Side Effects

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Just when you think they don’t make movies like this anymore, they go ahead and make a movie like this. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, who I swear was operating under the spooky influence of Alfred Hitchcock.

[The less you know about the plot, the better; so don’t read the following couple paragraphs.]

Rooney Mara plays Emily, wife of Martin (Channing Tatum). Despite Martin’s imprisonment for insider trading, Emily’s there waiting for him when he gets out. But she’s got lingering serious mental problems. Compassionate shrink Dr. Banks (Jude Law) prescribes one ineffective medication after another, finally hitting on Ablixa. It works wonders for Emily, but does it have … side effects?

Well, sure it does. That’s the name of the movie.

A dandy thriller, competently made. One cliché I noticed, which I’ll put in mouse-over white: When a major actor in a movie appears to be underutilized, he or she will turn out to be the surprise villain. You can still be surprised if you don’t think about this too hard.

Last Modified 2013-06-26 7:51 AM EDT

Night Train to Munich

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A Netflix DVD that had been languishing in my queue for years; I finally decided to bump it up to the top. It’s an early directing effort from Carol Reed (most famous for The Third Man). Stars Rex Harrison, Margaret Lockwood, and Paul Henreid (who the credits identify as “Paul von Hernried”). Henreid’s presence made me say at a number of critical points, in my best Bogie impression: “You’re getting on that train with Victor Laszlo.” Mrs. Salad, to her credit, refrained from throwing things at me.

It starts out just at the outbreak of WWII, and Czechoslovakia is getting overrun by the Nazis. Brilliant researcher Axel Bomasch has just developed some super-effective defensive armor, and the Nazis would dearly love to use it for their side. Fortunately, Bomasch escapes to Britain; unfortunately, his lovely daughter Anna (Ms. Lockwood) is captured and sent to a concentration camp. Will she escape? Well, sure. But that’s only the beginning.

What unfolds is a nice game of undercover cat-and-mouse, with the Nazis being cats. The mouse is Gus Bennett (Rex Harrison), who’s charged with keeping the Bomasches safe from the evildoers. Eventually there’s a train, headed to Munich, some part of the trip occurs at night. Hence the movie lives up to its title.

Here’s something I didn’t expect: this movie has two minor characters, very clueless Brits named Charters and Caldicott. They’re mostly comic relief, and eventually play a key role in the final outcome. But I thought: Hey, these guys seem familiar.. And they were: from the 1938 Hitchcock flick The Lady Vanishes, which I watched back in 2010. Same actors playing the same characters, also on a train streaking through Europe. As it turns out, the same writers wrote both movie scripts. And Charters and Caldicott went on to appear in a bunch more movies. Neat!