Movie Valley
June 2008 Movie Reviews
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Starring: Benjamin Burtt, Kim Kopf, Fred Willard, Sigourney Weaver
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
Run Time: 1 hr 37 mins

Wall-E is about the last remaining animated object on earth - a robot named WALL-E who has developed a bit of a personality during the 700 years he's spent cleaning up Earth. Along comes EVE, a probe designed to find sustainable life on Earth. WALL-E falls in love with her and goes to great lengths to be with her.

This was my birthday movie. Seems as though Pixar (I refuse to call it Disney) releases a movie every year on my birthday (well, this year and last year). I enjoyed Ratatouille immensely. I enjoyed WALL-E even more. I absolutely loved it. Perhaps the winning moment was the opening short film about a magician's assistant bunny who only wants to have a moment to eat his carrot. The magician thwarts his quest for food because they have a show to do. The bunny and the magician stage a war of wills and antics that are absolutely hilarious. I was dying with laughter. In fact, I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard and so much for so long. And I have a suspicion that I was the only person in the sold out theater who felt a bit uneasy/guilty after watching this short. Was I the only one who worried about neglecting my bunny? He was at home (and probably wishing he had a carrot). Even if you don't see the wonder and merriment and purity of WALL-E, you absolutely have to love the short film.

WALL-E is an interesting movie, from its opening visuals of a bleak, uninhabited, desolate Earth, to its silent movie overtones, to its plethora of underlying messages. For the first 10, possibly 15 minutes, there is no dialog. Of course, that's because WALL-E is alone, save his best friend/pet the cockroach. And even much of the rest of the movie has very limited dialog. I found it remarkable that the dialog wasn't even needed. WALL-E was such an adorable and endearing character that it was fun just to watch him. You didn't need to have scripted story to understand and care about the movie.

The characters in this movie really make the movie. And without much verbal communication, the movie needed to find characters who could carry the movie. WALL-E is such a fascinating creature. Everything about WALL-E is so cute. It was interesting to see him go about his day, just like he has for the past 700 years. I could have watched him find and save objects for the entire movie, it was that interesting. He's a funky little guy with a passion for seeing the beauty in odd things. For example, he found the blue velvet box much more interesting than the huge diamond ring that was inside. His knack for survival was amazing. When he busted a tread on his "shoe," he replaced it by finding a non-functioning WALL-E that matched his tread size. He learned to hunker down while a dust storm raged outside. He learned when to capture the sun to recharge his solar batteries. And he learned how to entertain himself during his down time - by watching Hello, Dolly on video... that he rigged to his iPod (cue one of the many Apple Computer references), that he rigged to a flat screen TV (for better viewing). And then enter EVE, who seems to be a mindless, heartless, programmed robot, designed to do one thing and one thing only (but what that one thing is is classified). And then the transport vehicle that dropped her off on Earth takes off and EVE is free to be herself - a robot that loves to fly. Mo the robot who's programmed to clean up contaminants won over my heart with one simple dilemma - follow the rules or do what he's meant to do (stay on the green line or clean up after messy WALL-E). So cute! I absolutely loved his interactions with WALL-E (who wipes dirt on Mo's face when he won't stop cleaning), right down to his introduction, a simple "Mo." Without giving too much away, the band of misfit robots that WALL-E inadvertently frees onboard the spaceship are so riddled with quirks they're labeled "unfit," although you soon realize that these misfits are all heart. So many quirky characters. So much fun.

There are many underlying messages with this film. The first and foremost is an environmental warning. In a hundred years, we will have killed off Earth so much that we must evacuate the planet. The second message of this movie is a health warning. If you rely on technology too much, life will pass you by... and you will become a big, fat blob. I almost stopped eating my popcorn when they showed the thousands upon thousands of people who were so overweight they couldn't even walk. Almost stopped eating my popcorn. The third message is a warning about the evils of mindless consumerism. Without even giving it much thought, the humans of the future simply purchase what they're told to purchase - and everyone does it. Perhaps it's also saying that people just do whatever everyone else is doing because they don't want to be the only one not doing it. The fourth message is the evils of the "Big Box" (sorry, Best Buy... although perhaps Pixar has a bigger beef against Walmart and Target). And finally, although Jeff disagrees with me, I think the movie is also saying that the only way to survive is to develop a personality. WALL-E and EVE are survivors because they both have developed endearing quirks, almost human like. WALL-E finds the wonder in even the smallest thing while EVE loves to fly, be free.

I absolutely loved this movie. I can't say it enough. I will be buying this one when it comes out. I'll probably wear out the short film option. Maybe I'll show that part to Rufus, but probably not. It may give him ideas. I loved the characters. They all had so much heart. WALL-E was so unbelievably cute. So kind-hearted. So sweet. So funny. So quirky. And even EVE, who was a bit militaristic, had a lot of heart. She truly cared for WALL-E. And little Mo. Oh, how I felt a kinship with him. So much dirt. So little time. Darn messy robots. Interesting messages. Great visuals. Scary prediction for the future. Funny movie. Sweet movie. Cute movie. And I do a great WALL-E impersonation.

Get Smart
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Terence Stamp, Alan Arkin
Directed By: Peter Segal
Run Time: 1 hr 50 mins

Get Smart is about a bungling CIA-type agent who is paired with a beautiful and wonderfully skilled female agent on an assignment.

I never really watched the TV show from the 60s. First, I'm not old enough. Second, even though I could have watched the reruns, I never did. I don't know why. They're probably funny. But I do know of the TV show. The interesting thing is that the part I thought I knew either was incorrect or changed for this movie. I thought Maxwell Smart was supposed to be an idiot. In the movie, Smart (played by Carell) was an incredibly intelligent behind-the-scenes analyst who had big dreams of one day becoming a field agent. He was basically a nerd, a book-smart man with very little knowledge of the real world. His downfall was his delusion that he was able to handle the real world. And there is where the trouble - and mayhem and comedy - ensues.

I rather enjoyed this version of Maxwell Smart. I liked seeing a glimpse into what makes him tick. I thought it was incredibly sweet to see all of his post-it notes around his apartment as he got ready in the morning, pepping him up for his big day (today was the day that the results of his field exam were announced) as well as reminders for various tasks (like the one on his goldfish bowl that said "buy new fish"). I felt a connection with Max when he seemed a little sad when he realized that although he put a lot of effort and details into his report, no one bothered to read it, even though it had all the answers they needed. I liked Agent 99. I liked how smart and tough she was. And I liked all the supporting characters, too.

Eh. I liked this movie even though I didn't really laugh. All of the funny bits were shown in the previews and even those that weren't were incredibly predictable. I found it cute. I found it charming. I found it interesting. It was well acted. But I didn't laugh. I also didn't groan over bad puns or over-embellished slapstick prat falls. There weren't any. I also didn't throw up my hands in disgust over attempts to stretch reality in order to make a comedic point (as I did in Run, Fat Boy, Run because they couldn't have been more wrong with how to train for a marathon). If your criteria for a comedy is laughing, this may not be the movie for you. If your criteria of comedy is that it isn't insulting (no potty humor), then this is the movie for you.

One good thing to come from this movie was quite unexpected. After watching the panoramic view of Moscow, I realized how beautiful the city is. It made me really want to travel to Russia. Odd thing is I don't think it was actually filmed in Russia. So maybe I really want to go to a movie set...

Incidentally, I saw three movies in one day (it was my birthday). Two of which starred Terence Stamp. How odd is that? It would have been sooo funny if the third also starred Terence.

Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp
Directed By: Timur Bekmambetov
Run Time: 1 hr 48 mins

Wanted is about a guy with a mundane life who is suddenly pulled into his destiny - to be an assassin.

I heard somewhere that this movie has ties to The Matrix however, I can't seem to find what that tie is. Perhaps what I heard was that it's in the style of the The Matrix and that it certainly is. It's a dumbed down version of The Matrix, for those who couldn't follow The Matrix. Some of the elements are the same - a guy trapped working in an office, doing work that he hates, living a life that is boring when suddenly people start shooting at him, and if that weren't enough, defying all laws of physics.

One of the things I liked about this movie was the element of surprise - the previews didn't actually give away all of the movie! There was more to the story than what you might think. I liked that. But now that I think about it, there were a few lines in the previews that weren't in the movie. Ordinarily, I hate that, but since it just occurred to me now, I guess it wasn't that crucial at the time.

I think the technique used to glamorize the final showdown scene actual hindered the ability to really see what was going on. It was cool, don't get me wrong, and you get the idea of what's going on but I'm not quite sure I got the full effect of it. I think these scenes focused too much on looking cool. They were, trust me, they were. I just wanted to be able to see the whole thing for myself.

Good movie. Loved Angelina Jolie. Just liked James McAvoy. And I'm not sure I can fully like any movie where Morgan Freeman says, "Mother fucker." But great action sequences. I just wish they weren't so over-emphasized with the slo-mo. Very entertaining. Very energetic. It is what it is - an action movie (with some zing). Definitely a must-see on the big screen.

The Happening
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Spencer Breslin, Betty Buckley
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Run Time: 1 hr 31 mins

The Happening is yet another movie from M. Night Shyamalan where there's a strange twist, something unexpected occurs. The Happening is about a frightening event that is sweeping the East Coast - something that can't be seen, smelled, heard, or otherwise detected is causing people to lose the power of speech, control their body movements, and ultimately kill themselves. This phenomenon takes a few minutes to occur, making it difficult to fend off. It first hits Central Park in New York City and then travels the East Coast from there, striking Boston, Philadelphia, and a bunch of other places. A group of people, stranded in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, attempt to figure out what's causing this event and seek to outlive it.

I had originally planned on seeing this movie last week but traffic prevented me from arriving before it started. This week, I had planned on seeing The Incredible Hulk but traffic once again got in my way. The sad thing is not only do I leave in time to arrive early, I leave plenty early. Jeff always makes fun of me for how early I leave the house before a movie. Despite this, I've still been late for two movies in a row. Last week's thwarted attempt proved to be a good accident. The alternate movie was pretty decent. This week, there was no happy accident. My second choice was not a good choice. And I knew it about 5 minutes into the movie. But I had to stay. I always have to see the ending.

I have so many things to say about this movie, none of which are positive. Well, I do have one positive thing to say - the premise is incredibly interesting, incredibly haunting. This is why I went to go see the movie (well, that and traffic intervention). It's scary to think that something so undetectable could cause such horrific deaths. I had heard a tidbit of the twist so I was expecting it before it was unveiled. And that tidbit turns out to be the entire twist. I kept thinking that there had to be more to it but nope. The twist is small and a bit far fetched. And the way it is unveiled is just plain stupid. And sudden. And not so, "Well, maybe it's this" with no proof.

The acting in this is just plain horrible. Mark Wahlberg is okay, and that's as glowing as I can muster for pretty much anyone else's performance. Zooey Deschanel was horrendous. She was playing someone too meek, too unpersonable, too blah and was doing it so limply. The extras (or whatever you call people with only one or two lines) were people who couldn't even land a role as "Tree No. 7" in a high school play. The chicks on the park bench in Central Park paved the way for lack luster, barely-can-read-the-lines-off-their-scripts performances. This stagnant "please shut up" style was present in the lady who said, "It happened in a park in Rittenhouse Square" to the man in the dinner who said "We should get out of this town" to the French guys at the end. Betty Buckley gave the best performance, and she's only in it for about 10 minutes. It was so lovely to see her again.

I buy the twist. I'll give it some sort of pass of acceptance. Sure. It could happen. Any environmentalist will say "Right on!" or "Serves all you gas-guzzling, overpopulating idiots right!" I can see the point for the twist. I can see the argument. I can see the hidden meaning... except the ending leads me to believe that there IS no hidden agenda. I was fine with the twist until the ending. I really do think that there wasn't a political statement behind the twist, it was just a "betcha didn't see that one coming" twist. I am trying to be positive and think that perhaps M. Night Shyamalan may have been saying "People just don't learn" but I really think he wasn't trying to say anything at all. I think he was just trying to come up with some silent, spooky killer that no one ever would think of.

This movie is incredibly gruesome. Apparently this unknown toxin causes you to not only kill yourself, but you must get points for the most creative, painful, and inconceivable way to die. The death scenes - and there were tons - were intense. I had to look away on more than one occasion. Ugh! One particular death involves a lawn mower. As soon as I saw the guy turn it on, I looked away. I knew it was coming. And I'm telling you this to warn you. I looked away and kept looking away, kept looking away, kept looking away. I think I had my head turned for at least a minute. Finally, I thought, it must be over. I looked back at the screen just in time to see the guy get run over head first by an industrial mower. Note to anyone who dares to watch this movie: When you see the guy turn on the lawn mower, leave the room, make some popcorn, open a can of paint and apply the first coat to the walls of your largest room, THEN come back to the movie. You'll probably be just in time to see the blood splatter and the body quiver like I did. Lovely.

Implausible. I said that I thought that the twist was acceptable. That's not the part of the movie that was implausible to me. The part I thought was implausible was everything else. The public reaction to this silent, unknown killer - possibly a terrorist attack - was waaaay too blase. There was no panic. No one was running. Everyone was calm. There wasn't even a single voice that was raised. The scene in the Philadelphia train station was totally unreal. People filing in an orderly fashion to board the evacuation train?? Does that even happen on a normal day when there isn't some gas causing people to jam glass into their throats or simply walk off the top of the highest building or jump into a lion pit at the zoo and let them rip their limbs off one by one? And when the train stopped in the middle of no where, only one person calmly and quietly asked the conductor what was happening? And when the lights went off in the packed diner, no one freaked out that this could possibly be the start of the end? I've been in a restaurant before when the lights suddenly went off and there was a bit of a stir. Nothing from the people in this movie. Yeah, right.

So, we have poorly acted, incredibly gruesome, not plausible, and insipid and non-dramatic discovery of the "whodunit." This movie is atrocious. M. Night Shyamalan should be ashamed of himself. Is he even trying anymore? Do NOT go see this movie. Do not rent this movie. Stay far, far away from it. Read the next paragraph and I will remove all reason for you to even want to see it for the "twist."

Spoiler Alert: The twist revealed - who or what is releasing a toxin into the air that is causing the utter death and destruction of the entire populace of the East Coast? The plants. Plants have the power to release toxins to destroy their enemies - and they can target specific enemies. And apparently the trees can talk to the bushes, the bushes can talk to the grass, the grass can talk to the flowers... Vegetation has the ability to communicate - and apparently organize - with all vegetation. It was this ability combined with the power to create toxins targeted to one specific enemy (humans) that enabled the plants to thin the population of the East Coast. The plants didn't like big groups of people, particularly groups over 3. So if they saw a bunch of people, they would release the toxin. It is was because of this that our trio (Elliot, played by Walhberg, Alma, played by Deschanel, and Jes, played by some kid) had to escape into the countryside - and not just the countryside but the deepest, darkest, most rural place they could stumble upon - a cabin owned by Mrs. Jones (played by Buckley) that had no electricity, no plumbing, where she lived off the land by herself. She didn't even have a radio (so she had no idea what was going on). And then 24 hours after the mayhem started, the plants called a truce. No more toxins. Ending Spoiler Alert: Here is my rant for the movie: What the bleep is up with the ending? After the plants called a cease-fire, cut to three months later where Alma and Elliot have adopted Jes and are living - wait for it - back in Philadelphia. And not only are they living in Philadelphia, but hundreds (presumably thousands) of others are, too. And driving cars. Lots of cars. And going on with their lives as if nothing happened... three months later. The plants released a toxin into Philly. It should have hit EVERYONE in Philly, regardless of whether they were in a park or in their house (as one insipid phone call from a mother to her daughter in Princeton demonstrated). There was no fighting this toxin. Once it hit you, you died. So how come there are so many people in Philly? And if it's just three months later, shouldn't they be still dealing with all the bodies? And really, Elliot and Alma, knowing what they knew, went back to the city, the type of place that angered the plants in the first place? And wasn't the whole point of this movie that we're killing the environment with overpopulation and pollution? So why was Alma happy with what she discovered? Really?? Argh!! Seriously. Do not see this movie! It had no point other than people never learn. Wait. Was M. Night Shyamalan saying that about us, the people who see his movies, knowing full well that his only decent movie was The Sixth Sense? And yet we continue to go despite the warnings...

Sex and the City
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Christopher Noth
Directed By: Michael Patrick King
Run Time: 2 hrs 15 mins

Sex and the City is about 4 women who live in New York City and obsess over their love life, or sometimes, lack thereof. The movie is a continuation of the HBO series and follows the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda.

I never watched the series when it was on HBO. I've caught a few episodes in rerun on TBS. I had no plans to see the movie since I wasn't a fan of the show and nor am I a chick flick fan, but when idiotic traffic thwarted my attempt to see The Happening (it took 25 minutes to go 2 miles!), I had to go see the next movie that was playing. I know part of the twist of The Happening and I've heard it's not that good so perhaps I lucked out with my second choice.

At the end of the series, Carrie (played by Parker) and long time love Big (played by Noth) got back together. Personally, I would have chosen Mikhail Baryshnikov over Big, but I digress... The movie picks up three years later. Carrie and Big are blissfully in love and moving in together. They've been house hunting for ages and the perfect apartment - a penthouse - opens up. It's big. It's beautiful. And Big offers to buy it outright instead of letting Carrie pay for half... or at least some of it. This frightens Carrie. If she gives up her beloved apartment, moves into the penthouse that Big owns fully, and something should happen between them, she'd be out on the street. No legal rights to the apartment. Big decides to ease her mind and proposes. It's more of a business arrangement proposal, but Carrie is fine with the lack of romance. It was practical.

In the beginning of the movie, all characters are pretty happy in their relationships. And then, one by one, they come to realize that they're not happy, whether by inner struggles or by situations that present themselves. The only thing that gets them through their setbacks is the support of their friends, whether they like it or not. And in the end, they come to realize that the key to happiness is starting off with internal happiness. You can't be happy in your relationship if you yourself ain't happy.

I think part of the reason the series turned me off was because I saw these women as a bit pathetic. My last two sentences from the above paragraph should have been enforced in the beginning and perhaps these women wouldn't have had quite as much to bitch and obsess about for 10 years. I also never understood the fashion. Ugh. Some of the outfits they wear are absolutely hideous - and it's considered high fashion! I gotta tell you, if I saw Carrie on New Year's Eve or Samantha 90% of the time (the rehearsal dinner necklace and bracelet, the baby shower, the ring in any scene, etc), I would assume they were prostitutes. Yes, these women have nice bodies but they're over 40! Some of those outfits wouldn't even look good on 20 year olds (well, maybe 20 year old prostitutes). Ugh. This is not to say that 40 year old women can't show off their goods but leopard print pants don't look good on anyone (well, anyone who's not a prostitute). I must say I did love a lot of the shoes (the Manolos in the closet; Samantha's sushi shoes).

Aside from the aesthetics, I found the acting in the movie to be clunky and a bit high-schoolish (cue Jennifer Hudson). Sarah Jessica Parker was great. I had new found respect for Kristin Davis when Carrie confronted Big in the street. She always plays the pearl wearing goodie-goody in almost everything I've seen her in so I assumed she merely did one character. Her depth in that particular scene startled me. It seemed so amazingly real. But I did not care for Kim Cattrall (perhaps the bangs were too distracting) or Jennifer Hudson, for that matter. Too over the top, not over the top enough. And what was with the squealing every time Samantha came back from LA? Do 40 something year old women do that?

Although I strongly detest chick flicks, I watched a lot of this movie with tears in my eyes and a good portion of those tears were accompanied by a lump in my throat. There were some really sweet, touching moments and an awful lot of heartache moments. Even though the acting was off-putting, I actually did care what happened to these women. I suppose that's a sign of a good movie - making you care about the characters. And I laughed a lot. I also groaned a lot, too. There were too many hokey lines - Louise Vitton; I'll see you in St. Louie; Boo-tay call.

I'm okay with having missed The Happening. Sex and the City may not have been on my "must see" list but I'm glad I saw it. It was sweet. It was so sad. It was touching. It was funny. Two things: Why did Carrie's hair change back all of a sudden to its original color? And did they get to keep the apartment??

Kung Fu Panda
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogan
Directed By: John Wayne Stevenson & Mark Randolph Osborne
Run Time: 1 hr 31 mins

Kung Fu Panda is about the bumbling panda named Po (voiced by Black) who dreams of being a kung fu master and who inadvertently is chosen as the Dragon Warrior. Now he must master kung fu in order to save his village from Tai Lung, an angry and evil snow leopard.

I went through a Kung Fu phase a few years ago. And by this, I do not mean I learned kung fu... or any other martial arts. I simply mean I sang the song "Everybody was kung fu fighting" non-stop for an entire summer. I even made my family pose in kung fu style at our family vacation at the lake. And, of course, there's my obsession with pandas. I believe I even created a panda dance once summer. So, when I saw that these two things came together in one movie, I knew I would have to see it. The previews, which have been airing for over a year now, make me laugh, particularly the scene where Po the panda says with a mouth full of cookies, "Don't tell Monkey." Part of what made me giggle at that is my love of monkeys. Plus, it's just a funny line all by itself.

Perhaps I've seen one too many previews. Perhaps this movie is just way too hyped. I'm sad to say, I didn't love it. I liked it, but I have a feeling my like simply comes from my love of cartoons, my summer of kung fu, and my obsession with pandas (weird how I can do the panda dance AND still type). Most of the really funny scenes were shown in the previews. I've seen those so many times that they merely garnered a faint smile from me today as I watched the movie. Even my beloved, "Don't tell Monkey" scene failed to even make me giggle. How can it be that the word monkey did not make me laugh?? Oh, the horror. Just so you don't think I'm being a sour puss, I do have to say that there were a couple of sight gags that did make me laugh hysterically (Po's butt falling on Tai Lung's head had me doubled over; Po's tail in the soup was cute).

The story is definitely nothing new. Atypical bumbling buffoon has to overcome odds and aspire to greatness. The underdog must triumph. No one thinks he can do it. Those who wanted his Dragon Master title don't like him now that he's the Chosen One. And yet, despite of this tried and true underdog tale, I did like the story.

The voices. I always find it funny when big movie stars are cast to voice animation. Kids don't care. The voices are obviously to pull in the adults. And I also find it funny that those big name stars really don't put much oomph into their voice. They don't change it to be quirky or funny. It's just their regular voice. It's one thing when the voice is a bit unusual or funny to begin with - Seth Rogan does a pretty good job with cartoon voices because his voice is funky already. The few lines that Jackie Chan had were also interesting. His voice is a bit unusual. Dustin Hoffman did a wonderful job as Master Shifu. I hardly recognized it as his. But Angelina's talent was wasted in this film. I like her; I just felt her voice fell flat. Same with Lucy Liu. Even Jack Black wasn't as funny as he could have been. Now, Jim Carrey in Horton Hears a Who was absolutely wonderful. That's the energy, oomph, and hutzpah cartoon voices need. Anything else just doesn't have what it takes to draw you into the character. I know all cartoon voices don't have to be funny (there are, strangely enough, serious characters in animations) but their voices do have to come through.

Okay, so I've mentioned that I didn't find this movie very funny. It was cute. A couple of moments had me roaring. I just wanted to laugh more. I also didn't find the story to be too original. However, it did pull me in. Sure, you know what's going to happen and you know there's going to be a moral to wrap it all up neatly in the end, but I must admit that I did root for Po. I wanted him to achieve his dream of being a kung fu master. I was so happy for him that he got to meet his idols - the Furious Five. And I liked that he wasn't all bungling - he knew more about the history of kung fu than anyone. He had a good heart. And for some reason, I did like that even in the end, he still had issues with the stairs. I also didn't find the voices that enticing. I like all of the actors who did the voices. I just think they needed to put their hearts into their voices. But despite all my bemoaning, I did like the movie. How can you not like the panda? And how can you not cheer on the underdog? And was it just me, or did anyone else want to rub Tai Lung's belly??

So... good movie (as long as you can hear it over all the little kids talking, coughing, giggling, and running about). Pandas. Kung Fu. A guy named Monkey. Little baby Tai Lung was sooo cute! It just should have been funnier.

The Strangers
Starring: Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman
Directed By: Bryan Bertino
Run Time: 1 hr 47 mins

The Strangers is a horror movie about three people in masks who terrorize a young couple.

Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are basically the only two actors on screen for 90% of this movie, and are definitely the only two actors with speaking parts for 99% of the movie. Because of this, it is essential that these two actors carry the movie. Sadly, neither were up to this task. They were too blah to care about. I do like Liv Tyler, although for the life of me I can't come up with a movie that I actually liked her in other than That Thing You Do. Her doe-eyed wimpiness made the scenes where she wasn't screaming (she does have a GREAT horror-movie scream) kind of painful to watch. She did not have enough oomph to draw me in, sympathize with her character. It was only because I put myself in her shoes that I found the movie to be scary.

This movie was scary, particularly if you just let yourself be immersed in it. I had the unfortunate pleasure of being pulled from my state of fright every ten minutes because the two girls in front of me giggled through the scariest scenes. That made me giggle, too, because how foolish was I to be lured in? In one of my "back to reality" moments, I theorized that although I find the premise scary and often freak myself out that there could be someone in the house when I'm home alone, I realized that in my tiny house, I would probably know if there was someone else in there. Even if I didn't hear the back door make the wickedly loud screech it makes when opened, Sirbie would. He always runs to the back door when it's opened. And even if neither he nor I heard someone come into the house, I would definitely hear the 1920's hardwood floors squeaking under the weight of anything over 15 pounds (because even Sirbie at 16 pounds makes the floors squeak in certain spots). In a big house, someone could be hiding and you wouldn't even know it. Thank goodness for my little house! But then... the house in the movie, I came to realize, is as small as, if not smaller, than my house. How someone could be in there and not have anyone know is beyond me. THAT realization spoiled some more suspenseful moments in the later moments of the movie. But the parts BEFORE I figured that out were pretty intense!

There were more moments like that which would pull me from my "oh my gosh, this is so scary" feeling and push me into "ya gotta be kidding me!" For starters, do people really inexplicably fall down while running through the woods, fleeing a masked stalker? I'm a klutz by nature and a runner by necessity and I can't remember any time when I even did so much as a stutter step (now, walking is an entirely different story). Granted, I don't run in the woods and there is rarely a homicidal maniac trailing me but I have to believe that I could remain upright, particularly when it mattered most (like my life depended on it). And if there are three people stalking your house, writing stupid messages in various rooms to prove that they've been in your house, do people really not take the time to put on shoes before dashing into the woods? Not even to slip into a pair of flip flops? Foot protection aids greatly when there is glass and ouchy branches about. And if there are people trying to kill me, there is no way I'm going to split up from the only other person who is not trying to kill me. I have watched a horror movie or two. Splitting up leads to no good. And that thought goes double when the other person is the only one who is armed. Um, yeah, you have the gun, but I'll go off in the other direction to hide. Unarmed hiding leads to no good. Oh, and if you stumble upon your best friend's car that has been rammed to totaled little bits, glass smashed to pieces, and is on fire, AND you find the front door to his house riddled with gigantic holes, shouldn't you dial 9-1-1 pronto? Ay carumba!

Sigh. But I did find this movie scary. Perhaps if I didn't have the two annoying teenage girls sniggering every five seconds, I would have been able to keep myself in the movie, allowing myself to just let the events unfold. Once you're pulled out of the rhythm, all you can do is think and nitpick. Thinking is bad in a horror movie. Unfortunately, the write/director tried to make us do that. He actually tried to insert a backstory. Thankfully this only lasts a few minutes and doesn't continue for the rest of the movie. You can probably show up about 10 minutes after the show starts and not miss anything but an annoying attempt to expose the interworkings of the two main characters. I suspect this ploy was intended to get you to care about them. In lieu of this, their acting should have done the trick. Note the word "should." Oh, and another reason to arrive late to this one - you'll miss the insipid line "this movie is based on true events." To me, the opening gave away the ending instantly... even if it confused me. The caller's name in the opening is "Jordan." Liv Tyler's character's name is "Kristin" (a fact that took me most of the movie to figure out). Apparently not the same two people. But it doesn't matter.

I did like that there was no soundtrack blaring in the background. There was no crescendo of music, either, to force you into that gasp, the shock of something happening. It was quiet. Oddly quiet. And that quietness actually helped build suspense. It made it scarier. And I like the absence of gore (well... almost absence). The first hour played on the mind. We've all been home by ourselves when a noise freaks us out. This movie kept toying with that notion, extending it bit by bit.

I was originally going to go see this movie when Jeff was out of town. But for a split second, a part of the preview zipped into my mind. It was night and I happened to look out the window, giving myself a start. For a fleeting moment, I transposed the preview to reality and envisioned someone standing in my yard wearing a mask. From then on, I couldn't get that image out of my head. My heart began beating a little faster. I wasn't happy being by myself. And I definitely wasn't going to go to the movie when just a mere thought of the preview freaked the living bahjeebies out of me.

This is an okay horror movie... as long as you don't have the misfortune of having someone pulling you out of the movie with immature giggling (mature guffawing is fine). You need to let yourself be scared by what's happening - and not think about it! This movie plays on your emotions and your senses. You don't need to see things to be scared by them. The feeling gets you, not the sight. It's a scary concept to know someone's been in your house, moving things, and it's an even scarier concept when someone's in the house with you! It's a scary concept to be watched by people in freaky masks (oh, and if someone ever tells you that someone's outside wearing a mask, don't ask what type of mask. It doesn't matter. Masked people lead to no good! That's the very nature of a mask!). It's a scary concept to be trapped inside your house by people playing mind tricks, banging on doors, rattling windows, rolling metal objects on the concrete at 4 o'clock in the morning. Being out in the country, where you're miles from anyone else, where it's quiet, isn't always a good thing... And it's quite an interesting concept to realize that something like this is all too plausible. Why torture innocent people? Because there's nothing else to do.

So, an okay horror movie. Just don't think. No giggling. Just let yourself be scared. And don't think, "Now why would anyone in their right mind do that when being chased by a psychotic killer?" Enjoy!

The Fall
Starring: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, Daniel Caltagirone, Leo Bill
Directed By: Tarsem Singh
Run Time: 1 hr 57 mins

The Fall is about a little girl in the hospital who befriends a paralyzed man who tells her a wonderful epic tale filled with far-off lands, buccaneers, and people she knows.

I was going to go see the horror movie The Strangers but thought better of it when just the mere memory of the preview made me freak out. Jeff's out of the country on business and I'm all alone. It's probably not best to watch something I know will give me nightmares when I'm by myself. I decided to see something simpler instead and I'm really glad I did.

The Fall is an absolutely wonderful movie. It's a fantasy, very kid-like in its whimsy but then very dark and sinister, too. It's one of those that you either love or hate. The story is a bit lacking. It tries really hard, comes close, but ultimately falls just short. The costumes and scenery are stunning. The end scene with Darwin in the pit is just amazing imagery. But along with the beauty of the sets and the shots, also comes an air of pretentiousness. I think the director was trying to make some the visuals breathtaking... and that's a bit annoying. There were a couple of shots (the white tarp after the Blue Bandit's death) that were a bit over-the-top (a "hey, look, I'm trying to be pretty for no reason). The shots were still incredibly interesting... albeit a bit bizarre, too bizarre to be appreciated. Of course, I still found myself uttering, "Wow!" despite the pretentiousness. I guess I'm a sucker for pretty vibrant colors and fluffy funky coats (Darwin's jacket).

The background story - the part Roy (played by Pace) doesn't tell - is utterly fantastically gripping. The two characters seem so simple and yet are so complex, even a five year old girl. The humor in this movie is very subtle and very smart. I laughed so many times (and yes, I think I was the only one laughing yet again). There were some truly poignant moments. This movie played a lot on how innocent Alexandria (played by the adorable Untaru) really was. I particularly loved the scene where she gave Roy three morphine pills. Why? Because to her, the "e" at the end of morphine was the number 3 (the letter is backwards in her kid mind, which makes it the number). She remembered it as m-o-r-p-h-i-n-3. He asked for three of them, right? How sweet. If only she knew what he was really after.

The acting is superb. Lee Pace's Roy is fabulous. He seems like a good person, someone whose heart is in the right place as he graciously entertains a little five year old girl with a broken arm. His heart, like his back, is broken and he struggles to keep that pain from consuming him. And I loved how sweet and innocent Alexandria was. At first, I was a bit put off by Untaru's acting... or was it actually acting? Was she simply being herself, a five year old girl, or was it absolutely brilliant acting depicting how a little kid really is? And I was amazed how easily Pace played off that.

The story - the one Roy tells Alexandria - is a bit discombobulated. I could see where it was going, what it was trying to do, but it didn't quite meld as it should have. I kept thinking that this story was similar to The Princess Bride - so full of imagination and heart and wit. I think I liked The Princess Bride because it was so much more cohesive. Perhaps the point of the movie was that Roy's story was just a diversion, and a means to get Alexandria to do what he wanted (steal medicine for him) and so therefore didn't need to be good, but I would have loved this movie had his story had that little something extra. The characters were amazing. The background story was so compelling and heart-wrenching, particularly with how jovial and innocent Alexandria was.

At first, I was thinking that this movie was a sweet kids' movie. And then it got violent. And scary. I flinched so many times. I even had to look away. It was truly dark. Not quite as dark and scary as Pan's Labyrinth but close, particularly since I wasn't expecting it. Although I didn't cry, I was so hurt by the mean turn the story took. Argh. I couldn't bear to watch little Alexandria cry! And, of course, the suicide subplot is probably not kid-friendly. It does get a little dark.

The title The Fall has so many references in the movie. It was what landed Alexandria in the hospital. It was what landed poor Roy in the hospital. It was Roy's struggle with suicide. It was what pulled Roy out of his fate. It took a second fall for poor little Alexandria for Roy to realize that although his girlfriend may not love him anymore, little Alexandria does and would do anything for him, even risking her own life.

The cinematography is amazing. The opening black and white scenes, while puzzling, are very beautiful. It was like a photograph, the way the light played off the images. In addition to the cinematography being astounding, the costumes were marvelous. So bright. So vibrant. So... stereotyped.... But beautiful.

I really liked this movie. Good characters. Beautiful costumes and sights. Compelling background story. The actual tale told by Roy could have been a bit more interesting, put together, but it was still good. There were some really funny moments with the story ("What about the bomb?" The bomb? "Yes, the bomb!"). So sweet. I had envisioned a different ending about 45 minutes before the actual ending but was okay with the way it did end. My ending would have been too Hollywood, I suspect. Such a good movie!