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3 Days of the Condor (1975) R

3 Days of the CondorThis exciting vehicle for Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway has him as a CIA researcher on the run after narrowly escaping a horrific event and her as his unwilling accomplice. What can he do and whom should he trust? He finds no easy answers in this taut, well-executed thriller. 3 Days of the Condor is based on the James Grady novel Six Days of the Condor.
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Chinatown (1974) R

chinatownIt is 1933 and private detective Jake Gittes is hired by a socialite to investigate her husband’s extramarital affair. Jake doesn’t know what trouble he is about to find and what is really going on. Pre-war southern California is the setting for murder, treason, political graft, deceit, and more.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are at their best. This film noir movie was written for the big screen and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. The American Film Institute rated Chinatown the second best mystery movie.

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.

 

The Fall. Series 1 (2013)

To delve into the mind or psyche of a serial killer is gruesome. The TV series The Fall follows a serial killer/husband/father who has targeted his next victim in Belfast. The show is riveting. Gillian Anderson is superb as the British detective summoned to Belfast to solve a high profile murder. She concludes that there is serial killer on the loose.

The show follows the hunter and the hunted: she, on his trail, trying to anticipate his next move; he, trying not to get caught, but wanting to satisfy his desires. Not to be missed.

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 Awakening (2011) R

This supernatural thriller is set in London, 1921. Florence Cathcart is a published author on supernatural hoaxes who works with the police to expose the frauds and charlatans claiming they could contact the “other side.”

She is approached by Robert Malory, a boarding school teacher, to investigate the death of a student and to determine if it was related to seeing a ghost. She travels to the school and at first thinks the ghostly sightings are a prank played by the boys at the school. But as she continues her investigation, science fails to give her answers to the unexplainable supernatural events that manifest and entrap her. Rebecca Hall, Imelda Staunton, and Dominic West star in The Awakening, a delight of a horror story!

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.

Sneakers (1992) PG-13

Sneakers, which has a star-studded cast, including Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, and Ben Kingsley, is a fun thriller that will keep you stuck to your seat. College age Marty (Redford) and Cosmo (Kingsley) are computer hackers—Cosmo is caught and sent to prison, and Marty is on the run.

Fast forward to the present where Marty has become an expert at foiling security systems such as those found in banks. Marty is given the opportunity to clear his name in exchange for stealing a certain device, but by the time he finds out what it does, it could be too late to save his own life.

Check out a series of articles in Slate as they celebrated the movie's 20th anniversary.
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Homeland. Season 1 (2011)

After hearing the nonstop buzz about Homeland, I watched the first season and I was not disappointed. The plot centers on CIA agent Carrie Mathison, who was warned by an Iraqi source that an American prisoner of war had been turned by Al-Qaeda. When Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a U.S. Marine Sergeant, is rescued after being held captive by Al-Qaeda for nearly eight years, Carrie is suspicious. Claire Danes does a tremendous job playing the role of Carrie, who is determined, almost to a fault, to prevent another terrorist attack. This heart-pounding, suspenseful drama will keep you questioning who is really telling the truth.

Argo (2012) R

Yes, sir. There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one.
You don't have a better bad idea than this?
This is the best bad idea we have, sir, by far.
I loved Argo so much that I’ve seen it twice in the past month. The film tells the story of the rescue of six Americans in Tehran who escaped the embassy at the start of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. Despite knowing the end of the tale, you’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout this engaging thriller. Quick-witted, snarky dialogue balances tense situations.

And if you're wondering how true to real life the Hollywood version is, check out this NPR review from a former White House aide.

If you haven’t seen the Best Picture winner yet (or just want to watch Argo again), join us on Friday, March 15. We’ll start the movie at 7pm and follow with an optional discussion. Sign up here. It’s part two of our Movies & More series featuring Academy Award-nominated films (March 29 is Skyfall).

Spotlight: Edward Norton

One actor whose films I’m always anxious to watch is Edward Norton. He is so gifted and versatile. The characters he plays are often intense and/or troubled, and always captivating and true-to-life. My favorite films are American History X (1998) and Primal Fear (1996), although I’ve also enjoyed many others. Here’s a selection of some of his movies that are available at IPPL:

Double Indemnity (1944)

Double Indemnity is a classic film noir offering that any fan of the genre should watch at least once. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Barbara Stanwyck) and Best Director (Billy Wilder).

Read an article about the classic film at TCM. For other 1940s film noir movies, browse our movie list for titles available at Indian Prairie.
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