Don Jon

don-jon-fathers-day-clip-061613“There are only a few things Jon really cares about in life. His body. His pad. His ride. His family. His church. His boys. His girls. His porn.” The quote is lifted directly from the movie Don Jon, penned and directed by Gordon-Levitt. It, unfortunately, also describes the whole plot of the movie, repeated ad nauseam until end credits. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Jon, a Jersey Shore Guido with the looks and machismo to get so much pussy his friends call him The Don. One evening Jon meets Barbara out at the clubs and she is a total “dime” aka 10. But instead of taking her back to his place and “smashing it”, she goes home; having never been turned down before, Jon is intrigued. Fast forward a bit, and we find out that she doesn’t like the fact that he watches porn and does his own housekeeping (not at the same time), in fact, it’s a deal breaker. Enter Julianne Moore as Esther, Jon’s classmate, who notices him watching porn on his phone. What does she do? She buys him a Swedish “Art Film” and tells him it’s better than the crap he’s watching on the sly. To say anything more would be giving away the ending, though it’s telegraphed from 20 minutes in.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the most talented actors of his generation; his acting chops and overall integrity are beyond reproach – even GI Joe. And I’m not going to lie, I would have his baby. I must not be the only one that feels this way, given the PR campaign and the amount of press the movie has received. Understandably, I had very high hopes for Don Jon, which is why it pains me to say the movie isn’t very good. In fact, it’s actually kind of bad. The first 45 minutes play like an extended episode of Jersey, where nothing really happens until Julianne Moore shows up reprising her role of Amber Waves from Boogie Nights minus the cocaine.

As I mentioned above the movie repeats the same three or four scenarios over and over again, and while I understand that Gordon-Levitt is trying to make us see how routine Jon’s life is, it doesn’t make for very entertaining viewing. I thought I could never get tired of his smarmy, sideways smirk — the one featured on the poster — but after seeing it scene after scene, while the movie spun its wheels not going anywhere, it got old. Equally repetitive are the dinner scenes with his family, featuring Tony Danza, Glenne Headly and Brie Larson. Larson, embodying Chekhov’s Gun, only once looks up from her cellphone at the end of the film to deliver wise, sisterly advice. Between dinner and dates, we have multiple scenes at the gym, confessions in church where Jon tells the Father how many times he’s jerked it in the past week, and scenes with Jon driving like an asshole.

I think if Gordon-Levitt was either directing or writing along with starring, Don Jon could have been salvaged. Being writer/director/lead actor, the task was too much for one novice to handle. A separate director could have given Gordon-Levitt the writer notes on how to diversify his script. A separate screenwriter may have seen that Gordon-Levitt the director was being repetitious and dull. I still love Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I would still have his baby, but I have to say that while cutting his teeth on Don Jon, he bit off more than he could chew.

Judd: 2 Stars

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Rush

imagesJudd: James Hunt and Niki Lauda were bitter rivals during the 1976 Formula One World Championship. Hunt was a British drug-using, womanizing playboy and man’s man. Lauda, a Viennese rat-like man, mechanical, calculating and robotic. Two wildly different styles, squaring off on the world stage. Ron Howard captured this rivalry in his new film, Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and character actor Daniel Bruhl as Lauda, both of whom were dead ringers for their real-life counterparts.

Swanner:It was amazing how much the actors looking like the real people but my question is why make this movie? Are these two men really that compelling that I’d want to sit through the film? I can tell you I was BORED. Watching two egomaniacs posture for two hours was ridiculous. Hemsworth is pretty to look at but the movie was never really about anything. Just these two fools trying to see who could puff out their chest further.

Judd: Hunt’s boozing and carousing was nothing more than we’ve seen in any other movie with a “party boy”. The scenes where Lauda is working with his mechanics tuning his car, increasing aerodynamics and decreasing weight, I found interesting but I can see how many people would not. I also liked Lauda as a character; dry, logical, impersonal. The movie lost me at the actual races. They felt plastic and very Fast & Furious, even though they were shot with the intent to convey the feeling of the race. F1 racing is physically demanding, not to mention dangerous, and I never got the sense of that. Sure, we got one decapitated driver, but even that felt like nothing more than a reminder and carried no real emotional heft.

