The Girl from the Naked Eye
It might be difficult to stifle laughter while watching this stylish but overwrought noir thriller, complete with ridiculous deadpan narration, about a gambler (Jason Yee) who is accused of the murder of a call girl (Samantha Streets) at the club where he works as a driver, then becomes obsessed with tracking down the real killer. All this involves some taut martial-arts action sequences involving Yee’s confrontations with thugs and gangsters that are visually impressive. The problems are more fundamental, such as the wooden performances and the script by Yee and director David Ren, which feels like a generic crime saga ripped off from numerous better sources. (Rated R, 83 minutes).
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap
Hip-hop legend Ice-T makes his directorial debut with this insightful documentary that talks to dozens of hip-hop pioneers about their influences and their craft, with subjects including Grandmaster Caz, Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and Eminem. There’s a relaxed rapport (not to mention mutual appreciation) between the filmmaker and the artists as they discuss writing rhymes and emerging social movements within hip-hop culture during the past three decades. Even if the structure is too long and repetitive — in the vernacular, the film needs a tighter flow — rap aficionados will find plenty to appreciate in this tribute, not to mention some powerful on-camera freestyles. (Rated R, 107 minutes).
The title is an apropos description of audiences who sit through this inept low-budget psychological thriller, which would be considered tasteless if it weren’t so incompetent. Craig (Jesse Metcalfe) and Elise (Erika Christensen) comprise a young couple that seeks revenge on the man who kidnapped and murdered their only child, then escaped severe punishment in the justice system, by tracking him down and torturing him. Visually choppy and poorly assembled, it’s one of those movies that revels in sadistic violence at the expense of genuine suspense and coherent storytelling, with a twisty ending that’s especially queasy and insulting. Directed by Robert Lieberman (D3: The Mighty Ducks). (Not rated, 82 minutes).
The Woman in the Fifth
Ethan Hawke gives a standout bilingual performance in this low-key psychological thriller, playing a struggling American novelist who comes to Paris desperately hoping to reunite with his estranged wife and young daughter. Later he has a chance meeting with a mysterious older woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) who claims to have been the muse for her late husband’s writings. But their relationship seems to have ulterior motives. The modest script by Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love), adapted from a novel by Douglas Kennedy, is overly vague but takes a smart character-driven approach to both the romantic and supernatural elements within the story. (Rated R, 84 minutes).
Your Sister’s Sister
Strong performances can’t save this intimate, improvised three-character romantic drama from director Lynn Shelton (Humpday) about Jack (Mark Duplass), who ventures to the secluded cabin of his best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt), to help the grieving process following his brother’s death. He is surprised to find Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), a lesbian who is trying to get over a breakup. They confide in one another, and after Iris stops by to visit, secrets are revealed that will change each of them. The low-budget film relies on character authenticity but ultimately requires too much suspension of disbelief. Perhaps it would have worked better on stage. (Rated R, 90 minutes).