Friday, October 8, 2010

Review Roundup: "Let Me In" and "Get Low"

**Movie Review: Let Me In**

Most girls wear lipstick, but Abby prefers blood on her lips. In the new movie, Let Me In, 13-year-old actress, Chloe Grace Moretz, plays a pre-adolescent vampire named Abby, who befriends a 12-year-old boy named Owen (played by Kodi Smit McPhee), and they embark upon a puppy-dog vampire romance in this uneven, albeit fresh take on the vampire lore.

When we first meet Owen, he's a lonely kid, often picked on by bullies at school, but his life changes when Abby moves in next door. Over time, Owen realizes Abby isn't an ordinary girl. She doesn't get cold. She doesn't age. Her Guardian (played by character actor Richard Jenkins) is not really her father, but was a boy who once befriended her much like Owen does, and he goes out and kills people, siphoning their blood into milk jugs for Abby, so that Abby wont have to hunt. Of course, this draws the attention of the police, and a Detective (played by Elias Koteas) tries to follow the trail of these mysterious murders, and this is where the movie becomes uneven, in trying to balance these three storylines.

The pre-teen, first love romance between Owen and Abby is the heart and soul of this movie, and the young actors make you believe in their innocent love, but the stories involving Abby's Guardian and the Detective just never really congeal with the rest of the story. At times, the director Matt Reeves relies too much on subtlety, never giving us enough information about certain characters in order for us to understand who they are, and their motivations. While Richard Jenkins says that he doesn't wish to kill for Abby anymore, we never feel it cause we don't understand why he doesn't wish to do it anymore, thus there is no dramatic tension to his, nor the Detective's story arcs, making the overall product an uneven study.

What is fantastically brilliant about this movie is that it retains all of the characteristic tropes of vampire lore, but presents them in an unromanticized way (unlike Bela Lugosi). The way Abby hunts and kills is feral, like a lioness hunting a gazelle. When a vampire is exposed to sunlight, they spontaneously combust! Unlike many previous incarnations of Dracula, Let Me In presents being a vampire as a tragic curse and not a blessing, and Chloe Moretz is so marvelous as Abby. I have been a fan of hers since (500) Days of Summer, but here she takes another leap, playing this immortal vampire who looks 12, but is way older mentally, and she plays the role of an old soul in a young body marvelously. I really think Moretz has a future in this industry.

While Let Me In is a fresh take on the vampire lore, I cannot deny the unevenness of the other plot threads in the story aside from Owen and Abby's relationship, but if you're itching to see something different with vampires, this is it.

I give Let Me In a C!

**Movie Review: Get Low**

Every town has that folk legend that is a complete mystery. It's that person that lives in the secluded shack, who puts up all of the "No Trespassing" signs, and your parents are always telling you to stay away from this man. Problem is, it's all just rumors. Who is the real legend, not the folk legend, that is the examination of Get Low.

Get Low stars Robert Duvall as an old hermit in early 1900s Tennessee, where he is feared by all in the small town that he is a resident of, due to rampant rumors of questionable truth. We know from the very first frames that Felix (Duvall) has a dark past. We open on a burning house and a shadowed man running away in flames, then cut to Felix chasing some boys who tossed a rock through his window off his property. Now this is key, we see Felix corner the perpetrator in his barn, but he then lowers his shotgun and lets the boy go. If Felix were such a beast, would he have not killed this boy? Perhaps, some compassion beneath that hideous beard caked in dirt? The whole time you're wondering what Felix did to want a life of solitude, what significance does that burning home play in his story? It's that question that keeps one enthralled while watching Get Low, albeit when you find out the answer, the results are a touch melodramatic, or soap opera, so to speak.

The story takes off from there as Felix begins making preparations for his death, even though he's not sick. Felix goes to the local funeral home to plan his own funeral, talk circulates around town, but Felix doesn't want just any funeral, he wants to plan a funeral party where he will finally tell those in the town his story, rather than them telling their stories about him. Felix doesn't want forgiveness, and this is what is most brilliant about this movie, he simply wants people to know.

Duvall has gotten lots of recognition for this role, and he manages to play it with such aplomb that you understand why he is still one of the best leading men of the silver screen, but it was Lucas Black as the funeral home worker, Buddy, that managed to stand out to me. Black has been a fixture of teen romances for the past few years, but his natural Southern draw actually aided his performance in this movie to make it all the more believable, and when paired with material that actually matches his roots, he delivers a knock out performance, possibly the performance of his career, where he develops a heartwarming friendship with Felix. Other cast members, Bill Murray in particular, all play their parts how you'd expect of actors of their caliber, and it is the acting of Get Low that manages to sell the melodrama when it dips in the final act, but I must confess that Sissy Spacek is the one missing puzzle piece of this movie's success.

Sissy Spacek's character, while important to Felix and his arc in the story, there is never a proper set-up for her character. She just appears, and we have no clue as to where she really came from, or her relationship with the other characters in the movie. Just case and point, if she has been away from this town for forty years, how does she know all the young couples so well? Alas, her character is the weak link of the movie, not cause Spacek doesn't play the role well, but too much is held back for her character to ever have the emotional impact that it needs for the story.

When the final credits creep up the screen, you realize that Get Low had taken you on a journey into the backwoods of Tennessee, where "Beware of Mules" signs may have actually existed long ago. That is the greatest strength of Get Low, the examination of the small town folk legend and his impact on the town. That is what makes this movie worth seeing, cause we all want to understand Felix and why he is, the way he is.

I give Get Low a B+!

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