Swanner and Judd: That Awkward Moment

that-awkward-moment-movie-poster-23Swanner: Anyone who reads us on a regular basis knows I like romantic comedies. Brian on the other hand does not – unless it’s a guy falling in love with his phone, but that’s a whole different review. That Awkward Moment is a rom-com from the male point of view. Three men who are kinda douchey are all looking for love – or at least a stage of it. Jason (Zac Efron) is a player who uses women as sexual distractions, Daniel (Miles Teller) with help of a wing-man, seduces women with his humor and charm while Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) pines for his cheating ex.

Judd: I will give credit where credit is due by saying that rom-coms told from the male perspective are few and far between, though to discount that credit, male-perspective rom-coms are usually funnier and more gross than That Awkward Moment. Carrying an R-rating, I expected something along the lines of Something About Mary – instead I was given a script that was written by some Glamor/Cosmopolitan eunuch who writes articles for women who want to know how men think, but has no real ideal himself.

Swanner: The film was written and directed by Tom Gormican who has no other credits, so you might be right on his former profession. I did think it was going to be raunchier, but I was totally entertained by the film. It was a very good showcase for the three leads, especially for Executive Producer Efron. He’s been trying hard to break from his High School Musical image and this film with its grown-up values does that nicely. There is also a lot of him and the other guys almost naked for those who like that kind of thing.

Judd: I was so bored I fell asleep and I honestly can say I don’t know the last movie I slept through. The whole thing was 100 minutes of “who cares?” The comedy aspect was both unfunny and horribly directed and the plot was pure drivel. I don’t even know what the conflict was. Was it their mild and lame douchebaggery? Was it trying to impress the girl? I don’t know! I feel sorry for straight people if their lives are so goddamn boring that That Awkward Moment is an accurate representation of their mating rituals.

Swanner: I wasn’t bored at all. I thought the boys were funny, even though I can’t remember even one of the girl’s names. Efron’s love interest played by Imogen Poots – yes, that’s her real name, I looked it up – gave I nice performance but the script didn’t want us to know the girls, so the females did end up becoming mostly set decoration. Even when the script tries to be heavy it’s done with such a gentle hand that the actors and the audience never become too committed. The film did suffer a bit from the virgin director/writer but I think it’s a very good first film. All in all, I had a good time and I think anyone who likes the rom-com genre will to.

Judd: That Awkward Moment comes off as some hackneyed standup routine starting with, “Why are men always like…?” and then instead of being funny, just lists off random stereotypical observations. Yes, men poop and they also have been known to masturbate. Hysterical? Not unless it’s done at the same time. Now THAT would have been an awkward moment.

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 1 star


Swanner & Judd: Labor Day

maxresdefaultSwanner: It always seems odd to have an Oscar contender come out so early in the year. Labor Day like Monuments Men was moved out of 2013 and into 2014 – I’m not sure why other than then the studio must have thought it would get lost amidst the other films. Labor Day takes place in 1989 over the weekend before Labor Day when a young mother (Kate Winslet) and her son (Gattlin Griffith) harbor an escaped prisoner (Josh Brolin). Over the next five days many secrets are revealed in this very slowly paced drama.

Judd: Oscar contender?! Shirley, you jest! While the cast may be heavies and director Jason Reitman (Up In The Air, Juno) is also earning a name for himself, Labor Day suffers from an uneven script, fumbled direction and worst of all – the “stunt” casting of James Van Der Beek and Tobey Maguire. I and our screening audience were laughing for all the wrong reasons throughout the film’s 111 minutes.

Swanner: Oddly enough, Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Dramatic Actress at the Golden Globes for 2013. I’m not sure how that works when the film doesn’t come out till the next year. Either way I liked the movie. My only really issue was with the pacing. I know the baking of the pie is important but I’ve seen Paula Dean take less time to make a pie. I think a lot of that is because they had to tell us what day it was with a graphic on the screen. Knowing the film’s title I would have figured Labor Day would be the final day … it wasn’t and when Tuesday popped up I was livid.

Judd: Ugh, the pie scene! If only they had been making the pie in the rain with droplets of water dripping from their hair and clothes clinging suggestively – it would have become a Nicholas Sparks movie. Really, that is what was wrong with the whole thing. It wants to be an artsy love story, when it was nothing more than a tarted up Harlequin romance. The falsely accused bad boy rescues the sad and lonely single mother who’s given up on life and love. It’s surprising she was a divorcee and not a poor widow, struggling to survive after the tragic loss of her husband who was killed in a thresher accident.

Swanner: The film is based on the novel by Joyce Maynard and unfortunately I haven’t read it so I can’t tell if the snail pacing was her or Jason Reitman, who also wrote the script. Like I said I liked the film. I thought the acting was great, but better editing would have helped this film.

Judd: Sad housewives caught in loveless marriages and lonely spinsters are going to flock to Labor Day like it was a box full of free kittens. Kate Winslet gives a great performance and Josh Brolin does his best as the hero who can clean, dance, fix the car and make pie. He is probably also the most considerate lover to ever exist. It’s a shame he’s a murderer, but none of us is perfect. The slow pacing won’t matter to the target audience; to them it just means that much longer they get to escape the desolate tomb they call home.

Swanner: 2 ½ Stars
Judd: 1 star

Swanner & Judd: About Last Night

Judd: Starring Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant, About Last Night is a remake of 1987’s film of the same name. Being an adaptation of David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago, I knew I wasn’t going to have to worry about a strong script, however, I was worried about the Boy Wins Girl/Boy Loses Girl story. I was pleasantly surprised that the plotline was delivered without too much drama and while certainly not “fresh” by any means, the comedy aspect kept the maudlin longing palatable. Relatively new director Steve Pink, only known for Hot Tub Time Machine and TV’s Children’s Hospital, keeps the movie’s pace moving quickly which is best suited for Hart’s manic ranting.

While Ealy’s and Bryant’s characters carry the meat of the story, Hart and Hal as the sex-crazed, love-and-hate couple carry the movie. Sure, they were the comedic fodder and those are easy roles to play, but Pink kept Hart restrained and Regina Hall is amazing in everything. Ealy and Bryant, on the other hand, were too wooden to be believably in love. In the first half of the movie they treat their relationship as a casual fling, but when they switch gears — after she moves in — there’s not much that changed to make me feel that they shared a passion for each other. Add to the fact that the conflict arises shortly after, and I was left wondering what kind of damaged goods these two people — mostly her — are, considering the way they reacted to a minor upheaval. I’m not sure whether to blame this on the director or the actors.

The movie as a whole is enjoyable and it’s always refreshing to see an R-Rated sex comedy. The movie says nothing new, but what it does say it says better than its current competition That Awkward Moment.

Judd: 2 ½ Stars

Swanner & Judd: Winter’s Tale

Swanner: Since this is Valentine’s Day week, studios are releasing romantic movies. Brian went to see About Last Night and I got stuck seeing Winter’s Tale. It’s a romantic drama that includes magic, miracles, demons and a flying horse. This is an odd film at best. Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is an orphan who grew up on the streets of New York in the late 1800’s. Now 1915, Farrell has left the employ of Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), a demon — yes, I know — who gathers young men to do his evil. Peter Lake thinks he can escape Pearly, yet everyone knows Pearly doesn’t let anyone leave his employ and will spend over 100 years tracking him down — doesn’t that sound familiar. Peter meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a young girl with consumption, who he falls instantly in love with and stays with her till her end. Beverly believes in magic and miracles and … well, you can see where this is going.

The romance itself was working for me. Peter and Beverly have a lovely chemistry so that aspect of the film worked. It’s the Crowe part. The demon has to check in with the devil (Will Smith) and those scenes felt like they were plucked from an entirely different movie as they seem to have nothing to do with this story. We have the good vs. evil scene at the end which was just as out of place as the whole demon portion to begin with. Since Crowe plays a large part in the second half of the film, like in Les Miz, Crowes character stays focused on revenge and that, of course, will always bring him down. The film is shot very well even though the special effects looked a bit TV movie. My favorite part of the film without question is the score by Rupert Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer. It stirs the soul as well as draws you into the romance.

