snapshot: Proud Mary (2018)

US / 89 minutes / color / Screen Gems Dir: Babak Najafi Pr: Tai Duncan, Mark Anthony Little, Paul Schiff Scr: John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal, Steven Antin Story: John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal Cine: Dan Laustsen Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Danny Glover, Xander Berkeley, Neal McDonough, Margaret Avery, Rade Serbedzija, Erik LaRay Harvey, Owen Burke, Bo Cleary, James Milord, Alex Portenko, Gene Ravvin, Airon Armstrong, Jose Gonsalves, Kevin O’Peterson, Vladimir Orlov, Al’Jaleel McGhee.

Taraji P. Henson as Mary.

“Taraji P. Henson Like You’ve Never Seen Her Before” the DVD box proclaimed, so for at least a weekend we were incapable of referring to anyone by name without adding the words “Like You’ve Never Seen Her/Him Before”; things, minds, simple, etc.

Boston hitwoman Mary (Henson Like You’ve Never Seen Her Before) spares the young son of a bookie she murders, and thereafter feels responsible for the child, keeping an eye on him from a distance. When she discovers he’s being knocked around by the criminal he’s fallen in with, Uncle (Berkeley), she Continue reading

snapshot: Exposed (2016)

US / 102 minutes / color / Grindstone, Emmett Furla Oasis (EFO), Elevated, Fortitude, PalmStar, Company Films, Lionsgate Premiere Dir: Declan Dale (i.e., Gee Malik Linton) Pr: Robin Gurland, Gee Malik Linton, Keanu Reeves Scr: Gee Malik Linton Cine: Trevor Forrest Cast: Ana de Armas, Keanu Reeves, Gabriel Vargas, Big Daddy Kane, Mira Sorvino, Melissa Cardello Linton, Christopher McDonald, Danny Hoch, Venus Ariel, Sandy Tejada, Ariel Rolando Pacheco, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Stephen Thompson, Denia Brache, Laura Gómez, Jeanette Dilone, Danny Guzman, Leopold Manswell.

Ana de Armas as Isabel.

One of the most unusual neonoirs I’ve watched although, if you’re looking for a slick commercial movie, look elsewhere. For ninety percent of its running time, perhaps even more, it failed to convince me: I was enjoying it, but I didn’t feel fully involved. And then suddenly along came its resolution—one that’s as revolutionary as the one in The USUAL SUSPECTS (1995), but if anything even better hidden beforehand—and suddenly all those wayward strands from earlier made complete sense. At the end of it, when I’d finished gasping, I remarked to Pam that Continue reading

snapshot: Unlocked (2017)

Czech Republic, Switzerland, UK, US / 98 minutes / color / Silver Reel, di B, Bloom, Sira, Lipsync Dir: Michael Apted Pr: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Georgina Townsley, Erik Howsam, Claudia Bluemhuber Scr: Peter O’Brien Cine: George Richmond Cast: Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Michael Douglas, Tosin Cole, Matthew Marsh, Makram J. Khoury, Brian Caspe, Philip Brodie, Michael Epp, Aymen Hamdouchi, Akshay Kumar, Robert Alexander Russell, Rami Nasr, Lauren Jessica Boone, Olivette Cole-Wilson.

As this movie’s closing credits rolled, I sat back with a sigh of satisfaction. An old-fashioned edge-of-your-seat yarn, excellently told, with some genuine surprises and a thoroughly admirable, likeable protagonist. All this and Noomi Rapace in kickass form. What could be better? They should make more movies like this . . .

And then I discovered one reason why they don’t.

Apparently Unlocked was roasted by the critics on release for not bringing anything new to the table—for being old-fashioned, in other words.

To which all I can respond is: I’m a big fan of mold-breakers, but there’s room for old-fashioned too, y’know.

Noomi Rapace as Alice Racine.

CIA interrogator Alice Racine (Rapace) was one of the best, but a couple of years ago an operation went pear-shaped in Paris, innocents died, and she had to Continue reading

Black Butterfly (2017)

Spain, US, Italy / 93 minutes / color / Grindstone, Ambi, Paradox, Elipsis [sic] Capital, Battleplan, Lionsgate Premiere Dir: Brian Goodman Pr: Silvio Muraglia, Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi, Alexandra Klim, Marc Frydman, Rod Lurie, Alberto Burgueño, Juan Antonio García Peredo Scr: Justin Stanley, Marc Frydman Story: Papillon Noir (2008 screenplay) by Hervé Korian Cine: José David Montero Cast: Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Piper Perabo, Vincent Riotta, Brian Goodman, Katie McGovern, Abel Ferrara, Nicholas Aaron.

Writer Paul Lopez (Banderas), an early stellar career now too many years and too many bottles of hooch behind him, lives alone in the midst of an extremely picturesque Colorado nowhere while watching himself run out of money fast and inspiration faster.

One day at the diner where he’s meeting Laura Johnson (Perabo), the realtor who’s trying to sell his house for him, he’s rescued from an altercation with an angry trucker (Goodman) by an ex-con drifter, Jack (Meyers). The upshot is that by way of thanks he invites Jack to lodge with him for a few days.

Antonio Banderas as writer Paul Lopez.

Jack starts to take over Paul’s life. Initially it’s just a matter of fixing up the house, but then he appoints himself Paul’s literary critic and mentor, and then in effect his life coach. The reasons Paul’s career has plummeted, Jack reasons, are twofold: Continue reading

snapshot: Cop Car (2015)

US / 88 minutes / color / Audax, Dark Arts, Park, End Cue, Expedition, Focus World Dir: Jon Watts Pr: Cody Ryder, Alicia Van Couvering, Sam Bisbee, Andrew Kortschak, Jon Watts Scr: Jon Watts, Christopher Ford Cine: Matthew J. Lloyd, Larkin Seiple Cast: Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Camryn Manheim, Shea Whigham, Kyra Sedgwick (voice).

A movie the Coen Brothers might have made if they didn’t have much of a budget, an enjoyable dark comedy—very dark, in places—set somewhere in flyover country where cattle outnumber people.

Two ten-year-old boys, Harrison (Wellford) and the more outgoing Travis (Freedson-Jackson), have just this morning run away from home and are on the verge of getting bored with freedom when they come across what appears to be an abandoned police car, sitting in a copse in the middle of nowhere. Naturally they Continue reading

Aus dem Nichts (2017)

vt In the Fade
Germany, France / 106 minutes / color / Match Factory, Bombero, Warner Bros., Macassar, Pathé, Dorje, Corazón, Canal+, Ciné+ Dir: Fatih Akin Pr: Nurhan Ôekerci-Porst, Fatih Akin, Herman Weigel, Ann-Kristin Homann Scr: Fatih Akin, Hark Bohm Cine: Rainer Klausmann Cast: Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Johannes Krisch, Samia Muriel Chancrin, Numan Acar, Hanna Hilsdorf, Ulrich Friedrich Brandhoff, Rafael Santana, Ulrich Tukur, Karin Neuhäuser, Uwe Rohde, Asim Demirel, Aysel Iscan, Henning Peker, Ionnis Economides, Youla Boudali.

There’s little point in denying that Diane Kruger is a beautiful human being, and it was on this basis that, I’m sure, she got the part in National Treasure (2004) that perhaps above all brought her to the notice of the US public. Yet even in that movie—an adventure in the Dan Brown mold—where all that was really required of her was that she be a scrummy blonde, she showed herself to be far more an actress than simply another pretty face; countless female Hollywood heartthrobs could have filled the role of Nicolas Cage’s love interest, but relatively few could have convinced me they were indeed academic archivists.

Diane Kruger as Katja.

In Aus dem Nichts/In the Fade Kruger manages to defy her own beauty to deliver one of the most electrifying performances I’ve seen in a while. Her character is in so many ways not admirable, but is one with whom only someone with a cold and stony heart wouldn’t sympathize. When she achieves her final vengeful closure, it’s hard not to Continue reading

Slander House (1938)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Progressive Dir: Charles Lamont Pr: B.N. Judell Scr: Gertrude Orr, John W. Krafft Story: Scandal House (1933) by Madeline Woods Cine: M.A. Andersen Cast: Adrianne Ames (i.e., Adrienne Ames), Craig Reynolds, Esther Ralston, George Meeker, Pert Kelton, William Newell, Dorothy Vaughn, Edward Keane, Vivien Oakland, Ruth Gillette, Mary Field, Robert Homans, Blanche Payson.

