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National Treasure

National Treasure (2004) PG
Share the adventures of a lifelong treasure hunter, his endearing assistant, and a tough archivist. Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) has been searching his whole life using the clues passed down through his family. When he finally breaks the first code, his partner Ian double-crosses him.

To preserve a precious piece of American history, Ben plots to steal the Declaration of Independence. Follow the clues as they take our heroes to historical landmarks with Ian and the FBI close behind.

The adventure continues in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.

Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock (1954)
This is not a western. It is set in the West, but the time is shortly after World War II. Spencer Tracy plays a one-armed veteran with a final “mission” to perform. He gets off a train at Black Rock, a very small town with a terrible secret, and is confronted with a trio of bad men and one bad woman who are determined to keep their evil secret and willing to kill to do so.

Tracy’s character is emotionally worn out and feeling sorry for himself. He has to cope with an evil Robert Ryan, a sadistic Lee Marvin, a bullying Ernest Borgnine, a cunning Anne Francis, and a drunken and unsympathetic sheriff played by Dean Jagger. The only man willing to help is Walter Brennan, the local doctor, who is also threatened when he tries to help. The other townspeople are slightly sympathetic toward Tracy but are either too apathetic or too afraid to help. Also, Tracy is unarmed, whereas his opponents are not.

The film is mysterious, frightening at times, and thought-provoking. It was nominated for three Oscars, including Spencer Tracy for Best Actor. Although the film didn’t win any Academy Awards, it featured three past winners and two future winners.

I have seen this film many times and I strongly recommend it.

Vertigo

Vertigo (1958)
Movie buffs take note – Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo has recently been reformatted. This newer formatting is so artistic that it adds a new dimension to your experience. Not having seen the movie for many years, I was astounded at the fresh quality. James Stewart and Kim Novak (a Chicago gal) are mysteriously intriguing right to the last frame.

Go to TCM.com for more on the movie -- including a video clip, a trailer, and trivia.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: Season 1

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: Season 1 (2009)
Precious Ramotswe opens a detective agency in Botswana. There, with the help of her eccentric assistant, she solves problems of the heart as well as problems of theft and missing persons.

This HBO series based on the books by Alexander McCall Smith adds some characters and changes things about a few other characters, but the beauty of the African landscape is captured as is the tone of the books and the personality of the characters as portrayed in the books. A few of the later episodes are rather more dramatic than the books, but enjoyable just the same.

A Touch of Frost

A Touch of Frost (1992-Present)
In this ongoing British police procedural, Detective Jack Frost of the Denton police is rough and rumpled and reluctant to follow procedure. But he is compassionate and a good cop.

In each episode, the Denton police deal with a couple of local crimes until Jack comes in and sorts it all out. Find out more about the show on the official website.

Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond (2007) R
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond is set in Sierra Leone in 1999 amid the chaos of Africa in armed conflict. It is an action drama played against the backdrop of political turmoil. The movie is about the illegal trafficking of diamonds in Africa: diamonds are harvested in Sierra Leone, smuggled into Liberia, and from there, sold to the rest of the world. Although it is tricky to make a movie on a controversial issue that is neither do-gooder nor exploitative, in this case the effort is surprisingly successful.

Blood diamonds were so named in the 1990s to call attention to the fact that African diamonds were being smuggled out of countries at war specifically to buy more arms and kill more people.

Weaker moments in the story are overshadowed by the film's willingness to risk disturbing an audience's sense of the world and how it is run. Blood Diamond is very much aware that these are problems beyond an easy resolution, and making a film that understands that is quite an accomplishment.

It really is a good movie, well acted, with Africa playing a wonderful supporting role!

Breach

Breach (2007) PG-13
Breach is great film, based on the true story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was convicted of treason. The movie portrays the events that took place surrounding the investigation and arrest of Robert Hanssen. There’s not a lot of action, but it definitely held my interest, as it was well-written, well-paced, and thought-provoking, especially knowing that it’s true.

Listen to an interview on NPR with the man who caught Hanssen -- Eric O'Neill -- and with screenwriter Billy Ray. Also check out an article featuring Chris Cooper, who portrays Hanssen in the film.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
The title of this movie put me off of it for years. It is neither a “chick flick” nor a “girly film.” It is one of the best Barbara Stanwyck films ever and probably the best film Van Heflin ever made. It also costars Kirk Douglas in his first film, and oddly enough he plays a lovesick alcoholic wimp, but he does it very well.

