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Gone by Midnight

Once again, I enjoyed my trip back to the croc-infested region of Crimson Lake, Australia.

Four eight-year-old boys are left in a hotel room while their parents are downstairs enjoying dinner. When one of the parents returns to check on the boys, one of boys is missing.

In the third book of this great series, Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell, the two intriguing investigators with very complicated backgrounds, are on the hunt for a child and kidnapper. This thrilling, suspenseful and yes, sometimes funny, mystery kept me guessing to the very end.

Check out Gone by Midnight (2020) by Candice Fox today. Listen immediately via Hoopla. Check out my review of Crimson Lake, the first book in the series.



The Stranger (1946)

indexIt’s 1946 and the infamous ex-Nazi Franz Kinzler is living under an assumed name while teaching at an elite private school in small-town Connecticut.  He’s charmed the townspeople, including the headmaster’s daughter played by Loretta Young.  They marry, then Kinzler’s true identity is revealed to her, but is she too blinded by love to see the truth about her husband?

This post-WWII noir classic was directed by and stars Orson Welles.  Fabulous shadow effects, long camera shots, and dramatic angles are hallmarks of Welles’ style and make this movie a visual delight.  The Stranger was nominated for an Academy Award and was the first Hollywood feature film to include documentary footage of the Holocaust.  It’s a must see for lovers of classic noir and fans of suspense. Check out our list of other 1940s Noir Classics too!

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) PG-13

murder_on_the_orient_express_teaser_poster5 out of 5 stars for me. Not knowing the story kept me engaged and absorbed. The ending took me by surprise--a very good surprise--and totally unexpected. The actors were top notch, intense and mysterious, but still believable. The scenery was spectacular. The photography, especially the close-ups of the characters' faces, helped the mystery develop.

Check out the most recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express. Looking for a review of the book? Check out Jennifer’s take on Current Picks from December.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

anatomymurderSet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this classic courtroom drama features a winning cast of small town characters. Jimmy Stewart plays Paul, the ex-District Attorney who would much rather be fishing or playing jazz piano than practicing law. He is perfectly content with getting by on the odd legal job, but his perpetually tipsy (yet surprisingly astute) sidekick, Parnell, has other ideas. At Parnell’s urging, Paul takes on a local murder case that brings them both out of their semi-retirement.

Other engaging characters abound, including a visiting judge, Paul’s secretary, and of course, the defendant and his wife. These characters along with a well-placed plot, the almost light-and-breezy tone—despite its dark subject matter—and the hip music of Duke Ellington make Anatomy of a Murder just plain fun.

Check out our list of Lawyers in the Movies for other films.

Dial M for Murder (1954) PG

dialmWhat happens when you plot to murder your wife? Watch Alfred Hitchcock’s melodramatic and suspenseful classic Dial M for Murder, starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings, to find out.

Before the story starts, Margot Mary Wendice has a brief affair with mystery writer Mark Halliday while her tennis player husband, Tony, is away. A love letter was stolen, and she is being blackmailed. Mark comes to visit the couple, and Tony sets a diabolic plan in motion.

This movie was based on a play and filmed in 3D, a method prominently used in the 50s. The remastered and released in 3D version (2012) can be requested through SWAN.

For other Alfred Hitchcock films, see The Genius of Alfred Hitchcock: His Movies & TV Shows.
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The Sixth Sense (1999) PG-13

sixthsenseThis film has an eerie feel to it from start to finish, and when you finally figure out what’s happening, you will be blown away. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense follows child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) as he tries to redeem himself after his last patient committed suicide. He is now trying to help young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who has an ominous secret. Cole’s mom is beside herself with worry over Cole, whose numerous phobias make life frightening and unbearable. Can Dr. Crowe figure out the secret?

The Black Book (1949)

blackbookAlso titled Reign of Terror, The Black Book is a suspense film that is as film noir as you can possibly get.  Yet instead of being set in a large American city during the 1930s, 40s, or 50s, it is set in 1794 Paris during the reign of terror. Charles D’Aubigny (Robert Cummings), is a French patriot looking to overthrow Maximilian Robespierre (Richard Basehart).

Robespierre is planning to become dictator of France, so that he can more easily continue his reign of terror wherein he sends anyone opposed to him to the guillotine without trial or hearing. One of D’Aubigny’s coconspirators is Madelon (Arlene Dahl). D’Aubigny and Madelon have a past and D’Aubigny is bitter about it; neither is sure they can trust the other.

In fact, almost none of the characters in this film trust each other and with good reason.  And the man most in the middle the man who no one should trust and who trusts no one is Fouche (Arnold Moss), the chief of police. He would like to destroy Robespierre but he will happily kill a friend or foe of Robespierre if it will advance his career. Moss does a great job with this character.

I will borrow a sentence from a review on IMDB to describe this film: “The atmosphere is particularly effective, with the dark photography and claustrophobic settings helping to establish the rampant fear, uncertainty, and paranoia that characterized the era.”

This film is nonstop suspense.  About the only criticism I could make is this is a film badly in need of restoration. The current DVD was supposedly restored but it’s far from what I usually experience in a restored film; I have seen worse copies of this film so it is an improvement, but even in its not-so-restored state, it is wonderful film.

Rififi (1955)

rififiAmerican born director Jules Dassin made the French thriller Rififi after being blacklisted in Hollywood. In this masterfully suspenseful heist movie, four jewel thieves plan the perfect crime. They gather the team. They plan. They rehearse. Then they execute the perfectly choreographed theft and getaway--all in perfect silence. But one mistake draws the unwanted attention of a local crime boss and all plans go astray.

In French with English subtitles.

Young and Innocent (1937)

indexSuspense, adventure, humorous charm, and romance are blended in Young and Innocent, an early English Alfred Hitchcock directed gem. When an innocent man who is a suspected murderer escapes from the courthouse, he finds help from an unlikely quarter--the police chief's daughter! To escape the police and find the real murderer, they race along in her temperamental jalopy, hide out in a dilapidated barn, crash a children's party, and hunt for a switched raincoat. Great fun.

Now You See Me (2013) PG-13

This entertaining, fast paced movie centers around four magicians, played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco, who are mysteriously brought together to perform a lavish act with amazing feats including pulling off elaborate heists. Are these thefts real or illusions?

Early on Eisenberg’s character says, “The more you think you see the easier it will be to fool you.” “The Four Horsemen” stay one step ahead of the FBI and Interpol in Now You See Me. Director Louis Leterrier also directed the action movie The Transporter.
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Jack Reacher (2012) PG-13

Based on Lee Child’s book One Shot, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) travels across the USA and always runs into some very dangerous people who have killed innocent people and are planning to do more until Reacher stops them. In the movie as well as the book, James Barr is accused of killing five random people and the evidence against him will likely produce a guilty verdict. The suspect doesn’t want an attorney, he won’t confess even though the police and the DA have advised him that if he elects to be tried, the DA will do his best to get him executed. The suspect wants only one thing: to see Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher has plenty of action, but it will give the viewer plenty to think about as well. Rosamund Pike gives a fine performance as Barr’s defense attorney Helen, as does Werner Herzog who plays the chief villain. Robert Duvall stars as Cash, and he gives a fine performance as well.

I have already seen this movie three times and I don’t usually see newer films this many times within such a short period (the last 7 months). I recommend it.

 

Speed (1994) R

Speed, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, is an “on the edge of your seat” thriller from beginning to end. An evil villain (Dennis Hopper) has planted a bomb on a city bus that will explode if the bus does not continue going over 50 miles per hour.

What else do you need to say? There are plenty of near misses to ramp up the tension, and Reeves and Bullock are great together. Speed will take you on a fun ride.

http://youtu.be/7nhBoOC-44Q

L.A. Confidential (1997) R

L.A. ConfidentialL.A. Confidential captures the feel of a classic film noir without being just a copy. The feeling for 1950s Southern California drips from the screen, the music perfectly captures the mood of each scene, and the acting is terrific.

Three L.A. cops become enemies when they are involved in a scandal later dubbed "Bloody Christmas." When seemingly disparate events seem to be all pointing in one direction, the three must put behind their previous disdain for each other and work together to solve several murders, find the power behind a pornography and prostitution ring, and track down some missing heroin. The movie is cleverly written, smart, and makes good use of irony in its setting, use of music, and dialogue.

The Man with a Cloak (1951)

An idealistic young French girl Madeline Minot (Leslie Caron) travels to New York City in 1848 to obtain financial assistance from her fiancée’s wealthy grandfather (Louis Calhern) to further the cause of the French Republic. When she arrives, she finds that the old man is destroying himself with drink and being assisted in his demise by the old man’s sinister paramour (Barbara Stanwyck), his butler (Joe De Santis), and his very cynical maid (Margaret Wycherly). The wicked trio plan to inherit the old man’s money.

Madeline Minot meets Dupin (Joseph Cotton), the mysterious man with a cloak who, feeling sorry for the young girl, offers his assistance.

I like this film for the fine performances, the witty dialogue, the almost noirish feel of the film, the mystery aspects, and the setting in 1848 New York. I have no hard data but I suspect that 95% or more of films about 19th century America are westerns, Civil War films or a combination of the two. Even though I am especially fond of westerns, it is a real pleasure to see a film set in the East.

Students of American literature will appreciate this film as well.

I saw The Man with a Cloak for the first time a few years ago and I have seen it three more times since.  It has become one of my favorites and perhaps it will be yours as well.

The Killing (1956)

Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook, Marie Windsor, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, and Joe Sawyer star in this crime drama. The Killing is one of the best “heist films” you’ll ever see. Hayden is an ex-con who has masterminded a huge robbery. The film keeps you tense and thinking at all times as you are given small pieces of information throughout the film, but not enough to figure out how the robbery will be committed and whether it will succeed or not.

Hayden gives a fine performance as does Cook as a wimpy clerk and so does  Windsor as Cook’s shrewish wife.

This film reminds me of Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and its remake (2001). Both of those films had super-deluxe casts and are excellent films, but this one is better and it seems a lot more believable.