I don’t know about you, but I really hoped that the whole “breaking a movie into pieces ostensibly so we can go into greater detail, but really because we want to make more money” thing would have run its course by now. I get it. It sort of made sense to break up the last Harry Potter movie. I can understand breaking up the Lord of the Rings movies. But seriously folks, this is getting out of hand. I just want to see a full story. Is that too much to ask? And preferably not in eyeball-destroying 3D. My vision is bad enough as it is. Stop making me doubt whether I have the right prescription just so a monkey can throw a coconut at me in 3D.
Enough ranting. That’s not what this column is about. This column is about movie reviews and do I have a pair for you!
Sorcerer (1977) [Rated PG]
Life is all about timing. There comes a point in everyone’s life where if they had just waited a little while longer or acted sooner, their life could have turned out completely different. Such is the case with our first movie, Sorcerer. You can check out the trailer here.
“Collin, I’ve never even heard of Sorcerer.”
Well, that could be because it came out less than a month after the original Star Wars came out. Timing. Or maybe it’s because Sorcerer was directed by William Friedkin whose previous movie was The Exorcist and people went to the theater wondering where the devils and magic were. Or perhaps it was because the first 16 minutes go by without a single word of English being spoken and people thought they were seeing a foreign film. It could be because movie critics of the late 70s weren’t particularly keen on Sorcerer.
“So, why did you even watch it?”
Sorcerer is a film adaptation of the French novel Le Salaire de la Peur and is widely considered to be a remake of a different film adaptation of the novel, The Wages of Fear from 1953, though Friedkin disagrees with the notion that it is a remake. The plot concerns four men who have all escaped dangerous situations in their home countries and wound up in a remote South American village. All four earn meager salaries and are trapped in their current surroundings. An American oil company has a well explode about 200 miles away and the only way to extinguish the fire is by blowing it up with nitroglycerin. Unfortunately, the company’s supply of dynamite was stored improperly causing the nitroglycerin to become highly unstable and susceptible to vibration. The company offers a healthy reward to anyone who will drive a truck with the unstable dynamite the 200 miles to the burning well.
As you can imagine, the movie is tense, dark and gritty. Particularly striking to me, however, is how Friedken created so much from so little. There isn’t much dialogue and the premise isn’t tremendously complicated but there are plenty of genuine, edge-of-your-seat moments. I watched this with my buddy and there were several points while we were watching it that one or the both of us would yell “Oh, no, don’t do that!” or breathe heavy sighs of relief.
One of the more famously tense portions of Sorcerer is a pair of scenes where the trucks have to cross a swaying, decrepit bridge. As the characters and trucks creep across the bridge, you feel every bump, crackle and wind gust. Friedkin and his production staff built the bridge themselves and spent roughly $1 million to do so. Then a drought hit and the river dried up so they had to totally disassemble it, fly it north to another river and reassemble it for another $1 million. Then that river started drying up so they had production assistants with giant hoses pour water into the drying river bed. Timing.
When the DVD release of Sorcerer came out in 1998, critics started to reevaluate the film. Film critic Robert Cumbow reviewed the film when it was released in 1977 and was quite vehement in his criticism of the film. But in 2010, Cumbow added an addendum to his review regretting his initial review and that, over time, his view of Sorcerer has changed. In 2009, Stephen King listed it as his #1 movie rental that never disappoints and in 2012 Quentin Tarantino listed Sorcerer in his top 12 film list. Perhaps time does indeed heal all wounds.
8 paws out of 10
The Institute (2013) [Rated NR (but there’s some cursing in it so let’s say PG-13)]
The Institute is a fantastic documentary examining an “alternate reality” that took place in San Francisco. If you’ve seen David Fincher’s The Game, it’s an oddly similar idea. Or how about this: Those of you who watched Lost, imagine that the Dharma Initiative was real.
People in San Francisco began to notice flyers throughout the city promoting what seemed like unbelievable inventions and prompting folks to call a phone number for more information. Naturally, people called and were directed to an office in the financial district. Once in the room, a video detailed the exploits of something called the Jejune Institute. And with that, people found themselves falling down a rabbit hole that transformed the way they looked at the city they lived in and its people.
It may sound like I am being purposefully vague and in some ways that is true. I’m not going to link to the trailer and I would suggest that you don’t read any reviews or interviews about the film before you watch it. Not because of “spoilers” or because it will ruin some sort of Sixth Sense type twist ending. It will be more fun to explore the story with as little outside influence as possible just as the people who visited the Jejune Institute office experienced things.
This documentary isn’t earth-shattering. This isn’t The Fog of War or Hoop Dreams. But it is a glimpse into human behavior and the natural instinct you humans have for play and community. This is definitely one of those films where what you bring to the table affects what you take with you when it is over. No matter how you view the events documented in this film, if you are willing to give The Institute a few minutes of your attention, I think you’ll find it thought-provoking, intriguing and maybe even a little exciting.
6.5 paws out of 10
I promise next month we’ll go back to movie reviews with a little more “meat” to them. Cause I’m hoping to catch Sharknado 2 the next time it airs. *Insert bad joke groaning here.* Or if any of you have it on DVR and don’t mind a little cougar company, I can bring popcorn and a lint roller.