Pain & Gain

342534262354Swanner: Three body builders kidnap, extort money and property from a Florida millionaire to a horrible outcome. This is a comedy? The horrible outcome is both in the movie and the movie itself. Director Michael Bay proves that he should stick to the Transformer franchise and keep his hands off “comedies”. Maybe he thought that because comedians Kevin Dunn and Julie White could add funny to a robot movie meant he can pull funny out of this titanic turd. He can’t and he didn’t.

Judd: Pain & Gain is Bay’s attempt to stretch his legs, but only proves how unskilled he is as a director. Bay is very good at making soulless, summer fluff which can be enjoyed for what it is and going in, I was little excited to see something different from him. Here, he attempts to create a Coen Brother’s bumbling character piece with Guy Ritchie pacing, editing and title effects and just enough hallmark Michael Bay, to create a truly ungodly abomination.

Swanner: With a cast of Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris and Rob Corddry you’d think you had a sure thing but we do have the Michael Bay factor. I’m not a fan of the Guy Ritchie movies but at least they’re well made. The only thing exciting about this project is Bay brought it in under $25 million dollars…how can he work on such a tiny budget? The script by Christopher Markus (Narnia) and Stephen McFeely (Captain America) is actually based on a three piece magazine article by Pete Collins from the Miami New Times.

Judd: I actually feel bad for Johnson. Johnson gave one of his best performances to date as Paul Doyle, a fictional character made for the movie that starts out as a sympathetic bad guy then swings way to the other side of the spectrum as a coked out thug. His character could have been richer in the hands of a capable director, but Bay is only interested in the superficial. He never reads into the lines; he never tries to give his characters personality like Ritchie or the Coens. Bay’s whole style revolves around rote camera shots and editing tricks. He’s like a chef that thinks as long as the dish contains garlic, butter and cheese rest of the ingredients are inconsequential. He’s Guy Fieri.

Swanner: Personally I don’t know how I made it through the movie. It just went on forever. I did feel bad for all the performers. It was a good cast and they did fine for what they were handed but with a weak script and bad direction it just never came together. Michael Bay was apologizing for Armageddon this week when he should have been apologizing for this mess. Unfortunately this crap will make money because you have two bankable stars — but he won’t be getting two stars from me…not even one.

Judd: I haven’t wanted to walk out on a movie in a long time. I was done at around the hour mark and knew being a Michael Bay movie that I had at least another hour to go. It was grueling. I think it’s important to remember that I went in rooting for Bay to succeed at something different. Making a bad movie is forgivable, hello Ebert’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. What is unforgivable is that Bay created an artless rip-off of styles perfected by filmmakers infinitely more talented than him.

Swanner: ½
Judd: None

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Oblivion

54634563456Swanner: Last night we saw Oblivion. It’s the new Tom Cruise movie that takes place on Earth after many years of war with Aliens. Cruise plays Jack, a tech repairman who services defense drones. The drones protect water conversion machines taking the last of the seawater from the all but dead planet. This is a big budget sci-fi film with an actual story. Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) who also wrote the screenplay with Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) and wrote the comic the film is based on with Arvid Nelson.

Judd: An actual story? Let’s not get carried away. It had a shell of a plot stretched over drawn out, loud action sequences and a droning, louder score. All four men responsible for the story ought to be ashamed of themselves. Arial dogfights with automatons is not a substitute for story, and while the plot twist came as somewhat of a surprise, the amount of plot that could have been part of this movie was sorely missed.

Swanner: I just love when we see two different movies. I thought it was really good. It was loud because we were at the IMAX. They have real sound systems there. It’s also a sci-fi film which always has a big soundtrack to it. It might also be that you are way too old for being 40 years old. Wasn’t it funny that you said it felt like Tron after the movie. I was really drawn in and I thought the twists were really good. I’ll admit that Morgan Freeman was under used, but then again if it wasn’t Morgan Freeman I wouldn’t have thought so.

Judd: The Scavenger aka “Scavs” subplot was completely glossed over. If the movie were 90 minutes that would have been acceptable, but at 2 hours long I don’t need to see Tom Cruise taking a nap while listening to A Whiter Shade of Pale when there is a colony of foragers fighting for survival. Yes, we were given the whys and hows, but Kosinki decided to forgo elaboration in order to give us a scene with Cruise having sex in a glass-bottomed swimming pool. Weak.

