January 15, 2010, - 4:35 pm

Weekend Box Office: Book of Eli, Lovely Bones, Spy Next Door, Teardrop Diamond, Crazy Heart

By Debbie Schlussel

Nothing really bad at the box office, and with the exception of “The Book of Eli” (which is pretty good) nothing really great.  The screening of “The Spy Next Door” was on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, so I couldn’t attend that.  But out of dedication to you, my dear readers, I went to the Midnight screening, last night, to check it out so I could review it for you.  As always, you can listen to my reviews on “The Mike Church Show” on the Sirius Patriot Channel 144, every Friday Morning after 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Here’s the rundown:




*  “The Book of Eli“:  This is yet another doomsday movie, but it’s a pretty good one.  It’s part morality tale, part action hero movie. Beware, though, it’s very bloody, a few scenes of graphic dismembering, and several killings, as well as at least one attempted rape.  It’s good to see a movie coming out of Hollywood, where the religious man–the righteous and moral man–is the hero, the good guy.  It’s also good to see the Bible respected.  Not the usual Hollywood scheme.  The bad guys are actually the bad guys here.

Denzel Washington plays Eli, one of the few good guys left with the strength to survive and the morals that are lacking in the world in the setting of this film.  I loved the religious theme of the movie, in which Washington has one of the last Bibles in existence and sets about preserving it and keeping it from villains who would use it to do evil.  But I could have done without the shot of a Christian Bible and the Jewish TaNaCh (the Jewish Bible or the Torah, Nevi’im–Prophets, and Ketuvim–Writings) next to a Koran, at the end of the movie . . . as if all three are morally equivalent.

The story:  a big war has happened in the world and much has been destroyed in the aftermath, with the bright sun and other atmospheric events destroying much of what’s left.  After the war, “they” (we’re not told whom, but apparently it’s a reference to the powers that be) burned and destroyed most of the remaining Bibles.  Eli has one of the few Bibles left, and he’s headed West through the desolation that America has become.  On the way, he encounters humans who are now mostly thugs, rapists, murderers, and then cannibals.  But Eli is something of a nimble action hero and best them all.

Soon, Eli finds himself in a small town, run by a mobster-like Gary Oldman.  The whole town’s population are essentially his slaves.  Oldman is searching for a Bible, but the thugs that work for him can’t read, and bring him Oprah magazine, and Harlequin romances.  But no Bible.  He wants to use the Bible to further enslave people in his own town and other towns he’s planning to establish.  Eventually, Oldman discovers that Eli has one.  And the rest of the movie is the fight between Eli and Oldman and his thugs, and Eli’s attempted escape to the West to get to where there is still, reportedly, civilization.  Key is the protection of his Bible.  Can’t tell you much more, or I’d give away the movie.

Mila Kunis seems a little out of place as Eli’s young eventual accomplice/sidekick.  She and her mother, played by Jennifer Beals, live in fear of Oldman, and they try to help Eli.

Entertaining but dark and not for the faint of heart.


*  “The Lovely Bones“:  People who’ve read the book tell me this is pretty close to the story of the Alice Sebold novel upon which it’s based, but for a rape and murder scene, which were left out of the movie.

Saoirse Ronan plays a Susie Salmon, a teen in high school in the ’70s, who is abducted and murdered by a creepy, child-molesting neighbor, played by Stanley Tucci.  At first, this tears her middle class, suburban American family apart.  But soon, it brings them together, as her sister and father don’t give up in trying to find out what happened to their sister/daughter and who is responsible.  In the meantime, Susie (Ronan) is in the world between earth and heaven.

While I found it somewhat entertaining on a creepy level, I could have done without the constant animated psychadelic scenes of what the realm between earth and heaven looks like.  While that’s a significant part of the book, I felt it took away from the movie.  Also, I found the abrupt ending very unsatisfying and cold.  Cold is probably the adjective that best fits the entire flick.

This movie really isn’t for kids, and it’s very dark.  Still, I found it mildly entertaining, if very slow moving.  It’s not a great movie, but it’s not terrible.  And, ironically, as much as I dislike her and her politics in real life, Susan Sarandon, as the mother-in-law in this movie, is funny and the only cheery thing therein.  Also stars real-life criminal thug and attempted murderer Mark Wahlberg as the kidnapped girl’s father.


