Movie Quick Hits: Reviews of Blitz, The Debt, Dream House & more

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We can’t write 500 words on everything, so here are bite-sized portions of recently seen independent and foreign releases, as well as films new to DVD. Even though they slipped through the cracks, these films still warrant your attention.

Blitz (dir. Elliott Lester; starring Jason Statham)

As a police procedural, it doesn’t do anything new and there isn’t enough action, considering this is a Jason Statham vehicle. Statham actually does a little more acting than action, with mixed results. The real reason to watch Blitz, though, is a fantastic supporting performance from Aiden Gillen (from The Wire and Game of Thrones) as a deranged serial cop-killer. It’s tough to steal an action-thriller from Statham, but Gillen does with ease. Grade: C-

Available on DVD and Netflix Instant Streaming

The Debt (dir. John Madden; starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain)

A clever little thriller. It won’t put you on the edge of your seat, but it is well acted, has an interesting premise and some nice twists by the end. Tries to do a little too much with its ending to bring everything together, but worth a watch. I think it certainly had Oscar aspirations, but it probably doesn’t completely reach enough for true awards contention. Grade: B-

In Theaters Now

Dream House (dir. Jim Sheridan; starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz)

I understand why it has been getting blasted at Rotten Tomatoes (currently a 6% score), but it isn’t truly as bad as the score would suggest. Still, not a movie that begs to be seen. Sheridan is a capable filmmaker, but the script tries to provide a mystery that isn’t in the least bit mysterious. In our movie preview, we noted the trailer giving away a lot of the plot twists, and going into the film without knowing them would have been helpful. There isn’t a ton to love in the film and the blatant reaching at classics like The Sixth Sense and missing badly equals the hate. Grade: C-

In Theaters Now

Heartbeats (dir. Xavier Dolan; Canada)

A sometimes tender, sometimes bold art film that follows a bisexual love triangle between three young, hip French Canadians. An authentic portrayal of what its like to be young, gay (or straight) and in love and it is beautifully captured. The moments of emotion are sometimes drowned out by the not-so-subtle choices of the director. Dolan (who is only 22), definitely loves the classic films of Truffaut and Godard, and they often shine through in Heartbeats, but some of his strong directorial choices took me out of the story. Grade: B

Available on DVD and Netflix Instant Streaming

In a Better World (dir. Susanne Bier; Denmark)

The Golden Globe and Oscar winner may not be my favorite of the 2010 Foreign Language nominees, but I can understand its win. Bier directs the film strongly, never flinching as a simple family drama spins out of control, building around a number of harrowing scenes. Some may find it too dower or self-important, but it never felt over-the-top to me. Two particularly strong performances from child actors anchor the cast. Grade: A-

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Killer Elite (dir. Gary McKendry; starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro)

Considering the great cast, I guess I could call this a disappointment, even without having much anticipation for this one. The muddied trailer provides a good insight for what turned out to be a very muddied film. I think the film is trying to have an interesting standpoint of “bad guys” vs. “good guys,” but I can’t quite tell what the hell it’s trying to say. Supposedly based on true incidents, this might be the film that this fact is the least relevant. I wanted more action and less political intrigue, but the action didn’t do much for me either. Grade: D

In Theaters Now

Mars Needs Moms (dir. Simon Wells; starring Seth Green and Dan Fogler)

Proof that motion-capture animation still isn’t to the level it truly needs to be. While the locations and backgrounds often look stunning, the uncanny valley is in full effect, making the human characters look quite frightening. It doesn’t help that Seth Green is playing a ten year old — I know he’s pretty short, but to see his face formed as a child’s is a little creepy. It may be a little too scary for young children, but ones age-appropriate may have some fun with it. Grade: C-

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Rio (dir. Carlos Saldanha; voices of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway)

A colorful and quick moving animated film that will probably work better for young children than adults. The setting of Rio gives the story a lot of fun opportunities, but the major characters are a little too simple to appeal to anyone over the age of 10. The voice acting is decent, especially works with Jemaine Clement as the villain, but Anne Hathaway’s voice is a little too bland and Jesse Eisenberg is a little too consistently manic. In a world where Pixar exists, Rio is fine, but a second-class citizen. Grade: C

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Wake Wood (dir. David Keating)

A Pet Semetary-esque premise that never builds on the concept. Produced by Hammer films, it reminisces on some of their best releases, but doesn’t have the lasting impact of The Wicker Man or Don’t Look Now. It relies much more heavily on unneccesary gore than thrills, which doesn’t work in this case. Grade: C-

Available on DVD

What’s Your Number? (dir. Mark Mylod; starring Anna Faris and Chris Evans)

A preposterous, dreadful romantic comedy of the worst order — because of the strong cast (with cameos by Andy Samberg, Chris Pratt, Joel McHale, Anthony Mackie, etc. etc.) I expected something much better. Not funny, not edgy, not good. I like Anna Faris, but I wasn’t totally impressed with her here, either. She has the talent to make something bad watchable, but she can’t overcome all the broad humor and cliched plot. Grade: D-

In Theaters Now

tags: blitz, dream house, heartbeats, in a better world, killer elite, mars needs moms, rio, the debt, wake wood, what's your number?

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