Movie Valley

2013 Reviewed Movies:

  • About Time
  • Free Birds (in 3D)
  • Escape Plan
  • Gravity (in 3D)
  • Don Jon
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (in 3D)
  • Riddick
  • Planes
  • Red 2
  • This is the End
  • Now You See Me
  • What Maisie Knew
  • The Hangover III
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Fast and the Furious 6
  • The Great Gatsby (in 3D)
  • Iron Man 3 (in 3D)
  • Disconnect
  • Pain and Gain
  • Place Beyond the Pines
  • Side Effects
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  • The Croods
  • Jack the Giant Slayer (in 3D)
  • Oz the Great and Powerful
  • A Good Day to Die Hard
  • Snitch
  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Life of Pi
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films
  • Warm Bodies
  • Parker
  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (in 3D)
  • Django Unchained
  • Amour
  • The Last Stand
  • The Impossible
  • Les Misérables
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Lincoln

    November Movie #2: About Time
    Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
    Run Time: 2 hours 3 minutes
    Directed By: Richard Curtis

    About Time is about a man named Tim (played by Gleeson) who can travel in time within his own lifetime. He quickly learns what happens when he messes with past events. It takes him more time to learn how to use time travel to his advantage (or, rather, to improve upon his life).

    This "chick flick" had an interesting storytelling twist - it's told from the guy's point of view. It's a chick flick about a young man's journey through life. There's a wonderful, yet subtle, father-son relationship that was quite refreshing to see.

    I walked out of this movie feeling calm and happy. This movie is easy going (save one VERY emotional scene... that I knew from the previews would happen and yet it still really hit me hard). I liked the happiness.I liked how everyone got along.I liked how nice it was. It's rare that a movie features happiness and a caring family bond and I found that really refreshing for this movie. I don't really have anything bad to day about it. It had its funny moments, its very sad moments, its happy moments. The overlying story element was interesting - men in that family when they hit 21 can travel within their own time. It was interesting to see how they handled that "super power." The men (father played by Nighy) and son (played by Gleeson) really had to have good hearts (and souls) to be able to use it as well as they did. They didn't use it to pick lotto numbers. They didn't do it to get revenge. They simply used it to be better people. Wow.

    One thing that hit me - this is the second movie for Rachel McAdams with time traveling, time traveling husbands, to be precise (the other being The Time Traveler's Wife). She seriously has to be suspicious of her movie husbands...

    November Movie #1: Free Birds (in 3D)
    Starring the voices of: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, George Takei
    Run Time: 1 hours 31 minutes
    Directed By: Jimmy Hayward

    Free Birds is about turkeys who go back in time to get turkey off the Thanksgiving menu.

    If you don't think too much about the plot of this movie, it's actually kind of cute. It's a buddy pic with cute little turkeys. The characters are a bit interesting. There's a sense of urgency and danger. It's a good action flick.

    But once you start thinking about the holes, it gets to you and you start grumbling. First, turkeys weren't really part of the first Thanksgiving (well, there's no evidence they ate turkey; it was most likely duck or goose). Second, the travel loop was very Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. While it worked for Bill and Ted, it certainly doesn't work for this movie. Third, and this is a small point but it bothered me the moment it was said, Jenny was not a popular 1621 name. To name the lead female turkey Jenny, really said "We can't be bothered to name her a historically accurate name. Hey, my daughter's name is Jenny so why don't we just name the girl turkey Jenny? It will make my kid happy." Fourth, the doorknob did nothing. Fifth, the Great Turkey was too much like the Great Pumpkin and again, seemed like they were piggybacking on another movie's workable plot point. Six, how does a turkey order pizza?

    And seven... Even as a vegetarian, I had an issue with the "save the turkey" aspect. I have no problem with children being a vegetarian, as long as they came to the conclusion on their own, and didn't get it straight from a movie. I wonder how many children will refuse to eat turkey this Thanksgiving because they don't want to eat Jake or Reggie or Jenny.

    This movie is predictable. It has some cute moments (queue anything S.T.E.V.E says) but it is more predictable and unrealistic than anything. I liked it but it bothered me too much to love it. There's also a pretty scary flashback scene that involves Jake trying to escape from a turkey farm. Sometimes cartoons aren't really for kids. And yet this simple plot is definitely geared towards kids.

    I liked it but didn't love it. Some of it was well done but some just seemed slapped together (or thought up by someone with little imagination). I will not be buying this movie when it comes out on DVD (and I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about it).

    October Movie #3: Escape Plan
    Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Amy Ryan, Vincent D'Onofrio, 50 Cent
    Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
    Directed By: Mikael Håfström

    Escape Plan is about a contractor named Ray Breslin (played by Stallone) who is hired by third parties to verify that a prison is secure. In order to do this, Ray must be an actual prisoner and break out of the prison like a normal prisoner would do. On his next assignment, Ray quickly discovers that he's been set up. He's an actual prisoner. Now he must figure out who set him up, why, and break out of the most secure prison he's ever been in.

    I know Stallone and Schwarzenegger have reputations for not being able to act but I have never listened to that. This movie should sway any acting talent critic. They do a wonderful job. I was particularly impressed with the five minute scene where Schwarzenegger speaks German frantically, psychotically. It was actually amazing. (Although I did have to wonder if he does speak German currently or if he lost it over time from lack of use and thus had to re-learn it for this scene.)

    I rather enjoyed this movie. I thought the acting was indeed pretty good. The overall premise of the movie was quite interesting. There were a few holes in the plot (mainly the reason behind Ray's incarceration) but I was willing to let those slip because I found the rest of it enjoyable. There were some twists that were fun, even one that I didn't see coming until the end. I found myself wondering how Ray would escape from an inescapable jail, wondering why he was there, and how all the other characters wrapped into the plot. I also absolutely loved Jim Caviezel's warden character. Evil without being over the top. I actually even rooted for the warden in a couple of scenes because he was so phenomenally diabolical and it was fun to watch that.

    All in all, a good movie. It moved well. It had an attention captivating plot. I liked the characters. (And I was glad that the Muslim character wasn't in jail for terrorism - and that they allowed him to have a heart) If you like action movies, this is a great one.

    October Movie #2: Gravity (in 3D)
    Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney Runt Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

    Gravity is about how two astronauts cope with getting back to earth after an accident leaves their space shuttle unusable.

    First of all, this is absolutely a beautiful movie. There were moments where I thought to myself, "Wow! To be able to see that (the Earth) in person must be amazing!" I think what magnifies that beauty is fear - the fear of space, of being a grain of sand floating in the universe, the realization of just how tiny man is in comparison. And frail.

    I heard several people complain about this movie, that they couldn't see the movie because there were too many technical inaccuracies. Unless you're an aeronautics expert, I highly doubt you'll notice the inaccuracies. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Of course, this is coming from someone who thinks a bus really can jump a 50 foot gap in the road... And if you do start to notice those things, just remind yourself: This is a movie.

    This movie is an hour and a half, a short one. Unfortunately, it didn't feel short. That's rarely a good thing. In this movie's case, I think it's because soooo many things happen to poor Stone (played by Bullock) that you just hope it's all going to end soon. But it doesn't. Just when you think there couldn't possibly be another bad thing happen, another one does. And then another one. It just doesn't end!

    This movie is very stressful. You really start to feel as though you're the one bouncing around a space shuttle that's being bombarded by space trash. There are several scenes that are emotionally draining. I did cry at one point during a tragic scene. So sad. And there was a lump in my throat during the scene where Stone thought all hope was lost.

    My one criticism of the movie: It seems as though they ripped a scene straight from WALL-E (and perhaps a more serious movie about space shouldn't take their cues from a cartoon). I'm talking about the fire extinguisher scene. Pretty sure that only propels robots through space. But, like I said, it is just a movie.

    That being said, this is a good movie. Not great. Don't need to see it again. But I loved the visuals. I loved the idea of the freedom and horror of space all combined into one feeling. It's a quiet movie, which gives you moments of tranquility. Enjoy those because you will be jostled about many, many times. Well acted. (Although Clooney was just being Clooney putzing through the air telling funny stories and being all charming, calm, and heroic all in one breath). Good story. Good visuals. An emotional roller coaster. You'll like it (as long as you don't work for NASA or think you do/should).

    October Movie #1: Don Jon
    Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlet Johansson, Tony Danza, Julianne Moore
    Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Directed By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

    Don Jon is about a ladies man from New Jersey (a play on Don Juan but with a New Jersey accent) who, although can - and does - land the ladies, prefers porn to the real thing.

    I went to this a few weeks after it opened. There were only a few people in the audience... and I was the only female. (Of course, I am often the only female in a lot of audiences because I do tend to enjoy action and sci-fi over the chick flick.) Perhaps the subject scared people off or perhaps it was a little too obscure (and not well marketed). Minutes into the movie, I realized people were probably scared off by the subject. I started to giggle as porn images flashed across the screen. Wow. Was not expecting that. Definitely not one for the kiddos.

    For the most part, this movie's images are fairly benign. It's not the frequency in which the porn appears but the duration. It seems the porn scenes lasted longer than what I was comfortable with. Don't get me wrong. It didn't really bother me... but it was a little much.

    As long as the story was flowing (and not some in-your-face images), it was a rather enjoyable movie. This is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's foray into full-length feature directing (he's directed some shorts before) and I thought he did rather well. He also wrote the screenplay. I am always amazed at how chameleon-like his acting his. He completely transforms himself into his characters. With each new movie, he is completely different. He had the walk, the talk, and the muscles of his self-absorbed character. He's come a long way from the kid on Third Rock from the Sun.M

    I enjoyed the scenes more when Scarlet Johansson's gum-smacking, princess-y, controlling character (with a sledge hammer into over acting) wasn't on the screen. Just sayin'.

    The movie really gets interesting when Julianne Moore's character finally wanders onto the screen. Perhaps the clunkiest character introduction in the movie, but the one with an air of mystery. Who is she? What affect will she have on Jon's life?

    There are two gems within this movie. First, is the scene where Jon (played by Gordon-Levitt) cuts loose and sings Good Vibrations by Marky Mark (from the 90s). I was giggling hysterically. He's a macho, image conscious man singing a ridiculous song (in falsetto). Absolutely wonderful. And the second gem: Jon's sister. Jon's sister says absolutely nothing throughout the movie. She tunes out her family's dysfunction by throwing herself into her phone (typical youngster, right?). But she has an absolutely brilliant point of impact at the end. I, internally, cheered. It was a brilliant moment. Well done.

    Anyway, if you can stomach the flashes of porn every once in awhile, then you should watch this movie. It's well acted. It's different. It has heart. It has brilliant acting (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). I liked it. I didn't like the usher making a point of asking me, "So... how did you like the movie?" as I was exiting. Um, yeah. It has a script. It ain't porn. It's just about a guy and his porn. Grow up.

    September Movie #2: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (in 3D)
    Starring the voices of: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt
    Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
    Directed By: Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn

    Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 picks up where the first movie left off. Flint's (voiced by Hader) invention has been contained, the island is overrun with giant food. A clean-up agency sweeps in and orders everyone off the island. The clean-up agency is headed by tech guru Chester V (voiced by Forte), who Flint idolizes. Chester V offers Flint a job as an inventor.

    I saw this movie with my old college roommate Dubby. She was worried that since she didn't see the original, she wouldn't be able to follow the story. I told her it's about giant food. 'Nuff said. She was relieved afterwards to find out that the movie did an excellent job catching her up to speed. You get a nice little summary of the first movie when the second one opens and then it quickly launches into the new story.

    I really liked this movie. I even liked it better than the first one, if you can believe that. I actually do not own the first one. I thought that one was just okay. I will own the second one and it will probably become part of my "at home sick" rotation (which currently has Wreck-It Ralph and Hotel Transylvania and Horton Hears a Who and Chicken Little). This second installment was cute, had a great plot, had some mystery, a lot of action and suspense, and a lot of heart.

    September Movie #1: Riddick
    Starring: Vin Diesel, Katie Sackoff, Matt Nable
    Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
    Directed By: David Twohy

    Although it doesn't seem like it, it has been several years since the last installment. There are no characters, save a cameo by Vakko, from either the first or second movies other than the main character Riddick (but the title of the movie clued you in to that, right?). This one has a completely different tone and story... until close to the end, where it then develops a wonder flavor of the original. It's almost an homage.

    The movie opens up with the familiar voiceover setting the scene. It then proceeds to be about 20-30 minutes of Riddick being mean to animals/animal-like creatures. I was not a fan. And I quickly figured out one plot point and again, I wasn't a fan.

    Overall, I liked this movie. The original was obviously the best. I even liked the second one but this installment was definitely better than that second one. It had heart. It had great action. Some of the plot points were a little weak but overall the story was good and interesting. Some of the script was a little lacking. There were a lot of bad lines. The true fan boys in the audience laughed so the movie makers got what they were seeking. I rolled my eyes.

    Some nit-picking: Katie Sackoff's character's name was Dahl. I kept thinking they were calling her "Doll." Perhaps that was intentional, to give an air of sexism even though there wasn't any. A group of guys, one woman. Of course there are going to be some sexist remarks. I did think she was mis-used as an actress. She had some kick-butt moments and a completely gratuitous nude scene that was akin to slasher flicks where some chick decides to take a shower even though there are a ton of bloody bodies popping up. Katie's boob shot was strictly for the sci-fi nerds but nothing else. That disappointed me. The sci-fi creatures were a little too unrealistic to me. The dog-like creatures just seemed to lack imagination. They were an exaggeration of real dogs with added color. And one of the twists had me scratching my head. I let it go but wasn't quite certain why they chose that route over a more realistic connection between two characters.

    In sum, I really liked this movie. It really had a lot of heart, most of which you see at the end. The flavors of the original came through (and yet wasn't mimicking or copying). It's fairly well acted. Yes, it's a bit predictable but it was an enjoyable ride even though I knew where it was going.

    August Movie #2: Planes
    Starring the voices of: Dane Cook, Teri Hatcher, Stacey Keech, Brad Garrett
    Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
    Directed By: Klay Hall

    Planes is kind of like Cars, in that the vehicles have names, faces, thoughts, and act just like a person would. I think the next installments will be Boats, which is about a little tug boat who wants to be a cruise liner and see the world until he realizes that he performs a valuable service, and Trains, about a caboose who's tired of always being last. Just kidding.

    Planes is about Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Cook) who is tired of flying in straight lines every day. Although he has flown thousands of miles, he's never left the state. His dream is to race, to compete with the jets. Chug (voiced by Garrett) is a refueling truck who eggs on Dusty's ambitions. Dottie (voiced by Hatcher) is a mechanic-type-car thingie who is the voice of reason, trying to gently deflate Dusty's wild dreams. Skipper (voiced by Keech) is an old military fighter that Dusty enlists to help him train to be a racing plane. They all come together in support when Dusty wins a spot in a race around the globe.

    Eh. That's my summary: Eh. I wasn't a fan of Cars (I didn't hate it but I didn't love it) so I guess it stands to reason that I wouldn't be a fan of Planes. This movie was cute. It made me laugh. There were several bits (like Dusty having his sprayer removed) that they carried through to the end very well. They did a good job anthropomorphizing the vehicles. They moved like humans. They did very human-like things. All of the different planes from different countries was well done (although I was wondering if some of the designs/depictions of the planes wasn't a tad racist). The movie just didn't have that something extra that pushes into greatness. It was sweet. It did no harm. It was slightly funny. It was an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. And yet I didn't love it.

    The story itself was sweet - dreaming of being something you're not and then putting it to reality. On one hand, the message that you can be anything you want to be (particularly if you have support from loved ones and good training) is a worthy message. However, in execution, it's a little starry-eyed, overly optimistic, and certainly naive. There is a difference between a crop duster and a jet. And that's okay. I wish the movie had made that point.

    I spent a lot of the movie trying to figure out who was voicing Dusty. It had a lot of Owen Wilson (who is the voice of Lightning McQueen from Cars) overtones. I wonder if they cast with that in mind. I can almost hear the discussion around voice casting, "Hey, Owen's voice worked well as a car. Wouldn't it work well as a plane? Go get someone who sounds like him. But not him." I was also not a fan of Teri Hatcher's Dottie. Her voice quickly became grating.

    So.... definitely one the kids will like. Not sure if even they will love it (unless they love planes). It held my attention. It's not one I'm going to buy (I don't own Cars either). It was cute. It had a good story. The message was a little naive but the undertones of the message were nice. A little predictable. Good movie. Not great. Good. Cute. Sweet.

    August Movie #1: Red 2
    Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, and Byung Hun Lee
    Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
    Directed By: Dean Parisot

    The sequel picks up a short time (perhaps a year) after the first one ended. Frank (played by Willis) and Sarah (played by Parker) are still together. While the retired CIA operative Frank is embracing his quiet, suburban lifestyle, Sarah is finding that it's too quiet. After details about a 1979 mission are leaked on-line, Marvin (played by Malkovich) suddenly dies and the CIA nabs Frank for questioning about the leak. It soon becomes clear that in order to bring closure to the leak, Frank, Sarah, and Marvin (who faked his own death) must come out of retirement. Frank is worried about putting Sarah in danger; Sarah is thrilled about the possibility of danger.

    I liked this one a bit more than I liked the first one. From the previews, the first one looked hilarious but the actually movie fell quite short of unrestrained laughter. I didn't go into the sequel thinking that it would be side splitting (it wasn't) but rather to watch some quirky, sweet, fun characters again. Al of the characters were complex, quirky, good hearted, and fun. Helen Mirren's tough yet incredibly elegant assassin character is just fun to watch. She has great comedic timing and is absolutely kick-ass fierce. I loved Mary Louise Parker's quirky, sweet, simple, and yet tough character. Byung Hun Lee was absolutely wonderful as ruthless - and yet not so ruthless assassin Han (for those who recognize him yet can't place him, he's Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe). I loved, loved, loved the scene with Victoria (played by Mirren) and Han in the blue sports car. Helen Mirren's a cool, tough broad!

    It did not seem as though this movie was almost two hours long. Fast paced. Lots of little twists. Good plot. Fun characters. A lot of good action. A lot of funny action. And no gore. There was an amazing amount of conscience in these agents.

    To sum up this movie: fun, good-hearted, and just plain enjoyable.

    une Movie #5: This is the End
    Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride
    Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
    Directed By: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

    This is the End is about, well, the end of the world. The Apocalypse. The Rapture. This movie tries to break the barrier between reality and fiction. Everyone in this movie is playing "themselves" and yet they're really not. And all the 30something comedians are in this movie, even if it's just a bit part. Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd (okay, so he's not 30something). Pretty much anyone who's ever worked with Seth Rogen... or anyone who's worked with someone who's worked with Seth Rogen. And then there's Emma Watson and Rhianna.

    So.... with all these funny people in one movie I would have thought I would have laughed the entire time. I didn't. It was actually quite a long time into the movie before I even had a small, soft, "Ha!" Most of the humor was crude, which I'm fine with but isn't necessarily knee slapping funny. I did have to look away from several scenes (Satan with Jonah Hill made me squeamish).

    This movie plays against the fourth wall, blending reality with Hollywood movies. It blurred the line... and I'm not sure I liked that. I think I spent far too much time wondering if these people really interact with each other as depicted in the movie or if it was just a story... using the names of real people. (Don't get me wrong, I totally get that the apocalypse was made up; I'm simply wondering if Jay and Seth hang out and if Jonah really acts that way around Jay, etc). It made me a little uneasy. Do these things (aside from the apocalypse) actually happen with this gang?

    I must point out that it's been a few weeks since I've seen the movie so my thoughts aren't as clear as they should be. I will say these things about the movie: Not as funny as I thought it would be, a little longer than it needed to be, concept was amazing but the execution was faulty; loved Emma Watson, hated Rhianna. Died laughing at the end in Heaven with the Backstreet Boys. Good movie for a rainy, stormy day when you're bored and want a mindless diversion. Not a good movie for any other moments of your life. Eh.

    June Movie #4: Now You See Me
    Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, and Michael Cane
    Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
    Directed By: Louis Leterrier

    Now You See Me is about four magicians who use their magic to commit crimes. The FBI and Interpol work together with an ex-magician to figure out how the magicians are committing these crimes, as well as to try to stop them.

    One thing about magic in movies is that you know it's fake, you know there's a trick. They have the luxury of stopping the camera to make someone disappear or editing to remove images they don't want you to see. I always take these things with a grain of salt. But I'm also the same girl who believes that a bus can jump 50 feet. I can quite easily suspend belief and let myself enjoy a movie without questioning too much (well, most of the time). So, while there was a voice in the back of my head grumbling about there's always a trick to magic in movies, the movie lover in me wondered with wide eye amazement, "Gosh, how did they pull off that trick?" And that's exactly the attitude you need to have in order to enjoy the movie. Forget movie magic. Marvel at the tricks as if they were real.

    That being said, there was far less magic than I expected and far more FBI chase scenes (and beating their heads against the wall while looking dumb) than I ever could have imagined. THAT disappointed me. The Four Horsemen (Harrelson, Eisenberg, Fisher, and Franco) seemed to have such a rapport that it drew me in. The razzle dazzle seemed fun. They seemed like they were having fun. And their magical Robin Hood style of taking from the rick and giving to the poor was refreshing.

    In addition to trying to figure out how the tricks were pulled off, I was also spotting the twists. There were several and I got most of them, save the biggest one. I am always frustrated and disappointed - and yet very happy - when I realize that I figured out the plot twists before they were revealed (and my elation is multiplied by the number of minutes before the reveal that I uncovered the twist). Since I figured out several of the twists from pretty much the beginning of the movie, I am quite disappointed with the movie (and yet very proud of myself). It is because of this that I cannot bring myself to like this movie. It disappointed me on so many levels. First is the ease of uncovering the twists, second is the main storyline - the FBI. I want magic, darnit! I've seen enough FBI/CIA whodunit chase movies. I was drawn to the magic and I didn't get any, whether it be actual or whimsy.

    For the most part, this is a decent movie. Well acted. A lot of suspense. What comes next? How will they solve it? When? But the numerous plot letdowns prevent me from even liking this movie. It tried but failed.

    June Movie #3: What Maisie KnewJ
    Starring: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgard, Onata Aprile
    Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes
    Directed By: Scott McGehee, David Siegel

    What Maisie Knew is a modern adaptation of the Henry James novel. It's about a divorcing couple so wrapped up in their own lives and problems that they neglect their daughter Maisie.

    When I first read the description of the movie, I thought, "What Henry James novel?" and "How much of an adaptation?" I Googled it. Turns out, the book and movie are the same title and the movie is pretty much the same as the novel. I was shocked. Henry James wrote in the late 19th century. I couldn't believe he'd write about divorce, let alone about a problem that is so prevalent today. The ending is slightly different in the movie (it cuts off before Maisie gets older). I liked the movie's ending better. It was sweeter, more uplifting.

    In this modern adaptation, Maisie's mother is an aging rock star (played by Moore) and her father is an English businessman (played by Coogan), constantly on the phone and travelling internationally. Her father marries Maisie's nanny, who has always had a crush on him and thinks it's true love. In a desperate attempt to not be outdone by her ex-husband, Maisie's mother marries a much younger bartender named Lincoln (played by Skarsgard), who she's only known for a few weeks. Wrapped up in their own lives, each parent forgets when it's their turn to take Maisie (played by Aprile). And when they remember, they each have their new spouse take care of Maisie. Both parents claim that they can't live without Maisie but as soon as Maisie enters, they completely ignore her... until the new spouse begins bonding with Maisie and then jealousy ensues. Eventually, the two new spouses bond over their love of Maisie and their unsettling feeling that they're being used.

    This movie is sad and frustrating. It's incredibly well acted and well done. A bit slow. At times I was not impressed with Aprile's acting. Sometimes, it seemed as though they built the scene around what she'd say and do but other times she seemed to make it seem so effortless and sharp (like the scene when Lincoln made her dinner and she replied that she couldn't eat it because it was too pretty).

    I liked this movie but I didn't love it. At times, it was quite slow and a little boring. I had to focus my attention on the cute little Maisie or the wonderfully subtly Skarsgard acting (which can be so light and obscure that you might miss his beautiful performance of a guy thrown into a battle that's not his own and understanding what needs to be done).

    June Movie #2: The Hangover III
    Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifanakis, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha, John Goodman
    Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
    Directed By: Todd Phillips

    The Hangover III is not like the previous two installments. The Wolf Pack's memory of the previous night's shenanigans is not impaired. But like the first two installments, poor Doug (played by Bartha) does not have much screen time. This movie begins with the death of Alan (played by Galifanakis)'s father (played by Jeffrey Tambor). The Pack later finds out that Alan is not dealing well with the death of his father and has gone off his meds. The Pack teams up to take Alan to a rehab center. Road trip! On their way, they run into gangster Marshall (played by Goodman) who kidnaps Doug as a way of encouraging the Pack to help find the man Marshall's really after - Leslie Chow (played by Jeong). It seems Chow stole from Marshall and has recently escaped from prison. Alan is friends with Chow, a fact that Marshall is exploiting in order to get back the gold that was stolen from him.

    First, let me interject - poor Doug.

    My initial assessment of this movie - A lot of dead animals. I wasn't a fan of the number or how they died. Dead animals ain't funny.

    For the most part, I liked the plot of this movie. I truly liked how they diverted from the first two movies' paths. I found that originality (for at least this franchise) to be refreshing. The new plot was very well done. It had a lot of action. A lot of suspense. A lot of subterfuge. It was funny. It was intriguing. Most of the truly funny moments were shown in the previews. There were still some surprises and some good lines. I did laugh many times. Not as much as the first one but I suppose that's to be expected with sequels.

    Although I'm sure many people won't appreciate the final scene, I for one, did. I had heard repeatedly that this installment was the final. And yet the ending certainly leaves it open for another. Or perhaps it was paying homage to the original. The ending was great. I'll just say that.

    I think if you look at this movie as a separate movie (not as a sequel), you may like it for itself. It has a slightly different vibe. It's still a little zany. It's still funny (just not super funny). And it had heart. I liked it. I didn't love it but it was decent. I appreciated the effort. It was a nice diversion. I just wish there weren't as many dead animals.

    June Movie #1: Star Trek Into Darkness
    Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch
    Run Time: 2 hours 12 minutes
    Directed By: JJ Abrams

    I will preface my review by saying I'm not a Trekkie. I think I can count on one hand the number of Star Trek episodes I've seen in their entirety. I know of the characters, a bit of the premise. I like sci-fi but I'm just not as devoted as some people.

