Category: Mystery


The Galapagos Affair

April 11th, 2014 — 6:07am

**Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 12.11.42 AM

The Galapagos Affair- sp- This documentary film takes place on the Galapagos Islands which are a group of 19 small islands in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador. In the early 1930s a handful of people decided they wanted to get away from civilization and live on one of most deserted and smaller islands of this group named Floreana Island. The first couple to settle there was a young physician from Berlin, Friedrick Ritter who was a student of the writings of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He was accompanied by his girlfriend Dore Strauch who had multiple sclerosis but seemed quite fit as they both worked the land. They were joined on the island by Margaret and Heinz Wittmer who raised a family there. The other important people  that we see on the island are the so-called Baroness Eloise von Wagner who is flamboyant woman who settles there with her two lovers with the plan to build a hotel. All of the inhabitants are mostly off to themselves but occasionally interact as for example when Dr. Ritter delivers one of the Wittmer’s children. There are occasional brief visits by various ships, which included scientists and naturalists who studied the beautiful natural vegetation and wildlife on the island. Although not discussed in the film one of these visitors was Captain Alan Hancock, a wealthy philanthropist who financed research expeditions to the Galapagos Islands. He also was an early user of 8mm movie film and he photographed the inhabitants of the island doing various activities over a period of a few years. He also photographed a fictionalized short silent film starring the Baroness titled the Empress of Floreana. It was the availability of these archived movie footage that allowed filmmakers Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine  to put together this documentary film. They chose to present this film as an unsolved mystery since there were two unexplained disappearances and one death under unusual circumstances. It appeared that most of the people on the island were writers of sorts and many recorded their day-to-day observations and feelings Therefore the screenplay written by Geller and Goldfine included dialogue written by the various inhabitants. This was read by actors and actress while we mostly watched the old movies that have been dug out from the archives and skillfully weaved to match the dialogue or vice versa. This included the voices of   Cate Blanchett as Dore Strauch, Thomas Kretschmann as Dr. Ritter, Sebastain Koch as Mr. Wittmer, Diane Kruger as Margret Wittmer and Connie Nielsen as the Baroness. Josh Radnor and Gustav Skarsgard were the voices of the two men in the Baroness’ life. There were too many details put out for us to digest and not enough focus on the individual characters for us to care very much about them. There were also too many additional contemporary interviews with the children and relatives as well as with some surviving main characters. We never got a good feel for the murder mystery, which they were trying to unfold.  This was despite taking two hours to play out the movie. Perhaps this is a film that you might want to see prior to a tourist trip to these islands but it is not one we can recommend for your movie entertainment. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Documentary, Mystery

The Grand Budapest Hotel

April 5th, 2014 — 6:25am

***Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 10.57.22 PM

The Grand Budapest Hotel- rm-  This movie is a mixture of a fairytale, a romp with the keystone cops and a sophisticated mystery.  We are introduced to the Grand Budapest Hotel somewhere in Europe in modern times during an off-season. It is clear that the hotel has an interesting history, as does the one of main characters who we meet. That is an older Mr. Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) now the owner of this Grand Lady of a Hotel that still is magnificent.  He takes us back to what are probably the 1930;s when he was a young lobby boy of the hotel known as Zero (Tony Revolori). He became a protégé of Mr. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) the legendary concierge of the hotel with whom he is about embark upon a great adventure.  Gustave is the perfect gentleman who befriends the wealthy men and women who come to hotel. One in particular Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) leaves a valuable painting to him, which he discovers when he travels to pay his respects after she is murdered. His young faithful companion accompanies him. Their adventure leads to confrontation with police, soldiers, and time in jail with an escape, a bad villain and a fanciful tale. It all probably should viewed as an allegory for the good times of pre World War II in Europe that were turned into death and destruction with precious memories by those who survived. The director and screen writer Wes Anderson is known for bringing imaginative story lines to the screen such as Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore and many others. In this case he based the story on writings of Stephen Zweig. The dialogue is fitting the upper crust that is being served by the likes of Gustave and his lobby boy but then periodically breaks down into paradoxical comments that bring out a good laugh and reminds you that there is satire going on here. The setting is old Europe and it was filmed in Germany where Anderson and his crew found or created not only the Grand Hotel but also magnificent castle like mansions, prisons and even escape tunnels. The cast was excellent which included Jude Law, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Jason Swartzman, William DeFoe, Adrian Brody, Bob Balahan and others. Some had very small parts but all were on the mark to give a realistic performance in a fantasy movie. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Mystery

In Secret

February 20th, 2014 — 9:02pm

****Ors9KDcwz4CGrxXPzaFjt7AaeVSCdR5rkSL6X3PxUTTDNcAxJEBvJbvg9PtoucistQRg=s85

In Secret-sp Emile Zola is a great French writer known for the Naturalism Literary School which depicts realism, human experience and morality or the lack of it. This film is closely based on one of his classic  novels of this genre Therese Raquin.  Charlie Stratton as Executive Producer, screen writer and director certainly achieved a realistic 19th century Paris setting (although filmed in Budapest) as well as a dramatic film noir atmosphere. But it was the character portrayals, which riveted the audience and allows Zola’s captivating storyline to hold them spellbound. Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is a beautiful sex starved and obsessed young woman who is forced into a loveless marriage with her nerdy cousin Camille (Tom Felton) after her mother dies and left her in the care of her aunt, magnificently played by Jessica Lange. Laurent LeClaire (Oscar Isaac) an old artist friend of Camille appears on the scene and there is immediately intense chemistry between him and Therese, which is secretly acted out. It would not be a Zola story if jealousy and passion does not lead to murder! Things cannot be expected to be simple even at this point as there is intense grief, all kinds of strong emotional feelings, delayed gratification and tremendous guilt which seems to be on verge of destroying of what was an intense all-encompassing relationship. The movie will grip you and hold your attention as well as any great TV show but the subtle, complexities and all the dark shadows as well as the absolutely great acting and directing remind you that you have seen a first rate movie. (2014)

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Mystery

Double Indemnity

July 1st, 2013 — 10:43pm

Double Indemnity**

Double Indemnity- nf- The main thing that we can say about this classic film is that it reflects the state of the art of the time  and demonstrates what would have been a thrilling mystery in the 1940s. (It is set in 1938 probably to avoid any wartime issues) Other than an historical film document, there is no way that a modern  filmgoer would view this movie other than as a unsophisticated black and white  film noir drama. It is hard to believe that it was co-written by the  premier mystery crime writer of his time,  Raymond Chandler, along with the premier filmmaker, Billy Wilder who directed it. Fred MacMurray played the slick insurance salesman, cocked hat and all, who gets drawn in by beautiful, unblinking ,sparkling eyes,  glossy lips, sexy voice  Barbara Stanwyck who also wore an enticing ankle bracelet. Edward G Robinson who has a voice and a tone just like everyone who has ever imitated him,  plays the tough, all wise insurance adjuster who is in the process of sniffing out out the plot to kill the Stanwyck  character’s husband and make it look like an accident to collect double indemnity !! The music background is as you would have expected it. The crime has to be solved without any  CSI techniques. Hardly anything in the film was believable but it held our interest. This was partly because of the twists and turns of the thin plot and partly because we were thrilled to be watching the ancestors of the some of the great crime movies and TV shows that we can see today. (1944)

 

Comment » | 2 Stars, Crime, Mystery

Arbitrage

January 5th, 2013 — 9:06am

***

Arbitrage -nfimages-12

The wonderful thing about watching a movie on Netflix that has a good reputation but never made the awards, is   that all you need is an interesting subject, a good storyline and some excellent actors. In this case we start with Robert Miller (Richard Gere) hedge fund tycoon who is  about to sell his company. Unbeknown to the buyer and to his daughter Brooke ( Brit Marling) who is one of his closest executives in his  company, he has been cooking the books.. Would you believe he is doing this because Mr Genius business man invested most of his money in a copper mining scheme in Russia that didn’t work out. His wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) is mainly preoccupied with her husband’s promised 2 million dollar gift to her favorite charity but that will change. Mr. Miller is of course interested in his mistress (Laetitia Casta) But this is not half the story. Soon we meet a “Colombo like” NYPD homicide detective (Tim Roth) working a case which might make a good CSI plot. On top of this we bring forth Jimmy (Nate Parker) a black young man  who is the son  of the deceased loyal chauffer of Mr. Miller and is asked to keep quiet about what he did on a certain evening but possibly take a rap of 10-15 years. You may not like the character Gere portrays but you will feel his pain.  This is 25 year old screenwriter and director Nicloas Jarecki’s first feature film. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Mystery

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

September 9th, 2010 — 7:01am

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - 2010* * * *
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
– nf – This is the Swedish portrayal of the first of the three popular novels by Stieg Larsson. There is an American film of this novel due out in 2011. One of us read the trilogy and the other did not. When you have read the book, you are aware of all the subplots, relationships, twists and turns that are left out and of course you pretty much know how the mystery is solved. With a few exceptions, the movie followed the book fairly closely. The one of us who didn’t read the book was pretty much able to keep track of the somewhat complicated plot and the various Vanger family members which could be a tad confusing. The male lead here is not a crusty or a brilliant detective but rather an investigative journalist by the name of Mikael Bolmkvist (Michael Nyqvist) who has just been convicted of libel with a pending jail sentence and has been asked to investigate the disappearance of a the niece of wealthy Henrik Vanger which occurred about 40 years before. The female lead is not the typical beautiful women you might expect to see in this situation but rather a very unusual 26 year old girl name Lispeth Sallander (Noomi Rapce), boyish, attractive, body piercings, dresses in black, rides a motorcycle. and has the huge dragon tattoo on her back. As a child she has had some type of psychiatric care and requires a guardian to manage her finances but is a brilliant computer hacker and has a photographic memory. There is violence, sex and nudity at times in combination but all in the service of the plot, not overdone, but enough to clearly deserve the R rating. The story will pull you in and the direction by Niels Arden Oplev captures the gamut from the beautiful outdoors in Sweden to the effects of painful violence. Despite it being almost 2 and half hours, the film does not drag at all. If you like this movie and are a fan of the late Stieg Larsson who didn’t get a chance to see the great success of his work, there are two more Swedish movies in the can which complete his trilogy and then there is the American version of the first book which is coming out next year. I also heard that additional stories were found on the author’s computer. The Netflix DVD which we viewed had an interview with Noomi Rapace who was quite impressive as she described how she approached her role and inhabited Lispeth for 1 1/2 years while the three films were being made. 2009

