Swanner: On April 8, 2009, four armed Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama cargo ship in the Indian Ocean and attempted to hold it and its crew hostage…things didn’t work out too good. This is the plot of the new film called Captain Phillips which tells this true story. The film stars Tom Hanks and is directed by Paul Greengrass (Bourne Ultimatum) who seems to know how to make these kinds of films better than anyone. Screenplay by Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) is good but a bit too long.
Judd: Running at two hours and 15 minutes and already knowing how it ends, the first half of the movie is slow. It opens with Phillips and his wife, pointlessly played by a Katherine Keener, driving to the airport and discussing their concerns for their children. Jump then to Capt. Phillips telling his crew to finish their coffee and get to work. Twenty minutes in, the pirates show up. None of these establishing moments come back to haunt the crew, so why have them? To establish that Phillips is a family man and a boss who gets respect and efficiency? Who cares? It’s not until Hanks is interacting with the pirates that the films really gets moving and we’re reminded just how phenomenally amazing Tom Hanks is.
Swanner: I’ll agree on what you say about Hanks performance. It’s flawless and moving…I cried. You’re right about the beginning being pointless but they can’t start the movie with the pirates pulling up next to the ship. How to make that beginning better, I don’t know. I walked in wondering how they were going to make this exciting considering I knew the outcome but they did. Edge of my seat exciting and that all about the acting, script and direction. The actors who played the pirates were all excellent as well.
Judd: Open the movie with Phillips going over his course and commenting to his first mate, “Uh oh, we’ll be in pirate territory.” There, I just saved you 30 minutes. I don’t want to discount the movie, or Tom Hanks, but this is a clear cut case of Hollywood thinking, “This is an Oscar movie, so it needs to be more than 120 minutes. Let’s pad it.” As much as I disliked Gravity, I’m hoping it turns the tide on this “Epic” trend. In fact, the real meat and potatoes of the movie are the last 30 minutes, when Navy is closing in and Philips is trapped on a lifeboat with the pirates, who have finally started acting like real human characters instead of deranged crackheads.
Swanner: Brian meant to say “Spoiler Alert!” The amazing Gravity did prove you can make an Oscar bound movie under 2 hours. Last year’s nine Best Picture nominees all came in over 2 hours long but the awful Beast of the Southern Wild. Five of them over two and a half hours long. You’re right that Captain Phillips was too long but by the last 30 minutes “most” people won’t care. The film is great and Tom Hanks is greater.
Judd: It’s not a spoiler when it’s a true story. That’s like saying the Confederacy losing the Civil War is a spoiler to Gone with the Wind. Captain Phillips is an excellent character piece that’s a showcase for Hank’s remarkable skills as an actor. Its taut and well-directed even if the runtime is a little bloated; it never wallows. Oh, and before anyone thinks I’m racist for calling the pirates crackheads, they were chewing khat, a plant that’s an amphetamine-like stimulant. Which actually makes them more like tweekers than crackheads. My apologies.
Swanner: 3½ Stars
Judd: 3½ Stars
Swanner: Richie, a Princeton college student (Justin Timberlake) who pays for school with on-line gambling, bottoms out and travels to Costa Rica to confront the on-line mastermind, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), whom he believes has swindled him. Directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) from a screenplay by writing partners Brian Koppelman and David Levien (The Illusionist) Runner Runner is a lukewarm thriller that is definitely missing edge.
Judd: With the pedigreed stars involved with the movie, you definitely go in expecting more than you’re given with Runner Runner. It feels like everyone from actors to the director phoned this one in. The movie has no heart, no emotion. It moves from scene to scene without making the least bit of impact. While it’s not outright terrible, at least a terrible movie will illicit some sort of feeling, Runner Runner is made for mindless consumption. Background noise for when you’re playing Candy Crush on your tablet.
Swanner: You are reading my mind. Besides being edgeless I just kept thinking this looks so familiar and then I realized it was because this is the same storyline from like 100 other movies. Guy gets pissed after losing all his money to a crook, ends up becoming the same guy he hates but changes giving the bad guy the sting at the end. It’s been done before and better.
