Movie Valley
March 2009 Movie Reviews
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Monsters vs. Aliens
Starring: the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland, Stephen Colbert
Directed By: Rob Letterman & Conrad Vernon
Run Time: 1 hr 34 mins

Monsters vs. Aliens is about monsters who have to fight aliens... Oh, all right! I'll give you more. The US government likes to capture monsters (like a scientist who turned himself into a cockroach, the missing link, a giant bug, and a talking blob, and a woman who was hit by a meteor and grew to a 49 feet 11 inches) so that they don't scare the normal population. When an alien threatens to destroy Earth, the government enlists the aid of the monsters they have in captivity to battle the aliens on their behalf. Seems like a logical plan - enlist monsters to battle aliens.

I just read in a synopsis the part about how tall Susan (voiced by Witherspoon) grows. It cracked me up. It's not the attack of the 50 foot woman; she's only 49' 11". Too funny.

First things first - my rant for the day. How on earth does a movie sodie know when the movie is over? Without fail, my sodie ALWAYS goes flat the instant I walk out of the theater. I gotta learn to time my beverage consumption better with the movie time. But I digress.

This is one that I'll own. I'm just coming right out and saying that - it was so good I'm going to watch it again and again and again. I undoubtedly missed a lot of key things that I'll catch after my 100th viewing. Insectasaurus and Bob (from the previews, I thought his name was Blob, which to me is a much better monster name) won me over. I loved the mad scientist cockroach (Dr. Cockroach Ph.D.... although if memory serves me correctly, he had a different original name in the movie). I think Hugh Laurie (who voiced Dr. Cockroach Ph.D.) had a lot of fun with his character and it showed. Susan was also very good. In the previews, she seemed like the weakest character and I thought I'd be annoyed by her plainness, but I was proven wrong. She provided an interesting human element to the monsters/aliens movie. Along those lines, I'm glad General W.R. Monger was actually a decent guy. There was too much potential (feeding off of the cliche) for him to be a jerk. He did seem a little evil, particularly when he took away Dr. Cockroach's toy box privileges (although he was really doing it for everyone's safety... and it was a funny line). But I liked the fact that he took Susan on a tour of the facilities (although I would have liked to have seen more weird goings-on during the tour). Bob (voiced by Rogen) was great, although at times fell very flat (his quips/gags, not the gooey character himself). I think Seth Rogen has a hard time dialing it down to a kids movie rant and so therefore he wasn't allowed to just let loose with his lines. I think he was reigned in for the sake of children's ears. So sad because he really is funny. Smart funny. The ending could have had a killer memorable line from Bob but didn't. Just something kinda ha-ha instead of "that-was-the-funniest-thing-I've-ever-heard-in-my-life" funny. Missing Link (voiced by Arnett) could have been a bit more over the top but I liked him, too. All in all, a good collection of characters that played well together. I liked that.

Here are some questions: Is there really a plane big enough for Susan? I know she hunkered down but she's several stories tall... That's one element I didn't like. Well, not necessarily didn't like but didn't think was credible. And why didn't her hair turn brown when the plutonium was drained out of her? I'm also wondering how her clothes stayed on as she grew (initially). And who kept changing her clothes while she was unconscious (or rather, how did they change her clothes)? That part made me giggle (when she woke up for the second time in a new outfit). I really wish there had been some quip about that fact ("Hey, how did I get into this outfit?" or "I don't remember changing").

A little bit of trivia for you: This is the first movie ever filmed in 3-D rather than having the 3-D effects added in post-production. You probably don't miss much by viewing it "flat" (non 3-D) except for the gags like the paddle ball coming at the screen (which I enjoyed immensely).

As I mentioned earlier, I will definitely be watching this one again to catch the gags I most likely missed during my initial viewing. There was a lot of subtly. Loved the war room's identical buttons that meant totally different things (one to order a latte, the other a doomsday launch). Loved the opening Close Encounters tones, which then segued into Herbie Hancock's Rockit. That made me laugh... A LOT.

I liked the message of the movie - sticking with your friends and being true to yourself, although I wish Susan would have had an actual dilemma about which size to be rather that that being the only options (although it was definitely the right option).

I'm glad Insectasaurus worked out the way I had hoped. I had my version of the ending in my head and would have been devastated if my ending hadn't panned out. I kept it together because I had hoped it would end the right way (which is my way).

I laughed a lot during this movie. So cute. Loved the voices. Very well done. It walked that fine line between adult humor and kids humor (like Bugs Bunny wasn't - so many of the gags were things you have to be able to read and read quickly and if you couldn't, you lost out on the gag). Very good movie. Funny. Sweet. Clever. Good message. Not at all scary (which is a good thing for me. I like my kids movies scare-free).

I Love You, Man
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly
Directed By: John Hamburg
Run Time: 1 hr 50 mins

I Love You, Man is about Peter Klaven's (played by Rudd) hunt to find a best man. He recently got engaged and then, by overhearing her conversation with some friends, realizes that he doesn't have a male friend, someone close enough and special enough to be his best man at his wedding. He decides to change that and embarks on a series of man-dates, but no guy is suitable enough to be his friend. He then finds Sydney Fife (played by Segel), who is quirky and cool.

I sat through this movie with a smile on my face. I laughed a bit, but not a lot (probably because, yet again, this is a movie that Jeff's laughter would have fueled my own enjoyment). It was a good distraction. Not a great one, but good.

In a way, this is a painful movie to watch. If you've ever felt nerdy or awkward, particularly when meeting new people, it's tough to watch Peter interact with his new friend. He puts his foot in his mouth so many times. He says nonsensical things (because he's nervous and he's also trying to make a good impression) that are just downright embarrassing. I felt for him but then I also wanted him to just stop. But he would continue. I squirmed in my seat. "Please just make the nerdy man stop!" I felt his pain. But as someone watching, it's obvious what his mistakes are (the lingering after a conversation that went on waaay too long - "just walk away now"). Of course that's the point. Ugh. Poor guy. It was uncomfortably funny. Uncomfortable, but funny because it is uncomfortable.

As I mentioned, this movie made me smile more than it did laugh, and part of it has to do with the pain I was feeling over Peter's awkwardness. But in the end, the whole movie just didn't click for me. It was lacking the seriously killer funny lines (particularly at the end during the wedding - the back and forth. I was waiting for that line that would become the next catch phrase. It just didn't happen).

This movie is a bit cliched and predictable, but in a good way. You know how it's going to end, you even see the fight coming. I guess the twist for the ending is that it's between two guys and not a guy and a girl. Two straight guys.

I'm glad Lou Ferigno is getting work. He seems like a nice guy. Sad that he keeps feeding (rather, having to feed) off of the Hulk and his real self rather than actually act. But I like seeing him in things.

Oh, and by the way, this movie had me about 15 minutes into it. Why? Can't dislike a movie that has a Mini Cooper convertible (even though it was red). Mini's rule!

Race to Witch Mountain
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ciaran Hinds, AnnaSophia Robb, Carla Gugino
Directed By: Andy Fickman
Run Time: 1 hr 38 mins

Race to Witch Mountain is about a taxi driver (played by Johnson) who picks up two teens, only to discover that they're being sought after by the US government and an alien cop. Oh yeah, they're aliens, too.

This is a pretty good kids movie. It was sweet and funny and captivating. It had a lot of heart and charm. What I didn't like about this movie was the way it tried to hammer in that the teenagers are aliens (and this movie is about aliens). I absolutely hated the opening over the credits. Totally trying to hit you over the head with "this is about aliens." If you watched the previews or remember the first movie, you know this one is about aliens. We get it.

This was actually a bit violent for a kids' movie. I flinched during a couple of fight scenes. And the bad alien guy, once his mask was removed, was downright scary. I'm going to have nightmares. But the scariest part of the movie is if there's any realism behind how the government was able to find the two "aliens" so quickly - all the cameras and surveillance in even the remotest of settings (the bus stop).

For the most part, the over-the-top alien-bit is toned down. The non-toned down parts were the parts I didn't like (like the opening credits). You know they're aliens because of all the cool things they do and how they speak. I expected to get annoyed with the way Sara (played by Robb) kept calling the taxi driver by his full name - Jack Bruno - but after the 5th time, I started giggling. I did not like how they had to find the thing they were looking for. It bothered me that the thing they were looking for wasn't hidden in a mountain or in a safe but in some jungle that seemed very alien-like (how did it get there?) and inside something that was just there to emphasis that they were aliens. It seemed forced, particularly when you find out that their planet is a lot like Earth. It didn't seem believable, more of this "hey, we're aliens" stuff with alien-like objects.

But aside from some of those things, there was more about this movie that I liked than I hated. I loved that the actress who played the original Tia was in this version as well as the actor who played her brother. She plays the waitress that helps the children get cleaned up (and shares a good long look with Sara as they say good-bye, which I loved). Her brother plays the sheriff.

And just like I hated the opening credits, I hated the ending over the credits. It seemed forced. And out of all the Mustangs that were built, the 66 wasn't the coolest (the 69 was). Just saying...

