Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jeff Bridges: The Big Lebowski, Tron: Legacy, Cutter's Way

Two of the films in today's entry probably don't need to be brought to your attention because you've probably noticed them popping up in Netflix's "New Movie Arrivals" on Watch Instantly.  But in the spirit of creating themed entries to encourage you to explore the less familiar on Netflix, I've matched them with a lesser known Jeff Bridges film from the early 1980s.

The Big Lebowski is one of those strange films that might not impress you on first viewing, but gets significantly better as you think about it and talk about it and revisit it with repeat viewings.  Certainly that was my experience watching it when it was initially released, and many considered it an odd misfire after the critical success of Fargo.  But it has subsequently been absorbed into pop culture to such a degree that perhaps it's quotes and references ("It really ties the room together," "The Dude abides," see The Big Lebowski Random Quote Generator for more) are better known than the movie itself.  So whether you're seeing it for the first or fiftieth time it is well worth checking out on Netflix Watch Instantly.

The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen, USA, 1998, 117 minutes)
Netflix: Slacker Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) gets involved in a gargantuan mess of events when he's mistaken for another man named Lebowski, whose wife has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. All the while, Dude's friend, Walter (John Goodman), stirs the pot. Brothers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen write and direct this cult comedy classic that also stars Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and John Turturro.  Netflix link. 

Okay, so Tron: Legacy is not as good as most of the films that I post here, but it is still worth watching at least one time, if only for the performance of the CGI generated young version of Jeff Bridges as Clu (Codified Likeness Utility).  I thought the film took too much time making sure that it showed updated versions of the famous sequences from the first film, rather than going wherever the imagination could go in the Tron universe.  But that said, the visual design is often quite stunning.

Tron: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski, USA, 2010, 125 minutes)
Netflix: While investigating the mysterious disappearance of his father, Kevin (Jeff Bridges), techie Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) lands in a beguiling computerized world of enslaved gladiators, where his dad has been living for more than 20 years. Joined by Kevin's trusted friend (Olivia Wilde), the father and son must journey across a breathtaking -- and perilous -- cyberscape in this 21st-century update to the beloved 1982 sci-fi classic. Netflix link.

I'm not familiar with Cutter's Way but after looking into it I placed it in my queue and I look forward to catching up with it.  From the trailer it looks like it might resonate in interesting ways with The Big Lebowksi, not for Bridges's role, but for John Heard's role (almost unrecognizable, until you hear his voice) as the eccentric Alex Cutter.  This film had an interesting distribution history, getting mixed to negative reviews on first release, but subsequently found more receptive critics after United Artists turned it over to its classics division.

Cutter's Way (Ivan Passer, USA, 1981, 109 minutes)
Netflix: Burned-out beach-bum Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) and his best friend, disfigured Vietnam veteran Alex Cutter (John Heard), stumble on a murder cover-up involving a powerful landowner in director Ivan Passer's brooding crime thriller. But Bone gets more than he bargained for when Cutter insists on blackmailing the suspect, who forces them into a cunning cat-and-mouse game that ignites a full-blown war. Lisa Eichhorn plays Cutter's neglected wife.  Netflix link.

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