Macabre Review

This film is one of those mystery thrillers that throws a lot of twists at you but it’s convoluted in all the right ways. Everything makes more and more sense as the film goes on and each twist works rather well. The overall plan seems to really be a huge stretch by the end as you really would not be able to guarantee with any degree of certainty that it would work but hey the villain is insane so that’s not really an issue. If you’re up for an intense title then this is a good one to watch.

The movie starts off by introducing us to Barrett who is a doctor but nobody in town like him. They all clearly want him gone and so his assistant Polly suggests that he pack his things. She will of course be glad to accompany him but he declines since he wants to marry Sylvia. One day his world is turned upside down when his daughter Marge is kidnapped and the assailant leaves a threatening phone call hinting that she is dead. He gives a cryptic response that hints they only have a little time to save her before she runs out of oxygen wherever she is. Barrett has to try and find her quickly but he has to do it while everyone despises the guy. There are no shortage of enemies here.

Throughout the film we get several flashbacks which explain just why nobody likes him. It’s a bit hard to get into those without obvious spoilers though as these all involve a lot of twists. One thing we can say for sure is that Barrett is just a bad guy though. The dislike from the town is absolutely justified the whole time as you see these scenes play out. I would argue that he already seemed a bit sketchy even before these though like with how he wants to marry Sylvia but doesn’t really decline Polly as directly as you would expect him to.

The guy is clearly someone who doesn’t mind being on the rebound and that is always a very awful trait to have as a main character. Of course his daughter shouldn’t have to pay for his mistakes so you still figure that whoever got her is even worse than this guy. The movie handles the plot well although as far as the kidnapped child storyarc goes, I’ve seen a few that were stronger than this one. This one is distracted with Barrett’s past and a whole lot going on in this town after all.

Meanwhile the supporting cast here isn’t amazing. You have Sylvia who somehow still doesn’t mind being with Barrett. Considering that her hands aren’t completely clean at this point perhaps they fit together but you never end up finding her all that likable. Meanwhile the same is true of Polly. Sure, Polly at least has a conscience and seems like a decent person but you still have to wrestle with the fact that she is trying to make a move on someone she knows is trying to marry someone else. So that’s just way too desperate for me.

The only really decent main character here is Miss Kushins. She does her best to watch the house and has been around the block for a while. When trouble starts she quickly lets other people know instead of staying quiet like Barrett said. The police chief was also solid. He definitely didn’t mind roughing Barrett up a little and was tempted to do more than that. This guy wants to run a peaceful town and it’s tough when guys like the lead are running around.

One thing this film will remind you of is that it isn’t so easy to die of shock. Perhaps of sheer fright like if you have a weak heart and someone jumps in front of you, but just seeing something? That’s not going to be so easy and since there is a certain part of the plan that revolves around this you are going to have some major doubts the whole time. I know that I certainly did. So part of the ending just doesn’t work on that level. We still do get a satisfying ending to the movie though so it doesn’t let you down there. In a way the villain’s poorly thought out plan did come back to get him so that’s definitely how it should be.

In a way the film’s biggest weakness is just that none of the characters are super likable. I named some decent characters above but all of the main characters are annoying at best. So the film’s trying to succeed in spite of the characters as opposed to being because of them and that’s always a bit tricky. A good plot can absolutely pull this off and I would say this film succeeded but with better characters it absolutely would have worked. You don’t even have to change much but make Polly just a friend who is worried about Marge as opposed to being someone who is interested in the main guy. Also fainting after the phone call is a bit much since time is of the essence. You need to at least pass on the message before you faint right?

I’d also have probably grouped the flashbacks together instead of splitting them up although I do understand the reason for doing so in a narrative way. It would just be nice to get right back to the main plot instead of going through a detour each time. At the end of the day the writing is also solid so the movie did have the right building blocks to make this a good movie. It didn’t forget the fundamentals and that is critically important in a movie like this. The core story is strong and having everyone be against the main guy helps with the tension since you can’t trust anyone and with the race against time being a factor there is always a lot of tension.

Overall, Macabre is a good movie even if the drama can be laid on a bit thick at times. There is just so much going on in both the past and the present that the main plot of the daughter being kidnapped has to take a backseat sometimes and I can’t recall that ever being the case for a film like this. Usually that’s the complete main plot with nothing to compete with it. The movie could probably have benefited from focusing on the present a bit more but I would still recommend this one. If you want to check out a well balanced thriller then you will have a good time here.

Overall 6/10

Pickup on South Street Review

You’ve always gotta watch out for pick pockets because if they get your stuff then you’re probably not getting it back. This film deals with that and while I don’t think it’s so easy to get separated from your stuff as shown here, it can be tricky. It’s why they say to never put anything too valuable in your back pocket but I see a lot of people doing this anyway. Just try to stay safe out there and maybe watching this film will help you keep your guard up.

The movie starts off with a guy named Skip showing up and stealing Candy’s wallet. This isn’t good because Candy was carrying something immensely valuable in there which could be a matter of national security. Her ex boyfriend Joey tells her to find this guy and get it back as soon as possible. His people will even pay big money to see it returned. This whole thing is sounding more shady by the minute but Candy agrees to help out. Meanwhile the cops are also on the case and have enlisted the help of Moe the informant. Which group will be able to find this guy first?

It’s a small town and Moe’s a great informant so Skip doesn’t stay hidden for too long. Of course it’s one thing to find him and another to actually prove that he has the wallet and the item inside of it. For Skip this is potentially a huge payday so he is playing his cards close to the chest. He doesn’t care about the implications that the Russians may be after this file or anything like that. His own personal satisfaction matters more to him than his country which is fairly sad. The guy just can’t stop being a crook but now he’s gone even farther than usual.

This is a fun noir film with a good amount of thrills and a lot going on at every moment. Everyone wants Skip after all so you’re just wondering how long he can draw this out for before he is taken down. Surely his luck will catch up to him at some point but how long until that happens? It’s a tense battle against the clock. The only thing that hurts the film a bit is the romance which is really weak.

As you can probably guess, in the process of trying to talk him down, Candy ends up falling for Skip. He’s a big criminal though and one who doesn’t mind shoving her around. How did she possibly fall for him? The only explanation is the most shallow one which is purely for the looks. Not a great foundation to build a romance off of so that doesn’t do the film any favors either. Fortunately he softens up and starts to like her as well but throughout the film there are so many misunderstandings and moments where he’s harsh to her again so it all just happens too fast and doesn’t work at all.

It’s nice to see him landing a solid combo against one of the villains to defend her but ultimately you feel like their being friends would have worked a lot better in this context. Also, you can’t forget that Skip was still ready to sell America out the entire time which does nothing to make him any more sympathetic. Ultimately he just wasn’t a good guy and there’s no way around that one. He’s good at pickpocketing but that’s where it ends. If anything I’d say that he just gets lucky most of the time.

Candy is a decent heroine but I’d say she should have cut ties with Joey right away. It’s clear that he didn’t care about her safety one bit. He was nearly the end for her as well by the time the film was done. After a point it was going to be tough to get away from him either way so her best chance was early on. Just getting out of there and hope he’s too busy worrying about the pickpocket to go after her.

Candy has much more of a conscience than most of the other characters so she’s easy to root for at least. Perhaps not in the romance angle but at least in trying to keep the peace and helping the cops out while saving Skip’s reputation. Joey’s a very underwhelming villain the whole time as he’s always super nervous and doesn’t have a plan. He’s an underling through and through who doesn’t really look at the big picture.

Now there’s one part of the film that will definitely be causing you to stretch your disbelief a bit and that’s all of the pickpocketing scenes. Given what we find out later that Candy knew she was carrying something for Joey as her last mission, wouldn’t she be paying extra attention to her purse? I already didn’t buy the scene when it first started but then after we learn this it makes even less sense. Why wouldn’t she be paying a ton of attention to the purse the whole time with the stakes this high?

Sure, she didn’t know what was in the purse but even so it doesn’t work. I don’t care how fast the guy’s hands are, he’s not pickpocketing a purse when someone knows they’re carrying something like this. I’d also say it’s partially on the film for not making it look realistic. The way it’s shot, it’s like the guy is staring his target down but they’re just zoned off in the distance or trying to avoid eye contact. Each pickpocket scene takes forever and you’re just thinking about how the guy should have been caught the whole time.

Back to the characters though, Moe is a fairly solid one even if she is in a dangerous line of work here. Being an informant is definitely not a good way to live a long life but from her dialogue we can see that it was more of a last resort. She had to make money someway and selling ties just wasn’t cutting it. At the end of the day she does stay strong and resists giving intel to the right people. Unlike Skip she actually has some morals so I ended up liking her fairly well.

Then you have Tiger who is a fun police chief. He’s really hard on Skip but it’s hard to blame him since that guy is apparently always committing crimes and going back to Jail. He’s been sent there multiple times already so the next time would be for life. Tiger isn’t even wrong about Skip as the guy was going to sell out the country if not for being convinced at the end. So even though the film has a happy ending, you do wonder if he will ultimately relapse. I’d say the film is implying that this time he’s clean but you really never know with this kind of criminal history.

Overall, Pickup on South Street is a good film but it does struggle with some weaker areas that keeps this from being a better title. The romance just really did not work on any level and additionally the pickpocket scenes were hard to buy. You’re telling me that even the guy who was shadowing Candy didn’t notice Skip pickpocketing her until it was too late and he started to run? I found that one hard to believe as well. If you can get past that, you have a lot of fun dialogue and back and forth between the characters. It’s a solid setup there and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a classic noir title.

Overall 6/10

Kiss of Death Review

With a title like this you probably won’t be surprised that this is a Noir movie. It’s certainly got that vibe from the start and you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s a solid film about the dangers of getting into the criminal racket. Once you go in, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get out easy and Nick learns that the hard way. It’s a satisfying adventure but one that didn’t play out the way that I thought it would.

The movie starts with Nick getting caught after his latest heist and taken to jail. The time for this one is going to potentially be 20 years so the DA, A’Angelo tries to strike a deal but Nick declines. He figures that the other crooks will look out for him. Unfortunately they don’t and his wife ends up dead with no money to her name. Nick decides to do the deal now but 3 years have passed and the opportunity is not the same. He has one shot to get back at the crooks which is to be a stoolie for the cops. He’ll find out info and bring it back to D’Angelo but of course this is a very dangerous job. The villains have a lot of pull and the crazy guy named Tommy on their side. One wrong move will not only destroy Nick, but his rebound girlfriend and his kids.

You can probably guess right off the bat that I was not a fan of the romance here. Look, Nick’s whole reason for revenge and making a deal is because his wife was effectively murdered due to the other crooks not watching out for her. She wasn’t given any money or safety. So then why he is suddenly going out with Nettie? What’s worse is that Nettie and her had a big fight shortly before her death and Nettie basically admits that she has wanted Nick for a while now. Nick’s cool with all of this?

With the title of the film I fully expected Nettie to be the big villain here. There would be a twist about how she’s actually the one who murdered the wife or something like that. It wasn’t a suicide but a frame up. It would have made a lot of sense but the film actually plays it straight which is just as bad if not worse. It’s bad for both parties but in particular it’s a bad look for Nick.

He should not be looking for another wife right now. It’s just way too soon after he’s out of jail. The romance is one of the weakest ones that I’ve seen in a while. He does well beyond that but it’s a big thing to sidestep. The movie is solid in spite of Nick, not because of him. I thought D’Angelo did a good job of giving Nick a lot of chances initially and then explaining that the offer wasn’t forever.

3 years later it makes sense that he would feel a bit sour, especially with how Nick treated him. I wouldn’t say D’Angelo did a good job of protecting him at all though. I can see why Nick didn’t trust him to keep them safe because the guy’s track record was just awful the whole time. Anyone could get past him and that’s absolutely not what you want to hear when there is a big mass murderer after you. Nah, escaping him was the right option here.

