Let Me In
Coolest Extra: “From the Inside: A Look at the Making of Let Me In”
Complex Says: Matt Reeves shouldn’t fret about Let Me In’s box office no-show last October; it’s better suited for home viewing, anyway. It’s not like the horror remake ever had a fighting chance of turning big in-theater profits. Opening in the same month as the much glossier, and seriously inferior, Saw 3D and Paranormal Activity 2, this poignant adolescent vampire tale was poorly marketed and way too cerebral for its own good. On DVD and Blu-ray, however, this gem, an Americanized adaptation of Swedish author’s John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Let the Right One In, should find the open-minded audiences it deserves. Reeves (who previously directed Cloverfield) stages a handful of knockout set-pieces, namely a car crash shot from inside the whip. He also pulls tremendous performances out of his two pre-teen leads, Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road), while the great Richard Jenkins amps the creep factor up considerably as a child-stalker/vampire’s servant. Our advice: Cop this one right away, and see for yourselves why Stephen King called it “the best American horror film in 20 years.” That guy knows a thing or two about scares.
Buy It Now: Let Me In
Coolest Extra: “A Conversation with Tony Goldwyn and Betty Anne Waters”
Complex Says: Random thought: Remember when Hilary Swank was considered one of Hollywood’s finest actresses? What in Sam-hell happened to her? We tried watching 2009’s plodding Earhart biopic Amelia but fell asleep before the first air-flight scene; meaning, premature ejaculators have lasted longer. Call us delusional, but we still think that Swank is a looker, so it’s with considerable pleasure that we recommend her most recent flick, Conviction. It’s no cinematic masterwork by any means, but this story of a woman and her prison-bound brother (Sam Rockwell) is a hotbed of primo acting. Particularly from Rockwell, who remains one of the game’s best talents hovering directly beneath the A-list. The direction (from actor-turned-director Tony Goldwyn) and script are noticeably second-rate, relying on the performances (including co-stars Melissa Leo and Ari Graynor) to carry the weight. But, hey, unlike Amelia, we managed to stay awake through the whole thing.
Buy It Now: Conviction
Monsters (2-Disc Special Edition)
Coolest Extra: “Comic Con NYC with Gareth Edwards” featurette
Complex Says: Before its limited theatrical run last October, first-time director Gareth Edwards’ low-budget sci-fi pic Monsters was hyped as a potential District 9 for 2010. Since it was nowhere to be found in last week’s Academy Awards nominations list, though, that sort of impact clearly didn’t happen, but that’s OK. After seeing the movie, the differences between Monsters and District 9 couldn’t be any greater. For one, Edwards’ giant-aliens-inhabiting-Earth conceit is actually just an ominous backdrop for a love story between an American journalist (Scoot McNairy) and a cute tourist (Whitney Able). Their chemistry is strong enough to forgive the film’s misleading title, which leads one to believe that Monsters would be full of, well, monsters. When the skyscraper-sized aliens do show up, Edwards proves that he’s got the sufficient panache to handle effects-heavy thrills. The industry’s big-wigs seem to agree: A few weeks back, it was announced that Edwards will helm a currently in-development Godzilla reboot, strictly off the strength of Monsters. We’re not mad at that.
Buy It Now: Monsters
The Tillman Story
Coolest Extra: Director’s commentary
Complex Says: This year’s list of Best Documentary nominees is missing three words: The Tillman Story. Wrongly snubbed by the Academy, this touching yet infuriating look at the late Pat Tillman was easily one of 2010’s best documentaries. The Tillman Story is the kind of revelatory movie that makes you want to punch your idiot-box out of frustration. Ex-NFL player Tillman, for those who refuse to open a newspaper, was killed by friendly fire in April 2004, while serving in the U.S. Army. The Tillman Story, directed by Amir Bar-Lev, pays closer attention to what happened after his death: an extensive manipulation of events for the sake of patriotism. Interviews with the fallen soldier’s family and military colleagues show how higher-ups turned their own fuck-up into a manufactured catalyst for red-white-and-blue love, and it’s pretty damn startling. Like any great documentary, Bar-Lev’s gut-kicker resonates far deeper than you’d anticipate.
Buy It Now: The Tillman Story
Never Let Me Go
Coolest Extra: "Mark Romanek’s On-Set Photography"
Complex Says: As fans of Kazuo Ishiguro’s emotionally diesel novel, we were pretty stoked to see what director Mark Romanek could do with the thick material for this adaptation. Romanek convinced us that Robin Williams could play a humorless nutjob in One Hour Photo, so surely he could make us cry harder than Kim Kardashian’s onion, right? Not so much. It’s not that Never Let Me Go is a bad movie; on the surface, it’s actually very well made. The script, written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later), sticks to Ishiguro’s blueprint, focusing on a mysterious private school in England, populated by students with preordained expiration dates (that’s as spoiler-ish as we’ll get). The young cast, namely The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield (also your next Spider-Man) and Carey Mulligan, captures the book’s heartbreaking power, but too much gets lost in translation. Never Let Me Go should leave you with an aching ticker, an empty Kleenex box, and a month’s worth of emotion; instead, Romanek’s perfectly adequate drama simply comes, briefly tickles your fancy, and then goes. It’s like a lapdance, minus the T&A.
Buy It Now: Never Let Me Go
Hatchet II (Unrated Director’s Cut)
Coolest Extra: “Hatchet II: Behind the Screams” featurette
Complex Says: Horror filmmakers love using the “throwback” gimmick. Over the last few years, the genre’s independent scene has been filled with young directors selling their movies as “influenced by ’70s horror,” or even the ’80s. Unfortunately, most of them have failed, masking their otherwise forgettable works in artificially nostalgic camerawork packaging. Only a few have successfully accomplished the old-meets-new motif; the best of the lot is Ti West’s The House of the Devil, but finishing in a close second place is Adam Green’s shamelessly gory homage to ’80s slasher films, Hatchet. This sequel, once again featuring disfigured bayou butcher Victor Crowley, expectedly ups the body count, but, much like its predecessor, Hatchet II is all blood and no backbone. As a highlight reel of over-the-top kills, Green’s sequel is a success, but the biggest casualties of all are the script’s storyline and character development. Yet, when a movie shows a guy’s head being ripped off by his own intestines within the first 10 minutes, who needs an award-worthy screenplay? Grab some brews, call your boys over, and watch the bodies hit the floor.
Buy It Now: Hatchet II
Night Catches Us
Coolest Extra: Interviews with real-life Black Panthers
Complex Says: Someday, whenever Hollywood becomes a full-on equal opportunity business, Anthony Mackie will be a certified leading man whose days are spent dodging all the scripts thrown at him. Until then, though, he’ll have to settle for merely being a great B-list actor. And how’s this for a consolation prize: Dude got to co-star with dimepiece Kerry Washington in this solid mid-1970s-set film. Superficial compliments for Ms. Washington aside, Night Catches Us is top-quality drama, about an ex-Black Panther fighting to clear his name in his old tension-laden Philadelphia hood. What’s most impressive about Night Catches Us is that, for all its narrative maturity, and tight camerawork, it’s actually writer-director Tanya Hamilton’s feature debut. She’s earned tons of love here. After all, Hamilton has the good sense to anchor the flick with Mackie, a guy who deserved just as much post-The Hurt Locker acclaim as Jeremy Renner.
Buy It Now: Night Catches Us