Movie Valley
August 2008 Movie Reviews
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Death Race
Starring: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson
Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson
Run Time: 1 hr 29 mins

Death Race is about the future state of the US where prisons are run by companies bent on making money. One prison in particular pits its prisoners in an ultra-violent car race, selling the footage on the internet for a hefty price. If a driver wins 5 races, he wins his freedom. However, he must first survive a race that involves guns, fire, napalm, and all other violent means to victory.

This movie is based on (or is a remake or a sequel, depending on what source you believe) Death Race 2000, a movie released in 1975 that starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. Jeff rented it months ago. I didn't watch it. Death Race 2000 didn't seem that appealing. Leave off the "2000" and suddenly the title grabs me (just like Midnight Meat Train). A bit of trivia: Frankenstein in the first scene of the remake is voiced by David Carradine, who played him in the original.

When you opt to go to a movie called Death Race, your expectations should be low. The title tells you that. It's not The Shakespearean Race or Great Expectations Race. It's called Death Race. The title tells you exactly what's going to happen (and you can presume the other points). It's going to have carnage (and probably lots of it, considering that's the first word of the movie's title) and there's going to be a lot of action sequences. You can assume that there's going to be very little plot - get to the finish line first or die trying. You can assume there's going to be a heavy soundtrack. You can assume there's going to be a lot of explosions. You can assume there are going to be a lot of quick cuts, ala a music video (or a video game). You can assume it's going to be predictable. If you know all of this beforehand and you still decide to go see it, you should be happy with what you get (and happier if it goes beyond your expectations).

I like stupid action movies (more so than chick flicks). I like car chases. I don't need a lot of plot to get me through a movie. When I found out who voiced Frankenstein in the first scene, that instantly brought up my like level a notch. I like movies that tie themselves back to something. It was funny. Even with that bonus point, this movie reaches just the "okay" level. Great mayhem scenes. Very brutal. I have to tell you, I looked away at several shots. They were too graphic, too shocking to watch. Oh, how I cringed! I really had to look away when Grimm bit the dust (it's alluded to in the trailer how he dies). I knew it was coming. And then they replayed it a couple of times. Ugh! Brutal. But the actual race didn't really pull me in. Obviously you're rooting for Statham's character Jensen Ames (well, I certainly was). But as much as I wanted him to win the race and win his freedom, a part of me just didn't care. Perhaps it was poor character development. We saw too little of Ames before he went to prison to truly feel sympathy for his predicament. His character was a good guy framed for a crime he didn't commit. He would never see his wife and baby daughter again. Poor guy. At least, that's what I think I was supposed to feel. The movie didn't make me want to feel it. I wasn't drawn in. I was thrown in. But then... character development is not on the spectrum of a movie called Death Race, right? Given that, perhaps I should cut it some slack and raise my appreciation level.

Out of curiosity, what did Joan Allen do to have to star in this movie? She musta owed someone big. I can't imagine she did this movie without a bribe or coercion or a favor involved or married to the director (I checked; she's not). Perhaps it's along the lines of Judi Dench starring in The Chronicles of Riddick. She did it because she wanted to work with Vin Diesel. Perhaps Allen wanted to star with Jason Statham... or even Tyrese Gibson, for that matter. But I'm really thinking she lost a bet. Don't get me wrong - she was wonderful as the cold, calculating, ratings-grabbing warden. Bitchy as all holy hell. But why? Why was she in this? Did she not know it was going to be called Death Race?

I'm glad I went to see this movie. I was surprised. If I hadn't gone to see this movie, I would have missed the trailer for the next The Fast and the Furious. I was surprised by it - Vin Diesel will be in this version (not sure if I can call it a sequel since two of the previous versions didn't have Vin in them and the last one didn't even have Paul Walker in it)! Very excited about that. Good trailer, too.

This movie was okay. Nothing to think about. A lot of action to get caught up in. A lot of gore to cringe at. Pretty good acting, spectacular acting if you want to harp on the fact that this movie is called Death Race (have I mentioned that this movie is called Death Race?). If this had a bit more character development (what did Ames do to get his licensed revoked? What was the reason behind the face cutting and Bible spewing Machine Gun Joe?) it might have been a great movie. I did like that it was poking fun at itself (just how many navigators did Joe go through, anyway?). And I really liked the Carradine tie-back. Definitely not Shakespeare. Definitely not Tropic Thunder either (thhppppt). Decent for what it was - an ultra-violent race to freedom.

The Dark Knight
Starring: Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Ekhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Cain
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Run Time: 2 hrs 30 mins

The Dark Knight is about... Batman struggling to be Batman while trying to rid Gotham City of criminals, particularly the Joker. For those of you who don't know, Heath Ledger plays the Joker this time. He's evil. He kills a lot of people. Batman has a lot of cool gadgets.

I think I rarely come right out and say this about a movie: I didn't like it. I didn't hate it. I just didn't like it.

This is a two and a half hour movie. And you feel every inch of it. I kept wondering, "When is this going to be over?" That's not a good sign. The beginning has too much crammed into it that it's difficult to understand what's going on. I had a hard time following the plot and character interactions. Who's bad? Who's good? But perhaps that was the point. There are some exceptions - you know that the Joker is truly bad; everyone else is grey. Who's just pretending to be good? It was intriguing to figure out who the double agents are but also confusing. There's a lot going on in this movie and weirdly, the middle - even the action sequences - are boring, labored.

So much has been said about Christian Bale's Batman voice. I, too, found it a bit annoying. It's always raspy. It's effective when he enters a room and you don't realize he's there until he speaks. It's cool then. It's cool when he has something witty to say. It's annoying when there are long stretches of dialog. But for all that's made of his switch between good guy Bruce Wayne with a nice voice to dark Batman with a raspy voice, apparently it's what you do when you're in your alter-ego (cue Two-Face in later scenes). When Two-Face and Batman first interacted, I had a really hard time figuring out who was saying what. Their voices were too similar.

I also heard that Batman isn't a superhero because superheroes don't rely on gadgets. They're supposed to use their powers. But truly, is a superhero really super for just one trait? It's unique but not necessarily universal for fighting crime. Take the power to turn invisible. It's cool, but it doesn't help you fight or chase the bad guys. I wasn't aware that visibility helped you powerfully sock a guy in the stomach. It just means you can sneak up on them... as long as you don't have squeaky shoes. I think the movie adequately addressed the hero vs. Batman argument. He's not a superhero. He's just a guy trying to make the world a better place... with gadgets. This is my first foray into this version of Batman. I'm not sure if Lucius Fox was in the other one but the gadget vs. hero debate be damned. Pulling the curtain to reveal the man behind it really spoiled my affection and admiration of Batman. I didn't like that he needed help to design his toys. Isn't he supposed to be smart enough to do this on his own? And how many people really know his true identity? Isn't this a security risk? Doesn't seem plausible.

I had a hard time actually caring about any of these characters. Batman and Dent have such affections for Rachel, but yet, I just didn't see the appeal (and I love Maggie Gyllenhaal). I want to like everyone but this movie just didn't muster the strength to get me to do that.

I found some of the plot points totally unbelievable, frustratingly unbelievable. The ferries, for example. So Gotham is warned that they should probably start evacuating because the Joker is going to pretty much kill everyone in town and so they fill only two boats, one with convicts?? Convicts are who they choose to rescue? And I understand voting to decide your fate, but by paper? Isn't a show of hands faster? At a time like this, when there are odds someone might choose to blow you up if you take too long, should you really waste time by counting paper ballots? How 'bout a show of hands?? Easier to count and visually definitive, particularly when the vote was a hundred and something to thirty something... Do you really need to be secretive about making a choice to kill other people? And, by the way, the guy holding you hostage is the Joker, for cryin' out loud. Do you really think he was truthful about which detonator does what? So you decide to kill the other people. Isn't there a chance that the detonator blows you up and not them, just as final justice for playing God and deciding who lives and who dies?? And in this day and age, when you discover your hull is full of explosive material, do you really unwrap and open a package you find on top of the explosives? I gotta tell ya. Wow. That whole scene had me clenching my fists in frustration. It's a good thing no one was sitting around me because they would have heard the half dozen, "Really?s" muttered under my breath.

