Movie Valley
February 2008 Movie Reviews
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Definitely, Maybe
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz
Directed By: Adam Brooks
Run Time: 1 hr 52 mins

Definitely, Maybe is about a girl who asks her father to tell her about the women of his past. He launches into a story about the three loves of his life and asks her to guess which one she thinks is her mother, based on his description of how they met and fell in love.

I should probably interject my own mis-interpretation of this story: the little girl does know her own mother. I thought she was raised by her father and wanted to know about someone she had never met before. In actuality, she is merely asking about her father's past - whom he fell in love with and why.

This is an incredibly sweet movie. Yes, it is a chick flick and yes, I actually liked it. There were no dumb cliche moments. The plot was plausible and not overly romantically glossy. Will Hayes (played by Reynolds) is getting divorced from his wife, mother of Maya (played by Breslin). Maya asks him to remember why he fell in love with her mother as he recounts the story of how the two met. And even though he remembers those feelings strongly and is quite torn up about the divorce, it does not mean that he and Maya's mother will get back together (and no, I'm not giving away any plot point by telling you that). In too many bad chick flicks, the couple would end up back together, suddenly remember why they really love each other. This movie acknowledges that divorce isn't necessary from a lack of love or romance. Will has plenty for his soon to be ex-wife. There's no animosity there. But there's no real connection there, either. She was just the wrong woman for him.

I liked this movie. I can't say it enough. It was a chick flick that didn't insult the audience's intelligence. Each character was flawed. Each character was incredibly endearing. You could see why Will fell in love with each of these three women. And as his story progressed, you could see why two of these women really weren't right for him. I liked each of the women - Emily, Summer, and April. They were all very smart. I also liked that they didn't put themselves second, second to their love lives/Will. I think too many chick flicks do that. They were driven but not coldly driven.

I think everyone in this movie did a wonderful job. Ryan Reynolds was cute and charming and funny. It was sweet just to watch him interact with his daughter - in not an over-the-top daddy sort of way. He treated her like a person. I didn't quite see him as a speech writer, so impassioned by politics, but he certainly played the role smartly. I was a bit confused by the timeline because it would make him a lot older than he really is (almost 40 and he's barely 30 himself). But I can let that go.

I'll say it again - I really liked this movie. Although the catalyst for the plot was driven by a pending divorce, it wasn't mean spirited. It wasn't head-in-the-clouds romantic. It was down to earth, which is what gave the movie its charm. Sweet. Cute. I liked it.

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Joan Plowright, David Strathairn
Directed By: Mark Waters
Run Time: 1 hr 37 mins

The Spiderwick Chronicles is about a family that must battle faeries over a book that resides in the house.

For some movies, I've read the book before I've watched the movies. For others, I have read the book after seeing the movie. Movies tend to condense the book, sticking to the main plot line and ignoring all the other subplots that fuel the story, the characters, the soul and integrity of the overall story. You need to read the book (in most cases) in order to truly appreciate the beauty of the words that launched the movie. Even with the Harry Potter movies, which are fairly close to the book (although they do omit the subplots), lack the soul and wonder of the books. They try, but fail a bit. I'm always glad I've read the book; the omissions are noticeable but not annoying. I like the movies. I like the books better. After watching The Golden Compass without having read the book first, I vowed to always read the book before seeing the movie. I was so lost with The Golden Compass that I felt I needed more background, more explanation in order to understand what was going on. So much was omitted.

I decided I had to read all of the The Spiderwick Chronicles before I watched the movie. There are five books. I was a bit annoyed with that part because it was a shameful marketing/money making ploy. Each book is essentially a chapter in a regular book - only one task takes place in each book. You have to read them all in order to get from beginning to end (while that may sound obvious, I must point out that most books in a "series" do not need to be read - you can read the first one and get a complete story. This is not the case with The Spiderwick Chronicles). But I read all five of them (which are VERY pricey). I was okay with the story. It was a bit creative but on the same hand, not so creative. All of the creatures have been done before in previous books. The storyline was a bit tiresome - fight the bad guys in order to save the world. But I did like it, sort of. It wasn't as well written as it could have been but I liked it. Sort of.

And then it came time to watch the movie.

I'm torn. I'm really torn. I'm not sure if I didn't like the movie because I read the books or because it was just a horrible movie. The movie is nothing like the books. The movie pulls the basic characters from the books - the twins Simon and Jared and their sister Mallory; Thimbletack the brownie/bogart; Hogsqueak the hobgobblin; Mulgrath the ogre; Arthur Spiderwick, the man who wrote the field guide. Some basic plot points are also gleaned - the family, sans dad, move into crazy Aunt Lucinda's house; Jared is an angry, troubled young boy since the divorce; he finds the field guide; the ogre wants the field guide. But everything else - including the order things happen and how the tasks are accomplished (oh, wait, there really aren't any tasks in the movie) are completely wrong. The movie and the book have nothing to do with each other. I was so frustrated I wanted to walk out of the movie.

Perhaps I can forgive a movie that messes with the plot. I mean, who cares what order things happen in (well, I did because that was the first thing that frustrated me - "That's not supposed to happen yet!" I mumbled to myself in bitter annoyance)? Who cares that the tasks just magically solved themselves? Oh, wait. *I* did. But the real annoyance of the movie was that it not only lacked the soul of the book, it chewed it up, spit it out, and did an angry little dance over the pieces.

In the book, Jared (the main character) is an angry little boy. He got into a fight at school and was expelled. His mother is upset with him. His twin brother understands him, even though they're completely different. His older sister is a bit leery of him (as siblings tend to be) but she likes him. She likes to pick on him but she still likes him. They have their problems but they're still a family. Even though strange things happen in the house, Simon, and sometimes Mallory, know in their hearts that Jared isn't responsible. They know he's a good guy. They team up together. Together, they solve the tasks, with Jared in the lead (because he's read the book). It's because of this leadership that is thrust upon him that Jared is able to overcome his problems. The tasks are solved by the team, with cleverness, skill, belief, and comprehension. Jared has read the book. He has the knowledge and just needs to put all the pieces together. No one tells him what to do. He figures it out on his own, and in some cases, with the help of his brother and sister. Each of them brings a skill to the team - their sister's fencing skills, Simon's love and connection with animals, and Jared's knowledge of the book and command of mastering his leadership ability.

In the movie, none of the siblings like each other. Even Simon, Jared's twin, doesn't like him. No one backs the other one up (they do eventually come together but the connection seems false, forced. I didn't feel the love). There is no real team. And the tasks (well, they aren't really tasks) are solved when someone else tells Jared what to do - Lucy, Arthur. Although some of the characters have the same name as the characters in the book, they were not the same in spirit. Thimbletack speaks in rhymes, only in rhymes. Every single thing he says. While I found this a bit annoying in the book, the fact that it was missing from the movie shone like a lighthouse beacon. Yes, it was annoying but that was his character! And Hogsqueak ended every sentence he spoke with an insult. He was actually nice in the movie. Again, lacking a strong character element. And Byron - poor Byron the griffin. He was reduced to a mere cameo... and a stupid cameo at that (call back his pet in order to find Arthur?? Where was the task of outwitting the elves?). Leaving out the task with elves was a plot crushing point. The final test then never came to fruition, which was kind of the point of the movie. It was a test for Jared, a test of his true character, the kindness within him. Oh wait. I forgot. The movie wasn't about solving anything. And the worst part of all were the Jumanji moments. Those were not in the book. Way to rip off a much more imaginative movie. Ugh.

Ugh. Maybe the movie on its own is a good movie. I was just so blinded by annoyance that I couldn't see the movie as a movie. All I could see was some author's words being torn to shreds. The screenwriters just mangled the whole point of the books. I wonder if the authors (it's a team) liked the movie at all. Did they know that it really wasn't going to be their book up on the screen? Or was it a surprise at the premiere? I hope they knew beforehand.

So.... anyway... If you've read the books, you'll most likely hate the movie. I know I did. If you haven't read the books, maybe you will like it... as long as you like soulless drivel that lacks imagination and tenderness.

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Diane Lane, Rachel Bilson
Directed By: Doug Liman
Run Time: 1 hr 28 mins

Jumper is about a guy who can teleport, simply by visualizing where he wants to go (as long as he's been there before or knows what it looks like). He has fun jumping from place to place but, unfortunately, there's a sect who don't like jumpers. He finds himself in hot pursuit of these killers.

The premise of this movie is intriguing. It had so much promise. The execution, however, was not as intriguing. I liked the notion that David (played by Christensen) can teleport pretty much wherever he wants. I like what he does with his day - popping into London for q pint, Fiji for surfing, Egypt for lunch on top of the Sphinx eating Subway. That was funny. I like that he's living the good life. I like that he teleports from one couch cushion to the next, just so he doesn't have to stretch to get the remote. That's funny. I understand that a movie just can't be about the good things. I understand that there must be some angst, some struggle, some conflict. I know we weren't supposed to like the Palladins (the anti-Jumper sect) but I really didn't like them. Who cares if someone teleports? Does that really mean you should kill them? I understood the point - only God should have the ability to be everywhere at once. I just didn't like seeing the Jumpers attacked. I think the Palladins were just jealous. What would you do with the ability to teleport?

Catalyst aside, I absolutely hated the romantic subplot. I don't care that Millie didn't question where David had been for 8 years (they went to high school together; David learned he could teleport after falling through the ice; everyone assumed he died except Millie who believed him to be alive after finding the snowglobe he went under the ice to retrieve). What irks me about the subplot was there was just no chemistry between the two characters (well, perhaps between the two actors). Their scenes together were boring. And I didn't feel/believe David's need to protect Millie from the Palladins. I did like that he wasn't battling the Palladins to save his own life. He was doing it to save the lives of those he loved - his father, Millie.

Romantic subplot aside, I didn't like Samuel L. Jackson's performance at all. Part of that dislike may be rubbing off from my dislike of the evil Palladins, but I don't think so. I think my dislike stands on its own. His acting was subpar. His character just didn't have the drive he really needed to do the things he did. He also didn't seem that smart to be able to catch up with David. Aside from the plane tickets to Rome, how did he find David to begin with? A lot of sleuthing to find a ghost, someone who was supposed to have died 8 years ago, someone with no real paper trail to his life or his bank robbing.

The parts I did like about this movie - teleporting in general (obviously), Griffin, and Diane Lane's character. Very intriguing. Does the ending leave it open for a sequel? Does the girl have the power, too? I also liked Jamie Bell's Griffin character, although he could have been a bit more ornery. Great comedic presence. Pretty good sidekick. The exchange about the cave was hysterical ("You live in a cave!" "It's a lair").

The final action sequences were pretty good. Dodging a bus is good. Jumping someone into the middle of a war in Khazikstan is interesting (good counter maneuver). Jumping part of a building is heavy. All good stuff. I cringed. I eagerly anticipated the next move. Special effects were good.

Overall... I sort of liked this movie but really didn't. Kudos to the premise. Raspberries to the execution. Could have been so much better than it was. Could have been strong but instead was fluff. If you're expecting fluff, this will be a delight. If you're expecting something ala The Bourne Ultimatum, you'll be disappointed.

I think this movie is based on a book. I should probably read that. I may like it.

Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films & Animated Short Films

Thankfully, the Landmark theater in Minneapolis decided to be nice and show both the animated short films and the live action short films, otherwise I'm not sure I would have been able to see them (trying to find them in their entirety on the web is a bit challenging). Anyway, some I liked, a couple I downright hated. I'm pretty sure those that I hated are going to win.

The animated short films consist of I Met the Walrus, Madame Tutli-Putli, Meme Les Pigeons Vont Au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven), Moya Lyubov (My Love), and Peter and the Wolf.

I Met the Walrus is the secretly recorded interview one boy conducted with John Lennon, after sneaking into his hotel. We hear the 14 year old boy asking Lennon questions. The animation is pen inking drawings that morph into other drawings that include the likeness of Lennon and his interviewer. The only thing I liked about this film was how friendly and honest Lennon was with a complete stranger, an obvious fan. The drawings were mere doodles trying too hard to be intellectual. I was annoyed that this was an entry at all for Oscar contention. The concept was cool (a kid sneaking into Lennon's hotel room to interview him) but the material - both the animation and the questions - were quite boring.

Madame Tutli-Putli is a Canadian film that I think will win this category. It's also the one I absolutely hated. Most of these animated films are visually stunning - and you always have to wonder how these things get animated, and how much work is involved with them. This one was a silent film featuring moldy puppets sans strings. Their eyes were creepy and I found out after the film that they were the real eyes of someone (can't remember who) on the production team. Madame Tutli-Putli hauls tons of suitcases onto a train and sits in a very cramped compartment with many other travelers. I did find the chess game funny and the book the little boy was reading but the rest of it was slow and a bit confusing. I think it was trying to be psychedelic or strongly emphasizing the horrors of imagination but I just didn't like it. I think it tried too hard to say a whole heck of a lot of jumblings. The puppets (their "skin") really grossed me out (it was falling off their bodies). Not sure what that point was but it really bothered me. I just couldn't get into this one.

Meme Les Pigeons Vont Au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven) was the only comedy in the bunch. It's about how a con artist, who is trying to sell a device designed to launch the buyer into Heaven, despite his/her sins, gets caught up in his own con. The ending (the final ending) was a bit sad. It was sweet. It was cute. It was slightly funny. And it paid a nice homage to O'Henry. A twist and then a twist.

Moya Lyubov (My Love) was the visual stunner of the bunch. The animation was an impressionist painting. Very pretty, although a bit distracting because the faces were never in focus as a result of the swirling paintings. But I liked the different style of animation. Very beautiful. This was one of the longer stories. It's about an upper class boy who falls in love with two girls - one is his maid, the other is another upper class girl with a sordid past. He falls in love with this girl sight unseen and when he discovers she really isn't that pretty, it's too late for him. It's very tragic.

Peter and the Wolf was another silent one. The animation was stop-animation dolls (they kind of looked like a more modern version of the dolls from the Christmas classics of the 1950s - Santa Claus is Coming to Town, etc). Pretty animation. Not stunning like Moya Lyubov (My Love) but not disgusting like Madame Tutli-Putli. The story is the well known Peter and the Wolf story (just like the name indicates) - boy lives in crappy, grey town; he sneaks through Grandpa's locked fence to play in the beautiful and sunny woods, sliding across the frozen pond with his goosey pal; Grandpa drags him back to the safety of the grey world; wolf comes, eats goosey pal; Peter gets pissed, captures wolf; Grandpa tries to sell captured wolf to either the butcher or a sideshow; Peter realizes the wolf was just being a wolf; Peter lets the wolf go. It's sweet - Peter plays with his two animal pals. It's sad - poor goosey has to die in order to teach Peter a lesson. It's wonderful - Peter realizes who the bad guys really are. A nice film but then again, the story itself is nice. If it's being judged on its story, this shouldn't win. If it's being judged on its animation, this shouldn't win. Good animation. Not awe-inspiring, not trend-setting.

The live action films consisted of At Night, Il Supplente (The Substitute), Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets), Tanghi Argentini, The Tonto Woman.

At Night is the Danish entry. This is an incredibly long short. I need to do some research to discover what exactly is considered a short film because this one seemed to be about an hour long (although it probably just felt like it was an hour due to its dark nature). It's about three young women who have terminal cancer. It takes place in the hospital between Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Two are fairly upbeat about their cancer; one considers their ward Death Row. The two who are upbeat have daily visitors - their parents. The one is pessimistic has no visitors. She purposely caused her boyfriend, whom she was madly in love with, to break up with her by sleeping with his best friend. Better for him to be angry with her than sorry for her. And she doesn't speak with her parents because she left them when she was 17. Her mother was sick and needed her to take care of her but she refused to spend one more year tied down. Her father quit his job to take care of her mother. They send her letters all the time; she won't respond to them because she assumes they must hate her. They don't know she has cancer. Her terminally ill friends try to persuade her to contact them but she refuses. She walked out on them when they needed her; why would they come when she needs them. She finally is persuaded to contact them after her two friends die. No one should die alone. It was well done, even if it was utterly depressing and dark. Just long!

Il Supplente (The Substitute) is a Spanish entry (not exactly sure which Spanish speaking country submitted this one). It's about a substitute teacher who challenges the norm - he plays mind games with the students, testing them. He gives a low score to the class suck-up, a high score to the class dummy, torments the fat kid by taking away an autographed ball, but then meets his match with the class poet, who refuses to back down from her stance in exchange for a high score. The substitute teacher really isn't a substitute. He's just messing with the kids. He jumps out the window and goes to his business meeting, where the same principles he applied in the classroom are levied against him in his meeting. But he's learned something from the poet - don't back down from your principles. It was an interesting message. I didn't like the acting at all - maybe it was a cultural thing but I thought it was overacted, waaaay overacted. The "substitute" was over the top, and not in a good Jim Carrey way (or even in a Chris Farley way... and considering I hate Chris Farley's overacting, that speaks volumes for how much the the substitute was overacting). A bit funny. A bit overdone (ooh, give the suck-up a low mark; give the dummy a high mark). An interesting lesson.

Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets) is a French short (again, not really sure what French speaking country submitted this one). It's about a group of con men/pick pockets that falls into shambles when half of the team is jailed. The two remaining bafoons become caretakers to a homeless deaf mute boy, despite their attempts to shake him off. They clumsily take care of him. They also try to teach him to pickpocket with disastrous results. Just when they've given up hope, they discover that the boy has a talent for thievery - he crawls between the seats in a cinema, lifting wallets from the purses on the floor. He's useful afterall! But of course, the two caretakers wind up victims of their own stupidity and get arrested after picking a fight with off-duty cops. The boy shows them who the true mastermind of the gang really is - he's pickpocketed the cop for the handcuff keys! This is a funny one. Very cute. The little boy's smile at the end is so charming. A good story. Well acted. I liked the little twists.

Tanghi Argentini I think was in Dutch. The names of the actors were very Scandinavian, if they weren't Dutch... Anyway, this one is about a fat, balding office worker looking for love on the internet. He finds the woman of his dreams and she loves to tango. He tells her he does, too, which, of course, is a lie. He makes a date to meet her at tango night. He then convinces a co-worker to teach him to tango, despite the fact that the co-worker doesn't believe he will be able to learn in such a short time. The dancing instruction scenes are hilarious, particularly the one encounter amidst the row of filing cabinets! He meets his love. They dance. She falls because he's a bad dancer. She's sad. He convinces his instructor to go over to console his love with a dance. The instructor falls in love with the girl. Strangely enough, he's fine with losing his true love... The next day, he goes back to the internet. This time, he's a master poet. He picks up a list of names, presumably the names of his male co-workers, crosses off his dance instructor, and proceeds with the next name on the list. This co-worker is a poet. He convinces his co-worker to help him write poetry to win the love of a girl he's met on-line... I had a hard time determining if he was trying to find love for himself or if he was trying to find love for his chums. He wasn't that upset when his dancing love fell for the dance instructor... At any rate, it was a very sweet movie. Well acted. Cute. Funny. Touching. Interesting. Unique.

The Tonto Woman was in English! I don't think it was a US entry, though, because someone told me there were no US short film nominations... I believe either this one or the Danish depressing one will win this category. I'm not happy about that, though. I didn't like this one. The acting was so-so. The story was interesting and unique. I didn't care for the nudity (pointless and gratuitous) nor did I care for the bludgeoning. A couple of points could have been better depicted. There was no need to hit us over the head. We got what the director was trying to convey. It wasn't that hard to pick up. I also hated the ending. The story is about a man falling in love with a woman he shouldn't fall in love with. He himself is a bad man - makes his living stealing cattle and he's apparently slept with 200+ women (and since this is the 1800s, that number would be in the thousands by today's standards). He falls in love with a damaged woman. She's been marked, tattooed, by the savage Indian tribe that abducted her years ago. The entire lower portion of her face is covered in a tribal tattoo. She was so beautiful that her husband spent 11 years searching for her but when he found her, he couldn't bring himself to be with her (she was marked and had been raped by the "red niggers"). To keep his honor, he stayed married to her, but to keep his honor, he couldn't live with her. He forced her to live in the middle of the desert, miles from anyone. For some reason, the stranger falls in love with her. He shows her that she's still pretty and that she deserves to be happy. And then her jealous husband shows up. She speaks to him for the first time in 11 years and convinces him that he needs to show her some respect. She and her husband are about to ride off into the sunset when the stranger is shot by her husband's henchmen. The wife realizes her husband ain't a good man and leaves him. He's crushed. And then the ending is a complete re-hash of the opening (a wounded man confesses to a priest all of his improprieties). Ugh. Like I said, unique and interesting story. I just wish they didn't think their audience was comprised of idiots.

