This intense and captivating film noir from 1950 feels groundbreaking and significant and deserving of noteworthy acclaim, which unfairly it hasn't received. While watching this remarkable film, I couldn't help but be keenly aware of how ahead of its time Undercover Girl is, not just for its content but cinematically. The story follows a female police officer named Christine Miller (played with mesmerizing brilliance by Alexis Smith in a career-best performance), who is determined to avenge the murder of her father by going undercover to take down the narcotics ring responsible for his death. In so many ways, this feels like a fantastic precursor for Police Woman, Cagney and Lacey, and even Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Yet, the gender of our main character is not the only celebratory element: this is a damn good movie from start to finish. Giving Alexis Smith terrific on-screen support is Royal Dano in a complex role (his movie debut nonetheless) with which the very talented actor gains the audience's sympathy - something tough to do for a desperate low rent character. Director Joseph Pevney (who would continue to helm films with strong female leads including Because of You with Loretta Young and Female on the Beach with Joan Crawford) knows how to hold his audience in a permanent state of suspense, masterfully creating a level of nail-biting intensity, evident in the last riveting ten minutes of this taut thriller (you'll be on the edge of your seat cheering our tough and clever heroine on). There's much to admire about this hugely underrated cinematic gem: from breaking gender norms (a woman on the screen who has a dangerous job and isn't relegated to housework and cocktail serving to her overworked husband) to being one of the best crime films made, Undercover Girl deserves far better glory and a lot of respect.
Watching Shawn Levy's sci-fi action comedy The Adam Project is a fun, thrilling experience. The concept of the film is clever: a fighter pilot travels back to a specific point in his life, only to meet (and bond with) his younger self. The always-charming Ryan Reynolds is our leading man, playing the grown-up version of Adam Reed. Reynolds continues to prove he knows a thing or two about being funny. Here, his comedic timing is sharper than ever, evident each time he delivers hilarious lines of dialogue. The pairing of Reynolds with young actor Walker Scobell (who plays a 12-year old version of Adam Reed) creates a fantastic comedic duo. Their dynamic is very enjoyable to watch. They are surrounded by an all-star cast, appearing mostly in supporting roles, including Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner (both should've been given more screen time), and a devilish performance by Catherine Keener as an ultra-villain who you will love to hate. At the heart of the film, this is a good
Released a year-and-a-half after Rebel Without a Cause , John Frankenheimer's delinquent youth drama The Young Stranger is filled with echoes from the iconic James Dean film. Here, high school student Hal Ditmar (played with a passionate intensity by James MacArthur) is blamed for something he didn't do: assaulting the manager of a local movie theater. Claiming the act was self defense (which it was), MacArthur spends most of the movie trying to convince the other characters of this truth, namely his father who is a wealthy film producer, played by James Daly. The only one who seems to believe in him (albeit not without a layer of doubt) is his mother, played by acclaimed actress Kim Hunter in a subdued role compared to the more powerhouse performances in her remarkable repertoire of work. This is a simple film in that it features a small cast telling a straight forward story that takes place in only a handful of locations. Certainly a precursor to the ABC Afterschool Specials
Long before there was Orange is the New Black or Wentworth , there was Caged . This women-in-prison film noir from 1950 is an intense, gritty movie that offers an in-depth look into the complicated lives of its characters. Adapted from the story Women Without Men by Virginia Kellogg and Bernard C. Schoenfeld, the script (written by Kellogg) holds nothing back. While the drama is certainly heightened, the film is remarkable in its seemingly realistic depiction of prison life for women (at least for the time it's set in). Kellogg gives us relatable characters to root for and loathe, portrayed by a talented cast of women including Eleanor Parker in an Academy Award nominated lead role, Betty Garde in a heartbreaking performance as homicidal shoplifter Kitty Stark, and Agnes Moorehead as the sympathetic prison superintendent Ruth Benton. A prison movie wouldn't be true to genre without a villain and Hope Emerson gives us a ruthless one in her sadistic portrayal of the evil prison