Movie Valley
October 2008 Movie Reviews
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Disclaimer: Most of the content for these reviews for the month of October were written WEEKS after viewing the movie. As a result, I didn't feel as though I could do much more other than to say "Liked it" or "Didn't like it" after the plot summary. Some did have a couple of paragraphs written after the viewing. You'll note that the weeks later content is denoted by the pink summary notation.

Secret Life of Bees
Starring: Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys
Directed By: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Run Time: 1 hr 50 mins

Secret Life of Bees takes place in 1964, the day after the Civil Rights amendment passed. It's about a white fourteen year old girl who runs away from home, bringing along her black housekeeper who's running away from being thrown in jail simply for being black and standing up for herself. The duo take refuge at a honey farm belonging to three black sisters.

I loved this movie. I'm just going to come right out and say that upfront. I loved this movie. I sat there with tears in my eyes through most of it. It's so unbelievably touching and heart warming, it just made me so happy to watch the ensemble. It's also griping, compelling, and sad. It's powerful and tough, too.

The acting was wonderful, with the possible exception of Alicia Keys. She was the weakest actor but I still liked her performance. Dakota Fanning is simply amazing. Jennifer Hudson is coming into her own and proved that her performance in Sex and the City was just a fluke. I read somewhere that Sophie Okonedo was terrified to do the scene where she sings in front of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys as she's the only non-singer by profession. I could see how that would be intimidating!

All little Lily wanted is to be loved. Although just barely a teenager, she's so full of heartbreak and inner turmoil.

Summary: I really liked this movie. I sat through most of the movie with tears in my eyes, some times for sadness, but a lot of times for happiness. It's just a really sweet movie. I'm glad I saw it.

City of Ember
Starring: Bill Murray, Toby Jones, Saoirse Ronan, Tim Robbins
Directed By: Gil Kenan
Run Time: 1 hr 39 mins

When I first saw the previews for this movie, I was upset that this seemed to be a rip off of Journey to the Center of the Earth, a movie just released this summer. Then someone told me what the movie was about. While Journey is about a trio going underground, Ember is about a group trying to get out. Okay. I'll give it a shot.

Not knowing much more than it's a quest to get above ground, I spent the movie wondering, "When are they going to find the clues that lead them above ground?" I thought it was more about the journey to the top of the Earth. It's actually a movie about life underground. There was a lot of character development and just a little action (and all the action takes place at the end of the movie). I loved how their careers are chosen for them - they pick a job assignment out of a hat (well, a bag, but you get the idea). They all seemed so young, too. I wondered if anyone got to be a doctor or a scientist instead of manual laborers. Perhaps those kids went to a different school.

Once the action did start flowing, I'm not quite certain I bought a). how the pieces of the puzzle fell into place; b). how the founders really mapped out the escape route and mechanisms; and c). if you did a step out of order, should it have worked in the first place and would there have been more consequences? Also, why didn't more boats go into the water after the first one? But I must admit, for all the poo-pooing I did about the logistics of the plan, I did find the visualness of it all to be fascinating and fun.

Summary: This was a good movie, once I realized that it wasn't quite about what I thought it was about. Saoirse Ronan is really a wonderful actress and it was interesting to watch her with an American accent. Good movie.

Burn After Reading
Starring: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton
Directed By: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Run Time: 1 hr 37 mins

Summary: Burn After Reading is about what happens when the memoirs of a recently fired CIA agent fall into the hands of two gym employees who think they have something bigger, deeper, and more sinister than they really have. The two gym employees Linda and Chad (played by McDormand and Pitt) attempt to weasel a reward out of the ex-CIA agent Osbourne Cox (played by Malkovich) for finding the disc. He misinterprets their request for extortion.

A lot goes on in this movie... and yet nothing goes on. It's fast and slick but yet nothing really happens. It's kind of like an extended Three's Company episode with a lot of misconceptions. I thought the characters could have been better defined. Why did Linda want plastic surgery (what was the catalyst that made her decide that she absolutely needed all of these surgeries?)? Why did Chad go as far with the extortion plot as he did? Why was Harry seeing so many different women and why did he have all of these weird food diversions that really weren't true (or were they? Was he an idiot, a hypochondriac, or did he really have all these ailments?)?

This movie is in league with the Coen brothers - dark, funny, and a bit sick. I liked it. Didn't love it. Just liked it.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Rafi Gavron, Alexis Dziena
Directed By: Pete Sollett
Run Time: 1 hr 30 mins

Summary: I watched this one with Jeff. As usual, he liked it more than I did (I think). Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is about two teenagers with nothing in common other than their music tastes who run into each other and spend the night in search of their favorite band who is rumored to be putting on a surprise concert somewhere in NYC that night.

I likened this movie to Adventures in Babysitting meets Superbad. In Superbad, the main characters are trying to get themselves to the hottest party of the year but totally whacky things keep popping up and thwarting them. In Adventures in Babysitting, the main characters are trying to find their friend who is lost in the city and in many cases, their lost friend is just inches away from them but something whacky keeps popping up, thwarting their attempts at reconciliation. In Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist Nick and Norah are trying to find Norah's friend Caroline who, in a drunken stupor, ran away from Nick's friends who were in charge of getting her home. As they search for Caroline, they're also trying to find the venue for their favorite band's surprise concert.

It was a cute, sweet movie. Nothing too raunchy, just good clean fun with some mild crudeness thrown in (advert your eyes for the train station's bathroom gum scene - I couldn't watch it). I wanted it to be funnier. Jeff thought it was plenty funny.

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Jeremy Irons, Reneé Zellweger
Directed By: Ed Harris
Run Time: 1 hr 48 mins

Appaloosa is a western about two hired guns whose job entails protecting a small town in New Mexico from a local bully.

It's been a few weeks from the time I actually saw this movie until the time I started writing the review. Pleasantly, the pain is all but diminished. I didn't anticipate that. I figured the pain would linger. The suckiness of September movies spilled over to October with this one.

Within the first five minutes of the movie, six people are brutally murdered. With the body count stacking up, I prepared myself for old west carnage. It was an unnecessary preparation. All of the action happened in those first few minutes and wouldn't come back until almost the very end. The rest was slow. And boring. And nothing really happens. And Reneé Zellweger smiles a lot (which, if you've read my reviews from the past know that I find this incredibly painful to watch. What is it with that horrible face-scrunching smile of hers?)

I've read a lot of reviews that talk about how this is more of a buddy picture than a western. Viggo Mortensen's Everett Hitch and Ed Harris' Virgil Cole are guys who finish each other sentences (they didn't really). The two complement each other - one is driven by emotions, the other by action. To me, they were the same. Too much the same. I didn't find them complementary. They didn't seem to gel. They played together nicely but it didn't seem like they were yin and yang, peas and carrots, milk and cookies. They seemed like milk and, well, more milk.

The acting was... okay. Some of the dialog seemed to high school production to me, both in cadence and wit. Lines were rushed. Dialog came out of left field. I was particularly annoyed with the scene where Allison tells Hitch that she and Virgil were engaged. It really did seem like a high school production - written by high schoolers and acted by high schoolers.

I can't say much about this movie. It wasn't good. It wasn't horrible, either, but it wasn't good. It was incredibly long. You'd think you'd get to see a lot of character development and buddy building but oddly enough, I'm not sure where the time went because we were told more than we were shown (should we really have had to swallow that engagement scene?). Perhaps this was what the old west really was like - a lot of sitting around, talking about nothing, and occasionally some violence breaks out (although everyone saw it coming). I didn't care for it.

Summary: Slow, painful movie where nothing happens. I wanted it to be better - and it should have been better just because it had Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris in it! It kinda sucked.