The Heat

the-heat02Swanner: I want everyone aware that Brian hates Sandra Bullock. So if he says anything disparaging about The Heat it’s all to do with this irrational hate. The Heat starts with Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) as an uptight know it all who is moved from her New York position to Boston to work on a case. There she is teamed up with Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a foul mouthed Boston cop, to solve a string of murders. The film is directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), written by Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation) and is a very funny movie.

Judd: I do hate Sandra Bullock; I don’t think she’s funny, and I think The Heat proves how unfunny she really is when paired up against Melissa McCarthy. Of course, she plays the straight Woman to McCarthy’s Funny Woman. I found her timing to be off and completely un-charming. It was like watching someone do a bad Jack Lemmon impersonation. McCarthy, however, is brilliant as always. She’s a great physical comedian, and she always manages to make her emotional scenes feel genuine. Bullock isn’t worthy of washing McCarthy’s bra. That would be the jockstrap equivalent, right?

Swanner: Once again you are totally wrong. It was funnier because Sandra Bullock was in it. Sure she plays the uptight, by the rules character. That’s so when McCarthy goes wild we can live through vicariously through her. Her reactions become are ours. I can’t believe I need to explain these things to you. The two actress look like they are having so much fun that you can’t help but have a good time. The scenes with just the two women are where they are their funniest. I saw you laughing through the whole movie!

Judd: I think I know how the Straight Man character is supposed to work, and I think I did a dandy job at describing why Bullock totally sucked at it. Bullock’s reactions were not mine, nor any other person’s with a shred of authenticity. And before you go on about her Oscar, Louise Fletcher and Halle Berry both have Oscars! SNAP, Bitch! I was laughing through the movie, the script is good and jokes are funny. I disagree that the scenes with them alone were the funniest. In fact the most painful scene was the two women drinking and dancing at the bar. I felt bad for McCarthy.

Swanner: That was a classic romantic comedy scene where they bond while being drunk and end up singing a song. 27 Dresses has the same scene in it and it’s hilarious. I did want to mention that there is a good supporting cast that includes Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Michael McDonald and Damian Bichir. More people for Brian to hate. I thought the movie way funny…Bridesmaids funny. This is definitely a repeat watch and one you should see the first time with a full audience. Prepare to laugh.

Judd: By “a classic romantic comedy scene” you really mean classic garbage that isn’t funny in any movie and makes grown men cry. The reason Bridesmaids is funny is because it avoided all those ovarian clichés. I liked the supporting cast, particularly Wayans, Rapaport and JANE CURTIN! See, you’re so busy defending what you know is obviously crap, you forget about the brilliant and wonderful JANE CURTIN! However, I can’t stand Michael McDonald and can’t wait to hear about the day he’s run over by a bus driven at 50 MPH by Sandra Bullock, which then flips over and explodes guaranteeing their death in a fiery, hellish blaze.

Swanner: 3 1/2 Stars
Judd: 2 Stars

White House Down

jamie-foxx-channing-tatum-white-house-downSwanner: I’m always amazed when you have movies coming out in the same year with similar storylines. This year there were two comedies about the rapture (both staring Craig Robinson) or last year with two movies about Hitchcock and two movies about Snow White. This latest one has me dumbfounded, two movies about terrorist taking over the white house. Olympus Has Fallen came out on 3/22/2013. The movie is about a ex-CIA agent who use to work for the President just happens to be around when the white house is attacked and is there to save the President and save the day. White House Down opening 6/28/2013 is about a man who wants to be a CIA agent so he can protect the President who just happens to be around when the white house attacked and is there to save the President and save the day. I’m not joking. All this might be looked at as coincidence except they come from the same studio three months apart. Didn’t someone from the first movie run into his counterpart from the second movie in the cafeteria and both discover they are terrorist attacking the white house? Who is doing the green lighting at Sony?

Now about the movie. Channing Tatum plays the above mentioned CIA wannabe. A bunch of men make there way into the White House locking it down and killing a lot of secret service agents as they do. . From there Tatum proves his worth and saves President Jamie Foxx. I’d call spoiler alert but if you don’t know how this one ends in the first ten minutes then I’m sorry. While WHD follows the same Die Hard model OHF did, this is actually closer to the shtick from Die Hard. Impossible circumstances followed with snark.

I liked that the bad guys this time are right wing crazies who think Glen Beck is the voice of god and ex-military who were screwed over by the government. Like Olympus the secondary cast is very good including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, James Woods and young actress Joey King. I think the biggest difference in the two film is the tone. Olympus was much more serious where in WHD Tatum and Foxx play it more like a buddy movie. I liked both films. I found both films entertaining but honestly I like Olympus better. It was 20 minutes shorter and produced the same movie. The ending of WHD does get schmaltzy to a point of eye rolling. It was still fun but if you’re only going to see one White House being taken my terrorist movie this year… Make it Olympus Has Fallen when it comes out on home video on 8/13/13.

Swanner: 3 Stars

Much Ado About Nothing

3245234524523462342Judd: Being the cultured one of our fair duo, I went to see Joss Whedon’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in 12 days on a digital camera in Whedon’s own home, Much Ado is about two lovers Benedick and Beatrice, Claudio and Hero. Benedick and Beatrice are in a love-hate relationship while Claudio and Hero are absolutely gaga about each other – that is until the villain, Don John, tricks Claudio into thinking Hero is a Whore-o.

I was not familiar with the story, but being a fan of small indie films and being a total advocate of contemporary Shakespeare I was truly looking forward to the movie. Starring Whedon pal’s Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kraz, Jillian Morgese plus others like Ashley Johnson and Riki Lindhome, it was grossly apparent which actors has the chops to pull off Shakespearean prose and those who did not; Riki Lindhome being the worst of the lot. I also went in not knowing the plot or the fact that the script is a romantic comedy. In fact, being written in 1599, I would venture to say that with Much Ado, The Bard invented the horrible cliches of romcoms. The bad guy was only a plot device to cause conflict, who then was written out of the story after he stirred the shit. Though he was clearly the bad guy, no one questioned his scandalous story about the bride. The whole thing could have been avoided if the groom would have talked to the bride before the wedding, instead of accusing her at the altar. And of course, the buffoons save the day. The only thing it was missing was a pillow fight and Diane Keaton as the overbearing mother. Had the language been contemporary and the budget a more than $12, Tom would have loved this movie.

The direction was very sitcomish with some scenes overtaken by cheesy slapstick. This may have been appropriate for the commoners in the front row at The Globe, but it came across as broad and hack-like. Beautiful, wealthy sophisticates, speaking complex English, can think of better places to hide than under the kitchen table. It should also be noted that the movie was recorded in black and white. It wasn’t until I researched it later that I found out this was for budgetary reasons more than anything.

Would I recommend Much Ado About Nothing? Only to those who’ve been assigned to read the text for a class. I believe that plays ought to be seen and heard, not read, particularly Shakespeare. The problem is that the tropes featured in Much Ado have been done to death over the past 415 years, and Shakespeare should have been put to death for creating them. I appreciate Whedon’s Roger Corman approach to filmmaking and he has my full respect for being mostly successful. Unfortunately, the last thing we need in this world is another shitty romantic comedy.

Judd: 2 Stars

Monsters U

234562643223423434523452Swanner: As the summer of prequel, sequels and reboots continues Pixar brings us Monsters University. It’s a prequel to 2001’s Monsters Inc. which made $562 million worldwide, so when the Pixar’s story well started to dry we knew we’d be seeing sequels to their hits. Cars 2 didn’t turn out so well even though it made money but Toy Story 2 & 3 were classic Pixar, successful both critically and financially. So the question is can this prequel equal its predecessor or should it have gone direct to video?

Judd: With the trailers giving very little away in terms of plot, coupled with the debacle of Cars 2, I was a little worried about Monsters University. Given that Monsters Inc. is such a well-crafted movie, it would be a shame to have it ruined by a shoddy prequel. Phantom Menace, anyone? Monsters University finds Sully and Mike thrown together after getting kicked out of the Scare Program at M.U. They have to prove their rag-tag team can out-scare the best on campus.

Swanner: The movie has a bit of Revenge of the Nerds to it but most college comedies do. After being tossed from the scare program their only hope of getting back in is if they can win the scare games. This is where we get to know a different group of monsters with as much heart as any in the original. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon and also written by Scanlon, Daniel Gerson and Robert L Baird. The screenplay entertains all ages by telling the adults the story while the kids watch the characters be funny. With the exception of a couple of crying babies my theatre kept its focus on the screen. That’s the sign of a great script and direction.

Judd: Billy Crystal and John Goodman are back as Mike and Sully. This time they’re joined by Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Alfred Molina, Charley Day, Nathan Fillion, Tyler Labin, Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan and Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble, the person responsible for kicking the boys out of the program. I liked all the characters; none of them felt like they were written to satisfy the toddler target. No one had stupid catchphrases; no one was obnoxiously “whacky”.

Swanner: That is what separates Pixar from the pack. They make movies that everyone can enjoy. That’s something not even their parent company has perfected. I actually have seen the film twice and found the second screening as good as the first if not better. The characters are so rich with life you forget they aren’t real. I might even like this one better because Boo isn’t in this one. I know she was sweet but it’s a child and you know how I feel about children. Monsters University is by far the best movie for come out so far this year and one I can’t wait to own. Congratulations Pixar you’ve done it again.

Judd: I don’t think Monsters U is better than the original, but it is a worthy follow up. The plot is nothing original, but the characters are good and the story is compelling.

Swanner: 4 Stars
Judd: 3 1/2 Stars

World War Z

345234562345Swanner: Zombies … why is it always zombies? I don’t understand this craze. My readers should know by now that I have no love for zombies … the whole genre and even though I have liked some zombie movies I’m a hard sell. World War Z opens on Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family having breakfast before going on some sort of trip. Heading to their destination there is a zombie attack. We don’t know where they are coming from or what’s caused this we just know it’s happening.

Judd: I don’t think something carrying on for 45 years can be called a “craze”. I read Max Brooks’ World War Z last summer, and I was enthralled by the book. It was a series of interviews with survivors and military strategists who help conquer a zombie outbreak, and how the world was left drastically altered by the “war”. World War Z, the movie, takes that expansive, intricate and captivating plot, discards the whole thing by giving us Brad Pitt. The smartest, toughest and handsomest man in the whole world.

Swanner: It just seemed like nothing happened. Gerry had worked for the U.N. as the guy that got answers so he’s basically told he’s going to Korea to find patient zero. He basically gets nothing there so he goes somewhere else then somewhere else. It felt like a travelogue with an occasional zombie attack. I didn’t find the story compelling and I was never worried for Pitt’s character because he was the only one the movie was following so he’s not going to die…no tension there. I had no emotional tie with any of the characters because the filmmakers never got me invested in the story. I just enjoyed the fantastic cinematography.

Judd: The movie was broken down into segments. Go to point A, find nothing, fight a huge zombie attack. Go to point B, find nothing, fight a huge zombie attack. Go to point C, etc. Then we get to the end of the movie, and suddenly Pitt adds up all the innocuous clues from Points A, B, C and D to find the solution. A solution, by the way, which should have been discovered by almost ANYONE in the medical field. The set pieces were huge, and there were a ton of long-distance crane shots, but in the end I was left less than impressed.

Swanner: We absolutely saw the same movie this time. One big glaring detail here is that it’s not very scary. Sure there we’re a few tense moments but I wasn’t freighted at all and most zombie movies scare the crap out of me. That’s a problem and it’s all about the script. I know Director Marc Foster and crew went back and rewrote and reshot the third act of the film because it wasn’t working. Although that part was the best part of the film, because something finally happens, it doesn’t make up for the nothingness in the second act. It wasn’t the movie I was promised.

Judd: Fans of the book stay home; the only thing it has in common with the movie is the title. You’re right, the movie was not scary. It had none of the hallmarks of a zombie movie, except the zombies. Traditionally, zombie movies – of all the monster genres – have the most blatant political themes. Particularly, the Romero films. The book addresses politics straight on. The movie says nothing except that Brad Pitt is smarter than you and better looking, to boot.

Swanner: 2 Stars
Judd: 2 Stars

The Kings of Summer

34234234Judd: Every so often Tom and I get an invite to a small indie film that the studios want the critics to see and generate word of mouth. These films are usually Sundance or SXSW favorites, which really aren’t that good but stand out against all the other crap that’s shown at these festivals. This year’s Sundance darling is Kings of Summer, a story about three 15 year old boys who run away from home and spend their summer living in a cabin they built in the woods. Written by new-comer Chris Galletta and directed by Jordan Vogt Roberts, known for his internet shorts, Kings of Summer feels very indie and quirky, but at its heart is an innocent story about boys who aren’t smarmy, too-cool-for-school, or other such Hollywood contrivances.

Joe (Nick Robinson) flees from a party after it’s broken up by the cops, while walking with fellow party-goer and oddball Biaggio, (Moises Arias) they find a clearing in the woods. Soon after we learn that Joe doesn’t get along that well with his cold, widowed father (Nick Offerman) and BFF Patrick’s parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) are well-meaning but smothering. The writing for the parents is a bit lame, particularly Jackson and Mullally, but Mullally is able to make it work because she’s just that good. Joe, Patrick and Biaggio run away from home to build a house in the clearing, living a life free from their parents. It’s never stated whether or not the boys had a long term plan, but they were 15. What 15 year old boy thinks more than a week into the future?

The majority of the movie is just the boys horsing around and being boys, interspersed with beautiful nature cinematography. It reminded me very much of the photography by Jock Sturges, infamous for his photos of nude adolescents and their families taken on the beaches of NorCal and France. Tennessee and Alabama attempted and failed to charge him with child pornography. Kings of Summer doesn’t feature any nudity, but the image of these young men (old boys?) on the brink of adulthood, playing in the dirt, water and mud conveys the same innocence and natural beauty of Sturges’ work.

From a cynical standpoint, the movie is a bit nostalgic, showcasing an awkward time of life that our boys seem to coping with a little too well. The oddball character says things that are just a little too odd. Patrick’s parents are just a little too quirky. Nick Offerman is just a little too Ron Swanson. The movie as a whole is a fraction “more” than what I think the director was aiming for, but that doesn’t detract from the overall charm and enchantment.

Judd: 4 Stars

Man of Steel

d122d814e9969408b5865c237ef28be0Swanner: Let me start by saying that Henry Cavill is kind of dreamy but I can’t let that effect my review. We’re here to talk about the new film Man of Steel which is the Superman reboot of a reboot of a reboot…you get the idea. Once again we were told the story of a child being sent to Earth from a dying planet and how he has to deal with having super powers amongst mortals. The film stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe.

Judd: Henry Cavill is no Brandon Routh, so unlike you saying you’re not going to be influenced by his looks, when we all know you are, I can truthfully say that I will not be influenced. The plot of this incarnation is baby Kal-El escapes to earth with the key to the DNA of every future resident of Krypton. Emperor Zod, who was previously sent off to space jail, manages to escape when Krypton implodes and tracks Superbaby to Earth to recover the DNA and rebuild Krypton. And now I have a horrible taste in my mouth.

Swanner: I liked the script for what it was. They did a lot in flashbacks showing you where Clark gets his moral compass from his Earth parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). We all know the story so I thought it helped freshen it up. Especially when Clark is on a fishing boat and he saves those men on the oil rig. How he doesn’t have a shirt on and he has that beard. The script was written by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) with story by Goyer and Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight). So these guys know their superheroes, as does director Zack Snyder (Watchmen).

Judd: The multiple flashbacks were repetitive and some of them should have been cut to trim the porky 150 minute runtime. There were at least three flashbacks with Earth Father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) telling young Superboy that he would change the world, but the world might not be ready for that change. One flashback would have sufficed. The trouble is this is the only pathos the Superman character is able to provide; all other conflict came from Zod. In these days of vigilante superheroes plagued with self-doubt and other neuroses, whether or not Superman should come out of the closet does not sustain interest.

Swanner: If they were cutting, they could have cut the destruction back. I grew tired of the last fight. I really love the Costner scenes. I liked the story and I think you need to rehash it for the first timers. The flashbacks kept it from being too structured and boxy. If the last 40 minutes was trimmed to 20 minutes this would have been a great movie but when you’ve paid that much money for all those effects, you have to use them. It’s still a really good film and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him – uh, them.

Judd: The final fight should have been trimmed way back. It was like Michael Bay stepped in and everything became all over-the-top action and no story. And don’t get me started on the shaky-cam 3D combo. HORRIBLE! The problem with Superman is that he’s an uninteresting character. His intentions are good and his motives are pure – yawn. The best thing about the Reeves/Routh Supermans is that the filmmakers knew Superman is a goody-goody dork and they play up to that in a fun, campy way. In an effort to make him less like a Boy Scout, Goyer/Nolan/Snyder left us with a character who is crying over spilled milk. Shut up and go help that little old lady cross the street. You know you want to.

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 2 Stars

This Is The End

This-Is-The-End-Rogen-Franco-HilcblSwanner: There seems to be a trend in Hollywood where actors are getting their friends together and making a movie. Adam Sandler did it with Grown-Ups and Vince Vaughn did it with Couples Therapy and now Seth Rogen has with This is the End. The difference is that Rogen’s film is actually funny and all the actors play themselves. The film takes place at a party being thrown by James Franco when the rapture takes place but no one at the party realizes it because actors are all douche bags so no one got taken up. I’m not making a judgment I’m just explaining the plot.

Judd: The difference between Sandler and Rogen, besides age is ambition and ego. Franco, Rogen and crew are young, energetic, willing to laugh at themselves but still want to produce a worthy product. Sandler is a fat, lazy sellout looking to make a quick buck that leaves no one laughing. That’s not to say that This is the End isn’t without its problems. As protégés of Judd Apatow, these kids don’t know what to leave on the cutting room floor, and they think unscripted riffing can be just as funny as a sharply honed dialogue when ninety-nine percent of the time it’s not.

Swanner: That’s very true. The film could have been edited down a good 15 or 20 minutes. Unscripted is for live stage comedy shows not for film. Even the unscripted TV is scripted. You could definitely tell when they were adlibbing because they would go on cursing rants that made no sense but they thought it was hilarious. Sometimes it was…sometimes not. I liked that they played themselves even if it was to an extreme. You know Michael Cara isn’t the a-hole he played but I’m pretty sure Danny McBride was playing himself.

Judd: The standouts in the movie, for me, were Jay Baruchel and Craig Robinson. They limited their improv and when they did speak off the cuff, it was consistently funny. Baruchel is visiting Rogen in LA and Rogen drags him to the party at Franco’s were Baruchel feels like he doesn’t belong. While his character is more the straight man, he still fires off some very funny material, and eventually gets paired up with Robinson when all hell literally breaks loose. That’s not to discount the rest of the cast, but Baruchel and Robinson are the most even throughout.

Swanner: The movie feels like a bunch of guys got together with a camcorder and whole lot of weed and made a movie. The good thing is it worked but it could have gone terribly wrong. My suggestion is that before you see the film you should have a couple drinks or smoke some medical marijuana. Things are always more fun when you’re in the same state of mind as the people you’re with. It’s a party movie and will be one of those films that people will watch with a bunch of friends. That’s why it’s a “go see it in the theatre” movie. Comedy is always more fun when it’s shared.

Judd: Agreed. This ranks up there with Superbad and Pineapple Express. While we’ve spent this review pointing on the problems with the film, it really is a well-done movie with a very funny script and excellent cameos. It should also be mention that outside of the comedic aspect, its apocalyptical story is a success as well. It doesn’t feel tacked on or a paper-thin excuse for conflict. It’s thought out. While the movie may have been made only for fun, these guys know that the audience isn’t there just to see them hang out. It’s a lesson Adam Sandler needs to take.

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 3 Stars

The Purge

imagesLast night Tom and I split to see two different movies. Tom saw The Internship because he said he was too scared to see The Purge; with a runtime of 85 minutes, I was more than happy to oblige. The Purge takes place in the year 2022 when crime is nil and unemployment is at 1% after the American government has instituted a 12 hour period every year where all crime, especially murder, is legal and encouraged as a “soul cleansing” experience

It started as a decent idea, but quickly devolved into a toothless thriller based on white guilt and liberal pandering. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is a One Percenter living in an upscale neighborhood that locks itself down during The Purge. It turns out The Purge is more about killing off poor people that can’t defend themselves, than it is about a country-wide crime spree. The rich “go hunting” or go on lockdown. All this goes awry when Sandin’s son sees a homeless man in the street begging for help and lets him their fortified domicile. The homeless just so happens to be black and wearing military dog tags – this automatically makes him likable. Better than a white, drunken wino that smells like a hot dumpster and piss.

Things don’t get better when the neighborhood collegiate youth show up at the Sandin’s demanding they turnover “the homeless pig for sacrifice”. They looked like a bunch of creepy mask wearing Mormon Missionaries dressed in the Brooks Brothers’ Regatta Collection. They never give the kids’ names, but I can guarantee you it was Chip, Muffy, Biff and Buffy. Beyond the terrible story and horrible characters, the direction was poor and everyone is so boring and flat that I didn’t care who died as long as it brought an end to the movie. A movie that should have been released in August, The Purge is … insert your own bulimia joke here because it’s not worth my effort.

Judd: 1 Star

The Internship

BRAY_20120725_2448.CR2Swanner: Sometimes as a critic you begrudgingly go to screenings knowing you’re going to hate the film. That’s how i walked in to the theatre last night for the screening of The Internship. It’s Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson taking an internship at Google with 98 18 to 22 year olds. It’s 2 hours of “Look at the old guys” jokes till Vaughn’s heart grow three times it’s size…wait, that’s another story but you get my point. We’ve seen this before or have we? I expected this to be a sequel to The Wedding Crashers, same leads and there would be more than enough college students for these two 40+ studs to hit on but they don’t. That’s what threw me right away, Vaughn wasn’t a perv…WHAT? Wilson does get to be the romantic lead but Vaughn plays the guy that gets turned around. I never saw it coming. I mean Vaughn is usually still a douche bag as the credits role. Once the boys are accepted for the internship they are placed on a team and told that only one of the 20 teams are guaranteed employment at Google.

The rest of the cast is made up of some veterans (John Goodman, Rose Byrne and Aasif Mandvi) but it’s the newbies that steal the show. Tobit Raphael, Tiya Sircar, Dylan O’Brien and Josh Brener make up the rest of Vaughn and Wilson’s team. The team that couldn’t find a team are made a team and become the underdogs. Yes this is a fish out of water film but aren’t most films at some point? Shawn Levy (Real Steel) directs a script by Vaughn and Jared Stern. As i mentioned earlier that Vaughn’s not his usual perv character. I think that’s what Stern’s role was in the writing . Stern has written for more family oriented films and even though it’s not a “family” film it never become an “Adult” comedy. It’s just a very middle of the road story and i appreciated that.

Ultimately we learn to play as a team and in the end everyone lives happily ever after except the one alpha student who bullies our underdogs. We all know that bullies are bad and should be named Chip or Biff. In this film his name is Graham played by Max Minghella. Minghella? Why hasn’t he change his name? I guess if he’s the villain it’s okay.This ends up being a sweet film with a big heart. It’s also quite funny. That’s says something considering how unfunny this movie season has been. It’s probably out of place being released in June. After all, no super heroes or special effects, but it’s a solid little comedy with a good cast.

Swanner: 3 Stars