Movie Valley
April 2008 Movie Reviews
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Young at Heart
Starring: Old People Who Sing
Run Time: 1 hr 48 mins

Young at Heart is a documentary that follows the lives of a band of senior citizens who sing in a choir known as Young at Heart. This choir, whose home base is Northampton, MA (the next town over from where I went to college), sings non-traditional songs - things from Sonic Youth, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Ramones, and Coldplay.

I find documentaries a bit interesting because although they're supposed to be true to life, there's also a bit of bias. I think the director of this movie wanted to make the choir director seem cold and mean (and a bit of a perfectionist). Of course, he really could be that jerky - yelling at the group, demanding perfection. The director of the movie also seemed to be poking fun at the oddities of the chorus - did he intentionally focus on the kooks or are these people really this zany?

Aside from the lack of objectivity, this is a very good movie. It's absolutely amazing to see how determined, strong, and wonderful these old people really are. Although near the end of their lives, these people are so full of life. It's astonishing and refreshing to watch them talk about their lives, about being in the choir - being in the choir is their world. It was surprising how "hip" some of these old people were. And, of course, it's a bit funny to hear their takes on the lyrics of some of these songs. It's also interesting how things we think are easy are incredibly difficult for them. For instance, the music director hands them a CD to listen to when they get home and then has to spend an obscene amount of time telling them how to use the CD - which side to put facing up in the CD player. It makes me wonder - what gadget is going to confuse me when I'm their age?

This movie is so sweet and yet so sad. I had tears in my eyes for a good portion of it (a fact that made Jeffrey laugh). It's just so sweet to watch these people live their lives - how excited they are to be in the choir. And, not to give anything away, but their physical ailments that get them down in the end really got to me.

Since this takes place in Northampton, MA, which is the next town over from where we went to college (and that just means it was a minute away), Jeff and I really enjoyed the town shots. I did find them a bit boring and forced at one point, kind of a "we don't have anything else to show so cue the traffic on the main street... again." The town hasn't changed!

This is a fun movie. Cute, charming, inspirational, sweet, touching, sad, wonderful. I hope to be as feisty and determined as these old people are when I'm half their age (and yes, I do have a few years before I'm half their age!).

Street Kings
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Jay Mohr
Directed By: David Ayer
Run Time: 1 hr 47 mins

Street Kings is about Det. Tom Ludlow's (played by Reeves) quest to catch the men who murdered his former partner.

This is not one of those "must see" movies. This is not one of those "you're better for having seen it" movies. This is not one of those memorable movies, either, but it wasn't a complete waste of time. It was mildly entertaining. But that's about all the good I have to say about this one.

This movie is very violent and very gory. It's also an interesting commentary on how all cops are bad cops - and if they're not bad cops, they can be persuaded to move to that side very easily... Good cops are rare to find, don't live long, and are hated by all other cops. Everyone is corrupt.

This is one of the rare movies where I didn't quite guess the whodunit part. Not because this was so well crafted but because I didn't care to solve it beforehand. That blasé feeling extends to the characters - I didn't really care what happened to any of them. The movie didn't draw me in. I just sat back and let the movie unfold. The little twist at the end just goes to re-emphasize that all cops are bad cops to some degree.

The acting ranges from okay to downright horrible. Keanu Reeves and Chris Evans have the best scenes. Anything with Forest Whitaker is cringingly bad. Really. Whitaker's acting is absolutely painful to watch here, particularly at the end. Hugh Laurie basically brings his House character to the cop world - surly, self-righteous, pompous, not caring who hates him. And Jay Mohr's mustache steals the scenes he's in... and not in a good way.

So... it's an okay movie. There are some twists that should make the movie interesting but don't. It's not a bad movie. It's a ho-hum movie. But I wasn't expecting much. I probably got a little more than what I went in with. By the end of the year, I'll probably even forget that I saw this one.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader
Directed By: Nicholas Stoller
Run Time: 1 hr 51 mins

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is about the aftermath Peter (played by Segel) experiences when his girlfriend Sarah (played by Bell) breaks up with him. He heads to Hawaii only to encounter Sarah on vacation with her new rock star boyfriend Aldous (played by Brand).

