‘The Drop’ makes compelling descent; ‘Honeymoon’ pops a 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.

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‘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.

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3-D ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ entertains, despite a so-so story and one-dimensional characters

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For/2014/Miramax Films/102 min.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” with its bold visuals based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, is a slick 3-D homage to black-and-white cinematography. The snazzy images of Miller’s film (he wrote and co-directed with Robert Rodriguez) are its chief virtue.

Eva Green is superb as the Dame.

Eva Green is superb as the Dame.

In this follow-up to 2005’s “Sin City” (which Miller and Rodriguez directed with Quentin Tarantino), viewers are plunged into a perilous urban universe. Created with truly spectacular special effects and animation, it’s a sleazy, dazzling, self-contained world of inky black, shocks of bright white, stunning shades of gray and pops of color.

Unfortunately, Miller and Rodriguez devote much less effort to the story – an episodic tale of temptation, lust, murder, betrayal, revenge and vigilante justice. The stellar cast – including Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis and Eva Green as the title’s Dame, nail their parts but leave you wanting more. Since only a few of the characters move from one story to the next, there aren’t enough opportunities for these great actors to spark some chemistry and play off one another.

Does the fact that the story is mined from graphic novels mean we shouldn’t expect any depth, nuance or surprise? The narratives are underdeveloped and unsatisfying to a point that suggests laziness. (Why don’t we forget about that dialogue and just add another shot of Eva’s luscious body? Or have Jessica gyrate some more. Who’s gonna complain, right?)

Presumably, the filmmakers made an effort to portray a passel of kick-ass femmes fatales, but it felt like mere window dressing. Why, for example, does Jessica Alba’s character need to mutilate herself before going into battle? In the end, these women have very little power.

This Dame is fast, fierce and entertaining, but she’s no femme fatale in my book.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” opens today.

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The Film Noir File: Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott fall into a deadly De Toth ‘Pitfall’

TCM goes all Audrey on Friday and we can't wait!

TCM goes all Audrey on Friday and we can’t wait!

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

Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell star in ‘Pitfall.’

Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell star in ‘Pitfall.’

Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth). 4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.) Monday, Aug. 25. De Toth was a sometime master at exposing the swamps of terror that could lie beneath the routines of everyday middleclass life. In this scary little noir quadrangle thriller, Dick Powell, who was one of the better Philip Marlowes, is a sort of lower echelon Walter Neff – an insurance man leading an apparently happy (if slightly dull) life who gets involved with a criminal’s sultry girlfriend (Lizabeth Scott). Jane Wyatt is Powell’s sweet bourgeois wife and Raymond Burr is an evil, lecherous private eye, who pulls all of them onto the dark side. That’s a terrific cast, noir to the hilt, and De Toth’s grim, methodical style is ideal for the cynical, unsparing James Cain-ish subject matter.

This pungent little film noir sleeper is part of Dick Powell Day. (Also showing on the big screen Friday night in Westwood: see previous post.)

Friday, Aug. 22: Audrey Hepburn Day

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Wait Until Dark” (1967, Terence Young). With Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna and Jack Weston. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 12, 2012.

Saturday, Aug. 23: Ernest Borgnine Day

1 p.m. (10 a.m.): “Bad Day at Black Rock” (1955, John Sturges). With Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. Reviewed in FNB on April 7, 2012.

Sunday, Aug. 24: Gladys George Day

Maltese Falcon poster10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Flamingo Road” (1949, Michael Curtiz). With Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet and Gladys George. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 19, 2012.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “The Roaring Twenties” (1939, Raoul Walsh). Ace newsman Mark Hellinger produced this punchy chronicle of three World War I vets, (explosive outlaw James Cagney, bad guy Humphrey Bogart and good guy Jeffrey Lynn) and their lives during Prohibition times and the gangster era after the war. It’s engrossing, exciting and salty as the best Walsh, Bogart and Cagney always are. Also with Priscilla Lane and Gladys George.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.). “The Maltese Falcon” (1941, John Huston). With Bogart, Mary Astor, Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., Ward Bond and George.

1:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m.). “He Ran All the Way” (1951, John Berry). With John Garfield, Shelley Winters and Wallace Ford. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 4, 2013.

Monday, Aug. 25: Dick Powell Day

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth). See Pick of the Week.

9:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m.): “Murder, My Sweet” (1944, Edward Dmytryk). With Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley and Mike Mazurki.

3 a.m. (12 a.m.): “The Tall Target” (1951, Anthony Mann). With Powell, Adolphe Menjou, Paula Raymond and Ruby Dee. Reviewed in FNB on My 6, 2013.

Wednesday, Aug. 27: Edmond O’Brien Day

D.O.A poster8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953, Ida Lupino). With Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman. Reviewed in FNB on June 6, 2013.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “White Heat” (1949, Raoul Walsh). With Cagey, Virginia Mayo, O’Brien and Steve Cochran. Reviewed in FNB on March 10, 2012.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “D.O.A.” (1950, Rudolph Maté). With O’Brien, Pamela Britton and Luther Adler.

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Film noir feast this weekend: ‘Sin City,’ Exile Noir and ‘Pickup’

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

There are several delectable film noir offerings this weekend in Los Angeles. First, a sequel worth seeing! That would be “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” by directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It’s a follow-up to 2005’s “Sin City.” (Miller adapted both scripts from his graphic novels.)

Sin City 2“Sin City 2” stars Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The movie opens Friday.

Following closely behind its Hollywood Exiles in Europe series, UCLA is hosting Exile Noir, a lineup that explores the major contribution to film noir by German-speaking émigrés in Hollywood, all of whom were schooled in German expressionist cinema. Exiled from Nazi Germany, Jewish writers and directors brought a dark vision to their work, informed by staggering loss, pain, fear and betrayal.

Their arrival in Los Angeles permanently altered the city’s creative landscape. As Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, recently told Susan King of the LA Times: “[Their arrival] changed not just the film industry and the kind of films that were being made, it changed the intellectual life. You have people who are not in the film industry but came here because of the weather and perceived opportunities, like [composer] Arnold Schoenberg and [author] Thomas Mann. They changed the intellectual character of Southern California.”

Pitfall poster 214The program, which runs through Sept. 28, kicks off with an impressive double bill: the prototype of the genre, “Double Indemnity” (1944, Billy Wilder) and “Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth), starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Jane Wyatt. In honor of “Double Indemnity” turning 70 this year, on Valentine’s Day, we compiled a list of 14 reasons we love this flick.

This series is presented in anticipation of the Skirball Cultural Center exhibit, Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950, running Oct. 23–March 1, 2015. More on that in the next few weeks.

Also, as I mentioned earlier this week, the Egyptian Theatre is showing Sam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece “Pickup on South Street” and “White Dog.” His daughter Samantha Fuller will introduce the movies.

There’s no doubt: Life is good for noiristas in Los Angeles!

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The Film Noir File: Sam Fuller plays rough in noir classic ‘Pickup on South Street’

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).

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in "Pickup."

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in “Pickup.”

Pick of the Week

Pickup on South Street” (1953, Samuel Fuller). 10 p.m. (7 p.m.) Wednesday, Aug. 20. From the 50s heyday of vintage film noir and the Red Scare comes a hard-boiled gem. Trust me. They don’t make em any tougher, crazier or edgier than this grimy, sharp classic by Sam Fuller — a prize winner at the 1953 Venice Film Festival, and probably Fuller’s best movie. It takes place in New York City in the lower depths, the dark waterfront, the mean streets. Our “hero” is a ferret-faced natty pickpocket (Richard Widmark), who lives on the docks by night and, by day, strips suckers of their wallets on the subways.

After accidentally lifting some valuable microfilm capable of compromising national security, the thief is suddenly up to his neck with cops, with a rat’s nest of Commie spies run by Richard Kiley, with a beautiful, tight-skirted, loose-moraled streetwalker played by Howard Hughes missus Jean Peters, and with a scrappy fence little old lady huckster named Mo, played by the great character lady Thelma Ritter in her most atypical role.

If you haven’t seen “Pickup on South Street,“ you don’t know noir at its noirest. Or Thelma and Sam at their roughest and toughest.

Friday, Aug. 15 (Faye Dunaway Day)

3:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.): “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967, Arthur Penn). With Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Wilder. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 4, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Three Days of the Condor” (1975, Sydney Pollack). Robert Redford is a U. S. government reader and analyst whose world suddenly opens under his feet one day, when most of his colleagues are killed and he becomes a wanted man on the run. The quintessential paranoid anti-C.I.A. thriller, this is a modern variant on the prototypical Hitchcockian “wrong man suspenser. Based on the novel “Six Days of the Condor,” it’s been copied endlessly, especially by novelist John Grisham. With Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson and John Houseman.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in "Chinatown."

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in “Chinatown.”

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Chinatown” (1974, Roman Polanski). With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston and Burt Young. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 11, 2013.

