The average American will be both enlightened and outraged by the findings in this topical documentary, in which investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill travels to some remote corners of war-torn Middle Eastern countries and exposes a continued commitment to covert war and cover-up tactics by the U.S. government. Directed by Rick Rowley, the film is consistently riveting and persuasive, and takes a remarkably even-handed political perspective, even if its structure sometimes gets in the way of its subject. Still, Scahill isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. It’s a courageous and insightful glimpse into the changing strategies of contemporary warfare that’s unsettling and not especially hopeful. (Not rated, 86 minutes).
The work of celebrated author Judy Blume is finally brought to the big screen in this heartfelt if uneven adaptation of her 1981 novel about Davey (Willa Holland), a teenage girl trying to cope with the death of her father in a violent robbery. She finds catharsis during a New Mexico vacation after meeting Wolf (Tatanka Means), a troubled young man who understands her pain. Adapted and directed by Blume’s son, Lawrence, the film is generally predictable but features a strong lead portrayal by Holland. It also is a perceptive work that should connect with young audiences and proves that Blume’s emotional ideas still resonate. (Rated PG-13, 92 minutes).
Violet and Daisy
A solid cast cannot rescue this low-budget dark comedy that marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious). Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan), seem like typical teenage best friends who are actually assassins for hire. Their latest job becomes a match of wits with a suicidal mobster (James Gandolfini) who causes them to reconsider their methods. While the concept has potential, it becomes an exercise in shallow gimmickry that never captures the right tone to generate either laughs or suspense. Meanwhile, its two lead characters have a nonchalant smugness that makes them unsympathetic, even when their morals and maturity are tested. (Not rated, 88 minutes).