Category Archives: Mystery
Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.
— Leonard Shelby
It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.
I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.
As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.
Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.
He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.
Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.
The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.
But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.
Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.
No one tells a lie after he’s said he’s going to tell one.
I do not know that many Kurosawa’s movies. I have only seen Seven Samurai and have reviewed as part of the LAMB in the Director’s Chair spotlight a while ago. I wanted to see more of Kurosawa’s film because I enjoyed Seven Samurai very much. I wanted the #8o Film of All Time on IMDb, Rashomon. It was nominated for Best Art Direction, but it won an Honorary Award for Foreign Language Film, not the competitive Oscar. It was expected to be blown away, but I felt cheated.
The story takes place in the ruined temple of Rashômon where is a torrential rainstorm. A Commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) seeks refuse from the rain. He sees the Priest (Minoru Chiaki) and the Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) look visibly distraught. The Commoner asks the men what is disturbing them. The Woodcutter tells him about a terrible that happened in the middle of woods on top of the mountain.
He recounts finding a woman’s hat in a tree branch, then a samurai’s cap, a piece of rope and finally the samurai’s body. He goes to the police. The Woodcutter tells his account to the trial of the bandit, Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune).
Tajômaru tells his tale when the Policeman (Daisuke Katô) arrested in the woods after the murder. Tajômaru tells why he did what he did, because he wanted to capture the wife, Masako (Machiko Kyô) of her husband, Takehiro Kanazawa (Masayuki Mori), but not kill him. Tajômaru ties up husband to a nearby tree. Masako tries to stab Tajômaru with her pearl inlay. He forces himself upon her. Afterwards, Masako says that he dies or her husband.
The Woodcutter thinks that the story is a lie. The movie gives three other versions of the story. One of them is true, but which one.
The movie’s plot was not what I was expecting. Granted, I went into this completely blind. The premise seemed silly to me. I have to watch an hour and half of people counted stories from different perspectives. That’s it. I felt cheated. I thought it was going to be an epic movie, but it was very quiet and subdued. I didn’t care for it. I started and stopped it at least three times, because I was not invested in the story.
Judgment: The theme is interesting, but the rest is not.
I’m buried in a box. I’m buried in a box!
— Paul Conroy
Buried was one of my most anticipated movies of 2010. I never got the chance to see in theaters, because it was so hard to find it. When I saw it on the shelf, I had to picked it up. I thought the concept of one man onscreen for a 90 minutes movie sounded interesting to me especially if its Ryan Reynolds. The movie is enjoyable but it’s not 127 Hours.
Iraq, 2006. A CRT contractor, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up in complete blackness. Paul realizes that he is bound and gagged. He manage to get himself free. He pulls out a Zippo lighter to shed light on that he is in a wooden crate. He tries to break the crate open, but he realizes that it is buried underground in the middle of the desert.
Paul hears a cell phone vibrating near him. He picks it up, but the script is in Arabic. He misses the call. He dials 911 and tries to explain to the operator (Kali Rocha) about what happened to him. He was taking kitchen supplies to a community in Baqubah when his convoy was ambushed by insurgents. The rest of the contractors were killed and he is the lone survivor. The operator cannot help, because 911 is US service. No use for the Middle East.
Paul frantically calls his family, but they don’t pick up. Then, he tries his wife, Linda’s (Samantha Mathis) cell. Straight to voicemail. He gets the number to the FBI from 411 and explains his dire situation, but he is constantly being transferred to different people. He finally gets in touch with Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson) that works with the program to help people in Paul’s situation.
There is the problem of him being in the box. Paul calls the missed call and it is from his captor, Jabir (José Luis García Pérez) who thinks that Paul is a soldier. Paul thinks that Jabir is a terrorists. They both have misconceptions of each other. His captor wants to see him suffer and holds another fellow CRT member, Pamela Lutti (Ivana Miño) captive. He has two hours to get 5 million dollars or he will be buried alive. With only a cell phone with half of battery power left, a Zippo, a pencil, a faulty flashlight and a pair of glow sticks, he doesn’t have that much time left.
I thought that it was an interesting concept of all the action happening in a confined space like a makeshift coffin. I felt there was something not right about the way the action went. How could Paul be buried underneath the ground and constantly breathing hard, screaming, yelling? The oxygen would have run out fast by halfway through the movie. There was a moment in the movie where I said, “What the fuck?” The movie lost me for a bit.
