Taking Woodstock

taking_woodstockSwanner: In Taking Woodstock, Elliott Teichberg helps his parents run a motel in the Catskills during the summer of 1969. Trying to find ways to improve the attendance, Elliott makes a few calls to offer up his town as a venue for a music festival called Woodstock. Taking Woodstock gives you an idea of what hosting one of the biggest concerts of all times was like. I think it’s a trip worth taking.

Judd: You must be high. The movie is from the company Focus Features, which usually means excellent script, direction and acting with an indie feel. Taking Woodstock had the pedigree covered with Imelda Staunton, Emile Hirsch, Lieve Schreiber, Paul Dano and director Ang Lee. But the movie itself was a weak tale of nostalgic pining and overblown stereotypes.

Swanner: I have to argue with you because I do remember the time period and it felt very authentic to me. To you it may seem foreign since, now a days, this only exists in crazy compounds in the hills and rundown apartments in the Haight. I also liked that the film was a behind the scenes look at how all this madness happened. As far as the stereotyping…I’m not sure to who you are referring. If it’s the hippies, that was spot on. They were like that. It was horrible and the peace and love crap was everywhere. Looking back it’s hysterical and they capture it beautifully. I thought the script did a really nice job creating characters and situations that kept me interested to the end. Maybe you needed to be high to relax and take the journey man.

Judd: Trust me, I know hippies are filthy freeloaders that believe “labels are for cans” and other such nonsense. It was Staunton’s money hungry Jew that put me off. The only thing that could have made her character anymore clichéd is if she did a song and dance number with Zero Mostel. Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. None of the characters had any depth. The gay subplot with Elliot and Schrieber’s transexualism felt tacked for the sole reason of representing the sexual revolution of the time. Neither issue did anything to add to the plot. Let’s not forget the pointless kid with the Roger Daltry hair who kept everyone cool and feelin’ groovy. His part could have been cut completely and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Swanner: Like I said earlier, I remember these people. Jonathan Groff character was perfect for the time. Not to mention he made me laugh every time he showed up to make things feel groovy. Imelda Staunton was a bit over the top but it’s a comedy and stereotypes are expected in comedies for…lets say it together!!! Comic relief! The gay subplot you mentioned is a factual part of the story so maybe they didn’t carry it through enough for you but how many other movies have you seen this summer that had a gay character in them, no less an open mouth, man on man kiss or a 6’2 transgender woman. Look, I hate hippies too but as a reminder on why I dislike the peace and love crowd, Taking Woodstock does it’s job. I see the movie a slice of life film where I think your hatred for these lazy, smelly, urinate in public, eating out of dumpsters, go out and get a freakin job acidheads has really jaded this experience for you.

Judd: I hate hippies, but hippies are not the reason I disliked the movie! The movie is thin and underdeveloped. The characters are shallow and the plot and all subplots go nowhere. Nothing is ever resolved with Elliot and his budding homosexuality. Nothing is resolved with the local townsfolk who harass the Teichberg family for hosting Woodstock and inviting the hippies into town. The actual concert is never addressed. I expect more from Focus Features – but then again we are entering September and maybe this is one of the crappy movies their trying to purge from their inventory before Oscar Season.

Swanner: Man you are bringing me down. All you do is bitch. Slice of life doesn’t always get resolved. If you want everything resolved at the end then you need to watch the Brady Bunch. 22 minutes later all is well with the world. The only things I didn’t like in the film were the few scenes at the actual Woodstock event otherwise I had a good time. Underdeveloped is what the 60’s were all about…sometimes you have to let art just flow over you. Take a pill and stop being one.

Judd: Look man, I catch your vibe, but like, this movie was not copacetic, not by far, man. It was square, you dig? It was flat, man, real flat. Like, taking a bunch of clichés and stereotypes does not a movie make, man. There wasn’t any love in it, and isn’t that what 1969 and Woodstock was about all about, man? Love? This was just a bunch of cutouts, man, like moving on the screen and saying words, but the words don’t mean anything. You dig? There are better stories out there, man, this one’s not worth the green.

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 1 Star

Post Grad

85772_A_1Sht_R3:1 SHEET MASTER (CTP READY)Swanner: Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) has just graduated from college and now according to her plan she should be getting a job at a publishing house in Los Angeles. After the job goes to someone else Ryden must rethink her plan as she moves in to her parents house. That is the premise of the new Post Grad. This film also stars Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett all under used in this film.