And evacuating every hospital in Gotham. Not sure how many hospitals they have, but that seems like an awful lot of people. The sheer numbers makes it pretty implausible, not to mention the nature of why people are in the hospital in the first place. So no one was in the middle of surgery at the time of the evacuation? Not one single patient couldn't be moved because of respirators or risk exposure to the elements (like burn victims)? And everyone could sit in a school bus? No one had to be lying flat or have a leg elevated? And you could get all of those people evacuated in a timely manner? And you had enough buses for everyone (including medical staff)? Uh....

Finally, when there's an obstacle in the road and the crazy Joker is hounding you, do you really drive into a tunnel versus just driving into oncoming traffic for half a block, particularly when those lanes have been closed and there's no traffic to interfere with your convoy? Because being in an enclosed area with no way to escape and surrounding by thousands of tons of unwielding cement columns is such a good option. Turkeys at Thanksgiving, indeed.

Plot points aside, I must say that I did enjoy the acting. I also laughed several times. True, I was the only one laughing during these moments, but that may say something about the other audience members' ability to pick up on funny things. :-)

The action sequences were... okay. Perhaps it's because I was bored. Perhaps it's because I didn't really care about the characters. Perhaps it's because a lot of the major action scenes were shown in the trailers. I just wasn't that excited about them.

So much has been made of Heath Ledger's Joker. Um, well, it didn't suck. Fabulous? No. Oh, wait. Maybe if you compared it to Pierce Brosnan's singing in Mamma Mia! He was good. Not great. Just good. Okay, pretty darned good. But would he be getting all this attention if he hadn't died? Maybe. It's hard to say. He, too, had a raspy voice and that did get annoying, too. Hmmm... aren't raspy voices just for alter egos? The Joker was him true and true. He had no alter ego. What was with the raspy voice then? And don't get me started on the snake tongue thing. I think he watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban one too many times (cue Barty Crouch, Jr).

Christian Bale is an awesome Batman. Maggie Gyllenhaal was good. Aaron Ekhart was pretty good. Gary Oldman's British accent kept seeping in (which is odd because he's the king of accents). Morgan Freeman seemed to be too much actor for such a little part (although I did enjoy the twinkle in his eye when he told the blackmailer how solid his plan was). I went to this movie because of all the hype behind Heath Ledger's performance, particularly because there's Oscar talk (and I do like to see all the nominations in action). Don't waste your time going to this epicly long bore fest just for that. You see what you need to see in the previews to assess his performance. Save yourself 150 minutes. It will help prevent you from feeling as deflated as I feel right now.

Mamma Mia!
Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard
Directed By: Phyllida Lloyd
Run Time: 1 hr 48 mins

Mamma Mia! is about uncovering which of three men from her mother's past might actually be Sophie's (played by Seyfried) father. Sophie secretly invites Sam (played by Brosnan), Bill (played by Skarsgard), and Harry (played by firth) to her wedding after reading her mother Donna's (played by Streep) diary. The movie is based on the Broadway musical, which is based on the ABBA songs.

Grudgingly, I admit that I'm a child of the 70s (shudder at the thought of all that polyester). I listened to ABBA. I even have some ABBA songs on my iPod. I often sing their songs around the house and I occasionally sing the proper lyrics... I went to this movie because I was interested in how their songs would be tied together to form a story. Suffice it to say that the songs weren't tied into a story. They were squeezed in. No, smooshed in. Basically, it was my life - there's some drama and some singing and dancing where the song choice doesn't have to make sense or fit. Occasionally people burst out into song and wacky dances, just like my life. I buy that. Oddly enough, my dances are better choreographed... What I didn't buy was the rest of it.

The story seems overdone. Granted, most stories only have two possible father choices. This one had three. Extra drama. Not really. Question: Why wasn't one of old boyfriends/possible fathers named Fernando? Am I the only one who sees the song possibility? A song that people actually know?

