Full Metal Jacket (1987)


A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue. (IMDb)
Hartman’s over-the-top rants and boot camp chants are paired perfectly with the repetitive settings and symmetrical cinematography to make a cohesive and compelling first half, brought to a head by Pyle’s brilliant transformation from sympathetic to sinister (see the chilling bathroom scene). The second half falters from a lack of focus, but still retains interest thanks to a unique soundtrack, riveting long takes, and provoking commentary on war (sometimes literally–see the interview segment).
8/10 (Great)

Paths of Glory (1957)


After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them. (IMDb)
A solid, if unspectacular war piece, well-acted (Douglas especially) and efficiently told: What seems at first like it will be an underdog battle epic takes a sinister turn with the general’s first long walk through the trenches and only gets more horrifying from there: Unjust political structures of the army are uncovered in two strikingly contrasting settings through chilling conversations on both ends of the hierarchy that climax with a gut-punch ending and a thought-provoking epilogue.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Killing (1956)


Crooks plan and execute a daring race-track robbery. (IMDb)
Moody lighting, artfully composed shots, and solid acting nicely set up the main players (George and Sherry have a great dynamic throughout) and the game to follow-a heist which isn’t terribly thrilling in itself, and has a few holes (see Johnny going in the no-access door and punching a cop in full sight of bystanders), but is made interesting nonetheless by an intriguing non-linear narrative (though the narration gets a little cheesy) and an ending first dramatic and then wryly comedic.
7/10 (Good)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest. (IMDb)
Often boring, but ambitiously and provokingly so (see the minutes of black to open the film), with an active score at times triumphant (see the ape smashing bones), at others filling you with dread (see the screeching choir accompanying the monolith). The visuals are excellent (see the reflecting helmet), as are the actors (Dullea is a wonderful lead), and the plot whenever it appears (HAL is a uniquely intimidating villain; his unplugging is a superb scene, as is the eerily beautiful ending).
8/10 (Great)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)


In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society’s crime problem – but not all goes according to plan. (IMDb)
Alex: All at once a terrifying dystopian pirate, raping and pillaging with a song on his lips (I’ll never hear “Singin’ in the Rain” the same way again), and an amiable English lad. The film follows, as Kubrick mixes his visually searing scenes with the more mellow (see Alex’ prison admittance), all underneath an overwhelming classical soundtrack spiked by a sinister synth. Still within this emotional barrage is an intellectual commentary on free will and good and evil. A spectacle, to be sure.
9/10 (Amazing)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop. (IMDb)
Devastatingly dark and scathingly satirical comedy (“10 to 20 million killed, tops”), brilliantly executed with biting irony (see the “Peace is Our Profession” sign amidst the gunfire; “You can’t fight here, this is the War Room!”), goofy juxtaposition of the mundane and the life-or-death (see Mandrake’s pay-phone call to the president), and visuals both horrifying and humorous (see Kong’s bomb-ride and the final Vera Lynn-backed explosion montage). Sellers is stellar in his three roles.
8/10 (Great)

The Shining (1980)

Wooden scenes of banal dialogue and trivialities start up an innocent plot that gets increasingly spotted with surrealist imagery both macabre and bizarre as more concrete cabin fever character tension slowly builds. The impending horror infuses the most vapid of scenes (riding a tricycle, throwing a ball, preparing dinner) with a thrilling uneasiness, amplified by the screeching soundtrack. It’s a masterfully crafted film perfected by superb acting and stunning cinematography.