Director/writer Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) must have called in a lot favors casting this movie, having worked with Crowe, Smith and Jennifer Connelly from earlier projects. Connelly plays a throwaway character in the last 30 minutes and should have told Goldsman “no” when he asked her to join the cast. Maybe the Mark Helprin’s novel was too much to put on film because Goldsman doesn’t usually have this problem with his scripts. Goldsman is making his feature film directing debut with this film and I’m sure that’s where the problems lay. If you’re planning on seeing a movie this Valentine’s day, let me suggest something else and wait to see this one on cable next year.

Swanner: 1 Star (for the musical score)


gallery-4Swanner: Since this seems to be remake week with no less than three remakes opening, we’re starting with Robocop. Based on the 1987 Peter Weller film, directed by hack director Paul Verhoeven, this new version offers up little more than better special effects than the origional. When you look at how this was constructed it all starts to make sense: the director, Jose Padilha, has only one other feature behind him; the screenplay was adapted by first time scribe Joshua Zetumer, and the lead is a no-name actor. How could you expect more than the mess we got? I have $100 million to make a movie with – let’s go with all unknowns?

Judd: HACK DIRECTOR?! You bite your tongue, Sir! Paul Verhoeven is responsible for such delights as Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers and the cult-classic Showgirls. The thing about Verhoeven – and I think this is what makes him genius – is that his movies exploit the lowest common denominator, taking it so far over the edge that he’s satirizing the smut that mouth-breathers lap up. There’s a quote from Showgirls that sums up Verhoeven’s work perfectly, “What you’re doing, at least it’s honest. They want tits and ass, you give ’em tits and ass. Here, they pretend they want something else, and you still show them tits and ass.”

Swanner: … right … Well, back to reality and the review of the current Robocop … the story follows OmniCorp, a multinational defense conglomerate with the money and backing to do whatever they want … except to sell their security drones in America. CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) has the idea to morph man and machine with help from Scientist Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman). Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) a good cop badly hurt in an explosion and perfect to become Robocop. At least that’s what they were hoping for ….

Judd: This incarnation of Robocop focuses on the transition from Alex Murphy to Robocop. While I love backstory, in this instance it was too much – especially when it had nothing to say. Like all movies made after the 80s, when it was OK to just be a hero, we’re left with a flawed, emotional man pining for his family and revenge, and of course “the wife” has to have a major role in it all. Yawn. Verhoeven’s Robocop skewered Regan’s plans to privatize the military, corporate corruption and the idiocy of American culture. Padilha stripped out all the social commentary and added more ‘splosions that the brain dead public remembers from the original. What little lampooning Padilha did, came from watered-down stock corporate slime balls, Jay Baruchel and Jennifer Ehle. Samuel L Jackson as a Fox-style blowhard was the closest thing to a message this movie had.

Swanner: God darnit, Mr. Judd, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore. You certainly are passionate about this one. I just found the first half boring and the second half, I just wanted it to end. You’re right; there was no underlying story here. This film wasn’t about anything, after the writer pithed the brainstem of this story all you had left was a lot of action sprinkled in with some tears (for the women). The equivalent of a Big Mac. Bulk with no substance.

Judd: The first Robocop is one of my favorite movies, seriously and non-ironically, because of what it said and the way it said it. The first was a movie with great heart about a (mostly) emotionless cyborg. This remake is a heartless movie about a ridiculously emotional cyborg. While I really liked the way they showed us what was left of the man under the suit, it added a level of pity that was unnecessary. Verhoeven and Weller were out to kick ass and ask the more perceptive of us to reflect on our society. The remake is an extended prequel for a franchise that feels like it was written by a focus group. It’s got something for everyone and nothing that makes it special.

Swanner: 1 Star

Judd: 1 Star

Ride Along

ride-along-image03Judd: I’m not a huge fan of Kevin Hart, but I figured he’s better than Chris Tucker, and with supporting cast Bryan Callan and John Leguizamo, I went into Ride Along expecting a watchable, but ultimately forgettable, buddy cop movie. