Movie Valley
January 2009 Movie Reviews
Back to the main movie page

Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Run Time: 2 hrs 17 mins

Defiance is based on a true story about four Jewish brothers who escape Nazi-occupied Poland by fleeing into the forest. They build a village, a refuge for other Jews, and form a resistance. They save about 2000 people, hiding them from the Nazis and fighting off invasions.

At the end of the movie, there's a note about how the brothers never sought any form of recognition for the efforts. I wonder how much of the story shown is true (and how much is Hollywoodized) and where the story came from - whose point of view is it from? How much of it really happened as depicted? Of course, just the mere fact that 2000 people lived in the forest for three frickin' years in Poland - through the winters and without much food - is absolutely amazing. I couldn't help but think that people today probably wouldn't be able to survive that. There'd be too much inner fighting because people are too spoiled to go without the "necessities." And they wouldn't have gone into the woods very well prepared either (not that these people did, either). At least these people had long wool winter coats on with hats. That helped. Drive by a bus stop on a cold day and look at how a lot of them are dressed - coats that go to their waist and don't look very warm and nary a hat. Fashion over practicality. Try living in the forest for three years like that.

One thing I want to point out: Daniel Craig is not a brunette. You can dye his hair all ya want but those eyebrows and eyelashes give him away. It made me giggle. Brown hair. Blonde eyelashes. Who were they trying to fool? Just leave his hair blonde. Of course, since the theater was packed, I had to sit two feet away from a gigantic screen so I couldn't help but notice these things.

I would be interested in knowing if the actors pulled off acting in Polish. How correct was their pronunciation and their dialog emphasis and speech patterns? Or was it just a bunch of words thrown out in baby talk? There was a lot more Polish dialog than I had expected. This is a way to do a movie about people from another country - with accents and some dialog in their own frickin' language (unlike Valkyrie where there is no German dialog or accents). If it's about the people then it should actually be about the people as they were and not about the pompous actors who can't be bothered to put some realism into their acting. Daniel Craig said that the Polish scenes were incredibly difficult for him because he doesn't speak any other language over English. He dropped out of high school because he wasn't a smartie (so he says). Well, he certainly pulled off his Polish character to me... unlike some other actors who claim to know everything but can't pull off a German accent...

As for the movie itself, good and sad. I just couldn't imagine living in the woods for so long. Yes, the conditions would be miserable, not to mention the actual fighting, but to not have a home, to feel trapped, hunted for so long. I just can't imagine that. So many deaths. So much hardship. How brave they all were. The acting is wonderful, provided they actually were pulling off their Polish dialog (to me they were but what do I know?). I was impressed. It didn't even feel as long as it is. I do remember early on in the movie thinking to myself, "We haven't even gotten to any fighting yet so we have a long ways until the end" but that was the first and only time the duration entered my mind. I was too busy looking at Daniel Craig's blonde eyebrows.

Rachel Getting Married
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Debra Winger, Bill Irwin, Rosemarie DeWitt, Anna Deavere Smith
Directed By: Jonathan Demme
Run Time: 1 hr 51 mins

Rachel Getting Married is about two sisters coming together as one of them prepares for her wedding while the other one has just gotten out of rehab. Family dysfunction rears its head as demons are released during this stressful event.

Oscar time. Argh. I'm a sucker for thinking Oscar nominated movies would be good. Granted, it is just Anne Hathaway that's nominated for an award (Best Actress) and nothing else from this movie. With good reason. Hathaway is very deserving of the Oscar nod. It's too bad you have to watch the movie to view her performance.

I will praise this movie for one small line. When Kym (played by Hathaway) asks her father to stop the car because she wants a soda, her stepmother tells her she has a can of Diet Coke she could drink. Kym replies, "I only like Pepsi from a fountain." Ah, kindred spirits. Well, not the Pepsi part but the fountain part. There's evidently someone else in the world who understands!

That is the only compliment I have for this movie (that and Hathaway's performance - that was wonderful). Why? Because I absolutely hated this movie. Hated it. Hated. I'm actually going to tell you about this movie and not put in my usual warning about spoilers because there is no way you'll ever see it. Don't go see it. It's horrible. Why would you watch a horrible movie? Ugh.

This movie is about family dysfunction, and not the funny kind of family dysfunction. It's sad. Really sad. It's sad because poor Kym is being crucified for her addictions and her problems when the rest of the family is just as bad. They're actually worse, though. She was addicted to substances - alcohol, drugs. She did bad things while under the influence. While no one else in her family has issues with controlled substances, they still do bad things - and they don't have the excuse of mind-altering substances. It's a tie between her mother and her sister for the worst people in the world. Both treat Kym like something stinky stuck to the bottom of their shoe. Yes, Kym did something absolutely horrible - she killed her baby brother while under the influence of drugs. She was high. She was 16. She drove the car off a bridge, into the lake. She couldn't get Ethan out of his car seat. He drowned. But Kym asked her mother a very valid question - why did her mother allow Kym to take care of a toddler when her mother knew full well that Kym was a drug addict? Her mother played a HUGE part in shaping the way Kym's life turned out - the one event that dominoed the rest of the events of Kym's life. Her mother (played by Winger) refused to take even a fraction of a percentage of responsibility for what happened. As she defended herself, "I didn't think you'd kill him!" Maybe just maim him. That would have been okay. Kym's sister Rachel (played by DeWitt, who looks so unbelievably familiar and yet hasn't been in anything I've seen) is just as bad. She's in the middle of getting her PhD in psychology. You'd think someone who's studying psychosis would understand why her sister is the way she is, what made her the way she is, to empathize with her.

One of the reasons I hated this movie was because it just didn't seem real, try as though it might with the shaky camera work. I'll be so glad when that trend disappears. The director was trying to make it seem as though a wedding guest was shooting all the footage - the cutoff heads, the bouncing as the camera person walked down the stairs - but I didn't need to feel as though I was there. These people were nothing like my family, nothing like most people's families that there was no way I would or could feel a part of what was happening. The way these people interacted with each other seemed so bizarre. Some of the stuff was quite endearing (the chant of the bride's name and the groom's name by the wedding guests). Some of the stuff made me say, "What the bleep?" Like when a family friend mentioned during his toast/speech to all the guests, "I wish Ethan could be here." This is early on in the movie so you have no idea who Ethan is. Both sisters tear up. It's obvious that Ethan was dear to them both. At first I thought it might have been the lover of the person who mentioned missing Ethan or perhaps an uncle or a family friend. No, it was the brother Kym accidentally killed when she was a teenager. Um, excuse me? We're going to mention that now? How inappropriate is that? That's soooo rubbing it in Kym's face. No wonder the poor girl has issues. Who the heck mentions something like that at a happy family event, particularly given the circumstances of how he died? And what was with the whole Bohemian thing with all the musicians running around the house? And what was with the Hindu-esque wedding? It didn't seem to be either bride or groom's culture or religion. And I'm totally with the mother for leaving the reception early because as an audience member, I was about to slit my own wrists if I had to endure any more of that reception. It went on and on and on without any point. There wasn't any talking, it was just dancing to song after song after song. We get that it's a reception. We get that people are dancing. We get that people are having fun. We get that it's going into the wee hours of the morning. So is this movie. It certainly did not have to be a two hour movie. It's a little thing called editing. Learn it.

In the end, this movie makes you really wonder if others in Kym's family need rehab, too. Can I say just once more how much the sister bothered me? She's studying physcology and she didn't understand that someone fresh out of rehab (and I mean fresh - her father picked her up from rehab and a couple hours later they had to attend the groom's dinner) was going to be a little self-centered? Yes, it was Rachel's wedding and she deserved her day to herself but really. Her sister was FRESH out of rehab! She's going to need a little extra attention. Yes, there probably is a history of Kym making everything about her which is probably very annoying to Rachel but someone who is getting a PhD in physcology should probably have figured out that Kym's need for attention led her to do all the things that landed her into rehab time and time and time again. Perhaps if they showed her some compassion she may not have been or would be such a screw up.

This is a very bizarre movie about dysfunction. Hathaway does a wonderful job playing the messed up Kym. She did seem a little too cute and perky for such a screw up. She's the only bright thing about this movie. Stay away. Stay far away.

Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt
Directed By: Ron Howard
Run Time: 2 hrs 2 mins

Frost/Nixon is about the interviews David Frost (played by Sheen) conducted after Nixon (played by Langella) resigned from the presidency following the Watergate scandal. The country was against Richard Nixon but Nixon was determined to get back into politics. He was trying to use his interviews with Frost to win back public support.

This is yet another movie I went to because of the Oscar hype. I'll be so glad when the award season is over and I can go back to seeing such drivel as horror movies and chick flicks. At least those movies don't try to pass themselves off as anything other than drivel.

I found Frost/Nixon to be quite boring. I'm sure to those who lived through this period (while technically I was born when this happened, I wasn't in the US when this whole thing went down, nor was I out of diapers) or to those who are in history class studying this, the movie might seem interesting. The details aren't fresh in my mind and even though I don't know everything that happened during this time, I still found this movie boring. I do want to point out that I am aware of the major facts surrounding Nixon's presidency, his resignation, Watergate, etc. I'm not a complete idiot. I'm just not a history buff.

I think the most crucial part of the movie, the climax, the kicker, the part that could have made this movie really interesting and enjoyable was revealed in the previews. Again, perhaps this is where paying attention in history class would also have ruined the surprise, but to me the biggest moment of the movie is when Frost actually gets Nixon to confess to wrongdoings with Watergate. It was his "I gotcha" moment and that moment was shown in the previews. You knew it was coming. So the entire time Frost is squirming in his seat while Nixon steamrolls over him, answering questions the way he wants to answer them and monopolizing the interview in order to prevent Frost from asking tougher questions, all of that is pointless. We knew Nixon wasn't going to "win" the interviews. We knew he wasn't going to come out victorious. Granted, even I know that Nixon never returned to politics, but is it common knowledge that the last nail in his coffin was these interviews?

It takes an incredibly long time to get to the actual interview part. Most of the movie is about how the interview came to be - how Frost was an unknown in the US and that lack of recognition caused him a lot of issues trying to secure network time for the interview. He was able to secure the interview with Nixon by paying him, something that wasn't looked highly upon by "reputable" news shows (although I think it pretty common now). Frost had to really work to get anyone to back his interview. He had the former president of the United States lined up to talk with him - something no other interviewer could boast - and yet no network was willing to pay for it. Frost eventually went the syndicate route. It was also amazing to see the months of preparation that went into the questions, how much research his partners did. Another interesting fact - Diane Sawyer worked for Nixon. I'm assuming it's the Diane Sawyer - she had blonde hair (and how many other blonde Diane Sawyers are out there?).

In the previews, Frank Langella's impersonation of Richard Nixon bothered the holy heck out of me. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to sit through the movie if it annoyed me in just a short preview. Interestingly enough, I actually got into it. There was actually a moment when Langella looked just like Nixon. I kid you not. It spooked the bahjezus out of me. He doesn't even look like Nixon, not in real life and certainly not in this movie and yet he completely embodied him. He truly became Richard Nixon in this movie. It was incredible. I may even root for him to win the Oscar for Best Actor.

It was interesting to see Tricky Dick in action. He really was tricky. He was a smart man, a tough man. He knew how to get what he wanted. He played Frost wonderfully. Perhaps Nixon was more a product of his handlers. He had a great team of support staff surrounding him. But ultimately, the boxer analogy wins. Nixon was a great fighter; his handlers were merely the coaches waiting in the corner. They could do no more than encourage and strategize. Nixon was the one who was in the ring, fielding the questions.

Eh. I didn't like this movie. I didn't hate it. It was boring. I just didn't care about all the behind-the-scenes stuff leading up to the interviews. It was a bit interesting. A bit. Not two hours worth of interesting. Twenty minutes, maybe. The character development of Nixon was fascinating. Langella did an excellent job. I did like the note at the end of the movie that the one thing Richard Nixon contributed to the world was the use of "gate" attached to every scandal.

The Wrestler
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Run Time: 1 hr 45 mins

The Wrestler is about an aging wrestler looking to recapture his glory days in the 80s. He continues to wrestle in small-time matches despite his debilitating injuries. After a heart attack, he realizes his life is empty. He tries to patch up his relationship with his daughter and start a new one with a stripper.

