u2acro's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Sherlock Holmes

I loved Sherlock Holmes. Bam. That's really all I need to say.

I grew up reading all of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories of Holmes, Watson and the rest. I was fascinated with the detective's mind, and was quite afraid that this movie would trade logic for explosions. I needn't have worried.

The best part of Holmes in the stories is how he examines clues, files and unfiles information in his encyclopedic brain and deduces possibilities. This occurs no matter if he's on a villain's trail or getting a little agression out by beating the crap out of an opponent. Thankfully, the movie lets you into Holmes' brain and takes you step by step through his reasoning and anticipation. The movie keeps Holmes' logical personality -- as well as his arrogance, quips and demented genius behavior -- intact, and it's quite fun to watch. That's due to the screenwriting, of course, but it's also largely due to Downey's brilliance. He completely morphs into Holmes, and this makes this movie one of the most fun and complete I've seen in quite a while.

Jude Law certainly holds his own as Watson. The movie version beefs up his role and personality, and he gets the opportunity to be just as bad-ass as Holmes. He's the perfect reluctant accomplice to Holmes' madness.

The movie's major case itself is enjoyable. It's a classic Who-Dunnit-And-How? that deals with an old men's club, a sinister leader, mysticism and parlor tricks. Arthur Conan Doyle would be proud of the whole shebang.

It's Complicated
½

I saw It's Complicated with my parents. Yeah, I know. They're the intended audience, not me. That's probably why I didn't love this movie as much as they did.

This was a fairly hum-drum romantic comedy for the 50-ish set. The story had a potentially interesting twist given that Streep's ex-husband Baldwin "saw the light" and decided that he loved her again -- after 10 years of their being divorced and his remarrying a woman half his age. But it didn't really get off the ground too far. Baldwin's character just seemed like he was experiencing a constant midlife crisis, and Streep's character was just disappointing -- why was this smart, caring, funny woman with her own thriving bakery diddling with such a schmuck? Couldn't she see through him?

I went to this movie hoping that Steve Martin would save me. I love me some Funny Steve and really wanted that guy to appear... but only Mediocre Steve was on the screen. It wasn't his fault -- Martin's lines just weren't that great, and he wasn't in the movie all that much. The whole time, I felt like, "Ok, this is it. Steve's gonna break it out. He's gonna crack me up." But all I got was more of a role that any actor could fill.

What's the deal with long, superfluous drug scenes? Am I the only one who rolls her eyes and finds them unfunny? There was a stretch of about 20 minutes where a scene just goes on for wayyyyy too long, sort of like an overdone, unfunny SNL sketch.

On the positive side, the chemistry between Streep and Martin was beautiful in the few minutes they were allowed to develop a rapport together. The feelings Streep worked through -- and continues working through -- regarding her divorce were pretty strong. Her kids' reactions to the divorce from 10 years ago and the reveal of Streep and Baldwin's affair rang even more true, though. As a child of divorce, I can attest that most of us superficially hope that our parents will get back together and "complete the family" again, but realistically, we know that it can't and shouldn't happen.

Avatar
Avatar(2009)
½

I was skeptical that I would enjoy Avatar as much as the hype claimed that I would, but I pushed my hesitancy aside just long enough to appreciate the themes of tolerance and harmony.

I still don't consider Avatar to be the epic that Cameron meant for it to be. The story had quite a few holes, characters made dumb decisions and there were way too many obvious plot devices. It could have been edited better to take off a half-hour without sacrificing story.

I cried, though. The notion of science and technology allowing us to explore another race/culture/species was brilliantly thought-provoking. That the story used that science as a way to let the main character consider feelings of disability, inadequacy, relief and freedom should serve as a huge teaching moment for children as well as adults.

Avatar primarily shined a mirror on America's (and other countries') perceived need to take what we want without consideration for the indigenous or the environment. Of course our leaders and military assumed that the Na'vi yearned for our teaching methods and way of life. Of course they assumed that the natives weren't intelligent and that their beliefs were worthless. Of course they assumed that they should do anything possible to collect a certain expensive element even though it meant destroying the Na'vi home to do so. I came away from this movie with an ugly feeling for capitalism and elitism.

I saw Avatar in 3-D, but this wasn't a movie where that was necessary or even really added to the experience. I quite forgot I was watching with the special glasses, which some would argue is the way a 3-D movie is supposed to feel, but this just made me realize that Avatar didn't do wonders with the technology. Despite the colors being brilliant, the movie still looked flat.

Ninja Assassin

This was awful -- but in a funny way. The acting was horrid, the storyline was spotty, the dialogue was among the worst ever... and yet I couldn't help but be entertained. Maybe it was because I had a verrrrrrry long day at work or maybe it was because I hadn't seen a movie like this in quite a while, but for whatever reason, "Ninja Assassin" hit the spot that night.

The Box
The Box(2009)

The quick version: suspense + ethical dilemma + surprising sci-fi - cohesiveness = wtf? I really wanted this to be better, but it's just not. Marsden is the winner in this. Langella was ok. Diaz over-acted and was terribly annoying.

The Fourth Kind

Wow. This movie was just... Let's put it this way: I'm glad I saw this for free via screener passes.

The big deal with "The Fourth Kind" is that it's supposed to be a documentary, but not, but a horror, but not. It's real, but not, with enhanced scenes, but they're not really enhanced - they're pretty much lies disguised as "literary liberties."

The movie tries to get cute by interrupting the movie with "archived footage" from "real case studies," which, yeah, sometimes seems true and sometimes is laughable. It's annoying, though, because the "archived footage" often shares split-screentime with the current, Milla Jovovich-acted movie. Sound confusing? Sometimes it is. It's such an elaborate plot device for a movie that has more loose ends than a bevy of whores in Hollywood.

Milla Jovovich does ok with the material she's given, I suppose. She often overacts, but her lines are goofy and her motivation is just ridiculous.

The bit players have roles that do nothing but cause chaos, and their motivations to do/say or not do/say things are even crazier than Jovovich's. The sheriff? Yeah, he's nuts and a bad, bad actor.

Plot holes... oh, there are so many plot holes. Start a "plot hole bingo" card and check them all off.

I came away from "The Fourth Kind" thinking about aliens and space and humanity, because those subjects intrigue me -- but I didn't come away frightened. Honestly, the people who are calling this "one of the greatest horror movies of the year" might possibly have been abducted themselves.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
½

I saw this via screener a few days ago, but I'm just getting around to reviewing it here. Sue me.

"Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" is one of those films that you'll either enjoy heartily or you'll hate for being too gimmicky. Me, I loved it. Not LOVE, as in "Yes, I love and will marry you, you fabulous film, you," but love as in "I love how enjoyable you are and am clapping with glee right now." I think that as long as you don't go into it expecting an earth-shattering piece de resistance, you will too.

The cast is full of actors you're familiar with, and they get major kudos for taking roles here that put them in odd costumes and situations. Most of the cast, all of them playing freaks of nature of some sort, take the material and run with it. The movements and near-surface-level feelings from them make you believe that what you're watching is not only possible but also somewhat natural. This sentiment is not to the level of believability of the X-Men movies, but it's close enough for such a fantasy romp.

John C. Reilly steals the show as the non-bloodsucking vamp Mr. Crepsley. He always brings such whimsy to his roles, and this is no exception. He's over-the-top when it's needed and subdued when it's not. Serving as one of the main "freaks" and then as a mentor to Darren, he balances fun with fright and adds a bit of motivation and insight.

All of the "freaks" are interesting -- a woman who can regrow limbs like a starfish, a man who literally shows his guts all the time, a snake boy who rocks out. Some of their personalities could have been developed a bit more -- sometimes, we only see action related to their abilities -- but they were still fun to watch and identify with.

To be honest, the two lead boys, Chris Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson, were just ok. They didn't feel heavy enough for their roles, nor did they have the wild fun with their characters that the other actors did. Perhaps that's due to age or inexperience. They weren't bad or boring, like watching paint dry, but they both needed some oomph. Also, I couldn't help feeling like Hutcherson looked like Lizzie McGuire's little brother on that tv show.

Some might bristle at the familiar plot -- boy needs to find himself, boy grows up, boy is prophesized to be "the one," boy leads war. I'd argue that derivitives of the hero's quest are used in more than half of the films out there. Sure, this one is a bit transparent and might remind you of other movies (in a positive way, I think), but that's no reason not to see this. It's fun, plain and simple.

The movie is based on a large set of books and combines the first trilogy. I haven't read them, so maybe that helped me enjoy this flick more than others. "The Vampire's Assistant" was done well enough that I now want to give those tomes a read, though.

Paranormal Activity
½

People, I was spooked. I see a lot of movies where I get creeped out or grossed out and such, but they don't really spook or scare me, per se -- it's obvious that those feature fake blood and silly trick scenes. "Paranormal Activity" spooked me on a level that I haven't experienced in years, and it's all because of the film's realism.

There wasn't a single moment of this movie where I was taken out of the action. Nothing seemed over the top. Nothing was a stupid, obvious plot device. No one said anything out of character. Everything worked because when watching it, I felt that Katie and Micah could have been my friends -- or even me. They didn't "act;" they just lived. When they spoke to each other, it was as girlfriend and boyfriend trying to solve a problem. It was girlfriend and boyfriend going through the getting-ready-for-bed routine. It was the girlfriend and boyfriend arguing before going to a party. It was like any situation you or your friends would be in.

Now, it might seem crazy to attribute the success of a horror movie to "realism." After all, horror movies specialize in demons and hellhounds and zombies and whatnot. But again, the realism makes it work. We don't see the demon; we only experience it. We're constantly waiting, wondering what it will do next, wondering if it will breathe on Katie (or on us!), wondering how on earth it (and its shenanigans) can be stopped, wondering why Katie was chosen to be tortured. The suspense, filled with our own fear and anticipation and coupled with Katie's and Micah's actions, is what makes this film gripping and scary and intelligent.

The camera works almost like a third main character. Micah is obsessed with using it to capture the demon's movements and antics as he and Katie sleep at night, and it shows us (and them) things they don't notice in the wee hours. Yes, the shaky cam is reminiscent of "Cloverfield" or "Blair Witch Project," but the concept works so, so much better here in "Paranormal Activity." It doesn't feel like "Oh wouldn't this be cool? This is SO COOL to use the camera this way!" Instead, it's completely part of the movie, bourne out of Micah's need to help Katie and, more to the point, his own need to document the weirdness.

It's hard to describe this film in detail without giving away the farm. Just go into it ready to wait for long periods for "something to happen" -- and know that you won't mind it one bit.

Where the Wild Things Are
½

Erm... I have no idea what happened to the review I wrote two days ago. It walked off, I guess? :/

I caught a screener of Where the Wild Things Are a couple of days ago, and it was one of those movies where I was blissfully unaware of what was going to happen. I'm one of the apparent few who hadn't read the Sendak story, so this was one film where I couldn't complain about inconsistencies between book and movie. It's nice to have that every once in a while. :) So based only upon random images and movie commercials, the only things I knew were that 1) this movie starred a little boy in an awesome costume and 2) this movie had animal/beasts with human expressions in it. Kids + humanistic animals always make me cry, so I was prepared to bawl.

