3 stars = Good
This twisty-turny puzzle from director Danny Boyle deals with an art heist, hypnotherapy and questions about memory, identity and obsession.
It's too clever by half, although it takes advantage of Scottish actor James McAvoy's mesmerizing blue eyes as he plays Simon, a fine art auctioneer in London who witnesses the theft of a $27.5 million Goya painting. The auction house has procedures for what to do in such events -- "Remember, do not be a hero. No piece of art is worth a human life" -- and Simon appears to follow the safeguards but gets bonked on the head, producing amnesia about where he hid the canvas.
That doesn't go over well with the caper gang leader, Franck (Vincent Cassel), who suggests Simon see a hypnotherapist, which leads him to Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson). Turns out he's among the 5 percent of the population who are highly suggestible to hypnosis, and he and we tumble into a world where we're not always sure if we're witnessing present-day life, memories, dreams or something hypnotically hinky.
The less you know about "Trance" the better, but it's likely you will fall under its spell or simply be infuriated by it. Either way, take its R rating for graphic nudity and other content seriously and know that it's not end-of-year awards bait (as with Mr. Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" or "127 Hours") but more of a down-and-dirty spring fling.
The extras include "Hypnotherapy," "The Look," "The Power of Suggestion-Making Trance," "The Final Rewrite," Also, on Blu-ray: deleted scenes; short film: "Eugene" by Spencer Susser; a Boyle retrospective, "Danny's Film Noir;" and "Trance Unraveled" Easter egg.
' Ginger & Rosa'
2 1/2 stars = Average
When you're just 14 years old, movies such as "Super 8" and "Ginger & Rosa" are period pieces.
In the former, Elle Fanning played a girl living with her troubled father in an Ohio steel town in 1979. In the latter, she's Ginger, a red-haired teen in 1962 London.
She becomes obsessed with the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, even as her home life is imploding. All of Ginger's safe harbors -- best friend Rosa (Alice Englert) and parents (Christina Hendricks and Alessandro Nivola) -- are part of the personal powder keg about to blow.
Ginger and Rosa have been linked since birth; both were born on the day Hiroshima was bombed. They ditch school, smoke cigarettes, hitchhike with abandon, practice and then employ their kissing skills, join the ban the bomb movement and rebel against their parents.
In Ginger's case, that means going to church to see what it is like, even as her free-thinking dad labels the notion of life after death a superstition. "The only life is the one we have now, which is why we must seize it." When he practices what he preaches, the consequences are shattering.
Writer-director Sally Potter ("Orlando") vividly recalls being 13 at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, and she channels that welter of emotions here. She explores friendship and betrayal, freedom and responsibility, the politics of love and the love of politics and how we're all connected to historic events on the world stage.
Elle, who was just 13 when the movie was shot, is a natural at conveying conviction, giddiness, heartbreak or hysteria, often accompanied by tears. She gives a fearless, exceptional performance in a movie that drops in characters played by Annette Bening, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt without adequately exploring them.
In the end, it feels somewhat heavy-handed and unfinished. Or maybe it would work better as a stage play where killing the lights and lowering the curtain would provide a dramatic punctuation point rather than leaving a trail of thorny questions for filmgoers.
Extras are deleted scenes, cast interviews, an audio commentary with the writer-director and two behind-the-scenes featurettes.
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-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers