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Clint Eastwood Directed Hereafter Movie Review

Clint Eastwood Directed Hereafter Movie Review

When you look over to your right and seeing someone snoring during the screening of a film, it’s never a good sign. When you are exiting the theater and someone behind you states: “this makes two of Matt Damon’s movies that are among the worst I’ve ever seen,” things can’t be much bleaker. Such is the case with the new Clint Eastwood directed, Matt Damon starring snoozefest, Hereafter.  It’s a movie I had designs on walking out of, and believe me, I never walk out of films.

Hereafter is about retired psychic George Lonegan (Damon), who has trouble dealing with his visions and thus causes difficulties in his interactions with others. His pesky brother Billy continuously is on him about cashing in on his gift, whereas George sees it as a curse.

Overseas, two storylines will intersect with George’s in a bizarre way. One involves a French political reporter named Marie, who had a near death experience during a horribly acted CGI storm, while the other is about a young boy Marcus, who loses his brother in a tragic accident.

The three subplots play out separately. In George’s life, he deals with Billy’s advances and an apparent hope for love in the states. In Marie’s, she has curiosities surrounding her experience, which leads to professional trouble. For poor Marcus, he misses his brother, which is compounded by the fact that his mom is a dope fiend.  Stop me when it gets exciting.

You didn’t stop me? No surprise. The movie plods along at an atrocious snail’s pace and when you are hoping for a major reveal, none happen. Eventually, George comes into the lives of the others, but if you were hoping for some sort of catharsis for any of the characters, be prepared to be let down – severely.  Everything is so stiff and contrived, its ugly.

This is (at least) the third straight movie from Eastwood which has failed to deliver. His previous Damon led film, 2009’s Invictus, didn’t materialize into much and 2008’s Gran Torino suffered from some of the same issues here, with its wooden acting and unmoving storylines.  The clock is officially ticking for the icon, who made incredibly strong films within the last decade in 2003’s Mystic River and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. Highly disappointing.

As for Hereafter, there isn’t much positive to report, the director at times shows touch, but the source material written by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) is so poor, it leaves little option for the tree to bear any fruit.  It’s the type of film you hope would never get made, or at least one that with lesser names involved, would go direct to video. Not only can I not recommend this for the big screen, I don’t recommend it for a Netflix rental. Just stay away and discover the hereafter on your own when the time comes.

Posted in Empty Nest, Featured, Reviews2 Comments

The Social Network Movie Review

The Social Network Movie Review

How we communicate is constantly in flux. It used to be primarily via face-to-face interaction. Nowadays, it is largely via computer. In David Fincher’s riveting new movie The Social Network, based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, communication is exploited and exposed in many forms. One of those uses is the heavy, atmospheric score by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which signals the dark mood that Fincher employs for the story of how the communication mega-site facebook was founded and the power struggle behind the scenes of who came up with the original idea for the 500 million member social phenomenon.

Computer nerd Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg, Zombieland) and businessman Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, Never Let Me Go) are Harvard students and best friends.  When the concept of social media is introduced to him, Mark creates a program that crashes the Harvard computer system, and the power of how quickly information sharing can spread becomes amplified. Eduardo provides the financial means for Mark to realize his idea and turn it into an opportunity to meet chicks – and much more.

Humbly-beginning, facebook became the entity it is through college students sharing information.  From the dorms of Harvard to law offices in California, from exclusivity to being inclusive of all, facebook’s wide reach touched millions and became worth billions. The non-shocking irony is that the website that connects people worldwide was developed by Zuckerberg, someone who had next to zero connections himself.  He clearly wanted a more social life, and with facebook, succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Fincher’s film details how the site came to be and how it ripped apart the relationships of those involved in its formation.

The Social Network cast isn't staring at internet porn.

