Judd: There’s always been grumblings that Shakespeare didn’t actually write his works. Now, let’s suppose that the supposed “real” Shakespeare was a ninny on the Monty Python level of ninnies. Let us also suppose that the Edward De Vere Earl of Oxford, who was orphaned and raised by William Cecil, a Rasputin type counselor to Queen Elizabeth I really wrote Shakespeare’s canon. William Cecil has a humpback son and a frumpy daughter and they all think the arts are the devil’s work; they try to keep Edward from writing. Edward chooses an unknown playwright, Ben Johnson, to produce his shows for him. Ben is reluctant, so Shakespeare swoops in and takes credit. De Vere uses his writing to sway public opinion against the Cecils. Ben Johnson conspires with the Cecils against De Vere and Shakespeare. Now throw in illegitimate children, incest, and an illiterate than can read, and you have a story that should open with a woman yelling, “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!” over the opening credits.

Swanner: You can’t just give it all away like that. First of all, if you’ve ever read up on the royals this doesn’t sound to far fetched but I understand your thoughts. Still, growing up in the Midwest I would think you were used to some of these elements. Didn’t you grow up on a dirt road? The movie is pretty much your typical period piece. Beautiful costumes, muddy roads, political intrigue and sword fights. I liked that fact we were talking about plays and not about wars or chicks for a change.

Judd: I can and did give it all away because I don’t want our readers wasting more than two hours on an unforgivably boring cloak and dagger melodrama. And nice try at trying to tie in my Midwestern roots with incest. B- for effort. Director Roland Emmrich is better known for his disaster films and Anonymous is catastrophic. Instead of relying on engaging characters and story to build interest, he uses a constantly shifting timeframe to build intrigue. Forcing the audience to figure out who is who is not the same as them taking interest.

Swanner: I will admit that bouncing back 40 years was a bit confusing, but I still thought it was an enjoyable film. All the performances were all wonderful, especially Rhys Ifans and Vanessa Redgrave. John Orloff’s script was good, but as I mentioned it was a bit confusing at time and that may have been the editing. You have to give Roland Emmrich props for not destroying the world or having aliens be the real author of King Lear.

Judd: I thought the performances were a bit hammy, especially Rafe Spall as Shakespeare. He was one step away from Eric Idle. The movie felt like three concepts loosely tied together by the Shakespeare plot. Shakespeare could have been taken completely out of the film and it wouldn’t have changed much. In fact, I would have preferred his character were out of the movie, as I could have done without the 20 minute montage of his “Greatest Hits.” The target audience of this claptrap isn’t going to recognize the works anyhow.

Swanner: I’m glad I saw the movie. I think you need to get off that high horse of yours and just settle down. I also thought Spall was a bit much but he was cute enough for me to forgive. I also think they wanted him to be a bit of a villain so the more obnoxious the better. It’s not a great movie but I liked the concept. If you’re a fan of costume dramas I would suggest this film. If you’re all bitched out by Shakespeare to begin with then why would you even consider seeing this movie in the first place?

Swanner: 1/2
Judd: No stars

Margin Call

Swanner: What I like about Margin Call was that it asks the question how much money does it take for you to ditch your morals for a big payoff. The storyline here is that a company realizes they are on the crest of financial disaster and what can they do to come out of it with the best outcome for them. Forget what it might do to the economy. Director and scribe J.C. Chandor does a nice job bringing this thriller to life.

Judd: Margin Call has a fairly hefty cast of Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci and Zachary Quinto. Financial thrillers don’t reach me. Maybe it’s the times. Maybe it’s because I’m not shocked by an antagonist that will destroy the country/world for financial gain. I’m not even sure what emotions these kinds of backroom deals are supposed to illicit from their audience. Personally, I was uninspired and bored.

Swanner: I find I distance myself while watching these kinds of film, as if they are fictional and nothing like this could ever happen. Ignorance is bliss. I thought the cast was terrific. It had a Glengarry Glen Ross feel to it. Nasty people who will do anything to keep their heads above water in the name of the company, when it’s really all about their own greed. It was surprisingly exciting to me watching this story unfold, considering the film doesn’t move much further than the interior of the office. You being bored surprises me.

Judd: I really liked Irons, Spacey and Tucci, and but the rest of it was blah. I was looking at my watch and counting ceiling tiles. Just like last month’s Ides of March, nasty people doing nasty things to each other only interest me when there are shoulder pads and rhinestones involved. Both movies are well made, and while Margin Call isn’t nearly as melodramatic, both movies are too subtle to keep my attention.

Swanner: The movie is opening on only 50 screens for Lionsgate. Either they are building an audience or they see it as a limited audience film. I would think that with this cast (I thought the supporting people were equally as good) it would open well, but I’m still trying to figure out why 50/50 wasn’t a major success. You are right, it does have that Ides of March feel to it and that’s also struggling in theatres. I guess it’s getting harder to open a movie without a robot somewhere in the film. If you’re near one of the 50 theatres I’d say check out Margin Call.

Judd: With the current state of the nation, no one wants to see movies about rich people screwing us to get richer; politicians screwing each other to get elected; or a 27 year old kid dying of cancer. There’s enough bad news out there. Margin Call was created to preach to the Occupy Wall Street choir. No one else is interested. I certainly wasn’t.

Judd: ½

The Rum Diary

Swanner: Johnny Depp plays American journalist Paul Kemp who takes a newspaper job in 1960 Puerto Rico. When he arrives he finds himself involved with some sleazy business men who are looking to turn Puerto Rico into the next best tourist area even if it means raping the land and the people of their culture. Of course through all of this he’s about as drunk as someone can be and still function. Bruce Robinson serves as director and writer of this very entertaining look at 50 years ago.

Judd: People are calling this a sequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, though it’s not. This is a much simpler, cleaner, less frantic version of the Hunter S Thompson character we got in Fear and Loathing. Should Terry Gilliam have helmed Rum Diary as he did Fear and Loathing, we might have gotten more of the same. Instead writer/director Bruce Robinson produces a very beautiful movie with brilliant dialogue that, in the end, amounts to very little.

Swanner: The script was very good and so is the cast. Johnny Depp has fun with his Kemp role but the supporting cast really steals the show with terrific performances from Michael Rispoli and Richard Jenkins but Giovanni Ribisi is amazing playing a fellow journalist that spends the entire film high and drunk. It’s an Oscar worthy performance that reminds me of John Hurt in Midnight Express. I loved the way the film looks. The sets and costumes are great and the scenery makes you want to pack your bags and head to the Caribbean.

Judd: I am truly amazed that you liked Ribisi. You usually hate him! I liked this movie a lot but it is a little too long, clocking in at a full two hours, and there isn’t a whole lot going on in the plot. The Rum Diary is very much about the ride, not the destination, and I think that may turn a lot of people off. I think many people will get frustrated at numerous 20 minute scenes that don’t advance the plot, instead of enjoying the excellent dialogue and the look and feel of the film’s locales.

Swanner: That’s exactly what the appeal of the movie was to me as well. It was all so easy to watch. I think what made me like Ribisi was that we don’t get the messed up character in film anymore without them being the sad character. In early film those we’re the comic relief roles that everyone wanted. They were funny. You weren’t thinking about how they paid their bills or if they had families … you just laughed. That’s how Ribisi plays the role. I just hope critics respond to him and he gets his due. I also hope the people who will love this movie … find this movie. It was such a pleasant surprise and I’m so glad I saw it.

Judd: The sum of its parts is greater than the whole. The plot isn’t much, but everything else makes up for it. And you know what? If all those critics out there can praise that piece of crap Puss In Boots because they liked Banderas’ voice and the 3D was good, then I can praise a movie for it’s lush cinematography, wonderful characters and rich dialogue even if the plot is thin.


In Time

Swanner: When you’re dealing with sci-fi there is always that point in the movie where your audience either goes with the concept and enjoys the ride or they reject it and spend the rest of the film picking it apart. Think Inception’s 292 million box-office compared to Scott Pilgrim’s 31 million. In Time is going to have that problem but even on a higher level because they are really changing this up. The concept here is that time is currency. Once you’re out of time you die. So rich people have all the time in the world while poor people die very young.

Judd: I’m not a fan of science fiction because it usually exceeds the limits of what I’m willing to accept as “real” – the same goes with fantasy. However, the concept of In Time is so engaging that not only was I willing to accept the concept, I was willing to overlook glaring holes throughout the movie. Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and the Ice Blue eyed Cillian Murphy star in this thriller where “for a few to be immortal, many must die.”

Swanner: On to the actual storyline. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) finds himself with too much time on his hands. People in his district normally have no more than a few days left on their clocks so when he shows up with over 100 years the timekeepers come to find him. (I think I’m confusing more than I’m explaining) Basically Salas becomes a fugitive and the film shifts into a very fun action thriller. Andrew Niccol does a great job keeping things excited from his original script. He’s no stranger to the genre; he’s the scribe to both Gattaca and The Truman Show.

Judd: It’s a caste type society, where one’s station in life is inherited and unchangeable. The Timekeepers are a police force that insures time remains in the hands of the wealthy. While the poor live their lives at a frantic pace, the rich live idly afraid of accidental death. Pauper Salas kidnaps Debutante Sylvia Wies (Seyfried), in order to shake up the system after his mother dies in his arms. Weis learns the meaning of living when her clock is run down from years to mere hours. While the movie is very shallow and glossy, I think it would make a great book.

Swanner: It had a really good pace to it. I’m hoping that audiences will let this art flow over than and not think to much about the obvious holes. This is definitely one of those movies you’ll be talking about in the car on the way home. We know that Timberlake can act after Alpha Dog and The Social Network but now we know he can lead. It was also nice seeing Seyfried change up her look. She has a very hard edge to her which should change up her Mamma Mia good girl image. If you let it, In Time can be a very fun ride.

Judd: I also thought the look of the movie was very interesting. While it wasn’t highly stylized, there was a definite neo-retro feel to the film. Everything was in shades of black and white. Ghetto locations looked like 1940s Los Angeles Skid Row. The rich areas were done up Art Deco and their clothes were late 40s-50s Hollywood elegance. The rich all drove the same stretched and shaved late 60s Continentals and the Timekeepers all drove shaved, primer black ‘70 Challengers. The only striking splash of color came from the Minutemen, a team of gangsters. The lead wore a purple suit and drive an orange early 80s Seville with all its trim in tact. In Time isn’t a great movie, but it’s a lot of fun and definitely worth a viewing.


Paranormal Activity 3

Swanner: Opening this weekend with big crowds was Paranormal Activity 3. I’ve been a big fan of the first two film so i was taken back when the studio decided not to let critics see the film. I’ve got to admit that i was worried when i realized the two directors were the same two directors of Catfish (Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman) which i thought was a huge disappointment.
After i saw that Christopher B. Landon and Oren Peli wrote the script i was calmed. Landon was brought in to make PN2 more mainstream and Peli (original writer/director) kept it from loosing the rawness of the original. So with the script in good hands i figured the directors couldn’t screw it up too badly. Actually they did a nice job with it but what surprised me most was that all the scary stuff from the preview was absent from the finished film. I don’t know it it’s being used as a selling tool for the DVD release or they just wanted to mess with us, i don’t know.

The film is a prequel of the first two film, showing us where the demon came from and why it’s following the two women. Going back to 1988 where we see how it all came to be. Where the two girls and a wedding videographer step father capture some very scary happening in their suburban home. With it being the late 80’s the filmmakers had to pull back to what the available video equipment was for the time period. One brilliant method was placing a camera on an osculating fan base so the camera would slowly cover a large area. This technique kept me on edge every time it was used.

