"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays.
Robert Pattinson moves beyond sparkly vampires and that K-Stew mess this weekend in David Cronenberg's latest, Cosmopolis, which opens in a few select theaters. In the dark drama, Pattison plays a billionaire who rolls around Manhattan in his limousine and has sex with other women—including Juliette Binoche—that are not his wife. Paranoia builds in his isolated bubble on wheels, which leads him down a road to murder and self-destruction.
Cronenberg is a Canadian auteur with a long history of making films that get under the skin—sometimes literally. In 1979's The Brood, it seems like a group of children are committing a series of murders, but the titular brood actually have a psychic connection to their mentally disturbed mother, who is the real culprit. Still exploring psychic possibilities two years later, Cronenberg released Scanners—a movie about people with telekinetic powers that can make others' heads explode. Also imbued with psychic abilities is Christopher Walken's character in The Dead Zone, based on Stephen King's story about a man who can see a person's past, present and future by making physical contact with them.
A recurring theme in Cronenberg's best work is the apprehension about how technology is transforming human flesh. In 1983's Videodrome starring James Woods and Deborah Harry, people who watch a pirate broadcast of a torturous snuff program begin to suffer horrible hallucinations—like pulling a biomechanical gun out of one's chest cavity—even when the TV is off. The premise of 1996's Crash asks you to believe that one city contains enough people that are sexually turned on by warping their bodies in car wrecks to form a cult. No one can forget Cronenberg's gooey remake of The Fly in which Jeff Goldlbum's Seth Brundle invents a teleportation device only to accidentally fuse his genes with a fly and slowly mutate into a giant insect as his human body parts begin to slough off. Bugs and machines play an integral part of Cronenberg's adaptation of Naked Lunch, too, which features a typewriter that looks like an inky black insect with a pulsating sphincter that—even worse—talks to Peter Weller's character. Speaking of sphincters, people get bioports installed in their spines so they can plug in an organic virtual reality pod via an umbilical-like cord and play games in eXistenZ, a movie that is really about where you'll be sticking that iPod in the near future.
In more recent years, Cronenberg has moved away from science fiction in favor of psychological dramas, with mixed results. The best of the bunch is 2005's A History of Violence in which Viggo Mortensen plays a small-town diner owner whose true identity and bloody past are revealed when some gangsters track him down and try to take him out. Two years later, Mortensen appeared in Cronenberg's Eastern Promises and earned an Oscar nomination for his role as guy who dumps bodies in the Thames for a family of Russian career criminals in London.
All of the Cronenberg classics listed above are available on DVD and/or Blu-ray. Which one makes your flesh crawl the most?