Two words come to mind to sum up this movie: high school. This seemed to be a high school production. Overacted. Waaaay too much enthusiasm (should 50-something women greet each other like that?). Everyone was over embellished. Take Julie Walters's performance for example. She is an amazing actress but what was with her over-the-top, grandiose performance? I know in theater you have to project and bigger is better but this was a movie. Bigger came off as ohmygosh, get out of my face and stop that! I was in serious pain from so much flinching and cringing and eye rolling. Some musical movies are cheeky and campy. They're having fun and making fun of what they're doing. Others are just good as they are (take Chicago... although I wasn't nuts about some of the actors, they pulled off the stage to screen thing well). This one took itself waaaay too seriously but gave the air that they were trying to have fun.

Musicals are filled with singing and dancing. When I mentioned that the acting reminded me of high school performances, the choreography reminded me of junior high musicals. It was just plain bad. Not campy cutesy goofy but groaningly bad goofy (see the flipper wearing bachelors on the dock scene). I wanted to bury my face in my hands to make the bad images go away. I was embarrassed for them.

The singing. Wow. Who in the heck cast Pierce Brosnan? Yes, he's a good looking man. Surely there is some other 50-ish actor in Hollywood who actually knows what a note is and how to hit it. Wow. He seriously has the worst voice ever filmed (and paid) without a hint of irony. And he had three songs! Meryl Streep. She had some absolutely wonderful notes. She can belt it out. All other forms of singing... not so great. Okay (better than Brosnan) but not great. SOS was the worst song; The Winner Takes It All was Streep's best; anything that didn't have Streep, Brosnan, Firth, or Walters in it was the movie's best. Amanda Seyfried had a surprisingly wonderful little voice (I say surprisingly cuz I really wasn't expecting to find anyone who could hit their notes). Christine Baranski, who I think is a Broadway actress, wasn't as good as she should have been. Even her number Does Your Mother Know fell flat. Perhaps it was the stench of high school that deflated it. Maybe it was the unbelievably forced smile on her suitor's face. Make the bad man stop smiling!

I never knew that ABBA had so many songs. I thought I knew all of them because the ones I know are the ones everybody probably knows. Too bad that most of these, including the title Mamma Mia, aren't in the movie. Why make a movie (well, musical) filled with ABBA songs that no one knows? I'm sure there are people out there that might think that ABBA songs are torture, but ABBA songs that no one has ever heard of is even worse.

Here is my laundry list of grievances: too many non-recognizable ABBA songs and not enough well-known ones; high school acting; junior high choreography; actors took it too seriously; three lecherous men at a bachlorette party; insanely bad singing; chick flick (translation: non-plausible) ending. Bad singing and dancing is not good for a musical. Bad acting is not good for a movie. Add those together: not a good musical movie. Plot annoyance: why was the hotel falling that much apart? It was only 15 years old... I understand earthquake damage but what was with the goat house roof and the shutters?

The best part of the movie is the end, just before the credits. When the guys come on in their Elvis-inspired glam costumes, that visual is incredibly funny.

This movie shocked me, and not in a good way. I wasn't prepared for how bad it was. Nothing can prepare you for how bad this movie is. Bad acting. Bad story. Bad singing. Bad dances. Bad dancing. Cringingly bad. Groaningly bad. Ohmygod bad. It's one of the few movies where I seriously considered walking out before it had finished. What kept me in my seat? Unraveling the mystery of who Sophie's father really was. I will spoil the ending for you: The mystery is not solved. I knew as much leaving the movie as I did going into it. Oh, wait. I did think Pierce might be able to sing, hence the reason he was cast in a musical. I learned the hard way - he can't.

Tropic Thunder
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Jay Baruchel, Nick Nolte
Directed By: Ben Stiller
Run Time: 1 hr 47 mins

Tropic Thunder is about actors who inadvertently get thrown into the real world of jungles of Vietnam. Some of them figure out that they're truly in danger and need to watch themselves as they make their way back to safety; one of them doesn't realize that his surroundings are real. He thinks he's still filming their war movie.

