Source Code

Swanner: I was watching The Spy Who Shagged Me this weekend and at the very beginning of the movie Mike Myers and Michael York are talking about a time machine and they both look into the camera and tell the audience to just go with it. Source Code deals with time travel and for that I say “just go with it”. That being said the movie has Jake Gyllenhaal playing a man who can move back to a certain 8 minutes before a train explosion to find out who the bomber is and why.

Judd: This “just go with it” is a layman’s way of saying “Suspension of Disbelief” – the willingness to overlook certain implausibilities to enjoy the story. Source Code asks the view to suspend disbelief as well as logic, reason and science. The plot holes in this movie are so large that it makes it impossible to connect with main character or really care why he is doing what he’s doing or the sense of risk – which in reality, there is absolutely none – involved.

Swanner: See, I total disagree. Gyllenhaal did a really great job of pulling me in through the movie and making me concerned for him as well as the well being of the passengers. This is why you don’t like Sci-fi or Fantasy films…you’re too busy trying to disprove them or call their bluff. It’s a movie about playing with time, of course it’s implausible that’s why it fiction. I don’t want to give any of the film away but I liked it’s reasons for what was happening. You just need to have some fun.

Judd: Once again you’re wrong. We are told repeatedly throughout the movie what Cpt. Colter Stevens (even the name is crap) thinks can happen, absolutely cannot happen. We are explicitly told that it is completely unfeasible because what he thinks is happening to him, isn’t really happening at all, but is actually the short-term memory of someone else that recently died. So not only are we to believe that Colter Stevens can live the life of a dead person’s memory – altering that memory to find a bomber; we’re told what is impossible is actually possible in the end. I call shenanigans.

Swanner: You are sad. Since when has “That can’t happen” ever been true in movies? Really? Director Duncan Jones and Writer Ben Ripley worked well together to product a very exciting and fun film. Some people may be to hung up on reality that they can’t enjoy themselves. I don’t hear you bitching about Zombies not being real or super heroes aren’t real but time travel is where he puts his foot down…silly boy.

Judd: I can sum up the whole movie in one scenario: I show you a red balloon and tell you its red. You disagree and tell me it’s blue. I tell you its red. This goes on for 90 minutes, then at the very end I say, “I’ll be damned. You’re right. It is blue.” Hogwash. I liked the score; the opening titles theme was good. How about that? Is that enough praise for you, because that’s all it’s going to get.

Swanner:
Judd:

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Paul

Swanner: It’s been a long time since there has been a movie satire that’s actually good. We’ve sat through all the Super Hero Movies and the Disaster Movies that weren’t funny but Paul is different. Paul is the Airplane for Sci-fi geeks and I’m proud to say I enjoyed myself. Directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad) and starring Simon Peg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) who also wrote the screenplay you have a very funny and very smart comedy.

Judd: Contrary to my physical appearance and sense of fashion, I am not a sci-fi geek, nor do I like fantasy or comic books. This being said, I went into Paul knowing that I would miss the majority of in-jokes. What I did not realize was that because I am not emotionally stirred by the source material, even the jokes I did recognize, I didn’t find that funny.

Swanner: Maybe someone will do a film about the 50’s girl singers and you’ll have something to relate to but enough about you, lets talk about this fabulous movie. I think I got must of the jokes (which came like machine gun fire) It was a big valentine’s present for all those boys that never get gifts. Everything from the Star Wars cantina song playing in the bar to the cameo by Steven Spielberg…it all worked. The storyline follows two middle aged geeks who travel from Comicon to all the published alien landing sites in the south west till they finally meet a real alien named Paul.

Judd: I think Paul really suffers from it’s “For Geeks By Geeks” exclusionary writing. The whole thing reminded me of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. The movie made jokes that only nerds would find funny – to hell with the people that didn’t get it. Better, funnier writing with a broader scope could have improved the movie, but dorks like the idea of being part of privileged few. It makes them feel better about living at home where Mom resides in the basement because after topping out at 400 pounds they can’t handle the stairs anymore.