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Foreign, Mystery, Thriller

A Very Long Engagement

September 9th, 2010 — 3:25am

A Very Long Engagement* * * *
A Very Long Engagement
– nf – One of the advantages and pleasures of Netflix is that we have the opportunity to see very good movies that we probably otherwise would never have seen. In this case, this French 2004 film was nominated for Oscars for Art Direction and Cinematography and won several Cesars ( the French Oscar awards ) and was nominated for best picture , director and several acting awards in France. The setting for the film is France during World War I and shortly thereafter. There are many realistic brutal scenes in the trenches and on the battlefield . I was reminded of the classic film All is Quiet on the Western Front as the story begins with a court-martial of five soldiers but in this movie they are sentenced to being sent out to no man’s land and an almost certain death. The film focuses on Mathilde a young partially disabled Frenchwoman, played by Amelie Tautou, who is determined to find all the details about what happened to these men with the hope that maybe her fiancé has survived. Flashback techniques are used so we are able to have an insight into the development of their relationship since childhood as well as an understanding of many of the other characters. The movie is in French with subtitles. At times it appears that something is lost in the translation as we lose track of a small part of some of the storylines but that really doesn’t detract from the overall impact of this moving film. While we did not know most of the actors, the performances were all of a very high quality as emotions and nuances came across very clearly. Although not in the starring role, American actress Jodie Foster who speaks fluent French has a substantial part with a range of feelings from an empathic wife to being in a passionate bedroom scene. The cinematography is absolutely magnificent as it captured the grit of the battlefield, the beauty of the French countryside, the bustle of Paris in 1920s and the facial expressions of the superb actors and actresses in this film. There is an option on the DVD to hear the comments of Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet as he explains his thinking about the movie and many of the behind the scenes explanations of various details of the film. The cast was carefully chosen by him and includes very experienced actors and actresses even for some very small parts. Although the movie is an adaptation of Sebastiaen Japrisot’s novel, there are added scenes or images based on actual photographs or historical vignettes about World War I. He explains decisions that he made and a homage to some classic movies, such as Saving Private Ryan or his own earlier films which he has weaved into this movie. He discusses the effective use of digitalization to achieve certain effects such as writing on a wall of a cafe, the addition of buildings and vehicles, or the appearance of a busy 1920s Paris scene. He has also changed the coloring at times to bring about a certain hue or to emphasize various objects. The net result is a beautiful, haunting movie, which is gripping and quite memorable for the images and the characters. 2004

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Mystery, Romance, War

The Secret in Their Eyes

September 6th, 2010 — 8:19am

The Secret in Their Eyes* * * *
The Secret in Their Eyes
– sp – When Juan Jose Campanella is not directing episodes of Law and Order, CSI or the like, he periodically returns to Argentina make a movie. In this case he directed and co-wrote the screenplay of The Secret in Their Eyes. Thus far it is the most successful movie in Argentina in the past thirty-five years and now in just few days after we saw it, we will find out if this Academy Award nominated movie for the Best Foreign Film will win an Oscar. ( addendum note: It won !!) It reminds us of the French movie, Tell No One, one of our all time favorites, as it is also a sophisticated detective story with an easy flowing but yet a complicated plot that keeps you thinking and guessing throughout the story and even afterwards. It is in Spanish, of course, with good subtitles. This movie is not only a mystery and a crime movie but it is also a subtle romantic film which has very good comedic moments. There is the use of a narrative technique that allows you to see the story through the imagination and the memory of the main character Benjamin Esposito played by well-known Argentine actor Ricardo Darin. There are skillfully done movements, which go back and forth in time as well as shifting the point of view, which on a few occasions took a few moments for us to orient ourselves. The acting, directing and photography were superb with great realism and therefore it surprised us to learn that the budget was only two million dollars. As required for all good movies of this genre, there is a strong ending, which will hold your interest and encourage further reflection. (2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Mystery, Romance

Back to top