Movie Valley

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation
Starring: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Angela Rodriguez
Directed By: Eric Zala
Run Time: 1 hr 40 minutes

Before you scratch your head and wonder I have an "old" movie on my list of movies watched, let me point out the subtle difference between this movie and the one you're thinking of. The one you're thinking of is the one with Harrison Ford, directed by Steven Spielberg, and is a wonderful action-adventure movie. This is not that movie. This is a frame-by-frame recreation shot by 12 year olds in the 80s on their home video camera.

Jeffrey likes to go to funky movies. This one doesn't get any funkier. This is basically the well known Indiana Jones movie but re-shot by some kids many years ago. It took them 5-6 years to complete this "movie." Apparently, they had to sneak in tape recorders into the original movie to record the script; they drew storyboards in the dark of the theater to get each shot, each frame, exactly right. They built pretty good sets in their parents' basements (even almost burned down a house during the Nepal bar fight). They must have had a huge network of friends because every character was cast with someone different (instead of people playing multiple roles).

I understand Steven Spielberg has seen this version of his movie and really likes it. Why, I have no idea. I grant the kids kudos for their effort. Six years is a long time to keep at a project, particularly when you're just a kid. But aside from that, this really isn't worthy, in my opinion, of all the hype.

After the movie, Jeff asked me what I thought of it. I told him if I had seen this in the 80s or while I was in high school or if I knew the kids that made this movie, I may have liked it better. It had its quirks - like re-casting the monkey with a dog - but other than that, I didn't see the "genius" of re-creating a movie shot for shot, particularly when the original was so wonderful. Again, my hat is off to the kids for acquiring costumes that were pretty identical to the ones in the movie and building sets that mimicked the original, but that was all there was to it. They did have a bit of campiness to it, but I think that may have been a happy accident due to bad acting. I can't give it the praise that Jeffrey has for it.

Does anyone remember that re-make of Psycho with Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche? The director (Gus Van Sant) was lauded for his version because it was a shot for shot remake of the original. Critics didn't understand why it had to be re-made if it was just going to be exactly like the first version. I have a bit of insight for Gus (that Psycho director) - shoot your next remake on a regular rickety ol' VHS camcorder, hire some really bad actors with no acting experience, throw in bad 80s hair, and bring it all in under a budget of $1000 and the critics will love it. At least, that's what I learned from watching Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.

Reign Over Me
Starring: Don Cheadle, Adam Sandler, Saffron Burrows, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Liv Tyler
Directed By: Mike Binder
Run Time: 2 hrs 4 minutes

Reign Over Me is about two college friends struggling with their adult lives. Adam Sandler plays Charlie, an external zombie who has lost his family in a 9/11 plane crash and can't cope with the loss. He has blocked out the past and has little interaction with the outside world. He wears headphones to drown out memories and is constantly remodeling his kitchen. He no longer practices dentistry and plays video games all day long. Don Cheadle plays Alan, an internal zombie who is a successful dentist with a wife and children. He lets the other doctors in his dentist practice reign over him and he lets his wife run his personal life. He's simply there. Outwardly, he seems successful. Internally, he's a mess. Alan runs into Charlie on the street after not seeing each other for probably 15 years and Alan promptly tries to "fix" Charlie.

This movie can be boring if you just let it be a movie about one disturbed man struggling to deal with the loss of his family. It's an interesting commentary on how everyone - regardless how they appear on the outside, to the outside world - is damaged. While it is quite apparent that Charlie needs to communicate about his troubles, it is subtly laid out that Alan, too, can benefit from being more open and communicative. And while it is clear that Charlie isn't handling his grief as well as he should be, his former in-laws, who are desperately trying to commit Charlie, haven't fully dealt with their grief, either. I'm hoping people picked up on how mal-adjusted these people are (particularly with the lamp scene).

Reign Over Me was a good movie but it could have been better. It was sad. It was interesting. It was well acted. Adam Sandler did a nice job in a dramatic role. It was an interesting dissection of relationships, grief, and internal vs. external approaches to dealing with emotions. The best line of the movie was Charlie's response to Alan when Alan told him he was worried about him. "I'm more worried about you."

Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, and Jeremy Sisto
Directed By: Adrienne Shelley
Run Time: 1 hr 44 minutes

Waitress is about a waitress with a knack for pie making who finds herself pregnant but not happy about it. She's also not happy about her husband, who is an immature, selfish jerk. She dreams of winning a pie baking contest, where the money from winning first prize could help her start a new life. In the process of summing up what's wrong with her life, she embarks on an affair with her OB/GYN.

This is a very interesting movie. Quirky. Cute. Sweet. And yes, even a movie about a woman who doesn't want her baby can be sweet and cute.

Keri Russell does a great job playing a sad woman, beaten down by life, who accepts things as they come. Nathan Fillion does a wonderful job transforming from a nervious, bumbling, fumbling doctor, into the only kind, sweet, and caring person in Jenna's life (played by Russell). And the best part of the movie is Andy Griffith. My only complaint with him is that he should have been a bit more crochety/cantankerous. He had a lot of fun with his character and if this is his last movie, it will definitely be a role I will remember him for.

I will say that although I liked the ending, I didn't like it completely. I realized the ending was more about standing up for herself, but it didn't have to be without her "best friend." While I applauded her for finally standing up for herself, I felt bad for him. He was there to give her strength and I'm sure she had to give him something, too. Leaving him without thinking about what it is he needed from her seemed a little cold...

And, of course, this movie may inspire you to be more creative in the kitchen. I know it has for me! In fact, I asked for a mini pie pan for my birthday so that I can make mini pies... No sense making a whole pie until I can actually be a pie genius. :-)

Lucky You
Starring: Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Debra Messing
Directed By: Curtis Hanson
Run Time: 2 hrs 4 minutes

Lucky You is about a poker player who blasts through poker but plays it tight with his relationships. As Huck (played by Eric Bana) is told time and time again, he plays poker like he should live his life and lives his life like he should play poker. He self-destructs at both.

I have decided, after seeing this movie, that I will no longer be suckered into watching a Drew Barrymore movie. Aside from Music & Lyrics, I have hated every single Drew Barrymore movie. Argh. The woman cannot act. She seriously plays the same character in every movie. Well, her characters are different, she just plays them the same way.

Lucky You is an okay movie. It's incredibly long. There's no chemistry between Bana and Barrymore (but I suspect that's Drew's fault). And the character development is shaky. Bana's Huck has a fairly solid foundation. He plays poker tough because he's lashing out at his father, a champion poker player. He shies away from relationships also because of his father - and the relationship Huck's father had with Huck's mother. Barrymore's character is simply there. There's some sort of mystery behind her character's motivation, but that's never disclosed. And there's probably more to LC Cheever (Duvall) than what was depicted.

Bana did a good job playing the tormented Huck Cheever. I would have liked to see him be a bit more flamboyant - more spit fire. He had a bad boy streak in him. I just didn't see it. A lovable bad boy (which we did see), but not the "live life on the edge" kind of guy he was. I've already said all I want to say about Barrymore's performance of Billie Offer. Ugh. I will say that I liked Jean Smart's tough, quiet, sensitive, strong, and smart character. She only had about three lines but her body language did a good job relaying her true character. Cool female poker player. She played with the big boys.

This movie was, first and foremost, a poker movie. Huck constantly played! I liked the suspenseful poker games. They were fun to watch, even if I bet wrong on who had what hand every single time. A lot of poker lingo flying by. I didn't like the "play by the rules, not by your heart" theme the movie was trying to convey.

Sigh. I wanted to like this movie. I just didn't. I did like the non-Hollywood ending. Well, the poker ending. The Billie-Huck ending was, well, predictable. Argh. Two hours wasted. So much promise. So little in return. I bet wrong on this movie.

The Invisible
Starring: Justin Chatwin, Margarita Levieva, and Marcia Gay Harden
Directed By: David S. Goyer
Run Time: 1 hr 37 minutes

The Invisible is about a teenager who is beaten up and left for dead in the woods. As if that isn't bad enough, Nick (played by Chatwin) is caught in limbo - almost ghost-like. He must help the authorities find his body before he dies. His only hope is the troubled teenage girl Annie who attacked him and then hid his body after wrongly thinking she killed him.

I was intrigued by the previews I saw such a long time ago for this movie. Having to solve your own near-homicide seems like a pretty cruel burden to bear. And having to do it as a ghost seems to be even crueler. No one can hear Nick. No one can see Nick. Such a scenario parallels his relationship with his mother. It also parallels Annie's life (played by former Russian gymnast Margarita Levieva).

This movie had promise. The premise had promise. Unfortunately, it did not quite deliver. It was slow. It had a lot of loose ends it didn't tie up. It was self-righteous. But it was also sad (in a good way) and had intriguing characters.

At first, you hate Annie because, after all, she ruthlessly attacked Nick over something he didn't do. Annie is a bit of a troubled soul, a bit of a thug. She's next in line to take over a mafia sect, and she's only 17. She's tough. She's mean. She's a criminal. When busted for robbing a jewelry store, Annie assumes Pete, a boy she roughed up when he didn't pay her in time, turned her in to the cops. After applying pressure to Pete, he names a scape goat - his best friend Nick, whom he thinks has already left the country. Unfortunately for Nick, he decided not to venture out on his dreams (a writing course in London) and bears the brunt of Annie's wrath. Sadly, the real squealer is her boyfriend, another criminal.

Once you get to know Annie, you see that something in her life, something truly horrible, turned her bad. Unfortunately, you don't quite ever get to know what the one thing is (the something bad that happened to her is revealed, however, there's more to that something than what is portrayed). She looks out for her baby brother.

The first third of the movie is interesting. It is this part of the movie where you get to know Nick, Annie, her boyfriend, her baby brother, Pete, and Nick's mother. It's also the part where Nick gets attacked. The second third of the movie is very slow. This is the part where Nick gets a grip on his limbo state - what he can and can not do (even though he keeps trying to do what he can't do - communicate with the living). Of course, his persistence pays off because eventually, he does reach out to Annie. I will say the scene where he realizes he's still alive (he assumes he's dead) is quite heart-wrenching. The last third of the movie is intense... and then incredibly preachy at the end.

Justin Chatwin played a sweet and interesting Nick. I liked his good-boy-on-the-outside, damaged-kid-on-the-inside character. Annie was also interesting. I liked the twist of her character - the bad-girl/damaged-girl-on-the-outside, good-girl-on-the-inside. She had to be good in order to sense Nick in limbo. I was fascinated by the fact that she always wore a ski cap covering all of her hair. I wondered if she were bald under that cap, and if that had something to do with what turned her into a criminal. Not to ruin it, but towards the end, she does remove the cap to reveal unbelievably beautiful curly hair. I was just captivated by that hair. Marcia Gay Harden... I know her character was supposed to be cold and distant, but she really bothered me with how cold she was. I was relieved to see a softer side of her during the slow part of the movie. It made that part watchable.

All in all, a decent movie. Good characters. Interesting plot. Preachy (and a bit campy) ending.