Fun Size

Judd: With this being mid-October we’re getting our dose of scary and Halloween-themed movies. This year we get Fun Size, a movie about a girl who loses her brother during a night of trick or treating and the adventures each has trying to find the other. The movie stars Nickelodeon headliner Victoria Justice and is directed by Josh Schwartz, known for Gossip Girl and Chuck.

Swanner: The film really has a Superbad feel in a PG-13 form. In this case they aren’t looking for booze but an irritating little brother. The film also features Johnny Knoxville and Chelsea Handler in the adult rolls. The film could have easily had been made for one of the teen networks as it really plays well to them. Older folks are probably going to find this too light of fare and choose something with more of a bite.

Judd: I thought the movie felt more like Goonies than Superbad, and as far as playing well to the teen crowd … I’m not so sure about that. I thought the overall humor was broad and childish, like it was aimed at the 8 to 12 audience. The weird thing were the sex jokes that were peppered throughout that seemed really out of place and borderline inappropriate given the context of the rest of the movie.

Swanner: The whole mother-with-the-younger-boyfriend seemed awkward in the kitchen, and actually that whole storyline could have been cut, but I guess Wren (Justice) needed a reason to be stuck with her little brother for the evening. I think the movie will appeal to teenagers the way idiot adults are attracted to Adam Sandler movies. There is enough dumb to make this work for a 20 and under crowd. Their just looking for a movie they can relate to that’s funny. This one should do the job for a weekend. The biggest mistake is bringing out a Trick ‘r Treat movie on the last weekend of October. This thing won’t play in November

Judd: You may be right, but I don’t know if teens are going to enjoy their sex humor mixed in with Disney style comedy. As I mentioned, Fun Size reminded me of Goonies because the characters are supposed to be nerds who rely on each other to find the missing brother and find love on the way. I just want to say that Victoria Justice is much too pretty to be a nerd. They could have at least given her glasses or frumped her up a bit for a big reveal at the end.

Swanner: She is too pretty to be a nerd but then the dreamy guy did like her so it’s more of a self-imposed nerdom. The acting is all fairly good but I must admit I thought it was around two hours but the running time was closer to 90 minutes. It did feel longer. Maybe we’re just old fuddy duddies and the sex stuff means nothing to the kids. Shows on ABC Family are sometimes a lot more sexual then this. I don’t know if this will become a Halloween classic but it is nice having a Halloween movie where all the kids are still alive at the end.

Judd: I had no idea that ABC Family had “After Dark” programming. Racy! Fun Size feels like it ought to have targeted the Wimpy Kid fans, but added the sex to tempt their older siblings. It’s OK to desexualize an R rated movie to appeal to a broader audience. The affect is a bit disturbing when adding sex to a PG movie to bring it up to the PG-13 that studios seem think is the sweet spot rating. Fun Size is just as awkward as a prepubescent boy trying to get his first taste of over-the-sweater action. It’s weird, it’s uncomfortable, and no one wants to see it.

Swanner:
Judd: ½

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Cloud Atlas

Swanner: When a film comes out in the Fall that’s almost 3 hours one would expect something very special. This year that film is Cloud Atlas, an adaptation of David Mitchell’s epic novel that follows 6 stories across hundreds of years. The film was written and directed by The Wachowski siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Perfume) with an outstanding cast playing multiple rolls including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturges, Susan Sarandon and the ever thin Ben Whishaw. With all that I can’t find the words to tell you what was happening because there was just too damn much exposition.

Judd: Like most film adaptations of novels, I’m thinking much of what was in the book was left out of the film. It certainly felt that way. As you mentioned there were six stories, with each story supposedly affecting the future. I didn’t see that happening. Nor did I get an understanding for some of the things that were clearly defined as important, such as the musical piece The Cloud Atlas Sextet and the comet shaped birthmark. Maybe these things were left out, or maybe (as in some Japanese horror films) these things were important for no other reasons than “just because”.

Swanner: I had the same problem understanding the connection of these stories. The comet and the sextet had to have something to do with the story. The birthmark was on most of the lead characters and the damn sextet is the title of the freaking movie. I’d at least think that was going to be revealed by the end but nothing. Without having read the book I can’t tell you if those things meant something but I can tell you they cause great confusion in an already confusing film. One thing we haven’t mentioned is that all six story lines take place at the same time. Kudos to the editor who made the film make some sort of sense.

Judd: Coming in at just under three hours, I think that if they hadn’t jumbled the stories together, the movie would have been unbearably long. You described the movie as epic, and it is a large and “epic” movie, but when reduced to its individual stories, it’s not very complex, or even good. We’ve got a doctor poisoning his patient, a gay guy writing a musical piece, a journalist investigating a power plant, a publisher escaping the mob, a clone becoming self-aware and a primitive tribesman of the future helping a spaceman (think Planet of the Apes.) The only stories able to stand on their own would be the publisher and the tribesman. The other stories paper-thin treatments, rather than thought out stories.

Swanner: You’re certainly right about how long the movie would have felt. I’ll sit through some long ass movies if the ending is worth the trip. For me it really comes down to the lack of payoff here. The film never gels so it just feels like a lot of stories with Tom Hanks. There are some things worth mentioning like all the technical craftsmen. The look of the film is spectacular and crossing 6 different time periods had to be a huge challenge and it did pay off. Make-up alone is Oscar worthy. If you’ve watched the trailer and have been intrigued, then you may end up liking it but if the trailer leaves you dumb founded … see Argo.

Judd: I was excited to see this, and while it kept my attention for the full three hours, the ending was sorely underwhelming. And even though I know there were things that I missed due to the sheer vastness of the film, I have no interest in going through it again because it won’t make the ending any better. In the words of Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?”

Swanner:

Judd:

Alex Cross

Swanner: Stepping out of the pages of James Patterson’s novels is Alex Cross. A psychologist/detective in Detroit played this time by Tyler Perry. I say “this time,” because the character of Alex Cross has been played twice before by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. This time around it appears the producers are branding this as a franchise and we should be seeing this character again. Based on the novel “Cross”, Alex Cross has the title character chasing down an assassin who has targeted a member of his family.

Judd: Brought to you by Cadillac, Break Through …. Having not seen Kiss or Spider, I’m confused how Alex Cross went from an silken-voiced old man to a pudgy drag queen, but hey, whatever. Outside of Madea, Alex Cross also stars Edward Burns as Tommy Kane, Gannon to Cross’ Friday. Jean Reno as Leon Mercier, a billionaire with plans to revitalize Detroit; and a very wiry Matthew Fox as Picasso, the serial killer. If you find my description flippant, let’s just say I’m taking the movie as seriously as it took itself.

Swanner: I took this more seriously then you did. I noticed the multiple bursts of laughter during the film. Yes, I did notice quite a bit of product placement but not enough to mention during the film, as you loudly did, that “Cadillac must have paid a fortune”. The story is quite typical about a good guy taking revenge on the bad guy. The script was written by Kerry Williamson who has no other writing credits and Marc Moss wrote Along Came a Spider but nothing else and it shows. We’ve seen it before, but I thought Perry and Fox did a good job making their characters a bit different form the rest. Fox really went through some physical changes to become this very disturbing bad guy.

Judd: The New Standard of the World, Cadillac …. The film was borderline camp. Cross’ uncanny ability to detect clues threw me off, but I said to myself, “Would I be as critical if this were Sherlock Holmes?” so I settled back into the movie where I presented with Matthew Fox’s twitchy and overwrought performance. Then I was given Cicely Tyson, who’s so old her birth certificate is a stone tablet. When I see her, I know at some point there is going to be a scene where she chastises the main character using family and God. But the worst offense were the monologues delivered straight into the camera by both Cross and Picasso. It was like something out of the 1960’s Batman. But then with Director Rob Cohen, whose resume includes such gems as Stealth and xXx, what can you expect?

Swanner: Looking at Director Cohen’s filmology reads like a Worst Pictures list. This film looks to be the cherry on his mediocre career, and that’s not saying much. The direction seemed confused and the script had its silly moments but I was entertained for the most part. I can’t really put much blame on the actors; I think they did the best with what they had. Miss Cicely Tyson will be 80 next year and, yes, if she’s in a film she will mention god and family every time and no one does that role better. Like I said, I think we’re looking at a new franchise and I hope the next one has a better director.

Judd: Cadillac, Creating a Higher Standard …. The script had many, many silly moments and I think if I saw it again I’d probably laughing more than I did. Between the Cadillac placements, Fox and Perry, the Aryan-like Germans and the horribly filmed fights scenes, Alex Cross is a disaster. I found it entertaining, but for the wrong reasons. Though, I have to say I did like the fact that the love interests were killed off early. Our readers know that I hate pointless women characters; at least I didn’t suffer through a pace-crushing sex scene. Cadillac.

Swanner:
Judd: ½

Argo

Swanner: What a week we’re having. First we see what should be a real contender for Best Animated Film (Frankenweenie) and the very next night we see what most certainly will be a major contender for Best Picture, Argo. The film tells the astonishingly true story of how a CIA exfiltration specialist attempts to free six Americans who have taken shelter in the home of the Canadian Ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis. Director/star Ben Affleck once again proves he’s a solid actor but an even better director.

Judd: Ben Affleck continues to amaze me. In the early days, while Kevin Smith and Matt Damon were earning praise and advancing their careers after the three of them made their mid-90s debuts, Ben Affleck became the butt of jokes with his poor movie choices and poorer acting skills. Armageddon, Gigli, Pearl Harbor. Then, all of a sudden, Affleck displays this talent for directing that catapults him above and beyond the prestige of his peers. The most shocking thing to me is that it’s completely deserved.

Swanner: When I first saw the preview for Argo I was really excited, that something I haven’t had much of this film year, and I wasn’t let down. Argo is one of those movies that hooks you with it’s crazy story and holds you with its brilliant script. Then you get some well-known actors taking supporting roles and a cast of unknowns taking on the well know hostage roles and you get one incredible picture. It’s all so well-crafted with the editing and the look of the film…it’s obvious that the director links all this together. Affleck impressed me with his first two films (Gone Baby Gone and The Town) but Argo just blew me away.

Judd: The story is tense from beginning to end, and the cast is amazing. John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Kyle Chandler. I liked the way that real footage and the movie were seamlessly blended together in certain scenes, and I liked the fact that the movie was about the hostages and the mission. America was going through some politically challenging times in 1979-1980, and none of that was touched on in the movie. It’s nice that we could watching this well-crafted and amazing story without and agenda.

Swanner: The sign of a great film is when you know the ending and you’re still white knuckling through it. This movie made me really excited that the rest of this year, that there may be more amazing pictures for us. I know I’m getting my hopes up but Argo really shows you what great filmmaking is all about and that there are still people who can still get the job done.

Swanner:



Judd:


Seven Psychopaths

In Seven Psychopaths, Marty (Collin Farrell), a screenwriter with a drinking problem is trying to come up with his next script. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), who runs a con with Hans (Christopher Walken) returning dogs they’ve kidnapped for the reward money, wants to help Marty write his next masterpiece titled Seven Psychopaths. When Billy and Hans kidnap the dog of a ruthless L.A. crime boss, Charlie (Woody Harrelson), things start to get a little out of hand.

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths shares much in common with McDonagh’s previous film, In Bruges. The dialogue is fantastically witty, quick and mildly offensive. But outside of being violent and funny, there are also some very heartfelt moments and the characters have more depth and feel more fleshed out than your typical Guy Richie film – Richie’s style being most comparable to McDonagh. Hans’ wife is dying of cancer, and there are several scenes between the two that are played with genuine emotion. Hans has the broadest range of emotion of the cast, and Walken plays everything perfectly. He proves to a new generation that he’s more than that weird talking old guy.

The problem that I think is going to turn some people off, and I know it would have frustrated Tom, is that the movie isn’t very linear. Yes, the main characters follow a time line but there are stories that are told as suggestions for Marty’s script that are repeated later and then associated with something that happened much, much earlier. In addition that there are some stories that may or may not be part of one or two persons’ history.

I would recommend Seven Psychopaths to anyone who was a fan of In Bruges or anyone who is a fan of neo-noir movies like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang or Lucky Number Slevin. The writing is spot on, the characters are over-the-top goodness, and in the end, the movie has real heart.

Judd:

Sinister

Swanner: A true crime author (Ethan Hawke) moves his family to a new house to work on his new book. Unbeknownst to his family, the house was the scene of a grisly murder of the family that lived there before. Once frightening things start happening in the house he realizes he made a mistake moving there. The first act of this film was set up very nicely but once the second act starts the gaping holes in the script open wide and by the end I was just rolling my eyes.

