Friday, January 9, 2009

Movie Reviews: Valkyrie, Benjamin Button, Yes Man

First, a confession.

One of the many quirky things about me is that I refuse to watch movie previews. Most of them today completely ruin the movie - either telling you the entire plot or making it obvious what the big twist is going to be. They are infuriating!

Therefore, when I'm with my wife or someone else at the movies, I make them talk to me (very quietly) during the previews. If I go alone, which I sometimes do to take a break from writing, I listen to my iPod very loudly with eyes closed until the previews are over. Commercials on TV? I either mute it or fast forward. I don't read reviews, which are usually worse than the previews in giving things away!

Sidenote: a lot of my friends and family ruthlessly make fun of me for seeing movies alone. Which I think is funny. People watch TV alone all the time. What's the difference? If you don't have the self confidence to see a movie by yourself, worried that people will think you're a loser, then go take some self-esteem classes! (I'm just kidding here - I'm a complete dork for going to movies by myself, but I don't care.)

Anyway, if you think I'm psycho, I issue you a challenge. Try it. Movies are SO MUCH BETTER when you don't know ANYTHING about them beforehand. Trust me on this. Now, does this mean you'll see some lemons? Yes. But you can usually at least tell from the poster/ actors/ director/ writer whether or not it'll be halfway decent. And you'll have some movie experiences that you'll never forget. Try it.

Sometimes its impossible. But I've gotten very good at it. Movies are my second love behind books, and avoiding previews has made it all the richer. I'm not pyscho! Try it!

I thought you'd find that interesting. And the reason I thought of it was because I did accidentally see the preview for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. And they basically told you the entire plot for two full minutes. And I honestly think that's why I REALLY liked it, but didn't really LOVE it, as I did our first movie of the reviews:


I'd wanted this movie to be good since the first time I heard about it. I love WWII history, I love Tom Cruise (despite his interesting off-field shananigans), and I loved the other cast members. I was a little worried about the X-Men and Superman Returns (blah) director being in charge of a history movie, but I still couldn't wait. But he also did one of the greatest movies EVER: The Usual Suspects.

Then I spent the last year ignoring all the bad press about it, and then the massive marketing campaign, and then the early reports that Tom Cruise had performed one of the worst acting jobs in history.

Bullocks. So he didn't use a German accent. THAT would've made it stupid. I thought he was great, the Tom Cruise I know and love. This movie, despite knowing the ending because obviously Adolf Hitler was not assassinated, gripped me from beginning to end. You can feel the unbelievable stress of taking on such a monumentally risky operation, and there's never a dull moment. Plus, it was so moving to see the bravery of these men, to see that there were people in that regime willing to do whatever possible to topple the evil that had taken over their homeland, knowing the slightest mistake meant certain death for them.

I loved it. I really, really loved it.


I did really like this movie. Despite being almost 3 hours long, I can only remember maybe a 10 minute stretch where I "kinda" got bored. And there were so many good things about it. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were great, but they were almost overshadowed by the supporting actors. The music was great. The directing, the cinematography. The writing was excellent. The makeup and digital enhancements for the aging and "younging" process are so amazing you won't believe it. And the narrator constantly throws out these little tidbits of wisdom that have still stayed with me.

An example, and I'm paraphrasing: Our lives are defined by our opportunities, often by those we fail to pursue.

As long as you go into it knowing it's long, I think you'll really like it.


I'll keep this short and simple. Liked it, laughed a lot, loved Jim Carrey. And the movie was surprisingly touching and inspiring. My only warning: do NOT see this with little kids or, even worse, your mom or mother in law!!!!!!! There's a small scene we absolutely couldn't believe was in a PG-13 movie. (And trust me, I'm not a prude.)

Well, there you have it. My first movie reviews in many months. I need to do that more. I'm not really a movie critic - I try to go in with an open mind and enjoy it if it's at all possible. I love movies. I love movies!!!!!!!

Have a great weekend. Go catch a flick.


Luisa Perkins said...

I am EXACTLY THE SAME when it comes to wanting to know nothing about a movie! It makes the whole experience loads better.

I also love seeing movies by myself. Thanks for the reviews!

Magenta said...

That sounds like a very neat policy. Don't watch previews. I might try it one time, but I think it would be hard for me to resist, because I kind of rely on previews to tell me if the movie's good or not. But I'll try it out on at least one movie this year and see what happens.

Kelly M said...

What I think is really funny is that you don't like reading movie reviews but yet you write them on your blog! But I'm glad you do because I really like to read movie reviews. :)And I agree that I hate previews that outline the entire plot, beginning to end, and that have all the funny parts in them. Lame. Maybe I'll stop watching them too.

Hey- when some of your books get made into huge motion pictures you'll have to put some word in to not give away too much in the preview. Stick to your policy. (Do authors have that power?)

Anyway, thanks for the reviews! I'm really excited to see all three of those sometime.

J.N. Future Author said...

you don't watch previews? interesting.

my friend doesn't watch commercials. but that's because he says if he watches them once, then the next time they will be boring (odd policy)

I wanted to see yes man....but i did hear there was one scene that was.....not supposed to be there. my whole family saw it! but I was off having a party at a friends house

LouMac said...

I wanted to see Valkyrie and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Now I definitely want to see all of them. Thanks James for the suggestions and inputs. That helps me decide what things I should do.

Worldbuilder Robin said...

I like watching previews in the movie theater because over half the time that's how I find out about movies in the first place. I don't like watching previews on TV because they show the same thing over and over and over and over until you can't wait for the movie to come out so that they'll STOP SHOWING THE COMMERCIALS. This is especially true of R-rated movies and the like.

And there was a huge media blitz for Valkyrie? I never saw any of it... I didn't even know what it was about until your review.

As for going to the movies alone, I hate doing that because 1) it makes me feel kinda guilty that I get to see a movie that the rest of my family doesn't see, and 2) I don't have anyone to talk to about the movie afterward. As far as I can recall, I've only ever seen one movie alone in a theater, and that was because I was alone at the time (moved ahead of my family to start the new job).

Anonymous said...


Well, I *guess* I can still be your friend even though you liked "Benjamin Button"--which I did not. I'll spare you my rant about the movie, but in short, there went three hours of my life I'm never getting back.

Valkyrie on the other hand totally rocked! Loved it! Funny story: when Albritch (spelling?) is waiting by the phone to learn if the plan succeeded and Hitler was dead, Tracy and I heard faintly filtering from the neighboring theater "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. I didn't want to laugh during such a suspensful moment, but I couldn't help it. :)

And if you are in the mood for more good WWII Nazi movies, check out "Conspiracy" with Kenneth Branaugh. It's a chilling look at how the Nazis planned out the Holocaust over lunch one afternoon.

And if you want a good book to read set in WWII Germany, I can't recommend highly enough "The Book Thief." Read it. Thank me later.


Q said...

I confess: I have seen the Valkyrie preview I wish it didn't look so violent. Was it very violent? It has such a cool premise. And the name totally intrigues me. I love saying it. Valkyrie.

James Dashner said...

Kelly, notice, though, in my reviews I told you just about nothing in terms of plot. Just if I liked it or not. Why can't more people do that?

Lisa, I can't wait to hear your thoughts on BB. And I've already ordered Conspiracy!!!

Q, it's a little violent. Nothing too bad.

Anonymous said...

I think it is kind of funny that you just encourage us to NOT read/watch movie reviews or previews then you write them on your blog;). Can't wait for your next books to come out.

Aaron Brower

Shari said...

I'm glad to know I'm not alone in liking to see a movie without previews. Thanks for the reviews.

Frank Cole said...

Good call on The Usual Suspects. That was a great movie! I actually haven't seen any of the ones you reviewed, but I did Gran Torino. Gotta love Clint Eastwood.

Heather Moore said...

Odd Thomas: GREAT.

Funny . . . Before I see a movie, I try to find out everything about--I read the reviews, I watch various trailer clips, etc. I discuss it with my friends, I check out all the theaters before deciding exactly which one will offer the best experience.

I saw all 3 of those movies too. My ratings:

Benjamin Button: WAY OVER-RATED. I about fell asleep at multiple points. Had to sip some Coke. It was just TOO LONG and dragged several times. Wished I would have bought those $4.00 Milk Duds.

Valkyrie: Loved it (and I am NOT a Tom Cruise fan). My husband watched the documentary on the story though and said he liked the documentary better.

Yes Man: Funny. Classic. Agree about the no kids thing. But that could go for Benjamin Button too.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks for these comments. I've really been wanting to see Valkyrie and now I'm even more wanting.

Totally stoked about your 2nd book coming out, by the way.

Brandon said...

I'm with you on movie previews. If I already know everything about a movie, why should I pay to see it? It's dumb.

That said, if there's a movie I sort of want to see but not really, I'll read reviews by critics I generally agree with to help me make up my mind.

Haven't seen any of the movies listed in this post, mostly because I am a movie snob. I think I watched seven moves in the theaters in 2008.

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