Starring: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo
Director: Tony Goldwyn
"A working mother puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother, who has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders"
For the record, I really dislike Hilary Swank. I really can't put my finger on it, but I've never really liked anything she's done. But I love Sam Rockwell - he's a consistently good actor and has surprising range. So Conviction was a big question mark, but despite it's A-list cast, this movie really could have been on the Lifetime network. It's a good story and one that deserves to be told, no doubt, but I just don't think the movie convinced me enough that it was worth paying for. It's well acted, but the story was slow and poorly paced. Plus, the movie is all about Hilary Swank - we never really see the hardship endured by her brother in prison, nor do we get a greater sense of why the two are so close. There are certain flashbacks as to how they bonded, but they never are convincing enough to show why she's so obsessed with taking care of her brother and why she neglects everything and everyone in her life to pursue her law degree. It seems, though, at the end of the movie that everything is nicely tied up for her life, but it's hard to imagine that all of her close relationships haven't suffered in the past twenty years - and the film never really delves too deeply into that. But if you like inspiring movies and don't mind a very shallow look at the determined spirit, this movie is for you.
Rating: Not Worth Paying For!
Let Me In (R) - Horror - 116 minutes
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Director: Matt Reeves
"A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian"
A not-so-surprising American remake that is surprisingly better than the original in some respects. Based on a Swedish novel, Let Me In is a very haunting and quiet film. The mood and the young actors are what's best about this movie. There's never any rock and roll moments like you would normally find in vampire movies. It's more of a slow boil - and the true horror is not necessarily the person with the fangs. In fact, this is one of the most smart and beautiful vampire movies to grace screens in a while. The film focuses on the young boy, who is brilliantly portrayed by Kodi Smit-McPhee and his troubles with bullies at school. These are not the normal bullies - they're out for blood quite literally. But when he befriends a quiet, graceful little girl (once again, Chloe Grace Moretz, from Kick-Ass, shines here), he starts to stand up for himself - and the terror he finds within her is nicely contrasted to the terror he sees within his bullies. There isn't a whole lot of exposition (something Maggie commented on - it's a very important aspect of movies to her), but if you are willing to go along with the movie - it's a fantastic journey. And for those that loved the original Swedish movie, it's every bit as good, if not better in some respects. Although it didn't do gangbusters at the box office, it will probably work itself out to be a cult classic in a few years.
Rating: Rent It!
Never Let Me Go (R) - Drama - 103 minutes
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Kiera Knightley, Andrew Garfield
Director: Mark Romanek
"As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them."
I don't normally cry when I read books, but damn, this story had me blubbering like a baby at the end. It's a sad, terrific story and I wholly recommend reading the book if you get the chance (TIME magazine considers it the best book of the last decade). And despite its shortcomings as a movie, Never Let Me Go does the story justice, even if it may just be skimming the surface. It seems like the studio wanted to market the kids fate as a mystery, but there's really no spoilers in telling you that they're clones destined to give up their organs for "real" people. The movie follows three close friends as they grow up in a safe environment shut away from the outside world. The movie clearly knows the tone of the book - a very lonely existence for each of the three characters, even if they are constantly surrounded by each other. The movie quickly moves past their childhood into their young adult lives and it never really establishes a sense of friendship between the three main characters. The book spends a lot more time as kids and you get a better sense as to why they are all friends and why certain betrayals happen. But the movie is striking and there's just a sense of hopelessness that abounds in the film that's quite tragic. Plus, if you're a fan of Spider-Man, you get to see Andrew Garfield in all his glory. Where the film does succeed is the acting and not just the main characters, but the surrounding cast as well. The movie will definitely pull at your heartstrings, unless you're a robot who has no sense of human emotion.
Rating: Rent It!
Welcome to the Rileys (R) - Drama - 110 minutes
Starring: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo
Director: Jake Scott
"On a business trip to New Orleans, a damaged man seeks salvation by caring for a wayward young woman."
"The film wears its heart on its sleeve, but the drama falters when the tone grows over-earnest; additionally, Scott's direction fails to exert a tight grasp on his material" - Richard Mowe, Boxoffice Magazine
"Stewart's intense, courageous performance as a 16-year-old New Orleans prostitute is really something special." -Lou Lumenick, NY Post
Monsters (R) - Drama - 94 minutes
Starring: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able
Director: Gareth Edwards
"Six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border."
"An amazing achievement for a 'first-time' filmmaker, which measures up to the finest indies for performance and character-work, and the biggest blockbusters for jaw-dropping effects. And it has the year's best sex scene, too. " -Dan Jolin, Empire
"There's so much right with Gareth Edwards's low-budget alien invasion tale that you almost want to brush aside everything that's not up to snuff. " -Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York
The Tillman Story (R) - Documentary - 94 minutes
Director: Amir Bar-Ley
"Pat Tillman never thought of himself as a hero. His choice to leave a multimillion-dollar football contract and join the military wasn't done for any reason other than he felt it was the right thing to do. The fact that the military manipulated his tragic death in the line of duty into a propaganda tool is unfathomable and thoroughly explored in Amir Bar-Lev's riveting and enraging documentary."
"It is enraging yet nuanced, an elusive combination for any documentary." -Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"By the way, The Tillman Story has an R rating because of language. Think about that one, too: Lies are rated G and can be heard around the clock on television, but try saying the truth with the proper force and you end up with a restricted audience." -Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle