Movie Valley
June 2009 Movie Reviews
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Away We Go
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Run Time: 1 hr 37 mins

Away We Go is about a couple who are searching for the perfect place to raise their unborn child. They travel to various places across the US and Canada, searching for some place that feels homey and where good friends can be found. They visit a former co-worker, Verona (played by Rudolph)'s sister, Burt (played by Krasinski)'s brother, old college friends, and Burt's cousin.

This indie movie is getting much attention. In a way, it does deserve attention because it is a good movie. But in another way, it ain't that great. I have heard lots of good things about this movie. Thought I'd love it. I liked it but not that much. It is an interesting concept - searching for a good place to raise your child. Both Burt and Verona can work pretty much from anywhere so they're not tied to their job. They're looking for some place where they know someone so that they have friends as well as some place that has a good outdoors allure, some place where they can teach their kid about nature (tying knots, boating, wood carving - all things Burt wants to teach his child but needs to learn) and not have to worry for the child's safety. They travel to Phoenix, Tucson, some place in Wisconsin (was it Madison??), Montreal, and Miami. Along the way, the learn more about each other and feel the pull, warmth, and charm of parenting.

Each different town brings a totally different experience. Verona's friend in Phoenix (played by Janney) is a mother who is loud, crass, uncaring, and very lonely. Verona's sister is sweet but reminds Verona too much of the fact that their parents are dead. Burt's cousin is an over-the-top hippy. College friends who are now a couple with many adopted children seem like the perfect balance of fun (channeling back to the college life of partying) and responsibility (so many children to raise) and love (although a full household, everyone gets along) but they have an inner demon that cannot be ignored, particularly to a couple with a child on the way. Burt's brother's wife took off in the middle of the night, leaving the brother to raise their daughter by himself. Verona and Burt have to address their own issue of abandonment and commitment - Burt wants to get married but Verona doesn't.

I wanted to like this movie but I just couldn't get over my issues with it. Burt and Verona seemed like a wonderful couple, don't get me wrong. I find no real fault with them as a couple or soon to be parents. Krasinski and Rudolph brought warmth and insecurity marvelously to their characters. My issues lie with the plot points and other characters in the movie.

First and foremost - what was up with Burt's hair? Holy wooly mammoth! That scraggily hair was distracting. I found myself staring at the hair rather than paying attention to the movie. It was captivating, hypnotic.

The main issue I had with this movie was how much people were making out of Verona's parents being dead. It wasn't that people felt sad for her that her child wouldn't know them as grandparents or that Verona wouldn't be able to use their experience when she had a question about parenting. People kept commenting on how young Verona was when she lost them. Through much of this movie, I assumed she must of lost them when she was a child or even a young teenager. But then things came up that led me to start to wonder just how old she really was when they died. Then a fairly definitive statement sealed the age - she was 22! Yes, that is young but it's not as tragic as these people were making it out to be. Even her sister had a hand it in. She made a comment along the lines of "you're older so you got to be with them longer." Her sister wanted Verona to share stories of her parents because she knew them better than she did because she had spent more years with them. The sister is only a few years younger than Verona so that would make her 18 or 19 when her parents died. She should have a lot of memories of them.

My next issue lies with the reactions - or lack thereof - to some of the people they encountered. Burt's cousin Ellen, or LN as she had renamed herself (played by Gyllenhaal), was a bit full of herself and her lifestyle. Obviously her parenting philosophy differed from Burt and Verona's but it wasn't horrible. It was a bit unconventional but at least she loved her children... and her children's father. She had the intention to do the right thing, to be a good mother. The execution was a little wacky. But her intentions were good! She's probably doing them a great deal of harm physiologically to her children, but hey, what parent doesn't, right? :-) I was annoyed when Burt yelled at her. Her views weren't things that couldn't have been ignored - the smile and nod philosophy - and yet Burt blew up at her. He didn't, however, utter one peep at Lily (played by Janney), who was absolutely awful to her children and to the rest of the world. She was mean, angry, ignorant, hateful, rude, and insulting. She didn't seem like she loved her children or her husband at all. Shouldn't someone yell at her? She was dreadful. And yet Burt didn't say one word to her. Verona even laughed while Lily spouted her crass observations. Of course, Lily was more socially mainstream and acceptable. LN was so anti-mainstream. BTW, I'm not really sure Maggie Gyllenhaal was acting... I loved her character, but perhaps a Hampshire alum would love her. She was a total nutjob, but I still loved her. Regarding the stroller - did they not pick up from the woman who made the comment, "she's the mother without the stroller" that there was apparently an issue with strollers? I mean, it's such an odd comment. My first thought wouldn't be, "oh, hey, thanks for the gift idea. Let's go get her a stroller" but "um, what's up with not having a stroller?" And then I'd ask LN about that comment.

Montreal. The Montreal vignette bugged me because they said the city name 10 times in the span of five minutes (they were in Montreal, in case you missed that). It made me wonder if they truly were filming in Montreal at all or if they thought if they said the city name enough, it would seem like they were there (fooling the audience) so it wouldn't matter if they weren't really.

Verona's house. Is that house RIGHT on the Mississippi? Can we say flood? Can we say that house probably shouldn't be standing, particular in such good condition, if it truly was right on the river? And didn't Grace (Verona's sister) say they had renters? If there had been renters, shouldn't the driveway look more driven on? And the orange tree? How on earth did they see their father's reaction to what they had done to the tree when it was all the way down by the road? That tree's a long way from the house. You'd think he then would have noticed that their truck was there.

As a sister, I would not feel compelled to encourage my sister to date someone who sounded so awful. You want a wonderful person for your sister. You shouldn't try to encourage her to settle.

And it took me a long time to figure out how long Burt and Verona had been together (I'm estimating between 12-15 years). I liked the two of them as a couple although I didn't quite see the love there.

Is anyone else saddened when they hear Maya Rudolph sing? Her mother sang a song in the 70s that starts off "loving you is easy cuz you're beautiful" and at the end there's a bunch of high pitched oohs followed by "Maya, Maya, Maya." That's Maya Rudolph's mother, who died of breast cancer. It makes me sad to hear Maya sing sweet songs because her mother sang such a famous, personal song about her daughter. It also made me sad that Maya was playing someone with no parents because she is, in real life, missing one herself. She must have been able to draw on that a bit.

Good movie. Wouldn't say great, though. Sam Mendes has to make a better film because he's going the way of M. Night Shyamalan - downhill and about to lose me as a fan. I hated the last movie I saw from Mendes (Revolutionary Road) and the last several from Shyamalan (The Happening, The Village, Signs, Unbreakable) and I wasn't that fond of this one. But, I suppose, one can't do much better than American Beauty and The Sixth Sense.

My Sister's Keeper
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz, Jason Patric, Sofia Vassilieva, Joan Cusack, Alec Baldwin
Directed By: Nick Cassavetes
Run Time: 1 hr 46 mins

My Sister's Keeper is about an 11 year old girl's fight to keep her own body parts. Her older sister is dying of leukemia. Anne (played by Breslin) was "engineered" to be a perfect match for her sister's needs - blood, bone marrow, etc. Anne has spent years being forced (or expected) to be her sister's donor. Now that Kate (played by Vassilieva) has gone into kidney failure, Anne is expected to donate one of her kidneys to her sister Kate. Instead, she hires a lawyer (played by Baldwin) to fight for her right to decide her fate, to keep her body parts. Her mother (played by Diaz) is a former lawyer herself and fights her own daughter to save her other daughter.

I will warn you upfront - this is a tear-jerker. I sat through this entire movie with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes... and then the ending came. I could not breathe, it hurt so much. I was consumed with sadness and rather than explode into uncontrollable, loud, gasping sobs, I swallowed them. I had to take big gulps of air to stifle my crying. I was inches away from losing it. Wow. But as teary-eyed as I was, a lot of those tears were good tears. And the grief was good grief (hey, where's Charlie Brown?). This is a sweet movie. I was absolutely amazed at how well the siblings got along, how much they cared for one another. I loved Kate's soul. So riddled with illness and yet sat there with a smile on her face, an absolutely charming and wonderful smile. Her happiness radiated off the screen. And even though the family bickered and Kate did have some upset moments, you couldn't help but feel the love.

I've heard soundbites that call this Cameron Diaz's movie. Before I saw this movie, I was annoyed by that claim. Um, isn't it Abigail Breslin's movie? She definitely has more screen time and the focus on the movie is on her. I was not impressed by Diaz. She was cranky through the entire thing (I think she was channeling Kate Winslet from Revolutionary Road or The Reader). I did get a sense of how powerful and smart she is as a real life person as well as a sense of her unabashed love for her daughter as a character. I don't think she stole the show, though. I was much more impressed with Joan Cusack and to a lesser extent, Jason Patric. Cusack typically has smaller, supporting roles and this movie is no exception, however, I watched her closely each and every time she was on screen. She typically plays quirky, funny, or the voice of reason. This time her role was considerably more dramatic. I felt her grief and teared up as I watched her lip tremble as she remembered her daughter.

