Andrew Bujalski’s “Computer Chess” is one of the weirdest titles floating around Netflix Instant. But you know what’s arguably weirder? Andrew Bujalski’s follow-up. On the surface it’s a nice indie rom-com about a tightly-wound personal trainer (Cobie Smulders), a noveau riche shlub (Kevin Corrigan) obsessed with her and her on-off lover and boss (Guy Pearce). But if it sounds like a no-budget god trying to sell out, it fails in wonderful ways. The plot keeps changing, taking hairpin turns that drag us down strange alleyways, jerking us from naturalistic drama to broad comedy and back again. It should be a mess but it’s all tightly controlled, exploring characters who can’t figure themselves out. As the most discombobulated, Smulders offers a sweary turn that plays nicely off Corrigan, surely the oddest character to ever be considered part of a movie love triangle.
Otto Preminger directed a handful of films before his 1944 noir, but he always considered it his real “first” film. It’s certainly the one where his detached and rigorous voice is in place, trailing Dana Stevens’ implacable gumshoe investigating a missing, maybe dead society woman, which may implicate her sneering husband (Clifton Webb). Tierney’s Laura abruptly strolls in halfway through the movie, which is still enough time for Premigner, ever the button-pusher, to casually work in a necrophiliac subtext, with Stevens falling for someone who might only survive in lush paintings. Delivering genre goods while making things weird — that’s the Preminger way.
Christopher Nolan wasn’t yet a fanboy magnet when he wound up rebooting the Caped Crusader. The rest is history, but his first stab at toughening up the comic book world still feels like a compromise. There’s bits of the usual Nolan, notably a first act that jumbles up chronology in the spirit of “Memento.” But there’s also a shruggy plot — the kind of who-cares story chiefly there as an excuse for Bat action, plus a poison gas climax that gets out of hand even before there are shots of horses snorting fire from their nostrils. The ending sets up the Joker, but it also sets up the studio letting Nolan take full rein to do what he wants. And again, the rest is history.