The Town

Swanner: In a suburb of Boston called Charlestown, the area is know for its car-jackings, kidnappings and armed robberies. The Town follows a group of four criminals and how a victim and FBI agent bring them all down. Based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, Director/Screenwriter Ben Affleck brings to the screen a sharp, smart crime drama with an amazing cast and script.

Judd: I find it interesting that Boston has become the new “Crime City”; New York is played out. It brings a freshness to the crime genre, Boston isn’t as claustrophobic and dark as New York; however, it seems like the sky is perpetually grey. The Town combined with Gone Baby Gone, make me wonder if Affleck is on his way to becoming the next Scorsese. Scoff all you want, but Affleck once again proves that he can write and direct a tight, well-done Irish gangster movie. He keeps showcasing his talents like his and I believe he could go on to direct almost anything.

Swanner: Before this turns into a Ben love fest there are a lot of things to like here. Blake Lively plays Jeremy Remmer’s sister in the film and she was freaking amazing. She isn’t in the film very much but when she is you remember her. She’s come a long way from the “Traveling Pants” movies but then again Affleck pulled out a great performance from Amy Ryan (Oscar Nomination) and I just bet Blake Lively will follow in those winning footsteps.

Judd: Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner round out the fantastic cast. Going into the movie I knew that Affleck was the lead, and in comparison to his supporting cast I thought he was going to look hackneyed. However his performance is passable, and that’s saying something when playing with such heavy hitters. I will say that Jeremy Renner plays the same arrogant, cocksure prick that he played in The Hurt Locker. I’m looking forward to seeing him play someone not so obnoxious.

Swanner: Still, he played it well. He was quite good in the short lived series The Unusuals. So I know he’s capable and he has been around for a while with a pretty large filmography. The one thing I thought was interesting is that no one seemed to own a razor in Charlestown…not even John Hamm’s FBI agent. I know it gives that “on the edge” look but I kept thinking about the terrible beard burn they would leave.

Judd: I was too busy looking at the fabulous toupee Ben Affleck was wearing. He must get is hair from the same shop Burt Reynolds gets his; Elton John should take note. A wig should not look like an acrylic hair hat.

Swanner: I have been very happy with the movies I’ve seen so far in September. It really gives me hope that this Fall is going to have some really good offers for this years Oscar race. The Town is definitely a good start.

Swanner: ½
Judd:

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Easy A

Judd: People ask me how can I give an unbiased review when I say things like I’m going to hate the movie just by the poster/cast/plot/release date. It’s easy. Hollywood has a strict formula from which it very rarely deviates. So when I saw an early September release of a PG-13 girly teen sex comedy starring Emma Stone and Amanda Bynes I immediately thought this is going to SUCK. However, this is one of those instances where Hollywood strays from its own standard.

Swanner: I know what you mean. The last three movies I’ve seen I’ve really liked … does this mean they are actually letting talented people work in Hollywood? The director is Will Gluck who directed last years Fired Up which I liked a lot so I was hoping this one would be as good and it is. The script is by Bert V. Royal (sounds made up) and it’s funny and clever, giving a lot of really good lines to a lot of characters. The main storyline here is about a high school girl who accidentally starts a rumor about herself and before too long she’s wearing a scarlet A on all her clothes.

Judd: The script is what really shines here. It is well written, very funny and almost made me long for the days when I was in high school and purveyor of the finest gossip. The characters are a little too cool for school, but at the same time I never felt like I was being raped with hip – Juno what I mean. The supporting adult cast is also excellent with Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Hayden Church, Lisa Kudrow and Stanley Tucci.

Swanner: The script is good but then everything clicks here. This is just a good movie. I think were so use to watching actors try to make a bad script look good that we forget what good productions looks like. Emma Stone (who plays Olive, the Hester Prynne-ish character from The Scarlet Letter) does a great job. She’s very likeable and lovely without being one of the current forgettable beauties that normally helm this kind of film. Who would have thought a Nathaniel Hawthorne adaptation was going to be so much fun?

Judd: I also think that even though the movie was PG-13, it still aimed high. Usually PG-13 means an adult movie that has been dumbed down and diluted to appeal to the widest possible market. I think it’s a shame that Easy A is probably going to be hindered by its release date. I think it’s a movie that would have done very well given a late spring early summer release.

Swanner: This time period rarely produces big box-office so it will probably suffer in September but I’m thinking the film will still find an audience. Emma Stone should also bring people in because she’s made some really good choices in a the pass few years with Superbad, Zombieland and The House Bunny and hopefully it’s produced a following. I know I’m a fan

Swanner: 1/2
Judd:

Machete

Normally the movies kicking off September are usually some of the worst movies of the year but this time it looks like maybe things are changing. Last week i saw Going The Distance which i liked a lot and now we have Machete. Machete was a fake trailered featured in the hilarious Grindhouse movie. To give the feeling of really being at the 70’s drive-in, the Grindhouse team thought some really cheesy trailers would add authenticity. Of all the trailers, Machete seem the one easiest to turn into a movie that could sell tickets to current audiences. The fake trailer was directed by Robert Rodriguez so no surprise he would direct Machete to the screen.

The storyline follows Machete (Danny Trejo) an ex-Federale who is betrayed by his boss (Steven Seagal) resulting in the murder of his wife and child. Three years later Machete finds himself set-up again when he’s hired to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (Robert Deniro) , an extremist advocating the end of illegal immigration. Now Machete is pissed and he’s going to kill anyone that gets in his way.

This movie was so much fun. I’m a child of the 70’s and i use to attend the drive-ins for just these kind of films. Director Rodriguez really captures the mood and flavor of this style of film. It’s violent and campy with lots of gratuitous everything. Lindsey Lohan plays the daughter of the Senator’s assistant and she plays it well. Starting off as a drugged out whore (she’s such a method actor) and ending up a rebel with a habit and a machine gun…don’t ask. The cast is perfect. Rodriguez must have worked closely with the actors because everyone understood the style of the film and because of it there are some really good performances from Jessica Alba (yes i said good), Cheech Marin, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey and Don Johnson.

Just reading off those names makes me want to see the movie again. My only regret is that some of the characters that get killed off in the film, i’d love to see back in Machete 2 which is already in the works. I loved this movie.

Swanner 1/2

The Last Exorcism

There have been quite a few movies coming out with that “Blair Witch” style of filmmaking. They seem to start very much the same with a group of people making a documentary about something that can be potentially scary. This film follows that formula by following a priest who is out to prove that he is a fraud as well as the art of the exorcism. He tells the camera that he’s been doing it for years and he does a service for the mentally ill or the fanatics who are sure that the devil is making them do the evils they have done.

The film was produced by Eli Roth and company and they have done something interesting here, They hired a director (Daniel Stamm)and the writers (Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland) who got their start in the documentary arena which explains how this faux documentary has a very true ring to it. Early in the film the priest chooses a letter he’s received as “the case” they will follow but once they get there we find ourselves conflicted on weather this young girl is possessed or weather she is looking for and answer to why she’s done the things she’s done. The director/writers did something early on that i think was genesis, They made the camera operator a character in the film. They made him a voice of concern so he becomes our voice and when the affected girl looks at him, we feel his fear. Once again…genesis.

There are plenty of good performances from our fallen priest (Cotton Marcus), the possessed girl (Nell Sweetzer) and her very religious father (Louis Herthum) but i think the star of the film fall with the director/writers in the way they make us feel very at ease in the beginning because the priest is going to expose the fraud of the exorcism but as the characters start doubting the fraud… I’m already feeling nervous for the characters as the film start to reeves up. I won’t kid you and say it’s the best film ever because it’s not. I hated the ending. I was thinking to myself “is this the best they could do?” but the first 83 minutes is so good I’d still tell people to see it. I did see some people leaving the theatre because of the strong religious bashing that goes on as well as the very scary scene with Sweetzer’s possession but all in all it was a fun time.

Swanner

Going The Distance

Going the Distance tells the story of two 30 something’s who meet in a New York City bar at a centipede video game and fall into like with each other. Erin (Drew Barrymore) is an intern for the New York Sentinel and Garrett (Justin Long) is a talent scout for Diesel Records. Erin’s internship is coming to an end and she’ll be moving back to San Francisco so the two decide to keep it casual and precede to fall in love. So, will a long distance relationship work? That where is storyline goes in this adult comedy.

