The Blind Side

119-blindsidePSwanner: Opening this week is The Blind Side. This is the latest film staring Sandra Bullock, about a white family that brings a under-aged, oversized and under-educated black teenager into their home and family guiding him ultimately to be picked 23rd overall in the 2009 NFL draft. Toeing the line between sports movie and heartwarming family film, The Blind Side succeeds at both. Brian didn’t want to see this movie … saying he didn’t think he could handle it.

Judd: Ugh, Sandra Bullock being a sassy, Southern woman donating her time, tough-love and abundant resources to aid an underprivileged youth. Was there a moment in the film where it was nothing but Bullock under a spot addressing the Academy directly pleading for an Oscar? Not that there needed to be such a moment seeing that the whole movie is a giant sham built around the most winnable formula. From the trailers alone, you can literally hear the producers sitting around a table talking about what elements from past recipients will increase the odds of a win.

Swanner: See you are almost totally wrong with this movie. Sandy plays Leigh Anne Touhy, a firm and a little sassy southern woman who never plays to the camera (or the Academy) and the movie tells a really inspirational story that never tries to go for the four hanky free-for-all that we see in so many movies of this type. The film is based on Michael Lewis’s book “The Evolution of the Game”, who also wrote the script with director John Lee Hancock, which follows the families fight to change this young mans life. You would have liked this film more than you think. I’m not saying you would have loved it but I don’t think you would have hated it.

Judd: Well then they should have advertised the movie better, because I kept waiting for the single glycerin tear to run down Bullock’s face. I figured they were saving the real waterworks for the movie, Tammy Faye style mascara and all.

Swanner: I agree that the preview looked like every other film of this genre. That would have been fine with me because I like the over the top tearfest but The Blind Side did just that … I never saw this film coming and never thought it was going to be so satisfying. I did want to mention the cast because there are some really good performances. Country music star Tim McGraw does a great job playing Bullock’s supportive husband and Quinton Aaron plays Michael Oher beautifully.

Judd: I don’t believe you, but I’ll soften my stance. At least now I’m curious to see it — at home, with my finger hovering above the fast-forward button ready to strike.

Swanner: Besides Bullock’s wonderful performance I did want to mention her hair and clothing. Her hair was wonderful, she’s lightened it up and it’s a great length to give her a youthful look with a real softness to counter her Proposal’s dark straight boss look and her clothes were just Fabulous!! The Blind Side gives Bullock has her best chance at picking up an Oscar nomination this year if the film does as well as I think it should. I definitely say see this movie if you’re as done with vampires and disaster films as I am.

Swanner: starstarstar½

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Pirate Radio

PirateRadioPSwanner: Opening quietly at the box-office is Pirate Radio, about the how in England in the mid 60’s the government banned rock music from the national radio so boats were anchored off shore playing rock music to the masses. The government wasn’t happy about this and placed Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Braungh) in charge to end the music being broadcast from these ships. The one ship we focus on has a great cast of Brits and American DJ (Phillip Seymour Hoffman as “The Count”). The story follows a newcomer to the boat a young lad (Tom Sturridge) who’s mother sends him to stay with his godfather to straighten out his bad ways.

Judd: This is a movie that disappointed me. Much like Amelia, Pirate Radio was played extremely safe. The movie took place in the mid-60s, with seven disc jockeys plus crew, on a boat broadcasting rock music. You would think they would do a lot more than talk about having sex and doing drugs. Now, I didn’t go in expecting the next Train Spotting, but I wanted something a little grittier than this fluffy slice-of-life movie.

Swanner: They sure did talk it up a lot but didn’t deliver. The first joke was that young man had been sent there to help reshape his life from the downward spiral he was in…and ultimately his life is turned around since there is very little sex or drugs on this evil rock-n-roll ship. I did expect this to be much more lude and gratuitous. We saw more of Nick Frost naked than anyone else in the film. Maybe they were trying to show that “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” is not real. Maybe it’s just good clean fun?

Judd: Honestly, I don’t know who the movie was made for. The soundtrack was excellent, but again the movie was extremely safe. The movie wasn’t even based on factual history. In fact, I read an article from the UK paper The Observer, that the left-leaning Labour Party was responsible for the rock-n-roll shut out. So anyone into the history of rock isn’t going to learn anything. The movie really isn’t even that fun. It’s long, it’s pointless, and even the dramatic ending is on the whiter shade of pale.

Swanner: I found the movie entertaining even though it really didn’t have a storyline. I’m more disappointed knowing the film is even less factual then it felt. I have to give props to the cast for keeping the film moving with their performances. Besides the earlier mentions actors you also have Bill Nighy as Quentin (the man running the station) and Jack Davenport as Twatt (Braungh’s right hand man). All are very funny even without the scripts and drugs. The big standout is the soundtrack and I’m sure it will out sell this sweet little film.

Judd: Eh, I’d rather stay home and watch a Time-Life infomercial. I’d get the same amount of music for a lot less hassle. I recommend the movie as a rental, but I really don’t think it’s worth going to the theatres for.

Swanner: The film was directed by Richard Curtis who wrote the screenplays to 4 weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones Diary and wrote and directed Love Actually so you would think that a storyline would be a must. As I said earlier, I thought the film was funny and the actors were all really good but I really think there could have been a more compelling story based on a bit more fact to make this a whole film. As it is now, it’s a funny movie with a hole in it where the plot should be.

Swanner: starstar
Judd: starstar

2012

2012Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments. “2012” is an epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.

Swanner: Last night I saw the entire west coast fall into the ocean. I watch the carnage of most of the world being destroyed in a flood of biblical proportions … and it only took 2 hrs 40 min. Of course I’m referring to the new film 2012 that opens open at theaters this week. First I must say that I love the theme song sung by Adam Lambert. Secondly it was one of the funniest movies of the year.

Judd: That was Adam Lambert? I thought it was Maureen McGovern. Anyway, 2012 is a ’70s B-grade disaster movie on steroids. It was Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, and Airport all rolled into one. I was waiting for a swarm of Killer Bees, but they never showed. The effects are huge, but when the actors are superimposed in, they look just as cheesy as 1974.

Swanner: Yes it was Adam Lambert. I think you were confused by the cruise ship and the tsunami. It was like mixing a lot of disaster movies rolled in to one big end of all things super disaster movie. Director Roland Emmerich, who is responsible for many of the latest big budget disaster films, has made a no holds barred, kill them all film. The storyline follows a writer (John Cusack) who is trying to save his family from the inevitable. We get to meet a lot of people/victims along the way including Woody Harrelson as a conspiracy nut and Danny Glover as the President of the United States who give him clues as to what is really happening.

Judd: Does the plot really matter? No. This movie is about nothing more than seeing the earth make massive shifts, things blow up and tidal waves wiping out cities. That’s what makes this movie different from the 70s disaster movies. Those movies had plots, 2012 is just one special effect after another. There was a little plot about greed and bed-wetting, but other than that — bupkis.

Swanner: Those movies didn’t have plots … they had characters played by famous actors. It was like Love Boat. This movie is the same. At one point you said they should call in Shelly Winters because they needed someone to swim underwater. I can’t believe you actually went to this movie expecting a plot other than “Run Away!” This film is made for people who like special effects. This has been a bad couple months for you. You hated Bright Star, a little independent period film, and you hated the big obnoxious special effect movie. Where ever will you find sanctuary?

Judd: At least Poseidon Adventure had Gene Hackman turning his back on God. I expected more from 2012 than a little girl with incontinence problems. It has been a bad couple of months — but I expect all of that to turn around with Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox! I would recommend anyone waiting to see 2012 to see it in the theaters for all it’s oversized glory, otherwise it’s a waste of time.

Swanner: 2012 is a big cheesy bucket of a popcorn movie. It delivered what I expected it to deliver … carnage and lots of it.

Swanner: 2½ Stars
Judd: 1½ Stars

The Men Who Stare At Goats

menwhostareatgoatsP“The Men Who Stare At Goats” is quirky dark comedy inspired by a real life story you will hardly believe is actually true, astonishing revelations about a top-secret wing of the U.S. military come to light when a reporter encounters an enigmatic Special Forces operator on a mind-boggling mission.

Swanner: A reporter, bored with his life, goes to the Middle East in search of the BIG story only to meet up with a man who claims he’s part of a secret psychic army the military has been training since the 80’s. George Clooney stars as Lyn Cassady, the most promising psychic soldier.

Judd: Have you ever heard a story that was full of funny details, but the person telling to story didn’t seem to know what the story was about? They just kept talking and talking and you laughed, but after about 20 minutes you thought to yourself, “Is this guy every going to come to a point?” That’s what watching Men Who Stare At Goats was like.

Swanner: A few weeks ago Brian and I were at the Amelia screening and there was an older man talking about his rooster. It wasn’t really a funny story but it was his rambling that made it funny. That’s what the movie was like … a rambling story with no real storyline. The odd thing is that I still liked the movie.

Judd: I have to disagree. I don’t think Goats is funny enough to pull off the Rambling Charlie routine. (We all know a Rambling Charlie). A Rambling Charlie is either funny enough that you laugh with him or so random that you laugh at him. Goats was silly, but not really funny and there weren’t that many WTF moments to keep me completely interested.

Swanner: The way I look at it is that the cast is good and even though the script is all over the place I still laughed a lot. I think the thing I liked best about it was that it was so short. If you’re going to make a movie that is this odd then make it short. Leave me wanting more or just let me leave. I don’t know that I’d tell people to go to the theatre to see it. I think sitting at home and dropping some acid would probably be the way to go with this one.

Judd: I was expecting more from such a great cast. Kevin Spacey, George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Stephen Root should have made Goats a masterpiece, but the script was so meandering and pointless the movie stood still for the first hour of it’s total 87 minute length. If I were to tell someone to rent it I would tell them not to expect much.

Swanner 2½ Stars
Judd 1½ Stars

A Christmas Carol

achristmascarolPSwanner: Last night we went to the screening of Disney’s new 3-D movie A Christmas Carol. My first question is do we really need a yet another version of the Dickens classic. Every TV series that’s on for more than a couple years has their own version of it. We’ve had a couple of musical versions, black and white, animated and yes … even The Muppets took a swing at it so Brian, is there a need for another version of A Christmas Carol?

Judd: Normally I would say no, but I’ve always liked A Christmas Carol. It ends a bit weak, what with the celebrating and the love and the family togetherness crap — but it’s got a real solid beginning that I’ve always enjoyed. So I’ll answer your question with a question, “Why not?” Especially when this Xmas Carol, starring Jim Carry (which in this case is not a liability) directed by Robert Zemekis, is probably the best and creepiest Christmas Carol I’ve seen.

Swanner: The whole Ghost of Christmas Future has always been a bet scary but in this version it was frightening. I remember thinking that it might be too scary for younger kids but you’d tell me younger kids are killing zombies on their PS3’s so a grim reaper is nothing new to them. It was nice to see Scrooge in real terror though. In past incarnations I’m surprised the ghosts haven’t just beat the crap out of Scrooge because he’s such an A-hole!

Judd: I told several of my co-workers with young’uns that this version is very heavy on the scares. I think the movie is probably inappropriate for someone younger than 5 — but of course, that’s part of what makes it so good. The movie felt like it was very close to the original material — Victorian era creepies and all. The movie is visually stunning as well. You tell them about that, because it was in that 3D crap which I think is a cheap gimmick and I won’t give the visuals their due justice.

Swanner: The 3-D was incredible. I’ve never seen it done better and if you’ve seen the latest 3D it’s all done to enhance the scope of the movie … not a lot of silly tricks to get the crowd jumping and gasping. The camera looks through windows and shows you the depth of the window sills and you see the people inside as if you are really looking through a window. The film starts out looking looking into Marley’s coffin and you could feel the walls of the coffin as if you were looking in yourself … really breath taking.

Judd: I won’t say the 3-D was incredible, because I still think it nothing more than a cheap gimmick, but in the case of Christmas Carol it was a gimmick well used. I think it’s going to look really good in IMAX theaters.

Swanner 3 Stars
Judd 3½ Stars

Amelia

ameliaP“Amelia” is a look at the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world.

