Movie Valley
September 2008 Movie Reviews
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Eagle Eye<
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Billy Bob Thornton
Directed By: D.J. Caruso
Run Time: 1 hr 58 mins

Eagle Eye is about two people forced to do a series of bizarre tasks orchestrated by an annonymous caller. Jerry (played by LeBeouf) has had his life turned upside down by this annonymous caller - his apartment was filled with dangerous items designed to make him look like a terrorist. In order to clear his name, he must complete all of the tasks assigned to him. Rachel (played by Monaghan) is being blackmailed with threats to kidnap her son, who is en route to DC via a train. The caller knows all about both Jerry and Rachel and is using this information to motivate them.

September has been a baaaad month for movies. Most of the movies sucked. I was fully prepared for the curse of September to fall upon this movie, too, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn't suck. Of course, had I seen this movie in any other month, perhaps I wouldn't have liked it as much. Perhaps too many sucky movies overshadowed this one and made it seem good.

This movie is a suspense thriller and I was in suspense for a good portion of it. I was definitely caught up in all the action and mystery. I wanted to know why this was happening to Jerry and Rachel. I wanted to know who was pulling the strings. I wanted to know how it would all wrap up. Would Jerry and Rachel get their lives back? But then the reveal came and the momentum of the movie derailed. You know how in horror movies when there's more mystery if you don't see the killer/monster (was I the only one let down when we actually see the rubbery shark in Jaws? How about the aliens in Signs? Or the aliens in ID4?)? After you see the hokey/corney looking monster, all the horror is gone from the movie because there's no way you can be afraid of something so silly looking. The same is true when you see who is behind the calls. Jerry figures it out first and as soon as he says it, I remember feeling the tension just leave my body. And when I saw it, I groaned. It really was who Jerry thought it was. I was hoping for some sort of twist on that twist but there wasn't one.

The movie did pick up some momentum after that gut-socking reveal. I did want to find out how they were going to clear their names, when it would all end, but a big part of me really didn't care as much anymore. My heart was broken by the hokiness of it all. The scenes with the "mastermind" were pretty painful. But the ending won me back... slightly. The movie didn't suck entirely. It faltered a bit with the whodunit but it had a great opening and a pretty good ending. Just don't mind the sucky critical plot element and you'll really like the movie. If you can mind the sucky critical plot element.

There were some implausiblities that had me thinking after I saw the movie. They didn't bother so much during the movie and that helped me like it. For example, when the caller told Rachel to brake, she slammed on her brakes (which was the desired effect). I'm not sure if someone just told me calmly to "Brake" if I would just tap the brakes a bit or if I would slam on them. A lot of that scene was a bit implausible. Why did the magnets not grab their car? And all of this machinery can be operated remotely? And you can hear people's conversations even when their cell phones are completely turned off? Is that true? They made a point of mentioning that a cell phone's battery must be removed completely for it not to be a microphone. If it is, it's pretty scary. What about dead cell phone batteries? The battery in my cell phone is always dead.

But I digress (if calling out implausible plot points is digression). The acting was wonderful. The suspense was intense. The whodunit was a bad ripoff of a movie from the 70s that most people love (I, myself, found it too boring to watch). But I liked it. I didn't love it. Well, I did for a movie in September. A good movie to watch on an airplane.

Starring: John Cusack, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Coolidge, Molly Shannon
Directed By: Anthony Leondis
Run Time: 1 hr 26 mins

I don't have high expectations for movies, I really don't. I just want them to be good. Perhaps I should stop thinking about them because they're always better in my head and they often disappoint when I actually see them. I assumed Igor would be about unleashing the Igor inside everyone, the one striving to do what they're truly meant to do, to live out a dream, be who you want to be, not who you're told to be. If this move made that point, it was too subtle. I also wanted it to state that if one bad act could make you evil, shouldn't one selfless act make you good? It didn't. I kept wishing it would, but it didn't.

Igor is about a land where inventors create evil things with the assistance of hunchbacks named Igor. The inventors are mean to their assistants. This particular Igor (voiced by Cusack) wants to be an inventor himself but due to the way his land is structured, he can't be an inventor (because he has a hunchback). On the side, he's invented immortality and given a brain animation (the brain powers the wheeled jar that it's kept in). And when Igor's inventor master blows himself up, Igor is free to invent life. The only problem is that his creation isn't evil.

I didn't like the part where because the inventor dies, Igor is now free to invent. I wanted Igor to invent on the side or perhaps have the one encouraging master. I wanted Igor to present his creation at the contest. At first, the others would be skeptical but, maybe with his master's confession, all would not only come to accept Igor's invention but to realize that Igors aren't subservient just because they have a hump. The movie wasn't like that at all.

