Friday, February 05, 2016

Movie Review: "Misconduct" (2016)

Today, February 5th, Academy Award winners Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins are appearing in a new film, "Misconduct." Also appearing are Josh Duhamel, Alice Eve, Malin Akerman, and Julia Stiles. A limited theatrical release, it's also available on demand starting today.

Not to put the cart before the horse, I recommend you skip it.

"Misconduct" is the tale of one lawyer, Ben Cahill (Duhamel), who is pursuing a case against a pharmaceutical executive, Charles Abrams (Hopkins), and Abrams' company. Cahill isn't exactly pursuing the case in entirely ethical fashion, but, he's doing it to make life better for himself and his wife, Charlotte (Eve). You see, they don't have very much money despite Cahill's being an associate at what very much appears to be a white shoe law firm. Certainly, the firm's senior partner, Arthur Denning (Pacino), has a fortune and the offices of the firm are full of the pomp one associates with a high profile firm.

So… why don't the Cahills have any money? That is not really discussed. Perhaps they do (one figures that working for such a firm Cahill easily clears six figures annually, plus a bonus), but the movie isn't concerned with that.

Actually, if I'm being honest (and I pride myself upon such things even when watching a movie about some very dishonest people), "Misconduct" isn't concerned with very much at all. At least, it isn't concerned with much beyond setting a mood and offering tons of twists and turns.

Okay, that's a couple hundred whirlwind words setting up the film as not being very good. But, let's take deep breath and explore it a little more.

Directed by Shintaro Shimosawa from a script by Simon Boyes & Adam Mason, "Misconduct" shows Cahill working his case and lying to his wife about meeting an ex-girlfriend, Emily Hynes (Akerman), who (not by coincidence) works for Abrams' company. The start of the case is actually shown in flashback after Hynes has been kidnapped for reasons unknown and as much as "Misconduct" is about the legal case it is also about the Hynes-Cahill relationship and the kidnapping.

It is not unreasonable to say that if Cahill didn't make the decision very early on to lie to his wife about seeing Hynes—a lie told for no reason anyone in the real world would actually believe—the movie wouldn't exist. But, there is no reason for the lie to exist other than to make the movie happen. It is an illogical moment in a movie filled with illogical moments.

Just one more illogical moment and I'll move on… At one point early in the film, Julia Stiles' security officer, Jane Clemente, is watching over Abrams' delivering a ransom for Hynes at an art show. This is all supposed to be quite a secret, hush-hush transfer. Clemente even has one of those clever microphones that can attach to your sleeves, like the Secret Service use as a not terribly secretive way of talking to other. Clemente though, despite trying to disguise herself at the art show, has the microphone in her hand and just talks right into it. No Bluetooth for her, even though someone talking on a phone via Bluetooth is de rigueur. No, she is holding a Secret Service-style microphone, letting everyone know she's on a mission and completely blowing her cover. Except, no one at the art show catches this because "Misconduct" doesn't care for it to be caught.

"Misconduct" is all about setting a mood and then not doing anything via the plot to compliment it. So, we get a dark, murky, palette and an overwrought score to highlight the dark, murky, morally ambiguous tale. Or, what ought to be a dark, morally ambiguous tale but is instead a series of nonsensical twists placed on top of series of illogical actions.

The movie obviously has assembled a good cast, but first time director Shimosawa doesn't have anything terribly worthwhile for them to do. "Misconduct" is, in short, another movie that appears more interested in creating twists and turns than it is in creating a place from which the movie can twist and turn.

photo credit: Lionsgate Premiere

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Movie Review: "Hail, Caesar!" (2016)

I love movies about movies. Is that because I love movies in general or because I like the whole meta nature of it or, perhaps, both? Whatever the case may be, tell me I'm gong to watch a movie about making movies and I'm in. Now tell me it's a Coen brothers movie and I'm really sold. Oh, Roger Deakins is the cinematographer? It has a stellar cast? Need I go on?

There are two big ways to view a movie with these elements – either thing the thing is going to be an over-hyped, over-stuffed movie that can't possibly live up to expectations or, maybe, just maybe, the Coens pull it out and create something incredible… again.

For my money, even if they've made greater and lesser films, the Coens are two of the best, most interesting filmmakers around and even their lesser films tend to give you something to chew on. Here, with "Hail, Caesar!," they do more than just pull it out, they offer something truly fantastic.

The film, opening this week and including that aforementioned stellar cast – Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, and Alden Ehrenreich (okay, you might not know him yet, but if he keeps doing stuff like this, you will). That doesn't even go into the cameos and truly smaller parts which feature Jonah Hill, David Krumholtz, Alison Pill, Frances McDormand, Christopher Lambert, Fisher Stevens, Robert Picardo, and so many more. Seriously, you can't watch the movie and not think, "what, was that just…" in almost every scene.

What the Coens have done is taken this incredible cast and toss them into a story about Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood fixer in 1951 who is just trying to keep every movie and star he has on the lot afloat. This is complicated by kidnappings, unwed women getting pregnant, gossip columnists, communists, the studio system in general, another job offer, and probably a half-dozen other things.

It is a whole lot of stuff to squeeze into a movie that clocks in at under two hours, and if there's a criticism to be made about the movie, it is that each individual story tends to not be that deep. How can you spend that much showing the singing cowboy being transformed into an someone who can play a member of the New York upper-crust when you have to work in speeches about stuff like the mechanisms of capitalism, the exploitation of the workers, and naming names? On the other hand, it feels like a perfectly condensed version of a hypothetical year's worth of movie gossip columns in the early 1950s.

While such a series of problems handled in something other than the film's pithy fashion could make "Hail, Caesar!" into a scathing rebuke of Hollywood (and I'd love to see an alternate version of the film, also made by the Coen brothers, that did just that), it is much more of a love letter to an age gone by and a style of filmmaking that doesn't exist anymore. It doesn't necessarily pine for those days, but from a fabulous editing room scene to an incredible song and dance number with Tatum to a date arranged between stars for a premiere, "Hail, Caesar!" does show a love for the era.

At this point, I have to say, I'm looking at my word count, rereading my thoughts and wondering if I've said anything at all. I believe that the Coens once again with "Hail, Caesar!" manage to include amongst the perfect dialogue and smart story a depth many filmmakers could only hope to achieve. It may not be the depth of "Miller's Crossing" or one of their other works, but it still surpasses the efforts of so many.

My philosophy with this site is that people don't come for thousands upon thousands of words in a single post on a single subject. The Coens, however, lend themselves to needing thousands upon thousands of words and careful study and a multitude of comparisons. You won't even have to look too hard on the web to find such an effort for this movie, but it's not something I'm going to do here.

In the end, "Hail, Caesar!" gives us great filmmakers offering up wit and witticism about the way the process used to be, or the way they would have had it have been. Each and every member of the cast knocks it out of the park. Scene after scene features laugh-out-loud jokes, incredible asides, and something smart connecting it all together. Deakins is again at the top of his game, something which could be exceptionally hard as the movie forces him to ape various styles as he goes along so as to show various pieces of the films being made at the studio. But, like the Coens, he succeeds and does so in spades.  What's more, they all make it look easy (as the film says, "would that it were so simple.")

Again, if there is a failing in "Hail, Caesar!" it's that it isn't four hours long. The opportunity to sit there and watch more of the world that the Coens have put before us is something I would relish. Perhaps if we're truly lucky, in a few years this will get the "Fargo" treatment and wind up (brilliantly) adapted for television. Or, maybe there will just be an extended cut when the film comes out on Blu-ray. Don't wait until then to see it though, it is a thoroughly enjoyable film from first frame to last.

photo credit: Universal Pictures

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

"Lass is More" Watches "Crimson Peak" but not on a Massive TV

How much does the size of one's television influence their enjoyment of what they're watching?  Surely it plays some role.  The room one is watching in plays a role, the seat one is utilizing does as well.  The less there is to take away from the focus of what's on screen the better they can experience it.