Swanner: I never felt connected to anyone in this film. I liked the way it was shot with a very seventies look and the art direction and costumes were all spot on. The film moved well but said nothing to me. It felt more like a documentary, there was such a disconnect from the characters. I have to blame the script by Peter Morgan. It was lifeless to the point of me just not caring. When Lauda has an accident I finally felt something for the character but it was fleeting and I found myself waiting for the credits

Judd: I really liked the Kodachrome like processing they did to the film – even though it was shot digitally. The colors looked like the something filmed during the era. I think the movie falls flat because it’s revealed in the last five minutes – and no, this is not a spoiler – that Hunt and Lauda were friends. They competed against each other, but they liked and respected each other. In real life there was no animosity; all the drama was created in the minds of the spectators. When viewed from the distance of time, it’s impossible to recreate a clash that never existed.

Swanner: 1 Star
Judd: 2½ Stars

Cludy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

34245Swanner: Back in 2009 Sony brought Judi Barrett’s children’s classic to the screen. Four years later part 2 makes its debut in the Fall and not in the summer … curious. Either way we get to spend more time with inventor Flint and his assistant monkey Steve. If you’re not a fan of sequels this one might change your mind. After the world learns of Flint’s invention, a corporation called The Live Corp Company invites him to work for them but with evil reasons of their own

Judd: I really liked the first Cloudy, with voice cast featuring Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris and Mr. T. All actors return for the sequel with the exception of Mr. T. The humor plays to the comedic chops of the actors and the animation adds a fun, quirky cheekiness that makes Sony Pictures Animation stand on its own against DreamWorks and Pixar. Cloudy 2 is a worthy sequel.

Swanner: This is by far the Sony’s best franchise. It’s one of the few where the 3D makes it even more fun. I did notice that the script was written by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M Goldstein to writers of Horrible Bosses and Erica Rivinoja who is a two time Emmy winner for South Park. This explains why it was so funny. They have two new directors, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, but with a history of animation.

Judd: I didn’t think that the 3D brought anything more to the table and think anyone not willing to spend the extra money isn’t missing out, otherwise I agree with you. This is a very funny movie with a great plot. I loved Chester V and his satirical take on Apple. Chester V is the founder of Live Corp, the “hippest company in the world” and Flint’s hero, but it turns out that Chester V, much like the late Steve Jobs, is kind of a dick. I can see where a writer for South Park influences the tone of the script.

Swanner: I was reading our review of the first film and we both felt very much like we do with this film. I’m still surprised why they didn’t release this during the summer. Cloudy 2 is better than Planes or Turbo but the original came out in September so maybe its tradition? The original made $125 million and with little and no competition part 2 should do as well if not better. Young or old there is something that will work for you here.

Swanner: 3½ Stars
Judd: 3½ Stars

Battle of the Year

Battle-of-the-Year-The-Dream-Team-full-movie-1Swanner: Once again Brian and i had to split movies. He went to see Prisoners and i saw Battle of the Year (BOTY). I think i got the best deal out of it. I’m sure Prisoners is good with it’s all star cast but i got hip hop dancing and my movie 45 minutes shorter. Once a year there is a Hip Hop dancing competition in France that brings in the best dance crews from around the world. It’s called the Battle of the Year and the American team hasn’t been showing well. Music executive and ex-hip hopper Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) takes over the American team and brings in Jason Blake (Josh Holloway), an old crew member, to coach the team. They bring together all the best dancers in the nation to make up a hip hop “Dream Team”.

Director Benson Lee really did bring together some of the best dancers in the country including local boy Dominic Sandoval (America’s Best Dance Crew) and singer Chris Brown, yes he’s got the moves. Lee was the director of the documentary Planet B-Boy which showed the love of hip hop dance around the world including the Battle of the Year contest which is highlighted in the film. The writers borrowed from Rocky giving the film more of a sports movie feel and less of a musical. I also liked that they didn’t cloud the story with any romantic fodder. They are trying to create a team and chicks just mess that up. If you’ve seen the recent group of dance movies it’s always the same story that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney performed in during the 30’s and 40’s. We need to save the dance hall so lets put on a show. This movie is more for the love of the dance and it was quite refreshing.

The choreography and the cinematography are both excellent and made Lee’s job all the easier. I really like dance movies like this and as i mentioned earlier i was really glad it was about the dancing and the team and less about the individuals. It’s a real ensemble piece. I really haven’t mentioned how good the dancing is but you have to see it to believe it. The stunts these performers do are just mind-blowing. This one is a keeper. It’s available in 3D but it doesn’t have to be in 3D so if a cheaper 2D option is available than see it. Either way see this movie it you’re any kind of fan of the genre.