Judgment: It was a nice experiment that needs a few tweaks.
Just relax, darlin’. This is the Big Easy. Folks have a certain way o’ doin’ things down here.
— Remy McSwain
The Big Easy is probably one of my favorite Dennis Quaid movies. It’s not because the movie is great, but this is the sexiest role that he has ever been in. There is something alluring about this gorgeous man having that New Orléans accent that hypnotizes you. Quaid is from my hometown of Houston, Texas so I wanna keep up with my fellow Houstonian.
The Big Easy refers to New Orléans, Louisiana and Det. Remy McSwain (Quaid) is being plucked from his bed, snuggling with a stuffed crocodile to be the first to response to a murder. A man is found facedown in a fountain. McSwain’s boss, Captain Jack Kellom (Ned Beatty) tells him that it might the start of a gang war between the mob guys. They call them wiseguys.
Assistant District attorney Anne Osbourne (Ellen Barkin) is assigned to the case, but she is also looking into the deep corruption in the police force. There are accusations of bribery, tapering with evidence, extortion and murder. Remy uses his charms to woo the bloodhounds from off their backs. He says that it’s the New Orléans way of doing things. Sometimes you have to bend the law to get the job done.
Anne tries not to fall for his charms, but he slowly lowers her defenses until she is ready to pounce. He pounces hard. She is reluctant to get involved with him, but the passion outweighs any code of ethics. Everything is fine, but Remy gets caught in a hairy situation that he might not get out of.
The movie is eye candy first. There is nothing deep and meaningful about this movie for me. There is a mystery element that was brushed to the side until the end of the movie. It felt like an afterthought. There were some points in the movie that I wanted to slap Anne to say that he is not good for you, girl. You gotta admit that he is sexy as hell.
Judgment: You get the chance to watch Dennis Quaid stripped down. Nuff said.
The Third Man is one the those classic movies that is on people’s top ten lists. This movie comes in as the #65 Film of All-Time on IMDb. I wanted to see this movie, because it was taunted as one of the greatest mysteries ever. The movie won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and it was well deserved. I cannot get the feeling that I was disappointed with this movie.
The setting takes place in post war Vienna where the city is divided into four sections; French, British, Russian and American. An American comes into the city, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) with the promise of a writing job from his friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). It turns out that Harry recently died from a car accident and he was being buried the day that he arrives.
Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) questions Martins about his relationship with the departed Lime. He clues him in over a couple of drinks that Lime was being investigated for racketeering. He allegedly dabbled in selling black market penicillin to hospitals and having the recipients of the medicine die as a result.
Martins hears that Lime was killed in an accident. An acquaintance of Lime’s, Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White) tells a completely different story that what has been told. He said that Lime was murdered instead. Martins’ Porter (Paul Hörbiger) said that Lime was alive when three men carried his body away from the scene. It was Dr. Winkel (Erich Pronto) and a Romanian, Popescu (Siegfried Breuer) with a mysterious third man.
Martins meets up with the girl that he saw at the funeral, Lime’s main squeeze, Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). She is an actress with a play in a local theater. During their time together, Anna warns Martins not to get in too deep with the investigation that he wants to launch into the mysterious circumstances of his friend’s death. He feels that the investigators are not handling the case the way that they should.
Major Calloway and Sargent Paine (Bernard Lee) are thinking that Anna may have something to do with Harry’s death. When one of the people who Martins talked to ends up dead, he becomes public enemy number one.
I heard a couple of a things about the movies. I guess I might have misinterpreted them. The movie started out like a comedy of errors with Holly Martins being a sloppy drunk mess, then it’s supposed to be intriguing with the swirling mystery. I was a bit bored with the movie. I was thinking, “Okay. When is the part that something is supposed to blow me away?” And then it came with Orson Welles as Lime. He was very charismatic as the arrogant bastard of the story. He saved the movie for me.
Judgment: The mystery thriller was bogged down with too much for my taste.
Sebastian said, “Truth is the bottom of a bottomless well.”
— Mrs. Venable
After the untimely passing of Elizabeth Taylor, I’m glad that her filmography will be center stage on the upcoming LAMB Acting School 101. I was surprised at myself that I have never reviewed one of Ms. Taylor’s before now. That changed with the big screen adaptation of Tennessee William’s play, Suddenly, Last Summer. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Actress nominations for Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie at times was make making it hard to sit still.