If you're a frequent reader of my movie reviews, you may have noticed that Tropic Thunder was not on my list of movies I intended to see. There's a reason. Good reason. I didn't want to see it. In fact, I had no interest in seeing it at all. I was conned into seeing it. Joel called and asked us to go, hinting that Dawn was on board. Turns out, she was "okay" with going; she really didn't want to see it. I only went because I thought if she's willing, so am I. I shouldn't have been willing.

I'm all for racy comedy. I'm all for pushing the envelope of humor. I like slapstick. I like dumb movies. I was not offended by the things that a lot of people (who probably hadn't seen the movie) were up in arms over. I was okay with Simple Jack. I was okay with black face. If these things were in every day life and not in a comedy - a movie - I would be offended. You have to understand that movies are a bit different from real life (sorry to break it to you). If you shoot someone 20 times in real life, you can expect they won't get up as you walk by with the gusto of someone not shot 20 times (of course, this would never stop me in real life from being a little leery of that person with 20 bullet holes - I wouldn't walk past them or if I did, I'd put another bullet in their head upon approach, particularly if they've been chasing me with a chainsaw, wearing their mother's skin, and all of my friends have mysteriously disappeared). Movies and real life are different. I know that. Begrudgingly, I know that (cue the actual field in Field of Dreams... such a disappointment). I can see what Stiller was trying to do. I just didn't find it funny (well, most of it. Jeff did point out that I laughed about 5 times).

I liked Robert Downey Jr's embodiment of his movie character, the guy so wrapped up in being an actor that he surgically alters his skin tone in order to play a black man in a movie. Downey Jr was absolutely wonderful, particularly at the end of the movie where he and Ben Stiller struggle to remember who they really are. As fabulous as his portrayal of a white man trying to act black but completely missing the point really was, it wasn't necessarily funny. Great acting, yes. Interesting character, definitely. Funny? Well... no. It was good. Robert Downey Jr's performance was good. Not funny. And I saw the point of Simple Jack. I had similar feelings about Jodie Foster's Nell when it came out - overacting, playing to the handicap, pandering for an Oscar. I just didn't really find it funny. Not offensive. Just not funny.

One of the parts I liked the most was the opening sequence showing all of the "actors" previous films' trailers. It was a heavy slant on the ridiculousness of a). how movies are sold ("In a world...") and b). how anything can be hot as long as the endorsement is hot (shouldn't people think twice about making any product popular that's called "Booty Sweat" ??). Of course, as funny as these premises are and how they're portrayed, I couldn't help but think it was a bit hypocritical. Haven't all of these actors done a movie at one point in their career that really wasn't up to par, a movie they did only for the paycheck and not for the redemption value? Direct to video, anyone?

I was surprised Matthew McConaughey was in this movie. I had heard that Tom Cruise was in it and that they were fighting to keep his name - and definitely any movie stills - out of the media to keep his character a surprise. I had not heard anything at all about McConaughey.

For the most part, I think this movie tried too hard. I mean, "Pecker" was the agent's name? Was Stiller trying to make the 10 year old boys snicker? Or did it make him snicker when he named the character? Wow. The scene in the jungle after the director "disappeared" was way too drawn out. We get it. Speedman (Stiller) didn't realize what had happened. The first licking was grossly funny. The second was creepy, albeit a bit funny. The third... too much. And it kept going and going. We get it. He doesn't realize that it's real. The final line of that scene ("Hey, look, I'm Dave Beckham") was funny. But they just didn't know when to quit.

Trying to be funny. Ugh. There's nothing worse than someone trying to be funny, trying to act funny. Take Tom Cruise (please). His performance was absolutely horrible. I did not enjoy him at all because with each word that escaped from his lips, I could also hear, "Ooh, aren't I so funny?" behind it. I think Tom enjoyed himself a little too much (cue the end dancing scene). I certainly didn't. I don't know which was worse - his stench of comedic desperation or the make-up job. I found the hair (and lack of hair) and padding to be too fake. You knew he was wearing a costume. A bad costume. Perhaps they all know a Les Grossman and that's how he looks, but it was just too much for me.

