Movie Valley
March 2008 Movie Reviews
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Married Life
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams, David Wenham
Directed By: Ira Sachs
Run Time: 1 hr 30 mins

Married Life is about a couple who have been married for years. Harry, the husband (played by Cooper) wants someone to be madly in love with him. His wife Pat (played by Patricia Clarkson) loves him but does not fall into the "madly in love" slot. Thus Harry decides that although he's living a fairly happy life and is fairly happy, he needs to leave his wife for another woman in order to truly be happy. He confesses this to his best friend Rich (played by Brosnan) who is a womanizer who has never been married. Harry introduces Rich to his mistress Kay (played by McAdams). Rich promptly falls in love with Kay and spends the rest of the movie trying to get Kay to leave Harry and fall in love with him.

This is a sad movie. It's not supposed to be a sad movie, I think. There's no crying. There are no horribly heart-tugging scenes. But to me, this movie was sad. Harry has a wife that is good to him, loves him, and is a pretty nice woman. But Harry isn't content with that. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Of course, he's climbing over that fence with blinders on and doesn't even truly see the color of the grass. He just thinks that it will magically be better on the other side. That attitude made me really sad. The ending is also sad. No one had what they thought they wanted at the start of the movie. And they're all pretending - or maybe the truly are happy - to be happy. It reminded me of Harry Chapin's Taxi song - "But we'd both gotten what we'd asked for, such a long, long time ago... And here, she's acting happy, inside her handsome home."

I wasn't wowed by this movie. Perhaps it was the underlying sadness to each character, something I wasn't expecting, that made me not truly get into this movie. It may also have been the acting. All of the leads are of wonderful caliber and yet the acting felt stilted. It was two-dimensional. Perhaps it can be chalked up to acting or maybe it was truly how her character was to be portrayed but I just didn't get the allure of Rachel McAdams' Kay. She was quite boring. She was stoic. She was flat. There didn't seem to be much joy in her life, even though she said she loved and was in love with Harry. There was no pep to her whatsoever. She was numb. She didn't even appear to give Harry what he was looking for - complete devotion. She seemed to be going through the motions. Perhaps that was the point of her character. I just didn't find the appeal.

I also found it quite annoying and deeply disturbing that Harry felt the need to kill their dog because he was leaving his wife (it's no spoiler to tell you that he didn't feel he could leave his wife - she'd be hurt and lonely - so he decided to poison her).

I wanted to like this movie when I saw the previews. Unfortunately, I wasted an hour and a half of my time. At least it wasn't longer (although it certainly felt like it was). When Harry realized that he had lost everything, I was hoping for more emotion (happiness, relief, joy) when he found that not everything was lost. It goes back to that stilted acting thing. No one could muster enough strength to save this movie. A little emotion and better acting might have. Maybe that was intentional - a commentary on what married life is. I certainly don't agree. That's probably why I didn't like this movie. If you're happy, shouldn't that be enough?

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who
Starring: Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Seth Rogen
Directed By: Jimmy Hayward & Steve Martino
Run Time: 1 hr 28 mins

Although I read the book years ago, I am thinking I should read it again. Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who is about an elephant who discovers that there's an entire world living on a speck. No one believes him, just as no one believes the mayor living on the speck that a giant elephant is talking to him. Regardless, Horton realizes that the fate of the speck lies in his hands. He has to get the speck to a more stable environment and away from the animals in the jungle who not only don't believe Horton's story, but want to make an example of him and destroy the speck. Imagination is a terrible thing.

A person is a person, no matter how small. I'm torn about whether or not there's a hidden message (although, it really didn't seem that hidden as it was repeated over and over again) in that line. It really creeped me out. What was Dr. Seuss trying to say? Is it some anti-abortion thing? The more the line was said (and it is said a lot), the more it creeped me out. Can I really like this movie if there truly is a hidden agenda? Sigh. There were really a lot of messages in this book/movie. It's okay to be different. Stay true to who you are. Imagination is a powerful thing. Do the right thing. Don't take the easy way out. I'm trying to concentrate on those messages and not the anti-abortion vibe.

