The Petrified Forest (Archie Mayo) *** - A criminal gang holds a group of people in a "last stop" dive in the desert hostage. The film's plot is pretty routine and feels a bit like a filmed stage play than a movie most of the time. However, the terrific performances by the cast led by Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and the fascinating characterizations makes up for its flaws.
World on a Wire (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) **** - It's quite hard to believe this film was made in 1973. A mysterious death of a creative director of an institute which runs a virtual reality program called Simulacron kicks off a heady, twisty film on computers, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. That's all one needs to know. This was made before Tron and way before The Matrix and Inception. Yet somehow manages to be more thought-provoking and mind-bending than any of them. The film is almost eerily prophetic on the way it depicts the virtual world. Originally a TV miniseries, the 3.5 hour running time doesn't feel that long at all and it gives you a lot to digest philosophically.
Real Life (Albert Brooks) **** - This is the second film I saw this week that was way ahead of its time. World on a Wire tackled computers and virtual reality. This time around, it's reality TV. Writer-director Albert Brooks plays a fictional version of himself as he takes it upon himself to film an "ordinary" family in the course of one year to make a movie out of it. Things don't go quite as planned and the results are hilarious. I'm sure this must have been funny and absurd at the time but currently, it is funny in whole other level. Great performances by the cast.