And cry, I did. I don't want to give everything away, since the movie hasn't been released yet. But I cried for innocence, for being ignored and later being the ignorer, for imagination and fantasy, for that perfect escape under the sheet tent built between the bed and tv stand, for having feelings reflected and respected and validated, and for working things out in a way that makes perfect sense only to yourself.

The relationships between Max and Carol and the other wild things so perfectly serves as a mirror for all the turbulation and doubt and longing Max feels. The journey into Max's psyche and his realization of how to handle things unfolds very delicately -- so much that you almost don't realize it's happening. One moment, you're on a fun adventure to a land of freedom and fun; the next, you're processing all the symbolism that you've seen throughout the film.

I know I'm one to cry at movies. I know I'm one to become quite emotional. I know that makes many people doubt me when I say a film was truly touching. But Where the Wild Things Are really is the best kind of children's (and adult's) movie -- it doesn't pander, it doesn't talk down, and it celebrates imagination and self-awareness. And it's fantastic to look at, to boot.

The September Issue
½

Ah, it's great to see the claws of Anna Wintour. She can't reign in the drama and haughtiness, even when she's not expressly directing it at anyone. A cold smirk, a blank stare, a slight eyeroll... these are the things that apparently make fashionistas both swoon over her and fear her.

"The September Issue" is great viewing -- it's like Bravo on the big screen. You get the viewpoints of Wintour and her underlings as they put together the famed and collossal September issue of "Vogue" magazine and do other fashiony things. As an editor (uh, NOT at "Vogue"), I loved watching their process and comparing it to my own work.

The best thing about the whole damn movie, though, is creative director Grace Coddington. She whips her long red hair around like nobody's business AND she stands up to and sasses Wintour when she needs it. No one else quite gives Wintour the smackdown when it's warranted, and believe me, it was warranted in many of the situations.

Zombieland
Zombieland(2009)

This was a fun, adventurous film, plain and simple.

The tandem of Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg worked wonderfully, as they went between playing combative, opposite personas and acting like a loving married couple. The crazy man-straight man trick worked really well and produced a lot of laughs - some cheap, some with great setups. I go off and on with Harrelson's characters in movies, but here, I loved him (possibly because I identified with loving Twinkies). He does crazy-fun like nobody's business.

The foil couple of character sisters Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin didn't have the same dynamic. They worked as a unit against the Woody-Jesse unit, but the young women didn't have the kind of relationship to play off each other and produce the same emotion. Don't get me wrong - playing sisters, they had a strong bond of loyalty, survivalism and love, but they didn't have the same weight as the guys.

And the zombies... My god, the first 10 minutes of the movie with the rules and the zombies and the deaths were priceless. Right away, Zombieland felt like an homage to b-movies, but in the absolute right way. You could feel the love with the color, camera angles and "are they slow?" jokes.

The "love story" just needed to be dropped. It was out of the blue (granted, in the first third of the movie, but it was because of circumstance, not love) and was a pointless plot device, especially in the final act. The movie definitely didn't need it.

The Final Destination

This was fun, but it could have been better. It's your typical Final Destination -- crazy death scenes, ridiculous dialogue, goofy plans. It seemed that this one went a bit more over the top with the silly -- people were laughing at the deaths more than wanting to vomit, and that's ok. It is what it is -- fun thrills that you can predict and that don't tax your brain; you're not watching Final Destination movies to learn something about yourself, folks. But even considering its cheesy status, the writing and acting could have been better. Props for the 3D, though. It wasn't necessary, but the novelty was good for a laugh and an "ewww."

Extract
Extract(2009)
½

This had potential. Mike Judge, Jason Bateman, JK Simmons... what could go wrong? Or, rather, what could happen at all?

This was just downright boring and convoluted. A simple concept -- an on-the-job accident happens at Bateman's flavor extract plant, and a con artist convinces the dumb victim to sue for crazy money -- just turned into a wandering nightmare. Ok, maybe "nightmare" is too strong of a word, but the movie still didn't go anywhere. There were many side quests and dumb stories, but they didn't tie together and they didn't get full coverage or resolution. It was like eating cotton candy -- a little goes a long way. After a while, you want to punch the person who keeps shoving it in your face.

Yay for Jason Bateman, but he just didn't get enough to work with. Though there were a few funny folks -- Simmons' small role as a boss who doesn't care made me chuckle -- the characters weren't really developed. How many times can you see a guy on drugs who says "wise" things? How many times can you see a cute girl set up as a prop? If the writing were stronger and if this movie had actual storytelling, the actors might have been able to do something. Instead, we just get boring, flimsy people that we don't care about.

District 9
District 9(2009)

I'm normally not a straight-up action flick kind of girl. Good thing this wasn't a straight-up action flick.

"District 9" is full of explosions, sure, but that's not really the point. The movie instead focuses on persecution by race -- something we're very familiar with after the Holocaust, southern U.S. slavery, apartheid in South Africa and, unfortunately, many more examples. In fact, it's the South African version that apparently was the influence for this and Blomkamp's other (much shorter) film.

Humans fear that which they do not know, and that's heavily on display in "District 9." From the marked slums to the violent, senseless beatings to the cruel experiments and executions, the alien race in the movie has it bad, and some of that (directly or indirectly) comes at the hands of Wilkus, who has been assigned by his company to relocate and effectively neuter the aliens. In doing so, he undergoes an event that renders him closer to the aliens than he'd like.

Wilkus is not a perfect character. He's not a hero (certainly not after burning the aliens' shacks and eggs), but he's not an ultimate villain, either. Wilkus is agonized by the changes in him, but his gradual teamwork with and understanding of the aliens is riveting to absorb. His grudging and often selfish cooperation with "Christopher" the alien and Christopher's son forms the backbone of two thirds of the film, and it gives us just a little hope that humans can and should rise above petty indifferences with those who are different from us.

But... this wouldn't really be a summer movie without a few explosions, and there are some doozies. The alien technology is phenomenal, and the results of its use are gasp-inducing. But admittedly, I had to look away during some of the violence because I so strongly associated it with human struggle.

Remarkably, I stayed away from all "District 9" spoilers and marketing until I saw this. I doubt that those would have ruined the movie for me, but I think I did appreciate "D9" more because everything was breathtakingly surprising. This easily is one of my favorite movies of the year -- something I didn't expect at all.

Fanboys
Fanboys(2008)
½

Do you remember your Episode I experience? I sure as hell do. I salivated for the movie for months -- nay, years -- with my nerdy college friends, and when we finally saw the midnight release in Bridgeville, Pa., at the end of my final college year, we thought for sure we had found heaven. You know... until the urgency melted away, and a decade has shown us that Phantom Menace wasn't really that awesome. Still, sharing the anticipation of the first Star Wars movie in 16 years with friends was something none of us will forget.

That's how it works with "Fanboys," too. The movie isn't perfect, but it's done with love from a true nerd's perspective. Granted, it can be a bit toooooo nerdy -- so many references to the SW films just get tiresome after a while, even if it's about a subject you adore -- but if you just acknowledge the fandom and move along, it's fine.

More than anything, this is a buddy film with four buddies (five, if you count Kristen Bell's character). It's about sharing a common goal, taking a road trip, and getting into some crazy stuff along the way. Who can't appreciate that? The good humor was abundant, and all of the actors made me believe that they actually love Star Wars and that they're all friends in real life. Chris Marquette was especially good as the dickwad with cancer, and his slackjawed viewing of 1999's holy grail of a movie was how any of us would have watched in his situation.

There were some funny cameos. William Shatner was great as himself, who helps the gang escape the evil Trekkies led by Seth Rogen. SW alums Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher don't get a lot of screentime, but they were nice to see.

Some tighter writing really could have bumped "Fanboys" up a half-star. There were quite a number of general WTF? moments, as well as a few bad editing decisions. Some plot points were a bit too easy to advance, and some just didn't make sense (taking a detour to Texas on a trip from Ohio to California? Really? Couldn't nerdboy have gotten the info via IM or, god forbid, the phone?). And while they played their characters well, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel and Kristen Bell got the flimsiest character studies. Note to screenwriters and directors: nerdgirls don't really feel the need to spout off nerd trivia every two seconds.

Really, though, I just put all of that negative stuff aside to enjoy a trip down memory lane. Sharing something with your friends -- a movie, an adventure, a laugh -- is just priceless.

Just one thing. Guys, don't ever, ever tell your female friends, "You're not a real girl. You don't count." Ever.

Moon
Moon(2009)

I think I sabotaged myself. "Moon" is one of those little-movies-that-could, and it has gotten so much hype that I ended up expecting just a tiny bit more. If I had stayed away from all the spoilers and gushing on IO9.com, I think I would have given this an extra half star.

"Moon" also is one of those movies that you can't quite sum up without giving away some important things. A lot of thought was put into this film -- a lot. Everything from the movie's pacing to the alarm clock song to the t-shirts to the warnings on the space station's interiors have been given primo treatment and add so much to the effectiveness of the film. They play into the audience's questions, and they foreshadow Sam Bell's thoughts and eventual discoveries.

Do you remember how in the "Back to the Future" movies, Doc Brown kept warning Marty that the "real" Marty and the timelined Martys should never run into each other, or else bad things would happen? "Moon" sort of explores that issue, but in a different way and with decidedly different consequences. Imagine being isolated in space for several years, nearing the end of your tenure at the station, and then suddenly... you're not alone, and you can't believe who's with you. Now imagine the fear and anger and insecurity and doubt you'd feel as you discovered that your existence was a sham, and that your new friend was going through the same thing. That's the essence of "Moon" -- you're alone, but you're not, but you are.

I love isolation movies; "Moon" is sort of like "Cast Away" times two. The closed-in, no-escape exploration of what it means to be human, what we experience, what we need, what we fear, and why we love is one of the themes that will get me into a movie every darn time.

Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell takes the isolation/human theme and runs with it, and it's fantastic. There's no noise from other actors (except for Kevin Spacey as the computer Gerty, which is programmed to give Sam the aid he needs), nothing blowing up, no crazy monsters. It's just Sam... and Sam. A lesser actor would have had a harder time with the material, but Rockwell really was the right choice -- he uses gravitas and humor to create distinctive personalities for Sam Bell, showing that there's more than one side to all of us.

What blows me away is that this was a low-budget film -- I think it was done on something like $5M. Watching "Moon," you'd never think it. You might be able to tell that the shots on the moon were actually (very well-done) models, but I rather like that aspect -- it's a ton better than crappy and needless CGI, and it made it feel all the more real.

Race to Witch Mountain
½

Given my disdain for remakes/reimaginings, I was a bit apprehensive seeing this. However, since it's literally been about 15 years since I last saw the original "Witch Mountain" movies, I figured it wouldn't be so bad. It wasn't. But that's it.

If you watch this as a mindless, summery, fun kid movie, it's fine and it's fun. Every kid thinks about outer space/aliens, running around without parents, getting a pet, saving the world, etc., and "Race to Witch Mountain" feeds all of that. But that's where it ends. It could have been so much more, and it just... wasn't.

There were basic direction/continuity lapses, odd voice cadences (aliens talk like robots?), strange assumptions and in some cases, plain old bad storytelling. Characterization doesn't get its due, either; most of the characters are very flat. There's also a LOT of exposition. My main beef was that there were ample opportunities to make "Witch Mountain" a thinking movie for kids -- you don't need to talk down to a younger audience just because you're making a "kid movie." Unfortunately, the film went the way of explosions and yelling "Run!" and "Jack Bruno!" instead of exploring the differences between humans and aliens and how both harbor misconceptions about each species.

There were a few cute moments, especially separate scenes involving the dog and telekinesis. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson also does surprisingly well with lighter material, and I think he would have been outstanding had he been given better dialogue.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I'm on the fence about the latest "Harry Potter" installment, leaning more towards "Argh." On one hand, I got to see fun wizardry in the form of flying, shiny things. On the other hand, I was seething over significant chunks of the book being jettisoned. On one hand, there's a lovely Harry-Dumbledore relationship and a fabulous Prof. Slughorn. On the other hand, I heard "Won Won" too many times.

"Half-Blood Prince" is my favorite "Potter" book. It's dense, it's filled with plotlines that both subtly and obviously connect, and it has some of the more dramatic and emotional scenes in the series. However, as a movie, the story came up short.

If you've read the book, you know how important Tom Riddle's, Dumbledore's and Slughorn's memories are to the story. While we get to see some of these memories on film, other important framing memories are oddly left out. As a consequence, the Riddle-Hogwarts/Dumbledore relationship -- which is arguably one of the most important to the story as a whole -- is not adequately explored, and Riddle's gravitas and eventual transformation doesn't get its due buildup.

I remember the end battle between the Death Eaters and the Hogwarts "army" as being one of the most pivotal and emotional in all the books, and I know I'm not alone in that. The wands, the violence, Fenir, and the big "wow!" (that everyone probably knows by now) contributed to the heart of what Hogwarts is, what Dumbledore means to everyone and how Harry steels himself for what's to come in book 7. In the movie, though, this battle barely gets a footnote, and it's very, very disappointing.

Another other major disappointment in the movie is the specific handling of the aforementioned "wow" moment and the subsequent reaction. It just was lackluster and was not at all fitting for a character of such stature. That's all I'm going to say, because I don't want to ruin everything for the non-readers.

My final WTF moment came when the half-blood prince revealed himself -- it was just disappointing and felt thrown in. Obviously, it's integral to the book and was very well drawn out and explored in print. The reveal was much better there, too. However, the film just threw it in with no build-up or exploration. It literally was "I am the half-blood prince." End scene.

The film does have its good moments. Again, Harry's relationships with Dumbledore and Slughorn ring true, and there were some funny moments involving the luck potion, especially toward the end.

Hermione gets less whiny, and she and Harry share poignant and secret moments of pain like only close friends can. Her emotional outburst with Ron and the birds was well done and understandable to any woman in her situation. The 32-year-old me cried right along with the ghost of the 15-year-old me.

Overall, though, I was expecting something other than what I saw. I know that's the risk you take when you read the books several times before seeing the movies, but honestly, if I saw this without having read HBP, I still would have said WTF for the illogical conclusions the screenwriters expect me to make.

Public Enemies
½

This was engaging, if a bit long. My knowledge of gangster history is admittedly lacking, so I can't comment on historical accuracy. However, the Dillinger character in the movie had depth. There were some plot holes (there always are), and the gunflights got monotonous (Me: "Seriously, ANOTHER SHOOTOUT?"), but this was good stuff from Depp and Bale (though in my opinion, Bale had some lackluster characterization to work with). It's not a home run, but "Public Enemies" is pretty intriguing.

Funny People
Funny People(2009)
½

This was a nice movie. I say that in a pseudo-grandmotherly way, but with all the dick jokes and "motherfucker"s thrown around, it's not something you should take your grandmother to see... unless she's Betty White, of course.

"Funny People" has been recapped ad nauseum elsewhere, so I'm not going to rehash it. The film is worth seeing, but it almost feels like two separate movies. The first half explores George's disease, how it affects his life positively and negatively and how it gradually changes his outlook on fame and seclusion. Anyone who has gotten into a depression or life-changing event and has gone through a full-life evaluation should be able to relate. It's during the first half of this movie that we get to enjoy watching Ira go from being George's writer and assistant to becoming a friend. An oddly moving thing for me was George asking Ira to talk until George fell asleep -- as a person who also craves this, I can tell you that it's both intimate and so comforting to fall asleep listening to a dear person's voice. Of course, fearing intimacy, George pulls back now and again and engages in ridiculous behavior, but Ira won't let up. It's a refreshing take on life-and-death friendships as well as male friendships in general.

The second half of the movie is where it let me down a bit. It becomes less about George's inner struggles and kinship with Ira and more about his pursuit of "the one who got away." The second act had some fun and touching scenes (those kids are adorable!), but it just didn't seem as grounded to me. This part made me wonder if the reel was accidentally spliced with a Lifetime movie. The ending also seemed a bit tacked on.

There are two highlights of "Funny People" that folks will talk about. One, the fake "Yo Teach" tv show staring Jason Schwartzman's and Jonah Hill's characters is a running gag and spectacularly bad in a good way. Two, the cameos by comedy greats and even *gasp* Eminem are fun and generally well done. They really reminded me of those Looney Tunes shorts where Bugs Bunny would interact with the famous celebs of his time ("If it's rabbit Baby wants, it's rabbit Baby gets.").

Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen are not everyone's cup of tea -- neither are Apatow movies in general. But there definitely is something special and very warm about "Funny People" -- especially during the first hour.

