2011 Reviewed Movies:
P>December Movie #2: The Muppets
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper
Directed By: James Bobin
Run Time: 1 hr 43 mins
The Muppets is about a human brother (Segel), his girlfriend (Adams), and his Muppet brother who uncover a Texas oilman's plot to buy Muppet Studio, under the guise of fixing it up, but intending to tear it down to drill for oil. Gary, Mary, and Walter seek to put the Muppet gang back together to raise money to buy Muppet Studios before the Texas oilman (played by Cooper) can.
I was so excited for this movie to open. Who doesn't love a Muppet movie? This one was cute, charming, hokey, sweet, and fun. I always love who stars in a Muppet movie. So many cameos! I kept waiting for Steve Martin to show up because he's been in practically every Muppet movie but he didn't. THAT disappointed me. Speaking of cameos, I thought Neil Patrick Harris had more of a role but he didn't. He's in previews for the movie as a seemingly real character. Again, a little disappointed with someone who wasn't in the movie (and not necessarily with the people who were actually in it). This movie definitely had the ol' Muppet movie feel to it - lighthearted, entertaining, funny, and with great songs. Man or Muppet is an incredibly funny song. So well done.
I now own this movie and my little nephew knows who Kermit is (his parents taught him that). Another generation embraces the skinny green frog!
December Movie #1: Arthur Christmas
Starring the Voices of: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Ashley Jensen
Directed By: Sarah Smith, Barry Cook
Run Time: 1 hr 37 mins
Arthur Christmas is about Arthur (voiced by McAvoy), Santa's youngest son. He loves Christmas. He's very idealistic. He's a happy guy. Santa (voiced by Broadbent) is starting to see Christmas as just a job, and that wan is being fueled by his other son Steve (voiced by Laurie), who has a very militaristic - organized and disciplined - approach to getting presents to all the kids on Christmas Eve. When Arthur discovers that one kid's present didn't get delivered, he asks Santa to go back out to deliver it. Steve says it isn't cost effective so Arthur takes it upon himself to deliver it. He enlists the aid of GrandSanta (voiced by Nighy) and embarks on his secret - and unauthorized - mission to deliver the forgotten present. It's not an easy trip.
First, I want to remind everybody that I love Christmas movies. The sappier, the better. And, of course, I love animated movies. Animated Christmas movies are a shoo in. That being said, I liked this movie but didn't love it. I will probably end up owning it and then loving it years from now. There was just something missing, something that didn't click. It was just missing that something extra, that something wonderful. I think, perhaps, it was because Arthur's family wasn't as nice to Arthur as they should have been. A lackluster and unaffected Santa? Are they really busting that bubble? Santa is supposed to care most about Christmas!
I did like the ending. It provided "updates" (a la Animal House) on how everyone was doing - and the final sentence with each was "And he's happy." Very sweet. And then came Arthur's final sentence and that brought a tear to my eye.
November Movie #3: In Time
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Cillian Murphy, Johnny Galecki
Directed By: Andrew Niccol
Run Time: 1 hr 39 mins
In Time takes place in the future where you stop aging at 25, and, if you don't earn any "money", means you die a year later. We're all born with 26 years of life; if you want to live longer, you need to earn "money" (or time). To be wealthy means you have immortality. To be poor means you slave away, earning a minute to live a minute.
Makes you think about what you'd give up if everything was measured in time. I'll bet you'd live a couple of walking minutes away from the office. Wouldn't want to waste time sitting in traffic. I wonder how much my Mini would cost in years. And you'd have to shop for groceries every day because you wouldn't want to waste food. Understandable that that there were no fat people. The weird premise about the movie - that you don't age after 25 - was creepy. How did they break the news to Olivia Wood that she'd be playing Justin Timberlake's mom? You gotta think that she had to doubt how old she looked. As I was driving home after the movie, I couldn't help but think that if this movie's premise and a bit from The Fifth Element blended together (where you automatically lose points from your license for any traffic infraction) that people would live life differently, that traffic wouldn't be as bad if it cost you time off your life... People would actually stop at stop signs and pay attention to their driving! Wow.
This movie isn't bad. I had a hard time deciding what to make of it. It's not bad. I watched an At the Movies review that said this movie raises a lot more questions that it answered but I'm not certain there were that many open questions. The reviewers wanted to know why no one had a cell phone (and thought that several moments could have been alleviated if someone did have a cell phone). Would you want to take a minute off your life to text someone? And if you only had a few minutes to live, would you rather run to find someone to give you a minute or would you waste that minute calling someone? I did wonder why those in New Greenwich didn't go in the ocean. Bungee jumping, I understand (why they wouldn't do something so dangerous), but not swimming in the ocean. What's dangerous about that? And how could people who were scraping by get from the ghetto to New Greenwich with a little over a year of time on them (when it costs close to 2 years)(at the end)?
The concept is very interesting. I think the movie was fairly well done. Justin Timberlake is a decent actor but I don't think he pulled off a pivotal sad scene well. I wasn't that convinced about his grief. I must say that I was a little creeped out by Olivia playing Justin's mother. I couldn't help but think he was attracted to his own mother.
One note: This movie has been out for two weeks, I think, and there were three other people in the audience. If Justin Timberlake can't draw in the 20-something crowd, I think the word must have gotten out that this isn't as wonderful as it could be. Or Justin Timberlake doesn't draw in the sci-fi crowd.
November Movie #2: Martha Marcy Mae Marlene
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Hugh Dancy, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes
Directed By: Sean Durkin
Run Time: 1 hr 42 mins
Martha Marcy Mae Marlene is about a cult and the after effects of life in a cult. After two years living in an abusive hippie-like cult, Martha (played by Olsen) musters up the courage to run away. Her sister (played by Paulson) and brother-in-law (played by Dancy) take her in. They don't know where she's been for the past few years and have no idea how to handle Martha as she struggles to adapt to her non-cult life. Martha has nightmares and cannot distinguish between real life and her dreams/nightmares. Her erratic behavior takes a toll on her sister and her sister's marriage.
Jeff said he wanted to see this movie. Afterwards, he said he wasn't serious. Of course, had he liked it, I'm sure he would have said that it was his choice to see the movie. It did violate two of his rules - it was well over 90 minutes and it's a bit dark. His main issue was the pacing - it's slow. There are scenes with people doing nothing for several minutes. And then there were closeups of blurred objects... and we weren't really certain why those objects were zoomed in on.
I do think the premise is interesting. It's told well, with flashbacks when things in the present reminded Martha of her cult life.
I do have issues with the cult. I didn't get the draw. And I didn't get its premise. What did they gain by being in the cult? And what drew them in? We didn't see Martha before the cult. What was missing in her life or wrong in her life that made her want to join the cult? And what was appealing about it? I failed to see its charm.
November Movie #1: Margin Call
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci
Directed By: J.C. Chandor
Run Time: 1 hr 47 mins
Don't worry if you've never heard of this one. I don't think I ever saw a preview for it, either. Everyone that I talked to prior to the movie had never heard of it. I went because it was showing at the time that I like to see movies. Plus, it had Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci in it (which I read just moments before seeing it). Ah, my streak of seeing obscure Stanley Tucci movies continues (and by that I mean, by some pure stroke of luck, not because I planned to see a Stanley Tucci movie).
Margin Call is the behind-the-scenes look at what caused the stock market crash of 2008. I won't go into more details because they flew over my head. Stock markets. Hedge funds. Over-leveraged securities. Think of Wall Street meets Up in the Air meets Grapes of Wrath.
Despite the fact that I hadn't heard of this movie, I did like it. It was a good movie. I could not believe how many people were in this! My random thoughts: Interesting sound ending. The digging ditches reference is visualized with the grave digging scene, and ties not only the dog but for everyone involved. Scary situation for the Sullivan (played by Quinto) in the boardroom. He was very well composed considering the amount of titles (CEO, CFO, etc) that were in the room! Interesting that Dale (played by Tucci), after just losing his job, still had the presence of mind - and heart - to warn someone about the a report he was running, and what it might mean for the company.
October Movie #7: Real Steel
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly
Directed By: Shawn Levy
Run Time: 2 hrs 7 mins
Real Steel(although I keep wanting to type Real Steal, which would be a different movie) is the less entertaining version of the game Rock'Em, Sock'Em Robots from the 80s. Well, that may not be the official version of the description but it's certainly my take. This movie is set in the future, where robots box. Part of the skill lies with the robot, part of the skill lies with the handler, and part of the skill lies with the robot designer - was the robot designed to think/react/learn?
I'm not sure if I like this movie. I didn't hate it. I love Evangeline Lilly's character. She was a great moment for the movie whenever she was in screen. Not sure how I felt about the other two characters Charlie (played by Jackman) and Max (played by Goyo). At times I thought they were believable. More times than not, I thought they were over acted. They repeated their lines a lot - "I can't, I can't" - as if repeating them made them more believable. So many plot points are predictable. I hate that. Why do we get so attached to robots? They're not real or alive. Like Bumblebee from Transformers and now Atom from Real Steel. I suppose I do have an attachchment to my iPad but it can be replaced if destroyed. I wanted there to be some sort of trick (like a human in a robot suit) for Zeus, the bad robot. Overall, it's a decent movie. A rainy day movie. Probably will not have longevity. It's kind of boring. It's a good 45 minutes before the kid gets his robot.
One side note: For a futuristic movie set a good 20 years into the future, why do the cars look like the cars of today?
October Movie #6: 50/50
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston
Directed By: Will Reiser
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min
50/50 is based on true life events, about how two people cope with cancer, the one who has it, and the one who is the friend and supporter.
I liked that Adam was a bit like me - didn't cross against the light. There are people like me out there! This is a very funny movie... And sad. The ending had me with tears in my eyes, which was the first for me during the movie, considering it's about cancer. Very good character development. I really liked the reveal of Kyle. Why was Skeletor played by two different dogs? I liked him. It's a very well told story. There were times when I laughed and was the only one laughing, which made me think, am I supposed to be laughing here? I'm pretty sure the answer is yes. Laugh. It's supposed to be funny.
October Movie #5: Ides of March
Starring: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
Directed By: George Clooney
Run Time: 1 hr 41 mins
Ides of March is about how virtue gets corrupted by one's career, particularly if it's one in politics.
This is the movie that George Clooney should have been nominated for Best Actor, not The Descendants. Here he plays against type cast, as someone that you eventually come to loathe (or at least not think he's so charming). Ryan Gosling also should have been nominated because he does a wonderful job playing an eager and earnest guy who quickly learns that in order to succeed, you can't always be the nice guy.
October Movie #4: Dolphin Tail
Starring: Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman
Directed By: Charles Martin Smith
Run Time: 1 hour 53 mins
This movie is based on the true life events of a boy who befriends a dolphin who has her tail amputated.
I loved that Winter the dolphin played herself. And I really loved that she got an opening credit. Stay for the credits because they show the actual footage of Winter's rescue and recovery. She was teeny tiny when she was found! She was much bigger in the movie (because she was playing herself). When you see the actual footage, you see some differences between reality and the movie, which then made me wonder how much of the movie was made up.
October Movie #3: Killer Elite
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Dominic Purcell, Yvonne Strahovski
Directed By: Gary McKendry
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Killer Elite is about a team of professional killers who have to reassemble when one of their team (Robert De Niro) is kidnapped by a sheikh and won't be released until the job he had been hired to do is done. Even though Danny (played by Statham) has sworn off killing, he comes out of retirement to help his abducted friend. Spike (played by Owen), a British ex-SAS, seeks to stop Danny from killing former British agents who killed the sheikh's sons.
Once you get a handle on the plot (and trust me, it takes awhile), the movie doesn't seem quite as interesting or action-packed. I don't think I ever would have imagined that Jason Statham would be in a movie with Robert De Niro. I'm sure neither actor thought the same thing. I was hoping that De Niro would up the ante. Any movie with Clive Owen and Robert De Niro can't be that bad... except for Clive Owen's hideous mustache. While the acting was respectable, the movie wasn't the gem I was hoping it would be. The action was befitting. The movie was just lacking the extra zip. Overall, it's a decent movie. Not great. Not terrible. Not painful, but not fully enjoyable. De Niro probably had the best lines and he handled the patriarch tone well.
Two things I thought about a little too much after the movie (which means they didn't bother me during the movie but enough upon reflection... and technically after an action movie, my thoughts should be filled with some kick-ass take-down scenes, not plot points): How old were they suggesting Jason Statham is in this movie? Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Danny's (played by Statham) girlfriend Anne, is 15 years younger and yet somehow they were in the same grade school class... And I know Dominic Purcell (who plays Davies), who was in the TV series Prison Break, is really from the UK, however, his accent kept jumping from what my ears think is a Cockney accent to an Australian accent to just a soft British accent. But perhaps that truly is his accent and I'm just ignorant of all the different British accents.
So... not a hideous movie but not as wonderful as it should have been. It's based on a true story but since most of the events are in secret files, it's more likely a Hollywood telling (and therefore no real facts remain other than the overlying subject - a sheikh's sons were killed by the British.
October Movie #2: Moneyball
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill
Directed By: Bennett Miller
Run Time: 2 hours 6 minutes
Moneyball is about the 2002 Oakland A's quest to find good ball players on their very limited payroll. Moneyball refers to the tactic of using stats, specifically on-base percentages, to find undervalued players to fill a roster rather than rely on the intuition of scouts. GM Billy Beane (played by Pitt) enlists the aid of Pete Brand (played by Hill), a recent Yale graduate with an economics major and an eye for stats.
I liked this movie. It was a little long and a little slow in parts but overall it had a nice tone. It was funnier than I thought it would be. There was a lot of plot, good angst feel. Jeff liked the sound of the movie. During some pivotal baseball scenes, instead of playing looming background music or crescendoing, the sound goes completely silent. Completely. It was an effective use of building drama. You could hear your own heartbeat. But as the sound mixing was stellar, some of the cinematic moments were a bit odd, like the weird nighttime driving scenes oddly shot from the passenger's seat looking over at Billy Beane driving with the night sky as the backdrop. Those scenes were hard on the eyes, hard to see what was really going on or seeing Billy's expression. I get the point of them but they were just odd.
Although this movie is a baseball movie, it's heavily geared towards stats. You don't need to understand baseball or even remember the season, And even if you do remember the season, remember that this is a movie so there's a bit of poetic license in retelling the tale. After all, technically this is a movie about office workers, what goes on in the front office of baseball. Office life can be a bit boring (ask anyone who does it) so there's going to be a few stretches in the truth in order to make the movie interesting, more dramatic. Numbers aren't always dramatic.
Brad Pitt is starting to look spookily like Robert Redford. He always seems to be eating in his movies (watch Ocean's Eleven to really see what I'm talking about). And if he wasn't eating, he was chewing tobacco, which turned my stomach. The chew was disgusting. I don't think they needed to add that bit to his character, especially since there really wasn't character development. Ooh, one side note: The song that the daughter sings is an anachronism. The movie takes place in 2002; the song wasn't released until 2008. It's a fitting song. She sings it well.
Overall, I liked it. Jeff liked it, too. It's a good movie that's well told. It's well filmed. It also has a lot of really funny lines. Good movie.
October Movie #1: What's Your Number?
Starring: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner
Directed By: Mark Mylod
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
What's Your Number? is about Ally (played by Faris), a young woman who has just broken up with her boyfriend, lost her job, and is in the throes of the planning process of her sister's wedding. She reads an article in a magazine about the average number of men women sleep with - 10.5. The article goes on to say that a woman's chances of getting married dramatically drop to virtually nil if she's slept with 20 or more people. Ally counts up her exes and discovers she's at 19. All of her friends have considerably fewer totals. Ally then decides to go through the list of her exes and see which one has gotten better over time and could possibly be the "one." She enlists the aid of her next door neighbor Colin (played by Evans), a man whose own numbers are considerably higher.
I know I've said this before but I am not a chick flick fan. And yet I go to them (not all of them, mind you). This one seemed more like a fun comedy than a sappy chick flick. For the most part, it's just plain fun. There are some sappy moments (queue the wedding toast and the second to last scene) but it's mostly just sweet and funny. Interestingly enough, there are a lot of snippets in the previews for this movie that are not in the movie at all (queue the puppet scene with Andy Samberg). In a way, that was fine because I'm not a fan of seeing too many previews for a movie because if you piece them all together, you normally get the entire movie.
I liked this movie. That surprises me. I didn't think it was going to be bad (hence why I saw it) but I really didn't expect to like it as much as I did. Yes, it's a tad predictable but I'm (surprisingly) okay with that. I actually had some tears well up in my eyes, the happy sappy verklempt kind (not the sad kind). I loved the vows at the wedding. I loved wedding toast. I loved the "you had me at hello" scene (which, of course, isn't really in the movie but if I told you any more about that scene, you'd figure out the end of the movie). If a movie can get this jaded, hard-edged ol' broad to see the sentimental stars, then it's got a lot going for it.
One small disappointment with this movie: Not getting to know Colin more. What makes him tick? Why is he such a nice guy, especially since he's a bit of a sleaze? He was a fun, jolly, jovial, nice character. One thing that I did like about this movie is that there was no mean moment. Everyone, even though the two sisters were a bit at odds with their controlling mother, was nice and played nice together. I like that.
So... quite a sweet movie. Funny. I laughed short, small, enthusiastic quips over many lines and moments. I wasn't rolling on the floor, clutching my sides, but there was an amiable even keel to the entire movie. It won't change the world, but it certainly doesn't try. It will make you happy for close to two hours. You will leave the theater with a smile on your face (particularly after the closing scene). Sweet. I rather liked it.
September Movie #1: Drive
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman
Directed By: Nicholas Winding Refn
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Drive is about... huh. I can tell you what this movie is not about. It's not about driving. There's very little of it. It's not about action. There's very little of it. It's not about dialog. There's very little of it. It's not about plot. There's very little of it. It's not about character development. There's very little of it. And it's not about pace. It's a bit slow. They probably should have named this movie Nothing. Technically it's about Driver (played by Gosling) who is a stuntman/mechanic by day and wheelman for hire. He falls in love with his neighbor Irene (played by Mulligan) and decides to help her husband with a heist. That heist pits him up against the mob and destroys his quiet, fly-under-the-radar life.
Yes, you're reading it right. September is over and I only saw one movie. That's probably because I waited through easily 20 previews before this movie started (I started watched it on the 1st and was finally able to leave the theater on the 30th). So many previews! I think every movie being released in the next six months had a preview before this movie. By I digress.
Although I cannot find anything on imdb.com, this seems to be an 80s remake. It has to be. That would make the 80s style pink script font credits and cheesy soundtrack and bad silk scorpion jacket understandable. If it's not a remake... weird. Perhaps the director is stuck in the 80s. Or born in the 80s. Or just thinks the 80s were cool. When you see the neon credits and hear the hokey music of the soundtrack, it definitely tells you that the 80s were not cool.
I couldn't help but think the opening scene was a direct rip-off of the Transporter. Everything about it - the shots, the style, the tone, the premise - screamed rip-off. I started to wonder if this movie was going to be just a remake of the Transporter. And considering Ryan Gosling is a wonderful actor, I was wondering if I would like his character better than Jason Statham's in the Transporter (and I was feeling quite guilty about the possibility of liking Gosling more than Statham). My conscience was quickly soothed. The opening drive/heist scene is action-packed and smartly done. But the rest of the movie is absolutely, positively nothing like the Transporter. Nothing. There are really no more driving scenes. And really no more action.
It was hard to get a grasp on Driver's character. By night, he's a driver for hire for heists. Then by day, he's a stunt driver in Hollywood. No, wait, that's part time. He's also a mechanic. He doesn't say much. He doesn't even have a name (although it was interesting how there were several moments where he should have been introduced by name to people and it never comes up. That's actually well-done - the side-stepping of his lack of name). He just likes cars.
With what little they had, Ryan Gosling did a wonderful job acting with his face, his eyes. Carey was sweet. Simple.
The lack of dialog at times seems very odd but at other times helps to build a sense of mystery. Who is Driver? Where does he come from? What makes him tick? Does Irene really want to be with her husband or Driver? There were times were the actors' faces helped move the scene along and there were times where the quiet was awkward. But mostly, the lack of dialog frustrated me because there's so much plot and character development that's released through dialog. There's more talking in 127 Hours (and that mostly has one actor on screen).
I can handle a movie called Drive that has virtually no driving in it. I can handle a movie with very little dialog. What I can't handle is that movie has Albert Brooks playing a tough guy mobster. Albert Brooks? Is he not getting any better movie offers? Or did he just want to play thug? Horrible!!
So... lack of driving, lack of action, lack of plot, lack of characters, lack of dialog. That all equals love! Ha! Just kidding. It's actually not a horrible movie (Ryan and Carey save it). It's an odd movie. And not in a good way. I definitely do not need to see it again. Ever.
August Movie #4: Winnie the Pooh
Starring the voices of: John Cleese, Jim Cummings, Bud Luckey, Craig Ferguson
Directed By: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall
Run Time: 1 hour 3 minutes
Winnie the Pooh is about Winnie's quest to get some honey. And Eeyore needs a new tail.
The nice thing about this movie is that the theater understood its audience. They did not show any previews. There is a short cartoon before the movie and then bam - movie. And this movie is just a little over an hour, perfect for little ones.
The movie opens on a phenomenally sweet note - a sweet song sung by Zooey Deschanel. And it only gets better from there. What was not to love? Winnie the Pooh sings a duet - with his TUMMY! Eeyore has some wonderfully melancholy, classically deadpan lines. I love Eeyore. And Piglet does not say "Oh, I can't do that because I'm too small." I am not a Piglet fan... and this movie made even Piglet tolerable. I dare say I even liked Piglet. Excellent character development. We got to know and love each character. Pooh is such a mellow, sweet guy.
If you can't tell, I absolutely loved this movie. It was such a simply plot. It was a sweet story. I am so glad saw it on the big screen. Big, bright, beautiful Tigger, Winnie, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and Rabbit (and Piglet). The honey hallucinating scene was quite splendid. I loved Christopher Robin's room during the credits with toys reenacting scenes from the movie.
I am definitely going to buy this one. So good!
August Movie #3: Fright Night
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Run Time: 2 hours
I watched the original Fright Night as a youngster. I loved it. When I heard there was going to be a remake, I was skeptical (just like I am about the Dirty Dancing remake). I was on the fence about seeing the remake but the reviews indicated that it was pretty good. I love horror movies.
Fright Night is about a teenage boy named Charley (played by Yelchin) who suspects that his new neighbor Jerry (played by Farrell) is a vampire. He tries to protect his girlfriend Amy (played by Poots), his mother (played by Collette), and his best friend from the vampire but the vampire is hell-bent on sucking their blood. Charley enlists the aid of a well-known vampire expert Peter Vincent (played by Tennant) but it seems as though he is more of a Las Vegas showman than expert.
The previews before this movie were all for horror movies. I wasn't happy about being scared before the movie even started! The opening scene of the actual movie borders on quite scary and a little hokey because the the split second images of the vampire is very laughable monster-ish looking.
My one disappointment with this movie is that it leaps right into the premise. Within the first five minutes of the movie, Charley's friend announces that Charley's new neighbor Jerry is a vampire. He's done a little research, gathered some evidence. Bang. Plot exposed. And even though the movie opens with the main premise already revealed, the opening few scenes drag. They're slow. We're waiting for something to happen. The movie opens full throttle, backs off to a snail's pace, and then launches full throttle again. The movie really picks up once Jerry wages war on Charley.
At first, I was not nuts about Colin Farrell's Jerry. He didn't have that allure, that charm, that draw. He was supposed to be drawing Charley's mother in, drawing the audience in, but it seemed a little stilted. There's wasn't an oozing suaveness to his character, although I could see that he was trying. When we saw Jerry in full vampire force, I sensed the vampire charm. He won me over more with his bad-boy tactics. In the original, I rooted for the vampire because he had charisma that just sucked (ha!) me in.
I absolutely loved David Tennant's embodiment of his character Peter Vincent. At first, I kept thinking, "He's no Roddy McDowell" but I grew to enjoy his version. There was a simple beauty to his character and his behind-the-scenes persona. I loved the charlatan reveal (removing his costume). Beautiful. I loved how each second more was fraud was revealed. I actually thought the actor playing Peter was Russell Brand until he removed his costume. And I cheered towards the end when he decided to own up to his character.
The special effects for the vampire transformation were incredibly bad. I don't understand why Jerry had to morph into some monstrous CGI-laden abnormality. Give us some fangs and be done with it. We get that he's an evil vampire. No need to beef it up.
One absolute moment of pure genius - Chris Saradon, who played Jerry the vampire in the original, had a delicious cameo in the remake. I hooted loudly out loud when he graced the screen. There were three other people in the theater. I'm hoping at least one of them saw the beauty of this scene. I think they just wondered why the only chick was cheering just because some old guy got out of a car.
Normally, I prefer the original to the remake (The Mechanic is the exception to liking the remake more). This one is a tie. I'm still wavering between the original and the remake. Loved, loved, loved the remake, especially the ending where Charley took Peter's advice on how to battle the vampire and made it work. I also loved the original. It had a sweetness to it, a simple charm. The remake had a lot more action, had some great characters, and a fabulous ending. You can't go wrong with either. If you like horror, see this movie. If you like vampire movies, see this one. If you like David Tennant, this is a good one for you.
August Movie #2: Crazy, Stupid, Love
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon
Directed By: John Requa & Glenn Ficarra
Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Crazy, Stupid, Love is about Cal Weaver (played by Carell) who has to adjust to life without his wife of 25 years after she announces suddenly one night that she wants a divorce. After moping away in a bar, he meets Jacob (played by Gosling), a sharp dressed ladies man. Jacob takes him under his wing by helping Cal dress better and be able to pick up women.
I really liked this movie. It's kind of a chick flick from the guy's point of view.
There's a great twist towards the end. I didn't see it coming, which means it really is a twist and that it was well done. I was conflicted about how everyone was behaving in the twist, trying to decide if it was in keeping with their character but in the end, I decided it was great.
One side note about the movie: Steve Carell's real life wife has a bit part in this movie. She plays the wife of a friend of Cal's (as well as the mother of the babysitter). I loved that she decided to be friends with Emily (played by Moore) and abandon Cal. She made her (movie) husband stop being friends with Cal. I loved that. Well, not the fact that she made her husband stop being friends with Cal (come on, is this high school where we have to take sides?) but the fact that it must have been fun for the actress to be snippy to her real life husband.
Steve Carell has the greatest wounded dog expression as well as the greatest fawning expression. His eyes are very expressive. Those looks make him very charming.
This movie had a lot of interesting characters. I loved how Cal and Emily fed off each other's sense of humor. It's such a trait that made it painful for me to see them be separated. I liked Robbie (Cal and Emily's son) and his notion of soul mates and true love. I think the best scene was the scene with Hannah (played by Stone) and Jacob getting to know one another. It was fun. They played off each other well.
I liked how everything wrapped up nicely. Part of the story is very sad and painful, part sad and sweet, part funny, and parts were very charming. It's a good movie. Don't expect it to be side-splittingly funny just because Steve Carell is in it. It has humor but it is a movie about the trials and tribulations of relationships. Very good. Well done. I really liked it.
August Movie #1: Captain America: The First Avenger
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Run Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Captain America is another comic book brought to the silver screen. Steve Rogers (played by Evans) is a skinny, sickly young man just itching to serve his country. He enlists five different times and gets rejected five times. Still, he keeps trying. He doesn't back down from any sort of fight. He's a good guy. After Dr. Erskine, a military scientist, observes that Steve is the type of solider he's looking for, Steve finally gets his dream and is allowed to join the Army. There Steve is subjected to a scientific experiment that turns him into a superhero - he grows a foot, gains 50 pounds of muscle, and has super speed and strength. He is Captain America!
I did not see this one in 3D because apparently I got the posted times all confused. There were so many moments where I was sad that what I was seeing was 2D. I wanted my version of the Rosie Huntington-Whiteley butt shot in Transformers 3 (which would have been the moment scrawny Steve emerges from the cocoon as brawny Steve). Darnit. I'm sure those pecks would have looked so much nicer with an extra dimension. Sigh. I'll never know.
I heard so many good things about this movie that I think it killed some of my enjoyment. I heard that it's one of the best comic book movies out there. I will say that it's leaps and bounds better than The Green Lantern and Thor. It's not quite as good as the first Iron Man, though. That movie was intense, fun, very well done, and a great ride. I think the acerbic wit of Tony Stark pushed that one over the top.
This movie had amazing character development, which is a pleasant surprise for both an action movie and a comic book. There was an amazing amount of backstory to Steve Rogers (aka Captain America). We truly get a sense of who he is, what kind of person he is, and what makes him so special. He was sweet. He was incredibly likable. He was unbelievably good-natured and good-hearted (whereas Tony Stark is kind of a pompous jerk). He was smart. He was patriotic. He was brave. He just didn't have the body to back up his gusto. He was so humble. He was a wallflower with a brilliant spirit. As a scrawny person myself, I was rooting for him. He was a great character and Chris Evans did a great job with him. It was well acted. I think we even get a good sense of who the Red Skull (played by Weaving) is through Dr. Erskine's eyes.
I did think this movie was a tish too long. After one encounter with the Red Skull, I assumed the follow-up scene was the ending. It felt short but was a good stopping point with an opening to a sequel. But there was at least forty-five minutes to an hour left in the movie. Since I thought the movie was wrapping up, the next few minutes were tough to get back into the movie. It does pick up momentum and the second to final scene is wonderful, if not poignant and sad. You definitely get a sense of who Steve Rogers is.
The final scene made me even sadder when you realize what really became of Steve Rogers. "I had a date."
The initial two opening scenes did not suck me in. The opening scene confused me. The scene scene bored me. And then third scene, with scrawny Steve Rogers, sucked me in. It took a bit to get into this movie but once I was in, I rather liked it. I just kept marveling at how awesome Steve Rogers was. Such a great guy.
I rather liked this movie. Didn't absolutely love it (like I did Iron Man) but it was good. Great story. Great characters. Nicely acted. I think the battles between Captain America and Red Skull were too nice. They seemed like two gentlemen in a slap fight. They played nicely, even while they were hurling each other around the room and trying to kill each other. It all seemed so chivalrous. I think there were so many moments where Red Skull easily could have killed Captain America but for some reason didn't pull the trigger. I do understand why he walked away after the initial encounter but even right before then, I thought there was a moment where he had Captain America. Just a bad guy with heart, I guess.
There were some tiny points here and there that I didn't much care for about the movie. I guess that when you become a superhero, you gain the ability to fly an airplane. Huh. And I'm not quite certain how the Red Skull storm trooper-esque army guys didn't incinerate their opponents with the blue Odin's cube weapons. Some of them did (toward the end). Why didn't they all? And what was with the vagabond group of merry men misfits that Captain America saved and then later made his team? They weren't military (that beard on Dum Dum Dugan was not regulation). Did I miss why they were in Red Skull's prison?
But little quips aside, I did like this movie, mainly for the good-hearted Captain America.
Ooh - stay until after all of the credits. I mean all of the credits. They're quite lengthy. So many people worked on this movie. There's a preview of the Avengers movie, which brings together Tony Stark, Thor, and a whole slew of other superheroes.
July Movie #5: Cowboys and Aliens
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes
Cowboys and Aliens combines two genres - the western and sci-fi. Jake Lonergan (played by Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory of who he is or what happened to him. He knows it was something bad and strange because he's wearing a big, bulky metal bracelet. He wanders into a nearby town and quickly thereafter is recognized as a wanted man. He has a nasty run-in with Percy Dolarhyde (played by Dano), who is the son of Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (played by Ford), the man who runs the town. Just as Dolarhyde and Lonergan are taken into custody, the town is attacked by aliens. Lonergan is able to shoot down one of the spaceships using his mysterious shackle. The townspeople band together to find their loved ones that the aliens captured.
I thought both genres - the western and sci-fi - were done well, but the western was much more enjoyable and better done. Unfortunately, this movie is a victim of the alien syndrome - where the aliens are much scarier and intriguing when you don't get a full view of them. Once you see the alien, you can't help but laugh and think to yourself, "That's not what an alien looks like!" They always seem to get the alien wrong.
The western portion of the movie - guys in cowboy hats riding horses - was full of intrigue. What was that thing on Jake's arm? How did it get there? How did he escape? Was he part of some plan the aliens concocted? Will they find the abducted townspeople?
What I found most interesting was the clash of the two genres - how do people who have never experienced technology battle technologically advanced foes? When I put myself in their place, I could quite imagine the scene where the lights from the alien spaceships floated into town could have been quite scary and confusing. They've never seen LED lights like that before. They've never heard things beep before, like Jake's bracelet did. And to see a spacecraft hover like that must have been unbelievable scary and foreign.
In addition to the lame looking aliens, the reason the aliens were on earth - and attacking - was half-baked. Lame. I did not see why their reason for being on earth would make them want to kill. I suppose they're just angry creatures. Maybe the sequel will address that issue, put an alien into therapy.
I thought Daniel Craig was superb, as always. He truly embodied the grizzled outlaw. If Jeff had seen this movie (I went with my brother-in-law Joel opening day, first showing), I'm sure he'd say this was just another opportunity for Daniel Craig to be brooding and pouty (his take on Quantum of Solace). I thought he was fabulous. Harrison Ford seems, in his old age, to be playing the curmudgeon quite a lot. Don't get me wrong - he plays cranky well. It just seems to be his go-to character lately.
