True Believer

(1989, rated R) James Woods (Eddie Dodd), Robert Downey, Jr. (Roger Barron), Margaret Colin (Kitty Greer), Yuji Okumoto (Shiu Kai Kim), Kurtwood Smith (Robert Reynard), Tom Bower (Cecil Skell), Miguel Fernandez (Art Esparza), Charles Hallahan (Vincent Dennehy), Luis Guzman (Ortega). Music: Brad Fidel (“Busload of Faith” written/sung by Lou Reed). Screenplay: Wesley Strick. Director: Joseph Ruben. 108 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Courtroom Drama, “Criminal Justice YRW”

Notable: Downey as a baby-faced 24 year old; spun-off short-lived TV series Eddie Dodd, starring Treat Williams.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Eddie Dodd was a crusading lawyer in his day; now, he’s a burn-out, defending drug dealers that he knows are guilty in order to make points about the unfairness of governmental and police procedural flaws… so he says. Roger Barron, fresh out of law school, was impressed with Eddie’s early cases, comes to San Francisco to work with him, not sure that he’s even meeting the firebrand of years past. The knifing of a prison inmate by another inmate calls into question whether or not young Shiu Kai Kim (the alleged killer) should have been in prison in the first place. After all these years of having lost his own belief in The System, Eddie now has a chance to defend an innocent man. The question becomes… can he? Continue reading “True Believer”

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

(2017, Rated PG-13) Tom Bateman (Bouc); Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot); Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados); Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman); Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff); Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett); Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen); Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman); Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot); Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard); Daisy Ridley (Miss Mary Debenham); Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel); Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt); Lucy Boynton (Countess Elena Andrenyi); Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Biniamino Marquez); Sergei Polunin (Count Rudolph Andrenyi). Music: Patrick Doyle. Screenplay: Michael Green (suggested by the book by Agatha Christie). Director: Kenneth Branagh. 114 minutes.

Tags: Remake, Mystery, Avoid-At-All-Cost

Notable: Single most idiotic portrayal of Hercule Poirot in the history of the known world (Branagh); sets are better than the actors.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Having solved a case in Istanbul, the famous Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot is recalled to England for a consultation. Securing travel on the Orient Express — the famous train that runs from Istanbul to Paris — Poirot finds himself embroiled in a mysterious murder. With the train snowbound, the murderer must be one of the passengers in the main coach… but which, and how? Poirot must engage his “little grey cells” to solve one of the most complicated crimes of his career. Continue reading “Murder on the Orient Express (2017)”

Vantage Point

(2008, PG-13) Dennis Quaid (Agent Thomas Barnes), William Hurt (Pres. Harry Ashton), Matthew Fox (Agent Kent Taylor), Forest Whitaker (Howard Lewis), Saïd Taghmaoui (Sam), Sigourney Weaver (Rex Brooks). Music: Roy Budd. Screenplay: Barry L. Levi. Director: Pete Travis. 90 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Suspense, Political Thriller

Notable: Plot twists that are both relevant and well-resolved — unusual in modern thrillers.

Rating: ★★★★★

American President Harry Ashton is in Spain to promote an historic anti-terrorism summit when he himself is struck by an assassin’s bullet. Eight different people were direct witnesses to what happened, but the question that Secret Service Agent Tom Barnes — himself a witness — has to answer is what, exactly, did they see… and what does it mean? Continue reading “Vantage Point”

The Lighthouse

By P. D. James
ISBN 0-7393-2558-2
(Large Print edition)

Publication Year: 2005

Tags: Mystery, Suspense, Procedural

Rating: ★★★★☆

This thirteenth in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series find the poet-detective on Combe Island, an isolated and exclusive place of rest and respite limited to certain governmental VIPs and those whose island trust have deemed to have rights of residence (occasional or permanent) due to their ancestral relationship to the island. When the somewhat infamous writer Nathan Oliver tries to throw about his self-perceived weight with islanders and guests alike, he becomes quite soundly disliked by one and all. Then, when he is found hanging by the neck from the gallery railing of the island’s famous lighthouse, the age-old question rears its head: Suicide or murder? Continue reading “The Lighthouse”