*  “The Spy Next Door“:  I found this kids’ movie to be kind of boring and uninspired.  It lacked a magic and charm a good kids’ movie usually possesses.  But it’s fine for kids and family entertainment.  Jackie Chan plays a nerdy next-door neighbor who  is dating single mother Amber Valetta.  Her kids hate him and think he’s a total geek.  But that’s a cover.  Secretly, he’s a Chinese intelligence agent on loan to the CIA.  He battles a Russian criminal mobster-type while babysitting and attempting to win over the kids.  Lots of action, but yet not that entertaining to even an action movie junkie like me.  Young boys might like it.  To me it was just, eh. And the presence of Billy Ray Cyrus, complete with chick hairdo and highlights, didn’t help. I’m not sure which job he’s worse at: actor or father.


*  “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond“:  This is what you’d expect from your basic Tennessee Williams material.  Lots of depressing scenes of people with sexual angst that eventually sort of resolves itself.  Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s daughter) plays a wealthy Southern belle and debutant, whose father has been dynamiting and destroying irrigation ditches relied upon by sharecroppers.  She recruits and employs the  handsome, down-and-out grandson (Josh Evans) of a former Governor to be her date to debutante balls and parties, and aggressively tries to make him her man, which turns him off.  The slow-moving movie is their kabuki dance with really bad Southern accents.


*  “Crazy Heart“:  Jeff Bridges is excellent as a washed-up, alcoholic, aging country singer, who tours the country at small bars and romances a younger Maggie Gyllenhaal, the homely actress who said America deserves, is to blame for 9/11.  Unfortunately, the movie isn’t nearly as good as Bridges is.  It’s kind of old hat–the movie in which an aging has-been, who’s made a mess of his life, gets the young girl, but he can’t get his act together, so he loses the girl (and in this case, at least in my opinion, that ain’t no loss).  We’ve seen it a million times over.

What’s striking is how much Bridges resembles Kris Kristofferson in this movie.  It’s uncanny.  And he sings all of the songs in the movie, in a voice that resembles Waylon Jennings.  So, too, does Colin Farrell, who plays Bridges’ younger former singing partner, now a big star.  Both have the excellent singing chops in their own right.

Been there, seen this.  And it’s depressing to boot.  But can’t discount Bridges’ excellent performance in a not so excellent flick.


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18 Responses

I can’t remember a time during your movie recaps/reviews where at least one ‘Marx’ did not appear….

I’ll expect the ‘Marx’s to be back next week, please

mrbshamrock on January 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I wonder if Bridges is as big a left-winger as Kristofferson is? I’m a fan of his work and know he is a pretty liberal guy, but he seems to keep his views to himself. Kristofferson is a big fan of Howard Zinn. I guess that’s all you need to know about him. It’s no wonder he got into with Toby Keith back in 2003 at a Willie Nelson tribute. I don’t know how Keith can’t stand hanging out with these America-hating morons.

Daniel Middleman on January 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Don’t know about Bridges politics, but he may be the most under-rated actor of the past 30 years. He consistently puts out really interesting and good movies. I especially liked him in Tron, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Big Lebowski and The Jagged Edge.

    GianniV on January 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Bridges IS good, in just about everything he’s done. One of his lost treasures of the 1970’s, “Rancho Deluxe”, is well worth looking for.
Debbie, I’m wondering how much Maggie Gyllenhaal knocked down your score-if the part had been played by Alison Lohman, for example…higher rating?

Douglas Q on January 16, 2010 at 12:30 am

Not having seen “Eli” yet, I’m interested to know if that scene with the 3 books, side by side, at the end of the movie was added to make it appear more “PC”, or was it an intrinsic
part of the story, i.e…were the other books mentioned at all or referred to as being as important as the Bible in the movie.

Never put it past the “higher ups” to say, “hey, we’ve got to show these other books too…we’ve got to market this to the foreign audience as well”.

Dave on January 16, 2010 at 2:55 am

    Wow, you and the reviewer are clearly what is wrong with the world. The Bible may be ‘morally superior’ to you but it is not to billions of other people, show some respect!

    sandra on January 16, 2010 at 8:46 am

Dave, to answer your question, the Bible (King James version, no less!) was given extreme reverence in the movie; the Koran was included, it seemed to me, as a very quick and minor afterthought (along with Shakespeare’s collected plays and other “great books”). During the movie, 23rd Psalm was recited; the message of the Gospels was correctly stated; saying grace was shown to be precious–this was one highly religious and pious film and conservatives will have small cause to object. I myself was shocked that this movie sneaked past the liberal Hollywood censors. In addition the action sequences in the first half of the movie were very strong, Denzel showing both restraint and lightning capability (we’re in the Bourne era, I guess, where heroes possess superhuman speed). I agree with you, Debbie, that Mila’s pretty face alone isn’t enough to carry her through what the Hughes Brothers intend as an epic of sorts.

I liked The Spy Next Door okay, though I cringed at the lame jokes and crudely drawn spy sequences which were targeted to six-year-old boys. When you are six, everything needs to be very obvious or it gets lost. So I cringed when the screenwriter played to his main audience. The best part of the movie was the way Jackie Chan winsomely built up relationships with a group of three severely mischievous and obstinate kids. Not that this part was exaggerated; step-fathers and mothers really do have to deal with this sort of exasperating defiance and unruliness.

Lovely Bones: perverse and lurid mixed with cutesy, gratingly obvious and cloying–a loathsome combination. This Peter Jackson movie has much in common with the director’s earlier movie which mixed suburban murder with kids and fantasy (Heavenly Creatures), but this is worse. Wahlberg was nauseating. Also, I did not, like you, Debbie, find Sarandon entertaining–she was as unpleasantly overdrawn as the other characters. I didn’t mind the psychedelic fantasy as much as you, either (fantasy is Peter Jackson’s auteur trademark, after all); it wasn’t enough to save the movie, though.

Burke on January 16, 2010 at 9:12 am

hi sandra. unfortunately you are misinformed on the koran. it is basically a plaguerization of the bible and torah, with a whole lot of arab supremecism thrown in. it is unfortunate that “billions” of other people respect this “religion” because that mean “billions” of women, gays, apostates, and anyone who does not tow old mo’s pbuh line are suffering.
by the way, why don’t you read some of the hadiths on mohammed. these are writings of the “prophet” by his followers. pleasent guy old mo. marrying a 6 yr old when he was in his 50’s. banging her when she was nine. beheading anyone who questioned his prophethood. real christ like figure.

attila the american on January 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm

At least he believed that Jesus is the Messiah and will return to defeat the anti Christ, unlike a certain other religion who whole heartedly rejects the notion that the messiah had already come.

Good thing all 3 books are all words of men and none of it is true.

Nak on January 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    “At least he believed that Jesus is the Messiah and will return to defeat the anti Christ, unlike a certain other religion who whole heartedly rejects the notion that the messiah had already come.

    Good thing all 3 books are all words of men and none of it is true.”

    Uh, yea, those stupid Jews cant accept Jesus even though the NT quotes the Old Testament out of context to prove a case that he was the messiah.

    Second, I dont see the point of your post. “At least he believed that Jesus is the Messiah and will return to defeat the anti Christ” makes no sense if you said the content in all 3 books is false.

    vigilante25 on January 18, 2010 at 5:13 am

Not to pile on, but sandra, please!
” The Bible may be ‘morally superior’ to you but it is not to billions of other people, show some respect!
sandra on January 16, 2010 at 8:46 am”

I show respect to those ‘billions of other peoples’ by being honest with them to their faces. My faith tells me to not bow down to false idols. So I don’t.
You could practice what you preach by respecting Debbie’s faith.

Douglas Q on January 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm

excellent reviews! I shall givelovely bones a chance then! 🙂

lindap on January 16, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I will see Eli but no to the bones. Way too depressing for me.
Denzel Washington was not a favorite of mine for a while until it was found that he took a tour of a specialized VA hospital. He asked how much one of them cost to build and cut a check. Just that alone makes me like the mans work and person.

Joe on January 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

“Billy Ray Cyrus, complete with chick hairdo and highlights didn’t help….” Debbie that was a Classic line.

“But out of dedication to you, my dear readers, I went to the Midnight screening last night to check it out so I could review it for you.” Debbie, you Rock with statement.

CaliforniaScreaming on January 17, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Don’t forget Jeff Bridges in “Starman.” Karen Allen was good in that one, as well, but the whole movie hinged on Bridges’ performance, and thus succeeded.

jc15 on January 18, 2010 at 6:14 pm

anyone know about the movie legions?

Ray on January 18, 2010 at 11:25 pm

One of Jeff Bridges’ best movies is the “Fisher King” when he played the Shock Jock on the mend after a mad fan shot up a diner in Manhattan and do not forget he was the evil corporate CFO of Stark Enterprises in “Iron Man” so he does toe the liberal line in some movies.

TN Movie Buff on January 31, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Just saw “Book of Eli.” Everyone should see it. Probably the most overtly religious “non-religious” movies I have ever seen. You could kill a good couple of bottles of wine afterwards debating everything in it. I have to be careful not to give things away, but near the end when Denzel quotes St. Paul my wife pinched me because I had tears in my eyes. Everyone is right about Kumis; she’s not in Washington’s league as an actor, but I loved the homage the Hughes brothers do at the end of the movie when Mila looks just like Linda Hamilton from Terminator II.

gmartinz on February 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

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