I thought this movie was well done. The western genre is wonderful; the sci-fi part was a little hokey (queue the aliens and their reason for being on the planet) but the action sequences between the posse and the aliens was quite well done. All in all, this is quite a good movie. There's one little twist that's interesting (especially for the fellas in the audience). Well acted. Interesting story. Well done. Slight hokey. I will definitely watch it again.
July Movie #4: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Bonnie Wright, Matt Lewis
Directed By: David Yates
Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the final installment of JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. Harry (played by Radcliffe) and the gang finally come head to head with Lord Voldemort (played by Fiennes). Good battles dark magic.
Dawn, Joel, Jeff, and I saw this one up at "the lake." We went to a small town, out of the way theater. Oddly enough, this little theater was the only one in the area showing the movie in 3D, which is yet another reason we chose this venue. Shortly after arriving (with ample time), we were informed that summer camp had bought out the theater. We were stunned. It was a beautiful night and the campers were coming inside to see a movie? And at this hole in the wall? On our night? We quickly high-tailed it across several towns (a good half hour drive) to another theater. We had to see it in 2D. While there were the usual gimmicky stuff comin' at you moments (swords, wands, snakes, etc), I don't think we got robbed. 2D, as it turns out, was just fine.
When we saw part one of the Deathly Hallows last year, I remember being rather bored by the movie. Nothing but wandering around the woods looking for horcruxes but instead encountering teenage angst consumed that movie. This movie, thankfully, was not like the first half. The first hour of this movie is incredibly intense. Harry, Ron (played by Grint), and Hermione (played by Watson) are desperately trying to track down the last of the horcruxes (the objects that contain parts of Lord Voldemort's soul) and trying to stay one step ahead of the Death Eaters that are pursuing them. You can feel the tension and their desperation. It's a fast paced ride. I did feel that a half hour of the movie towards the end dragged. Perhaps all the excitement had drained my energy. I just wanted someone to kill the snake (not that I root for violence against animals but killing the snake was the way to get to Voldemort... not to ruin any plot points for those who haven't read the book or have forgotten key elements of the book). I clenched my fists and internally cheered for the end to come.
For those who do remember how the book ends, Jeff was hoping they wouldn't show the aged versions of the characters we've come to know and love. He always thought that ending was too nicely wrapped up, sort of a sell-out moment for the author (giving it a happy Hollywood ending). They do show the aged ending. And it was very well done (although I was disappointed that Ginny grows up to have soccer mom hair). After all the years of battling evil, it was nice to see Harry happy. I liked the sweet ending.
Of course, it has been awhile since I read the book so there are a lot of plot points that I had forgotten. I had forgotten who dies. It always makes me sad to think about the wonderful characters that didn't get that aged ending. I do have to wonder if those characters pissed off Rowling so she killed them off as a warning to future characters she might create. :-) At some point, I'll have to re-re-read the books... and then maybe have a major movie marathon.
This is a good movie. A nice wrap-up to all the others. Very well done, even if we didn't see it in 3D. Good-bye characters. It's been great watching you grow up!
July Movie #3: Zookeeper
Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Nick Nolte (voice), Adam Sandler (voice), Sylvester Stallone (voice), Cher (voice), Jon Favreau (voice)
Directed By: Frank Coraci
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes
Zookeeper is about a zookeeper named Griffin (played by James) who takes advice on how to win back the love of his life Stephanie (played by Bibb) from the animals at the zoo... who can all talk.
I took my nine year old niece Rachael to this movie because I thought it would be funny, cute, and appeal to an older child (but yet still a child). She said after the movie that she did like it and her mother told me that she probably did like it... but since she didn't laugh once and she looked incredibly bored throughout, I have a feeling she really didn't like it. I myself barely laughed... and that's saying something!
The previews were funnier than this movie. My sister absolutely loves the moment where the gorilla and the zookeeper pull up to TGI Fridays and the gorilla turns to the zookeeper and says, "Shut up!" because he's so excited about going to his favorite restaurant. But since I had seen that preview a million times, the actual moment in the movie wasn't funny. It was cute. But it had lost its charm. And that is true of a lot of the scenes. They had no charm in the movie.
Part of the reason I didn't particularly like this movie is because it spent far too much time out of the zoo, away from the talking animals. Outside of the zoo, Griffin is just a man, not a zookeeper interacting with animals that can talk. A man trying to woo an incredibly shallow and annoying person. The scenes with her are annoying. And not funny. There were just too many scenes outside of the zoo.
Back at the zoo, I did laugh a few times. A few short, soft, slight laughs. I think the problem there was that I didn't really like the animals. Sure, they were magnificent and cute and cuddly like animals are but there were few distinct personalities to make me love the animals. And me not loving an animal speaks volumes about where this movie went wrong. I did root for sad Bernie. I wanted to know more about his backstory, why he was so sad. I am really glad that they did let us know why he was sad. It was an interesting commentary about zoos in general. Very subtle. I did love little Donald the monkey. I liked his zinger about thumbs. And his advice about throwing poo. Which leads me to the other animals' advice. Another reason why this movie didn't gel - the animals' advice sucked. Of course, one could argue it's because they're animals that their advice was so sucky, both by nature of being a "dumb" animal and the fact that animal nature does not work in the real world. But I think it could have opened a whole can of funny if their advice conflicted more... and yet one does have to wonder why a human would think it was a good idea to growl at another human (although that scene was funny).
So... skip it. Yes, I am telling you to skip a movie about talking animals. Me. That's sucky and non-funny this movie is. It's not even a rainy day or sick in bed type of movie. It didn't have charm, talking monkey and all.
July Movie #2: Midnight in Paris
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, and Michael Sheen
Directed By: Woody Allen
Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
Midnight in Paris is about an American writer Gil (played by Wilson) who longs for the good ol' days of Paris in the 20s. He travels back in time to the 20s and meets Hemingway, Gertrude Stein (played by Bates), F.Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Pablo Picasso, and many others. Gertrude Stein also reads his manuscript and offers feedback.
I've read a few books by Fitzgerald and Hemingway. I know they all hung out in Paris in the 20s. But that's about all I know about their lives. I know they knew each other, that their lives intertwined. This movie suggested that they were always together, always at a bar or someone's house or had a common girlfriend. Their lives didn't just intertwine, they were fused together. This movie made me realize how much "history" I just don't remember. Perhaps I should correct that...
This is the first Woody Allen movie that I've actually liked. Didn't love it, but I did like it. I liked its message. I liked the story. And I actually liked the time travel portal. It's not fully explained how Gil travels back in time - and keeps doing it - but the lack of explanation suits this movie. Often, the details are too hokey to believe. Time travel is glossed over. It just happens. Deal with it. Perhaps it's just Gil's imagination (which doesn't explain the diary he finds at a flea market with his name in it) or perhaps it's just to fill a void in his life or perhaps it's only available during desperation.Whatever. It doesn't matter. It's well done regardless.
I did not like the character Inez (played by McAdams). She was pretty much totally unlikable. I don't like it when writers do that, make someone totally horrible. There are few people who are that cut and dry. Most people have a bit of likability to them. A bit. Inez didn't appear to have any. Although I do have to admit that I do know a few people like Paul (played by Sheen) who are arrogant, insufferable know-it-alls. I did love the portrayal of Hemingway, always trying to be manly and starting a fight. It was funny.
I liked this movie, which did surprise me (considering it was a Woody Allen flick). I liked the romance of Paris. I liked the struggling writer who doubted his talent. I liked the time travel, back to an era that seemed perfect and grand (and the time travel within time travel, which really sealed together the movie). It's an interesting story well told. Not an own-able movie but one I'd see again, perhaps on a plane... but after I've read a bit of the classics.
July Movie #1: Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Frances McDormand, Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, John Turturro, Alan Tudyk, Leonard Nimoy, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving
Directed By: Michael Bay
Run Time: 2 hours 34 minutes
Transformers 3 is about the continuing battle between the Autobots (the good robots) and the Decepticons (the bad robots). Turns out, the original moon landing was to find - and cover up - an alien spaceship crash landing. Fast forward to present day. Sam (played by LaBeouf) figures out that the US government did not bring back everything from the crashed spaceship. The leader of the Autobots - Sentinel Prime (voiced by Nimoy) - is still trapped in the spaceship. Optimus Prime (voiced by Cullen) brings Sentinel back to earth and brings him back to life. The battle between the good and bad resurrects as a result.
I read a headline (but did not read the article lest I spoil the movie for myself) that newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was horrible. I think I remember that the headline alluded that Megan Fox was better. Um, did that reviewer watch the same movie I did (plus the other two)? I did not think Rosie was so bad. Actually, she was quite decent. Much, much, much better than Megan Fox. Much. She had a lot of depth, which is saying a lot for a female character in a Michael Bay movie. Of course, leave it to Michael Bay to remind us who the audience of his movies really is with the up-butt shot of Rosie walking into the room. Um, yeah. But if that's all we see of her, I guess that's okay. There were some really challenging scenes (cue when she's stuck in the car and about to get skewered) that she was quite convincing in. Aside from the initial up-close butt shot, I rather liked Rosie and her character. I'll take her over Megan Fox any day. I'm sure there are a lot of guys out there who would agree.
Speaking of Michael Bay, let me just cut to the chase and be done with my whole Michael Bay observations (there are plenty). I think my review of Transformers 2 had a lot of "Michael Bay" references in it. I guess it's because you can't watch a Michael Bay movie without thinking, "I'm watching a Michael Bay movie." He makes himself known with the things he does. Heavy soundtrack. Quick edits. Explosions. A mastiff cameo. The soundtrack reminded me a lot of The Rock, another Michael Bay movie. I do love that he puts his own dog in every movie. Kind of an Alfred Hitchcock homage. I read another article that mentioned that his ego was really crushed (or perhaps just bruised) from the reviews of Transformers 2 because that movie just sucked. He really, really worked hard on Transformers 3's script. And it showed. I guess I'm glad that Transformers 2 sucked because if it made Michael Bay put more effort into making Transformers 3 not suck, than it was worth sitting through a sucky movie to get a good one. This one was good.
I really don't like John Turtorro. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's his teeth. I just get all heebie-jeebie when he enters the screen. What on earth has happened to John Malcovich? Seriously. Loved, loved, loved Alan Tudyk! He stole the show. I cheered when he walked onto the screen. For those non-sci-fi/Joss Whedon fans, Alan Tudyk is a phenomenal character actor who played Wash in Firefly (and the movie Serenity). So happy to see him in another movie. His character was a riot. I loved the Russian bar scene. "I'm so confused!" Classic. He seemed like he was having fun with his role. I liked that.
Enough about the director and actors. On to the actual movie. I really liked this one. Perhaps not as good as the first, definitely kicks #2's ass, and all around likable. Of course, there was a point when Optimus and Sentinel are reunited on Earth and I think to myself, "We've already been here for over an hour." Over an hour and we're still not to the battle scenes (and you know there's going to be a battle scene or two or three). There is write a lengthy backstory/set up to this movie. Speaking of backstory, the opening scene was unbelievably boring! It did not grab my attention at all, which is why I felt perfectly okay to leave the theater to get new 3D glasses (they gave me the IMAX version which was absolutely not working for the smaller screen). I never want to leave the movie and if the opening hadn't bored me, I would have actually sat through the movie with blurry vision (due to the wrong glasses).
Speaking of 3D.... I think either format (3D or 2D) would be fine. Normally I tell you that you don't need to see a movie in 3D if that extra dimension doesn't enhance the movie. This one... had some good scenes that 3D helped suck you in, make you feel apart of the action. The scene where Sam and Carly and the rest of the crew are inside a building that is breaking in half and everyone is sliding across the floor was definitely worth the 3D. I felt as though I was sliding with them. It was like a roller coaster ride. Even the Rosie butt shot was designed to make you feel as though you were in the room with her, walking right behind her... butt. I could almost hear the 14 year old boy in Michael Bay exclaiming, "Excellent!" as he filmed that scene. Sigh. The opening moon landing scene, though, did not need to be in 3D. Boring with or without the extra dimension.
Why do I hate to see bad things happen to Bumblebee? Darn it for making me care about a robot! And I never see what's going on during the robot fight scenes. I had issues with it in #2 and the same issues again in this one. Why was the "blood" that the robots oozed red? Shouldn't it be black for oil?
Okay, questions and rants aside, this movie was quite good. The first one was definitely the best but this one was a close second. See it in 3D. Be prepared for a long ride, but a long ride that's worth it.
June Movie #7: Bad Teacher
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, Phyllis Smith
Directed By: Jake Kasdan
Run Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
Bad Teacher is about a bad teacher Elizabeth Halsey (played by Diaz) who doesn't want to be a teacher. She wants to find a husband, a rich husband, and never work again. Enter substitute teacher Scott Delacorte who has family money. Elizabeth sets her sights on wooing him. When she thinks that Scott only likes big busted women, she starts saving up for a boob job. When she hears that the teacher whose class scores the highest on the state test, she puts her ambition into forcing the kids to learn.
This was actually my birthday day movie (Cars 2 was the day before my birthday but was part of the celebration). Turns out I've seen everything else so I had to see this one.
I thought this movie was going to be funnier. I didn't laugh very much and when I did laugh, it was a small haw. I mean, Jason Segel is in it. He's incredibly funny. But since he has very little screen time, the funny quotient went down as a result. He had a great character (the school gym teacher). I did find it interesting that his character seemed a lot like Elizabeth. They had the same view on things but where she was mean and bitchy, he was funny with a bit of heart. But since he wasn't in it much, the good part of the movie was minimal.
I'm not quite sure what to say about this movie. It didn't bore me. I guess that's a good thing. It wasn't bad. I can't say that it was good but it definitely wasn't bad. That much I can say. It held my attention. There were some things about it that were quite different. There were some lines and one scene in particular that made my jaw drop. But there were a lot of things about it that were incredibly predictable. The bad teacher idea was interesting and a bit funny. Most bad teachers (cue Summer School, starring Mark Harmon) have a lot of heart. They can't teach but they have heart. This one did not. She had brains and if she had any ambition to be a good teacher, she probably would have been an excellent teacher.
I will say that this movie had a lot of interesting characters. Elizabeth (aka bad teacher) was very interesting. How one person could be that crass was amazing. I saw a bit of her in me (the attitude part). Russell (played by Segal) had spunk. Too bad he wasn't in it very much. I would have liked to have learned more about Lynn (played by Smith from TV's The Office). I think Justin Timberlake had a lot of fun playing a dork. And what a dork! But interesting characters do not make for a good movie. A non bad one, perhaps. But not good.
Hmmm... so, it wasn't bad. It wasn't funny. It just was a bit memorable. I guess that's a good thing. It certainly wasn't the worst movie I've seen. That's also a good thing. I did like the ending. It worked. This would probably be a good movie to watch when trapped on a plane for eight hours. Or if you have nothing better to do.
June Movie #6: Cars 2
Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer
Directed By: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Cars 2 is about race car Lightening McQueen (voiced by Wilson) who signs up to compete in an international race and brings along his best friend rusty tow truck Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). During the pre-race festivities, Mater gets mistaken for a spy. He becomes engulfed in espionage with two British spies Finn McMissile (voiced by Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (voiced by Mortimer).
This was my birthday movie! I was joined by Dawn, Joel, Benjamin, AND Jeff (his second movie of the year, if you can believe it; Benjamin has seen more with me!). I think everyone liked it. The reviews were not kind to this sequel but I thought it was better than the first. At first, I had issues with the plot, the plot that was divulged in the previews. I mean, I get that the cars go international for a race but why would they bring a rusty tow truck with them? Of course, after watching it, I do get the reasoning. It all came together. I rather enjoyed it! Benjamin stayed for a lot of it. That's saying something. We saw it in 2D. I could see how the race scenes would be enhanced by the extra dimension, with the cars whipping around the winding track and coming at you.
At first, I wasn't that into cars acting like people. I can suspend reality and believe that cars can talk but when the spy car (Axelrod, I believe, who was voiced by Eddie Izzard) clung to the side of a ship and then drove at a 90 degree angle up the side of the ship, I was annoyed. Cars can't do that! Either I relaxed a little or the annoying antics ceased because the rest of the movie was enjoyable. They did a wonderful job intertwining the spy tactics into this children's movie. It definitely rivaled James Bond! And the scene in Japan was wonderful. They put a lot of realism into it.
This movie is incredibly well done. It's very funny. We all laughed A LOT! Even Jeff laughed. I still absolutely love the two Italian cars Luigi and Guido. They steal the show every time. I detest Larry the Cable Guy so you have to realize how funny this movie is if I was able to overlook his annoying voice.
