This week’s new release shelf contains two movies that I wish we could count among spring’s sleeper hits — but in spite of their high quality and genre trappings, they never found an audience at the art house. But that’s what home video is for, right? Also out this week: a terrific period thriller, and a pair of catalog titles, new to Netflix and worth a second look.
Philip K. Dick has enjoyed a surprisingly active and commercial afterlife considering the decidedly non-commercial nature of his output and the fact that, from a sales perspective, he was never more than a cult success during his lifetime. Then again, Dick’s posthumous popularity as the source for big-budget science fiction movies both revered (Total Recall, Minority Report) and not so revered (Paycheck, Next, The Adjustment Bureau) should perhaps not come as a surprise because Dick trafficked in the kind of sexy, hooky, accessible ideas movies love.
Dick has been adapted extensively in part because his work is so adaptable. Filmmakers can take the core of an idea explored in a Dick short story and adapt it any way they see fit, secure in the knowledge that if they take as many liberties with Dick’s work as filmmakers have tended to take, they only risk alienating a small core of Dick cultists. Sure enough, by the time the Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” was adapted into 1990’s Total Recall a quarter-century ago by a divisive satirist with a uniquely bloody, extreme take on the grotesque excesses of American culture named Paul Verhoeven, it had already been through several different strikingly different iterations.
This Friday, Arnold Schwarzenegger does something you’d have never quite predicted: he plays the leading role in an indie drama. Even more surprisingly, he’s very good in it. His quiet turn as a Midwestern farmer in the family drama/zombie flick Maggie is both a strong performance and a smart move for the aging actor, whose action vehicles haven’t exactly burned up the box office lately; when what you do isn’t working anymore, it’s a good idea to try something new. But for every Robin Williams, Matthew McConaughey, or Albert Brooks who transformed their screen persona successfully, there’s another who didn’t quite pull it …Read More
As you may have noticed from the giant 50-megaton tentpole movie hitting theaters today, summer movie season is in full swing. Thankfully, a robust release slate in the hotter months isn’t solely a studio pursuit; this month’s lineup of independent releases is one of the best in recent memory, with a four-star mix of foreign pictures, oddities, genre flicks, and documentaries. Here are a few to put on your radar:
Fiction films can be a trickier proposition at the Tribeca Film Festival than their nonfiction counterparts; for some time the fest had a reputation as a home for pictures that made the slate for the movie stars they’d put on the red carpet rather than the quality they’d put on the screen. That rep has fallen away in recent years, bolstered by a stronger slate of under-the-radar indies and faves from other festivals. Here’s a look at the 22 new narrative movies your film editor saw, and how they stack …Read More
I’ve seen some strange things at the Tribeca Film Festival — this was, after all, where Robert De Niro met Lil’ Bub. But if there’s one thing I wouldn’t have imagined seeing at this, or frankly any other, film festival, it’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. And in the Q&A following last night’s world premiere of his new film Maggie, the former Terminator and governor expressed the same surprise. “I never dreamt in my life that I would one day be here at Tribeca, and getting this kind of reception.” The reception was the real deal, and so was his performance — a serious, heartfelt, dramatic turn, and he totally nails it. I’m as surprised as you are.
Law & Order, the Dick Wolf-produced procedural that paved the way for so many other shows — NYPD Blue, NCIS, CSI: So Many, and so many others — has been running, in one form or the other, since 1990. Since that first season, Law & Order, and all its iterations — SVU, Criminal Intent, and a few other less successful variants — have followed nearly 1,000 criminal investigations. So, it’s no surprise that a lot of those crimes were based on real-life events — some of them even from just a few months prior.