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Open Water (2003)
Best homegrown film in years
It seems a lot of people were expecting "Jaws" when they rented "Open Water". This is no monster movie. It's a quietly intense psychological film, that works amazingly well. The fact that it was literally shot without a crew makes it nearly a miracle of a movie.
I was pretty impressed by the cast, especially Susan (Blanchard Ryan). It isn't often that two unknown actors can carry a film so well. Their emotions are very real which really adds to the tension.
I'm pretty sure the director (Chris Kentis) will go on to make some good bigger budget movies. He's got a real knack for building suspense. I was also impressed with the organic structure of the narrative. You're not really sure where it's taking you, which only adds more to the horror of what eventually happens. Kentis' dialog writing seems to be the weakest aspect of the movie. Some of the dialog the actors have to (literally) spew is awkward and extraneous, sort of a failed comic relief. In a no-budget movie that's often the case. Hell, that's often the case in big budget movies. Overall the movie is very successful and all involved have received just praise.
The Village (2004)
Shyamalan has enlisted an impressive cast in this film who all give fun performances. Unfortunately, like the plot itself, the great cast is ultimately left to dry. I'm beginning to wonder if Shyamalan makes the same film over and over again. The films always open with such promise, creepy, suspenseful. Like with his other films this one revolves around the "suprise" plot twist, but this time around it doesn't quite work. The "surprise" is pretty obvious and revealed much too early, pretty much killing the suspense.
The film is beautifully shot, but all visual quotation of classic landscape paintings seem to distance the viewer more than bring them into the story. Sometimes the film sweeps you away with its sensuousness, but in the end it leaves you feeling cheated.
28 Days Later... (2002)
Danny Boyle has crafted an excellent addition to the Zombie subgenre in this serious, apocalyptic flick. Skip DAY OF THE DEAD and make this the third film in Romero's otherwise brilliant Zombie trilogy. The scenes in London are outstanding, reminsicent of THE OMEGA MAN. It loses a little steam towards the conclusion, but it's pretty fun all the way through. I still haven't seen the alternate ending but I'm hoping that it will correct some of my misgivings about the conclusion fo the film.
Killer Me (2001)
Wow. This is by far one of the strangest, most engaging independent films I've seen in years. It's part horror film, reminiscent of REPULSION or HENRY: A PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER but also has a fascinating, uncomfortable love story at it's center. It's the kind of film Hollywood would never have the balls to make. The actors are both great. The film must have been shot for very little money but the production value is excellent. Zachary Hansen is a director to keep your eye out for in the future.
Sad, beautiful film
This hard to find film is well worth the search. Kietel gives an amazing, painful performance as a brilliant pianist whose self-destructive neurosis seems to keep him from ever achieving greatness. The film has been called mysognyistic most likely due to the portrayal of little Jimmy "Fingers". I'd have to say the film itself deals a fairly rough hand to the character's mysogny. Jimmy's social ineptness with women is painful to watch. He alternates between the utmost charm and just plain disturbing street thugishness. All in all it's a powerful film and one of Kietel's best performances.
Perfect 60's oddity
"Head" is one of those films you'll have a lot of trouble convincing your friends to see, but once they do they'll fall in love with it. I don't know how many times this has happened to me. This film is just so funny and bizarre, really a deconstruction of everything the Monkees had been up to this point in their career. A lot the credit goes to Bob Rafelson who pretty much ended the Monkee's career with this film. My guess is he wanted to get out of directing the TV show and get into features, which he did in a big way after this one. Micky Dolenz is absolutely hilarious. I can't believe he didn't have a second life as a comic actor after this film. This film has a lot of great cameos and a lot of wonderful psychedelic nonsense. I feel like the reputation of this film is continuing to build and it wouldn't surprise me if it eventually becomes a full on cult classic