Once upon a tine she was plain Helen Smith from NYC’s 10th Avenue, but now she’s Madame Helene (Ames), proprietrix of the swanky Helene’s Rejuvenating Salon on Park Avenue. She’s comfortably engaged to prominent society physician Herbert Stallings (Meeker), and she looks set to ascend to the ranks of the glitterati.

But then fast-talking cad-about-town Pat Fenton (Reynolds) walks into her salon and her life, and from there on things can never be the same for her.

Adrienne Ames as Madame Helene.

Progressive Pictures was a Poverty Row studio whose business model was to release B-features with salacious titles yet relatively innocuous contents. This one’s not just SFW but safe for screening to the average pre-school group, although they might find it a trifle boring. (Except for the bit with the monkey. The bit with the monkey is more or less guaranteed to set pre-school kids and Three Stooges fans a-chuckle.) A slight puzzle here is that Continue reading

Claire in Motion (2016)

US / 84 minutes / color / Sacha, Running Man, Breaking Glass Dir & Scr: Lisa Robinson, Annie J. Howell Pr: Lisa Robinson, Annie J. Howell, Jenny Deller Cine: Andreas Burgess Cast: Betsy Brandt, Zev Haworth, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Sakina Jaffrey, Chris Beetem, Brian Evans, Ken Strunk, Marianne Murray, Merri Biechler, David Haugen, Kim Taylor.

Ohio University math professor Claire Hunger (Brandt) lives in Athens, Ohio, with her husband Paul (Beetem), an ornithology professor, and son Connor (Haworth). One morning Paul leaves home by prearrangement to go on a three- or four-day solo survivalist hike in the local wilderness, planning to live off the land. But time passes and, although his abandoned Subaru is soon found and a massive search operation is mounted by Police Chief Ken Doyle (Strunk) and his department, Paul himself is never seen again.

Betsy Brandt as Claire.

Trying to adapt, Claire discovers there were plenty of areas of Paul’s life that he was keeping secret from her. In conjunction with art postgrad Allison Lorn (Hollyman), for example, he had been creating a sculpture; although he and Allison Continue reading

The Unseen (1945)

vt Her Heart in Her Throat; vt Fear
US / 80 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Lewis Allen Assoc Pr: John Houseman Scr: Hagar Wilde, Raymond Chandler, Ken Englund Story: Midnight House (1942; vt Her Heart in Her Throat) by Ethel Lina White Cine: John F. Seitz Cast: Joel McCrea, Gail Russell, Herbert Marshall, Phyllis Brooks, Isobel Elsom, Norman Lloyd, Mikhail Rasumny, Elisabeth Risdon, Tom Tully, Nona Griffith, Richard Lyon, Mary Field, Sarah Padden.

In the small New England town of New Bristol, the imposing pile at 11 Crescent Drive was boarded up twelve years ago after its owner, Commodore Tygarth, died. Now his much younger widow (Elsom), is planning to open “The Commodore’s Folly” and put it on the market.

Sarah Padden as Alberta.

One rainy night an old woman, Alberta (Padden), sees a light moving behind the boards. Pausing to investigate, she drops a watch—a treasured gift from her mother. Before she can find it on the ground, a man rushes out of the house and pursues her into nearby Salem Alley, where he strangles her. Little does he know he’s been observed . . .

Next day Continue reading

snapshot: The Lady who Dared (1931)

vt The Devil’s Playground

US / 57 minutes / bw / First National, Vitaphone Dir: William Beaudine Scr: Forrest Halsey, Kathryn Scola Story: Kenneth J. Saunders Cine: Tony Gaudio Cast: Billie Dove, Sidney Blackmer, Conway Tearle, Judith Vosselli, Cosmo Kyrle Bellew, Ivan Simpson, Lloyd Ingraham, Mathilde Comont.

Billie Dove as Margaret.

Charlie Townsend (Blackmer), US Vice-Consul to an unidentified South American country, takes his lovely wife Margaret (Dove) for granted, deserting her at every turn in favor of his duties. He doesn’t notice that, when internationally renowned big-game hunter Jack Norton (Tearle) arrives in town, there’s immediate electricity between Margaret and the newcomer.

Sidney Blackmer as Charlie.

Also in town is a top US Treasury Department agent, Farrell (Ingraham), who’s keen to Continue reading