Noir City returns to Portland, Ore. Sept. 19-21!

Noir City Portland

For more info: http://hollywoodtheatre.org/noir-city/

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film Noir Blonde to introduce ‘Mildred Pierce’ Saturday in West Hollywood

“Mildred Pierce” has an outstanding cast, including Eve Arden (left), Ann Blyth and, of course, the divine Ms. Crawford.

“Mildred Pierce” has an outstanding cast, including Eve Arden (left), Ann Blyth and, of course, the divine Ms. Crawford.

More noir news to share: I will be introducing “Mildred Pierce” (1945, Michael Curtiz) at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 20, at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd.

The movie was popular with critics and audiences, and it garnered six Academy Award nominations including best picture. Joan Crawford won for best actress. The superb cast members (Eve Arden, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Bruce Bennett, Zachary Scott) balance Crawford beautifully. Arden and Blyth both got Oscar nods for supporting actress. They lost to Anne Revere in “National Velvet.”

This free screening is part of WeHo Reads, a noir-themed month-long literary program. On Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a day of panels, music and film.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

‘The Big Sleep’ a hit in WeHo film noir series

Film Noir Blonde

Film Noir Blonde

I had a great time introducing “The Big Sleep” (1946, Howard Hawks) on Saturday at the West Hollywood Library. Many thanks to event organizers Corey Roskin and Andrew Campbell, who did a great job and gave me a warm welcome.

The free screening was part of WeHo Reads, a noir-themed month-long literary program. Next Saturday, Sept. 20, “Mildred Pierce” will play and on Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a day of panels, music and film.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share nuggets of info from my presentation.

***As you probably know, “The Big Sleep” stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who formed one of Hollywood’s primo power couples, onscreen and off.

***“The Big Sleep” is a hard-boiled detective story, to be sure, but its mood is more upbeat, fun and entertaining than a typical film noir. It doesn’t have an angst-ridden, pessimistic, cynical vibe, nor is it a tale of American vets finding it hard to adjust to civilian life after WWII. Instead, the men are glad to be back home and the women welcome them with open arms. It was time for a little romance and there’s flirtation, risqué banter and innuendo aplenty.

The Big Sleep poster 214***Central to the sexy, sultry tone: Bogart and Bacall, of course. This was the second film they starred in. The first was 1944’s “To Have and Have Not,” where the pair fell in love and she famously lit his cig, also directed by Hawks. There were four B&B movies in total, all for Warner Bros. The other two were: “Dark Passage” (1947, Delmer Daves) and “Key Largo” (1948, John Huston).

***Hawks’ wife, Slim Keith, spotted Bacall, a teenage model, in Harper’s Bazaar. Slim showed her husband and he quickly cast her in “To Have and Have Not.” He told Bogart: “You’re the most insolent man on the screen and I’ve found a girl who’s more insolent than you.”

***“The Big Sleep” started shooting in October of 1944. Hawks, a confident, successful auteur (who later would be much admired by French critics) was sure it would be a straightforward production. Um, not so much.

***“The Big Sleep” was Raymond Chandler’s first novel (1939) and the first novel to feature the character Philip Marlowe, a tough private eye based in Hollywood. The film was the first time Bogart portrayed Marlowe.

***The first time Marlowe appeared in celluloid form was in 1944’s “Murder, My Sweet,” starring Dick Powell. This movie was based on Chandler’s second novel, “Farewell, My Lovely” (1940).

***More than likely, Chandler would have been tapped to write the script for “The Big Sleep,” but he had an exclusive contract with Paramount, which had released “Double Indemnity” earlier that year. (Chandler and director Billy Wilder had adapted “Double Indemnity” from James M. Cain’s novel.)

“The Big Sleep” script is notoriously confusing. Here, director Howard Hawks, far left, and his team try to figure it out. The film’s own backstory is also a bit tangled.

“The Big Sleep” script is notoriously confusing. Here, director Howard Hawks, far left, and his team try to figure it out. The film’s own backstory is also a bit tangled.

