If it's crap ... We'll tell you
NEVER LET ME GO (Blu-Ray and DVD)
After watching this 2010 sort-of science fiction film by director Mark Romanek, I'm not surprised at all that he credits Stanley Kubrick's, "2001: A Space Odyssey" as his inspiration to become involved in film. Much like that over-touted film, "Never Let Me Go" is coldly beautiful, yet also often lifeless and dull. Keira Knightly, Andrew Garfield, and Carey Mulligan play three (older) kids in a gilded cage; a seemingly idyllic English boarding school that in truth, is a prison for the young'uns. Truthfully, they are there as cloned versions of rich citizens whose entire existence is to eventually offer their organs up for transplant, as a sympathetic teacher reveals to the kids finally. The three leads, as they get older and approach their sell-by date, all deal with this knowledge of their inevitable demise differently, and be clear: metaphorically we're just talking about the death we all have to deal with some day. Hopes for loop holes and exceptions abound; rumors of 'deferral' to clones who can prove they're in love with each other lead to some interesting and complicated love triangle issues for the kids. But there's both a hope and a hopelessness to the proceedings, depending on your own feelings about death and the existence of a soul. I never felt that "Never Let Me Go" discussed any of the possible ramifications of either its science fiction situation (a tired one at this point, I think) or its philosophical bent any more than in a all-too-loosely implied sense, and with the characters ultimately making decisions in service to the plot rather than obviously how people would actually behave, I had nothing left to hold onto. Even with the haunting cinematography and excellent performances, the glacial pace and pointless character struggles representing humanity's own meanderings in the dark only evinced boredom from me. I suspect what you get out of "Never Let Me Go" is almost entirely only what you bring into it. I've certainly got films like that I love. This ain't one of 'em.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Never Let Me Go [Blu-ray]
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS (Blu-Ray and DVD)
I'm all too willing to eat my words when appropriate. Seriously. Hell, more often than not, I'm positively stuffed with a diet of entire sentences I've mistakenly uttered. But I never, ever, EVER suspected that I'd have to choke down my assertions about the lack of Kristen Stewart's acting skills. And then along comes a movie like "Welcome to the Rileys" and I've gotta strap on my bib. James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo play the titular Doug and Lois Riley, a married couple whose relationship has become lifeless and frozen due to both of their reactions to the death of their daughter Emily. Doug is having an affair with a waitress and avoids home as much as he can. Lois is terrified to venture outside her front door, barely speaking to anyone outside of her sister. When Doug's waitress dies unexpectedly of a health-related issue, during a business trip to New Orleans, Doug finds himself unsure any longer who he is and what he wants. An encounter with Mallory (Stewart), an underage stripper in a dingy local club, where Doug only wants to pay her to talk to him, eventually leads to a cautious friendship between the two. He offers to help her with her various problems (of which are legion) by living with her in her ramshackle home and paying rent to sleep on the couch. Having been beaten by life at every turn, Mallory has no idea what to do with the concept of human kindness, as she continually, cynically, and angrily, waits for the other shoe to drop. And sure enough, it's not purely altruistic: Doug is healing himself by using Mallory to alleviate his guilt about the death of his own daughter. And then, taking a brave step to even leave the house, Lois shows up, and things go in a decidedly un-Hollywood manner. Stewart manages to show more range here than she has in all the rest of her films put together, Gandolfini confidently and convincingly steps away from the more aggressive roles he's become known for in the past, and Leo, as usual, is solidly unrecognizable from any other role she's played (that woman is a marvel, I swear). It was a pleasure watching characters this real acknowledge all the ramifications of such a complicated moral situation, and still come out of it on the other side in a positive manner. Uplifting without being manipulative or treacly, "Welcome to Rileys" is one of the nicest and unexpected feel-good movies I've seen in awhile.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Welcome to the Rileys [Blu-ray]