Melancholia

Swanner: Let me describe the storyline of Melancholia. While a mysterious planet (Melancholia) heads towards a collision with the earth, two women suffering from melancholy struggle through what most certainly will be their last days … which makes them more melancholy. Usually when I’m describing this people roll their eyes which I’m sure most people do a lot of through this movie. The first 8 1/2 minutes of the film are scenes from the ending they didn’t use with loud classical music play over the top of the film. After the ridiculous opening we go back a few days to the wedding of Justine (Kristen Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard). The wedding takes up most of the first hour where we learn that Justine and her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainbourg) both are unhappy people suffering (as i was) from depression (boredom).

The second half of the film is waiting for that damn planet to hit the earth. I must admit i was trying to will the collision to happen sooner but Director Lars von Trier likes to drag things out. Claire’s husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) is constantly trying to calm the women folk that planet will come close but miss the earth. He says this as the planet gets closer and closer on the horizon behind the actors. Finally John confesses the scientific community is pretty sure we’re all doomed and Claire goes from melancholy to panic but fear not, Justine is still depressed and is hoping for the inevitable. I’m not sure where Justine husband was because i dosed off. Finally in the last two minute the film caught my attention and it blacked out and the credits rolled. My suggestion is to sit through the first 8 1/2 minutes speed through the middle two hours and watch the last two minutes of the film. I suggest this only to the people that are really curious and feel they really need to see the movie. For you that are vacillating, watch something else … maybe Bridesmaids or take a two hour nap like i did.

Swanner: No stars.

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Albert Nobbs

Swanner: Glenn Close plays a woman passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. Some thirty years after donning men’s clothing, she finds herself trapped in a prison of her own making. This is what seems to be the official description of the film but they do leave off that is a coming out film of sorts. Something that took Brian by surprise.

Judd: I was expecting more clandestine meetings and narrow escapes, as Alberta tries to protect her real identity. A coming out story is fine, but the majority of the two hour movie is about Albert hoarding money to open a tobacco shop, even though she doesn’t smoke, and being confused as to how to marry her female coworker – not because she’s in love, but because she needs a counter maid. It was long, tedious and boring.

Swanner: I did think opening tobacco shop was odd but I guess at the turn of the century that was like opening a video store in the 90’s. The script is based on a short story by George Moore with Close, Gabriella Prekop and John Banville serving as scribes. I always find it odd that a short story can produce such a plodding movie. The acting is all very good and Close is very convincing playing a man…probably the most believable of this genre. The question here, like with The Iron Lady, is can good performances save a lackluster script/film?

Judd: I used to love art house films. And I wonder, as I’ve gotten older have I lost my patience for these kinds of movies, or am I seeing them for the pretentious crap they are? Yes, all the performances are great, but the majority of the characters are paper thin and there is 80 minutes of plot stretched to two hours. Nothing happens. Albert hoards money and pines for Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowski). Helen gets knocked up by a drunken roustabout. Albert meets someone who lives like her. Typhoid happens, some people die, and then the big predictable ending. YAWN!

Swanner: I used to be a big fan of the Indies as well but either I got older or the movies got odder but now I cringe at the thought of sitting through some of these films. Its funny that I didn’t dislike this film but I was bored with it. I was definitely waiting for something…anything to happen. I didn’t find it predictable because my film would have gone a different way. I thought the ending was very “is that it?” Did you notice the audience just sat there clueless till the closing credits.

Judd: Lesbians are going to love this movie. It centers around a female who suffers in quiet dignity. It features a lesbian that dies of typhoid (that century’s ovarian cancer), and we get to see Janet McTeer’s lovely knockers. However, this is not Bound. There is no draw for straight people. Close and McTeer are no substitute for Tilly and Gershon. There is no hot lesbian action. And the story… What story?

Swanner:
Judd:

Haywire

Swanner: Mallory Kane is a highly trained operative who works for a government security contractor in the dirtiest, most dangerous corners of the world. After successfully freeing a Chinese journalist held hostage, she is double crossed and left for dead by someone close to her in her own agency. Suddenly the target of skilled assassins who know her every move, Mallory must find the truth in order to stay alive.

Judd: Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor and Channing Tatum round out the cast of stars, with American Gladiator Gina “Crush” Carano starring as our lead. Steven Soderbergh directs this subtle homage to the 1970s style exploitation films. The whole time I was watching the movie, I kept getting the feeling of déjà vu, and then it hit me… I was getting the feeling of movies like Foxy Brown and Bullit. The fight scenes, the sparse sound design and the soundtrack complete with trumpets and bongos. Very Lalo Schifrin.