***Hawks hired William Faulkner and Jules Furthman, the team that had adapted Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not,” for “The Big Sleep.”

***Also hired was a 28-year-old sci-fi writer named Leigh Brackett. Hawks, a macho type who liked to hunt, fish and shoot with his buddies, was surprised to discover that Brackett was a woman but he was glad to give her a shot. He liked women who could hold their own among manly men. She did fine and had a great career.

***Faulkner decided to divide the work in a strange way: He and Furthman would be one team and Brackett would be another. The two “teams,” working separately, would tackle alternating chapters of the book and slot them together when they’d finished. The script was somewhat disjointed and Hawks took a stab at tweaking it.

WeHo Reads event flyer

***Bacall was just 20 years old and had scant training as an actress when she played spoiled rich girl Carmen Sternwood in “The Big Sleep.” Her female co-stars were Martha Vickers as her little sister, Carmen; Dorothy Malone as a bookstore clerk and Sonia Darrin as a so-called bookstore clerk.

***The book has a serpentine plot and so does the movie. It’s easy to lose track of the narrative but there are seven dead by the end. One day, Bogart asked Hawks who killed the Owen Taylor character (the Sternwood family chauffeur). Hmm, good question. Hawks didn’t know and neither did the writers. Hawks sent Chandler a telegram and he replied that he didn’t know either.

***Hawks sometimes had to shoot around Bogart because the actor was going on drinking benders. Though Bogart had met the love of his life in Bacall, there was a glitch. Still married to his third wife, actress Mayo Methot, he ended the affair with Bacall and he tried to reconcile with Methot. It didn’t go well and Bogart took to binging. Also, there was tension because Hawks was hoping to ignite a romance with his protégée Bacall and she snubbed him.

***All that said, they still managed to have a good time on the film. In fact, Jack Warner sent Hawks this memo: “Word has reached me that you are having fun on the set. This must stop.”

Corey Roskin introduces the event.

Corey Roskin introduces the event.

***Hawks was known for fast-paced action and comedy. He also gave rise to the “bromance” before the term existed. So, as I said, this film does not have the brooding, doom-and-gloom feeling that typically characterizes film noir. By the same token, it doesn’t have the intense chiaroscuro visual style (which has its roots in German Expressionism) that so often shapes the look of film noir. Nevertheless, “The Big Sleep,” which was an A-budget title, boasts a top cinematographer: Sid Hickox, who also shot “Dark Passage.”  (Max Steiner provided the score.)

***They finished shooting in January 1945. Bogart divorced Methot and married Bacall in May 1945. “The Big Sleep” was shown to U.S. servicemen in the Philippines in August 1945. World War II was ending so Warner Bros. hurried to release  movies with war-related narratives. “The Big Sleep” wasn’t timely or topical and could be released at a later date.

***Also, Warner Bros. put “The Big Sleep” on the back burner so as not to compete with Bacall’s second movie: “Confidential Agent” (1945) based on a Graham Greene novel and co-starring Charles Boyer. Unfortunately, though, that film garnered scathing reviews for Bacall.

***Warner Bros. then turned its attention back to “The Big Sleep,” hoping the movie would be able to compensate for the disappointment of “Confidential Agent.” The studio showed it to preview audiences and they wanted more scenes with Bogart and Bacall. So did Bacall’s agent. And, as Mrs. Humphrey Bogart, she now had impressive clout.

Film Noir Blonde at the event.

Film Noir Blonde at the event.

***In January 1946, Hawks spent six days reshooting and came up with another version of the film, one that gives us more Bogie and Bacall sizzle. There is also less of Martha Vickers – even though she was quite good, promoting Bacall and recapturing the electric chemistry of “To Have and Have Not” was the priority. The new scenes reportedly were written by one or both of the Epstein brothers, Julius and Philip, of “Casablanca” fame.

***“The Big Sleep” was released on Aug. 31, 1946. The narrative was even less clear than before, but who cares?! We have Bogart and Bacall in top form – flirting and fighting off baddies – in a very entertaining film. Both versions of the movie (as well as a short documentary on the changes) are available from Warner Bros.