There are a ton of movies and a ton of performances out there generating a lot of hype, a lot of unwarranted hype. Heath Ledge in The Dark Knight is one of them. He's good, not great. He does a good Jack Nicholson impersonation. I'm a little jaded about the hype, if you can't tell. Mickey Rourke is also getting a lot of attention for his performance in The Wrestler. His performance is worth the hype.

The first thing that struck me about this movie was the humbleness to Randy the Ram (played by Rourke). He was such a good guy! He cared about people. He was nice to fellow wrestlers. He gave them pointers, encouraged them.

The ending is something of a controversy among the group of us that went to see it. We're pretty split about our opinions - the girls think one thing, the boys think the complete opposite (of course, the girls are right). There's even a debate over whether or not Pam fully leaves the building or just leaves the stage area (again, the girls are right about this).

Hotel for Dogs
Starring: Emma Roberts, Don Cheadle, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon
Directed By: Thor Freudenthal
Run Time: 1 hr 40 mins

Hotel for Dogs is about two foster kids (brother and sister) who need a place to stash their dog and discover that a lot of homeless dogs need a place to be stashed. Andi (played by Roberts) and her brother Bruce (played by Austin) team up with a couple of friends to take care of a bunch of strays in an abandoned hotel. Bruce likes to invent things and uses his talent to concoct contraptions that will keep the dogs happy, fed, and clean, even while the crew isn't there to look after them.

This movie is waaaay too cutesy and hokey. All of the teenagers got along waaaay too well. They were polite. They respected authority (well, their social worker, not the cops or dog catchers). They didn't swear. They were very easy going. Even the dogs were well behaved. And incredibly well trained. You'd think that dogs that could be trained to poop in a toilet and pee in the shower would be adoption gold. And dog catchers are really mean people who are afraid of dogs.

I decided to go with a light movie this week instead of an Oscar contender (although the animal handler/wrangler should be up for some award). Little did I know that this movie would make me wipe more tears away than The Reader or Doubt. Something about the plight of a stray/unwanted animal really gets to me. I don't know why. :-) And I probably shouldn't have watched a movie about animals so soon after Sirbie died. I wasn't thinking. But I liked it better than those Oscar contenders... probably because of the cute dogs.

I did find it interesting the parallel between Andi and Bruce needing to find a good home and the stray dogs needing to find a good home. Looking after the dogs is their way of building a family. And even when they're offered the family of their dreams, Andi and Bruce can't bring themselves to abandon their dog family.

This is a very cute movie. A little thin on plot. I expected the gadgets to be more plentiful. Pretty much all of the ones they show in the preview are the ones in the movie. There aren't any surprises. The surprise is the underlying plot - Andi and Bruce are looking for a home themselves. And I didn't realize Don Cheadle was going to be in it, either (he plays their social worker). The movie is fun when you get to see all the cool things the dogs get to do but there's not much of that to be seen. The movie focuses more on the angst Andi and Bruce are facing - their struggle with their foster parents (played by Kudrow and Dillion). You'd think that such easy going kids would be able to turn that relationship into something.

When you stop and think about it, there are an awful lot of dogs in this movie. How hard must it have been to film their scenes? There's a saying in Hollywood that the two most horrible things to work with are animals and children. How much worse does it get when there are a couple dozen animals all in the same scene? But you gotta like it when animals do human things... like sit at the table and wait for the proper bowl to stop in front of them as the line of bowls are being pulled by a little toy train.

One thing I didn't like about this movie - it didn't emphasis the importance of spaying/neutering, as is demonstrated by the end scene with puppies. And it also made it seem as though a pet store with puppies for sale is a good thing. Wait. I thought this movie was about adopting a stray because even strays need a good home and can be wonderful little creatures, if you just gave them a chance. Huh. Puppies for sale at a pet store, indeed.

Anyway, good movie when you're home sick or have to babysit an 8 year old (or have a day when you feel like an 8 year old). It's a bit insulting to a 9 year old's intelligence. Too cutesy. But nice. And it has some great dogs.