Igor isn't all bad. There were some killer lines that made me giggle pretty hard. I loved the "Jaclyn/Heidi" rant (which sounded like Jeckyll and Hyde). I liked the characters - Scamper, an immortal creature with suicidal tendencies. Brain, who wasn't a brain (and I did have to keep wondering in the first few moments if I was really reading his name as "Brian" - that was funny). Eva... got a little annoying with the whole brain-washed actress thingy. But I loved the gifts she gave everyone. And I loved the little blind kids at the end, particularly the song they walked out to (although it would have been funnier if one of them had bumped into something). The voices were good, although I wished Igor retained his lisp because it was a much more endearing voice. Sean Hayes should have been allowed to let go more ("And bring me back a toy" was hysterical but when he said it again, I almost died). Ditto with Eddie Izzard. Too subdued! And if my Simpsons have taught me anything, it's that Schadenfreude is german for "sour grapes." That's funny right there (although how many people got that?).

I really wanted to love Igor, not just like it... kinda like it. The trailers were so wonderful. It was entertaining. More entertaining in my head, but then again, most things are. Funny. Could have been funnier. Cute. Could have been cuter. Well voiced, even if the voices could have been more outrageous. All of those things could have been forgiven but the lack of a wonderfully poignant moral wrap-up made me only kinda like it. Eva should have been good because of all the good things she had done (and maybe one final act of saving Igor from all the evil inventions). One unintentional bad act does make someone evil just like shouting, "Hey, remember you're good" doesn't snap someone out of an evil rampage. The ending could have been better. Sigh. September continues to dominate.

Righteous Kill
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Carla Gugino
Directed By: Jon Avnet
Run Time: 1 hr 41 mins

After a string of really bad movies, I had a choice between a chick flick (The Women) or this one that stars two legends - Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I figured even if the story sucked, the acting would be good. I was right... on both counts.

Okay, the movie didn't suck. I do have questions about it, though. I suppose that's a sign of a good movie - that it gets you thinking even after the movie is over. From the get go, I figured out whodunit. It wasn't hard. But then I started to doubt myself. At different points during the movie I started thinking, "Maybe he did it" or "Maybe this person did it." I decided that there had better be one helluva twist if someone other than my original culprit actually ended up being the killer or I would be really disappointed. And then the whodunit was revealed and I was okay with having figured it out within the first opening minute. After the credits began rolling, I suddenly had a revelation that had not occurred to me during the whole movie. I assumed it was pretty open and shut but then I thought, "This can't possibly be that simple." Did they want us to think it was this person from the beginning? But was it really as they showed it? But then, if they wanted to do the whole bait and switch and bait and switch again, why did the scene with Karen happen? Was the Russian left alive intentionally? Was the point of the whole switch that one was a better person for asserting justice and the one that didn't do it should take the rap? Who really did it? I was perplexed. What I thought was right may not have been right at all. Interesting. Very interesting. Particularly if questioning the ending was indeed what the movie makers intended for the audience to do.

Even though I think it's easy to figure out the whodunit from the very beginning (you could go either way with your choice and be right, it seems), I found myself drawn into the movie, trying to ride the ride until the culprit was unmasked. It was interesting to see who would be the one to uncover the person behind the crimes and how would it be revealed? What would the culprit do to ultimately get caught? I kept thinking that this movie had to be smarter than what it was presenting. We couldn't possibly know the vigilante murderer so easily. Show us the clues to someone else.

I was excited when the ending came. I really wanted to know how it would all get wrapped up. And then the Scooby Doo ending came. Bear in mind, Scooby Doo endings are rarely good endings. I hate it when the culprit reveals himself (or herself) and tells us why he did what he did. I want clues. I want supersleuthing. I want an "aha!" moment. Sadly, we didn't get that with this movie. The culprit revealing himself took far too long and was far too boring and was far too anti-climatic. The only thing that saved this ending was doubt. Was that really the way it all went down? Frankly, I'm not quite certain who did it. Interesting.

The acting was excellent. Al Pacino's hair had tamed down a bit (but was still noticeably and laughably - at times - poofy) since 88 Minutes. I only wish that Carla Gugino's character was in it more. Her talent was wasted as she was too much in the background. I read somewhere that Donnie Wahlberg was freaked to have to pitch to Robert De Niro in the softball scene and you could actually see the fear in his eyes. And how did John Leguizamo rate for an opening credit "And John Leguizamo." Isn't that usually reserved for good actors, seasoned actors, ones that should be respected and revered, ones making an extended cameo, ones that you're grateful to see on screen? Like "And Peter O'Toole" or "And Betty Buckley" ? It was an odd credit.

A decent movie. I would give it higher marks if it weren't for that Scooby Doo ending. And it got higher marks because of the doubt it filled me with afterwards. I'm not sure I should like movies that make me question if I could be wrong about something...

Pineapple Express
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Rosie Perez, Gary Cole
Directed By: David Gordon Green
Run Time: 1 hr 45 mins

At first I thought I was sitting in the wrong theater. The movie on the screen was black and white and wasn't funny. And then I saw Bill Hader (who was in Superbad) and realized I must be in the right movie... except it still wasn't funny. Of all the crazy things a first time stoner could say and do, that just wasn't funny.

I've decided that from now on I will only go see Judd Aptow/Seth Rogen collaborations with Jeff. After two (or is three?) weeks of waiting, I finally decided to go see this movie on my own. I should have gone to see Babylon A.D. I knew that one was supposed to be bad. But I really wanted my streak of incredibly bad movies to end so I opted for one that should be "okay." Sadly, I should have gone with the one that no one, even those who saw it, know what it's really about (it's that bad). Jeff makes me laugh at these movies. Perhaps his laughter is contagious; perhaps I'm having a good time when I'm with him; perhaps I'm channeling my inner 13 year old. Since I did not go see this with him, I didn't like it very much (which makes me wonder just how bad Tropic Thunder must really be if I only enjoyed it because I was with him).

Most of the funny scenes are in the previews, particularly those involving James Franco. His stoner character really wasn't that funny. I didn't buy Rosie Perez as a criminal mastermind, the boss over a drug lord. A few years ago she may have been able to pull off a toughy, but now it seemed a bit slap-sticky without the intended slap-stick. Gary Cole... I couldn't figure out his character. Was he a bumbling idiot or was he a real bad ass?

One of the things I did like about this movie was the casting. I liked picking out those who had been in other Judd Aptow/Seth Rogen collaborations before. The jerky teacher, one of the hitmen, Bill Hader. I'm sure there were a few more that I can't recall (or perhaps didn't spot) right now. No matter how minor a character they were in other movies, they're back in this one. That's fun.

There were a lot of unfunny moments in this movie. There were some light giggle moments in this movie. And there were a couple of real knee slappers. I particularly loved the scene where they freak out because they're late for something but then spend a VERY long time being silly after smoking some pot. I also liked the fight between Seth Rogen and Gary Cole. It was believable (because I doubt if Seth Rogen's thrown a punch in his life) and poking fun at action-movie fights. But I expected more. I guess I really needed Jeff for this one. It was okay. If it's day three of a winter flu and you're about to go crazy lying in bed waiting for your stomach to stop churning, this would be a good diversion to vomiting.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, John Hannah
Directed By: Rob Cohen
Run Time: 1 hr 54 mins

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is about the unearthing of the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin - a shape-shifting entity who was cursed by a witch centuries ago. Now Rick O'Connell (played by Fraser), his wife Evie (played by Bello... more on that later), and their son Alex (again, more on that later) must put aside their family squabbles and battle the mummy to put him back to a dead state or the world will suffer under the Emperor's rein (and he will rule the world if this trio doesn't stop him).

What is it with movies these days? They just plain suck. Suckety sucky suck suck. This was another one of those that 10 minutes into it, I wanted to get up and walk out. But the optimist in me hopes that if I stick it out, it may just get better. And the cheapskate in me says that if I paid $6 for a movie, I'm going to watch every last bit of celluloid hit the screen. And the curiosity in me wants to know how it ends. Some movies redeem themselves just with the ending. This one did not. The first movie was fabulous; the second one was decent, even if it rehashed a lot of the same scenes from the first one; this one sucked. Did I mention it sucked? I can still hear the wind whistling by from the tremendous suck fest that was this movie.

When I first saw a trailer for this movie, I was annoyed by the fact that Rachel Weisz wasn't in this sequel. Not only is she not in it, she's been replaced. It would have been one thing to just write out her character; it's an entirely different thing to think the audience would stand for a replacement. Weisz's Evie is smart, tough, and vulnerable. I've never quite found the appeal of Maria Bello's acting in other movies and in this one, she just plain sucks. I can't for the life of me figure out why they would cast a blonde American to play a brunette Brit. Surely there is some spunky British brunette actress out there much more suited to playing this character than Maria Bello was. Her accent, when she remembered to use it, was atrocious. She wasn't tough. She wasn't lovable. And there definitely wasn't any chemistry between her and Rick (played by Fraser). I could see why their marriage was in trouble. I did find the fact that the director poked fun at the replaced Weisz, but that was all the joy I could muster for this version of Evie. They even reduced her to a cheesy romance novelist. So much for being a Brembridge scholar.

