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Double Feature: June 2013

| June 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

Warning! Sitting around watching hours and hours of video will totally fry your brain! But if you do it right, watching movies back-to-back can illuminate wildly different details, create a whole new viewing experience and totally BLOW your MIND. Plus, it’s fun. Here’s your monthly guide:

Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) has crafted his own signature style of blasting viewers with brazen images that gallop along the thin lines of brilliantly grotesque and bad taste, exhilaratingly visceral and coldly slick. It’s as if he’s the unholy spawn of Federico Fellini and Michael Bay.

So when it was announced that he would be taking the reins of the next Superman flick, there was a groan of anticipation and dread. We had already suffered Bryan Singer‘s depressingly abysmal Superman Returns. Were they to further stink up the nostalgia of one of America’s greatest icons?

And yet, there was reason to hope. Hired to produce and develop the story was Christopher Nolan, who has shown with The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception that he is able to make widely pleasing popcorn pieces pulse to life with an intense emotional core. And the first trailer for Man Of Steel (opening June 14) teased glimpses of an aesthetic more akin to Terrence Malick‘s The Tree Of Life than to, say, Snyder’s gaudy Sucker Punch.

It seems, at the very least, our deep well of rustic Americana will be siphoned to add earnestness to this good-versus-evil extravaganza. Which inspires this month’s Double Feature . . .

First up:
Shadow Of A Doubt
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1943
Blu-ray – available 6/4

A killer decides to hibernate in a sleepy town – a pastoral, friendly place whose quaint decency could only have been portrayed with such a straight face in the first half of the 20th century. A tiny town that might as well have been called Smallville.

We discover this killer (Joseph Cotten oozing malevolence like a sweet syrup) has a sister with a family here, among them a niece who shares his name: Charlie. He left them long ago, but is welcomed back fondly, while his namesake – a wide-eyed teenage girl – latches her dreams to his aura of the world beyond these picket fences.

Of course, there is the secret of his murderous life that will inevitably be discovered. But Alfred Hitchcock enjoys letting these lively characters breathe playfully in a screenplay co-written by Thornton Wilder, playwright to that masterpiece about the aching simplicity of life, “Our Town.”

And then when young Charlie realizes the extraordinary danger her uncle brings with him, she still has to wrestle with the dilemma of revealing him and crushing the tranquility of those around her. He tells her, “You go through your ordinary little day, and at night you sleep your untroubled, ordinary little sleep, filled with peaceful, stupid dreams. And I brought you nightmares.”

Take Shelter
Dir. Jeff Nichols, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray – available now

Ordinary. That’s the word for the lives of those in Jeff Nichols‘ version of LaGrange, Ohio. No romantic idealism. Just hard work, small pleasures, and family. Ordinary. The darkness in this town arrives first in one man’s nightmares. And then they begin to infect his waking life. In his increasingly drastic measures of safety, he compromises more and more of his family’s livelihood.

Michael Shannon has been an electrifying presence on Chicago stages for about 20 years now. Not too long ago I saw him play an aging producer desperately, hilariously trying to keep his flailing Broadway show alive. I also saw him rapidly stab one of my best friends to death – all in a theater about the size of a small backyard. In this setting, he cultivated his own version of Chicago-style acting – unflinchingly honest and grounded, yet radically dynamic and frightening.

In recent years, this local-boy-made-good has been nominated for an Oscar for Revolutionary Road and gained a degree of fame with HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Finally, this month he will be haunting the macabre fantasies of the PG-13 masses as the demonic General Zod.

But in Take Shelter, he plays a quiet husband and father consumed by visions of otherworldly storms and freakish omens screaming to him that something unstoppable and monstrous is going to happen very soon. And he must do what he can to protect his loved ones against the impossible.

Deadly strangers, unthinkable destruction – these are the reasons Superman was invented, to defend our small but important lives. In the most recent trailers for Man Of Steel there is a major emphasis on our hero’s two fathers and the delicate hope they place in their little boy’s future. Hopefully, this movie will echo those ancient heartstrings, even as it pummels to epic heights.

Also, lots of explosions.

— Rob Fagin

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Category: Columns, Double Feature, Monthly

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