The Shining

AMC is currently playing a series of films from the past in showcase times on Sundays and Tuesdays. I did not get to “Bonnie and Clyde” and I will miss “Dirty Harry” next week, but I got a chance this afternoon to revisit Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining”. It is a great film even though it is not as scary as you might have been lead to believe. It is creepy as all get out, and there are some good shocks, but the most disturbing and frightening image is a series of words typed out on a page. The gore level is low, the tension is slow building, and the style is all Kubrick, who has always been a “cool” film maker as opposed to a passionate hot.

This is not a full review but just a few comments about some of the things I noticed in the film that either escaped my attention before or that I’d simple forgotten. For instance, the guy who hires Jack Torrance to be the winter caretaker is Barry Nelson, a well known TV and character actor from the 50s and 60s who had the distinction of being the first actor to portray James Bond on screen. That was something I got a kick out of. The movie that Wendy and Danny are watching when Danny goes up to their apartment and finds his Dad sitting on the edge of the bed was “The Summer of 42”. I don’t know for sure why it struck me as interesting except that I’m a big fan of that movie.

Actor Tony Burton appears briefly in the film as the guy who gets Scatman Crothers a SnowKat to take up to the Overlook Hotel. He was Apollo Creed’s corner man in the first couple of Rocky movies and he was a customer of the insurance agency my wife worked for thirty years ago. She said he was a very nice man, and I think he lives in our area because there is one of those autographed shots of him at the local Phillie’s Best Sandwich shop. I also enjoyed the fact that Dr. Tyrell was serving the bourbon in the bar to Jack Torrance. Apparently Joe Turkel was a favorite of Kubricks.

Jack is at his Jack best in this movie. His performance is all eyebrows and smiles. Up until the end of the picture he manages to be a sympathetic character. You’d have to sympathize with a guy married to Shelly Duvall’s Wendy. She is a nervous breakdown in a dress. I think I heard that Kubrick did not care much for her as an actress and tormented her to get the performance she turns in. It was an odd choice and it works for the movie but she doesn’t get the kind of emotional support from the audience that would make her a more fulfilling heroine.

I have a lot of other things to do so as I said this is not a full review, just a bit of fun to remind people it is Halloween week and they should go out and find a scary movie to enjoy. That’s what I did, even though it is 33 years old.


Escape Plan

This will be short and to the point. There is almost no way this whole scenerio could ever come close to happening. It is over the top dramatic and the prisoners in the “Tomb” would not have the same access to each other that they would have in a normal prison. The job that Sly has is one of those movie created specialties that exist in a screenwriters fantasy and that’s about the only place. The speed of events and the brutality of the fights would leave normal human beings dead after a couple of minutes. All of that means nothing because this is an action film starring the two biggest action stars of the last thirty years and it goes down like candy. Sweeet.

As the world’s foremost prison security expert (based on breaking out of high security penitentiary’s). Stallone is his usual tough guy with a brain character. His brain is not big enough to keep him from being betrayed and locked in a prison that was built largely based on weaknesses he himself discovered.So the stakes are pretty high. Guess who he runs into on the inside, the Governator himself. Looking fit and with a stylish moustache and goatee. He is another prisoner who has been deep sixed into this high tech prison. Together they must break out. That’s it. You don’t really need more plot set up than that.

Arthur Conan Doyle gave Sherlock Holmes the detailed information he would need to crack a case. Holmes has made a study of tobacco so he knows where in London a certain blend can be bought. It was occasionally a stretch but it was not overused in the Holmes canon. Sly’s character kno2ws the heat rate at which rusted steel bolts will snap, he knows that milk cartons have a cellophane like liner that can hold a mark and he can not only build a sextant, he can use one and teach someone else how to do so also. Yet this is the kind of hokum, fans of action films love. We love it when the hero outsmarts the bad guys and surprises us with a unexpected use for everyday items. MacGyver made a whole TV series out of that audience demand. So shrug your shoulders and go along for the ride.

Schwarzenegger is actually pretty good in his role as a guy who knows secrets that the bad guys want. He gets tortured and locked into isolation and gets to feign a breakdown as part of the plot to escape. His German sound very convincing, I wonder why because his English never was. Both he and Stallone beat up fellow prisoners and each other from time to time. The movie takes a while to get us to the prison but once it does there are plenty of the usual tough guy tropes. The biggest gas comes when, during the actual breakout, Arnold picks up a big ass machine gun off a helicopter. Anyone who has seen a Terminator movie knows what comes next and that’s what we are waiting for.

The movie is efficient at making the characters just interesting enough for us to care, before tossing us into prison mayhem. The bad guy warden played by Jim Caviezel is just a big enough prick that we are anticipating the final outcome. There are plot holes and inconsistencies galore but who cares? Arnold and Sly get together to kick a little ass. I heard on “The Title Pending Movie Podcast” that they did not think it was quite “Cobrawesome”. I guess I agree but I did find it “Terminazing”.