The Tall Man

Swanner: Opening up in a limited run is The Tall Man. The film tells the story of a small north western town that’s been having a rash of child disappearances. The people who have witnessed these kidnapping say that a tall man enters the house and takes the children in the night. The main character is Julia Denning (Jessica Biel), a nurse in disbelief of the stories till she arrives home one night to find her babysitter beaten and her son missing.

This is one of these fun thrillers that have you guessing the whole way. Director/writer Pascal Laugier plays with the audience the entire film offer up what seems to be a standard “We need to catch the bad guy” movie till he decides to toss in one twist after another. About half way through I was so sure i had everything figured out that I let my attention veer for a second and then had one of those WTF moments. From that point on I was locked on with full attention on the film.

Biel actually does a nice job with her role and the rest of the cast of familiar faces is quite good but the real star here is Laugier. I know some of his previous films were well received but I have never seen them. He reminds me of a grittier M. Night Shyamalan. I liked the way he teases with his twists and doesn’t hold out for just a big playoff. Keep me confused (in a good way) through the whole films so I never know what’s happen.



Swanner: From the makers of Coraline comes ParaNorman, the tale of a young boy who sees dead people. Young Norman is a bit of an outcast because he can talk to the dead. Most of the kids in school pick on him out of fear except for the nerdy girl and the chubby boy. (This certainly has become the stereotype for underdog storylines) As the town grows closer to the 300th anniversary of the putting a witch to death, Norman must save the town from the evil crawling out of the towns cemetery

Judd: If you look at writer/director Chris Butler’s credentials on IMDB there isn’t much there. He’s never written or directed anything before and he was a story board artist for a couple of films. ParaNorman is a stop-motion animated film, and the characters are gorgeous with an excellent amount of detail. You can tell the camera work is all done up close and you can almost see the animators hands positioning the figures in each frame. However, put all that aside and you’re left with a heavy handed, liberal “lesson movie” that sodomizes you with repeated messages of acceptance, fear, mass hysteria and mob mentality.

Swanner: I’ll agree it is beautifully made but I wouldn’t call it heavy handed. It’s there and you recognize it but to those who need to learn those lessons I’m sure it falls on deaf ears. After all, the story is about witches and zombies … I don’t see it being a conservative’s destination. I did notice that this is probably the fattest town ever created for the animation landscape, but there was never a comment on weight past “Fatty” being written on the locker. I think the reason you found it so “heavy handed” was because it also pointed out that bullying was bad and I know how much you love to bully.

Judd: Me bully? You shut your fat loser mouth or I’m going to shove you in a locker! You understand me, Chunk? It’s a kids’ movie, there shouldn’t be anything political about it. If a movie is written well enough, the “message” can usually go undetected, but this movie comes out wearing an Obama pin and waving a rainbow flag. Look, our readers know our political affiliation so I can’t be accused of being a right-wing nutjob seeing things that aren’t there. Our readers should also already know that I can’t stand being preached to, and ParaNorman is one of the worst offenders we’ve seen in a long time.

Swanner: I know it’s a bit of preaching to the choir but in this dumb and stone world sometimes you need a good beating. It’s a nice movie. Stop being a hater because it was too preachy. Heaven forbid it was in the other direction. There were some wonderful voice overs as well including Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Elaine Stritch and Alex Burstein. I bet you’ll have it as part of your Halloween collection next year.

Judd: Wow, for calling the beautiful and nice, you sure didn’t like it very much, Mr. Two Stars out of Five. I get it. I’m calling a spade a spade and you, being the bleeding heart liberal, feel the need to defend it even though you think the same way I do about it. And that’s what’s wrong with the Democratic Party as a whole. It was a “nice” and beautifully made movie; it was also preachy, long and boring. We were both yawning from the second act on. I hope Chris Butler keeps making gorgeous stop-motion movies; Tim Burton needs a contemporary. But for the love of all that’s holy, someone unplug his Selectric and fold up his director’s chair.



Swanner: The one problem every remake has is being judged by the original. In most cases this would be true but in this case neither Brian or I saw the original so it’s all new to us. Sparkle follows three sisters and their try for fame in the music business in 1968 Detroit. What seems to be getting all the notice on this film is that this was the last movie of Whitney Huston. Huston plays the matriarch mother of the three sisters who’s dream of the music business was crushed years earlier, so protecting her daughters consumes her.

Judd: Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Cee-Lo Green round out the list of famous names, while the rest are either relative newcomers or TV actors. Salim Akil directs, and up until this point Jumping the Broom and TV shows Girlfriends and The Game have been his only projects – and it shows. The direction is inconsistent, with the style and cinematography changing looks with almost every new scene.

Swanner: You’re so right. The direction is such a mess. Even though the musical sequences are all pretty well done, the rest of the film looks like a mediocre TV movie, at best. The actors did what they could but I don’t think anyone really had the talent to carry this poor man’s Dreamgirls. On the subject of music… Here’s a hint. When you’re trying to sell us new song, make sure not to use great old songs as filler (playing on the radio or in a montage). The original songs were so forgettable, and that’s not so good for a musical

Judd: The plot is very made-for-TV as well. A controlling mother, an “aging” beauty that that gets swept up in an abusive relationship and drugs, a wallflower that finds her own voice against all odds. These are stock characters found in all rising star movies. The only plot point missing was “the great comeback”. Maybe that will come in Sparkle 2: Twinkle, Twinkle.

Swanner: I would call you on that bad title if I didn’t think you were probably right on the nose with it. If you look at it, Sparkle is making her comeback after almost having it all. There were so many bad moments in the movie but the dinner scene has to be the worse. It was so cliché and hard to watch. Not because of the social commentary of the times but because the dialog and awful mugging. To me that really was the point in the film I would have changed the channel.

Judd: You know you love my title. Not only are the heavy moments clichéd, but most of the actors in the film don’t have the chops to pull them off. Jordin Sparks has an emotional scene in the middle of the film, with a nice tight close-up, and all I could think was “Whoo! Does she stink or what!” Whitey Houston isn’t much better, and Mike Epps is made of cardboard. I do want to say that I thought the costumes and makeup were brilliant, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Oscar nomination.

Swanner: 1/2

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Swanner: Let me start by saying I really enjoyed The Odd Life of Timothy Green but my one stumbling block was that I couldn’t really feel for the couple in the movie. The main characters (played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are trying to have a child … right here is where they lost me. I understand there are people out there who love children but i am not one of them. So, while I was watching the movie I decided to change out the Timothy character from being a boy child to being a puppy. Now I’m on board. I know what it’s like to be in a house without a dog and that’s not a house I want to live in.

OK, so this couple really wants a child (puppy). They have tried clinics and doctors all over the country and no baby (puppy). One evening they have decided that it’s not going to happen but in one desperate grand gesture they write down all the things that are important in their child (puppy) and bury these qualities in a box in the garden. That night there is a freak rainstorm and magically Timothy shows up in their home. This movie is about fantasy and wishes … it’s a Disney movie. There are a lot of hurdles you need to get past in the movie like how everyone just excepts this mystery boy (puppy) that just shows up but like a good Disney movie Timothy changes everyone in town to make it an even better place to live.

The film was written and directed by Peter Hedges (Dan in Real life/Pieces of April) based on a story by Ahmet Zappa. Hedges knows how to make this genre work. All the adults are either good and loving or mean and stern…in need of a lesson from Timothy (some puppy kisses). CJ Adams plays Timothy to a tee. He’s a lovely starry eye child (puppy) there to make this couple know they can’t give up on having a child (puppy). As one would expect there will be a happy ending through some tear filled eyes. I didn’t cry because I had my puppy to go home to but the majority of the audience I screened the movie with were bags of crap leaving the theatre. I really did enjoy the film … child and all. If you like movies like Big Fish or Edward Scissorhands you’ll like Timothy Green.


Premium Rush

Swanner: Premium Rush tells the story of a Manhattan bike messenger who, unaware to him, is delivering a package that has placed his life in danger. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Wilee the messenger in danger with Michael Shannon as the dirty cop after his package. Director David Koepp keeps the action moving in this 90 minute adrenaline rush…I was exhausted afterwards. I also was driving very aggressively after the movie.

Judd: This movie amounts to little more than a car-chase movie, but on bicycles. The plot is only there to carry the action, and the characters are cardboard cutouts – which is a shame to waste a talent like Joseph Gordon Levitt on a movie like this. Premium Rush further insults thinking people by needlessly convoluting the plot and cramming the screen with extraneous characters in a ruse to make the movie seem well written and complex. Not to mention, for what little plot there is, it is riddled with holes.

Swanner: It’s supposed to be a fun 90 minute ride. It was shot and edited well, which adds to the excitement. I was holding my breath during so many scenes. I know there wasn’t much of a plot, but it never says it does like Bourne did. I think your problem is you went in expecting a plot. If there was something wrong with the movie it would be Michael Shannon who plays as if he’s in some Disney slapstick film for kids. His overacting was my biggest distraction.

Judd: Michael Shannon? I thought that was Dean Jones. Aside from the plot being barely there, the contrivances in the movie and the blatant lack of research and realism killed me. For instance, Wilee rides a steel “fixie” (a heavy bike with fixed hub that carries a certain cache with the bike hipster crowd) and he consistently outruns geared bicycles. There is a featured bike cop who’s constantly in pursuit of Wilee; he doesn’t use his lights or siren and doesn’t carry a radio. There is another bike messenger, who apparently makes such good money he can afford a carbon bike and a new ¾ ton truck. And don’t get me started on a girlfriend. She was only there to add 15 minutes to the runtime.

Swanner: Obviously this film wasn’t made for a snooty film critic like you. It was made for us cyclists who have been unrepresented on the big screen. I thought as silly as the movie was it was a good 90 minute distraction that never really slowed down and highly improved my aggressiveness on the freeway. Also, how could staring at Joseph Gordon Levitt for an evening be all that bad…did you see his forearms? Anyone who sees the preview and likes what they see will like the movie.

Judd: Us cyclists? I would love to see your fat ass on a bicycle, just once. In fact, I’d love to see you take the store tags off the bicycle you bought five years ago that’s collecting dust in your garage. You fatty, fatty, fat, fat. I guess I expect more from JGL and seeing him ride a fixie left a bad taste in my mouth. At least he wasn’t wearing a cycling cap with a flipped brim, otherwise I would have got up and left. I can only tolerate so much hipster doucheyness. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take my iPad to the independent coffee shop where I buy organic, free-trade beans and research The Ladybug Transistor tour.

Swanner: ½

The Bourne Legacy

Swanner: The Bourne Legacy is the fourth film of this series. After Matt Damon said no more (for now) the studio brings in Jeremy Renner to play Aaron Cross, another agent that the government has been experimenting on. He may know who he is but he doesn’t know why the government is trying to exterminate him. Tony Gilroy wrote and directed the film and did write all the previous films so he has the story down but is this story necessary or is the studio just hoping for another Bourne pay out?

Judd: With each Bourne movie we learn a little more about Operation Treadstone and how these super agents come to be; however, as we’re given these little nuggets of information we’re forced to sit through the same basic formula over and over again. The government wants to kill the agent, the agent finds someone to help him, there’s a chase across the rooftops of some foreign city, the agent disappears into the ether. I’m ready to see something a little different and Jeremy Renner isn’t enough.

Swanner: The movie Hanna was really similar to the Bourne films, but that didn’t go over very well, so they needed to reboot this franchise. The first three films brought in over a billion dollars worldwide. I guess it’s hard for a studio to walk away from that. But you’re right, this looked and felt like all the films. Different actors, same old shit. That’s not to say the film isn’t well made and the editing is Oscar worthy but something new please…is that too much to ask for?

Judd: I found the editing to be too fast and distracting, while at the same time added no sense of urgency I’m sure they were aiming for. The last chase scene, where the bad guy is in a Camry and Aaron Cross is on a 70cc dirt bike, (seriously, a Camry and a dirt bike) was one of the longest and most boring chase scenes that I think we’ve suffered through in some time. I know you liked the big payoff at the end, but for me, by the time we got to it I was counting stitches in the seat in front of me. Maybe if it were a Yaris and a Mo-Ped…

Swanner I was so bored that the chase scene added some excitement and it also meant it was almost over. I’ve seen to first three, I know where this goes. The people that weren’t bored in the third Bourne film will probably like the movie. I’m not a big fan of these high action, non-stop, white knuckling films. As I said early, it’s a well-made film but I’ve seen it four times now.

Judd: It’s too bad the talents of Edward Norton and Stacy Keach weren’t exploited to their fullest. Norton had a decent amount of screen time, but he was playing the generic “We have to contain this” boss. Keach was on screen for 10 minutes combined and I still don’t know why he was there. They could have helped make this movie something more than what it is.

Judd: ½

The Campaign

Swanner: Will Ferrell is the ultimate hit and miss guy. I think Brian and I might have figured out what the problem is…co-stars. With the right co-star Ferrell seems to do his best work. I think it’s because a good co-star won’t let him steal the scene. Zach Galifianakis is a good co-star and The Campaign is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen this year. All 86 minutes were consistently funny. Hurray for us!!!

Judd: Agreed. I can’t stand a full-blown “Will Ferrell Vehicle”. Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby are detestable character based movies. But movies like Blades of Glory and Step Brothers, I find extremely enjoyable and have on my movie shelf at home. In The Campaign, Will Ferrell plays Cam Brady, an unchallenged congressman who, after some blunders, finds himself running against weirdo Marty Huggins (Galifianakis). Huggins’ campaign is funded by the Motch Bros, who have some very sinister plans for North Carolina’s 14th District.

Swanner: The film is directed by Jay Roach who directed the Austin Powers films and the Meet the Parents movies so he knows how to deal with actors who overact. The very funny script was written by Chris Henchy (The Other Guys) and Shawn Harwell who basically earns his first real writing credit. The cast is strong whether they are stars are not. Everyone was really good. Besides the two leads you have Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd and Brian Cox but as I mentioned the rest of the cast is great as well. One mention has to go to Karen Maruyama who brilliantly plays Cox’s maid Mrs. Yao who steals every seen she’s in.

Judd: There were a couple scenes that felt longer than they should have and they seemed to happen when the film moved away from the script to let Ferrell and Galifianakis “riff”. I was surprised to see the heavy supporting cast in a movie like this, but strip away it’s clownish leads, it actually says some pretty heavy things about modern politics and deserves talents like Lithgow, Aykroyd and Cox. It’s unfortunate that the movie is a throw-away, late summer, R rated comedy, but at the same time I don’t think a movie like this, with its message, could have gotten made if it were any less “disposable”.

Swanner: The film does take a hard look at the way elections are won and loss. I don’t think the people going to see this film are going to realize they’ve been schooled but it’s still an intelligent script for such a funny movie. I’ve been trying to tell people some of my favorite parts and people just stare at me. I know we were still laughing in the car on the way home. I’d say this is the funniest movie I’ve seen since Bridesmaids and can’t wait to see it again.

Judd: I think you’re overrating the movie due to the fact that it’s been a couple months since we saw a funny R comedy. This year has actually been slim pickin’s, with 21 Jump Street and The Dictator taking the lead. Regardless, The Campaign is much funnier than I expected and will be joining the company of other Will Ferrell movies on my Blu-ray shelf.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

Total Recall

Swanner: I always say this, but I’m really not a fan of remakes. Every once in a while it works, but usually it doesn’t. Once again, in the case of Total Recall … it didn’t. It’s not that Colin Farrell doesn’t make a much better leading man or that the special effects aren’t far superior. They all are. It’s the plot or the script…something. For the entire film nothing happened even though everything was blowing up and bullets were flying everywhere. Based on a story by Phillip K. Dick the writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback did everything they could to create a really long chase sequence. It lasted two hours.

Judd: Having not seen the original Total Recall, I’m not one of those with emotional attachment to the original who are deeply offended by a remake. All I know is that Total Recall was a Schwarzenegger movie that starred a woman with three tits. Colin Farrell took the Schwarzenegger role, I assume, and there was a woman with three tits, so for all I know it was a shot-for-shot remake. That being the case, I don’t know why they remade it. As Tom said, for two hours the movie vacillated between 5 minutes of “Is this really real?” and 20 minutes of a chase back to 5 minutes of “Is this really real?”. Yawn. What made it worse was the overuse of CGI and hyper-busy landscape. It looked like 10 pounds digitally rendered shit in a 5 pound bag.

Swanner: Wow. I thought I didn’t like it. Besides the actors, who I thought did really well with what little they had to work with, I really like the art direction. Maybe it was 10 pounds of digitally rendered shit but it was really appropriate for this film. It was very reminiscent of Blade Runner, but not quite as dark. Director Len Wiseman, who is known for writing all and directing a few of the Underworld films, which I always though felt like music videos, made me think that the lack of focus might have actually have been his fault in the film. It’s really hard to place blame so let me just say this thing was a mess.

Judd: Well it certainly isn’t the fault of the actors. Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel and Bill Nighy are the major players here and, outside of Biel, are top-notch actors. The blame lies on both Wiseman and screenwriters Wimmer and Bomback, individually responsible for such gems as Law Abiding Citizen and Unstoppable respectively. While I am not a fan of science fiction, I will admit that sci-fi plots are usually very intricate and involved. Total Recall is a one-dimensional mess that tries to distract the audience from its lack of story with constant action. Honestly, I’m surprised this wasn’t shown in 3D.

Swanner: I was thinking the same thing. This mess missed its 3D calling. It wouldn’t have helped, but it certainly would have been the right project to try 3D as a way of increasing the box-office take. One thing that bugged me was Farrell’s character removes the phone from his hand that they are using to track him with yet they are always on his tail. Out of nowhere Beckinsale shows up to spoil the good time, but that’s just one hole in this mess. If you’re really into to mindless action and explosions…this is your film. If you want sci-fi with a good script and story…see Dark Knight Rises again.

Judd: We’re getting into the dregs of late summer and Total Recall is the perfect kickoff, a misguided attempt at remaking a classic. My standards have officially been lowered for the season.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Swanner: I’m a big fan of these films. There is something about the characters that makes me wax on about my childhood. The film are based on Jeff Kinney’s books about Greg Heffley and his day to day grind as a pre-teen and teen. Director David Bowers has a real sense of how to make these movies work and with a clever script by the very prolific Gabe Sachs, Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky they just seem to high the right note. My only concern is with the lead actor Zachary Gordon, he looks a lot older than in the last film where everyone has stayed somewhat the same…he’s maturing fast.

Judd: I really like the Wimpy Kid movies, too, and for me to openly admit I like a series of films made for tweens, they must be good. I like them because they don’t proscribe to the Disney formula of being overly whacky and loud, or making the adults bumbling idiots while the kids “rule the school”. The movies are more like a slice-of-life that takes one kid’s monumental, awkward “everyone’s-been-there” moments and puts them on the screen so the kids currently going through it can rest assured they’re not alone, and their parents can laugh that they never have to do it again.

Swanner: This time around the story follows Greg and friends during the summer between 7th and 8th grade. Greg has a crush on a girl and his friend Rowley belongs to a country club where she teaches tennis. The nice thing about these films is that the cast has stayed the same for these first three films. I’m not really sure how many books are in the series but they better keep pumping these films out before these kids go to college. I think most people are going to be able to relate to someone in the film and I think that’s why even adults are going to find an attraction to the films.

Judd: One thing that’s missing in this installment that was more prevalent in the others, is Greg’s interaction with his peers. Of course there is his best friend Rowley, aka Tom Swanner Jr., but this time around Greg is troubled by his father and trying to hang out with the pretty girl in his class and the teenage horrors associated with that. Like all romance elements, I couldn’t relate, but I guess that’s just me. I would rather see Greg being tortured by his older brother or embarrassed by his classmates.

Swanner: I really think this is my favorite of the three. I do like the friends and they were all in it but the father/son storyline was really sweet. It was nice to see them connect. You know how it is these days. They put a lot of pressure on the fathers to be an equal in the child rearing. Back when I was a kid this would never had happen, and if it did it was only in the movies or on TV. It looks like there are seven Wimpy Kid Books so they need to bring out a couple a year. I don’t want Greg to have chest hair in high school.

Swanner: 1/2