The Book of Eli - 2 1/2 stars
I liked most of this, but I hated the beginning and the end. Well, not the whole beginning. It just takes 10 minutes or so to get going. I was bored at first, but then Denzel kills a bunch of guys and it gets fun. There is some great action, blood spurting, limbs getting hacked off, all that stuff. But the ending really kills the movie.
I'll admit, the book is nothing but a Macguffin. Denzel has it, the bad guys want it, and it is what drives the plot. But the book turns out to be nothing more than the bible (we know this early on), and what Denzel wants to do with it is kind of lame. Also, what the bad guy (the always fun Gary Oldman) wants it for is also kind of lame. And there is a twist or two at the end that I didn't buy at all. So, the ending sucks but most of the movie is decent.
The Lovely Bones - 2 stars
I'm afraid I didn't like The Lovely Bones very much. There was not enough story to justify the running time. There were far too many scenes of Susie in "the in-between" where nothing happens. She just is there, and we are supposed to be amazed by what she is seeing. But special effects can get boring real fast, no matter how good they are. The scenes look incredible, but most of the time nothing is happening. The movie could have probably lost 30 minutes without impacting the story. I know that Susie narrating the story after her death is what makes this story unique, but I would have preferred the movie without that device.
I thought Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan delivered great performances, but everyone else was just ok in their parts. Susan Sarandon was not given enough to do. When she first shows up to help Rachel Weisz cope, it felt like a bad sitcom for 10 minutes or so. Oh look, she's washing clothes and there are suds everywhere! Oh look, she's cooking and she almost lights the kitchen on fire! That montage felt very out of place in the movie. There is nothing wrong with putting humor in even the darkest stories, but that sequence just didn't work at all for me.
I think anyone can relate to the pain a family would feel if their daughter was murdered, or be repulsed by Tucci's character. But the movie kept me at arm's length emotionally. It should have been easy to get emotionally invested in the characters, and I didn't.
The Spy Next Door - (didn't see this)
A Single Man - 3 stars
The best thing Colin Firth has ever done. Another critic compared it to a gay, darker American Beauty. Maybe, but without the humor. This movie moves pretty slowly. It really makes you feel sorry for his character (his long-time partner has just died). It's interesting hearing his inner monologue at the beginning of the movie. As he is getting dressed, he talks about how he is putting on a different persona to face the world.
There is a bit of flirtation with a student of his and maybe it should be a little creepy (not because of the gay thing but the teacher/student thing). But when the flirtation starts, you are feeling so bad for Firth's character that you want him to find some happiness. I liked the movie, but I'm not sure I'd want to watch it again.
The Horse Boy - 2 stars
This is a documentary about a boy with autism, and how his parents take him to Mongolia hoping that a shaman can cure him. It was a very interesting story and the young boy broke my heart, but overall the movie didn't work for me. There is a stretch of about a half hour towards the end of the movie where nothing much happens. We are just watching them ride horses in Mongolia. The movie opens and closes with some talking heads trying to explain autism, and I was surprised to learn that the experts don't even agree about what exactly autism is.
The main thing I took away from the movie is that you have to have the patience of a saint to raise a child with autism. I have no idea how the parents in this movie do it.