Review: The Two Faces of January

The Two Faces of January is the second movie I’ve reviewed this week based on a Patricia Highsmith book.

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Though I still have not read anything by her(I plan to!), there are some common themes in this work and The Talented Mr. Ripley(the Book “Purple Noon” is based on).  We got rich Americans, a poor con artist, a love triangle of sorts, and an exotic beautiful location.  This story takes place in Greece and follows a married couple on vacation that meet up with a tour guide that is willing to show them around.  We have a May-December relationship, an alcoholic husband, a character with father issues, a murderer that may or may not have done it on accident, a fugitive on the run, a smart con-artist, and that just describes the three main characters, some descriptions match more than one character too.  Throw in a P.I. ex Marine and you got pure chaos.  This defiantly is in a Hitchcockian style and could have just as easily been from 1964 as from 2014.  This is written and directed by Hossein Amini who also wrote the screenplays for Drive and Killshot(both of which I hope to re watch and review in the future).  I look forward to more from him in the future.  We got Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Dunst and Oscar Isaac as our three main characters.  All of them do a great job, as your alliances may change back and forth between the three throughout the movie.  This film has a great score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and a fair score of 6.2 on IMDb and 66% on Metscore at this time.  This is not the best film of 2014 nor is it even the best noir film of 2014 but is entertaining and worth a view.  I think noir fans will find this more entertaining than the average person.

Review: I Became a Criminal or They Made Me a Fugitive

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I Became a Criminal or how it was named on TCM, They Made Me a Fugitive is a film-noir from Britain in 1947.  The one thing that surprised me about this film is its violence towards women, with two scenes where women were beaten by men.  I didn’t really see if this was a controversy or not, but I can’t image in 1947 it not being controversial.  Trevor Howard stars and had a long career as an actor.  The surprise for me was Sally Gray, I did a little research on her and she had a nervous breakdown and took 5 years off not long before she made this film.  She also only made a few more films after this.  Hollywood did come calling, no surprise, she seems very talented and was a beautiful actress, but decided to leave show business and married.  She stayed married to her husband until his death at 100 years old, so maybe she made the right decision for herself.  The other actress that stood out to me is Mary Merrall, she played the old lady that keeps all the gangsters in line.  She did this with some of the best lines in the movie and was a character I would have liked to see more of, and her background story.  This is a good classic film-noir, worth checking out.

My Review of Brick

Noir goes to high school!  This movie takes a modern take on the classic film-noir formula, but how do you have the classic dialog of a 30’s movie and put it into a movie made in this century?  I don’t know either but Rian Johnson did it.  Deciphering the language is part of the fun of this film.  Pin, Bull, Tug and of course Brick, what do they mean, why does it sound so cool when these middle class teens talk?  The setting of this film is in today’s suburbia and not the heart of the big city.  The hero is an average teen ex-boyfriend that most seem to be afraid of, or at least respect his reputation, but he seems more of a nerd then a bad ass.  The bad guys are modern versions of a thug and a smart business man who just happens to be in an illegal business.  There are 3! Yes 3 femme fatales in this movie, and of course all three throw our hero off track in different degrees through out, even though he knows they are doing it.  Brick is ten years old already, but it still holds up.  It was great to revisit this movie a decade on and forgot all the talent that this movie has.  Of course I knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt  when I first watched this, but he has become a huge star since. Lukas Haas, Emilie de Ravin and Meagan Good  have all gone on to become stars in their own right.  We get to see Richard Roundtree(Shaft himself!) in a great little role as well.  The greatest launching pad for talent this film had may just be the writer and director himself.  Since Brick, Rian Johnson has gone on to make the Brothers Bloom and the fantastic Sci-Fi Noir(I will review this sometime in the future)Looper.  The biggest news for Rian is the announcement that he will be the writer and director for 2 new Star Wars movies.  Not bad for a guy that wrote a movie, directed it using his old high school as a set and an Apple computer to edit it.  If you’re a fan of noir, new or old and haven’t seen this movie, check it out, if you haven’t seen it in a while it’s worth another viewing.

Review of Sweet Smell of Success

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I finally got a chance to see this classic film-noir and the wait was worth it.  This is a very cool movie that has all the things that make a film-noir so amazing.  I have to say this has some of the best dialog of any movie ever.

