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Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019)
Mystery...has met its match
Filmmaker(s): Katt Shea

Nancy Drew, a smart high schooler with a penchant for keen observation and deduction, stumbles upon the haunting of a local home. A bit of an outsider struggling to fit into her new surroundings, Nancy and her pals set out to solve the mystery, make new friends, and establish their place in the community

Embraced Balusters I’ve watched this version and the one with the same title from the thirties back to back. Originally it was in the service of my history of mysteries, but neither qualify. Only this one is worthy of comment, because of the apparent excellence...
Published January 18, 2024
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Black Magic (1944)
Chan stalks a fiendish murderer!
Filmmaker(s): Phil Rosen

Chinese detective Charlie Chan solves a murder linked to the occult. This movie had an alternative title: Meeting at Midnight.

Spooked The original intent of the Chan series, I suppose, was to introduce the “oriental” mind to the mystery genre. As with the equally strange notion of Belgian logic with Poirot, we would be charmed by novel synaptic paths. By the time of this film,...
Published January 17, 2024
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A Haunting in Venice (2023)
Death was only the beginning.
Filmmaker(s): Kenneth Branagh

Celebrated sleuth Hercule Poirot, now retired and living in self-imposed exile in Venice, reluctantly attends a Halloween séance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.

The Influence of Inscrutability Agatha Christie based films are a sort of bellwether for me. I think the most important trend in our culture just now is how we play with awareness. The most obvious and experimental centre for that is long form film. The...
Published November 15, 2023
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Sherlock! (2010)
A new sleuth for the 21st century.
Filmmaker(s): Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat

A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.

Logical Circularity This comment applies to the three, presumably the only three episodes of the BBC Sherlock! (The trend seems to be to modernise famed detectives and so denote with an exclamation point.) (After this comment was written, there would be more) I come to...
Published September 11, 2023
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The Big Sleep (1946)
The picture they were born for!
Filmmaker(s): Howard Hawks

Private Investigator Philip Marlowe is hired by wealthy General Sternwood regarding a matter involving his youngest daughter Carmen. Before the complex case is over, Marlowe sees murder, blackmail, deception, and what might be love.

Camera in the Head I’m an enthusiast of film, the kind of film that uses the uniquely cinematic qualities of the medium. From time to time, I see a non-cinematic film which I like. This is one such. By non-cinematic, I mean that the film...
Published August 12, 2023
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Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
So many gangsters… so little time.
Filmmaker(s): Stephen Chow

It's the 1940s, and the notorious Axe Gang terrorizes Shanghai. Small-time criminals Sing and Bone hope to join, but they only manage to make lots of very dangerous enemies. Fortunately for them, kung fu masters and hidden strength can be found in unlikely places. Now they just have to take on the entire Axe Gang.

Comedic Self-reference You can read from others about the basic nature of this, and how widely it is admired and enjoyed. I myself admire and enjoy it. It is a movie about movies. Its something between a “Scary Movie” style parody and a “Charlie’s Angel’s”...
Published August 6, 2023
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So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
The honeymoon was killer.
Filmmaker(s): Thomas Schlamme

Just after a bad breakup, Charlie MacKenzie falls for lovely butcher Harriet Michaels and introduces her to his parents. But, as voracious consumers of sensational tabloids, his parents soon come to suspect that Harriet is actually a notorious serial killer -- "Mrs. X" -- wanted in connection with a string of bizarre honeymoon killings. Thinking his parents foolish, Charlie proposes to Harriet. But while on his honeymoon with her, he begins to fear they were right.

Green Haggis Sometimes a movie only develops worth after a subsequent movie worked. I myself disliked “Shrek” because of the underhanded attempt to undermine the Disney/Pixar alliance, and the smarmy Bill Gates strategy. But some people did like it, largely because of the voices and...
Published July 27, 2023
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The Big Clock (1948)
The Strangest and Most Savage Manhunt in History!
Filmmaker(s): John Farrow

Stroud, a crime magazine's crusading editor has to post-pone a vacation with his wife, again, when a glamorous blonde is murdered and he is assigned by his publishing boss Janoth to find the killer. As the investigation proceeds to its conclusion, Stroud must try to disrupt his ordinarily brilliant investigative team as they increasingly build evidence (albeit wrong) that he is the killer.

Gears This has a crackerjack beginning: you zoom into a city through a window (common today but rare then) tracking a man going into the inner workings of a giant clock, then we zoom from the inside of the clock top the outside, then focusing...
Published July 27, 2023
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Before Midnight (1933)
Lurking FINGERS of DEATH reached out of the dim and ghostly past!
Filmmaker(s): Lambert Hillyer

A detective tries to figure out who killed a man who predicted his own death.

The Written Mystery The early thirties was a time of great experimentation with the detective narrative, leading eventually to noir. This is one of those experiments, and a rather fine one. It has a framing device where an old cop is telling a young one...
Published June 30, 2023
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Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
No one was supposed to get hurt.
Filmmaker(s): Sidney Lumet

When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelry store, the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that send them and their family hurtling towards a shattering climax.

Space There are from time to time successful presentations in the sense that the characters work. You understand them well enough to have some genuine acceptance of their reality as humans, but that means you realise that there are things going on that do not...
Published June 29, 2023
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