Swanner: It reminded me of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill but taken more seriously. I kept waiting for the over the top sound effects and witty come backs after she kills everyone. When the movie started i wasn’t really sure what we were seeing. Once i noticed the soundtrack, i started to get where they were going. I liked the whole cast with the exception of Carano. She was very unmemorable. I can’t even picture here face in my mind. It is her second film so once she gets more experience she know how to act to the camera. It’s not that she wasn’t affective just not up to par with her co-stars.

Judd: She’s not very memorable, but her ass-kicking skills are. The fights scenes are extremely well done. The choreography is top notch. Our viewing audience was laughing nervously throughout because, as we mentioned, the look and sound are almost too real. The kicks, punches, broken glass and bodies being thrown into walls sound like the real deal and there is no music to underscore the violence. It sounds like someone is actually getting their ass whooped.

Swanner: There were times it did feel very uncomfortable like you were watching someone get really hurt but that tells you how good the choreography really was. I liked the movie but my disconnect from the main character is the only drawback. I would like to see the movie again on Blu-ray. I think knowing what to expect will make all the difference in the world.

Judd: I really liked the movie, and even though Gina doesn’t have much presence, the movie as a whole is a perfect modern take one of my favorite genres – gritty 70s pulp revenge flicks. The story isn’t very deep, but there are plenty of twists and double crosses to keep the viewer guessing. The direction, fights and sound design are what make this movie a winner.

Swanner: 1/2
Judd:

The Grey

Swanner: After their plane crash in the middle of nowhere Alaska, A group of oil workers try to stay alive facing off the crash, the weather and a pack of killer wolves. Liam Neeson stars as one of the survivors with a cast of a lot of beards and long hair. I didn’t realize one of the actors was actually Dermot Mulroney till I researched the film after we saw it. This is an intense thriller with a horror plot line.

Judd: Intense thriller? If you say so. I thought it was a shameless display of male machismo and bravado. There’s nothing wrong with that in the right context, but a movie built around nothing but chest thumping gets old really fast. I will say the scenery was beautiful, but there was a sorry lack of wolves for a movie that was supposed to be about them.

Swanner: That’s where the horror plot line came in. They were teasing us with the wolves as they pick off actors with all the fury of Jason Voorhees or Michael Meyers. The only thing I didn’t like was the monologing. I understand there isn’t that much to do as our survivors search for sanctuary, but they could cut down the length of the movie instead of filling it with chest thumping or waxing rhapsodic.

Judd: I felt the “teasing” came off as cheap thrills. It’s easy to make the audience jump with loud noises and a body suddenly being dragged off into the night. I was expecting something more along the lines of Cujo, where the canine is in constant view, terrorizing the cast and the audience. The acting was OK, the story was fluffed with run of the mill, “I miss my family” claptrap. The little twist at the end felt tacked on. There is nothing original about The Grey, and I didn’t think it was all that well done.

Swanner: I thought the cinematography was excellent and not just because the scenery was nice. The plane crash was well done and done differently than I’ve seen done before. Director Joe Carnahan kept things moving where I thought the script written by Carnahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers was the only stumbling block. I did think it was intense and my lack of finger nails can prove it. I’d say it was better than average but I was hoping for more of the craziness Carnahan had in Smokin’ Aces.

Judd: I was bored, and much like Smokin’ Aces, The Grey delivered much less than promised. I went in wanting to like the movie, but left disappointed. You’re right, the real problem here is the script; it didn’t have any meat on its bones. After taking it in, this wolf was still hungry

Swanner: 1/2
Judd:

Man On A Ledge

Swanner: An ex-cop and now wanted fugitive, Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), stands on the ledge of a high-rise building while a hard-living New York Police Department negotiator, Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), tries to talk him down. The previews do give quite a bit away of the story but not enough to ruin it. There is a lot going on here…almost too much but as silly as the film gets it’s still a fun ride.

Judd: Early in a new year is a bad time for movies. Studios are trying to dump the stuff that never should have been made. While I don’t think Man on a Ledge is bad enough for January, it would have made a mighty fine September release. Edward Burns, Jamie Bell, Kyra Sedgwick and Ed Harris round out the cast. Harris is, of course, the bad guy and Sedgwick plays a TV reporter with dubious ethics willing to do anything to get the shot. Edward Burns is a stand in character to give Lydia someone to talk to when she isn’t talking to Nick, and Jaime Bell is Nick’s brother helping out in the larger scheme. The movie isn’t well written or particularly good, but it’s not too bad for a bad movie.

Swanner: It really isn’t a very good script. The plot isn’t too bad but some of the dialog is laughable. Edward Burns isn’t the best actor but when you give him a bad script he looks like a very bad actor. Actually quite a few of the actors looked pretty awful and I think it was the script more than anything. Pablo F. Fenjves is the screenwriter. I checked his filmography and he really hasn’t done anything memorable but he was the Ghostwriter for O.J. Simpson book If I Did It and he lived next door to where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered.

Judd: The movie is much more entertaining than I thought it would be. It was an easy waste of time. The pace and action is well done, and as you said, it is a good story. We’ve seen much, much worse. Martha, May, Maxine, Marlene comes to mind. If I were asked to choose between the two, I would choose Man on a Ledge. The audience we saw the movie with really liked the movie. It’s like McDonalds – it’s not good, in fact it’s kind of awful, but it still hits the spot.

Swanner: You are a poet. You’re right. Man on a Ledge is junk food. It did move at a good pace and you can’t complain about the cast. I take that back. Kyra Sedgwick really bugged me. I mean she’s a good actress but that bright red lipstick was making me angry and the cop that was chewing gum, so gross. I think if they had a more experienced director and a better script this could have been a really good movie.

Judd: It’s funny; I was irritated by the same characters. I know they were supposed to be grating, but I don’t think the director realized just how far he took it. Man on a Ledge is a good movie for a movie buff who’s seen all the holiday blockbusters, and doesn’t want to watch a total waste of time and money.

Swanner:
Judd:

Beauty and the Beast 3D

Swanner: I’m one of those guys that has a 3D TV at home so when Beauty and the Beast came on to 3D Blu-ray last year i was first in line. Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite Disney Classics so adding the 3D was very exciting for me … I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not as big of a fan of the theatrical 3D but the home 3D is terrific. It rarely disappoints. In the prologue where the camera is winding it’s way through the forest towards the castle the film looks very much like a pop up storybook. Which is very much how I felt when i first saw the film. It was Beautiful. The other scene it was looking forward to was the ballroom sequence … I was breathless. The rest of the film looks great, I was shocked over what a difference the 3D made.

Since the film is the same the only thing to really talk about is the 3D. So when someone asks if the 3D makes a difference I tell them “yes”. To all those parents who are taking there kids for the first time to see the movie I tell that it’s a new way for you to see the film and the kids are going to love the movie the way they did 20 years ago. I’ve actually watched this 3D version twice and it was better the second time. The first time I was in awe of the transformation and the second time i could take it all in.

If I had one disappointment it’s that the song Human Again that was added back into the film for the blu-ray release a few years ago but left out of the 3D release. It’s sad because when I want to see Beauty again I’m sure I’ll reach for the 3D version. If that’s the worst thing I can come up with then I guess I just need to be quiet. Beauty and the Beast is an amazing film with or without 3D but for me the 3D just made it a better experience and a new way of looking at this amazing classic.

Swanner:

Contraband

Swanner: To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler (Mark Wahlberg) heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills. That’s the main storyline to Contraband. Of course, anything that can go wrong does go wrong, but then again, if it went off without a hitch we wouldn’t have much of a conflict. The only problem I had with the film is that all of the characters are bad guys. The characters we follow are just the better of the bad guys.

Judd: January is a time when the studios traditionally release their bowels on the movie-going public. Half way into the month and I’m shocked to say that we’ve yet to see a real stinker. Contraband isn’t a great movie; it uses the “close call” gimmick a little too often and the cinematography is atrocious; however, the story is good and the cast is an interesting ensemble to watch. Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Lucas Haas, J.K. Simmons and Diego Luna complete this hodgepodge of blockbuster headliners and indie darlings.

Swanner: I agree. This could have been a big mess … I mean it’s January, right? It’s not a great movie but it certainly was entertaining and for just under two hours it moved well. Baltasar Kormakur does a good job with his first big American film. I haven’t seen his indie stuff or his Icelandic films but the direction felt confident. This is the screenwriter’s (Aaron Guzikowski) first film so I was pretty impressed with that. It appears this film is based on another film called Reykjavik-Rotterdam…put that on your Blockbuster queue.

Judd: I liked the gritty feel of the movie. As you mentioned all the characters are “bad guys” and they all feel/look dirty. Even Foster, who plays a business owner doing a tasteful remodel of his home, feels a bit skeevy. Ribisi is down right gross. The locals and environments are dirty. The only two who didn’t look like they smelled were Wahlberg and Beckinsale – our heroes.

Swanner: I really liked the ending as well. it’s a very well rounded movie. I don’t want people to get the wrong impression. This is no Oscar contender but if you’re looking to take in a film this weekend you could do much worse.

Swanner:
Judd: ½