    This is the first movie of the year (and it's June!) that I saw not only with another person but with Jeff (translation: This is Jeff's first movie of 2013). Jeff did not like this movie as much as I did. He thought it went against the nature of Star Trek too much (all the fighting and warring) since the Enterprise's mission was peace. My two counterpoints: 1). The TV series takes place years into the future of the movies. Their premise may have changed. and 2). There was an awful lot of battles with aliens in the TV series. So, for those of you who side with Jeff, this may just not be the movie for you. There's a lot of fighting going on.

    I rather marvel at the fact that the new, young characters completely embody their famous characters. They blend with the original actors and yet have their own new take, new style, new approach to the characters to make them their own.

    Unfortunately, it's been well over a month since I watched this movie so my memory of precise feelings and plot points is diminished. I wasn't bothered by the Khan casting as some people were. I didn't understand some of the things surrounding his storyline, though. Why did it have to be his blood to revive Kirk when they had 27 others to choose from. Why did they use Khan to build weapons when they were clearly capable of making pretty cool technology themselves, particularly if they knew his background/origin? Why didn't they put Khan on ice faster? Where was the Khan shower scene that was supposed to rival Carol's clothes changing scene (I thought I saw a snippet of it on-line... but perhaps that was an internet invention).

    This movie raised a lot of questions and frustrations from the moment it began. Perhaps these questions and frustrations stem from my lack of Star Trek knowledge but you shouldn't have to be a Trekkie in order to appreciate - and understand - the movie (so if that's the case, this diminishes my fondness for this movie). One of my major frustrations was the numerous false endings - places in the movie that seem to be the ending point and yet another scene comes after it. It just wouldn't end! And perhaps another great frustration with this movie was one pivotal emotional scene that was not at all emotional if you even have a remote idea of what the future holds for this crew. It bothered me that it was supposed to be so damaging, so painful, and I couldn't even muster an "Eh." It wasn't sad. And yet the filmmakers were treating it as the saddest thing in the world.

    I'm not a fan of aliens for the sake of aliens (I absolutely hated the Earth scenes with aliens walking around - the future is 200 years from now. Pretty sure if we haven't made contact with an alien now, they won't be living amongst us so freely 200 years from now). And you know things are in the future when you see something floating that shouldn't be floating. Again, not impressed.

    This movie has heart. I'll give it that much. I'll put aside my questions and frustrations and annoyances about unrealistic depictions of the future and actually say that I liked this movie. It was funny. It moved... most of the time (there were a lot of slow scenes, particularly when you're waiting for the Enterprise crew to get back into space). But Jeff, who is a little more of a Trekkie than I, did not like it. Non-Trekkie kinda liked it; sorta-Trekkie did not.

    May Movie #4: Fast and the Furious 6
    Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster
    Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
    Directed By: Justin Lin

    This movie picks up just months after the last one left off. The crew is living the life, however they decide to live it, enjoying the millions they each made from the job in Brazil. Hobs (played by Johnson) enlists the help of Dom (played by Diesel) and crew in order to capture criminal mastermind Shaw (played by Evans), who just so happens to also have a pension for fast car heists. The lure? One of the members of Shaw's team is Letty (played by Rodriguez), who is reportedly back from the dead. The reward for Dom and crew? Full pardons (and they get to find out if Letty is actually alive). Plus they get to drive fast cars.

    How is it possible that these Fast and the Furious movies just keep getting better and better? Seriously! Okay, so these movies won't win any Academy Awards and they certainly won't save the world but they're such a fun 2 hour diversion. Action. Drama. Humor. Beautiful locations. Beautiful people. I loved pretty much every minute of it.

    With that said, you do have to be a mindless, action movie fan to enjoy this movie. You do have to suspend logic for several of the action sequences. People cannot jump from a car that they themselves are driving at 80mph, leap across the highway, and catch (or rather, collide mid-air with) someone who is being jettisoned from a tank going 80mph (can a tank even go that fast?), and land safely without so much as a bruise. I don't care if they landed on top of another car, thus "breaking their fall." And I'm also pretty sure that a car, no matter how strong the cable is, can't keep a C-17 transport aircraft on the ground. I mean, if that aircraft can carry five cars, I'm pretty sure it can laugh off one car attached to it.

    Aside from suspending belief, this movie is wonderful because it has heart (and fun action sequences that involve high speeds, people leaping into the air, and cool cars). They poke fun at themselves; they don't take things too seriously. The plot is actually interesting. The acting is fairly decent. The action is absolutely amazing. You feel the intensity of the chase scenes. In short, it's just a good, fun ride.

    I'm starting to get a little leery of movies that shoot action sequences in the dark. It certainly heightens the intensity of the action... because you can't see anything. I'd like to say that the end chase/fight scene is absolutely amazing... but I didn't see that much of it because it was dark.

    BTW, I spotted the plot twist minutes into the movie. This is not to say I wasn't shocked (and felt a little betrayed) by the twist when it was revealed. It's a good twist. Makes the fight scene that comes after the twist a little more interesting (good vs. evil).

    I cannot stress this enough - stay in your seats after the movie cuts to credits. There's an epilogue. And it's a good one. My jaw dropped. I was not expecting what happens in that final, final scene. I'm so excited for Fast and the Furious 7!

    Will this movie change the world? No, but it's not intended to. It's fun. It's fast. It's enjoyable. It has heart. I loved it.

    May Movie #3: The Great Gatsby (in 3D)
    Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan
    Run Time: 2 hours 22 minutes
    Directed By: Baz Luhrmann

    The Great Gatsby is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel by the same name. Set in the 20s, this is a tale of life in the fast lane and the destruction that occurs as a result. Sex, alcohol (at the time of Prohibition), and gangsters explode into this fast lane privileged lifestyle. Fledgling writer Nick Carraway (played by Maguire) moves next door to millionaire Jay Gatsby (played by DiCaprio). He's drawn in by the mystique that surrounds Gatsby and his lifestyle. He finds himself pulled into Gatsby's world because of Nick's cousin Daisy (played by Mulligan), who just happens to live across the lake.

    As a teenager, I hated this book. Not because I didn't like the story but because I hated dissecting it. Everything was symbolic. Everything. It was drilled into me. The green light at the end of the dock symbolizes greed and envy in the beginning of the book; the green light at the end of the dock symbolizing a fresh beginning at the end of the book. The optometrist's billboard symbolized the eyes of God, watching down, seeing everything that happens. Cars. Cars symbolize a form of escape. Every time a character hops into a car, the character is hoping to escape from life. Lavish parties. Gatsby's (and the Buchanans') lavish parties symbolize corruption and the decline of morals.

    The previews for this movie drew me in. They were bright, colorful, with a lot of happy people dancing about. The 20s is an era of romance (to probably only those who didn't have to live through it). Speakeasies. Flapper dresses. Jazz music. The Charleston. And don't get me started on the beautiful cars! Of course, it's only romantic if you can afford it. But the previews made it seem like a party and who doesn't want to go to a party? I couldn't wait to see the movie.

    And then I saw the movie. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. It actually quite disappointed me. Sure, it was pretty. But it was flat. I think too much effort went into the visual that the movie makers forgot about what makes a movie - the characters. These are very well known characters. And the actors who played them are excellent actors. And yet... the characters and acting lacked charm. They lacked dimension... which is really odd because it was in 3D. Darn, stupid 3D. Everything has to be in 3D these days. And really, there was no point for Gatsby to be in 3D. It did make the flapper dancer scenes quite fun and brought a certain charm to the cottage but most the time, it was absolutely needless.

    But back to the characters. It pains me to say it but Leo was not Gatsby. I love Leo. He's a wonderful actor. But his Gatsby was not charming. Really. Leo was not charming as Gatsby. There was no allure. He lacked the suaveness of Gatsby. And I didn't feel that underlying, overwhelming sadness to Gatsby. Daisy was not effervescent. She was not captivating. She was not irresistible. She was not infectious. She was sweet but that's all there was to Mulligan's Daisy. Tom Buchanan wasn't a villian. Yes, he did bad things but he didn't ooze that bitter, out-of-control jackass that he should have been.

    Interestingly enough, I know there's been a lot of talk about how Jay-Z's music would work in a movie set in the 20s. I gotta say, it worked surprisingly well.

    There was something off about the whole movie. It just didn't gel. Visually it was absolutely stunning. Bright, vibrant colors. However, colors don't sell a movie (well, not since they converted from black and white). There were parts that absolutely dragged and there were parts that felt rushed, like I was missing the heart of the moment.

    Beautiful houses, vivid colors, good music, glamorous clothes. Those are the highlights of the movie. Flat characters and an awkward pacing make the movie less than enjoyable. See it if you loved the book. Don't see if it you still have 9th grade English class nightmares.

    May Movie #2: Iron Man 3 (in 3D)
    Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau
    Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
    Directed By: Shane Black

    Iron Man 3 begins another Iron Man saga where The Avengers left off. Tony Stark (played by Downey Jr) is battling inner demons over the desire to protect Pepper (played by Paltrow) while also battling a real life demon named the Mandarin (played by Kingsley), who is blowing up parts of the world, including Tony's mansion.

    Since I've already invested the time in Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, I sucked it up and saw Iron Man 3. Wasn't looking forward to it. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Didn't think I would but I did.

    There were a lot of questions and some frustrations with this movie. First and foremost is the frustration that all movies, regardless of need and use, are now in 3D. I saw it in 3D and I certainly didn't need for it to be in 3D. Nothing was enhanced by the 3D, in fact, 3D hindered it. There were several scenes that were smokey or dark that were almost impossible to see the action due to the extra dimension. Nothing came at ya, save some snowflakes and a bit of rubble.

    I had so many questions about the over heating bad guys. I'm not sure I understand why some of the inner heat guys even signed up for the program. I get that some were missing limbs and the heat regenerated those limbs but what was in it for the rest? Also not quite certain why the one guy blew up - what was in the case that made him blow up? Why were the AIM people in Tennessee? Was it a coincidence or planned that they were there the same time Tony was?

    I wander between liking and being annoyed by Gwyneth Paltrow and her character Pepper. I loved Robert Downey Jr and the charm he gives Tony Stark, even though at times I felt as though he were phoning it in. I absolutely loved the concept of a flawed superhero. True, Tony Stark has always had an ego (which can be a flaw) and is incredibly self-centered and narcissistic, but to add a deeper flaw was riveting. A superhero with anxiety issues/ mental issues that can cripple his mission. Finally, I loved the little kid and Tony's interaction with him. He was sweet without being syrupy and funny and smart. He had heart.

    Good movie. Lot of action. Interesting backstory. I think Tony Stark should build a time machine and go back in time to right all the wrongs he made. I think this is the second time where the villain was someone he had slighted/ shunned/wronged in the past...

    May Movie #1: Disconnect
    Starring: Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgard, Max Thieriot, Hope Davis, Paula Patton
    Run Time: Henry Alex Rubin
    Directed By: 1 hour 55 minutes

    This movie is, essentially, a horror movie. Well, it's not actually a horror movie but its depiction of the dangers of the cyber age is quite frightening. This movie consists of four vignettes with a slight overlap for each. In one, a mourning couple become victims of identity theft. In another, a family gets torn apart when their teenage son becomes a victim of cyber-bullying. In a third, on the other end of the spectrum is the teenage boy inflicting the cyber-bullying. And finally, a journalist seeking her big, breaking story befriends a teenage boy who performs on an adult-only site.

    The summary for this movie reads, "A drama centered on a group of people searching for human connections in today's wired world." I don't think that's what this movie is about at all. A high level description is "beware technology." Essentially, what makes your life easier and more enjoyable can also make your life harder and painful.

    After the movie, I left the theater with an uneasy feeling. This movie definitely made me think. The cyber bullying doesn't apply to me (neither does the porn ring) but I could see how technology rules my current life as well as how it could be a potential pitfall. I'd like to think I'd never be so stupid as to fall for some of the ploys these people did to become an identity theft victim, but you never know. Criminals are getting more tech savvy as I fall increasingly behind the times.

    For me, the movie fell flat for two reasons. One, there is no redemption among any of the characters. No one reaches that "a-ha" moment. No one turns their situation around. The movie leaves off with the characters still battling turmoil. Two, three vignettes somehow intersect, even with the smallest of overlaps. The fourth does not. None of the characters or the storyline has anything to do with any of the other storylines. It just dangled out there, like it was an after thought or tacked on. That bothered me.

    This movie is decent. It's well told and well acted. I was disappointed with how each story turned out (or the lack of resolution). It did definitely make me think more about my interactions with the internet and how much technology has consumed my life (and now with apps for cats, my cats' lives!). It's a little boring. It's quiet. It's sad. It's scary. Not one I'd watch again but it was an enjoyable 2 hour diversion.

    April Movie #5: Pain and Gain
    Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Tony Shaloub
    Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
    Directed By: Michael Bay

    Based on a true story, three body builders decide to kidnap a wealthy man and torture him in order to get him to sign over all his assets to them.

    This is supposed to be a comedy (or at least a dark comedy). I didn't get that from the previews. Not sure I would have gone to see it as a comedy. But fear not. Even while watching it, you won't know it's supposed to be a funny movie. Nothing is funny. I certainly didn't laugh. Perhaps it's because I read a quote from the guy this happened to (the founder of Schlotsky's Deli, if you remember those) right before I saw this movie. He was upset that they made this into a comedy because these three guys tortured him - and tried to kill him. What he went through wasn't funny. I don't think he had to worry. This movie wasn't funny. I didn't laugh once.

    This is a Michael Bay movie, you know, as in the Transformers Michael Bay. As in The Rock Michael Bay. As in Armeggedon Michael Bay. Over the top, action packed, lots of explosions, heavy soundtrack Michael Bay. I think I have to tell you this because if you're looking for a typical Michael Bay movie, this ain't it.

    Dwayne Johnson is the best thing about this movie because he seems to be playing a simple, kind guy who was wrestling (ha!) with a lot of inner demons.

    This movie is a bit frustrating. Depending on how much truly is reality and not fictionalized, I don't understand how the three body builders/extortionists thought they'd get away with their crimes, particularly after they realized Victor Kerhsaw (played by Shaloub) was still alive. Daniel Lugo (played by Wahlberg) lived in Kershaw's house and ran his business. And only one of the body builders tried to live a relatively low profile. Why they stayed in Florida and lived under the same names is probably their dumbest move (and considering they did a lot of stupid things, that's saying something).

    I wasn't impressed with this movie at all. Perhaps a lot of it has to do with how stupid the plot - straight from reality - really was. It's not a comedy and it's not a typical Michael Bay movie (which, in some arguments isn't a bad thing but it certainly is if that's what you go in expecting).

    April Movie #4: Place Beyond the Pines
    Starring: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper
    Run Time: Derek Cianfrance
    Directed By: 2 hours 10 minutes

    Place Beyond the Pines is about how the choices and actions we make in life affect us for the rest of our life. Luke (played by Gosling) is looking to support his child, to prove to Romina (played by Mendes) that he's a good father and provider. When a bank robbing opportunity falls into his grasp, Luke latches on... and takes one too many jobs. Enter Avery (played by Cooper), a rookie cop who puts a swift end to Luke's bank robbing days. Their lives intersect again when Avery's son AJ becomes friends with Luke's son Jason as teenagers.

    This movie seemed to have conflicting messages. Nature vs. nurture. In one scenario, nature ruled. It didn't seem to matter that Jason grew up in a loving home. He was following in his father's footsteps. In the other scenario, nuture ruled. AJ didn't get the attention and affection he wanted from his father so he was taking a diagonal path from his father's life. And it didn't seem to matter that AJ came from good bloodlines.

    One interjection: Can I just say that as soon as Ray Liotta came on screen, I knew what his character would be like? Talk about type casting!

    This was a painful movie to watch. I was uncomfortable for most of it. Don't get me wrong - it was good. There was just something about it that didn't sit right with me. It was very well acted. The story was interesting. I kept wondering where it was all going, how it would end. It left me sad.

    April Movie #3: Side Effects
    Starring: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta Jones
    Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
    Directed By: Steven Soderburgh

    Side Effects is about the awful side effects one drug has on a woman. When the pressure starts to mount on Emily (played by Mara), she crashes her car, ends up in the hospital, and the condition of her release is that she start going to a psychiatrist and start taking drugs to help her with her depression. One night she does a very bad thing, as a result of taking the drug, and winds up in jail. Her defense is the well documented side effects - and previous cases - of the drug.

    Wow. Rooney Mara certainly is a chameleon. Much different from her dragon character... And yet not. I'm not normally a Jude Law fan but I actually liked him here. There weren't that many likable characters in this movie so it's doubly amazing that I liked Jude's character and performance. He was in it much more than I expected, particularly from the previews. Channing Tatum is in it far less than I expected (which makes two movies in a row!). Catherine Zeta Jones played a very damaged character, much different from her norm. I think she pulled it off well. In fact, there was great acting all around.

    This is quite a smart movie. There are definitely clues you can pick up on. I loved that there was a twist. I should have expected it but I didn't. I'm not sure, despite how evil the catalyst motive was, that I liked the "gotchas" at the end. I also didn't buy the motive. I didn't think she seemed to be that superficial. Interesting how things tied back to something else. Not sure someone pays that much attention to the little things.

    All in all, it's a good movie. Not a great movie. Probably not an entirely memorable movie. Well done. Jude Law and Rooney Mara really make this movie.

    April Movie #2: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
    Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce, Byung-hun Lee, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona
    Run Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
    Directed By: Jon M. Chu

    GI Joe is based on the action figure about an elite division of skilled warriors. When the bad guys wipe out what they presume is all of the GI Joes, the remaining GI Joes must figure out who tried to kill them and why.

    GI Joe certainly mixes things up. For starters - the genre. It's not one single genre. It's a great blend of samurai/comic book/ and action movie. It also plays against the norm. Normally, the ones with the superpowers/abilities are the good guys. In this movie, they weren't superheroes. They were super villains and regular heroes were battling them.

    At first, I didn't like that the genre kept changing. Pick a style and stick with it. But by the time the samurais were rock scaling/propelling, I suddenly got into it.

    The previews would have you believe that it's a comedy action flick - or at least a lot of humor involved - but it's not. I didn't laugh. I think they tried to play to Bruce Willis' strengths but then they gave up (or it was a half-hearted attempt).

    For the most part, this movie is enjoyable. It's fast paced with a lot of action going on. I had issues with two things: Code names and suspension of belief. I found the code names for both the heroes and the villains to just be plain stupid. Were they named by 7 year olds? Roadblock? Storm Shadow? Lady Jaye? Do these names stem from the comic book itself? I might cut it a little slack if these names do originate from a comic book. There were also many moments where all semblance of intelligence had to be disbanded. There were too many stretches, too many far fetched concepts (like a transmission only GI Joes could receive?). But I'm willing to forgive some of the unbelievable moments because it was a fun, mindless ride.

    I expected there to be two twists, one involving a resurrection that never happened and another to be a family tree connection that never connected.

    I didn't see it in 3D. There were only a couple of moments that looked designed to be enhanced by 3D (and possibly the ninja/samurai rock propelling scene).

    I had a really hard time following the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow prison scene. Who was the bad guy again? Who were we expecting to see in prison? These were masked characters, with one masked character pretending to be another masked character. For that matter, there were an awful lot of masked characters. It was hard to keep who was who straight.

    Good movie. Very enjoyable. Liked the sweet comradery between Duke (played by Tatum) and Roadblock (played by Johnson). I will be interested in seeing the sequel, should one actually get made.

    April Movie #1: The Croods
    Starring the voices of: Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Chloris Leechman
    Directed By: Chris Sanders, Kirk De Micco
    Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

    The Croods is about a stone age family. Grug is the father of a caveman family (voiced by Cage) and is very protective of his family - and with good reason. Other cavemen haven't lived as long because of the dangerous elements - living conditions and predators. His teenage daughter Eep (voiced by Stone) wants to live outside of a cave. She had adventure in her soul. She sneaks out of the cave one night and meets up with a teenage boy named Guy (voiced by Reynolds) and his pet named Belt. It is then that the family discovers that their cave isn't the safest place to be and the group heads across the land with Guy as their guide in search of a safer home. Guy and Eep both connect with their love of adventure and new things; Grug the traditionalist butts heads with Guy.

    I wanted to like this movie. It seemed different. It seemed cute. Unfortunately, I think it tried a little too hard to be too different and too cute. And in an effort to be different, it completely re-invented history. And that bothered me. Perhaps there really were tusked cats that stood two stories high... but I highly doubt they were rainbow colored. If there was one out of place character, I could forgive it. But when everything but the family (and there were dynamics of the family that weren't accurate, either) was completely made up, that unsettles me. I only laughed once. I'm not sure I really smiled much, either. But the story and action did hold me, And the pre-ending did make me sad. A little tear spilled into my eye when Grug and his cave companion snuggled up during the dark and scary night.

    I'm not quite sure what the message was. Um, Dads are wrong and overprotective? Dads are old fashioned and have a tough time changing with the times... but in the end, their strength and love for the family win out? Only people with ideas survive?

    I did not see this movie in 3D. Not sure you have to. Nothing really struck me as would have been enhanced by comin' at ya.

    This movie reminded me of Avatar with its blues and purples and its funky creatures in its funky world. Flowers that ate you if you weren't a fellow flower? Hmmmm... It also reminded me of Pitch Black with its carnivorous birds that came out at night. But unlike Pitch Black, there seemed to be too many surviving creatures to support that action. Finally, it reminded me of Ice Age (all installments), with the family moving to higher ground, moving from their home as the world changes, and the sidekick weasels. This movie's sidekick Belt was not as cute or as funny as the previews had you believe.

    The acting was pretty good... although I think Grug should have spoken in more incomplete broken sentences. He seemed a little lower on the evolutionary scale. He was a little too eloquent.

    All in all a decent movie. Sweet. Interesting. Action-packed. But just not quite there. Tried too hard to be different, so much so that it was off-putting. Kids might like it. It's not too scary (save the giant cat stalking and trying to eat the family).

    March Movie #2: Jack the Giant Slayer (in 3D)
    Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane
    Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
    Directed By: Bryan Singer

    Jack the Giant Slayer is basically Jack and the Beanstalk. A boy gets some magic beans and they accidentally meet with dirt and water and thus the giant beanstalk begins growing to the heavens where giants live. This version alludes to the traditional Jack and the beanstalk story, as both a fairy tale told to children and as an actual historical event. It happened hundreds of years ago. As the beanstalk grows in this version, it tangles up a princess and a young man named Jack, pushing them into the giants' world. The princess gets separated from Jack and by the time Jack and the princess's guards find her, she's been captured by the giants. The crew now has to save the princess and keep their world safe from the giants.

    A non-sequitur: I keep thinking the title of this movie is Jack AND the Giant Slayer because the fairy tale is Jack and the Beanstalk. That kinda changes the movie a bit. Jack giant slayer - liked it. Thought that it was sweet. Are all giants stinky and hairy? That was my take-away. Action packed. Likable hero. Likable princess, which is always a plus. And Stanley Tucci with hair. Evil Stanley Tucci with hair. Is he always evil when he has hair?

    It's been a few weeks since I watched this movie and I didn't jot down my thoughts afterwards. I can't quite remember much about the movie other than I liked it. I know I wanted Stanley Tucci's character to be more evil (I love Stanley Tucci) but perhaps that he had hair (he's bald) was evil enough. I really liked the stories that both sets of parents read to their children (Jack and the princess). I liked how that formed them in different yet similar ways. And I liked that Jack and the princess had that connection, that belief in fairy tales.

    All in all, a good movie. Not one I'd own but I did like it. But then, I just like to say Tucci.

    March Movie #1: Oz the Great and Powerful
    Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Joey King
    Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
    Directed By: Sam Raimi

    Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It explains how how the wizard Oz arrived in the land of Oz, as well as why the wicked witches were so wicked. For those of you who have read or seen Wicked, it does not support that version at all (which was a bit disappointing). The green witch wasn't born green and she truly was wicked. She may not have started off that way, but she did turn that way.

    I have a rule for myself when watching a movie - no eating popcorn until the actual movie starts. It's how I appease the karmatic cinema gods. I jinxed this movie by eating my popcorn before the movie started. I figured, it's Oz, it's got to be good. Ha! Turns out, I made the movie bad.

    It carried on the stylistic tradition and had a bit of the whimsical fairy tale flare as the first, but that is where it stopped. The original was smart. This one tried too hard to keep the essence of the original.The story was interesting. The message was very powerful- trust in yourself and you can do great things. Or, if you're a good enough charlatan, you can fool the gullible or the sheltered. The opening scene in Oz (not the Kansas scene) seemed to be like a bad high school play. The dialog. The timing. The acting. It just fell short of even being good. I was bored. I wasn't impressed. It was predictable.

    Over the top. Awkward. Trying too hard. Acting that just wasn't reaching its depth. These are the themes that kept resonating throughout Oz. I didn't like how they were forcing, reinforcing how good Theodora (played by Mila Kunis) was with the pleasant , wispy voice (Mila Kunis was working really hard at that pleasant voice). Her outfits, while very reminiscent of the glam of the 40s, just also seemed strange. The big hat made quite an entrance but seemed awkward the more the hat was on screen. Michelle Williams was channeling her Maryiln Monroe character. She was a little too breathy at times. It was reminiscent of the original Glenda. Also thought that the characters were a bit too "were trying to be different" looking. I liked Oz's entrance into Oz with everything being musical. But the water fairies thing were too over the top, too much of "we're trying to make something different". The monkey - isn't that what the original flying monkey looked like? And the lion. Is that how he becomes the Cowardly lion? And then later Oz fixes him? And he doesn't try to eat people again?

    This movie does explain many of the original Oz tale things - the green witch. The wizard... who wasn't really a wizard. Why the witches were evil. Interesting references to things to come as well as an homage to the original with the start in black and white and the characters from Kansas taking form in Oz. Of course, some of the homages to the original just seemed too much - like the Little People. They definitely seemed like they were stuck in the 40s.

    It's not bad, it's not good. And it's definitely not great. I was hoping for the magic. Oz doesn't have any and neither does this movie.

    What this movie is really telling me is to stay out of Kansas during tornado season (since both movies took place originally in Kansas and a tornado sweeps the character into Oz).

    February Movie #8: A Good Day to Die Hard (Die Hard 5)
    Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney
    Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
    Directed By: John Moore

    Die Hard 4 was about John McLean's adult daughter Lucy. Die Hard 5 is about his son Jack. When John finds out that his son is in jail in Moscow for shooting someone, he heads to Russia to help his son.

    Die Hard. I've loved most of the Die Hard movies (except 2). I did not love this one. Maybe it's because this one was in Russia, which seemed like a stretch to take a NY cop to a whole 'nother country. Part of liking a movie is being able to believe it. I just didn't believe this one. I didn't buy that a cop from NY, who, after running into his escaping son after a bomb exploded in the courthouse, would harass him as much he did. There was obviously something going on and a smart cop like McLean should have figured that part out. And then I don't think a cop would injure innocent bystanders in pursuit of his son. That seemed reckless and selfish. And then there's the whole Chernobyl scene. While I was fine with them breathing in contaminated air (there are animals who live there), I was not fine with falling into the water. That just seemed to be a contaminate you just should avoid. I was also not fine with the tool thing that sucked the radiation out of the air. Um, if they had that, why didn't they send it in before they started walking around?

    I liked the twists. They were fun. I liked the spy son. I liked several of the references back to 1, like the bad guys fall off the building, reminiscent of Hans Gruber. But the two together were really cowboys and they should have had a tougher time and more injuries. And the injuries they had didn't seem to slow them down - like how did they stop the bleeding after john pulled thee rebar out of jacks side?

    It was entertaining. It wasn't as good or as funny as the 4th one. Concept was a little far fetched. Dialog between the two Mcleans wasn't very interesting or believable. There wasn't much chemistry, even for an estranged father-son. There was an attempt at humor but most of those lines just fell flat. It was enjoyable. Stuff blew up. There was a lot of action. It wasn't a horrible experience. I was just hoping for a little something more from John McLean.

    February Movie #7: Snitch
    Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon
    Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes
    Directed By: Ric Roman Waugh

    Snitch is based on a true life story where a father becomes a drug dealer in order to get his son out of jail. When the son stupidly accepts a package sent from a friend that he knows contains drugs, he walks into a trap. The Drug Enforcement crew arrest him and he's put in jail. Even for a first time offender, the minimum jail time is 10 years. He can reduce his sentence if he gives the names of other drug dealers. He doesn't know any. His father then decides to find a big drug dealer and in order to do that, he becomes a drug dealer himself.

    Forget what you know of The Rock's movies. This ain't like nothing he's done before. There's acting involved here... And very little action.

    Not sure I liked it. The movie was decent. It really was well done. Well acted. Decent amount of action. The Rock gave a fine performance, one that doesn't involve him blowing things up or punching people, despite what the previews show (queue the end "chase" scene with cars shooting at the rock in a truck and cars flipping over). I did think it interesting that Susan Sarandon was in this with The Rock. At the start of his acting career, I don't think anyone could have predicted this pairing. But I just don't know if the movie really sucked me in. I think it was missing a bit of magic, that "gotcha" moment. I walked out of the movie feeling "Eh."

    Although I felt "eh" (or, if you prefer a different term - "blah" or blasé) after watching this movie, I did have a bunch of thoughts. When a film gives me too much time to let my mind wander to its own devices, it can't be a good movie. My thoughts:

    Whenever I see guys standing next to The Rock and they're taller than he is, it pulls me out of the movie. He's 6'4. Are there really an abundance of people out there taller than 6'4? I assume they're trying to make him seem more like an "everyday" man to make him shorter than others but it has the opposite affect on me. I find it jarring and am very conscious that this is a movie, of the decision.

    I did find the end text very telling. There was definitely opinion there. There's a note at the end stating that the minimum sentence for a first time drug dealer is higher than for rapists. While this movie focused on an innocent kid setup by his friend, that's probably the exception to the rule. There has to be evidence that drug dealing, even when starting off fresh, leads to other crimes. Their current crime may be just drug dealing, but if left to their own devices would that expand to robbery and murder? Drug dealing is bad. Rape is bad. They're all bad. There's no reason to highlight that one gets more jail time than the others. Should they all be minimum 10 years?

    One thing that bothered me - The Rock's character kept mentioning that he was in construction. I didn't see that. It seemed to me that he was in Transportation. Is that such a hard industry for people to understand ? Even if he moved construction materials, he was still in Transportation. His trucks were branded to him, which is not something a small construction operation would do (privatize their transportation). Of course, this is just a sensitive area for someone ib Transportation... :-)

    So... It's a good movie, not great. It's just missing that little something extra. It's a little different from The Rock's normal movies (which is not what makes this an "eh" movie). He's always been a decent actor in his action movies. This one gives him a chance to shine. Maybe his next acting movie will encompass more.

    February Movie #6: Zero Dark Thirty
    Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler
    Run Time: 2 hours 39 minutes
    Directed By: Katherine Bigelow

    Zero Dark Thirty is about one CIA agent's quest to find Osama Bin Laden. This quest takes 9 years.

    I hated this movie. Hated it from the moment it started. It starts off with a black screen with emergency calls from 9/11. It goes on for several minutes. There is not a person in that theater - or a person who would see this movie - that doesn't remember 9/11. I found the whole opening scene - which is designed to make you fearful, make you remember, make you sad, make you emotional - a crutch. And when your movie starts off with a crutch, that means it's going to limp the whole way through. AND it does. Dragging its injured limb the whole way, slowing you down.

    After the September 11, 2001 opening, the movie jumps to 2002. Enter the woman who ultimately finds Bin Laden. It then feels as though we follow this movie in real time to 2011. It feels like it takes those 9 years to get to the point. This movie is SLOW. Nothing happens... Except a lot of talking and sitting behind a desk. Well, that and the torture scenes. Ugh. In theory, I'm okay with this sort of thing... In the movies... When it's fake. When you think that this actually happened, that's horrible. I would hope my government was above that sort of thing. But they weren't. And that doesn't make me happy. And then to say, "Hey, this is what we did" to the world is even worse. That makes us a bigger target for revenge. Too soon to show this. Too soon.

    And then as soon as the torture stops, nothing else happens. NOTHING. God, this movie is slow. And boring. Yes, it was the finale to 13 hours of movies (Oscar movie marathon) but the day was going so well up until this movie. Bleh.

    As I watched this movie, I picked what scene they'd use as Jessica Chastain's Oscar clip. It was the only scene with emotion. I shouldn't be able to pick the Oscar clip.

    Finally, the snipers set out to go get Bin Laden. I felt as though the helicopter ride to the compound was real time again. Twenty minutes of not much going on while a bunch of guys sit in the dark in a helicopter. And then one crashes just feet from the compound but the guys go in super quiet so that no one would know they were there. Um, a helicopter crashed feet away fro. The compound! I'm pretty sure everyone inside knew something was up!

    Ugh. Can't stress it enough. Boring, boring, boring. Nothing happens. It was really painful to watch. Even if you like war movies, this one will probably not be one you'll enjoy. I guess if you like watching movies about someone talking and sitting behind a desk, you might like this one.

    February Movie #5: Life of Pi
    Starring: Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma
    Run Time: 2 hours 6 minutes
    Directed By: Ang Lee

    Life of Pi is based on the book by Yann Martel. It follows the journey of Pi, the sole survivor of a shipwreck that claimed the lives of his entire family. He floats adrift in a life boat for over 150 days. As if that weren't bad enough, Pi's companion on the boat is an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi fights to feed himself, feed the tiger, get drinkable water, and not get eaten by the tiger.

    I read this book in anticipation of the movie. Because I had read the book, I was disappointed by the movie's version of the story. I think if you go into the movie not having read the book, you won't be disappointed. A lot of things were left out of the movie. I was disappointed with that. Some were just little things left out - like the meerkats sleeping on him, Richard Parker and his burning feet, how he truly discovered the island was carnivorous, the blindness, the bumping into the Frenchman, the end of the orangutan, eating turtles, even the fact that Pi kept food under his blanket in the hospital and floating the bananas to prove his point. I don't understand why the smallest of images were omitted. They really helped the story - like the floating of the bananas. When I read the book, I was so looking forward to how things would appear on screen. And then they omitted those things that I was most looking forward to. Why? And I also wondered how they were going to show the second story and they took the cowards way out - simply a verbal retelling and not a visual. They glossed over a very important, a very emotional, a very strong moment in the second story - what happened to his mother. A simple verbal retelling of these events did not have the impact they did in the book. I was actually dreading the second story but the glossing over cured that. There was not much to it, no real powerful impact. A lot of the omission of images, scenes, had an impact to the movie. It's a sad story. I just didn't feel as sad as I thought I was going to.

    It took me a long time to read the book because there were at least a 100 or so pages about Pi dabbling in religion. There were probably 100 pages more before the boat sank. I wanted it to leap into the heart of the story because I already knew it was going to happen. The movie cut to the boat sinking faster. There was plenty of Pi growing up so you did get a sense of him and his family very well. I enjoyed that the heart of the movie was exposed sooner.

    The images in this movie were beautiful, even the boat lying at the bottom of the ocean. Overall, I did like the movie. I liked the visuals. They were pretty, especially the bio-luminescence encounter. That was cool. The 3D helped, too, to enhance the beauty. The uncle swimming, with the view looking up so that you see his stomach and the sky above him, which helped enhance the notion that the water was the clearest he'd ever seen. The whales and ocean life swimming below Pi in the water. I did find it interesting that the zoo looked like I pictured it.

    Because the emotions - particularly the ending with the second story - are so much more intense in the book, I have to say that I liked the book better than the movie. While the visuals were stunning, it certainly didn't capture the essence of the trauma, the drama, the book. The movie fell flat. You should see the movie just for the beauty of it but just know that the book is better.

    February Movie #4: Beasts of the Southern Wild
    Starring: Quvenzhane Wallis
    Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
    Directed By: Benh Zeitlin

    Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for Best Picture as well as Best Actress (9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis). It's about an island called "The Bathtub" and its inhabitants. The Bathtub was created when the levee was built in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. The area is home to those living almost completely off the grid. They seem to have their own laws, their own way of living. Hushpuppy lives in Bathtub and is being "raised" by her father. She seems to be mainly on her own. She even has her own shack, separate from her father. She is a tough little girl. In many ways, she takes care of herself. But she is still just a child.

    This is an interesting movie. It's interesting because it's not really a typical movie. Not a lot happens. There's not a lot of dialog. Interesting cinematography. Blurry. Quick shots. Focus on things that didn't seem to be what the scene was about. In ways it added to the telling but in ways it pulled me out of the story. In addition to Hushpuppy's plight, there's a surreal, fantasy portion to the movie. In Hushpuppy's mind, an ancient boar emerges from it frozen encapsulation and makes its way down to Bathtub.

    Part of me marveled at how people could live like that. Didn't seem to be running water or a bathroom or heat. Part of me was upset that these people chose to live like this. Yes, they are free and do what they want (they make up holidays and have fun celebrating in their own way). The lack of money also makes them free - if they don't have to worry about bills, they don't have to worry about money. They don't really need money. But the house was such a pigsty that Hushpuppy didn't even sleep on a bed or have covers (or even a sweater; she just walked around in a tank top and I couldn't help but be cold for her). Part of me was amazed at how strong Hushpuppy was, how imaginative she was. Part of the movie is told through her thoughts of imagination - the ancient boar, which was actually her, roaming the land, looking for her. I was impressed at how much she knew - like how to blowtorch the stove on - and how little she didn't know. She was very much a kid free to be a kid because her father didn't spend too much time with her, checking in on her. Tough little girl!

    I think I spent too much time looking at the trash and clutter and hoarding mess in Hushpuppy's trailer rather than take this movie to heart. Since there's not a lot of dialog or action, it's easy to let your eyes wander (which may be the point). I spent too much time wondering how people could live like that and debating which lifestyle was better. I like indoor plumbing and education but Hushpuppy had a wisdom all her own that could only have been acquired through tough living. She may not know her ABCs but she knows how to survive.

    This movie is a yin yang. Part this, part that. It all fell together cohesively. I liked it but didn't love it.

    February Movie #3: Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films
    Movies Nominated:

  • Adam and Dog
  • Fresh Guacamole
  • Head Over Heels
  • Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Day Care"
  • Paperman

    I've seen two of these as the lead-in cartoon before another cartoon over the summer. The Simpson one was shown before Ice Age 4; Paperman was shown before Wreck It Ralph. For some reason, it always bothers me that "blockbuster"/Hollywood films get nominated. This is one of those categories where I always think the struggling movie maker should get the nom, not the already backed and produced film.

    Spoiler Alert: I do give away pretty much the whole story to each of these shorts below. I figure most people won't see them anyway so this might give ya a chance to experience the movie without seeing the movie. Just a warning.

    Adam and Dog is about Biblical Adam and a dog he finds in the Garden of Eden. There's not much to say about this one except I hated it. Hated it. The animation was horrible - it kept switching styles and that bothered me. I don't think it was intentional that the styles switched; I think it was two different animators. There's no talking. Adam simply stumbles upon a dog and the two become friends. At least the dog did. The day the dog spent with Adam was the best day of the dog's life. And then Adam meets Eve. He ditches the dog. And then Adam and Eve get expelled from the Garden of Eden. The dog doesn't care. He just wants to be friends with Adam. End of story. Too trite. There was nothing really different with this story than what you'd expect. Happy dog gets happier to meet someone who pays attention to him, plays with him, and gives him food. There was no twist. No real insight. Just 19 minutes of poorly drawn animation flipping by.

    Fresh Guacamole is harmless. It's two minutes long. It's cute. Basically, guacamole is made. The items, although familiar, are replaced by nontraditional items. The avocado is a grenade that slices open easily but clay is scooped out of it. The onion is a baseball that, when sliced, turns into dice, and when chopped finer turns into teeny dive. The jalapeno is a green lightbulb. On the plant, it's lit. When plucked off the plant, the bulb isn't lighted. The lime is a ping pong ball. The tomato is a pin cushion. Salt and pepper come out as sequins. And the chips? Poker chips. Cute. But not gonna win.

    Head Over Heels is a very sweet story. It's about an older couple who have gone two different directions in their relationship. One walks on the ceiling; the other on the floor. The share the same house but that's all that's left in their relationship. Until one day the husband makes a romantic gift for his wife, who doesn't see the gift right away. Later, when she does come across his present, she realizes that he still cares. She makes an effort to pull their two worlds back together. It's very sweet. This one is a strong contender for the win.

    Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Day Care" was by far my favorite. To say that I'm an avid Simpson fan is to put it mildly. I watch the Simpsons every night as I fall asleep. It's my security blanket. Maggie is a great character. She seems so simple because she's a baby who can't talk and yet she has an amazing array of wisdom and insight. She's got a wonderfully kind heart. And that good heart shines in this movie. Maggie gets dropped off at day care. Her nemesis Baby Gerald (the Unibrow Baby) is killing butterflies and calling it art. Maggie befriends a caterpillar. Baby Gerald wants to squish it. Maggie hides the caterpillar and it goes into a cocoon. It hatches and turns into a beautiful butterfly but Baby Gerald is hot on its trail. Maggie saves the butterfly in the most simplest of ways. I loved it. Maggie the hero. It won't win the Oscar but in my heart, I will always think it should (if just for Maggie's woe of despair moment).

    Paperman is probably the one that will win. It's got a lot of soul. It's in black and white, save the red lipstick on the charming woman's lips that a young office worker bumps into. One of his forms flutters away from him and smacks into the woman's face, leaving him with a momento of his encounter (her lipstick on his paper). They part. He can't stop thinking about her. The stack of papers on his desk keeps growing. He can't get his mind off this woman. What's this? She's in the building across from him? He throws a paper airplane at her. It misses. He makes and throws another one (after all, he has plenty of paper from the mountain of paperwork that keeps getting stacked on his desk). It misses, too. He makes another and another and another. They all miss. Finally, he runs out of the office to catch her as she exits the building. He doesn't catch her. He's dejected... but the pile of paper airplanes comes to life and intervenes to bring the two together. Aw. Very sweet. It's very well drawn and told. There's a lot of heart to this one. Since it was shown before a big Hollywood release (Wreck It Ralph), more people have probably seen this one than the others and it will probably win because of that. I don't think I'll be too upset if it does win because it was a sweet one. But I liked Head Over Heels more. That story hit home a little more.

    February Movie #2: Warm Bodies
    Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry
    Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
    Directed By: Jonathan Levine

    Warm Bodies is about a zombie who falls in love with a zombie killer. He kidnaps her, keeps her safe from other zombies, and she learns that there is hope for the zombie race.

    When I saw the preview for this movie so many months ago, I was excited to see the movie. It sucked me in. I think I liked the preview more. This is not to say the movie is bad, just not as good as I had hoped it would be.

    The concept is great. The story is told from the point of view of a zombie. I've seen many zombie movies before and never have they empathized with the zombie (probably because they have a tendency to eat humans, particularly their brains, but let's face it, it's not like most humans are using their brains). This one gave the zombie some character, some personality. For the first time ever, I cared about a zombie. I doubt I'll be having zombie nightmares tonight.

    There were some very funny lines and some very funny scenes. I like R's (played by Hoult) memory of what life was like when there were more humans walking around because his memory of real humans showed mindless zombies, except they weren't real zombies. They were techno zombies, walking around staring at their iPods and SmartPhones and not talking or caring about anyone else. Hard to say which one is better, one that eats brains or one that lets their brain rot.

    But aside from a few funny lines and images and a great concept, this movie was blah. It was so slow. Nothing really happened. Even the end battle was a let down. Nothing really happened. I was actually bored. And it was quiet. There is very little gore and very little killing or zombie flesh eating. I did like the ending. It was very sweet.

    The premise for this movie is better than the execution. I liked it but I was really thinking I was going to love it. I didn't. The concept sucked me; the ending made me leave the theater with a smile on my face.

    February Movie #1: Parker
    Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte
    Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes
    Directed By: Taylor Hackford

    Parker is a movie based on the books/character by Donald E. Westlake (under the pseudonym Richard Stark). Parker is a ruthless, cold career criminal. He is a very professional criminal but when crossed or betrayed will stop at nothing to seek revenge. When the rest of his crew turns on Parker (played by Statham) after a heist, takes his share of the money, and leaves him for dead (actually, they thought he was dead), Parker catches up with him to retrieve that share... and more.

    I didn't quite see this character as cold or ruthless. Statham neither plays him as cold nor is he written as such. When one of the guards suffers a panic attack during the original heist, Parker calms the man down. If he hadn't calmed him down, one of Parker's crew would have killed the man. And then there's Parker's girlfriend. He has flashbacks of encounters with her and they're all very sweet. There are also too many people along the way that Parker could have killed but instead just wounded (which sounds mean but given the alternative, no). Statham has too much of a twinkle in his eye to be sadistic and savage. Tough and not to be trifled with, yes. Ruthless and merciless, no.

    Interestingly enough, this movie about a callous criminal is not as gory as you'd think. Heads do not explode. There are some ultra violent scenes (cue the mafia guy with a knife fight scene) and I did gasp in shock several times (even though I really knew it was coming in one instance). But it is not gory. Such a refreshing change from the last couple of action movies.

    I was not a fan of Jennifer Lopez or her real estate character Leslie. I thought Leslie shared way too much personal stuff with Parker for no apparent reason (well, I suppose her reason was to hit on him but to tell him she hadn't spoken to her sister in years was not a seducing line). I don't think Parker needed her in his hunt for his old crew. I would have thought there would have been a more high tech way for Parker to find them, like Bluetooth passcode, or heck, even GPS in from their phone. Lopez might want to stick with romantic comedies instead of playing the damsel in distress. Or whiny damsel.

    I'm not sure I buy several plot points, one being the need of a real estate agent to help him scour recently purchased houses in Palm Beach (and yet not tell her that's what you're really looking for). I don't buy that the crew needed $1.5 million to get $50 million in jewels. I don't get that those jewels can ever be sold.

    Does Nick Nolte have throat cancer? Wow, was his voice gravelly. It was tough to watch/listen to his scenes.

    Aside from a character not being who he was supposed to be (cold and ruthless) and another character being superfluous and several iffy plot points, I rather enjoyed this movie. I think it was the softness and likability that Statham brought to his character. I also rather enjoyed his girlfriend, sort of tough and yet sweet and definitely smart. So... not one that I'll own but definitely one that I enjoyed. I did think it was a little too long (two hours?). But it was an interesting ride. I liked it.

    January Movie #8: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (in 3D)
    Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen
    Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
    Directed By: Tommy Wirkola

    I'd like to begin this review by mentioning that I thought the movie gods were shining down upon me and would bless me with a fabulous viewing when they made me go to this one. I had arrived at the theater with plenty of time to spare and tried to buy a ticket to see Parker (starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez) but the time shown on the website was apparently incorrect. The next showing for that movie wouldn't start for over an hour. The next closest one to my desired showtime was the one that I was hemming and hawing about - Hansel and Gretel. I figured what not. Shoulda waited an hour to see Parker. Really should have waited. There is no movie god but there is a movie devil. And he was laughing at me today.

    This movie had so much promise, just from the title alone. The concept seemed pretty fun, too. I went to go see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter months ago and loved it. I was hoping something with a similar title would bring the same results. I was wrong.

    Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is the extended - and much more violent - version of the original fairy tale. Hansel and Gretel find themselves lost in the woods and come across a cottage made of candy. And this marks the funniest line of the movie (a rare gem) about no good can come from a cottage made of candy. Inside lives a witch. She stuffs Hansel full of candy, fattening him up, while she makes Gretel clean the cottage. On the day the witch plans to roast Hansel, Gretel is fed up with her capture and pushes the old woman into the oven. And then fast forward 15 years. Hansel and Gretel have made quite a name for themselves as witch hunters. Since they spent a couple of days with a witch, they apparently can tell a witch from a human, are expert warriors, and know all the tricks to fighting - and killing - a witch.

    Jeremy Renner was nominated a few years ago for his role in The Hurt Locker. His performance in Hansel and Gretel was not Oscar worthy. He wasn't alone in bad acting. Gemma Arterton, as Gretel, was equally abysmal. Famke Janssen as the Grand Dark Witch had an English accent that came and went with no reason. The only bright spot was the character Edward, a giant troll. He merely grunted a few words here and there and they were best acted lines of the whole movie. I was also worried that Jeremy Renner would embody Hawkeye (from The Avengers) too much, as if it were just an extension of that character, because the costumes were similar. Not to fear. His Hansel is nothing like is Hawkeye character.

    The plot was riddled with cliches and laden with predictability. Witches are ugly and evil. They steal your children. If member of Wicca want to protest this movie, I feel they're well within their rights. Hansel and Gretel's past is full of mystery. Apparently there's a deep, dark family secret. Give ya one guess as to what it is. The script was full of hokey, cheesy, predictable, and stilted dialog. It was like watching a high school play written by a middle school kid.

    The best part of this movie is the use of 3D. Bravo! Somebody got it right. All movies seem to think a great use of 3D is have some sort of sharp weapon come jabbing out at the audience. Seen it. Been there. Done that. Ain't alarmed or impressed by it anymore. This movie had all sorts of things flying out at the audience - like debris spinning and whirling. I ducked and gasped a few times. I actually swatted at something because it seemed like it was going to hit me in the face. I don't think I've ever had that reaction before because I'm so used to that sort of thing. This movie did it right. It caught me off guard.

    At first, I liked the opening credits. It felt very Grimm fairy tale-esque. It was dark, it was a little gory. It told the story (and caught you up to what Hansel and Gretel were up to). But it kept coming. At the first couple of headlines, I picked up on the fact that they were heroes and witch hunters and saved a few kids. Thirty headlines tacked to cartoon trees later and I was bored. Overkill. You don't need to hit me over the head. I got it. They're witch hunters. It's in the title of the movie, for crying out loud!

    I was a little put off but the use of modern language in an old timey setting. It just didn't seem to fit. There are some movies that can make this work but not this one. The dialog just kept falling flat. And, at first, Hansel and Gretel's old timey but very modernly firing weapons were funny and cool. But at some point they just became lame. It just didn't work. There is a lot of gore in this movie. Witches explode, body parts go flying, heads get lopped off, and giant trolls stepping on heads makes brain matter go squish. I had to look away a few times.

    So... this movie is not at all like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. That movie had style. That movie was smart. That movie was well acted. This movie was none of those things. One bright note: It's only an hour and a half. You won't waste a full night if you opt to see it. If you're still on the fence about whether to see it, just know this: it's called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. It's about Hansel and Gretel and they're witch hunters. You just got the whole movie right there.

    January Movie #7: Django Unchained
    Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
    Run Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
    Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

    I am NOT a Quentin Tarantino fan AT ALL. If you watch an interview with him, you'll find that he's rambling and incoherent. His movies seem to be the same way. I have yet to find a movie of his I actually like so that past few movies of his I've skipped. I don't mind the violence. Or the swearing. I can handle both, damnit. I just never find his movies cohesive enough. They fail to entertain me. But since this one is Oscar nominated... you know what that means.

    There have been several movies where, as I've walked out at the end, I've overheard the people walking in front of me complain about the movie. For The Hunger Games, two older ladies complained about how violent it was. Um, did they not read the books or watch any reviews or even understand that the plot puts teenagers in an arena to fight to the death - only one will come out? There have been a few others, too, where I've thought, "Did you not know anything about the movie you came to see?" Sometimes, I purposely stay away from reviews and synopsis because I don't want to know too much (sometimes, shockingly, reviews give away too many plot points that then ruin the surprise for me). But I always know something about the movie. Even though I knew nothing about Amour, at least I knew it was in French (which, for some people, is a shock in itself). And being a little movie savvy also helps figure some things out - like a Michael Bay movie is going to be heavy on the soundtrack, lots of action, and geared towards 14 year old boys. A Quentin Tarantino movie is going to have lots of violence and swearing. I've heard people/reviews complaining about the liberal use of the "N" word. That was this movie's swearing. But I was not at all prepared for the carnage. Heads exploding is one thing (cue The Last Stand - read that review if you don't know what I'm talking about) but all forms of body parts exploding and blood squirting out like a geyser is a completely different thing. Geyser of blood. From already shot up bodies. That keep getting shot up. I turned away many, many, many times and said under my breath, "Enough already!" So. Be warned. Be VERY warned. Lots and lots of blood. River of blood. People dying in gruesome ways (the poor slave with the dogs ripping him apart... it wasn't even tolerable in flashbacks). Violent doesn't even begin to describe this movie.

    So... on to the movie. I am completely baffled as to why this movie is nominated AT ALL for any Oscar categories. The acting was okay (although Jamie Foxx was excellent). Christoph Waltz (who played the bounty hunter Dr. Shultz) was a joy. Smooth talker. I didn't quite understand why his character chose to go down his final path (but that says more about Tarantino's inability to grasp a concrete character). I expected to like DiCaprio because I like him in pretty much everything. There were parts in this movie where he was completely overacting and parts where he seemed to be underacting, to the point where it almost seemed like a high school production (where the idea is "if I say this loudly, it will convey great power!"). I was not impressed with Samuel L. Jackson's performance, either. I think he played his character too cocky. Most of this could boil down to an ineffectual director. To see what I'm talking about, watch the last scene of the movie, where Broomhilda (played by Washington) claps. He wrote the character and yet he doesn't even seem to know the character.

    This movie was not cohesive. To me, it was several movies in one, as if Quentin didn't know when to stop or what to leave out. The first part of the movie teams up Django, a now freed slave, with a bounty hunter (played by Waltz). They hunt down several wanted criminals and earn lots of money as the bodies stack up. These criminals are wanted "Dead or Alive" so Dr. Shultz (the bounty hunter) decides it's easier to kill them rather than haul a living person in to collect his reward (bounty). And then the pair decide to go save Django's wife, who is on a plantation owned by Calvin Candie (played by DiCaprio). And the third part of the movie involves Django wrapping things up that Dr. Shultz was unable to do. This is why this movie is almost three hours long. And you feel every moment of those almost three hours.

    The soundtrack is quite heavy. It over powers many scenes and definitely changes the mood. At first, I liked the opening Django theme song. It made it seem like it was a campy 50s spaghetti western (even an ode to Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles). But this movie is a not a campy spaghetti western so the theme song, after watching the scenes that followed, was out of line. The humor throughout the movie does lighten the violence and enhance the flow but it certainly doesn't make the movie better. It makes it different. Given the subject of the movie, the humor is also out of line. I did laugh a couple of times but I cringed over the violence more.

    A couple of questions: If Django is a recently freed slave, how and why does he a). speak fairly eloquently and b). know how to read? Also, what was with Quentin Tarantino (he has a cameo at the end)'s Australian accent? Were there Australians in the US in 1858? I won't pretend to be very good about history, but that's about the time the British were colonizing Australia with convicts... Wouldn't think many of them were allowed to leave. Or if they did leave, if they had time to develop an accent.

    I just did not like this movie at all. Parts were okay but it's definitely not Oscar worthy. The movie was all over the place. The plot just didn't gel. It was three movies in one. It was in desperate need of editing. Not because it was three hours but because I felt all three of those hours. A good movie makes you want more, not wish it would just end (and I looked at my watch a half dozen times and sobbed lightly when I realized how much longer I would have to endure). The acting was so-so. And the violence is gruesome and unnecessary. And too much of it. So, unless you like Quentin Tarantino movies, I highly suggest you skip this one. It will save you three hours of rambling bloodshed.

    January Movie #6: Amour
    Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
    Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes
    Directed By: Michael Haneke

    Have I mentioned it's Oscar season? AMC Theaters announced their Oscar movie marathon days and line up. There are nine movies nominated. I have been sticking with seeing the five movie sessions because I'm not sure even I can handle NINE (or 10, some seasons) movies in a row. This year, both sessions have two movies that I've already seen and they seem to be smack dab in the middle. Previous years, if I had seen one, it was shown, luckily, at the end so I could simply leave early. In the four movie session, the two I haven't seen are playing locally. I decided I should try to see those two on my own. I could just see them all on my own. Maybe I will.

    And that, folks, is the long, rambling introduction to why I chose to see Amour. Knowing nothing about it except that it's in French, this was my movie today. I probably should have read up on the plot, just so I knew what I was in for. I could have then brought some Kleenex. It's a tough movie. At least I knew it was in French. I thought that made me prepared for it.

    I got to see it in the newly renovated Uptown Landmark theater and I have to say that the almost year long wait was not worth it. They took the charm out of the old, historic theater and replaced it with one that is new but awkward. In fact, it seems smaller. And they have the European style "assigned" seating (you have to choose your actual seat when you purchase the ticket). I don't think Minnesotans get it. Ushers were constantly telling people they were in the wrong seats and people seemed to not know, when choosing their seat on the screen, that the red X meant someone was sitting there... and that you don't need to choose the seat right next to them. But you can order some wine and sweet potato tater tots (perhaps not together) so some sort of quirkiness still lingers.

    On to the movie. The plot. This movie is about an aging couple in France (I assume Paris). Anne, the wife, becomes paralyzed on the right side of her body ("It's just a symptom of aging," she explains to someone) and her husband Georges takes care of her at home as her health steadily declines. As you may have guessed, it's a tear jerker.

    At first, Anne is in control of her faculties. She can speak, she can think, she can eat. She simply cannot move the right side of her body. With the aid of a wheelchair and her husband, she can get around their apartment. Some things like going to the bathroom and bathing and changing clothes have to be done with her husband's help. Anne is quite a dignified woman and these assisted tasks take a toll on her dignity. She occasionally accepts visitors but she does not leave the apartment. That's her way of hiding from her fate. She tries to do things by herself, to eliminate the burden she's putting on her husband, but those attempts usually add to his burden. Anne falls or gets trapped or breaks something in pursuit of her independence. Georges merely reminds her that all she has to do is ask. Anne contemplates ending her life. Georges won't hear of it.

    This movie follows the couple through Anne's declining health, down to where she's incapacitated. She cannot move on her own and can barely speak. Her voice fails her; what she's thinking simply cannot come out intelligibly from her lips. For awhile, she's mentally capable, just physically incapable of expressing herself. And then her mind fails her. There are moments of clarity, moments of hope. Georges cherishes those moments and takes the rest in stride. The responsibility for taking care of his invalid wife weighs heavily on Georges, body and mind, whether he wants to admit it or not.

    The way this movie unfolds is quite interesting. It is very non-Hollywood. I was struck by just how non-Hollywood this movie was with the opening credits. Plain, white credits on a black background. No music. No noise. No fanfare. Very simple. And quiet. Very unobtrusive. And it ends the same way. No fanfare. Quiet. Peacefully quiet. But there's a reason for that. The story is simple. There's not much to the plot. The movie is basically character development at its finest. All characters. Little plot. No fanfare. Very non-Hollywood. In a way, it's life. Not much happens, particularly when you're old and your spouse is dying. It's very beautifully told. It seems very real, almost like these people are not actors with scripts.

    There are several scenes that struck me. One is a memory scene, or a fantasy scene. It took me a second or two to figure out that it wasn't real, it wasn't part of the current story. Anne was very much in deterioration at this point, mentally and physically. Her husband Georges sits staring at the piano and Anne begins playing. He's content. She looks beautiful. But she's not really playing. He's envisioning her sitting at the piano as she had for many, many years. He turns off the stereo that's been playing the piano music. The memory ends. There was another scene where Anne is moaning a word over and over again, with her left arm flailing about. That one reminded me of Ragna as she was dying and was the toughest to take.

    This won't win Best Picture. It doesn't have enough bells and whistles to attract the vote. But it's a valiant effort. It's a tough movie to watch. If you've never been around someone elderly, watching their health deteriorate until they die, this movie will be an eye opener. It's also a reason to stay healthy. Some things are unavoidable, yes, but it will be my goal that I never have to put my husband - or family - through taking care of me (nor do I want someone to have to take care of me like that. I prefer to wipe my own butt, thank you very much). It definitely shines a light on the simple fact that it sucks to get old. Really sucks. But, I suppose, if I do have to be taken care of or have to take care of someone like this, I hope I do it with as much love and dignity as Georges did. I have happy little Ragna (my elderly neighbor), to whom everything was wonderful and never an unkind word ever left that woman's lips, as my role model and fictitious Georges now, too. Of course, my future most likely will involve a lot more yelling. But it is my goal to be gracious and dignified. Hopefully my crappy memory will store that away for future use.

    Good movie. In French (with subtitles). Very realistic. Slow. Long (it's over 2 hours and it really takes a toll on you emotionally). Quiet. Moving. Sad. So sad. But honest. And scary. Very scary. No one should have to go through that. But some of us will.

    January Movie #5: The Last Stand
    Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro
    Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
    Directed By: Jee Woon Kim

    Ah, Oscar season. It's what propels me to certain movies. Since I've seen a lot of "good for me" movies in the past couple of weeks, I opted to see a "bad for me" movie this time around. When the previews started, I giggled to myself because I knew I wasn't going to be seeing any for independent movies or serious (and often boring) dramas. I loved each preview. I have a huge list of movies I'm going to see once Oscar season is over. Interestingly enough, hmm.... why did they show previews for a Stallone movie and a Bruce Willis movie (two, in fact, and both take place in Russia...)? Ah, the Planet Hollywood connection is alive and well.

    The Last Stand is about a small town in Arizona that's about to get some big trouble from an escaped convict, a ruthless drug kingpin. When every bit of outside help that's en route to help this small police staff gets killed by the escaped drug lord and his team, the local sheriff and his deputies band together to stop the convict themselves before he crosses the border.

    Okay. Whoever would have thunk that Forest Whitaker and Arnold Schwarzenegger would ever be in a movie together? An Oscar winner and Schwarzenegger. Very interesting pairing. But I think casting Johnny Knoxville evened it all out.

    This movie has a lot of heart and is very well done. And you'd never really know that this is Schwarzenegger's first real movie in, what, almost 10 years? He's a fairly decent action actor, really he is. And he wasn't that rusty. He did seem a lot slower. There were several scenes where they'd cut away from him when he started something (like getting out of a car) and then cut back to him when he was finished so that you didn't notice how slow he was. That made me giggle. But his acting was fine. It surprised me. It made me happy.

    This movie has a lot of cute, funny little lines. The humor adds to this movie's heart. And the humor is very much needed because there's a lot of gore. If there's an action movie quota for number of exploding heads, this movie exceeded it. Everybody's head exploded. Nasty. I turned away several times. There weren't that many violent scenes, thank goodness. Perhaps a half dozen, and each one many people exploded. Body parts were flying.

    I think this movie played very well to the strengths of the actors. Schwarzenegger was tough and unyielding, with a quiet, commanding "take-charge, kick-butt" presence. Johnny Knoxville shined as the eccentric gun aficionado. Really Johnny Knoxville shined. He was funny. He was quirky. He provided a lot of comedic fodder. Luis Guzmán was a great sidekick, another source of humor.

    All in all, this was a great little diversion of a movie. No thinking required (because the one time I did think, it was out of annoyance - um, why were there actual ears of corn left on the stalks in that dried up corn field? That's just not right!). Good action scenes. Well done. Good story. Acting was more than decent for an action movie. It moved well. A little gory for my taste but the humor removed that uneasy memory. So, if just want to watch something that allows for some escapism, this movie certainly does that trick.

    January Movie #4: The Impossible
    Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan Mcgregor
    Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
    Directed By: Juan Antonio Bayona

    As I've mentioned before, it's Oscar season. Naomi Watts is up for Best Actress for this movie, which is what drew me to it. It's probably not one I'd see without the Oscar pull. The Impossible is probably a movie you've never heard of. It's not a mainstream release (although I did see it at AMC now that they have an "Independence" offering). I only heard of it because of the nominations. And I'm not one for disaster movies (they give me nightmares) but again, since this one is nominated, I opted to see it.

    The Impossible takes place in Thailand, on December 26, 2004. If you think back, you'll remember why this date & region are so important - it's where and when the worst tsunami hit. Maria Bennett (played by Watts) and her family - comprised of husband, 10 year old son Lucas, 7 year old son Thomas, and 5 year old son Simon - are on vacation, relaxing by the pool when the first tidal wave hits. This is the true story of what happened to her family.

    Bring a box of Kleenex to this movie. Wow. There are so many horrible images and trying moments. I kept thinking I knew what was going to happen to each member of the family throughout the movie but, thankfully, I was wrong each time.

    The way the story is told, how it unfolds, was very well done. There's not much leading up to the tsunami so at first, I was annoyed with how little time was spent on character development. But then when all the drama and trauma and action began spewing out, I was glad they didn't waste time with getting to know each character. The drama took a painfully long time to play out. Every few minutes a new heartache would emerge. The suspense was agony. "How will everything turn out?" "Who lives? Who dies?" The questions keep coming. My anxiety kept building.

    The acting. All excellent. The actors spent a lot of time wet and grimy, which can't be fun. Since I haven't seen every movie with a nominated actor or actress, I can't compare. But, unfortunately, there's probably someone who will win over Naomi Watts. She does deserve her nomination, if only for the scene where she's being dragged towards help. I know I felt every bump for her. And Ewan Mcgregor deserved his Golden Globes Best Actor nom. There are a couple of anguished scenes for him that were sorrowfully riveting. The little boys were also quite good.

    This movie does a wonderful job of depicting the magnitude of despair. The hospital. Wow. To survive the tsunami and then have to be one of a thousand people seeking medical treatment. First, the floors of the hospital were absolutely dirty. There's a lovely closeup as a boy peels an orange and the rind drops on the floor. Wow. A hospital with a dirty floor. A disgustingly dirty floor. And thousands of people need this hospital to survive. And that's just it - thousands of people need this hospital to survive. There are people on stretchers in the halls, in the supply closets, anywhere there's space.And then pan out onto the hospital grounds and see all the tents - more people. And each one with an absolutely ghastly injury. Have a broken leg? Well, you're going to have to wait a few days for treatment because there are people missing a limb, who have shrapnel sticking out of their torsos, whose faces are so swollen that you can't make out one distinguishing feature. It's a wonder that people actually found those that they were looking for.

    One thing this movie made painfully clear: You can never prepare for a disaster. There's no hard and fast rule that applies to every kind of disaster. When I travel, I always bring Band-Aids and Benadryl and Advil and an ace bandage. Jeff always brings photocopies of our passports. We always have a bottle of water in our backpack when walking around. But none of that matters when a tidal wave drags you out to sea. And then the test really begins. How do you meet up with your travelling companions who were dragged under water and carried along water that 10 minutes ago wasn't there? How do you get help when all you see for miles is mountains of debris, things that used to be houses and gardens and cars, and no other people? The unknown is overwhelming and only adding to the pressure is the life and death situation.

    The ending really hit me when the people sitting on the plane, who are on their way to a hot shower, a clean room, and an end to the nightmare they've endured, look out the window and see all of the destruction, see what they lived through. Normally, when you look out the window after leaving a vacation, there's a bit of nostalgia. I had to wonder, A). "Would they ever go on vacation again?" and B). "How does one truly ever recover from that?"

    After the movie, it suddenly hit me why this movie was called The Impossible.

    So... in sum, an incredibly harrowing tale. If disaster movies give you nightmare (which they do to me), you might want to stay away from this one. I know I'm going to have nightmares about tidal waves now. And I'm never going to be able to look out the window of a plane after a vacation quite the same way again. It's painful (in a good way). It's bleak, depressing, distressing, and just plain sad. But it's well done (the despair and agony). And well acted. And well told. You really feel what these people went through. That's a good thing and a bad thing. So... if you have nerves of steel and bring a box of Kleenex and someone to hug after the movie, it might be a good one to watch. If you can't do that, just take note that disasters suck. They make you stronger. They do a lot of damage. And you don't want to be caught in one. Hug your loved ones now.

    One question: Why were there so few people on the plane at the end? With all that turmoil, you'd think they'd only fly full - or almost full - flights.

    One observation: This movie is based on a Spanish family's experiences during the tsunami and yet the family in the movie are British (the husband's real name is Enrique but in the movie it's Henry...). With Naomi Watts' strawberry blond hair, I assumed that's what the real Maria had looked like (since she normally has platinum blonde hair). Why go to the length to change it? At the end, there was a picture of the family as they had looked in real life and Maria had black hair. Not that it matters but I thought it was an interesting change - from Spanish to British - that didn't seem necessary. This fact changes how a few scenes may have really happened - did the real life children speak fluent English?

    January Movie #3: Les Misérables
    Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne
    Run Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
    Directed By: Tom Hooper

    Les Misérables is a story written by Victor Hugo and adapted into a musical. It's the story about redemption even in the most trying of times. Jean Valjean serves 19 years as a slave in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Upon his release, he is given papers that document him as a criminal and must report to parole once a month for the rest of his life. Although he has his freedom, his papers marking him as a criminal make sure he has nothing else. After a priest saves his life, Valjean decides to turn his life around. Years later, he's a mayor, owns a factory, and is wealthy. Fantine is an employee of his. When the other workers find out that Fantine has an illegitimate daughter, Fantine is fired (although Valjean does not know that she was fired). Fantine takes to the streets as a prostitute to earn money to send to her daughter. When Valjean finds her sick and dying in the streets and saves her from being arrested, he vows to help her daughter Cosette after Fantine dies. Valjean adopts Cosette and lives a modest life until they move to Paris. There Cosette meets the young rebel Marius and falls in love. The Revolution kills all of Marius' comrades but Valjean saves Marius, who has been badly injured in the battle. Knowing that Cosette will be in good hands with Marius and that his past will catch up to him, Valjean leaves... and then dies. Oh yeah, and all this time a cop named Javert has been trailing Valjean, trying to capture the parole breaker.

    The musical was big when I was in high school. I had forgotten how much and how many of the songs I knew and that they stayed in my memory. No wonder I don't know who the 23rd president was. I have Les Mis songs bouncing around in my memory.

    A musical is nothing without the music. And since there are really no spoken lines in this musical, the voices must be strong. It's singing all the time. I'm a fan of Hugh Jackman. I have Boy From Oz on my iPod. I chose his version over the Glee version so that has to say how much I like Hugh Jackman. I did not, sadly, like him in this performance. I found that some of the songs were either out of his range or just not suited to his voice. I cringed a couple of times. Not Pierce Brosnan in Momma Mia cringe but cringe nonetheless. I was amazed at how much I didn't like him. Perhaps I was so pleasantly surprised by the other strong voices that Hugh's paled in comparison. I wondered briefly to myself why Russell Crowe was cast as Javert, if he could sing and then I remembered that he's in a band. At first, I didn't quite think Russell Crowe suited the part... and then he sang The Confrontation and hit several wonderfully solid notes that I became a fan. Anne Hathaway was absolutely fabulous as Fantine. Fabulous. I was blown away by her voice. She has an amazing voice. I was sad when I realized that Fantine doesn't have many songs. She was seriously the best part of the movie. I wasn't a fan of Amanda Seyfried's Cosette. Too shrill. I hate that. She has a lovely voice but I wasn't enamored with how she handled the songs. The actress who played Éponine was an incredible voice. I preferred to listen to her during Rue Plumet – In My Life (a song that both sing).

    This movie is almost three hours long (two hours, 40 minutes, to be precise). There was a moment towards the end where I thought, "Just another half hour to the end" but it just kept going. There's a lot more after Javert's suicide (to me, this isn't a spoiler because the story is well known, however, if I ruined something by mentioning this, I'm sorry). There were parts that were shortened or eliminated altogether so I'm unsure why the moments after Javert's suicide weren't abridged. Perhaps it's because I had to potty that my angst for closure was exaggerated.

    Les Miserables was made into a movie in the 90s, starring Liam Neeson as Valjean and Geoffry Rush as Javert. I couldn't help but wonder if there'd ever be another role that Liam Neeson played that Hugh Jackman would remake. It was a weird thought, a weird feeling.

    One note of annoyance: Why is it that these versions tend to have actors who speak with British accents? Gavroche, the little street urchin, had a downright Cockney accent. Um, this is about France... with French people... who should have French accents. Just sayin'.

    I'm not quite certain if I like this movie or not. Several parts were rushed; several parts were elongated. Some of the singing wasn't quite polished and disturbed my ears. I was in tears over Fantine's death. I was in tears over Valjean's death (although there were moments of Hugh Jackman overacting). At first, I liked Sacha Baron Cohen's Thénardier and Helena Bonham Carter's Madame Thénardier, particularly in Master of the House... but then they annoyed me the longer they were in the movie... which may have been the point. And the sets looked like sets. Horrible sets from the 50s (cue West Side Story). Perhaps they were trying to make it look as though they were on Broadway... but then the water scene for Javert's death didn't align with that idea. Bizarre.

    This movie is worth seeing simply for Anne Hathaway's performance of Fantine. The girl really can sing. Of course, feel free to leave after her death (although she does make an angelic comeback at the end).

    January Movie #2: Silver Linings Playbook
    Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver
    Run Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
    Directed By: David O. Russell

    Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat (played by Bradley Cooper) after he's released from a mental institution. He moves back in with his parents (played by Robert de Niro and Jacki Weaver) and tries to pick up the pieces of his life. In order to do that, he has to keep the issues that landed him in the mental hospital under control. He meets a wacky girl named Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence) who helps him slay his demons.

    I went to this movie because Bradley Cooper was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his portrayal of Pat. I'm hoping it will get an Oscar nom, too (and I can cross one more movie off that Oscar viewing list). I'm glad that Bradley Cooper is getting noticed for this role. It's a little different than what he normally plays. There's more meat to this character, more depth. He handled it well... although I think there was just a little something extra missing that would have made me a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. I hope Jennifer Lawrence also gets nominated for something. They both do a great job in this movie.

    I wasn't sure I was going to like this movie but I did. It starts off slow. Not sure if it was the acting or the lack of lead up to the drama but I didn't buy Bradley Cooper as crazy/having anger issues - at first - which is weird because in every other movie when he yells, I always think he sounds too angry. But the non crazy moments were good and I eventually got into his performance. I always wonder when actors are in scenes with great actors like de Niro (and in Lincoln, Daniel Day Lewis if the other actors are nervous or think, "Oh, my god, I'm in a scene with Robert de Niro!" because I'm always nervous for that person, feeling it for them, thinking it for them.

    I like Jennifer Lawrence. I think she held her own. I liked her fleeting, spontaneous sudden bursts of crazy.

    It was an interesting plot. A guy gets hospitalized for beating up his wife's lover... And yet he spent his whole life watching his own family's distinction, their own violence. It seems hypocritical. I'm glad he didn't focus on it, blame it. He was painfully aware of the irony, the hypocrisy. It was sad. And yet he really didn't hold it against his father. It was just there. There was a lot of crazy in that family, mostly with his father but also that his mother allowed it to continue. I did feel bad for Pat because it didn't seem as though people were really trying to help him with his issues. I think his mother was in denial - and so was his father - and other people tiptoed too much around him. I didn't really see anyone steering him in the right direction. He needed compassion and he needed someone to flat out tell him why what he did was wrong. Tiffany, while battling her own issues and psychosis, was the closest. I was frustrated at the lack of support he received. But I suppose that's why he really ended up in a mental hospital.

    All in all, this is a decent movie and well acted. A lot of people in denial about their own mental issues but only one person who has been forced to deal with them. Frustrating. Good ending. I hope this movie gets more attention because it is a good one.

    January Movie #1: Lincoln
    Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, John Hawkes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
    Run Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
    Directed By: Steven Spielberg

    Lincoln takes place during the Civil War with Lincoln's struggle to end the war and abolish slavery.

    I went to this movie because it's sure to be an Oscar contender. I can see why. There are sure to be several categories nominated, particularly for Daniel Day Lewis as Best Actor. I marveled at how much Daniel day Lewis resembled Lincoln. At first, his voice didn't seem to fit (too high) but he just had humble mannerisms that fit the character. Sally Field (as Mary Todd Lincoln) was a bit overtaxed in some scenes. I didn't think she worked. Almost but not quite right. I didn't see as much desperation and crazy in her as there hinted to be. I did find a lot of Tommy Lee Jones' (as Thaddeus Stevens) acting to be over the top/ bad. I thought he worked too hard at it. You could see the effort. But he has a great sullen face that conveyed the mood without words. I'm glad his character commented on his wig in the movie because it was a bad wig. A really bad wig. Laughably noticeable. It kept pulling me out of the moment until he made the comment about it.

    But the acting (and wigs) is just part of the movie. The story is another aspect. These types of movies always make me realize that I'm not as smart as I think I am. I'm also not as culturally sophisticated as I hope to be. I was a bit bored at the first 15 minutes of this movie during all the oration scenes. I kept thinking that the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie was better because it highlighted actual historical facts with a lot of cool vampire action. I kept waiting for the vampires - and action - Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter kept me entertained. It moved. I had to work at liking Lincoln.

    What drew me into the movie was characterization. Lewis had such a wonderful handle on Lincoln. He played him as a humble man. Subtly funny man. I loved all Lincoln's stories. Some of the other characters didn't but I did. They were interesting and funny and well told by such a sincere man. Interesting the things he went to - toured battle sites - and things he handled - dealt with seemingly petty disputes. Presidents today don't stoop to that level. Also thought the way he interacted in public - travelling in an open carriage with no visible security - was brazen, considering people drew pistols (as witnessed by the aide procuring votes who had a pistol drawn on him) with abandon. Complex man. Seemed to take things to heart, a lot of emotional burden on him, but yet didn't interact with his wife with emotion on the level she needed, a level that might have kept her from going insane. He had reckless abandon with threatening her with a nut house and yet seemed so tender with her during most other interactions. He was kind... Until his wife really needed him to be kind. Interesting to see her stress level, her emotional demise. How intelligent Mary Todd was. How intelligent Lincoln was, with self proclaimed little education (although he was a lawyer). I did like his interaction with his oldest son and how if only he had reached out to his son, or let his wife see his emotions, it might have spared her the turmoil of her son enlisting. Although his enlistment made sense and I was disturbed at how neither of them wanted him to enlist. Good movie...

    I liked it. I didn't love it. It was an interesting telling of the drama without caving to theatrics - like the amendment count. Most movies would have made the last vote the deciding vote. But the scene cut away from the vote count before the tally, thus adding further drama to the situation. The drama built to the action of the count, rather than a verbal disclosure of the count. The movie also didn't show the assignation scene. Tad's reaction to hearing his father was murdered was drama enough. It did play to what you think is going to be the assassination but wasn't. Interesting diversion. Spielberg should probably win for Best Director... but I'm basing that on solely this movie and not comparing it to what might be nominated.

    One final note: Why is it that I'm the only one laughing at movies these days that aren't comedies (which, oddly, I don't laugh at)? Do people not get subtle humor, is that they're not paying attention, or is that moment really just not funny? I like to think it's not me. I seriously laughed many times at slight lines and was the only one laughing.