Television size has to play, just as does television quality, image quality, and sound.  An improved technical presentation may not make a bad movie good, but it may make it better.

On today's podcast we discuss what Pythagoras tells us about television size and a movie with incredible visuals and a lackluster story, "Crimson Peak."  But, as the visuals are just so fantastic, if they were watched on a larger screen would the issues with the story be less noticeable?  I think they would.

photo credit: Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

More Thoughts on "Top Gear" in Light of "And on That Bombshell" by Richard Porter

Recently, I read a great book. Titled "And on That Bombshell," the book is by the "Top Gear"'s script editor, Richard Porter (and while my Kindle copy has the subtitle "Behind the Scenes at 'Top Gear,' apparently Amazon now sells it with the subtitle "Inside the Madness and Genius of 'Top Gear'").  Porter is clearly a smart, funny man who has written a smart, funny book about a smart, funny TV show. And here's the thing – the book, like the show, ends horrifically and leaves me at a loss.

Well, I say horrifically so you'll keep reading. The truth is that the book ends in disappointing fashion and does so because the series ended horrifically.

Go back, search your memory. After a series of ever-increasing missteps by Jeremy Clarkson, he eventually punched one of the folks working on the show. The BBC dismissed Clarkson. Richard Hammond and James May—in a show of solidarity—chose to not continue without their co-host, and it all just went away (naturally, they're all working on a show for Amazon now).

This could be a case of me expecting something that the book was never in a position to deliver – a satisfying explanation of what happened that led to Clarkson taking a swing at a member of the production team. Porter doesn't excuse Clarkson in any way and seems, in fact, to believe that the apology Clarkson gave in the office to everyone after the incident was rather weak ("half-hearted and feeble" are his choice of words), but there's no great explanation of why Clarkson did what he did. Not that one necessarily exists.

Not that one necessarily exists.

That really is the crux of the matter, isn't it? Human beings regularly do dumb stuff. Stuff they shouldn't do, and sometimes stuff that is not forgivable and should not be forgiven. That is what I'm wondering about at this point.

Porter doesn't seem to agree with those who signed the petition to reinstate Clarkson. He writes that it was, "eagerly signed by people who thought it was okay for a colleague to smack you in the mouth as long as some strangers reckoned he was a good bloke." He instead apparently sides with the BBC and their punishment, or at least doesn't disagree with them, writing, "And anyway, what else were the Beeb going to do."

Still, the book lacks a satisfying close because the show lacks a satisfying close because life lacks a satisfying close. We are regularly taught by movies and television and books (yes, books!) to expect an ending before the curtain goes down, to expect that all—or most—things will be made clear before the final curtain. Life just doesn’t work that way.

It would be great if Porter could write, "And, after XX series and YY episodes over the course of which 'Top Gear' went to ZZ countries and tooled about in AA cars, everyone decided that the show had run its course and decided to move onto other things." But, that's not how it happened and so that's not what we get.

When one stops to consider it, it's actually almost fitting that "Top Gear" ended its shows with its whole "And on that bombshell" thing, because that's how it ended its life.

All of that leads me back to something I said earlier. I think the real question to which I would like an answer now is whether or not I should watch the new Amazon series. I loved "Top Gear." I wrote about it regularly for quite a while, expressing great admiration for the hosts and those working on it. It was beautifully shot, well put together, and full of great moments. But, how much does reality impinge upon my watching a reality show?

Watching the new series is, as I see it, tantamount to forgiving Clarkson. It is the same as being one of those people who signed the petition asking for his reinstatement. "No, no, it's okay that this guy punched someone, he's funny and likes cars."

It isn't my place to forgive him. For that matter though, it isn't my place to condemn him.

Is it wrong to want someone to step in and tell me what I should do, because let me tell you, that would be fantastic. Of course, that is, once again, asking for a nice pat conclusion to an episode in life and it just doesn't exist.

Still, read Porter's book. I love it.

photo credit: Orion Publishing Group

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Lass is More" on Relationships, "Chi-Raq," "Meet the Patels," & "Burnt"

It seems incumbent as February rolls around that we talk a little bit about relationships and there are three different films hitting Blu-ray/DVD today that work into that discussion beautifully -- "Chi-Raq," "Meet the Patels," and "Burnt."

 These movies look at different sorts of relationships and do so to greater and lesser extents. I'll tell you right up front that I think "Chi-raq" may be the best of the movies, but that "Meet the Patels" struck more of a chord with me.  Hopefully that separation -- best movie vs. bigger effect on me as a viewer is clear, but even if it isn't, accept that both of these movies are well worth considering.  "Chi-Raq" is definitely more provocative and perhaps not to everyone's taste, but I think it shows Spike Lee in top form.

As for "Burnt," well, I recommend you stay from it.

photo credit: Alchemy/Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Movie Review: "The 5th Wave"

Leaving "The 5th Wave" screening, I asked my daughter (nine-and-a-half) if she enjoyed the movie. She said that she did, that it was really fun and she was looking forward to a sequel. So, clearly Chloë Grace Moretz and company offered her something she quite enjoyed. As we talked more about it over dinner, my daughter said that she had some questions, that there was some stuff in the J Blakeson directed movie that she didn't quite understand.

There were some big ideas in there about good and evil and right and wrong. Absolutely none of these ideas—not a single one—was really discussed, they were just brought up and then left to sit there, as if simply showing that big ideas exist in this universe is the equivalent of being deep. So, it made sense to me that my daughter might have some questions.

I will get to the specifics of her confusion in a minute, but first some basic background on the film. Taking place in the present day, "The 5th Wave" finds Moretz's Cassie living happily with her parents (Ron Livingston & Maggie Siff) and younger brother, Sam (Zackary Arthur). One day, an alien spacecraft shows up and soon it becomes clear that the aliens, known as Others and never seen, aren't friends. The Others begin the process of wiping the world clean of humanity, first setting off an EMP to destroy anything electric in the world and moving on from there to storms and plagues.

After finding themselves in a refugee camp, Cassie is separated from her family when the military arrives and takes kids back to a base to train them in how to defeat the alien menace. Missing the military bus and separated from her brother, Cassie sets off on a desperate attempt to get Sam back (some of the movie is told as a flashback, so we know from the opening that Cassie will wind up on this mission). Truths are discovered, loyalties tested, growing up is done, and there are two handsome young men Cassie has to choose between in the post-apocalyptic dating pool.

Okay, back to where I began – what didn't my daughter understand. Talking with her about the movie, it became clear that the things she had trouble with were some of the massive plot flaws in the film. My daughter's assumption wasn't that the movie had made a mistake in its construction, but rather that she had simply not understood how and why things came together as they did. So, why did the kids in the army do x, y, or z? Why didn't the kids or parents ask this or that question? Why did the adults at the refugee camp allow the separation to take place? On and on we discussed these things that she felt like she simply hadn't understood and all of them were things that the movie did poorly. That is, she didn't understand them because there was no way to make logical sense of what had taken place.

At one point, we hit on a particularly interesting bit. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Liev Schreiber's Colonel Vosch is hiding something in the movie, that he isn't being honest when he shows up at the refugee camp. The vast majority of people in the camp allow him to proceed with separating families, they don't question it. But, Schreiber's character oozes evil, he is a wolf in tattered sheep's clothing, barely concealed. I thought I could tell Schreiber was not entirely a savior because I don't think of him as playing that sort of role, but, there we were, after dinner, and my daughter said she knew there was something wrong about him immediately, that she could tell he wasn't being completely honest. And yet, I repeat, the families were just fine with going along with this guy who one of the youngest folks at the screening last night could tell wasn't being entirely honest.

Even so, even as we were discussing all these issues, my daughter still proclaimed that she enjoyed it, and that's great. The movie may be rated PG-13, but it most definitely feels geared towards a tween, or not-quite-tween crowd. Moretz is solid playing this young woman who has lost everything but will do anything to fulfill a promise she made to keep her brother safe. Putting ordinary people, especially a young woman, into extraordinary circumstances is the exact kind of thing that ought to fuel my daughter's imagination and it did just that here. My daughter garnered enough enjoyment from Cassie's journey that it didn't matter that the stuff that was going on with the military and Sam made no sense, even if the movie spends an extraordinary amount of time on it.

Anyone who doesn't fit into that age category, however, will find little to enjoy. More than once during the screening the audience chuckled at moments clearly not meant to be funny. "The 5th Wave" may work for a narrow segment of the audience, but just not enough, and not well enough, to make it a worthwhile endeavor.

photo credit:  Sony Pictures

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Lass is More" on "Straight Outta Compton" and "That Could Never Happen to Me"

Funnily enough (in my world anyway this is funny), the last piece on this blog is a rather negative review of an Ice Cube-starring movie.  Now, for the podcast, we have a rather good movie about Ice Cube.  Yup, on this week's Meanderings it's "Straight Outta Compton."

Naturally, I don't think the movie is everything that it could be and rather than simply focusing on the great points I, as I tend to do, harp on the negative.  This particularly negative I refer to as a "that could never happen to me" moment.  It's the bit in the movie where you, the audience, identify something that is going to be a huge problem before it becomes one and say to yourself, "that could never happen to me."

Here's the thing -- of course if could happen to you.  The problem is that the movie has just failed to portray the moment in a believable way, not that you (or I) couldn't be duped into making the mistake.

Listen to the podcast, I explain it all.

photo credit: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Movie Review: "Ride Along 2"

The 2014 Tim Story-directed film, Ride Along was a success, and a sizable one. It should therefore come as no surprise that the Kevin Hart-Ice Cube film now has a sequel. Ride Along 2, which reunites Hart, Cube, and Story, has exactly what you would expect from such a movie – more.

Yes, Ride Along 2 (why, oh, why didn't they call it Ride Alonger) has more explosions and chases and bad guys and silliness. The only thing it has less of, is laughs. It isn't that the movie is wholly devoid of laughs, it's just that they come less often and elicit more of a chuckle than a laugh of the full on belly variety. It is a movie where good ideas aren't carried out and which seems to take a page from every other buddy cop action sequel ever.

Without getting too bogged down in the story, Ride Along 2 finds James Payton (Cube) and Ben Barber (Hart) down in Miami to question a guy, A.J. (Ken Jeong), about a thing. There is this new bad guy in Atlanta and he's some how tied to Miami and don't worry about it… the point is that they go down to Miami and muck about and get in trouble with the police captain down there and nearly get themselves fired and killed and blown up more than once. Our bad guy this time out, rather than being faceless which was actually sort of fun in the first film, is Benjamin Bratt's Antonio Pope, a seemingly upstanding citizen with a fortune who is actually smuggler because he wants a bigger fortune. Really. villain is a rich guy who has a smuggling ring because he wants to be richer.

That isn't the point of the movie though. The point is the love-hate relationship between James and Ben. Fortunately, that part of the movie still works. Cube's semi-slow burn combined with Hart's nonstop antics do find some jokes that land, even if neither character has remotely grown coming out of the events of the first movie. Yes, the reference Ben thinking he's going to be a great cop because of what happened last time out, but he thought he was going to be a great cop from the beginning of that movie so it's not really growth. Ride Along 2 is really, essentially, just the same thing again. But in Miami. And with a villain we can see. And Ken Jeong goofing around. And Olivia Munn as Maya, an officer and love interest for James.