The story takes place in 1937 where a young neurosurgeon, Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montogemry Clift) is performing brain surgery on a deranged woman at the Lions Views State Asylum. He is performing an experimental procedure called a lobotomy. He is disappointed with the lack of proper equipment at the place that he threatens to quit.
Dr. Lawrence Hockstader (Albert Dekker) gives John a letter from a would-be patron, Mrs. Violet Venable (Hepburn) who wants him to perform the experimental surgery on her niece, Catherine Holly (Taylor) who is locked away at another asylum, St. Mary’s. They agree to meet at the Venable house to discuss matters. John is caught off guard with the overgrown jungle in the backyard of the estate.
Mrs. Venable talks endlessly about her son, Sebastian that died a year earlier. Apparently, Catherine was there that faithful day when Sebastian died. The incident has driven her to madness. It was described as dementia praecox to her. Catherine is having strange hallucinations about the incident, and she is taking out her frustrations on the staff there. They want Catherine to leave soon. Mrs. Venable thinks that the procedure would cure her of her ramblings.
John goes to St. Mary’s to see if Catherine’s condition in genuine or not. As he hides in a dark corner of the room, he watches Catherine burn a nun’s hand with her lit cigarette. when John tries to questions Catherine about the death of Sebastian, she cannot remember anything. He decides to transfer her to Lion’s View where he could keep a close eye on her and try to chip away at the mind block that she had about the incident.
As John is getting closer to the truth of Sebastian’s death, the more skeletons flying out of the closet.
The movie overall was entertaining to watch, but the grandoise speeches were a bit much for me to take. Mrs. Venable going on infinitum about Sebastian was tiring to watch. I thought Hepburn and Taylor deserved their nominations. I thought that Hepburn was probably placed in the wrong category. It seemed like a supporting role to me.
The final revelation at the end saved this movie for me.
Judgment: This lesser known Williams’ movie should be seen.
Forty thousand years of human language, and there’s no word to describe our relationship. It was doomed.
— The Ghost
I was interested in seeing Roman Polanki’s, “The Ghost Writer“. I wasn’t because of his arrest in Switzerland when the movie was in post-production. The movie came out in the film wasteland of the first three months of the year from the previous Oscar season the upcoming summer movie season. It was stuck in the middle with Shutter Island. I think that it was shafted in my opinion.
Based on the book “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, it deals with the death of a previous ghost writer that was supposed to penned former British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. Another ghost writer is summoned (Ewan McGregor) to finish what the previous ghost writer started.
This Ghost doesn’t know anything about politics, but the people interviewing him for the position: his friend, Rick Ricardelli (Jon Bernthal), Roy (Tim Peerce), Sidney Kroll (Timothy Hutton) and Jon Maddox (Jim Belushi) think that he would give the perfect outsider looking in perspective the manuscript needs to be a bestseller. He is hired for a month-long assignment that will get him $250,000.
The Ghost learns that Lang has a dirty past of transporting terror suspects to a secret location and torture them. He wonders if he is getting in too deep right out of the gate. He goes against his gut to travel from London to New England where Lang’s vacation house is located.
Arriving The Ghost meets Lang’s loyal secretary, Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall) who shows him around the compound. She has him sign a confidentiality agreement before seeing the manuscript which is not allowed to be removed from the premises.
Meeting Lang and his long-suffering wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), The Ghost wants to know why the previous ghost writer under such mysterious circumstances. The more he gets into the mystery, the more he realizes that it’s not just another writing assignment to him.
I have seen a number of political thrillers and yes, the movie have the clichéd reveals and twists, but there were some parts of the mystery that had me in bated breath. It was intriguing watching everything unfold the way that it did. I thought the unsung hero of the his movie is Olivia Williams. She should have gotten more attention for her nuanced performance as Lang’s wife.
Judgment: It was an enjoyable ride that I wouldn’t mind taking again.
What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.
— Dominic Cobb
Inception is one of my most anticipated films of the summer. I was worried that this movie was hyped up too much for me to enjoy fully enjoy it. It is currently the #3 Movie of All Time on IMDb. That scares me, because the same thing happened with The Dark Knight. I did not see the theatrical trailer, read any reviews or look at the promos for this movie. I wanted to go into this movie fresh with no bias whatsoever. All I thought about when I saw this movie was making it a drinking game, hearing the word “dream” uttered.
This mind-bending movie is about how complex the human mind can truly be when an extractor Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has the ability to go into people minds. He’s sorta like a mental bodyguard that provides security for his clients’ important secrets, but he ultimately steals from them.
He is outsmarted by a shady businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe) who wants to use Dom and his associates to penetrate the mind of his rival’s son, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). In return for his participation, Saito will reunite Dom with the family that he abandoned when his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard) kills herself to make it look like he did it.
Dom puts together his team together with his researcher that creates a dossier on their mark, Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), his shifter to trick the subject to be any person in the dream, Eames (Tom Hardy) and the chemist who will inject the team with a special sedative that will allow them to sleep, Yusuf (Dileep Rao).
They need an architect which is essentially a person that could create and keep up the façade of delving into a person’s mind. Dom goes to his former professor; Miles (Michael Caine) to enlist a person that could be as good as him sense his memories about Mal easily distract him. Miles suggests Ariadne (Ellen Page), who is quickly tested about discerning what reality is and what is not.
On an international flight after Fischer’s father, Maurice (Pete Postlethwaite) dies, the team drugs Fischer. When the team goes into Fischer’s mind, they didn’t realize that his mind would be heavily fortified with a projected army that could threaten their mission and their only way to wake up.
What can I say about this movie? I understand that Nolan wanted to make a cinematic version of M.C. Escher painting about how the mind play tricks on you. I thought I was tricked. At first, I didn’t know what the hell was going on. When Ellen Page’s character came in, she was like the audience who is trying to understand this world she knows nothing about. The endless exposition doesn’t help matters when random characters try to tell you about the human psyche. It’s like you are sitting in a long boring lecture in college.
My brain broke with this movie. I could not follow it worth a damn. I wanted to follow along, but I got lost somewhere in the first hour of this 2 ½ hour opus. I tried to focus on Dom’s guilt over his wife’s death. That went away. Next, I tried to focus on the action with seemed like it came out of The Matrix with a tinge of a Lionel Ritchie video thrown in there. Lastly, I tried to hold on to the ending which is ambiguous and up to your personal interpretation. If you know that the ending is coming, it’s not fun.
This film is not fun or cool. If it was something like Primer about a dialogue that went over my head, but was still cool, I would understand. I was yawning in this movie. I lowered my expectations with this movie because of the hype that The Prestige got and I hated that movie. I think this movie tried to be too ambitious. I got nothing out of it.
The whole idea of going into people’s minds sounds good on paper, but onscreen you’re like, “Who gives a fuck about the different levels of the mind.” The whole reasoning behind the inception mission was petty and selfish. I believe Christopher Nolan created this movie for himself to enjoy. It seems that he has to dumb it down for the audience with endless amounts of exposition. It seems arrogant and condescending. I’m insulted by the notion. I expected more.
Judgment: This movie is like a Rubik Cube that never gets solved. Don’t bother trying.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been on the news lately with the trilogy by deceased author, Steig Larsson is getting a lot of buzz with David Fincher is talking about remaking it. The movie was released last year in Sweden and got a small release here before it was released on DVD recently. I actually bought the paperback version of the book and haven’t cracked it open before I saw the film. I should read the book to get a better sense of the story.
The film is split up to two sections that would eventually intersect. One side of the story deals with a watchdog journalist from Millennium magazine, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) that is sentenced to three months imprisonment for slandering the name of slimy industrialist, Hans-Erik Wennerström (Stefan Sauk). Mikael accused him fraud and selling illegal firearms. The magazine and he has to pay damages to him. He resigns from the magazine to take the heat off them. His name is on the news everywhere.
The other side of the story is the actual girl with the dragon tattoo, a hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). She works for Milton Security to do a background check on Mikael. What secret is he hiding? She thinks that he was framed with false information by his anonymous source. She is a troubled woman with her violent behavior in her past. She requires a guardian to take charge of her decisions. Her new guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson) takes his power too far.
Dirch Frode (Ingvar Hirdwall) contacts Mikael on behalf of Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to come to his residence. Mikael reluctantly accepts the invitation. Henrik wants to have his investigative skills to solve the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who disappeared in 1966 under mysterious circumstances. They are very close. Henrik is obsessed with finding justice for Harriet when every year on his birthday he gets a flower portrait that was Harriet’s thing. Henrik believes that someone in his immediate family had something to do with her disappearance. He wants to find out whom.
Mikael decides before he has to begin his sentence to take up the cold case. He has to be reminded that Harriet was his babysitter back at the time that she disappeared. Mikael moves into Henrik’s gust house and begins work on the available materials that were a part of the investigation from Gustav Morell (Björn Granath). The more that he hammers away at solving the puzzle, secrets begin to unravel.
Not being familiar with the story or reading a single page of the movie, I was unsure about this movie. The movie is long. Over two and half hours in Swedish could be daunting. The first half of the movie was packed with exposition, strange interactions with Lisbeth and the guardian and staring at the black and white photo of Harriet close-up. To be honest, I got kinda bored with it. The tone seemed off. I believe when the two plotlines come together, I started getting into the movie more.
I’m not saying that this is greatest movie ever. The cold case aspect of the movie was nice, but it was predictable about who did the deed. Being a mystery buff, it was easy to discern who would capable of doing the deed.
The original title of the book was supposed to be “The Men Who Hate Women”. I could understand that why that had to be changed, because a title like that would not have sold or be a successful trilogy. There are some brutal scenes of rape, S&M, misogyny and all that sort. This movie is not for the squeamish. After watching this movie, it makes me want to read the book to put the pieces together that I missed watching this movie. I got confused in some parts.
Judgment: I cannot outright recommend this movie for everyone. Be cautious with this one.
I see Bud because I want to. I see Bud because he can’t hide the good inside of him. I see Bud because he treats me like Lynn Bracken and not some Veronica Lake look-alike who fucks for money.
— Lynn Bracken
It has been years since I have seen Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential. Too long, I should say. This is currently #61 on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb. It deserves to be there. I thought it was overshadowed by a certain movie about a doomed boat that dominated the 1997 Oscars. It managed to win Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay for Hanson and fellow screenwriter Brian Helgeland and Best Supporting Actress honors for Kim Basinger. This movie is a masterpiece. There I said it.
Based on the first book from author James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet trilogy, it starts with the murder of known drug dealer, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle). This triggers a systematic takedown of his men. Three 1950s LA cops have to deal with the case from different angles. Officer Bud White, played by at the time unknown to American audiences Russell Crowe. White was the brute of the force that has a short fuse. Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) that thinks that he is the star of the precinct because he is the technical advisor on the hit TV cop show, “Badge of Honor.” He is in cahoots with sleazy gossip columnist, Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) trading criminals and drugs for money and headlines in Hush-Hush magazine. Sgt. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is the straight-laced officer that wants to a detective, but doesn’t have the stomach for the job.
Exley witnesses the extent of the corruption in the station when a group of Mexicans are beaten by most of the officers, because they were suspects of beating up a couple of cops. The fallout of this incident trickled down when White is suspended for not testifying against his boozy partner, Dick Stensland (Graham Beckel). Exley is the complete opposite; he would be labeled ‘the snitch’ to get a new promotion, a deputy lieutenant. Vincennes is reassigned from narcotics to vice. Fellow officers would backstab each other to save their own asses. White would be the muscle working under Capt. Dudley (James Cromwell).
At one of the drug-related murder scenes, Vincennes finds a card for “Fleur-de-lis” that could be connected to a murder at the Nite Owl Café where Stensland gets killed. The station thinks that a trio of Negro shooters was responsible for it. They hunt them down. Meanwhile, White recognizes of one of the victims as a girl he has seen in the back of Pierce Patchett’s (David Strathairn) car with Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) in tow. White learns that Patchett is running a prostitution ring to make the call girl look like Hollywood movie stars.
As the investigation intensifies, loyalties are tested, friendships are broken, and people show their true colors.
I may not have written how brilliant this movie is. All I say is that Curtis Hanson has a created a movie that had fantastic, crisp dialogue delivered perfectly from the main stars to the supporting players. The tension was there. I was on the edge of my seat. I know what was coming, but I still felt something about the characters. What is going to happen to them? The costumes, the art direction, it felt like I was in the 1950s. It didn’t feel like a fake movie set. It was organic. It had a life of its own. I appreciate that. Brava, Mr. Hanson.
Judgment: A fantastic film noir that makes you could to revisit more of them after watching this.