The Shadow

(1994, rated PG-13) Alec Baldwin (Lamont Cranston), John Lone (Shiwan Khan), Penelope Ann Miller (Margo Lane), Peter Boyle (Moses “Mo” Shrevniz), Ian McKellen (Dr. Reinhardt Lane), Tim Curry (Farley Claymore), Johnathan Winters (Wainright Barth), Sab Shimono (Dr. Roy Tam), James Hong (Li Peng), Ethan Phillips (Nelson). Music: Jerry Goldsmith. Screenplay: David Koepp. Director: Russell Mulcahy. 107 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Golden Age Hero, Campy, Comic Book Character

Notable: Ethan Phillips, before he was Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager; Johnathan Winters in a non-comedic role (at least, not intentionally comedic).

Rating: ★★★★☆

From the old radio dramas of Orson Wells and the pulp fiction and comics of the Golden Age comes this popcorn treat of a guilty pleasure. Lamont Cranston, wealthy playboy-about-town, returns after a seven-year disappearance, now possessing the power to cloud men’s minds so that they cannot see anything but that which he cannot conceal: His shadow. Unknown to most, he was a ruthless ruler of an Eastern drug cartel, until he was called to redeem himself by learning to train his mind and use his knowledge of man’s darkness to capture and turn those who are yet redeemable. Continue reading “The Shadow”

Death Among Friends

(1975, not rated) Kate Reid (Det. Shirley Ridgeway), John Anderson (Capt. Lewis), A Martinez (Manny Reyes), Martin Balsam (Ham Russell Buckner), Jack Cassidy (Chico Donovan), Paul Henreid (Otto Schiller), Pamela Hensley (Connie Benson), William Smith (Sheldon Casey), Linda Day George (Dr. Lisa Manning), Denver Pyle (Morgan). Music: Jim Helms. Screenplay: Stanley Ralph Ross. Director: Paul Wendkos. 72 minutes.

Tags: Mystery, Detective, Television Pilot

Notable: Starring role for Reid, in a television pilot, before her appearances in Dallas

Rating: ★★★★☆

Three men bilked millions from small investors; one had died in Paris, and now one is murdered on the estate of the third. How can a man be strangled, apparently in the middle of a tennis court, when the only set of footprints to be found anywhere are those of the victim? It’s up to Det. Shirley Ridgeway — “Mrs. R” — to interview a household full of suspects and sift the clues to catch a killer. Continue reading “Death Among Friends”

Death is a Lonely Business

By Ray Bradbury
ISBN 0-395-54702-0

Publication Year: 1985

Tags: Detective, Writer, Golden Gumshoes

Rating: ★★★★★

The year is 1949. A young writer of pulp fiction struggles with the feeling of death that surrounds him as the city tears down the great amusement pier in Venice, California. There will be no more rides, no more side shows, no more games of chance, no more fortune tellers and snake-oil salesmen. The huge movie marquee, where great names like Fairbanks, Chaney, Garbo, and Hepburn once lent their grace, reads only GOODBYE.

Death hits closer to home as well. Four bodies turn up – one trapped in a lion cage that lies submerged in the Venice canal, one in a cheerful flophouse, and two others in houses across town. The deaths could be natural, or they could be accidents, but our unnamed writer (Bradbury himself, at age 29, as he would have been in that year?) doesn’t think so. It just feels wrong. And although he claims to believe only in facts, Detective Elmo Crumley has to admit that he, too, doesn’t trust the appearances of innocence that surround the deaths. Unfortunately, it will take clues and facts to solve the crime – if there is one – and no one seems to have a motive of any kind. Continue reading “Death is a Lonely Business”