Hangover II

Swanner: The first question I get asked about Hangover 2 is always, Is it as funny as the first one. I did think it was as fun as the original…actually it’s pretty much the same as the original. The only thing different here is the location. Bangkok is actually much scarier and sleazier than Vegas. Past that, it’s the same funny movie. The three guys wake up after a rough night of partying to find that the fourth member of their party is missing. This time around the missing person is the 16-year-old soon-to-be brother-in-law of Ed Helms.

Judd: My biggest problem with the movie was that it was so similar to the first. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As Tom mentioned Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis are back in their respective Pretty Boy, Nerd and Weirdo roles, but this time we’re given a little more from Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, the gangsta Asian that gets the boys into their predicament. The movie is also given a little prestige from art house darling Paul Giamatti, as an “investor” the boys do not want to cross.

Swanner: As I mentioned Bangkok is much more sleazy than Vegas but the two locations do have a lot of similarities. They are both havens for people to over party on whatever you want to party on, including drugs and prostitutes. But Bangkok offers one thing that’s different, it offers that feeling that you could die at any moment. One reason the Hangover movies work for me is that I always know that as no matter how deep these guys get buried in crap, all will be fine in the end. That’s why these movies can be so funny. We know no really harm will come.

Judd: We are reminded over and over the danger element of Bangkok. While the boys search for Teddy, various characters they come across warn them that “Bangkok got him,” “Bangkok will get him”, or “Bangkok has him.” And the movie opens with the boys finding a severed finger floating in an ice bucket, which is a lot more violent than the first. But you’re right, that threat never feels real, and for me that was a negative. It made using such a grungy locale seem a bit superficial.

Swanner: The danger is there but no one is getting that badly hurt. Even the monkey is going to be okay after he takes a bullet. I did like the movie as I liked the first one. I like that these guys are ordinary Joes that get in to trouble. I can relate to them so I can become part of the film. The three leads are all good and the script as similar as it was is very funny. It’s definitely worth seeing

Judd: I think 2 is as funny as the first, but I can’t say that I liked it as much. But that’s the problem with sequel of a movie based on one thin premise, it’s already a little stale from the get go. There will probably be a Hangover 3, but I have a feeling Hangovers 4-10 will be straight to video and star Eugene Levy.


Kung Fu 2 / Pirates 4

Swanner: As you know there are occasions when Brian sees one movie and i see another because they screen the same time. That’s what happened here. Brian saw Kung Fu Panda 2 and I saw Pirates 4. In this reboot of Pirates we have Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) racing to get to the fountain of youth before the Spaniards do. I call it a reboot because the two lovers from the first three are absent here and it feels like a whole different focus…more arggg appeal

Judd: While Pirates 4 was a reboot KFP 2 takes the story backwards and addresses the issue of why Po was raised by a goose and what happened to his parents. Additionally, in the effort to discover his past, Po and the gang must battle a peacock named Lord Shen who has invited a weapon which threatens the existence of Kung Fu.

Swanner: There are two new characters introduced this time, Ian McShane as Blackbeard and Penelope Cruz as Angelica, Blackbeards long lost daughter. Cruz is Deep’s love interest in the movie but it stays playful and never becomes the focus…thank goodness. The whole focus is the Fountain of Youth. Everyone wants and no one person has all the information to fine it. They have also introduced the mermaids whose tears help activate the fountains power. By the way, the mermaids are freaking scary.

Judd: I wasn’t real fond of the first Kung Fu Panda and I feel the same about the first. The movie focuses too much on the shenanigans of Jack Black while dismissing a stellar ensemble cast. For Black fans, this may not be a problem, but with a cast like David Cross, Lucy Liu, Gary Oldman, Victor Garber and Dustin Hoffman, to name a few, is seems like a waste of genuine talent to showcase an idiot.

Swanner: The Pirate movies are always fun but i really liked the fact that there wasn’t some silly romance slowing the pace of the film. It’s about Pirates as it should be. Rob Marshall (Chicago) directs this time and it feels more like Marshall has a better grip at storytelling. One thing i found interesting about Pirates was that the opening weekend more audiences chose 2D over the higher priced 3D. Hopefully we’ll see that change to where not everything needs to be in 3D. I’m still looking forward to seeing Panda. I was a fan of the first one but i do agree that if they aren’t utilizing talent like Seth Rogan and Dustin Hoffman they are making a huge mistake.

Judd: Panda was screened in 3D and it did absolutely nothing to enhance the movie. Fans of the first are going to like this one; people who weren’t impressed with the first shouldn’t waste their time. And for those that are curious, the end of 2 is a set up for number 3. Surprise, surprise.

Pirates 4: ½
Panda 2: ½

The Tree of Life

I went to see the new film The Tree of Life this week. I was very excited since the film was just screened at Cannes and here I was seeing the same film here in Sacramento a few days later. Of course I also heard that the audience boo’d the film at the end which is very much not typical for the Cannes Film festival. The last time I remember hearing something like that was when they showed Marie Antoinette at the Venice Film Festival. In the case of Marie Antoinette the audience was right, yet a repeat was not making me turn back. I was seeing this movie and that was that.

When i arrived at the theatre there were only five other critics there and we were all looking forward to the film even though we all had heard about the screening at Cannes. The movie starts out very mysteriously with an out of focus shot that almost looks like a child’s fort under a bed sheet with a mumbled whispering going on all around us. At this point the movie just lost me. The film is not linear so what appears to be a storyline just becomes random shots of this family on any given day. At one point the mother in the film gets a telegram telling her one of her sons in dead … I don’t know which one nor at this point do I care. Sean Penn comes on screen as one of the brothers grown up and he mumbles something about his brother being dead (which had to have happen 30 years prior) and then he does a lot of aimless staring. All of a sudden he’s on a beach … there is a door. He walks through it and at that point we see what had to have been at least 30 minutes of the creation. Planets and suns being born in a cosmic opera … at this point I’m really fighting sleep. The music and the darkness in the theatre mixed with my complete confusion made shut down. If it weren’t for me thinking about getting lunch I probably would have had about a two hour nap.

When we came back from the Hubble telescope free for all we got more boring moments in this families life for what felt like hours. I’m not really sure what this thing was about and i don’t care. I’ve read other critics thoughts on this and many are glowing on what a master filmmaker Terrence Malik is but I don’t see it. I’m not a fan of any of his previous work and after my torturous afternoon, I never will be. I can’t come up with any BS about how he toys with our imagination and that’s why he’s a genesis … I have to go the way of the Emperor’s New Clothes. I can’t fake praise for this film. I can’t pull some clever comments out of my ass to make it sound like I felt his art. I have to call it for what it is … a turd. A big smelly turd.

Swanner: 1/2 star (for the cinematography)

The Beaver

Swanner: First let me say that I never expected us to review a movie called The Beaver but here we are anyway. The Beaver is the new film from Director Jodi Foster which she also stars in with Mel Gibson. Gibson plays Walter Black, an older man going through a major midlife crisis that seems to have been passed down from father to son for generations. Foster plays his wife who is trying to keep her household together while Gibson is full blown depressed.

Judd: This is a little more than a “midlife crisis” – this is a movie about clinical depression and how Gibson escapes his life through a beaver hand puppet. That being said, the first two thirds of the movie are really good. It’s heavy, but not oppressive. There plenty of laughs sprinkled throughout to keep the audience from wanting to crawl under a rock. The third act, however, is just about as manic as the Gibson’s character.

Swanner: The third act does get a bit over the top but I felt that was the direction it was going. I really liked the storyline about the older son played by Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence plays his love interest as a cheerleader with some issues of her own. The acting was all really good but something wasn’t working for me and I’m not sure what it was exactly. I did like that the movie was 90 minutes long and gave all the leads screen time without stretching it out with useless storylines

Judd: The problem for me is that the movie was so maudlin. Granted, everyone in real life has problems, but if I want to watch something that ends with the story’s protagonist “on the road to recovery” I’ll watch a documentary. When I watch a fictional movie, I want the protagonist to either overcome his obstacle or succumb to it. The Beaver ends with them all looking off into the future, hoping for recovery.