Swanner: Mentioning that makes me think about Scott Pilgrim from last year that was very funny but even funnier if you knew all the inside stuff. You’re right, the movie may suffer but to quote Kristen Wiig in Paul “they can go suck my big hairy balls.” The rest of the world gets movies made for them all the time. This is our chance to laugh at ourselves without some bully saying it as he slams us into a locker. By the way, I’m not 400 pounds and don’t live in a basement…just incase someone thought Brian was implying it was me. Paul is the funniest movie of the Year and I can’t wait to own it.

Judd: I hate to say it, but Wiig was probably the best character in the movie because she was the only one not spouting off sci-fi nonsense. She lost religion and found reason, and as a result she decided to cuss and fornicate – a lot. The humor was cheap, but at least the audience members not wearing Star Wars t-shirts had something to laugh at.

Swanner: 1/2
Judd:

Limitless

Swanner: A man takes an untested drug that makes him able to use all parts of his brain in this sci-fi thriller. Bradley Cooper plays the man who uses this drug to better his writing but discovers that it offers up many different ways of bettering his life creatively and monetarily but then soon discovers it come at a price. It’s not science fiction as what’s expected from the genre but it still qualifies based of the subject matter.

Judd: The whole time I was watching the movie, as Eddie (Cooper) is mastering languages, the stock market and women, I kept thinking to myself, “Is this the handsome and charming creature that tweakers think they’ve become while they’re spun?” Basically the drug that Cooper was taking, called NZT in the movie, was pretty much Magic Meth. It kept him awake, reduced his appetite and made him a genius, all the while destroying him from the inside. I really liked the way the movie used frantic editing to provide a feeling of hyper mania, while using lighting and digital effects to show us the “glow” that user experiences while under the influence.

Swanner: I’ll have to take your word on the super meth reference but yes he certainly had that “I’m invincible” element that so many of those “druggies” have. Director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) brings a very manic pace to the film and yes, the editing does it’s magic too. The script is smart (by Leslie Dixon, based on a novel by Alan Glynn) but full of holes. I know this is one of those movies you could pick apart if you want to but I don’t think it’s fair to do here. This is a fun movie…we know what Eddie is doing is wrong but we know if we were in his shoes we’d probably try it too so we, the audience, are ready for the ride.

Judd: Outside of the plot holes, there was a huge chunk in the middle of the movie that was pretty much cast aside at by the end. Characters were introduced that were never seen again after their brief screen appearance and conflict between characters was never carried through. Limitless is definitely a Spring movie. It’s not horrible, it’s not great, but it is fun. It’s unfortunate because I think the movie had potential to be more than just fun.

Swanner: You are so right. It is very much a spring movie. This film could have really crashed and burned but I think they set the tone early and it made it work. I loved something you pointed out last night about Bradley Cooper’s appearance. I had mentioned that he looked like crap early in the film and you countered with how he got better looking as he got more drugged out. It’s very clever to us his looks that way

Judd: Yeah, like I mentioned earlier the lighting and special effects to add the drug-induced glow was an excellent effect. Everything was green and grey and Cooper looked like he probably normally does in real life. But after he took the drug, colors and skin tones warmed; Cooper’s skin was digitally smoothed and I wouldn’t be surprised if they brightened his baby blues. It was very effective. Too effective for the quality of the overall movie.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules

Judd: Last year we were given Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the story of Greg Heffley’s middle school trials and tribulations. Girl problems, popularity issues, and the tumultuous change between being an innocent child and a surly teen. It was a story that tweenagers could commiserate with, and adults could laugh. This year were given Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2. And this time Greg actually has a shot with a popular girl, if his older brother doesn’t kill him first.

Swanner: I like that I knew all the kids in his school. That even though I’m a few years older than a junior high schooler I could still relate. Most movies try to cast beautiful people in all the roles when reality isn’t as kind. Zachary Gordon plays Greg (our protagonist) with Devon Bostick plays his older brother Rodrick (our antagonist). The story centers around brotherly love or the lack of it. As the younger brother I can tell you that this is about as close as I have every seen of the true misery an older brother can rain down upon a sweet younger brother who never did anything more than just try to make everyone happy. Older brothers are like Nazis – cruel to the end.

Judd: OH, PLEASE! First of all, “a few years older?” If you consider a half century “a few years”, then so be it. And as an older brother myself, I know for a fact that you younger siblings deserve everything you get. We have to be your chauffer, we have to put up with your constant meddling, and when administering a little justice for it all we run the risk of parental wrath. Greg deserved everything his brother lobbed at him.