Saturday, Aug. 16 (Herbert Marshall Day)

6: 15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “The Underworld Story” (1950, Cy Endfield). Big city reporter Dan Duryea gets exiled to a small-town murder case, in a plot that reminds you of Billy Wilder’s (later) “Ace in the Hole.” With Herbert Marshall and Gale Storm.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Foreign Correspondent” (1940, Alfred Hitchcock). With Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, George Sanders and Herbert Marshall. Reviewed in FNB on March 26, 2014.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Murder!” (1930, Alfred Hitchcock). A guilt-stricken juror (Herbert Marshall) tries to clear a convicted murderer whom his vote condemned. One of Hitch’s best and most inventive early talkies. With Miles Mander.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “The Letter” (1940, William Wyler). With Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and Gale Sondergaard. Reviewed in FNB on Sept. 19, 2012. Followed at 1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.), by the 1929 film version of “The Letter,” directed by Jean De Lemur, starring the legendary lady of Maugham’s “Rain,” Jeanne Eagels.

Sunday, Aug. 17 (John Hodiak Day)

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Lifeboat” (1944, Alfred Hitchcock). With Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix and Hume Cronyn. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

Coolhand Luke poster

Tuesday, Aug. 19 (Paul Newman Day)

1:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.): “Harper” (1966, Jack Smight). With Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris and Arthur Hell. Reviewed in FNB on June 19, 2014.

5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.). “Cool Hand Luke” (1967, Stuart Rosenberg). With Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton. Reviewed in FNB on March 21, 2014.

Wednesday, Aug. 20 (Thelma Ritter Day)

10 p.m. (7 p.m.). “Pickup on South Street”: See Pick of the Week.

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The Film Noir File: Orson Welles taps Kafka in ‘The Trial’

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 Trial posterThe Trial” (1962, Orson Welles). 8 p.m. (5 p.m.). Friday, Aug. 8.

Director-writer-actor Orson Welles presents an extremely faithful film adaptation of novelist Franz Kafka’s darkly comic and ultimately terrifying tale set in the Byzantine legal system of a nameless European country. A jittery, bumptious, unlikable guy (Anthony Perkins as Joseph K, who may be Kafka’s surrogate and dream self) wakes up one morning to find that he has been plunged into a bad dream: two tough cops invading his bedroom and accusing him of crimes they refuse to detail or explain.

He is persecuted by poker-faced nameless agents and subject to totalitarian police tactics as well as the brutal whims of an utterly arbitrary court. Defended by a sybarite lawyer (played by Welles), who rarely gets out of bed, K seems caught in an inescapable trap, facing inevitable punishment. But K keeps arguing with his accusers, protesting his innocence (which is clearly irrelevant) and trying to make sense out of a situation that is defiantly senseless from first moment to last.

“The Trial” translates Kafka’s masterpiece into eloquent words and icy, shadowy images of dread, underscored by a melancholy Baroque dirge, the Adagio in G by Albinoni. The movie is hampered by its low budget, much of which evaporated during shooting, and by its lack of Welles’ usual brilliant sound. But it has great visuals – shot by cinematographer Edmond Richard (“The Red Balloon”) in wide-screen black and white on mostly real Parisian locations.

And the film boasts a great cast: Perkins, Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Akim Tamiroff, Elsa Martinelli, Madeleine Robinson, Katina Paxinou, Gert Frobe and Michael Lonsdale.

“The Trial” is sometimes dismissed as a Welles failure. But it’s actually one of his most underrated movies, one of the most faithful of all adaptations of great 20th century literature, and a classic tale that, as Welles says in the prologue, has “the logic of a nightmare.”

Friday, Aug. 8: Jeanne Moreau Day

Jeanne Moreau

Jeanne Moreau

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Elevator to the Gallows” (“Frantic!”) (1958, Louis Malle). Louis Malle’s mesmerizing thriller about a desperate couple (Moreau, Maurice Ronet), trying to murder her husband and cover their tracks in a nearly empty office building at night. It’s no “Double Indemnity,” but it’s close. With a score by jazz master Miles Davis. (In French, with subtitles.)

Saturday, Aug. 9: William Powell Day

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Thin Man” (1934, W. S. Van Dyke). With William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan and Cesar Romero. Reviewed in FNB on July 28, 2012.

9:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m.): “After the Thin Man” (1936, W. S. Van Dyke). With William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart and Joseph Calleia. Reviewed in FNB on June 6, 2013.

Monday, Aug. 11: Marlon Brando Day

Marlon Brando redefined the art of acting.