All around, everyone in this movie was fabulous. I wasn't feeling the brother until the end. I couldn't understand his character (although one line at the end did help resolve my confusion). Part of that was due to a secret he was hiding and how it was tearing him up - but because of Anne, not Kate. That little twist (I didn't give anything away) floored me. I suspected the actual plot twist (which is different from the who's on whose side) all along. It was deep down inside so when it was revealed, it did surprise me - and suddenly everything became clearer.

I liked this movie. It is a tough movie but well worth it. How the family connected to one another - and in some cases (well, one) didn't connect - was interesting and sweet (well, not the one disconnect). Bring a box of tissues. If you're female, you'll feel at home in the audience (I don't think there was one guy when I went) and don't feel compelled to stifle your crying at the end. I am amazed I didn't pass out from a lack of breathing. Everyone else will be crying, too, and someone has to be the loudest.

Land of the Lost
Starring: Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny R. McBride
Directed By: Brad Silberling
Run Time: 1 hr 41 mins

Land of the Lost is based on the 70s TV show about Dr. Rick Marshall (played by Ferrell) who gets sucked into a space-time continuum with crack-smart research assistant Holly (played by Friel) and a redneck survivalist named Will (played by McBride). In this parallel universe, dinosaurs roam, monkey men rule, and lizard guys try to take over the world.

I'm not going to put much effort into my review of this movie. I'm pretty sure the movie makers didn't put much effort into the movie so why should I outdo them?

I will say one good thing about this movie - it had the good sense to embrace the campiness of the 70s TV show. I loved the rubber lizard costumes in this version. Really. And that's about all I liked about this movie.

There are some funny moments. I did laugh a few times but the laughs come few and far between. Most of the funny stuff was shown in the previews. So, for the most part, this comedy isn't funny. It drags.

I didn't understand how Holly could interpret Chaka. I bought that she could understand a few words but did not understand nor did I like when she interpreted an entire chapter of history that Chaka related to Will. I believe I muttered to myself, "Aw, come on!"

I loved Matt Lauer's extended cameo, particularly Marshall's book title at the end (which relates back to Matt Lauer). I'm not certain why his character, or in essence Matt Lauer himself since he was playing himself, was so hostile to Dr. Marshall during the first interview. You'd think he's interviewed nutjobs/quacks before and could control himself to suffer the fool quietly. Lauer's dismissal of Dr. Marshall - both the man and his theories - was a bit funny, though.

Didn't think Danny McBride added anything to this movie other than to play off Will Ferrell.

This was my birthday movie. I figured it would be funny. I was wrong. I am glad Dawn and Joel and Jeff humored me by agreeing to see it. That's the beauty of this birthday thing - no one complains or argues with a birthday request. Too bad my birthday isn't every day.

This isn't a bad movie per-say, just not a good one. It is a bit funny but mostly not. It's apparently very in line with the 70s show (Jeff rented it a couple of weeks prior and the lizard guys and Chaka and the dinosaurs are all in there). This might be a good movie to watch when you're trapped on an airplane for 17 hours. It wouldn't be the first one I'd watch but after you've had your dinner and are not quite tired enough to sleep, this might help pass the time. It did no harm and it didn't annoy me too much (notice the absence of rants in this review!). Will Ferrell has one more chance to make me laugh! Too many stinkers. Not enough funny.

The Proposal
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White
Directed By: Anne Fletcher
Run Time: 1 hr 48 mins

The Proposal is about a cranky Canadian editor living in the US who, in order to avoid deportation back to Canada, announces that she's marrying her assistant, an American. He doesn't like her, the entire office doesn't like her, but he agrees to marry her if she makes him an editor. In order to convince INS that their love is for real, she flies to Alaska to visit and charm his parents and family, who are all unaware of the sham.

If you haven't figured it out based on the fact that Sandra Bullock stars in this movie, The Proposal is a chick flick. I don't particularly like chick flicks, mainly because they're cliche-riddled and far from reality based, although they leave you with the impression that the sap and sentiment are attainable. In order for me to like a chick flick, they have to be light on these components while also being smart and a bit unique. That being said... I didn't love this movie. I didn't hate it (because, let's face it, can you really hate a movie with Sandra Bullock in it? Even Hope Floats was tolerable. And then when you add Ryan Reynolds AND Betty White... you have to be pretty cold not to like that movie... I'm a bit chilly, but not frigidly cold).

The reason I didn't love this movie (well, one of the reasons) is that Ryan Reynolds lacked his usual charm. I'm not sure why but the absence of his charm impacted the movie's charm. He had moments, pockets of suaveness and utter likeablity, but they didn't bubble out every time the camera panned in his direction. I just didn't feel it. And without Ryan's charm, this movie fell a bit flat.

Now, before you chalk up my comments to my lack of fondness of chick flicks, let me just stress - I did like this movie (I just wasn't wowed). It made me laugh as well as put a smile on my face. It was cute. It was nice. I think one thing that would have put this movie over the top was if the decoupage box came into play (for real) at the end. I was waiting for it, hoping for it. And I was disappointed when it never surfaced.

Call me a cynic, but I don't think you can fall in love with someone in three days, particularly with someone who made your life pretty miserable for several years, and definitely not enough to want to get married.

Most of the movie was shown in the previews and what wasn't shown can be predicted. Years ago, when Ellen Degeneres hosted some award show (was it the Emmys? ), she did a skit that explained the formula to a chick flick - and once scene has to have women dance around a table for no apparent reason. This movie followed that formula, and as Ellen Degeneres noted, it was quite inexplicable, right down to the song choice. First of all, who knows the lyrics to the song Margaret (Bullock) sings as she dances around the fire? Would someone of Margaret's background/personality know that song, let alone the actual lyrics? And who in their right mind sings those lyrics to a 90 year old, particularly if you actually know the real words? They're raunchy and incredibly inappropriate. And the dance was beyond absurd. I felt really bad for Sandra Bullock to have had to do that scene. I actually looked away because I was so embarrassed for her. Speaking of songs, movie writers (or is it the directors who pick these songs?) have got to get better at song choices. As was the case with 27 Dresses - Benny and the Jets, if you don't have a good song, it makes the movie lose momentum and credibility. It failed to wow me. I think there were so many other songs to use for both the fire dance and Margaret's first concert memory.

I was about to harp on why Betty White was playing a 90 year old when I went to and did the math. She's 87 years old! Wow. She looks amazing. I'm not quite as annoyed now that they cast someone younger to make a 90 year old look good for her age. She IS almost 90 and she looks fabulous!

I did not like the bonding moment between Margaret and Drew, the scene where Margaret shares little tidbits about herself. As Drew mentioned on the plane, he could answer the questionnaire about Margaret the INS gave them, the questionnaire that asks all the details about Margaret's life. It was Margaret who knew nothing about Drew. Shouldn't he, at some point, have revealed interesting things about himself? I know why that scene was there (it was a vulnerable moment for Margaret) but I really think she needed to learn something amazing, something touching about him. BTW, is anyone else curious as to where Drew lives in NYC? Does he live in some place nice or in something like she described? Afterall, he does come from a wealthy family. Did he take that money to make his homelife comfortable with a nice apartment or is he self-sufficient living on his income and actually does live in a teeny, crummy one room place?

I liked the tongue in cheek ode to The Phantom Tollbooth, although I'm not quite certain is was intentional (but if it was, I'm loving the vague reference). In The Phantom Tollbooth, Miles goes to a window to meet the thinnest fat man. He's then sent to the next window to meet the fattest thin man. He's sent to a third window to meet the shortest tall man and finally, a fourth window to meet the tallest short man. They're all the same person. In this movie, Ramone was a different role every where they went - waiter, stripper, grocery clerk, clergy. It cracked me up.

I loved the dog Kevin. Now, was he a puppy and will get bigger or was that his actual size? He was cute, regardless of his stature. He had a Great Pyrannee feel to me.

Enough non sequiturs, huh? The point is that while I did like this movie it lacked the charm it needed to be a great movie. Thank goodness it wasn't too cliched, nor was it overly sappy. It just needed one real "Aw!" moment. It was almost there and then... The decoupage box would have pushed it over the edge. Good, not great.

Imagine That
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox, Martin Sheen
Directed By: Karey Kirkpatrick
Run Time: 1 hr 47 mins

Imagine That is about a dad who is more involved with his work than with his daughter. As a result, she has created an imaginary world that she likes to escape to. When her dad (played by Murphy) suddenly realizes that his daughter's world has an amazing insight into stock market predictions, he uses her imagination to help better his career.

Are movies actually setting out to annoy me? I'm pretty sure it's intentional. Considering how so many movies have achieved this lately, I do have to believe it's not just a coincidence. It's a conspiracy. This movie annoyed me more than any other in recent memory. A few weeks ago, I made a comment to someone who doesn't know me that I didn't like a recent kids movie I had watched. This person scoffed, "It was a kids movie. Maybe if you had brought a child, you would have liked it more." Um, no. I probably would have liked it less. I would have been too focused on what the child was doing (and probably saying) than the movie. I get kids movies. I love kids movie. Huge fan. Huge. If I don't like a kids movie, there's something really wrong with it. And there's something really wrong with this kids movie.

The premise lured me in. Seemed right up my alley - a movie about a little girl who uses her imagination to lure her father into her imaginary world, a world of princesses and dragons and enchanted blankies. But gosh darnit, I was bored. Bored! Me. In a kids movie. Bored. I almost left. Several times! Bored out of my mind. And annoyed. Yes, here we go again.

I detest movies that get human nature so incredibly wrong, all for the sake of laughs. A lot of the moments in this movie, a lot of the conversations, a lot of the interactions, just would not happen in real life. They were implausible, unbelievable. Jeff likes to say that I just don't get comedy but I like to say comedy doesn't understand that it has to be real and plausible. People just don't behave the way these characters were portrayed (take the playland scene with the struggle between Evan and his trainer friend. Evan wasn't a bad guy or an abusive father nor had he probably acted like that before so why all the hostility from the friend? It just didn't make sense. And there's a room in a playland where parents aren't allowed? Because that's so safe these days). I was so conscious of the fact that these people were ACTING for laughs, trying to be funny. What has happened to Eddie Murphy?? I mean, WTF?

Implausible. How hard is it to play with a child? There's not one game that Evan (played by Murphy) could play with his daughter? He had nothing that was his thing with her? I was so frustrated by that. The scene that disappointed me the most was the dancing scene. Why did he just not pick up his daughter and dance with HER? And who are these horrible people who were heckling him for playing with his daughter? Wow. My fists were balled up during that entire scene.

When I saw that Thomas Haden Church played "Johnny Whitefeather," I almost left the theater. I was appalled by that and even more appalled that they (the movie makers) thought that people (as in characters in the actual movie) would actually buy into his bizarre behavior AND embrace it (the chanting, the indulging of all the "native" speak). It was insulting. I know our society is trying to be sensitive to other cultures (and perhaps this movie is trying to make the commentary that we're over sensitive to other culture, over accommodating), but would Corporate America actually stand for that guy's hogwash? I don't think so. I would hope not. And that bothered me, that they got that so wrong. I actually put my fingers in my ears when Johnny Whitefeather started talking because I was so annoyed with his character. Perhaps that was the point. But that's where they missed the point - there's supposed to be a bad guy in a kids movie, not an annoying guy who's offensive to a culture.

This movie missed the point on a lot of things. In a kids movie, it's usually kid vs parent, with the kid being a cute, misunderstood, and often neglected character and the parent being an over protective or absentee meanie. The kids are the good guys. The parents are the bad guys. Unfortunately, this movie failed to make the kid look like the good guy from the get-go. She actually came off looking like a spoiled brat. I actually sided with the parent in many of these scenes! First time ever. I know they were trying to build sympathy for Olivia and hatred for Evan in the scene where Olivia wanted to play with her dad while he was working but it didn't. It made me not like the kid. She was supposed to be sleeping. She got up out of bed, probably around 9:00-10:00-11:00 in the evening, and asked her dad to play with her. Um, she's supposed to be in bed. The scene was trying to demonstrate that her father chose his career, chose working, over his daughter but I wasn't buying that. She shouldn't have been out of bed. She shouldn't have been playing when he asked her to be quiet (cuz it was after her bedtime and he was working). He wasn't being mean. She was acting like a spoiled brat when she told him she didn't WANT to sleep in her bed. He was trying to be a good, nice parent by allowing her to sleep on the couch but she wanted to play. He wasn't being mean. He was being a parent. Perhaps if she had a bad dream or if in her imaginary world the dragon scared her or something bad happened to one of the princesses, then I could see her frustration because it would then tie back later when Evan decided to use her imaginary world for his benefit - he didn't help her/her world when she needed him to.

I must admit, although I totally saw it coming, the climatic scene brought tears to my eyes. Of course, just seconds before the tears I was unbelievably annoyed with the over-vamped drama (with the fingers and the shoes in slo-mo). Argh!

I am happy to say that my frustrations with Whitefeather were resolved, proving what I knew all along about him to be true. I would have absolutely hated this movie if they didn't somehow address that. It had to be said. Good for them for knowing it.

Loved the little girl. She was beautiful. It did take me some time to like her (the whole spoiled brat thing). Some scenes she nailed with surprising maturity. Some scenes fell flat (mostly the ones where she was talking to herself, but that could have been the writing and not her acting).

I do have a beef with the song that the little girl had to sing at the end - All You Need Is Love. Yes, it is beautiful and the theme does fit the point the movie was trying to make, however, um, did anyone actually read the lyrics? It is not a nice song. It is certainly not a song you want your children to embrace. Really. It's the height of free love... which goes a bit hand in hand with slovenly do nothing attitude (as long as you love). You're probably just thinking that I'm being overly critical but one of the lines actually reads, "There's nothing you know that isn't known." Um... so you're saying that no matter how smart you are, someone else has already had those same thoughts as you so why should you bother thinking? The song actually says that all you need is love. The rest is unnecessary. You don't need to see, think, go anywhere, or do anything. Seriously. Just sit back and love. Wow. Don't bother doing anything. It's actually a de-motivational, inspirational-diminishing song. That's actually not the message you should be teaching kids. And by the way, love is not compassion. Compassion compels you to do something (like be charitable). Love is just being nice. Free love. It's a concept, not a way of life. But my main grief with the song choice - it's unsingable! Forget the chorus part. Sing the first verse. You need to either speak it or be a darned good singer to pull that song off. It's hard! There had to have been a better song that means about the same thing (if not with a better message) than that one. Poor thing.

Sigh. I liked the concept of this movie. A little girl bonds with her father over an imaginary world. I did not like the execution of it. Go-ga. Really? That's the name for the blankie? Not a wubbie or a bankie? How does one even come up with the word go-ga? That right there is why this movie did not work for me. I did find it interesting that they didn't bother to explain how the imaginary world knew about company mergers, buyouts, and all the rest of the insider trading info it had. I guess it just goes to show that princesses rock.

Where have the smart kids movies gone (oh, yeah, it's called Up)? Why must kids movies cater to immature slapstick rather than wit that parents will like because it's not insulting and kids will like because it's just plain funny? At least there were no booger gags. There was a poop one (and it did make me laugh, I'll admit). Skip this movie.

Crap. Now I have All You Need Is Love playing in my head. I guess it could be worse. I could have snippets of this movie in my head. I think I'm going to have nightmares about Johnny Whitefeather. Oh, the horror.

The Brothers Bloom
Starring: Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Zachary Gordon
Directed By: Rian Johnson
Run Time: 1 hr 53 mins

The Brothers Bloom is about two con artist brothers who look to pull one more con before they part ways.

I was a bit off-put by the start of this movie. It took me a bit to get into the story, to like the characters. Don't get me wrong. I liked the initial grift but it wasn't as smooth and captivating as a movie should be. I think it was after Penelope (played by Weisz) enters the picture (and that's about 20 minutes into it) that the movie became interesting and fun.

Penelope is the subject of the Bloom brothers' latest con. She's an eccentric heiress who has no family. She lives by herself in a great big mansion. She's quirky and exciting (tangent interjection: a note to Maria Bello, who took Rachel Weisz's place in The Mummy 3: THAT'S how you pull off an accent - see my The Mummy 3 review for background on my tangent interjection). I loved how she wanted Bloom to stay but she didn't know how to start a conversation or what to say. I loved all the things that she taught herself. I loved how she kept smashing her car up and a new one came the next day. Disposable income at its finest. And I loved how her backstory reveals why she is the way she is. It all tied together. It all made sense. And it was funny.

That being said, I wasn't nuts about the con. Loved the characters, didn't love the con. I kept expecting that there'd be more to it, that there would be a final ah-ha or gotcha or even an explanation as to how Penelope pulled off what she did. But there wasn't.

Back to the characters (the part I liked about the movie). Loved Bang Bang, even if it was played by the crotch exposing teen from that horrible movie Babel (she doesn't expose her crotch here). Bang Bang was fun fun (couldn't resist). For someone with no real lines, she certainly had a presence. Her clothes spoke for themselves, if anything. I sympathized with Bloom (played by Brody). I understood his frustration with not being allowed to be himself, or at least wonder if he truly was being himself (or if it was somehow influenced by his brother). I liked the Belgian. The only character I didn't like was Stephen, the one who composed all their cons. The writer. I didn't like the writer. I just didn't get a sense of who he was nor was I given a reason to care about him. Perhaps that's the point. He was the puppetmaster, Bloom's puppetmaster. And we're not supposed to like someone who pulls other people's strings.

My biggest disappointment with this movie was the let down of the con. I wanted it to work out differently, have the tables turn. I wanted it to be smarter. I wanted Bloom to write his own con. Don't get me wrong - it was good. I just wanted it to be awesome. But I loved the ending. I thought I had it pegged for one way, and then switched to another, but when the final element was revealed, I was floored (even though I suspected that might have been the case all along). Floored and saddened. And happy. I guess the final outcome was the only way it could be. Anything else would have been a total let down.

Good movie. Some interesting characters. Quirky. Not sure how much money these con artists were making if they had to involve so many other players in their con... Can someone please let me know if Bloom was really named Bloom Bloom or if I actually heard that they were both named Stephen? I didn't quite catch the explanation as to why Bloom was called Bloom but I don't think I like that he was called Bloom. But it was a good movie. Compelling. Likable, different, intriguing characters. So-so execution of the con. A lot of nothing for no where (the con, not the movie).

The Hangover
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha
Directed By: Todd Phillips
Run Time: 1 hr 39 mins

The Hangover is about a bachelor party gone very wrong. Four friends head out to Vegas two days before Doug's (played by Bartha) wedding. When they wake up the next day, none of them can remember what happened the night before. And Doug, the groom, is missing.

This is my FIRST movie in a long time that I got to see with Jeff. I think he liked it more than I. He definitely laughed more and harder than I (although he's quick to point out that I did laugh several times).

Even though this is about a bachelor party and Heather Graham plays a stripper, it's not raunchy. There is some 14 year old boy humor in it (cue the baby masturbation scene), but for the most part, it was good, nice humor. I can't even remember any nudity in it. No. Wait. There is a full front shot of an angry Asian man. Now, I wouldn't normally ask this of anyone but pay close attention to that shot and then report back to me if you see anything there... Something that should be there but isn't (or at least that I saw. I was perplexed by this. Really perplexed). Odd.

I'm wondering if there's a movie out there that doesn't contain at least one thing that annoys me. I'm pretty sure that says more about the movie making industry today than it does about me. Yeah. Even Up had one minor annoyance. But I digress. The thing that annoyed me about this movie is the flamingly gay Asian gangster. I'm sure there are guys out there just like this character but I was annoyed by the stereotype, the over-emphasized stereotype of this character. Playing to the stereotype seemed to be taking the easy route to sure laughs. That bothered me. That and the over-emphasized stereotype itself. It's been a couple of weeks between the time I watched the movie and the time I started writing this review. If that's the only annoyance that sticks out in my mind, that's really saying something about this movie (that it didn't annoy me too much, or at least enough to stick).

What I do remember about this movie is being totally engrossed in where Doug (the groom) was and how and when the three remaining friends would find him. Where was Doug? I actually cared (which, again, is saying something about this movie). I kept trying to figure out where Doug was - my mind scanned every possible scenario that I could come up with. Where their friend turned up to be was actually an interesting spot. I expected his whereabouts to be stupid, implausible, or just a big let down but it was actually a surprise with a never-been-done-before explanation. I liked it. It was funny.

The final wrap-up of the characters made me feel better, like them more. I mean, you see the raunchy side of a couple of these guys dying to get away, hang with the boys, do bad things, but then the ending gave you a complete look at these characters. People are not always what they show or what they just show to a certain set of people. I'm glad the movie pointed that out.

It was a good movie. Funny. Jeff really thought it was funny. Really funny. Interesting. Oh, and I read that Ed Helms actually pulled that tooth out for real (not on camera, but just in real life) in order to make his tooth-missing smile look authentic. Knowing that made me look at him in a totally different light ("That tooth's really missing!!"). Now you will, too.

Starring: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer, Delroy Lindo, and John Ratzenberger
Directed By: Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
Run Time: 1 hr 29 mins

Up is Pixar's first 3-D installment about a man who spent his whole life promising to take his wife on an adventure. After she passes away, he realizes it's now or never, since he's not getting any younger. Carl yearned for adventure and adventure is what he's going to get, particularly after he discovers a young stowaway named Russell.

My first dog is going to be named Doug. For some odd reason, I already know what his voice will sound like. Doug the dog (the screen version, not my future version) is the dog version of Baloo, except Baloo's squirrel fetish is actually Howard. Whenever I see Baloo looking for Howard (or having found Howard), I will have Doug's voice in my head saying excitedly, "Squirrel!" (except replace that with "Howard!"). Doug and Baloo have identical butts.

But I digress. I do not think a kids movie is supposed to make me cry as much as this one did. For the first 15 minutes, all I did was bawl. I was not expecting that. I was not prepared for that. Even the short Partly Cloudy put a lump in my throat. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older myself (my birthday is in just a few weeks) or perhaps it's because I've spent a great deal of time worrying about what life will be like when I am elderly as a result of taking care of Ragna (my 85 year old neighbor) but I've thought about the overlying plot element on my own - getting older, not doing what you thought you'd do when you were a child, how your dreams change as you get older, how disappointing unfulfilled your childhood dreams can be, how time has a way of going by too quickly, how someday turns out to be never... unless you make that someday happen. It makes me wonder if my life would be considered adventurous in young Ellie's eyes... or even old Ellie's eyes (although since she had the spirit to see the beauty in everything, I really think she'd find a way to spot my adventures). I absolutely loved Ellie. She was such a spitfire as a child and such a wonderful beautiful spirit as an older person. I liked how she made her visions come true for Carl - how when she described a cloud, the image became so much clearer for him. He saw life through her eyes.

I am reminded of the Harry Chapin song Taxi as I watched the opening scene with Carl and Ellie growing old together. The male character in the song, when young, wanted to be a pilot. The female character wanted to be an actress. They meet up again years later after she gets into the cab he's driving. He realizes that they both got what they were asking for - he's flying in his cab and she's acting happy in her big house. Life is what you make it. While Carl and Ellie (back to the movie now) weren't adventurers, she worked in the South American aviary at the zoo while he filled balloons with helium, instead of on the search for birds in South America in a Zeppelin/blimp.

It's amazing to me how much thought went into creating a relationship between Ellie and Carl, how much character development went into this movie. In just 15-20 minutes, you really understood how devoted Carl was to Ellie (and vice versa), how in love they were. The mailbox made me cry! Carl washing the window so that he could see Ellie's face on the other side touched me... and then made me cry when he washed the window after she died and she wasn't there. If they had superimposed her ghost-like image onto that window, I would have totally lost it. I'm sure some little kid in the theater would have loudly whispered clear on the other side of the theater, "Mommy, what's wrong with that lady?" To which his mother would have replied, "Hush, Johnny, we mustn't point out people's craziness... and don't look that crazy lady in the eye."

Okay, so enough with the backstory, right? It was only 20 minutes of the movie, right? Well, yes, but it's the whole driving force to the movie. It's what makes Carl tick - he wants to keep his promise to his dead wife. It's interesting how the adventure part didn't really occur to him. He just wanted to live Ellie's dream... finally. And along the way, he realized that her dream was to have an adventure, whatever the adventure may be. The outcome was always secondary. Plus, the backstory is what got to me. It made me cry!

I wasn't that nuts about Russell. He could have been cuter. Something about a morbidly fat kid talking about ice cream and chocolate bothered me... Even his voice wasn't as endearing as it could be. Wow. Yes, I'm picking on a little kid. Hey, like I said. Carl and Ellie's relationship, their love of each other, is what made this movie for me. For the most part, I found Russell to be annoying, what stood in Carl's way of living out his promise to Ellie. Tears welled up in my eyes when Carl started cutting the balloon strings when he realized he couldn't have his adventure now that Russell was there (and I'm not giving anything away because if you've seen the previews, you know Carl and Russell have an adventure). And then, once his own backstory unfolded, I kinda grew to like him... a little. And it took a long time for me to like him just that little. But I really liked him in the end. I even didn't mind the ice cream. Grey one!

I was amazed by the beauty of this movie, both in story and in images. There was something so magnificent about the house tethered to thousands of colored balloons. Every time I saw that image I uttered a soft, "Wow!" (which, again, could account for no one looking me in the eye). The colors were so wonderful, so vivid, so charming.

There were a ton of ranges of emotions in this movie - from death sad to love sad to hurty sad to to scary sad to torn between a rock and a hard place sad to "that's not right" sad. Did I mention this movie is sad? But in a good way - sad happy. The kind of warm fuzzy sad, the touching sad...

As for the bird, loved the bird... but I didn't see what was so unusual about the bird that it couldn't be believed. The skeleton looked normal enough (almost ostrich-like), even if the actions and movements of the bird weren't within the normal range for a bird. But I loved the bird. And it's love of chocolate.

I liked this movie. I really, really liked it. I'm not sure I can watch it again for the same reason I can't ever watch I Am Legend (I know what happens to the dog). It's so heart-wrenchingly sad! Tugging on heart strings ache! It made me realize I gotta be nicer to Jeff. Afterall, I am going to outlive him. I don't have a fireplace in which to attach my balloons. I guess he and I will have to go on our adventures while he's still alive... so I don't have any regrets when he's gone. :-)