Grown Ups

Judd: It seems that Hollywood actors have finally figured out that they can get a studio to finance a vacation at beautiful locales under the premise of shooting a movie. Last year we had Couples Retreat with the perpetually sweaty Vince Vaughn. This year audiences are paying for Adam Sandler, David Spade, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and various other SNL alum to take a trip up to New England in the family comedy Grown Ups.

Swanner: I was going to make the same comparison but I think Vince Vaughn must have more box office pull because his location was much nicer and there were no kids. The film is almost a remake of The Big Chill, a group of old friends come together for a funeral and decide to spend the weekend together to catch-up on old times. Believe me, that’s where the comparisons end. Director Dennis Dugan and the Sandler crowd deliver a not-so-funny comedy that appears to have been written by a couple of five year olds.

Judd: I disagree that Vaughn has more pull hence the lack of children. Sandler has always relied on children for cheap and easy sentimentality; Grown Ups rapes the audience with cute right off the bat when Sandler’s 6 year old daughter confesses to tampering with his Cadillac’s nav system in order to get directions to heaven. Cue the “Awww”. Its this kind of lazy schmaltz that plagues the whole movie, but also gets the target audience to reach for the Kleenex.

Swanner: That was the first time we actually laughed out loud during the movie. The schmaltz was deep but not surprising seeing that Sandler was one of the five year olds that wrote the script. Sandler has always tried to set good examples in his movies but here he’s force feeding morality in between fart jokes and it just didn’t work. With a capable cast and director you really have to put the blame on the script. It’s awful. The actors were trying to make something out of the poorly written characters. James is the Fatty, Rock is the Black, Schneider is short, Spade is creepy and of course Sandler is most athletic, handsome, has the hottest wife and is very successful…but then I’d be that way too if I wrote the script.

Judd: There are some funny moments scattered throughout the movie – some of the insults the Sandler crew lob at each other are very funny. But when the script calls for a minimum of 20 insults per minute, odds are good you’re going to have one or two successes out of 2,000. You nailed it on the head that the characters are all stereotypes – it goes further than that because the whole movie is based on an amalgam of stereotypes. There is not one iota of creative originality in this movie, but that’s what the target audience craves – uniformity. There are no shockers, you know what to expect and that’s exactly what you get. This movie exists for the same reason there are nine Applebee’s and ten Chili’s in Sacramento County.

Swanner: As moral as the script gets, it’s interesting that they never learn to tone down the way they treat each other. We know that bug lights are cruel but hurling unoriginal old age jokes at veteran actress Joyce Van Patten is just fine and dating a friend’s adult daughter is wrong, but ogling at them from an Adirondack chair with your buddies is OK. Even worse is when the less attractive daughter shows up its fine to turn your backs to her. I know its comedy but if you’re up on your high horse then you should hold that standard for the entire script and not just where it concerns a 6 year old because that same 6 year old is watching her father pick on all his friends. So what lesson was really learned?

Judd: We learned through David Spade’s character that it isn’t right nor is it fair for a 40 something year old single man to enjoy his freedom. You are allowed to tease and berate him, which is really only a thin disguise for your envy and resentment, as long as at the end of the day you condescend him for being shallow and pity him because there is no way he will ever be as happy as a married couple with children. Right? Right?

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Knight and Day

As the summer finally kicks into gear here come a big budget, major movie stars, romantic comedy with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The story follows June Havens (Diaz) who rouge super spy Roy Miller (Cruise) is using as a pawn to transfer “secret stuff” through the airport. Once Miller realizes the bad guys have linked June to him, he feels compelled to protect her from the before mentioned bad guys as they are chased around the world. At first glance your probably going to assume this is another silly lifeless romcom like The Killers or The Bounty Hunter but it’s more than that. I thought the movie had a real Romancing The Stone feel to it with fun performances and never taking the situations that seriously. So many films this year have been forgetting that high camp still works in these type of films, something they forgot in Kick Ass and The Losers. It’s not a perfect movie and if you want to pick it apart you can but if your looking for some light summer fare than this is about as good as it gets.

