Movie Valley
November 2009 Movie Reviews
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Planet 51
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long, Gary Oldman, John Cleese
Directed By: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad, Marcos Martinez
Run Time: 1 hr 31 mins

Planet 51 is the reverse E.T. When a human astronaut lands on a planet inhabited by aliens, the aliens try to capture the astronaut.

This movie was cute... but a bit boring. I think you can predict the story pretty much up to the ending. Like I said, it's a reverse E.T. I did like the last 20 minutes. The movie picked up in likeability as the characters all came together.

Although Rover is probably designed to look like a real lunar rover (at least, I'm assuming that's what real rovers look like), it reminded me a bit too much of WALL_E, particularly with the rock gathering. I did like him and his dog-like qualities. That part was funny.

I liked that the alien planet was in the 50s because everyone was nice to each other. I didn't like the protesters, probably because they were making them appear clueless instead of caring. It took me awhile to like the astronaut Chuck (voiced by Johnson). He was a bit too arrogant to be likable. But towards the end of the movie, when he was playing "alien" with Skiff and the kid, he became sweet and funny to me, particularly his short comings that he admitted.

I did like the homage to E.T (the movie). That made me giggle. The interesting thing about this movie is that in the movie E.T., you sided with the alien. In this movie, I sided more with Lem than with the "alien" (Chuck the astronaut).

This movie is a bit on the scary side for kids. It was an okay movie. Cute. Some funny lines. Slow. Predictable. But I liked the ending.

A Christmas Carol
Starring: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Robin Wright Penn
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Run Time: 1 hr 36 mins

A Christmas Carol is based on the classic story by Charles Dickins. Ebenezer Scrooge (voiced by Carrey) is a miserly man who is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve, with the hopes that visions of his past, present, and future will help him change his ways.

I love cheesy Christmas movies. I have a huge collection of Christmas movies that probably only I can bear to watch. I like Whoopi Goldberg as Santa Claus. I buy it. I like when elves or snowmen or six year olds have to save Christmas (why is it always in jeopardy?). I like when grouchy, grumpy, unlikeable people become uber-generous all because some spirit showed them what the true meaning of Christmas is. I believe reindeer can talk. And I believe that elves make Sony and Panasonic toys. Yeah. The sappier the Christmas movie, the better. It takes a lot for me not to like one. A lot. That being said, I was bored and annoyed throughout this movie.

This movie started off with much promise (a lot of them lately seem to be doing that). It opened with a very quaint image of the snow fluttering outside, panning back to the warm and cozy room filled with candle and firelight. Very Christmas-like. I almost expected to smell cookies baking and the faint pine perfume of a Christmas tree. But then it very quickly became boring. I sighed heavily so many times. I wanted to leave.

I think this movie focuses on what it can do in 3D rather than on the story itself. Everyone knows this story by heart so I think the movie makers felt compelled to add punches where they only needed to apply whimsy. And because there was no whimsy or warm Christmas sentimentality to the story, the movie dragged. It was incredibly slow and yet oddly I think a lot of the story was omitted. Scrooge looks at Tiny Tim for barely a moment - he hasn't said much or really been talked about - when Scrooge freaks out about whether or not Tiny Tim will live much longer. Of course, this may be the reaction of a normal, kind-hearted person (who feel bad as soon as they see the squalor their employees live in as well as a crippled child), but Scrooge was not normal. He didn't feel like others. It seemed too easy/fast.

Before I watched this movie, I loved the idea of Jim Carrey portraying all of the ghosts (as well as Scrooge himself). It's along the lines of Polar Express where Tom Hanks plays many of the characters, too. I liked that they were making a tradition. But I think I also just like the idea of Jim Carrey himself and not the actuality of him. When it came time to watch the movie, the ghosts annoyed me. The Ghost of Christmas Past is a candle, with the flame being Jim Carrey's face (as well as voiced by him). The candle flicker and the head bobbing was highly annoying. It was almost as if it were an inside joke. Surely it brought more amusement to Jim carrey than it did me. The Ghost of Christmas Present. I almost walked out two minutes after this spirit filled the screen. The laugh was so theatrical! "I'm acting! Ha ha ha!" Ugh. It went on and on and on - forced laughing. And what was with the accent? Spartacus meets Sean Connery meets Shrek. Even when the ghost wasn't laughing (which wasn't often), I was annoyed with his accent. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Okay, so the ghost himself didn't annoy me. The scenes with him in it did. ugh. It seemed like this scene was 10 minutes of "look what I can do with 3D animation."

Across the board, the acting in this movie was over the top and forced, along the lines of a high school play. This trait didn't just rest with Jim Carrey but extended to Colin Firth and whoever played Marley.

Speaking of Marley, this movie is not for kids. Do not be fooled by the fact that it's animated and is a Christmas movie. It's scary! Every moment with Marley - from the sight of him in his coffin to hearing him walk up the stairs in Scrooge's mansion to the entire warning scene - was scary. Wow. The scene where Marley loses his jaw is, I suspect, supposed to be funny. It's not. It freaked me out. It's scary and gruesome. Really scary.