Strong performances abound, particularly among the potentially award-worthy leads Garfield and Eisenberg, but also extending to supporting players like Justin Timberlake’s swindler Sean Parker and Armie Hammer’s Winklevoss brothers (yes, he convincingly plays both twins with a bit of Fincher movie magic). Be prepared for Hammer to become a more well-known actor; ditto for Garfield (okay, that was a layup since he is the new Spider-Man).  Even Rooney Mara who plays Mark’s girlfriend Erica is set to blow up soon with the lead role in Fincher’s next film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Fincher continues to further his oeuvre, transforming himself from a more creative, avant-garde and visual filmmaker into a mainstream, award-worthy, polished storyteller in recent films. Fincher takes what might not be typically exciting subject matter and makes it compelling, telling the story in a series of intercuts between past and present, keeping us engaged throughout.

Aaron Sorkin’s script, which is already being largely buzzed about for an Oscar run and seems the odds on favorite for the award at this juncture, is also noteworthy.  His dialogue crackles, convincingly translating Mezrich’s work into a sharp screenplay for Fincher’s cast and crew to bring to life.  Despite the occasional one-dimensional character and an unnecessary scene here or there, The Social Network is a film worthy of making into a social event. Where there is a money trail, there is often tragedy, and this story is no different. Go see the film, even if you are like me and not on facebook.  Deep down inside, just like Mark, it only wants you to “like” it.

Posted in 3 Nests, Featured, Reviews8 Comments

Ryan Reynolds Stars in Buried – A Full Movie Review

Ryan Reynolds Stars in Buried – A Full Movie Review

If I have anything that resembles a known phobia, it is claustrophobia, so the prospect of watching someone trapped in a box for an hour and a half had me a bit uncomfortable.  But that’s exactly the predicament that Ryan Reynolds, star in the new film Buried, finds himself in. From frame number one, director Rodrigo Cortes, making his English language debut, throws us into the darkness and despair that would normally accompany someone who is trapped in a coffin and buried alive.

The premise itself is enough to make many shudder.  Reynolds’ Paul Conroy is a truck driver for CRT, a transport company delivering supplies in Iraq.  He awakens in a coffin, not knowing how he got there.  Conroy is not a soldier, but may be a political pawn in a sick and twisted game.  Immediately, of course, survival is of paramount concern.

The main question for Conroy is why was he kidnapped? Who buried the man in a pine box under dirt and sand and for what purpose?  Money appears to be a motivating factor, but the reality may be much different.  The balance of the film finds Conroy struggling to find answers as he uses his captors gifted foreign cell phone, a lighter, flask of alcohol, and a few other gadgets as his sole tools for survival, MacGuyver-style.

Conroy goes through various stages of despair, almost comfort, sadness, and uses his will to survive as motivation.  His emotions run the gamut but there are too many plot holes for you to really care too much.  So many questions that the film and its protagonist ask are left unanswered.  Its fine if you are one who likes to try to piece together a plot through what you have seen, but ultimately no reasonably accurate conclusions can be drawn based on the information we (and Conroy) have been given.  This is one of the drawbacks that make this excursion more befitting of a short film, than a long form 100-minute big screen spectacle.

Buried is an opportunity for Reynolds to shine as he holds the camera for the vast duration of the movie.  This movie is more of an exercise than a heavy plot driven film.  Despite its technical merits and strong acting, there isn’t enough to really grasp onto beyond what you get to experience on screen. Yes, it is more of an “experience” than some films, as you are trapped in darkness along with Conroy, but the end result means its something you likely won’t want to sit through more than once.

Posted in 2 Nests, Featured, Reviews0 Comments

Debating Oscar Chances Of Ben Affleck’s The Town

Debating Oscar Chances Of Ben Affleck’s The Town

After seeing Ben Affleck’s strong crime-thriller The Town this week, I immediately had the thought that this is a film that could be included in the Best Picture race for the 2011 Academy Awards.  I wanted to hold off on this post until next week, but since I wasn’t the only one who thought this (clearly), I decided to jump in now.  This apparently is a topic that has sprung up at other sites and seems to be making for some decent water cooler talk for late September which all adds up to decent hype for the current box office leader.

The Hollywood Reporter is talking about it. The LATimes is too, but apparently doesn’t think much of the film’s chances with writer Patrick Goldstein saying “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Gitesh Pandya, noted movie box office predictor at Box Office Guru recently hits on one of my points of the films hopes when he tweeted: “Ben Affleck’s road from A-lister to washed up joke to hot director will help TheTown w/ Oscars. Voters love a comeback.” Let’s look at a few things.

We have to bare in mind that Ben Affleck is a former Oscar winner himself, as a co-writer for the brilliant Good Will Hunting, which essentially launched the careers of he and his buddy Matt Damon (The Informant!).  While Damon has gone on to full-fledged movie star, and continues to be recognized for his work, Ben got married to Jennifer Garner and has been relatively out of the spotlight for a while.  This indeed would be a comeback of sorts for Ben (it already is), as his time to re-enter the spotlight couldn’t be better.

the town renner

Jeremy Renner adds some Oscar weight to Ben Affleck's The Town.

I also think that with the Oscars expanding to 10 films last year for Best Picture, helps the chances of this film drastically.  Keep in mind that the Oscars expanded this category specifically to get better television ratings, with the thought process by and large to be that this would include bigger, more popular films.  Affleck’s The Town might just suit this stereotype, and you know Christopher Nolan’s sterling Inception does.  Good TV, even if it doesn’t have a chance to win the big award, is always a potential coup for the film.  Ubiquitous screen shots of Ben, interviews leading up to the show, etc. all play a bigger role in the whole Oscars extravaganza than we’d probably like to admit.

Voters will indeed love a potential comeback, which I think could put The Town in the Best Picture race, and as a long shot outsider for Best Director.  Martin Scorcese won a directing award for his The Departed, which is a film that The Town draws some comparisons to (though I think the film is far closer to Michael Mann’s HeatGone Baby Gone, Ben’s first directorial effort, featured the likes of Oscar winner Morgan Freeman and garnered a Supporting Actress nod for then relative unknown Amy Ryan.  That movie helped make Affleck one to watch behind the camera.  Also, keep in mind that Jeremy Renner, who was largely praised for his role in last year’s Best Pic winner Hurt Locker which landed him a nomination, co-stars here and may have an extreme outside shot at a Supporting nomination. Yes, it’s doubtful but his menace is not entirely unlike Denzel Washington’s in Training Day to some extent (which won him an Oscar).

What does this all add up to? Not much but speculation ultimately, but time will tell and things will all be revealed in a few short months.  Other possible already released contenders in the film category in my mind are Inception, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, and Scorcese’s Shutter Island. I am not necessarily saying that there is a strong chance that any of this happens, although I think Shutter Island is the type of film that could do battle with The Town for a possible nomination.  Remember that last year, the middling (at best) The Blind Side made it into the Best Picture category and star Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for Best Actress.   All I am saying here is, at this point, its hard to dismiss The Town of at least having a puncher’s chance in a few categories and as of today, I would almost be surprised if it got shut out entirely.

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Ben Affleck’s The Town Movie Review

Ben Affleck’s The Town Movie Review

The ads that promote the new film The Town as “Heat meets The Departed” aren’t far off at all, and that’s very high praise. Ben Affleck shows that he is undoubtedly a director worth watching here. The action is invigorating, the drama compelling, and the performances authentic.   His Gone Baby Gone was one thing, but the complex heist film The Town, a nickname for Charlestown, Massachusetts, enters into a new class of its own and may be a film worth checking for come awards season.

The Town follows Affleck’s Doug MacRay, a leader of a quartet of criminals; local “townies” where robbing runs in the family (literally). They figure, why stop at armored cars when you can knock off banks?  Thus, we’re thrown into a heist in progress where bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall from Vicky Cristina Barcelona) is held hostage during the crew’s escape.  Things become confusing as her hostage turned love interest turned the only person who can connect the gang to the crime is an unwilling pawn in the future safety of the clique.

The Town movie photo

Ben and Jeremy in disguise in Affleck's The Town.

While Doug may be falling in love, Jeremy Renner’s unplugged Jim carries menacing baggage with him into every scene. His 9-year stretch of hard time has hardened him, making him yearn for action and naturally question the motives of Doug. Things get deeper with the involvement of the FBI tracking the crew who continue to plot further thievery.  Claire becomes a pricey bit of evidence that will have allegiances tested and the heart fighting the mind.

This is a tale we have seen before, in both the aforementioned films, and many others (like Mann’s Public Enemies).  But what separates The Town is the grimy reality in the Boston locations and the three-dimensional relationships among the characters.  There are times when perhaps the movie is too ambitious but despite a script quirk or two we stay riveted to our seats just the same. The ambitious climactic boost job is one you won’t want to miss.

Blake Lively in The Town

Blake Lively sex-pot stirs the plot in The Town.

Strong supporting performances can be found throughout, such as the revelation that is Blake Lively and the solid Jon Hamm.  I know they are TV stars, but I am not a boob-tube watcher and have never seen either of them act before, which I guess puts me behind the curve here.  Additionally, Renner (Hurt Locker) again proves he is an actor on the rise and small roles from Pete Postlewaite and Chris Cooper also resonate.

By now, Ben Affleck should truly be a hero in his hometown of Boston. He has shed light on the working class and brought his love for the area to the big screen in grand fashion again.  The only thing left to ponder at this juncture, is whether The Town belongs in the Oscar race for 2010.  That discussion is sure to be right around the corner or at the least, lurking somewhere in your town.

Posted in 3 Nests, Featured, Reviews8 Comments

Latest Movie Rentals / Movies Seen From My Netflix Queue

Latest Movie Rentals / Movies Seen From My Netflix Queue

Here is another in a series of posts I have been doing where I briefly discuss the latest movie rentals I have seen from my Netflix queue.  Did the title already say that?  I will shut up then now.  Previously, there were several films I mentioned in this prior post, so I will pick up where that one left off.  Do you see the natural progression here?  The dvd rental, or blu-rays in some cases, in the post are in chronological order of video rentals or simply, the films I have seen – so here is the most recent batch of films for your perusal. Yes, there are likely spoilers all over these write-ups, so be warned if you haven’t seen the films.  As usual I will give you my Netflix star rating, based on their somewhat flawed IMO, five-star system.

Greenberg

 

Greenberg movie pic

Ben Stiller, Rhys Ifans and Greta Gerwig in Greenberg.

 

I was looking forward to this quirky indie starring Ben Stiller as a 40-ish single man returning to California coming off of a stint in rehab/mental institution.  While that aspect of it is not explored, the film finds Ben’s Greenberg struggling to connect with those around him, including former close friend and ex-bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans) and a potential love interest in Greta Gerwig’s Florence.  Greenberg floats unevenly through various situations from bizarre sexual mishaps to drug induced partying to quiet restaurant moments that turn ugly.  Director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) lets the action unfold naturally, but the pacing is almost too slow with the events too disconnected at times to be engrossing.  Greenberg is a movie worth watching for indie fans, but a pass for people who think they are getting the Meet the Parents type of Stiller. His performance is far more nuanced and reserved here.  3 out of 5

Cloverfield

The Godzilla-esque Cloverfield made waves at the box office, opening big and getting some of the stars steady work in films after its release.  The movie is set in New York and while it can be a bit lazy with its entirely hand-held camera (yes, I said the ENTIRE movie is hand-held(!)).  It kept my interest, which is more than I thought it might.  I thought some of director Matt Reeves visuals were pretty imprressive (the characters crossing between two high-rise building touching hundreds of feet above ground was particularly cool).  The acting is fair; tolerable given that nobody has ever been in a situation quite like the fantastical one presented.  This is not a repeat viewer, but I thought it was serviceable.  Another 3 out of 5.

