Salt

Swanner: Angelina Jolie stars in the new action thriller Salt. In the film Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a government agent who has been called a Russian sleeper cell by a high ranking Russian government official. Now Jolie must clear her name, or maybe she is this Russian spy and she’s just trying to escape the FBI agents who are trying to bring her back. The film moves like a Bond film and has a bunch of twists and turns that keep this film flying.

Judd: Ridiculouser and ridiculouser can be the only way to describe Salt. The movie gives itself away within the first ten minutes and then continues builds off its transparent premise while trying to distract the audience with more and more outlandish action sequences. If the script’s dialogue added up to more than 10 pages, I would be surprised. And don’t give me that mess about it being “summer popcorn film”. You’ve hit your limit excusing crappy movies with that reasoning.

Swanner: This isn’t a popcorn movie, this is more of an action thriller. Sure, it’s not a perfect movie but it was an exciting, fast moving fun ride. Are you sure that this ridiculous rant you’ve taken isn’t over the fact that you hate Angelina Jolie? If that had been Daniel Craig and the character had been called Edward Salt you would have been all over it like a fat kid on cake. I’d say the movie was a mix of Eagle Eye from last year and a Bond film. Sure, it’s over the top but audiences like movies they can get lost in, and I thought they did some daring things in the film. This isn’t your conventional happy ending action movie.

Judd: I do hate her, and boy is she starting look old, but she’s only the cherry on top of why I disliked Salt. The script was lazy and the direction, outside of the action sequences, was half-assed. I don’t know how many times Jolie stole a hat to change her identity, but I know it was too many times to be acceptable. Hell, in one scene she stole a hat and in the next scene she had a whole ensemble designed to match the stolen hat.

Swanner: She may be on the run but she’s still has to look good. The script wasn’t lazy…you just saw Inception with that complicated script and so your bar is set too high. It was nothing but action sequences. The whole movie is one big exciting adventure and wasn’t it nice that she didn’t have to fall in love to make the film have a romance. This is the way most action thrillers should be … heart pounding action … the end. I did want to mention the film is under 110 minutes long and they use their time wisely.

Judd: She didn’t have to fall in love because she was already in love. The movie was nothing but action and I’ve seen music videos that had more intricate plots. The movie could be reduced to a montage of action sequences and the audience wouldn’t have missed anything.

Swanner:
Judd: ½

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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Swanner: Disney just loves to take elements of their parks or their movies and make them into franchises. It worked very well with the Pirates of the Caribbean movie and not so well with the haunted Mansion movie. This year the have taken a segment from Fantasia and developed it into a lively summer popcorn movie. If you remember the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene from Fantasia where Mickey Mouse decides he’s a great wizard and oversteps his abilities, well the new film starring Nicholas Cage is based on that moment in the film.

Judd: So that’s why the movie didn’t have a plot! They took a 5 minute segment of a film without dialogue and turned it into a 90 minute movie, now it all makes sense! I’m being facetious of course. Nicolas Cage is a 1,300 year old Sorcerer in search of the “Prime Merlinian”, a direct descendant of Merlin to battle when the evil Sorceress Morgana returns to raise the dead. Jay Baruchel plays that descendant. Oh yeah, and there’s a love story thrown in for kicks.

Swanner: But as easy as it would be the pull the film apart it still was a very entertaining movie. Nicolas Cage was very subdued in the film which really surprised me since considering the subject matter he could have taken it over the top. You could see they spent a lot on the effects which are very well done. I did enjoy the salute to Fantasia when Jay Baruchel tries to clean the workshop with magic. I think this is the movie that Percy Jackson wanted to be. I could see this one easily becoming a franchise piece.

Judd: Disney already released their plotless summer action flick and it was called Prince of Persia – I thought Disney was going back to focus on quality? Sure Nicolas Cage wasn’t nearly as bombastically awful as he normally is, but in this case, that’s not a good thing. Without the allure of Cage hamming it up, there’s no reason to watch the movie. And might I add that I’m tired of seeing Baruchel act nervous and dorky over girls that are supposedly too pretty for him. He should drop the bitch and make the switch – I’m all the love he needs.

Swanner: I liked Prince of Persia! I know Disney has said they were focusing on quality but it’s summer. They did release Toy Story 3 that still stands as one this year’s best pictures but summer is about adventure and special effects. Director Jon Turtelaub has given us both in spades. He’s taken what worked in his National Treasure movies and applied them here with a bit of Harry Potter. As the audience was leaving people were saying this is one for the home collection. It maybe mindless but it’s a great popcorn movie and that works for American audiences. You have something against America?

Judd: Toy Story is Pixar, which I consider Disney’s step-sibling. They’re not blood related, and thank heavens for that. Apprentice is all fluff and no substance, and I know if I were to have paid to see it I would have left the theatre feeling gypped. Just because the movie will play well in Peoria doesn’t mean it’s good.

Swanner: The problem is you’re not thinking like our audience. They like to see a movie to escape. They don’t need and super sized plot line to amuse them. I thought the film was fun and I’d like to see it again.

Judd: How about I save you a couple bucks and install a crib mobile above your bed? It’s got about the same amount of storyline, and the colors are just as dazzling.

Swanner:
Judd:

Inception

Judd: Christopher Nolan has become the go-to guy for action films that are not only tense and engaging, but are plot-driven and well written as well. Inception is about a crack team of corporate thieves who steal ideas from a person’s dreams. Inception biggest bonus is a cast of young heavy-hitters, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy.

Swanner: Nolan has made the transition from interesting indie guy to interesting big budget guy. He creates amazing worlds for adults to play. I liked that fact that as intricate as the plot got he made sure that he didn’t loose the audience … well, most of the audience. Yes, there are people who walked out with a blank stare on their faces. I loved the way the characters would educate each other and us in the process. It’s a very smart way of dealing with such a complicated story. You’re right about the cast, they were all perfectly cast and they performances were terrific. My only complaint was the running time.

Judd: The movie runs two hours and twenty minutes, but as with all good epics, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. As the characters went deeper and deeper into their latest victim’s mind, I felt the movie got a little boggy, that Nolan was repeating himself a little too much and that he was drawing matters out for dramatic effect, but the last forty-five minutes are a complete rush and completely make up for the lag in the beginning of the third act.

Swanner: Right, the center section was a bit too much set up…explanation…set up … explanation. The last third of the movie was really awesome. I hate to play favorites but I thought Joey really shined in the film. Maybe it was because he was solo in the third hour, but he’s the one I keep talking about. The thing I like best about the movie is everyone is talking about it. Whether it’s about the amazing special effects or what you think happened at the end … everyone is talking

Judd: Our good friend Joseph Gordon Levitt was excellent – they all were –but my eyes were riveted to the delectable Tom Hardy. He’s the one I keep talking about. Though a relative newcomer, his performance was son par with the rest of the cast, however, that man has to be one of the best looking men I have laid eyes on. He’s very reminiscent of a young Marlon Brando. He’s going to be one to watch for in coming years.

Swanner: I did like the movie. I’m not in love with like others … still you gotta love when a director takes chances with adult material. Sure the geeky kids are going to love the film too but this was made for adults by an adult. What a concept!!! I think the box-office will remind studios that adults still go to the theatre to see movies. Maybe next year we’ll see more films meant for the over 35 crowd.

Judd: I agree that it’s nice to see a movie made for thinking adults, but I don’t think we’re going to see more of it’s kind. Look at the Matrix franchise. What started out as a philosophical action film was dumbed down to nothing more than a stupid SFX heavy shoot’em up. You’ve said it in other reviews, the average American doesn’t go to the theatre to think. They want to tune out and watch ‘splosions and things get blowed up. Thankfully we have someone like Nolan who can give us all that and more.

Swanner: 1/2
Judd:

Despicable Me

Swanner: Steve Carell plays Gru, a super villain who’s goal is achieve world dominance. Unfortunately there is a new younger super villain called Vector who has Gru scrabbling to keep up with Vector and all his latest villainess achievements. What lengths will Gru go to regain his dominance? Adopting children … going to the ballet? Universal Studios is making their big stab in the animation market with this very cute film.

Judd: I enjoyed Despicable Me. I thought the writing was good and the jokes were well done – I thought the movie did very well at a DreamWorks level of quality. My biggest complaint – and it’s not even a complaint really – is that the characters are voiced by Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett and Kristen Wiig. Not one of them really lent anything to the characters. Not to say they weren’t good, but they could have been done by lesser known voice actors with the same or better effect. I’m on my Billy West soapbox.