Was I the only one who thought it was sweet that Robin Wright Penn and Carey Elwes were together again in a movie (they were in The Princess Bride)? I did have a hard time placing who he voiced. Most of the characters' faces resembled the actors who voiced them (which was nice but a bit freaky) but no character had his face (unless, of course, he gained a lot of weight). He apparently voiced several bit characters.

I'll say it again: It takes a lot of muck for me not to like a Christmas movie. This movie oozed muck. I think I still have some of it on my shoes. It's over-acted, it's boring, and it takes the coziness and nostalgia out of a Christmas movie. As I walked into the theater before the movie started, I told myself that it would be fun to keep the Christmas spirit alive after the movie if I listened to Christmas music on the ride home. I tried. The movie just sucked the spirit right out of me so I couldn't get into the music. So disappointing. Merry Christmas. Humbug.

Men Who Stare at Goats
Starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey
Directed By:Grant Heslov
Run Time: 1 hr 30 mins

Men Who Stare at Goats is the story of a secret unit within the US Army called the First Earth Battalion, a division who focuses on paranormal military ideas.

I was warned before I went to this movie that this wasn't a well liked film. As I sat there watching the movie, I couldn't figure out why people didn't like it. It was funny. It was silly. And it had the right amount of seriousness and not-taking-itself-so-seriously. And then the ending came. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Is it a requirement that George Clooney's friends must have their previews before his movie starts? The previews before this movie consisted of one starring Matt Damon and another starring George Clooney. Brad Pitt must still be working on his.

The movie started off with so much promise (after the previews). It had such a silly premise and yet was taken so seriously that you had to wonder how much of it was really true. Yes, the movie does start off saying this is based on real events, but the cynic in me hasn't believed that claim since Fargo (where it claimed in the beginning of the movie to be based on real events and declared after the movie that it was all made up). When the premise is so silly, you have to instinctually disbelieve. There has to be a catch. Really? Physic soldiers? Is this for real? I spent a lot of the movie trying to figure out what the dupe was and when it would be revealed and how it would all be explained away. Physic soldiers can't be real... can it?

I do not know how George Clooney and Ewan MacGregor got through the Jedi warrior scene without laughing. It made me giggle to hear Lyn explain to Bob (played by MacGregor) about Jedi warriors and have Bob say that he knew nothing about them (he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars). I giggled every single time the word Jedi was spoken. Not sure if the movie makers intended for that reaction or if it was just me. I did seem to be the only one laughing. I found a lot of the lines to be very clever, delivered in a way that only George Clooney can.

I was disappointed with the minimal role Kevin Spacey had. This is what sealed my interest in this movie. George Clooney's last couple of films weren't that great but the combination of Spacey and Clooney won me over. I was looking forward to more scenes with George and Kevin but was disappointed. They shared little screen time.

I enjoyed it all until the ending. It was pointless and disappointing. The charm and the mystery the movie had up until that point suddenly fizzled. I was a bit amazed over the ending. They built up to... nothing. Anything would have been better than that ending (although the very last bit - the running through the wall - was endearing). I was expecting some sort of explanation or even a gotcha. The ending seemed like their way of digging themselves out of the hole they dug. They couldn't explain it or resolve it. Physic soldiers. You just have to believe in it or don't. There's no concrete proof they - or the possibility - exist or don't exist. I would have liked this movie - and just liked - had the ending been somewhat decent. I feel I got gypped. Darnit. So disappointed. For the majority of the movie, I kept wondering why people said it wasn't that good. It was funny and quirky (and you all know I like quirky). But that ending made me regret that hour and a half of enjoyment. Darnit.

Where the Wild Things Are
Starring: Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper
Directed By: Spike Jonze
Run Time: 1 hr 34 mins

Where the Wild Things Are is about a misunderstood boy named Max with a vivid imagination who escapes to the island Where the Wild Things Are. After he's crowned the king of the monsters who live on the island, Max promises to make all the monsters happy. He soon discovers that the relationships and the dynamics between the monsters, although similar to his own history with his family, prevents him from fulfilling his promise to keep everyone happy.

I went to this movie with my mother and father. My mom, a former school teacher, wanted to see it and I, having read the book as a child, did, too. The books scared me as a child. I know the monsters were supposed to be nice but they were scary looking. I wanted the movie to quash my fears. It did.

I didn't ask my parents how they liked the movie because I felt bad for taking them to such a stinker. The monsters were mean and the lines were just stupid, like they were written by an 8 year old boy (maybe that was the point because, essentially, the monsters were the boy). It was slow. I donÂ’'t think it had the same vibe as the book. I felt bad for making them go to that movie because it wasnÂ’'t very interesting. And the kid was a brat.

I did like see the monsters in action. They were very cool. But the story was frustrating and slow and frustrating that it was slow. None of the monsters were really likeable. I also didn't like that the little boy really didn't solve anything. He didn't learn to pull what was happening in his own life and try to make it better. He identified with one monster (Carol) who was struggling with his relationship with his sister but didn't identify with Douglas, who was also just like Max himself (small and always picked on). It bothered me that he didn't see himself in all the monsters but just Carol.

I think the preview was enough to watch of this movie. I felt more connected to the preview, more touched. The movie itself was a let down. I do have to re-read the book now, to see where Spike Jonze (the director) went wrong and what he added to the movie (the book is so short).