Marlon Brando redefined the art of acting.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951, Elia Kazan). Kazan’s peerless staging of Tennessee Williams’ play showcases Marlon Brando’s brilliant, massively influential lead performance as the brutal but charming Stanley Kowalski. Set in steamy New Orleans where Eros and death (“Flores para las muertos!”) dance their tango, this movie has one of the all-time great casts (three of whom, though not Brando, won Oscars).

Vivien Leigh plays Blanche DuBois, Stanley’s fragile, sensual, haunted prey. Kim Hunter is Stanley’s wife and Blanche’s sister, the screamed-over Stella. Karl Malden is Blanche’s kind and respectful suitor, mom-dominated Mitch. This is Kazan’s preferred cut, with the more downbeat ending, which gives full power to Blanche’s wrenchingly poignant last line “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” A masterpiece.

The Wild One poster10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “The Wild One” (1953, Laslo Benedek). With Brando, Lee Marvin and Mary Murphy. Reviewed in FNB on May 1, 2013.

11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.). “On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan). With Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger. Reviewed in FNB on June 5, 2014.

Tuesday, Aug. 12: Alexis Smith Day

10:15 a.m. (7:15 a.m.): “Split Second” (1953, Dick Powell). With Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith and Jan Sterling. Reviewed in FNB on March 5, 2013.

2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Conflict” (1945, Curtis Bernhardt). Marriage and murder, with Humphrey Bogart in one of his villain roles. Lesser Bogey; but still worth a look. With Sydney Greenstreet.

Wednesday, August 13: Cary Grant Day

9:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m.): “His Girl Friday” (1940, Howard Hawks). With Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy and Gene Lockhart. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 22, 2013.

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The Film Noir File: Jane Fonda is a high-class hooker in distress in neo-noir classic ‘Klute’

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

Klute posterKlute (1971, Alan Pakula).12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.). Friday, Aug. 1. With Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider and Jean Stapleton. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 26, 2013. Part of Jane Fonda Day and preceded at 11 p.m. (8 p.m.) by the broadcast of “AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda” (2014).

Sunday, August 3

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.) “Advise & Consent” (1962, Otto Preminger). With Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford and Gene Tierney. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 4, 2013.

Tuesday, August 5: Barbara Stanwyck Day

12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “Lady of Burlesque” (1943, William Wellman). With Barbara Stanwyck, Michael O’Shea and Pinky Lee. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 12, 2012.

2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.). “The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (1947, Peter Godfrey). With Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Alexis Smith. Reviewed in FNB on June 27, 2012.

Ball of Fire poster8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Ball of Fire” (1941, Howard Hawks). Hawks and ace writing team Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett’s sparkling gangster romantic comedy, with Missy Stanwyck as a red hot jazz mama (in Gene Krupa’s swing band, no less). Dana Andrews as her mobster boyfriend, and Gary Cooper as the shy encyclopedia writer/editor who comes between them. Also around for the riffs: Henry Travers, S. Z. Sakall and Dan Duryea.

Wednesday, August 6: Paul Muni Day

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932). The scorching fact-based Warners social protest drama, based on Robert E. Burns’ autobiographical depiction of an innocent man (Paul Muni as Burns) wrongly condemned to life on a Georgia chain gang. A powerhouse of a movie that has never lost its punch. With Glenda Farrell, Preston Foster and Allen Jenkins.

9:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.): “Scarface” (1932, Howard Hawks). With Paul Muni, George Raft, Ann Dvorak and Boris Karloff. Reviewed in FNB on July 17, 2014.

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‘A Most Wanted Man’ ranks as one of the year’s best movies

A Most Wanted Man posterA Most Wanted Man/2014/Demarest Films/122 min.

Shocking violence has become so yawningly common, so eye-rollingly banal that its flippant depiction onscreen is often just par for the course.

But once in a while you see a movie that derives its tension not from a pool of trigger-happy cardboard psychos and their brutal pursuers but from white-hot sparks that fly between finely drawn flesh-and-blood characters; people with depth and dimension, with vital things at stake.  That’s the case with “A Most Wanted Man,” a sharp, suspenseful thriller (based on a John le Carré novel) by director Anton Corbijn.

Corbijn has assembled outstanding actors at the top of their game to bring this story to life. The story and the film belong to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014) as Günther Bachmann, a driven workaholic in a German government security/anti-terrorist agency in Hamburg.

His job is keeping surreptitious watch over a mysterious half-Chechen, half-Russian Islamic immigrant Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who learns he is the potential heir to a fortune, assuming his claim to the money can be verified. In Günther’s mind, Karpov is a “minnow” in the larger quest to capture “a barracuda and a shark.”

Hoffman plays Günther with arresting realism. We see the dirt under Günther’s nails, hear the raspy voice that’s endured countless smokes and copious Scotch, see the hint of a pleased smile at the culmination of his search. Hoffman is mesmerizing.

Also turning in captivating performances are: Rachel McAdams as Karpov’s lawyer, Willem Dafoe as an uptight banker, Robin Wright as a CIA agent and Nina Hoss as Günther’s colleague.

Corbijn’s carefully rendered  mise-en-scène shows Hamburg, often shot against inky-blank nightscapes by Benoît Delhomme, as glossy and gritty, bustling and lonely. Herbert Grönemeyer provides a haunting score. Where Corbijn missteps is pacing what turns out to be a rather spare plot – the story idles a bit in the third act.

That’s a small flaw, however. Well crafted and superbly acted, “A Most Wanted Man” stands as one of the best films of 2014.

‘A Most Wanted Man’ is currently in theaters.

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The Film Noir File: ‘Out of the Past,’ newly out on Blu-ray, hits TCM on Thursday

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:

 Robert Mitchum falls hard for Jane Greer and, baby, he doesn’t care.

Robert Mitchum falls hard for Jane Greer and, baby, he doesn’t care.

Out of the Past” (1947, Jacques Tourneur). 2 a.m. (11 p.m.). Thursday, July 24. With Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 12, 2010. (See Tourneur‘s “Cat People” below, on Sunday.)

Wednesday July 23

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Bullitt” (1968, Peter Yates). With Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn and Robert Duvall. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 27, 2012.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948, John Huston). With Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Alfonso Bedoya and Bruce Bennett. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 31, 2012.

12:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m.): “Belle de Jour” (1967, Luis Bunuel). With Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Jean Sorel and Genevieve Page. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 8, 2013.

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Blowup” (1966: Michelangelo Antonioni). With David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles and The Yardbirds. Reviewed in FNB on June 19, 2014.

Thursday, July 24

2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Out of the Past” See Pick of the Week.

Metropolis posterSaturday, July 26

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Metropolis” (1927, Fritz Lang). With Brigitte Helm, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Alfred Abel. Reviewed in FNB on May 29, 2014.

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Spider Baby” (1964, Jack Hill). An insane, incestuous, greed-crazed Southern family runs amok in a dilapidated, decaying mansion. One of the wildest and campiest of all the ’60s low-budget horror quickie noirs, with a plot that makes “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” look like “The Song of Bernadette.” Lon Chaney Jr., Sid Haig and Quinn K. Redeker costar.

Sunday, July 27

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “The Ladykillers” (1955, Alexander Mackendrick) With Alec Guinness, Katie Johnson, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom. Reviewed in FNB on July 31, 2013.

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “Blackboard Jungle” (1955, Richard Brooks.) With Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, Anne Francis, and Vic Morrow. Reviewed in FNB on Apr. 18, 2013. In Memoriam: Paul Mazursky.

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955, Nicholas Ray). With James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper and Jim Backus. Reviewed in FNB on Apr. 18, 2013.

Cat People poster8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Cat People” (1942, Jacques Tourneur). Subtle, moody, gently chilling, this low-budget RKO supernatural noir, about a foreign émigré (Simone Simon) – whose soul is coveted by a coven of cat people – is a poetic suspense movie in which the horrors are suggested rather than shown. It was the first of the legendary Val Lewton-produced literate fright classics. Scripted by DeWitt Bodeen; with Kent Smith and Tom Conway.

9:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.): “The Curse of the Cat People” (1944, Robert Wise & Gunther von Fritsch). Producer Val Lewton’s sequel to the classic “Cat People,” with the spirit of the first film’s beautiful feline victim Simone Simon returning to bedazzle the child of her bereaved ex-husband (Kent Smith). Robert Wise’s directorial debut, and a good one. (Followed at 10:45 p.m. (7:45 p.m.), by the documentary “Martin Scorsese presents Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows.”)

12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “Pandora’s Box” (1928, G. W. Pabst). With Louise Brooks, Fritz Rasp and Francis (Franz) Lederer. (Silent German Movie with music score.) Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 3, 2012.

2:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m.): “La Haine” (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz). Stylish, stark and violent black-and white drama of French juvenile delinquency in Paris and its suburban banlieues. With Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde and Said Taghmaoui. (In French with subtitles.)

Wednesday, July 30

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Detective Story” (1951, William Wyler). With Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix and Lee Grant. Reviewed in FNB on June 20, 2013.

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