***Hawks was once asked what makes a great movie. His answer was three great scenes and no bad scenes. By that definition, “The Big Sleep” surely ranks as a great work.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

‘The Drop’ makes compelling descent; ‘Honeymoon’ pops scary question about connubial bliss

The Drop posterThe Drop

It’s a terrific cast: Tom Hardy as Brooklyn bartender Bob Saginowski (a bit of a doofus with a weakness for stray dogs); the late James Gandolfini as Bob’s cynical cousin Marv, who runs the bar; Noomi Rapace as Bob’s scarred and streetwise love interest; Matthias Schoenaerts as a menacing psycho and John Ortiz as a smart, smooth-talking cop.

It’s a tense, top-notch script, written by neo-noir stalwart Dennis Lehane based on his short story called “Animal Rescue,” and it’s well directed by Michaël R. Roskam. The “drop” refers to cash bundles that are left surreptitiously at bars and kept safe until mobsters stop by to collect them. When Marv’s bar is robbed and the gangsters’ cash seized, a series of double-crosses and brutalities ensues.

These characters live and breathe before us – Gandolfini in particular easily inhabits a guy who wants the Christmas decorations in his bar down by December 27, who knows which whiskey will seal a deal and who unwinds by parking himself in front of a mindless TV show.

It’s a good-looking film, capturing the feel of a bleak midwinter, shot by cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis.

With much in its favor, the entertaining “The Drop” isn’t a great film because the storytelling becomes a bit too convoluted, there are too many questions left unanswered by the end. It feels like something is missing – perhaps the layers of Bob’s character have not been peeled back far enough.

Still, “The Drop” is a thoughtful, mesmerizing, sometimes funny fall into neo-noir darkness.

Honeymoon posterHoneymoon

For some couples, the honeymoon phase might last months, even years. Not so much in the creepy sci-fi flick “Honeymoon,” an impressive effort from first-time director and co-writer Leigh Janiak.

For Brooklynite newlyweds Paul and Bea, ensconced at an idyllic lake cottage far from the city, tenderness and romance are quickly replaced by tension, then terror.

At first, of course, everything seems perfect. Bea (played by Rose Leslie of “Game of Thrones” and “Downton Abbey”) chirpily recites the couple’s dating rituals and the cherished moment Paul (Harry Treadaway of “The Lone Ranger”) proposed. They can’t keep their hands off each other.

Several hours later, late at night, Bea wanders off alone. Paul finds her and brings her back to the cottage. It soon dawns on him, though, that this version of Bea is not the girl he married and their relationship unravels. Heather McIntosh’s haunting score and crisp cinematography by Kyle Klutz help set the uneasy, eerie mood.

Rooted in psychological fear and grounded with solid performances, the film asks how well we can really know anyone, even those to whom we are intimately attached. As Treadaway put it at a recent press day: “The very process of committing to someone – you love them with all of yourself and trust them with everything you have – is opening up the possibility of this person breaking that trust or not being the person you hoped they were.”

And few things are more frightening than waking up next to a stranger.

“The Drop” and “Honeymoon” are playing in theaters.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: ‘To Have and Have Not’ and ‘Key Largo’ showcase noir’s top couple

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). All movies below are from the schedule of TCM, which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week: Two Classics from The Couple: Bogart and Bacall
Bogie. Bacall. The Ultimate Film Noir Couple. At their best. Need we say more?

Director Howard Hawks discovered Lauren Bacall and cast her opposite Humphrey Bogart. They fell for each other while making “To Have and Have Not.” She was 19.

Director Howard Hawks discovered Lauren Bacall and cast her opposite Humphrey Bogart. They fell for each other while making “To Have and Have Not.” She was 19.

To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks). Tuesday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. (7 a.m.).

With Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael and Marcel Dalio.

Key Largo” (1948, John Huston). Tuesday, Sept. 16, 12 p.m. (9 a.m.). With Bogart, Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor and Thomas Gomez.