Which brings me to my final point - perhaps all of the actors and everyone involved with this movie know a Les Grossman or a Pecker (I'm sure they know a few in Hollywood) and all of them have had or have overheard actors making absurdly lame and pretentious chitchat during takes as well as the stupid perks actors have written into their contracts (only blue M&Ms; must have a dressing room all in white) and maybe all of this behind the scenes stuff really does go on, but all of the actors and everyone involved with this movie know it, not us. I've been reading reviews lately that discredit the heart and soul of some animated movies because they reference other movies or have too many inside jokes because those points are hard to get. While that may be true, those references and jokes are but a minute or two here and there in those movies. They are not the entire movie. This movie was nothing but inside jokes and references. I'm sure this depiction is the way Hollywood works. It's interesting. But I just couldn't find it funny because I don't know the reference. I'm sure it is funny. Well, maybe not. Maybe they got it wrong. I wouldn't know. I don't work in Hollywood. I just know I didn't find it funny.

And this may be a spoiler, but I just want to note: No movie that slaughters a panda is a funny movie. Oh, and pandas aren't in Vietnam (or Laos, where they think they wandered).

Since much of this review has been focused on the negative, I feel I should mention the good points (and yes, there were some good points). I liked Jay Baruchel's character. He was the least well known actor in the "movie" they were filming and thus was the most real. He had heart. I will say that because he was the most genuine person (spoiler!), I thought for sure he'd die in "real" life cuz the nice guys always get it in the end, right? I also liked the commradery at the end. I thought it was sweet how they all came together to save one guy. And I'll admit it, I did like how Pecker (shudder at the name) came to Speedman's aid...

To me, the premise of this movie is much funnier than the actual execution. It's funny that an actor filming a movie is so caught up in being an actor that he can't distinguish between reality and the movie world. It's funny how out of touch most of the actors are, for various reasons (too dumb, too strung out, too into the "craft"). The movie, sadly, is not as funny. Don't get me wrong - some people laughed, and laughed a lot (Dawn made the comment that she had never heard Jeff laugh so much before, but she wasn't with us when we saw Superbad). Joel enjoyed it. Jeff enjoyed it more, probably enough for the two of us (because I certainly wasn't laughing). It was okay. For a comedy, I expected to laugh. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Silly me. Not so silly movie.

Swing Vote
Starring: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci
Directed By: Joshua Michael Stern
Run Time: 1 hr 40 mins

Swing Vote is about a drunken screw-up named Bud Johnson (played by Costner) who holds the sole deciding presidential vote. As soon as his name is leaked, both the current president (played by Grammer) and the Democratic presidental hopeful (played by Hopper) swoop in on the small town where Bud lives hoping to sway his vote.

This movie tugs at your heartstrings an awful lot. Or maybe I was the only one in the audience with tears in her eyes throughout a good portion of this movie. It's incredibly gripping. You see so many people struggling to make ends meet, so many people down on their luck, hear so many heart-wrenching pleas for help. It was amazing how much you get sucked in, how much you yearn for Bud to do the right thing, vote the right way. And that's essentially the point - how can one person be responsible for doing the right thing for everybody? I was pleasantly surprised at how emotional and smart this movie was. I expected it to be fairly low-brow, taking cheap shots at "hillbillies." It actually had many levels to it.

Another point to the movie was how quickly and easily politicans will sell their soul in order to be elected, to win the vote. I thought it was interesting that only Dennis Hopper's character had an issue with changing his stance on certain "hotspots" with Bud. But despite his objections, not only did he flipflop on the issues to please one voter, he dramatically flipflopped. There's a grey area on probably every campaign issue - an "if" or "but" clause (I agree with this side but only when this happens; I am for this topic IF this is included). That didn't happen here. Both candidates went whole hog into pleasing Bud. This all or nothing attitude was fully demonstrated in the pro-life commerical with disappearing kids. It was a tad on the funny side (the sound effects "poof" were comical) but I couldn't fully enjoy the humor of it because the radically different tone scared me. How scary is it that a politican would so severely change his stance on a subject just to win a vote? Don't beliefs, convictions, and ethics play into this? Of course, that's probably the point.

I, of course, went to this movie because of Stanley Tucci (I just love to say Tucci). Sadly, he wasn't in it enough for me to be truly happy, but his evil presidential sidekick character was just so darned good. He really deserved to be in the movie more because there was such a shift in dynamics, in mood, when he was in the scene. He truly embodied the sliminess and evilness of politics.

I laughed at the many wonderfully clever and often times very subtle one-liners. The interesting thing is that I would laugh at something and then like 20-30 seconds later, the rest of the audience (comprised of three men) would laugh. Not sure why they weren't that quick on the up-take... One of the easiest laughs came from the line after Bud asks how the bodyguards lost Molly (Bud's daughter) when they guarded presidents in the past. How could she slip past them? "She's smarter."

This movie runs the gamut on emotional responses - from laughter to tears. Poor Bud. Poor Molly. Poor country. It's a pretty good movie with great acting.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Directed By: Eric Brevig
Run Time: 1 hr 32 mins

Journey to the Center of the Earth is based on Jules Verne's book of the same name about a man who travels underground only to discover a world within a world. When seismic activity that hasn't occurred since his brother disappeared ten years ago starts blipping on his monitors, Trevor (played by Fraser) decides to travel to Iceland to investigate the activity as well as find his lost brother. He takes along Max's son Sean (played by Hutcherson). They enlist the aid of Hannah (played by Briem), their mountain guide who is also the daughter of the scientist who Max probably last spoke to before his disappearance.

Before I bought my ticket to this movie, I made sure this would be shown in 3-D. If it wasn't, I was going to see Swing Vote because it has Stanley Tucci in it (I just love to say Tucci). It was in 3-D so I paid the extra $2 for the glasses. I'm wondering if I had brought my own (if I had saved them from the last 3-D movie I saw, which was Meet the Robinsons) if I could have saved myself $2. Interesting experiment for the next 3-D movie I go to... By the way, this movie is a must in 3-D and should probably be seen on the big screen. Without the 3-D, it's probably just an okay movie about encountering a strange world.

I should probably read the book to see how much of the movie is the book. The book is brought with the trio on their adventure and they point out that some of the things they encountered are depicted exactly in the book. I wonder if they things they didn't reference back to the book were the movie's creations or still the book. I guess I won't know unless I read the book!

Basically all of the creatures they encounter are shown in the previews. There weren't too many surprises. Of course, the previews were not shown in 3-D and that little aspect made the creatures so much more exciting (even if I had seen them already). There were some incredibly suspenseful moments (standing on the muscovite in the gem room) and some not so incredibly suspenseful moments that were supposed to be tense (like being chased by the dinosaur). But the unsuspenseful moments gave you time to relax while still marveling at the things that were flying at you in 3-D.

The acting was fine. The plot was fine. The story was fine. The creatures (as discussed in the previous paragraph) for the most part were not a surprise. I did love the birds. So pretty! Who wouldn't want a pet that also serves as a nightlight and a water finder? But what really made this movie was the 3-D. They incorporated it well. Everything was 3-D, not just the stuff flying at you or dripping on you but everything including the actors. It made you feel as though you were part of the adventure. Of course, the filmmakers had fun with this effect and you knew it was coming, like when Trevor was brushing his teeth and when the dinosaur was dripping slime. The 3-D really helped pull you into the movie. I think the roller coaster scene was visually much better in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom but this one made you feel as though you, too, were bouncing along the tracks out of control. You could almost feel the wind on your face and the inertia flinging you backwards, pinning you to your chair.

I really liked this movie, although I can't imagine how much I would have liked it in 2-D (or is that just 1-D?). This was definitely an action movie where the action sucked you in, beat you up, and didn't spit you out until the credits. That was the enticement of 3-D. You will feel it.