I hope the ones I absolutely hated don't win at the Oscars. That would be such a shame. Madame Tutli-Putli was pretentious. The animation was horrible. I Met the Walrus was gratuitous and pointless. And again, the animation was horrible (and pointless). The Tonto Woman was insulting. Let's hope the good ones get what they deserve!

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Ed Harris, Helen Mirren, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub
Run Time: 2 hrs 4 mins

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is about Benjamin Gate's quest to clear his family's name after being accused of helping to plot the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He enlists the help of his father (played by Voight), his girlfriend (played by Kruger), and his quirky computer-hacking sidekick Riley (played by Bartha).

The first movie was better.

While most sequels rehash gags and special effects that were hysterical and amazing from the successful original movie (see The Mummy 2 and Rush Hour 2), this one was a credit to sequel-dom and didn't bother to do that. Oddly enough, that kudos is the only kudos this movie will get from me as even fresh material really didn't help it.

It was slightly funny (Riley steals every scene he's in, just like in the original). It was slightly dramatic (I was intensely engaged in the chase). The clues were quite interesting... but solved a little too easily for my taste. Yes, the assembled team of strong historic minds is quite a think tank, however, perhaps one false step - I would have settled for a minor wrong turn - may have made this more interesting. Everything came together a little too quickly (for two hours) and was too easy, which made it a bit unbelievable - particularly the water scene on Mt. Rushmore. Really? Over four hundred feet of carved rock on top and we find what we're looking for in less than a minute? And the scene with the Easter egg hunt kid was just plain bad. It hurt to watch it, it was that contrived. Make the kid stop talking now! What kid can identify some random treasure hunter and has enough historical knowledge to rival an expert? Ugh.

Although I adore Ed Harris, his bad guy is nothing compared to Sean Bean's bad guy in the original movie (and that wasn't his best villain role at all). I didn't like that there was little motive other than greed as the catalyst for this treasure hunt. The women were strong, smart, and fearless which I liked. I didn't like that they were cold and bitchy. Oooh, they had brains... but they were angry about it. One side note of annoyance: Diane Kruger's accent kept sneaking in (she's German in real life). I found that a bit distracting.

I was riveted by this movie but I certainly didn't love it. I do wonder how much of it is really true. It almost makes me want to do some research. Almost. I laughed. I was engrossed. I actually thought, "Wow. That's pretty interesting" several times during the movie. But it all came together too easily, too quickly, too conveniently. And I really would have liked a better bad guy with a better motive. An okay movie. The original was better.

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie
Starring: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Cam Clarke, Yuri Lowenthal (II), Alan Lee
Directed By: Mike Nawrocki
Run Time: 1 hr 25 mins

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything is about three busboys who are mistaken for heroes and enlisted to help a princess save her brother from the hands of an evil pirate.

Larry the Cucumber plays Elliot, a busboy who is afraid of everything. Mr. Lunt plays Sedgewick, a busboy who is pretty darned lazy. And Pa Grape plays George, a busboy who has no self-confidence. They audition for roles in a play. Things don't go well and they end up losing their busboy jobs as a result (it's dinner theater). Down on their luck and full of despair, a ball rolls by and begins blinking. Larry (er, Elliot) picks up the ball, pushes a button to get it to stop blinking, and a boat falls from the sky. The ball begins blinking again. Larry, er Elliot, pushes another button to stop the blinking and they are magically transported back in time, in the middle of the ocean. There they meet Princess Eloise, who, along with her butler, are the only two remaining onboard after pirates attacked and kidnapped her brother. The trio of veggies are flattered that the princess thinks they're heroes and set off to help her. They did not anticipate that the quest would involve overcoming their flaws.