Judd: I don’t particularly like movies that go for cheap thrills like creaking floorboards and bumps in the night, and this movie was nothing but. Apparently, Ellison’s (Hawke) whole family takes Propofol to sleep because he was the one to hear these bumps in the night – and yes, it was established that they weren’t imaginary. I also hated the sound design as a whole. Much of the story takes place on silent projected 8mm film, and during these projected scenes the background noise was this retched, headache-inducing electronic grinding drone.

Swanner: You mentioned that to me after the screening. I didn’t notice the sound. I was too busy hating the script. Like how a bestselling author can’t seem to kick start his investigation after becoming consumed by the mysterious box of home movies in attic that show the all the murders. Hey, maybe the killer put them there so that might mean your family’s in danger. Or that even when he finds something crucial to his investigation, he doesn’t look any further in to it. It finally takes a secondary character to point it out at the end. This film had so much potential and they pissed it away for a cheesy, silly ending that opens it up for a sequel.

Judd:Oh stop. He had that corkboard with photos and yarn connecting photos; that obviously meant he was doing his research. Even though we were never shown him actually doing anything except drinking, watching 8 mm film stock and asking the secondary character to do all the footwork. The story had many venues of tension it could have explored, and you’re right it was all wasted on a stupid, predictable ending. I would have liked to see more of Hawke’s interaction with his family instead of only ignoring his kids and fighting with his wife.

Swanner That cork-board was all but up when they moved in and you would think since he did have the internet hooked up he would have started looking for the past families that had died instead of waiting for that secondary character to do it. Shit, I could have just yelled it out during the movie because I had figured out the connection in the first act. The big problem is that Mr. Boogie is far more scary as a shadow or face in the distance, as soon as he became flesh and blood he wasn’t scary. I went home and walked my dog around a dark yard and wasn’t even spooked. Overall I’m just disappointed at what had the bones to be a really good scary movie.

Swanner: ½
Judd:

Frankenweenie

Swanner: Tim Burton made a 29 minute short film called Frankenweenie in 1984. Since that time Burton has been trying to make a full length version of that short, 28 years later Frankenweenie comes to theatres. The film tells the story of young Victor Frankenstein who re-animates his dog sparky after he’s killed in a car accident. Once Sparky has come back to life he has to do his best to hide the fact that he’s done the impossible.

Judd: Frankenweenie is a return to all things classic. It’s a return to Tim Burton’s roots. It’s a call-back to the old Monster Movies. It’s a return to talented voice actors convincingly playing more than one character. I had high hopes for Frankenweenie and the movie exceeded all of them. Strongly showcasing the vocal work of Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara, Tim Burton’s deft direction is at once Classic Burton (think Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure), but at the same time reminiscent of old ‘50s B Creature Features utilizing lighting, shadows and weird camera angles no longer seen in modern film.

Swanner: One thing I felt bad about was many of the children in the audience seemed bored and I think that was that Burton made the movie in black and white as one would expect if saluting the classic monster movies from the 30’s. I loved the look of the film and I agree this is really one of his best films. The script was well done by John August who has worked with Burton before on Big Fish, Corpse bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Judd: Much like last year’s Rango or even Pixar’s Ratatouille, Frankenweenie is not a “kid’s movie”. The pacing is slow. There are no frantic, coked-out characters bouncing all over the screen spouting catchphrases. You’re right that the black and white only served to worsen matters. But you know what? Screw those kids. Let them write their own F’ing review if they were so bored. Good luck getting crayon coded into HTML, you little shits!

Swanner: Calm down…I mean I agree with you completely but just breathe. I think of all of Burton’s animated films (both directed and produced) this is the best one. He was smart to not make it a musical and I loved the black and white. The 3D wasn’t needed but if it makes it more of an event then I’m all for it. I’m really happy that this might be Burton’s chance at an Oscar since they’ll never appreciate his fringe storytelling as a director and with the mediocre animated line up this year…it could be his.

Judd: OK, sorry. I agree, this it Burton’s best animated film. The script is clever, well-written and displays the deep love that Burton and August have for the genre to which they were pay homage. Anyone who shares the same love for old monster movies is going to appreciate this film. The animation and character design is brilliant. I know who I’m rooting for when it comes to Best Animated Feature.

Swanner:
Judd: