Movie Valley
August 2009 Movie Reviews
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Starring: Leslie Mann, Jimmy Bennett, William H. Macy, James Spader
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Run Time: 1 hr 29 mins

Shorts is about a magical wishing rock and how it affects the lives of pretty much everyone in the town of Black Falls.

I am absolutely amazed over how there are thousands of kids who can act out there in the world and none of them managed to star in this movie. Ugh. Absolutely ugh. The adults were fabulous (James Spader, William H. Macy, Leslie Mann) but they're not in it much. The kids rule the show, which is the way it ought to be in a kids movie... except they need to be able to act. Otherwise, it's not a movie. It's an elementary school production. There's a reason only parents go to those. You have to love the kid enough to suffer through it. I didn't love these kids. And I suffered through it.

The premise of this movie is pretty interesting. It has so much promise. The execution wasn't that interesting. I didn't mind the jumbleness of it - jumping from the end to middle to beginning to end to middle. I caught on. It's just when all the pieces came together, the story fell with a thud. And some of the vignettes weren't that interesting or funny. Why did his friends have to be aliens? And really? A booger monster?

I did like the Black children's names - Helvetica Black and Cole Black. That's funny. And I liked the gadget that just had to do everything... and yet had no battery life as a result. I'm not sure I want to chop onions with the same thing that's also a nose hair trimmer. And I certainly don't want to answer a phone call after someone's used it for that purpose (even if that someone is me).

I loved the staring competition vignette - even if it wasn't well acted. It was a funny concept. And I liked that it sneaked into different parts of the overall story. I also loved the catch 22 the parents faced - a married couple leading different teams. The punishment for failing was being fired and kicked out of town. As a result, it didn't matter if either team won because both of the Thompsons would have to leave town anyway when the other Thompson failed.

Whenever something bad came as a result of a wish, I wondered why the current holder of the stone just didn't wish the bad thing away (well, it did happen once). Of course, if it were that simple, it wouldn't have been a movie, I suppose. You can't have mayhem if you just wish it away. But since one of the bad things was wished away, it annoyed me that they just didn't wish the other bad things away, too (like Mr. Black's reign of terror at the end - just wish it away). It would have been better (more accurate/compelling) if you couldn't wish away other people's wishes, only your own. That little rule would have made the plot seem a little more acceptable to me.

I can forgive this movie's storytelling jumbledness. I can forgive a few plot holes (why didn't they wish the bad things away?). I cannot forgive the atrocious acting. It was a horrible movie as a result. Painful. It could have been pretty good instead of pretty awful. Stay away. If you won't believe me that the acting spoils the movie, these two words will make you stay away: Booger Monster. And to seal the deal, here's a line from the movie, "For years you've eaten your boogers. Now your booger wants to eat you." Lovely.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana
Directed By: Robert Schwentke
Run Time: 1 hr 48 mins

The Time Traveler's Wife is about a man (played by Bana) with a "genetic anomaly" that causes him to drift between time - the past, the present, and the future. During his travels through time, he meets a little girl named Clare. When Clare (played by McAdams) grows up, her time intertwines with adult Henry. They meet and marry (as she's already in love with him since she's known him her entire life). He continues to drift uncontrollably and without warning through time. Clare struggles to deal with how his time travel affects her, both because she feels as though her life was pre-destined and that she's stuck living her life without the man she loves.

I'm not sure how I feel abut this movie. A bit blah. I never really felt the true essence of the love story. Adult Clare meets adult Henry and bam - they're married. You don't see him wooing her as a youngster. You don't even feel that adult Henry even cares about Clare, young or old. There's very little emotion in this movie that's supposed to be all about emotion (the trailers made me cry each and every time I saw them; Jeff laughed at me every time). What I did feel in this movie is its creepiness. A naked older man meets a very young girl in a meadow, far from any other person. It seems like a con job you should warn your children about - "if a naked man approaches you and tells you he's a time traveler, run. Run far away from the naked man." Of course, it was nice that Henry could prove he was a time traveler when he disappeared before Clare's eyes, which made it seem a bit less creepy.

I loved the daughter. I just went to to confirm something I thought had to be true. The resemblance between the older version of Alba (the daughter) and the younger Alba is just spooky. They really are almost identical, but yet there's an obvious (and intentional) age difference. They actually stand side by side - you see the same nose! Imdb confirmed it. They're sisters. Gosh they look alike!

The premise, the concept of this story, is compelling. The execution just fell short. I have heard the book is better, that you get the sense of the love story, and that the movie is too scattered. I should read the book. Perhaps the book would answer some of the questions I had about the movie. Did Henry time travel when he was a child? We see when it first happens to him so I know he did. But did it happen frequently? How would ending up back at school, totally naked, affect a child, particularly a teen? You'd think he would have learned to control it or even understand it better if something like that happened (which it had to have).

I am glad this movie didn't star Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. I read something that says the writer envisioned those two as the leads. Wow. That would have produced a totally different vibe (especially now). I liked the casting as it was.

One thing I didn't like about this movie is the scene where adult Clare meets Henry in their own time. She knows him because he's been visiting her entire life but he doesn't know her because he hasn't met her yet (presumably falling in love with adult Clare triggers his time traveling to her when she was little). I didn't like this scene because of how he reacted - cold and disbelieving. He's time traveled his whole life. Surely he's encountered other people whom he's met in different time lines. And even if he hasn't (if you consider that the reason he met her so often as a child is because he was in love with her), you'd think he'd be more receptive to someone that says, "Hi, you time travelled to me my entire life so I know you." You'd think he'd be relieved to have someone to talk to about his "genetic anomaly." I also didn't like that Clare became to resent his time traveling because it meant he left her alone. When she was younger, she saw his time traveling as his way of coming to see her. As an adult, she saw it as him leaving her. I didn't like that she turned a positive into a negative. The time travel was what made their love possible. She can't resent that and yet she did. I didn't like that.

I'm not sure how I feel about Clare being in love with Henry when she's an adult. I know they've spent a lot of time together over the course of her entire life but people change. The crushes you have as a preadolescent don't normally transcend into adulthood. It was almost as if her heart was ruling when her head should have stepped in, particularly when you see that the Henry she's meeting now isn't that great of a guy. Eventually, yes, he turns into a better guy, but the younger Henry wouldn't be a draw. Again, her heart was ruling when her head should have been questioning things - is he really that great of a guy? I suppose you have to believe in destiny in order to understand how she could turn a blind eye. Of course, it does come to bite her in the butt when she realizes that her life was planned for her the moment he met her as a young child. That realization frustrates her.

I liked the ending. It got to me. I loved how, even after several years, she still had the hope of seeing him. I finally felt the love story. It took almost two hours but I finally felt it. And I was happy for her. She finally got to benefit from his time traveling.

It's a decent movie... and then it's not. The ending did get to me. And I always like the idea of time traveling. My advice is to read the book. It's supposed to be better (now let's see if I take my own advice).

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch
Directed By: Nora Ephron
Run Time: 2 hrs 3 mins

Julie/Julia is based on two true stories. It intertwines the lives of two women who discover who they truly are by cooking. Julia (played by Streep) refers to Julia Child, before she became a famous cook. Julie (played by Adams) is a regular woman who challenges herself to cook Julia Child's entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook - all of the recipes - in one year.

I wanted to see more of the Julia Child storyline. I really didn't care about how the self-imposed cooking challenge was affecting Julie's life. I wanted to see someone cook more. I wanted more culinary scenes and less leading up to "this is how I became a cook" scenes. I did not realize that the movie was about Julia Child's struggle to publish her most famous book. I did know that Julia Child wasn't taken seriously as a cook, particularly in France. I wanted to see more of the background to Julia's life - what was up with her obsession with babies, did she have to peddle her TV show herself or was it offered to her? Most importantly, why did she make her comment about Julie's experiment? What was behind that?

This movie answers the question for me - which came first, the cookbook or the cooking show? I assumed she was like so many of today's "chefs" who have a TV show regardless of the fact that you've never heard of them and then they produce a cookbook. They create a fan base to buy their book. I suppose in Julia's time, you had to prove yourself before someone gave you a TV show, unlike the current state of reality TV where everyone in America is going to have their own show at some point. That's probably what annoyed me the most about the Julie storyline - anyone can blog. It's not hard. You don't even have to have a schtick, which is why her obsessing to begin with about what to do bugged me. Of course, the writer/blogger/cook in me all sympathized with her plight.

I thought Meryl Streep's high pitched voice would bother me, as it did in the first few minutes of the movie - it was really grating on my nerves - but I grew accustomed to it... eventually.