This movie is pretty darn scary. The vulture Vlad (voiced by Will Arnett) is incredibly evil, dark, and scary. Just his laugh alone is enough to make a small child (or a small adult) cower. And then the scene where the entire jungle is hunting down poor Horton is so frightening! But scary scenes aside, this is also a really funny movie. Probably not as funny as it was intended to be - I think they let Jim Carrey just do whatever he wanted but did not grant Steve Carell the same freedom (unfortunately). There were several funny bits that kids would not get and I as an adult just didn't find funny. But there were many lines that I burst out laughing and yes, was the only one laughing (the audience was filled with little, little kids). I expected it to be funnier. It played more on the cute side.

I was absolutely bawling at the end of the movie. The mayor's relationship with his son JoJo is very touching. The determination of all the people of Whoville is incredibly moving. And then, well, I won't say anything else, but the final scene with Horton and the kangaroo is what really brought tears to my eyes. Horton has such a good heart. It was so sweet.

Good movie. I liked it. It had several good messages (the ones I am choosing to accept) but they weren't fully pronounced. I would have liked to have seen a wrap up of the morals, just to emphasis those points. It was sweet. It was touching (way to go, Horton!). It was cute. All of these things are what make up a good kids movie. And I liked it, too. Oh, wait. I did say it was a good kids movie.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Shirley Henderson, Lee Pace, Mark Strong
Directed By: Bharat Nalluri
Run Time: 1 hr 32 mins

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day is about a down on her luck governess who stumbles into a new job as social secretary to an up-and-coming glamorous nightclub performer whose social life is teetering on the brink of disaster.

Delysia Lafosse (played by Adams) is juggling her career and three men... all of whom have a strong impact on her career and her life. She can afford to lose none of them. Nick (played by Strong) owns the lush apartment Delysia lives in and is also the owner of the nightclub Delysia performs at. He's brusque... which is a polite way of saying he's a jerk. Delysia likens him to a snake, and she the furry animal he preys upon. Phil (played by Tom Payne) is the son of a prominent theater producer, who has just been given the reins to cast a new musical. Interestingly enough, Delysia is up for the lead role and her affections to Phil grow stronger the closer she gets to landing the part. Both Nick and Phil can keep Delysia employed, make her a star, and can provide for her greatly. Michael is Delysia's pianist, struggling to make ends meet. He is the only one that truly knows Delysia for who she really is and is the only one who loves her for who she really is.

This is one of those movies where most of the plot - and therefore, the good stuff - is divulged in the preview. The summary for each character is the only thing the previews don't show. But the romp between the characters is incredibly entertaining in the movie-length version. Delysia's world is very close to shattering - Michael is fed up with Delysia's career advancement tactics and is leaving on the next boat out of London; Phil will only cast Delysia if her heart is truly his; Nick will kick Delysia out of her wonderfully expensive apartment (and out of her nightclub job) if he finds her with another man. Enter Miss Pettigrew, a mousy, starving wallflower who has found that the unkind years are taking its toll. She, unassumingly, helps Delysia work her way around her problems, and, as a result, helps Delysia realize the person she really was meant to be.

I liked this movie. I'm teetering on the edge of loving it. It was sweet. It was fun. It was well acted. It was fast paced. It was cute and charming. Amy Adams was her usual perky self. Frances McDormand was her usual wonderful, role absorbing self. The actor who played Phil was not quite charming enough. But Lee Pace was, as Miss Pettigrew put it, magnificent. He was a great brooding charmer. I saw in the credits that he did his own singing - which was quite lovely - and I now have to wonder if it was his hands that danced over the ivory keys, too.

This movie was a delightful romp. Quite touching, and I didn't expect those moments in such a lighthearted flick. Jeff even liked this quirky, zany, charming chick flick.