Surrogates

Bruce Willis’ career has to be on a steady decline.  Surrogates‘ sci-fi, futuristic premise where we live in a world where our clones interact and humans never leave the house is an interesting one.  But the CGI is pretty lame, the story lacks substance and in the end, it was a forgettable experience.  This felt like a B-level movie with a (former(?)) A-list star in it.  The ending is semi-predictable and there is not enough there to warrant much else.  I am surprised that the teaming of Willis and Ving Rhames (two Pulp Fiction stars) have fallen off as bad as to end up in this.  Disappointing. 2 out of 5.

Cop Out

 

Cop Out pic

Bruce Willis sleepwalks his way through the horrible Cop Out.

 

Did I just say I was disappointed in Bruce?  Oh my.  Kevin Smith’s wholly generic Cop Out with Willis and Tracy Morgan playing partners who end up on the outside of their jobs trying to solve a case that involves murder, drugs, a baseball card, a potentially cheating wife, corrupt cops and a bunch more.  This film attempts to have laughs, yet instead repeats generic one-liners like Morgan’s “I love you like a fat kid loves cake.”  Are you f*cking serious?!?  This film is an outright travesty. The “stars” are completely mismatched.  The acting is horrible and Bruce looks entirely disinterested.

I suspect that Smith (Zack & Miri Make A Porno) will pass it off that it was supposed to be this way.  I call that BS.  You wasted your time, the stars time, the audiences time and the studio’s money.  Smith is bordering on a thin-line that should find him on the outside of Hollywood for good if his next film doesn’t succeed.  Its too bad, because I like the man, but he really shows little talent for directing (a basic point and shoot-style), a marginal talent for writing (but at least he is a unique voice to be sure), and I’m just entirely disappointed in the man that once made the respected Clerks. That was so long ago.  1 out of 5 stars.

Green Zone

This was a somewhat surprising revelation.  I found the film to be totally acceptable and am in many ways sorry that it did so poorly at the box office.  I understand why, but I feel sorry for the film, as it is quality through and through.  Director Paul Greengrass leads Matt Damon’s Roy Miller into Iraq on a (likely fantastical) story of a man and country of troops searching for WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).  While Miller and his Marine brethren continually invade and investigate supposed locales for WMD, he begins to question the intel which leads to government conspiracies and cover-ups which will potentially be largely eye-opening for any American (and even Iraqis).  This is a sad tale but tautly and smartly told with little wasted effort.  It is not a Jason Bourne clone which it seemingly was marketed to be.  It is a thrilling film about politics and war, that should have more Americans (and viewers in general), questioning the validity of the way their government conducts their democracy.  4 out of 5 stars.

W.

Oliver Stone’s biopic of George W. Bush was a perfect film to follow seeing Green Zone, though unintended.  I felt Stone presented a fair and compelling look into Bush and his presidency, with the looming presence of George Sr. a constant driving force for his son.  I didn’t expect to be as interested in this as I was.  There were strong acting performances in several roles, most notably Thandie Newton’s Condi Rice imitation and of course, Josh Brolin’s brilliant W.  Highly surprised he didn’t get more props for his acting here.  Scott Glenn’s incredibly moronic Rumsfeld, Richard Dreyfuss’ Dick Cheney and the always strong Jeffrey Wright (does he ever misstep?) as Colin Powell also rated well.  This was an interesting film, well shot, and a nice look (potentially) into areas of his personality and presidency that the laymen would never know.  Good stuff. 3 out of 5 stars.

Remains of the Day

 

Hopkins in Remains of the Day

A rare light moment for Stevens in Remains of the Day.

 

After seeing Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, I decided to look up the author and discovered that his most revered novel Remains of the Day was made into a movie which garnered 8 Oscar nominations in 1994 (for the ’93 film).  Hence, I watched the film, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson as servants to a rich man with Nazi ties.  While Hopkins’ Stevens is loyal to a fault, his inner struggle was difficult for me to fully see on film.  I wanted it to be harder for him to maintain his staunch demeanor than it was seemingly revealed. Still, I can’t deny it was fine acting.

