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Whether it's grown men in bunny suits or the addictive giggle of Melissa McCarthy, this week's double feature is all about alternate realities. While I'm not the biggest fan of many science fiction elements, I'm a sucker for a good story about worlds that are just a little bit off. When an eerie twist is mixed into scenes showcasing the life and environment we're all familiar with, a film changes from something we can guess into an intriguing puzzle to figure out, or endlessly argue about. (And it does so without traveling to unrecognizable, fantastical new turf.)

Tonight, we've got a film that really should get more play, plus one beloved cult classic. I give you: The Nines and Donnie Darko.

*Included at the request of a nerd friend of mine.

The Nines



This is one of those films that should have gotten a lot more love than it did, sort of like Donnie Darko, and I can only hope that on DVD it finds the audience it's waiting for. Under the three main players of Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, and Melissa McCarthy, John August tells a tale that is both the story of his career -- one which goes so far as to film in his home -- and the story of the "greater truth." It's the type of film that raises a million questions, answers only a few, and leaves you to ponder the rest. One should not expect anything else, because again, like Darko, the allure is in the mystery, not the filmmaker's answers that tarnish the whole thing, as the Director's Cut of Darko proved.

The Nines features 3 stories -- a television star (Reynolds) who finds himself under house arrest while his neighbor (Davis) taunts him and his publicist (McCarthy) tries to keep him in line, a showrunner (Reynolds) who is torn between studio pressures (Davis) and his actress friend (McCarthy) as he tries to get his creation on the air, and finally, a man with car trouble who gets help from a hiking stranger (Davis) while his wife (McCarthy) and daughter (Elle Fanning) wait for him.

This is a film best to go in without an overall understanding of it, but if you want more (including some comment spoilers) check out Ryan Stewart's review.

TRIVIA:
The failed series, based on August's own struggles, was D.C.

Challenge: Spot all the instances of "nine" popping up, from notes, to references, to simple addition.

Q&A with August and Reynolds. --only watch after the film--

But more than clips, the best added feature to watch with this film is the short film included on the DVD: "God." It's an old short from John August and Melissa McCarthy that has her starring as a woman who has a gossipy phone friendship with the big man upstairs.


Donnie Darko



Forget the abomination that is the S. Darko sequel, the one that makes The Lost Boys sequel seem like a good idea. The only true Darko is Donnie Darko. It's the film that quietly slid out of theaters and onto video store shelves without so much as a glance, before becoming a cult film phenomenon. With Richard Kelly's current trajectory, this could remain his one ultra-beloved feature, and if that's the case, it's a great film to be known for.

I'm sure I don't have to say anything else about it, except sit back, relax, and enjoy '80s tunes, a young Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a slew of other notable actors.

TRIVIA:
C.H.U.D. was originally supposed to play at the theater, but when that couldn't be sorted, Sam Raimi came to the rescue.

Can you imagine Jason Schwartzman as Donnie?

Viewing Tips: Watch the original, not the Director's Cut. However, make sure to watch the #1 Darko Fan Darkomentary from the second release. It made the whole other release worth it.

The best use of Tears for Fears.