions.

SCENE

You can do that now?

The premise itself shows us that the cinematic universe has changed. Politics were all but inconsequential in the first film, but here they form major plot points in the whole story.  The Soviets are still deep into a cold war with United States, but recent flare-ups threaten to go nuclear at any time. The President’s finger is hovering over the button. Amid this chaos, the Americans don’t want the Soviets to get to Dicovery first.

Heywood Floyd needs  Discovery and H.A.L. to find out what went wrong last time, with five lost lives on his hands. Along for the ride are Dr. Chandra to reactivate H.A.L., and Dr. Walter Curnow (John Lithgow), the man who built Discovery. The Russian crew, portrayed excellently by mostly Russian actors for authenticity, are distrustful of the Americans. Their commander, played by Helen Mirren, is also an officer of the Russian air force and finds her loyalties tested when Dr. Floyd tells her that the phantom of Dave Bowman has warned that they must leave Jupiter in just two days.

Is it a phantom or has David Bowman really returned?  Or at least something that once was Dr. Bowman? Keir Dullea, not looking a day older even though nearly 20 real-world years have passed, is eerie in his portrayal of Bowman.  He is clear that Jupiter’s orbit will no longer be safe, but offers no explanation other than, “Something is going to happen. Something wonderful.”

2010 BOOK SCAN2010: The Year We Make Contact was based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel 2010: Odyssey Two.  Left to his own devices and without Stanley Kubrick’s collaboration, Clarke’s story featured much more dialogue.  (The book also included entire chapters about a rival Chinese mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, and David Bowman’s journey.)  Peter Hyams wisely chose not to try to copy Kubrick’s style for 2010, as that would have been pure folly.  The end result was a more accessible but less mind-altering film.  It is certainly less authentic (for example there is no sound in a vacuum) and less ground breaking.

In one of the more human scenes, look for the late Natasha Shneider of Queens Of The Stone Age and Eleven as the cosmonaut Irina.  Roy Scheider and Natasha Shneider have a memorable scene together that adds a lot of realism to the film.  Shneider was a sometimes-actress in the 1980’s while trying to get her music career off the ground.  When she formed Eleven with Jack Irons (ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers and future Pearl Jam drummer)  and her partner Alain Johannes, a little bit more recognition came her way.  Besides touring as a member of Queens of the Stone Age supporting Lullabies To Paralyze, she also featured heavily (writing and performing) on Chris Cornell’s solo debut album Euphoria Morning.  She died of cancer July 2, 2008 at age 52.  How sad that she never saw the year 2010 herself.

 

This film is a suitable sequel for this sci-fi fan. Such science as “aerobraking” is shown on screen, and the possibility of life on Europa is explored. And, finally, we get to see what life on Earth in 2010 actually looks like! (Not quite like the real thing turned out, sadly!)

In an effort to “explain” the mysteries of the original Odyssey, 2010 succeeds by leaving just enough to the imagination. The ancient monoliths and the beings behind them are never fully explained. There are questions left behind, thus far only explored in the pages of Clarke’s novels. (Tom Hanks once expressed interest in making a film version of 3001: Final Odyssey but that idea, thankfully, is dead.) This movie could have been a disaster in many ways, but fortunately was not. While nothing can ever equal or top 2001, or come even close to breaking the ground that it did, this film serves as a satisfying coda and it is good to watch them both together.

DVD contains a decent documentary called “2010: The Odyssey Continues”.

4/5 stars. If this were any other sci-fi film franchise, it would have been 5/5. But when comparing to the original, nothing could be equal to it.

1998 MG DVD release

1998 MGM DVD release

Roy Scheider as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd
John Lithgow as Dr. Walter Curnow
Helen Mirren as Tanya Kirbuk
Bob Balaban as Dr. R. Chandra
Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman
Douglas Rain as the voice of HAL 9000
Natasha Shneider as Irina Yakunina
Candice Bergen as the voice of SAL 9000 (credited as “Olga Mallsnerd”)

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Paths of Glory (1957)

PATHS_0001PATHS OF GLORY (2010 Criterion Blu-ray, originally 1957)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

It is the First World War. The French have dug into trenches, 500 miles long, from the English Channel to the border of Switzerland. As the film’s intro eloquently states, victories are counted in hundreds of yards gained, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of men. This is the setting of Paths of Glory, certainly and easily one of the greatest war movies of all time.

