Sherlock Holmes

Swanner: Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law star in Guy Ritchie’s new big budget version of Sherlock Holmes. My question is do we need another version of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories? The story isn’t based on any of the original writings but it definitely feels like it was and much of that comes from a solid script, great production values, snappy editing and tight direction. So is another version necessary? … I say why not.

Judd: I’ve got a friend that came with me to the screening who’s read the Sherlock Holmes books, and she said Downey’s version is closest to the books. Apparently old Holmes had a bit of a cocaine and opiate problem. Anyway, I enjoyed this Sherlock Holmes as directed by Guy Ritchie. I was wondering how Ritchie’s style was going to adapt to Holmes, and the answer is beautifully. This isn’t your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes with his spyglass and deerstalker hat.

Swanner: I liked how they played up how F$%ked up Holmes was and there was sure a lot of sexual tension between Holmes and Watson. I don’t remember that from the Basil Rathbone version. My only problem with the movie was Rachel McAdams; she seemed out of place and kind of bad in the movie. Fortunately she was a supporting character.

Judd: The only sexual tension between Holmes and Watson was in your perverse mind. I understand what you mean about McAdams, but I think it is her youth that played against her. Regardless she was definitely miscast. The performances, otherwise, were excellent. Jude Law was spot on and Downey’s was perfect as the disheveled, ragamuffin Holmes. The pacing is great; you can definitely tell this is a Guy Ritchie movie. I think that’s a good thing, others may think the movie is a little manic.

Swanner: You could tell that Holmes felt something more than friendship for Watson but then it is Jude Law. They actually removed some of the stronger “gay” moments because Ritchie’s fans and the studio executives would freak but that was the plan that there was something more between the boys. Still, I don’t think they even needed “love interests” in the movie. It’s not important … who cares about spouses in a Holmes mystery? I really liked the scenes where they were outside at the bridge and the shipyard. It almost made London attractive but then I remembered what a cold and dirty city is was at that time.

Judd: Removed gay elements? What the hell are you talking about? I can’t find anything that says that outside of gossip sites. Did you know that the Bat Boy is getting married? Anyway, the studios needed Rachael McAdams in the movie for several reasons. One, audiences don’t like a younger asexual bachelor – AND I DON’T MEAN GAY! And two, they needed a woman to sell the movie to the female audience. The movie actually reminded me a lot of the old Columbo show with Holmes being a tousled detective who seemed to stumble his way through the case, but then turns out he had everything figured out.

Swanner: I thought the film was great fun and once I got use to Ritchie’s crazy editing it moved really well. I think this is one of the first Guy Ritchie movies where I understood all the characters. I’m hoping the production team gets remembered at Oscar time.

Judd: I really enjoyed the movie. It was a fun action flick, the story was good though a little too DaVinci Code for my taste, and I think the movie should appeal to a broad audience.

Swanner:
Judd: ½

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It's Complicated

Swanner: Meryl Streep plays Jane, she was married to Jake played by Alec Baldwin. They were married for 20 years, divorced for 10 and now that Jake isn’t as happy with his new wife he wants Jane back. It’s Complicated is just that … complicated. Toss in Jane’s new boyfriend and all their kids, having an affair with your ex-husband in you’re 50’s is a mess. This new comedy written and director by Nancy Meyers is very funny and very much a comedy for adults. I can’t say enough that it’s okay to make movies for the folks over 30 or even over 50.

Judd: You would think that the success and accolades that movies like It’s Complicated and Up in the Air Hollywood would realize that America appreciates and craves well-written, smart adult comedies. I really liked It’s Complicated even though it’s a romantic comedy. And I don’t mean “liked” as in “tolerated” like The Proposal. Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep and Steve Martin all give excellent, well-rounded, real performances. Not the same old cardboard cutouts that we normally see in movie like this.

Swanner: It’s because they are all in their 50’s (martin is 64) and they are dealing with situations of mature people. There is no time spent on the kids and their problems. It’s refreshing. On the subject of performances, Alec Baldwin proves once again that he can do no wrong. He’s a Streep’s scenes are classic and were usually the ones that got the audiences rolling in laughter. I also thought this was a really good role for John Krasinski where he plays the son-in-law that discovers the affair before their adult kids do.

Judd: I have to disagree with you and say that I don’t think it’s the age of the cast that makes this a great movie. Look at all the crap Diane Keaton puts out – and please don’t defend her. I know she was in Annie Hall, I know she was well-respected at one time, but now all she does is crap and she only wishes she could be in a movie as good as It’s Complicated (though the title is pretty horrible). What makes It’s Complicated so good are the genuinely funny scenes, excellent writing and earnest performances from the cast. No one phoned it in on this one.

Swanner: I know it takes a good script but I meant it that it’s all inclusive. Nancy Meyers wrote a wonderful script, they cast just the right people in the roles and Meyer really brought it home with her direction. It was really nice seeing how well the three leads worked together. 20 years ago who would have thought that Meryl Streep would have two nominations for lead actress in a comedy or Alec Baldwin would be one of the top names in comedy. These are the stars of Sophie’s Choice and Hunt for Red October! I find it all very hopeful.

Judd: I agree the chemistry between the leads was great. I will say that their children were a bit on the bland side, with the exception of John Krasinski who plays the son-in-law. Although, I’m not really sure how Meyer could have made the childrens’ role more inclusive – not that they needed to be. They were a plot device and that’s about it. The movie was about Streep, Baldwin and Martin.

Swanner:
Judd:

Avatar

Judd: It’s been 12 years since Titanic and James Cameron has decided to delight audiences once again with an epic story of war and boundary crossing love. Avatar, starring Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) Michelle Rodriguez and Giovanni Ribisi is a movie about a paraplegic Marine who is ordered to live amongst an alien race in order to exploit their planet’s natural resources.

Swanner: When you mention he must live amongst the aliens you didn’t mention that he lives as one of them in a body that looks like one of the N’avi, an Avatar. The movie is set in 2154, where the earth is barely livable and a group of humans have come to the satellite planet of Pandora to mine an ore that lies under the giant tree that the N’avi call their home. This is the classic story of we want what you have and we’ll do anything to get it even wipe out your species if need be. Imagine the Bush administration.

Judd: And you forgot to mention the movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes long and by “classic story” you really mean “done to death”. I was trying to write a nice intro before launching into what I really thought about the movie. It’s long, it’s broad, and it’s subtle as a train wreck. Sigourney Weaver had her heart pinned to her sleeve as the empathetic intellectual and Giovanni Ribisi was the soulless capitalist who would exploit his grandmother for profit. All he was missing was a top hat, a cape and a moustache to twirl as he laughed.

Swanner: I suppose someone with no heart might see it that way but I found it to be too short and I don’t think this has been done to death. I could have gone for another hour of the movie. The characters are exactly how you describe but that’s Cameron for you. His good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. You don’t need to see what color hats they wear. I like Cameron’s stories as transparent as you might see them. I like the way its all laid out for me so I can focus on the story and enjoy the adventure. I was just reading that the movie cost around 500 million dollars to make but that was because of a lot of new special effects that were created for this movie and will change the way movies are made from here on.

Judd: You like the way it’s all laid for you so you don’t have to think; you can let the aquamarine glow of the screen wash over you as you’re having environmentalism shoved down your throat. The movie is beautiful and pleasant to look it. Cameron has taken the gimmick of CGI-rotoscoping to a new level, but it is a gimmick and it should not be used as a substitute for storytelling. Avatar epitomizes what’s wrong with the future of cinema, he takes a dumb and simple story an glosses it up with $300 million of special effects. It’s a gold plated turd.

Swanner: I just feel sad for you. That you can’t sit back and let this wonderful movie entertain you. The reason you felt like you had environmentalism shoved down your throat is because you are one of the offenders. You don’t have children so who cares. I didn’t even notice the shoving, as a matter of fact, I enjoyed a compelling science fiction adventure and I can’t wait to see it again. The 3-D was beautiful but I don’t think you have to see it that way to love it. I’m so glad that James Cameron is directing again and if this is the future of film than I say bring it on.

Judd: I don’t like movies with blatant political bias, left or right. Wall-E was a movie with an environmental message that didn’t bother me. Watching Avatar I felt like Malcom McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. My brain was raped by Al Gore and Ed Begley Jr. If this is the future of cinema I’m going to have to get out of the critic business. And what’s even worse is it’s types like you that welcome this “change”.  Screw story, gimme purty pictures. You disgust me.

Swanner: You’re going to be visited by three ghosts…

Judd: Bah, humbug.

Swanner:
Judd:

The Single Man/Did You Hear About The Morgans?

Swanner: During the busy holiday movie season sometimes Brian and I don’t get to the same movies so I’ll be trying to find a way to make these two movies look like they have something in common. The first film is called The Single Man, a story of a gay English professor, in 1962, who’s lover of 16 years has just died in a car accident. The reason why the year is so important is that in 1962 gay people were basically invisible and our English professor has no rights when it comes to his lover’s remains or even the opportunity to attend the funeral. Colin Firth plays George who now has to face life alone without Jim (Matthew Goode) and he has no one to turn to and has to put up a facade so the world doesn’t see his anguish.

Swanner: The second film I saw was Did You Hear About The Morgans? This is a comedy starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as a separated married couple who witness a murder and end up being placed into the witness protection. Yes, it’s as awful as it sounds. This is where I’m going to try to find someway to make it look like these films a common thread. The Single Man is about a gay man and Sarah Jessica Parker is a gay icon. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are both English and I suspect know each other. Okay, this is harder than I thought it would be … let say they are both about hiding. George must hide his lifestyle and The Morgan’s are in hiding from a killer…it’s the best I can do.