Swanner: Billy West the geek from Futurama? I agree that most of the characters were bland but I thought Steve Carell was quite good. My biggest problem with the movie was with the storyline … not much of one. All the awkward scene with Gru and the children are cute but not much substance. The animation and even the 3D were good but I felt myself dozing during the film. It’s not that is was boring but I think it really goes back to what you were saying about these actors not giving it all is probably part of this problem. Maybe your Billy West or Mark Walton from Bolt would have upped the fun.

Judd: True, the plot is a little thin and it’s story we’ve seen before – a mean person is turned around by the love of a child, blech – but what made the movie for me was the mean streak that ran through all the characters, except the children, throughout the whole film. The whole movie is about crappy parenting and I found it hysterical.

Swanner: The meanness was very refreshing … I do love when children don’t get there way. I’m sure we’ll see some sort of franchise come out of this like Gru in the early days or maybe even a Christmas special much like the Grinch. Gru and the minions were the best part of the show and I think I’d actually like to see them expand those characters … just leave the kids at home.

Swanner: ½
Judd:

Cyrus

Swanner: John C Reilly plays a quirky man getting over his divorce when he meets Marisa Tomei, a woman who seems to have a similar quirkiness. They hit it off but every night they spend together she leaves before morning. One night Reilly follows her to find out she’s living with her adult son. I was sure the son played by Jonah Hill was “special” but it turns out he’s only emotionally disturbed from being raised by a over nurturing mother and he knows how to take full advantage of it. The closer Reilly’s character get to Tomei the worse Hill’s character gets and sadly the movie gets.

Judd: Reilly and Hill have some reputation rebuilding to do with me, and I thought Cyrus was going to do the trick, but unfortunately this isn’t it. That’s not to say that their performances weren’t decent. It was nice to see Reilly scale it back a bit and it was nice to see Hill play something other than a nervous/snarky Jew. However, Cyrus is so chock full of “feelings”, “emotional exploration” and “positive feedback”, that I wanted to tell them all they needed a good dose of Midwestern shut-the-hell-up and get on with their lives.

Swanner: Outside of the horrible storyline, how about the crappy “indie” cinematography? During the whole movie I was rolling my eyes every time the close up was a little too close. But then what do you expect from a lousy handheld camcorder? The pacing of this 90 minute movie made it feel like it was three hours long and I blame that on the writers and director since they are the same people. Jay and Mark Duplass the same people who made the never ending Puff Chair and Baghead…it’s all making sense now.

Judd: It’s all part of an indie movement pioneered by the Duplass brothers termed Mumblecore (much to their dismay) – ultra low-budget movies made with little script and a focus on in-the-moment action. Apparently, crappy zooms and a wandering frame make the movie more “real”. It’s contrived realism, it’s artsy for the sake of being artsy, it’s the absolute summit of pretentiousness.

Swanner: I hate it. I’m sure they think they make this mumblecore crap work but it doesn’t for me. Call me traditional but I like steady camera work and a script. We had a few people walking out of the film and I’d have loved to find out why? Was it the horrible script or the god awful pacing? This was one of those movies I would not have minded leaving early on and it was only 90 minutes long. What good I can say about the movie is that all three main actors were really good considering what they had to work with and I’m loving Marisa Tomei more and more every time I see her. As far as I’m concerned I’m glad she won that Oscar because she’s gotten better the older she gets and she’s still rockin’ that great body.

Judd: While I think the crappy camerawork and slow pacing were awful, what killed it for me was the constant barrage of the touchy-feely. I love dysfunctional family comedies, but not when they validate the dysfunction as the Duplasses do in Cyrus. I don’t empathize nor am I entertained by characters that want to wallow in their dysfunction. The Royal Tenenbaums is a dysfunctional family classic because they know they’re behaving badly but do so anyway and we’re encouraged to laugh at their dysfunction. In Cyrus we’re given people who are messed in the head, but we’re told it’s OK, because “that’s just who they are. They can’t help it.” It’s like hanging out at group therapy just for kicks.

Swanner: You hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to verbalize. How can this be a comedy when I feel bad for these people?

