We gravitate toward lighter entertainment in summer, movies that complement the easygoing feeling that overtakes on these warmer and longer days. But don't make the mistake of equating lightness with emptiness.
This week's movie picks include a time-travel story, a ghost story, and a story about a robot. We have chases, escapes, and action; we have smart comedies; and, yes, we have road trips, wherein high temperatures are not the only kind of heat. Jeffrey M. Anderson
Writer/director Shane Carruth made an audacious debut with the brainy, 77-minute time-travel movie Primer (2004), reportedly made for about $7000. While working on a new refrigeration system, two young scientists accidentally discover time travel. They begin spending their days moving back and forth through time, one day at a time, gambling on the stock market and trying not to run into their doppelgangers or cause any ripples in the space-time continuum. But things begin to get more than a little confusing, and some strange side effects begin to occur.
Despite the voluminous amount of theoretical dialogue, and even without any action sequences or visual effects, the movie has a dreamy, fluid feel that's enticing. Several viewings are recommended. Carruth himself plays one of the scientists and composed the music score.
The Others (Netflix)
Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar made a splash with his twisty sci-fi thriller Open Your Eyes in 1997; it had such an impact that Cameron Crowe attempted an American remake of it with Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise. That same year, Cruise produced Amenábar's English-language debut, The Others (2001), starring Cruise's soon-to-be-ex-wife, Nicole Kidman.
The Others is a beautifully executed ghost story set in a huge, mysterious mansion in the 1940s. Kidman plays Grace, a woman whose husband is at war and presumed missing. Her children, Nicholas (James Bentley) and Anne (Alakina Mann), have developed a serious photosensitive condition and cannot be exposed to any light stronger than a candle. So when three new servants (including the wonderful Fionnula Flanagan) arrive, Grace establishes the rule that no room shall be entered until the door to the previous room has been shut and locked. This simple rule sets up a very neat device when spooky things start happening.
Incidentally, the talented Amenábar also composed the music. The movie was a huge hit in America as well as in Spain, where it won eight Goya Awards, including Best Picture.
The Great Escape (Netflix)
Director John Sturges was celebrated for his inventive use of the widescreen frame as well as for his skill at telling manly action stories, and his nearly three-hour-long The Great Escape (1963) is one of his biggest successes. It's loosely based on a true story of WWII, with a handful of British and American soldiers coming up with a massive plan to free 250 men from a German POW camp. Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) designs the plan, which involves digging three tunnels at once. Charles Bronson is the digger (a job he gets despite his lifelong claustrophobia). James Coburn invents a way to get air into the tunnels; James Garner is the "scrounger," who gets ahold of necessary items; and Donald Pleasence forges documents.
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