Friday, March 22, 2013

Netflix This Movie! Vol. 18

One of this week's suggestions is too little, too late. But they're all really good.

Adam Riske: Donnie Darko (Theatrical Cut) I much prefer the shorter theatrical cut of Donnie Darko (aka Sparkle Motion) to the Director's Cut (aka The Philosophy of Time Travel). Lucky for me at least, Sparkle Motion is the one on streaming! The less you know about what's going on in Donnie Darko, the more effective it is. Just my opinion, but if you deep dive into Donnie Darko, you're all up your ass about tangent universes and the manipulated dead and so on and so forth. The themes get lost and it becomes muddled Sci-Fi. It takes away what is special about the movie, which is that it's a vivid mood piece (greatly assisted by the canny music choices, score and production design). My interpretation of Donnie Darko's theme is that it's all a teenage kid's roaming fantasies and nightmares (the hopelessly selfish 'they'll miss me when I'm gone' notion of suicide, the girl choosing YOU as the best looking boy in class, the gratification of exposing the adult that humiliated you in school etc). But even if you ignore all of that and just let the movie wash over you, it's still entertaining and one-of-a-kind. It's a great, original movie from a director (Richard Kelly) who is overdue for a comeback. And am I alone in thinking that Jake Gyllenhall is underrated? If you disagree then I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.
Heath Holland: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982; dir. Nicholas Meyer) With Star Trek: Into Darkness due in theaters in less than two short months, what better time to revisit the first Star Trek sequel? Considered by many to be the greatest of the Star Trek films, this was the first time Nicholas Meyer directed for the franchise and marked a noticeable improvement from Star Trek: The Motion Picture by bringing significant nautical and Shakespearean influences to the series. For even more fun, watch it and then listen to the 100th episode podcast, recorded after the first F This Movie! Fest, where the gang live tweeted during the film. You’d be out of your Vulcan mind not to love it.
JB: The Long Goodbye (1973; dir. Robert Altman) Oh, the cynicism and darkness that pervades every frame of this wonderful film. Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, Brewster McCloud, Nashville, Short Cuts) takes on the dark, Hollywood-noir world of Raymond Chandler and gives his own unique spin on the myth of the hard-boiled detective. The dialogue is crackling good; the screenplay was by Leigh Brackett, the old-school scribe responsible for making The Empire Strikes Back the best installment of the Star Wars trilogy. Featuring Eliot Gould in a career-defining performance and a great supporting cast: Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, baseball player and author Jim Bouton, Altman regular Henry Gibson, and Mark Rydell as one of the slimiest villains ever. “Nothing says goodbye like a bullet.”
Mark Ahn: Primer (2004; dir. Shane Carruth) One of the main criticisms about time travel movies is that they always explain the time travel, but never the ramifications (meeting your past self, etc.). And you know what? They don't have to, because movies are primarily for art/entertainment, and time travel is just as useful a narrative device as anything else (most eloquently explained by Chuck Klosterman in his essay about time travel movies, called "Tomorrow Rarely Knows." DON'T READ IT YET). Primer, as far as I know, is the only movie that tries to illustrate the problematic consequences that time travel would bring. If you're a science fiction fan, or you don't mind watching movies which need multiple views, then Primer is the treat for you. Like most layered movies, there's a lot written about this movie; leave that to the side until you've watched it.
Patrick: Panic (2000; dir. Henry Bromell) I was THIS close to making this my Netflix choice in last week's column, but I didn't. And then the writer/director, Henry Bromell, died suddenly this week. So AREN'T I THE ASSHOLE? There are so many hitman movies, but this one is really great -- a black comedy/drama about middle age, death, fathers and sons. William H. Macy is the best, because no duh. Donald Sutherland is also great. Also, John Ritter. And Neve Campbell, too. Who knew? Pay tribute to a filmmaker who never quite got his due by watching this excellent, underrated movie.


  1. I keep doing the Flickchart thing...and for some reason The Long Goodbye keeps sticking to the top of my list. I keep thinking, "Huh, Godfather II or something else SHOULD be there" but nope, my love for TLG keeps going.

    Also, Panic is pretty damn excellent. I'm sad I missed Bromell dying; he was a large part of my TV viewing for decades what with St. Elsewhere and Northern Exposure.

  2. Yeah, watch "Wrath of Khan" before you go see "Into Darkness" and see what a good Trek movie looks like.
    (No, I haven't seen it yet but I've seen the ten minute preview and my brain went back into "Ripping Apart 'Prometheus'" mode...)

    1. I'll admit that this IS impressive...

      But we've seen great trailers for shit movies before. And there's just too much of this that looks like Star Wars...