Tommy is the big villain and he certainly makes his presence known. He doesn’t like squealers at all and definitely doesn’t take any disrespect. It’s clear that beating him won’t be easy and the guy has a lot of experience. You get the feeling that being his friend is also pretty dangerous since he’s such a spontaneous guy. You may be friends with him one moment and then enemies the next. If you’re an enemy then you’re really out of luck.

I would say that Nick’s plan was extremely risky though and had a near 0% chance of working. There are so many ways it could have gone wrong. I suppose he didn’t have many other options at this point but even so, I wouldn’t say it was a good plan. It’s hard to picture it ever working again even if the scenario was played 100 times. When you’ve got nothing to lose you might as well give it a try, but that’s the only time to play this card.

The movie captures the sense of dread and danger that Nick feels when Tommy is on the loose. These old school Noir titles always knew how to build up a good atmosphere and this one is no exception. Nick knows that as far as he gets, he’ll never be safe. I do think it’s probably worth taking the odds and hopping on a train out of the state though. In theory back then the info networks weren’t quite as advanced so get out of the country and try to survive. Of course there are a significant amount of risks to that and he may be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life but I would wager that the odds are better than trying to settle the score personally. It’s a gamble either way of course.

The writing is also very solid. I like the dialogue exchanges here and it may seem like a small thing but a lot of newer films can’t always hold their own in this same respect. It’s all different eras of course and modern films have their good writing as well but sometimes you just want this classic way of speaking. That false politeness between the heroes and villains, the subtle digs thrown into each sentence. It’s difficult to replicate that.

Overall, Kiss of Death is a good Noir film but I do think it’s held back by some of the choices in the story. I just have a really hard time getting past the whole romance angle. It just feels so crazy considering how the whole plot was about getting past her death. What’s the thought process behind throwing this in? If it was solely because the movie needed some romance then that’s just pretty sad. Making Nettie the villain just made so much sense that I’m still shocked the movie didn’t go that route.

Overall 7/10

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt Review

Time to look at a classic noir mystery film. This one has a pretty interesting plot about trying to fake a crime which is just as dangerous as it sounds. Probably not something you want to be doing on the regular but the reason behind it is interesting as well. The movie has its share of twists and turns as it comes to the ending and they all work pretty well. Definitely a must watch if you like noir.

So the movie starts with Tom accompanying his boss Austin to the latest execution. Austin wanted Tom to see this first hand to further explain why he was against capital punishment. The District Attorney has been bumping quite a few criminals off and Austin thinks it is so that he can make a play at being governor. The two certainly don’t like each other much which is understandable since it’s a big topic to disagree on. That is when Austin lets Tom in on his idea. He wants them to wait for a crime there there are no leads and then they will frame Tom for the crime. If he is convicted and sentenced to be murdered, then Austin will reveal that it was all a ruse and that might get the state to outlaw capital punishment. They’ll have photos and everything so this should be low risk.

Tom agrees to do it but quickly realizes that there will be a lot of complications here the whole time. For starters, this puts Tom’s engagement on the rocks because he is starting to act overly familiar with some other ladies as part of his cover. Tom probably should have just told Susan what was up from the start so this is all on him. Then with all of the fake evidence Tom’s position continues to look worse and worse. As long as Austin is ready as his safety net he should be good…but will that really work?

The writing here is very good which is absolutely critical since the dialogue is really what makes a film like this. I certainly didn’t see one of the final twists coming here. I also like how Tom’s very nonchalant about the whole court case until something happens later on. He doesn’t do anything to cause the judge to attack him or anything but Tom just doesn’t seem to care even though his life seems to be on the line. Since nobody else knows about his deal with Austin this makes sense and it makes for some fun moments.

As for the actual plan, I do think they took a decent amount of precautions here. The photos were definitely key and they should help answer a lot of questions. I think Tom took the “act” too far though. Like the scenes with him and the dancer where he is being quite aggressive were uncalled for there. He knew that the cops were around (presumably) but even so he should have tried to retain some class. I don’t blame Susan for being upset about the dinners either since there aren’t many explanations that would explain that.

Tom really didn’t do anything to make himself look good in her eyes. He has a lot of good banter with the cops and the DA but when it comes to his home life it definitely became a mess right away. So those scenes definitely hurt him and by the end he wasn’t one of the more solid characters. I’ll give Susan credit for handling things well though and not trying to make a scene. Clearly these events hurt her quite a lot but she never broke down. At the end of the film she also makes the right decision during crunch time too.

Then you have Austin who’s a solid character. His plan is a bold one but I do have to agree that it would strike a solid blow for his cause. It would really show why capital punishment is so dangerous and would have absolutely crushed the DA’s career. The DA was a solid character as well. He’s the antagonist but not a villain. The guy does think that he’s doing the right thing and the evidence was hard to overlook especially with how poorly Tom defended himself since he wasn’t taking things seriously.

It’s hard to blame the DA at all for going along the path that he did. As for the capital punishment debate, that will always be a tough one. On one hand, if you are falsely accused and die, you’re dead so that’s it. On the other hand it may be preferable to have a quick end than to rot in jail for 60 years before you finally get out when they find out you weren’t really guilty. In a lot of ways the first option just seems better and that’s before you even go into the logistics and all. Ultimately it’s for the best that we don’t have it but it will always remain as a tempting option as long as there are dangerous criminals who still exist.

Naturally a big part of why the film is so fun also comes down to the courtroom scenes. I always enjoy seeing those and this film has quite a lot of them. You get to see the DA make his case and Tom have to try and respond. While the heroes would take shots at how the DA was trying to win over the jury, I would say that he was just doing really well and they were sour grapes because they were so invested in this. I don’t blame them of course but it is without a doubt that I can say the DA did the best here and stole the show at least within the confines of the courts. That is his area of expertise after all.

