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Never Let Me Go (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


Great performances abound in this unique science fiction/love story from director Mark Romanek.

The movie starts with a simple caption that reveals a fictional breakthrough that prolongs life, occurring in 1952. It then tells the story of three people as they grow up from boarding school through life in a sort of commune. To tell you what their roles are in the world would be to ruin the movie. I went into it knowing little, and was quite surprised by what the movie slowly reveals itself to be.

At its core, it is a love triangle between Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield). It is also a parallel universe story, where Romanek, courtesy of a screenplay by Alex Garland (based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro), issues an intriguing "what if" about human history.

Mulligan is especially good as Kathy, in love with Tommy in their youth but forced to be a bystander as he starts a relationship with Ruth. Mulligan, so good in An Education, re-teams with Knightley, who co-starred in Mulligan's 1995 debut, Pride and Prejudice. Given their work onscreen together in this film, it's no surprise that they have worked together before.

Garfield, soon to be the next Spider-Man, had himself a banner year in 2010 with this and The Social Network. He gives Tommy a confused, sweet grace that makes the tragedy of his situation all the more hard to take. I happen to think he was one of the year's biggest Oscar snubs when he failed to get notice for The Social Network. An argument could be made that he deserved a nomination for this movie, as well.

This film sort of snuck under the radar last year, but has its share of followers who think it was among the year's best. I saw it rather late in the game, but I'm willing to say it was one of 2010's better films.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A decent behind-the-scenes look at the film that shouldn't be viewed until after seeing the movie; it reveals some of the movie's big secrets. You also get some art galleries, including Romanek's on-set photography.

Conviction (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


Were this movie just a little better, you might've seen Sam Rockwell in the running for 2010's Best Supporting Actor. As it stands, it's an OK film featuring one amazing performance, and a couple of good ones.

In a movie based on a true story, Rockwell stars as Kenny Waters, wrongly convicted of murder and imprisoned for life. His sister, Betty Anne (Hilary Swank), decides to take matters into her own hands, going to law school and eventually getting her brother's case back into courtrooms.

Swank is OK here, although her Boston accent gets a little distracting at times (still, it's better than her weird-assed Amelia Earhart voice). Minnie Driver does some of her best work in years as Abra, Betty's best friend, and Melissa Leo (in seemingly every movie being made these days) is good as a corrupt cop.

Rockwell, as usual, is terrific, and the real reason to watch the film. He makes Kenny alternately sweet and scary, and for those who don't know the story, he keeps you guessing about his innocence. Were somebody else playing this role, the movie would just be another courtroom drama suitable for cable TV. Rockwell elevates it to something a little better than that.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get an interesting conversation between director Tony Goldwyn and the real life Betty Anne Waters, but that's it.

It's Kind of a Funny Story (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


According to this movie, having an adolescent nervous breakdown can be a whole lotta fun! While it's perhaps a little too sunny to be a super-effective film about youth and mental struggles, it still manages to be enjoyable thanks to its cast.

Keir Gilchrist plays Craig, a teenager with issues who checks himself into a mental ward, not quite knowing what he is getting himself into. He winds up doing some time there with a host of different personalities, including Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), a good-natured sort who masquerades as a doctor at first, but is soon revealed to be a patient in the ward.

Emma Roberts is sweet as Noelle, another depressed teenager who winds up being Craig's love interest, and Lauren Graham is effective and believable as Craig's mom, dealing with her son's situation with as much optimism as possible.

While the movie is mostly about Gilchrist's character, Galifianakis steals the film as the high-strung Bobby. The film gives him a nice chance to show off his dramatic chops while mixing in the comedy. While he is usually cast as a goofball, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck give him a chance to show he can be much more than that.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A behind-the-scenes documentary, deleted scenes and outtakes.

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