"Trance" – Plot-twisting puzzlers are a bubble market in the movies these days, with an arms race of "Inception"-like reality reversals that flip like a coin until dizzy audiences lose all interest in how it lands. That's the case with Danny Boyle's latest, a mind-bending neo-noir with continually shifting layers but little beyond its stylish plot machinations. James McAvoy is Simon, a London auctioneer who either assists or double-crosses a well-planned gang led by Frank (the excellent Vincent Cassel) in stealing a lucrative Goya. A blow to the head has sapped Simon of his memory, leading the crew to enlist a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) to elicit the location of the missing painting. This is, naturally, when the script by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge begins to play with Simon's hypnosis. The movie drifts in and out of consciousness, guided by Dawson's silky voice. Is Simon our protagonist or villain? Are Simon's memories being uncovered or implanted? It's Dawson's fleshy, commanding presence that helps melt the movie's right angles. But by the time a full picture of her hypnotist arrives, the movie's succession of implausible trapdoors has rendered any big reveal about as satisfactory as a punch line to a 20-minute-long knock-knock joke. R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language. 101 minutes. Two stars out of four.
_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer.
"Upstream Color" – Nine years after his impressive debut "Primer," writer-director Shane Carruth is back with his much-anticipated follow-up, which is just as daring and original at the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum. If "Primer" was cerebral and methodical in allowing its mystery to unfurl, Carruth's latest creates a totally different kind of suspense as a hypnotic sensory experience. This is a capital-A art-house movie, definitely not for everyone. Carruth throws you in the deep end at the start and challenges you until the end. His mesmerizing use of imagery – of textures and sounds, of crisp lighting and radiant natural beauty – has a haunting, lyrical quality reminiscent of Terrence Malick. But he also injects some moments that are so horrific and squirm-inducing, they're downright Cronenbergian. Kris (Amy Seimetz, showing bravery and great range) and Jeff (Carruth himself, quick-witted and impulsive) find themselves strangely intrigued by each other while riding the same commuter train every morning. They don't realize it for a while, but they both have been subjected to scientific experimentation that has damaged their lives, finances and careers, the details of which come back in fleeting wisps of memory. The film's meaning is open to interpretation, but the artistry on display is indisputable, and thrilling. Not rated but contains some violence and some bloody and disturbing images. 96 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic