Mystery

[6.5] Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, The Black Hole) stars as a police detective in this better-than-average monster movie about a giant alligator that terrorizes the Chicago suburbs. Screenwriter John Sayles (Passion Fish, Lone Star) probably deserves most of the credit, giving Forster and co-stars just enough character and backstory to elevate them above the two-dimensional pawns you usually find in these flicks. He also makes …

[7.0] Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen star in this glossy MGM production about a starship crew investigating a planet where a colony of humans has gone mysteriously quiet. Once there, they discover most of the colonists were killed by a mysterious force. But a scientist (Pidgeon) and his daughter (Anne Francis) appear to be immune to the dangerous entity. Pidgeon shares with the team’s captain …

[4.0] Debra Winger plays a federal investigator on the trail of a ‘black widow,’ a woman (Theresa Russell) who marries and murders one rich man after another, collecting inheritances as she goes. It’s great to see Debra Winger in anything, even if she’s under-utilized. Under-utilization is actually a recurring theme in the making of Black Widow. Russell’s mysterious character is also under-written. Supporting players the …

[7.5] After an earthquake devastates their facilities at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, a handful of deep sea drillers decide their only chance of surviving is to walk along the ocean floor to another nearby facility miles away. But the journey becomes even more perilous when they discover mysterious creatures unleashed by their drilling efforts are preying on them. Kristen Stewart (Twilight) heads up …

[7.5] Director Alexandre Aja (High Tension) serves up a father/daughter survival thriller that takes place primarily in a basement full of alligators during a hurricane. Sound preposterous? Well, that’s part of the charm. But Aja and screenwriters Michael and Shawn Rasmussen give the tale enough verisimilitude to suck you in and make you root for these people — and their dog, too. Kaya Scodelario and …

[8.0] Chameleon master craftsman Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, The Lost Weekend) staked a name for himself and elevated low-budget film noir to new levels of respectability with his Hitchcockian suspense yarn Double Indemnity. The film, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, stars Fred MacMurray as an L.A. insurance salesman who conspires with an unhappy housewife, played by Barbara Stanwyck, to collect a massive insurance payout …

[4.0] Ten years before he picked up Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Richard Gere played a ho himself in American Gigolo. As a male ‘chauffeur’, Gere’s plenty pretty to look at, aided by an array of Armani suits and moody cinematography by John Bailey. He even gives us a sustained full-frontal shot. But the fantasy fulfillment element of American Gigolo quickly dissolves into a tedious, …

[7.0] A young man falsely accused of murder (Derrick De Marney) escapes his hearing and sets out to prove his innocence, dodging the police and falling in love with a blonde young woman (Nova Pilbeam) who helps him against her better judgment. The key to his salvation is finding a stolen raincoat, which kicks off a serendipitous adventure to find a man with an uncontrollably …

[8.0] In this seminal silent classic, a doctor showcases a fortune-telling sleepwalker to a crowd of spectators. One man asks, “When will I die?” The sleepwalker says, “By dawn tomorrow.” And then the doctor sets out to fulfill the premonition by ordering his catatonic slave to murder the man that night. This isn’t just how The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari begins — it’s also how …

[8.0] A paranormal investigator (Richard Johnson) invites three others to stay with him at a ninety-year-old mansion to determine whether it is haunted. One of his guests is a skeptic (Russ Tamblyn) who will one day inherit the house, while another (Claire Bloom) is a clairvoyant. But it’s the third guest (Julie Harris) who has the strongest and most unsettling connection to the property — …

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