Friday, Sept. 12

Miriam Hopkins

Miriam Hopkins

12:45 a.m. (9:45 p.m.): “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931, Rouben Mamoulian). Fredric March won the Best Actor Oscar for playing those exemplars of good and evil, alter-egos Jekyll and Hyde, in this dark and very stylish version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic about the potion that turns a good man into the devil incarnate. With Miriam Hopkins as Hyde’s sad, beauteous victim Champagne Ivy. For Jerry Lewis’ daffy version of this tale, try his 1963 comedy classic “The Nutty Professor,” on TCM this week at 8 p.m. (5 p.m.), Thursday, Sept. 11.

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “The Story of Temple Drake” (1933, Stephen Roberts). A grim pre-Code adaptation of William Faulkner’s shocker about Deep South rape, scandal and murder, and the weird relationship between rich girl Temple (Miriam Hopkins) and the brutal gangster whom Faulkner called Popeye (Jack La Rue).

3:45 a.m. (12:45 a.m.): “Freaks” (1932, Tod Browning). With Olga Baclanova, Wallace Ford and Harry Earles. Reviewed in FNB on April 18, 2013.

Saturday, Sept. 13

Catherine Deneuve stars in "Belle."

Catherine Deneuve stars in “Belle.”

8 p.m. (5 p.m. ,.): “Belle de Jour” (1967, Luis Bunuel). With Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Genevieve Page, Jean Sorel, Francisco Rabal and Pierre Clementi. (In French, with subtitles.) Reviewed in FNB on March 8, 2013.

Monday, Sept. 15

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Background to Danger” (1943, Raoul Walsh). With George Raft, Brenda Marshall, Sydney Greenstreet and Pater Lorre. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 9, 2013.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

A shot from Bacall's modeling days.

A shot from Lauren Bacall’s modeling days.

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “The Confidential Agent” (1945, Herman Shumlin). Classy but somewhat turgid adaptation of one of Graham Greene’s spy “entertainments.“ With Charles Boyer, Lauren Bacall and Peter Lorre.

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks). See Pick of the Week.

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “Key Largo” (1948, John Huston). See Pick of the Week.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

6:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.): “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). With Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern and Marilyn Monroe.

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “The Narrow Margin” (1952, Richard Fleischer). With Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor and Jacqueline White.

Blue Gardenia poster11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “The Blue Gardenia” (1953, Fritz Lang). With Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Nat “King” Cole and Raymond Burr. Reviewed in FNB on May 22, 2013.

1 p.m. (10 a.m.): “Suddenly” (1954, Lewis Allen). With Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates. Reviewed in FNB on April 23, 2012.

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “I Died a Thousand Times” (1955, Stuart Heisler.) With Jack Palance, Shelley Winters, Lee Marvin and Lon Chaney, Jr. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 15, 2013.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Al Capone” (1959, Richard Wilson). With Rod Steiger, Martin Balsam and Fay Spain. Reviewed in FNB on May 29, 2014.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Billy Budd” (1962, Peter Ustinov). With Terence Stamp, Robert Ryan, Ustinov and Melvyn Douglas. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 10, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Great Sinner” (1949, Robert Siodmak). Dark costume drama with eye-catching Siodmak direction and an extraordinary cast: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Melvyn Douglas, Walter Huston, Ethel Barrymore, Agnes Moorehead and Frank Morgan. In novelist Christopher Isherwood’s offbeat screenplay, Peck is obsessed with Gardner and with gambling.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film Noir Blonde to introduce ‘The Big Sleep’ Saturday in LA

“The Big Sleep” was the second film in which director Howard Hawks paired Bogart and Bacall. The first was “To Have and Have Not” (1944).

“The Big Sleep” was the second film in which director Howard Hawks paired Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The first was “To Have and Have Not” (1944).

Film Noir Blonde

Film Noir Blonde

I have some news to share: I will be introducing “The Big Sleep” (1946, Howard Hawks) at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 13, at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd.

