Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - 2021 Edition

Tools    





Can I ask my friends here to give me a list of essential film noirs? It's a bit of research for my November episode.
__________________
Check out my podcast: The Movie Loot!



TOUCH OF EVIL
(1958, Welles)
A film that starts with the letters S or T



"I'm always thinking of her, drunk or sober. What else is there to think about, except my job, my dirty job?"

Set in the US-Mexican border, Touch of Evil follows the investigation of a car bombing that kills a wealthy businessman and his girlfriend. Even though he's on his honeymoon, "Mexican" agent Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) tries to assist in the investigation, which is led by Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), a veteran but shady officer that might have other motivations in mind.

Objectively speaking, this is a pretty good film. Welles does a great job both behind and in front of the camera. His Quinlan is certainly despicable, but still layered. There's so much thing that he does with his expressions and his stance that communicate so much. As for his direction, what can be said? From the impressive opening shot, you know you're in for a technical treat. He uses some techniques similar to the ones he used in Citizen Kane, low angle shots, pans and zooms, but he also manages to create a good deal of tension, especially regarding the fate of Vargas' wife, Susie (Janet Leigh).

However, one can't deny the context of some of the other decisions made for this. As good as Heston's performance is, his casting as a "dark-skinned Mexican" is... problematic, to say the least. Moreover when he ends up being the *only* "honorable" Latino character in the film, while the others are all thugs, criminals, or prostitutes. There are some things I can give a pass, chalk it up to just a sign of the times. But there are others, like the implications of a single throwaway line in the ending, which kinda neuters any goodwill the film could have.

So the movie feels much like the duality in Quinlan, being a seemingly competent and renowned police officer, haunted by a past that he just can't shake. The film has undeniable technical merits and an inherently thrilling nature, in addition to great performances... but unfortunately, it's haunted by decisions of the past that I just can't shake that easily.

Grade:
?



My ranking...
  1. Persona
  2. The Virgin Spring
  3. Shame
  4. Cries and Whispers
  5. Smiles of a Summer Night
  6. The Seventh Seal
Whoops, forgot to reply. Here's how I would rank his films:

1. Persona
2. Fanny and Alexander
3. Wild Strawberries
4. Hour of the Wolf
5. Shame
6. Cries and Whispers
7. Scenes From a Marriage
8. The Passion of Anna
9. Winter Light
10. The Virgin Spring
11. Through a Glass Darkly
12. Smiles of a Summer Night
13. The Seventh Seal
Wow, you guys aren't big fans of Seventh Seal either? I thought I was the only one...



In all seriousness though, I remember when I mentioned on another forum that I wasn't a fan of it, and some posters there basically just fell back on its critical reputation in response, which I think is pretty much the most uninteresting tactic possible in order to defend any movie (or to attack one, for that matter); no matter how old, popular, or "canonized" a movie is in general, it should never, ever be treated like some sort of museum piece, locked away behind a rhetorical glass case where it can't be touched, as if they'll instantly crumble upon any additional probing. I mean, classic movies are "just" movies too, and they succeed or fail the same ways that any other film does, and if anything, classics should be probed more to see if their reputations are truly deserved, not less.



Wow, you guys aren't big fans of Seventh Seal either? I thought I was the only one...



In all seriousness though, I remember when I mentioned on another forum that I wasn't a fan of it, and some posters there basically just fell back on its critical reputation in response, which I think is pretty much the most uninteresting tactic possible in order to defend any movie (or to attack one, for that matter); no matter how old, popular, or "canonized" a movie is in general, it should never, ever be treated like some sort of museum piece, locked away behind a rhetorical glass case where it can't be touched, as if they'll instantly crumble upon any additional probing. I mean, classic movies are "just" movies too, and they succeed or fail the same ways that any other film does, and if anything, classics should be probed more to see if their reputations are truly deserved, not less.
I should probably give it a rewatch. I know I've said that much here and in RT. It was my first Bergman, but maybe now that I'm more used to his style, it might fare better.



BLOOD RED SKY
(2021, Thorwarth)
A film about a virus



"We are cursed. We cannot allow this evil to keep spreading. This evil cannot keep spreading!"

Vampire films have been a constant presence since pretty much the birth of the medium, sometimes in wildly different forms; from Murnau's Nosferatu to Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight, with stuff like Let the Right One In or Lost Boys in between. Vampires have been shown as elegant or macabre, cultured or ground-dwelling, good or bad, or sometimes in between.