Paths of Glory, one of several Stanley Kubrick masterpieces, contains some of the most realistic First World War battle scenes ever put to film. The landscape is a cratered no-man’s land of mud, wire and bodies. The desperation is captured beautifully. The references to “shell shock” are historically accurate (it was considered to be a mythical condition by the generals of the day).

Kirk Douglas is Col. Dax, once a lawyer in his old life, now ordered to take the “Anthill”.  It’s a fortified position that German forces have held for a year. Now the French intend to take it and keep it.  All they have to do this with is tired and worn out men. Dax doesn’t think it can be done, but cannot disobey an order. The only alternative for him would have been to be relieved of duty, and Dax won’t abandon his men when they need him.

General Mireaux, his ambition clouding his judgment, set up an impossible undertaking. As is inevitable, the man are slaughtered, not even able to clear their own  barbed wire.  The few survivors were forced back by more guns and shells. A humiliated and embarrassed General Mireaux then orders his artillery to fire on his own trenches (that should keep them from retreating to them, right?)  When that order is refused, he decides to charge them for cowardice in the face of enemy. After all, someone must take the blame for this failure, and why should it be an officer? Col. Dax returns to his role of a lawyer and defends the three token men chosen at random to face the charges of cowardice.  Then, the movie morphs into courtroom drama.

PATHS_0002

Paths of Glory paints a picture of the way it was, based loosely on the practice of executing men for cowardice before they “infect” the rest of the men with it.  It’s not a pretty picture.  The trenches in the film are perhaps drier than the real trenches but the landscapes look very real indeed. Kubrick’s style here was still that of an observer, which came from his years as a newspaper photographer. He places his lenses where an observer would sit, and you can watch the events unfold like a fly on the wall.

Kirk Douglas is joined by Kubrick regulars Timothy Carey (two Kubrick films to his name), Joe Turkel (three Kubrick films) as well as Adolphe Menjou and a very young Christiane Kubrick.

The story itself is a heart wrenching look at the realities of First World War Europe, and also the human spirit. It attacks our prejudices and practices while reminding us that we are all the same regardless of our station in life. Kubrick seems to have been both fascinated by war while being repulsed by its necessity.

This being such an historically important film, I am glad that it finally received the Criterion treatment.  The restoration is very well done compared to the original DVD edition. The audio is in mono just as the original film was. I appreciate that nobody tried to tinker with the audio to make it multi-channel. This is the way Kubrick made it. Supplemental features are here including audio commentary, an essay, and a fun interview with Kirk Douglas from the 1970’s, among numerous others.

This is absolutely necessary for any fans of real war films and Stanley Kubrick. Hopefully this ushers in a set of brand new Kubrick Criterion editions. I bought two copies; the second was for my dad.

5/5 stars

Kirk Douglas … Col. Dax
Ralph Meeker … Cpl. Philippe Paris
Adolphe Menjou … Gen. George Broulard
George Macready … Gen. Paul Mireau
Wayne Morris … Lt. Roget
Richard Anderson … Maj. Saint-Auban
Joe Turkel … Pvt. Pierre Arnaud

MOVIE REVIEW: 2001: A Space Odyssey (2008 blu ray)

Happy LeBrain Day! It’s my birthday. Sometimes on my birthday, I like to just spend an afternoon watching a favourite movie. This is one.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, from the 2011 Stanley Kubrick Visionary Filmmaker Blu Ray Collection, Warner Bros.)

Once upon a time, when the year 2001 seemed aeons away, director Stanley Kubruck (Dr. Strangelove) contacted author Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood’s End) to discuss making “the proverbial good science fiction movie”. Both were sick of films that passed for science fiction, but were actually monster movies set in space, or just replaced  science with fantasy.

The result was 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film, and a companion book of the same name which is actually a completely different animal. The film — striking, innovative, visually engrossing, ambiguous, and scientifically solid — is as good today as it was in 1968, even if many of the “predictions” of the film have failed to come to pass.

Separated into four chapters (The Dawn Of Man, TMA-1, & Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite) complete with intermission, 2001 has no dialogue for the first quarter of the film. Beginning with a blank screen (and “Atmospheres”, by Ligeti), this is a film paradoxically anchored by both music and silence. The screen changes to the Earth rising over the moon, and the sun rising over the Earth (an important clue and recurring symbol) accompanied by “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. We are then introduced to a tribe of pre-human apes (Australopithecus, perhaps), starving and on the verge of extinction. Other tribes are stronger and out-competing them for territory and resources. There is no dialogue, but the barking of the apes, yet that and the scenery speak volumes. Suddenly one morning, the game has changed: a mysterious black monolith has appeared. The apes are drawn to it, and soon find that they are now able to compete with predators thanks to a new discovery: weapons.

