Swanner: Time travel has always been a favorite storyline in sci-fi films. Sometimes it works really well like with last year’s Source Code and sometimes so very wrong like 2005’s The Sound of Thunder. Looper does it right with some pretty cool results. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a Looper, an assassin in his present days who kills bad guys from the future. One day he’s asked to kill his future self and things go terrible wrong. Bruce Willis plays Levitt 30 years in the future and what you get is a whole lot of fun.

Judd: Before you distort reality and rewrite history, let me set the record straight that Source Code was a piece of shit and Sound of Thunder was brilliantly awful. Let the record also show that I hate sci-fi and fantasy, particularly time travel movies. That being said, I really enjoyed Looper. I felt that it was very well done, well written and directed. It collapsed upon itself during the ending, but that’s a problem with the genre, not this particular movie. In fact, as a time travel movie, Looper is probably one of the smartest and well thought out movies of the genre.

Swanner: I agree it was very smart, but Source Code was really good. You’re genre-phobic so what do you know? Moving on, there was a scene near the end that nearly slammed the brakes on the film but once it was past the film was back up to speed with a big twist revealed. That one thing i have to give this film, it surprised me. Most films give all or most away in the trailer but not so here. There was one surprise after another. Director/writer Rian Johnson (Brick) held all the reins and it worked.

Judd: The problem you mention, which I think we can call “the sex scene” without giving anything away, brought the movie to a grinding halt and, at the time, made me seriously reconsider how I had rated the movie up until that point. The problem I had is the logical hole the end created, but that’s the ultimate problem with all time travel movies. I do want to mention, though, that beyond the story the performances were all excellent with Levitt’s makeup almost becoming a character itself.

Swanner: Good point. I’m not even sure how they did it. The guy responsible for Levitt’s prosthetics is Jamie Kelman, he did for Levitt what the make-up team from Iron Lady did for Meryl Streep. They created a different person…amazing. I liked this movie a lot. It never got boring (outside of that one two minute scene) and it kept surprising me. I was really glad it ended the way it did. It’s pretty cool when you can make a Hollywood movie and not give them a Hollywood ending. Mad props go out to the guy who said “No, this is the way it ends.”

Judd: “Mad props?” Oh geeze… Well, I thought the movie was the cat’s pajamas, even if it was a sci fi time travel movie. I liked that all the characters were fleshed out and that there was meaning to all the scenes, except the sex scene. The ending was appropriate and while I wouldn’t say that the movie is overly cerebral, it does leave the audience thinking and talking about what happened as they leave the theatre. Looper deservedly kicks off the fall blockbusters.

Judd: ½

Hotel Transylvania

Swanner: As a safe harbor for monsters, Dracula opens a hotel where the ghoulish can vacation. The storyline is that Dracula’s daughter is turning 18…well, 118 and he’s throwing her a big party. Everything is going well until a human wonders in the hotel. Director Genndy Tartakovsky makes his feature film debut with a script by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel. This is an odd pairing and maybe the reason for the uneven feeling throughout the movie. With voices from Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Selena Gomez and David Spade, it all felt too much like an Adam Sandler movie and that’s rarely ever a good thing.

Judd: At one point I leaned over to you and said, “How can a cartoon overact? Oh wait, it’s an Adam Sandler movie,” which pretty much sums things up. While his antics are a little easier to digest in animated form, the movie still contains his hallmarks of pointless scenes dedicated to showcasing his “comic genius”, stupid catchphrases and sophomoric humor aimed squarely at the high school drop-out demographic.

Swanner: I do want to stress that it’s nothing like 8 Crazy Nights which was Sandler’s animated Hanukah…classic? It’s much more kid friendly, but I did notice that the very young were bored and unable to sit still. My guess would be that there were too many characters and too much exposition. I didn’t even find the film a very good 3D movie probably because there was a lot of bouncing around of characters.

Judd: I was bored and unable to sit still. I’m not sure who the movie was aimed at – outside of high school drop-outs. The story dealt with young love and classic monsters, something that I think is geared more toward the tween and older crowd, but the humor played toward the Nickelodeon set. The movie set out to be all things: A teenage love story; a moral about acceptance; a monster movie. All that built around Adam Sandler – it was doomed from the get go.

Swanner: I know it wasn’t made for my generation, and that’s fine, but you’re right…who was their target audience? Did you think that the voice actors did much of anything to add to the film? I didn’t. Outside of Sandler’s overacting, only Steve Buscemi seemed like he added something to his performance which shows you can’t just keep making movies with your friends and expect the movie to turn out differently. As long as Sandler produces all his films we’re always going to get the same shtick…Live action or animated. After looking at the last few projects it might be time to change things up.