Netflix's Blood Red Sky offers a slightly different approach to vampire films. It follows Nadja (Peri Baumeister), a woman that is traveling with her son Elias (Carl Anton Koch) from Europe to New York, to receive treatment for an unspecified illness. However, during the trip, they have to face two opposing forces with a group of terrorists seizing control of the plane one one side, and the threat of a vampire on the other.

It's not that the film is wildly original, but compared to other vampire films, it feels like a bit of a fresh approach in various aspects. From the threat in an enclosed space to the "twist" of who ends up becoming a vampire. The film takes a tired premise and reinvigorates it in a film that ends up being fairly thrilling, tense, and overall enjoyable.

Most of the actors are not known, with the exception of Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), who plays the lead terrorist, and maybe Graham McTavish (The Hobbit trilogy) who plays a British officer who oversees the landing of the plane in the bookends of the film. Regardless, most of the performances are pretty solid, with the flashier role probably going to Alexander Scheer, who plays a sociopathic terrorist who becomes the main antagonist.

I think the film could've easily been 20 or 30 minutes shorter. As it is, you can feel a bit of strain in trying to stretch things. But despite that, I thought it was very energetic and entertaining, and I wouldn't mind recommending it to any fan of the genre. Let this "evil" spread.

Grade:



Can I ask my friends here to give me a list of essential film noirs? It's a bit of research for my November episode.
Outside of The Touch of Evil, mentioned above, my picks (based on personal preference) would be something like:

The Big Sleep (1946)
The Big Heat (1953)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Laura (1944)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Third Man (1949)
Lift to the Scaffold (1958)
Notorious (1946)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
The Stranger (1946)



Outside of The Touch of Evil, mentioned above, my picks (based on personal preference) would be something like:

The Big Sleep (1946)
The Big Heat (1953)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Laura (1944)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Third Man (1949)
Lift to the Scaffold (1958)
Notorious (1946)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
The Stranger (1946)
I've seen all of those, except The Big Heat and Lift to the Scaffold. The first one has been on my watchlist for a while, the second one I had never heard of... so thanks!

EDIT: It's Elevator to the Gallows Yeah, had heard of it and it's also been on my watchlist for years. I should get on that one as well.



I've seen all of those, except The Big Heat and Lift to the Scaffold. The first one has been on my watchlist for a while, the second one I had never heard of... so thanks!
Right, part 2 coming up then.



COHERENCE
(2013, Byrkit)
A thriller film



"This whole night we've been worrying... there's some dark version of us out there somewhere. What if we're the dark version?"

Life is a constant stream of decisions. What do I do now? where do I go? what should I wear? what do I eat? should I take this job? should I steal this? should I go down this path? Every decision, regardless of how small or big it might seem, leads to more decisions and more ponderings of "what if?" As we go further down our paths in life, we can't help but wonder from time to time, how my life would've changed if I had gone the other way? That is sort of the question that is in the back of this inventive indie thriller from James Ward Byrkit.

Coherence follows a group of friends meeting for a dinner party the night of the passing of a comet. As the night progresses, a series of weird and unexplainable events start to unfold that make them all question the decisions of their past, as well as the nature of themselves and who they are. But the events of the night might also put them or others in danger.

This film was recommended to me by a couple of people, so I was looking forward to it. I was happy to see it delivered as far as "mind****ery" goes. Director and co-writer Byrkit makes the most of his extremely low budget ($50K) by relying in a solid script, weird occurrences, and solid performances to build this dread about what's happening.

I'm trying to avoid too much details here cause it's definitely a film worth seeing without spoiling, and maybe even with as little knowledge as possible, but reading about the production and filming details, and how Byrkit and co-writer Alex Manugian would only give the actors some pointers about the characters and the beats of the story, while allowing them to improvise, and then see the end result, it's impressive.

There were maybe one or two performances that were a bit spotty, and I had some slight issues with some really grainy outside shots, but considering the budget, I can't fault them too much for that. I'm a sucker for a mind**** film, so whenever a film manages to sweep the rug from under my feet, I'm sold. This film might not have completely dropped me to my feet, but it certainly kept tugging at that carpet and kept me wondering most of the time. Definitely worth a watch.

Grade:



Can I ask my friends here to give me a list of essential film noirs? It's a bit of research for my November episode.
The Big Sleep is a must!

