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

Laguna (2001)

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What will you do for “family”?
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vt Segreti di Famiglia; vt Hotel Laguna; vt Vendetta
UK, Italy, France / 92 minutes / color / Metropolitan, Davis, Caimano, ReteItalia, FDC (Laguna) Dir: Dennis Berry Pr: Augusto Caminito, Samuel Hadida, Alan Latham Scr: Augusto Caminito, Claude Harz, David Linter Story: Augusto Caminito Cine: Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli Cast: Joe Mantegna, Emmanuelle Seigner, Sergio Castellitto, Henry Cavill, Daniela Alviani, Charles Aznavour, Davide Bozzato, Sam Douglas, Gustavo Frigerio, Francesco Fichera, Paolo Paoloni, Karin Proia, Terry Serpico.

Many years ago, when Thomas Aprea (Fichera) was just a child, his father Terenzio (Serpico) was the saxophonist in a musical trio with singer Nicola “Nico” Pianon (Mantegna) and violinist Joe Sollazzo (Castellitto). As we discover much later in the movie, Terenzio soon decided to supplement his musical income by working as a bagman for mobster Tony Castellano (Aznavour)—so-named in the credits but throughout called Tony Castell.

Terry Serpico as Terenzio

Sergio Castellitto as Joe.

Unfortunately, Terenzio then decided to supplement his musical income yet further by skimming a bit off the top. The result was that one day Terenzio’s car blew up, killing Terenzio, his wife and Thomas’s two siblings—Thomas himself escaped solely because he’d run back into the house to fetch a forgotten present. Since then, “Uncle” Joe Sollazzo has raised the boy on his own in New York City, even putting him through college.

Joe Mantegna as Nico.

Now that Thomas (Cavill) has graduated, Joe sends him off to Venice, to be Continue reading

Un Crime (2006)

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A tale of single-minded obsession . . . but whose?
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vt A Crime
Canada / 99 minutes / color / ARP Sélection Dir: Manuel Pradal Pr: Michèle Pétin, Laurent Pétin Scr: Tonino Benacquista, Manuel Pradal Cine: Yorgos Arvanitis Cast: Harvey Keitel, Emmanuelle Béart, Norman Reedus, Joe Grifasi, Lily Rabe, Kim Director, Brian Tarantina, Patrick Collins, Chuck Cooper, Clem Cheung, Jonathan Lam, Ted Koch, Natalie Caron, Ben Wang, Stephen Payne, Memory Lee Cook, Karen Lynn Gorney.

In Brooklyn, Alice Parker (Béart) nurtures a powerful desire for the guy in the neighboring apartment, Vincent Harris (Reedus), but it’s an unrequited desire. All her attention-seeking behavior seems to be getting her nowhere.

Vincent (Norman Reedus) comes to bail out Alice (Emmanuelle Béart) after her latest DUI exploit.

Three years ago Vincent had a good job and a comfortable home outside New York, but late one night he got back to discover his wife Ashley (Director) brutally murdered. The only clue to her killer was that, as he approached the house, he saw an NYC yellow cab coming the other way; it had a big scrape along one side and its driver was wearing a bright red jacket and, on the ring finger of the left hand, a large stone or crystal. Later we’ll learn that Ashley had gone into NYC that day to Continue reading

Quan Min Mu Ji (2013)

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What really happened when a popular singer was murdered?
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vt Silent Witness
China / 115 minutes / color / 21st Century Wink, Tik, InLook Vision, Shanghai Yinrun, Anhul, Beijing Media, Beijing New Film Association, Shenzen Dream Life, Beijing MaxTimes Dir & Scr: Fei Xing Pr: Xiao Pingkai Cine: Zhao Xiaoding Cast: Sun Honglei, Aaron Kwok, Yu Nan, Deng Jiajia, Zhao Lixin, Ni Hongjie, Chen Sicheng, Tong Liya, Weitong Zhou.

Silent Witness - 0 opener

This is generally billed as a courtroom drama, and the description’s not incorrect. But it’s not complete, either. Most of the movie happens outside the courtroom, and in the convoluted narrative we’re given not one but three or arguably four interlocking interpretations of events. (This sounds more similar to RASHOMON [1950] than it actually is.) The effect is rather like one of those old John Dickson Carr novels where the detective gives what seems a watertight solution to the mystery only to break it down, expose why it couldn’t be true, and then present a completely different explanation. But Quan Min Mu Ji isn’t a light-hearted Carr exercise; there’s a genuine noirish sense throughout that no one here is going to find a happy ending, that the best anyone can hope for is a choice of tragedies.

Silent Witness - 3 Yang Dan makes her point in the underground garage

Yang Dan (Weitong Zhou) makes her point in the underground garage.

Singer Yang Dan (Zhou), unfaithful mistress of the powerful businessman Lin Tai (Sun), has been murdered in an underground parking garage, and the evidence is overwhelming that it was Lin’s daughter Mengmeng (Deng) who committed the crime. Mengmeng hit the chanteuse with Continue reading

Mysteria (2011)

US / 94 minutes / color / Arramis, Mysteria, Gruntworks, Omnicomm, ITN Dir & Scr: Lucius C. Kuert Pr: Rafael Primorac, Robert Miano, Lucius C. Kuert, Marlon Parry Cine: Keith Smith Cast: Robert Miano, Danny Glover, Billy Zane, Martin Landau, Meadow Williams, Michael Rooker, Silvia Spross, Gretchen Becker, Alan Wooley, Carlucci Weyant, Peter Mark Richman, Cassandra Gava, Gary A. Kauffman, Katarzyna Wolejnio.

Mysteria - 0 openerMysteria - 0a second opener

A strange and challenging piece of neonoir that’s as enigmatic as something by David Lynch (although it’s not at all in his style) that I’ve had to watch twice just to get my head around . . . and I may at some time feel the need to give it a third whirl.

Once upon a time Aleister Bain (Miano) was one of the most sought-after scriptwriters in Hollywood. Now he’s crouched over his portable typewriter in a crummy motel room fighting a losing fight with writers’ block. He’s three months overdue with his latest script for producer Finelli (Zane) and he’s out of money for the rent although not, it seems, for whiskey and cigarettes, both of which he consumes interminably.

At the start of the movie we don’t know this, because in the opening sequence someone comes into Aleister’s room and puts a bullet through his head.

And then the phone rings.

And then Aleister moves to answer it.

And then Continue reading

Blind (2014)

Norway / 92 minutes / color / Motlys, Lemming Dir & Scr: Eskil Vogt Pr: Hans-Jørgen Osnes, Sigve Endresen Cine: Thimios Bakatakis Cast: Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali, Marius Kolbenstvedt, Stella Kvam Young, Isak Nikolai Møller, Jacob Young, Nikki Butenschøn, Erle Kyllingmark, Fredrik Sandahl.

Blind - 0 opener

A young woman called Ingrid (Petersen) has recently fallen blind. She is terrified of leaving the apartment her husband, Morten (Rafaelsen), has bought for them, and just sits around all day, letting her imagination roam free, while he’s out at work at his architectural office.

Blind - 1 Ingrid

Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), living the inward life.

Since her fears make it impossible for her to go outside herself, she creates a pair of imaginary characters who can, as it were, do the going outside, and the seeing, for her. After a while she extends her tales to include what she imagines Morten might be up to when he’s out of the apartment—or even, unseen, in it; he becomes, in effect, a third character in her fantasies.