As you can tell I really liked The Single Man. I’ve done a lot of research on this time period and it’s fascinating what gay man had to do to live these two very different lives. I think this is the best movie portraying what it must have been like in the time period. First time Director Tom Ford did an amazing job introducing us to this man and letting us share in his sorrow but making us understand his devastation. Ford who was best know for being a top fashion designer for Gucci has really captured the look and feel for the time period. Ford also wrote the script with David Scearce from the novel by Christopher Isherwood.

Did You Hear About The Morgans? is from director/writer Marc Lawrence who is best know for his Miss Congeniality scripts and direction on Music and Lyrics. So the man is no stranger to writing silly comedies but the difference here is that the script is where everything goes terrible wrong. Once this New York couple ends up in Wyoming it becomes more of a fish out of water story and the “hit man” is wrapped up closer to the end where it is rushed and embarrassing. The one good thing this movie did do was reminded me that both Parker and Grant are really wonderful comedians and they actually make some of this insulting script work with their great timing and delivery. If this film had starred actors with less experience I think it would have been a direct to video title. It is that bad. The only thing that broke up my rolling my eyes was the yawning. I like silly romantic comedies but I do have limits and this one crossed the line.

One other thing that does link the two was the supporting cast. Single Man has great performances all around especially Julianne Moore as Firth’s best girlfriend and Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen who always make a movie better just by being in it. In this case it just wasn’t enough. Watch for The Single Man at this years Academy Awards and Did You Hear About The Morgans? should be making a fast trip to home video.

The Single Man
Did You Hear About The Morgans? ½

Up In The Air

Swanner: Imagine working a job that takes you all over the United States. You spend hours in airports and in planes to the point that the workers at the reservations desk know you by name. If all that traveling isn’t enough you, your job is going into workplaces and firing employees as companies downsize. That is what George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham does for a living in this new comedy Up in the Air.

Judd: That sounds hysterical! In all seriousness, Up in the Air is about more than a professional axe man and his travels. The movie is much more than a comedy, it’s much more than a drama and it’s much more than your typical Hollywood film. In fact, the idea that he’s a professional down-sizer comes in second to the fact that he is a man that enjoys no personal attachments or commitments. He’s happy with his life until a new coworker becomes judgmental. It’s a very smart movie that moves well and never feels dumbed down.

Swanner: It’s what is usually referred to a mid-life crisis movie but I heard someone refer to it as a coming of age film. Clooney may not be 15 years old but he’s being forced to judge the life he has grown to love, and worse, question it. It is a very smart movie and I think a very real movie. Society tells us that we must partner and procreate and die. When someone veers from that path we’re told to feel bad for them even though they are perfectly happy and probably happier than the persons judging. You really felt a kinship with Clooney’s character didn’t you…I’m not judging.

Judd: I’m going to address this seriously, and yes, I did feel a kinship with the Clooney character as much as I feel a kinship for the Bobby character in the musical Company. Up In The Air reminded me a lot of Company. Neither show asks it’s audience to pity the lead, and neither show romanticizes personal relationships in the way we’re accustom to seeing. Both men see the up side and the down side of marriage and relationships and realize that it’s not for them. Sometimes marriage sucks and becomes boring. Sometimes being single is much, much easier. And you’re right, that’s not something we hear very often and when we do it can be extremely refreshing.

Swanner: I loved the fact he’s happy with his transient lifestyle. I was actually irritated that the storyline was making him reassess his life. I’m tired of seeing the same old story so I like the way Up in the Air completely rewrites the mid-life crisis. Besides Clooney’s terrific performance the two supporting actresses (Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick) also gave first class performances. Don’t be surprised to see the three nominated for this years Oscars as well as the script by Sheldon Turner and Jason Reitman, based on Walter Kirn’s novel, Reitman who also directs and of course Best Picture.

Judd: I will say that the way Clooney’s character was forced to reassess his life and the events that occurred as a direct result are brilliant. It’s the way that whole situation is handled that makes the whole movie plausible. It’s subtle. It’s nuanced. It doesn’t make a big show of itself like most other movies do. That’s why I think it’s too subtle to be an Oscar movie. It doesn’t beat you over the head like Precious does. You know how much the Academy likes to be bludgeoned with an Oscar bid.

Swanner: Maybe this is the new generation that we keep getting promised in Hollywood. Reitman also directed Thank You for Smoking and Juno so Up in the Air isn’t a surprise on it’s quality I’m just surprised that there are producers out there that are smart enough to back a movie about a man who fires people for a living.

Swanner:
Judd:

Nine

Swanner: Based on the Tony Award winning musical which was actually based on the Fellini film 8 1/2, Rob Marshall brings the musical to the screen with Daniel Day Lewis playing a film director who’s muses have failed him. After a string of flops Guido looks to the women in his life for inspiration but all he finds are failed relationships and lies.

Judd: Nine is directed by Rob Marshall who is best known for directing Chicago. The feel and style of Nine is very similar, as is the thrill of seeing some of film’s greatest actresses, plus Kate Hudson, turn something that feels very “stage-y” into great cinema. But I also think that is one of the major problems for Nine. It feels less like a movie and more like a filmed stage production.

Swanner: I did think that might be a problem with people. Much of the film takes place in a film studio so musical numbers magically appear and disappear just as fast. So I think people might have a problem following what’s real and what’s fantasy. Before you start dragging poor Kate Hudson through the mud I do have to admit that when you’re looking through the list of Academy Award winners who star in this film that you are taking back when you see Kate Hudson name. That being said I have to admit that I thought her musical number was the showstopper.

Judd: As far as people breaking into song and all that … It’s a musical, it’s to be expected. I think that the broadness of Marshall’s stage-style directing totally limited some of the more emotional aspects, such as Guido’s wife and the Guido’s mistress played by Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz respectively. I will agree that I enjoyed Kate Hudson in the movie, and I’ll say that her number was certainly the flashiest, but I think Fergie’s Be Italian was much better and Cotillard’s My Husband Makes Movies was the real showstopper.

Swanner: I’ll give you Fergie’s number was spectacular (how did they keep the sand out of their eyes) but I still loved Hudson’s number better. And why is everyone so in love with Marion Cotillard? I don’t get her and how everyone seems to like her. Marshall does seem to gravitate to these avant-garde stage musicals but I think they give him a chance to play with our heads by coloring out side the lines. Emotionally I was a bit dry but I don’t think that’s Marshall’s fault. I had a problem warming up to Guido because he’s a douche bag. Seeing him in pain was good sport.

Judd: Granted Cotillard was a lump in Public Enemies, and I haven’t seen her other movies, but I though out of all the actresses in Nine, Cotillard was the one that brought the most emotional depth to her character. Even Nichole “Frozen Forehead” Kidman came off stiff. I agree that Marshall doesn’t make an MGM musical, and that worked for Chicago, but this I think he strayed too far outside the lines for the general public. Are gay audiences going to like it? Absolutely, but Harriet down in Lodi? No so much.

Swanner: I’m really happy to see the musical revival still going on and going strong. Is Nine my favorite…no. Did I have a great time watching it…yes and I’m looking forward to what comes next.

Swanner:
Judd:

Invictus

Judd: Once a year Clint Eastwood, Hollywood’s oldest badass, gets behind the camera and shows us his softer side. Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, Flags of Our Fathers, the list goes on and on. This year he tells the story of newly elected president of South Africa Nelson Mandela’s struggle to unite a country with the help of the country’s underdog rugby team. The real challenge is the fact that rugby is the very symbol of South Africa’s recently ended apartheid.

Swanner: When I was originally reading up on this I had figured it would be a little bit of sports with a big splash of politics, but what we got was just the opposite. Invictus is a sports movie that just happens to include politicians. At first I was surprised, but Eastwood always delivers, so I let the film tell its story… not to mention I was distracted by all the rugby players. I’ve been searching the web quite a bit since the movie, there are a lot of rugby teams.

Judd: The only big names in the film are Matt Damon as captain of the rugby team Francois Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. Both give excellent performances, as does the rest of the cast. My biggest problems with the movie are the two hour and fifteen minute runtime as well as Eastwood’s ridiculously generous use of the inspirational montage.

Swanner: I’ll agree that it’s length was not necessary…I mean do we really need to see Mandela shake everyone’s hand again!!! That aside, the film moves well for a sports film. It never gets too heavy and thankfully we don’t get any surprise endings like in his last few films. Eastwood creates a wonderful build going from a serious beginning to an almost giddy Mandela at the end. As for the ending…it’s a sports movie and it ends appropriately. The audience really liked the movie, and like The Blind Side, should do very well with it’s underdog themes during this bad economy.

Judd: I think the fact that Invictus, above all else, is a sports movie is the reason I didn’t care for it. I don’t like sports movies. They’re romantic comedies on testosterone. It’s the same story, with the same high-tension moments and the same ending. Some are better than others, but ultimately they’re all the same. Is Invictus one of the better ones? I suppose so, but if you’re not into sports movies you’re not going to care.

Swanner: I’m not a huge fan of sports movie either but this movie has excellent performances it’s really well made and it’s opened up my eyes to the joy of rugby but more so the joy of rugby players. I think it will rank up there with some of the better sports films just because of the cast and the director.

Swanner:

Judd:½