Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday at the Movies: What I Have Been Watching Lately

Monday's Movie is hosted by Sheri at A Novel Menagerie.
(Disclosure: All of the below reviewed movies came to me either through my paid subscription to cable or Netflix.)

I went a little movie crazy recently. Sometimes I do that. I just start watching and I cannot stop. Here's a peek at what I've seen in the last couple of weeks.

I'll start with the good ones:

(Action, Crime - 2008, rated PG-13; directed by Pierre Morel; written by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen)

Netflix Summary: While vacationing with a friend in Paris, an American girl (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped by a gang of human traffickers intent on selling her into forced prostitution. Working against the clock, her ex-spy father (Liam Neeson) must pull out all the stops to save her. But with his best years possibly behind him, the job may be more than he can handle. Famke Janssen also stars in this relentless action-thriller from director Pierre Morel.

I had wanted to see Taken while it was out in the theaters but I did not get the chance. I found this to be an intense and thrilling film, even a bit predictable. Liam Neeson is good in any role he takes on and playing the father of a kidnapped girl is no different.

Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (Turtles Can Fly)
(Drama, War - 2005, rated PG-13; written & directed by Bahman Ghobadi)

Netflix Summary: Residents of an Iraqi Kurdistan village await the violent arrival of the invading U.S Army. A young boy named Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) helps clear minefields and installs equipment that brings in news from the outside world. Meanwhile, three orphans wander aimlessly, the victims of tragic happenstance. As Saddam is removed from power, these innocent children must confront the harsh reality that awaits them.

I cannot remember when I first heard of Turtles Can Fly. Perhaps it was recommended to me through Netflix. It isn't unusual for me to discover movies through recommendations made on the their website. This is a foreign film, a joint effort by Iraq & Iran, with subtitles. Satellite is quite the entrepreneur, organizing the children in the village, including the refugees. He assigns them jobs, sometimes clearing minefields. Several of the children are missing limbs, including one of the orphans who no longer has arms. The story of the three wandering orphans is heartbreaking. The more of their story that was revealed, the more my heart ached for them. This is not a happy film. It is harsh and dark, set on the brink of war, in a time when everyone is struggling to survive as best they can amidst a changing landscape.

El Orfanato (The Orphanage)
(Horror, Thriller - 2007, rated R; directed by Juan Antonio Bayona; written by Sergio G. Sánchez)

Netflix Summary: Fueled by fond memories from her childhood, Laura (Belén Rueda) persuades her husband (Fernando Cayo) to help her revamp a seaside orphanage into a facility for disabled children. But soon after the couple moves in, their son, Simón (Roger Príncep), begins exhibiting disturbing behavior. As Laura tries to understand Simón's increasingly malevolent actions, she becomes drawn into the house's terrifying secrets in this unnerving chiller.

This is not the usual type of movie I am drawn to, but I was curious about it after hearing such good reviews. Not to mention it was produced by Guillermo del Toro whose movie Pan's Labyrinth entranced me. I was swept up in The Orphanage almost immediately; Simón is a sweet boy with a big imagination. His parents do not know if they should discourage it, especially when his imaginary friends multiply and take a more prominent role in his life. The film takes its time in setting up the story, allowing the viewer to get to know the characters. The Orphanage is a haunting film in more ways then one. The pain and fear the mother feels when her son disappears is palpable. It is suspenseful and dark with an ending that I did not see coming.

The Illusionist
[Mystery, Romance - 2006, rated PG-13; directed by Neil Burger; written by Neil Burger (screenplay) & Steven Millhauser (short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist")]

Netflix Summary: With his eye on a lovely aristocrat (Jessica Biel), a gifted illusionist named Eisenheim (Edward Norton) uses his powers to win her away from her betrothed, a crowned prince (Rufus Sewell). But Eisenheim's scheme creates tumult within the monarchy and ignites the suspicion of a dogged inspector (Paul Giamatti). Set in early 1900s Vienna, this lush period drama from writer-director Neil Burger earned an Oscar nod for Best Cinematography.

I can see why this film won an award for cinematography. It truly is a beautiful film, in scenery and set. I hadn't expected this movie to be a love story, and so was a little disappointed by that. Still, I enjoyed it. Both Edward Norton and Jessica Beil did a great job in their roles. Rufus Sewell was wonderfully despicable as the crowned prince. I especially liked the mystery of the movie; the ending was well played.

The Proposal
(Mystery, Romance - 2009, rated PG-13; directed by Anne Fletcher; written by Pete Chiarelli)

Netflix Summary: When she learns that she's in danger of losing her visa status and being deported back to her native Canada, overbearing book editor Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) forces her put-upon assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), to marry her. Directed by Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses), this romantic comedy also stars Craig T. Nelson and Mary Steenburgen as Andrew's parents, Joe and Grace, and Betty White as the outspoken Grandma Annie.

When I first heard about this movie I was not sure I wanted to see it. As much as I love romantic comedies, I've become quite selective of the ones I will watch. After hearing from friends (like some of you), I had a change of heart and added it to my Netflix queue. And I am glad I did. This was a funny movie. Sandra Bullock was hilarious in her role. She had the overbearing ball breaker down to a "t". And who can resist Betty White? I could have done without the added comic relief of the character Ramone as he was a bit too over the top for my taste, however. This was a great rainy day movie to enjoy with my husband, good for laughs and entertainment.

The okay to not so good bunch:

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
[Adventure, Fantasy - 2007, rated PG; directed by David L. Cunningham; written by John Hodge (screenplay) & Susan Cooper (novel)]

Netflix Summary: Just as he turns 14, young Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) learns that he's the last of a race of paladins known as "the Light" who are dedicated to beating back the forces of darkness and their malevolent leader, the Rider (Christopher Eccleston). As Will travels through time gathering the powerful artifacts that will give rise to the ultimate showdown, he must keep the Rider at bay. Ian McShane and Jonathan Jackson co-star.

I haven't yet read the book, but was curious anyway. The premise is good, but the movie was a bit confusing and was not well put together. This one was only okay for me. It was good to see Christopher Eccleston again though. He was the one who first got me hooked on Dr. Who.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
[Sci Fi Thriller - 2008, rated PG-13; directed by Scott Derrickson; written by David Scarpa (screenplay) & Edmund H. North (1951 screenplay)]

Netflix Summary: In this updated version of the 1951 classic sci-fi thriller, Keanu Reeves stars as an alien named Klaatu who's sent to Earth to warn the leaders of the world about the consequences of their dangerous ways. Joined by a heavily armed robot companion, Klaatu informs the people of Earth that the constant aggression carried out against one another has raised the ire of an alien species, which is now threatening to exterminate all of mankind.

This was just another okay movie for me. It got off to a good start, but quickly became predictable. I have not seen the original and so cannot make a comparison.

Jury Duty
(Comedy - 1995, rated PG-13; directed by John Fortenberry; written by Barbara Williams, Samantha Adams & Neil Tolkin)

Netflix Summary: A luckless loser named Tommy Collins (Pauly Shore) finds himself homeless when his mom packs up the trailer and heads for Vegas. So, Tommy hits on the idea of serving as a juror in a long trial. Though he's assigned to an open-and-shut case involving a notorious killer, Tommy's need for the food, shelter and five bucks a day leads him to delay the proceedings for as long as possible.

I have nothing really to say about this one other than I didn't like it much. It wasn't all that funny to me and I was rolling my eyes more often than not at Pauly Shore's character's antics. Why I sat through this one, I haven't a clue.

What movies have you se,en lately? Have you seen any of these movies? If so, what did you think?

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
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  1. Holy cow, look at you go! We very much enjoyed The Orphanage, but was so heartbreaking. I turned that one off at the end devastated. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed The Illusionist, not only because of Edward Norton (hubba hubba) but the clever twists.

    I would agree, Neeson is good in almost everything, except for Kinsey. That was a total turn-off!

  2. Sandy - It was fun catching up on movies. I agree with you about The Orphanage--heartbreaking. But oh, so good!

    I wasn't expecting The Illusionist to be so much of a love story. I didn't mind it, but it wasn't quite what I wanted at that moment. I still really liked it though.

    I haven't seen Kinsey. Guess I should skip that one?

  3. I loved Betty White in The Proposal! I agree with you about The Illusionist - it is a gorgeous movie.

  4. Thanks to you, I now have some great recommendations for the holidays. I hope to have more movie-watching time then! Right now I have 3 movies from Netflix and I would be ashamed to tell you how long I have had them!

  5. Turtles Can Fly sounds great! Thanks for putting it on my radar. I also think I liked Illusionist, but I preferred The Prestige which came out around the same time, I believe.

  6. The Orphange is one of my favorite movies, so glad to know I'm not alone.

  7. You can't go wrong with Liam Neeson and I enjoyed The Illusionist, too! :-)

  8. Haven't seen most of the movies on your list but I don't do many movies. I can say the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still will never be on my list to watch - from what I've read about it, they completely ruined a very good movie. You should watch the original. It's one of my favorites.