Swanner 3 1/2 Stars.

Prisonsers

34234545Judd: It’s Thanksgiving day and Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family are at their neighbors, Nancy and Franklin Birch (Terrance Howard and Viola Davis) house for dinner when Dover’s and Franklin’s young daughters go missing. The only clue is a clapped out RV that was parked in the neighborhood earlier in the evening. Enter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who tracks down developmentally disabled Alex Jones (Paul Dano) who lives with his Aunt Holly (Melissa Leo). When Detective Loki can only go so far, Dover takes matters into his own hands. This is the plot to Prisoners, directed by French indie director Denis Villeneuve and written by Aaron Guzikowski – whose only other writing credit was 2012’s Contraband.

Running at two hours, 33 minutes, Prisoners features fantastic performances by Jackman and Gyllenhall, but little else. This is your standard track ’em down thriller where tension comes from a suspect reluctant to talk and two little girls whose lives are on the line. The issue with the movie falls directly on the bloated and repetitive script. While Det. Loki is tracking down various leads and putting the clues together, we are treated to scenes, too numerous to count, of Dover torturing Alex Jones in various ways trying to get him to tell where the children are. It’s putting both actors on display to show their prowess with something that feels like thematically similar scenes for an acting class. The exhibitions do very little to forward the plot.

The worst and most frustrating offense came from a second act that featured a red herring that takes up 45 minutes of the movie with absolutely no addition to the plot. At 153 minutes, there is no need to pad the runtime with a character that disappears into the ether after being found innocent. It’s a plotline that could have easily been cut and the time given to more important characters, such as Dover’s wife, the fantastic Maria Bello, who spent more time off screen than on. The same goes for Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Terrance Howard and Viola Davis. Why spend the money on these Oscar worthy actors to put them on the bench while Jackman and Gyllenhaal chew the scenery? They were totally wasted, much like my time.

Prisoners sets out to be an Oscar caliber movie with Villanueve and his cast doing their absolute most to bring the best out of this dog script. Judicious editing and a rewrite could have made the movie a real gem; unfortunately Guzikowski’s B-Movie talent drags everyone down to his level.

One last warning – if you’re a person who needs a resolute ending, save yourself the time and money. I haven’t heard an audience so upset since Seven Days in Utopia, which asked the audience to go to a website to get the ending.

Judd: 1 ½ Stars

Insidious: Chapter 2

34523456Swanner: Last night I went to see Insidious … Chapter 2. I was a huge fan of the original. I had actually missed it while it was in theaters and ended up seeing it at home. When they announced a chapter 2 my head was spinning on where they would go. I’m happy to tell you that they are continuing the story and not coming up with something new but the same. It starts up the day after the original ended. The Lambert family are moving into Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey) house while the death of psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) is being investigated. Did they leave the evil behind or has it followed them to Lorraine’s? Lets just say i wasn’t at the theater to watch them live happily ever after. Of course the evil follows them and what’s happened to Josh (Patrick Wilson)? Has something taken him over? Don’t worry … no spoilers here.

The Film is directed but James Wan who directed the original (also directed this years The Conjuring) with the script being written by Leigh Whannell (he wrote the original with Wan) so the consistency carries through. I love Wan’s direction because he can make a door creaking open scary. He know how to make you tense and how to keep you that way. Wan also adds humor in the film so that things don’t get too intense and you have a chance to breath between scares. The only thing i can see going wrong here is that this is really a companion piece. Brian was saying he did want to see the film because he never watched the first one … he said some other choice things but lets just say in this case Brian was right. Seeing Chapter 2 without seeing the first film will leave viewers confused but those of us that have seen the original will enjoy themselves.

I love and i hate seeing horror films with an audience. I love it because a large group of people all sharing the same experience can be exhilarating. It’s like riding a rollercoaster. On the other hand nothing is worse in a horror film then when someone thinks all the scary stuff is funny. I know they are actually covering up for their fear but I hate the disruption. It breaks my focus and pisses me off.

There was some of it during the screening and i was not happy but that’s the risk of movie goers. I did like the movie and I’m really looking forward to watching them back to back when this film comes to DVD. My suggestion is to watch the first one and then run to the theatre and finish the story.

Swanner: 3 1/2 Stars