Watching Monk makes me feel less neurotic. I mean, who the heck can be more neurotic than this guy? I’m sure there are people out there but in my slightly-neurotic case, I’m sorry…detective Adrian Monk just makes me feel better about my little problems. Aside from that selfish reason, I like the show also because it’s funny and highly entertaining (at least to me). The cases are simple and often quite silly and far-fetched, but Monk’s character makes up for it by being one of the most complex and fascinating (some might call it annoying) characters on TV today. Monk is basically about a man who lost his wife in a tragic accident and he becomes so highly obsessive-compulsive that he can no longer be a police officer. So, he uses he super-detective powers to good use by consulting for the police. Like the Sherlock Holmes stories where Sherlock has his Watson, Monk has a sidekick in his assistant Natalie (Sharona was his assistant in the first two seasons). Sherlock also had a police inspector who was always calling him in for assistance, just like Monk’s Captain Stottlemeyer. All in all, Monk usually provides a solid hour of fun fair and escapism…and also makes you feel more secure about all of your minor foibles and quirks.

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For film noir-buffs, this is as close to the Father of the genre as you can get. For a genre that came into its own AFTER WWII, this 1941 film still fits the “noir” bill even though it was made before we even entered into the War. Like other noir titles made before the end of the War, specifically Otto Preminger’s 1944 classic Laura and Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (also from 1944), The Maltese Falcon did a good job of molding what the noir genre was to become in its heyday…the 1950s. The first appearance of Bogart as legendary Hammett private dick Sam Spade, this also is the first pairing of Bogart with director John Huston, with whom Bogie made five subsequent films. Mary Astor plays possibly the first ever true femme fatale on screen…she’s cold, seductive and very conniving. Plot wise…Spade gets entangled with Astor after his partner dies investigating something for her. Astor turns out to be much more than an innocent victim. What Astor needed Spade’s partner to investigate was bogus and the true crime involves a golden falcon…which those who want are willing to do ANYTHING to get. A true noir classic!

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A lesser-known Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film that, despite an un-Hollywood ending, is one of their best. The chemistry between the two has never been better. The film begins from the visual perspective of Bogart’s wronged-criminal character. The camera moves with Bogart’s eyes, so the audience only hears his voice and does not see his face for the first part of the film. Once we see Bogart, the film picks up its pace some, but throughout, this film is a strong thriller. Don’t look for everything to be resolved in the end – but aside from that, this one will keep you guessing.

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I think the main problem I have with The Birds is Tippi Hedren. I honestly don’t think she works in this movie. I think she evolves some and is better in her second Hitchcock film, Marnie, but here, she’s stiff and very unnatural. Hitchcock apparently saw her in a TV commercial and, in his quest to find a perfect replacement for his favorite leading lady, Grace Kelly, thought Tippi would fit the bill. Really, Mr. Hitchcock? Tippi couldn’t even polish Princess Grace’s shoes in The Birds. Oh well, what’s done is done. Tippi plays a spoiled San Francisco woman who meets an attractive man by happenstance and ends up following him to his mother’s home on the Northern coast of California. Shortly after she arrives, local birds begin to congregate and behave strangely. Eventually, this strange behavior turns into an all-out war, with all types of birds attacking the humans. For suspense, this one is top notch. But, between Tippi’s “off” performance and the dated look of some of the bird scenes (in 1963, the technology Hitchcock used was cutting edge), this one is not one of my favorites in Hitchcock’s long list of classics. But, I still love it.

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Vertigo is not an easy film to like. This might be why when it first was released in 1958, it was not one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most successful films. It also is not an easy film to forget and ignore. As years passed, critics began to see the genius in the film and began lauding it as one of Hitchcock’s most brilliant works. What makes it so controversial is that when James Stewart’s character becomes obsessed with a woman he is assigned to follow, he tries to recreate another woman to look like his obsessed love. It’s not exactly the best statement for women’s lib. But, I feel that Hitchcock knew that and he knew that audiences would be shocked and disturbed. An ordinary film comes and goes but one that gets under the skin can never be forgotten. This is not to say that, cinematically, this film is not deserving of all of its adulation. It most definitely is, but the bazaar-ness of the movie kept it alive in the minds of the audience, allowing them to give this classic a much-deserved second chance.

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