I was not a huge fan of the first installment of this movie. I do not own it, which must tell you how much I didn't like the first (because I think it's the only Pixar movie I don't own). I am happy to say that the sequel was much better. It moved well, so fast paced (ha!). It was funny. It was well done. Smart. Different. I loved how the plot lines merged together. The moral was sweet. It was just plain good. It will probably get added to my collection.
Oooh, one thing to watch for: There's an advertisement along the wall of one of the races that reads: Lasse Tyre (as in Lasseter, John Lasseter, the director). It made me cheer when I spotted it!
June Movie #5: Mr. Popper's Penguins
Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Madeline Carroll
Directed By: Mark Waters
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Mr. Popper's Penguins is about a slick career driven divorced real estate agent named Tom Popper (played by Carrey) whose explorer father sends him a penguin as a memento from his last trip. Popper thinks he's sending the penguin back but instead orders five more. He calls every agency in New York to pick up the penguins but before one does, his children fall in love with the birds. Popper then realizes that the penguins are the key to getting his family to like him. Popper's life turns upside down.
Think of this movie as a kind of a toned-down Ace Ventura meets Liar, Liar (the family dynamics thing). If you liked one or both of these movies, you'll like this one.
There are a couple of different levels to this movie. First, there are the family dynamics. Popper has family issues because his father, the great explorer, was never home. Popper felt abandoned and the free spirit in him was erased. He tries extra hard to be cool and there for his children, who in turn pull away from him... until the penguins arrive. Next we have the penguins themselves, which lend themselves to seven year old boy humor (a farting penguin, for one). And then there's the magical whimsy that the Tavern on the Green experience created. There's a bit of a fairy tale to it.
I rather liked this movie. I absolutely loved seeing Angela Lansbury back on screen. I hadn't seen any previews with her in it so it was a nice surprise. She looked wonderful. I also loved the character Pippi... She talked only in Ps. Quite lovely tongue twisters. So which came first, the title of the movie (which is a tongue twister) or the character who talks in tongue twisters with Ps? I'd like to think the title came first and they built a character to poke fun at the title. And I loved the full circle when Quint was introduced. Pippi was fun.
This movie had some cute lines. "That's not my penguin" made me laugh many times. I was a little disappointed with the penguins. I thought they'd be cuter. For the most part, it was obvious that they were animatron penguins (because I don't think penguins fart on command and despite the fact that there now have been two movies that insinuate that penguins like to dance, I don't think they can learn intricate choreography) but there were times where I kept thinking, "Hey, wait. Now it looks real." They did use real penguins for some scenes.
There were some things that bothered me about the movie. How easy is it to clean up snow from an apartment? For that matter, how easy is it to keep an apartment cold enough to keep snow? And then there were the eggs. Don't penguin eggs need heat? Isn't that what March of the Penguins taught us? If the males don't keep the eggs under them and warm, they won't hatch? Of course, those few things bothered me. I totally bought that five penguins can fit and live in a crate shipped from Antarctica to New York City... and pass Customs (I mean, what could someone besides a penguin ship from Antarctica?). And that the penguins could live in an apartment. And navigate NYC streets.
This is a very sweet movie. I rather enjoyed it. It was predictable and a little campy but still quite entertaining. It could have been funnier. I didn't laugh as much as I wanted. I mean, penguins! Jim Carrey. Penguins! Perhaps the writers put too much into the tongue twisters and not enough thought about the penguins. I mean, even their names were mundane. But I liked it. A great movie for a little one. They'll love the farting penguin. Love it. Even I was slightly amused.
June Movie #4: Green Lantern
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins
Directed By: Martin Campbell
Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Green Lantern is about an test pilot named Hal (played by Reynolds) who stumbles upon a dying alien who bequeaths him with super powers in the form of a green ring and a green lantern. When an autopsy performed on the dead alien infects Dr. Hector Hammond (played by Sarsgaard) with the evil yellow fear blood of Parallax, the evil force that killed the alien, the alien battle comes to Earth. Now Hal must learn how to use his new super powers to save Carol (played by Lively) by battling Hector - and ultimately Parallax - to save Earth.
I thought that this movie had a lot of aliens for the sake of aliens. Let's make them purple skinned with funny ears... and make others with big heads. And let's have an ultra tall and skinny one. Purple aliens with green uniforms? I didn't like it. I really don't think aliens with purple skin are going to put themselves in green uniforms. That just doesn't go well. They certainly wouldn't win any alien fashion contests. I thought the inter-alien tribunal was incredibly hokey (cue the big headed aliens). If those aliens were the smartest of the bunch, why couldn't they create a more comfortable conference area? I am, of course, joking... but only because those scenes made me realize that these were actors in costumes and not cool aliens in a big budget much anticipated movie.
Hokey aliens aside, I guess I had issues with the whole Green Lantern super power ability. First, if there were thousands of Green Lanterns, why did the dying Green Lantern have to pass along his ring? It made me think he was the last of his kind, that he had to seek out a successor in order to save the universe. Second, what was with having to create stuff to fight with? Hal only had to think of a weapon and his powers would create it so that he could fight with it. Um, how about just think your opponent dead then? Or think of placing a poison or explosive inside your opponent and have the fight be over in two seconds? Why go through all those different weapons when your power is your imagination? Jeff would say that if I wrote movies, they'd be over with in ten minutes... and would be boring. "Here's the hero. And now he saves the day. It's not that hard." I guess I had a hard time getting into the swing of the movie and the battle scenes because there was a very big part of me that knew Hal had to succeed. He couldn't die. When you know the star isn't going to die, you know the outcome of the movie.
Since the underlying basic plot of the movie didn't suck me in, my mind was free to think. That's never a good thing. So many questions! For starters, why was Hal a pilot but not in the military, particularly if his father was? Do non-military pilots really get to fly planes that expensive and regularly mock dog fight? I assumed he was in the military but when I found out he wasn't, it bothered me. The opening dog fight reminded me a lot of Top Gun. Speaking of Top Gun, is Tim Robbins (who had a small role in Top Gun, hence the "speaking of") really old enough to be Hector's father? Peter Sarsgaard looked to be 40-ish, a full 10 years at least older than Hal. While that was fine, it bothered me that part of the plot seemed to hint that Hector, Hal, and Carol grew up together. With the age difference, I couldn't see that.
This movie left me feeling disappointed. It just didn't gel together. Perhaps it was because most people who become superheroes don't go running to tell their friends. It's their secret. Granted, every superhero does tend to have one that knows his secret (Lois Lane, Alfred) but Green Lantern/Hal seemed to have a lot of inside people. Of course, I did like that a mask didn't really "mask" his identity. Finally a movie that addresses that! Perhaps I wasn't lured in because the plucky sidekick (the computer programmer, natch) wasn't plucky enough. The programmer did start off with some spunk (rooting for Hal during the test flight) but his much needed quirkiness and humor failed him during later scenes. Perhaps the quirky sidekick was outshone by the quirky superhero. No one can deadpan like Ryan Reynolds! Perhaps this movie disappointed me because there were so many other "green lanterns." It didn't seem like a big deal. I mean, why did Hal have to save Earth? There were hundreds of other Lanterns that could/should have! Maybe because Hal's super powers were a little hokey (see two paragraphs above). I liked the idea that he had to learn to fight, had to learn to his powers but although he didn't seem to do very well with his ten minutes of training, he still went to battle the biggest, scariest villain that even the other Green Lanterns wouldn't fight. He couldn't even take down scrawny little Hector who only had an ounce of the bad juice in him. Carol gave one helluva pep talk but I don't think it gave him the power - the will - to take on the baddest of bad.
Okay. So I've said a lot about what I didn't like about this movie. I should mention the things I liked. I liked Blake Lively. I don't watch Gossip Girl so I've seen little of her before this movie. She had a smart, strong, tough, and determined character. She wasn't a helpless damsel but she wasn't bitchy, either (which, sadly, a lot of the tougher female characters tend to be which always bothers me). I really liked her with brown hair. Very pretty. I loved Ryan Reynolds. Seriously, no one deadpans like he does. Such sarcasm... wrapped prettily up with charisma. I just wish he had an ounce of more oomph. It all just seemed too easy for him. He was supposed to be a flawed character but his charm made that hard to see. I did like the movie's message - that will is mightier than fear. Fear is an awesome weapon but will conquers all. I also liked that fear gets replaced with courage.
One tip: Stay to the middle of the credits for a "suggestion" that there will be a sequel.
So, in sum, disappointing movie. I was really thinking this movie was going to be fun and well, good. It's not horrible. It's just missing that extra zest that could have made it really good. Maybe the aliens weighed it down. Ah, purple aliens in green uniforms. So sucky. Like I said, it's not a horrible movie. But it's not great, either. It was fun. But nothing more.
June Movie #3: X-Men: First Class
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Kevin Bacon
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Run Time: 2 hours 11 minutes
X-Men: First Class takes a few steps back in time, back before the X-Men were the X-Men. It shows the "mutants" from the beginning, how they came together and why. It also shows how Professor X and Magneto were friends in the beginning and what caused them to become on opposite sides.
The only X-Men movie I've seen is Wolverine and that was more for the actor than for the story. I had little interest in the other X-Men movies. I know little about them. Every time I saw the preview for this movie, I kept getting confused as to which actor (McAvoy or Fassbender) was portraying whom (Professor X and Magneto) and which one was the bad guy in the future. I think part of my confusion stems from the height difference between the old versions and the young versions. My confusion between who was who made the story I saw in the previews much different. Now that I've seen the movie, I am no longer confused about whom is who.
For never having seen any of the other X-Men movies, I was able to enjoy this movie, probably more than those who have seen the others because I have no idea what happens to any of them in the future. Who lives, who dies? I didn't know. I was able to just enjoy what happened. And I must say, I rather liked it.
This movie has fabulous character development. I was absolutely engrossed with Magneto (played by Fassbender). You completely understand with just the one scene they showed why he was bent on revenge, bent on killing Shaw (played by Bacon). And then to find out their relationship goes further... it's really a no wonder why he wanted him dead. And I also loved how honest Magneto was with Mystique (played by Lawrence) about her true identity, about being a mutant.
There were several lines dispersed throughout the movie that I found absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately, I was the only one in the theater laughing. This movie had some wit to it and I found that refreshing. I liked that it had a lot of heart and wasn't just a comic book with action.
If this movie was lacking, it was lacking in full team development. Aside from the one scene where the mutants meet one another and reveal the things that make them unique to determine their superhero names, I really didn't see the gang doing things to make themselves a team. They did all have one on one time with Professor X (played by McAvoy) which helped solidify him as the leader or "teacher" but there weren't many moments with other mutants with other mutants.
One of the reasons I liked this movie (other than the character development, funny bits with charm, and general cohesive storyline) was the acting. Michael Fassbender was superb as Magneto. I truly saw him embracing his mutant abilities as well as fully understood his pain and his struggle. Kevin Bacon as evil Shaw was despicable. I truly rooted for Magneto to exact his revenge on Shaw. He was used car salesman swarmy... but with ruthless appetite for killing. The way he killed the first mutant was so sad. I kept thinking that the role must have been fun for him. I am on the fence about January Jones' Emma Frost. She was very robotic, so robotic that she was evil. That was good. But then there were too many moments where I wondered if I was mistaking her robotic performance for intended evilness or if she's just robotic and wooden in every performance (see my review of the Unknown). I absolutely loved Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone but I thought her take on Mystique was a bit stilted. I understand why she gravitated towards Magneto (because he helped her deal with being a mutant) but I just wasn't seeing her struggle.
Speaking of Mystique, there is one scene where she morphs into another image that made me howl. I loved the cameo (of whom she morphed into). Such a nice touch. And this is coming from someone who has never seen the other X-Men movies.
I was painfully aware of the use of CGI in several key dramatic moments in this movie. I'm pretty sure no submarine was ever harmed in the production of this movie. There was probably never even a submarine in this movie. So CGI. The blatant use of CGI kept pulling me out of the movie.
One small aside: I was so happy to see Michael Ironside! Watch for him towards the end.
I really liked this movie. I wasn't expecting to like it so much, particularly since I've never seen the other X-Men movies (have I mentioned I haven't seen the others?). It was very well done. The acting, the history, the characters, the story. I didn't even feel that the run time is over two hours. And after it was all done, I will never confuse which one is the bad guy. Ah, Michael Fassbender. I want to see him be full evil. I hope there's an X-Men: 202. And if I'm rooting for a sequel, you have to know that this movie was pretty darned good.
June Movie #2: Kung Fu Panda 2
Starring the voices of: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Gary Oldman, Michelle Yeoh
Directed By: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
Kung Fu Panda 2 is about Po the panda, who is now the Dragon Warrior, trying to protect the Valley of Peace with the Furious Five (Viper, Crane, Tigress, Mantis, and Monkey) from Lord Shen (voiced by Oldman) and his new weapon that could end kung fu.
I saw this movie with Dawn, Joel, and of course, Benjamin, who is shaping up to be my new movie watching buddy. He lasted the entire movie although he wasn't as engrossed as I hoped he'd be. I mean, it's about a panda... who does kung fu. What's not to love? Benjamin would have probably have liked it to be more panda. Wait. Maybe that was just me.
This movie starts off a bit slow. I gotta say that I wasn't as sucked in as I was the first one. And a lot of the funny bits that were great in the previews just didn't have that zing to the funny bone in the actual movie. They were edited faster in the previews, closer together. That quick cut made things sharper, funnier. But the movie is pleasant. There are some great funny moments. But the first one was funnier.
This movie has a sweetness to it. And a great sadness to it. There were parts that were too hard too watch, too emotionally frightening. Po's memory of his biological parents was sad... and even more sad was what happened to them. This movie is much darker than the first one. Actually, I don't think the first one had any darkness to it. And this one has a lot more violence in it. I was glad that they didn't show a lot of it, particularly when the weapon was discharged.
The best part of the movie was Tigress. If you remember from the first one, she was the last to approve of Po. She was tough. She was disciplined. She was a master. And she's all that in this movie, too. Po and the rest make a point of telling her that. But there's a small twist... and I loved it. It was incredibly sweet. Don't count Tigress out.
The visuals are gorgeous. The colors are amazing. Lord Shen is absolutely beautiful. I liked how the most gruesome backstory is told with "drawings" and the violence is alluded to, not shown. It was like a child's picture book. It was a nice way to tell the dark part of the story. The sweetest part of the story is about 30 seconds before the credits roll. It was quite touching. And a relief. It also leads it open for KuFuPa 3 (Kung Fu Panda 3)..
So, this movie is sweet and scary and sad and violent and touching. Who doesn't love a big, fat panda? Benjamin lasted through the whole thing, which has to say something. I liked it. I know Dawn and Joel did, too. Three thumbs and one baby thumbs up. One to see over and over again.
June Movie #1: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Astrid Berges-Frisbey
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Run Time: 2 hours 17 minutes
The fourth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean starts off with Jack Sparrow (played by Depp) busting out of jail only to find himself in another sticky situation. The King of England tries to convince Jack to go an expedition to find the Fountain of Youth (since it is rumored that he knows the way) before the Spanish find it. When he refuses (and escapes), the task falls upon Jack's rival Captain Barbosa (played by Rush). Jack wants to beat Barbosa and finds another ship to take him. This ship's first mate happens to be an old flame Angelica (played by Cruz). Now three ships (the Spaniards, Barbosa, and Jack/Angelica) are heading towards the same treasure. Someone has to get there first... with a mermaid's fresh tear.
I try to avoid reading too much about a movie before I go to it and I hate seeing too many previews for it. The first couple normally are great teasers but rest of them start to reveal too much about the movie and before you know it, you've seen the movie just from seeing the previews. I knew I was going to see this movie just because I've invested so much time watching the other three (and truly the first was the best). I didn't need to see or read anything about this movie as a result. I'm really glad I didn't know anything about this movie. There was a small plot point that had I known anything at all about this movie, it would have given away something that neither Jack nor I knew. I liked the surprise.
This movie is in 3D. I did not want to give the Pirates franchise any more of my money so I opted to see it in 2D. You do not need to see this movie in 3D. There are several annoying swords coming at you that are probably supposed to be thrilling in 3D but come across as just plain superfluous. I can't imagine any other part of the movie that would be enhanced with another dimension. Stick to the cheaper 2D.
Um, yeah. I was bored. That pretty much sums up how I felt about this movie. Bored. Jack is normally such a fun character - goofy, quirky, funny, unpredictable. Just plain fun. He's the reason I see these movies. That and the adventures. Jack was lacking. He didn't entertain me. I found him only mildly appealing. And the adventure - a voyage to the Fountain of Youth - was also boring. There were no unexpected obstacles, twists, turns, or battles. It certainly was not an adventure. All three ships knew exactly how to get to the Fountain. No one really seemed to have an issue capturing a mermaid, despite the fact that the mermaid legend would have you believe it to be impossible.
