I’m constantly being surprised by What Lies Beneath. On first viewing it surprised me that Robert Zemeckis, the Spielberg acolyte behind feel-good romps like Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, would direct this self-contained horror flick. Years later, I was surprised to learn that Clark Gregg — Agent Coulson himself — wrote the screenplay. When I revisited Beneath a few months ago, the thing that surprised me was how good it was, how it does a lot with fairly little, how the straightforward nature of the plot obscures nuances that you wouldn’t catch the first time through. And then, of course, I was surprised a final time to learn that I am not in a majority here, that the film received mixed reviews upon release and currently has a dismal 47% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that the Pantheon of Horror Flicks may not hail What Lies Beneath as a genre masterpiece after all.
Doubtful, of course, that Beneath would ever really slip down the precipice into the Abyss of Forgotten Horror Flicks. It’s got Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford, and they and Zemeckis secured their places in film history long before 2000. And no, it’s not an outright masterpiece; it probably does little that Hitchcock didn’t do decades earlier. But one feels the need to defend it all the same, no? If not to reinstall it in the Pantheon or rescue it from the Abyss, perhaps just to feel better about being so endeared to it, as I am. We could touch on the film as a whole or dig into some of those criticisms from the mixed-review crowd…or we could sorta just talk about one single scene.
Continue reading What Lies Beneath (2000) →
Today is the day, the distant future, to which Marty McFly travels in Back to the Future Part II, hurtling through time with Doc Brown to October 21, 2015. As predicted in the first film, Marty sees some serious shit — hoverboards, Pepsi Perfect, Jaws 19 playing in the local Holomax Cinema. Paradoxically, if Marty were to actually arrive today he’d find Back to the Future Part II re-released in cinemas instead, depicting the story of the day he traveled to October 21, 2015. He’d sit in the theater and have his recent past recounted and his impending timeline spoiled, which is an obvious time-travel no-no. His actions in the future would be influenced by the movie depicting his actions in the future, which would in turn change the 2015-set scenes of BttF2, which would in turn jeopardize Marty’s presence in that very theater, which would in turn jeopardize our ability to hypothesize about Marty’s presence in that very theater, which would in turn [head explodes].
The actual plot of Back to the Future Part II isn’t actually much simpler. If there are Ten Basic Ideas about time travel — meeting yourself, erasing stuff from existence, etc. — then three of them made it into the first movie and all ten of them were crammed into Part II, leaving Part III to differentiate itself by pretty much not being a time travel movie. But simple time paradoxes (paradoxi?) are for wimps — let’s have Michael J. Fox play a billion different roles, including three versions of Marty McFly! So silly!
Continue reading Back to the Future Part II (1989) →
The Walk is being compared to Gravity in a recent spate of fairly misleading TV spots, intense Inception-esque music set to critic quotes that swoop in to say things like DOES WHAT GRAVITY DID FOR SPACE! It’s clear what they’re trying to say: this is more an experience than a movie. It’s partially true, and certainly the most affecting parts of the film are those which purport to be more than film. Lots of movies try to push for that as a selling point, and the floating and swooping superlatives in the Walk trailers recall all of those other movies that are GUARANTEED TO BLOW. YOUR. MIND.
Robert Zemeckis handles the majority of the story of Phillippe Petit, the eccentric and restless French high-wire artist, with much the same eccentricity and restlessness as characterizes his subject. There’s voiceover narration hosted by a Statue of Liberty-bound Petit (get it? France!), there’s a black-and-white sequence, a few flashbacks, a few time lapses, a few time jumps. The Walk, like Petit’s mind, is all over the place. At times the quick pace is paradoxically dragging, but I suppose such is the case for Petit as well. He’s bored by ropes strung between lampposts and trees. He wants a true high wire. He wants to see New York, to see the towers. He wants to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains.
Continue reading The Walk (2015) →