This film shows how fear and guilt can twist and destroy a person. Stanwyck is strong, powerful, and successful, but is tied her weak husband due to a terrible incident in their past. She owns and controls a huge factory in Iverstown and with Douglas controls the town and the police. When Heflin returns to Iverstown, he becomes both a threat to Stanwyck and a strong attraction as she believes he may be manipulated to remove her husband.

If you haven’t seen this movie before, try it, and if you have seen it, watch it again as it seems to get better each time I see it.

Join us! This film will be shown at Indian Prairie next Friday – November 6. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. -- movie starts at 7:20.

Taken

Taken (2008) PG-13
Fast-paced action thriller that touches on a topic that is frightening for any parent. Liam Neeson plays a former government agent whose teenage daughter is abducted while in Paris with a friend. He relies on his old skills to try to rescue his daughter and seek revenge on the criminals who kidnapped her.

The Third Man

The Third Man (1949)
The Third Man is a British thriller of the post-war era, a clever and original mystery tale and I love it. Based on Graham Greene's script, it stars Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, a naive American trying to track down an old college friend named Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post World War II Vienna. Two aspects of this film make a must see: its dramatic photography of a divided Vienna, ravaged by war, and the film's musical score – provided by a solo instrument – a zither. The jaunty but haunting musical score stays with you long after the film's viewing.

It was recently voted the best British film of all time.

Duplicity

Duplicity (2009) PG-13
Starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, Duplicity can be confusing to follow because it alternates between past and present. It’s an interesting movie, building up to the best part of the film – the last 20 minutes. The ending bolsters the whole movie.

Roberts and Owen are former CIA and MI-6 operatives who work for rival beauty care companies. They plan to con their companies to make millions.

Check out the Washington Post review of the film. Visit The Huffington Post to see what other newspapers and magazines said about the movie.
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Michael Clayton

Michael Clayton (2007) R
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) works for a large law firm. He’s a lawyer but the firm won’t let him practice law because he’s too good at fixing the law firm’s messes. When the firm’s top lawyer experiences a breakdown, Michael must clean up the defense of a chemical plant land contamination. Three billion dollars are at stake and Michael has a lot on his plate – not to mention his financial and family problems.

This was one of Sydney Pollack’s last movies and he is terrific as one of the firm’s big shot lawyers. Tilda Swinton received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as legal counsel for the chemical plant.

A great movie thriller and one of the best George Clooney films ever.

Gaslight

Gaslight (1944)
Gaslight is a superb example of a woman-in-peril suspense film. It is a psychological thriller, perfectly atmospheric, set in a foggy, dark London of the Victorian period.

Ingrid Bergman’s performance as a woman slowly losing her mind is great – she received an Oscar for it. She is the victim of games being played to make her doubt her sanity. (The term to gaslight someone to make them doubt themself comes from the movie’s title. It refers to the frequent dimming of the gas lights she sees.)

Charles Boyer is the devil trying to destroy his wife’s mind, and Joseph Cotten the dashing, intelligent inspector whose suspicions save the day. Angela Lansbury, at 18 years old, makes her screen debut in this very enjoyable, albeit old film.

Niagara

Niagara (1953)
Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten star in this dark story about love and murder set at Niagara Falls. Though not the best film ever made, Niagara helped cement Monroe's status as a box office draw. It afforded her the chance to play a cold-blooded and conniving role. Joseph Cotten turns in another of his intense, dark and disturbed portrayals.

There is an interesting noir feeling to this Technicolor film with the stalking sequence in the clock tower and the finale. The film makes great use of the falls themselves, both in a "travelogue" sense and in terms of using the location to create and maintain atmosphere. Released in 1953, it's still good to watch again!

Charade

Charade (1963)
Charade, a film written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, tells the tale of a woman (Audrey Hepburn) pursued by several men, including Cary Grant, who want the fortune her murdered husband has stolen. Directed by Stanley Donen, it also features Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy and an Oscar nominated score by Henry Mancini.

It spans three genres: suspense/thriller, romance, and comedy, and is both charming and amusing. The interaction between Hepburn and Grant is the best part of this 1963 film shot in Paris. Check out About.com for more about the plot, cast, backstory, and more.