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The Monster Conviction In Tillman Never Let Go

By Genevieve Burgess | DVD Releases | February 1, 2011 |

By Genevieve Burgess | DVD Releases | February 1, 2011 |

Never Let Me Go: “I am positive that somewhere Mark Romanek has created a two-and-a-half, maybe even three hour version of this tale, which is just as poetic and haunting and beautiful as the novel. Unfortunately, the version being screened in theaters is a jagged replica, a shoddy version pockmarked with gaping bullet holes like a rural road sign. It feels like Alex Garland copied pages of the novel on index cards and then riffled them into the viewer’s face like a mean-spirited version of 52-Pick Up. Every complexity and nuance that makes the novel worthwhile is simonized until every character is one-note and the love story is thrust sloppily into the forefront. It becomes just another period love triangle where two girls fight over one strange boy, only it’s set in a world where they’re just meatbags on sale at Costco. Is it touching and moving? Well, of course, it can’t help but be, but that’s more the strength of Ishiguro’s moving concerto and less the keyboard-guitar hackjob of Alex Garland’s screenplay.” - Brian Prisco

Conviction: “This film shouldn’t work. It’s got all the hallmarks of…well, a fucking Hallmark Channel film. It’s based on the true story of a working-class Massachusetts mother who puts herself through law school so she can overturn her ne’er-do-well brother’s conviction after he’s been imprisoned for 18 years on a bogus murder charge. The cast contains three actresses I can’t fucking stand — Minnie Driver, Hilary Swank, and Juliette Lewis. It’s so paint-by-numbers emotionally exploitative you can still see the black crease marks marked ‘happy’ and ‘sad.’ But Boston is the new black, and by harshing up those vowels and dropping the r’s and giving the actors free reign with those lovable blue-collar f-bombs, Tony Goldwyn makes Pamela Gray’s script fucking work. Their last collaboration resulted in what some folks find one of the most underrated sexual-awakening flicks of all time, A Walk on the Moon. You can see every fucking machination coming from a mile away, and you can see all the moving parts, and you can even feel the fucking puppet strings being yanked in every scene, but goddamn it, it’s a fucking outstanding film. I can’t bank all of it on Sam Rockwell’s performance, because everyone in the film is so infused with industrially-burnt out bucolic charm, they all make you adore them. It’s the first film I’ve seen that feels Oscarbatory, but I sincerely hope it wins every fucking award they can throw out there.” - Brian Prisco

Let Me In: “From the start, there’s just a hint of too much ornamentation: ominous title cards reveal that the film takes place in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1983, yet the specific place and year never come into play. Los Alamos was probably picked because it sounds vaguely intimidating, able to tickle viewers’ fuzzy recollections of the Manhattan Project and hopefully set the location up as one with a murky past. Even the year itself is used mainly to justify some appropriately creepy footage of Ronald Reagan talking about the “evil empire” and the necessity of standing up to whatever demons may rise to confront us as a nation. Yet the televised speech, cars, costumes, and general aesthetic are more than enough to set the era and mood, and there’s no importance at all to the story taking place where it does. It could be any town, or no town. But Reeves insists on setting the scene for a steak dinner with a child’s paper placemat. It’s as if he lacks confidence to let the story do the talking.” - Daniel Carlson

Welcome to the Riley’s: “Everyone’s miserable, so when Doug goes to New Orleans for a contractors’ conference, he just wants to be alone. He wanders into a seedy strip club where we finally meet Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a fifteen year old stripper who offers Doug sexual favors in the champagne room. Doug has no interest in her sexually, because she looks a lot like his daughter. So Doug decides to take care of the foul-mouthed, sore-covered little strumpet and basically care for her like she was his daughter. He calls his wife and tells her he’s staying in New Orleans, and so she conquers her agoraphobia and drives down from Indianapolis. Confronted with the situation, Lois gets ready to leave. If only she made it, she wouldn’t have to suffer through the rest of the watered down plot where they all try to play house together. I could tell you how it turns out, or you could simply watch every other movie like this and figure it out for yourself.” - Brian Prisco

The Tillman Story: “What’s endearing about the Tillman family is how un-sanctimonious they are towards the efforts of the government to embroil them in the bullshit. When the government sends the casualty crew to meet with Marie Tillman — Pat’s wife, childhood sweetheart, and the only girlfriend he’s ever had — it’s not to console her, but to see if they can convince her to allow Pat to be buried against his wishes in Arlington ceremony. When they decide to turn his funeral service into a chance for politicos to give pretty speeches, Pat’s youngest brother jumps up on stage in jeans, T-shirt, and a frothy pint of beer in his hand to thank so many fucking people for showing up and saying pretty things but that ‘Pat’s fucking dead. He never believed in any of that God shit. He’s fucking dead, so all this is bullshit. Thanks.’ Pat Senior, a lawyer by trade, after years of frustration on the part of his wife, sends a letter accusing the military of lying, and he cordially signs it off with ‘In summation, fuck you…and yours.’ Which manages to reopen the investigation, and Pat’s youngest brother responds, ‘If my mother knew that all she had to do was tell the military to go fuck themselves to get an answer, she would have told them to go fuck themselves years ago.’” - Brian Prisco

Monsters: “That journey is a fascinating one, and what’s perhaps most striking about Monsters is that it is very much not a monster movie, but more an emotionally-based sociopolitical road movie — that has monsters in it. The film is more about Andrew and Samantha’s characters, how they interact with each other, how their feelings and emotions — not just about each other, but about the world around them — evolve and change, just as the world is fretfully trying to evolve around these new lifeforms. It’s a carefully thought-out, introspective piece that takes its look at interpersonal relationships and geopolitics with surprising gentleness. While the immigration and xenophobic themes are fairly obvious, they’re tackled with a deft subtlety and aren’t even particularly critical, merely contemplative.” - TK

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Genevieve Burgess is a Features Contributor for Pajiba. You can follow Genevieve Burgess on Twitter.