Official Teaser Trailer for Legend

I came across this trailer this morning.  This film Legend is written and directed by neo-noir great Brian Helgeland and starring Tom Hardy as identical twin brothers who happen to be gangsters. This is based on real life gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray.  Looks like an amazing film to look forward to later this year.  What do you think?

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Review: Nightfall

I had this on my DVR from a showing on TCM and found the introduction to the movie interesting.  Now legendary noir author David Goodis wrote NIghtfall as a screenplay after his success with the film Dark Passage.  Dark Passage put him in the spotlight and he was in Hollywood putting his writing skills to use.  He wrote a screenplay with this story and nobody wanted it.  He got flustered with the Hollywood machine and turned it into a book.  Roughly 10 years later Stirling Silliphant took the book and made it into this screenplay.  He changed a few scenes and gave the bad guy heavies a little more depth and character.  This gave it another chance in Hollywood and it was made into this movie.

film noir directing great Jacques Tourneur was in the directors chair for this film.  It also stars Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft as our romantic couple.  Brian Keith and Rudy Bond play our thug like bank robbers and we also have James Gregory as an insurance investigator.

This film starts out with Aldo Ray at a news stand looking at papers from the Chicago area.  Gregory talks to him at the corner waiting for his bus.  Then Ray walks into a bar and meets Anne Bancroft.  They hit it off and have dinner, after dinner our two thugs jump our couple.  Bancroft is sent home and Ray is taken in a car.  From here Ray and the thugs battle it out through out the film and the story is told with a few flashbacks to see how our thugs and our hero come to meet.  Our adventure goes from the classic noir streets of Los Angles to the wilderness of Wyoming.

I am surprised with the talent in this film, from the great writing and directing to some good performances from our cast, that this movie isn’t more talked about.  If you’re a fan of any of the cast or crew or just a classic film noir fan, you should check out this film.  It will be well worth your time.

Re-watching Angel Heart

large_zVABs77t8P6flUShTnnTHjeTc3w  Angel Heart is a neo noir horror film from 1987.  Though this film was made with two of the biggest movie stars from the 1980’s, Robert De Niro(one of the biggest stars ever) and Micky Rourke it was not a big hit in theaters.  This was also directed by Alan Parker who had 3 or 4 hits under his belt when he made this movie. William Hjortsberg wrote the book this film is based on and has written a few other noir books.  I must say I’ve never read any of Hjortsberg’s books but hope to in the future.

With all this talent on the film, this film was more known at the time of its release for having Lisa Bonet in it.  At the time Lisa Bonet was the second biggest star of the hit television series The Cosby Show, so big she had her own spin-off series A Different World.  Both T.V. series had the biggest television star of The Cosby Show and all of television at the time,  Bill Cosby, behind them, he created both series.  Cosby had a lot riding on Lisa Bonet’s star power.  In this film Bonet plays a southern girl who is into voodoo and maybe even worse appears nude on-screen having sex with the main character while being splashed in blood.  This did not make Mr. Cosby happy, putting a black eye on two of his family oriented and biggest shows in one fell swoop.  I don’t  know if the controversy helped or hurt the film, but either way this was a flop at the box office.  Did Bill Cosby’s pull, hinder the distribution of this film?  I don’t know, but flashing forward almost 30 years we are learning more about the pull Cosby had and how he used it.  I would be interested in knowing if this being released at only 800 some odd theaters had something to do more with Cosby’s influence, then a failure on the distributors.  Even at the time of its release, it got very good reviews and was well received, but did not find an audience in theaters.  I think most people, like myself, had to wait for its VHS release to watch this film.

This film takes place in the mid 1950’s in New York as our protagonist Harry Angel goes to meet the mysterious Louis Cyphre played by Robert De Niro.  Cyphre hires Angel to find an old associate he helped with his music career before the war, called Johnny Favorite.  Johnny Favorite did not pay back his debt and has disappeared after the war and can not be found.  This leads Angel on a trail which leads to varies characters, most of which end up murdered soon after Angel interviews them.  The case leads him to the south, where he soon comes across voodoo worshipers and more craziness.

