• Bad Day at Black Rock

    Bad Day at Black Rock

    ★★★★★

    Was there ever an actor better at portraying an innate sense of goodness than Spencer Tracy? I haven't even seen very many of his movies at all, but in a film like "Bad Day at Black Rock" he just radiates possession of an unerring moral compass. His character is affable, good-humored, but brooks no injustice or foolishness. He also has the misfortune of stepping off the train in a town called Black Rock, which starts a boulder rolling down a…

  • Leave Her to Heaven

    Leave Her to Heaven

    ★★★★★

    What a crazy ride this film takes you on! There's this sense of uneasiness throughout because you don't really know what kind of film you're watching...a romantic drama, a character study, or a noir-tinged thriller in which true evil lurks beneath a shimmering Technicolor surface? I'm keeping this brief because the less you know going into this one, the better. I'll just say it's one of the few times I haven't minded the convenient resolution you see in Hollywood films of this era because, my God, these people suffered enough for 110 minutes.

  • Gun Crazy

    Gun Crazy

    ★★★★★

    What if Bonnie & Clyde weren't sexy, cool, or refined—but just two corn-fed maniacs who got an erotic charge from squeezing a trigger? Director Joseph H. Lewis' "Gun Crazy" is a lovers on the run tale in which our two criminals seem swept along not by their passion for each other but the irresistible pull of American gun culture. Also of note here: Lewis' long takes and lack of rear projection during driving scenes lend this a rare level of realism for 1950.

  • The Farmer

    The Farmer

    ★★★

    The sole directorial effort for David Berlatsky, the editor on well-regarded 70's films like "The Last Movie" and "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid." The story concerns a World War II veteran returning home to the family farm and hoping to turn its fate around until he becomes embroiled in the plot of some local mobsters. I put this on hoping for a gritty vigilante thriller in the vein of "Rolling Thunder" or "Mr. Majestyk," but its low-budget nature tends to…

  • Deliverance

    Deliverance

    ★★★★★

    I've tried to watch, on average, a movie a day these last couple of years, but my usual routine got thrown in disarray last Sunday when I suffered my first ever panic attack. Straight up thought I was going to die, called an ambulance and everything. I'm doing better now, but I have a tremendous amount of empathy for anyone who deals with panic attacks on a regular basis because...that shit is debilitating! Speaking of anxiety: I felt compelled to…

  • Sweet Smell of Success

    Sweet Smell of Success

    ★★★★★

    One of the best looking American films of all time? Half of "Sweet Smell of Success" takes place over the course of one long night and the photography by the great James Wong Howe ("Hud," "Seconds") captures post-war Manhattan in all its glory: I could hang forever in this smoky world of men in suits drinking martinis, frequenting jazz clubs, and pounding at typewriters until two in the morning. And that's not to mention the incisive script—full of lacerating barbs and pithy comebacks—or stellar acting on display. "Sweet Smell of Success" finds a highly entertaining meeting point between shadowy noir and show business drama.

  • Indemnity

    Indemnity

    ★★★

    A bit of a 'wrong man' action/thriller out of South Africa in which a PTSD-suffering firefighter is on the run and attempting to unravel the conspiracy behind a corrupt military contractor. Not as good as "Merantau" but reminded me of "Merantau" in that I could see this as being a 'stepping stone' movie—there's enough potential here that one hopes writer/director Travis Taute will take his experience from making "Indemnity" and deliver something leaner and more satisfying on the next go around.

  • No Way Out

    No Way Out

    ★★★★

    Tries to split the difference between a paranoid political thriller a la "3 Days of Condor" and an aspirational 80's romance—I am not the list bit shocked to find that director Roger Donaldson's follow-up film was "Cocktail"—but mostly succeeds thanks to the star power of young Kevin Costner and the ever reliable Gene Hackman. A bit limited in scope since the majority of the film plays out in one of two rooms in the Pentagon building. The last few minutes feature a Shyamalan-worthy plot twist that is so ludicrous, so illogical, I had to respect it and slap another star on my rating.

  • The Manchurian Candidate

    The Manchurian Candidate

    ★★★★★

    Maybe not the best film to watch while it feels like the American political system is teetering on the brink...or maybe it is? (Trying not to become blackpilled over here). Generally, Hollywood classics of the Sixties are hailed as classics for good reason and "Manchurian Candidate" is no exception. John Frankenheimer crafted a superlative thriller that manages to subversively play on fears of Communist influence in the West while addressing the very real PTSD of soldiers returned from war. Oh, and the bursts of violence here are ten times more shocking and impactful than most films today.

  • The Roundup

    The Roundup

    ★★★★★

    In this sequel to the excellent 2017 Korean crime thriller "The Outlaws," Ma Dong-seok plays a cop named Ma Seok-do, which should tell you just how inextricable the actor's persona has become from the characters he plays onscreen. Original director Kang Yoon-Sung is out, and this installment chooses to ramp up both the humor and the action while more or less repeating the formula of the first film. Formulaic or not, "The Roundup" is one of the most entertaining Korean…

  • When Taekwondo Strikes

    When Taekwondo Strikes

    ★★★★

    Well, the challenge for any American who decided to watch a movie last night: momentarily setting aside the increasingly undeniable reality that our democracy is hurtling towards events it likely won't recover from. Fortunately, I had a 1973 martial arts jam on my side. "When Taekwondo Strikes" is one of those perfect kung fu movies where any scenes of human beings engaging in actual conversation are just table dressing to be quickly dispensed with on the way to the next…

  • Cape Fear

    Cape Fear

    ★★★★★

    The best Hollywood thriller of the Sixties not directed by someone named Alfred Hitchcock? What a treat to finally check this off the 'ol Watchlist. There's not a wrong move here; "Cape Fear" is a masterclass in suspense, depicting an idyllic middle class existence before unleashing Robert Mitchum's predator into paradise. Hats off to Mitchum—he's obviously a handsome actor, but he finds a way to make everything about his countenance loathsome here.

    The scene in which he wordlessly encircles Barrie…