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“Open Water”

A movie review. (circa 2004)

Against my better judgment, I purchased the movie “Open Water” on Pay-per-View. Although the movie had received several good reviews, I regretted spending $3.95 from the very first frame. “Based on true events”, is how the movie is plugged. That’s rarely a good sign: most often than not, the true events get diluted with so much fiction and fantasy it’s hard separating which is which. According to the Open Water website, a Newsweek review describes the movie as “… a 79 minute triple-dog-dare”. Which is true, I suppose, if you remove the words triple and dare. . .

While vacationing on a Caribbean island, a stressed-out, marriage-challenged, yuppie couple signs up for a half-day dive-boat excursion. Somehow or another an inattentive crew member miscounts the number of divers exiting the water at the conclusion of the dive, and — bingo! The boat weighs anchor, the propeller goes ‘round and ‘round, and sure enough, our submerged yuppies get left behind in vast, shark-infested open water. One of the few positive notes about this movie are what’s missing: gory shark bites, blood trailing in the water, gnashing teeth,  a daring rescue. There were even a few moments of brilliant editing. But mostly, scenes were designed to keep us guessing in a murky psychological haze, forcing our minds to tread water while filling in events that were perhaps too costly to film.

Open Water is one of those movies where the credits — unlike the sharks — suddenly appear on the screen and bite you. I replayed the last Open Water scene several times.  “Was that the ending?” I wondered.  “What just happened? Did I miss something?”

Unfortunately, the only thing I had missed was 79 minutes of my time and a triple-dog-dare.

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Tim says: A couple years ago I tried watching this movie a second time, but I ended up switching channels about a quarter-way through.

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and based on a William Mastrosimone play entitled “Nanawatai”. Also known as “The Beast of War”.

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Last month while flipping through TV channels late at night, I decided to watch an older movie that turned out to be pretty darned good. It’s called “The Beast”, made in 1988. (Do not confuse this movie with a similar title made-for-TV featuring a rampaging squid that terrorizes a New England fishing community!)  THIS version of “The Beast” (also know as “The Beast of War”) is about a Russian tank and its crew who — after decimating an Afghan village in a rather gruesome attack during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — escape into the surrounding dessert. The tank makes a wrong turn however, ultimately trapping the crew in a rambling dead-end canyon.

Hold on to your hats. The tale unfolds quickly as a band of vengeful Afghan rebels begin to play a deadly mongoose-and-cobra game with the wayward tank and its dwindling crew.

The tank’s psychotic commander is played by George Dzungza (TV’s 1990-1991 overweight “Detective Sergeant Max Greevey” in the first season of “Law & Order”). Dzungza’s performance goes beyond outstanding.

As I chomped popcorn and watched the tale develop, I could not help drawing wonderfully classical parallels to Hermann Melville’s infamous Captain Ahab character in “Moby Dick”, as well as the Philip Francis Queeg character played by Humphrey Bogart in “The Caine Mutiny”.

A must-see for serious movie enthusiasts. “The Beast” is not for children! Watch or rent this one if you get the chance.

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The last thing I expected to see in the 2006 Sci-Fi Channel movie, “Savage Planet” was the Bear with the Rubbery Lips“Terror strikes a group of explorers who have stepped through a portal to a distant planet.” And then it happened. Ten minutes into the movie, the Bear with the Rubbery Lips made his appearance. You know the bear I’m talking about, the same bear that has appeared in almost every bad action-adventure movie ever made; the trained Kodiak bear who rears up on his hind feet, flails the air with his massive, Godzilla-like paws, and — as the camera moves in for the trademark tight head shot — screws up his huge, slather-coated mouth into incredible rubbery shapes that are meant to be mortally terrifying but have since become so overused they are slapstick and comical.

So it was on the Savage portal Planet in a galaxy far, far away, VERY far away, indeed, from the rubber-mouthed Gentle Ben look-alike and his quick-take-the-money-to-the-bank trainer. CLICK went my TV remote.

It was time for a good book.

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The other night I watched The Red Violin for a second time. Watching a movie twice is a rare event for me. (Reading the same book twice is even rarer.) But this time — remembering how much I liked the movie when I first watched it a couple years ago — I decided to watch it again.

On the surface The Red Violin is a simple story that examines the 300 year history of a particular red violin — its famous maker, its subsequent owners, their times, and their lives. The major character in this movie is the violin itself. Samuel L. Jackson plays a present-day violin expert who is evaluating a shipment of antique instruments in preparation for a high-dollar auction.  Jackson’s portrayal is quite good, but — by far — it is the vision of the movie’s writer-director, Francois Girard that launches The Red Violin into the realm of the extraordinary.

Girard’s ability to create scenes that span centuries, cultures, and transcend moments in time is downright spooky. For instance, the same auction scene returns again and again, and yet each time the audience is persuaded to view it from an ever-so-slightly different perspective, one that has been carefully orchestrated by Girard’s subtle unraveling of the mysterious story line.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Red Violin. The sound track is outstanding — particularly if you enjoy listening to riveting violin passages — and I have no doubt I will watch the movie again in the years to come.

(originally published and copyrighted© 1998-2010 by Simply Tim in the Recipe du Jour news letter.)

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One day the executive producer of the then PM (Evening) Magazine television show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana called me into his office and told me he wanted me to begin a weekly movie reviewer segment in addition to my other responsibilities as a story and field producer. He liked the way I wrote and flat out loved my opinionated nature. And just like that I slipped into one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.

Later that afternoon I personally visited three or four of the local movie houses and explained to the owners what PM Magazine was planning to do. I walked away with VIP passes from every one of them. Within days I began receiving promotional video tape film clips, trailers,  and brochures from Paramount, Viacom, Universal Studios, United Artist’s Studios, and others. All of the RUSH material was addressed to me,  “PM Magazine Movie Reviewer”.

Thus began two heady years of free visits to virtually every movie debut that rolled out of Hollywood. All of that, and a paycheck, to boot.

(originally published and copyrighted© 1998-2010 by Simply Tim in the Recipe du Jour news letter.)

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