Swanner: Brian and I were more the secondary characters in this movie. It was like looking in a mirror watching Robert Capron who plays Rowley, Greg’s plump best friend while Brian is almost mirrored by Grayson Russell who played Fregley. As I said before … these characters are painfully familiar. The movie is a little comedy with some big laughs. I’m sure many old people will find the humor a bit juvenile but considering the audience the movie is made for … deal with it. David Bowers steps in as director while Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah have returned as screenwriters and it seems as though everyone is a year older but it’s like we never left the original wimpy kid.

Judd: See, you make comments like that then run to Momma when it’s time to pay for them. Classic little brother. I thought the first movie was funnier than this sequel. The first movie covered more of the trauma it is to be a 12 year old, and what hysterically weird things kids that age do. Cheese touch, anyone? This sequel was more of a generic Disney Channel offering. There was nothing that set it apart from any other tweenage sibling rivalry movie.

Swanner: I felt very comfortable with these characters. I thought the transition between films to be seamless and it’s not just because all the actors are back. Having the same screenwriters really helps but I think it all goes back to the source material. There’s a real truth to the story. It never went to Disney Channel with the humor and even though there was a romance it never complicated the show with drooly girl stuff. It was fun to be 12 again even if it was only for 96 minutes.

Judd: You’re stupid and you’re wrong. And if you run and tell mom I swear I’ll hurt you.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

Mars Needs Moms

Swanner: Let me start by saying that this is a really bad title. Not that it doesn’t mirror the movie but who over the age of 8 would want to see this movie based on the title? That’s beside the point. Walt Disney Studio’s latest offering is Mars Needs Moms, a sweet film about a boy that rescues his Mom from the red planet. I seems that the women of Mars are in power and don’t want to play nursemaid to the babies so they come to earth to steal mothers who will raise their kids. This seems kind of complicated for young ones.

Judd: I don’t like children, I don’t relate to children, especially young children. But I have a hard time believing that the target age for Mars Needs Moms is being taken to the movies. Four year old don’t do well sitting still for 90 straight minutes. Given that, I don’t know why Disney would release this dull, simple, not-very-colorful into the theatres. Mars Needs Moms should have gone straight to home video.

Swanner: Based on a book by Berkeley Breathed with a screenplay by Simon Wells and Wendy Wells we are force to sit through the most “kidsie” offering from Disney that wasn’t a Disney Channel offering. I know the Disney Channel does cater to a younger audience but the films are usually more balanced. I did think the animation was much better than in the similar The Polar Express even though the faces are still a bit odd.

Judd: I do not like the whole CGI rotoscoping gimmick. What in hell is the point of digitally painting over actors so that they look almost exactly as they do in real life, except creepier? I don’t get it. Outside the animation, the plot was so contrived and forced that every “emotional” moment was projected 5 minutes ahead of when it happened. It was almost like the screenwriters were giving the adults in the audience the opportunity to grab their barf buckets before being washed over by a rancid wave of insipid sentimentality.

Swanner: Simon Wells who also directed the film has been doing this for years at DreamWorks, directing The Prince of Egypt and Balto. Thinking of those two shows reminds me what poor storytellers DreamWorks can be. DreamWorks, with the exception of Shrek and How to Train you’re Dragon, has constantly missed the boat in an emotional tie to their movies. So why did Disney allow it to get made or worse released to theatres?

Judd: I figure the only reason it was released into theatres is so Disney can collect a premium on the 3D, since most families don’t have 3D TVs. Though, the 3D did absolutely nothing to enhance the visuals. Disney figures this is an early spring release when there’s nothing else in the theatres, so why don’t take a 3D dump on film. They know people will see it. What I don’t understand is the PG rating. This is definitely a G rated film.

Swanner: PG or G? I don’t care. I just expected something that adults could sit through which I didn’t get here. I don’t want to say it’s awful but I feel bad for all those moms that are going to have to watch this one.

Judd: A G-rating would have warned me that I was seeing something made for toddlers. You may not want say the movie was awful, but I will. I also don’t feel bad for the moms who take their brats to see this one. There was this word that I used to hear all the time when I was a kid. The word was “No.” Parents don’t use it very much these days.

Swanner:
Judd:

Little Red Riding

Swanner: Besides this being the year of sequels we’re also seeing a lot of fairy tales getting a makeover. This time around it’s a new look at Little Red Riding Hood where a young girl is being stalked by a werewolf as her town is on the hunt for the creature. Directed by Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke and a screenplay by Orphan scribe David Johnson, with those credits it’s no wonder Red Riding Hood veered so far from the path.

Judd: At first I was looking forward to LRRH and then after I read the synopsis I was not – however, the movie wasn’t what I expected. With a cast of Amanda Seyfried, Billy Burke, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas, and Virginia Madsen the movie was chock full of decent actors playing meaningless characters. The only character that drove the story was Seyfried, our hooded protagonist, who was stuck in a lusty love triangle between a wood chopping bad boy and a timid black smith. The whole script was one red herring after another, much like The Orphan but not as fun.

Swanner: I did find the production value really strong for the movie even though it does look like a village you might see at a theme park. I think the real problem is the script, it has that Twilight meets Van Helsing feel and that feeling is a bad thing. The audience was laughing at bad dialog and at moments that should have been scary. Amanda Seyfried was nicely cast as our lady cloaked in rouge but the rest of the performances are either forgettable or just bad. Julie Christie plays Grandmother and in some scenes she’s quite affective and the next moment they have her doing something silly and it takes from what could have been a good performance.

Judd: The movie’s biggest problem, as I mentioned, was that it weighed down with way too many characters that did nothing to drive the plot. There were three or four girls who may or may not have been Red’s friends. There was the village simpleton, but I’m not sure who he belonged to. There were Oldman’s children who had 30 seconds of screen time then never seen again. Lukas Haas was completely pointless. I will agree that the movie looked nice. It had a very fairy tale look and feel to it – though I thought it was a bit ridiculous that the Bad Boy was obviously wearing hair product and sporting a collapsed faux-hawk slash JBF bed head throughout the film.

Swanner: I was really hoping this might be good because I like these fairy tale redux but everyone seems to want to create the next Twilight. Don’t … it wasn’t good. You’re right about the script, it was too busy and filled with characters that meant nothing towards the movement of the story. I know the script had a lot of red herrings but they really didn’t go anywhere with them so it just felt clunky. I found myself sitting during the movie wondering about how clean the place was and how they were all so tidy, even when working. If I have time to nitpick then you never fully grabbed my imagination.

Judd: It’s unfortunate that Hardwicke decided to knock off her own work and turn Riding Hood into another fervent teen melodrama. Johnson’s Orphan could not be called good by any means, but it was fun. Red Riding Hood could have been just as fun, but instead we were given Twilight minus the shirtless Taylor Lautner. Would that make it Twi-lite?

Swanner: ½
Judd:

Battle: Los Angeles

I’ll admit that after i saw that awful movie Skyline I wasn’t looking forward to Los Angeles being destroyed again. From the previews, at least this one left the building where Skyline was shot inside the producers condo (kill me). So I ventured out to hopefully not waste another evening. I must say it was much better than i expected or even hoped for. A small band of marines try to gather as many survivors as they can before the military levels Santa Monica. Yes, that pretty much the story but it’s about the journey not the destination.

It’s kind of and odd pairing with director Jonathan Liebesman known for horror (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) and the writer of The Generals Daughter, Christopher Betolini making a sci-fi action picture … but it works. I don’t think I can give them all the credit to why this movie works but it’s a good start. You also have Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez in staring roles with a fine supporting cast. The actor give the movie it’s heart and that’s what pulls you through to the end. The special effects come in later in the film but Liebesman and Betolini pace the introduction of the aliens so we don’t become to complacent and it appears the budget for the effects was low so using smoke and mirrors was the right thing to do … no really, smoke and mirrors.

This isn’t the best alien movie or even the best war picture but i was entertained. The characters are quite likeable and the acting lives up to it. As I said, the special effects aren’t that special but it’s a character driven film so for that aspect it worked. Do I want to see Battle Denver or Dallas? No, but Battle Los Angeles was a good guys night at the theatre and Michelle Rodriguez gave it enough girl time that I had something to relate to.

Swanner 1/2