Director Nanette Burstien, who before this was known for her documentaries (The Kid stays in the Picture), does a nice job of pacing the movie with plenty laughs and enough schmaltz to make it a romantic comedy.I was equally impressed with the script written by first timer Geoff La Tulippe. The lines are memorable and the characters are likeable. He’s taken the Sleepless in Seattle idea and brought it to 2010. They also made the right choice to make this movie a R-rated film giving everyone involved the chance to make it as dirty as they wanted it to be. The rating is mostly for language even though you do get a few funny semi nude scenes with Long.

The film also has a very funny supporting cast including Christina Applegate, Jason Sudekis, Charlie Day, Jim Gaffigan and Ron Livingston. They all move beautifully around the two stars. The two leads have great chemistry on screen, which probably has to do that they are an item off screen as well. Still the comic skills of both actors if not all the actors come through to make this a very funny and likeable comedy.

Swanner 1/2

Piranha 3D

There was a time (before home video) where there was a separation of movies. Where movie theaters played really good movie and Drive-ins or Secondary theaters played B movies. B movies were Westerns, Sci-fi, Action or Horror. They were made on a shoestring budget and many of Hollywood’s biggest stars got their starts there. I loved going to the drive-in as a teenager because it was the only places you could see movies like the original Piranha. So seeing that Piranha was not only being remade but remain in 3D it made me nostalgic.

I went to see the movie at a matinee where my friends and i were the only people in the theatre. (I guess there isn’t a slue of older folks waiting for this one) So the three of us settled back in our seats for 88 minutes of camp and gore…and we weren’t disappointed. The story takes place Lake Victoria, a fictional vacation spot where after an earthquake in the bottom of the lake opening a fisher that releases prehistoric Piranhas looking for food. Fortunately for everyone it’s spring break and the bikinis make it easier to get to those fleshy areas.

Elisabeth Shue stars as the towns Sheriff with Adam Scott as the earthquake researcher that helps her save the day. The film also has Jerry O’Connell as the “Girl Gone Wild” guy and Ving Rhames is the deputy. There are some wonderful cameos from Richard Dreyfuss playing Matt Hooper…the name as the character he played in Jaws, Eli Roth and Christopher Lloyd. This is a bad movie so good that it’s fun to watch. Is there a place for movies like these? I mean studio’s bring out schlock movies all the time but usually it wasn’t their intention at the beginning where the producers of this film meant for this to be as bad as it is. That makes me happy. I don’t want to see a revival of every bad movie ever made but I’m reveling in this one. I have to mention the director Alexandre Aja who directed the cult favorite High Tension and the writers Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg who both penned Sorority Row. All three have had their hands in Horror but also campy horror which really comes across here.

If you’re too snooty…don’t see this movie, you’re not going to appreciate it but if you remember the days of silly movie with buckets of gore than jump in with both feet and take a swim with Piranha.

The Switch

As the summer comes to a close you notice the studios releasing films that they don’t think will be strong contender or gems they hope find and audience. The Switch was released as a film the studio didn’t have a lot of hope for but this time it turns out it was really the hidden gem. The film tells the story of Kassie (Jennifer Aniston), a mature woman who is looking to have a child before her last eggs turn to dust. Her BFF is Wally (Jason Batemen) who thinks it’s a bad idea spends his time telling Kassie just that. Kassie decides that since she has no one offering up parental services that she’ll find a donor and of course on the night of the conception a very drunk Wally spills the “offering” and replaces it with his own.

The movie was directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck ,who brought Blades of Glory to the screen, go a bit softer with The Switch by offering a more real slice of life with characters not quite as big as in Blades. The script is by Allen Loeb (Wall Street 2) and Jeffrey Eugenides based on a short story he wrote. Both the script and direction paint what could have been a bland or even sad story into a very funny and sentimental film. Brian would have hated this movie just because i used the term “sentimental”.

I also thought the acting was very good especially between Thomas Robinson the “child” and Jason Bateman’s “Wally” character. I haven’t seen that kind of male bonding since Jerry Maguire. Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis and Patrick Wilson make up the supporting cast and all of them give solid performances. I walked in to the movie thinking it was going to be a Jennifer Aniston film but as much as she’s in it i still think it’s Bateman’s movie and he does a great job with it. It’s a shame this film has been opened so softly that many people won’t see it or even know it’s out. Fortunately, home video will be this film salvation.