I must say, I did like Julia's relationship with her husband Paul. He seemed so supportive, even more so considering the era and what she was trying to do (become a chef in a male dominated industry). He never belittled her efforts. He only encouraged. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he was played by the lovable and wonderful Stanley Tucci. Tucci. I just love to say Tucci. I was mesmerized by their height difference. I had to go to afterwards to check on Meryl Streep's height in comparison to Stanley Tucci's. She is several inches shorter than he in real life. Was the real Paul Child that much shorter than his wife? I know she was a tall gal but their height difference was a bit comical. Perhaps they exaggerated that in the movie for comedic effect. Either that or I'm just immature. Meryl Streep did wear a lot of heels in the movie, tall heels. I didn't think tall women did that sort of thing - make themselves look taller, particularly when their husbands were much shorter than they already. I did love that they kept making jokes about her height (she favored food shopping over clothes shopping because nothing ever came in her size but food always did).

I am curious why the moviemakers strayed from the typical stereotype of Julia - always cooking with wine/alcohol (one for the pot, two for Julia). Was this simply not true or did that come later? I really wanted a story for that.

The Julie storyline. I found it a bit tedious, probably perhaps because Amy Adams wasn't adorable enough (particularly with that short hair). It didn't suck me in. Was blogging really that popular in 2002? For some reason, using the woman's real name (Julie Powell) really bothered me. I don't know her. She's not that big of a deal, so why did I need to know her real name? Yes, there is that Julie reference but she could have been Julie Smith and not her real name.

I did like the overlay of Julia Child cooking while Julie cooked the same thing, 40 some years later. It just wasn't the same. Julie had an advantage. Ah, technology. The food processor of the 50s/60s was a manual thing. Oh, to have had to cook then. And it wasn't that long ago! Not sure I could have done it. I also liked that they had the same pot - Emile Henry (French cast iron cookware - which I own myself). At least quality cookware lives on.

I also liked the relationship part of the movie - Julie with her husband and especially Julia with her husband and even the relationship Julie has (in her mind) with Julia - was very interesting.

I did like this movie. It has a lot of charm. It could have had more but it was a nice, sweet, and surprisingly funny movie. Julia Child was definitely one interesting and kick-ass babe. I'll say one thing about this movie: you can't walk out of a movie about Julia Child, particularly one set in her days in France, and not want copious amounts of butter, cheese, and wine.

The Ugly Truth
Starring: Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler
Directed By: Robert Luketic
Run Time: 1 hr 35 mins

The Ugly Truth is about an uptight, overly controlling, career-focused woman who meets Mr. Perfect. When her boss goes behind her back and hires a shock jock to boost their morning talk show's ratings, producer Abby (played by Heigl) and shock jock Mike (played by Butler) are like cats and dogs, oil and water, fire and gasoline. They hate each other. More to the point, Abby hates Mike's crudeness and his assumption that he knows how to handle a relationship better than she does. The two use Abby's desire to strike up up a relationship with Mr. Perfect as a testing grounds. If Mike can help Abby win over Mr. Perfect, Mike gets to stay on the show. If Abby can't land Mr. Perfect using Mike's advice, Mike has to leave the show. It's along the lines of Roxanne/Cyrano de Bergerac (minus the nose and add the beauty).

This movie is a little shocking. The language, the dialog, the topics of conversation are a bit crude (but nothing unheard of in my house). The shock is half the fun, at first, and then quickly turns tedious, predictable, tiresome, and just plain boring. I just wanted it to end. I'm a bit annoyed by films that make women out to be shrews. How much different was Katherine Heigl's character in this movie from Knocked Up? Oh, right. In this one, she's a producer, not a reporter.

Katherine Heigl is beautiful and a great actress. I would like to see her play something other than a cold, controlling, angry person (I don't watch Grey's Anatomy so I don't know if Izzy is relaxed and carefree or not). There's one scene in this movie that HAD to be tough for her to film. I kept wondering that during the scene, "How did she get through this? How embarrassing!" She never made it seem awkward. Gerard Butler's accent I heard the Scottish creep in every once in awhile. I was a bit impressed for the most part of the lack of the brogue. I was in hysterics over the Craig Ferguson spot - Scot meets Scot - and wondered how hard it was for Gerard Butler to keep in character with his American accent.

Predictable movie - without even having seen it, you should know the ending already. I did. It was a bit of a fun ride. I did enjoy it and wasn't too insulted by it (minimal chick flick cliches), which is always a good thing. I just wish the female characters in chick flicks could be stronger without having to be bitchy. There are some of us out there (and we're funny, too)! If you see this movie, be prepared for some vulgarity. It was a bit jaw dropping, even for me. I did say to myself a couple of times, "I can't believe he just said that!" Funny. Nice. But predictable. I supposed bitchy women are predictable. Maybe that's what makes them bitchy.