Directed by Hollywood giant Howard Hawks, particularly known for helming action and comedy flicks, “The Big Sleep” is sly, fast and funny. Best of all, the film stars the inimitable Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. What’s not to love?

This free screening is part of WeHo Reads, a noir-themed month-long literary program. Next Saturday, “Mildred Pierce” will play and on Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a day of panels, music and film.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film noir is the focus of WeHo Reads, starting Saturday

The Big Sleep poster 214September is National Literacy Month and the City of West Hollywood came up with a great idea to celebrate: a month’s worth of community literary events collectively called WeHo Reads. The city will screen a classic film noir at 2 p.m. every Saturday from Sept. 6 to Sept. 20. And it’s free!

The films, which will be shown at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., are “Double Indemnity,” “The Big Sleep” and “Mildred Pierce.”

In honor of  “Double Indemnity” kicking off all the darkness, you can read our 14 reasons we love this flick.

On Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a day of panels, music and film. At 7:15 p.m., there will be a free outdoor screening of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

See you in WeHo, noiristas!

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: Huston works the angles in ‘Asphalt Jungle’

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). All movies below are from the schedule of TCM, which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week

“The Asphalt Jungle” was a hugely influential thriller.

“The Asphalt Jungle” was a hugely influential thriller.

The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). Thursday, Sept. 4, 10:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.). With Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe, Jean Hagen, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Calhern. Reviewed here.

Thursday, Sept. 4

4:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.): “Obsession” (1949, Edward Dmytryk). A classic noir helmer, Edward Dmytryk, puts a classic noir ham, Robert Newton, through the agonies of mad marital jealousy in this lesser known, but gripping thriller. With Sally Gray and Naunton Wayne.

6:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “The Sniper” (1952, Edward Dmytryk). Arthur Franz plays a psychologically disturbed sniper, picking off his victims from the upper stories, in this solid Dmytryk noir thriller.

Shirley MacLaine plays the party girl who loves Frank Sinatra to pieces.

Shirley MacLaine plays the party girl who loves Frank Sinatra to pieces.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Some Came Running” (Vincente Minnelli, 1958). Frank Sinatra plays a World War II returning vet and prospective novelist who goes back to his bourgeois Midwestern hometown. There he becomes involved with his stuffy, square relatives and neighbors (Arthur Kennedy and Martha Hyer), a charming gambler (Dean Martin), and an adoring party girl (Shirley MacLaine) who loves him to pieces. One of the great underrated American ‘50s movies, it’s as good as any of Douglas Sirk’s romantic melodramas. In some ways, this picture is just as much a classic as “From Here to Eternity.” And, if Shirley, as Ginny, doesn’t make you cry, you have no heart. From James Jones’ novel (as was “Eternity.”)

10:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.): “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). See Pick of the Week

Friday, Sept. 5

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman), With Dorothy Mackaill and Donald Cook. Reviewed in FNB on May 6, 2013.

Saturday, Sept. 6

Caged poster4:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.): “Caged” (1950, John Cromwell). With Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead and Hope Emerson. Reviewed in FNB on July 13, 2012.

Sunday, Sept. 7

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “And Then There Were None” (1945, Rene Clair). With Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Judith Anderson and Louis Hayward. Reviewed in FNB on March 5, 2014.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Stranger” (1946, Orson Welles). Orson Welles plays a mad post-World War II fascist who’s hidden himself in a peaceful New England city. He‘s about to marry Loretta Young and is being pursued by a relentless cop, Edward G. Robinson. Welles’ most conventional thriller was also his most popular with audiences. It’s no “Touch of Evil,” but it still plays well.

11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.): “The Pawnbroker” (1964, Sidney Lumet). With Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters and Juano Hernandez. Reviewed in FNB on June 28, 2014.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.): “They Made Me a Fugitive” (1947, Alberto Cavalcanti). From Cavalcanti, the director of the classic French documentary “Rien que les Heures,“ this is a good British noir, in the Carol Reed vein. Trevor Howard is an embittered escaped con, wrongly convicted of murder, who breaks out and goes after the real killer. With Sally Gray.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Remembering Sharon Tate 45 years after her death

Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate, recently talked to People magazine 45 years after Sharon’s death in Benedict Canyon on Aug. 9, 1969. “Sharon was my mother’s world. And she was my sun and my moon and what I modeled myself after as a person.”

