Hope you had a fantastic Halloween. Is it just me or has Halloween become a far bigger deal? Nor am I talking about everyone who grumbles over drug stores and grocery chains putting up the Halloween decorations six minutes after Labor Day – rather, it seems like teens are taking it more seriously, and there are far more young adults crowding the bars in full costume. Or at least I hope those were costumes. Again, maybe that’s just me. Other places that also saw droves of young people were movie theaters, specifically the ones showing Saw 3D. Which trounced, as we thought it would, the other movies playing this weekend, appealing to any and all seeking unmitigated gore and horror. Me? I saw Welcome to The Rileys which is a little movie about a troubled couple and the similarly troubled stripper one of them encounters in New Orleans. Let me just say that all the Twihards (and there were plenty in the audience because I recognized the same screeching as Kristen Stewart’s name rolled in the credits) won’t recognize their beloved Bella. But the people who give out acting awards may (I predict an Independent Spirit Award for Stewart come spring). She’s excellent here; she still does that lip-biting twitchy thing which you either like or you don’t (I happen to) and Welcome To The Rileys is yet another great example of this young lady’s immense talent. James Gandolfini is terrific as a man who’s completely lost his way in a marriage after the death of his daughter (n.b.: you might wonder about his vaguely curious accent in the film. You’ll probably get over it, but it will puzzle you nonetheless. It’s as though he’s trying to make you forget about the guy who whacked all those people and went to therapy on HBO, only this accent manages to achieve the opposite effect.) His wife, (Melissa Leo — the indie Susan Sarandon) hasn’t left the house in years and their decay is completely telegraphed without a lot of hamfisted fanfare which is very refreshing. Gandolfini encounters Stewart in a strip club in New Orleans and the story unfolds; I won’t give it away but it’s a smart and engaging movie that could be maudlin but isn’t, that could feel clichéd but doesn’t. The guy who directed it is Jake Scott – and here’s something you can reveal at the water cooler or next to the onion dip: it looks like he’s a relatively unknown video director who’s worked with U2 and R.E.M., which might not get you a movie with a crack cast like this one. But you can also point out that he’s (massive director) Ridley Scott’s son, which probably opened a few doors. Or at least got calls returned. However, much like Jason Reitman (Ivan Reitman’s son who directed Juno) this guy also knows exactly what he’s doing and can build tension out of almost nothing. He’s really talented. I thought the movie was very good; it will probably not get seen by a billion people, and it also falls into the “grieving parents movie “ category which is unfortunate for several reasons. One, it’s too bad that there’s a “grieving parents movie” category in the first place, and two) this is much more interesting and nuanced than some of the others out there – and the ones headed our way come winter. I’d recommend it. Now I’m off to the drug store because I’m told they’ve now got Christmas decorations on sale and I don’t want to miss out.
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