Judd: My final word on this is that people who like movies like 2004’s Sideways are going to enjoy Cyrus. If you get off on watching grown adults behave like emotionally stunted children who validate their bad behavior by telling themselves that it’s OK to act on their feelings, then you’re going to enjoy Cyrus. If you enjoy awkward situations derived from adults who show a complete lack of self-restraint, you’re going to enjoy Cyrus. If you enjoy watching people sloughing all responsibility based on the notion that they can’t control themselves, they’re you’re going to love Cyrus.

Swanner: (and this is strictly for the acting)
Judd: No stars

Eclipse/The Last Airbender

This week has two movies open that couldn’t be more different. One a vampire romance and the other a fantasy sword and sorcery film. What the two films do have in common is that they were both made to satisfy a core group of people. Eclipse was made for the Harlequin novel fans, with tortured lovers and heartbreaking moments. Airbender on the other hand is for a tweener male crowd that like the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films. Both movies are also adaptations with Eclipse being the third book from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series while Airbender is based on the animated series Avatar, The Last Airbender from The cable cartoon network Nickelodeon.

As I said before, Eclipse is the third book in the series as well as being the third movie. The first two movies, Twilight and New Moon both made a bundle of money so the completion of the series was going to happen even though neither movie was very good. Twilight was the more palatable of the films with New Moon just being bad. So expectations were low when i went to the screening of Eclipse. To my surprise, Eclipse was much better than Twilight and New Moon cowards in it’s shadow. A good Twilight movie … who would have thought it could happen? Granted, we’re not talking Oscar nominations but we are talking expanding from the core audience of 14 year old girls and emotional crippled pre-menopausal moms with their “Team Jacob” shirts weeping in the lobby. The film focused on moving the story along and not another 2 1/2 hours of angst from Kristen Stewart attempting to take that bad actress crown from Megan Fox.

We do get a lot of comedy this time from both Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson fighting for Steward’s affection and the action sequences are more frequent and less silly. The whole production value is up and I’m sure most of that is do to the new director David Slade, (30 Days of Night). I’d like to think the screen writer Melissa Rosenberg had something to do with it but she was the writer for the first two films so I’m going with Slade at the reason this film was so much better. The storyline (not that it really matters) is how a group of rouge vampires in Seattle are focus of hunting down Stewart and killing her … I know that those of us who care about the art of acting are cheering this rouge mob to do it and do it right.

If you’re a Twilight fan you’ve probably have already seen the film at least once and you’re not to stop keying my car for saying that New Moon was the worst film of 2009. It’s all about Eclipse now and for this weekend it’s the movie to see. I do make fun of the fans of this film but believe me, if those fans weren’t cheering on their favorite characters … the film wouldn’t be as much fun. i did have one woman behind me that kept mumbling at why Taylor Lautner will never earn the affection of Stewart. God Bless the fans.

The Last Airbender is suppose to be the big summer action film in 3D. It tells the story Aang, a young boy who is distend to be the new Airbender. Aang who has been missing for the last 100 years is accidentally thawed out by a bother and sister who then travel with him around the world while he tries to regain his full potential as the last airbender. Just for the record, The Last Airbender would rule over the world. He also has the ability to move water, earth and fire but as the movie starts he can only rule air. There are the bad guys and they are the ones that can only rule fire. Aang and his friends are ultimately found by the bad guys and must fight their way out on one predicament after another … are you as bored as i am?

This movie was directed, written and produced by M Night Shyamalan and he’s the man that will ultimately take all the blame.

I have always been a big fan of Shyamalan but this time i just can’t because he’s made a big mess out of what might have been a good story. The worst part of the film is the script. I felt like i was being talked down to thru a lot of the film and then i thought that he must have been writing it with his children in mind…at least I’m hoping so. This is the guy who made The Sixth Sense and Signs! This film felt like a first work of an inexperienced director and sadly the three young actors in the movie suffered from what seemed to be that inexperience. We know that’s not true but no director with any talent would pull out such awful emotionally vacant performances. Was Haley Joel Osment a fluke?

The film is in 3 D, which was added later, and has no reason to be. I actually removed my glasses a few times and had no problem watching the movie. If you have the option … see the 2-D and save some movie. Better yet … wait for home video. The films not unwatchable and maybe home video will save it. The movie ends with a cliffhanger for a movie i hope we never see get made. Sorry M. Night but Lady in the Water is no longer your worst film.

Eclipse < 1/2

The Last Airbender