MONOLITH ACTION FIGURE!The second chapter, TMA-1, begins with what Clarke has called “the longest jump-cut in history”.  We see that humanity has evolved into a space-going race. Orbital weapons platforms orbit Earth as a shuttle is making way to an under-construction space station. “The Blue Danube” plays as the spacecraft dance in calculated perfection. Our first main speaking character, Dr. Heywood Floyd, arrives on the station and we are given some tantalizing clues as to why he’s made this trip: Rumours of a plague outbreak on the moon. Yet this is just a cover story. As Floyd makes his way to the moon in another beautifully choreographed sequence, we learn that a magnetic anomoly was discovered in the crater Tycho (named after astronomer Tycho Brahe) — Tycho Magnetic Anomaly 1, or TMA-1. This discovery is potentially so important, that the cover story was created to keep everyone far away from Tycho.

We see that TMA-1 is another black monolith.  We see echoes and ripples of past events lead to another jump forward in time.  Midway though a mission of discovery to Jupiter, helmed by David Bowman (the perpetually young Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Star Trek’s Gary Lockwood).  Their ship, the Discovery contains three sleeping astronauts and the most famous computer of all time, H.A.L. 9000.  H.A.L. was flawelessly voiced by Stratford Ontario resident Douglas Rain.  His eerie voice and Kubrick’s perfect framing shots help create the creepiest computer character ever seen.

HAL 9000The seemingly dull, sleepy daily routine is soon shattered.  H.A.L. has detected a flaw in the ship’s main antenna.  It will fail, unless one of the astronauts goes outside and repairs it.  The antenna is their only link to distant Earth.   H.A.L., who controls the life support and every function of Discovery, then begins to show signs of what humans call stress — he makes an error, and acts strangely. Yet no 9000-series computer has ever failed, or found to be in error.  The chapter closes with H.A.L. singing the old song, “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”, surely one of the most haunting scenes in cinema.

After an intermission, Discovery finally arrives at Jupiter and its true mission is revealed. This section too has no dialogue, bringing us full circle to the way it began. David Bowman once again must venture outside the ship, and find out how the mysterious discovery on the moon relates to Jupiter.  Perhaps even how it related to our millenia-dead ancestors.

What follows is one of the most baffling and strange sequences in movie history, one which will require a few patient viewings to appreciate. The beauty of this final sequence is that there is no right or wrong interpretation. While on the surface it may appear to be a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colour followed by a bizarre dialogue-free encounter with a being that seems to have no bearing on reality, it is Kubrick’s inventive way of showing the audience something that is beyond anyone’s imagination. Like the audience, David Bowman and humanity have come full circle.

2001_0004Lacking in what modern audiences call “action”, lacking typical space sound effects (there is no sound in space!), lacking dialogue for most of the movie, and lacking any sort of warm human characters (except maybe H.A.L. who is not human), this movie was a challenge to watch in 1968 and is still a challenge today. It is, however, a piece of art that transcends its genre and is a landmark in film making. Kubrick, always a visionary and always breaking through boundaries of what could not be done in film, outdid himself and made a science fiction film that still has not been topped over 40 years later. Nobody has made anything this epic, this beautiful, this deep or this scientifically sound since. The special effects — all practical effects and mostly in-camera, as CG did not yet exist — still stand up today. No movie buff will ever forget the rotating Discovery set that allowed one character to be seated while another seemingly walked on the “ceiling”.

Sure,we don’t have a moon base. We haven’t sent anyone to Jupiter. We do have a space station. We have created computers that can beat the best humans at chess and Jeopardy. This is not that far off. If they had named this film 2031: A Space Odyssey, we might be in the right ballpark. In the end, the year does not matter. You never see modern Earth in the movie anyway.

The blu-ray release is loaded with special features and has a beautiful transfer in 2.20:1, as Kubrick shot it and intended it to be. Both Dullea and Lockwood provide an audio commentary. There are documentaries about Kubrick, about the predictions of the film, and about the effects. The only thing missing is the vintage 1966 Arthur C. Clarke lecture from the first issue of the DVD.  I still have that DVD copy because I like that old 1966 footage of Clarke.  He’s my favourite author.

2001: A Space Odyssey is, without any doubt or any argument in my mind, the greatest science fiction film of all time. With Kubrick and Clarke now both gone, I doubt we will ever see anything like it again. 5/5 stars is meaningless, since this movie was (for its scale and stature) first, and the best, against everything in its genre.

I’ll rate it 200 billion stars, one for each star in our galaxy.

REVIEW: Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around (with DVD, 2003)

For Lara, and Rob.
CASH FRONT

JOHNNY CASH – American IV:  The Man Comes Around (2003 American)

I have published over 300 reviews here at mikeladano.com (use the search button on the top right to look up anything you want).  Yet, I still hadn’t got around to Johnny Cash!  That’s strange, because Johnny Cash is very special to me.

Everybody “says” they love Johnny Cash.  Many of them jumped on board when he died and became “cool” again.  Take Dandy, for example, a trend chaser who inked Johnny’s face on his arm a few months after he died.  But hey, if you’re on board now, that’s cool.  There’s plenty of room for everyone.

Johnny Cash was my first concert.  In Canada in the early 1980’s, Johnny had an endorsement deal with Canada Trust, where my dad worked.  Their brand new ATM machines were called Johnny Cash machines, and my dad even had some promotional Johnny Cash bills, a cool marketing gimmick.  He went to see Johnny, his idol, when Johnny came to town.  The first night of a two-nighter, my dad met him.  On the second night, he brought me along (I didn’t get to meet him).  Johnny modified his original concert opening by saying, “I’m Johnny Cash, 24 hour money machine” (in reference to the ATMs).  I still remember June kicking off her shoes!

The Man Comes Around is my favourite of the American Recordings, helmed by Rick Rubin.  It was also the last one released in Johnny’s lifetime.  It is, all at once, extremely powerful, morose, joyful, and catchy.  All filtered through Johnny’s unmistakable baritone, worn and weary but no less strong and expressive.  Like other American albums, it is a mixture of originals and covers, oldies and more recent fare.

The most well-known song on American IV was “Hurt”, the Nine Inch Nails cover.  It is remarkable by being so different, yet true to the spirit of the original.  I prefer Johnny’s take on it to Trent’s, truthfully.  “Hurt” is only one of many remarkable covers on this album.  Johnny and Fiona Apple tend “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, with quiet mellotron in the background.

My favourite song is Sting’s “I Hung My Head”.  I couldn’t believe the credits when I read that (having skipped Sting’s Mercury Falling album).  I thought for certain this had to be a new Cash original.  Lyrically, I was convinced this tragic tale came from the mind of the Man in Black, but I was wrong.  It’s a spellbinding song, painting a clear picture, and Johnny’s delivery is perfect.

“In My Life” is the favourite of Mrs. LeBrain.  She’s a huge Beatles fan.  We selected this song for the signing of the register at our wedding.  I received kudos on the musical selection from Tom Morwood and Jen’s Uncle Rick, who loved the Johnny.  While very different from the Beatles version, I think I can safely say I like both equally.

I’m not too keen on the Depeche Mode cover (“Personal Jesus”), but I don’t like Depeche Mode much.  I know some who think the cover is brilliant, so we’ll go with that.  Johnny and Rubin tranform the song into a dark acoustic stomp.

Other highlights include the classic “Sam Hall”, which Johnny also performed on his 1965 album, Johnny Cash Sings Ballads of the True West.  I love Johnny’s energetic delivery on this traditional.  We enjoyed this one at the record store, a lot.  “Danny Boy” is another from 1965 (Orange Blossom Special) that Johnny takes a second crack at.  This time it’s a more intimate affair without the backing vocals.  Johnny compensates with his rich storyteller’s voice, each flaw telling a story of its own.

Elsewhere, I love “Desperado”.  And that’s interesting because like the Dude, I hate the fuckin’ Eagles.

The album closes with “We’ll Meet Again”, the Vera Lynn classic.  I always think of Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove) when I hear this song.  So for me, I can hear a sly wink in “We’ll Meet Again”, a hint of humour, as if Johnny knew this would be the last song on the last album released in his lifetime.

HURTBut it’s not really the last song.  On my wishlist is the vinyl edition, which had two bonus tracks: Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” (another personal favourite) and an exclusive version of “Wichita Lineman”.

My copy of the album came with a bonus DVD.  Nothing to get excited about, it’s just the music video for “Hurt”.  Granted that’s a great video, but the DVD is less special in 2013 than it was in 2003.  Now, everybody Youtubes.

Wow, I just used “Youtube” as a verb.

Anyway.  5/5 stars!