Judd: I want to start out apologizing to Tom. We had the choice between A Vampire’s Assistant and Amelia, our readers know which one of us wanted to see which movie. Biopic vs Teenage action film. Long story short, I persuaded Tom to see Amelia. Little did I know that there would be a bus from “the home” bringing residents on their monthly outing to the screening.

Swanner: You mean buses. There were 500 people that ate dinner at 4 p.m. at the local Hometown Buffet (early bird special till 5) and they were all sound asleep 30 minutes after the movie started…and were not kidding here. The average age in the theatre was 65 and that’s because Brian and I brought down the average. We over heard people talking about their memories of when Amelia Earhart was still alive.

Judd: And what is it with old people and their lacking sense of personal space? You and I were sitting on the aisle as we always do, there were two empty seats next to me and a row of empty seats in front of us, and then Harold and Esther showed up and took the seats right next to me. I felt like I was flying with Amelia, and let me tell you, I was praying for the plane to go down.
 
Swanner: As far as the movie goes, it was a decent Biopic but there was no wow factor. Look, we know how it ends so you need to give us something compelling to make us follow the characters down the inedible path. She flew planes and was a pretty normal person otherwise … yawn.

Judd: The movie was extremely flat. When she was making these groundbreaking flights aviation was still in its infancy, but I never felt that what she was doing was dangerous. They glossed over her feminism and her liberal views of marriage, which I’m sure was something very controversial at the time. Everything that could have made the movie interesting was dampened. It felt like they were trying to make the movie completely safe and uncontroversial. 

Swanner: I think it’s because the audience for this movie is over the age of 60. There were rumors Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were having an affair but you’re not going to see that in this film. The fact that they glossed over all her affairs shows you how vanilla the film really is. You’re right about the flying sequences…we knew when she was going to die so don’t bother making any other scene scary or exciting. It’s too bad because it should have been a better movie.
 
Swanner: 2 Stars
Judd: 1½ Stars

A Serious Man

aseriousmanPJudd: The Coen Brothers are back this time with another black comedy. A Serious Man, which is more black than comedy, stars Michael Stuhlbarg as a Jewish man whose life is falling apart at the seams and can’t get the help he needs.

Swanner: This movie sure does make family life in the 60’s look like crap. The story centers around Larry Gopnik (Stuhlbarg), a college professor who has a wife ready to leave him, a thirteen year old son who’s on the run from his drug dealer and days away from his Bar Mitzvah and a daughter who washes her hair a lot and is saving up for a nose job. This movie is a call to remain single…it really spoke to Brian.

Judd: The idea that it was 1960’s family life didn’t resonate with me. Gopnik’s problems were so much larger than his family. Here is a man for whom everything is turning to crap, not just his family. I’m actually looking forward to seeing it again because I know that the whole movie was packed with Talmudic symbolism. The Coens love to make their heavier movies superficially entertaining but symbolically complex. They’re geniuses.

Swanner: in other words…I really had no idea what was going on and I still like it. The performances were all really good with a cast made up of nearly all unknowns. I especially liked the production design. The neighborhoods so empty of design and the insides of the homes so hideous with late 60’s crap. Did you notice the ashtrays and the beaded curtains. it was like walking in to a head shop. I was really surprised to see the drug use in this quiet mid-west town.

Judd: I knew what was going on! You don’t have to pick up on all the symbols to know that the man is being tested by God and that his life keeps getting worse and worse. You don’t need a study guide to enjoy the movie, but I don’t think that this movie is going to appeal to general audiences like No Country for Old Men, Fargo or O Brother Where Art Thou did.

Swanner: What about that ending. Those Coen Brother sure do know how to end a movie…Not! I didn’t realize he was being tested by God. See how much I miss when I’m just waiting for the shirtless scenes. I really don’t see me watching the movie again even though I liked it. I think the movie is too much of a downer for me. I think I’ll be watching 27 Dresses again this weekend…care to join me?

Judd: I know Pollyanna, everything is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. If there’s something bad in the world, why think about it? The Winter Formal is right around the corner! Tee-Hee!!! I liked the movie, but then I like to see people suffer, and I do want to see it again.

Swanner 3 Stars
Judd 4 Stars