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: Johnny Dangerously (1984)

US / 90 minutes / color with some bw / Edgewood, TCF Dir: Amy Heckerling Pr: Michael Hertzberg Scr: Norman Steinberg, Bernie Kukoff, Harry Colomby, Jeff Harris Cine: David M. Walsh Cast: Michael Keaton, Joe Piscopo, Marilu Henner, Maureen Stapleton, Peter Boyle, Griffin Dunne, Glynnis O’Connor, Dom DeLuise, Richard Dimitri, Danny DeVito, Carl A. Gottlieb, Ron Carey, Ray Walston, Dick Butkus, Byron Thames, Alan Hale Jr., Scott Thomson, Sudie Bond, Mark Jantzen, Gary Watkins, Mike Bacarella, Hank Garrett, Leonard Termo, Troy W. Slaten, Georg Olden, Cynthia Szigeti, Edward C. Short, Trisha Long, Hal Riddle, James Coco.

Michael Keaton as Johnny.

It’s 1910 in NYC, and the dispatch with which newspaper boy Johnny Kelly (Thames) sees off bully Danny Vermin (Olden) impresses passing mobster Jocko Dundee (Boyle). Jocko eventually hires the lad, who grows up to be the dashing Johnny Dangerously (Keaton), the gangster whom everyone loves because, like Jocko, he’s generous to a fault and makes sure no one ever gets hurt. Much.

Marilu Henner as Lil.

The only people in the old neighborhood who don’t know Johnny Dangerously is really Johnny Kelly are Continue reading

Crush (2013)

US / 95 minutes / color / Intrepid Pictures, FilmNation Dir: Malik Bader Pr: Trevor Macy, Marc D. Evans Scr: Sonny Mallhi Cine: Scott Kevan Cast: Lucas Till, Crystal Reed, Sarah Bolger, Caitriona Balfe, Reid Ewing, Holt McCallany, DJ Kemp, Camille Guaty, Michael Landes, Isaiah Mustafa, Leigh Whannell, Ashleigh Craig, Cody Hamilton, Dan Metcalfe, Preston Davis, Mariah Buzolin, Melissa Young, Nikki SooHoo, Meredith Salenger.

A surprisingly neat little movie that hovers somewhere between dark comedy and twisty psychological thriller, with a bit of coming-of-age drama thrown in. The performances are uniformly very good to excellent; almost all of them manage to be convincing while at the same time retaining something of the tongue-in-cheek. I was expecting a ripoff of—sorry, homage to—The FAN (the 1996 piece, not the 1981 one), but what I saw was a far more original and certainly far more entertaining movie than that.

By way of prologue, we see a little girl (Craig) and a little boy (Hamilton) sitting on a high roof. When the little boy admits with a chuckle that “I kissed Emily,” his companion hisses, “You kissed the wrong girl” . . . and shoves him off the roof to his death. And she does this so sweetly you just know no one will ever believe it was anything other than a tragic accident.

Ashleigh Craig as the junior psycho.

Cut forward a decade or more, and Continue reading

snapshot: The Net 2.0 (2006 DTV)

US / 93 minutes / color with brief bw / Sony Dir: Charles Winkler Pr: Rob Cowan, Irwin Winkler Scr: Rob Cowan Cine: S. Douglas Smith Cast: Nikki DeLoach, Keegan Connor Tracy, Neil Hopkins, Demet Akbag, Sebnem Dönmez, Güven Kiraç, Halit Ergenç, Mehmet Ergen, Charles Winkler, Ezel Akay, Michael Halphie, Emir Tekeli.

Nikki DeLoach as Hope Cassidy.

