In theaters this weekend
Vampires should have thought of this before: If you can’t come out during the day, go where it’s always night, namely, Barrow, Alaska, during winter’s prolonged darkness. While director David Slade’s adaptation of the graphic novel is a huge cut above most of the gore fests passing themselves off as scary movies today, the premise and its repetitive gimmicks gradually grow as monotonous as, well, 30 days of night.
The bloodsuckers show up as the sun goes down and won’t come up again for a month (in reality, Barrow gets more like two months of darkness), and the vampires go on a feeding frenzy among the townsfolk, including the local sheriff (Josh Hartnett) and his estranged wife (Melissa George).
Danny Huston plays the creepy vampire leader. Slade fashions some memorably graphic images of the initial frenzy, but the momentum fades as the humans hole up to ride out the long night while the vampires hiss and moan outside.
R for strong horror violence and language. 113 min. Two stars out of four.
Say the name Ben Affleck, and myriad images come to mind. The loyal Red Sox rooter and John Kerry campaigner. Half of the Oscar-winning Matt-and-Ben “Good Will Hunting” duo. Another half of the tabloid-fodder “Bennifer” couple. A sometimes-solid actor (“Hollywoodland,” “Boiler Room”) prone to weak movie choices (“Bounce,” “Daredevil,” “Gigli”).
“Gone Baby Gone” will leave you with a new picture: filmmaker. In his directing debut, Affleck has found his calling, an avenue for using his obvious intelligence while getting out of the way of his own celebrity. Co-writing the script with longtime friend Aaron Stockard, Affleck presents a place oozing with atmosphere and rich, complicated characters. He has enough confidence in himself (and in us) never to go for the safe, easy answer.
The film is based on the child-abduction novel by Dennis Lehane, author of “Mystic River,” which earned several Oscars under Clint Eastwood’s direction. Like “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” is set on the rough streets south of Boston.
Private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck, Ben’s younger brother) and Angie Genarro (Michelle Monaghan), partners in work and love, are asked by the missing girl’s family to help find her because they can get details the police can’t. Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman and Amy Ryan are among the superb supporting cast.
R for violence, drug content and pervasive language. 114 min. Four stars out of four.
This thriller focuses on the U.S. government’s policy of transporting captured terror suspects to foreign countries for detention, interrogation and perhaps torture ” a topic that’s prime for debate and more than worthy for exploration in a film.
But there’s not much room for debate in director Gavin Hood’s first feature since winning the foreign-language Oscar for South Africa’s “Tsotsi” from 2005.
Everything is black and white here, a tremendous disservice considering the complexity of the issue. There’s also an oversimplification, an insulting dumbing-down, as if the audience were incapable of interpreting shades of gray.
The abduction of an Egyptian-born American man (Omar Metwally) suspected of helping North African terrorists is obviously a mistake. His pretty, pregnant wife (Reese Witherspoon) is left to worry, understandably, but her response is reduced to little more than increasingly shrieky grief.
The CIA analyst (Jake Gyllenhaal) assigned to oversee the suspect’s torture is unwavering in his disapproval; conversely, the CIA’s head of terrorism (Meryl Streep), who ordered the rendition, is unflappable in her certainty.
Then, at the very end, the script from Kelley Sane takes a narrative twist that’s distractingly contradictory to the realism and relevance the film had been trying to achieve all along.
R for torture/violence and language. 122 min. Two stars out of four.
Essentially a made-for-Lifetime movie with higher aspirations because of its award-winning cast. Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, Mark Ruffalo and even Mira Sorvino ” who actually has been relegated to such cable flicks more than a decade after her “Mighty Aphrodite” Oscar ” are all better than the material.
Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) directed and co-wrote the script with John Burnham Schwartz, based on Schwartz’s 1998 novel, about two families whose lives are connected by a fatal car accident. A perfect Connecticut couple (Phoenix and Connelly) loses a young son one night to a hit-and-run driver on the titular dark, winding road.
Ruffalo’s character, a screwed-up, divorced lawyer, was behind the wheel. It takes the whole movie for him to admit it. But first, we must sit and watch as these people’s lives intersect through an extraordinary series of coincidences which make it seem as if there’s only one law firm and one music teacher in their idyllic New England town.
While Phoenix trolls the Internet seeking validation for his vengeful urges, Connelly screeches and cries.
Both responses end up feeling painfully maudlin.
R for language and some disturbing images. 102 min. One and a half stars out of four.
Danish director Susanne Bier brings a stripped-down, Dogma sensibility to what could have been an overwrought story of loss and redemption but in Bier’s hands has powerful revelations.
Strong performances from Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro also help elevate the script from Allan Loeb, which has its share of unbelievable elements. Berry stars as a wife and mother of two whose husband (David Duchovny) is shot to death one night during a violent confrontation. As she grieves, she seeks out her husband’s childhood best friend (Del Toro), a heroin addict with whom she’d been at odds for years, and asks him to move into the family’s home.
She and the kids need someone around; he needs to get clean. Del Toro is convincingly damaged, and his awkwardness as he tries to establish a healthy new life is unexpectedly endearing. He also has some touching interaction with youngsters Alexis Llewellyn and Micah Berry (no relation to Halle), who respond to his character as the father figure they desperately need.
Alison Lohman also forms a strong connection with him as a fellow addict in recovery.
R for drug content and language. 113 min. Three stars out of four.