Quick Hits Movies: Reviews of The Help, The Guard & 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.

Choose (dir. Marcus Graves)

Hampered by a slightly dumb script (probably named Choose because you hear that word said about three dozen times in 80 minutes), but has an interesting concept for a slasher film. Perhaps tries to be a little too much like Se7en or a Dario Argento film, and never comes near those heights. Some inventive moments and an easy watch. Grade: C-

Available on Netflix Streaming

The Conspirator (dir. Robert Redford; starring James McAvoy and Robin Wright)

A bit stuffy, but important-feeling historical drama set around the trail of a woman under suspicion of consorting to kill President Abraham Lincoln. From Robert Redford, the film does feel like it comes from a simpler age of movie-making. I don’t know much about the real events of the trial, but the film feels strained in trying to make the odds of the proceedings completely impossible to overcome. From the beginning of the film there is no mystery into Mary Surratt’s guilt and the film loses any suspense because of this. Grade: C

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

The Guard (dir. John Michael McDonagh; starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle)

A riotously funny buddy cop/thriller with one of the best performances of the year from Gleeson. The film goes in places you’d never suspect and leaves a surprising amount to the viewer’s imagination, which is different for modern comedy. Still, it doesn’t pull any punches and its dark brand of humor is shocking and satisfying. Grade: A-

In theaters (limited)

The Help (dir. Tate Taylor; starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis)

If you’ve read any of the reviews of the film, you are most likely going to come across complaints that it soft-peddles around the heavy problems of 1960’s Mississippi. I certainly agree with most of those sentiments, but my biggest problem is that the film is simply too long. There are multiple subplots that could have been filtered out of the film to tighten it up. The film is ultimately watchable for its stunning performance by Viola Davis. Even though I wasn’t keen on the film, look out for a strong Oscar push for this success. Grade: C+

In theaters now

The Interrupters (dir. Steve James)

An incredibly compelling documentary with a special interest to those in Chicago. The director of Hoop Dreams explores violent crime in the Windy City while profiling those who try and stop it. While about a subject with no easy solutions, the film takes in a small-scale vision that helps one understand the greater problems and how the work of individuals can become solutions. One of the most gripping documentaries I have seen in a long time. Grade: A

In theaters (limited)

The Resident (dir. Antti Jokinen; starring Hilary Swank)

When you have a straight-to-DVD movie starring Hilary Swank, you know there are probably some problems with the film. The Hammer Productions film is low on actual chills and over-produced to the extreme. The film goes to such extreme lengths to be creepy that it is laughable. Probably fun to watch with a group of people looking to heckle something, but not a good film. Grade: D

Available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Netflix Watch Instantly

A Screaming Man (dir. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun; France/Chad)

An effective, quiet picture about the problems of war on a poor family in the African nation of Chad. Although the film is about a number of really weighty issues, the simple direction and understated performances keep the film from feeling heavy. Grade: B

Available on DVD and Netflix Watch Instantly

tags: a screaming man, Choose, the conspirator, The Guard, the help, the interrupters, the resident

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