Movie Valley
December 2009 Movie Reviews
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Sherlock Holmes
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong,
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Run Time: 2 hrs 9 mins

Sherlock Holmes is about, well, the detective Sherlock Holmes (played by Downey, Jr) and his partner Dr. Watson (played by Law) solving a mystery.

I found Holmes' deductions mind boggling and quite fun, with an air of whimsy. And that's exactly the tone of the entire movie - whimsy. I liked the banter between Holmes and Watson. I'm not a Jude Law fan but this movie made me like him, well, his Watson. I was a little underwhelmed by the overall plan of Blackwood, until it was explained away by Holmes.

This is the first Guy Ritchie movie that didn't require subtitles. There were no heavy accents or British slang that I have no hopes of understanding. I was disappointed that Jason Statham, Guy Ritchie's go-to guy, didn't make a cameo.

I thought this movie was well done. I thoroughly enjoyed it. About two-thirds of the way through it, I told myself to stop trying to figure out the next step (because I wasn't going to figure it out) and to just enjoy the movie. I'd advise you to do the same. Just watch. For me, the explanations were beyond my scope of deduction.

This is an incredibly good movie. A lot of action. A lot of humor. Smart. Fun. Well-done.

Oh, and I liked seeing the Tower Bridge before it was finished (because I just watched a show that ranked cool bridges and this one, completed, only made it to number four. I think it's spectacular).

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Run Time: 2 hrs 14 mins

Invictus is the true story of how Nelson Mandela (played by Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa's rugby team, Francois Pienaar (played by Damon), to help unite their country.

Hmmm... was it a sports movie or a political movie? Interesting how there were two parallel but at the same time overlapping, intertwining stories.

Matt Damon was almost unrecognizable with the blonde hair, South African accent, and all bulked up. Nelson Mandela seemed like such a sweet guy... or was that just Morgan Freeman?

Loved the opening shot - two contrasting worlds separated by a mere street - one with green grass and clean uniforms, the other on brown grass and tattered clothing. Two different worlds doing the same thing separated by pavement. Never the two shall meet.

This is an incredibly good movie. Very well acted. It took me awhile to figure out how the two stories intertwined (not much on history). Can't believe a president of an entire country would be so vested in a sport, one team. And yet it made the world of difference, bring the country (black people and white people) together.

The Road
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Molly Parker
Directed By: John Hillcoat
Run Time: 1 hr 53 mins

The Road is post-apocalyptic tale of the survival of a father and his young son as they journey across America in search of a better place. All of the food is gone. All of the animals are gone. Few people survived. Many of those who did survive have resorted to cannibalism. As they walk across the country, the father must teach the young son how to survive - how to hunt for food and how to avoid the cannibals.

There's not much background or explanation as to what really happened, what caused the apocalypse, why it happened, or how long it took for everything to go down. Through brief flashbacks, you see that the world was once "normal" and the father was once happily married. And then some sort of catastrophic event happened that killed the earth, all of the animals, and most of the people. Everything died. No animals, even very few bugs. It's not clear when the child was born - whether he was on the way before the apocalypse or if he happened some time later. He is definitely a post-apocalypse baby, never knowing the world when it was nice.

There are two main characters for most of the movie. There's not a lot of talking. Not much happens (and yet it does). I'm not even sure of the timespan for the events. Did the story progress over a couple of days, weeks, months? Even though there were no zombies, my mind couldn't help but stray to Zombieland. There were a lot of similarities - never being able to stay in one place for very long, constantly looking over your should, always being afraid, not being able to trust anyone. There are some pretty intense scenes, scary scenes, and a few hard to take scene (cue one flashback that explains why the mother is no longer with them). Wow. It's a tough movie because even as an audience member, you're constantly scared. I couldn't believe the risks the father and son took - entering houses to look for food, clothes, shelter, walking out in the open. Time after time I felt myself wanting to shout, "Don't go in there!" One risk, however, paid off greatly for them. I was glad that I wasn't the only one thinking opening a locked compartment and crawling into the unknown was a bad thing. The kid, for his limited years, was pretty savvy. His instincts were pretty dead-on most of the time.

I was a bit frustrated with how the story played out. The father, at one point, told his son that he was trying to teach him how to survive because he wasn't always going to be there for his son... And yet there was very little of "this is how your start a fire when you don't have matches" and "this is how you clean and dress a wound." It just seemed to be two guys walking around. And given that there were a lot of cannibal hunters out there, you'd think they'd stay off the beaten path, forge their own trail to limit the number of interactions they had. Most of their encounters were on a paved road.

I'm not sure about the ending, why the other man chose to approach the boy instead of the other person in his party (I won't say who because that would give away the ending). I will say that it broke my heart to learn that the little boy had been right all along. There were two separate occasions where he wanted to do one thing but his father thought the opposite (and so they did what the father wanted). Turns out, the boy had good instincts. And interesting thought - how would life had turned out for them if they had followed the little boy's instincts to begin with? Perhaps something could have been prevented if the father had listed to the child.

It's a dark movie, a sad movie. It's also very scary. How would you survive without modern comforts? And then, if you could survive, how would you survive without the absolute basics - food and water? To survive, would you be a good person, as the father and son were trying to be (aka not eating people), or would you take the easy way out (cannibalism)? You might think you would be a good person, how quickly would you fall? It's eat or be eaten...

It's a good movie. Scary on so many levels.

Up in the Air
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman
Directed By: Jason Reitman
Run Time: 1 hr 49 mins

Up in the Air is about a corporate down-sizer who likes being on the road.

I saw this movie with Jeff. I think he, as a frequent business traveler, liked it more than I. I think he identified with Ryan (played by Clooney). I was impressed with the actress who played Natalie (Kendrick). She held her own alongside Clooney. Both Jeff and I were surprised to learn that the actress who played Alex (Farmiga) is much younger that she looks.

Despite the fact that Ryan seems arrogant and a bit on the dislikable side (he does fire people for a living), he is actually a sweet guy. I couldn't really understand why his sisters didn't seem to like him. He wasn't a bad guy. He just worked a lot and shunned human contact. His sister's animosity seemed cruel. Of course, we don't fully know the history, but it just seemed wrong.

The one part I didn't like about this movie was Natalie's cost-cutting idea. It just didn't seem feasible. I didn't get the logistics.

There is a small twist in this movie and it really shocked me. I thought there was something suspicious but couldn't quite put my finger on it. And when the twist was unfurled, I gasped. And then I was sad.

This is a sweet movie. I liked it. Jeff liked it more.