One thing that should be brought up are the performances by the two leads. Both actors have had their successes and failures in the recent past but as these two stars age they are moving into more appropriate roles for their ages. Diaz (38) has been playing more mothers and wives and no longer the sassy single lady while Cruise (48) has been moving towards the more interesting and hilarious character roles. The reason why these two work here is that they know how to make this comedy work and they aren’t trying to make us believe they are still 20 something’s. They are playing it smart and using the on screen charisma they have for everything it’s worth. In an age of pale vampires and 3D animation, Knight and Day gives a women over 25 a sanctuary from all the summer movie silliness.

Jonah Hex

Swanner: Jonah Hex is bounty hunter in America after the Civil War who is hired buy the US government to stop a domestic terrorist before he destroys Washington DC and the new government. Josh Brolin plays Jonah Hex, a man with a chip on his shoulder after his wife and child were murdered by Quinton Turnbull played by John Malkovich who just happens to be said terrorist.

Judd: The end. Well, practically the end. The movie barely cleared 75 minutes – which given John Malkovich and Megan Fox, 75 minutes is about all I can stand of either of them. Regardless, at 75 minutes, the movie is nearly over before it begins and offers up an OK plot with a lot of violence and gunfire that really isn’t that violent.

Swanner: There are so many things wrong with this movie above and beyond the casting. The violence has been tamed down for a PG-13 audience and it’s so lame it’s embarrassing. It’s a gruff western and the best we have are dead bodies. The storyline isn’t terrible but it feels more like a pilot for TV where once a week Jonah Hex will tame the wild west. It’s amazing that a major studio would release a movie under 75 minutes. I figured they had to cut Megan Fox’s performance since she was only a few scenes and the fact that other films would have benefited having her scenes cut.

Judd: It did seem a lot like a big budget made-for-tv movie pilot. In fact it’s a little hard to review because there was so little of it. Josh Brolin was excellent as always. John Malkovich phoned it in, as always. And Meg Fox looked sweaty and in need of a shower the whole time. Other than that, I can’t think of anything.

Swanner: I really liked the dog in the movie. When ever we saw him he was focused and kept the movie moving. He was far better then the other supporting actors. I feel really bad for Josh Brolin. He jumped into the movie with both feet and it shows but besides him and the dog, this nightmare needed new casting. Director Jimmy Hayward and the five people credited for script I have two words for you…Alan Smithie

Judd: It’s not that bad of a movie and I’d say this is worth a rental, because, you’re going to feel short-changed from the length of it. I will say that Jonah Hex would make a fantastic double feature with the A-Team.

Swanner:
Judd:

Toy Story 3

Swanner: After 11 years, Pixar has finally graced us with a third installment of the Toy Story franchise. My first thought is can they find the wonder and the sentiment of the first two and not become the sequel no one talks about? I’m happy to say that they can catch lightning a third time and Toy Story 3 may be the best of the lot. As Andy packs for college, he has to decide what to do with his childhood toys. I’m starting to weep again so I pass the torch to Brian.

Judd: I’m not a huge fan of the Toy Story movies. They’re good, but the stories never caught me. However, Toy Story 3 takes the franchise into a much darker place, with characters that are deeply emotionally damaged, and a plot that was basically a prison escape. I really enjoyed Toy Story 3, and my hats off to them for creating Lotso Huggin’ Bear, the meanest pink teddy bear ever!

Swanner: He’s horrible but that shows you how being bitter as a way of life can turn you mean. There is so much storyline that it’s hard to explain it all but it comes down to how your toys feel when you no long want them. (I’m tearing again) I have all this built up guilt that only those bastards at Pixar seem to be able to stir. I went home and spent time with my teddy last night apologizing for the 40 years of neglect. I do want to stress that this is a very funny movie. All the jokes work and the characters are as lovely as ever but don’t be surprised if you don’t think of your own toys as the movie unfolds. Credit has to go to Lee Unkrich the director and the usual suspects at Pixar Michael Arndt, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton who wrote the script with Unkrich.

Judd: I was too poor to have toys when growing up; all I had was a stick and a couple rocks. There are a lot of heavy themes in this edition of the story – abandonment, growing up and leaving home. There is a little sadness for everyone, whereas I think the first two movies focused too heavily on loyalty and the love of a child, which went right over my head. However, as jaded as I’m making the movie seem, it is also a movie about determination, love and faith.