If he is belittled, he takes it every time, just going about his work and never encroaching with his opinion.  Whether losing his father or living his life without a chance at love, Stevens stayed strong.  Still, this was an interesting depiction of a man who seemed to have misplaced his loyalty and hurt the possibility for a greater life as a result.  That is something that many of us can relate to.  This was an interesting film, but it never really took off for me and I didn’t see a payoff I was expecting.  3 out of 5 stars (though I’d give it 2.5 if I could – it deserves the rounding up).

Posted in Featured, Movie Lists1 Comment

How Movie Critic Reviews Affect Desire To See Films

How Movie Critic Reviews Affect Desire To See Films

How do movie reviews affect your chances or desire to see a movie?  I often think about this.  With my interest in seeing movies in the theater seemingly on the decline, with dollars being tighter, home TV’s being larger, my time being more valuable, and more entertainment options being available, I had to ponder this question and see what other people’s views on the matter are.  I want to dig in to this a little bit here, since for me there are rarely deadlock, must see movies for the most part any more (Inception notwithstanding).

I guess, in order for movie critics reviews to matter in the first place, one must align themselves with the views of a particular critic (or several). How do you “align” yourself with a critic?  Simply enough, if you saw a movie and liked it, then read a review that said something similar (or vice versa) then you might be a pair. If this action is repeated often enough, I think you can begin to align yourself with their views to some extent.  (I’m hoping you value my opinions on reviews – that’s part of the reason for the site after all – as I know those in my inner circle do.)

As far as reasons to watch movies goes (critically), I was once very much enthralled with the views of the now deceased film critic Gene Siskel as well as the now defunct Premiere magazine’s Glenn Kenny.  These days I largely respect the views of Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers.  Other lesser names that I have followed hold some influence here or there as well. So, in evaluating whether or not I want to see a film, I will weigh the opinion of Travers (primarily at this point) and others, into whether or not the movie will be worth my time.

Doing this in a strict manner is a double-edged sword (hence, its not “super-strict” for me).  I know that his opinions do not completely align with mine – that is a given – and just because he sees a movie in a certain light doesn’t mean that I will glean the same feeling from it.  Also, I still see movies sans reviews and influences all together on occasion, and I can be rewarded for the experience.  But of course, this comes with risk as well.  If I am particularly on the fence about a movie, then the critical response becomes more amplified.

Additionally, using Yahoo! Movies critic conglomerate score (we used to have a similar review related thing here) and a site like Rotten Tomatoes (which I far too often forget exists as a resource, strangely) which gives a % for films, also can affect my desire to see a film.  The latter in particular is potentially dangerous for me, as the way they compile reviews leaves those figures vulnerable to the  potential fan boy or hack to be included in that score.  Hence you see Iron Man with a 94% rating, and I go to see the film and essentially shrug. It was fine, but nothing that blew me away.  (A trick regarding RT scores: a high % is misleading, it is the score – i.e. a 7.6/10 – that is more telling. People can give a thumbs up to the movie, but give it a 6.5/10 which isn’t exactly a needle-mover for me.)

So, I was long waiting for the Joaquin Phoenix documentary I’m Still Here to arrive in theaters, even going so far as to plan ahead with someone to see it, but the few reviews I have read early on have not been kind to the film.  The first review I read gave it a “D-“ and I also liked that the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips (a former fill-in critic on TV’s “At The Movies”) said “I genuinely hated this picture.” Not exactly encouraging.

This is very divisive, which is giving me great pause.  I wanted to see Phoenix make a mess of hip-hop really (as he did here), and I was intrigued by the bizarre behavior he exhibited, but reviews are strongly suggesting it is/was all a dare or a hoax, which makes me far less interested.  I am wondering if I would be better served waiting for it to hit my Netflix queue down the line.