The only weak parts of the film can be when Tom is under cover. As I said earlier he gets way too into the role if you ask me. Definitely seems like he’s having fun with it when he shouldn’t be. I also don’t even think we need some of the scenes there with the dancers performing or changing later on. Feels like the film added some unnecessary fanservice here when it could have been focusing more on the mystery. To an extent I imagine it was meant to show us their daily lives and how it was easy for the first one to be taken alone and murdered but if that’s the case then I’d like to see the management more and how they’re handling this. It seems like they’ve added 0 security since anyone like Tom can just walk right in through the front door.

Overall, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a solid film. It keeps you engaged from start to finish with a solid cast and good writing at the ready. The whole film really ends quickly and the pacing is never an issue. I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you are interested in the court room and debates on capital punishment. From the start you may figure that Tom should have just said no to even trying out this experiment which is valid but it does make for a good story.

Overall 7/10

Where the Sidewalk Ends Review

Next up on the review list is an old murder thriller. This time we really get to see what happens at the end of the road. It’s an engaging film that shows what happens when mistakes are made on every side and how this keeps on snowballing. I do like the idea of a hero trying to frame a villain. It’s something that doesn’t happen too often but is something to think about. Of course this is also morally dubious at best but ultimately the film has a satisfying conclusion.

The film starts off with introducing us to Mark Dixon who is really tough on crime. This is to the point of being excessive though as he tends to rough them up quite a bit during interrogation. He has now been demoted and warned to curb this behavior. Well, this will be difficult as he is wrapped up in another case when a rich man is stabbed to death at a local gaming arena led by some notorious gangsters. Of course the trick is that there is no real proof here and these guys have a habit of getting away. Mark ends up doing some interrogating anyway and ends up murdering Paine by accident as his punch hit the guy in a way where his metal plate shattered. Mark figures he’ll hide the body and then frame Scalise for it.

Unfortunately he ends up framing an innocent cab driver instead. Mark has grown close to the guy’s daughter Morgan and needs to settle this. Will he be able to get proof against Scalise or is this curtains for him? Additionally now that he has murdered someone, even if accidental, he is facing some issues as well. After all, fully attacking someone as part of an investigation was outside the mission parameters.

There’s a lot going on here to be sure. I was glad that the rich guy stepped in to protect Morgan when she was attacked but it is tragic since you know he never stood a chance. The guy was surrounded by gangsters after all and just wouldn’t have lasted either way. It’s hard to trust anyone at these high stakes gambling arenas, especially if it isn’t at a reputable venue. It makes for an intense opening scene as we know what happened and have to see how Mark will put the evidence together.

As a main character, Mark is solid. I do like his determination even if he lets it get the better of him sometimes. He doesn’t buy into the false stories as quickly as the other cops but ultimately there is a limit to what he can do as a cop. It’s not like he can just beat the truth out of everyone although he would certainly like that. His final attempt to frame Scalise was also a very bold approach as he was directly putting his life on the line. Not just anyone could pull that off.

Even Scalise comments on this and how Mark is crazy here. His obsession with taking down Scalise and defying his father’s legacy is certainly impressive. Unfortunately this isn’t a big James Bond action movie and so his big attack on the villain base doesn’t quite go as planned. It would have been intense to have seen him take them all down but realistically that would be nearly impossible without a gun or something like that.

As for Scalise, well he’s your classic noir villain. I’ll give him a little extra kudos for being intelligent though. He sees through Mark’s plans and also knows how to prevent evidence from getting out. He’s an old hand at this and isn’t your run of the mill gangster. While his personality may not be super memorable beyond the usual tough dialogue, this is enough where he holds his own as the main antagonist.

Finally we have Morgan and her father. I liked her Dad’s constant talking about how he helped Mark with a case back in the day. He just seems like a nice guy who is always cheerful and trying to look out for Morgan. Morgan makes some dicey calls with the people she hangs out with like Paine. Ultimately I don’t think she’ll be around those areas much going forward though and has developed quite a bit as a result of this experience. The severity of the case against her father gradually sinks in during the film and she doesn’t take this in stride but then the film shows the contrast of how she handles the news at the end of the film. She’s come a long way and won’t be blindsided anymore.

As a noir thriller kind of movie, this film always has some level of danger present. Whether it’s Mark trying to hide a body or quickly thinking up an alibi, you can tell that he’s never quite safe. It also works well in keeping your interest the whole time through. The movie’s fairly long but the pacing is on point so it never drags on. We see enough of Mark’s life to see what makes him tick and it helps build the world around the mystery. He’s certainly quick on his feet so it’s easy to see why he got such a high rank at the start even if he’s been on a bit of a decline since then with how he beats up the criminals.

Overall, This was a solid movie. It really builds a good atmosphere from the start and the adventure is interesting from start to finish. Mark makes for a good hero and Scalise ends up being a smarter villain than I expected. As a result you have some decent banter with them. The only time Mark goes too far is when he takes such a hard stance against his partner at one point. That was definitely the wrong move and showed him taking out his aggression on the wrong person. Even though the case may be solved, it is fair to say that this line of work may not be right for him. There really is nothing to prevent this kind of scenario from happening again because it’s fair to say that this case hasn’t really changed him. The ending is left up to interpretation on how it will go though so you can ultimately reach your own ending. If you’re looking forward to a good noir title then this is a good one to watch.

Overall 7/10

Blast of Silence Review

When you have a film about an assassin you can try to do it in a stylized way, make the assassin likable, or have him be a very quiet and mysterious figure. I’ve seen a few solid ones with such a premise but this one would not make the list. The lead is insane from the jump and unfortunately ruins the film at every step with his inner monologues. Usually the Noir style of talking to yourself is a lot of fun but put a bad main character into the center and it just doesn’t work this time.

The movie starts by introducing us to Frankie. He doesn’t like anyone and everything ticks him off. He never runs out of things to complain about and is always bragging as well. He seems to think that he’s an expert assassin but the film continues to prove him wrong. Well, Frankie’s got his latest hit ready but along the way he bumps into some old friends. Slowly this starts to distract him and he may have to make a choice between romance or getting the job done. If he doesn’t hurry, he’ll lose everything. Can Frankie turn things around or will he just continue to complain?

As you can probably guess, Frankie is 90% of my issues with the film. He just never stops whining, you haven’t seen a character this whiny in a long time. He’s in self denial the entire time about romance as well. For example in his inner monologues he’s taking shots at Lori and everyone for being normal but then it turns out that he really wants to be with Lori. It’s a pretty awful development there and the scene where he tries to overpower Lori destroys the film early on. He never comes back from that and it’s really fortunate that someone else was at home when he stops by later on.

So Frankie’s an irredeemable villain and as the focus of the film that’s not really a good thing. He’s also just not very good at his job. He’s an assassin so you’d think he would have been around the block a few times but he doesn’t realize that it’s a bad idea to call up the villains to collect the money? After he was openly threatened for trying to quit the job early, he should have just gotten out of there. At the very least, don’t throw away the gun. I have big doubts on his gun skills but at least he might have been able to make a match out of it. Instead he was just out skilled and outgunned right from the start.

If anything it’s only impressive that he has some friends with how cold he acts throughout the film. Everyone will try to talk to him and he just won’t respond or just gives 1 word responses once in a while. The others were trying to be super friendly but you wouldn’t have blamed them if they just left. Lori does her best to be nice which doesn’t ultimately work out for her very well. I am glad she stayed strong in telling Frankie to leave and not allowing him to stay. She also does well in managing this dangerous situation by keeping him at a distance whenever he calls without setting this madman off. With a guy like this you can’t really take any risks.

The only other big character here is Ralph who has a lot of connections. Frankie doesn’t like him but he has to deal with the guy since Ralph knows how to get the guns. Ralph is the kind of guy who will make a deal and then turn on it later on. I don’t really know why he would risk his life trying to double cross Frankie though unless he seriously did not respect the lead’s abilities. It just didn’t seem like a smart play without having more leverage on him. Ralph would have been quite all right if not for pulling that stunt. His arm strength was impressive though. He could choke with Frankie with one hand and it seems like he would have done a lot better if not for a surprise attack.

Ralph isn’t nearly as bad as Frankie but I didn’t like him either. His scenes really drag out with how slowly he talks the whole time. The scenes of him feeding the animals also has you tense the whole time because you’re worried that something will happen although fortunately it does not. Ralph’s a total slob if we’re being honest here to the point where you’re shocked that someone hasn’t taken him out yet. He’s brave enough to be going around blackmailing people but you feel like if he pulled that on any other assassin he would have been taken down in a heartbeat.

The film at least handles the Noir elements well. The city looks suitably shady at all times even when it’s day time out. The only scene without any tension is the dance scene when Frankie has to attend a party and that mostly felt like filler anyway. It’s supposed to feel out of place since Frankie usually wouldn’t allow himself to be caught there. It only ended up happening this time since he liked Lori but couldn’t admit it to himself.

The writing isn’t bad. The dialogue is super weak but that’s more due to the main character than blasting the film’s writing as a whole. The rest of the characters have good dialogue after all. I like the style of Noir dialogue usually, it’s just that Frankie was way too exaggerated the whole time. If he was more serious and mysterious like he thought he was then that would have helped matters. Instead the guy just seems petty and amateurish the whole time. He’s always yelling “danger signals” at himself but they come too late like when Ralph spotted him first. Frankie blames himself for that mistake and acts like it’s rare, but it doesn’t seem to be with how things always go sideways for him here.

Overall, The movie has a conclusive ending but never really recovers into being a solid movie. Frankie just held the film back massively and the whole scene with Lori should have been cut out. You just can’t have a main character be this bad and still work as the lead. It’s just not happening and I wouldn’t even want him as the main villain especially as he isn’t even that effective in his profession. (The man doesn’t even carry a gun so he has to count on contacts to supply him one in time. What if they weren’t able to get the gun in time? He’d be doomed) The main rule of thumb is for a film about a villain to work, the villain’s scenes need to be bearable. Establish him as a villain and keep it moving but don’t go too far and the endless inner monologue doesn’t work in this case. If you’re looking for a good Noir film to check out, there are many, many better options out there.

Overall 3/10

Night Moves Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

Oh boy, this is one of those films that starts out on a rather dicey note and then just gets worse and worse as it goes on. The movie is really going for pure shock value half the time and with nobody to root for you are in for a very grueling 99 minutes. I also wonder why they couldn’t just stretch this movie by one minute to be a perfect 100. If you’re that close…why not do it right? Not like it would have helped the movie or anything but you might as well.

So the movie is about a private investigator named Harry. He specializes in divorce cases and a lot of little cases like that which his wife Ellen mocks him about. Still, he enjoys the work but one day he finds out she is cheating with a guy named Marty. Does this matter to the plot? No….but did it shock you?? From there Harry heads back to his main case where Arlene asks him to find her daughter who has gone missing. Harry looks around and finds her fairly quick but it will be difficult to bring her back. She certainly doesn’t want to go home.

Right away we learn that Delly is quite the free spirit who goes around having affairs with everyone despite only being 16. Unfortunately, she has really gone off the wall crazy and everyone around her is the same way. She’s currently staying with her stepfather Tom and Paula. The less said about this part of the plot the better but needless to say, nobody here is a good person. They’re all engaged in very serious crimes and have no sense of moral decency anymore.

This is the kind of movie that is very jaded and believes that everyone is a villain or will turn to the dark side if given the chance. Harry isn’t exactly exempt from that as he makes his share of mistakes as well. He’s not a very nice guy which does make him a strong investigator as the guy won’t be pushed around. That said, it’s very difficult to have a candid conversation with him as a result and everyone takes shots at how hard he is trying to be an iconic investigator or like one out of the movies. In terms of investigating he does a good job though so I don’t think you can slam him too hard on that.

His personality and decision making? Sure that’s fair game. When he finds out that Ellen is cheating I don’t see why he was so desperate to get her back the whole time. Note that he catches her twice and he cheats on her with someone else later on. Perhaps he figures if they’re both cheating on each other then it doesn’t really matter. That just feels really twisted though. Ellen’s no better as her excuses don’t hold any weight. Being lonely is never an excuse to be cheating at all. Marty doesn’t have any personality except to be threatened by Harry every time.

As for Delly, well there’s not much to say about her. She is as immoral as can be and never makes the right life choices. Ultimately this doesn’t end well and I can’t even say that she has a happy ending. This was a really rough film for her. Her stepfather Tom is horrendous and you feel like he got off extremely easy here. With everyone dying left and right you’d have thought that he would be one of the prime targets to be bumped off. Where’s the justice in this film?

Paula feels bad for herself a lot as the world around her goes to oblivion but you feel like she needs to get out of this environment first thing. She’s just sticking around to see the violence and crimes being committed but only assists in this instead of doing anything about it. She’s as guilty as the rest of the characters. It’s clear that Arlene isn’t innocent either. She beats some of the other characters almost by default but I still would consider her to be a bad character. She’s just interested in herself and getting rich.

The atmosphere is suitably depressing and without a whole lot of color during the movie. It really has that classic 70s feel to it where everything is really grimy. You can make a good thriller or noir film our of that but you can’t rely on overt shock value. There are so many aspects of this film that really don’t need to be here. You can absolutely nail this plot without the extra aspects. Take away Delly’s character traits as constantly stripping, being desperate for men, etc. Remove all implications of her and Tom, lets remove the cheating subplot with Harry, lets remove his affair as well.

I suppose by this time you’ve got a completely different movie but it shows just how much of this film really needed to change. It’s just not a fun watch and you can’t be a good film without being enjoyable in some sense. Whether it’s having a good soundtrack, an engaging plot, or good characters; every movie needs to have something. If you have nothing then you’re really in a very tough spot that is hard to get out of.

Overall , Night Moves is a film I highly recommend avoiding at all costs. It’s just a terrible movie on all accounts. Any semblance of interest you may have had in the film is completely destroyed once Harry gets to the Florida Keyes and finds out just how depraved the whole situation is. This is a movie of shock value where terrible things keep on happening to everyone. There is really no way to save the film at that point so I would even say this should not get a remake. At that point you’re better off just making a whole new experience so lets just put this film back on the shelf and pretend it never existed.

Overall 1/10

Nightmare Alley Review

Nightmare Alley is a film where you are going to need to suspend a lot of disbelief since the main guy’s ability is that he can effectively mind control you by talking. I’ve always been a big hypnosis skeptic and this would fall into that ballpark. There’s one scene in particular where he talks a sheriff into backing off and I was shaking my head. Still, it’s an interesting film that does manage to stick the landing.

The movie starts off with Stan being the new guy at the circus but really wanting to be more of a main star. His target is Zeena who used to have a really famous act with Pete. They would answer questions from the audience and always managed to read out the question and give the right answer while one of them was blind folded. It seemed an awful lot like magic but it comes down to word codes. Thing is, Zeena won’t give the code to anyone so Stan may have to use some of his persuasion skills. Will his ambitions to be the main star work out or is he really just setting the entire circus on a one way trip to oblivion?

Now, I will say that I am a little skeptical of the word codes as well. That by itself would not be nearly enough to figure out these exact questions and answers. Perhaps if the film showed that they were using some kind of special frequency radio or camera I could buy into it, but just by enunciating words and phrases Stan was able to figure it all out? I dunno, that seems like a really big stretch to me. At least they weren’t trying to play it off as magic though so that works. Stan just has really good intuition when he foils several traps that are laid against him.

The first half of the movie is really about Stan at the circus. It’s a little slow at times as you’re just waiting for him to leave but it does show right away how slick the guy can be. He acts nice enough to everyone else but he’s really just trying to steal their acts. He certainly makes a lot of passes at Zeena even though she is with Pete and doesn’t waste a second once Pete is out of the picture. The guy doesn’t have a lot of morals and gets together with quite a few characters before the film is over.

He is the antagonist here so you expect that he will keep on going down the dark path. It’s always risky to have a villainous main character. It works sometimes but more often than not it backfires. Well, at least this is one time I can point to it working pretty well. The guy is charismatic even if the film exaggerates that point and you’re interested to see how far he can go in his schemes. His personality is part of what makes the ending so satisfying as well. Stan is absolutely the kind of guy who can lead the film pretty well.

As for Zeena, well I’m definitely not a fan of hers. She really wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention with how she fells for Stan’s schemes so easily. Pete wasn’t exactly the best guy as he was constantly drunk and out of it but Zeena really should have taken that opportunity to dash out of the circus rather than going along with Stan’s schemes. Then you have Molly who also falls into the trap pretty quickly. She really wanted to believe in the best of Stan but I would say by this point it was clear that he wasn’t going to be a loyal guy. She nearly walks out on him a few times but always ends up being convinced to stay. It would have been good if she could have followed her gut.

The second half of the film is really about Stan taking his act global. He figured that he can market himself as someone who can actually talk to the dead and uses this to great effect as he gets a lot of money from everyone. This forces him to keep on escalating his act further and further to the point where he has to materialize someone for the rich Grindle. If he pulls this off then he will have really conquered the planet.

This act introduced quite a few new characters which was cool. Grindle felt like a sucker through and through though. The guy allows himself to be tricked so easily considering how he completely didn’t believe in magic and talks so tough at the start. By the end he’s crying and just not thinking critically anymore. It was a shame but in this film almost nobody could resist Stan’s various deceptions.

Finally there was Lilith, a psychologist who seems to live on the up and up but quickly grows tempted by Stan’s plans. She is a very complex character and easily the best one in the film. She is also quite intelligent since her business is about reading people’s emotions and helping them through it. As a result there is a bit of a cat and mouse battle between the two as they analyze each other. By the end of the film it goes to such a psychological ending that you can debate how the climax actually played out. (I’d say the sirens were real but they weren’t called in. Keeping it vague so as to avoid spoilers) No matter how you interpret the ending though, I’d say that Lilith looked very good here. She has a satisfying end to the character arc and helps end the film on a high note.

Now I wouldn’t say the film’s ending is happy. By the time it ends quite a lot has happened and it’s not like there are many heroes left to root for. Still, it’s meant to at least give you a little hope that this time Stan will go onto the path of light. I’ll also give the film credit for showing great restraint by not actually showing his new occupation on screen. That would have easily gotten rather gritty and would have completely crippled the film’s score. As it stands, you can understand exactly what is going on and the film keeps a bit of a dark atmosphere while not crossing the line here.

Really the weakest part of the film is the romance(s). We know Stan’s a phony from the start but you wish the other characters could see that. Instead they all get tricked one by one with all of his affairs. The guy keeps getting win after win but if the heroines had let things play out a bit longer then they could have seen through him. I’m not even sure what genre I would call the film but it has enough romance where that is definitely a focus here. I would cut that out and get him on his journey to being a master manipulator a bit earlier. That would also reduce the length of the first half which isn’t quite as interesting anyway. That way you jump right to his battles with Lilith.

Overall, The film may feel unbelievable at quite a few points with how the characters bend to Stan’s will but it’s still an engaging film. As with many titles in its time, the writing is good and the pacing is on point. You should have a good time watching the movie on the whole even if you are rooting for Stan to lose the whole time. I’d like to have seen various characters resist his pseudo hypnosis more but the ending is really good with how the situation suddenly shifts. It’s a good reminder to always keep your guard up. Just because you think you’re the smartest person in the room, doesn’t mean that this is actually the case.

Overall 6/10

The Spirit Review

The Spirit is definitely a very unique movie that’s for sure. It really does walk a fine line between being a total comedy with how over the top everything is and a serious action film. In the end the film actually does blend this combo over very well for nearly all of its screen time but ends up faltering near the end. I knew things were about to get dicey when the cat showed up….

The movie starts with the Spirit being called in since there was a sighting of his arch nemesis, the Octopus. The Octopus manages to murder someone real quick and steal a suitcase first but Sand escapes with the other Suitcase. Octopus crushes the Spirit and now the hero must figure out a way to catch the guy. What is the Octopus doing and how can he be stopped? The Octopus hinted that he knows something about the Spirit’s immortality and Spirit’s old flame Sand is involves so he really has to see this through to the end.

Spirit is definitely a movie that is bonkers and isn’t afraid to really get out there. The first moment I knew something was up was when the Spirit and Octopus have their confrontation mere minutes after the film began. Usually the hero can’t meet the villain that quickly. Then as their fight escalates you can tell that neither one is a normal human because they are taking some really crazy attacks. They seem to murder each other several times during the fight.

Well, Spirit and Octopus both appear to be immortal. Not in an eternal life kind of way but in a “We can’t be killed way”. That actually ties into Octopus’ plans which is to use a serum which will actually give him eternal life. Sand has the vase though so she’s in danger now. It’s quite a lot of plot here and that’s not even accounting for Spirit’s origin story. It’s a fun dynamic though as apparently the hero and villain will often spend a whole night beating each other up only to walk away when it’s all over.

It’s not like they’re pals or anything but they do seem to joke around a bit. They both know that they can’t destroy the other so I can see how the futile nature of their fights would become humorous to them. Octopus definitely seems to have better fighting abilities than the Spirit though. I’d argue he had the edge for the majority of their fight with ease.

Where the Spirit really shines is with the color palette. The movie uses a lot of very interesting visual styles and I would consider it a total hit. This was extremely unique and actually worked out. It’s not one of those gimmicks that you’ll shake your head at but one you will give the thumbs up right away. Not only does it make the Spirit look mysterious but it gives the whole film a pretty epic air. When characters talk to each other the backgrounds will often disappear.

You have characters fading into the light or into the darkness. Even Sand showing up from the water is a very ominous scene. The most every day normal scenes will look different like this and it really does work quite well. It captures that Noir feeling as well. Mix in the Spirit’s numerous monologues and you’ve really got something going here. It helps with the film’s dramatic atmosphere.

As mentioned though, it gets so dramatic that I have to see a lot of these moments as comedic ones. Spirit loves talking about the city and his past. While that is a staple of the Noir genre, you just can’t help but feel like the movie is parodying it. Something about the way the Spirit is having his conversations just gives you that feeling. Then of course for the comedic moments you have most of the Octopus scenes. He’s dressed up as a different culture each tie he appears and the guy is always messing around. He never seems to take anything seriously and murders his henchmen on the regular.

This is definitely some dark humor but the henchmen aren’t smart enough to do anything except what they’re told. So for example one of them even murders himself because the villain told him to do so. It’s certainly tragic to be one of those henchmen that’s for sure. Another gets blended which was a really intense scene to be sure. So the film has its dark moments thrown in as well, mainly as dark humor.

Now, where does the film go wrong? Well, as you can guess with the cat, we get some animal violence as the Octopus shows off his latest conquest to the Spirit. He can melt anything by using the special blood/serum that he wanted although it would simply power the Spirit up so that guy needs to try and grab it. He should have used it on the henchmen instead of on the cat though. That would have been a lot better.

So the film instantly lost a pair of stars for that. Meanwhile the film is trying to make the Spirit a parody of James Bond to an extent. I definitely don’t remember this trait in the comics but he seems to fall in love with every girl out there. Spirit seems to believe that every lady in the city is fair game so he openly has affairs with all of them. Fortunately for him every girl loves him as well so it’s quite easy to make this happen. We do have two main heroines here who both like him as well and he’s not shy about still making moves in front of him.

So the Spirit isn’t exactly the most heroic guy. Even ignoring that, he doesn’t have the best relationship with the cops. He’s always on edge and even threatens to punch out the chief without any good reason. The cops have a point that the Spirit is really running a one man show and the cops who accompany him all get murdered so naturally there would be some bad blood here. It’s hard to get a read on the Spirit. He’s a fun guy to be sure but I definitely wouldn’t call him very heroic. He seems extremely unhinged.

The Octopus is certainly a fun character. He is definitely a villain as seen with the cat but at least the guy has concrete goals. I’m not sure if having eternal life is the automatic win card that he thinks it is, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to live longer since he is already fairly tough to beat. He reminds me a bit of the Joker with how crazy he is the whole time.

His right hand woman Floss also does a good job of keeping him on track. If he starts to go off the deep end then she reminds him of what was going on. To an extent she doesn’t always seem to be thrilled to have him as leader though so he should probably watch his back. That said, I guess by the end she still seems loyal enough.

As for Sand, I wasn’t a fan. In the flashbacks she already seemed quite obsessed with jewels and this didn’t change when she got older. In a way she’s like Catwoman only much more violent as she actively murders a lot of people in order to get what she wants. I was surprised at just how brutal she can be. I figured the movie was going to play her out as more of a misunderstood character but it actually went all the way as a villain.

We’ve also got Ellen who liked the Spirit but still gets jealous when he has other affairs. That’s why I don’t see the relationship ever working out. Either she is okay with being cheated on the whole time or she is going to need to find someone else. The Spirit doesn’t seem like the loyal sort after all.

In fact, there’s a pretty intense scene where the villains use that against him. He can’t resist any girl and one of the villains is a lady so you can picture how that goes. He just goes down like such a chump that you can’t help but laugh. This is the hero who is supposed to protect us? Okay….yeah that’s not going to end very well. The Spirit definitely has his priorities…too bad they aren’t the right ones.

Overall, The Spirit is a very different kind of action film. It’s really all over the place and in a lot of ways this works out. It’s really unpredictable and I loved what they did with the visual directing. The whole thing has a comic book/noir approach that nobody else has really used before. It’s a shame that the Spirit himself wasn’t a little better at being a hero but his inner monologues are a blast. If you can get around the cat melting scene then this is definitely a film you’ll have a lot of fun with. I’d definitely be up for a sequel coming out at some point since there’s a lot of potential here. That said, I think it would be difficult to capture the same energy twice so maybe it’s best to not even try.

Overall 5/10

The Blue Gardenia Review

Time for a classic noir thriller. One of the key things to remember if you ever find yourself in a Noir type situation is that you shouldn’t drink. Getting drunk is absolutely without a doubt one of the biggest mistakes you could make here. It puts you in a bad spot right out of the gate and there is really no escape. The whole movie would play out a lot differently without that.

The movie starts with Norah getting ready to celebrate her birthday on her own. Her fiancée is still away at war so at least she can have a good time on her own. Unfortunately she gets a letter that he has decided to marry someone else instead. Broken and confused, Norah decides to go out with a local flirt and gets herself as drunk as possible. This leads to him driving her to his place and taking advantage of the situation. She fights back and when she wakes up he is dead.

Norah heads home hoping to put this behind her but it’s all over the news now. The cops badly want to find whoever murdered the criminal. They are slowly getting closer and Norah’s only hope may be reporter Casey. He claims that he will help protect her from the police and get her a reduced sentence but can she really trust a member of the media? Norah will have to decide quickly before time is up.

Getting drunk really does put you in a bind. It’s also why you don’t want to make any snap decisions when you’ve just had a bad day. Norah went on this date in large part just to try and get over her fiancé. Still not good to go with such a shady customer though. Now since Norah lost her memories of what happened after drinking she doesn’t know if she truly murdered him or not. It certainly appears to have played out that way but she can’t be sure.

On this note though, it is absolutely correct that she fought back. At one point when asking her roommates hypothetical questions about the situation one of them says you can’t just take down every guy who gets handsy. That seemed to be underestimating the situation quite a lot. Even if she ended up murdering him with the final strike, that was definitely in self defense so it’s not like she tried to destroy him. It was her or him at that point and she had to fight to survive.

Of course most of the film is really about Norah fighting her inner doubts. If she could at least remember what happened then she would feel a lot better about the whole thing. As it is, she is just very confused. I wouldn’t say she was a great main heroine but she’s okay. She doesn’t do the rest job of hiding what happened but granted, being in such a situation is pretty stressful so you can expect some slip ups.

As for the reporter Casey, he was a pretty fun character. He had some good banter with the local police as the chief called in during his attempts to find the identity of the murderer. It is quite brazen of him to be saying such things like trusting him over the cops in a public forum like that. He also underestimates how many people are keeping up with the case which ends up catching up to him. He was a charismatic guy though, same as the police chief. I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of those guys.

The roommates don’t leave nearly as much of an impression though. I was expecting the big book fan to do a lot by the end but in a way her character never went anywhere. She’s knowledgeable about things as the smart member of the group but she never gets to use her intelligence for anything. The other one at least helps Norah out by the end and gives a good amount of moral support.

Compared to most Noir films there isn’t a whole lot to talk about though since the story is so direct. There’s really only one plot twist here and there’s virtually no foreshadowing for it so it just sort of happens without a lot of time to piece it together on your own. The movie has quality writing and an engaging story which is really what you want to see early on. It helps keep the rest of the film interesting and the pacing tight.

I’d put it under the average Noir film though as it is just lacking that depth some of the others have. There isn’t much to theorize or discuss which is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that this one won’t have the same staying power. I think I would have maybe added one more character, perhaps someone trying to throw some blackmail into the mix which would ultimately be a red herring. Just some kind of crazy twist, perhaps involving her Fiancé. Imagine he shows up and never told anyone that he didn’t even leave for war at all. Turns out the whole story was fake. At this point we’re discussing pure hypotheticals though.

Overall, The Blue Gardenia is a good movie. It has strong writing and an engaging plot. At the same time, there aren’t a whole lot of stand out characters here. I would have liked one of Norah’s friends to defend her here by reminding her it was in self defense or something like that. The guy who got murdered was also extra sleazy, would have been nice if he wasn’t quite so morally bankrupt. The movie has a satisfying ending so you’ll enjoy the ride. I’d certainly recommend it if you like Noir titles or just want something suspenseful.

Overall 6/10