The Watch

Swanner: Four suburban guys form a neighborhood watch after a man is mysteriously killed at the Costco. That pretty much describes the first half of The Watch. Ben Stiller plays Evan, the manager of earlier mentioned Costco, who gathers this menagerie after his security guard is murdered. Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade make up this funny foursome. Director Akiva Schaffer (Saturday Night Live) keeps the action moving but never controls Vaughn who is more than happy to steal every scene he’s in…and not in a good way.

Judd: Written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, The Watch has a desperate feel of trying to be an Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg film, the duo most famous for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Meta Buddy Movies that pay homage to a genre as much as they send up the genre. These types of movies have to be tightly scripted and well balanced for them to work. While the script has some funny moments and funny lines, the direction is too sloppy and loose to let the writing rise above.

Swanner: The Dialog is great when it’s not being chewed up by Vaughn. It’s the storyline that doesn’t work. It’s a dumb movie…I’m okay with that but it’s unnecessary scenes and under explored relationships that really bog down the script. The four main actors are good but the rest of the cast are basically walk on roles with just a few lines. Vaughn’s daughter and Stiller’s wife are perfect examples.

Judd: I will say that while Vaughn was scene-stealer, he was not nearly as obnoxious as he could have been and Ben Stiller was downright subdued – compared to his normal self, that is. While neither one of us has much nice to say about the movie, I will say that it’s not nearly as “WHACKY” as I expected. I was expecting Stiller and Vaughn to be bouncing off the walls. And maybe it’s because they’re older, or because they had a noob in the mix, but they did seem a little more relaxed which is a refreshing change from, especially Stiller’s, constant posturing and riffing.

Swanner: I’d actually recommend the movie to most people. It’s very much a “guy” movie. The three guys behind us loved the movie. I thought it was going to be terrible so I was pleasantly surprised that it was funny. The redeeming thing about the movie was the funny dialog between the four men. The film is raunchy which helped with the humor and I was glad they didn’t clean up the movie to get a PG-13 rating. It’s rated R and deserves that rating. If you’re looking for a funny movie with the mentality of a 15 year old boy…this is your film.

Judd: Agreed. The movie is funny, but it isn’t good. It’s your typical late-summer R-rated comedy; there’s not a whole lot you can expect from it. Vaughn and Stiller fans are going to enjoy it, Vaughn and Stiller haters aren’t going to see it unless they’re being dragged to the theatre. It’s worth a matinee if it’s 106 outside and your A/C is busted.

Swanner:
Judd:

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Step Up Revolution

Judd: “The theater, the theater. What’s happened to the theatre, especially where dancing in concerned? Chaps who did taps aren’t tapping anymore; they’re doing choreography.” So laments Danny Kaye in 1954’s White Christmas, I share his concern after seeing 2012’s Step Up Revolution, a 90 minute music video where youths spasm and jerk their bodies in synchronized motion set to “music” which sounds like something caught in a garbage disposal.

Swanner: You have to forgive Grandpa because he doesn’t like a good dance movie unless it’s got Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers starring in it. This is the fourth “Step Up” movie and, if you remember, the first one made Channing Tatum a star. These are really modern-day Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney films from the thirties and forties. The plot is simple. The gang has to dance to save something … it’s either the building, the neighborhood or maybe just themselves from who they have become. What makes them different is the dancing and the music, both are really good here for those who don’t have Connie Francis on their Walkman.

Judd: You shut your cakehole! The Boswell Sisters is currently on my portable Victor Talking Machine. You softened me a little with the comparison to the old Mickey and Judy movies, because you’re absolutely right, but at least Mickey and Judy had good music and dancing. Step Up showcased nothing but noise and herky-jerky gyrations. I get it, you have to appeal to the kids, but why don’t they get Savion Glover and Ben Vereen? The kids LOVE Savion Glover and Ben Vereen.

Swanner: Tap dancers? What next … Lawrence Welk: Segregation Now!? This movie was made for people who love Hip Hop dancing. They do have some amazing dance number as part of a flash mob but these dances are like no flash mob you’ve ever seen. The director (Scott Speer) & the writer (Jenny Mayer) are both making their film debut. It shows in the script with its simplicity but I think the direction is quite good. The cinematography, editing, choreography and the score are the real stars but the cast of mostly unknowns or cast members of So You Think You Can Dance all do a good job with what they were given.

Judd: I do not like Hip Hop dancing; it looks like someone having an upright seizure. The movie itself was a paper thin excuse to showcase the talent of the cast. I get that, and I’m OK with it. But the music, the dancing and that “Moose” character spitting all over the place throughout his whole performance was enough to turn me right off. I recommend staying at home, renting a Shirley Temple & Bill “Bojangles” Robinson film, and catching some real hoofing with pleasant music to accompany it.

Swanner: I liked the movie. It was better than the last one so that’s good to see in a sequel especially when all the films are good. It’s also nice to see an unknown cast get a chance at a feature film. They feature talent over stars. It’s not the best movie of the summer but it’s a good distraction and the message is good. Ultimately the film is all about the dancing and I thought the dancing was great.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

The Dark Knight Rises

Swanner: When you have a film like The Dark Knight Rises you not only have to live up to your predecessors films but you also have to try to live up to the hype. I don’t think any film can meet this kind of hype and I don’t know how to separate the films but I’ll do my best. I think Christopher Nolan has really done well. He’s a great director and storyteller. He also writes the screenplay with his brother so he’s very much in charge of the story. If you look at his past successes I can’t imagine the studio telling him no.

Judd: I, too, was concerned over the hype of the movie, and it makes me wonder if the early releases of an incomprehensible Bane was part of a ploy to scare the fanboys and make them all the more grateful for the final result. Regardless, I thought The Dark Knight Rises was a very good finale to the trilogy; I liked the way it looped around to draw the meat of its story from Batman Begins, while treating the Dark Knight as a stepping-stone to The Dark Knight Rises. It’s an excellent display of writing skills, especially given the strength and popularity of The Dark Knight.

Swanner: I was hearing all the comments on it being too long and bloated, and it is, but I also found it like cake … I just wanted more. There was a real sadness to the film. If you look at it most of the characters had lost their joy or had the life just sucked out of them. That’s why Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character, John Blake, was so important. He needed the Batman idol to give life back to Gotham. With Dark Knight we had our emotional tie to Heath Ledger but this film really belonged to Gordon Levitt. I also thought it was a good finale to this remarkable trilogy. I even thought Anne Hathaway did a really good job and it pains me to say that.

Judd: You make a good point about the sadness of all the characters, and TDKR could easily be classified as a tragedy. Commissioner Gordon has lost his family and friends, Catwoman is only looking to start fresh but needs to get dirtier to do so, John Blake desperately needs a hero and even coldblooded mercenary Bane is driven by beliefs and poignant loyalty. This crushing take on the superhero trope – while very common in the actual funny papers – is far from what movie audiences come to expect from their comic book crusaders. And while I enjoyed all the performances, except one unusually bad actor in the first five minutes of the film, I was expecting more from my boyfriend. You know him as Tom Hardy. And it’s not that Tom wasn’t his normal stellar self, but the face-obscuring mask, the digitized voice and the heavy coat with upturned collar severely hampered his emotive capabilities — as it would have with any actor. I don’t think even miracle actors Stephen Root or Johnny Depp could have worked with such a hindering costume.

Swanner: Christian Bale has the same problem. He spends half the film with a mask on. That’s why Gordon Levitt and Hathaway have the chance to shine in the film. I do think the score and the sound were over the top. If I can’t hear what the actors are saying then it’s too loud. What I did love was how Nolan makes the city look. The art direction and cinematography are always amazing in his films. The film is so well crafted that it just feels and looks like a blockbuster. It is two hours and forty four minutes but it’s two hours and forty four minutes of WOW. I do love that Nolan ended the movie. For me it was the perfect ending.

Judd: I agree it is the perfect ending as a result to its stellar writing and treatment of the trilogy as a whole, which is rare in these days of endless sequels. I didn’t nerdgasm like the rest of the world did over The Dark Knight and I’m curious to see if The Dark Knight Rises will meet the same reception without the tragic and untimely death of an actor to bolster its sales.

Swanner: 1/2

Judd:

Ted

Swanner: Director Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) brings us the story of a young boy who makes a Christmas wish that his teddy bear was real and the aftermath of what that really means. I know as a child I always wanted my stuffed animals to be real but I never really thought about what that would mean down the line. In this case the boy grows up to be Mark Wahlberg and his teddy bear is a foul mouthed, pot smoking, pain in the butt. All that being said I want my teddy bear to be real too.

Judd: I’m on the fence about MacFarlane. All his shows are a take on the same basic premise, with the genre of jokes changing with each show, but all resorting to cheap one-offs and throwaway pop-culture references. It’s lazy. I was interested in seeing Ted, or as I call it “Unhappily Ever After 2”, to see if MacFarlane could actually stick to a plot and not fall back on his cadre of now-stale non-sequiturs. While he couldn’t help but throwing a couple into the mix, I was surprised that he mostly stuck with real storytelling, and fairly adeptly at that.

Swanner: The 12 year old boy in me came out during the movie with all it farting and pooping jokes. I’m a big Family Guy fan so I got just what I wanted from the movie. I like the pop culture references because even though Seth is in his 30’s he makes references like he’s in his 50’s…doesn’t that sound like someone we know (Brian Judd). I loved the script even though it’s not perfect and it looked like everyone had fun making the movie. It was also nice that the movie was rated R. I’m sure Seth told the studio he was making an adult movie and wasn’t going to waiver on it.

Judd: I enjoyed the story, even though it was “time to grow up at the insistence of your girlfriend” movie. Mila Kunis played the girlfriend as being fed up but she wasn’t a total harpy, which most movies like this can tip toward. I also enjoyed seeing the Macfarlane standards, Alex Borstein and Patrick Warburton make some very funny appearances.

Swanner: There were a lot of cameos in the movie including a very hunky Ryan Reynolds playing the role he was always meant to play. I do have to mention that the Pooh scene will go down as one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen in a film. It literally had me sobbing with laughter. This will end up being one of those great stoner films. It’s geared towards men. You have a talking teddy bear that starts his day on the bong. You have two cool actors in the leads and it’s freaking hilarious. When it comes out on Blu-ray I’ll be first in line.

Swanner: 1/2

Judd:

Ice Age 4

Swanner: It’s hard to believe that there is a fourth Ice Age movie out in theatres. I actually had forgotten about the third installment but It has been ten years since little Scrat first became obsessed with getting that last allusive acorn. Since then, there have been the earlier mentioned three sequels, TV specials and short films. One of those short films is actually the first few minutes of this film. We started seeing that short film a couple years ago. The film starts with the continental divide which separates Manie (Ray Romano) from his family and the rest of the film has Manie and his friends trying to get back home.

Judd: Having never seen the first three Ice Ages, Continental Drift is my introduction to the series, and even under those circumstances the characters seemed stale and Scrat with his acorn joke was tired and overdone. The bad guys are just as forgettable, with a Pirate Gorilla named Gut, and a bunch of other animals I can’t remember and don’t have the ambition to look up. Basically the good guys upset the bad guys by sinking their ship, or something, and then the bad guys seek vengeance for their lost ship – I think.

Swanner: I do agree that this franchise has run its theatrical course. That was my biggest problem with the film. The script was cartoonish, more of a Saturday morning storyline and less of an animated feature to go up against DreamWorks or Pixar. You had mentioned the new forgettable characters. I looked them up and they did bring in Peter Dinklage, Nick Frost, Joy Behar and Wanda Sykes but their dialog is focused at younger children and not much for the adults in the audience. They still have Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo but they seemed as bored as us.

Judd: The script was too light given the subjects. A pirate seeking vengeance by threatens to kill Manie’s family; a land mass moving across these animals’ happy home destroying everything they knew and had. I’m not saying that the movie should have been weighed down with drama, but there could have been a little emotion instilled into the circumstances. All these things were nothing more than plot devices to give our characters something to do.

Swanner: I’m sure that an audience of young children will enjoy the film, but I doubt the parents going with them will. As with most sequels, this far down the line, it just feels like the filmmakers are just trying to squeeze out just one more film. This could have been a perfectly good TV movie and then it wouldn’t have suffered from the comparison of the other theatrical films. If you look back at Madagascar 3 you’d notice a much better script with fresh and funny characters. Here there was nothing free or exciting. Did you notice the only moral here is that Manie need to trust his daughter more…personally I’m waiting for Ice Age: Noah’s Ark.

Swanner: ½
Judd:

Amazing Spider-Man

Swanner: Up till the time the movie started I was still asking myself why would a studio reboot a franchise so soon after a very successful series of films. It would be like Warner Brothers announcing a new cast and a fresh look at the Harry Potter movies. Enough! With that being said, I really liked this new Spider-Man, not just the cast but the approach of the film that never worked in any of the three original films … the romance.

As much as I liked the villains in the Sam Raimi’s versions I was always a bit bored with the leads, especially Kristen Dunst. I know you’re thinking it’s because I don’t care much for Dunst as an actress but in the Spider-Man movies she was particularly awful with her angsty performance as Mary Jane. You also had Toby McGuire whose performances got less and less edgy to the point it felt like he was walking through scenes to get the paycheck. That doesn’t happen here with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. I usually don’t give a damn about the limp romance in superhero movies but here I was really rooting for them to get together and stay together. It almost felt like a romantic movie with a special effects secondary storyline and that’s very surprising and refreshing. That’s not to say it’s all lovey-dovey. It’s still a solid action film.

Marc Webb known for doing music performance films is the director. If you look further into his filmology you’ll see he directed 500 Days of Summer and you start to realize why the romance worked so well. The script was written by a who’s who in Hollywood. James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Alvin Sargent (Spider-Man 2) and Steve Kloves (all 8 Harry Potter movies) so the talent was there and had to make Marc Webb’s job all the easier. The actors are all perfectly cast. As i mentioned the two leads are perfect with there subtle teen romance and Rhys Ifans and Dennis Leary are really good as the bad guy and good guy respectively. Finally Martin Sheen and Sally Fields play Peter Parkers uncle and aunt. Of all the characters from the original they had the most to overcome and did so nicely.

The effects are right up there where you’d hope they be and the 3D was actually pretty affective in the film. As with all the Spider-Man movies the villian is very good both in acting and character. I think the Fanboys are going to love the movie and the audiences are going to have a lot of fun because the film is so well rounded. When all is said and done though it comes down to Garfield’s performance and letting Stone hold her own and not make her some cheesy damsel in distress.

Swanner: 1/2