Mirror, Mirror/Wrath of the Titans

Swanner: As you know every once in a while we have two movies scheduled to screen the same night. On those nights we each see a film. Most of the time Brian ends up with the dog. It appears the tables have turned because I went to Wrath of the Titans. Yes, I got the pleasure of sitting through the latest 3D Titans movie. This time around Cronos has convince Hades that he’ll let him keep his immortality if he helps him destroy the rest of the gods. Brian went to see Mirror, Mirror. Was it a win-win?

Judd: I still can’t believe I picked the fairy tale movie and you picked the action movie. Mirror, Mirror is a take on the Snow White story, with the focus more on the Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) than on Snow White (Lily Collins). Directed by Tarsem Singh, the same guy who brought us the campy and delightfully horrible Immortals, Mirror, Mirror shares the same camp delivery, gorgeous costumes and beautiful mix of live action sets and CGI. Your fear was that it was going to try and be the next Princess Bride. Mirror, Mirror speaks at both the child and adult level as Princess Bride, I think Mirror, Mirror comes across a little more snarky and glib – as it should since the focus is the bad guy.

Swanner: Wrath of the Titans was actual shot for 3D so that aspect was so much better than the last time. The movie as a whole was better than the first one for what that’s worth. I think the new director helped. Jonathan Liebesman has a good sense for action, we saw that in Battle Los Angeles, and this film is all action. The story line really is nothing more than I said before (why it took three writers I don’t know) but it moves well and the effects are all really good.

Judd: Julia Roberts is fantastic as The Queen, but for me the standout was Armie Hammer. Between Channing Tatum and Armie Hammer, we’re learning that the new generation of pretty faces have some comedic chops. At one point in the film, Hammer is put under a Puppy Love Spell, and he plays it up like an excitable pooch. Very cute. Lily Collins is practically forgettable as Snow White, but then the movie really wasn’t about her.

Swanner: Damn it. Why didn’t I see that one? The biggest problem with Wrath was that I wasn’t rooting for anyone. If they died…they died. The movie had no heart. Even if you can look past the rewrite of the mythology you’re still just watching an action movie. As an action film it was good but, I really like a movie that pulls me in and gets me involved. Wrath was un-involving and empty. It’s like a relationship based on sex. The action is great but afterward there’s nothing to talk about.

Judd: You missed out. If I liked Mirror, Mirror, you would have loved it. The second act was a little slow, and much of the focus during that time is Snow White and the dwarves. The dwarves are very entertaining, but Lily Colin sucks the energy out of almost all her scenes. A more personable Snow White would have made this movie much better, but it’s still pretty darn good.

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Goon

Swanner: Seann William Scott plays a bouncer turned hockey player in the new film Goon. A goon in hockey is the player who starts fights, he’s the go to guy when someone’s playing to well on the other team. I like to watch hockey but I never realized that some players are there just to beat people up. It certainly adds charm to the game. The big question … is America hockey savvy enough to want to see this movie?

Judd: I’d say the answer to your question is that this movie is not for Americans. Goon is a Canadian film written for Canadians by Canadians starring Canadians. From the conflict of Laflamme and the Quebecers to a quick cameo appearance by The Trailer Park Boys and a soundtrack featuring Rush, writers Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (both Canadian Apatow alums) sneak in as many Canuck references as they can manage. I was going to say that there wasn’t any reference to SCTV – but Eugene Levy plays Seann William Scott’s father. Rick Moranis must have been busy.

Swanner: That’s the feeling I got too. The basic plot to Goon is that Scott is at a hockey game where he has a confrontation with a player that ends with Scott beating up the team’s Goon. Scott’s asked to be on the team and rises up from his barely amateur status to semi pro in a very short time. Michael Dowse directs this very funny comedy but I think Brian is right … America not only won’t get it, but won’t even try to get it. It’s really a shame because there are some really good performances by Scott and Liev Schreiber, a soon to retire goon that sees fighting Scott as his last hurrah.

Judd: Americans who watch and understand hockey will enjoy Goon – if they see it. Those that think hockey is unreasonably violent are going to be turned off by the fact that Goon celebrates that violence. But beyond that, I liked the script and I like the way Seann William Scott underplayed his character. He knows he’s an idiot heavy only good for kicking ass, but he never comes off as an over-the-top meathead. He was kindhearted and polite –which, again, I attribute to a Canadian sensibility. An America script would have made Scott the Rambo type that kicks ass first and takes names later.

Swanner: It’s a very likeable movie past the hockey violence and for some of us … the violence is part of the fun. You’re right, Scott is very good in the role. It’s nice to see him playing a character that isn’t sleazy. Goon should take its place among the favorite hockey movies like Slap Shot and Miracle. It’s a funny movie with good performances … let’s just hope it finds an audience.

Judd: I know I keep saying it, but I really liked the Canadian-ness of the movie. It’s a violent sports comedy that isn’t testosterone laden and stupid. It should be mentioned that the reason Seann William Scott gets into his first fight is because he’s defending his gay brother. In fact, I think it’s funny that Baruchel plays an American and he is the most obnoxious and sexist person in the movie. I’m surprised they didn’t get a fat guy to play the character.

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The Hunger Games

Swanner: When making a movie based on a book, with a huge fan following, you have to make the decision to either make the movie for the fans or make the best movie for everyone? That’s what I keep thinking about with The Hunger Games. The fans talk about all the important things that have to be in the movie but it want to see a good movie that moves well. Is there a happy medium? All this would probably not even be an issue if I didn’t have all that free time to think about things during the awful shaky camera work scenes.

Judd: Hunger Games, for our readers who don’t know, is set in a future dystopia where 12 towns have to choose two teenagers to fight in a televised death match. Its American Idol meets Survivor meets Lost meets every other television show that I despise all rolled into one. The only thing missing was a Glee sing-along. Twilight, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings have all struck that balance between novel-level detail and mass appeal. Hunger Games has the bloated run-time of these movies but seemed to be missing the level of extraneous details to account for its 2 hours and 22 minute runtime. Every scene could have been halved and nothing would have been missed.

Swanner: As someone who didn’t read the books i agree. There were so many scenes that just went on and on … I get it, you’re sad, but weeping openly in a field for more than a few seconds is silly. AllIi kept thinking was why is she so loud? Brian is also right about taking every reality show and rolling them into one, but I would simplify it as Running Man meets Lord of the Flies. I also have to question how we, as a country, can give a PG-13 rating to a movie that shows children killing children. It makes me laugh when i hear people say they are glad we’re not like that. I did like the actors and i thought the production design was great. Director Gary Ross did well with the script but I still think he could have edited this thing down by at least 20 minutes.

Judd: I really liked the political aspects of the movie, with the Capitol running the games and controlling the lower districts with hope and fear. There was a large disparity between wealth of the people in the Capitol and of District 12. The setting seemed to be a watered down plot from Aldous Huxley. I wonder, having not read the books, is that the movie’s fault or something that the Young Adult’s novel doesn’t get that deep into.

Swanner: Good question that I have no answer, I’m just glad that there were no zombies in this world. I do know that the novel by Suzanne Collins is wildly popular and she did write the screenplay with Ross and Billy Ray. I would imagine were getting a very close representation of the first book. I did like the movie even if it was too long and the terrible cinematography. I can’t say that I’m on pins and needles to see the rest of the films but what I saw I liked.

Judd: Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson come together as a good cast, and compared to the Twilight treacle, The Hunger Games is high art. While, like you, I wasn’t swept away by the story I did enjoy it more than brooding teenage vampires staring off into space while overdoing it with the pomade.

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Judd: ½

21 Jump Street

Swanner: Remakes are funny how they work. They either copy them like Footloose or they reinvent them like Sherlock Holmes. Sometimes they work and many don’t. In this case it’s a reinventing of the old 80’s TV series 21 Jump Street. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play police officers that go undercover in a local high school to stop the movement of a new synthetic drug that’s killed a student. Right away you can tell it’s a comedy because I don’t know what’s less believable…Jonah Hill playing a police officer or Channing Tatum passing as a high school student? Either way it works and it works big time.

Judd: I didn’t watch the original 21 Jump Street, so I went in without bias toward the source material, but I was nervous about Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum teaming up in a buddy movie. I still don’t believe how well it worked; the casting agent took a huge leap of faith that paid off in spades. I also loved that they set the tone of the movie almost immediately with a short monologue by the Deputy Chief played by Nick Offerman (Parks & Rec). He says the 21 Jump Street police program is a program from the 90s that the department keeps recycling hoping the public doesn’t catch on that it’s the same old shit over and over again because no one can think of anything original anymore.

Swanner: That was a highlight for me as well. It tells the viewer exactly what to expect. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and writer Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim) knew they were going to take the ridiculousness of the plot and just go for it. Don’t worry about making this real or even feasible. They tell us what the plot is and make it funny. I know Hill had be attached to the project for quite a while. Both he and Channing are listed as producers.

Judd: What really surprised me is Tatum’s comedic talent. He’s never struck me as anything more than a pretty face, but here he gets to show off with some great physical comedy bits. Jonah Hill is Jonah Hill, and how he got an Oscar Nomination is beyond me. The supporting cast is also really good, with Brie Larson (Scott Pilgrim), Dave Franco (James’ little brother) and Rob Riggle (if you saw him, you’d know him). I am almost tempted to call 21 Jump Street an early, early kickoff to the summer movie season.

Swanner: Let’s hope it’s a sign of what to expect this summer. I liked it a lot. I really don’t have anything bad to say about outside of the fact that Channing Tatum was fully dressed too much. He did come across as a very good comic and Jonah Hill is a good actor. He’s a chubby Woody Allen. His timing is good and once he gains his weight back you’ll feel differently. I’m telling everyone how much fun this film is and it’s the first movie since Bridesmaids I can’t wait to see again.

Judd: I liked 21 Jump Street way more than I expected to, and I’m glad to see that Hollywood has realized that it can make a big-budget action comedy without Will Farrell or Ben Stiller.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

Project X

Swanner: Ever since The Blair Witch filmmakers have been trying to think of any way possible to keep the genre going. Movies like Paranormal Activity have done really well at making it work but Project X, which we saw last night, does not. In fact it’s really had no redeeming qualities at all. They couldn’t even stick to the single camera shtick through the whole film. The movie is about three kids who plan a party that gets out of hand and a neighborhood burns down. I’m too old for this s&*t.

Judd: I think you’re misclassifying Project X by comparing it with Blair Witch and Paranormal. Those movies were made in a “documentary” style where the characters were trying to accomplish something. Project X is the afterbirth of the YouTube generation. Young adults post their boring home videos, as if anyone should give a flying f*&k about what they’ve done, and yet inexplicably the rest of the world watches like a bunch of pervy voyeurs. As you can tell, I’m not a fan of this cultural phenomenon.

Swanner: Last night you said something that has really stuck with me…it’s lazy filmmaking. There is no real storyline. Most of the film is random shots of people dirty dancing, teenage girls topless and people doing drugs and drinking. I read that this is Sixteen Candles for this generation. I’m glad John Hughes isn’t alive to hear that. Sixteen Candles had a script for one thing and a cast of terrific actors. Not this hodgepodge of untalented posers and steady cam. I understand this type of filmmaking is cheap and easy but it’s not supposed to look that way.

Judd: Project X was about as involved as a beer commercial or MTV Spring Break. It was an incredibly lazy film. There are five minutes spurts of plot here and there and then 15 minutes of loud music and bump’n’grind. Girls Gone Wild videos have more story to them. Again, I blame YouTube. It has lowered expectations of what is “entertainment” to where blocky cellphone video of someone jumping off a roof can be made into a feature film. It’s almost as if technology has taken art so far that it’s starting to cave in on itself.

Swanner: I know the creators of this film are hoping that everyone would see the film from the teenagers’ point of view but right away I felt like a parent. This movie just made me distrust teenagers all the more. No one cares about the damage to the house or the neighborhood. The main characters dad actually sounds proud of his son for burning down the house and the neighborhood. If all that isn’t bad enough, when the boys go back to school they are treated like heroes. What a fine lesson they’ve all learned … where is the prison rape scene that is awaiting them after their trial? I guess that would have been a big downer for this pile of crap.

Judd: While I agree with you to a point, there are plenty movie featuring destruction of property that we actually enjoy. Maya Rudolph s#*t in a wedding dress. The cast of The Hangover destroyed a penthouse suite. A movie doesn’t have to have likeable or relatable characters as long as they’re compelling. Project X should have been titled Project Why. Why was this movie made and why would people pay money to see it? I haven’t hated a movie this much in a long, long time.

Swanner: no stars
Judd: no stars

The Lorax

Swanner: The Lorax is a new animated feature that follows the story of the Lorax and how he tries to save the trees from the greedy businesses. Not one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories but I do like it’s message which is if you cut down all the trees we’re pretty much screwed. The Lorax is a kids movie that kind of left me dry. Maybe Pixar has ruined it for everyone else. Maybe they’ve set the bar too high … I’m trying to figure out why most animated movies just don’t work for me anymore.

Judd: Pixar and it’s heightened standards have nothing to do with it. Crappy movies are crappy movies. None of Dr. Seuss’ feature film adaptations have worked because you can’t take a 200 word poem and turn it into an 80 minute movie. He never wanted his books turned into movies. All of this is because of his greedy-ass wife who’s been licensing his stuff after he died. Anyway, The Lorax is a movie that plays like it’s made for children ages 3 through 7, that’s why it doesn’t resonate with us. Throw in its propagandistic levels of “Trees Good, Business Bad!” chanting and you’ve got a clumsy, boring and tactless waste of time.

Swanner: I did think the movie is beautiful but I found myself fighting sleep…and I wasn’t tired when the movie started. I did notice that the kids were enjoying the movie. They stayed in their seats and it stayed quiet during the film. So it is a good movie for kids but I pity the parents that have to sit through it but then again those same parents are sitting through the wiggles so this has to be better than that.

Judd: The only redeeming value I found in the movie was the songs, written by Oscar winner John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon). Structurally the songs were interesting and catchy; lyrically, they were about as bad as the rest of the movie. What bothered me the most about the movie was the uber-left message. It felt like indoctrination. I don’t like extremist views from either side, and The Lorax couldn’t be more extreme.

Swanner: It’s the Lorax … that’s what the Lorax does … he saves trees. I didn’t care much for the songs. I thought they were as forgettable as the rest of the movie and between them and the 3D I could barely stay awake. The voice credits go to Betty White, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Danny DeVito. DeVito and White had the vocal skills to do something with their voices but Efron and Shift added nothing for me. I know this is a good family movie and wasn’t made for me and that disappoints me because I love animated films. Pixar and DreamWorks are nice enough to remember that there are adult who love animation and the adults that have to accompany the kids. Don’t forget to entertain us too.

Judd: Wait until these children get older and realize that trees aren’t so great with their pollen and their leaves. Sap that sticks to your car. Fruits that attract bees and stain your driveway. Flowers that smell like an old cum rag. I HATE TREES!!! Cut all those M-F’ers down! TINA! Bring me the axe!

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