Movie Valley
July 2008 Movie Reviews
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Space Chimps
Starring: Andy Samberg, Patrick Warburton, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Daniels
Directed By: Kirk de Micco
Run Time: 1 hr 21 mins

Space Chimps is about three chimpanzees who are sent into space to complete a mission deemed too dangerous for humans. Their mission is to travel through a wormhole and retrieve a space probe that was sucked into the wormhole during the last launch. The probe landed on a planet filled with bizarre creatures, one of whom is using the probe to now rule the planet. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for the chimps, they have no connection with Ground Control - no visual, no sound. They're on their own once they crash into the planet.

Okay, I must admit, the title is what lured me in... that and the fact that it featured monkeys. Ya gotta love a cartoon about monkeys in space. Well, love is a strong word, particularly when this film is involved. I didn't love it. But I certainly didn't hate it, either. The story is, well, a bit annoying here and there. It's definitely cliched. Uptight, follow-the-rules, buzz-cut guy who doesn't like the cocky-but-genuinely-good-hearted screw-up who eventually saves the day so that the uptight guy has no choice but to like the screw-up.

On one hand, I liked the movie. The planet they crash-landed on was unusual. It was a plot point I hadn't anticipated, which is almost always a good thing. I liked the funny creatures. Their colors were so beautiful. And I liked that the kids were playing with a beautiful butterfly. I liked their colorful houses. I liked how the space shuttle rolled over the loopy terrain. But on the other hand, I think it was trying too hard to be different. Take Kilowatt, or rather, her full name. Trying too hard for a laugh for the unpronounceable multi-syllabic name. The head that lit up when she was scared was cute; the singing and the running around was pushing it too far. And I did not recognize Kristin Chenowith as the voice! What a waste if someone like me (a big fan) didn't even know it was she who was Kilowatt. The same thing, sadly, goes for the Senator. Love Stanley Tucci (read the review for Kit Kittredge) but did not swoon once over his evil voice because I didn't even realize it was he. What's the point?

But I laughed. Not a lot but when I did, I really laughed. There were some really great lines. There were the unbelievable duds, too. Most of the movie tried a bit too hard for the easy gag, the cute gag. The non-funny moments weren't endearing enough to make the movie lovable. For the most part, this movie leaves you with the feeling of, "Eh." Not a loathable movie like Happily N'Ever After but not a charming, sweet, and whimsical movie like WALL-E. I just wish those "Oh my gosh, that was so funny!" moments were more prominent and more frequent.

There were moments that were a bit clunky and not believable. I know these movies always have lessons in them that can be used in every day life, but the way Hamm tried to help Kilowatt overcome her fear was pretty useless. And how quickly Kilowatt overcame her fear was a bit too convenient and easy.

But I must stress that when I laughed, I laughed hard. I just didn't laugh that much. The attempt to be different was appreciated and well done in some areas, trite and annoying in many other areas. It was an interesting movie. Maybe not for kids, maybe not for adults, either, but a good movie for those days when you just want to be entertained by a monkey (which, for me, is often).

One note of interest: I was the only person in the theater all through the previews and into the first five minutes of the movie (and then a family came in). Even though WALL-E is almost a month old, it gets more draw than this movie and Space Chimps just opened a few days ago...

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Starring: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Run Time: 2 hrs 3 mins

Yes, finally! Finally I got Jeff to go to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull... two months after it was released. I've avoided as many previews and reviews as possible in order to keep the movie a surprise. Unfortunately, I couldn't shield myself from everything and the one or two things I did manage to see really unveiled some plot points that ruined the surprise.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series. Indiana Jones is enlisted to help a teenage boy find his missing mother who went looking for a mutal friend - Professor Oxley. Strangley, this boy's missing mother is also tied to the Russians who just days earlier forced Indiana to steal an artifact from Area 51.

By now I'm sure everyone who wanted to see this movie has seen it and those who are waiting for it to be released on DVD probably aren't the type to care if I spoil the plot points. Translation: This review will reveal critical details about the movie.

Perhaps it was the 2 month wait to see this movie that is weighing in on my ability to like this movie. Perhaps it is the movie itself. I can sum up my opinion in one word: Eh. Eh. Eh is not a word one should use when describing something that has Shia LaBeouf, Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett and is directed by Steven Spielberg. But eh it is.

The eh started off with the very first shot of the movie - a car filled with "teenagers" zipping across the desert. I'm not sure what the whole point of it was other than to perhaps emphasize the time period. But what was with the gopher? Jeff thinks that Spielberg or Lucas watched Caddyshack one too many times. I was perplexed by the gopher shots, even if he tied the opening with the closing.

Perplexing. That's another word to sum up the movie. I just didn't get the whole crystal skull thing. It had to be aliens? And if the alien they stole from Area 51 had a crystal skeleton, did it not have a crystal skull? Wouldn't its skull have some sort of magical powers, particularly if it was that magnetic? And why did the Russians need the alien in the first place when they had dissected many of their own already?