In addition to those already listed:

The Asphalt Jungle
The Killers
Dark Passage
Kiss Me Deadly
He Walked by Night
Crossfire
Pickup on South Street
The Hitch-Hiker
Ministry of Fear
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Beware My Lovely
Border Incident


I want to put in a special word for two of these. First, Pickup on South Street which is a genuinely great film and everyone should see it ASAP if they haven't yet.

Second, He Walked by Night is a little rough around the edges, but it has some genuinely suspenseful and scary parts. I also feel as though it has more respect for the non-white residents of the community than is typical in a film of this era. It really caught me off guard the first time I watched it.

I'll also throw out there that The Hitch-Hiker was directed by a woman, Ida Lupino (who also stars in Beware My Lovely!).



The Big Sleep is a must!

In addition to those already listed:

The Asphalt Jungle
The Killers
Dark Passage
Kiss Me Deadly
He Walked by Night
Crossfire
Pickup on South Street
The Hitch-Hiker
Ministry of Fear
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Beware My Lovely
Border Incident


I want to put in a special word for two of these. First, Pickup on South Street which is a genuinely great film and everyone should see it ASAP if they haven't yet.

Second, He Walked by Night is a little rough around the edges, but it has some genuinely suspenseful and scary parts. I also feel as though it has more respect for the non-white residents of the community than is typical in a film of this era. It really caught me off guard the first time I watched it.

I'll also throw out there that The Hitch-Hiker was directed by a woman, Ida Lupino (who also stars in Beware My Lovely!).
Out of those, I've seen The Big Sleep, The Killers, and The Hitch-Hiker. I'll try to get ahold of the others. Thanks!



One that hasn't been mentioned: Detour (1945). Very cheaply made (and it shows), but it's got that essential atmosphere of noir, and Ann Savage in particular is mesmerising. A must-see, frankly.



Lots I don't think I've ever seen in the three months or so since I last commented ( time flies) so I'll just restrict myself to those I'm sure I have.

Mulholland Drive is pretty darn good and the original High Noon rightly a classic. Not seen The Game since forever but I do remember it being a decent enough watch.

The Innocents doesn't quite wow me but is a nice looking film for sure and decent enough. 2001 is one of my favourite fillums. Sweeney Todd I really only watched for Helena Bonham-Carter if I'm honest, it was ok I guess.

I know I watched The Shawshank Redemption when it came out and quite enjoyed it but oddly I've never felt particularly drawn to revisit it. No idea why that is really. Dr Strangelove is delightfully absurd at times, though I do think some of the more recent people in charge of certain countries has meant that it also ought to be taken as a sobering warning too.

The Double Life Of Veronique is good but I much prefer his Rouge and Bleu from the Colours trilogy to it. Wind River was ok but nothing special - I gave it the same rating as you.

Wasn't crazy about Raw personally, still a 6/10 film for me though so it's not like I hated it. The Virgin Spring is probably my favourite Bergman thus far but sadly I'm yet to watch one of his and be blown away .... still plenty that I've not yet watched though and I'm yet to dislike one that I have. Coherence is rather highly regarded on these boards but can't say I thought much of it at all tbh. I remember giving my copy of it away and can't say I've felt any regrets since.

Phew, caught up
__________________
201620172018201920202021+
NomsPre-1930 Countdown


Fashionably late to every party since 1473!




One that hasn't been mentioned: Detour (1945). Very cheaply made (and it shows), but it's got that essential atmosphere of noir, and Ann Savage in particular is mesmerising. A must-see, frankly.
I agree. I love Detour and it's definitely going to come up when I get to that episode in November.



Lots I don't think I've ever seen in the three months or so since I last commented ( time flies) so I'll just restrict myself to those I'm sure I have.

Mulholland Drive is pretty darn good and the original High Noon rightly a classic. Not seen The Game since forever but I do remember it being a decent enough watch.

The Innocents doesn't quite wow me but is a nice looking film for sure and decent enough. 2001 is one of my favourite fillums. Sweeney Todd I really only watched for Helena Bonham-Carter if I'm honest, it was ok I guess.

I know I watched The Shawshank Redemption when it came out and quite enjoyed it but oddly I've never felt particularly drawn to revisit it. No idea why that is really. Dr Strangelove is delightfully absurd at times, though I do think some of the more recent people in charge of certain countries has meant that it also ought to be taken as a sobering warning too.

The Double Life Of Veronique is good but I much prefer his Rouge and Bleu from the Colours trilogy to it. Wind River was ok but nothing special - I gave it the same rating as you.