“If you’re funny, Walter, I’m a pretzel! Drop dead!”

“Don’t remove the gangplank, Sidney – you may wanna get back onboard.”

“That’s fish four days old. I won’t buy it!”

and of course the most famous line:

“I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

There is many more great lines in this movie, I could list another 100 and not cover them all.  I can see why this made a few Empire Magazine top 100 lists.  The reason I was so excited to see this film was Burt Lancaster, he is one of my favorite actors and his performance was great as the evil J.J., but Tony Curtis really surprised me and took over this film.

This movie had a lot of controversy when it came out.  It was based on Walter Winchell, a famous columnist in New York City with lots of pull.  Though this film changes Winchell’s daughter for J.J.’s sister, the story is based on some true events.  Winchell was still a powerful man in media when this was made, making it a risk to make.  Burt Lancaster produced this himself to get it made.  This was also Curtis’s first real acting challenge and showed his talent(before this he was thought of more as a pretty face and not a serious actor).  This also was a different role for Lancaster where he was essentially a bad guy, this went against his normal hero role in the film.  It ended up helping his career as well because it showed he had more sides to his acting talents then people thought.  Thank you Turner Classic Movies for still showing these great movies, most of these are not at our local DVD store.  If you haven’t seen this one put it on your Netflix Queue you will not be disappointed.

Ken Bruen’s Inspector Brant series

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Ken Bruen is better known for his Jack Taylor books and I have not read any of them yet(again on my to read list).  I picked up the first three of this series up in a Black Friday Sale for my Nook.  The first three books are packaged together and called the White Trilogy.

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This is from the Mystery Press, who has a lot of great noir and hardboiled books in there collection.  I read the first 3 books in no time and right away got the next 4 books and read those even faster.  This collection has a total of 7 short books that follow Inspector Brant, but also follows his co-workers in just as much detail.    This 7 books in the series are:

A White Arrest

Taming the Alien

The McDead

Blitz

Vixen

Calibre

Ammunition

The fourth book, Blitz was also made into a movie.  The movie follows the book fairly well except for the ending, which I think made a better movie.

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The movie has Jason Statham as Brant and he does a great job, it is an entertaining movie worth checking out whether you read the books or not.

The book series has not been read much according to goodreads with Blitz having the most reads at a mere 427, but the series has strong reviews and high ratings.  Ken Bruen has quickly become one of my favorite noir authors and I look forward to reading The Guards soon!

Purple Noon

Purple Noon(Plein soleil) is a film that caught my eye because it is based on the Noir novel The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.

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 You may know this work from the adaption made in 1999 with Matt Damon (as Ripley), Jude Law (as Greenleaf), and Gwyneth Paltrow (as Marge).  This is a French Production and though in 1960 the classic Film-Noir style was still in favor, this is not one of them.  This is in color with lots of scenes on beautiful blue seas and fashionable city centers rather then dark alleys and grimy bars.   Of course this being based on the classic novel, the themes are very dark, with an early form of identity theft, a strange love triangle, a few murders and lots of con jobs.  This must have been a refreshing look at the classic crime thriller in 1960 when most films of this nature where still in black and white and had a dark tone, this movie didn’t hide in the shadows.  The crimes are committed under the noon sun to those of privilege and of means, but most of the characters are not like-able and you find yourself hoping Ripley gets out of this OK.  I have yet to read the source novel(again on my to read list) but after looking at some of the history of this film both the author Patricia Highsmith and the film critic Roger Ebert did not like the ending.  I will not go into details about the ending(no spoilers if possible on this site) but would love to hear from those that have read the book and seen this film on what they think.Film_637w_PurpleNoon_original 

This film has a current rating of 7.8 on IMDb and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes so it is well liked by those that have seen it.  This is also the first appearance from the character Tom Ripley in the movies, I’m sure we will be looking at some of the other films he appears in on this site.

New Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is coming!??!

According to Time Magazine  and the Guardian, a new book in the Millennium Trilogy is coming, I guess it isn’t a Trilogy anymore.  Here is the link to the Guardian article:

http://http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/27/sequel-stieg-larsson-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-trilogy-out-august

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Do you like this idea?  Do you think a new book with Lisbeth not written by Stieg Larsson is something you would check out?  Let me know in the comments below.