Unoriginal. Yet another word to sum up this movie. From the Marlon Brando Wild One entrance of Mutt Williams (LaBeouf) to the car chase scene through the jungle (didn't we see this in at least one other Indy movie?) to the killer ant attack (reminiscent of The Mummy) to the search for the cave entrance (eerily similar to National Treasure) to the face melting ending (while the special effects were better in this version, the style was much better in the Lost Arc). A lot of the movie seemed to be familiar, too familiar. Sometimes familiar is comforting and comfortable; other times it's downright boring. We have seen the chase scenes. We've watched Indy unravel the clues before. It's all interesting... but boring.

The 1950s. This installment takes place in the 1950s, and there's no mistaking that fact. If you didn't get that it takes place in the 50s from the opening drag race sequence or from Mutt's Brando-esque resemblance, then you had to pick up on it from the constant bombardment of slang flowing from Mutt's mouth - Daddio, greaser. Alright, alright. We get it. We're in the 50s now.

Spoilers. I thought I did well avoiding all the talk about this movie before I watched it. But then I saw some pictures from the premier. Karen Allen was in them. At first I thought it was nice that she attended the opening but then somehow I discovered she was in the movie. I didn't think anything of it until Mutt mentioned his mother's name - Mary Williams. I instantly figured out who she was and what Mutt was to Indy. I then found the actual reveal rather annoying. Maybe I would have figured it out without knowing Karen Allen was in it but I'd like to think it would have been a lot more pleasant for me to figure it out on my own (or even be surprised with the reveal). Too much information can be a bad thing.

I liked the ending. I could almost see Lucas winking, "Gottcha!" You think the hat blowing in signifies a new beginning, the passing of the torch, and then it's yanked away from you. Not so fast. Indy never gives up.

So, to summarize: perplexing, unoriginal, interesting and yet boring. It's a "safe" movie. The acting is good (even though Cate Blanchett was completely unrecognizable in the previews to me). It seems a bit tired, overdone. Perhaps there were one too many rewrites. I liked it, but that's because it's Indy and Shia was in it (even though I had to stifle a snigger as he rode in on his Harley looking all bad-ass. I can believe Shia as a tough guy; I just didn't buy the get-up - it was too much). Maybe Indy 5 will be better. Maybe.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Stanley Tucci, Joan Cusack, Jane Krakowski, Julia Ormond
Directed By: Patricia Rozema
Run Time: 1 hr 31 mins

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is about a 10 year old girl who longs to be a reporter. As the country heads into the Depression, Kit's family has to take in boarders in order to make ends meet. Even though times are tough, Kit still convinces her mother to adopt an abandoned dog whose owner couldn't feed her anymore as well as provide odd jobs around the house for two young hobos, who work only for food. When crime begins to rise, everyone believe it's because of the rising hobo population, everyone that is except Kit (and her mother). This little girl will stop at nothing to get her story and to clear the names of her hobo friends.

First, I would like to point out that this movie is inspired by one of the dolls in the American Girl product line. Some of you may know that and may be steering clear of this movie just because all the other doll movies have been (or probably are) absolutely horrendous (I know the Bratz movie strikes fear into my heart just thinking about the one preview I saw for it). Some of you may boycott movies that promote consumerism facism (but then, I suspect, you didn't watch The Transformers then either). Neither of those reasons are good reasons to avoid this movie. The only reason to avoid it is if you don't like harmless, sweet, goofy, and entertaining movies that don't have blood, violence, swearing, nudity, or car chases.

Noting the above paragraph, I watched this movie with awe. Abigail Breslin actually looked like a doll! Her hair was perfect. Her face was perfectly shaped. Even the freckles splashed across her cheeks were perfect. Very doll like. Such a pretty doll. I thought about that every time there was a close-up of Kit (and there were a lot of them which is odd in a movie called Kit Kittredge...).

I must admit I felt a kinship with Kit right off the bat as the opening scene has her putting the finishing touches on an article just before she, with big eyes and high hopes, walks into a newsroom for the very first time. Ah, a little girl with big dreams of becoming a reporter. So idealistic. So determined. All she wants to do is be in print. I did have some tears in my eyes as she gushed about her ambitions. Those were the days.

Back to the movie... Although I liked the glossy view of the era, it did seem as though this was a sanitized depiction of the Depression. Yes, friends had their houses foreclosed upon; yes, Kit's father lost his job and went to Chicago to look for work; yes, there was a lot of unemployement, but it all seemed okay. I expected people to burst into song at any moment because even though they were sad and bad things were happening, they were still happy. Even the hobos had clean clothes, spotless teeth, and a spring in their step. But like I said, I liked this rose-colored view of the Depression. Kit had such pretty dresses (and how did that bow stay in her hair? 1930s magic?) and women even wore high heeled shoes to garden. And don't get me started on her mother's garden club. Ah, those were the days to wear pretty dresses with huge floppy hats, eat sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and talk about the best way to prune a rosebush.

One of the best parts of this movie was Kit's mother (played by Ormond). Even though her husband was hundreds of miles away looking for work, even though she worked every minute of every day to make ends meet, even though tragedy struck the house, she still seemed to be such a wonderful person. Even though anti-hoboism ran amuck, she was the only one that refused to write someone off due to the employment/housing situation. She was strong yet unassuming and quiet. She had a lot of impact but did it so subtly.

Another bright parts of this movie was Kit's friend Stirling, played by Zach Mills. He was also in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (the actor, not the character) and was so captivating in that, too. He has a knack for playing quirky well.

As for all the hype behind Willow Smith's role (yes, Will Smith's daughter), it's completely undeserved. Not sure if she would have garnered the role had her dad not been so famous. She was okay (and I'm being polite). I actually went to see this movie not for Willow Smith (there's a reason she's not in the previews) but for Stanley Tucci. I just love to say "Tucci." He wasn't as charasmatic as he normally is, though, so I was a bit disappointed with his performance. I'm sure he'll be much better in Swing Vote, another movie I'm going to see primarily because Stanley Tucci is in it. I just love to say "Tucci." Joan Cusack was wonderful as the zanny mobile librarian (was there really such a thing?). Most of her endearing qualities come out as she's running through the woods. I and the three year olds in the audience laughed. Jane Krakowski played Jane Krakowski, a single woman who dances all the time and is trying desperately to land a man. Abigail Breslin, amazingly doll-like, was her usual charming and fabulous self.

Aside from the apple-cheeked kids and the can-do attitude that oozed and gurgled from very pore on even the most down-trodden person, this was a good movie. The characters were incredibly interesting. Most of the acting was decent (there were a couple of kid actors that made the opening scene seem like a children's theater production). The story was touching, from the kid just wanting to write down to the "pick on the hobo" attitude to the mystery of who was behind the new crime spree. It's a sweet movie. Probably one that's good for a rainy day or a a pick-me-up when at home in bed with the flu. It will warm your heart and put a smile on your hacking face.

Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Directed By: Peter Berg
Run Time: 1 hr 32 mins

Hancock is about a VERY reluctant super hero. He's the anti-hero - mean, uncaring, and very destructive.

I saw this movie because of Will Smith. What's not to love? The previews made this movie seem funny and charming. Well, it has Will Smith. I didn't laugh once and I didn't really see the charm. The special effects sucked. Really sucked. And I normally love Jason Bateman's dry, subtle humor. It was too subtle. I didn't love it.

The best part about this movie was the twist. But then the twist lost its edge on me and I just didn't care to figure it out before the reveal. The movie did have spirit, I'll give it that. And it was different. A grouchy super hero? Funny. Just not ha-ha funny. I think I laughed more in I Am Legend.

The most interesting thing about this movie is the director. I couldn't believe that Peter Berg directed this, such a high-profile action movie. He directed Very Bad Things, for cryin' out loud (which started off great but ended so poorly and was incredibly predictable and trite)! But that's just me being me. I suppose no one else cares about that fact. Another interesting fact that only I will care about - Peter Berg also directed Jason Bateman in The Kingdom.

I did like the ending. The whole twist thing came to fruition and was a bit touching. And the final moment of the movie was just sweet. That I liked. The other one hour thirty-one minutes could have been avoided. Kind of. Will Smith is still in it. And in a skin tight super hero outfit. Gotta like that.

The Incredible Hulk
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Run Time: 1 hr 54 mins

The Incredible Hulk is based on the 70s TV show, which was based on the comic books. It's about a man who inadvertently gets a dose of gamma rays and then, when he becomes angry, turns into a green-skinned monster with super strength. Bruce Banner (played by Norton), aka the human side of the Hulk, goes to great lengths to lead a normal, non-angry life. Unfortunately, despite his good intentions, he occasionally turns into the Hulk. The military wants to stop/trap him but he's unstoppable (and not that easy to catch).

I'm a big fan of Eric Bana. I bring this up because he was the Hulk/Bruce Banner in the 2003 version. The 2003 version sucked. It just didn't capture the essence of the 70s show, and being a girl from the 70s, that was very important. This 2008 version did capture the essence... except for the Hulk itself. They still don't have it right. The CGI looks fake. Why can't Lou Ferrigno be the Hulk instead of reduced to a mere cameo (albeit a great cameo)? This version was funny and had heart. I loved the scene where Bruce is trying to say in Portuguese, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." And what he actually says in Portuguese is very endearing and funny.

For some reason, I like Liv Tyler. I don't know why. She hasn't done anything that I truly liked (see my review of The Strangers). I have a feeling she's a bit on the dumb side. Sweet but dumb. But as dumb as she may be, I actually bought her as a scientist (even more than Jennifer Connolly, from the 2003 version). And I liked Edward Norton. He was a conflicted and sweet and caring and smart Bruce Banner. I wasn't that impressed with either Tim Roth or William Hurt (how little is Tim Roth standing next to William Hurt?).

The story seemed very similar to the 2003 version, but better acted and scripted. I laughed (not cringed). The only part I didn't like was the monster on monster battle. I'm not exactly sure if I believed the outcome (why did Betty do what she did and what happens afterwards?).

I hated the CGI Hulk. I loved the homage to Bill Bixby as well as the Lou Ferrigno cameo. But the best part of the movie was the ending. I won't give it away but I absolutely loved it.

Good movie. Definitely see it for the ending.