I don't understand the supernatural aspect of the Fountain, particularly the last few steps to actually get to it. What's wrong with the notion of drinking water that makes you young? The cup aspect - drinking from the proper cup with the mermaid tear - seemed to take too much from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It's been done before... and better.
I did like the mermaid Syrena (played by Berges-Frisbey). She was an interesting character. I did actually like something about this movie! And I did like Angelica. I wasn't sure when I saw the previews if I would like Penelope Cruz in this but she adapt well. She was tough but likable. She had the charm that Jack did not. I did like the two of them together, perhaps because she had the upper hand.
One final tip: Stay until after the credits finish rolling. That will give you first and only laugh of the movie.
May Movie #5: Bridesmaids
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd
Directed By: Paul Feig
Run Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Bridesmaids is about Lillian (played by Rudolph) who is getting married and asks her best friend Annie (played by Wiig) to be her Maid of Honor. Trouble ensues when Annie is introduced to Lillian's new friend Helen (played by Byrne) who is perfect - pretty, rich, and can plan a party like no one's business. Annie gets jealous because she's single, her bakery failed, she got fired from her temp job, and her roommate has kicked her out so she now lives with her mother.
I heard that this movie was fabulous, hilarious. Even Jeff really wanted to see it (but since he's on a business trip and he has a other movies he wants to see, I went without him). As I walked out of the theater (after it was over - don't think that it was so bad that I walked out before it was over because I certainly stayed to the end), I walked behind a group of elderly ladies who each thought this was the worst movie they had ever seen. So... was it the best or the worst? Eh. I thought it was okay. I did laugh... but not as much or as often or as hard as I hoped I would. I did find it entertaining but the underlying story - Annie putting herself and her own personal woes ahead of her friend's moment - put a sad jolt to the movie. Do friends really do that? I get that she was jealous of Helen. Helen was truly annoying and deserved to be punched (I am surprised that didn't happen at some point) but I would think most friends would put aside their petty squabbles, suck it up, plaster on a big smile, and trudge ahead. After all, it is your best friend's wedding. You can't screw that up.
Characters. This movie was filled with interesting characters, which was a really good part of the movie. I liked the side story with Officer Rhodes (played by O'Dowd) and how it connected back to Annie's bakery. It made Annie seem more human and not so vindictive and petty. Rhodes was a fun character. I giggled more when he was on screen than any other moment. He was probably the most real character in the movie. And although I didn't care for the character Megan (played by McCarthy), I did like how the actress played against her normal bubbly type cast. I liked how Megan's character was allowed to be more than just comic relief, where her real purpose finally came to light. I also liked how Helen's character gained another dimension as we get a glimpse into why she's the way she is - overly perfect. I think I probably connected with Annie, the failed baker who laments that her life isn't going the way she planned (and as a result doesn't get joy from baking any more).
Speaking of real characters: come on, ladies. Who among us doesn't know a Ted (played by Jon Hamm), particularly in the scene where he picks Annie up after her car breaks down (cue the steering wheel)? Um, yeah.
So... this movie is good. Not side-splitting hilarious but definitely not the worst movie I've seen. I giggled a lot. I think this movie crosses over the line of "chick flick" into just straight comedy. Guys should like it, too, particularly for the food poisoning scene and the post-credits "bear sandwich" scene. And possibly all scenes with Ted (and I'm sure many guys won't see anything wrong with Ted). There are a couple of risqué (without the nudity) scenes that are funny just because of the topics of conversation are not ones you normally hear in a movie. Funny. Different. Sweet. Fun.
May Movie #5: Thor
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior, is sent down to Earth as punishment for reigniting a reckless war. But after a dangerous villain from his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth, the hammer-wielding Thor will learn what it takes to be a true hero in order to save mankind.
I was actually quite bored with Thor. The opening didn't grab me the way I think it was intended to. I thought I'd also be more intrigued in the Norse mythology background (second opening scene) but that, too, bored me. I mean, it was well done and an interesting story, it just didn't suck me in. The middle also bored me. The ending, however, was excellent. The Earth ending was touching and the Asgard ending was poignant.
I think a big reason the movie seemed fairly boring to me is that a lot of the main characters were boring. For as smart as Natalie Portman is in real life, you'd think she'd make acting like a scientist look natural. Somehow, I just didn't get her as a scientist. Perhaps there wasn't enough technical talk to make her seem like her character was really a dedicated scientist or perhaps she was a little too chipper considering her life's work had been locked away by the government. Or perhaps it was because Jane (her character) just kept getting into stupid situations. I loved Darcy (played by Dennings) but most of her best lines were shown in the previews. So while she was plucky and interesting, the interesting level dips down a bit because I'd heard all of her pluckiness before the movie even started. I did not understand Dr. Selvig's role (played by Skarsgard) in the whole movie. He did little to advance or enhance the story other than to show Jane a book of children's tales of Norse mythology. Thor (played by Hemsworth), on the other hand, was an interesting character. You clearly get a sense of his ego and you clearly see how he changes - and why.
I saw this movie in 2D, which is worth mentioning because I don't think Branagh (the director) anticipated people actually watching this in 2D. There are some shots obviously geared for 3D - and they're not the typical stuff-coming-at-you 3D worthy shots. They're aerial scenery shots of Asgard. I think the style is intended to make you feel as though you're in Asgard, surrounded by the buildings, with people walking and riding horses towards you, but in 2D they're just blurry, dizzying, and disorienting. In 2D you do not get a sense of the magical majestic world. It's the opposite of awe-inspiring; it's more of "huh?-what-was-that-supposed-to-be" inducing. I think that's poor planning on the director's part.
I heard some comic book buffs talking about this movie (well, perhaps the comic book) with great gusto and enthusiasm They mentioned how it ties into Iron Man and some other recently released comic book hero movies (I forget which). This movie, unlike most of those other comic book superhero movies, is not as easily transferable. I think non-comic book geeks can like those other ones without having to have spent years developing a rapport with the characters. You can jump right in and love it, too. Iron Man was particularly easy to like, easy to understand, easy to enjoy. Thor, on the other hand, did not adapt well for the masses. Perhaps it was the hokey Thor-cyclone or his cheesy and oddly coiffed compadres or the uninspired looking Frost warriors, but it just didn't pull me in (and I am very easy to be pulled in).
That being said, unless this was already a movie on your must see list or you're an avid comic book fan or Norse mythology buff, it might be best to wait for this one to come out on DVD. Perfect for a rainy day where you're stuck inside. Make yourself a grilled cheese, a bowl of chicken with stars soup, and tie a cape around your neck to help you channel the superhero dreams you had as a child. That environment might help to enjoy this movie more.
May Movie #4: Rio
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, Rodrigo Santoro, Will I Am, Leslie Mann
Directed By: Carlos Saldanha
Run Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
Rio starts off magestically with a wonderful burst of color, song, and dance as the birds of the jungle celebrate their joy of living the good life in such a beautiful place. And then it very quickly turns scary, horrifying, and sad as the birds get captured, including the baby Blu (voiced by Eisenberg). Life for him gets even scarier and sadder when his cage falls out of a truck in the middle of snowy Minnesota. He's cold. He's alone. He's scared. He's sad. And he's just a baby. Enter Linda (voiced by Mann), who rescues Blu. The two become inseparable best friends. Cut to 15 years later, Tulio (voiced by Santoro) enters their life. Tulio is an avian specialist from Brazil. He instantly recognizes Blu as a blue Macaw, one of the last few of his kind. He convinces Linda that she needs to fly with Blu to Rio so that Blu can meet Jewel (voiced by Hathaway), a female blue Macaw with hopes that the two can keep the line going. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are bird napped. They must find a way to escape and return to their comfy lives, with Blu at home in Minnesota and Jewel enjoying the freedom of the jungle in Brazil.
As you might have guessed, the opening scene scared and saddened me (ala Finding Nemo when his mother dies). I was actually shocked at how frightening and depressing it was. It was even more shocking to think that the subtle references to illegal animal trade (and capture) would go unnoticed by most and having that idea in my head made me more somber. There's also an interesting commentary on how wild animals shouldn't be domesticated (because birds who should fly never learn... which then means they're not being themselves... which also means they're not free). While one can argue that Blu, a highly domesticated animal, seems happy (albeit ignorant) in his pampered environment, one can't help but ignore what that same environment did to Nigel (voiced by Clement). Perhaps if he wasn't so domesticated, he wouldn't have been so evil.
Politics aside, this is a very cute movie... once you get passed the scenes depicting illegal animal trade (and there are a ton of them). The characters are fun.
This is the second movie I've watched this month that takes place in Rio. I point this out because, as a traveler, locale is of an interest to me. There seems to be a force trying to get me to Brazil.
On one hand, I liked the colors, and singing and dancing, and the quirky friends (and enemies). Who doesn't love a monkey wearing a gold watch as a belt? The colorful depiction of Carnivale was mesmerizing. On the other hand, it just didn't draw me in. It wasn't as cute and funny and quirky as it could have been. And that is really saying something because there was a bird versus monkey fight. I loved that. The imagery is hilarious. Bird on monkey fight. And there's also something side-splitting about a bulldog in gold Daisy Dukes. Don't get me wrong. Those scenes and lines gave me great delight. But the middle portion of the movie (once I got over being horrified and depressed) was a bit flat. And lest you think I'm just being a grumpy adult, perhaps the rightfully intended audience's (a child) assessment can sway you: Benjamin was so bored by this movie that he had to be escorted from the theater. If bright, dazzling colors and zinging songs with vibrant dances couldn't keep him from screaming, it can't be that enticing.
The ending was incredibly sweet. It had action. It had humor. It was quirky. It was inspirational. And it was redeeming. I really enjoyed the ending.
It's not a horrible movie. It's cute. It has its charm. It's fun. It is a little scary (illegal animal trade aside, Nigel the cockatiel is downright nightmare inducing). The colors are bold and beautiful. But it's just missing that extra oomph. Even Benjamin agrees with a very frustrated Hulk-style grunt.
May Movie #3: Hanna
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, and Eric Banna
Directed By: Joe Wright
Run Time: 1 hour 51 minutes
Hanna (played by Ronan) has spent her whole life being raised in the snowy wilderness - and remoteness - of Finland by her father (played by Banna). Her sole purpose in life is to assassinate Marissa Weigler (played by Blanchett). Her father has given her the skills to hunt and kill, a trained little warrior. When Hanna feels she is ready to perform her quest, she and her father part ways, with the instructions to meet up in Berlin. She leaves a trail of dead bodies in an attempt to fulfill her quest.
So many movies take place in Berlin! I'm glad I've toured Berlin. It makes me feel like I'm connected to the movie somehow. Of course, I'm pretty sure Hanna's Berlin and my Berlin were not one in the same. I went to touristy places that indulged my comfort level; the street vagrants in her Berlin probably reflected her comfort level - able to defend herself from anything.
The opening of this movie did not grab me, mainly because most of it was shown in the previews. I knew she was alone in the arctic; I knew she was a skilled hunter; I knew her father would sneak up on her and they would battle. I knew she had a well rounded arsenal of survival skills. But the question of why was she had been brought up in this world was very intriguing. It was interesting to see just how much of a machine she was - filled with book knowledge as well as combat knowledge. And it was also very interesting to see just how much of a teenager she was. She could bring down an elk with a bow and arrow and then gut it and clean its carcass like a grizzly seasoned hunter but then she was also prone to emotion (furious with her father for forcing her to drag the elk back by herself as punishment for her failure to best him in their battle).
For all her warrior training, her father failed to teach her how to blend in naturally, how to assimilate. That extra training would have helped her accomplish her quest more easily. Perhaps the severity of living off the grid in the harshness of the remoteness was her downfall. If she grew up near civilization, she may have able to adapt to it better. Having never seen another person other than her father, never seen a computer, never seen a road or a car, never seen a TV were tremendous obstacles for her.
Mark my words: one day Saoirse Ronan will win an Oscar. She is an amazing actress. She gives an amazing performance as a little assassin. Cate Blanchett, who is an Oscar winning actress, was not as wonderful in this. First, her Southern accent was annoying. Second, she had an essence of diabolicalness but it wasn't fully materialized.
I was intrigued by this little girl. Who was she? Why was she there? And what was her quest? I was in awe of her, too. Such amazing agility and skill she possessed to navigate through the containment facility. I knew she was a trained assassin and those skills were also enticing. She was an amazing specimen. But again, who was she? What was her backstory? What is her obession with Marissa Weigler? For that matter, what is her father's obsession with Marissa Weigler? He obviously wants her killed, but why?
I was captivated by the questions, the mystery, the unknown for most of the movie. But when the backstory was revealed, I was more than disappointed. I was disgusted. Anything would have been better than that! I'm tempted to reveal the reason why Marissa Weigler is trying to find Erik Heller and Hanna (and because she's trying to find them, they're trying to kill her) so that you will not waste your time seeing this movie. It is a great action movie up until then. I was riveted up until then. I was fascinated with the intrigue up until then. And then I didn't care to be watching the movie anymore. I didn't even care to see the ending.
Oh, the ending. Sigh. The implausbility is a let down. Hanna is such a skilled warrior that the implausibility is a slap in the face. The writer took the easy way out the way the scene was set up. This was a chance to redeem itself with a killer, high-octaned final chase scene and it fell flat.
I liked this movie up until a half hour before it ended. It was an intense ride with many turns and jolts. And then the ride ended abruptly, not because we were having so much fun that we failed to noticed we had actually come to the end but because the ride operator just decided to take a break... which made us walk down the tracks to the ride's end instead of coming to a screeching halt of scary fun. More than a let down. So you can certainly watch this movie to see such an amazing actress (Saoirse Ronan) but you should probably turn it off and walk away once her father enters her mother's old apartment in Berlin. Don't be tempted to find out who she is. Your imagination can keep the mystery alive.
May Movie #2: Source Code
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Directed By: Duncan Jones
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
Source Code is about a government experiment that enables a solider to relive the last eight minutes of one man's life over and over again, trying to find clues to the identity of the person who bombed the train in order to prevent a second, larger scale attack perpetuated by the same bomber.
I will give this movie credit for being original... if you consider that its predecessor Groundhog Day wasn't sci-fi/thriller/action slanted. This movie was a good mystery. I was incredibly engrossed with why Colter, the solider who leaps into the identity of a man on the doomed train (played by Gyllenhaal), doesn't remember how he got roped into this mission in the first place. But I quickly became highly annoyed that a trained soldier would seek to make the mission about finding himself, his own identity, what had happened to him and why he was on this mission, instead of the true task of the mission - stopping the bomber. He's supposed to be disciplined, trained to follow orders. He certainly wasn't following orders. And the fact that he was being selfish and caring about only himself was very unsoldier-like. It didn't make me like him as a character. I did feel bad for Michelle Monaghan, who had to keep repeating the same lines over and over again as Gyllenhaal's character was being forced to leap back into the same scenario over and over again because he wasn't getting the job done.
The opening scene floating through the skyline of downtown Chicago was absolutely beautiful. It definitely gives you a sense of serenity and naivety, that the people of Chicago have no idea that in a few short minutes their town will be ravaged by a maniac with a bomb. For the first ten minutes of this movie, as I tried to figure out what's going on, I liked it. But then Colter's actions and the fact that he had to keep reliving the same moment over and over and over again without learning anything put me off. I kept thinking in my head that someone would shout, "Groundhog Day!" It didn't happen.
The true nature of the Source Code (the government program) was upsetting and cruel. I didn't like that part. And I didn't understand why it had to be so. And I really didn't like the ending. Strike that. I liked what I thought was the ending - the freeze-frame glimpse at all the people on the train, happy in their final second, thinking that was how they were going to spend eternity. And I kinda liked what I thought was the ending again a few minutes later - [perhaps a glimpse of the characters in their version of heaven. But the final ending, how things changed, bothered the holy heck out of me. Talk about violating the space-time-continuum! So highly unlikely. Why, oh why, did they have to go that route? To teach the Dr. Rutledge (played by Wright) a lesson that you can't mess with the unconscious world? That you can't violate time travel by playing God with people's lives (or deaths)? That ending landed this movie squarely in my "do not like and will never watch again" category. Had me until then. Had me by a string until then. You seriously can't do that ending. Ugh.
Oooh, ooh! Just a bonus note: As Colter was speaking with his father on the phone, I kept thinking to myself, "That voice sounds familiar. I should know that voice!" It belongs to Scott Bakula. I find it very amusing since he played a character who leaped into the identities of others, setting right things which once went wrong. Hee hee hee. That I liked.
