No Strings Attached

Swanner: Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star in this new romantic comedy about two people sure that a relationship strictly based on sex is the perfect relationship. Of course someone starts falling in love and so our conflict begins. Director Ivan Reitman has produced a very sweet “adult” love story that I found really refreshing. It’s nice watching a romantic comedy that’s not meant to be a “family” film.

Judd: I hate romcoms. A January romcom is hell on celluloid. However, I will admit that No Strings Attached was better than I expected. That’s not to say that I thought it was good, just … better. I thought it was two dimensional, paint-by-numbers, sitcom-y and mildly funny at best. The adult humor consisted of “awkward moments” that weren’t all that awkward and marijuana humor – which may be shocking in somewhere like Wisconsin, but here in the Green Belt, it’s not even worth noticing.

Swanner: Well I love romcoms and this is a good one. It’s not the best one ever made but it was refreshing and the cast was all very likeable. I think the only real stumbling block was the script by Elizabeth Meriwether and Michael Samonek. They have fleshed out the two leads pretty nicely but they have added so many secondary characters that most of them are just included to say something funny or to give a humorous reaction. It still works well but I think that a bit more depth would have made it richer.

Judd: More depth? How about any depth! X shows up so Y can happen. That’s it. That was the total depth of every supporting character. In fact, I wouldn’t even call them characters, they were plot devices. And it’s a shame because supporting cast was excellent. Kevin Kline, Lake Bell, Mindy Kaling have some serious comedic chops, and the movie treated them like no name extras.

Swanner: True, but it still worked. Their scenes are quick in and quick out but while they were on screen they were put to good use. I thought the show was funny and entertaining and I didn’t go to the screening expecting that. One side note for Chelsea Lately fans, Guy Branum does play one of Natalie Portman’s roommates and he’s very funny.

Judd: I’ll pay it one more compliment by saying that it wasn’t completely phoned in and it was better than some of the horrible romantic comedies we’ve seen, but it was by no means good or worth the price of admission.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

The Mechanic

Based on the 1972 action thriller that stared Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent this new version follows the old storyline pretty closely updating the time but keeping much of the classics flavor. The Story Follows Arthur Bishop, an on-call assassin who is the best at what he does and is hired by governments and businesses to handle problem people around the world. The storyline has Bishop taking on an apprentice who is the son of a man Bishop was hired to kill … and also his best friend.

Jason Statham and Ben Foster affectively take over the roles in this remake. Director Simon West keeps the action moving and it never falters with silly music montages or a romantic storyline that always clutters up this genre. Writers Richard Wenk and original screenwriter Lewis John Carlino take a 40 year old story and make it fresh, It never feels dated. The special effects are great and the action sequences are top notch.

I probably haven’t seen the original since it came out in 1972 so i didn’t have a lot to compare it to but as the story unfolded it all started to come back to me. Jason Statham steps into the Bronson role with such ease it makes you wonder why he isn’t a bigger star and Ben Foster handles the apprentice role nicely even though at first he looks too small to be sharing screen time with the hunky Statham. The result is a fast paced buddy movie with an edge. One of the best remakes I’ve seen in a while and I’m hoping it gives Statham and Foster the attention they deserve.

Swanner 1/2

The Rite

Anthony Hopkins stars in this latest exorcist movie, The Rite. This time around we find out that The Vatican is finally recognizing that the number of demonic possessions are up in the world and now they are actively searching for the next generation of demon exterminators. Enter Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) a young man who has just finished seminary school and is just now questioning his faith. The head of the seminary school asks him to consider the exorcist program in Rome which he decides to accept (who’s going to turn down three months in Rome?) From there Father Michael meets up with Hopkins who plays Father Lucas, a sage exorcist, who will show him the ropes. This didn’t feel as silly as it sounds when i was watching it.

The film was directed by Mikael Hafstrom (1408) who has mastered the horror film and defiantly gives this movie it’s creepiness. The script comes from Michael Petroni (Possession) and newcomer Matt Baglio give Hafstrom a very likeable protagonist and his mentor who makes us want these men to succeed. Cinematographer Ben Davis does a very nice job creating a eerie feel that adds to the beauty but also the terror that surrounds these characters.

The film does have an over the top quality to it which can work in this type of film. I thought there were some good scares and the film moved really well for me considering the way this genre can lumber through a script this moves at a good clip. If you really like these kinds of movies i’d say this is very middle of the road and if you’re a big believer in the subject matter then you might have a few sleepless nights.


The Green Hornet

Swanner: The long awaited big screen adaptation of the 60’s TV series is in theatres and January doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Seth Rogan and Jay Chou star as Britt Reid and Kato, two crime fighter trying to make a name for themselves in the LA underground crime scene. Director Michel Gondry thankful focused on making a funny action movie and not trying to turn it into some of the strange crap were used to seeing from him.

Judd: Huh? Long awaited? By whom? The Green Hornet has always been a Batman knock-off – a playboy newspaper publisher by day and a masked vigilante by night. The only thing The Green Hornet was ever famous for was Bruce Lee, The Black Beauty and the Al Hirt’s theme song from the 60s series. As far as Gondry goes, the movie had enough of his hallmarks to make the movie thoroughly unpleasant. Mentally challenged leads? Check. Crappy special effects? Check. Scenes shot with an under cranked camera? Check.

Swanner: Did we see the same movie? The movie I saw had a funny script by Seth Rogan and Even Goldberg. The performances are all funny and appropriate. I loved the buddy rapport between the two leads and I’m really happy that their is not blossoming romance in the film. When I saw Cameron Diaz I figured we’d have to endure the boys fighting over her and it was just the opposite and I was glad to see it.

Judd: Yes, we saw the same movie, and maybe if Gondry wasn’t involved it would have been a better film, but I don’t think his style of direction fit well with this movie. First of all, Rogan/Goldberg characters are already goofy enough; they don’t need Gondry to make them act dumber than they’re already written. What Gondry calls whimsical, most people call retarded. And while I usually like Gondry’s old school, analogue-in-a-digital-age special affects, they do not belong in a big budget action film. They were jilting and distracting during the action sequences in The Green Hornet.

Swanner: I’m a fan of Seth Rogan’s and I was worried the movie was going to be too serious following in the typical superhero mold but once I realized he was writing the script as well I knew we’d have some fun. Hollywood has been trying to get this made for years. George Clooney, Will Smith, Mark Walberg, Vince Vaughn and Jake Gyllenhaal were all set to play Britt Reid at some point. It’s not a perfect movie I’ll grant you but overall I had a really good time. Maybe I’m a bit off since I had to sit through The Dilemma the night before but I had fun … something I guess your not capable of having.

Judd: Whatever. The Green Hornet was a little too much “fun” if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, not every superhero movie needs to be some heavy Nolan-esque epic. I love the 60s Adam West Batman. It’s probably one of the most watched discs in my library. To me, The Green Hornet wanted to be all things to all people. It wanted to be a big budget crashes and explosions action film, but it still wanted to be a goofy comedy. Again, I blame its failure on Gondry. Maybe if Edgar Wright, director of Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim, headed up the film it could have amounted to something more than 120 wasted minutes.


The Dilemma

Judd: Director Ron Howard teams Vince Vaughn and Kevin James in The Dilemma, a movie about two best friends Ronny and Nick (Vaughn and James) on the cusp of success, when Ronny finds out that Nick’s wife is an adulteress. Should Ronny tell? Is there more to marriage than simple fidelity that Ronny, a 45 year old bachelor, doesn’t understand? Will a confession ruin their chance at success? Should I buy a Chrysler? All this and more is addressed in The Dilemma!

Swanner: That is the dilemma in The Dilemma. Should you tell what you know? Now, if it was just Nick’s wife’s (Winona Ryder) infidelity it would be easy but when we find out that Nick goes to massage parlor every Thursday for a handy, the plot thickens. This is where I would have stepped back. If they both are cheating, it’s really none of my business but then there wouldn’t have been a movie.

Judd:The Dilemma smacks of piety and sanctimonious posturing that I don’t think would exist in this day and age. Ronny clearly thinks he’s better than his friends and the audience is supposed to identify with him, even though he’s lying, spying, and involving himself in an issue that shouldn’t concern him. The worst part of it, to me, was that Ronny was obsessed with persecuting Nick’s wife while effectively dismissing the fact that Nick was cheating as well.

Swanner: It was so hypocritical but then again it was written by a man. She’s actually having an affair and he’s just paying a hooker with good hands. It even carries through to the end where Nick is made to be the victim while his “whore” wife is forced out of town with an scarlet A sewn to her blouse. I think people are going to watch this, think Vaughn’s character is handling the dilemma wrong and in turn lose the audience. I couldn’t relate to anyone here and that’s too bad because the cast has done good things in the past.

Judd: I thought the whole movie felt psychotic and I’m not sure where Howard was going with his direction. There were odd flashbacks whenever Ronny would tell one of his lies. All the characters, outside of being unlikeable, were completely unbelievable. Ryder’s lover Zip, (Channing Tatum) is supposedly a drug addled loser – with a town house, guitar collection, and a $125K G55. Vaughn tooled around town in a bright blue ‘70 Challenger convertible, that no one seemed to notice parked on the street when he was spying on his friends. The only likeable character was Queen Latifah as a project manager for Chrysler, who helped the boys get their contract.

Swanner: I thought Vaughn’s girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) was a likeable character as well. I thought the women in general were better than the guys. I really enjoyed seeing Ryder in a strong role and Latifah made me laugh everything she referred to her “lady wood”. The film as a whole was disappointing and I’d have to blame the script and the direction. Vaughn can be a douche but that’s only if the director and the script allows him to do so. I think the final scene where James beats up Vaughn for no good reason is rather insightful since I wanted to beat up someone for making me sit through yet another mediocre January movie.

Judd: As much as I dislike the pairing of James and Vaughn I don’t think they made the film any better or worse. The rotten script is what killed this movie. It failed as a Best Buddies movie. And, it was too moralistic and sexist to be a study of “real relationships”. The only thing this movie succeeded at was introducing the 2011 Dodge lineup. Including the newly redesigned Dodge Charger with a refreshed and angrier frontend, scallops in the doors and hood and a redesigned rear which harkens back to the classic ’68 Charger. The Dodge Charger – does that thing got a Hemi?

Swanner: Just so you know, I’m silently shaking my head in disgust and disbelief.

Swanner: ½