Judd: Actually, the voice work really set apart the real actors that were involved in this work. David Spade and Kevin James brought nothing to the table, where Steve Buscemi and Jon Lovitz – who is tragically underworked – used their voices to bring added depth to the characters. In other words, they used their talent as real and actual actors. I have to admit though, that if I were Sandler and knew that I’d get paid millions of dollars to hang out with my friends and defecate on film, I’d be doing the exact same thing.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½

Pitch Perfect

Swanner: Riding the Glee con of making people think show choir is cool, Pitch Perfect stars recognizable faces Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine and Rebel Wilson in a movie about the Barden Bella’s winning regionals. At this point I would ask Tom, “Are all these stupid shows/movies about ‘Winning Regionals?’” but Tom didn’t see this with me, and I had to suffer through it alone.

Though suffer, I did not. While the movie, as a whole, is really nothing more than an episode of Glee, the writing is much sharper, the jokes much funnier and the characters less grating. Beca (Kendrick) wants to go to LA to produce music, and as a way of honing her craft specializes in doing “mash-ups”. Her father sends her to college because he works there and it’s free, where she meets the Barden Bellas, and all-female a capella show choir. The Bellas have lost half their talent to graduation, so lowering their standards, they recruit misfits like Beca, Fat Amy (Wilson) and Lily, an Asian girl who barely speaks above a whisper, and says things like “I ate my twin in the womb.” Outside of overcoming their stale routine there is , of course, the competing, reigning champions who happen to be all male and part of the same school, The Treble Makers.

While the movie is about singing, the performances aren’t the showcase. The Bellas continue to do the same routine over and over, and the Treble Makers performances are great, but the focus is mostly on the characters and the jokes. Written by Kay Cannon, based on the book by Mickey Rapkin, Cannon keeps the one-liners witty and quick. This should come as no surprise, as Cannon has worked with Tina Fey on both 30 Rock and Baby Mama.

The only real problem with the movie is that it tends to meander through too many sub-stories which I’m sure were fleshed out in the book but were superfluous in the movie. Beca’s relationship with her recently divorced father, the maybe-romance with her competitor, the nerd who wants in the Treble Makers, the radio station, the back-alley sing-offs, the clash with the leader of the Bellas, Because there were so many plot lines, there was not time to flesh any of them out, and some of them were either dropped or finished up with a quick and dirty “All Better!” in the last 10 minutes.


House at the End of the Street

Swanner: Newly divorced Sarah and her daughter Elissa find the house of their dreams in a small, upscale, rural town. But when startling and unexplainable events begin to happen, Sarah and Elissa learn the town is in the shadows of a chilling secret. This is the synopsis given by the studio. Oddly enough I never knew she was newly divorced and they know the chilling secrets in the first 5 minutes. This entire film is a mess. Ten minutes into the film I turned to Brian and whispered “This is Horrible”. That was just based on the bad cinematography, bad direction and the bad script. We didn’t even realize how much worse the film could get.

Judd: Really, everything about the movie hit new depths in “Bad”. And you know how much I love “Bad”, but this was not loveable in the least. The movie felt cobbled together by a bunch of first-year film students trying to cram in as many current gimmicks as they could. You already mentioned the cinematography but the editing was awful as well, with needless jump cuts and the wanton use of every available special effect available in iMovie. And it figures because Editor Karen Porter normally works for none other than my hero, Uwe Boll.

Swanner: Ties to Uwe Boll. That does make sense. You are right about it feeling like a film students film project. Actually a lot of film students, all wanted to do their own thing. That would explain the disjointedness of…everything. I get that September/October is when they release horror films but seriously, this movie should have been direct to video. Shame on the studios for releasing such crap. They are obviously riding this release of Jennifer Lawrence’s Hunger games fame but still … shame on you!

Judd: I particularly like how the end twist was broadcast from within the first 10 minutes of the movie, and how characters that were portrayed one way at the beginning were portrayed completely different at the end. I felt like Annie Wilkes. I wanted to stand right up and start shouting, “This isn’t what happened at the beginning of the movie! Have you all got amnesia? They cheated us! This isn’t fair! The parents weren’t cock-a-doodie drug addicts!”

Swanner: I forgot all about the ridiculous ending. I was too mad at them wasting my time I must have shut down. I haven’t been this fired up over a movie in a long time. I think the thing that upset me the most was during the big reveal when audience members actually were verbally expressing their surprise over the twist. Really, you didn’t see that coming? I usually wouldn’t ridicule a crap fest like this but when they go theatrical and try to play with the big boys it’s open season. This movie has found a place on my worse picture list and I hope people will hear our warnings and send a monetary message to the studio to not try to put this crap on us again.

Judd: I didn’t hate it as much as you did, but then I’m a little forgiving of movies that are blatantly bad. Not that I’m saying there was anything about this movie that I enjoyed or could call skillful. I would have liked the movie better if it were a little more over the top. When we left the theatre I said Outhouse reminded me a little of one of my horrible favorites, “The Orphan”. But to me, there was a sense of fun in The Orphan; Outhouse could have had a lot of fun with the twist, but instead the movie seemed to rely on its merits, of which there were none.

Swanner: NO STARS
Judd: ½

Trouble with the Curve

Swanner: Just in time for the playoffs, Trouble with the Curve teams Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake in a story that follows a baseball scout (Eastwood) and his daughter (Adams) as they work out their problems while trying to evaluate a young prospect. Timberlake plays a scout from an opposing team and Adams love interest. This is writer Randy Brown’s first script and Robert Lorenz’s first time in the director’s chair although he’s been Eastwood’s Assistant director for years.

Judd: Trouble with the Curve is not your typical Eastwood film, meaning he doesn’t save anyone from anything by being a general badass. While Eastwood does play they typical Eastwood character, here he is going blind, losing the ability to do his job and refuses to ask for help. It’s a fragility not often seen from Eastwood, and one that he didn’t pull off that well.

Swanner: Maybe it’s the reason Eastwood didn’t direct the film. This has more of a TV movie feel to it. Lots of emotional play but no big build up we’re use to in the films he directs. The story is really simple and the actors do bring it together, but when looking back not a whole lot happens. I also think the “happy ending” was a bit too neat and tidy. It felt like they needed to resolve everything quickly to keep under two hours.

Judd: Outside of Adams, Timberlake and Eastwood, Curve also stars John Goodman, Matthew Lillard and Robert Patrick. The reason the ending seemed too “tidy” was because there were way too many elements to the story overall. If the movie would have been about Eastwood and his daughter, that would have been enough. But they had to add in Adams’ career and lack of a romantic life, the “young buck” (Lillard) trying to take Eastwood’s job, and the student they were all scouting who already had a bad attitude. Not to mention, everyone’s problems were solved by an incidental character shown once half way through the movie.

Swanner: I need to stop talking about this movie. I liked it at one point but all the extra filler crap is starting to piss me off. Your incidental character was about as obvious as you can get but i found myself wanting to see these people solve their problems and be happy. So i guess someone did something right. I think it’s one of those crowd pleasing films it’s better to not over analyze. Enjoy Clint and all his gruffness, he’s not the best actor in the word but like John Wayne…he’s fun to watch.

Judd: As I wrote earlier, Eastwood was supposed to be sick and losing his ability to do his job, but because he played the character so grumpy, it was hard to feel sympathetic for him – not that his character would tolerate sympathy. I loved the fact that most of his lines were grunts or growls. It was like looking into a mirror; and I must admit, I am charming.

Judd: ½

For A Good Time Call …

Swanner: Former college frenemies find themselves living together in New York after Lauren gets dumped and Katie grandmother passes away. Katie can’t afford grandma’s apartment alone and Lauren has nowhere to live. When they both need cash they decide to start a phone sex line. Simple plot for this indie film. Okay, it wasn’t that simple but it was as fun as it sounds. September finally brings in something that didn’t have me running for my car.

Judd: Shot with a digital camera (an Arri Alexia) in 16 days, you have to admire producer/actress Ari Gaynor (Fringe), writer/actress Lauren Miller, and director Jamie Travis for their pluck and determination. Both Ari and Lauren collected business cards and cashed in all their favors to get this moderately funny, amateurishly made movie to the big screen with cameos from the likes of Justin Long, Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen, Mimi Rogers and Nia Vardalos.

Swanner: It’s definitely has that indie fell but with good editing. The movie moves well and they are smart to know not to stretch out a simply comedy like this to Judd Apatow running times. The script is very sitcom-ish but that’s what makes it work. The jokes are obvious and fast but funny and its 85 minute length doesn’t give to time to lose interest. I think it’s a really good first effort and I’m hoping this proves to be a hit because I’d much rather see these kind of films coming from the indie market than boring piles of crap like last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Judd: The movie, to me, felt like it would have been more comfortable in the ranks of direct-to-video, but again I give kudos to three relative unknowns getting a movie produced and in the theatres. And while it was rough around the edges, the performances were all great with great chemistry between Gaynor, Miller and Long. And speaking of Justin Long, is he ever going to age?

Swanner: He’s only 34 but he did look early 20’s but some are blessed to look younger while some are cursed to look older. It’s the reason people think we went to high school together. I think most Indies look direct to video but the combo of script/direction/editing & acting lifts this out of DTV hell. Tucker and Dale vs Evil from last year had the same good bones. I do want to remind people that the characters are phone sex operators so the film is rated R and the language is quite dirty I thought it was interesting that there was no nudity. I liked the movie and I’d definitely tell folks to go see it.

Judd: I earned my grey hair and wrinkles. The fat keeps your wrinkles filled in, and as far as your real hair color… Only your hairdresser knows for sure. I thought the direction was a bit weak, and the camerawork was downright terrible, but overall the positives of the film outweighed the negative. I can see a future for the director as he continues to hone his skill. The cinematographer should find a desk job right away. He should look into being critic. While I won’t tell anyone to run out and buy a ticket, I would tell them to add it to their Netflix queue.


Finding Nemo

Swanner: A father and his son are living happily till the son is abducted and kept captive with others in a watery prison. The father must find who has taken his son and save him before he’s lost forever or killed. No, it’s not Liam Neeson’s new film; it the re-issue of Pixar’s Academy Award winning Best Animated Picture Finding Nemo in 3D. Albert Brooks, Ellen Degeneres and Willem Defoe star.

Judd: Nemo was released in 2003 after Pixar had improved their graphics by leaps and bounds in 2001’s Monsters, Inc. While I don’t think that Nemo is as richly textured as Monster’s, the aquatic environment lends its own kind of wonder, which is only enhanced by the 3D. The 3D, by the way, looks amazing.

Swanner: I think the biggest problem with the 3D is that it looks so good that you forget it’s 3D. In most 3D movies there are moments of ahh that remind you it’s a 3d film. Here it all works so well and it so perfect for 3D that you have the initial moment and it just carries till the end. Other than the 3D the movie is the same fun, beautifully written and voiced film.

Judd: I agree. Because the movie was not designed to be 3D, the 3D takes a back seat – which is how 3D should be. This isn’t 1955; I don’t need the gimmick of a paddleball shooting out over the audience. However, I think the 3D was definitely worth it. Even if we hadn’t been able to screen it I would have gladly paid to see the movie and left feeling that it was worth my money.


The Words

Swanner: Both Brian and I went to see The Words without actually watching the preview. I knew it was a romantic drama but I didn’t want Brian to know till we got there. Once we sat down I could tell Brian was on edge. Turns out he knew what kind of film it was and still came…what a trooper. The film starts with Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reading the opening of his new book. As he reads you realize that Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons and Zoë Saldana are all characters in his book and I’m already pulling away from the film.

Judd: But wait, it gets better! Clay Hammond is reading his book about Rory Jansen (Cooper) who is a writer, and apparently a crappy one, who finds a long lost manuscript and publishes it as his own. Then The Old Man (Irons) shows up as the real author and tells the story of the manuscript. So you have Quaid telling a story about an old man telling a story stolen by a man who can’t write a story. And what’s the motivation behind all this? Co-ed poon.

Swanner: This worked in the Princess Bride but for me it was just distracting here. I actually enjoyed the Cooper/Irons storyline till the women get involved. Both of the men are struggling with things and when they have their moment the women internalize the situation and I’m looking at my watch. Directors/writers Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal are new to the production game and it shows. Whether it’s the silly script or that fact that Cooper is mooning through most of the movie. I hated that damn “look I’m a writer” jacket Cooper wore while he did some light reading in the park. Don’t even get me started on Olivia Wilde …

Judd: I agree. I liked the action between Irons and Cooper and it was the only time the movie was interesting. Any time a female was involved in the plot, the movie took a dive. All the success and trouble that the men encountered was a direct result of the women. While I’m sure it was a clumsy attempt at making the women into individual muses, Klugman and Sternthal ended up creating women that were selfish nags who broke into tantrums whenever they were faced with the problems they “inspired”. They were detestable characters, which ended up making an already flimsy movie even worse.

Swanner: I don’t want to make it sound like the acting wasn’t good, it was but the script was just too awful. Okay, Olivia Wilde was bad but she had the worse part in the film. It really was all based on co-ed poon. I wish you hadn’t mentioned that because now I hate this film more than I did. I never got over the narrative and Quaid’s flirting with Wilde made the in-between scenes difficult to watch. Jeremy Irons deserves better than this and so do I.

Judd: The ending is what made me really hate this movie. Rather than letting the audience digest the moral on their own, it tried to take all the moral uncertainties in the movie and recap them, then tell us why they were neither good nor bad whilst making Wilde come off as a shrew. It was a preposterous ending to an equally preposterous movie.