Wasn't crazy about Raw personally, still a 6/10 film for me though so it's not like I hated it. The Virgin Spring is probably my favourite Bergman thus far but sadly I'm yet to watch one of his and be blown away .... still plenty that I've not yet watched though and I'm yet to dislike one that I have. Coherence is rather highly regarded on these boards but can't say I thought much of it at all tbh. I remember giving my copy of it away and can't say I've felt any regrets since.

Phew, caught up
Thanks for the feedback. Re: Kieslowski, Veronique was my first "taste" of him, so I really need to get on the Colors trilogy, as well as others.



THE DESCENT
(2005, Marshall)
A film from the 2000s



"Sarah, the worst thing that can happen to you has already happened. It’s over, and you’re here. You didn’t give up. This is just a poxy little cave. You’ve got nothing left to be afraid of."

Trauma is a life-altering experience. Whether it's an accident, an assault, the loss of a home, or a loved one, it's hard or maybe even impossible to fully recover. A lot of people that have lived through it say that you just learn to live with it and carry on. That is more or less the situation that Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) finds herself at the start of this hit British horror film.

The Descent follows Sarah, who is trying to recover from a tragic and traumatic accident. To help her with that, her friends organize a spelunking expedition into a remote cave. Led by the adventurous Juno (Natalie Mendoza), the group of five women go deeper and deeper not knowing that what awaits them might be worse than anything they've faced outside; or is it?

I suppose that at this point, most people know the "twist" on the film, but if you wanna walk in blind, then read no more. For those that do, you know that the film's first half amps you up with the claustrophobia and fear of being stuck in a cave, but pushes things to 11 once it adds the threat of being eaten by hordes of cannibal humanoids. This is what puts these women in full "survivor" mode as they try to get out alive.

I saw this film in theaters with my wife back in the day, and I credit it with having one of the best jumpscares I've ever experienced from a film. But beyond the excellent scares and thrills of the film, which are many, the film's biggest strength is in putting excellent characters that we care for up front. Even though the film really doesn't spend much time with the characters before they go in the cave, the way Marshall builds them up paired with the performances is great.

From the claustrophobia of being stuck in a cave, to the rising tensions between the group, and finally, the fear of being literally eaten alive, the director and the cast handle all these fears in a way that feels organic and effective. The story does get a bit muddied as it gets into the last act, but it still makes a strong point on how trauma can be an oppressive and engulfing force.

I've always held this as being the best horror film of the 2000s, and probably one of the best of the new millennium. My wife loves it, and has seen it numerous times, and even she had to bail out this time after the scene where Sarah gets stuck in the tunnel. Me? I braved it all, but was fidgeting and squirming through that scene; and that was just a poxy little cave. There was still a lot to be afraid of in the second half.

Grade:



I'm torn between a
and a
this time. I think this film has stood the test of time marvelously, and the effect it still has on me, even after having seen it more than 5 or 6 times it's a testament to how well it is made.



I'm torn between a
and a
this time. I think this film has stood the test of time marvelously, and the effect it still has on me, even after having seen it more than 5 or 6 times it's a testament to how well it is made.
I've seen it a bunch as well. I'm a sucker for a film with a killer final shot/moment, so I've got it at 4-1/2 right now. (I don't even remember why I docked it half a star)

I assume the birthday cake ending is the standard now? I remember when I first saw it that was considered the "director's cut" or something. Evidently the theatrical release had a happier ending? Anyhow, birthday cake version gets 4-1/2 stars from me.
__________________
Captain's Log
My Collection



I've seen it a bunch as well. I'm a sucker for a film with a killer final shot/moment, so I've got it at 4-1/2 right now. (I don't even remember why I docked it half a star)

I assume the birthday cake ending is the standard now? I remember when I first saw it that was considered the "director's cut" or something. Evidently the theatrical release had a happier ending? Anyhow, birthday cake version gets 4-1/2 stars from me.
I've seen both endings. The ending used in the US was the one where...

WARNING: spoilers below

...Sarah escapes only to hallucinate that Juno is in the car.


That's the one I saw in theaters back in 2005. However, in the UK, they add the next scene, which you refer to as the "birthday cake" version. That one is also included in the DVD, and is the one I prefer, like you. However, this time I saw the "US ending" cause it's the one that's on Prime (I mean, I have the DVD, but I didn't want to pull it out )

Anyway, I wouldn't say one is "happier" than the other...

WARNING: spoilers below

...although, yeah, she allegedly escapes in the US one, but she's still unhinged by the events. But she does gets out...?