Swanner: The biggest problem I’m having with the movie is not being able to share with others. For me, it’s a movie I want to talk about. Not just on the emotional level but on the movie making level. How does Pixar consistently do it? How can they keep up this brilliant pace. I thought nothing could be better than Ratatouille but then they released Wall-E and then Up and now Toy Story 3. No other studio has this kind of record of success. Almost every release has won the Oscar for Best Animated Movie and Up was actually up for Best Picture too. Without a doubt I believe Toy Story 3 will follow right in line and be one of this years Best Picture nominees and I’ll be cheering it all the way.

Judd: Asking why Pixar movies are always great, is like asking why your grandmother’s Apple Brown Betty was always great. The reason is that it’s a small studio with heart that wants to make the best possible product. Every other studio wants to crap out movies as fast as they can to make the most money possible. Sometimes they get it not-quite-right – Cars – but it’s still good and it still warms the heart.

Swanner:
Judd:

The Karate Kid

Swanner: If you look at the line-up of movies for this summer and you’re thinking everything is either a remake, based on a video game or a sequel … you’re pretty much correct. With that being said while seeing The Karate Kid last night I had to clean my mind from Daniel-san and see what Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) has to offer. Instead of Reseda California the story takes place in China but everything else is pretty much the same.

Judd: I haven’t seen The Karate Kid since it was released on VHS. The only thing I remember is the flying tiger kick; the chopsticks and the fly; wax on wax off, and Pat Morita doing hot hand massage which led to the happy ending. Other than those minor details, I don’t remember the film, so I went in with an open mind. This new version is very grand, pays homage to the original and last but not least it’s too goddamn long.

Swanner: At over 2 hours it was a bit long for an audience used to 90-minute movies. Even at our screening there were lots of kids heading to the lobby and coming back with loads of concession. Good for the theatre, bad for the audience. I did enjoy the movie but I think I would have liked it more with a few less training montages. I’m sure that would have cut out at least ten minutes. I thought the back drop of China was used very well and Jackie Chan did a good job as Mr. Han, the mentor of our young karate kid.

Judd: There was a little kid that was sitting behind me at the 1h 45m mark asked, “When is this movie going to be over?” I turned around and said, “That is a very good question.” The last two thirds of the movie was padded with at least three montages. Three. There is no need for three montages, ever. Two of them were nearly back to back. Will Smith produced this movie, and it makes me wonder if it hadn’t been for his son as the lead, would the movie have been shorter?

Swanner: Will Smith’s movies are never this long so I don’t think you can blame him for the running time. That would be the director, screenwriter or editor. I’m thinking it’s not the Editor (Joel Negro) who has been an assistant editor for 20 years…this is his first solo work but he’s got a terrific history. This is the writers (Christopher Murphy) first screenplay and the director’s (Harald Zwart) biggest titles to date. I’m thinking that might be what is overly wrong with the film…inexperience.

Judd: Inexperience or overzealousness, one of the two. The only other major problem I had with the movie is the shaky cam during the tournament. I understand that the kids aren’t real martial artists and that they were covering up their inexperience, but there are better, more artistic and aesthetically pleasing ways to camouflage an actor’s shortcomings than to shake the camera wildly. The cinematography was gorgeous up until that point in the film, which made the nausea inducing effect all the more apparent.

Swanner: I’m with you on the camera work. If I don’t know what’s happening, I lose interest. This is becoming a big problem in films. If the actor can’t pull off the stunt then these creative teams need to figure out a new way of filming it. In closing, I liked the movie and I think the folks looking forward to this remake are going to like it as well.

Swanner:
Judd: ½

A-Team

Swanner: Back in the mid to late 80’s most TV watchers were turned in to see Mr. T say “I pity the fool” on the long running series The A-Team. I wasn’t one of the people but I still knew everything there was to know about this show. It was part of pop culture so seeing a big screen remake came as no surprise. Like the series, our four heroes get in and out of trouble between the opening and closing credits. The question is will this big screen remake satisfy the fans and can The A-Team kick start this slow starting summer?