Einar (Kolbenstvedt), the first imaginary personality, is a social misfit, a homely-looking man who lacks the courage to meet women; instead, he sits in front of his computer every evening, watching hardcore online porn, indulging his fetishes and busily masturbating. (We witness a few brief extracts of the porn. If you decide to watch the movie, be warned of this. Overall, Blind is certainly not for the younger members of the family, however much they might protest otherwise.) His special fetish is Continue reading

Trap for Cinderella (2013)

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Amnesia, identity confusion, a tortuous plot . . .
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UK / 100 minutes / color / UK Film Council, Prescience, Forthcoming, JonesCompany, Aegis, Altus, Ealing Metro, Lipsync, Odd Lot, BFI Dir & Scr: Iain Softley Pr: Robert Jones, Dixie Linder, Iain Softley Story: Piège pour Cendrillon (1963; vt Trap for Cinderella) by Sébastien Japrisot Cine: Alex Barber Cast: Tuppence Middleton, Alexandra Roach, Kerry Fox, Frances de la Tour, Emilia Fox, Aneurin Barnard, Stanley Weber, Alex Jennings, Maisie Lloyd, Ciara Southwood, Nathalie Paris, Erich Redman, Elizabeth Healey, Pierre Boulanger, Tim Wallers.

Trap for Cinderella - 0 opener

After an explosive fire in a lavish villa in the south of France, the badly smashed-up survivor is flown to an exclusive clinic in Switzerland where Dr. Müller (Redman) performs extensive reconstructive surgery. Slowly the patient heals, although some faint scars may remain forever and she suffers near-total amnesia, no more than occasional disconnected glimpses of her past remaining. The clinic’s psychologist, Dr. Sylvie Wells (Emilia Fox), teaches the young woman who she is: 20-year-old orphan Michèle “Micky” Bean (Middleton) and presumptive heir, come her 21st birthday, to the fortune of her late aunt, hugely successful fashionista Elinor Raffermi (de la Tour).

Trap for Cinderella - 1 Micky meets Julia for 1st time after surgery

Micky (Tuppence Middleton, right) meets Julia (Kerry Fox) for the first time after the extensive reconstructive surgery.

Eventually Elinor’s PA, Julia (Kerry Fox), arrives to collect Micky and take her home to London, where she shields the recuperating patient from contact with her earlier life. Micky, however, rebels, escaping from Julia to make contact with her aunt’s lawyer, James Chance (Jennings), and hooking up again with Chance’s assistant, Jake (Barnard), whom she recognizes from photos as her once-boyfriend. Although he admits that “Last time I saw you you said you never wanted to see me again—I’m glad you changed your mind” (“changed your mind,” geddit?), they have a nostalgic Continue reading

Midnight’s Child (1992 TVM)

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Kate’s not wanted any more,
Gonna throw her out the door.
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US / 89 minutes / color with some bw / Victoria Principal, Jeff Myrow–David Gottlieb, Polone, Hearst Dir: Colin Bucksey Pr: Kimberly Myers Scr: David Chaskin Story: Jeff Myrow, David N. Gottlieb, David Chaskin Cine: Anthony B. Richmond Cast: Marcy Walker, Cotter Smith, Olivia d’Abo, Elissabeth Moss, Jim Norton, Judy Parfitt, Roxann Biggs (i.e., Roxann Dawson), Mary Larkin, Jeff Nowinski, Pierrette Grace, Nicole Prochnik, Jake Jacobs, Matt Corey, Stephanie Shroyer, Beth Bjork.

Midnight's Child - 0 opener

For most of its running time this rather neat made-for-television movie presents itself as a psychological thriller, an interesting riff on the likes of The HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992), but in the later stages it fairly abruptly morphs into something quite different.

It’s the end of term at the Roman Catholic St. Helena Akademy in Stockholm, and young Anna Bergman (Grace) has fixed up a job as an au pair in distant California. On her final night at the school she gets a note from her room-mate, Kirsten Grossbaum (d’Abo), asking to meet in the science lab for a surprise. The surprise is that Kirsten beats her over the head with a pestle, then organizes a gas explosion so that Anna is burnt to unrecognizability. Using Anna’s passport and a knack for disguise, Kirsten then flies out to take Anna’s place as au pair to high-powered executive Kate Cowan (Walker) and her struggling-professional-illustrator husband Nick (Smith), looking after their nearly-eight-year-old daughter Christina “Chrissy” (Moss).

Midnight's Child - 1 The real Anna Bergman (Pierrette Grace)

 The real Anna Bergman (Pierrette Grace).

Midnight's Child - 2 Kirsten looks back at the mayhem she's caused

Kirsten (Olivia d’Abo) looks back at the mayhem she’s caused.

“Anna” has a fearsome first day, the breaking of the washing machine being the highlight. Kate manages, however, to Continue reading

Maškarada (1971)

vt Masquerade
Yugoslavia / 88 minutes / color with brief bw / Viba, Kinematografi Dir: Bostjan Hladnik Pr: Boško Klobucar Scr: Vojko Duletic, B. Hladnika, Dušan Jovanovic Story: Vitomila Zupana Cine: Jure Pervanje Cast: Vida Jerman, Igor Galo, Blanka Jenko, Miha Baloh, Bojan Šetina, Rado Prajs, Iva Cadez, Miran Miljkovic, Tone Sojer, Bojan Tratnik, Tatjana Vovk, Crt Kanoni, Marjan Ferencak, Franjo Kumer, Branko Oman, Rok Lasan, Sonja Lamberšek, Miha Trpin, Lidija Turk.

Maskarada - 0 opener

High-school basketball player Luka (Galo) is having an affair with the much older, married Dina (Jerman), a liaison that’s apparently pretty well known to his team-mates, because she comes along to their every game and gazes yearningly at Luka from the stands. The pair meet in such romantic locales as the bottom of an empty swimming pool and, often in slow motion and to the sound of soft-porn-style music—in fact, a not-bad knockoff of “Je t’Aime, Moi non Plus”—do their stuff.

Maskarada - 1 Luka sees Dina eyeing him from the stands

Basketballer Luka (Igor Galo) sees Dina eyeing him lasciviously from the stands.

To her, their assignations seem all too short; in order that they can spend more time together, she arranges with stolid businessman husband Gantar (Baloh), a gun/hunting fanatic, that they should Continue reading

Köld Slód (2006)

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A neonoir ghost story for Christmas

Death stalks the shadows of an isolated dam in the far-north snows of Iceland!

vt Cold Trail
Iceland / 95 minutes / color with brief bw / Saga, Reykjavik, Angel Dir: Björn Br. Björnsson Pr: Magnús V. Sigurdsson, Kristinn Thordarson Scr: Kristinn Thordarson Cine: Vídir Sigurdsson Cast: Pröstur Leó Gunnarsson, Elva Osk Olafsdóttir, Hjalti Rögnvaldsson, Helgi Björnsson, Lilja Gudrún Porvaldsdóttir, Tómas Lemarquis, Anita Briem, Harald G. Haraldsson, Margrét Helga Jóhannsdóttir, Hanna María Karlsdóttir, Lars Brygmann, Birta Júlía Porbjarnardóttir, Sólveig Gudmundsdóttir, Olafur Gudmundsson, Hilmir Snær Gudnason, Bryndís Jónsdóttir, Stefán Jónsson.

Cold Trail - 07 Baldur in the crosshairs

Hardbitten, womanizing Reykjavik investigative journalist Baldur Mariuson (Gunnarsson) is more interested in pursuing the latest sex-scandal story—about a company CEO, Kjartan (Gudnason), molesting his daughter—than he is in a story his much younger colleague Elin (Briem) has picked up about a security guard accidentally falling to his death from a dam in a remote part of the country. His editor, Jón (Jónsson), feels the same way: sex sells papers. The dam story is unimportant, even if the dam is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a workman who died there during the construction and even if the relevant security camera just happened to be switched off when the supposed accident happened.

Cold Trail - 02 Baldur gets a call

Baldur (Pröstur Leó Gunnarsson) gets a call.

But all that changes for Baldur when he discovers from his mother (Jóhannsdóttir) that the man who fell off the dam was Continue reading