May Movie #1: Fast Five
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson, Elsa Pataky
Directed By: Justin Lin
Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
The Fast Five picks up where part four left off - with Dom (played by Diesel) being sentenced to jail. The crew busts Dom out of jail and then they all hide out in Rio. They meet up with former crew member Vince (played by Schulze) who has a heist for them - steal some cars. The deal goes south when a part of the Rio crew kills some federal agents who try to stop them. Now Brian (played by Walker), Dom, and Mia (played by Brewster) are now numero uno on the FBI's most wanted list. In comes agent Hobbs (played by Johnson) who always gets his man.
The opening two minutes are probably the weakest minutes ever in film history. Dom gets sentenced. I know this movie is picking up exactly where part four left off but that was over two years ago and most of us just don't remember or care. It probably would have been more dramatic to see Dom in orange and shackles sitting on the prison transport bus with a voice over detailing the sentencing. But the movie quickly redeemed itself as Brian and Mia stop the bus and bust Dom out. I'm not sure how anyone survived the bus crash. And I'm really not certain I want a bus to rear-end the car I'm driving at highway speed. Seems to me there should have been a lot more damage to everyone involved. But then again, I am the girl who really believes a city bus can jump a hundred yards so I guess I can try to believe that a prison bus can rear-end a car and everyone - including the car - can walk away without a scratch.
That being said, this movie was fun. Not nearly as fun as the first one and the fourth one, but it was decent. Not good or great but decent. I loved seeing ALL the players (even the guy from Tokyo Drift) together in the same movie. Now that was fun. The disappointing part of the movie was that there were very few car chases/races. Very few. I'm ticking them off in my head and there were four. Probably should have been at least five.
I know that Dwayne Johnson bulked up thirty pounds of muscle to look a little more foreboding against Vin Diesel. That being said, their fight scene was a bit of a let down. Dwayne is several inches taller than Vin and a ton more muscle. Plus, he's a former wrestler. Vin is just a former bouncer. One tried to break up fights; the other was in fake fights. Still, I'd put my money on Dwayne any day. I think he just has more skills. So their fight scene was a bit of a disappointment to me. It was a little unrealistic. Kind of like a scene in Heat where Al Pacino beats up Henry Rollins. Um, yeah. Like that could happen. Oh, and watching two muscular bald guys roll around in the shadows makes it difficult to follow along. At one point I internally cheered and then realized it wasn't my guy that was winning. Oops. Some bald guy had a great punch.
I just recently watched The Rundown (starring Dwayne Johnson). It's a fairly decent flick. Really. And Dwayne does a really decent job in it. Really. And Vin Diesel was really good in Find Me Guilty. I know these two can act. Weird how it didn't come through in this movie. Perhaps it was the unbelievably corny lines they were given. "Above all else, we never let them get in the cars." I understand what point he was trying to make but there's just something flat about that line. And that's not even the hokiest line. I think it would have been funnier if he had said, "What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area." Hee hee hee.
The plot. Fairly straight forward for this type of a movie - revenge and stick it to the guy who stuck it to you. But what I wasn't okay with was the end cross-over. Don't buy that either character would do that, no matter how betrayed they felt. There are consequences for that type of action, no matter how corrupt Rio is.
Which brings us back to the final chase scene. Um, if a two ton safe is whipping around smashing into things like buildings, wouldn't the momentum flip the cars that are dragging it?
Hmm... I liked this movie (and will definitely go see Fast Six for a chance to see another Dwayne and Vin punching match) but I didn't love it. I was so hoping it would pull it out in the end but it didn't. Sure, the twist was fun (and I'll have to re-watch the 10 second advantage they had just to see if I can see the twist in action) but the whole tone of the movie was flat. It just needed an inch of an extra boost to really be fun. It missed it. Darnit. But I did like the Dwayne/Vin fight. The car chases/races were lacking the extra adrenalin boost, particularly since at least three of them were implausible (bus rear-ending Brian's dead-stopped car; the wrecker crashing into the train but not derailing it; and the safe being dragged through the streets without flipping the car dragging it). But I liked it. Didn't love it but liked it. Enough to make me see the next installment.
April Movie #2: Hop
Starring: James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Gary Cole, Russell Brand (voice), Hank Azaria (voice), and Hugh Laurie (voice)
Directed By: Tim Hill
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Hop is about the Easter Bunny's (voiced by Laurie) son E.B (voiced by Brand) who runs away from his responsibilities as the next Easter bunny. He heads to Hollywood to make it big as a drummer. There he runs into Fred (played by Marsden)... or rather, Fred runs to E.B... with his car. E.B. convinces Fred to take care of him and soon their lives intertwine.
I saw this movie with Dawn, Joel, and Benjamin! This was my first movie with Benjamin and I must say I did quite well. No poking, no talking, and no hogging the popcorn. Benjamin did quite well, too, although he slept through the first half (no commentary on the movie there). He managed to figure out the plot and keep up with the movie. Such a bright little 15 month old.
Ya know, if my rabbit Rufus could poop candy, I think Baloo the fat cat would be his best friend. I'm just saying... Sorry. Strayed from the review. There are some fun little scenes like that (where the Easter Bunny poops jellybeans) that add whimsy to this movie.
When I first saw the previews for this movie, I thought it was a joke. It was being released on April 1st afterall. I really did think it wasn't a real movie. And then I saw it as a trailer on the DVD for Despicable Me and I realized it was a real movie. And then I thought to myself, "Wow. They'll make anything into a movie, won't they?" I did not think I would see it. It seemed too laughable. But when a 15 month old baby calls you up and tells you that you're taking him to this movie, you see it. When we walked out of the theater (after dancing to all the credit music), I actually said out loud - "I rather liked it. It was much better than I ever thought it would be." Hop is funny (although it could stand to be funnier more often), sweet, and has a rather fun plot. It's well acted. I'm not a huge Russell Brand fan but I found his E.B. to be quite endearing and rather likable.
We did not see it in 3D (Benjamin didn't think the glasses would make him look "cool") and I really didn't notice anything that should be better in 3D until almost the end (the Pink Beret rabbits getting doused in chocolate; the Easter airplane crashing; perhaps travelling through the Rabbit Hole). The regular version is just fine.
I think Benjamin enjoyed the animated animal scenes better than the strictly human scenes. I was surprised at how many strictly human scenes there were. The animal scenes were funnier, brighter, and definitely more enjoyable. Who doesn't like to see a jellybean waterfall? The candy factory was visually captivating, almost Willy Wonka-ish but less mesmerizing and more merry. The human scenes made the movie more real. It brought the plot closer to home. I liked how the saga hanging over the two species (rabbit and human) mirrored the other's plight. The human scenes worked well. The animal scenes worked well. Once Fred dealt with the notion of a talking bunny, the animal/human scenes worked well. The movie gelled.
So... I liked this movie. I didn't love it but it did surprise me at how well done it was. It was actually quite good. Perhaps my assessment of the movie improved because I saw it with the right people. Who knows? I just know that I was pleasantly surprised with how non-hokey the movie was. I might even own it when it gets released on DVD. I'll say it serves as a memento of the first movie I saw with Benjamin but I might actually secretly watch it from time to time without him.
Oh, and a great tip we received from a member of the movie theater's cleaning crew: Stay through the credits for a little extra laugh. The credits are long (but filled with great music to dance to) but that little snippet was funny. It really brought the movie full circle. Two thumbs up from me and Benjamin adds his "En goo!" of endorsement.
April Movie #1: The Adjustment Bureau
Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp
Directed By: George J. Nolfi
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
After David Norris (played by Damon) loses his first congressional race, he meets the woman of his dreams (played by Blunt). A few months later, he runs into her again quite by accident... and not at all according to plan. He wasn't supposed to run into her again and that mistake leads him to discover that there are mysterious people shaping our lives, people who are apart of the Adjustment Bureau. The agents apply pressure and tell him that if he tells anyone about the Adjustment Bureau or tries to contact Elise again (who isn't part of his future according the Bureau), they will erase his memory. David just can't stop thinking about this woman and three years later, quite by chance again, he runs into her. The Bureau isn't happy. They explain to David that he either gives up Elise to let them both live wonderful lives or staying with her will change their fate for the worse. He must choose between a life of greatness without Elise or a life of misery but with the woman he loves.
I thought this movie would be more subtle about pre-destined paths/God/angels than it really is. It upsets me to think that someone has written the story of our lives and that we can't alter the plan. Deviating from the already defined agenda causes unseen forces to revise external factors so that we fall in line with the written plan. Traffic jams that cause you to be late, a long line at the coffee shop, spilling something on yourself so you have to change clothes - all things designed to make you miss something that would have changed how you would live your life. And when those things don't work, the Bureau just performs a mind sweep and physically changes your mind about something. Of course, the next time there's an unusually long line at McDonald's or my alarm didn't go off in the morning, I'll know that the Bureau is just messing with my course. I will have to wonder at those times - who was I supposed to run into that now I'll never get to meet?
I'm not sure I like how this movie ends. Should everyone do what David did then if you don't like how your life has been scripted to turn out? And why doesn't everyone get that chance?
I thought the ending would be more powerful. I did wonder how it would get resolved and I envisioned a rather weak explanation of how things work in the Bureau. The ending did indeed work but I expected to have more of an impact, feel a bit more moved by the ending. I had definitely picked how I thought David should resolve the issue when the two fates were proposed to him. He didn't go that route, and that troubled me a bit.
This is definitely a unique storyline, one that raises a lot of debates between divine right and free will. On one hand, I do find the explanation of why there has to be traffic to be a bit comforting. On the other hand, I simply do not understand the notion of a supreme being controlling what people do. If there's someone writing all of our scripts for us, why are there murders? Why is there child abuse? Why is there famine? I understand that the bad things in life help shape who we are, make us stronger, but the really bad things don't seem to be right (particularly if someone wrote that into our plan) or fair, particularly if you can do nothing to avoid those bad things. So troubling.
It's a decent movie. It's well acted. David is definitely a charismatic character. I wish there was more to the Elise character, that we had more time to see what made her truly worth the risk for David. She was exhilarating and so different from the suit wearing David but I think we needed one more scene with her to truly understand the connection, what made her special. The agent Harry (played by Mackie) - was he tired or did he actually let his emotions interfere with his watch over David? I wish he hadn't fallen asleep on the bench. I wish he had watched Elise board the bus and actually decided to let David run into her. I think Thompson (played by Stamp) needed to be more ruthless, actually live up to his "Hammer" moniker. He seemed like he had a heart, too.
I wish there were more a little more to this movie. I think exposing the Bureau so quickly on in the movie left it flat. I also am not a fan of the message. I'm not sure how to rate this movie or if I should tell you to see it. I liked it... but I didn't. It was missing that something extra. If you do see it, we'll have to talk about how you think David should have proceeded after he was told about the two different fate lines that were dependent on his actions.
March Movie #3: Limitless
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Abbie Cornish
Directed By: Neil Burger
Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Limitless is about a writer named Eddie Morra (played by Cooper) who is suffering from writer's block, whose girlfriend has just left him, and whose life is falling apart. His life changes after he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, who also happens to be an upscale drug dealer, and is given a funky new drug. While most people only use 10% of their brain, this drug allows you to use 90% of it. Eddie finishes his novel in just a few days, learns several languages, and conquers the stock market while under the influence. His newfound clarity opens doors to new opportunities and new people.
This movie has probably the worst opening scene ever. I think it was supposed to be suspensful and powerful but it was flat, boring, and a little annoying. The voice-over was flat, there was no allure to the text or grab. The pounding in the background was distracting and annoying.
The next couple of scenes also didn't pull me into this movie. I absolutely hated the comic book style in-your-face depictions of what the drug was doing to Eddie. Eddie takes the pill and an X-Ray image of him swallowing the pill floods the screen followed by cartoonish animated renderings highlighting a part of his brain being stimulated by the drug. I did like the quick cut shots of Eddie's brain calculating the scene before him in order to analyze and react to his landlord's wife yelling at him. But then when illuminated letters started dropping all over the room as Eddie typed his novel, I was annoyed again. To over the top. To in your face. We get that this drug enhances his thinking. We get that it makes him super human.
Thankfully the movie rallies into full swing and the comic book style renderings and explanations stop.
I liked that Eddie pulled himself together. I liked that he made something of himself. I did not like that he made such a spectical of himself. He knew someone was looking for the drug. Surely his actions would call attention to himself, put a spotlight on his suspicious rise. And in the end, I thought he would lay low, particularly given all that happened to him and the love of his life. I was disappointed with how far he took it, that he didn't just call it good and fade away. And it really bothered me that his one ambition in life just became a footnote to him. I'm sure he had outgrown his calling and was trying to move up, out, and onto "better" things. It seemed to me that he was abandoning who he truly was. His girlfriend had a point. The drug made him someone else. Not a better person. Someone else.
I guess I did like that Eddie learned something - not the languages he taught himself or the art of reading people or how to construct an algorithm to overtake the stock market - but how to survive. Others before him were not able to make that leap, the leap that could have saved them. But while he did something none before him were able to do, that cocky attitude was off-putting. He seemed so likeable, frizzy hair and all, in the beginning. Where did that cocky attitude come from? All of his success didn't come from within - it came from a pill. That alone should have been enough to humble him.
I hated the ending almost as much as I hated the opening. It ended with a fizzle, with no gotcha, no redeeming moment, no wow. It needed wow to get me to love it. It was an every day moment and then it ended. No climax. Nothing leading up to the ending. No happy wrapped up ending. It just ended. Some movies cut to black with a pow. Some cut to white with an air of mystery. This one figuratively cut to grey. Eh.
I'm not sure if I liked this movie. It was okay. I didn't leave wowed. I didn't leave annoyed or confused or angry or even sad. I probably won't remember much about this movie in a couple of months. It's worth seeing. It was well done (once the comic book graphics stopped popping up). It was well acted. It was an interesting and unique plot. It was well told. It was just missing that something extra. I could have really loved it. So close.
March Movie #2: Rango
Starring the voices of: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty
Directed By: Gore Verbinski
Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Rango is about a chameleon (a lizard) who wanders into the gun-slinging Old West town of Dirt. Rango fancies himself an actor and when the townspeople ask about his past, Rango invents one. Little does he know that his story sets him up to be a hero. The townsfolk make him their sheriff. Rango improvs being a sheriff until he inadvertently aids bank robbers who steal the town's water supply, their only supply of water. Now Rango must step up and be the hero he has been pretending to be in order to save the town.
Not all animated movies are for children. Repeat: Not all animated movies are for children. If you watch the first five minutes of this movie, you'll understand that not all animated movies are for children. It's scary and some of the lines/images are not for children. The naked headless Barbie (of whom Rango inquiries, "Are those real?"), the squished armadillo on the road, and the bird chasing a terrified Rango through the desert are all clues that this is not a children's movie. One character is obsessed with the possibility that Rango is going to die. There are many frightening scenes. Picture an old western - like the remake of True Grit - would you take your child to that? Absolutely not (wonderful acting aside; see review of the movie below). This is essentially something like Gunslinger but animated. Just because it's a cartoon does not make the subject and plot suitable for children.
Of course, if you were planning to take your child to this movie (a child that doesn't get scared easily) but decided not to after the smoking controversy, you should forget that controversy and go see it. Several anti-smoking groups are slamming this movie for its rampant depiction of smoking. One: It is only the bad guys smoking and Two: Rango does not smoke (contrary to many sites' claims). He grabs a villian's cigar and eats it and then drinks a shot of cactus juice and burps a fireball at the bad guy. If kids immitate what they see in cartoons, I think there's a much greater risk of them swallowing lit cigars in the hopes of breathing fire at their brothers. I seriously did not notice the smoking and I was watching for it!!
I'm not a huge fan of westerns. I was not a huge fan of this movie. It was decent. Several lines made me laugh. I was more alarmed at how scary it was. The scene at the end with the bird dragging off the turtle made me gasp. And I think I may have nightmares about the scene where the moles come crawling out of the ground surrounding Rango and his gang (I have issues with Zombie-like things).
I loved the homage to Clint Eastwood - from the character to the award statues in the basket. It would have been so excellent if the movie makers had actually gotten Eastwood to voice the character. I think that little bit would have pushed this movie over the edge to greatness. I did love the opening scene (although I thought it was missing a little extra oomph towards greatness) where Johnny Depp was essentially channeling some past characters from other movies (I think I saw a bit of Captian Jack Sparrow as well as Don Juan DeMarco). There was also a small homage to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. That bit made me really laugh (although I was feeling very bad for Rango at that point). I also loved Mr. Timms (the fish) and the full circle involving his "character."
I had a suspicion that this movie was going the way of Happy Feet with a non-publicized but then a sprung on you in-your-face message about the environment about water waste/urban sprawl with the animals' water going to keep golf courses in Las Vegas green. It took a sharp detour at that scene, which in a way was nice but also left me wondering why show that part at all.
