A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town. (IMDb)
Brilliant cinematography and editing, from the opening 3 minute take (and many other mesmerizing tracking shots to follow) to the ingenious overlapping of scenes (a character in the background of one becomes the focus of the next) to the stark use of shadow and light. It’s got a solid noir plot, too, with a unique focus on the cops, not the crime, though here a white-washed lead role, a cringe-y damsel-in-distress, and some questionable performances from the supporting cast mar things a bit.
While travelling in continental Europe, a rich young playgirl realizes that an elderly lady seems to have disappeared from the train. (IMDb)
The lazily paced opening act kept me waiting for the thriller part to come, but then I realized it was actually super funny (see C+C at dinner with Miss Froy) and it ended up setting up the ensemble cast of characters perfectly for the uniquely comedic thriller to follow (see Caldicott during the gun fight: “We’ll never get to the match now”), with the witty banter of Gilbert and Iris carrying us breezily through the engaging mystery right to its ending that hits all the right (piano) notes.
A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection. (IMDb)
A hard-boiled NYC cop thriller that’s a little dry–especially in the beginning–but has a second half that’s loaded with patiently crafted scenes brimming with tension (see the subway station battle of wits, wild car chase, car dismantling drug search). Hackman’s brash and bold Doyle, meanwhile, is the perfect protagonist for the gritty urban setting. The ending leaves something to be desired though, with its anticlimactic “gotcha” moment (you’d think the cops could’ve planned that better).
After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them. (IMDb)
A solid, if unspectacular war piece, well-acted (Douglas especially) and efficiently told: What seems at first like it will be an underdog battle epic takes a sinister turn with the general’s first long walk through the trenches and only gets more horrifying from there: Unjust political structures of the army are uncovered in two strikingly contrasting settings through chilling conversations on both ends of the hierarchy that climax with a gut-punch ending and a thought-provoking epilogue.
Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. (IMDb)
Flawless turns and a snappy script bring forth a captivating character dynamic: Three men down on their luck, brought into tenuous partnership by their common pursuit of gold. Howard foretells the greed and paranoia early on, and the plot doesn’t disappoint as it expertly builds the tension with calculated conversations (see the debate about dividing the wealth), heated stand-offs, and a suspicious 4th party. The bandit action interrupts the flow a bit, but it adds another element of excitement.
An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop. (IMDb)
Devastatingly dark and scathingly satirical comedy (“10 to 20 million killed, tops”), brilliantly executed with biting irony (see the “Peace is Our Profession” sign amidst the gunfire; “You can’t fight here, this is the War Room!”), goofy juxtaposition of the mundane and the life-or-death (see Mandrake’s pay-phone call to the president), and visuals both horrifying and humorous (see Kong’s bomb-ride and the final Vera Lynn-backed explosion montage). Sellers is stellar in his three roles.
A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive. (IMDb)
An intriguing initial note of mystery doesn’t disappoint as it’s fleshed out in an exciting yet smart espionage plot full of daring escapes (see the train sequence), double-crossing damsels (Eve remains an enigma til the end), and dashes of danger (see the uniquely terrifying crop-duster scene). The climax loses some credibility thanks to a couple of cringe-worthy sets (see the fake forest and unspectacular Mt. Rushmore) but is redeemed slightly by a great foot-on-hand-on-cliff close-up shot.
Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance. (IMDb)
A lengthy newsreel inserted early on here fumbles the artful intrigue of the opening sequence and is eventually rendered unnecessary as the film basically repeats the same information from that point on–and the spoilers, along with the jumpy script (although the interview format is cool) make it hard to fully immerse yourself in the life of Kane, as interesting as it is. That said, this film is so impeccably and beautifully filmed–and well-acted to boot–that it’s still well worth the watch.