I went to this one with Jeffrey, who loved it a great deal more than I did. He laughed and laughed and laughed (at moments uncontrollably). I... giggled here and there. I liked it, really I did, but I didn't think it was the funniest thing ever. It was cute. It was sweet. It was funny - but not side splitting funny. There was one moment where I did have a very loud "ha!" moment, after which Jeff turned to me with amazement and said, "You laughed more at that line than I did!"

I must say that I did find this movie quite charming, particularly since most of this is straight from writer/actor Jason Segel's own love life (or lack thereof). He definitely knows how to poke fun at his pain, in a good natured, light hearted way. There was nothing mean about this movie, which was refreshing considering it's about a breakup.

I thought the acting was great. I thought the script was clever. It was well executed. It made me laugh (and made Jeff laugh a lot) and that's probably the most important thing in a comedy, right?

One note of warning: There's a lot more nudity in this than I expected... male nudity. It quite shocked me. I'm all for it, of course, but others may want to be forewarned.

Good movie. Jeff would say it's a great movie. I liked it. He loved it. I thought Superbad was funnier.

Starring: George Clooney, Reneé Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce
Directed By: George Clooney
Run Time: 1 hr 54 mins

Leatherheads is about pro-football in its early days. The struggling Duluth Bulldogs, headed by Dodge Connelly (Clooney), are on the verge of folding until they woo war hero/football star/golden boy Carter Rutherford (played by Krasinski) to play for them. He packs the stands full of spectators, bringing money to the team, and takes the spotlight off the showboating Connelly.

But this isn't just a "how pro football came to be" movie. Enter Lexie Littleton (played by Zellweger), a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who is trying to burst the war hero bubble. As the world knows it, Rutherford single-handedly forced a platoon of German soldiers to surrender in WWI without so much as a shot fired. His story seems a little too good to be true and Lexie is set on uncovering the real story.

This is a fun movie. It's not so much funny as it is fun. It's a wonderful throwback to the movies from the 40s where there's speed talking witty banter between the handsome cocky male lead and the tough as nails but soft and pretty female lead. The football scenes were fun, particularly when Clooney was concocting some goofy and very against the rules (now) play. The back story was also fun and interesting. The cast had good chemistry. Clooney was his usual charming self; Krasinski held his own in the charm department; and even Zellweger was a pistol, allthewhile managing to keep her eyes open... But there was something missing. It could have been a really good movie. Instead, it was just a good movie.

So, a fun, quirky, charming, tribute to those wonderful flicks of the 40s. Cute. Sweet. Light-hearted. Fun. Not necessarily funny (although there were some good lines here and there). Could have been great.

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishbourne
Directed By:
Run Time: 2 hrs 3 mins

21 is the story of a group of MIT students who bring their math skills to Las Vegas and earn millions of dollars counting cards and winning at blackjack.

Jeffrey told me that while this story is true, the part about the run-in with the security guards isn't. They added that part in order to give some action to the movie. Knowing this, I was a bit annoyed with the LP (Loss Prevention) guy came on screen (Laurence Fishbourne) but by the end of the movie, I was okay with this addition. It helped give the story some dimension and an ending.

It's kind of a formulaic movie (although I won't describe the formula because that would give away the plot). Kevin Spacey played his usual villainous self - and did it quite well.

Dawn and Joel liked this movie much better than I did. It was okay. Not much happens for 2 hours. Kids count cards. Kids earn thousands and thousands of dollars. Kids learn to be true to themselves and to their friends.

Nim's Island
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler
Directed By: Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett
Run Time: 1 hr 35 mins

Nim's Island is about a young girl living on a tropical island who contacts the writer of an adventure novel for help when her father goes missing on a sea expedition.

I loved the beginning of this movie. It was exciting and fun. It was cute and charming. I loved the beautiful island. I loved the story Nim's father made up about how her mother died. I loved her animal pals. But then Jodie Foster came on screen. The movie went downhill quickly from there.

I'm not quite sure what happened to Jodie as of late. I think, perhaps, she knows she's a good actress - no, great actress - and banks on that reputation to pull her through her movies. I absolutely hated her DJ performance in The Brave One - I felt she was trying too hard to act like a DJ (that super cool breathy voice). And with this movie, I once again felt that she was trying to act. It was very labored. Slapstick comedy and peppy just ain't her schtick. There were some good scenes but mostly, it was cringingly overacted.

I love Abigail Breslin. I think she's a cutie and a sweetheart, but again, there were some scenes where she wasn't quite believable. Do all kids go to some school that teaches them "this is how to act like you are dancing" rather than teach them to actually dance? Or are kids just bad dancers? Her little party scene with the sea lion seemed forced happy, which is always annoying. But I'm willing to let that go as it was one 30 second shot (and Jodie Foster had an hour of bad acting). I must say that I was absolutely amazed to finally hear Gerard Butler speak without a Scottish accent. His Jack (Nim's father) had an American accent. It was quite good! Every time he spoke, I listened intently, marveling at the lack of brogue. But, just to keep the world spinning on its axis, his Alex character (he played dual roles) DID have a Scottish accent (which Jodie Foster made fun, which was quite charming). Whew. I didn't have to forgo that accent for an entire movie!

The movie builds in anticipation. Will Alex Rover reach the island? Will she overcome her phobias in order to actually be able to reach the island. Sadly, those darn previews tell you she does... Will Nim's father make it back to Nim? Will Nim be able to get rid of the tourists that are invading her island? So many things going on, so many things to root for... And then the ending comes - suddenly. So many things happening, so much anticipation of the great Alex Rover, the adventurist, coming to rescue Nim and her father and then - boom, ending. Ugh.

This movie could have been great. I found myself at the beginning of the movie making a mental note to buy it as soon as it comes out on DVD and now, now I'm not so sure. The whole "getting rid of the tourists" scene had an air of Home Alone without the cleverness of the tricks, without the hilarity of the antics, without the fun. It really fell flat with a thud. So much promise, so little in reality. And don't even get me started on the ending. Talk about trite and predictable!

So... did I like this movie? Yes... and no. I liked parts of it. The "lost at sea" scenes were really scary and sad (particularly with the whale swimming by)! I think the major downfall of this movie was that the screenplay was written by four people and directed by two. Too many cooks, not enough chefs. It should have been two hours long, instead of an hour and a half. It needed a half hour to build a relationship with Nim and her dad (you could see that something was there but I was really wanting and missing that "oh, isn't that sweet" moment). That extra half hour also could have been used to build the Alexandra Rover/Nim relationship - and explore how Alexandra grew from her adventure in the big world. And finally, that little extra half hour could have been used to save the ending - have an actual crescendo after all that momentum building. It was an okay movie, borderlining on good, but it could have been great. Definitely a movie for little kids (cue the dancing sea lion scene, the farting sea lion scene, and the exclaiming lizard scenes) but it really could have - and should have - worked harder to be a movie for all ages. I liked it... but I wanted to love it. I mean, she has her own sea lion, for gosh sakes! What's not to love about that?

Run, Fat Boy, Run
Starring: Simon Pegg, Hank Azaria, Thandie Newton
Directed By: David Schwimmer
Run Time: 1 hr 37 mins

Run, Fat Boy, Run is about a man who has spent the last five years of his life regretting running out on his pregnant fiancee on their wedding day. The peak of his regret is reached when he meets her new boyfriend, a seemingly perfect man who is training for a charity marathon.

I've seen a couple of movies written by Simon Pegg - Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Those were disgusting but hilarious, absolutely hilarious. They were smart... and funny. This movie was not. I barely laughed (there were some small "heh' moments) and it was not smart. It was cliched, predictable, implausible, and just downright not funny. They didn't even get training for a marathon right! Okay, so I've never trained for a marathon, but as a runner, I've never done any of the things Dennis (Pegg) did while getting into shape to run a marathon. I was insulted by the implausible training scenes. I think they were supposed to be funny but they were so overdone and annoying that I kept throwing up my hands in frustration. I almost walked out on this movie, I was so annoyed.

The acting was "fine." I wasn't sure I liked Thandie Newton's attempt at being sweet and wonderful (although I think she probably is sweet and wonderful). Hank Azaria did a wonderful job walking that thin line between guy-you-want-to-hate and mister-wonderful (and I was pleasantly surprised that he got his Birdcage houseboy body back). Simon Pegg was, well, Simon Pegg - that lovable screwup.

Don't bother to see this movie. I definitely regretted it. Not funny. Not likable. Predictable. Overdone. And directed by the wet blanket Friends actor David Schwimmer, thus proving that there was reason behind his casting.