Swanner: Maybe that’s what it was. The film had a darkness to it, both in story and technique of filmmaking. I am glad that it was often funny because I think the film could have been very depressing where here I walked away an audience member and not a patient. I did want to mention that for a screening at The Tower Theatre it had an odd mix of people.

Judd: Do you mean the Clampetts? I swear those people came down off the mountain in their Tin Lizzie and took an entire row in the theatre. You could hear the banjos in the background. Before the movie started, Jeremy with Cyclone Movies warned us that security noticed Granny had what looked to be a mason jar which was probably her rheumatiz medicine. When the movie started, Jed started reading the titles out loud to the rest of his kinfolk, which is a HUGE No-No at The Tower. All the bespeckled liberals hushed them with a fury of one thousand snakes.

Swanner: I figured they might have thought The Beaver was a cooking show and they came to learn new ways to fix vittles



Swanner: About a month ago Brian and I saw Bridesmaids. It stars Kristen Wiig who plays Maya Rudolph’s maid of Honor. As maid of honor Annie (Wiig) must plan all the pre-wedding events but the bridesmaids have ideas of their own. The film deals with the angst of being single when your best friend gets married … and it’s the funniest movie of the year.

Judd: The movie was written by Wiig and Annie Mumolo, produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Paul Freig. Freig has had his hand in directing stellar TV comedies and dramas such as Arrested Development and Nurse Jackie. These four power hitters create one of, if not the funniest female comedy to come out of Hollywood. The writing is truly spot-on and ranges from broad gross-out humor to honest emotional moments dealing with bouncing back from failure.

Swanner: What I love about this movie is that everyone that sees it has the same reaction. It’s like group hysteria. You don’t come across too many movies that do this. One of the big highlight scenes is where the bridesmaids and the bride are out shopping for dresses. Whatever you expect … it’s funnier. It’s not just this scene either but this is the biggest laugh in the movie but it goes on for quite a few minutes and what happens during those moments will have to be seen again because I honestly have no idea what happened after I lost control.

Judd: The excellent cast also helps put the movie over the top. Outside Rudolph and Wiig, Bridesmaids stars Wendi McLendon-Covey (Reno 911); Ellie Kember (The Office); Rose Byrne (Damages). Melissa McCarthy damn near steals the whole movie as Megan, the groom’s sister, a very confident and “sturdy” woman.

Swanner: Yes, the cast is so good. I love the way they don’t just have the big laughs but they have chuckles through out the film. You are literally laughing the whole time. We couldn’t talk about the movie in the car on the way home because I thought I may crash. I also found myself making a conscious effort not to pee or poop myself at different times in the film. That’s how funny it is. I can say in complete confidence that Bridesmaids is the funniest movie of the year.

Judd: And like most Apatow comedies, there is an element of romance that feels very organic, unlike most the forced and contrived claptrap Hollywood shits out – I’m looking at YOU Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl. Officer Rhodes, Wiig’s romantic interest, is written in a very real and awkward way and is played wonderfully by Chris O’Dowd. There is a moment in the movie where they are sharing beers at bar, and O’Dowd says, “You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about you…” and it’s earnest. It’s not played either saccharine or overly goofy. It’s a testament to the writing, acting and direction.

Judd: ½

Jumping The Broom

Swanner: Last night Brian and I saw the new romantic comedy Jumping the Broom. The title refers on how slaves weren’t allowed to marry so they would jump the broom to show they were a committed couple. The story follows a beautiful young African American couple who are getting married after a very short dating period. Now both families are coming together and everyone has a secret to hide or a story to tell. Salim Akil directs.

Judd: True story, when I performed the wedding ceremony for best friend and her husband, they jumped a broom. Yeah! How about that! Much like most African-American “dramadies”, Jumping the Broom was about much more than two people getting married. Much, much, much, much more. It was about class warfare. It was about infidelity. It was about how people and families deal with the success of others. It was about finding love in unexpected places. It was about respect for your children as adults. It was about inter-generational lust. It was about dealing with losing the family fortune. It was about doing what’s best for your children. And most of all, it was about was about staying true to the Lord. Amen!

Swanner: So yes, the film did have lots of storyline. The script, written by Arlene Gibbs and Elizabeth Hunter, is a big bag of melodrama. It really was the weakest part of the film. Fortunately the actors in the film are so good that they can pull us through the really lame dialog and ugly situations. Loretta Devine is a perfect example. She has the bitch role and is written so awful you’re surprised anyone would that the part. But, she’s talented enough to overcome the bad script and gives the mother of the groom some humanity, so you don’t want to see her shot.

Judd: Along with Loretta Devine, the cast included stage icons Brian Stokes Mitchell and Valarie Pettiford, film legend Angela Basset, as well as Mike Epps, Romeo Miller, DeRay Davis, Paula Patton and Tasha Smith. For a “niche film” the cast was top notch. I think what I liked most about the movie is that while is was uptown meets downtown, the affluent characters are unapologetic about being educated. When Devine launches into a “you forget where you come from…” rant, Basset shoots back with, “My family owned slaves,” which is a bit shocking, but it’s refreshing to see black characters who’s back-stories don’t include escaping the ghetto.

Swanner: That’s a very good point. We did see some characters that we don’t see very often and some of the twists were very dramatic but still very real situations. It was also nice seeing characters that weren’t just one dimensional. Even though there were silly storylines at least the characters were real and not hollow cardboard cutouts. Even though the movie is about 20 minutes too long it’s enjoyable. I will warn you that it gets really mean at points but the payoff is there. Not my favorite “wedding” movie this year but it’s better than Something Borrowed just on cast alone.

Judd: Very true. I went in expecting an excruciating train wreck, but there was some real substance behind the movie. I think had the film gone through some judicial editing and a toned down the melodrama, Jumping the Broom could have actually been a really good romantic dramady. As it stands, it’s better than most of the bigger budget movies that appeal to a whiter – Oops, I mean WIDER target audience.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½


Swanner: You know summer movies are here when comic book heroes become major movie heroes. Now with the opening of Thor … the summer movie season has officially started. Director Kenneth Branagh bring this Marvel hero to the screen in a very big way. Chris Hemsworth stars as Thor, the favorite son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who is the leader of Asgard. Thor angers Odin and is cast out and sent to Earth where he meets up with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) a scientist who does everything she can to protect Thor from the Feds who of course have come to capture Thor for some silly secret military weapon.

The other storyline deals with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) the other son of Odin. When I say this is a big summer movie I mean as far as special effects, sound and just major grandeur. Branagh has done a great job with keep the pace interesting and exciting for those of us that have no real history with the comics. The script (Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz , Don Payne) works really well in educating us in the world of Thor even if I still don’t understand where the relationship between Thor and Foster came from. Still, i’d rather see battles then the goofy love stuff any day anyway.

I really didn’t know what to expect. I never read Thor as a kid so I really went in blind to the film. That’s why the script and direction we’re so good for this type of a big over the top movie. I hate when the first movie out of the gates is this good. Thor has really set the bar high for big summer blockbusters and will be the litmus test for the what follows over the next few months. Thor is the movie to get excited about. I don’t want to give anything away but i am looking forward to what comes next year when Thor becomes one of The Avengers.

Swanner: 1/2

Fast Five

Swanner: If you’re like me you’re wondering what more could we possible learn about the characters in the latest remake of the Fast & Furious franchise? The answer is no one cares as long as Vin Diesel wears muscle shirts and they drive cars really fast. This is the same crowd that kept the Smokey and the Bandit movies alive in the 70’s. Fast cars and plenty of action is all this fan base requires and director Justin Lin delivers just that with his third F&F film. Screenwriter, Chris Morgan, also with his third installment brings enough to make the audience I saw the film with very happy.

Judd: *Sigh*… I guess should like this movie. It had some great car chases and featured some of my favorite makes and models, but… I don’t know. It’s too big. Car movies should be about One Man and One (or two) Machine outrunning the law. Or if the One Man is a cop, it’s should be about chasing down the bad guy. These F&F movies take it too far.

Swanner: I shouldn’t even be reviewing this movie. I hate these kinds of films, but I can recognize that the audience we were sitting with loved the movie. Personally, I’m looking forward to Prom. That’s my kind of movie. This film was too loud and too violent for me. Bring on the old jokes. I get it, but I’m asked for my opinion and that’s what I gave. Past the beefcake I was lost. Steal the car or don’t steal the car…I’m missing Glee.

Judd: I guess this is one instance were we’re both old fogies. What I don’t like about these movies is that they’re doing absolutely impossible things with the vehicles they’re driving. In the trailer you can see two Chargers pulling a huge vault down the road, so I’m not giving anything away. That vault weighed 10,000 lbs, and was anchored in the wall when they pulled it out. The cars may have been strong enough to pull the vault, but the tires would have been shredded.

Swanner: I’ll have to take your word for it. I was more worried about all the people hurt in the street as they were whipping the vault around. They must have killed hundreds in the “big” sequence. It was nice watching you talk to people about cars till I realized how incredibly lonely I was then I remembered we’ll be seeing Prom tonight and you’ll have the same look on your face if you don’t kill yourself during the film. Fast Five should satisfy the fans with this car movie.

Judd: The most grievous oversight was that they stole 2011 Chargers from the police station but the cars they were dragging the vault with were 2010 SRT8 Chargers. They swapped out cars! Come on! Sure most people aren’t going to notice, but if you’re making a car movie, make it right! Tom, so you understand, that would be like seeing Wicked and having Idina Menzel swapped out with Ana Gasteyer in the second act.

Swanner: BLASPHEMY!!!

Judd: Exactly.

Swanner: ½

Water For Elephants

Swanner: Last night Brian and I saw Robert Pattinson’s new movie Water for Elephants. A big screen adaptation of the best selling novel by Sara Gruen about a circus veterinarian who falls in love with the Ringleader’s wife in this romantic drama. Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz co-star as the aforementioned Ringleader and wife, but the movie focuses on Pattinson and his journey.

Judd: I have not read the book, but judging from the response of one or our fellow critics, apparently the movie is not nearly as good as the book – and I cannot stress that enough. In fact, from what I heard, the movie fornicated with the book. Regardless, Pattison’s journey starts out as a grown man, orphaned and left with nothing but a Cornell education in veterinary medicine. He joins the circus run by a dangerously violent man named August – Waltz, who basically re-channels Col. Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds.

Swanner: As I expected, Pattinson was okay but but he had more chemistry with the elephant and Waltz than he did with Witherspoon, which is awkward considering he falls in love with Witherspoon. My biggest problem with the movie is the animal cruelty from Waltz on the elephant. I think a lot of people will have a problem with it. The production design of the film was amazing and very much Oscar worthy. The costumes, sets and cinematography are all excellent. The script by Richard LaGravenese was fine although as Brian mentioned a fellow critic thought it didn’t do justice to the book.

Judd: The thing that bothers me about the animal abuse is that it seemed to be added only to emphasize the fact that Waltz is a really bad guy. As if throwing people from trains moving at murderous speeds and physically abusing his wife weren’t strong enough hints. I think August could have been a richer, deeper character if the fact that he was a big bad meanie wasn’t shoved down our throats every time there was an animal on the screen.

Swanner: This is one of those movies I’m right on the edge with, I liked a lot of what I saw but then there are these major obstacles like the abuse and lack of chemistry. I found the circus people far more interesting then two of the three leads. Why people want to play the ingénue role I’ll never know. Witherspoon does a decent job but I felt she was too old for the role and Pattinson never really brings his character fully to life. Waltz does a decent job with what he’s given but I think all this might have been better with a more experienced director.

Judd: I have to agree. I didn’t want to see the movie to begin with and afterward I didn’t hate it, but would I want to watch it again? Absolutely not. The story isn’t all that engaging and the performances, outside Waltz, are lackluster. The ending is completely predictable and needs to come about 20 to 30 minutes earlier. Two hours is a long time to wait for what you know is going to happen.

Judd: ½