Born January 24, 1943, Sharon was 26 (and eight months pregnant) when she was murdered by Charles Manson and his followers.

Here, we pay visual tribute to this great beauty and talented actress.

Sharon Tate 1

Sharon Tate 2

Sharon Tate 3

Sharon Tate 4

Sharon Tate 5

Sharon Tate 6

Sharon Tate 7

Sharon Tate 8

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

‘Life of Crime’ a waste of time, talent; horror dumbed down; ‘The Last of Robin Hood’ a guilty pleasure

Life of Crime posterLife of Crime

Writing a “Life of Crime” review poses a challenge in that the movie, even though it’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel, is so slight and so bland I’d forgotten most of it by the next morning. Something about kidnapping, extortion, adultery and Milquetoast men …

Set in 1970s suburban Detroit, the film introduces us to what we hope will be a cast of edgy, funny characters but who, thanks to a crummy script from writer/director Daniel Schechter, turn out to be a bunch of insipid sad sacks. Jennifer Aniston’s Mickey is married to a rich and obnoxious jerk named Frank (Tim Robbins).

He is cheating on Mickey with Melanie (Isla Fisher). Mickey is cheating on him (sort of) with Marshall (Will Forte). Bad guys appear and kidnap Mickey, then tell Frank to pay up if he ever wants to see her again. But Frank balks, thus putting a wrinkle in the works.

Given the source material, this should have been a more engaging movie. The cast makes a valiant effort and, while there are a few laughs early on, there’s an oddly flat tone and zero atmosphere. It might have helped had the film been shot in a Detroit suburb (references to Woodward Avenue are shoe-horned in) instead of Connecticut, but somehow I doubt it.

As Above posterAs Above, So Below

Not long into John Erick Dowdle’s “As Above, So Below,” the plucky protagonist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) rattles off a long list of her advanced degrees. Apparently, this impressive pedigree is meant to establish that Scarlett, an alchemist and explorer as well as a professor, is a multi-talented, ultra-capable, intrepid brainiac. Not.

That she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed becomes quite clear when she and her dumbass crew descend into the catacombs of Paris on a ridiculous quest to find the “philosopher’s stone,” which is said to yield material riches and eternal youth. Oh, and truth. That’s what motivates the learned Scarlett, natch.

What comes next is undiluted unpleasantness – life-threatening struggles involving blood, bones, rats, demons and ghosts galore (including Scarlett’s own deceased dad – deep, right?) and more blood and bones, all shot with a frenetic hand-held camera. That’s followed by a forced, tacked-on ending.

I hope Scarlett didn’t invest too much money getting those degrees. If she did, she got robbed.

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

The Last of Robin Hood

 Errol Flynn, by most accounts, was a charming, devil-may-care adventurer and actor, best known for playing Robin Hood and an assortment of big-screen Warner Brothers swashbucklers.

One of Hollywood’s most popular movie stars of the 1930s and  mid-’40s (he inspired the saying “in like Flynn”), the actor’s career had slipped by the 1950s. In 1957, Flynn, also known as a womanizer, began a relationship with a teenager named Beverly Aadland, an aspiring actress.

This strange and sleazy pairing is the focus of “The Last of Robin Hood,” by writers/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Bottom line: this is a guilty-pleasure flick.

Kevin Kline has fun playing decadent, debauched Flynn, Dakota Fanning shines as the precocious Bev and Susan Sarandon conjures sympathy for Bev’s sadly deluded mother, only too willing to look the other way.

If “The Last of Robin Hood” feels like a made-for-TV movie, that’s because it is. Originally made for Lifetime Films, this title has now secured a theatrical release.

“Life of Crime,” “As Above, So Below” and “The Last of Robin Hood” open Friday in theaters.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter