Category: Crime

“Mother’s Day” (2023) directed by Mateusz Rakowicz, starring Agnieszka Grochowska / Z-View

Mother’s Day (2023)

Director: Mateusz Rakowicz

Screenplay by: Lukasz M. Maciejewski, Mateusz Rakowicz

Starring: Agnieszka Grochowska, Szymon Wróblewski.


The Story:

Nina (Grochowska), is a NATO Special Operations agent. Years ago she gave up her baby so he could be raised by loving parents in a safe environment.  Although Nina checks in on him regularly (from afar), her son knows nothing about her.  That will change when he is kidnapped by thugs looking to get back at Nina.  Now all bets are off.  Nina will use all her skills to rescue her son.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Mother’s Day exceeded every expectation I had for it.  Everything about Mother’s Day is what action movie fans love.  Mateusz Rakowicz knows how to direct action and keep the quieter scenes interesting.  Co-writers Lukasz M. Maciejewski and (director) Mateusz Rakowicz have created a story full of outrageous characters involved in over the top battles. Thankfully, Agnieszka Grochowska who plays Nina, is more than up to the task.  I hope to see more of her and director Mateusz Rakowicz in the future.

The Death Kiss (1932) starring Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, Adrienne Ames & Vince Barnett / Z-View

The Death Kiss (1932)

Director: Edwin L. Marin

Screenplay by: Gordon Kahn, Barry Barringer based on THE DEATH KISS by Madelon St. Dennis

Starring: Bela Lugosi, David Manners, John Wray, Adrienne Ames, Vince Barnett and Edward Van Sloan.


The Story:

When a movie’s leading man is killed on stage during the filming of a scene, in full view of everyone, the only question is: Who did it?  Evidence seems to point to one person, then another.  Finally it looks like the murder was committed by the leading lady.  Franklyn Drew (Manning) believes she was set up.  Drew begins to follow clues that will lead him to the true killer and maybe get him killed as well.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Three stars (Bela Lugosi, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan) of Dracula, made the year before, return to star in The Death Kiss.

The film’s copyright wasn’t renewed, so the film fell into the public domain.  Beware of poor copies!

David Manners as Franklyn Drew is charming.  Vince Barnett as Movie Studio Police Officer Gulliver is a hoot.  They make the perfect duo as together they investigate the murder.  Barnett in a way is Barney Fife to Manners Andy Griffith.  I would have loved to have seen them in a series of murder comedies.

Although Bela Lugosi gets top billing, it is actually David Manners who gets the most screen time.  He’s never been better.

The gunfight at the end of the movie is hand-tinted.  This produces a cool effect for gunshots and flashlights.

“Sorry, Wrong Number” (1948) starring Barbara Stanwyck & Burt Lancaster / Z-View

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Director: Anatole Litvak

Screenplay by: Lucille Fletcher based on Sorry, Wrong Number by Lucille Fletcher

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Ed Begley, Leif Erickson, Jimmy Hunt and William Conrad.

Tagline: The prize-winning radio suspense drama that thrilled 40,000,000 people … now electrifies the screen!

The Story:

Leona Stevenson (Stanwyck) is invalid confined to her bed.  While making a phone call, the lines are crossed and she hears two men discussing a murder that will happen in the next few hours.  Leona frantically contacts the police.  They say there’s nothing they can do with the information provided.  Leona then contacts the telephone company.  They don’t have the ability to figure out where the call originated.  As the minutes tick by, Leona gets more worried that someone is going to be killed.  Soon Leona will realize that she is the intended victim!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Barbara Stanwyck was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 1949 Academy Awards.

It’s interesting that Stanwyck plays an unlikable character and we’re rooting for Lancaster, who plays her husband.  Slowly we learn, he’s not as nice a guy as we thought, but we understand his motives.

Sorry, Wrong Number contains one of the best ending scenes in movies.

“Fargo: Installment 5” – The Teaser – “You’re In Trouble” is Here!

Deal me in!

“This is all just a misunderstanding.” Installment 5 of FX’s Fargo premieres 11.21 on FX. Stream on Hulu.

The latest installment of Fargo is set in Minnesota and North Dakota, 2019. After an unexpected series of events lands “Dorothy ‘Dot’ Lyon” (Juno Temple) in hot water with the authorities, this seemingly typical Midwestern housewife is suddenly plunged back into a life she thought she had left behind.

“The Getaway” (1994) starring Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger / Z-View

The Getaway (1994)

Director:  Roger Donaldson

Screenplay by:  Walter Hill,  Amy Holden Jones based on THE GETAWAY by Jim Thompson

Starring:  Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Michael Madsen, James Woods, David Morse, Jennifer Tilly, James Stephens, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burton Gilliam, Royce D. Applegate, Daniel Villarreal, Alex Colon  and Richard Farnsworth.

Tagline: Choosing between love and money is one thing. Getting away with both is something else

The Story: 

Carter “Doc” McCoy (Baldwin) was serving time in a Mexican prison after being double crossed on his last job. Thanks to Jack Benyon’s (Woods) influence and cash payoffs, Doc is now a free man.  Well, almost.  Doc owes Benyon a debt that will be paid off after Doc’s next job.

All goes well until it doesn’t.  Before Doc and his accomplices meet to divide the cash, the double crosses begin.  Doc doesn’t know who he can trust.  After he finds out what his wife, Carol (Basinger), did to get his release from prison, Doc’s not even sure about her,

The cops and Benyon’s men are after them.  Doc and Carol need a clean getaway.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The two biggest differences in The Getaway directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw and this one are 1) Doc and his wife are more of a team in the remake, and 2) there’s more nudity.

McQueen and McGraw fell in love while filming The Getaway.  They later married.  Baldwin and Basinger were already married when they starred in the remake.  They later divorced.

I’m a fan of both versions of the film.  THE GETAWAY is my favorite novel by Jim Thompson.

Baldwin and Basinger are aided by a great supporting cast.  Standouts include Michael Madsen, James Woods, David Morse, Jennifer Tilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burton Gilliam and Richard Farnsworth.

There was talk of a sequel, but it never happened.  It’s not too late.

“Fargo” Installment 5 starring Juno Temple, Jon Hamm & Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Trailer is Here!

I’m a fan of Fargo.  Deal me in.

Starring Juno Temple, Jon Hamm and Jennifer Jason Leigh. FX’s Fargo returns 11.21 on FX. Stream on Hulu. #FargoFX

The latest installment of Fargo is set in Minnesota and North Dakota, 2019. After an unexpected series of events lands “Dorothy ‘Dot’ Lyon” (Juno Temple) in hot water with the authorities, this seemingly typical Midwestern housewife is suddenly plunged back into a life she thought she had left behind.

“The Devil on Trial” (2023) / Z-View

The Devil on Trial (2023)

Director:  Chris Holt

Written by:  Chris Holt

Tagline: Did the Devil Do It?

The Story: 

In 1981, Arne Johnson stabbed Alan Bono to death.  Bono was Johnson’s landlord and had, in the past, dated Johnson’s girlfriend.  Although there was no doubt that Johnson was the murderer, he claimed he didn’t remember doing it.  When the case went to trial, his defense was that he was possessed by the devil/a demon and therefore wasn’t responsible.

This documentary explores the foundation for that defense and the result of the trial.

In 1980, Arne Johnson was dating Debbie Glatzel.  Some of Debbie’s family believed that her younger brother, David was possessed by the devil.  On more than one occasion David had to be held down by family members (and Arne) while David cursed, screamed and convulsed.  David’s behavior was extreme enough that his mother contacted Ed and Lorraine Warren.  The Warrens were famous for their involvement in The Amityville Murders.  The Warrens assisted David’s mother in getting the church to conduct an exorcism.  During the procedure, as David was struggling, Arne reportedly yelled at the demon, “Leave this little kid alone.  Take on me.  I’m here.”

So when Arne killed David, he asserted that the devil/demon had made him do it.  This documentary uses actual voice recordings. archival footage, home movies and actor recreations to recount the story.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

While Arne wanted to use the “the devil made me do it” defense, he never got to.  The judge ruled that “possession” was not a valid defense.  He didn’t allow it.  Arne ended up being found guilty of manslaughter.

Now to David Glatzel.  Some of David’s family believed that he was possessed.  One of David’s brothers said it was an act.  He said that during one of David’s sessions while cursing, hitting and yelling, David’s father came into the room.  Father grabbed David and slapped him.  Dad told David to shut up and sit in a chair.  The brother said, “The devil did as he was told”.  In other words, it was an act.

David’s mother was a religious woman.  She may have believed that David was possessed at the start.  By the time the Warrens got involved, it seemed to be more about fame and the money. Also near the end of the documentary a sick allegation against the mother is made.  I won’t give it away, but if true indicates mom had serious issues of her own.

As to the Warrens, this film puts them in a very bad light.  They took advantage of David’s family.  The Warrens kept almost all of the money off book and movie deals in regard to David’s story.  Money that had been promised to the Glatzel family.  If you’ve seen The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, that’s the Glatzel family’s story.

The Devil on Trial leaves it to viewers to determine if the possessions were real or not,  There’s evidence that could support whatever you decide.  As to the actions of the Warrens, the evidence points to them not being on the up and up.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” (2023) created by Mike Flanagan, starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood & Mary McDonnell / Z-View

The Fall of the House of Usher (2023)

Director:  Mike Flanagan (Eps.1 – 2, 5 – 6); Michael Fimognari (Eps. 3 – 4, 7 -8)

Teleplay by:  Mike Flanagan (Ep. 1); Emmy Grinwis and Mike Flanagann (Ep. 2); Justina Ireland and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 3); Mat Johnson and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 4); Dani Parker (Ep. 5); Rebecca Leigh Klingel and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 6);Jamie Flanagan and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 7); Mike Flanagan and Kiele Sanchez (Ep. 8)

Starring:  Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Mary McDonnell, Henry Thomas, Rahul Kohli, Samantha Sloyan, T’Nia Miller, Zach Gilford, Willa Fitzgerald, Michael Trucco, Katie Parker, Matt Biedel, Crystal Balint, Ruth Codd, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Kate Siegel, Sauriyan Sapkota, Malcolm Goodwin   and Mark Hamill.

Tagline: Nevermore

The Plot: 

Roderick Usher (Greenwood) and his sister Madeline (McDonnell) teamed to take over Fortunato Pharmaceuticals.  Along the way they fudged test results, broke laws, lied under oath, ruined lives and committed at least one murder.  Now, decades later Roderick is CEO of Fortunato and one of the richest men on the planet.  His sister remains his trusted partner.  Over the years Roderick fathered several children from different mothers.  Now the kids are grown and using daddy’s money to try to build their own dynasties. But when Roderick’s offspring begin dying under unusual circumstances, one after the other, we learn what happened all those years ago that leads to The Fall of the House of Usher.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Mike Flanagan has created another winner.  Rather than a literal adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Flannigan has given us modern interpretations of many of Poe’s short stories, poems and characters integrated into a single, unified story. This is genius.

The Fall of the House of Usher features an amazing cast.  I would not be surprised to several Emmy nominations from this production. Standouts include:

  • Carla Gugino: who owns every scene she is in.  I will be disappointed if she isn’t recognized for a Best Actress nod.
  • Bruce Greenwood: He’s perfect as Roderick Usher.  The role was originally cast with Frank Langella.  Problems on the set led to Greenwood getting the role and I would be hard pressed to say anyone could have done it better.
  • Henry Thomas gives the performance of his life.
  • Samantha Sloyan: I first became aware of her in Mike Flannigan’s Midnight Mass.  She was amazing there.  She’s also amazing here.
  • Carl Lumbly: was a great choice to go head to head in many scenes with Greenwood.  Lumbly, like the audience, slowly learns what has and is happening.
  • Mark Hamill: totally nails the role of the Usher Family’s attorney and “fixer”.  I’ll admit I was surprised at just how good Hamill is as the older, tough guy who has seen and done things we can’t imagine.

While I’ve turned the spotlight on the actors/actresses above, every member of the cast was excellent.  Mike Flannigan writes a great story, gets the right people for each part and then assists them in creating amazing performances.  The Fall of the House of Usher is an perfect example.  I look forward to what Flannigan does next.

“The Outlaws” (2017) starring Ma Dong-seok (Don Lee) & Yoon Kye-sang / Z-View

The Outlaws (2017)

Director: Yunsung Kang

Screenwriter: Yunsung Kang

Cast: Ma Dong-seok (Don Lee), Yoon Kye-sang

Tagline: Bare-knuckle cop v/s bloodless butcher. Tonight, things get wild.

The Plot…

The Black Dragon, a Chinese gang led by the sadistic and merciless Jang Chen (Kyesang) moves into a South Korean district. Local business owners are harassed and killed.  To make matters worse, it leads to a gang war.  Detective Ma Seok-do (Dong-seok) and his team are ordered to take down the gangs.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Outlaws was one of the most popular film in South Korea the year it was released.  It came in the top three at the box office.  The Outlaws also won multiple South Korean film awards including: Top 10 Film, Best New Director and Best Supporting Actor.

The Outlaws was popular enough to lead to the production of two sequels: The Roundup (2022) and The Roundup: No Way Out (2023).

I’m a huge fan of Ma Dong-seok aka Don Lee.  He should be a bigger star in the US.

Kudos to Yoon Kye-sang.  He plays a villain that’s charismatic and evil.

The Outlaws is action-packed and violent.  Thankfully it doesn’t linger on the gore.  I look forward to seeing the two sequels.

The Outlaws (2017) rates 4 of 5 stars.