Sunday Film Roundup (10/30/2016)


Once again, it’s time to make the donuts.  Here’s a view of what’s come across my field of vision this past week.

Two Step (2014)

Director:  Alex R. Johnson

I’ve had very good luck lately with these gritty little neo-noir dramas.  It goes without saying that these little movies should be getting more attention than they do, but such are the realities of our culture’s misplaced priorities.  To make a great film, you don’t need a huge budget.  What you do need is a great story, a deft director’s touch, and great performances.  These factors, of course, don’t always come together, but when they do, cinema magic results.

At least we can compensate for Hollywood’s misplaced priorities by talking about great little overlooked movies here.  And this one is very good.  The plot:  young James (Skyy Moore) has just been tossed out of college for being a all-around slacker.  He inherits a lot of money from his grandmother, but when you practically have the word “loser” tattooed on your forehead, you just know this guy is marked out for victim status.  All it’s going to take is for the right predator to come along.

And come he does.  In a great portrayal, actor James L. Hebert gives us a character named Webb, a vicious criminal who just emanates malice with every glance.  Then there’s Dot (Beth Broderick), a fading local beauty who also seems to have some sort of scam going on, only we can’t find out exactly what.  Director Alex Johnson handles it all very well, giving us just the right pacing to maintain the suspense but not so much that it overwhelms the performances.  In classic noir fashion, all of these characters are headed for a collision of fate, and it’s not going to be pretty.  Sit back and enjoy the ride as Fortune shows us just how wicked she can be.

Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World (2003)

Director:  Peter Weir

How I do love this movie.  I saw it again this week, after not having seen it since its theater release in 2003.  And what a great achievement this is.  Peter Weir, one of Australia’s great directors, gives a detailed and (as far as I can tell) faithful adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s Napoleonic War saga.  Bursting with action, memorable characters, and true lessons in leadership, this must rank among the greatest sea-story ever put on film.  Life aboard a British warship is reproduced down to the last excruciating detail, and the combat scenes are so realistic that you can only shake your head in wonder.

Russell Crowe never shines as brightly as he does here, giving us a portrayal of the ideal commander we all wish we could have had in our own military days.  Weir’s expect direction even stop there; he gives us subtle lessons in comraderie, human relations, masculine virtue, and leadership that merit teaching in the classroom.  Not to be missed.

Timecrimes (2007) (Los Cronocrímenes)

Director:  Nacho Vigalondo

The most creative time-travel film ever made, bar none.  Even to try to describe the plot of this incredibly complex tale would strain the reader’s patience, so I will not.  Basically what we have is the story of an average guy living in the Spanish countryside who something sinister in his binoculars one day.  His investigation into this matter leads him down pathways and loops that all point to mortal danger.  Time travel is the big premise here, of course, and after you actually think about it, it all makes sense.

Inventive, unrelenting, and possessing a dark sense of humor as only the Spanish know how to do, this is a thinking-man’s science fiction film.