This film does have a horror element and has a great noir style in story and cinematography.  De Niro is great as Cyphre, not a big surprise, and Rourke is very good as our main character.  This is for both of the main stars fan base as well as those of Bonet.  It is also worth checking out for neo noir fans as well as horror fans alike.

Re-Watching the Classics: D.O.A.

220px-DOA1950 ” I want to report a murder.”

“Sit down. Where was this murder committed?”

“San Francisco, last night.”

“Who was murdered?”

” I was.”

Maybe the greatest opening dialog in noir history.  D.O.A. is a classic film noir from 1950 directed by Rudolph Maté who was a director and cinematographer for many great noir films through out his career.  Edmond O’Brien plays our protagonist Frank Bigalow who runs across many characters in this film, from a needy girl friend to a blonde at the end of the bar, to shady business men and a few doctors, police and a thug or two. DOA+trio The story is a simple one but an original one. Frank has to get away and goes to San Francisco on a small vacation.  He arrives at his hotel and joins a group of salesmen for a fun night on the town.  He gets a call from his girlfriend/secretary about somebody trying to get a hold of him.  He doesn’t recognize the name and figures it’s nothing.  After his night out he wakes up in the morning not feeling well.  He goes to the doctor and finds he has been poisoned.  There is no cure and he has only a day or two to live.  He uses his time left to hunt down who murdered him and why. This is such an interesting plot device that it has been remade and reworked a number of times.  The film was remade twice, once as Color Me Dead in 1969(I have not seen this) and D.O.A. in 1988(I have seen this, but it has been years, I hope to re-watch it and review it later).  The “I’ve been murdered and only have x amount of time to find the killer” plot has been done in such movies as Crank and to a certain extent in Zift as well. Though this plot has been redone in one form or another many times, this original movie is still the best of the bunch.   This is a film who classic film buffs as well as film noir fans will both find satisfying.  It’s a fun ride and if you think about it, what would you do, if you found out you only have a few days to live?

Review: Zift

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Zift is a film from Bulgaria, made in 2008.  It is filmed in black and white and takes place in the 1940’s and 1960’s.Vladislav Todorov wrote both the book in which the movie is based as well as the script. Javor Gardev directed and it looks to be his only film to date.

Zift is a great combination of modern neo noir with nods to movies like Pulp Fiction as well as classic noir style with nods to films like Gilda.  There are plot points which remind me of D.O.A. and Shawshank Redemption as well as scenes which reminded me of Sin City and the bar scene is an obvious nod to Gilda, but reminded me of a number of other classic noirs.  So is this just a rehash of great noir films of the past?  Yes and no, it is, but it adds a lot of originality as well.

The story starts with our hero in prison for a murder he did not commit.  Zahary Baharov plays our hero and has appeared in a few American productions.  We use flashbacks to tell his story of how he got in prison and some of his adventures while in prison.  The main story takes place over one day, the day he gets out of prison for good behavior.  He is meet at the gate by two men who give him a ride.  Along the way we meet our hero’s first love, a classic femme fatale in every sense, played by Tanya Ilieva.  She starts out as his sweetheart in school, after prison she is singing in a night club and far more jaded about life.  We also come across an old partner named Slug.

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This story is really dark and puts a lot of grim noir scenarios in an hour and a half.  There are also some comedic moments, most of them I did not find funny, maybe it was lost in translation.   Overall an enjoyable neo noir film. I didn’t know a bunch about this one but glad I was able to see it.  This is going to be for foreign noir fans and people who enjoy avant-garde foreign films.

Review: Twelve Hours to Kill

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12 Hours to Kill is a B-movie noir from 1960 that caught my eye based on Barbara Eden in a starring role.  This film is based on a mystery serial from The Saturday Evening Post written by Richard Stern.  The film is directed by Edward L. Cahn who looks to be a prolific B-movie director of mostly Sci-Fi and Horror films.  I am not to familiar with his work and don’t recognize most of his films.

Our protagonist is played by Nico Minardos who plays a Greek Immigrant fresh off the boat in New York City.  It looks like Minardos mostly worked in one-off appearances on varies television shows for the next 25 or so years.

The story starts with our hero minding his business in his hotel room late at night looking out the window when he witnesses a gangland slaying.  He goes to the cops and we have two higher-ups listen to his story.  They know they have a leak in the police force so the two keep it secret and send our hero and witness to a small town.  On the train Minardos meets a beautiful women,Barbara Eden, going to the same town.  Somebody leaks the eye witnesses identity to the press and from here we just have characters chasing each other, not knowing who to trust and who not to.

Barbara Eden is the high light of this film, though her character doesn’t ring true.  She plays a women that is helps a total stranger, that she knows is in trouble, with no questions asked and is happy to do it.  Maybe at the end of the 1950’s this single strong happy to help female existed, but to me she seems to go out of her way a little to easy.  She does light up the screen and is very likable, if not believable.

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This film has a few scenes which look brilliant.  I liked the opening scene of the gangland slaying, also the scene where our hero gets off the train and sees the bad guys waiting for him.  The movie does miss the mark elsewhere, for instance I liked some of the hand to hand fighting later in the film, but the editing doesn’t make a lot of sense.  The train scene with the little dog had potential, but doesn’t fit well with the rest of the film and seems drawn out and long.  I don’t have a degree in film and only know what I like, but I honestly feel this film could have went from a below average noir to something a bit better with some stronger editing alone.

This film doesn’t seem to have a very big following and I can understand why.  When looking at reviews on various sites, I found saying like “almost noir-esque suspense/drama” and “pretty much a by the numbers wannabe noir.”  I would say this is definitely a noir, it’s just not a great noir or even a very good one.  This is for noir fans that want to see everything or big fans of Barbara Eden. It is not a total waste but If you are new to noir, I would start somewhere else.

Favorite Tidbit: T.V. greats Gavin MacLeod and Ted Knight both appear in this movie in smaller roles, though they don’t have any scenes together.  They would of course go on to star together in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Review: Killers

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Killers is a neo noir film from the The Mo Brothers(Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto).  This takes place as much on the internet as in its two physical locations of Tokyo and Jakarta.  This is two stories of two men who interact on the internet and their stories intertwine throughout.

The movie starts with our first story centering around Nomura, played by Kazuki Kitamura.  We find him torturing and murdering a girl, then he posts it on the internet.  Normura has mother and sister issues and reminds you of Norman Bates in a lot of ways.  He is a very disturbing man and is very frightening, Kitamura plays this role very well.

Our second story revolves around Bayu played by Oka Antara.  Bayu is a reporter who is not happy with a certain powerful man in his country who has gotten away with abusing his wife.  This is just the latest in a string a crimes this man has gotten away with.  Bayu is obsessed with this man and bringing him to justice. Bayu soon finds Nomura’s video of his murder online and is strangely fascinated.   Bayu and his wife are separated and after one evening bring his daughter to his wife’s house and trying to win his wife back, Bayu falls asleep in a cab on his way home.  He wakes up in an empty lot with the cab driver wanting to mug him and the cab drivers big friend trying to rape him.  There is a struggle and Bayu comes out on top, he films the cab driver as he dies.  He soon uploads his own murder video to the internet and Bayu and Normura start a relationship.

Bayu continues his murder spree, killing bad men as a vigilante as Normura continues his psycho killings.  Their stories run parallel as well as intertwine throughout the film with many twists and turns.

This is a very good neo noir foreign film worth a look if you are a fan of Asian cinema.  If you like serial killers and vigilantes you will also enjoy this film.  These two stories, each on their own would still make a good film but not overly original, twisted up into one movie makes this film very fresh and enjoyable.