I went to this movie because I saw the trailer months back and it made me giggle. The trailer's song was hysterical - Rock Monster to the tune of Rock Lobster. Unfortunately, I had to wait until the closing credits for the song. I was very disappointed. The pirates' Argh song was pretty funny but not as funny as the trailer was with Rock Monster.

This is a good kids movie, although there are, surprisingly, some scary scenes. The attacking cheese doodles is one. There's probably a hidden agenda to that scene - snack food is dangerous for you. It's a bit funny, too. Some very slick and quick one-liners that produced some giggles (and yes, I was the only one laughing as usual). The whole story has the traditional VeggieTales moral ending, which I saw coming as soon as the three unveiled their foibles. It's all very sweet and does no harm. I really liked the ending (not just the credits with the music video of Rock Monster), but that, too, was predictable. At any rate, predictable, slightly silly, everything wrapped up neatly in the end with a tidy little lesson learned - but still cute. I'm glad it was less than an hour and a half. Probably couldn't have taken much more.

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau
Directed By: Joss Whedon
Run Time: 1 hr 59 mins
Original Release Date: 30 September 2005

Instead of reviewing this movie, I'll simply tell you how we came about watching a movie that was released over two years ago. We saw Serenity at a midnight showing in Minneapolis. Typically, anyone who stays up for a midnight showing is a hard-core fan. The audience didn't disappoint. Jeff was hoping for more audience participation during the film. There wasn't any. But they did all laugh really hard and were deeply upset when certain characters died. And before the movie, a group serenaded the crowd with their version of the show's theme song (it was a TV show on Fox several years ago and when the show was cancelled, fan rallied together and a movie was made to appease them). I've seen this movie a dozen times on the small screen (I own the DVD) as well as the TV show episodes (I own those DVDs, too) but never on the big screen (it was before my resolve to see movies in the theaters). It was nice to see it on the big screen. I noticed more background things this way. Still a good movie. We got home at 2:30am, well past my bedtime!!

Gone Baby Gone
Starring: Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Run Time: 1 hr 55 mins

Gone Baby Gone is about a child who disappears from her home. As the story is unfolded, we see that the missing child's case is not as cut and dry as it originally seemed. Two private detectives are hired to help talk to the neighborhood witnesses as it seems no one really wants to talk to the police about the abduction or the circumstances surrounding it. They uncover more than just a missing child.

When the Oscar nominations were announced, I have to tell you I wrote off Amy Ryan almost immediately, without even having seen the movie. Shame on me. She actually did a wonderful job playing a mother whose inner demons are freely displayed on the surface (whether she's coherent enough to know they're on display is another story). She is who she is and she makes no apologies for it... not that she'd care enough to apologize. I really liked her performance.

That being said, the rest of the movie is... eh. Just eh. I'm not sure if Affleck (Ben, not Casey) thought his audience would be too stupid to follow the plot or if the clues weren't obvious enough to identify, but the "let me show you what just happened" flashbacks were annoying. A lot of them were unnecessary, pointless. No "eureka" moment was contained in the snippets. I don't know about you, but the whodunit was easy to figure out. I got that in the second scene with this character. But then to have to fully enunciated with the flashbacks was an insult. If someone didn't figure out the whodunit then the reveal scene would be very dramatic for them. Why bother telling us before the reveal who really was behind this case?

The acting was wonderful. The plot was interesting. There were a lot of twists and turns. I liked how everything tied up... a little too neatly, perhaps. And the message of the movie is quite perplexing. What truly is the right decision? Shouldn't the right decision go hand and hand with the best decision? Who's to say what truly is right, particularly when it goes against the best decision? As Jeff summed up the movie, doing the right thing makes you feel like crap.

I liked it but didn't love it, but maybe that's because I disagreed with the decision that was made (right vs. best), and that's probably the point of the movie. Jeff thought some of the accents were weird, but I secretly think he just doesn't realize how weird the Boston accent truly is. For all practical purposes (meaning there is technically a different first film for Ben), this was a fine first directorial attempt (it can't be easy directing your little brother). A good mystery with some interesting twists (as long as you don't figure out the whodunit too soon).