In the Michigan desert, visually impaired Emily (Midori Francis) – who has been kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend Charlie (Michael Patrick Lane) – escapes into the woods without her glasses. She calls in a panic to a stranger who called her recently. This stranger, Sam (Jolene Purdy), is a depressive who works a single shift at a gritty Florida gas station. While tending to clients—including an obnoxiously demanding rich lady (Missy Pyle)—Sam acts as Emily’s eyes, guiding her to safety through their cellphone cameras.
Directed by Yoko Okumura from a script by Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins, the chase thriller Unseen opens with this great premise, and for most of its short run, the filmmakers do a lot with it. Their style is easy-going, with frequent use of split screens to keep the action clean and a color scheme that distinguishes sunny Florida from gray Michigan. Their plot is also sharp. A lot of thought has gone into how a fancy old phone or wireless headset might affect Emily and Sam’s communication.
The film’s weakest points include shoehorning in more backstory for Emily and Sam as they talk about their lives to keep each other company. Even there, though, Francis and Purdy’s performances keep the scenes from feeling too much like an information dump. The cast and crew work well together in “Unseen,” giving a taut, inventive take on two young Asian American women who help each other survive a terrible day.
‘Invisible.’ It has not been rated. 1 hour, 16 minutes. Available on VOD
“Luther: The Fallen Sun”
When the BBC TV series “Luther” debuted in 2010, it had two big things going for it. Idris Elba—already a veteran actor but not yet an international superstar—played a police detective so dedicated to taking down the worst of the worst that he often bent or even broke the law. It also had creator Neil Cross skillfully combining the darkness and violence of modern European mystery stories with the old-fashioned flash and action of a loose crime film.
The first “Luther” movie, “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” picks up four years after the show’s fifth and (so far) final season. But this “Luther” isn’t as special as the TV version — perhaps because it’s not that unusual these days to see a gritty, gritty crime picture in which a morally unstable detective pursues a serial killer.
Elba is still quite good as the anti-hero John Luther, who begins the story in prison because of some of the questionable choices he’s made over the years. When he inevitably escapes, Luther’s determined former colleague Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo) mobilizes a team to find him. Meanwhile, manipulative mastermind David Robbie (played with amusing gusto by Andy Serkis) shocks London by broadcasting torture and murder online.
Much of “Fallen Sun” draws on familiar moves from “Luther” as our man seduces Raine while digging into Robey’s story — both in ways that raise questions about whether the good guys sometimes have to be bad. Cross and director Jamie Payne (who also helmed the show’s Season 5) aren’t radically reinventing the franchise here. Their budget allows for some larger compositions and a wide variety of locations: from laid-back London sex shops to a spooky estate in a chilly climate. But “Fallen Sun” is best described as a movie-sized version of a “Luther” season — which, for longtime fans, is better than no “Luther.”
“Luther: The Fallen Sun”. R, for disturbing/violent content, language and some sexual material. 2 hours, 9 minutes. Available on Netflix. also playing plays, Bay Theatre, Pacific Palisades
“I have a monster”
Anyone who watched writer-producers George Pelecanos and David Simon’s six-episode HBO drama We Own This City knows the story of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, which was not considered a community policing success story — with an amazing record to get guns and drugs off the streets — to become yet another cautionary tale of corruption. The TV series was great. but Kevin Casanova Abrams’ documentary “I Got a Monster” is also good, covering the same ground in a more compact runtime, with some fresh perspectives.
Like the limited series, “I Got a Monster” focuses heavily on Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, whose GTTF crew was charged with robbing suspects, planting evidence and harassing law-abiding citizens. Abrams surrounds Jenkins’ story with anecdotes from some of the Baltimoreans who were terrorized and arrested by the force. The film’s centerpiece is a long and insightful interview with Ivan Bates, a defense attorney who found systematic irregularities in his criminal cases that indicate something hopeful is afoot. The documentary may feel a bit scattered due to its multiple angles, but it remains a compelling and relatable story, examining how any criminal justice system based on the idea that cops never lie is ripe for abuse.
“I have a monster.” It has not been rated. 1 hour, 30 minutes. Available on VOD
‘The Sound of Silence’
The Italian filmmaking team known as T3 (consisting of writer-directors Alessandro Antonacci, Daniel Lascar and Stefano Mandala) set out to rattle the nerves of horror fans with “Sound of Silence,” a supernatural thriller that uses sound itself as weapon. After a prologue in which an older gentleman (Peter Stephen Wolmarans) is violently attacked by a ghost born from an antique radio, the film focuses on the man’s daughter, Emma (Penelope Sangiorgi), who flies home with her boyfriend Seba (Rocco Marazzita). ) to take care of the house while her mom (Sandra Pizzullo) is in the hospital. While Emma – a professional singer – is playing with the studio equipment at her parents’ house, she starts hearing some of the same eerie noises her dad made right before he attacked him.
Eventually, her spirits reveal the terrible crime that happened in that house long ago—though not before Emma wanders through several dimly lit, quietly atmospheric scenes, enduring a few jumps. “Sound of Silence” was expanded from a short, and frankly, there isn’t enough character development or story here to fill a feature, and the film’s visual design lacks variety in both locations and color palette. But the T3 crew is very good at cranking up the volume through shift shadows and friction noise. If nothing else, this film is an effective demonstration of the filmmakers’ ability to lull the audience into a relaxed state before hitting them.
‘The sound of silence.’ It has not been rated. 1 hour, 33 minutes. Available on VOD
In writer-director Welby Ings’ feature debut, Punch, Jordan Osterhoff stars as handsome young boxer Jim, who is loved by the ladies and admired by many of the lads in his New Zealand seaside town. Jim then befriends Wetto (Conan Hayes), an openly gay student and aspiring singer-songwriter who squats in a beach shack and is verbally and physically abused by local bullies. Their relationship gradually blossoms into something more, threatening Jim’s budding career, his reputation in the community, and his relationship with his loving but troubled father (Tim Roth). The plot of ‘Punch’ follows a fairly predictable path and sinks into overheated melodrama in its second half. But Ings does a good job of capturing the instant connection between these two young men and conveying Jim’s combination of excitement and terror when he realizes that this bond could easily turn into romance.
‘Punch.’ It has not been rated. 1 hour, 39 minutes. Available on VOD. also playing plays, Laemmle Glendale
Also on VOD
“Marlowe” It stars Liam Neeson as the iconic literary private eye Raymond Chandler in an adaptation of a 2014 Benjamin Black novel that offered a new mystery for Philip Marlowe to solve. Directed by Neil Jordan – with a script Jordan co-wrote with William Monaghan – the film is a beautiful neo-noir, aimed at anyone who digs retro tough guys. Available on VOD
“missing” is a sequel to the 2018 hit thriller Searching, which cleverly told a twist-filled story using nothing but what the characters could see on their computer and mobile screens. The new film features entirely new characters and a new plot—involving a teenage girl (Storm Reid) searching for her missing mom (Nia Long)—but stays within the same groundbreaking “screenlife” storytelling format. Available on VOD
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Mildred Pierce” is a classic hybrid of steamy Hollywood melodrama and icy film noir, starring Joan Crawford as a wronged woman who slowly rebuilds her middle-class life after her ex-husband leaves her with next to nothing — but she soon finds that no amount of money can she can fix her problems, either with men or with her relentless teenage daughter (Ann Blyth). The new Criterion Blu-ray release includes a variety of vintage interviews, as well as a documentary about Crawford. The Criterion Collection