The Bank Job
Starring: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows
Directed By: Roger Donaldson
Run Time: 1 hr 50 mins

The Bank Job is based on events that happened in the 70s when the safe deposit boxes in London's Baker Street bank were robbed. Two of the boxes robbed contained scandalous photos and ledgers that exposed many of Britain's top politicians, Scotland Yard, and the Royal Family.

The first two-thirds of this movie are shown in the previews. That part is the robbery - how a group of petty criminals team up and tunnel under the bank and into the vault. This takes an incredible amount of time and almost seems to be where the movie should end. But the owners of two of the deposit boxes track down the robbers and the struggle of "I can outsmart you before you outsmart me" begins. I'm not sure I quite believe that this band of wannabe villains suddenly becomes criminal masterminds and outsmarts two career criminals. But I kept reminding myself that this is based on true events and quite possibly, this is all how it played out. That helped me believe what I was seeing, as well as the fact that the mastermind was Jason Statham. He's not a fabulous actor but he is convincing as his previous roles have pegged him as the petty criminal who suddenly turns into a criminal mastermind and outsmarts the real bad guys. I mean, he'd done it before in other movies, so why shouldn't his character do it again in this one?

I didn't much care for the final third of this movie. Too intense. Too violent. Too scary. You get to know this team of bank robbers and care for them. They're quirky, fun-loving, but innocent, regardless of the fact that they're robbing a bank. I didn't want to see anything bad happen to them. But I guess criminals can't live happily ever after (at least not the ugly ones) and that's what this movie teaches us with its ending (and I'm not saying who or which band of criminals gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop).

One thing I didn't care for nor was I expecting was the barrage of jiggly parts, particularly in the opening credits. Before the top layer of popcorn had even been consumed, there were breasts on film. I suppose this exploitation of smut would set the catalyst for the revenge (it was the catalyst for the bank heist to begin with - those breasts belonged to Princess Margaret who was then later photographed by the British Malcolm X while she was having a threesome with the window on her ground floor villa wide open...). And breasts would ensue throughout too many scenes to be truly logical/reasonable.

Eh. I didn't hate this movie. But I certainly didn't love it. The scenes leading up the robbery were interesting, despite the fact that they had been condensed into the trailers for this movie. The last of this movie was more new, more interesting, more plot development, but I didn't like it. The acting was decent. The story was interesting. I just wish it had gone a bit of a different route to the ending.

Oh, one side note: One thing I did love about this movie: The brief cameo shots of a 1970s Mini Cooper. Such a good looking car! I'll have to ask Pip if it could be his grandfather... :-)

The Band's Visit
Starring: Saleh Bakri, Imad Jabarin, Ronit Elkabetz, Sasson Gabai
Directed By: Eran Kolirin
Run Time: 1 hr 29 mins

The Band's Visit is about an Egyptian police force band who mistakenly travels to the wrong city in Israel. They're supposed to play in a ceremony in Petah Tiqva but by mispronouncing the name, they end up in Beit Hatiqva, a town in the middle of the desert filled with nothing but unemployment and silence.

I love the tagline for this movie, which was also in the opening - "Once-not long ago-a small Egyptian police band arrived in Israel. Not many remember this...It wasn't that important."

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I noticed that even though the actors were speaking English, it was also subtitled... in English. I was annoyed with this point. Are we too stupid to be able to decipher their accent when they're speaking English? And as I watched this movie, I again felt annoyed, until I figured out why they were probably subtitling the English into English. Part of the dialog is in Arabic, another part in Hebrew, and other parts in English. It probably would have been a bit disconcerting to put up subtitles when Arabic or Hebrew were being spoken and then nothing when it switched to English and then more subtitles when they flipped back to Arabic or Hebrew. The languages were constantly changing, depending on whom the characters were talking to. If the Egyptian police were conversing with each other, they spoke Arabic. If the Israelis were speaking to other Israelis, they spoke Hebrew. But when the group was mixed, they spoke their only common language - English. Constantly flipping. I think constant subtitles was a way to keep order.