Deadgirl
Deadgirl(2008)

Jesus, this movie needs two separate ratings -- one for overall quality and one for WTF-disturbia. "Disturbed" probably is a word that many people have and will continue to use when describing "Deadgirl." Don't watch this with anything resembling a full tummy. I was pretty empty, but by the end of the film (and even the following day), my stomach was ready to dig up anything it could find to puke out -- it's that graphic and maddening.

FYI - This is not a zombie movie. There may be a zombie in it, but that's not the overarching point. This is not a "Watch the zombie terrorize a town by eating people's faces and causing panic" thing. This is a "See how humans react to an 'available' woman in a disturbingly feral and boys'-club way" kind of thing.

The overall story is solid -- lame, misunderstood, bottom-tier high school guys find weird, maybe-dead-maybe-alive woman chained to a table in an abandoned asylum, and very messed-up hijinks ensue. The movie hasn't been screened too widely, even though it's a 2008 film, so I don't want to give too much of it away, but it delves into male-female dynamics, social hierarchy, sex/power addiction, and the always-present moral dillemmas. Moreover, "Deadgirl" explores what is perceived reality and what is pure fantasy, and how do two (ok, three) people who grew up together act differently to the reality/fantasy issue?

"Deadgirl" really was a fascinating story. However, it's a story that I much rather would have read than watched. I went to a midnight showing of this, which to me made it feel all the more surreal. As the film went on, the scenes presented kept getting more revolting, more gritty, more... everything. I had to watch through my hands through much of this. I don't deal well with control/rape/deeply psychological movies anyway, but this one completely jarred my system more than just about any other.

Aside: After the movie, a friend and I watched several episodes of "Family Guy" to get the "Deadgirl" taste out of our mouths. This didn't help tremendously, as I still had horrific dreams that were more disturbing than usual. Even now in the afternoon, I'm having difficulty not seeing "Deadgirl" in my head, and I feel quite unsettled.

So yeah, "Deadgirl" was a horror movie; just not in the way one usually expects.

The writing generally was good. Like I said, the story itself is intriguing, and the character study was well done. Friendship, betrayal, unrequited love and fatalism all are explored to great degree. However, there are a few cheesy lines and scenes that seemed thrown in for "Har-dee-har-har" factor and didn't advance the movie -- in fact, those useless pieces took me out of it, a bit. In addition, there are a few scenes that I (and obviously people around me) thought "Wait, there's just NO WAY that would ever happen. NO ONE IS THAT DUMB." I don't think the writers meant for those elements to unfold in a B-movie way; I think they just didn't think them through OR they just really wanted those scenes come hell or high water.

All in all, it was a good movie, a good departure from the usual horror stuff, and something to talk about and occupy the mind long after the credits roll. That's also the problem, though -- sleep can be hard to come by after watching "Deadgirl."

500 Days of Summer

"Roses are red. Violets are blue. Fuck you, whore."

Big warning: do not see this movie if you are in a fragile emotional state.

Zooey was fine; she did her wide-eyed-ingenue Zooey thing, but I could think of a few other actresses who could have stepped into the role and done a likewise adequate job. Gordon-Levitt was better than fine, and when he was in roaring pain, he was on fire. He made you feel it. All of it.

The film does have that quirky, indie feeling about it, even though I think it will pull in the stupid summer lovebird vote and make more money than it might otherwise. Direction was really good, the narration was sharp, and the "effects" (if you could call them that, really) immersed you in the swirling emotions... perhaps a bit too much at times. The plot and writing was usually tight, though there were moments I wanted to claw my eyes and ears out when I wasn't crying.

Also, this is another movie with a great soundtrack. You really can't go wrong with The Smiths and Morrissey when crap is happening.

I saw this via a friend's passes to the screener.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

It is what it is: an action flick with a bit of snazzy jumpshots and some suspense. That's it. That's what summer is for.

If you're looking for character development, forget it. The story could have gone to interesting places had we learned more about Catholicism, guilt, ethics and redemption. Instead, we just get the herky-jerkyness of quick cutaways paired with glossed-over characterization.

It's fine. Washington and Travolta are good enough, sometimes even fun. At certain points, they have a really good rapport and connection. And there are quite a few lines to snicker at or nod your head and say knowingly, "Ahhh, yeah. New york." And really, thinking about the NYC subway system is mesmerizing (for me, anyway), and the thought of being trapped in there is both chilling and alluring (again, for me). But you're out of luck if you're looking for reason or deep thought. Just go for some escapism.

Up
Up(2009)
½

This was phenomenal. I was prepared to be annoyed because Disney=annoying, but the story was very, very well written, the 3-d stuff wasn't just "Hey, look, we have pretty effects just because we can!" and the whole thing simply was beautiful to look at. Watch out, though -- there are definitely entire sections that will make you cry or at least make you sniffle -- even if you don't have female plumbing.

Adventureland

It's nothing we haven't seen before -- teenagers/college kids are on a path to find themselves, and they fall in love and end up in screwed-up situations along the way. Combine that with an amusement park, humor, good writing and a fabulous soundtrack, and you've got Adventureland. The characters were pretty well-written, showing individual depth and quirkiness. I do question some of their actions, however. The back-and-forth of "girl gets angry, boy gets angry, girl gets sad-angry, boy gets sad-angry, repeat ad-nauseum" gets a bit tiresome. Still, it's a generally sweet story. Did I mention the outstanding soundtrack?

X-Men Origins - Wolverine
½

I really wanted to like this; I really, really did. Ultimately, though, it's a near-epic fail. Canon is screwed, effects are cheesy, and the dialogue is god-awful. Some people will drop their jaws when I say this, but Ryan Reynolds -- though limited in his role -- is the film's saving grace. Despite screenwriters messing with and inaccurately combining Wade/Deadpool/Weapon XI, he still nails the character's hard-nosed merc edge and dark humor. His Deadpool is appealing as a sequel; another Wolverine movie is not.