I enjoy movies – hell, I do run a site about them – but I also am a discerning customer and have been called very tough on movies (or tough to please in general) on countless occasions.  I could potentially ease up, but what would be the fun in that?  I would rather make the best educated guess I can on a film before I see it, in the same manner I want to make the right purchase of a TV or computer.  Reading reviews is simply putting in the research before hand. Those that try to avoid all influences are doing themselves a disservice as well in my opinion.  Yeah, you can try to experience something fresh (and that can be very fulfilling), but it is equally fulfilling (if not more so) knowing you put in the work and made the right choice with your entertainment dollar.  It is a better mechanism so that you won’t get burned as often.

I want to know how movie reviews affect you.  Do they change your desire to see a film?  Do they only affect whether you would see it in theaters, or on opening weekend, or wait for rental? (Waiting for a rental is a whole other matter in my opinion, as I often think I am going to get around to see a film, only to have it continually get put off by something I want to see more, or potentially my forgetting about the movie all together.)  Are you a box office man?  If a film does big business (or is expected to) you will go and see it? (This holds next to absolutely zero sway with me.) Let me know if reviews have any effect at all.  I want to hear from you, while I debate (internally) whether or not I will see a movie like I’m Still Here.  I’m strongly suspecting it will be a rental for me, but I still want to wait for that Peter Travers review to help me decide.

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Never Let Me Go Movie Review

Never Let Me Go Movie Review

Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go is likely to be in the conversation for several awards come Oscar season.  This ambitious and eloquent piece features excellent acting, restrained and beautiful direction that pairs with a challenging and touching story, which results in strong entertainment for the thinker in all of us.

Carey Mulligan stars as Kathy H., serving as both as a narrator to the film and lead to a story that will level you in its depth of cruel emotion.  Kathy falls in love with Tommy, back during their childhood at the boarding school Hailsham where she, Tommy and Ruth form an uncommon bond that will last a lifetime.

Hailsham is an odd place that confines its students to restricted areas, features routines of discipline and doesn’t take kindly to outsiders.  When newcomer Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) is assigned to teach, she opens the students eyes and openly questions how the school is run, resulting in her ultimate dismissal.  But what she unveils is an extinction level event for the story that has unfolded to that point in the film.  The balance of the film takes us deeper into the lives of the three students and their love for one another as they discover more about Hailsham, their relationships and their depths of their souls.

This is an incredible love story and while that portion of the film is not unique, it is told in an original fashion with a wildly unique backdrop.  There is poetry in Alex Garland’s script and Isihiguro’s story that is beautifully rendered on screen by Romanek and his fine cast.

Never Let Me Go's characters are always on the outside looking in.

While Mulligan is the standout star, new Spiderman to be Andrew Garfield compels as an off-kilter boy and Keira Knightley’s jealous sexpot is well-rounded.  Romanek’s delicate direction allows the actors to shine and elevates the sometimes bleak material to poetic, artistic expression.  The young actors who play the stars in their younger years, often insignificant, almost throwaway roles, really have an opportunity to flesh out their characters and generally look strikingly similar to their grown counterparts.  Expert casting here.

Romanek, who hasn’t directed since the failed Robin Williams’ creep-fest One Hour Photo, returns with a vengeance here, capturing all the poetry the story can handle while letting the actors perform naturally.  His shifting use of color strikes a strong counterbalance to the material, effectively easing the audience into the painful state where the characters reside.  This is mature filmmaking that will be in year-end awards discussions of some sort; I am confident in that.

The film has elements of science fiction and fantasy, but is deeply rooted in human emotion and interaction.  Kathy, Ruth and Tommy have complicated relationships within their seemingly simple and direct existences.  The overall message is that our time on earth is precious and whom we spend that time with is of paramount importance.  The film also offers up several questions to the viewer that might be revealed through its source material, Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel of the same name.

All in all, Never Let Me Go is not an easy film to digest.  Its neither mainstream nor particularly uplifting, but it is both compelling and thought-provoking and well worthy of your attention.  If they ever left, this serves notice that independent films are back – in a big way.

Posted in 3 Nests, Featured, Reviews3 Comments

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