The Reader
Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Karoline Herfurth, Hannah Herzsprung, David Kross
Directed By: Stephen Daldry
Run Time: 2 hrs 2 mins

The Reader is about a man reflecting back on his life, the love of his life, a woman he had an affair with when he was a mere 15 and she in her 30s. She disappeared from his life, only to surface again when he was a law student, sitting in on a Nazi war crime trial. She is one of those on trial, a tidbit about her he never knew. She was a guard at a women's concentration camp and was on duty when the building the prisoners were in caught fire. All of them died, save one child.

After being turned down over his recent pitch for a crazy children's movie, John Waters said something to the effect, "Yeah, they'll say no to my movie but they'll make one about an illiterate Nazi war criminal pedophile." That pretty much sums up The Reader. If they'll make this movie, what movies are they turning down? I didn't see the point of this movie, nor did I see an award winning performance from Kate Winslet (she won for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes). I guess they're just giving awards to angry acting because that's all her character did - stomp around and fly off the handle. Hanna (played by Winslet) is just one grumpy gal.

I didn't see why Michael (played by Kross) fell for her. She wasn't very nice to him, even when they first met. He was sick with scarlet fever. She cleaned him up and helped him home. But she didn't do any of it with any compassion. I guess she just had to pay him one compliment and he was in love. His family, although a bit distant, seemed to care about him so it wasn't as if he wasn't getting love/feeling loved. I suspect that if no one ever tells you you're good at something, the first person who does is going to seem wonderful. That and she was the first naked chick he ever saw. Go figure. I guess I see the initial appeal - the sex - but why he kept coming back is beyond me. She was an angry woman who didn't seem too interested in him as a person. I understand the short term appeal but why would he consider her the love of his life?

There are some interesting turns in this movie. Normally I wouldn't divulge the twists and turns but because this movie is not a good one and you probably won't see it (you shouldn't see it), I feel comfortable explaining them here. The first one is part of the plot - the woman Michael had an affair with when he was a young teenager is actually a Nazi war criminal. The second one is the title of the movie - Hanna is illiterate. She always had favorites at the prison, those who could read. She protected them as long as they read to her, something that drew her to Michael in the first place, the thing she complimented him on and the reason he fell in love with her. He was a good reader. She could not read, which makes for an interesting twist when she is accused of penning the explanation the guards wrote after the fire/deaths occurred. Because of this, her sentence is the harshest. The third turn comes when she learns to read, while in prison, due to Michael's books on tapes that he sends to her. He reads her all the stories he read for her while they were together. The fourth turn is the ending. Michael finally accepts that he must take care of Hanna. Hanna, on the other hand, takes matters into her own hands...

This is not a really good movie, mostly in part to the underlying plot - a thirty-something year old woman has an affair with a 15 year old. The acting is pretty good (good, not great). The movie is a bit long. The turns save it. It's sad (particularly when old Michael goes to see the only survivor from the fire and she has no sympathy for Hanna whatsoever). The ending lost me. I just don't understand how Hanna was the love of his life. Sure, that relationship messed him up but it was nothing to share with his daughter... Sigh. I wouldn't have watched this movie if it hadn't been for the award nominations. I don't really recommend it. It's not bad. Ricky Gervais really nailed it though - do a Holocaust movie and you'll win awards. It's not worthy. Stupid trite award shows.

Gran Torino
Starring: Bee Vang, Clint Eastwood
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Run Time: 1 hr 56 mins

Gran Torino is about a recently widowed grumpy man named Walt Kowalski (played by Eastwood) who finds his neighborhood changing, becoming more ethnically diversified. He must change, too, or his neighborhood really will suffer. When his Hmong neighbor Tao (played by Vang) tries to steal Walt's Gran Torino and gets caught by Walt, Tao's mother makes him work for Walt to pay back his debt. Walt tries to reform the teenager while the teenager tries to make Walt care about people who live around him.

Clint Eastwood is basically channeling Dirty Harry in this movie... a grieving Dirty Harry, but Dirty Harry nonetheless. I was waiting for him to mutter, "Go ahead. Make my day." It just seemed like it would happen. In fact, Eastwood's performance reminded me so much of Dirty Harry that I thought I knew the ending. As a result, the ending shocked me. The ending is shocking all on its own anyway, but I thought I had it pegged. I didn't. I was wrong. That shocked me.

This movie has amazing character development. Not a lot happens in this movie but what does happen goes to set up the characters. It's all about people. You truly get to know and sympathize and empathize with these characters. You see them as real people, which rarely happens in movies these days.