Swanner: It took a bit to get to the scavs but it wasn’t glossed over. There could have been a bit of editing done but the first act was lulling us into believing what information they gave us…gave Jack. The second act was were our reality gets tested…90 minutes? this is a big budget fantasy sci-fi and we all know how you hate fantasy. Brick and mortar is what you are and I don’t think anyone can really take the opinion of a fantasy hater. It was an intelligent story with great effects and good ending. What more could one ask for?

Judd: What more? I told you what more. STORY! PLOT! Something more than special effects to fill in the gaps. The reason I hate the fantasy genre is because of this very reason. The authors and directors concoct some half-assed story, fill it with bullshit unicorns, wizards or aliens, and assume that the fact that these characters merely exist is enough to satisfy the audience. It’s not. Why are they there? Where did they come from? How did they survive? These questions go unanswered so some nerd with a fantasy-boner can write “fan-fic” filling in the plot that should have been addressed by the goddamn author! Now you’ve upset me.

Swanner: 3½ Stars
Judd: 1½ Stars

42

42Swanner: I always seem to like sports movies even though I’m not a real sports fan. It probably has to do with the inspirational aspect and the highly emotional nature of the story. You can imagine that a movie about Jackie Robinson’s climb from Negro League player to breaking the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947 is going to come with some highly emotional moments. In 42 you get both. The story starts in 1945 where Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is playing in the Negro leagues and is spotted by Dodger’s owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) as a player he’d like to farm out to his AAA team, the farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a huge year in Montreal, Rickey bring Robinson to the Dodgers as their new first basemen. In 1947 segregation was a part of life and some of the public showed unhappiness over Robinson placement of the Dodgers.

The film was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, the Oscar winner scribe of L.A. Confidential. Helgeland does a great job giving us the look and feel of the late 40’s in both panorama and hate. He doesn’t go too deep into Robinson’s personality because the events of his life are the real story. This isn’t a movie to show any scares Robinson may have had it’s a story of change and heroics. Boseman does a solid job playing Robinson. He’s subdued yet strong showing Robinson as a man who just happens to be the game changer. Harrison Ford does his best Tommy Lee Jones breathing life into Rickey and almost guaranteeing an Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast is great including Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black and a terrific performance by Alan Tudyk playing the thankless role of Phillies coach Ben Chapman. An angry opponent of integrating anyone of color into all white baseball. He supplies some of the most uncomfortable verbal moments in the film.

The film does what it was intended to do, show the bravery of both Robinson and Rickey and how they changed the face of professional baseball. With the exception of a few scenes i felt were over the top schmaltzy the movie is excellent. As i said early, this is a movie to chronicle the events of the time and not a character study of Robinson. It’s a sports movie about integrating American baseball and that it does well. Had the studio released the film at the end of the baseball season I’d say this was an early Oscar contender. Either way 42 will be remembered with the likes of The Natural, Field Of Dreams, 61 and Moneyball. An Inspirational film with strong characters and a great message.

Swanner: 2 1/2 Stars

Evil Dead

34254532454Swanner: If you’re going to remake a classic you better make it as good if not better than the first one — or in this case the first two. The original Evil Dead was written and directed by Sam Raimi and starred Bruce Campbell in 1981. In 1987, Raimi and Campbell remade the original film adding more story, humor and focus. After 32 years, here comes a third film with Raimi and Campbell serving as producers, changing up the characters but keeping the general plot in place. The buzz on the film has audience members getting sick and leaving the theatre because of extensive gore and horror. It was pretty gory, but I think I appreciated it.

Judd: Mia is a drug addict trying to kick the smack with the help of her brother, David, and friends Eric, Olivia and Natalie. Eric finds a mysterious book which appears to be bound in human flesh, with crib notes scrawled throughout the book warning the reader to leave the book alone. Does he? Of course not, and you know the rest of the story. This third incarnation of the movie combines the first two; it has more plot than the first, more characters than the second, the gore of the first and the humor of the second – albeit, very toned down and dry.

Swanner: I didn’t really see the humor being that I was freaking out. I was too caught up in the scares to find anything funny… Granted, once I calmed down after the face pounding, I did get a bit of humor. I was amazed at all the different ways to mutilate a body while still alive. Director Fede Alverez really kept me on the edge of my seat with some real scares. He also wrote the script with Diablo Cody and Rodo Sayagues and it’s a solid script for this kind of genre.

Judd: The humor is very dry, especially when compared the Bruce Campbell’s slapstick performance in II, but the humor is definitely there. I really liked how graphically gory the movie is, using it to drive the action and the plot, unlike the “torture porn” we’re accustom to today where each scene is nothing more than a vignette. I also appreciate how the movie avoided cheap “jump scares”. There is nothing I hate more; jump scares are hacky and cheap.

Swanner: I agree with having a good old gory horror film. I hate the torture ones so this was a pleasant surprise. Hopefully we’re seeing a rebirth of the classic style with last year’s Cabin in the Woods, and now The Evil Dead. There were a lot of good scares. I loved the camera work, they were messing with me the whole time. I’m hoping the fanboys will like what they’ve done here. I like this better than either of the other films and I’ll never watch it again.

Judd: I, too, don’t think I’ll watch Evil Dead again. While everything about the movie was well executed, the movie lacks originality that would inspire repeated viewings. That was the real let down for me. Take away all the fancy dressing, and it’s nothing more than a movie about young adults being killed in a cabin in the woods. How 1981.

Swanner:
Judd:

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

23452345345Swanner: It sure does feel like the studios are trying to get a head start on the big summer movies. Normally these tent pole titles start coming out in May. March saw some big winners and some losers, but either way March has been a huge month for movies, and GI Joe is one of them. I always have to remind myself that i have to judge these movies on their genre. GI Joe is a big movie with a rumored $185 million budget, and it shows in every minute. Boasting cast Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis, this film explodes on screen.

Judd: I didn’t see the first GI Joe, and I was a bit worried this sequel wouldn’t make sense. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, the plot of felt a little clunky because at first I didn’t know who was who. The president orders a strike on the Joes, leaving behind Roadblock (Johnson) Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), Flint (D.J. Controna) and Snake Eyes. The Cobra Commander is locked up in a secret prison, but is freed by a good guy, but it’s actually a bad guy who ends up being a good guy because he finds out a bad guy tricked him into being a bad guy, and if he hadn’t been tricked he’d be a good guy which is actually is, but isn’t.

Swanner: I know for the fans of the film the story is all involving but for guys like us it fighting, explosions and bullets flying. I was exhausted. I’m the romantic comedy guy so the summer movies wear me out. In a good way, but still… By the way, your synopsis was spot on. The film was directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 3D) and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Werrnick (Zombieland). Chu was actually a good choice because he’s worked with 3D and his choreography knowledge is the same whether you’re dancing or fighting. The writers kept it moving fast and the dialogue was good for these kinds of films.

Judd: The plotline that carried the movie for me was Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and the good-bad-good-bad guy story. It was engaging and all the related action sequences were excellent, especially the one in the Himalayas. The only real downfall was RZA as the blind kung-fu master. He may have been blind, but everyone around him lacked a sense of smell, because he STUNK! The main plot of the Joes getting revenge and restoring their honor was quite boring, with the final fight between Roadblock and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) being a real snooze.

Swanner: I liked both of the storylines. Especially the one with The Rock. It must be very hard to gets shirts to fit his biceps. Every sleeve was rolled up. These movies are just fun for me. Summertime is all about the popcorn movie and that’s why this film coming out in March is odd. This definitely has Summer Movie written all over it. I might not own it but I’m glad i saw it and I’m glad i saw in at a theatre.

Judd: It’s funny you mentioned The Rock’s shirts. Sportswear company Under Amour must have paid a pretty penny to have their logo plastered on Johnson’s chest in every scene. Anyway, the 3D was well done, and the action sequences were good, but I don’t think I would want to pay to see it. I’m not a G.I. Joe fan, and without that draw, there’s no love to make up for the movie’s shortcomings.

Swanner

Judd:

The Croods

The-Croods-eep-climbing-wallSwanner: A prehistoric family are forced out of their cave after an earthquake and have to find a new home. This is the latest from DreamWorks animation and from writers/directors Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon) and Kick De Micco (Space Chimps). It has a well known voice cast which includes Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener and Nick Cage. Have you noticed just the thought of Nick Cage makes you expect less?

Judd: Nicolas Cage, Gerard Butler, Adam Sandler, Katherine Heigl – names that strike dread and loathing in the hearts of movie-goers everywhere. Marks of the devil – or at least a really crappy movie. Maybe DreamWorks has a rehabilitation mission, since Butler was cast in How to Train Your Dragon; they thought they could help Cage. Was The Croods as bad as your standard Cage flick? No, and I actually kind of liked Cage, but I would like him better if he were more meta in embracing his awfulness. He could be the next Bill Shatner or Adam West.

Swanner: The film is easy to watch with a simple story of a cave family learning they don’t need the cave any longer and realizing the benefits of things like fire and shoes. Past that, the film offers some lovely production design and some decent laughs. Honestly, I didn’t know where they were going to go in the film. It starts out where the family is very cavemanish, where just finding food was all they were consumed with until Eep (Stone) sneaks out of the cave and meets Guy (Reynolds), a drifter looking for a home.

Judd: I agree the movie felt fragmented, with none of the plotlines feeling completely fulfilled. There is the idea that The Croods are Neanderthals while Guy is evolved, but it’s not played out. There is the romance between Guy and Eep, which goes nowhere. In fact, I was expecting the romance plot to be the driving factor, when in the last 15 minutes of the movie they switched gears and made it about a worrisome father and his independent daughter never having told the other “I love you”.

Swanner: That being said the film is still about self-discovery. Finding fire, new places and of course new emotions they find. I think felt they needed to center around Dad (because they considered Cage the bigger name) and the family instead of having the romance drive the story. They really haven’t been pushing the actors in the film’s advertising just how silly the cave people are but that may have been the plan was all along. I thought the movie was sweet and kids will like the simple story of change is coming so you have to embrace it.

Judd: What carried the movie for me were the landscapes and creatures. The Croods was a beautiful and visually exciting movie, the background artists must have had a ton of fun coming up with the colors and the animals. The super-fast action kept the movie from being boring, but overall, I expect better from DreamWorks.

Swanner: ½
Judd:

Olympus Has Fallen

34562343333Swanner: Let me start by saying Olympus Has Fallen is not a sequel to any of those terrible Titan movies. The title refers to the White House code name being Olympus and the “has fallen” part means it’s been seized by an outside force. The storyline follows former Presidential guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President (Aaron Eckhart) from his kidnappers.

Judd: While Olympus Has Fallen is nothing more than a low-rent Die Hard, it is a cheeky, fun movie that knows it’s a paint-by-number story of one man looking for redemption by taking on a group of bad guys that no one else can handle. From the beginning, where the terrorists strike and overtake the Whitehouse to the very end, with the last bloody fight, it is apparent that the script and director Antoine Fuqua think nothing of precision, strategy and modern tactics. Both bad guys and good were a step away from hacking at each other with dull hatchets.

Swanner: These kinds of films can get pretty over the top with the acting, but everyone really controlled their performances. Besides Butler, who knows how to play a hero and Eckhart you have strong performances from Morgan Freeman and Rick Yune. I was most impressed with Melissa Leo, who plays the Secretary of Defense. Anyone who thinks she didn’t deserve her Oscar will certainly remember her in this film. The only person I though didn’t fit was Dylan McDermott, which surprises me because he’s usually spot on.

Judd: Eckhart had his moments where he got to look heavenward and scream “Noooooo!” so don’t make it sound like Alistair Cooke would be filming an intro for the home release. Olympus Has Fallen is the movie I was looking for when we went to see The Call. Though now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I assumed a movie about two women gabbing on the phone should be interesting. While Leo and Freeman added gravitas and pedigree, the movie knows that it’s trashy, bloody fun and doesn’t try to be anything more.

Swanner: Absolutely but as you said it’s a low rent Die Hard…but the first one…the good one. I went in to this film not expecting much. the preview wasn’t selling me on it but I went because it’s my job and like The Call, I really ended up liking it a lot. For the genre it worked. I think this is the perfect go to the theater and see it movie. It’s big, loud and I was totally entertained.

Swanner: ½
Judd: ½