Part of what makes this movie is the awkwardness. I assume that this comes from cultural expectations - the General didn't want to make too much of a fuss, particularly highlighting the goof, by demanding to resolve the issue (getting to the right city). He was trying to save face and in order to do that, his men had to endure a night in a city without much life and very little money (neither the band nor the Israelis). And some of the more comical moments arose when Khaled refused to bow to cultural expectations. As a result, he was the rebel of the bunch.

This movie is a bit slow, but I suspect the pacing is not by accident. I suspect the pacing helps magnify the awkwardness of the situation as well as the pain, sadness, and loneliness each character is feeling. There's a lot of anguish in these characters. To explain why most of the characters are sad would give away a lot of the story. As time goes by, the reasons behind the sadness are unveiled. Interestingly enough, even with all the pain and loneliness, this is a very funny movie. Not side splitting but quirky cute, smart, sweet funny. I laughed a lot. A lot of the humor is subtle, some comes from the awkwardness of the situation, but funny, truly funny, nonetheless.

I thought this movie would be funnier. I really liked the trailer as it showed some of the funnier moments of the movie. There were far too many really poignant (gosh darnit) and sad scenes. But it was also very beautiful and sweet, which helped to keep the sorrow upbeat... if you can imagine such a thing. Happy sadness.

I read two things about this movie after I saw it. One was that the General is not Egyptian (which, to me, doesn't matter) but apparently did a good job personifying an Egyptian, complete with gestures and attitude. I wouldn't have known any different but it's interesting to discover that he got his part right (again, not that I would have known the difference). The other thing I read was that the producers tried to get this movie into a foreign film festival (I believe it was the Israeli Film Festival) but it got rejected because more than 50% of the dialog is in English. Interesting. All the actors are "foreign." The locales are "foreign." There are three different languages going on in this movie and the one that makes it cohesive also bans it from foreign film festivals. Sad.

I liked this movie. I wanted to really love it but am just a notch short of love. I just really liked it. Funny. Sweet. Charming. Sad. Lonely. I think I would have liked it better if Dina had a different ending, if something she did she hadn't done. I'm not quite sure I understand why she did what she did. I certainly didn't like it. And that is why I don't love this movie. But I liked it. And it was my first movie in Arabic. And my first in Hebrew. Wow!

Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Will Arnett
Directed By: Kent Alterman
Run Time: 1 hr 30 mins

Semi-Pro is about when the ABA announces plans to merge with the NBA, the worst team in the ABA league must turn things around in order to be considered for a slot in the NBA.

I'm not going to waste a lot of space and time by going into too much details about this movie. Why? Because it's just "eh." That's right. Eh. I laughed a lot in some places. I adverted my eyes to avoid a lot of gross things (people puking, low camera shots pointing upwards of men wearing incredibly short basketball shorts). There were a lot of shocking moments - the "I can't believe they did that!" moments. The storyline was a little unique, but also a bit overdone at the same time (awful team has to suddenly pull it together, fight against the odds, and have a successful season). But all in all, it wasn't that funny. There were way too many scenes that were supposed to be funny that just weren't. You could hear the crickets chirping in the theater at times where the writer/director probably expected exploding laughter. Things could have been better. They just didn't quite reach up over the bar. Some scenes didn't even appear to be trying.

I saw this movie with Dawn and Joel. Joel wanted to see this (as did I, although I had several other movies I wanted to see that neither of them were willing to go to). Even he didn't like it. Dawn and I liked it better than he did, but that's not saying much. They were put off by the raunchiness of the humor - there's a lot of swearing, gratuitous swearing. I was okay with it, damnit. But I guess that's because I have such a potty mouth. It didn't phase me in the slightest. But I am in a bit of agreement with them. I saw where they were trying to go with the swearing (how some people take offense to one word and not others but yet they're all on the same line...). Again, they just didn't make it.

Even before action hit the screen, it seemed like it was going to be a hysterical movie. Jackie Moon's one-hit wonder (played by Ferrell) song was playing - Love Me Sexy. The words are just creepy funny. But sadly, most of the movie couldn't reach up to the squeamishly funny song.