  9. You watched some interesting movies lately. I love Bullock so I'll watch just about anything with her in it.

  10. WOW...that is a lot of movies lately! The only one we've seen from your reviews is the Illusionist. Last 2 movies at the theater were Julie and Julia (love it) and 2012 (UGHHHH)

  11. The only one of these I've seen is Taken. Saw that one when I was in NY for BEA.

    The Orphanage sounds good, but I'm a bit afraid to see a movie that's being described as 'heartbreaking', though it also sounds like it's worth it.

  12. Kathy - Betty White is such a hoot. :-)

    Kathleen - LOL Three of the movies I reviewed here were Netflix movies and they were sitting on the basket next to the TV for quite some time. It's embarrassing how long--so I know what you mean. :-)

    Aarti - Turtles Can Fly was good. I hope you will watch it so I can get a second opinion. :-)

    I haven't seen The Prestige yet, but I want to.

    Ryan - It was such a good movie. I'm glad I got over my initial reluctance and watched it.

    Marie - I really like Liam Neeson. I think my husband was a little disappointed that I watched The Illusionist without him. We'd had it forever and I figured it was time to watch it and return it so someone else could enjoy it. Hubby never seemed interested--until I'd watched it and put it in the mail. LOL

  13. CJ - I will probably get around to watching the original of The Day the Earth Stood Still one of these days, especially now that you recommend it. :-)

    Staci - There's a nice variety there. :-) I really like Sandra Bullock too.

    Diane - Yeah, I was in a movie watching mood and took full advantage of it. The last movie I saw in the theater was Precious. There are a couple I really want to see this month but one isn't out yet and the other hasn't made it to a local theater.

    Myckyee - I think The Orphanage is worth watching even so, but I understand if you decide against it.

  14. My boys really liked "Taken" even if it was predictable, in no small part because of Liam Neeson. I think 4 out of 5 of us in my house will watch The Illusionist any time we catch it on t.v. At least 3 of us have a bit of a crush on Edward Norton in this one!

  15. Lisa - I have a bit of a crush on Edward Norton too, but don't tell anyone. ;-)

  16. I really enjoyed Taken and loved The Proposal, but I agree with you about Ramone.
    I liked the Illusionist, but my hubby loved it.

  17. Stacy - Ramone was just a little too much. It was a good two weeks of movies. :-)

  18. I liked The Proposal and Taken - and LOVED The Illusionist, in spite of the fact that a woman walking out of the theater spoiled the ending for me while I was waiting in line for a ticket. She turned to her friend and very loudly began to discuss the twist ending - in front of all of us waiting to see the movie! I couldn't believe it.

    I also did not like The Day the Earth Stood Still - had to force myself to finish it cause I was sent a review copy. Ugh.

  19. I enjoyed both THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and THE PROPOSAL. I'm sorry you didn't like the first one...

  20. We enjoyed The Orphanage as well Wendy, very different then what I was expecting.

  21. Carrie - I hate it when people spoil the endings like that. Phoey on them!

    Alice - I thought The Day the Earth Stood Still was okay. I think I expected a little more from it. I'm glad you liked it though. :-)

    Annette - Yes, definitely different than what I was expecting too.

  22. I haven't seen any of these movies. In fact, I can't even remember the last movie I did see. I'm always reluctant to give up my reading time.

  23. Jill - My husband and I really enjoying watching movies. I rank them up there just a smidge under books, in fact.

  24. Of all the movies you listed, I have not seen any of them! However I do want to see TAKEN, THE PROPSAL and THE ILLUSIONIST. The rest of the movies, I just never heard of it before :)

  25. Julia - I think you would enjoy all three of those, Julia. :-)

  26. The Illusionist has been on my wishlist for ages.. (anything with Edward Norton ;) and after reading your review I still can't drop it ;)

    Where do you find the time to write mini-movie-reviews? I keep starting them but they always end up in draft :\

  27. Gnoegnoe - I can't resist an Edward Norton film either. :-)

    After a long dry spell, I was bitten by the blog post writer bug. I'm not sure I really have time to write mini-movie reviews. They just sort of happen. I think lowering my standards helps too. I just can't seem to get good at writing them and so I give up and post them anyway.

  28. I was so terrified of Liam Neeson after watching Taken - wow. He's not even the bad guy, but the force of his intensity was SO strong - much scarier, to me, than the real baddies. He's such a great actor!

  29. Elizabeth - Liam Neeson's character was definitely not one to mess with! His daughter was so lucky to have him given the situation she was in.


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