Also back is Ben's love of video games. This time rather than squad-based FPS action, Ben's playing more Grand Theft Auto style stuff. In what ought to be a great moment in the film, Ben is behind the wheel during a car chase and starts seeing the world as the game. It is clever and funny and almost instantly undercut when the film cuts back to the real world and then goes back to the game and maybe throws in a couple half real world-half game moments, etc.

Ben's application of video games to the real world is one of those things that actually works in the franchise and turns this guy who is a clown into an actual person capable of some sort of success. That works even when he sees things as a game, but Story's weird decision to not stick with the game thing for the length of the chase is just visually confusing and in no way conveys the sense that Ben is applying his knowledge. Instead it feels like they didn't have the courage of their convictions, that they weren't sure people would buy it and so didn't carry it through. It would have been better left out entirely.

Fans of Tika Sumpter's Angela (James' sister and Ben's fiancée) will be somewhat disappointed to know that she is sidelined for much of the film. She stays in Atlanta trying to plan her very quickly approaching nuptials to Ben and really just pops up from time-to-time to remind Ben (and the audience) that the wedding really is coming soon. We also get to see her interact with their wedding planner (played by Sherri Shepherd), but there is very little to it.

Throughout Ride Along 2 there are plot flaws and logic gaps and some easy jokes mixed in with a few more clever moments. It is the sort of movie where the audience leaves thinking that they have down much of the plot for Ride Along 3 already (Ben and Angela will be expecting a baby, James or Maya will be scared about the next step in their relationship) and assuredly, if Ride Along 2 is remotely as successful as the original, there's going to be a Ride Along 3.

photo credit: Universal Pictures

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On Not Labelling Myself

I have a fear of labels. Not the itchy kind that bother the back of your neck all day as you walk around. Those aren't great, but I'm not afraid of them.

No, my fear of labels is much more about how I label myself… or how others label me.

I don't exactly know when this started, but I recall being asked a decade ago by a colleague if I would consider myself a gamer. She was, in the end, asking because she was my Secret Santa and looking for hints about what to get me. I responded that "I play videogames, but don't really consider myself a gamer."

Now, I seem to answer a whole variety of questions in similar fashion. I like Jimmy Buffett, but I don't consider myself a Parrothead. I like Disney World, but I don't consider myself a Disney-phile. I run, but I don't consider myself a runner. I'm a massive fan of James Bond, but I wouldn't consider myself whatever massive fans of James Bond call themselves. I've written about movies and television for almost a decade, but I only recently started calling myself a journalist .

The list goes on and on, and while there are changes from time to time, like the fact that I do now call myself a journalist, those changes tend to be built out of necessity. I have accepted the journalist label because all sorts of forms require that I list an occupation, especially when travelling abroad for work. I can't exactly go to another country to visit a film set and say to the nice folks at passport control "Well, I'm going to write about movie X which is currently filming here, but, no, don't say that I'm a writer or a journalist or anything like that. I'm just not comfortable with the idea."

Why does this strike me now? It's the running one. I still wholeheartedly eschew the label runner, but my wife would say that I'm being insane there. As evidence she would point out that yesterday morning, with the temperature hovering at 30 and the wind chill making it feel like less than 20, I was outside running. It wouldn't matter how much I try to argue that yesterday's running was entirely about wanting to have pizza and peanut M&Ms last night, I would still be referred to as a loon. I had this particular thought as I was running yesterday – did being outside, running, mean I had to accept the label. It was not the greatest of thoughts and I almost gave up right then and there, something that would have been problematic as I was several miles from my car.

And here's where we get to the nub of the thing. Runners are people who go out to run more than I do, run further (farther?) than I do, and do it in less time than I take. Real James Bond fanatics can tell you the license plate number of his Lotus. Parrotheads attend multiple concerts per year. True Disney-philes have an annual pass which is well worn and a DVC membership. Gamers play more than I do. Journalists know more than I do.

