The Bedroom Window (1987, Directed by Curtis Hanson) English 6

Starring Steve Guttenberg, Elizabeth McGovern, Isabelle Hupert, Paul Shenar, Brad Greenquist

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(6-Good Film)

Far-fetched. Stylish. Gripping.

      Cops are generally useless in movies like this one. If you have a thriller and the main character isn’t a cop, then most likely the cops are going to be completely unhelpful in the film. They’ll probably accuse the protagonist of something he didn’t do or arrive at the scene too late or get killed by the bad guy despite years of training while the film’s hero (an average male) is able to defeat that same bad guy. The Bedroom Window takes this cliché to an infuriating extent.

Terry Lambert (Guttenberg) leaves an office party early one night to begin an affair with his boss’ wife, Sylvia (Huppert). As their night winds down, Terry steps out of the room for a minute and Sylvia gazes out the window. At that moment, she witnesses the assault and attempted murder of a young woman, Denise (McGovern), by a pale, red-headed figure who then runs off. Not wanting to speak with police and risk having to testify in court where her husband would find out about the affair, Sylvia parts and resolutely decides not to speak of what she witnessed, content enough that the woman she saw was spared. Days later though, another woman is raped and murdered in similar circumstances to the attempt she witnessed. Terry, feeling a sense of civic responsibility, goes to the police and pretends that he witnessed the crime, feeding them information that Sylvia (who agrees with the plan) gives him. Lying to the police is not a great idea, but the way Terry’s life spirals out of control, as a result, is extreme and a little hard to believe. The first problem comes when Terry’s asked to look at a police lineup and pick out the assailant, where he meets Denise. The film, interestingly, loses its way later on, just when it starts to resemble other thrillers we’ve seen before, specifically the classic Hitchcock pictures. Hitchcock loved thrusting ordinary men into extraordinary situations, and the way Terry goes from key witness to lead suspect is very reminiscent of a famous scene in North by Northwest. It’s not that I have an issue with wearing the Hitchcock influence so conspicuously. A number of excellent films have done that: Charade, Blow-Out, Ghost Writer. And Hitchcock, also, wasn’t always interested in perfectly logical plotlines. My problem is that in The Bedroom Window, the rewards don’t always outweigh the frustration caused by maddening character decisions. Doing my best not to spoil anything, there’s one moment where Terry is left holding a freshly stabbed body and flees as the cops approach despite not having any weapon on him. If he had just waited, couldn’t he have just told the police, “how could I have stabbed this person if I don’t have a weapon?” As I said, logic is not paramount.

Aside from the frustration I felt watching the incompetent police in The Bedroom Window, and the silliness of some of its contrivances, the film is a perfectly serviceable thriller. It’s very good at times and its trio of leads (Steve Guttenberg, Isabelle Hupert, Elizabeth McGovern) as odd as it seems on paper, is the one atypical touch of an otherwise familiar thriller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(777)

 

The Glass Key (1942, Directed by Stuart Heisler) English 7

Starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Brian Donlevy, Joseph Calleia, William Bendix, Bonita Granville

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(7-Very Good Film)

Gripping. Enticing. Cool.

Early adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel featuring Donlevy as Paul Madvig, a big-time crook and political organizer, and Alan Ladd as his right-hand man and best friend, Beaumont. Their small empire runs into trouble when Paul alienates another powerful crook, Nick Varna, at the same time falling in love with a politician’s daughter named Janet (Veronica Lake), who happens to be the sister of a man he’s thought to have killed. It’s up to Beaumont to clean up the mess, and untangle the mystery, as he fights off the growing attraction between himself and his best friend’s girlfriend. Slick noir, with excellent supporting turns from Joseph Calleia and William Bendix. Ladd and Lake are justifiably a classic screen couple. Their smoldering makes the all too neat ending not only passable but completely satisfying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(773)

The Lost Moment (1947, Directed by Martin Gabel) English 6

Starring Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Joan Lorring, John Archer, Eduardo Ciannelli

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(6-Good Film)

Intriguing. Beguiling. Tame.

Ambitious publisher and privileged young man, Lewis Venable (Cummings), sees the opportunity of a lifetime when he hears about a series of love letters written by famed 19th-century poet Jeffrey Ashton. A professional tip (actually something a little shadier) leads him to an old mansion in Venice owned by the still living Juliana Bordereau (Moorehead), now over one-hundred years-old, who was Ashton’s lover during his time and the recipient of his letters. Venable assumes a fake identity in order to swindle Bordereau out of those letters but finds the house a dark place that holds more secrets than just the letters. There’s the beautiful Tina, Bordereau’s cold but alluring niece, for instance. In the vein of many old gothic chillers, The Lost Moment boasts lovely black and white photography to go with its memorable set pieces. Susan Hayward’s Tina is a fantastic and baffling femme fatale and Agnes Moorehead under heavy makeup is convincing as the ancient hag. I was left disappointed, however, in the main character who shifts too quickly from scoundrel to hero. Rather than go for something truly original and outrageous, the film plays it safe and ends on a pleasant note.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(771)

Veronica Mars (2019, Season 4) English 8

Starring Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Percy Daggs III, Francis Capra, Clifton Collins Jr., Patton Oswalt, Max Greenfield, Dawnn Lewis, Ryan Hansen, J.K Simmons, Mido Hamada, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Izabela Vidovic

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(8-Exceptional)

Engrossing. Fast-moving. Frustrating.

Veronica is back, 12 years removed from her last appearance on television and 5 years removed from her big-screen come back. Originally starring on the CW, Hulu takes over this season and seems to be a great landing spot. There’s no rust. Season 4 kicks off fast and speeds through to an overall satisfying end. Veronica (Bell) and her dad, Kieth (Colantoni), get wrapped up in a local mystery as someone is killing off the spring-break crowd. Seeing as their city, Neptune, California depends on the spring-break crowd for business, a bit of a Jaws situation occurs where the authorities don’t want to take the proper precautions out of fear for local commerce. It’s an involving case and all of the new characters are welcome additions. Perhaps taking a page out of the phenomenal series, Fargo’s book, Veronica Mars season 4 is a sprawling saga with a lot of interesting characters and strange moments. J.K Simmons, Patton Oswalt, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Izabela Vidovic, and Clifton Collins Jr make strong impressions. Unfortunately, much of the original cast is short-changed. Wallace is barely a part of this season, Mac doesn’t show up at all. Worse for me than that is my memory of Veronica not matching what she’s like in this season. She’s often the least likable character. That turns out not to hurt the show too much. It’s only the very end and I mean the last few scenes that had me scratching my head and apparently many fans up in arms.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(765)

A Night to Remember (1942, Directed by Richard Wallace) English 5

Starring Loretta Young, Brian Aherne, Jeff Donnell, Sidney Toler, William Wright, Gale Sondergaard

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(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Slight. Forgettable.

A happy couple, the husband, an amateur mystery writer (Aherne), and the wife, a quick-witted beauty (Young), move into a seemingly nice apartment, but the neighbors act strange, and soon a dead body turns up. The two decide to investigate and stumble upon a large blackmailing scheme. Perhaps spurred on by the success of Nick and Nora in the Thin Man series, this mystery film’s best quality is the chemistry between the charming lead couple. The actual mystery has an intriguing premise but isn’t fully developed and lacks suspense.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(763)

Red Riding Hood (2011, Directed by Catherine Hardwicke) English 5

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Julie Christie, Billie Burke, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas

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(5-Okay Film)

Intriguing. Squandered. Dopey.

I love a good whodunnit, but this one is directed by Catherine Hardwicke whose previous film was Twilight. That’s not to say anything about her competence as director, but there’s a definite audience I feel Red Riding Hood is hoping to attract that squanders its good elements. Amanda Seyfried is Valerie, the Red Riding Hood of the story, living in a small, remote village and her sister has just been murdered by the legendary Wolf. Father Solomon (Oldman) arrives into town with his group of mercenaries to investigate, informing the village that the wolf is, in fact, a werewolf and someone among their set. It could be anyone, of course. It’s a classic mystery setup but a good one when executed well. Red Riding Hood is entertaining. Seyfried and Oldman are interesting characters. Ultimately though, there were two or three overwrought scenes of teen romance that bog the picture down and the Wolf’s appearance is a disappointment.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(760)

 

Kiss the Girls (1997, Directed by Gary Fleder) English 6

Starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Tony Goldwyn, Bill Nunn, Jay O. Sanders, Jeremy Piven, Brian Cox, Richard T. Jones, Tatyana Ali

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(6-Good Film)

Absorbing. Typical. Effective.

Mysteries go down pretty easy and don’t have to work very hard to be interesting. If a film lets you know that there’s a killer and you don’t know who it is, most people will want to find out. Kiss the Girls gives us a killer wearing a mask; the simplest means of setting up a whodunnit. The killer, Casanova (self-named), abducts beautiful, intelligent women for his collection, then sadistically has his way with them hidden away in his underground lair. One of the girls abducted, Naomi, is the niece of brilliant D.C detective Alex Cross, played by Morgan Freeman, who joins in on the manhunt after a promise made to his sister. Ashley Judd is another of Casanova’s intended victims, only she escapes and helps Cross catch the bad guy. Most films of this sort are pretty shallow and formulaic. Kiss the Girls does nothing to break that mold, but it is competently made and benefits from outstanding leads in Freeman and Judd.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(750)