It's hard to say what kind of show this is. My first impression was satire. The show pokes fun at the preoccupations of creative twenty-somethings in Manhattan. But in the midst of all the laughs a story takes shape in which Dory becomes convinced an acquaintance, Chantal, is still alive, even though her family is grieving her loss.
Dory's friends help her look for Chantal, but the investigation suffers as the friends seem incapable of focusing on anything but themselves. In each episode, just when I'm expecting this to turn into a murder-mystery spoof, something happens that gives me a genuine chill.
Somehow the writers of Search Party have found the tunnel that connects the absurd and the uncanny. In a lot of ways we're in David Lynch territory. I've just finished the first season. Two more are available for streaming, and there's talk of a fourth season. It's a half-hour dramedy, definitely worth a try for something funny, suspenseful, and off-beat.
A hit man (Tom Cruise) hires a cab driver (Jamie Foxx) to drive him around Los Angeles because he has several jobs to do in one night. Of course, the hit man has to keep the cab driver on a short leash.
The premise yields plenty of possibilities for complications, reversals, and shoot-outs, and the movie does not disappoint. When you have Tom Cruise in a film, you have to give him more than one chance to run and gun.
The film exceeds expectations when it comes to character development. Jamie Foxx totally convinces as an average guy who wants nothing to do with crime and killing. And he's equally convincing when his character learns that sometimes you do indeed have to kick some ass.
The real star of the show is screenwriter Stuart Beattie who gives these two great actors a lot to work with. Between the action sequences, and sometimes during, their world views collide. They challenge one another to explain their actions.
And, the screenwriter creates a totally original scene when the hit man goes with the cab driver to visit his mother in the hospital and charms her.
Reviews from the "Dark Stories" Blog.
Dangerous Lies, 2020. Camila Mendes and Jessie T. Usher have chemistry!
Dead to Me, Seasons 1&2, 2019, 2020. Very dark, very funny. 20 episodes.
Ozark, Season 3 (2020) Rural noir, Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner.
Alibi (2020) 3 episodes. Superb acting and script. No one is as they seem.
Blow the Man Down (2020) Noir with a dash of the absurd in a fishing village.
Cold Pursuit (2019) An angry man with a snowplow. Liam Neeson.
Uncut Gems (2019) Adam Sandler in a noirish tale that doesn't clinch the ending.
Parasite (2019) Bong Joon-ho's masterpiece. Big Oscar winner.
Mickey and the Bear (2019) Debut film, small and simple, superb throughout.
Little Woods (2019) Debut thriller, with the feel of realism.
The Highwaymen (2019) A new and sobering look at Bonnie and Clyde.
Serenity (2019) Stock noir with a challenging twist.
Shoplifters (2019) Japanese noir, without the usual trappings.
Three Identical Strangers (2018) A documentary that feels like a thriller.
A Simple Favor (2018) Anna Kendrick brings the light; Blake Lively brings the darkness.
Bad Times at the El Royale(2018) Noir on a grand scale. Brilliant acting.
Destroyer (2018) Nicole Kidman creates an anti-hero as grim as can be.
Ben is Back (2018). Suspense that recalls naturalistic novels. Julia Roberts, .
Three Peaks (2017) It takes a while to get there, but by the end brings the chills.
Search Party (2016) Silly people in Manhattan. Feels a bit like "Twin Peaks."
In a Valley of Violence (2016) Wild west noir. Ethan Hawke. John Travolta.
Hell or High Water (2016) Jeff Bridges. Chris Pine. Bank robbers and Texas Rangers.
Emelie (2015) Smart writing and acting in a bad-babysitter thriller.
Cold in July (2014) High testosterone revenge thriller. Michael C. Hall,
The Bling Ring (2013) Sofia Coppola's take on teenage fans gone wild.
Thief (2006) Six episodes. Andre Braugher as a master thief. Muscle cars.
Red Eye (2005) Rachel MacAdams. Cillian Murphy. Crafty thriller by Wes Craven.
Collateral (2004) Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. A hit man hires a cab driver.
Quicksand (2003) Michael Keaton against type. Michael Caine brilliant as usual.
Out of Time (2003) Steamy ticking-clock thriller with Denzel Washington and Eva Mendes.
A Simple Plan (1998), Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda. Neo-Noir.
To Die For (1995) Nicole Kidman goes the distance from cartoon to monster.
Guilty as Sin (1993). Rebecca DeMornay and Don Johnson in psych thriller.
Pacific Heights (1990) True-to-life, chess-game thriller. Melanie Griffiths, Michael Keaton.
Still of the Night (1982) Meryl Streep, Roy Scheider, Hitchcockian touches.
Play Misty for Me (1971) Clint Eastwood directs and plays a DJ with an obsessive fan.
The Driver (1978) Vintage Bruce Dern as a corrupt cop. Ryan O'Neal surprises as a gangster.
Mississippi Mermaid (1969) Truffaut, Belmondo, Denueve . . . a story from Cornell Woolrich.
Bullitt (1968) at the Balboa The ultimate chase film . . . not just the car chase.
Underworld U. S. A. (1961) by Samuel Fuller A movie about realistic gangsters.
Pickup on South Street (1953) by Samuel Fuller. Streets of NYC, with a lift at the end.
Gun Crazy (1950) Naturalistic take on Bonnie and Clyde.
No Man of Her Own (1950) Stanwyck plays it to the hilt in a story from Cornell Woolrich.
Detour (1945) Low-budget, expressionistic classic. Post WWII fatalism.
On a visit to San Francisco, we saw Seabiscuit at the Metro Theater on Union Street. As you can see, it's not a theater any more, and at the moment it's boarded up because of the pandemic.
Movie theaters were already declining before the pandemic. The Metro turned into an Equinox gym in 2014, according to San Francisco Theatres, an excellent blog on the subject (Thank you, Carol Ann Riordan!).
Seabiscuit was an entertaining movie based on an entertaining book about an unlikely champion thoroughbred horse. Seeing it here had special resonance because one of the three principal characters, Charles S. Howard, played by Jeff Bridges, started out in San Francisco.
We saw the movie with Ann's parents and her sister and brother-in-law. Afterward we walked up the street and had dinner at a restaurant. It made a nice family outing. I suppose in the future we'll be making memories such as: We all went to my uncle's house because he had the largest flat-screen and after the movie we had food delivered.
The Cliff House sits on on the western edge of San Francisco, just around the corner from the Golden Gate straits, and just below Sutro Heights Park. Beyond it is Seal Rock (actually a collection of rocks), on which there used to be sea lions (not seals). Beyond that is the Pacific Ocean.
The building you see here, completed in 2003, is the sixth to occupy this site. The previous five were also called the Cliff House and, like this one, were restaurants in which to enjoy a meal and the view. At low tide, diners sometimes see people with fishing poles walk out to the rocks and stand on them while attempting to catch fish.
The Cliff House in all its incarnations has a storied history as part of a one-time entertainment district that included Sutro Baths and Playland at the Beach. Since 1977 it has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Looking for a good thriller? Try this documentary.
As the title suggests, this is a movie about triplets separated at birth. They discover one another by accident when two of them attend the same college. They rejoice and live their adult lives as brothers.
All this comes out near the beginning of this 96-minute film. It's an amazing story, but there's much more. As they discover the circumstances of their birth and their adoptions, the intrigue deepens. In a present-day interview, one of the brothers describes what they discover as "like some Nazi shit."
The way director Tim Wardle tells their story is worthy of Hitchcock. Each segment of the movie reveals the facts of a stage in their lives and includes one loose end, which leads the brothers and those who help them to the next stage. The suspense deepens until the end.
If you didn't know this story is true, you wouldn't believe it. You literally cannot make this stuff up.
Andy Goldsworthy's Spire has stood on a hill near Inspiration Point in the Presidio of San Francisco since 2006. On June 23, 2020, someone set fire to it. An investigation is ongoing, but so far nothing is known publicly about who did it or why.
I wrote about Spire in March of last year. It was the first of four sculptures in the Presidio by the world-renowned artist. Standing ninety feet tall, it was made of a collection of trunks from Monterey Cypress trees planted by the U. S. Army in the 1880s.
Most of Spire still stands. It is being evaluated for structural integrity. No decision has been made about whether it will have to be removed.
Informed about the vandalism, the artist had this to say: "The burning of Spire goes too deep for my own words. Besides, Spire has always spoken for itself and will perhaps now speak with an even greater eloquence after what has happened. If anything, its epitaph will be better written in the memories, thoughts and words of those who have lived with it over the past twelve years....What I do know is that art doesn’t give up. It is resilient and fights back. It is part of our collective and personal hard-won immunity."
For anyone who has ever wondered what the neighbors are up to, this is a fun read, assuming your idea of fun is watching things go very badly for a young mother trying to be a good neighbor.
We follow Emily and Ben in their new home as she attempts to befriend the woman next door while being a full-time mom to a toddler. This neighbor seems anxious and unwilling to communicate. Her husband, the doctor, is stand-offish to the point of rudeness.
The story is told from multiple points of view, so we also get to follow the doctor as he goes out to the shed behind the house every evening, and we find out what he does there. Thus we know what Emily is walking into before she does.
I enjoyed the way the author lays out the facts so we can see a pattern, and figure things out before the characters can. But things don't always go the way we expect, and that is fun too.
The prose is conversational and the various elements of the story---dialogue, description, thought, action, backstory, etc.---are in good proportions. It's and easy, enjoyable read.
Lisa Stone has four recent thrillers and twenty-seven novels written as Cathy Glass.
Back in 2003, on a visit to San Francisco, we saw School of Rock at the Alexandria. I enjoyed it. A lot of the scenes had a real heartbeat, even though overall it was the familiar story of the eccentric teacher/coach/captain who leads his students/team/crew to victory or at least personal growth.
The Alexandria is NOT a victim of the pandemic. It has been closed since 2004 after operating since 1923. A year ago, the city's Planning Commission approved a plan to turn it into a center for after-school programs, including a swimming pool. No action so far.
The twenty-five years during which I have visited and lived in San Francisco have coincided with the decline of movie theaters. I'm photographing those that are left.
If you've been frustrated by travel restrictions and desperate to get on an airplane and go somewhere, viewing Red Eye might make you content to stay home. The opening sequences follow Lisa Reisert (Rachel MacAdams) into an airport where she gets delayed by one cancelled flight after another and winds up on a red-eye flight to Miami. The depiction of the crowded airport and more crowded airplane bring back the horror that is air travel.
It gets worse for Lisa when her seat-mate Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) turns out to be a very bad man prepared to force her into aiding his evil plot by making one, seemingly innocent phone call from the plane while in flight. Too bad for Jackson he has picked a fight with a woman who has vowed never again to be a victim.
Red Eye was a critical and commercial success for director Wes Craven, the highly influential director of horror films. Fifteen years after its release, the viewer still marvels at the section of the film where the two stars are mostly confined to their seats on the airplane. Somehow Craven makes it feel dynamic.
At 85 minutes, it's a perfect length for a suspense thriller. It ticks like a stop watch and offers substantial thrills, relieved by Craven's signature grim humor.
Painting houses black is recommended by realtors and house-flippers as a way of making a quick sale. The architecture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle hates it, and it has called it a sign of gentrification.
Three weeks ago, I posted a photo of a row of Victorian houses in which all but one are painted in in traditional light colors with contrasting trim. One of them is painted black . . . almost.
A closer look reveals it is really dark gray with black trim and some silver and gold highlights. These variations give the house a sense of proportion, but the overall effect is still black. As a long-time friend remarked, it looks like the Addams' Family's home.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about Boarded-up Windows, San Francisco, and featured some of the murals that have appeared on the plywood used to cover the windows of stores and restaurants since the State of California ordered them closed. Some of these are casual, painted by uncredited artists. Others were commissioned and the artists have signed them.
Since that post, this mural has appeared on the corner store shown at the top of that blog post. It is now on the plywood facing the bus-stop in that picture. Apparently it was work for hire, because the inscription on the lower right says "copyright Friends Liquor," the store pictured.
The humor and the pathos are universal but especially apt for San Francisco where the average apartment size is 747 sq. ft. and the average rent is $3629 according to rentcafe.com. Rents are dropping as people are leave the city due to job-losses, but no one expects this to bring rent on a decent apartment within range of an individual who works for a living.
It has horses and six-shooters, and it happens in broad daylight, but this story is as noir as they come. Like suspense classics by Cornell Woolrich, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, and Charles Williams, this movie has a simple plot, and characters with dark motivations.
Our hero, Paul (Ethan Hawke), is trying to get to Mexico to escape memories of evil deeds in his past. His adversary, the Sheriff of Denton (John Travolta), knows right from wrong but is losing his grip on power.
When Gilly, the sheriff's son (James Ransone), picks a fight with Paul, and follows up with an act of cruelty, Paul decides to stay in town an extra day to settle the score. WARNING: the bad guys do not die quickly or easily. There is blood. ALSO: When the sheriff repeatedly tells you, "Get away from the window," pay attention!
The morality play is made more profound by two sisters (Taissa Farmiga and Karen Gillan). One is a soulmate for Gilly; the other has her sights set on better things.
Credit for pitch perfect story-telling goes to writer and director, Ti West, best known for horror films.
From the beginning, you know this is an homage to Sergio Leone's westerns from the 1960s that starred Clint Eastwood (Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). The lonely man on horseback in a desert landscape and the music featuring twangy guitars and a chorus of baritone voices tell you what to expect.
As the movie goes on, the filmmaker winks at you with references to these earlier westerns, and this is not the only source of humor in the movie. As in Alfred Hitchcock's films, these flashes of comedy only make the tragedy darker.
It's always delightful to reach the northern end of Van Ness Avenue, turn right, walk through Acquatic Park, and see these historic vessels tied up at the Hyde Street Pier. The tall ship on the left is the Balaclutha, a steel-hulled cargo ship built in 1886. The three-masted ship on the right is the C. A. Thayer, a lumber schooner, built in 1895. There are four other vessels, including a paddle-wheel steamer for passengers and a rare paddle-wheel tug built in England.
Delightful as it is to see them, it's even more fun to go aboard. The National Park Service (NPS) does its usual excellent job of making them accessible and providing all the information you need to understand what you're seeing. There is also a visitor center, an indoor museum, and a library.
In years past, I have seen announcements that the Balaclutha goes out for a sail around San Francisco Bay and that the interpretive rangers lead passengers in singing sea-chanteys. Truly they are among the greatest teachers we have.
Andy Goldsworthy's sculpture, Wood Line, stretches 1200 feet through a grove of eucalyptus trees in the Presidio, San Francisco's national park. It consists of curved eucalyptus branches, laid end to end so as to create a meandering line. At the upper end they are about three feet in diameter, and they gradually taper to about one foot at the far end.
As usual with Goldsworthy's sculptures, the place is as important as the piece. Like most of the trees in the Presidio, these eucalyptus were planted by the U. S. Army in the 1880s. In military fashion, they were planted in ranks and files to cover a hillside.
Rows of Monterey cypress trees were alternated with the eucalyptus, and over the years a peculiar thing happened in this grove. The eucalyptus grew faster and overshadowed the cypress. The cypress eventually died out, and, where they did, they left this unnaturally long, straight corridor because the trees had been planted in rows.
The place was already a remarkable example of humans leaving a mark upon the landscape when Goldsworthy chose to draw attention to it by drawing a line with eucalyptus branches.