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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Surprisingly, I didn’t see this one until I was in my 20s. I used to think Bogart was a rough, unappealing creature…that is until I saw 1954’s Sabrina and began to see him as a softer, more compassionate soul. He possesses a knack for charming women off their feet, while being just a bit brash about it. He’s still rough and tough when he needs to be, but he knows when to bring out to tough guy and when to bring out his softer side. In Sabrina, I got a sneak peak at this behavior. In Casablanca, Bogart had it perfected…his character Rick Blaine is the romantic leading man to end all romantic leading men—not because he’s OVERLY sensitive but because he’s JUST sensitive enough. Now for the story…basically it’s about a nightclub owner in Morocco during WWII (Bogart) who reunites with an old flame (Ingrid Bergman, looking her best) that he fell in love with in Paris during the German occupation of France. Complications are plentiful, such as that the “old flame” is married…to a member of the French Underground, no less, which makes him trouble to the Nazis in Casablanca. But…really the details of the plot are pretty irreverent. Why? Well, how come even though the story is rich and filled with subplots and interesting characters, people only remember the relationship between Bergman and Bogart? And even though this film is a WWII intrigue thriller, why is it mostly know for being strictly a timeless “love story?” Rent this one and see if you can put answers to these questions…

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Of the four films Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made, Bringing Up Baby is the most fun. It’s the wildest and craziest movie made by the pair and even one of the screwier of the screwball comedies ever made. Hepburn plays a flaky—I mean REALLY flaky—socialite who scientist Grant gets involved with after a series of unfortunate mishaps. All Grant really wants to do is get money for his museum from Hepburn’s aunt (he doesn’t know it’s her aunt in the beginning). And, after falling for him early on, Hepburn does everything she can to make sure he doesn’t leave her. Even though Grant and Hepburn and just delightful here, much of the snappiness of this film should be attributed to director Howard Hawks, who sharpens his talent for screwballs here (which will help him out considerably in 1940’s His Girl Friday). Previously more know for serious dramas, Bringing Up Baby is only Hawks’ second comedy. If you in the mood for a mild comedy, look elsewhere, because this one is super-zany and very raucous.

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This film, kind of a horror-thriller, still makes me jump and wriggle in my seat, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Even though I know the outcome, it still works as an effective thriller that holds suspense throughout and features something many non-Hitchcock thrillers lack…a good plot filled with solid characters. The story is pretty simple…a released convict hunts down the witness whose testimony helped put him in jail. But, instead of killing or attacking the witness right away…once he finds him, this criminal chooses a slow torture process. He starts with stalking and then moves slowly on to more vicious and heinous things, making sure he never implicates himself at any time. Robert Mitchum plays the criminal, Max Cady, and this is a role he was born to play. I always have felt that Mitchum is a highly underrated actor and his subtly evil performance here seals, in my mind, that Mitchum never got his deserved due. Gregory Peck as the witness with the family he so desperately is trying to protect is not necessarily less impressive but this is a role Peck has played on a number of occasions…the trouble family man. He still is at the top of his game here, especially towards the end when Mitchum increases the stakes. But, this is all Mitchum’s movie…as the quintessential and un-stereotypical bad guy.

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A warm, lighthearted film set during the holiday season that involves a married couple and an angel who comes between them. Disillusioned bishop David Niven finds out that funding his church is more demanding a task than he originally thought. His troubles at work begin to consume him, causing strife in his marriage to Loretta Young. Enter Cary Grant as the angelic savior (and the most debonair angel in Heaven) who assists Niven with his work woes. At the same time, though, Grant befriends Young, who becomes quite smitten with the angel. Niven and Young shine as a confused married couple, especially Niven’s early reactions to the presence of an angel in his life. Grant perfectly downplays his role, never showing any obvious attraction for Young, but also never directly putting off her affections. Although not one of the more popular holiday films, this classic is very timely for the season just the same.

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The fun never stops in this battle of the sexes. One of the more famous pairings of legendary screen (and off-screen) duo Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, this one is almost perfect. Written by writing team Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, not much here is out of place or overlooked. The comic timing of all of the actors is spot on and Hepburn and Tracy have fabulous chemistry (I mean, why wouldn’t they?). The supporting role of the wronged wife played by the ever-clever Judy Holliday only adds to the spark of this romantic comedy. Playing a husband and wife, Tracy is a prosecutor and Hepburn is a defense attorney. Low and behold, don’t they find themselves on opposing sides of the same case. Go figure! The case involves a scorned, emotionally abused wife who follows her husband and shoots him (non-fatally) while he’s in the arms of another woman. What a perfect case for not only a great battle between a husband and his empowered wife, but for much comic banter about the roles men and women play in society. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!

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I saw this film for the first time after I watched the 1987 Kevin Costner film No Way Out, which is based on this 1948 Ray Milland movie. Both are good cat-and-mouse thrillers, different enough to be unique movies, but similar in all of the major plot points. The main difference between the two films is that The Big Clock is much less complicated and more focused on the main storyline, making it a tight, fast-paced thriller. Milland plays a magazine editor who somehow finds himself investigating a murder in which he played a major part. He also knows who the real murderer is but cannot reveal this salient piece of information without revealing his part in the crime. If you’re confused by all of that, then don’t see No Way Out which makes this premise even more muddled and twisted by adding a political twist to the story. The Big Clock might always be known as the movie No Way Out is based on, but it stands alone as a solid, thoroughly entertaining mystery.

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The ladies are all back…with their beaus…and they’ve all hit NYC by storm once again. I was never THAT into the show – I had seen an episode here, a clip there – so I was worried if that would effect how I liked the movie. Well, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) does a nice recap in the beginning of the film that pretty much makes sure fans and novices alike are relatively on the same page. And after that, WATCH OUT! It’s a wild ride of emotions, fashion, music, posing, clubbing, love and hate. The major critical complaint about this one has been that it’s too long. But, I would disagree with that, saying that the time passes quickly and there really are never any lulls. Another criticism I’ve heard is that it’s shallow. HELLO! The TV series was shallow! So, did we really expect the movie to become this deep, philosophical study? We would not go see something like that, but we would see this…something fun and light. This is not a heavy movie. It’s a good movie for girlfriends to see together and compare notes about after. It’s not going to come up on Oscar night (except maybe for costumes!). It’s fun. Just like the show was. We really wouldn’t have wanted them to change anything, did we?

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Sometimes a movie comes and changes your world. I would like to say that this movie made me a better person, but I think that would be a fantasy. It did, though, move me. It reaffirmed my faith in movies and moviemaking and acting. No action here. No sex. No blockbuster styling or CGI. Just a touching story that is perfectly acted, simply directed, and one of the best movies I have seen all year…if not even longer than that. The main character here is Walter, a stuck-in-a-rut Connecticut college professor and widower who craves some “music” (meant both figuratively and literally) in his life. We see him in the beginning taking piano lessons. He’s not that good…but we can tell he wants to keep trying. He is a complacent person who we can tell is looking for something. But, what? He is so complacent he even balks at going to NYC to deliver a paper he co-authored (though he had little to do with it, apparently). In NYC, he finds a couple living in his apartment. This couple is Walter’s salvation. They are the “music” he has been looking for. I’m making it sound like Walter’s change is overnight. It is not. He’s a middle-aged man who is set in his ways and it takes time and energy to get him out of his rut. Though Walter’s transformation is a positive change, this movie does not paint everything in a rose-colored light. This is a tough world…dirty and stark. Walter’s awakening is just one ray of sunshine. But, what a ray it is! If there is a movie to change your world, this one just might be it.

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I didn’t like Leatherheads much the first time I saw it. It’s a sweet film, but it’s uneven. Is it a sports film? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a screwball comedy? Is it a period piece? Well, it is all three…plus more. Seeing it the first time, I didn’t like that about it. Seeing it a second time, I began to realize that no matter what type of movie it is, it’s a good film in all of its many genres. Clooney plays “Dodge,” an aging pro football player before pro football became what we know it today. Back in the 1920s, it was college football that was the King and pro was college’s illegitimate big brother. Pro games would be successful if they got a hundred or so people to show. College games would pack the stadiums. Unlike today, if you are a college football star, a future in professional football was not a good career move. Dodge took that path. And slowly watches as the other pro teams around him fall to bankruptcy. He sees a college football star, who also happens to be a war hero, as professional football’s last resort…a player who will come in and bring crowds with him. It works, but then it backfires, but then it works. Enter a reporter who is trying to take down said war hero and you have an interesting mix of characters and genres. It’s not the best movie of the year but it’s fun.

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