“House of Games” is a hidden gem. Written and directed by David Mamet, this low-budget film was released in 1987 to positive reviews, but only managed to earn about $2.6 million at the box office.
The film is a neo-noir thriller about a prominent psychiatrist and author (Lindsay Crouse) who becomes involved with a group of con artists led by a shadowy figure named Mike (Joe Mantegna). The film is loaded with twists and turns, and saying anything more about the plot would spoil the film. Crouse and Joe Mantegna are brilliant in the lead roles, and the cast is filled with talented character actors including Mike Nussbaum, J.T. Walsh, Ricky Jay and William H. Macy. Mantegna was born to play this role. His performance seems so effortless. Meanwhile, the film wouldn’t work without Crouse’s impressive performance.
The neo-noir genre in film is a contemporary revival of the film noir genre, which was popular in Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s. Film noir is characterized by its dark, moody, and often cynical tone, as well as its focus on crime, corruption, and the seedy underbelly of society.
Neo-noir films, on the other hand, are typically made in a more modern era and reflect the social and cultural changes that have occurred since the original film noir period. Neo-noir films often feature similar themes and motifs as traditional film noir, but they may incorporate new elements such as more complex characterizations, non-linear narratives, and new visual and stylistic techniques.
Some common elements of neo-noir films include morally ambiguous characters, femme fatales, urban decay, and a general sense of disillusionment and despair. Neo-noir films often feature complex and convoluted plotlines, as well as an emphasis on mood and atmosphere over traditional plot development.
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You have to feel a little sorry for the makers of “We Believe,” the entertaining movie documenting the 100-year anniversary, if you want to call it that, of the Chicago Cubs’ last World Series victory. Many thought the 2008 Cubs were going to be the team that ended the heartbreak, and goodness knows they gave even the most cynical Cubs fan – of which this writer is one – reason to, well, believe. Late-inning comebacks, a no-hitter in a neutral stadium…it was a crazy year, just crazy enough to do the impossible. Director John Scheinfeld assembles a who’s who of Chicago celebrities, Cub players past and present, and assorted baseball luminaries (Bob Costas, George Will, Bud Selig) to discuss the unique relationship between the Cubs and their fans, intercutting it with history lessons of both the city of Chicago and the team they love. Their coverage of the material is most comprehensive; they even took a few minutes to talk about Steve Goodman, the folkie who penned the good-time song “Go Cubs Go” in 1984, which received a revival in 2008.
Unfortunately, Scheinfeld didn’t get the happy ending he was clearly hoping for when he began the project; the Cubs were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the Dodgers, and about halfway through the movie, Gary Sinise’s narrative updates on the team’s performance during the 2008 season become less and less frequent, and the movie begins to wander. When they finally get to discussing the playoffs, Sinise is mum on the outcome; they just show people discussing the aftermath. No one mentions the Dodgers by name, and only one person uses the word ‘sweep.’ What begins as a celebration of baseball and its loyal fans ends as a surprisingly insular, fans-only event.
Ah, but those Cubs fans will lap this up. The interviews with the 2008 players are refreshingly candid – best of the bunch was Ryan Dempster, who does a pitch-perfect Harry Caray impression – and the local celebs (Jeff Garlin, Bonnie Hunt, Joe Mantegna, Billy Corgan and Dennis Franz, to name a few) are upfront about their love for, and frustration with, their team. While “We Believe” may not chronicle the breaking of a century-old streak that they had hoped, it is a heartfelt tribute to arguably the most steadfastly loyal fans in baseball, if not all of sports.
Click to buy “We Believe”