Unfortunately, the acting in this movie kinda sucks. Eastwood is a wonderful actor but the Dirty Harry-esque style was annoying. I wanted him to be more than that but my thoughts kept coming back to, "This is Dirty Harry." I couldn't get away from that. However, Eastwood's performance was fine in comparison to the others. Vang is not an actor, a fact that is very painful to endure. He reminded me of a little puppy following Eastwood around, yapping at his heels. I expected Eastwood to pat him on his head, give him a cookie, and take him to the park. At least Taos is a quiet, soft-spoken young man so Vang's lack of acting isn't so obvious... that is until he has to invoke passion when his role gets meatier. The girl who played is sister has it a bit rougher - her character is tough. She blows through her lines too fast. She has the essence of toughness and smartness but she's not a good enough actress to fully express her character.

Don't get me wrong. Acting aside, this is an incredibly interesting movie. I don't think the full effect falls on you to almost the very end, though, as a result of the acting. It's an interesting movie about how life and death fit in together. It has a lot of character development. It's a good movie but the acting really distracts you. The message is amazing. The connection one man finally makes with the world is amazing and awe inspiring. Of course, Walt's connection to others came about because others cared enough to reach out to him (cough, lousy sons).

There are some incredibly funny and witty lines, expertly delivered by Eastwood with the greatest deadpan. Overall, it's a good movie. It would have been great if the acting pulled it all together. But don't let that dissuade you from seeing this. It's incredibly touching. I liked people connecting with their neighbors, helping people who needed help (I loved the chores Walt assigns Tao - both those to prove his point and those that really matter). It's a kind movie... once you get past all that nasty racial hatred oozing from every corner of Walt's street. The ending will leave you stunned. I won't say any more about that. The ending made me realize that he ain't no Dirty Harry (finally).

Tale of Despereaux
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Tracey Ullman, Emma Watson, Dustin Hoffman
Directed By: Sam Fell, Rob Stevenhagen
Run Time: 1 hr 34 mins

Tale of Despereaux is about a a mouse named Despereaux (voiced by Broderick) who is different from all the other mice. He isn't afraid of the things he's "supposed" to be afraid of. He doesn't scurry. He doesn't eat books, he reads them. As a result of his lack of mousey behavior, he is banished from Mouseworld. He befriends a rat named Roscuro (voiced by Hoffman) who is also an outcast, different from all the other rats. He doesn't eat mice. He isn't a scoundrel. Despereaux befriends the Princess Pea (voiced by Watson), who wants to put the life and joy back into her kingdom, all of which vanished when her father banned both soup and rats from their kingdom.

I found this movie to be rather scary, particularly the opening sequence where the guards were chasing Roscuro through the kitchen with cleavers. (As a side note, was that a zing at Ratatouille when someone exclaimed, "There's a rat in the kitchen!" ?) But as my sister pointed out, none of the kids in the audience were scared. Just me. Hmm... Perhaps I'm overly sensitive about scary things, but I'm really thinking there's something wrong with kids today if they're not frightened by someone wanting to intentionally hurt an animal (even if it is a rat).

To be honest, it's been a few weeks since I watched this movie so this review isn't as fresh as it should be in my mind. My notes on my iPod are minimal so there's no help there. Basically, I found this movie scary and sad. I don't like movies, even if they end well, where people are mean to someone just because they're different. Maybe there should be a movie about people being mean to those who aren't different. No one, not even Despereaux's brother, seemed to accept the fact that Despereaux was just being Despereaux.

This movie also made me sad because it was about people doing things without understanding the consequences or putting themselves in someone else's shoes. These people didn't have all the facts (the whole soup banning thing - it was an accident and the rat fell into the soup). I think the emphasis should have been more on pointing out the bad about jumping to conclusions...

