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July Movie Reviews
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Ocean's Thirteen
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, Al Pacino
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Run Time: 1 hr 56 minutes

Yes, finally. I finally got to see Ocean's Thirteen, although I'm sure Jeff will be peeved when I tell him. He wanted to see it, too, but it's been out for almost two months now. I couldn't take the chance it would leave the theaters before Jeff decided it was time to see it.

Ocean's Thirteen is the third installment in the Clooney/Pitt/Damon/Soderbergh casino heist caper. The crew is back, with the addition of one new accomplice (they keep picking up help in every movie), to rob new casino owner Willie Bank (Al Pacino). Why Willie? Because he stiffed their friend and accomplice Reuben (Elliott Gould) out of millions by reneging on their partnership to build the new casino. And if that wasn't enough, he added insult to injury by giving poor Reuben a heart attack. Danny Ocean's gang wants revenge, in the form of money. And to get this money, they must humiliate Bank by robbing his new casino.

My guilt aside, I'll just come out and say it - this is a really good movie! Very slick. Very fun to watch, even if it was a bit hard for my brain to understand all the ways they were going to steal from Willie Bank. This is not a movie to change the world and has no intention of coming across that way. It's a light hearted romp comprised of great actors who really enjoy each other's company. They don't take themselves seriously and seem to have lots of inside jokes, which although not obvious why they're funny are still funny. Perhaps it's the twinkle in Clooney's eye that makes those inside jokes funny.

All of the gang is at their best. Everyone was so enjoyable to watch. Pacino spices things up with his despicable character. The only snag in this otherwise wonderful flick is Ellen Barkin. Bleh. She's fine when she's being snide to the waitresses (she fires one for being too "fat") but when she's trying to be a sycophant to Bank (her boss), it doesn't come across as slimy enough. And her seducing scene with Matt Damon was a bit repulsive to watch. Bleh. I don't know what made me cringe more - her attempts at being sexy or how easily she falls prey.

But I digress. Good movie. A wonderful throwback to the Sinatra days and the Rat Pack (and there are a few references that remind us that the movie makers know they're paying homage to ol' Blue Eyes' style). It's a fun romp of a movie.

License to Wed
Starring: Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, and John Krasinski
Directed By: Ken Kwapis
Run Time: 1 hr 40 minutes

I'm wasting a lot of effort typing up this review. Bad does not even begin to describe this movie.

License to Wed is about the struggle newly engaged couple Ben Murphy and his fiancee Sadie Jones face in order to get married. Sadie wants to get married at her childhood church. It, unfortunately, has a two year waiting list... unless, of course, they want to get married in three weeks. Ah, but there's a hitch. All couples who want to get married by Rev. Frank must take his marriage prep course... and pass.

Basically, by telling you the plot, I've told you the entire movie. The reverend's prep course was a joke. Since that is the underlying plot of the whole movie, they probably should have shown us the course. The events they chose to show us were practicing carrying the bride over the threshold, a fake fight, a hula dancing session, carting around twin robot babies from hell, and the blind-folded driving test. Uh, yeah.

Like the characters' engagement, this movie's plot points happen very quickly. Things go from blissful to call-off-the-wedding bad in less than three weeks. We never see Sadie's friendship with her childhood friend Carlisle, but it's so intense it's a break-up issue for the couple. We never see Sadie's annoying organization skills. We never see Ben's easy going aloofness that eventually drives Sadie crazy. We never even see the love the two are supposed to share. It's engagement, stupid prep course that teaches nothing and adds no real value, and then big fight. And the whole thing falls apart when Sadie gets upset that Ben hasn't written his vows the day before the wedding.

I like Robin Williams. He's funny, when the director feels brave enough to let him loose. I like Mandy Moore. She's sweet. And John Krasinski is a lovable goof. All three of them together could not pull off this movie. I didn't laugh once. I cringed, practically through the whole thing, from the moment Ben proposed (at Sadie's parents' 30th anniversary party - in front of all her family) to almost the final moments of the movie. The gag reel end credits is the best part of this movie. I giggled during them.

I read some reviews that raved about the little Rev. Frank protege. I found him annoying. He was there for the cute factor. Next time, make him cute. I have no idea why Christine Taylor felt the need to be in this movie. She had practically no lines and her character's backstory was thrown in with little jabs from her family. And someone needs to give that girl a cookie. She was a rail. And what was up with the best friend/best man character? Everything he said about everything was horribly negative. He wasn't a friend. He was a jerk. And don't even get me started on the robot babies. Yes, they were creepy, but does a couple who hasn't even known each other a year really need to deal with Chucky-like twins?

I also read reviews that commented on the fact that this movie seemed to be an outlet for The Office actors. There were three of them... in roles that did absolutely nothing to the story or for the actors themselves. It was annoying.

After all that, I will say I did find the moment where Ben first talked with Sadie in Jamaica to be very touching. That feeling lasted about five seconds. The feeling for the rest of the movie? Total retching. Horrible movie. Don't even waste your time renting it. It's not funny. It's not cute. It's not romantic. It's just plain bad.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint
Directed By: David Yates
Run Time: 2 hrs 18 minutes

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in the J.K. Rowling series about the boy wizard. He is now in his fifth year at Hogwarts and the evil Lord Voldemort has risen from the dead. His return has caused a rift in the magical community between those who believe Harry's claim that Voldemort has returned and those who think Harry's making the whole thing up for publicity. As a result of this rift, the Ministry has placed one of its own as a teacher at Hogwarts, for the sake of keeping tabs on Dumbledore (Harry's publicity accomplice).

This book was the longest in the series, clocking in at almost 900 pages. This movie is the shortest of all the Potter movies. It could have been longer. The same lament applies to this movie as did all the other movies - they cut way too much out. But that being said, enough of the plot is kept so that you can follow along without having read the book. The movie flowed well. The book is dark. The move is dark, too (both in plot and cinematography).

The actors are definitely coming into their own and truly honing their characters, although I will never be a fan of Michael Gambon's Dumbledore. Imelda Staunton was delightful as the sweet-but-not-that-sweet Dolores Umbridge. Having to choose what grated on my nerves faster is hard - the sing-songy voice or the pink, fluffy, frilly outfits she wore (but that was all part of the character). Although she didn't have much screen time, I absolutely loved Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange. So evil. So crazy.

All in all, I didn't love this movie. I liked the first two and have grown increasingly ho-hum about the later installments. The actors do a wonderful job with their roles. The sets are fantastic. The special effects... were a little noticeable. I just think they do too much cutting of the book to bring it to the screen, and in turn lose most of the warmth, imagination, and character of the book. It was good. Just not great.

Starring: John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed By: Mikael Hafstrom
Run Time: 1 hr 34 minutes

1408 is about a paranormal writer who doesn't believe in the paranormal. Mike Enslin writes about haunted mansions, haunted bed and breakfasts, haunted lighthouses, etc even though he doesn't believe in ghosts (or God, for that matter). He visits these places, listens impatiently to the ghost stories, and then spends a night in the room, waiting for any signs of disturbance. He never sees anything but he gives the claims a good spin. And then he's challenged to spend a night at the Dolphin Hotel in room 1408. Suddenly he believes in evil.

If you're not a John Cusack fan or you need more character interaction, this probably isn't the movie for you. For a good hour of this flick, it's John Cusack locked in a room all by himself, slowly going mad. Well, I guess not slowly as no one has ever lasted longer than an hour. Things happen very quickly... and yet they don't in the hour (or so) he's locked in room 1408.

This movie was excellent. It's creepy and spooky without much gore, the way a true horror flick should play. The horror is left up to the mind, as being locked away with one's own thoughts is enough to drive most people mad. Enslin does his best to rationalize with his mind, but in the end, the room wins out. He's haunted by the former occupants of the room. And he's haunted by the thoughts he's tried very hard to forget. The room knows that to truly get to someone, it has to be personal (and therein lies a very cheesy tagline for some take on this movie).

John Cusack was pretty good in this movie, although he did succumb to the cliche "grab your hair and look widely around to demonstrate that you've gone insane" pose. I also think he fell prey to the room's evil a bit too quickly. For someone who didn't believe in ghosts, he certainly got scared awfully easily. But I suppose anyone would lose it when the radio turns on by itself over and over and over again, playing the same song very loudly. I found it quite funny that the most disturbing song they could find was the Carpenter's "We've Only Just Begun." The title does hint at the room's unrelenting quest to destroy all who enter the room, but the fact that sweet Karen Carpenter's voiced was selected by evil is absolutely funny.

This is a pretty darned good suspense/creepy/spooky horror flick. If you like a smart horror movie (versus senseless slasher gore), this is a good one. It was clever. It was funny. I loved the ending, particularly the expression on Cusack's face.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, and Keira Knightley
Directed By: Gore Verbinski
Run Time: 2 hrs 45 minutes

Finally! Yes, I finally got to see Pirates 3. Jeffrey finally gave me the go-ahead to see this on my own. He was deterred by the three hour run time. And since this movie has been playing forever, it was hard to find it a). at a matinee and b). at all! I had to drive 20 miles to Oakdale just to see it. And every single preview for this movie was for one already playing (and I have seen, too, save one. Sigh. Ocean's Thirteen.).

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End picks up where Pirates 2 left off. Convenient, huh? Many of the characters have agendas in this one. First and foremost, the crew must save Jack Sparrow (Depp) from Davy Jones' Locker (basically, limbo). Elizabeth (Knightly) is desperate to save him as she is the one that was responsible for his demise. Will Turner (Bloom) is desperate to retrieve the Black Pearl, Sparrow's ship. Jack wants Davy Jones' chest. Barbosa (Rush) wants to free Calypso... Ugh. So many things going on!

The movie dragged in the beginning. And it's been a year since I had seen Pirates 2 so it was rough getting back up to speed as to what everyone was doing and why. And with so many different agendas going on, it was tough to figure out what was happening.

As much as I love Johnny Depp, the scenes with his alter egos (or hallucinations) were horrible to watch. The cgi sucked. That storyline seemed dumb. When his hallucinations went away, he was fun to watch. And even though Keith Richards was in it for only a few minutes (yes, sorry to spoil that for anyone but it's best to not delude your hopes), he did a pretty good job being Jack's dad. He didn't have much to say, and that's probably best, but it was a good cameo. I'm not sure his leathery face was makeup, though...

I wasn't a huge fan of this one. I liked it. Didn't love it, like I did the first one. Didn't hate it, either, like I did the second one. But three hours to just sorta like something isn't the best feeling in the world. It dragged. There was too much going on. And at times, there wasn't anything going on. There was a whole heckuva lot of nothing to get to some really intense battle scenes, which were fun.

The ending was good. It had me at the ending. Well, the ending for Will and Elizabeth. The ending with Jack and the Black Pearl annoyed me greatly. Why? Because it hinted at a fourth Pirates. You gotta be frickin' kidding me! I have to sit through another three hours of nothing (and you know I will, just in hope that it might be something truly good). Sigh. Stupid pirates.

Live Free or Die Hard
Starring: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant,and Justin Long
Directed By: Len Wiseman
Run Time: 2 hrs 10 minutes

Die Hard 4 is about a terroristic plot that NYPD cop John McClane must thwart. In less broad and sarcastic terms, it's about a hostile takeover of America's infrastructure - transportation, communication, finances, and ultimately, electricity.

Poor John McClane always unknowingly stumbles into terroristic activity. His assignment was merely to pick up a computer programmer named Matthew Farrell (Justin Long) and deliver him to the Feds in DC for questioning. And before he can escort him from his apartment, the walls end up looking like swiss cheese. Farrell created a program for the people who had his apartment shot up. And yes, it is funny that Long is playing a computer nerd (he's the Mac guy in the Mac vs. PC ads).

As I watched this movie (well, engrossed in it), something kept me from thoroughly enjoying the action (which was spectacular, by the way). The idea that this premise could actually happen really freaked me out.

This movie had great action sequences. Did I mention that already? Some were a bit implausible (the police car taking down the helicopter) but I forgave those bits for the subtly of the humor.

Bruce Willis does a good job playing the tough relic cop who only wants to save the world (because no one else will). Long does a good job playing a computer nerd who has very little social graces and who knows everything about computers but nothing of the outside world. Olphant plays the bad guy. I thought he did a great job with evil eye twitches but other than, miscast. He wasn't scary or evil. And I didn't buy that he, too, was a computer nerd who cared too much about the country's security when no one else would. I liked him better as psychotic in Scream 2. I really liked Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who played Lucy McClane (although I had a hard time understanding what age they wanted her to be. She should be about 22-24; they had her about 19-20). She was tough and did a good job sounding just like her father.

Good movie. Great action sequences. Funny. Scary (the plausibility). Fun. Yippie-ki-yi-ya $@!#&*!

Starring the voices of: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese Gibson
Directed By: Michael Bay
Run Time: 2 hrs 24 minutes

Transformers takes the cartoons from the 80s and turns it into a movie. For those of you who weren't (or aren't) teenage boys, Transformers is about a battle between good robots and bad robots. And these robots transform into cool cars, airplanes, motorcycles, and any other gadget that's cool. They've come to earth in search of a cube that will rule their kind. The bad guys (the Decepticons) want it for power; the good guys (the Autobots) want to destroy it to keep the bad guys from ruling.

Whenever Michael Bay produces or directs something, you know it because his name is prominently displayed everywhere. It's this ego that fuels his movies. They're always big money slick action movies aimed at the young male audience. I was the only female at the movie without a guy - and there were only about four of us girls total there anyway. It was all young men and boys. Bay has directed such things as Armageddon and The Rock, which has a killer car chase scene. His movies are a bit formulaic and cliched riddled. That said, I should also note that I've seen pretty much every single one of his movies. They won't change the world but they will make you forget about it for a couple of hours. His movies are fun, mindless drivel with great car chase scenes, things exploding, and heavy soundtracks.

The movie is a bit dragging in the beginning as the movie builds character, angst, and plot. Sam (played by LeBeouf) is a wallflower nerdy guy who gets picked on by the jocks and ignored by the girls. An inordinate amount of time is spent showing us just how awkward this kid is. The suspense that builds to the Transformers changing into robots is better left waiting for the robots to change than actually seeing them change. It's slick cgi work but once they're robots interacting with Sam, it gets a bit nerdy. It's the time old problem - the alien is always much better (creepy, scary, suspenseful) in your own mind until you see it on the screen.

Transformers is funny and action packed, even if it does take some time to get there. The end scene - the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons - is pretty awesome, and that's coming from a girl. Things explode. Robots fall down and make a really big boom. Sam struggles to save the world. It's a pretty cool battle.

All the hype of two of its stars (Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson) is unwarranted. I felt as though I heard more about these two being in the movie than they really were. They had very little screen time and even fewer lines. I didn't feel they made much impact to this movie other than to give the story more dimension than a struggle for Sam. Shia LaBeouf was fantastic, as he always is. He's funny and nerdy and awkward and kick ass all in one. I even liked Megan Fox, aka "the breasts of the movie." I think she could have been a little tougher but she held her own in the battle of the robots.

Good movie. Fun. Things explode. Robots duke it out. Entertaining schlock that makes you forget that there's work to be done outside of watching a movie. I liked it a lot - and I'm a girl!