I'm also not quite certain I understood the different animals living together. According to this movie, only big birds and snakes are bad guys. Little birds and foxes eat all types of little animals but they were cast as townspeople. And why was a bunny the same size as a chameleon? And why did Beans have hair? Yes, she was a girl but she was a lizard. If you wanted to make it obvious she was a girl (aside from the dress), put a bow on her head. Lizards don't have hair... hence what makes them lizards.
So... I'm not sure if I liked this movie. It wasn't bad. It did have me laughing... at times. But I was more concerned with the impact it would have on all the kids at the theater (I think a pre-school was having an outing). There was so much talk of death and the bad guys were truly scary. There were a lot of tough things going on in this movie. Decent but not great.
March Movie #1: Beastly
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen, Neil Patrick Harris, Peter Krause
Directed By: Daniel Barnz
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Beastly is a modern take on Beauty and the Beast. When Kyle Kingson (played by Pettyfer) annoys a witch (played by Olsen) with his ego and his "beauty rules and ugly drools" motto, she places a curse on him. He transforms from a handsome, spoiled rich kid to a hideously scarred, self-pitying rich kid. He has to find someone to love him within a year or else he'll stay ugly for the rest of his life.
Um, wow. This movie was bad. Very, very, very bad. So bad that it took me a long, long time to put two and two together - that this movie was twist on Beauty and the Beast. The acting was atrocious. Normally I just say "bad" but this was so many grades below bad. The script was an abomination. The directing was laughable. It was like a bad high school play, written by the choir director who always had dreams of writing for the silver screen and acted by kids who are just using it as a way to get out of detention. There was no real chemistry between any of the characters let alone Lindy (played by Hudgens) and Hunter/Kyle (played by Pettyfer). Vanessa Hudgens couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag even if you left the bag wide open with a flashing neon sign pointing to that opening. I think she ties with Scarlet Johansson with worst actress ever. Ever. The only tolerable moments were those that contained Neil Patrick Harris who plays the blind tutor. I wonder if he knew how truly horrible the rest of the movie was. I think I saw him cringe a couple of times.
Aside from the bad acting (atrocious acting), many of the plot points just didn't work. First of all, we just didn't get to see enough of Kyle being obnoxious to truly understand why the witch cursed him. The scene at the party didn't really seem to bother her nor was it that horrible a prank. I kept waiting for the Carrie pigs-blood version of an "I'm better than you" rant scene but it never came. I suppose Kyle was a jerk but it didn't seem enough to get cursed over. I'm sure there were hundreds of guys just like him at that high school. It screamed "pretty people rule." It wasn't just Kyle.
The time frame seemed to whiz by. Two weeks in a blink of an eye; five months in another blink of an eye. If Kyle was so devoted to his looks, you'd think he wouldn't waste a minute of his ugly imprisoned year. He'd want to do everything in his power to become pretty again. And a year is plenty of time to get a high school girl to fall in love; seven months is, too.
Another implausible plot point - the father giving his daughter to the scarred, heavily tattooed boy who witnessed him murder another man. And if he thought that scarred, heavily tattooed boy could protect his daughter from the drug dealer who vowed revenge, taking her himself to Hunter/Kyle's house seemed ridiculous. If he didn't want the drug dealer to know where his daughter was, he probably shouldn't know where she was, either (because if push came to shove, I'm sure he'd sell her hiding spot out).
And another implausible point - the greenhouse. Um, you don't build a dwelling one complete wall at a time... complete with windows. You build the framework first and once you have the walls attached to the framework, you put the windows in. I know he made it up as he went along because he couldn't figure out the instructions but surely he's seen construction? And what he built was not a greenhouse.
And finally, the most implausible point of them all - the transformation back to Kyle. The final rose had bloomed in his tattoo... (which wasn't fully at a year because he was cursed at night and this was in the afternoon). If magical path cannot be altered, then the events that transpired were out of order for them to lead to his transformation. Not that I'm giving anything away. You know the story of Beauty and the Beast. You know what happens in this movie. And it ends without drama, so unlike Beauty and the Beast. It ends without fanfare. It ends without an overwhelming feeling that these two people have found true love. Or are even in love.
The best parts of this movie are Neil Patrick Harris. He's funny. He's got some great lines and some scene stealing bits. I loved the story about the elephants. It was insanely sweet. It was my favorite moment of the movie. And it was nice to see Mary-Kate Olsen acting again, all grown up. I liked her quirkiness. She added an interesting element to this movie... even though the spell she placed over Kyle was the lamest spell in magical history. Was that even a spell? What was that?
Go see this movie... if you need something to bore you to tears. I thought about just getting up and walking out many, many, many times. It was an abomination to movies. It shouldn't even be called a movie. Bad. So very bad. And, unfortunately, my assessment of Alex Pettyfer's acting ability is not complete (see the review of I Am Number Four). I refuse to count this movie or give it another thought. Ugh.
February Movie #9: The Housemaid
Starring: Do-yeon Jeon, Jung-Jae Lee, Seo-Hyeon Ahn, Seo Woo
Directed By: Sang-soo Im
Run Time: 1 hour 56 mins
The Housemaid is the tale about a young woman who takes the job of nanny in the house of one of Korea's richest families. The young nanny quickly learns that money equals power and rich, powerful people can do pretty much anything they want. The husband seduces her; the head maid finds out (she knows everything that goes on in the house) and soon everyone in the house knows. Life becomes miserable for the nanny.
I debated seeing this movie. There were two other movies I thought about watching - Drive Angry (just because the title makes me cringe... and I want to see what Nicholas Cage's hair looks like in this one) or Gnomeo and Juliet. I like kids movies (and because this one's in 3D that means there's gnomes flying at ya' in 3D!). But both of those got poor ratings (go figure) and this one was very high. Plus the main actress (the nanny) won the Korean version of Sundance for best actress. Even if I wouldn't enjoy the movie, at least I'd get some reading done (the subtitles).
This is, I believe, my very first Korean movie. Unfortunately, you don't get to see much of the city or country. Not that it's a travel movie but because it was my first glimpse into the Korean world, it would have been nice to see it. I did like the movie. It was very well done.
I will warn you. There are a couple of scenes that made me blush and look away. Not necessarily for what you see (you don't see much) but because of what is being done and the language. Wow. Very initment language you don't normally hear in the movies.
Those scenes aside, it is a very interesting movie. People who seem cruel or arrogant really aren't. The main maid seems very distant and cold but as you get to see more of her world and how long she's been in that world, you realize that she's not really cold but reserved. She has a lot of secrets in her head, things she's had to deal with and just move on. The husband seems like a cad until one very telling moment. The wife seems nice until she's crossed. The mother-in-law is conniving without much reason. I think there's a backstory to her but that's never shown. And the nanny seems like a scared little rabbit... until she fights back. I'm not quite certain I would have gone that route - for many reasons - but it certainly had an impact. And what an impact it has.
The final end scene - where the family is celebrating Nami's (the child) birthday outside - is very intriguing. Nami is obviously affected by how the nanny fought back. The wife (Nami's mother) seems to have gone insane. And the husband, whom I thought would be affected by it more, seems to have moved on callously. I wonder if he's now so removed from his family because of his wife's interactions with the previous nanny. He certainly is removed from his daughter's life based on the gift he gave her (and how it was presented). They all seemed like a sweet family, distant and yet together, when the movie started. Crazy is how they all ended up.
Good movie. I liked it. Great character development. Very interesting to see the power and wealth and what that makes me people do. I don't think I learned even one Korean word, which is disappointing. But the movie was really powerful. A little slow but good.
February Movie #8: I Am Number Four
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand
Directed By: D.J. Caruso
Run Time: 1 hr 44 minutes
I went into this movie knowing very little about it. From what little I had seen, it looked interesting enough… enough to want to see it (and not see too much beforehand to chance spoiling it). I thought I remembered that Number Four was an alien. About ten minutes into the movie, with goofy alien vibe in full swing (the pursuing aliens were all jacked up), I wondered if I should stay a minute longer or if, perhaps, I should have learned more about the movie before venturing to see it. But then the alien stuff quieted down and some real character development began. This is two different movies meshed together very well. One movie is about a teenage boy trying to fit into a new high school. We’ve seen it before – the new guy gets picked on until he fights back. But when this guy fights back, it’s a little different. The other movie is about an alien on the run from trackers who want to kill him. It’s kind of a sci-fi John Hughes flick.
I rather liked this movie. John, the alien Number Four (played by Pettyfer), is a sweet, smart kid. Incidentally, there’s another movie starring Pettyfer (are you asking yourself “who?” too? You’ll soon know who) coming out soon. Its trailer preceded this movie. I kept thinking through this whole movie, “Is this the same guy in Beastly? If not, they look waaay too similar.” I will need to see that movie (it is on my list) to really assess Pettyfer’s acting ability. He seemed a little simple, a little too reserved, a little too low-key. But that just could have been his way to blend in, in which case his style was very good. I did read he’s from England so the lack of accent was great.
One side note: Can Dianna Agron ever leave high school in Ohio? She’s Quinn on Glee and that takes place in Ohio and this movie also takes place in Ohio. Another side note: Number Six looks like a blonde Kristin Stewart.
I really liked this movie and it’s because of the two movies combined together. I liked the time spent with John the teenager trying to assimilate/blend into his new high school. I liked the Sarah character (played by Agron), although I couldn’t help but think Jeff would be complaining about the teenager’s infatuation with film and film cameras. Do schools really have darkrooms anymore let alone the chemicals needed to develop film? And she was developing her film incredibly quickly in order to post them on her website (which begs the question: Why would she use a film camera to take pictures she’s going to post on her website? There’s a lot of downtime with a film camera).
Although it takes awhile to get there, it’s an incredibly suspenseful movie. The ending is very intense. I liked how some things came together. I loved the dog (he has lots of good moments throughout the movie). If you don’t get to see this one in the theater, it’s a great Saturday night rental.
February Movie #7: True Grit
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Run Time: 1 hr 50 minutes
When Mattie Ross's (played by Steinfeld) father is murdered by Tom Chaney (played by Brolin) and the local law won't bring him in, Mattie enlists the aid of Marshall Cogburn (played by Bridges). A Texas ranger LaBoeuf (played by Damon), also on the hunt for Chaney, tags along.
I've heard two different opinions on this movie. It's a John Wayne remake. One viewer told me it was a shot-for-shot-line-for-line remake. Quite boring. Another viewer said that this version is an interesting take, a different angle from the original story. The original was showing on AMC the other night so I decided since I've seen the remake, I must watch the original in order to fully assess if I liked the remake. After watching the original, I can say that the remake was much better. The acting in the Coen brothers' version is superb, so many levels above the original. I'm sorry but for as tough and saavy as John Wayne was and always portrayed, I really think Jeff Bridges played a much, much more gruff and intense Mashall Cogburn. Glen Campbell played the original LaBoeuf and there is absolutely no comparison between his acting and Matt Damon's (Matt Damon is better). And the actresses that played Mattie - well, the original Kim Darby was sharp and tough but Hailee Steinfeld had a determination, a driving force, that I just didn't see in the original. The original actress was a little too perky for someone who was bent on revenge. As for the remake being shot for shot identical - heck no! Many of the scenes are in a totally different order and the background settings - which really set the tone for some scenes - were different. Much of the dialog was the same - but not all of it. And don't get me started on the sets. I was painfully aware that the 1969 version was shot on a sound stage. Even the trees were fake! The scenery were obviously sets. Bad sets. Cheap sets. My eyes kept wandering to the background. That's not a tree!
I thought both Bridges and Steinfeld were phenomenal. I was quite impressed with the young actress. She was tough and determined without being bitchy or whiny. She was quite good at taking the lead - from grown men! She lead the search, she stole the show. I liked this movie and it's mostly due to the gruff and gritty Bridges and the forceful Steinfeld.
So, although I risk irking a lot of John Wayne devotees, the remake was much better. Much. The tone IS totally different. The acting is wonderful. And the sets don't look like sets (it seriously was an issue with me). I'm sad that this movie didn't win anything at the Oscars. Little Hailee was my pick. She should have won. If you like Westerns, see this one over the original.
February Movie #6: The Kids Are All Right
Starring: Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
Directed By: Lisa Cholodenko
Run Time: 1 hr 44 minutes
The Kids Are All Right is about a family that consists of two moms and two children. When Joni (played by Wasikowska) turns 18, her younger brother Laser (ya, you read it right) (played by Hutcherson) asks her to connect with their biological donor father. Although Joni has no interest in meeting her father, she does it for Laser and tags along to meet Paul (played by Ruffalo). When the mothers find out, they insist on meeting Paul for themselves. Nic (played by Bening) is a doctor and likes to have control of everything. Jules (played by Moore) is very earthy and touchy-feely. She's a bit flighty but once you see the two women together, you see that the reason she's a bit unstable (Jules floats from job to job) is because Nic is a strong critic. Paul is a chef who owns his own restaurant and grows his own vegetables for his restaurant. He's aloof and a bit anti-establishment, which doesn't sit well with Nic. He asks Jules to landscape his backyard and because of his attention and interest in her ideas and opionins - and willingness to let Jules do what she wants - Jules falls in love with Paul. The already tense and troubled marriage/family begins to implode.
This movie is full of uncertainies - from the characters to the plot to the ending. I'm not sure I got the true sense of the mothers individual personalities. They seemed to blend together. I'm not sure the relationship between Jules and Paul was plausible. She's a lesbian! Yes, she was craving attention and needed affection and that came from a man. On one hand, it's logical that she would fall in love with the person who was finally nice to her but, um, it was a man! I'm not sure if I saw where and how the kids bonded to Paul. I'm not sure I understood the draw for Laser to meet his father. True, he was the only male in the house and may have needed a male influence but it seemed as though he got the attention he needed from his mothers.
I did like the kids. Both seemed very nice, not at all spoiled. Good kids. Decent kids. I liked the relationship Joni and Laser had with one another. I wish they had explained how Laser got his name and which mother was whose (one mother gave birth to one child; the other mother gave birth to the other child). Given the bonds each child had to their mothers, I think I have an idea of which carried whom.
The underlying story - marriage is hard and this is how two people struggle to cope with their differences and their issues - was an interesting story. I wish that had more of a focus. I didn't see how they all bonded with Paul so I didn't care for that aspect of the story. The commentary on marriage was more interesting to me.
This is an okay movie. Well acted... although I don't think any of the actors deserved their nomination (Bening and Moore for best actress; Ruffalo for best actor). I think so much could have been done with this movie. It fell short for me.
February Movie #5: 127 Hours
Starring: James Franco
Directed By: Danny Boyle
Run Time: 1 hr 33 minutes
127 Hours is based on a true event. The movie is based on the autobiography called Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Aron Ralston (played by Franco) goes hiking in Utah without telling anyone where he's going. Aron likes to "squeeze" which consists of wriggling through cravasses by using the angle of your body to keep you from plummeting to the ground. As he bounces off angles in a deep cravass, he accidently loosens a boulder. As the two squeeze down the cravass together, when Aaron finally reaches the bottom of the ravine, the boulder lands on top of his arm, wedged between the walls of the cravass. His arm his pinned between the boulder and the mountain. Neither will budge. Aron is all by himself. No one can hear his screams. He tries many different approaches to freeing himself, including chiseling the boulder away with his incredibly dull knife (so dull it won't even cause a scratch to his flesh) and jerry-rigging a pulley to try to hoist the boulder up using his body weight. As the title suggests, Aron is stuck for 127 hours (which is over 5 days) until he finally decides to cut his own arm off. Bear in mind that I mentioned the incredibly dull knife. He doesn't cut the arm off but rather stabs it off.
I list only James Franco in the "starring" section because he pretty much has the screen to himself. Danny Boyle does an incredible job keeping the story interesting with flashbacks and out of body experiences. I liked the fleeting bits by other characters. It helped keep the flow of the movie, particularly given that the story is about a guy trapped by himself for five days. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. At times, the comic book style multiple split screen becomes a bit distracting but there are a few scenes actually enhanced by the technique. There were other more avant garde were a refreshing way to depict the scene.
I liked the idea of replaying so many aspects leading up to his accident in his head after he was trapped - if only he had told someone where he was going. They might know he's hurt and needs help but after a few days someone would at least start to look for him. So many opportunities were missed that could have helped his situation. If only he had taken his good Swiss army knife with him. If only he had picked up the phone when his mother called instead of ignoring it. He may not have told he was going away for the weekend but the guilt of not talking to her, not giving her his time, grated away at him during his captivity. If only he had picked up the phone when his sister called. If only he had mentioned to his co-worker - a fellow climber - where he was going. He had the map in hand. He knew exactly where he was going. If only he hadn't forgotten that extra bottle of Gatorade, which was sitting on the floor of his truck. But there's nothing like eminent death for one to reasse his foibles. Even if he had gone hiking with someone else may not have solved his situation. It could have worsened it. What if that person were trapped or hurt, too? His water supply surely wouldn't have kept two people alive for that long (he barely had any for himself).
At the end of the movie you see the real Aron Ralston, sans arm, along with a note that says he's still an adventure-seeker (and then many photos of him doing adventurous things... by himself). Given that an ill-prepared outing almost cost him his life, you'd think he'd be a little more cautious, if not respectful of his own life (particularly now that he's a father). He does leave a note now when he goes out. He learned an ounce. Doesn't seem right. I suppose we should be encouraged by his "never say die" attitude and admire his zest - and quest - for life. I've always found going to the grocery store to be an adventure...
I really think this movie should have been nominated for at least cinematography if not director. The visuals are stunning and I think Danny Boyle did a wonderful job keeping the pace flowing as well as interesting. Just for the stabbing his arm off scene, James Franco did indeed deserve his nomination for best actor. While I know he didn't actually have to lose his arm, it takes a lot to convey the turmoil, the angst, and the agony just for the preparation needed to cut off one's own arm. He had nothing else to bounce off of but he managed to keep the engery alive and pique my interest. This movie held my attention... but only because I knew that lurking around the corner was the inevitable cutting off his arm scene.
February Movie #4: Unknown
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Run Time: 1 hr 49 minutes
Unknown is about Martin Harris (played by Neeson) who wakes up in a hospital in Berlin after a car crash. He's been in a coma for four days. He has no passport or any other identification but he does remember who he is. When he returns to his hotel and meets up with his wife (played by Jones), she doesn't recognize him and another man has assumed his identity. Now Martin has to figure out why his wife doesn't recognize him or if he somehow made it all up.
I'm trying to decide how I feel about this movie. The intrigue of who Martin Harris really is - is he really Martin - and why someone would want to steal his identity as well as what the people closest to him would gain from pretending they didn't even know him - was captivating. I do always like to stay one step ahead of these things, trying to guess what's going to happen - and why - before it happens. The chase scenes were very suspensful. I did forget to breathe during the black SUV/taxi city streets car chase. But the dialog, the chemistry, and some of the acting were really atrocious.
Liam Neeson is one of my favorite actors, which is why I went to see this movie. Perhaps it was more the dialog and direction than his acting, but I did not feel his anguish let alone his sincerity while trying to figure out why his wife wouldn't recognize him at the hotel after his car accident. And while we're on the subject of acting, holy crap did January Jones phone it in. She was cardboard. Baloo gives a better performance every day of his life telling me his absolutely starving (even though he ate minutes ago) than January Jones throughout the entire movie. There wasn't a line she spoke that sounded convincing. It was painful to hear her speak.
Even though they were two strangers fighting for their lives, I really didn't feel there was anything, particularly given the ending, between Martin and Gina (played by Kruger). While Kruger's performance was decent and her character was fairly interesting, there just didn't seem to be a connection between the two. I didn't feel that she cared so her reaction to Martin's interaction with his wife at the gallery seemed out of the blue.
I read something that said this movie is a great thriller but that the pieces of the puzzle too conveinently fit together. The twist was different, I'll give it that. I was not expecting that. I bought it. It definitely did explain everything.
So... it's a good movie, just for the thrills and twist. It could have been better. I've seen worse. Trust me. I liked it but it's definitely not going in my collection. A good movie to watch on a plane. It was a decent way to pass a few hours.
February Movie #1: The Fighter
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams, Dendrie Taylor
Directed By: David O. Russell
Run Time: 1 hr 54 minutes
The Fighter chronicles the life of boxer Micky Ward (played by Wahlberg) and his brother Dick Eklund (played by Bale) as Micky works his way to the Welterweight Champion title and as his brother spirals into drugs and the realization that his own boxing career is long over.
Ah, Oscar season. I'll be glad when it's over. I think I always am. It's exciting to see what gets nominated. It's good for me to go see "good for me" movies, which can be a refreshing change from the slap-stick comedies, blood and guts horror movies, and the goofy animated kid flicks. I did not want to see this one when the previews first were aired. I was a little annoyed at "having" to see it. And I did have to see it because there were so many nominations. Quite frankly, I'm not sure any of them are deserved. Yeah, I said it. Christian Bale was so over the top, trying too hard, and just plain goofy/bad acting. I know Dick was strung out on crack and was hogging Micky's spotlight but I don't think he was cartoonish. Ugh. It was annoying. And just because Amy Adam's character swears a lot and punches Micky's sister in the face doesn't mean she was playing tough. Her sweetness, even when swearing and punching, still shone through. I would really like to see Melissa Leo (who plays Dick and Micky's mother) in another movie. I need to compare and contrast her performance with another one. She could have just been playing herself (or a character she plays often). It wasn't noteworthy but in comparison, it just might be.
I do not like boxing so a lot of this movie was tough for me, particularly Micky's fight in Las Vegas. I can handle slasher movies because it's obviously not real (nor do a lot of those types of things happen in real life) but the fight scenes were tough. Without spoiling the movie too much (it is based on real life events), Micky doesn't do well in a lot of his fights. There's a lot of blood. A lot of beat downs.
The one thing that strikes me most about this movie is how tough living in Lowell, MA must be. I'm not sure if they cast people who look older than they are for a reason (to depict how the tough living robs them of their youth) or applied makeup to make them look harsh, but I was absolutely floored when I found out some of the women were Micky's sisters. They looked older than his mother! (And then, later, when I verified on imdb.com, it turns out the actresses who played his sisters were just 10 years younger - some of them - than the woman who played his mother). They were poor. There were 10 of them living in one house. No one seemed to have a good job. They were all just waiting for either Micky or Dick to make it big. So sad.
This movie is sad on so many levels. Micky seemed to live for his family, struggle to put their needs before his so much so that his career took a beating - and so did he - as a result. He let his family take advantage of him, let them steer him incorrectly down the wrong path, because he believed that family came first. And his family took advanatage of that. So sad. He almost didn't make it because of them. They only supported him as long as they benefited from it and when they didn't, they attacked him (literally).
Oooh, one tidbit I learned during my imdb.com search - the man that plays the police chief and his trainer plays himself. That's actually his trainer in real life! So... Lowell police chief, boxing trainer, and now actor. He did a fine job.
So... unless you want to see overacting (cough... Bale) and a lot of family back-stabbing and inner turmoil, not to mention blood splatterings in the boxing ring, you can probably skip this movie. I wasn't wowed by it.
January Movie #4: The Mechanic
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn
Directed By: Simon West
Run Time: 1 hr 40 minutes
Let's start off with the definition of a "mechanic." It's someone who fixes things, and in this scenario, someone who fixes situations/people by killing them. Sometimes the assination is blatant, often times it's made to look like an accident/act of nature. The person is eliminated without causing suspicion. This movie is about a mechanic named Arthur (played by Statham) who is hired to kill his best friend Harry (played by Sutherland). Harry's son Steven (played by Foster) is a bit of a screw-up who can't hold down a job. Steve and Harry don't get along and in fact, Harry considers Arthur to be more of a son to him. After Harry's death, Arthur takes Steve under his wing and shows him the ropes of being a mechanic, just like his father.
I read a review that said this movie is better than the original, which starred Charles Bronson. I'm sure to some that's fightin' words, but come on, was Charles Bronson really an actor? Not that Jason Statham will ever win an Oscar (much less even be nominated) with his acting, but even a little better than Bronson makes the remake a better film. Of course, I haven't seen the original (not much of a Bronson fan myself... I think it's the moustache) but I strongly concur. Any movie with Jason Statham has got to be better than a Charles Bronson flick...
But I digress. One thing that flashed through my head while watching this movie is that Jason Statham's characters always seem to have really, really, really cool houses. Picture the french chateau in The Transporter... until it got blown up. The same happens to this house (not to spoil anything) so it appears as though his really cool houses don't last that long. He also drives really cool cars (and bonus points for driving a Mini Cooper in The Italian Job... which reminds me - when is the sequel coming out, for cryin' out loud?). He always has a shirtless scene, too.
Okay, back to the movie. It's actually really well done. I enjoyed it. It has a pretty straight-forward plot... with a couple of twists. One is completely predictable and the other is a bit unexpected and rather enjoyable as I secretly hoped it would turn out that way. I'm a sucker for a happy ending. The movie is a bit on the gory side. There were a couple of slo-mo blood splatterings and the scene with the garbage disposal made me really happy not to have one. It all looked cool... and perhaps realistic, and that's bothersome. I did have to look away a few times. I thought the Arthur/strange woman in the bar relationship was rather sweet... and of course, there is gratuitous nudity as a result.
This movie, shockingly, has rather well defined characters with ample time to let those characterizations mature. I really relished the bonding scenes between Arthur and Steven, although it took some time to figure out why some it was happening (but it's all neatly explained).
So this is quite a good movie. A little slow to be an action movie with a lot more indulgence into character development than most. Even though the plot is incredibly simple, it's well done and the simplicity is very welcoming. When the credits began to roll, I said to myself, "Wow. That actually was a good movie."
January Movie #3: The King's Speech
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall
Directed By:Tom Hooper
Run Time: 1 hr 51 minutes
The King's Speech is about England's second in line prince named Albert (played by Firth), who had a stammering problem that made it difficult for him to make speeches in public. When his brother King Edward (played by Pearce) decides that he'd rather marry a twice divorced woman than sit on the throne, Albert must become king. In an age where radio is flourishing, Albert must be vocally appealing to the public and thus seeks the aid of Lionel Louge (played by Rush).
Ah, Oscar season is upon us. Since both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are nominated for Oscars (and probably other aspects of the film are, too), I had to see this one. I'm always a sucker for behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the royal family (The Queen was wonderful in that way). It was quite charming to see current Queen Elizabeth as a small child and interesting to see that even though her father was second in line to the throne, her fate would be changed by her uncle's abdiction, too. If her uncle had stayed on the throne and had a child, she would never have been queen.
I was rather awe-struck by the amount of hugs and kisses Bertie (Albert, played by Firth) bestowed upon his children. He seemed like such a warm man, even though his own father instructed his brothers to make fun of his stammering as a child. I found his wife's sense of royality quite interesting. She was more for being proper and correcting those who misunderstood how to behave in front of royal than the man who had actually been raised as royalty. Bertie let things go; Elizabeth (played by Carter) did not. Bertie let Lionel call him Bertie; I highly doubt Elizabeth would have let anyone call her anything other than "Your Royal Highness." In fact, when she first met an awestruck commoner, she replied very simply and straight-forwardly, "It's your royal highness for the initial address and ma'am thereafter."
Although I'm sure any good actor can fake a stammer, I really think Colin Firth did a wonderful job making us feel his pain. His delivery was astounding. The pauses, the look of terror and uncomfort in his eyes. I really felt bad for the poor guy. And considering it was only radio, couldn't someone else have read the speeches for him instead and kept it a royal secret? Of course, he did have a lot of public speaking engagements. If I were in the audience and not knowing any better as a commoner, I totally would have gone right up to him and told him to take his time and tried to hug him... before security hauled me off never to be seen again. It didn't seem as though his audiences were very sympathetic. Perhaps they saw the stammering as a sign of weakness.
This was quite a good movie. A bit slow. I kept waiting for him to give that one perfect speech. Okay, is this it? How about now? Now? By the end I was gritting my teeth and saying, "Okay, now this one better be it." It does drag on a bit. There are a lot of speeches. But the wonderful thing about it is the man kept trying! For most of the movie, he's simply second in line. He's not king or even a glimmer of being king so there's no real push for him to be "cured." He's doing it for himself which is very sweet.
Oooh, ooh! I do find it funny that there are several remarks made in the movie about Lionel being Australian. They make fun of his accent. He's played by an Australian so there are extra jabs in there. The really funny thing is that Guy Pearce, who plays King Edward, is Australian/New Zealander (born in NZ, raised in Australia). No one made fun of his accent!
Although I have yet to see a lot of the other performances that were nominated for Best Actor, I'm inclined to say that Colin Firth deserves the win. I felt his pain. I think that's a sign of a good performance. Good picture for a rainy day (if the Oscar season has already passed you by).
January Movie #2: The Green Hornet (in 3D)
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson
Directed By: Michel Gondry
Run Time: 1 hr 48 minutes
Britt Reid (played by Rogen) is the wealthy the son of newspaper owner/editor James Reid (played by Wilkinson). Britt likes to party every night... and not work in the day. When his father is murdered, the newspaper responsibilities fall on Britt's shoulders. As Britt steps into his father's shoes, he learns a lot about the man he thought he knew. For one thing, Kato (played by Chou) makes his father's coffee... and builds funky cars and gadgets. When the two encounter a crime, they decide to team up to be crime fighters. They pose as bad guys to infiltrate the underworld. Their antics get them noticed by the ultimate bad guy.
I'll say this off the bat - I really liked Kato. As for the rest of the movie... it was good. Well, it was okay. For a movie starring Seth Rogen (a svelte Seth Rogen), I didn't laugh once, which was surprising. The opening scene could have been better if James Franco (he has a cameo) wasn't overacting. I wasn't fond of Lenore (played by Diaz). I liked that she was smart and obviously the brains behind the operation but I'm not sure her character provided anything other than satisfying the girl quota. I think every movie has to have a female in it. The chemistry between Rogen and Diaz just did not work. I know the characters were a bit at odds but they seemed like to siloed actors simply sharing a screen, not connecting.
Some of the action scenes were great. The fight between Kato and Britt seemed forced. The scene itself was good (good fighting) but what led up to the fight seemed too simple. Just a short scene ago, the two were calling each other "brother." And suddenly they hate it each. Too quick. Not enough angst. I also had some issues with the end chase scene that ends at the newspaper. So... no one scattering about in the office would put two and two together that the Green Hornet, who just happened to want to publish a scandal, was Britt, the man who would know how to get that published? Very odd.
Long before this movie even started filming, I read that Seth Rogen was sliming down for the roll. His personal trainer kept making him puke. He said he felt like a sell out. He looked good. And then I found it interesting that he was a producer of the movie. So... he had some say in whether or not he needed to drop some weight for the roll, right? He could have been a chubby Green Hornet. It was Kato with the fighting skills.
Decent movie. Loved the end scene where someone gets shot... and then how it gets resolved. That was funny. I will have to see the second one, the one that was strongly alluded to at the end. Maybe that one will be funnier. I hope Seth Rogen stays slim. He looked good.
January Movie #1: Black Swan
Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Run Time: 1 hr 43 minutes
Black Swan is about a ballerina (played by Portman) who lands the prima ballerina role in Swan Lake. The stress of being the lead plus the newcomer to the troupe (played by Kunis) take its toll on Nina. The line between fiction (of the story of the ballet) and reality become blurred in Nina's mind. She starts seeing things that may not - or may - be there.
I went to the first movie of the year with Jeffrey! This first viewing also brings about the first controversy in our house. If you know the story of Swan Lake, the swan commits suicide at the end because she can't be with the man she loves. The end of this movie is the actual ballet, with Nina as the lead, and the movie ends with ambiguity. If you've seen The Wrestler, which is directed by the same director as this movie, you'll remember that Randy stands on the ropes and then the movie cuts to white. Did he jump and die? Did he not jump and presumably live? Or did he jump and actually live? Black Swan ends very similarly - with Nina as the swan making a swan dive (ha). Her swan dies (while she falls onto some padding designed to catch her fall) in the ballet. We then have to decide if Nina, too, dies. The movie cuts to black, leaving her fate up to the audience. I believe she lived and that her mortality was just in her head as the stress finally consumes her; Jeff believes she died. We do see blood. But, of course, it's not the first time Nina saw blood that wasn't really there (cue the awful, awful scene in the bathroom where she rips back the skin on her finger only to discover a second later that there's nothing wrong with her finger at all).
You may think that it's a bit unconventional to give away the ending - and give it away in the first paragraph of the review - but like I said, if you know the story of Swan Lake, you know the story of Black Swan, minus the insanity and the crazy stage mother. Watch for it yourself and decide (and let me know what you think!).
As I alluded to in my first review paragraph, this movie is a bit of a psychological thriller. It was really intense. Nina, sadly, falls deeper and deeper into a realm where she can't distinguish between reality and stress. Her mother (played by Hershey), a former ballerina herself, fuels the insanity fires. There is a very thin line between reality and imagination. The line becomes almost indistinguishable for Nina... and for the audience. Did that really happen? How much of that happened? It's very intense.
One thing I find fascinating about this movie is that Mila Kunis couldn't dance before this movie. She had to learn it (or as she says, fake it). Interesting.
This is a good movie. I've read some critics ripping on it. Yes, there are some corny lines but the drama, the tension, is fascinating. I liked it. Jeff did, too. We both liked it. That must say something!
Note: And now that Natalie Portman has won the Oscar for Best Actress, you really must see it