Judd: Under used… Gurl, you got that right. Post Grad is a romantic comedy, so of course I went in ready to hate it, and hate it I did. Post Grad is about as in depth as a made-for-TV movie. It follows the old formula of boy loves girl, girl uses boy as eunuch sidekick, girl finds out how much she really loves boy. Unfortunately, Posts Grad really doesn’t take the plot any further than that.

Swanner: Overall I was disappointed with the movie. it’s not that it’s a really awful movie…it’s a very likable TV movie. They had all the tools to make this a good movie but then I think they had a problem figuring out which story to tell. They have the boy meets girl thing twice and than they have the “it’s all about the family” story which they seem to only go there for a cheap pratfall. It’s such a mess that I really can’t point out the one single thing that’s wrong here.

Judd: The movie had something good with the family, with Michael Keaton as the dad, Jayne Lynch as the mom, and Carol Burnett as the grandma. Too bad the script and director didn’t use them to their full potential. There were some excellent visual jokes that involved Burnett and they were all thrown away. Instead we were forced to endure a prop Eskimo Pie that everyone one seemed to keep in their purse.

Swanner: I love how when the film finally starts to comes together it swerves straight to romantic comedy hell. It takes what might have been a real solid ending and pussies out. When she does finally get everything she hoped for she tosses it aside for a man…BLAH!!!! Not on my watch!!!

Judd: Wait… What? You’re upset that she got her man? I don’t know you anymore!

Swanner: That wasn’t even her man. It’s that tired story of the girl that never realized the right man of her dreams was there all along. She’s 22 years old and had the job of her dreams and she’ll throw it away for a man…really!!!

Judd: I agree with you, but I’m surprised you’re saying it. I hate the Mr. Right was there all along plot. How would you have wanted it to end?

Swanner: She becomes successful in the new job and when she starts working on both coast she can re-hook up with Mr. Right only to find that he’s moved into a cute studio in the village with a guy named Kyle.

Judd: My goodness! And I’m supposed to be the bitter one.

Swanner: 1 ½ Stars
Judd: No stars

Inglourious Basterds

inglourious-basterds-poster-officialJudd: Quentin Tarantino is back putting his spin on the Nazi movie in his original film Inglourious Basterds – which is NOT based on the 1977 film Inglourious Bastards. Basterds stars Brad Pitt and Eli Roth, but the actor to watch in this film is German actor Christoph Waltz.

Swanner: Damn you…stealing my thunder. Yes, there is a new Tarantino film but all fades to the performance of Christoph Waltz. When you’re watching a movie and all you can focus on is one performance. Think Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry or Heath Ledger in Dark Knight. That is how amazing his performance is and it should be recognized. Waltz did win best actor at Cannes this year but that’s no guarantee come Oscar time. The actual storyline is about a group of Americans going into occupied France to kill as many Germans as possible who find out they have the chance to take down Hitler and his top three officers.

Judd: The movie – as I soon realized – is not even closely based on real life. The Americans Tom mentioned are not just ordinary Americans. They are Jews that were American born or nationalized before the war and are the baddest assed Jews you’ll ever see on screen. Eli Roth plays what the Germans refer to as the Jew Bear, and his specialty is beating Nazi soldiers to death with his Louisville Slugger. Handsome German actor Til Scweiger plays Sgt Siglitz who’s very handy with a knife. There’s plenty of violence and blood. There’s also plenty of dialog.

Swanner: Plenty of dialog??? The movie is 2:33 and over 50% of the movie is in French and German. If I wanted to read a Tarantino script I would have read through a copy of Pulp Fiction. Tarantino is known for his talky scripts but there are some very long scenes that probably could have been shortened. With all that being said, I still liked the movie. Besides the Oscar worthy performance of Waltz there are many other great performances. Earlier you mentioned Eli Roth, besides being very good he also looked amazingly hot in that wife beater and Brad Pitt’s no-holds-barred country boy is a welcome relief when things get ugly.

Judd: In the beginning of the movie, Tarantino gave us a wink-wink nudge-nudge moment with the German and the French, and I thought he would have used the opportunity to make the whole film English. Unfortunately that was not the case. I think the movie is a departure for Tarantino from his usually campy over the top dialogue and action, but the elements were still there. I also think that while some of the scene were very tight and tense they did very little to develop the plot and with a 153 minute runtime, something needed cut – not Eli Roth in his undershirt.

Swanner: I thought the production design was really good except the lobby of the theatre. I know this is being fussy but hey…it’s what we do. The lobby looked like a set. It distracted me but didn’t so much it spoiled the fun. Can we really call this movie fun? I think we can even thought it was very violent and we’re dealing with Nazis. I think it’s an element that Tarantino bring to the table. He still wants the movie experience an enjoyable one. As much as I hated the length of the film…I really enjoyed the movie and I’m still reeling over Waltz’s performance.

Judd: I would recommend this to hard-core Tarantino fans and people who don’t mind foreign language films. I don’t think the movie is going to do that well because it’s target demographic won’t have the patience for the film and I think the audience that would like the movie will be turned off because it’s Tarantino. It’s not a film for the masses, and I think it’s going to affect it at the box office.

Swanner: I agree it’s going to affect the box office but I think the fans are really going to like it

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 2½ Stars

District 9

district9poster-thumb-450x665Swanner: I remember a time when August was a barren wasteland for movies. that studios would toss out the films they spent too much on just so they could say it was a theatrical release in hopes they could make their money back in DVD sales. Well no more, this august has been a really good month for movies and District 9 tops that list. 20 years ago, an Alien ship came to earth, after months of just hovering over Johannesburg a team makes their way into the ship only to find malnourished aliens. The aliens are moved and held in a camp called district 9. Now that the aliens have outgrown the camp, a new camp is made further away from the city. A group of evictors are sent into the camp to get the aliens to move to their new “homes” and that’s when things start going terribly wrong.

Judd: When Tom and I watched the trailers, we argued whether or not the movie was going to be a horror-comedy or a straight forward slash fest. We were both wrong. What we got a was a movie that was blurred the lines between action film, political message film, and creature feature. Not only did it blur the lines, but it tackled all three genre’s brilliantly. The movie is written and directed by Neil Blomkamp, who grew up in South African during the apartheid.

Swanner: Politically the film is spot on and almost uncomfortable. Even though the Prawns (that’s the name given to the creatures by the Human because of their appearance) are aliens they might as well be any minority that has been ghettoized in the past. Watching the film you see your view of the aliens change from gross horrible creatures to fascinating victims of societies paranoia. The film does have a lot of humor and its placed in just the right spots so we don’t become too disturbed by the mistreatment of the Prawns and the gore that ensues. On the horror/sci-fi angle this film is top notch. With a budget of 30 million dollars, District 9 kicks ass and looks like a movie that should have cost 200 million. Just to give you the comparison, The Ugly Truth cost 38 million dollars to make. Hello???

Judd: Not to mention the suspense. I was on the edge of my seat for the last hour of the movie. I think District 9 really proves how actors and budget are not key to a movie’s quality. I think it’s something that mainstream Hollywood has forgotten. I think the major studios are so afraid of casting the old, ugly and unknown that a lot of excellent movies that could be made are passed over. A good story doesn’t need to be fluffed with Bruce Willis or Christian Bale. If it’s good there will be an audience. District 9 is good.

Swanner: I haven’t been this excited about a movie in a while. It’s so original even though it not really an original idea. It just goes to show you that a great script and an inspired director can make something special. I think if this had been made with a major movie star it would have lost its focus. This movie makes you concentrate on the story and the characters and not on how much screen time the star gets. We keep seeing these movies with little or unknown cast that are making the mainstream movies look like crap. As much as I liked Transformers 2…this film is better.

Judd: Oh please! This movie makes Transformers, Terminator and even Star Trek look like B-movies with a bloated budget. If I had to complain about anything in District 9, is that it was a little heavy on the shaky cam, which unfortunately is the gimmick du jour in movies these days. God, I’ll be glad when movie makers finally get tired of that crap. I wish I could write them all a letter and tell them I know I’m watching a movie that’s supposed to be out in the field of war somewhere, I don’t need the headache that comes along with it!

Swanner: I’d suggest that people see this movie in the theatres. Don’t wait to see it because this movie will send a message to studio’s that it time to get back to making great movies that make money and not just pay movie stars lots of money and then hope for the best. District 9 is one of those movies we’ll be talking about at the end of the year’

Judd: Absolutely. Not only will it send a message to the studios, but there is no better to watch a great action movie than on the big screen.

Swanner: 4 Stars
Judd: 4½ Stars

The Goods

the_goods_posterSwanner: When a car dealership is having a hard time selling autos they sometime call in used car liquidators like Don Ready, played by Jeremy Piven, who will come in to breath new life into the dealership. That is the premise of The Goods which opens in theatres this week with a great cast of characters and a very funny script.

Judd: I liked The Goods, but I thought it was a horrible movie. It’s very funny, but it has low production value and it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. It almost felt like it should have been released direct to DVD. I’m actually surprised they were able to get name actors like Piven, Ving Rhames, James Brolin and A-Lister Alan Thicke to do the movie.

Swanner: I think that’s why the movie worked so well. It was made for cheap and it still has some very funny people in it. Like The Hangover proved, you don’t need big stars to make a funny movie. It was a non-stop dirty jokes and you know how I love my R rated comedies. I did hate that they felt that there had to be a love story in this movie. I really wanted more dick jokes and less angsting about where Don Ready’s life has gone. These comedy directors need to understand that the people that want to see this movie don’t give a rats ass about a love story

Judd: WHAT?!?!?! Who are you? What did you do with Tom? The reason they put in a love story is for the big girl like you who needs a little romance. I agree that I did not really appreciate Don Ready’s romantic storyline, it was a little heavy but the rest of the cast all had little romances that were hysterical. Babs Merrick, the sales woman that is in lust with the 10 year old boy that looks like a 30 year old man – I still chuckle thinking about it.

Swanner: The actress that plays Babs is Kathryn Hahn and she really is a stand out in a movie of really funny performances. Before anyone gets freaked out over her lust for the 10 year old, the role is played by Rob Riggle and he’s 39. This is just another example of writers thinking out of the box funny. That what this movie is all about…funny. It never tries to be a great movie…it’s shooting for a cult following and I think they’ll get it. I know I’m looking forward to watching it at home once it hits DVD.

Judd: I agree. This movie is going to be for young car salesmen what Waiting is for the young franchise restaurant waiter and Office Space for the young office schulb. Again, I have to reiterate that it’s not a good movie. I enjoyed it, and I think plenty of people out there who enjoy stupid movies are going to really like it, but it is not a good movie. In fact I’m struggling with what I want to rate it because it was so bad, but so good.

Swanner: I’m going with a solid 2 1/2 stars because I really laughed a lot but it’s a scruffy little movie

Judd: Wait for the DVD

Swanner: 2½ Stars
Judd: 1½ Stars

The Perfect Getaway

perfect-getaway-posterSwanner: Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich play newlyweds honeymooning in Hawaii. Before partaking on a secluded three day hike around one of the islands they hear about the murder of some newlyweds in Honolulu. There hasn’t been any arrests made but they do know it’s a couple. Of course everyone they meet up with on this secluded hike is a couple, so the mystery is…who are the killers?

Judd: The best part of the movie is the amount of skin. The movie certainly isn’t homoerotic by any means, but Timothy Olyphant and newcomer Chris Hemsworth have plenty of shirtless screen time. Olyphant pairs up with Lost’s Kiele Sanchez as a southern couple with military backgrounds that like hunting, knives and weed. Hemsworth pairs up with 11th Hour’s Mary Shelton as a dirty looking couple with bad attitudes.

Swanner: The movie is called a thriller and I think that fits. The title is kind of silly because it makes it sound more like a romantic comedy than a who-done-it. I loved the skin factor here, not to mention the location was beautiful as well. I must admit I went in not liking the film. The preview looking kind of dumb to the point I was mocking it to friends. When Zahn and Olyphant are talking about screenwriting the movie got more interesting…most because of Olyphant, who I think was the best part of this film.

Judd: I went in thinking I was going to like the movie more than I did. It’s newlyweds being murdered, what’s not to love? I liked the movie more at the beginning than I did as it progressed. I struggled with why I didn’t like the movie when we left the theatre, and I’m still can’t put my thumb on it. I know that one issue I had was that the violence came way too late in the movie. I enjoyed Olyphant, but I kept thinking that he was playing a young man’s Billy-Bob Thornton.

Swanner: I can see where you’d get that. Olyphant and Sanchez certainly brought the bigger than life characters to life. Casting wise I did have a problem with Zahn. He’s relied on the cute factor to get him through movies and it wasn’t working here. The rest of the cast was fine but with Zahn as the lead and Olyphant as more of a supporting character it made Zahn’s whiney moment almost unbearable. I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but it’s not till the third act that I even start to believe Zahn’s character.

Judd: I think that was my biggest problem with the movie. I agree with you that Zahn’s character was extremely whiny and “delicate”. The idea that his character would consider a difficult hiking trail to get to a private beach didn’t make sense. There were other similar problems throughout the movie that for some reason really got under my skin. I wasn’t able to look past them and get into the movie.

Swanner: Hurray, we have solved your problem with the film. It didn’t bother me as much as it did you. One other thing about this movie is that people are laughing again in horror films. It’s something that’s been missing. When people are nervous or uncomfortable…they laugh. People also laugh when you can see the plot forming like we did here. Sure it’s predictable but there were enough good lines and awkwardness to push it over the approval line for me. Which is funny since those were the reasons I hated Orphan. I guess hot guys with very little on can win me over compared to evil children with hammers.

Judd: And see, I would rather watch a child bash in a nun’s skull than a shirtless Timothy Olyphant… Wait a minute. What the hell is wrong with me?

Swanner: I’m questioning that myself as well

Swanner: 2 Stars
Judd: 1 Stars

500 Days Of Summer

poster_500DAYS_FINALJudd: Leave it to my best friend, Joseph Gordon Levitt, to pick a role in one of the most enjoyable romantic comedies that I’ve ever seen. 500 Days of Summer tells the story of a couple that don’t quite work out and the highs and lows of love in an honest, funny movie so good it should have been based on a book.

Swanner: What makes this movie so different is it’s a romantic comedy but from the male point of view. Tom is just you’re regular hopeless romantic (who, in most films, would have been played by Katherine Heigl or Sandra Bullock) looking for what we all look for. “The One”. Zooey Deschanel plays Summer Finn, the girl Tom Hanson (Levitt) thinks is “the one” but Summer thinks differently. She not looking for anything serious, she wants to keep things casual.

Judd: Don’t you DARE befoul this movie by using actresses like Heigl or Bullock for comparison! 500 Days of Summer is nothing like any piece of crap those two hags would star in! 500 Days of Summer is different because Hanson is allowed to wallow in his misery without his friends cheering him up and he doesn’t meet someone else ½ way through the film. Judd Apatow has built his career on guy-centric romcoms, and as much as I like him, even he can’t escape the clichés.

Swanner: Down boy…I’m agreeing with you here. If you breakdown the average romcom they are the same but the Tom Hanson character is what makes this script different. Tom Hanson is us. He’s not one of Apatow’s cool, funny, who-doesn’t-love-him characters… He’s real and he demands special treatment. The script does that for him. The clever way it bounces around the 500 days is genius and my buddy Joseph Gordon Levitt was so spot-on that I almost felt like I was imposing on his life.

Judd: I really enjoyed the fact that when the movie fell to standard romcom conventions, it did so tongue in cheek. The dance number after Tom spends his first night with Summer is very cute, but done in such an over the top way that it laughs at itself. I also liked they way it juxtaposed the good and the bad of a relationship. One moment their running through IKEA as the happy couple then next moment, 200 days later, they’re fighting in the aisles. Instead of seeing the relationship deteriorate over time, it instantly goes to crap, which gives the scenes emotional heft.

Swanner: This is everything you want in a romcom or an independent film. it works on so many levels I can’t imagine anyone that wouldn’t like it. This film really has the potential of being a very big movie if the studio distributes it right. I overheard a male audience member last night saying “now that was really good”. Now this was a guy I was sure would be running for his car, but the Tom Hanson character spoke to this guy and will speak to guys who get dragged to see movies by their girlfriends. It’s a win win as a date movie and it’s definitely a win win for critics that have to see a lot of very average movies. I’m stoked up about this movie and want everyone to see it because then, just maybe, we’ll start seeing more films that take chances and break from the tired old traditions.

Judd: I actually liked it – more than that, I loved the movie, and for me to say that about any romantic comedy, you know it has to be above and beyond excellent. I loved its honesty, the genuine emotion and real scenarios. The writing is funny without being slapstick or overly witty. I worry that the film won’t do so well because it strays too far from the formula and it has a very indie feel about it. It isn’t familiar enough to draw the women that normally see movies like this.

Swanner: I have much more faith than you do in this film. I think the word of mouth is going to be incredible. We have forgotten to mention three people, Marc Webb the director and Scott Neustadter & Michael H Weber the screenplay writers. With very little experience they made one of the best movies of the year. Expect to see 500 Days of Summer on my best picture list.

Swanner: 5 Stars (Yes, that’s five stars)
Judd: 4½ (It’s a romcom, I can’t do five on principle)