Lackluster, devoid of spirit seems to be the way to portray the characters in this movie. I'm not exactly sure how on earth Rick and Evie have a 20 year old child considering the actors who play them are just barely 40 themselves, and they certainly didn't have Alex when they were a mere 20... or even 25, for that matter (incidentally, Fraser is only 13 years older than the guy who plays Alex in real life). You can tell us the year is 1946, you can tell us that Evie and Rick are this guy's parents, you can have Alex call them "Mom" and "Dad" until he's blue in the face, but when you see Fraser and the guy who played Alex (I'm not even bothering to commit his name to memory because he wasn't a good actor) face to face in a scene, it's just creepy. I cringed every time a parenting line spewed from Fraser's lips (well, that also could have been because those parenting lines were cliche). Overlooking the implausible timeframe, the character Alex was just plain implausibly boring. Although one could assume he inherited his mother's knowledge of ancient artifacts and his father's love of weaponry, I highly doubt even a prodigy could master these traits at just 20 years of age. Amazing how he found the tomb of the Emperor on his very first dig when archeologists had been hunting for it (presumably) for hundreds of years. But I suppose he also inherited his parent's talent for mischief and mummy resurrection. Yeah, right. While he may seem like a chip off the ol' block, I found Alex to be a jerk. He was as likable as Maria Bello's British accent.

Even John Hannah's Jonathan was lackluster. His one-liners were overly setup with humor that wouldn't even make a five year old laugh (Spank my ass, anyone? No really, when his tush caught on fire, that's what he said to Rick...). I wasn't quite sure about his relationship with the yak, what the point of it was, where it was coming from, but really hoped it would tie back together (perhaps have the yak save him). It didn't. The yak got the better end of the deal by being reduced to a cameo and then having her freedom granted halfway through the movie.

Putting aside the characters and acting for the moment, let's look at some of the annoyances with the plot (which starts with the uncovering of the Emperor and ends with his demise). First, I'm not quite certain how the Emperor ended up on a chariot holding the reins. He turned into a terra cotta mummy in his palace... And how did his soldiers, who were all outside, end up in perfect formation inside the palace? No one could have moved them because anyone who was associated with the Emperor turned into a terra cotta mummy... And how did General Ming get three of his limbs back when they were yanked from his body by horses? How many times did they have to hit us over the head that this was the 40s? Did the director take a page out of Spielberg's directing handbook from Indiana Jones 4, which is set in the 50s and gosh darnit, he lets you know! And I'm really glad Evie pointed out that the mummy had all his powers back because there was no visual indication that this had occurred. I remember saying to myself, "Really? How can you tell? I don't see it." And yes, I did have a long conversation with myself during the movie. I was more entertaining. Finally, did the director really think we'd believe that fight scene between Fraser and Jet Li? I think Fraser does a wonderful job with feisty Rick O'Connell but martial arts expert he ain't. One-liners don't beat wax on, wax off.

I could go on and on about the things that annoyed me during this movie but it's probably best to just sum it up and say that the annoyances were the movie. Not only annoyed, I was embarrassed for the actors. Did they know the movie was going to be this pathetically bad when they signed up to do it? I'm hoping that they signed their contracts to do movie three, got the script, and then asked, "No, really. Where's the real script?" That's the only way I'll be able to see these actors in another movie without shouting, "You owe me six bucks!" Brendan Fraser, although given tired and uninspired and horrible cliche-riddled lines, kept the momentum going. He was watchable. Michelle Yeoh was wonderful. Sweet, smart, and tough. Isabella Leong (who played Lin) was also sweet yet tough. I only wish that she could have fulfilled her duty by being the one to finish off the Emperor. Yes, the men had to duke it out with the mummy but shouldn't she have dealt the final blow?

So.... did I like this movie? I wish I knew multiple languages for the word "suck." But since I don't, you'll just have to settle for it in English. This movie sucked. No, wait. I believe I said to myself (I told you I had a conversation with myself), "This is shit!" I was a little more graphic with myself. I cleaned it up for you all. There is no spirit in this movie. There is no charm. There is no good Evie. There is only shit... and plenty of it.

P.S. I'm actually pretty proud of myself. In all the years I've been posting my reviews of the movies I've watched, I don't think I've ever said a movie was shitty. I can watch my tongue when I want to. I saved the profanity for something that truly deserved it... and considering my string of crappy movies lately, that's saying a lot. Really.