Going back to the early comment about the unused trailer footage. Even though it did build up a bit of tension, waiting for those scenes to show, it was still a disappointment because those scenes were pretty “F”ing scary and i found myself waiting for them. Did that ruin the film for me? No, but I’m hoping for a big ass director’s cut cram packed with all the scary stuff. This is definitely one of the films where you can say they didn’t show all the best parts in the trailer. If you were a fan of the first two films you’re going the love this creepy prequel. If you hated the earlier films then you shouldn’t be watching it since you know they are going to use the same film techniques to scare or not to scare you. So if you’re not a fan, stay home and let us fans get on our scare on.

Swanner 1/2

Puss in Boots

Swanner: When the makers of Shrek 4 said that was the final Shrek movie I was trying to figure out how they were going to keep that cash cow mooing without breaking their word. Puss n Boots is the answer. They’ve taken a minor character and produced a full blown movie around it with a debatable outcome. What director Chris Miller and the slew of writers have produced is a beautiful, but boring film

Judd: I went into the theater with an open mind for Puss n Boots. I’m not a fan of the Shrek movies, but I didn’t hate them. I also know that Puss was one of the more popular characters, but as Tom said when we left the movie, you can’t make a whole film out of the “straight man”. Puss has a few comedic characteristics, but not enough to build a whole movie.

Swanner: It’s true, Donkey was a big comic element in the Shrek movies so when things got slow Donkey could save the day. Here there is no comic element. Besides the Puss storyline they follow Humpty Dumpty and Jack and the Beanstalk…neither one hilarious or very entertaining. The main plot teams Puss with Humpty (Zach Galifianakis) and a female cat named Kitty (Selma Hayek) on a quest to travel to the castle in the sky to take the golden goose and become rich. Hilarious isn’t it? I just think they forgot what made the Shrek movies funny…bad mouthing Disney!!!

Judd: Maybe we were expecting too much comedy from a Shrek spinoff, but I think it’s reasonable to expect a compelling story. There were several plots that carried the movie, the biggest being the conflict between Humpty and Puss, who had a falling out when they were children, which I found to be a giant “who cares”. There were some mild chuckles from the Jack and Jill characters, with Jack wanting to be a father, but again it amounted to nothing in the long run – much like whole movie.

Swanner: I don’t think we were expecting too much. It’s a spin off from Shrek, so it not being funny and clever is a crime. I thought most of the movie was a “who cares”. I was fighting sleep through the third act of the movie. What this movie need was a narration by Donkey or at least someone who could interject some humor. This should have been the animated film to beat this year, but at least it does make Rango’s chances look much more promising.

Judd: Let’s not forget the 3D in Puss n Boots was pointless, as it usually is. The movie is set up to have a sequel with the secret of Kitty Soft Paws – declawing being her secret. I can’t imagine the formula getting any better. I agree with Rango being the top cartoon for the year, but I see the Academy Award going to Puss n Boots or Tin Tin. Why? Because Rango was too weird for the masses, the language was too course for children and the characters smoked. Smoking cartoon characters? This isn’t 1940s Warner Brothers! I’m surprised Rango made it to theatres at all.

Swanner: ½

The Big Year

Swanner: First off, the title The Big Year is really misleading. I had not seen a trailer of the film so I went in a bit blind. I thought it was going to be about midlife crisis, but then I read a synopsis and discovered it was about bird watching. Imagine my terror. How are they going to make a movie interesting when it’s about bird watching? The story follows three men who are trying to see the most birds in a calendar year. The record is held by Owen Wilson’s character. Steve Martin and Jack Black are the other two men trying for the record.

Judd: When I saw the cast and read the synopsis I thought it was going to be a mockumentary type movie like Best in Show – except with TONS more slapstick considering the cast. That’s not the movie that was delivered. The Big Year is about how sloth or obsession can ruin a person’s life. And to answer Tom’s question of how can you make a bird watching movie interesting? You can’t.

Swanner: This is such a hard movie to review for me. It’s a comedy, but I don’t remember laughing during it. I should be rooting for the characters but I didn’t. I found myself watching the movie like when I don’t get to see what I want to on TV. I’m there, but I could doing something else. It was decent, but I wasn’t emotionally involved. I could have been cleaning the living room or making dinner and still followed the movie. Director David Frackel and screenwriter Howard Franklin just didn’t pull me in even though they had a good cast. Was it just me or is Mark Obmascik’s novel just not a big screen story?

Judd: I agree; the movie was not engaging at all. It wasn’t a bad movie, in fact it was better than I expected, but it was a bland movie. There was nothing that reached out and grabbed me. I didn’t care who saw the most birds, I didn’t care if Jack Black and his father (Brian Denehey) reconciled, I didn’t care if Steve Martin’s mega-corporation failed when he retired, I didn’t care about Owen Wilson neglecting his wife. None of it mattered.

Swanner: It kind of makes me sad. I can’t put my finger on why it didn’t work. Maybe it will for other people, but you and I are about as different as you can get in taste in movies, and when we agree that something is this bland… There is a major problem here. Maybe Bird watching isn’t big screen fare. This could just be one of those films best seen in the comfort of your living room… Where you can do some light cleaning while its on.

Swanner: ½

Footloose / The Thing

Swanner: I went to see Footloose last night. It’s the remake of the 1984 film of the same name. Whenever there is a remake I always want to know why they are remaking it. Granted, it’s not Gone with the Wind but still… There should be something that improves the story. I’ve never seen a remake that basically just reshoots the original shot for shot. Is Footloose better than the original? In some ways, yes. Did it need to be remade? That is the question still running through my head.

Judd: Bad Critic! Bad! You obviously forgot about Gus Van Sant’s Psycho shot-for-shot remake. While you were cutting loose, I was seeing The Thing, which is not a remake; rather it is a prequel to the 1982 movie The Thing, which is a remake of a 1951 film. Confused? With a cast of relative unknowns, the 2011 movie about the first set of scientists to find and study an alien frozen in a glacier. The prequel follows the 1982 plot, with the alien assimilating its human prey and the unaffected turning on each other with mistrust and wondering who is really what.

Swanner: I never saw the Psycho remake, which is no excuse, but I know everyone hated it. I think this one will be received well by people under 35, but will leave the older folks asking the same things I am. Some of the improvements are that Ren’s family in Beaumont are completely supportive of him, which was something I didn’t like in the original. No Lori Singer was another huge improvement. Lori Singer is terrible and her absence is welcome. Finally, they have added some people of color to the cast. The original was very white bread.

Judd: Did Kenny Loggins do the soundtrack? If not, Ooowhee Marie, the movie gets an F from me. The Thing was plagued with problems. There was no suspense because you know exactly how the movie is going to end. But the biggest issues were the number of obvious mistakes and plot holes. A snow bound camp has a limitless supply of fuel. Scientists can cut the wires on all the vehicles but they still operate. The diesel they used was magic because it never gelled.

Swanner: This new Footloose was written by the original screenwriter Dean Pitchford and Craig Brewer who also serves as director. I think what they wanted to do was tweak what didn’t work in the original and make a movie for a new generation of moviegoers. It’s still got a good message and since they used most of the original music (recorded by more current artists) it’s still very likeable. Someone asked me if it made me want to watch the original and I thought … I just did.

Judd: I wouldn’t recommend The Thing to anyone outside of the hardcore fans of the original. Even then, I’d suggest they stay home, kick off their Sunday shoes and rent it. It’s an unnecessary prequel that adds nothing to the story.

Footloose: ½
The Thing:

Ides of March

Swanner: As we get closer to next years Presidential election I’m sure we’ll be seeing a whole slew of political thrillers like The Ides of March. Director George Clooney has called in favors pulling together a huge cast of stars in this drama about the ugly underbelly of running an election. Ryan Gosling stars as an idealistic staffer who will do all he can to protect his candidate even when he finds out he’s not the man he thought he was.

Judd Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright and Marisa Tomei round out the cast and they’re all excellent. The beginning of the movie is extremely slow then builds up tension and drama – more like melodrama – until the end, when our pie-eyed babe in the woods becomes the meanest and baddest of them all. Is it a fun movie? Yes. But it takes itself much, much too seriously.

Swanner: I think it needed to take itself seriously. This wasn’t trying to be Wag the Dog; it had aspirations of All The President’s Men – which it didn’t quite meet but I really enjoyed it. I will admit I was surprised that Goslings character wasn’t a bit more savvy to the business. I worked a campaign a few years ago, and even on a local level it was nasty business. Clooney also wrote the script with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon whose play (Farragut North) the movie was based on.

Judd: Oh, come on! The movie is so over the top, it could have been written by Jacqueline Susann. It could have been a ‘80s Aaron Spelling primetime soap. We’ve got the nosey journalist, the drinking and pill popping “old hand”, there’s even a young Catholic girl in need of an abortion – and when she tells Gosling she’s pregnant she actually uses the phrase “I’m in trouble”. Who says that anymore?!?! Ides of March is a trashy melodrama gussied up for the NPR crowd.

Swanner: I’ll admit the storyline is a bit familiar but it wasn’t handled like your examples. They certainly didn’t dress like a Spelling production. I did laugh when she said she was in trouble and then he got some of the money from petty cash. If she had been underage then maybe I would have seen your point. Remember, there are only so many storylines. Everything starts sounding familiar. I liked the film. I thought it was mean, dark and nasty…all the things I love in this kind of film.

Judd: Out of everything, you think because she wasn’t underage that the story wasn’t trashy? Whatever. My point is if you’re going to make a trashy film, do it with some gusto, don’t try to be artsy about it, and please don’t add a “message”. The only thing missing in Ides of March was Alexis and Krystle fighting in a fountain. It’s a shame that Ides is so slowly paced, with the first half being yawn inducing. It could have been a campy good time – it was certainly written that way.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

Real Steel

Swanner: When I heard there was a movie that sounded a lot like a tribute to Rock ’Em Sock ‘Em Robots I cringed. I mean haven’t we seen these kind of films fail over and over again. I love when a movie surprises me. Real Steel follows Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) a man who controls a boxing robot and his newly acquired 11 year old son Max (Dakota Goyo). Even as I explain this it sounds like it can’t be a good movie but it really was and I haven’t seen an audience get so involved in a movie for a long time.

Judd: I was looking forward to something that was going to be so bad that it was good. I certainly wasn’t expecting something that was genuinely good. It took me a little while to warm up to the film, as the character Charlie is a little too much like people we know. A loser that barely gets by on his charm, dragging everyone around him down. But as the movie progresses Charlie commits to fighting and his son and redeems himself – of course.

Swanner: I thought the movie was paced really well even though you pretty much know where the story is going. Director Shawn Levy kept things exciting with the script by John Gatins. I did think the script edged on sappy, but its a sports movie at heart and those Rocky moments have to happen. The credits list story by Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven but it’s really based on the short story by Richard Matheson called Steel, which was an episode of the original Twilight Zones. Danny Elfman did a really great job with the score of the film. I liked it because it was highly affective with out being over the top.

Judd: I agree with you on the sappiness, but it didn’t become overwhelming like is has is other movies of bad-parent-makes-good. In fact, all the characters were relatively scaled back in comparison to other movies of this genre. Goyo is a cute without being sugarcoated. Jackman is charming without being smarmy. The bad guys were a bit over the top, with a Slick Talking Cowboy, a Natasha Fatale, and an Intensely Silent Asian.

Swanner: The bad guys were a bit typical but if you consider our audience last night…they may need that for the genre since black hats have become too obvious. I liked the relationship with the father and son, and that says something because that kind of crap usually makes my skin crawl. The romance in the movie was also handled very well and didn’t bring down the film. I liked the movie a lot. As I said earlier, I like when movies surprise me. Here is another example of a movie that should really be seen in a theatre first. I hope everyone gets to see it with an audience like ours. They were cheering and clapping to the point I felt like I was seeing a boxing match live.

Judd: I agree with you regarding the father-son relationship. I’d like to add that Goyo really stood his own against Jackman without having to rely on saccharine cuteness. He reminds me of a Freddie Highmore. It will be interesting to see where his career goes.