I don't see any of these things as negative. I would love any and all of these labels, but there is a claim of expertise to them that I do not take on; that I do not say I have and which I'm not sure how to get.

Well, there you are. Thoughts that may be interesting and a completely lackluster conclusion. No big answers. No wow moment. No ability to make anyone think any differently about the world at the end of the piece.  And, as it turns out, I started to talking about how it was a fear and it's not a fear at all, it's just something to which I don't believe myself entitled.

That's journalist out the window then.

Maybe I'll just go and fire up Assassin's Creed: Syndicate and try to take on the mantle of gamer.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Black and White Films: The Next Generation

We had an interesting movie related moment here over the holidays, one that has made me question my daughter's viewing choices.

As I have written about previously, she voraciously consumes TV series on Netflix. She loves going to theaters to watch movies. When she starts down a TV series or film franchise path, she watches all possible entries. She cannot be stopped.

So, there we were over the holidays, looking for a nice holiday movie to watch. I toss out suggestions like "Die Hard" and "Love, Actually" even though she's clearly a little young for those two. My wife though, she worked out the right answer, "It's a Wonderful Life."

I could spend hundreds of words talking about how "It's a Wonderful Life" is the perfect movie, the only movie that can make me cry every single time I see it, an utter giant of not just holiday cinema, but cinema in general. That however, is not the point and I'm not going to go down that path. Just accept that the movie is one of the greatest films ever made and let's move on.

The point is that as we were pitching the movie to my daughter the fact that it's in black and white came up. Probably something was said along the lines of "it's a classic, brilliant black and white movie." The response to that, from my daughter, was "Black and white!?! We have black and white movies?"

We have black and white movies? Of course we have black and white movies. Who would claim to even have a modest library of films and not have a black and white one?

Just a quick look at our DVD library tells anyone, my daughter included, that we do indeed have black and white movies, plenty of them. Again, she's too young for "Schindler's List," but we have a decent number of Humphrey Bogart movies, "Dr. Strangelove," and a bunch more. They seem to have faded into the background though when my daughter goes to look for something to watch.

Just as she was taken aback by the notion that we had black and white films, we were equally shocked that perhaps she's never seen one and that she would have an objection to doing so. How could that be possible?

Naturally, this must be corrected. For external reasons that holiday movie night was put on hold and so "It's a Wonderful Life" wasn't screened for her, but she's going to have to see something black and white eventually.

The problem now is that I just don't know where that should begin. What is the perfect, entry level, black and white movie?

I would love for it, stylistically, to be similar to movies made today, so that she only had to contend with the lack of color. But, that's now asking for a black and white movie that was 80 years ahead of its time and it feels like a tall order. So that's probably heading down the wrong path.

The more I think about it, the more I have two different visions of how to proceed. First, there's Bogie as Sam Spade and Phillip Marlow. "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep" are classic noir films with stories she could get into and the man himself in the lead. With success there, it opens the door to so many more detective tales (which she would definitely enjoy) and the rest of Bogart's work.

The other path is the Universal monsters path. We don't really do horror, but then these movies aren't that terrifying (she loved the "Blink" episode of "Doctor Who" which is more chilling than any Lugosi film). She loves franchise movies and getting to explore characters over a series of films, and what are the Universal monster movies if not exactly that? They are an opportunity to see a massive set of movies develop, grow, and change dramatically over the course of time.

But, I'm not sure. I'm just not sure.

For whatever reason, this one feels important. Muck up her introduction to black and white movies and she could walk away with a distaste for decades of great cinema.

Humphrey Bogart? Universal monsters? Maybe just go back to "It's a Wonderful Life?" I'm sure there is an answer somewhere, some hidden disc sitting on our shelves, and all I have to do is find it.

photo credit: Paramount Home Entertainment