Raymond Chandler’s timeless character Marlowe has been immortalized in film by actors such as Humphrey Bogart (in The Big Sleep) and Dick Powell (in Murder, My Sweet). In this 1969 release based on Chandler’s 1949 novel The Little Sister, James Garner updates the 1940s depiction of Marlowe.
Hard up for cash (as usual), Marlowe takes on a missing person case which has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer interested and a tad confused. Garner’s spot on portrayal of Marlowe led to his role as Rockford in the long running TV series The Rockford Files.
Spotlight: Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone movies
Jesse Stone (Tom Selleck) is a former cop from L.A. who now serves as the police chief of Paradise Bay, Maine. Stone is a troubled soul with a broken marriage (and heart) who too frequently seeks refuge in a bottle of scotch. He brings his big city policing skills to the quaint Maine town which harbors its own dark secrets of murder. The series has suspense, incredible scenery, and a great cast of characters.
Based on characters in the books by Robert B. Parker.
Army of Shadows = L’Armee des Ombres (1969)
Produced in France in 1969, Director Jean-Pierre Melville’s film was not available in the U.S. until 2007. The “army of shadows” is a group of French Resistance fighters who must use their wits and courage to survive in the Vichy France as they spy on the Nazis and instigate acts of sabotage.
This is not your typical action-packed war drama; instead, Melville focuses on the fighters’ states of mind. In doing so, he captures the moral difficulties the Resistance encountered as they fight a brutal enemy and protect themselves and comrades whose arrests or mistakes placed them in danger.
In French with English subtitles.
For more on the film, visit the Criterion Collection website, plus Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert.
Fair Game (2010) PG-13
Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Fair Game relates the true story of CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts). When Plame’s husband ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) publishes a New York Times opinion piece disputing the Bush administration’s claim that Niger sold yellowcake uranium to Iraq, the White House retaliates and leaks Plame’s name to the press. The leak endangers Plame and her international contacts. A disturbing fact-based political thriller.
Check out the Plame’s memoir of the same name. Also, read an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for Plame’s reaction to the film.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
What’s not to like about this Hitchcock film? John Robie (Cary Grant) is a reformed jewel thief living in seclusion on the French Riviera. A rash of robberies along the Rivera’s upscale resorts has all fingers pointing to Robie, aka “the cat.”
To prove his innocence, Robie decides to uncover the thief. As part of his plan he becomes involved with a wealthy widow and Francie (Grace Kelly), her beautiful daughter. Suspense, scenes of the French Riviera, Grace Kelly in Edith Head designer outfits, and the debonair Cary Grant make this a classic movie.
Visit AMC’s filmsite.org for more about the movie.
The Lives of Others = Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
A gripping portrayal of East Berlin, The Lives of Others reveals what happens to a society when its citizens are under constant surveillance. Hauptmann, a playwright, has escaped the pervasive spying that’s afflicted most of his friends. This changes when his girlfriend (a famous actress) draws the attention of a party big shot. Hauptmann can no longer remain detached from the events unfolding around him. The agent assigned to conduct the surveillance also finds himself questioning his loyalty to the state.
The film won the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, plus many other awards. Check out reviews from Roger Ebert and The New York Times for more information.
In German with English subtitles.
Rear Window (1954) PG
A classic Oscar winning Alfred Hitchcock film which pairs James Stewart and Grace Kelly. A broken leg has newspaper photographer L.B. Jeffries stuck in a chair in his apartment during the heat of a New York summer. Out of sheer boredom, he finds himself watching the comings and goings of his fellow apartment dwellers. His interest in the neighbors disturbs his nurse (Thelma Ritter) and his socialite girlfriend Lisa who think he is spying a bit too much on the private lives of his neighbors. When Jeffries sees what he suspects is a murder, the film’s creepiness and suspense ratchet up.
Hitchcock gives viewers a sense of the disconnection of urban living along with some nail biting scenes. And the lovely Grace Kelly as Lisa parades a bevy of Edith Head dresses that make the film worth the price of admission.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
The film recounts the dramatic story of two brothers and their comrades who join the Irish freedom fighters struggle to win Ireland’s independence from Great Britain in the early 20th century. The British treaty with the Irish is a short-lived victory as the freedom fighters’ disagreement over the terms of the treaty splits the new found country into civil war. Nominated for several British Independent Film Awards, the film provides an understanding view of what drove some Irish to continue the fight as members of the IRA.
Eat Pray Love (2010) PG-13
Julia Roberts stars in the movie based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say how true the film is to the book. I can tell you that the scenes of Italy, India, and Bali make the film fun to watch.
After a divorce and another failed relationship, Gilbert walks away from her life to explore the sensual pleasures of Italian food. Her next stop is an ashram in India where she develops her spirituality. She ends her travels in Bali to reconnect with a healer she had met in New York.
Gilbert’s real life journey comes with a Hollywood ending. Lots of good messages along with a happy ending.
The Young Victoria (2009) PG
An Oscar winning biography of the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign and her courtship with her German cousin Albert (Rupert Friend). Under the influence of self seeking Melbourne (Paul Bettany), the young Victoria (Emily Blunt) makes some serious missteps that lead to a constitutional crisis. Albert’s guidance and love provide the direction Victoria needs to become one of Great Britain’s most influential monarchs. The costume and setting are worth the price of admission.
Check out this interview with Emily Blunt.