Few films beg repeat viewings like “Primer,” Shane Carruth’s 2004 time travel head-scratcher, which is impossible to fully unravel on first viewing, or on fifth viewing, or on fiftieth viewing. Not that those who’ve figured it out — like those who’ve designed elaborate, headache-inducing charts explaining all the time loops and who went where and when, etc., etc. — have really figured it out. If there’s a point to be gleaned from this micro-indie it’s in watching as something that started out as painfully complex spins even more out of control. If you didn’t get what its two amateur scientists (Carruth and David Sullivan) are doing in the early stretch, you really won’t get what happens when there are several of them scampering about, messing with time and who knows what else?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the not-too-penetrable plot that you can miss its indie bona fides. Carruth, a math major who designed software before hatching his own brainy movie, let no expense go to waste. As he pointed out on the commentary track to the film’s DVD (remember commentary tracks? On DVDs?), you can actually spot him occasionally mouthing the word “cut” at the end of shots — proof that nearly everything he shot wound up in the film. You don’t see that in his only other film, 2013’s similarly dense, similarly anxious “Upstream Color,” where shooting on digital made things easier. Oh, the burdonsome good old days.
Jake Gyllenhaal is getting prepped for Oscar talk for the summer boxing drama “Southpaw,” though if he wins anything — or is, you know, nominated — it may be as penance for snubbing his work in this joyfully skeezy look at a freelance news cameraman. The subject is TV news, with Gyllenhaal, emaciated and eye-buggy, as a thief who breaks through as a cameraman willing to do anything to get killer material. But its venom is for the state of freelancing in general, with the desperate proving willing to do more and worse for less in an endless pursuit for one-upmanship.
We don’t actually recommend this bizarre doozy from usually bland indie dramedy expert Thomas McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “Win Win”), starring a drowsy Adam Sandler as a sadsack loner who finds the power to become anyone, simply by putting on their shoes. But this might be the craziest thing he’s ever made — a severely misjudged boondoggle with terrible ethics and worse race problems. (Whenever Sandler wants to do anything bad, he winds up impersonating a black guy, including Method Man.) It's all Bad Idea Jeans, and though it would seem hard to top the scene where Sandler, disguised as his MIA dad (Dustin Hoffman), goes on a date with his mom, it hits the roof with its downright phantasmagoric final five. You won’t be able to describe it sober, but you’ll have fun trying.
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