Other than that, I loved it. I found it sad that Tom Everret Scott is reduced to sidekick bad guy. While there's a lot of talk about Dwayne Johnson becoming Disney's go-to guy, don't forget that Carla Gugino is making a name for herself, too, as a kids movie toughie (Spy Kids mom/spy). I liked them both. The kids were wonderful, too, although I was a bit distracted by AnnaSophia Robb's eyebrows. she's such a pretty girl that I'm sure she'll grow into them...

One side note: I'm wondering just how tall the thugs were (not to be confused with the bad guys - the bad guys are the government guys; the thugs are the mob guys that bully Jack). One of them was several inches taller than Dwayne Johnson, who is 6'4"! Did they make them stand on platforms to make Dwayne not look so big and menacing? It pulled me out of the movie every time they were around each other because it confused me. I assumed that these guys are shorter in real life and they were just trying to make Dwayne Johnson seem more normal (rather than a huge hulking guy).

I actually think I liked this one better than the original, despite the hokiness of the alien artifacts. It had heart. The acting was pretty darned good. I think the director realized that Dwayne Johnson was a natural at saying the line "Go, go, go!" because he gave it to him many, many, many times. I did wonder to myself, "Is that all he can say?" And when big scary alien guy is chasing me, I don't need to be told, "Go, go, go!" I'm going!

All in all, it's a good movie... although a bit long. I got a little squirmy towards the end. I loved the homage parts to the original - the Winnebago, the original actors making cameos. That was a nice touch. It added a charm to the movie. It definitely made me smile!

Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson
Directed By: Zach Snyder
Run Time: 2 hrs 43 mins

Watchmen is about an alternate 1985, where someone is killing former costumed heroes, inspiring the few who remain to don their disguises again to uncover the truth.

I wasn't impressed with this movie. The story was all over the place. It was almost as if the more convoluted it was, the less likely you were to discover the whodunit. And at some point, I think I stopped caring about the whodunit, probably because relatively few died. When I did a search for a summary of the plot (see the sentence in the first paragraph), I became annoyed all over again. "When someone is killing former costumed heroes.." Is that really how they're selling this movie? Not to give anything away, but seriously only two died (and one was a bad guy). That's not what this movie is about. Don't ask me what it is about because like I said, the story is all over the place. That's what the movie is supposed to be about. It just was slow and didn't have any killings and ten million other things were going on instead.

Moving on from the story, my annoyances follow to the actual characters themselves. Why don't the Superheroes actually have super powers? Why is that they all have super strength but no one has the ability to fly or see through walls? Seems odd. And why are there "part 2"s? Couldn't Silk Spectre come up with her own persona? Maybe she's paying respects to her mother or maybe her mother forced her to become "junior" but why was there a Nite Owl 2? Of course, my grievances with the Superheroes may be with the comic itself and not the movie but I just didn't understand them. Why did the girls (notably the two Silk Spectres) not wear masks (and interestingly enough, Silk Spectre II called herself "one of the masked crime fighters")?

Why did the movie start in the 40s? Aside from Silk Spectre 1 and the Comedian, the other Superheroes depicted aren't featured in the rest of the movie. And (I had to read this part to understand) if the alternate reality that is shown in the movie (with Nixon on his 3rd term of presidency) spun off from what we know as history today in the 30s, again why did the movie start in the 40s? Since that whole opening beginning didn't really add anything to the movie, we could have cut about 20 minutes from the movie (which was almost 3 hours long and definitely not warranting 3 hours).

Dr. Manhattan is a naked blue guy with electrical powers (I'm assuming that if he were left in clothing too long, he'd burn them up... right?). I was not expecting to see, uh, so much of Dr. Manhattan. In the beginning, we see some butt shots and some side shots. And then, wham! Full frontal. And it's all full frontal from then on. All the time. Wow. I'm a 35 year old and it made me giggle. When you watch this in a theater on a really big screen, it's very obvious that Dr. Manhattan is naked. I started feeling bad for Billy Crudup towards the end. Enough already! I'm just glad they had the decency to put a loin cloth on him when he magnified himself in Vietnam (and became giant Dr. Manhattan - but at that point, isn't he then Dr. Entire NYC?). Prepare yourself. That's all I'm saying.

I want to like Patrick Wilson but I just can't. He plays Nite Owl 2. I'm sure they were playing off the whole nerdy Clark Kent/Superman approach but his alter ego Dan really got to me. There's such a thing as nerdy and unsuspecting as a Superhero and just plain wimpy.