But it was a cute movie. Ya gotta like big ear mouses.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis
Directed By: John Patrick Shanley
Run Time: 1 hr 44 mins

Doubt is about a Catholic school in the 60s run by the iron fist of Sister Aloysius (played by Streep). The new priest (played by Hoffman) conflicts with Sister Aloysius' style of teaching. She prefers to rule by fear; he tries to reach out to the students. Sister Aloysius suspects that Father Flynn is reaching out a little too much to the boys, particularly the school's first and only black student. She accuses him of inappropriate behavior and tries to prove it. There is circumstantial evidence. The boy isn't talking. His mother prefers to turn a blind eye to the accusation because the school will help her son get into a better school. Everything that the nuns think happened can be explained away. Still, Sister Aloysius persists.

I watched this movie because it's Oscar season and Amy Adams will most likely be up for Best Supporting Actress. You needn't bother with it. It's not very good. Adams is fine. The movie is not. First, you have to put up with Streep's accent, which may just be her way of demonstrating how tough she is. Second, you walk out of the theater knowing exactly what you did going in. Nothing is solved. And actually, you leave more perplexed. Did he or didn't he? Did it go down the way he said or the way she imagined? And if it didn't happen the way she imagined, it's just not fair. There's a reason this movie is called Doubt. Everyone is filled with doubt - the characters and the audience. That ain't good.

I really don't understand the mother of the alleged victim's reaction. There was absolutely no shock or horror or concern whatsoever. I can maybe understand that she didn't want to make waves by filing a complaint because she wanted her son to finish the year out so that he could go on to a better school. I understand that she thought her son's relationship with the priest was to his benefit because his father (her husband) was so horrible to him. He at least had one positive male influence... even if that influence might have been too nice to him. But she, even for a second, didn't seem appalled or alarmed or concerned. Not even for a second.

The one part of the movie I found interesting was the Catholic hierarchy. I didn't realize that nuns couldn't talk to cardinals. They have to go to the priest if they have a problem. It's then understandable how the whole abuse thing went undetected/unreported for so long. If you were a nun, you couldn't tell someone who could actually do something about the problem because that would have been breaking the chain of command. It seems like a big ol' fraternity and it shocked me how second class nuns were treated.

The movie is incredibly slow. It takes a long time before anything happens that seems "suspicious." And even then, we don't really see anything. It's all circumstantial. It's all imagined what could have happened. And just when you think it's going to burst wide open, it fails miserably. It just ends. In doubt.

Not a good movie. Slow. No resolution. Overacted. No real connection to the characters.

Slumdog Millionaire
Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto
Directed By: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
Run Time: 2 hrs 0 mins

Slumdog Millionaire is about a poor orphan raised on the streets of Mumbai who finds himself on a game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and doing remarkably well. The show officials and the police think he's cheating. He has no education. How can he be further than any other contestant has gone before? The questions he's asked somehow relate to events from his past.

This was the first movie of 2009 - and I got to watch it with Jeff! Great start to the year.

I was not prepared for how tough this movie was. Perhaps part of that is just a Westerner's ignorance of life in other countries, let alone in the slums of India. I know people are poor but you can never quite imagine how poor someone can be until you see it. And in these countries, children, too, have to fight to survive. One could argue that the same thing occurs in this country, however, the volume of people and the magnitude of poverty are no where near the same.

The story itself was presented in an interesting way. I liked that. Flashbacks of Jamal's life depict how he knows the answer to each question he's asked. As he explained to the cop, he's not a genius. He just happened to know the answers to the questions they asked. If they had asked him different questions, he may not know those answers. He may not know who's on the 1000 rupee bill but he knows who's on the US 100 dollar bill because a tourist feeling guilty about Jamal's situation, who wanted to make it right by throwing money at the problem, gave him the bill.

This is a very violent movie - not gory or gratuitous, but with a purpose. It felt real. It felt violent because you suddenly realize that people actually do go through these things. The Western guilt comes into play, making the reality of the violence so terrifying.

I'm not sure I want to visit India after seeing this movie. There's too much poverty. I can't imagine feeling good about myself after visiting. No matter how poor we think we are, it's nothing compared to the people in the slums of Mumbai.

I loved the ending, both the ending to the story and the ending to the movie. In typical Bollywood style, there's dancing as the credits roll by. Inexplicable dancing. You leave the theater feeling good.

So, a tough movie filled with poverty beyond what you could ever imagine with tons of scary and horrific things happening. Funny. Sweet. Well acted. And you leave the theater with a smile on your face, which is one of Jeffrey's rules. Go see it.