I'll say it again. Eh. Ferrell's done better. I wanted to like it. I just didn't. Eh.

Starring: Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage
Directed By: Mark Palansky
Run Time: 1 hr 29 mins

Penelope is about a girl who must suffer the consequences of her family's curse, by wearing this curse on her face. Because her grandfather married someone from money instead of his true love, who happened to be a peasant girl, a witch levied a curse on the family. The first girl born to them would have the face of a pig. The only way to break the curse is if someone of her own kind (someone with money) would fall in love with her as she is, pig snout and all.

Penelope (played by Ricci) has lived in secret since her birth, hidden away from the world. Now that she's older, her family is determined to break her curse. They parade suitor after suitor in front of her, all with the same results. No man would fall in love with her because of her looks. Her pig snout scares each and every one of them away. When one of her suitors goes to the police with a crazy story about a pig-faced monster, the press labels him a crackpot. He teams up with a tabloid journalist to expose this monster to the world so that he can save face, his own face. Together they find a down on his luck blue blood named Max (played by McAvoy) and bribe him into meeting Penelope.

This is an absolutely wonderful movie. It's incredibly sweet. It's funny. It's smart. The very nature of it is a children's story (lessons to be learned, a witch cursing the family) but it's something that adults can appreciate. It's not overly simplified for children but it's also not riddled with adult humor. It's very pure.

In addition to being a children's fairy tale, it's also a bit of a chick flick, with romance lingering in the air. Penelope is desperately seeking the love her life, but not necessarily so she can break the curse. She just wants to be loved. I normally strongly dislike romantic movies but I must admit, this one won me over. I actually liked the true love moments. They were quite touching.

And to add to the plot, this movie is also about how tabloid journalism feeds on half-truths, making them out to be the truth, or at least the truth that people believe. I found the anti-paparazzi feel to be subtle but quite effective. Quite interesting.

I loved Penelope's room. It's an indoor version of the outdoor world - complete with a tree, a swing, and a bunch of other nature-like things. I liked how everyone not only watched Penelope's interactions with her suitors on a security cam but really got into it, like it was a movie. They even brought snacks and announced, "It's starting!" Very funny. And the moment she broke out on her own was so, well, liberating. I was rooting for her to be free, to live life how she wanted to live it.

I've seen James McAvoy in several films and I've never quite understood his appeal. He's a good actor (and I always love his Scottish accent) but his charm is a bit lost on me. Until this movie. What a little cutie! And I was awestruck by the lack of accent. He actually sounded like an American. It amazes me that someone with such a pronounced accent can take on another one with such flair (although I did hear some Scottish slants here and there, but that could have been my ears playing tricks on me).

What I didn't like was Christina Ricci's voice. It was an octave higher than her normal voice. I think she was trying to convey purity/childlike persona but it was a bit grating. I also didn't think her mother was truly a bad person. To me, it seemed as though she really loved her daughter. She seemed a bit overbearing, but her heart was in the right place. The piggy snout was a bit distracting and off-putting but it was tolerable. She did a fine job portraying a strong and courageous girl just looking for love. Oh, and I liked Reese Witherspoon's quirky and tough delivery biker chick character. She could have been a little more quirky but I think she pulled such a departure from the normal characters she plays off well.

I can't tell you what the true message of this movie is because that would actually spoil the ending. But I liked it. You can put your finger on what that message probably is but you don't quite fully see it until it's revealed. An aha where you didn't think there would be an aha. I liked that. Very fun. And, of course, the message is very sweet. And so true.

I really liked this movie. I almost went to go see The Other Boleyn Girl but at the very last second, I changed my mind. I am so glad I did! This was a great movie. Not quite so sure how I would have felt about The Other Boleyn Girl but since it is on my list of movies to see, I may just find out (but then again, I may just cross it off. Maybe the movie gods steered me in the direction of Penelope for a reason. Maybe someone's looking out for me).