“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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he old saw about deaths coming in threes appears to have come true over the last couple of days with the passing of three individuals, all noteworthy to the movie world, though in very different ways.
* Al Martino spent most of his career as a well known lounge singer, but his moment of cinema immortality came with his casting as mob-connected singer-actor Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather.” According to this rather sensational obituary in The Telegraph, his life — including even how he obtained the role in the 1972 classic — may have had more in common with Fontaine’s than Frank Sinatra, who most filmgoers assumed was the model for Fontaine. Martino, who got the role after another Italian-American crooner, Vic Damone, dropped out of the running, also appeared in both “Godfather” sequels. He also sang the hit version of the movie’s “Love Theme,” “Speak Softly Love.”
* On Monday, Anne Thompson posted a moving remembrance of her friend, film scholar Anne Friedberg, who died of cancer at age 57 on October 9. She was the chair of the Department of Critical Studies at USC’s film program. She was married to screenwriter Howard Rodman, who heads the screenwriting program at USC, and her past students included critic Manohla Dargis of the New York Times. Ms. Thompson also included a quote from famed magician/writer/character actor (and David Mamet regular) Ricky Jay, so she obviously had her share of interesting friends as well.
* Former MGM and Columbia Studio executive and producer Daniel Melnick also died yesterday from lung cancer at age 77. He oversaw a number of classic and notable films at the studio and also was personally involved with a number of significant hits and a few classics ranging from “Footloose” (a hit, definitely not a classic) and Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” (a classic, not that huge a hit) to Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs,” to “Altered States” and my favorite Steve Martin movie, “L.A. Story.”