This writer has been out at Sundance for the past nine days, so week's JBO will be heavily influenced by independent films, past Sundance hits and a bit of the bizarre. Check out the list, and let us know what your favorite indie film is.
Recommendation of the Week:
Cube (DVD $14.98, lower at retailers. Pray for a Blu-ray release)
Director Vincenzo Natali has a new film at Sundance 2010 called Splice. It's a dark science fiction story about genetic manipulation, and you can read all about it right here. However, he first burst onto the scene 13 years ago with his thriller Cube. Seven strangers from completely different walks of life wake up inside a bizarre cube-shaped room, with exit hatches built onto the four walls, the ceiling, and the floor. They have no idea how they got there, or how to get out. Each hatch leads into another, identical room, and some come complete with devious booby traps. But the real movie isn't about the Cube itself, it's about how human psyche unravels when you're stuck in a situation that makes no sense to your brain. After you give this a whirl, move on to his movies Cypher and Nothing for more good stuff.
Read on after the break for the rest of our recommendations, and let us know what you're watching!
Xbox Live Video Marketplace (Xbox 360)
The City of Lost Children (240($3) SD to rent)
Do you like science fiction, steampunk and weird-as-hell French films? Then this was custom-made for you. This movie was co-directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who had previously collaborated on the also-excellent Delicatessen. Jeunet would go on to direct Amelie, A Very Long Engagement and Alien Resurrection, but my favorite is still this movie, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995. It's about a dystopian future full of bizarre characters, and revolving around a bizarre scientist who is stealing children to try and make them cry so he can steal their tears. Strange, right? There's also an entire legion of misfits who worship technology, and have their eyes and ears replaced with bizarre machinery. Ron Perl stars as a strongman who is trying to watch after a mute little boy who eats everything and ... well, you just need to see this one to believe it.
Netflix Watch Instantly (Mac/PC, Xbox Live, PS3, subscription required: starts at $8.99 per month)
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
This film blasted onto the scene and propelled director Guy Ritchie into the limelight at Sundance back in 1999, and in my opinion it's still the strongest of all of his films. These characters aren't the brightest apples in the barrel, but they're the kind of guys you'd want to spend an entire weekend with. Ritchie obviously shares the Quentin Tarantino gene of multiple-running-storylines, and Lock, Stock uses them to the extreme. Instead of carousing down the flashback route, Ritchie is content to spin multiple stories all at the same time, and then smash them together like toy train on a track in his backyard. And he does it with a killer soundtrack, terrific performances, and of lot of humor. There's a lot of Cockney rhyming slang in here, the American introduction to Vinnie Jones, and everyone's favorite baldie, Jason Statham. Good stuff.
PlayStation Store (PlayStation 3 or PSP)
Reservoir Dogs (4.50 to rent in HD, $2.99 to rent in SD, $9.99 to own in SD)
And speaking of Quentin Tarantino, this is the film that started it all. Back at Sundance in 1992, Reservoir Dogs introduced the world to Quentin and gave fanboys and girls around the world something to hang on their walls when this movie poster came out. All these years later, it's impressive how this film holds up. As much as if it were made yesterday. Inglorious Basterds might be his most mature and least self-indulgent film, but Reservoir Dogs revels gloriously in it's own violence, references and music. In fact, queue this up with the Brad Pitt "Natzi" movie and give yourself a treat of a double feature. I remember seeing this film for the first time (on video unfortunately) back when I was in college, and it struck me so hard that I bought the subway-sized poster and hung it on my apartment wall. In fact, it's still striking me, which is why I purchased this minimalist version of a Reservoir Dogs movie poster just yesterday. I know, it's a sickness. A sweet sickness.
Blu-ray Disc (PlayStation 3)
Surrogates ($39.99, lower at many retailers)
There's nothing independent about Surrogates, especially since it was put out by Disney's Buena Vista Studios, but are we going to hold that against it? After all, this movie has Bruce Willis, science fiction and robots in it. Plus, it's based on a comic book series. How can you fault that? It's set in a future where pristine, young, hot robotic versions of ourselves take over our lives. So what could possibly go wrong in that world? Find out as John McClane takes on Robby the Robot, albeit with a terrible haircut and in something that feels like it's trying to be I, Robot. Okay, all kidding aside, it's actually a decent little flick that was largely ignored when it came out last year and it deserves a second look. It has great visuals, a punchy soundtrack, and although it's only set in the year 2017, it says some interesting things about our own obsession with beauty and perfection.