Movie Valley

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Carrie-Anne Moss, and David Morse
Directed By: D.J. Caruso
Run Time: 1 hr 44 minutes

Disturbia is about a teenager who is put on house arrest. While confined to his house, he manages to stay busy by keeping tabs on the neighbors (a.k.a. spying). All seems relatively harmless until Kale (played by LaBeouf) notices that one of his neighbors drives the exact same car that was spotted when a young woman was abducted. After watching his neighbor some more, he realizes the man (played by David Morse) is a murderer. The plot is similar to Rear Window.

In an unprecedented move, Jeff and I went to two - count 'em - two movies in a row. He had expressed interest in seeing both Disturbia and Hot Fuzz but also would be out of town for almost two weeks. While he was in town, I pushed him to see these movies before they left the theaters and I went without watching them.

Disturbia opens with a powerful punch. The opening visually explains why Kale goes from being a good guy to someone who would be put on house arrest. In all fairness, the final strike that landed him with an ankle bracelet really wasn't his fault. I suppose that cuts to the core of the character - deep down, he is a good guy, and a good guy who doesn't deserve his confinement.

Kale takes to his predicament fairly well - he plays plenty of XBox, until his mother cancels his gaming account. He loads up his iPod with lots of tunes, until his mother cancels his iTunes account. He watches a lot of stupid TV, until his mother literally cuts the cable off. Where to go from there? Since he can't watch anything on the inside of his house, and he can't go outside, he might as well watch what goes on outside from the inside. What else did his mother think he was going to do?

This movie is quite suspenseful. And I think Jeff enjoyed a lot of Kale's voyeurism. While Shia LaBeouf probably lured in the female audience, I think the director was hoping to keep the male audience engrossed with the visions on the other side of binoculars. It did get a little much... But back to the suspense - Jeff laughed at me several times, particularly when I curled my legs around me on the seat and pulled at my hair.

Shia did a great job playing the guy struggling to make sense of the world. He was sweet. He was smart. Jeff thinks David Morse always plays the evil, slimy guy (his example was Dancer in the Dark). Morse did a darn good job playing someone who was creepy and evil. I did wonder, however, why Ashley's passenger side window was down and the door unlocked, when the driver side window was closed (and she was the only one in the car). It made for an easy shot for Jones (Morse) to scare the bahjeezies out of her.

Good movie. Jeff liked it, too.

Hot Fuzz
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Timothy Dalton
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Run Time: 2 hrs 1 minute

I was fortunate enough to have a date accompany me to this movie. I figured it was something right up his alley. I knew he had wanted to see Shaun of the Dead and since this film is by the same team, I asked Jeffrey to come along.

Hot Fuzz is a crazy comedy about a by-the-book cop who gets transferred from his London precinct to a small town because the London officers can't stand him getting all the glory. And, at first, it would seem that this small English town is quite boring and tame but after a string of "accidental" deaths, Sgt. Angel gets suspicious.

This movie is incredibly funny... and gory! I was fully expecting to laugh - and laugh I did - but I was not expecting the grotesque carnage. I had to look away several times because it was just too grizzly. But the thing that kept me there was knowing this was a farce, a parody. The violence was there to make fun of other violent cop films.

This movie is smart, as well as funny and gory. The final shot-em up scene is absolutely brilliant. So many great lines! This movie plays off so many cliched shoot-em-up cop movies - but gets it right. I loved the bumbling partner Butterman (played by Nick Frost). The relationship between Angel (Pegg) and Butterman was hysterical. And everything comes full circle - the question about flying through the air while shooting two guns, and the ending of Point Break (to name a few).

I can't stress enough how enjoyable and funny this movie is. It's not side-splitting hysterical, but once you start picking up the cop movie references, you'll be tickled. Good movie. Funny movie. And Jeff really liked it, too!!

Starring: Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling
Directed By: Gregory Hoblit
Run Time: 1 hr 52 minutes

Fracture is about a man who kills his wife who is having an affair, confesses to the crime, and then sets out to beat the murder charges. Anthony Hopkins plays the murderer. Ryan Gosling plays the cocky DA who fights to win this case, because losing it will cost him his current job, and the perfect job he has lined up at a prestigious law firm.

Last week is a distant memory, proving that such a bad movie on my viewing list was just a fluke. Well, actually, it was never on my list of movies to see. I added it in haste and I will never do that again. I will only see movies that I want to see, not ones that sway me to the dark side to prove whether or not they're bad.

