Movie Valley
October 2010 Movie Reviews
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Life As We Know It
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas
Directed By: David Fincher
Run Time: 1 hr 51 minutes

Life As We Know It is about two people, who aren't married and who really don't like each other, who are brought together to raise a baby after their best friends die. Holly (played by Heigl) is a baker who is a bit of a neurotic control freak. Messer (played by Duhamel) is an easy going, lifetime bachelor guy. The only thing they have in common is their love of Sophie the baby.

I liked this movie but I certainly didn't love it. I definitely won't buy it. I probably won't ever see it again. It just didn't have that spark. It does have heart... or at least it tries to, and that's saying something. Not much, but something. It's totally predictable. Totally predictable. Totally. Having said that, I'm sure you've figured out how it ends. The annoying thing about its predictability is that I don't think it's the right predictability.

The neighbors were unrealistic. There were some funny lines, particularly between the neighbor couples. I especially liked the response one neighbor had to couples' karate. I laughed VERY loud. I liked the baby. She was cute. I did sympathize with Holly, with her struggle to feed the baby. She made Sophie's baby food herself but Sophie preferred to eat everything but. I also really liked the scene where Messer opened all the jars of baby food at the store and let Sophie sniff them. He didn't know her tastes, what she would like to eat, so he let her tell him what she did like. I thought that was genius. And funny. And sweet.

This movie did make me think of Jeff wit Atlanta setting and the Delta shots. It also reminded me of me with the baking and food. I did have a hard time when Sophie's parents (Holly and Messer's friends) died. That is an incredibly sad scene. They lost their friends; a child lost her parents. Tragic.

I wanted to like this movie more. Seriously totally predictable. It's sad how predictable and formulaic this movie was. And if you've seen the previews, you've basically seen the movie. They showed too much. But then, since it's predictable, you already know the ending. Eh.

It's Kind of a Funny Story
Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifianakis
Directed By: David Fincher
Run Time: 2 hrs

It's Kind of a Funny Story is about a teenage boy, who has thoughts of suicide, seeks help at the ER and finds himself admitted to the psych ward. The teenager's ward is under renovations so he is placed with adults. There he meets all sorts of interesting characters.

I found it interesting how the other patients helped each other overcome their issues rather than the staff. Perhaps that says that our peers, our friends know us better than anyone or can reach us better. It was also interesting that as soon as Craig started to understand everyone else's issues, he realized he could/should handle his own issues. He also realized that if he didn't handle his own issues now, he would be back in the hospital years from now like everyone else, worse off than he is now. I think he wanted/needed time to handle his issues and his hospital stay, although seemingly unnecessary, particularly in comparison, helped him do just that. I think he just needed someone to talk to, someone who understood and didn't/wouldn't make fun of him. He needed a sympathetic ear. I liked how he finally decided how to deal with his problems - skip, do things he liked, and just do things. Skipping is definitely key to losing one's problems.

Sweet movie. I expected it to be funnier because Zach Galifianakis is in it. There were some funny lines, but I wasn't sure how much to laugh, though. I kept thinking to myself, particularly because I seemed to be the only one laughing, is it okay to laugh at that? Is it really funny or just tragic?

There are some really interesting, poignant lines and observations in this movie - like the flashback of when he was five years old and trying to draw and the line about how it's always tough when you discover you have no friends. Some lines were very sad. I was torn between feeling good because everyone seemed to be trying to get better and then aching because people were so sad about all of their problems.

Not to spoil anything, but I was glad Craig felt better. I actually don't think I'm spoiling the movie by saying this because this movie was more about the connections people make and how to overcome your anxiety/pitfalls that make you unhappy. You should see the movie for that. You definitely feel as though you can tackle anything after you leave this movie. Skip, for heaven's sake. You can debate how sick Craig really was but that's not really the point. He got better, felt better about himself, and learned how to stay better. That was the point - everyone could use some help. People just need the tools. Some people have them; others pretend to have them; most people should ask.

It would have been interesting to know why some of the people were there - what drove them to their issues. I guess no one knows what led up to being crazy, the defining event. A lot of the patents looked mentally challenged, not crazy, which bothered me. I'm not sure crazy people are easily identifiable. I'm often reminded of the quote from Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family - "I'm a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else."

I think the way parts of the movie were shot was really interesting. Craig had a lot of flashbacks and dream sequences. I had a hard time telling if they were real - if they really happened that way - or if he was making them up - or parts of them up, like he did with his Under Pressure fantasy - was he a good rock star singer or was that just his fantasy (the other patients afterwards tell you what was reality). That was kind of cool. Crazy or real?

Good movie. Sad and uplifting at the same time.

The Social Network
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Joseph Mazzello, Armie Hammer
Directed By: David Fincher
Run Time: 2 hrs

The Social Network is about how Facebook came to be. And how it came to be was paved with many lawsuits. Facebook was created by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (played by Eisenberg), who stole the idea from fellow Harvard students the Winklevoss twins (played by Hammer), and promptly cut out his best friend and initial financier Eduardo Saverin (played by Garfield). They all sued him; he sued them back. Eventually he would meet up with Napster creator Sean Parker (played by Timberlake) and would drop out of college, in an effort to launch Facebook.

I found the movie utterly fascinating. Who knew that a site I go to every day had so much drama behind it (particularly when it's kinda like MySpace... which probably had no drama to it... which is maybe why it faded).

I like it when "history" comes from something that happened just seven years ago.History. Ha! I guess I do remember hearing that Facebook was just for college students once upon a time, that you had to have an ".edu" e-mail address to sign up. Now it's for old people like me! I find it interesting how quickly Facebook opened their doors to everyone, considering this movie takes place in 2003 and its now 2010. The initial intent of Facebook was basically a Harvard (a dating service). It very quickly extended to other colleges, mostly due to ego. Everyone at Harvard knew Mark Zuckerberg and what he had done - it was all abuzz on campus - but no one else knew his name.

Mark Zuckerberg is quite an interesting character/person. I hesitate to fully say person because who knows how much of the character portrayal truly is the real person, particularly when you realize that this is an unauthorized account. So... who actually provided the details? An ex-girlfriend? The Winklevoss twins? Eduardo Saverin? If we're to believe this portrayal of his character, he's one of the biggest egomaniacs I've ever encountered. Normally I'd soften that statement by saying, "He's a bit of an egomaniac" but I can't soften it. He really seemed like a jerk. His former girlfriend hit the nail on the head when she said people didn't dislike him because he was a nerd but because he was an asshole. He had more than a chip on his shoulder and quite an enormous ego. Wow. Jesse Eisenberg normally plays very likable characters, flawed but intensely sweet. Mark Zuckerberg did not have a likable bone in his body. Of course he stole the idea from the Winklevoss twins (who were actually played by the same actor, not twin actors). He thought he could take their idea and implement it better.

Speaking of the Winklevoss twins, they also provided a lot of comic relief. This movie has a lot of great lines. I laughed a lot more than I expected.

The way the story is told is very interesting - flashbacks overlaying twin current lawsuits. Sean Parker is an interesting man. He had more ego than Mark Zuckerberg and considerably less talent. Almost like a con man. Smart business man but a jerk.

I liked the movie. Very interesting story. I didn't realize that Facebook and Napster had a connection. This movie did touch on the wonders of Facebook - that news travels so much faster as a result. Well acted. Loved the different character, against type casting of Jesse Eisenberg. Even Justin Timberlake was wonderful. I wasn't quite expecting much of his performance but he totally pulled of the smarmy Sean Parker. Such an interesting topic filled with lies and betrayal and ego. Who knew that's what Facebook was founded on? Oh, and I gotta say - I understood the computer language more than I did Wall Street's financial talk. That made me feel smart, which is cool, because the characters were Harvard nerds.

So, if you use Facebook, go see the movie. It's really interesting to learn about the blood that was spilled to get the site running.

Easy A
Starring:Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Haden Church
Directed By: Will Gluck
Run Time: 1 hr 32 mins

Easy A is about Olive, a high school girl (played by Stone), whose lie to her friend about her losing her virginity goes viral and transforms her reputation. While that lie spins out of control, Olive's caring nature forces her to help others rather than correct the rumor. As a result, the lie snowballs. Olive loses her best friend, makes enemies of the Christian group, and almost gets expelled.

There are so many things I liked about this movie. It's funny. It's smart. It has an interesting - and insightful - parallel to the Scarlet Letter. I really like Emma Stone and I really liked her character Olive - sarcastic and smart but with a heart of gold. She took control of the rumor... for awhile. She laughed in its face by brandishing all of her clothes with an actual scarlet A. She made money off her arrangement with others. She helped boost the reputation of those who were having a rough high school experience. The rumor mill - and all of its side effects - never truly got her down. I loved her sense of humor and her overall good-naturedness (with a bit of toughness thrown in). I liked the teacher played by Thomas Hayden Church (especially the line about cigarettes leading to teenage pregnancy). I loved Olive's parents, but that's mostly because I love Stanley Tucci, who plays her father. And I particularly loved Lobster Todd, who, despite peer pressure and the overwhelming fuel of the rumor mill, didn't let popular opinion dictate his own opinion. He was a good guy.

With technology these days, rumors spread so quickly. And with today's teenagers bad spelling abilities and tendency to shortcut everything, it's no wonder how even the truth can get lost - and mistyped - so easily. I've read FB posts left by teenagers and with the lack of punctuation and rampant misspellings and shortcuts, I couldn't make heads (or tails) out of what they're saying (and I strongly doubt they can, either, because that is, indeed, what punctuation and spellcheck are for). I absolutely couldn't imagine how Olive was going to get out of her predicament. I was very fearful for her. I know I couldn't survive high school today. Do something stupid/embarrassing and ten minutes later everyone knows about it. And I do a lot of stupid things.

This is a very smart movie. Olive's dialog - particularly her quick wit - is amazingly intelligent. This movie is really funny. It also has its heart in the right place.

Starring: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Margo Martindale, Otto Thorwarth, Nelsan Ellis, Dylan Walsh
Directed By: Randall Wallace
Run Time: 1 hr 56 mins

Secretariat is about the horse that is the first to win the Triple Crown of horse racing and the people who helped make the horse a racer, like his owner Penny Tweedy (played by Lane), his trainer Lucien Lauren (played by Malkovich), his handler Eddie (played by Ellis), and his jockey Ronnie Turcotte (played by Thorwarth).

I wished they had explained how he got his name, what it meant. They made a special point about his name, how a horse's name has to be unique for the racing commission, and how several of his team's attempts were rejected by the commission. Penny's father's secretary named the horse, but I have to assume she didn't just name it after her profession. I really wish they had explained it. It's not a common word.

The main portion of the story - the Triple Crown races - takes place just before I was born (just a few weeks). So this means this is a very old story. :-) The audience was very old (in their late 60s and early 70s), which is surprising considering its a Disney movie. I thought there'd be more children or young girls (who like horses). There weren't any.

One little side note: It made me giggle when I realized that just days ago, I saw a movie that starred Josh Brolin and now I was watching a movie with Diane Lane (they're married in real life).

The race scenes are very suspenseful, considering you know how they all end. When I told Jeff I saw this movie, he noted that he heard it was boring. For the most part, a bit. But like I said, the race scenes were incredibly suspenseful, particularly since I knew Secretariat would win them. The rest of the scenes were a bit too Pollyanna-ish, particularly the scenes of marital conflict between Penny and her husband, who resented Penny being away from the family and thought her desire to keep Secretariat instead of sell him to pay the taxes on her father's estate was ludicrous. Even though Penny was always away and missed her daughter's play, her daughter - and the rest of her children - didn't seem to mind. There seemed to be a lot of financial stress behind Secretariat's need to win the Triple Crown and that stress, that angst, that danger was glossed over with really pink glasses.

In addition to being a bit rosy with the struggles of life, this movie had a bit of weak subplot - the connection between man and beast. Although I do think that animals do have connections to people - and some to just one person - as well as that animals have a great amount of intelligence and personality, I think this movie was trying to make it too much about the horse-owner connection, with horse thoughts and personality (the pre-race jitters, the horse wanting to run, the horse posing for photos).

John Malkovich seems to be taking the crazy roles lately, which has to say something (see one of my next movies - Red). I suppose it's because he's crazy that I might forgive him for his utter lack of French speaking capabilities. His character is French-Canadian and is prone to fits of swearing in French. I think Malkovich was just saying the lines. There was absolutely no accent. I don't think he knew what he was saying. They just sounded like words coming out of his mouth. There was no elegance to his phrasing.

Stay for the credits - you'll be treated to a glimpse of the real Penny. I had an inkling she might be cast as an extra somewhere and she certainly was.

One word of caution for anyone with a motion-disorder: The horse-cam shots were nauseating. They actually made me sick! Bounce, bounce, bounce with the clompity-clomp of the horse's hooves.

All in all, I actually did like it. It's a sweet movie. And, like I said before, it was suspenseful. Any movie that can make you fidget in your seat, even when you know what is going happen, has to be doing something right.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Run Time: 2 hrs 16 mins

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (aka Wall Street 2) takes place after Gordon Gecko (played by Douglas) is released from prison, writes a book, and is trying to get his life back together. His daughter Winnie (played by Mulligan) wants nothing to do with her father but her boyfriend Jake (played by LaBeouf) sneaks behind her back to pick his brain. Together, Jake and Gecko scheme to back at the the man who did damage to their lives - Bretton James (played by Brolin).

This movie is a bit slow, particularly when I was sure there was another gotcha/scheme left in the movie. There's a big unveiling of the grand scheme and then its aftermath. I was convinced that there would be another scheme perpetuated by one of the victims of the grand scheme, justice/revenge but then it just ended. I had a feeling it was going to end where it did because it was a schmaltzy place to end it but I was sure that because of that schmaltz (and it was unexpected schmaltz, too), that there simply must be another revenge scheme. There wasn't. It was an odd ending. A feel good ending, but even that feel good ending seem out of place. I was flabbergasted by that.

I must point out that I was the only one in the theater for this movie. It was released just a week and a half ago. I guess there weren't too many people who were interested in reliving greed. Perhaps it was too long (23 years) between the two movies that people forgot how good (well, pretty okay) the first one was. The first version really put a nail in the coffin of the 80s, the "me" generation, the era of the yuppie. It was an interesting social commentary - greed is good. That was certainly the motto of the 80s (particularly in NYC, I suppose).

Speaking of the original, I wasn't sure I liked one cameo. Felt a little too forced. There were a few cameos. Oliver Stone himself has one. That was kind of funny.

I did like the slicked back hair symbolizing the return of greed, however, I really think the hair should have been unslicked - and perhaps a special point of it made - for the schmaltz scene.

It didn't seem as though one scheme, one "gotcha" moment was all that hard to figure out. Had it happened earlier in the movie, there would be no need for Jake's scheme with Gecko. I'm not sure who Gecko was really after with his own scheme - his daughter for abandoning him or Jake, a spitting image of Bud Fox. Speaking of Gecko's daughter Winnie and her boyfriend Jake... why was she with him? He works on Wall Street, which embodies the evil that possessed her father. True, he was a "green" broker, but he still loved the bottom line - whatever made him the most money.

This movie is a bit slow. I didn't quite follow all the financial stuff. Made my head spin. Loved Shia, as always. I also loved Frank Langella. I wish he had been in it longer. Tough as nails but sweet and caring.