Judd: We had a string of movies made last year that felt like treatments that were never developed into something unique. Runner Runner must have been a carryover from that batch. Even the filming location of Puerto Rico, substituting for Costa Rica, was completely wasted. When you compare Runner Runner with movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or The Rum Diary, films that use the location for all its worth – you wonder why they even bothered using more than a soundstage.
Swanner: That’s very true. They kept talking about paradise and all we got were inside shots but then the film had no style to it. For a thirty million dollar budget I didn’t see it up on the screen. The one plus is that it’s a mere 91 minutes long…felt longer but its 91 minutes. This is a movie that I’d tell people to stay home and wait to see it on cable. No visit to the theatre is necessary. The film should be called Runaway Runaway
Judd: Oh, it wasn’t that bad, it just wasn’t that good. I agree viewers should wait for cable, and I mean basic cable. Runner Runner is going to feel most comfortable playing repeatedly on TBS or WGN, when you can watch 15 minutes while folding laundry one day, and then another 15 minutes while making dinner some other day.
Swanner: 1½ Stars
Judd: 2 Stars
Swanner: Every year there seems to be that one movie that just wows you from start to finish. It sets a pace and you just have to hold on and enjoy the ride. The new Alfonzo Cuaron film Gravity is that movie. Two astronaut survive and accident in space that leaves them stranded, adrift without a ship. Academy Award winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star. Director Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and his son Jonas Cuaron have written a beautiful script of survival and redemption.
Judd: Dear readers, Tom is not to be trusted; his last couple solo reviews demonstrated that. Without my voice of reason, movies like Battle of the Year get three and a half stars, while movies like Rush get one. Between his weight-related dementia and his sick and obsessive infatuation with Sandra Bullock I implore you, Dear Reader, to skip what Tom writes and read the truth. Gravity, aka 127 Hours in SPACE (Space, space, space, space), is a bore that can only be measured in units of Sophia Coppolas. It’s like Marie Antoinette without the soundtrack to keep you awake.
Swanner: While this film stands with a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes one must question Brian’s hatred for the Oscar winning actress. Is it Bullock he hates or is it just women in general? I fear it may be the latter. Oscar winner Bullock really shines here with her performance…127 Hours is actually a great comparison. Her performance is emotional as well as physical. Knowing that Bullock does most of her acting with a green screen, much like the brilliant work of Suraj Sharma in Life of PI, shows you why the Oscar buzz is all about Bullock.
Judd: Bullock is one of the most talentless and overrated actresses to come along since Sally Kirkland. Don’t blame my seeing her as she is on my misogyny; they are not related in this instance. Bullock merely takes up area on the screen in this snoozer. While I really liked the 3D and special effects used to create the weightlessness of space, weightless is the same word I would use to describe the whole film. There was a complete lack of emotional heft behind a character that was supposedly isolated in infinite space with no contact to the earth below and slim chance for survival.
Swanner: Once again Brian goes into a movie looking to hate it and he does hate it. Gravity is an awe inspiring roller coaster ride set on the back drop of outer space. The cinematography and the effects are insane. You actually dodge the debris as it comes flying by with this terrific 3D. I can actually say the 3D is important for the film and the affect it’s trying to recreate. Gravity is not only spectacular film but one that needs to be seen in the theatres. Do not make the mistake of waiting for DVD.
Judd: I readily admit the movie is a marvel to see on screen, I agree it has to been seen in 3D – though, I would recommend skipping it altogether. Gravity is Avatar starring Louise Fletcher. A visually stunning, but ultimately mediocre movie starring a mediocre actress. What Bullock cannot provide emotionally, Cuaron and composer Steve Price try to inspire with an over the top, graceless score. By the end, trumpets are blaring, strings are soaring and if I’m not mistaken, it was all topped off with a rolling cymbal crash. John Philip Sousa wrote with more subtlety.
Swanner: 4 Stars
Judd: 1½ Stars