Fracture is an interesting movie. First, we see Ted Crawford (Hopkins) kill his wife in just the first few minutes of the movie. The rest of the movie unfolds as he calmly, meticulously, and ingeniously, tries to beat the murder charge. I kept expecting that we would be shown that Crawford didn't really kill his wife, that it was some sort of hallucination or dream. That tends to be the way a lot of these movies go in order to weasel out of really being a smart movie. The premise of a lot of movies is clever; the resolution tends to be weak. This movie didn't take the easy way out. It was a smart movie, even up to the end.

Crawford was calculating, and it went far beyond plotting and executing the murder of his wife. He chose Beachum (Gosling) as his opposition for a reason. He knew that his cockiness - and his elation over his pending new position - would get in his way of paying real attention to this case.

The title Fracture steams from Crawford's obsessive and intelligent observations. He used to "candle" eggs - which involves holding them up to the light to reveal any flaws. As he noted, everything has a flaw, if you look hard enough. Crawford capitalized on Beachum's flaw. But I loved how Beachum's flaw (always trying to be the winner) does overtake him to be a true failing. It was his desire to win that caused him to lose his battle with Crawford. In the end, however, his weakness became his strength. He learned how to use his weakness - finally - even if it almost destroyed him. It was this triumph over his weakness that made his character very appealing.

Anthony Hopkins played a delightful and devilish character. I saw undertones of the creepy and sinister Hannibal Lector oozing out in his performance. But instead of taking the easy approach to his character, Hopkins pulled in some humanism to him. His character didn't commit the crime purely out of revenge. His defense was laden with pockets of little boy whims. It was cute and charming to watch him. Ryan Gosling does a wonderful job playing the cocky lawyer bent on moving up in the world.

There were a few holes in the execution of the story (the burning of the shirt - why didn't the cops find remnants of it in the fireplace??) but I am willing to overlook those holes because I liked the way this movie didn't take the easy way out for several paths. At one point, Beachum had a choice to make. Typically, in most movies, he would have taken the slimy way out but he opted not to. And I liked that he didn't do what I expected him to do.

This was a very good movie. I found myself constantly trying to figure out the twist - there had to be a twist, right? Anthony Hopkins couldn't just murder his wife and that was the end of it, right? And I liked that I was always try to guess what the real plot of the movie was (and the fact that this movie took a course I didn't expect). Well acted. Well scripted. Well directed. Well thought out smart movie. I liked it.

Perfect Stranger
Starring: Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, and Giovanni Ribisi
Directed By: James Foley
Run Time: 1 hr 49 minutes

Perfect Stranger is about a reporter trying to uncover the murderer responsible for her friend's death. She goes undercover as a temp at Harrison Hill's ad agency, the prime suspect in the murder.

Halle Berry plays Rowena Price, aka Katherine Pogue (the ad agency temp). Bruce Willis plays Harrison Hill, the ad exec suspected of murder. Giovanni Ribisi plays Miles, Rowena's research assistant.

The character of Miles is just one of the few annoying implausibilities in this movie. It's been awhile since I last stepped foot in a newspaper office, but when I was a reporter, I don't remember any research assistants as old as Giovanni Ribisi (they were normally college interns), working as long as he did as a research assistant (that goes back to the first observation that they were mostly college interns doing it to get a foot in the door), and I certainly don't remember them having computer hacking skills that would make the CIA proud. And in this day and age, do women reporters really feel the need to work under a male pseudonym just to get credibility? Huh. I guess Christine Amanpour should get a sex change operation then.

I went to this movie because I had watched the previews too many times. I was pretty sure I had guessed the ending and the plot twists by simply watching the previews. I went to this movie because I wanted to see if I was right. I was. And I would like to point out that being absolutely horrendous isn't this movie's fault. I jinxed it by saying in my last review that I had been to too many wonderful movies lately. I guess it was inevitable that the next movie sucked. And this one did. Big time.

I didn't care about this movie. I didn't care about the characters. I didn't even care to solve the murder. I wanted to leave from the moment the movie started but I remained in my seat because I wanted to see if I was right about the plot twist. I was too stubborn to throw in the towel. The character backgrounds were completely inaccurate. The acting sucked. Halle Berry did nothing more than look beautiful. She couldn't act drunk to save her soul. That's when I initially got the urge to walk out. And that scene played in the first 10 minutes. Bruce Willis is normally wonderful but he, too, fell victim to the suckiness of this movie. In one scene, his character is enraged and is about to hit Halle. His fist stops short of hitting her by a foot. He was mad but didn't want to hurt her. I knew she wasn't going to get hit. I didn't cringe. Neither did Halle.

This movie wasn't suspenseful. It wasn't charming. It wasn't action packed. It was tedious. It was annoying. It was bland. It was dry.

I will say that I did like the twist in the ending. I knew something was up but couldn't quite put my finger on it through the whole movie. That's because we weren't given enough information to figure it out on our own. The scene before the twist seemed too easy. I was glad there was something to make the easy wrap-up not be the ending. But then the final ending shot - something that was supposed to be ominous and even crueler of a twist ending - was absolutely horrendous. But that end shot did sum up the entire movie - implausible, implausible, implausible. The character backgrounds were implausible. The way Rowena got access into Harrison Hill's ad agency was implausible. Solving the murder was implausible. And the end shot was incredibly implausible. At least the movie was consistent that way.

The Lookout
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino, and Matthew Goode
Directed By: Scott Frank
Run Time: 1 hr 38 minutes

Either my fondness of movies is great or I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of pretty darned good movies lately. I had the option of either seeing The Lookout or Reign Over Me today. I went to Metacritic and found that both movies scored high. I opted to see the one that was shorter - and that was The Lookout. I'm glad I did.

The Lookout is about Chris Pratt (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the kid from Third Rock from the Sun) who suffers a brain injury after causing a car accident that killed two of his friends and injured his then girlfriend. Four years later, he is still recovering. His apartment is filled with labeled items - the alarm clock reads "Turn off alarm clock." He attends a therapy class, has a blind roommate, keeps a spare car key in his shoe for those frequent times he locks his keys in his car, and works in a bank as a janitor. The night of the car accident still haunts him. He often drives to the spot on the highway where he slammed into a stalled combine, just to remind himself of what he did to his friends (and basically beat himself up over being a "bad" person).

Chris then meets Gary, who becomes his first real friend since the car accident. Gary introduces him to Luvlee, who becomes Chris' first girlfriend since the car accident. Chris is happy. His life seems to be improving. But then his new friend Gary lets Chris in on a secret plan he's been concocting - to rob a bank, Chris' bank, to be exact - and he wants Chris' help. Chris knows the plan is wrong but his brain injury - and his desire to be around people - persuade him to do the wrong thing. Chris' angst over the deed turns him into a horrible person. He snaps at his roommate Lewis (played by Jeff Daniels) and his cop friend Ted, who stops by every night with donuts while Chris sweeps the floors at the bank.

When I saw the previews for this movie, I expected it to be a cat and mouse chase movie. The previews tell you that somehow Chris ends up with the money while the bank robbers chase him. This movie is not a chase movie. It spends an incredible time with character development. We actually get to know Chris. We see how the car accident has disabled him - and enabled him. We watch as he tries to open a can of tomatoes, but he can't quite remember what tool to use to open the can (sadly, he tries for a very long time to open the can with a garlic press). We watch him struggle with money. He has to ask the bartender several times how much his near-beer costs because there's too much commotion going on in the bar for Chris to concentrate (and then the bartender asks if the rest of the payment is for him; Chris gave him a $20). We watch as he forgets to look before he crosses the street after class and almost gets hit by a car. He writes everything down in his notebook. He even writes down a pickup line he hears in a bar. When he uses it himself, he doesn't quite get the cadence right and ends up looking quite foolish. Getting to know Chris was incredibly endearing. He was once a star hockey player that could do no wrong. People adored him. He seemed to have a charmed life. Until he foolishly caused a car accident that killed his best friend. It was charming, and sad, to watch him struggle with coping with those memories.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a wonderful job portraying a man with a handicap struggling with inner demons. He doesn't make his injuries over-the-top; the subtleties are amazing. Jeff Daniels is wonderful as the big-brotherish Lewis. The only fault I have with this movie is not knowing what makes Gary, the bank robber, tick. He has a past that he eludes to and there must have been a reason he chose Chris for his heist (he knew everything about Chris' past) but that's never revealed, unfortunately. I would have liked an "ah-ha" moment. Oh, and I find it frightening that someone with a severe brain injury - one that forces him to write down everything so that he will remember - can still have a driver's license.

This is a sweet movie. It doesn't seem like a bank heist movie would be sweet, but it is. I loved the ending. I loved the middle. I even loved the beginning with the car accident. It was a sweet, sad, and charming movie.

Blades of Glory
Starring: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer
Directed By: Will Speck and Josh Gordon
Run Time: 1 hr 33 minutes

We seem to be setting a trend here. About once a month, Jeff takes me to a movie. This month, it was the silly Blades of Glory starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder.

Blades of Glory is about two male figure skaters who take competition a bit too seriously and, after an unsportsmen like brawl, get banned from the sport for life. BUT there's a loophole - they were banned from Men's Singles. They were not banned from Pairs skating. And when no one else will skate with them, the two team up to form a non-traditional duo.

Part of what puts these two skaters at odds is their style and their approach to skating. Will Ferrell's Chazz Michael Michaels is a slimy, over-the-top rock star on ice. He's rough and from a troubled past. Jon Heder's Jimmy MacElroy is smooth, artistic, and cheesy. He's a pretty boy of privilege, adopted when he was three by a wealthy man who saw gold potential as little Jimmy skated on a frozen pond. And as soon as the ban is levied, Jimmy finds himself unadopted.

I haven't laughed at a movie as much as I did this one. Some of the moments were completely predictable, but even those moments were funny. It was a bit crude, a little rude, but that's what made it incredibly funny. I'm not a huge Will Ferrell fan and Jon Heder is growing on me but that didn't matter. They were both amazing in their roles.

The skating effects were pretty good, although I was painfully aware that neither Heder nor Ferrell were actually skating throughout every moment they were on the ice. But their slap-stick expressions made me not care.

The supporting cast was phenomenal. Will Arnett and Amy Poehler were fabulous as the darlings of Pairs competition - sweet in front of the camera, conniving behind the camera. Jenna Fischer was sweet as their in-the-shadow sister (although Jeff didn't recognize her).

This was a really, really, really funny movie. The plot points are predictable and some of the scenes are really hammy, but I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Meet the Robinsons
Starring: Angela Bassett, Laurie Metcalf, Nicole Sullivan, Tom Selleck
Directed By: Stephen J. Anderson
Run Time: 1 hr 35 minutes

Meet the Robinsons is about a young orphan boy named Lewis who likes to invent things. When someone from the future comes back to the past to steal Lewis' new invention, he teams up with a boy from the future to get back his invention... and to decide whether or not his life would be better as an orphan or change his future by using his invention to find his real mother.

I had a choice of seeing this movie in 3-D or regular. I opted for the 3-D version, cuz it ain't every day you get an option other than popcorn, nachos, or stomach ache. Even though I saw this movie in the very early afternoon, it was packed with families. Perhaps I should have just stuck to the regular version. The 3-D version was cute, with things flying at you, but the glasses did give me a headache. Ooh, the real bonus of this movie was the cartoon short before the movie. It was an old Chip and Dale cartoon, previously released in 1953, that was also 3-D. It was very funny and quite cute.

But back to the actual movie. I loved it. It was cute, charming, sweet, sad, and funny (why I am I always the only one laughing at movies these days?). One of the reasons I went was because I had seen the previews and it made me laugh at the dinosaur scene - Bad guy: "Why aren't you seizing the boy?" Dinosaur: "I have a big head and little arms. I'm just not sure how well this plan was thought through." It was funny even in the movie.

The only qualm I have with this movie is that it seemed to derail when actually we meet the Robinsons. The story moved along quite well - the two boys working together to get back the invention the bowler hat guy stole - until we zipped into the future and met the Robinsons. It was about 10 minutes of disjointed "look aren't we weird" conjecture. The Robinsons truly were a unique family. At first, they seemed bizarre but when you realized that they all worked well together, despite their odd nature, and that they all loved each other, it was truly very sweet. And finally, Lewis, a boy who didn't fit in, had a place where he did. Not only did they like his uniqueness, they embraced it and encouraged it.

There were lots of messages in this movie, but they didn't seem to be hitting you over the head. I especially liked the "if you're going to fail, fail grand." It's okay to fail. Just keep trying. I do wish that they pointed out that even though Lewis was an orphan, he had a lot of love around him with his caretaker Mildred and his roommate Goob.

My favorite moments of the movie: Any scene with Goob. He was so darned cute. He had a great sense of dead-pan comedic timing. And when asked what Cornelius looked like, Lewis was told he looked like Tom Selleck. And why is this funny? Because later when you meet Cornelius, you should note that Tom Selleck is the voice. So funny. And, of course, the dinosaur scene (and the previous frog scene).

Very cute, very sweet, very funny movie. You don't even have to see it in 3-D to love it.