Not being one of Roman Polanski’s biggest fans, I was initially apprehensive about this one. But, I like Harrison Ford and Betty Buckley so I gave it a try. It is a sharp, exciting thriller that really utilizes the feel and atmosphere of Paris. Many thrillers fall short of using location to heighten or complicate the suspense. Polanski really captures the essence of Paris here…from the elegant, tourist side to the dark, seedy underbelly. The plot keeps pretty simple…an American doctor, in Paris for a convention, is convinced his wife has been kidnapped. Yes, it is a little more convoluted than that, but that’s the gist of it. From there, Polanski weaves a thrilling tale of intrigue that will keep you riveted until the finale.

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This is the one James Bond movie that I enjoy mostly because it seems so dated. Earlier Roger Moore Bond films (Live and Let Die, The Spy who Loved Me and The Man with the Golden Gun (I’m not even talking about the REALLY DATED and just plain BAD Moonraker)) somehow were mostly able to avoid being bogged down with era-specific music and technology (remember – I’m NOT talking about Moonraker). But, For Your Eyes Only has great electronic music that is reminiscent of the Disco era at its best! Also, some of the gadgets and technology in this one are a little dated as well…such as the Identograph that Bond and Q use to help identify a bad guy who tried to kill Bond. The story is pretty solid…with your basic “Bond saving the world” plot. This time, 007 is trying to retrieve an encryption machine from men who want to use it against the British. I feel that this film is enhanced by Topol, who plays one of the most interesting Bond characters yet. If you’re in the mood for some good early-1980s fun, For Your Eyes Only is one you have to check out!

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This is the one that started it all…we are introduced to John McClane, from the NYPD, for the first time. We like him, though we see he has an edge. And he’s troubled about his estranged relationship with his wife, who accepted a lucrative job in Los Angeles months ago and ended up moving up the corporate ladder quicker than expected. Even without seeing any back story, we know instantly that John is not an “L.A” kind of a guy. So, take this worried, disgruntled man and put him in a skyscraper where he is the only one who is not taken hostage when a gang of slick international terrorists come to rob the joint…to say that his adrenaline kicks in is a vast understatement. All John can think about his that his wife is in danger and he needs to save her. And that means he will go to any lengths, which he does with gusto, humor and incredible vigor. This film became the late 1980-1990s icon of the action film. Films, for years after this one, used the “man trapped someplace alone with baddies” formula. But, none of those imitators came close to the rush of the one and only (and the original) Die Hard.

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For his final outing as the ever-clever MI-6 spy James Bond, Pierce Brosnan has a so-so script to work with but he does a great job, as usual, of keeping the lack-luster story alive. He is joined, this time, by a showy Halle Berry (who adds very little to the film) and some other less-than-exciting characters (with the exception of Rosamund Pike who plays a great friend then foe to Bond). So, even with the daunting challenge of keeping the movie entertaining despite obstacles, Brosnan comes through with a bang! He is really charged here as Bond, finally finding his 007 footing…he’s tough and charming and cynical, yet confident. It’s a shame that this was his last 007 film (though new Bond Daniel Craig is also good spy material, which he proves in 2006’s Casino Royale) but for four films, Brosnan brought life back into a fledgling series…just as he brings life to this fledgling movie.

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Don’t call it “Hitchcockian” but this film is a good, nail-biting thriller. Yes, it’s flawed (which is the main reason it shouldn’t be called “Hitchcockian”) but over-all, I was entertained by this one…mostly because of Clive Owen’s brooding intensity, which he has done in films before but that he perfects here. Owen plays a suburban upper-middle-class husband and father who, by chance, meets a seductive woman on the train one morning. After that first encounter, Owen is tempted enough to seek her out again. And, that leads to more and more, etc. Where this film takes off is once the affair is over…then the action begins. Not the best thriller ever made, but something good to hold your interest on a Saturday night…

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The Day of the Jackal was a surprise to me. I have tried other 1960s/1970s-era spy films and had not liked them…The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, The Odessa File, etc. When this Fred Zimmemann film came on cable one night, I begrudgingly thought I would give it a go, but expected I’d be turning it off quickly. I didn’t. I was totally engrossed in the story and captivated by the inner workings of the main characters. The story begins in the 1960s with a failed assassination attempt on Charles de Gaulle and leads us into a web of intrigue about a secret French organization that is determined to succeed in killing then President de Gaulle. This film plays like a documentary, which makes it slower-paced and more intense. Mostly filled with unknown actors (or at least actors who are not known to me) with the exception of Derek Jacobi…playing a Frenchman, no less…The Day of the Jackal demands all of your attention. If you take your eyes away from the screen for a second, an important detail might be missed. I’ve watched this one several times since I first saw it and each viewing, I catch something new…something that makes me like the film even more. From start to finish, this one captivates…it is truly one of the best, most taut spy thrillers ever made.

