We spent some time catching up on the Netflix and DVR backlog. Here’s what we saw.
Along Came a Spider (2001, Lee Tamahori)
Along Came a Spider was a pretty cool little detective thriller. Morgan Freeman plays an expert profiler who gets pulled into a case involving a teacher who kidnaps one of his students from an elite Washington, DC school for the children of politicians and diplomats. The movie has some nice twists and clever turns. It’s pretty enjoyable, though I’d almost forgotten it by Sunday evening. Three stars.
Open Water (2003, Chris Kentis)
Yikes. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie this terrifying. It’s an incredibly tight film based on the true story of a vacationing couple who go SCUBA diving only to come up after their boat has headed home leaving them alone on the open ocean. They float in shark-infested waters for most of the film, clinging to one another while writer/director Chris Kentis expertly builds a palpable feeling of isolation. The film is beautiful to watch and yet the events so hopeless and terrifying that you can’t help but feel that you’re floating there with the two lost divers. Four stars.
Walk the Line (2005, James Mangold)
I’ve always liked Johnny Cash, but knew very little about his life. Walk the Line is a very well done biopic that captures the excitement and fun of Cash’s early career as it quickly degrades into a hell of drug addiction, self-loathing and betrayal. The movie focuses on the romance between Cash and June Carter and his struggle to win her heart. Cash’s music sounds as good as ever and the film does a nice job probing behind the music and into those wells of darkness that Cash drew upon to bring that grim and yet somehow hopeful feel to his music. Four stars.
Coffee and Cigarettes (2003, Jim Jarmusch)
We tried. Coffee and Cigarettes appears to be a series of vignettes in which witty verbose people sit in coffee shops, drinking coffee and yes smoking cigarettes while having tedious conversations. It seems to be slices of life, but not the choice cuts as it were. It’s just the sort of movie everyone back in film school might have been into, talking it up in class and then going back to apartments and dorm rooms to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Stopped after ten minutes. Couldn’t take it.
Buffalo 66 (1998, Vincent Gallo)
This one has to grow on you, but unlike Coffee and Cigarettes it does. The film is about Billy Brown (played by Vincent Gallo who also wrote and directed the film) who upon getting out of jail decides to visit his parents. He told them he’s been working for the government and living a successful life so he kidnaps a girl and forces her to pretend to be his wife in order to complete the illusion for his bizarre parents.
The dialogue can be annoyingly repetitive at times, but eventually I stopped noticing and began to enjoy the quirky storyline. I can even forgive the gigantic plot hole, namely the fact that the kidnapped girl, played by Christina Ricci, never once tries to escape despite the fact that she has plenty of opportunities (and reasons) to do so. I guess her curiosity and pity keep her there. Despite all that, it’s an interesting and well made little indy that has fun with the conventions of film, demostrates a wickedly dark sense of humor and yet manages to bring it all together in a very human and satisfying – if not believable – story without ever once coming off as pretentious. Three and a half stars.
Back to the Future 2 (1989, Robert Zemeckis)
I love Back to the Future. It’s one of those franchises they try to get you to hate when you’re in film school, but they’re fun, amusing movies that no amount of academic arm twisting could make me hate. I mean how can you beat Christopher Lloyd, time travel paradoxes, and mean old Biff tearing up the scenery in his bumbling efforts to tear up Marty McFly? Good Stuff. Three stars.