Judd: I think A-Team is going to succeed on all levels. While it’s PG-13, it feels like it should be rated R; the movie keeps the cheesy campy goodness of the original; Bradley Cooper is furry and shirtless most of the movie AND the needless female character is played by the laughably horrible Jessica Biel. A-Team is this gay man’s dream come true.

Swanner: I liked the casting of the main four guys a lot. I remember being surprised when I heard Liam Neeson was playing Hannibal. Granted, George Pappard was a pretty big actor in his time but it seemed strange to have Schindler heading up these misfits. The casting of Sharlto Copley (District 9) and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (UFC) was very smart. Copley went for it, making Murdock crazy but very funny and Jackson played down Baracus enough that if never felt like he was imitating Mr. T. Jessica Biel was the worst in the movie but anymore that goes without saying.

Judd: Don’t forget baddies Lynch and Pike played by Patrick Wilson and Brian Bloom respectively. Wilson plays CIA agent Lynch with a perfect mix of bumbling ego and Bloom is excellent as a Blackwater Forest Mercenary, who comes across as smug and dangerous – not to mention those eyes! The plot – for those of you that care – is the A-Team is set up when printing plates for $100 bills are stolen after being recovered. They have to find the plates again and restore their honor.

Swanner: Brian Bloom was really good in that role. Smug is the perfect word to describe him and yes, the eyes still have it. As much as this wasn’t my kind of movie it certainly was entertaining and well made. It’s good summer fun. It’s so likeable I want to see it succeed. I think the core audience will love it and those dragged along will have a good time as well.

Judd: This movie hit the spot for me. It’s an over-the-top action film with a good sense of humor, a great looking cast and minimal female involvement. A-Team and Prince of Persia are both PG-13 movies, but A-Team is much better by far. It’s the summer block-buster I’ve been waiting for.

Swanner:
Judd: 1/2

Prince of Persia

Swanner: Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the new action adventure film, Prince of Persia. This is the big budget adaptation of the video game of the same name. My concern always is will it be able to pull itself out of the trap that most of these movie fall in to of trying to hard to please the gamers and producing a lame reincarnation. In this case I think they have done it. Director Mike Newell offers up a lust yet dangerous landscape, keeping up a good pace with laughs and swords.

Judd: This is not my kind of movie, but I’ll try not to be too harsh because it was well made, the effects were good, and the people that want to see this are going to enjoy it. In fact for the kind of movie it is, I really have no problems with it. I only feel sorry for Ben Kingsley. Where has his career gone? The only roles he takes anymore are bad guys that were dresses and eyeliner.

Swanner: Poor Oscar winning Ben Kingsley has really taken a wrong turn somewhere. As soon as I saw he was in it I knew he’d be a bad guy but I guess a man in his age (66) that’s still starring in movies…he’s done something right. I liked the movie a lot. It’s a popcorn movie, big on the special effects and light on the story. Speaking of the story, Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, a boy from the street who is adopted by the King to become a prince. Now an adult, Dastan has be accused of killing his father and must discover who the real villains are.

Judd: In the meantime he gets coupled with a mouthy bitch -– I mean, a headstrong princess -– after he steals her magic dagger that allows him to travel back in time when the jewel on the hilt of the knife is pressed. Once again, we’re saddled with a useless female who adds nothing to the story and only manages to muddle the plot.

Swanner: You have to have a princess in these movies. Yes, she was useless but you know how they to include a love interest. At least they didn’t have some awful love scene. this movie kept a good pace thanks to director Mike Newell who did so well on The Goblet of Fire and the Young Indiana Jones series. One thing I loved was when they were walking over the floor of sand and it all collapse … I’d like to see how that thing gets put back in place. It was fun and exciting, that something this summer is really missing.

Judd: It was fun overall, and while not my cup of tea, for those looking for a big fluffy blockbuster they can take the kids or grandma to, this is the movie. It’s not challenging, there’s nothing controversial and it’s not terribly violent. It’s a movie that if you miss some dialogue under the crunch of popcorn, it won’t make a difference. What they’re saying isn’t all that important.

Swanner:
Judd: ½