I Love You, Man

This wasn't bad for a buddy flick with warmth. There were some stupid parts, but how can you not like Paul Rudd and Jason Segal? They make a cute couple. :)

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
½

Fabulous soundtrack. Cute story. Unrealistic situations. Still, I'd watch it again.

City of Ember
½

This wasn't awful -- it's just that the book was way better. The movie took liberties that just didn't make any sense -- storywise and sciencewise. The two leads were pretty good, though.

I'd recommend watching this before you read the book. If you go the other way, you'll probably be more disappointed. Ultimately, the movie just felt kind of flat, while the book was a nice rush of adventure.

Religulous
Religulous(2008)
½

This was freaking awesome! Well, if you have an open mind about things and if you naturally like asking questions. If you're a dogma person, forget it. Stay as far away as possible.

Bill Maher asked pretty much every question I've had on my mind for the past 20 years. Difference is, he actually got some answers, where I usually get dumb looks or hate speech about "satanic atheists." Yeah, that makes no sense. I know.

I didn't give it five full stars because the end started to drag. It really is a fascinating look at how people take an idea and cling to it, even if they don't fully believe. You know. "Just in case."

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)
½

This is exactly what a superhero movie should be like -- fast, modern, colorful -- and HUGE on character development. Downey nails Stark's character flaws and highlights, and the movie clips along briskly. I wish we would have gotten a little further with War Machine, but you could see the wheels turning. Next time. :)

Nirvana Unplugged in New York
½

Classic, classic, classic, classic, classic. That is all.

Tropic Thunder
½

Real quick -- this moive was pretty fun. It went in a different direction than I anticipated, and I liked it for the most part. It ran a bit long, though -- or just felt like it.

Downey is tremendous. Stiller is fine. Black is annoying. The nerdy glasses guy is cute. The Booty beverage guy is nearly non-existent.

It's worth seeing, but maybe not for $8. I caught a matinee.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

I just saw a free screening of this in a St. Louis suburb. It's... different. I know that it's supposed to lead into the new Clone Wars tv show, but the entire film felt like a long tv show. The villainy was especially amusing -- sometimes even worse than the "Ha ha ha, you will never escape my clutches, and here's a 20-minute rambling on why!" that the old Bonds films often used. Also, the female lead is just a little too cute (sort of like feisty Disney heroines), but she's got moxie.

On the other hand, the voice acting was outstanding. And while it took a while to get used to, the animation finally leveled out and seemed somewhat normal.

This film doesn't completely feel like the original trilogy or even the lesser second (or first, depending on your point of view). I mean, it has plenty of swagger, which is SO welcome after a broody Anakin for three movies. And there are some nice comedic lines that harken back to something Han-esque. But it's just.. it feels promotional. And I guess it really is.

Juno
Juno(2007)

I think that "Juno" will be my "Once" for 2008. It's that damn good.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
½

We went to the free screener at the Tivoli last week. God, this movie was excellent!

Obviously, Burton is a wicked genius, and everything about this movie just clicked - the coloring, the sets, the photography, the songs, and of course the casting. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter absolutely carry this movie and are perfect as the leads. I was blown away by their voices and how much they shaped the characters. Perfect, perfect casting. Both of them just suck you in.

Of course, Alan Rickman is both creepy and regal as the judge, and "Borat" is surprisingly great as Depp's barber nemisis. That kid, though... that kid who tools around with Cohen and then Miss Lovett... he's charming and holds his own against the talent pool.

Despite the fact that I HATE the ending and felt it was incomplete, I still loveloveloved this film. The sets and scale models alone really bring the crazy english town to life. It's kind of weird to say, considering how much blood is involved, but the film is beautiful to look at.

Not typical holiday fare, but go see it anyway.

Into the Wild
½

It looks like "Once" has some competition for favorite movie of the year... though I think "Once" wins it because it doesn't have dead animals in it. Still, "Into the Wild" is completely captivating, moving, and gorgeous to look at. You're completely sucked in.

Mortal Kombat

Mmmm... Cheesy goodness, complete with Sonya's "vaginal claw" move...

Sydney White
Sydney White(2007)

Went to the free screening in St. Louis and enjoyed it. Sure, it's a flawed "college flick," but it was cute and filled with heartfelt dialogue and developed characters. The "Snow White" theme was well-played without being cloying. Amanda Bynes was darling as always, but I think she was forced to stifle her natural ability for this movie. The true "Amanda-ness" didn't really come out until the end.

The Kingdom
The Kingdom(2007)
½

Interesting story. A little too violent and bloody for my taste in movies. Sometimes a little confusing. Jamie Foxx was excellent, Jennifer Garner was ok, Jason Bateman was pointless, and Jeremy Piven was weird and perfect like he always is.

Hairspray
Hairspray(2007)
½

While this version is fun, the original Hairspray was way cooler, with rocking songs that really evoked the attitude and the era. The storyline generally flowed better in the older one, too. This movie started feeling, well, long.

Note that this new movie version is more based on the Broadway musical and not on the old movie. While they are similar, you should know what you're getting. The vibe and music is different.

Nikki Blonsky carries this film. She's got a great voice and a great spirit. She really belted out those Broadway tunes. She was made for this part.

The new version specifically finds ways to get fat-suit-John Travolta more screen time. He wasn't bad, but he really didn't add anything to the film. Unfair or not, Divine was much better.

The Penny character was minimized for this movie, which is a shame, because Amanda Bynes could have run with it. She was one of my favorites in the original, as was Motormouth Maybelle, though the Queen does a good job here.

Elijah Kelley -- damn, that guy can move. And what a voice, filled with expression! I hope we'll see more of him soon.

For all the hype surrounding Zac Effron, it was overblown. He was adequate -- more than, even -- but he wasn't as spellbinding as USA Today made him out to be. He did a decent job, though.

The Von Tussels' roles were minimized for this movie. Brittany Snow and Michelle Pfeiffer didn't do much other than push the story along.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
½

I never, ever tire of the "blonde movie," as one of my friends loved to call it. This is just such fun. I watch it whenever I feel down.

High Fidelity

Excellent soundtrack, both on the cd and off. Cusack has a knack for picking music -- Zach Braff before there was a Zach Braff.

The Obsession

This was showing on Lifetime a few weekends ago. Gosh, it was absolutely awful!

Hiding Out
Hiding Out(1987)
½

Man, I LOVED Jon Cryer in this movie... perhaps even moreso than in "Pretty in Pink." Sick? Maybe.

Adventures in Babysitting
½

"Don't FUCK with the babysitter." Man, that line never gets old.

Looking back, it's kind of ridiculous how fearful everyone was of "The City." "Don't tell your parents I took you to 'The City.'" "You're going to 'The City?' I'll tell my mom to hire you as my babysitter so I can go to 'The City,' too." It painted Chicago in a negative light, especially compared to the suburbs, and that's just not fair.

Other than that, fun, fun movie. "Nobody gets out of here without singing the blues."

Project X
Project X(1987)

Oh, how this movie made me bawl! It was the first time that I realize animals were used in labs. It also jumpstarted my fear of monkeys.

The Legend of Billie Jean
½

Oh my god, FAIR IS FAIR! When the hell will this be on dvd?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
½

It was a bit jumpy in parts, as if they had originally tried to follow the book and then just cut those scenes and didn't put the dialogue back together in the right way. Also, yes, Harry is a whiny little thing in this movie, but he has to be -- he was exiled from his friends, no one understands him (except maybe Ginny), Dumbledore isn't speaking to him, he's having nightmares, he's wondering if he is turning evil or into Voldemort, and he's A FREAKING TEENAGER. It's a lot to handle and would make any sane person feel alone.
Admission: I love the books and royally get pissed off when movies chops books all to hell for the screenplay. Yes, I know you can't pack 800 pages into two hours, but you shouldn't cheapen the material, either. I think we really needed to feel the resentment between Ron, Hermoine and Harry more -- those are his best friends, his partners, and to feel distant from them certainly contributes to bad decision-making and feelings on his part. While the film did show Harry wallowing, I don't think it showed enough of WHY he was wallowing.
That said, the film had some great moments. Delores was fantastic, and that girly titter was spot-on. The battle in the hall of mysteries was pretty darn good, though, again, suspenseful book material was cut for the film. And the response to the tragedy at the end had even this book lover in tears. The final 15 minutes or so (between entering the hall of mysteries and the end of the movie... you know... the place with the fountains) was brilliant in the acting, pacing and storytelling.

Swingers
Swingers(1996)

So money, baby.

Nightwatch
Nightwatch(1998)

Awww. This is not the Russian "Night Watch." Bummer.

Rosemary's Baby
½

The book is 10 times better, like always.

The demon sex scene is freaky, both here and in the book. Ick.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

This is probably why I love musicals. "Look at me, here I am, right where I beeeelooooong..."

Dead Poets Society

Because of its Gothic architecture, my alma mater was going to be the location for the movie... except that we had one modern round building. They went elsewhere. :(

Bambi
Bambi(1942)
½

The movie that may have influenced my vegetarianism.

The Next Karate Kid

Such suckage, Hillary Swank. And I expected more from you, Pat Morita. :(

Stephen King's It

Jesus, Tim Curry made me hate clowns forever! For a TV "mini-series" (four hours is mini?), this one came off pretty well. Popular, well-planned actors gelled as groups for me (both kid AND adult years). Naturally, some parts of the book were left out (I HATE that!), but the story is mostly intact. I do wish that book information about the smoke visions and the "bite the tongue through space" stuff had been included.

This movie led to my teenage Stephen King obsession, my short-lived fandom of Children of the Corn, and what my mom calls "the Darlene Connor days." Thanks, Mr. King.

The Fox and the Hound

I saw this in the theatre and BAWLED.

"We'll be friends forever, right?"
"Yeah. Forever."
*SNIFFLE*

House on Haunted Hill
½

This edition is ok, but I prefer the Vincent Price vehicle.

Jaws
Jaws(1975)
½

This scared the crap out of me. I'm really glad we visited the beach only once a year!

X-Men
X-Men(2000)

God, this is so much better than that X-3 crap.

Akira
Akira(1988)

I think I just really, really hate anime.

Along Came a Spider
½

Decent movie, I guess, but not as good as the book. Not by a long shot.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
½

This is fun for what it is -- and it gets a bad rap -- but the tv show is MUCH more masterful because Joss' hands are all over it.

Say Anything...

Seriously, what kind of girl doesn't want to be with Lloyd Dobbler?

Freddy vs. Jason
½

The best cheese EVER. Other than Jason X, that is.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)

I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to pee. Seriously.

Once
Once(2007)

Hands down, the best movie I've seen all year... and I'm not just saying that because I enjoy music by The Frames. After you see this un-Hollywood movie, you'll wonder how you could ever watch all that drivel at AMC again. Beautiful cast, beautiful music, beautifully real.

Knocked Up
Knocked Up(2007)

Hilarious, gives interesting perspectives from both sexes on pregnancy , too loaded with drug jokes