Anyway, this movie is incredibly long. I made the mistake of getting a large soda (and I never do that at the movies) and spent the last half hour (at least) having to really, really, really go to the bathroom. I refused to leave because I figured something would happen while I was gone. Um... not really. Even the final fight scene was so anti-climatic and boring. A fight scene that's boring? How can that be? This movie just sucks the life out of interesting. I did not like it. Don't waste three hours of your life. There are other stinkers out there that are shorter so if you want to remove some hours from your life, go watch them (like In the Name of the King). Bleh.

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace
Directed By: Pierre Morel
Run Time: 1 hr 34 mins

Taken is about an ex-government operative's hunt to find his kidnapped daughter.

When I first saw a preview for this movie, I thought Liam Neeson was an odd choice for this role. His character is a former spy/tough guy. Liam Neeson doesn't strike me as a tough guy/action hero. I thought that surely there were other 50-something year old former action stars that would have been a better choice. But after seeing this movie, I think he was the perfect choice. I think you're supposed to kind of under estimate his tough guy-ness. He definitely had the brains to figure out how to get to the people who took his daughter. And his fight scenes were very convincing. I think it also helped that he's actually an actor. He definitely portrayed a hurt father desperately trying to save his daughter.

The first part of this movie is character development. We see that Liam Neeson is hurting because of how his past life affected his relationship with his daughter. He's trying to patch that up, only to be seen as the bad guy by his wife and to get little thanks for what he's doing now. His daughter seems a little immature. It seemed as though all you had to do to distract her was wave something shiny, which seems a little immature for a 17 year old who is off to Paris on her own. Her mother is riddled with resentment, which is awful. They seem to have been divorced for at least 10 years. Get over it. And I find it annoying and wrong that poor Brian is considered to be a bad person because he spent his daughter's early years away from them, working as a spy in foreign countries. Obviously that life is a hard life for those left behind - never knowing where he is, if he's okay, how long he'll be gone, etc. But it doesn't seem right to not only hold it against him but to hate him for it. Did you not know when you married him that he was a spy? Surely you knew what his job entailed when you decided to have a child with him. And if the worst thing he did to both his wife and his child is simply be off working (which his wife would interpret as neglect), it seems absolutely horrible that he's not trusted/respected to be a father now. He didn't seem as though he ever said mean things to his family or hit them or broke promises or wasn't supportive. It seems his wrong doing boils solely down to being absent and loving his job. Has no one ever heard of acceptance and understanding? If he was a jerk, that's one thing to be resentful of but just being out of the country doesn't make him a bad man. Argh. The character development part of the movie was great because you really get to sympathize with Brian and understand that if he quit his job to be with his daughter, he'd surely do anything to protect her.

One thing I didn't like about this movie - his advice to his daughter when she told him there were people in the apartment taking her friend. He instructed her to leave the room she was in, go to a bedroom and hide under the bed. He knew this was bad advice because he told her right after that she would be taken. First of all, why did he tell her to go to another room? She (I think) told him she was in a bathroom. That room presumably may be the only room with a lock. Wouldn't she have been safer in that room with a door that locked? Also, wouldn't she risk running into the captors moving from room to room? At the very least, they would hear her moving about. And was her father certain she could FIT under the bed? A lot of beds have no room to wiggle under - and our bed is really high off the ground. You can be seen quite clearly under our bed. And he had no idea that a bedroom was just a few feet away (she could have been in a bathroom near the kitchen). Didn't he have any useful advice about how to form a shiv out of a toothbrush to defend herself? He didn't even ask if she were on the first floor of the apartment - she could have shimmied out of the window - or if there was a fire escape in a nearby window. Wouldn't the better advice be to tell her how to flee or defend herself, not send her out in the open where her captors could hear or see her to a room that may not be close by to hide under something that she might not fit under? Odd, if you ask me.

You have to wonder if Kim had ever been out of the country with her parents (her mother and step-father). If not, it seems a bit far-fetched that her parents would allow her to follow U2 around Europe - first time out of the country and she's allowed to spend it (basically) alone following a band?

If you don't think slave trading is bad before you watch this movie, you'll definitely think so afterwards. Those poor girls. Just a number in a trailer to working stiff stinky guys. Lovely. And the slave trader himself. He had two daughters himself yet didn't see anything wrong with his way of earning a living. I was glad what happened to him (ooh, Jeff would probably think that was a spoiler, but come on. You know how it's going to end. That's not the point of the movie. The point of the movie is the chase. How does he accomplish what he wants to accomplish?). I actually cheered. I don't normally think violence is a good thing but evil gets what is gets. And I cheered over the sheik, too. Like I said, this movie is about the how. How will he accomplish what he said he'd accomplish? Where is his daughter?

I did not like the ending. So... all of that and he ends up alone? Wow. I seemed callous to part ways. I know he didn't think so but I did.