Portrayed as a sequel to, or at least a companion work to, the commercially very successful theatrical feature The NET (1995) dir Irwin Winkler—with Sandra Bullock as computer expert Angela Bennett and Jeremy Northam as her murderous foe, Jack Devlin—this is really more of a sister to the TV series derived from that movie, The Net (single season of 22 episodes, 1998–9), created by Rob Cowan, Deborah Pratt and Irwin Winkler, in which a cyberterrorist organization, the Praetorians, strips computer programmer Angela Bennett (Brooke Langton) of her identity and sends her on the lam as an accused criminal. It makes most sense, however, to view The Net 2.0 as a standalone thriller with some genuinely neonoirish twistiness of plot: you can never really be sure people are who they say they are, or Continue reading

36 Saints (2013)

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Oooh, spookitude!
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US / 82 minutes / color / SC Global Media, Active Fox Dir: Eddy Duran Pr: Joey Dedio Scr: Joey Dedio, Jeffrey De Serrano Cine: Isidro Urquia Cast: Franky G, Jeffrey De Serrano, Britne Oldford, Tyrone Brown, Matthew Daddario, Aja Naomi King, Chris Riggi, Alesandra Assante, Laverne Cox, Allan Louis, Joey Dedio, Mihaela Kolich, Maya Days, Raul Casso, Jaime Tirelli, Donna McKechnie, Frances Lozada, Dominic Colón, Esau Pritchett, Jonathan Duran, Carlos Lozada, Mareo Ryan, Cain Ruiz.

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The opening of this movie features cityscapes and apocalyptic scenes overlain by an extended voiceover that it’s hard to resist the temptation to parody:

According to ancient mythology, in every generation, there are thirty-six individuals who carry the suffering of the world, and assist those in dire need. The thirty-six are amongst us all. Anyone you meet could be one of them. The world exists in the merit of these thirty-six righteous people. Without them, the world we know would fall into chaos, corruption and eventually darkness. To achieve this darkness, there are those too who have chosen evil over good. They are united by their leader, Lilith, and are all marked by the symbol of darkness. Once their mission on this earth is completed, they are destroyed, either by self-infliction, or by another Dark One. Damnation falls on the ones who do not choose to be evil and want to escape the wrath of Lilith. Lilith’s ultimate revenge is to destroy the thirty-six by choosing the same fate that their namesakes have immortalized. The final nine have been discovered. By abolishing them, darkness will reign over light.

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What you get when (at least in this movie) you google for “Lilith” — saucy, eh?

I’ve encountered the Hebraic mythology of the Lamedvavnik—the 36 righteous ones—somewhere before (don’t ask me where!), and it has always been my impression that the 36 are supposedly scattered around the world, unknown to each other and perhaps not even knowing their own status. In this movie things are changed a bit, with the assumption being that, not only do they know each other, but that, with a couple of exceptions, they’ve assembled together as a group. Also, they’re linked in to Christian, specifically Roman Catholic, saints, plus other biblical characters whose names they share—including Jesus.

It’s Hallowe’en. Almost exactly a year ago 27 of the 36 saints died in a plane crash near Montreal, the only survivor of the tragedy being a priest, Father Judas Neri (Tirelli). Seven of the other nine saints were off being presented with a humanitarian award at the UN; these seven young people are now studying at the swanky Academy of Royals in what I think is supposed to be Continue reading

Last Light, The (2013)

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Whose fault was it what happened that night?
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US / 14 minutes / color / Coral House Productions Dir: Jennifer Cummins Pr: Lisa Cooper Scr: Persephone Vandegrift Cine: Dan McComb Cast: Telisa Steen, Sarah Dennis, Elora Coble, Randall Dai, Pearl Klein, Danika Collins.

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A very simple albeit narratively rather complex short that gives a powerful portrayal of grief but is, for me, let down by the triteness of its ending. The movie was, as acknowledged in the closing credits, funded through Indiegogo.

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Karen (Telisa Steen) and her two girls (Sarah Dennis [right] and Elora Coble) in happier times.

Karen Kingston (Steen), a single mother and seeming career woman, always promised her timid younger daughter Rebecca Anne “Becca” (Coble) that she’ll make sure to protect her from any harm that might come her way; but Becca was Continue reading

Intruder (2011)

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Who came to the lonely housewife’s aid?
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US / 20 minutes / color / Senese Films Dir & Scr: Billy Senese Pr: Brinn Hamilton, Billy Senese Cine: Jeffrey Stanfill Cast: Jennifer Spriggs, Josh Graham, Kayte Miller, Jeremy Childs, Craig Armstrong, Iain Montgomery, Adonni Samuels.

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A nifty little psychological thriller that declines to speak down to its audience—in fact, you might find yourself immediately replaying it to try to confirm in your own mind exactly what happened.

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Samantha (Jennifer Spriggs) gazes wistfully at her sleeping daughter Allie.

Rendered a paraplegic by his injuries, soldier Nathan (Graham) is being looked after in their small, dismal apartment by his wife, Samantha (Spriggs). She’s at the end of her tether trying to cope with both him and Continue reading

Shrike, The (1955)

US / 88 minutes / bw / Universal‑‑International Dir: José Ferrer Pr: Aaron Rosenberg Scr: Ketti Frings Story: The Shrike (1952 play) by Joseph Kramm Cine: William Daniels Cast: José Ferrer, June Allyson, Joy Page, Kendall Clark, Isabel Bonner, Will Kuluva, Joe Comadore, Billy M. Greene, Leigh Whipper, Richard Benedict, Mary Bell, Martin Newman, Herbie Faye, Somar Alberg, Jay Barney, Edward C. Platt, Fay Morley, Jacqueline de Wit, Adrienne Marden.

The Shrike - 0 opener

Jim Downs (Ferrer) is admitted to the mental ward of the city hospital following a suicide attempt; with him comes his worried wife Ann (Allyson), who wants to be by his side always, even when the doctors would prefer she not be, and who keeps repeating how her love for him is undying. Doctors Barrow (Bonner) and Kramer (Barney) are impressed by her supportiveness, even when it emerges that Jim and Ann have been separated for some while, and that Jim’s heart now lies with a new girlfriend, Charlotte Moore (Page).

Because Jim attempted suicide and suicide is regarded as a violent crime, and because he’s been brought to a public hospital, he falls into the category whereby he can be held until the psychiatric staff believe him to be no longer a threat to other people. (I have no idea if this was the law at the time but, if so, the law was being a ass.) Further, the person who really has control over his freedom is Ann: he can be released into the custody of his wife, not into that of Charlotte, whom the staff obviously consider to be just his bit on the side.

The Shrike - 2 Charlotte, forever stalle from visining Jim

Charlotte (Joy Page), forever stalled from visiting Jim.

After he’s made a physical recovery from the effects of the phenobarbital he swallowed, Jim’s transferred to Continue reading

Confessions of a Psycho Cat (1968)

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US / 69 minutes (expanded exploitative version) / bw / World Wide Dir & Pr: Eve (aka Herb Stanley) Scr: Bill Boyd Cine: Paul Guffee Cast: Eileen Lord, Ed Garrabrandt, Frank Geraci, Dick Lord, Jake LaMotta, Arlenne Lorrance.

Confessions of a Psycho Cat - 0 opener

A horror/sleaze-influenced riff on movies like The MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932; vt The Hounds of Zaroff) and more particularly WALK THE DARK STREET (1956), this was mangled by the stitching into it of sexploitational material some while after the movie proper had been completed; it’s easy enough to tell which were the additional scenes because their sound recording seems to have been done in a bathroom, and not a very large bathroom at that. It’s obviously not possible to determine how much Continue reading

Stolen (2012)

US / 96 minutes / color / Millennium, Nu Image, Saturn Dir: Simon West Pr: Rene Besson, Jesse Kennedy, Matthew Joynes Scr: David Guggenheim Cine: Jim Whitaker Cast: Nicolas Cage, Josh Lucas, Danny Huston, Malin Akerman, Sami Gayle, Edrick Browne, Mark Valley, Barry Shabaka Henley, M.C. Gainey, Garrett Hines, Tanc Sade, Dan Braverman, Jon Eyez.

Stolen 2012 2 - Gum surrenders having thrown the money into a brazier

A movie that’s filled with noirish tropes—it begins with an extended heist sequence of length and ambition comparable to such classic equivalents as that in The ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)!—yet has more the taste of a caper. It’s fast and entertaining fun, relying on its pace and narrative flair to ease the viewer past rather more by way of egregious plot holes than there should be.

The heist is of a New Orleans bank and is conducted by a gang led by Will “Gum” Montgomery (Cage); the rest of the team are Vincent “Vince” Kinsey (Lucas), Donald Hoyt (Gainey) and Riley Jeffers (Akerman). What they don’t know is that Continue reading