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This film is unlike most of the thrillers I have seen…and I have seen a lot of them. It is smart and clever and unexpected. A little bit of horror mixes with some science, some drama and a lot of strange characters to achieve an edge-of-your-seat film. I guess I should take time here to tell you that some of the plot (especially toward the ending) is a little confused…OK, a lot confused. It involves science and genetics and anything to do with science is pretty much Greek to me (or any other language). At first, I thought I was alone in my confusion but I watched some of the special features on the DVD and the cast and crew were talking about how they didn’t even understand it completely. It’s kind of like the Macguffin in Hitchcock’s films…it doesn’t matter WHAT the thing is, it just matters how exciting it is to find it. What kept me most intrigued with the story were the characters and the quick pacing of the action. It is hard to take a breath during this one…things just keep happening. Sometimes, you don’t know why or how they are happening, but by the time you figure it out, something else is happening. Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel play excellently off each other…Reno is brooding and Cassel is inexperienced and impetuous. The way Cassel involves himself with Reno’s case is clever and not the usual “action” movie cliché of “pairing up” the old master with the young guy that has a lot to learn. If you like action thrillers, this is one you will not want to miss!

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Charade is one fun movie. It’s not the best story in the world and sometimes it seems a little trite. But, when Hepburn and Grant appear on-screen together right at the beginning, the chemistry those two actors exude reels you in and just will not let go. This is the only time they appeared together in a film and they seemed to make the most of it. Grant is never more debonair. Hepburn is never more charming. The screen just lights up when they are together. The plot isn’t that bad — it does have a good trick ending and enough twist and turns on the way to make even the most avid film fanatic woozy. Would this film be the classic it is without Grant and Hepburn? No, but it would still be a decent thriller, especially with director Stanley Donen at the helm. With the two stars, though, it becomes something more than just an ordinary movie. It becomes magic.

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OK – I’m a James Bond fan. So, right off the bat I’ll say I was leery. Leery of a blonde Bond. Leery about a relatively unknown actor jumping into the timeless role. Leery of an actor who might be a little too “hard” looking to play the über spy. But, enough of my fears…since this film and Daniel Craig’s performance put them all to rest, I will no longer focus on my apprehensions. What I will focus on is that this is a strong film in a series that has been through some hard times in the past…especially concerning actor changes. I will also focus on the fact that Craig makes a strong, determined Bond…different than all the others but made for the 21st Century. Could Connery be Bond today? Probably not. He would slap the wrong woman’s bottom and she’d sue him. Would Roger Moore? Well, no, because his series of quips would also land him in court for one thing or another. Pierce Brosnan was the perfect end-of-the-20th-Century Bond…debonair, striking, yet with a soft side. In Casino Royale, the 21st installment of the official Bond films (not counting 1983’s Never Say Never Again and 1967’s Bond spoof also based and titled on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale), Craig holds onto Bond’s soft side right up to the very end. His Bond is raw and harsh and more “action” and less “sophistication” than his predecessors. The plot is pretty simple, which is another departure from most of the recent Bond films that get mulled down with convoluted stories. Here, Bond needs to win a high-stakes poker game so a terrorist does not win money to finance his crimes. This film also goes back to the beginning of 007’s career…right after he has been granted his license to kill by Her Majesty’s Secret Service (this makes sense since this is the novel Fleming used to introduce the world to Bond). And, granted, the film could use a little editing (it is close to 2 ½ hours long) especially around the card game. But, what the film doesn’t need is another Bond search. The right actor has been found! And we can only hope that he sticks around for a while.

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If you can get past the annoying whistling (of the soldiers whistling a certain march, which is the movie’s theme music), this David Lean epic is one of film’s true masterpieces. William Holden stars as the tough, bitter Shears, who has been imprisoned in a POW camp for months when British colonel Alec Guinness and his troops are captured and sent to the camp. For me, this movie is one of the few large-scale epics I ever liked, mostly because it’s not too corny and sentimental. Don’t get me wrong…I like sentiment as much as the next gal but I prefer it in a romantic comedy or a melodrama. Corny romance and dialogue always seemed out of place, to me, in an epic. The one question I have, though, with the film is the ending. Not the finale—which ends with the train scene of all train scenes—but, rather just the second half of the film. After Holden’s character escapes from the camp, he finds himself enjoying his freedom. When he is propositioned by superiors to take them back to the camp so they can bomb a bridge the Japanese are building (with the help of Guinness’ soldiers), he reluctantly agrees. Reluctantly or not, I would never have agreed. We are told (through previous dialogue and through a montage of shots during the escape) that escaping the camp was an arduous ordeal and we already know that life inside the camp was hell. Nothing or no one would make me go back to hell once I got out, so I never really do get why Holden agrees. But, alas, if he didn’t there would not be a movie. And what a great movie it is! And that’s not just my opinion—ask the Academy. Winner of seven Oscars, including ones for Guinness and Lean.

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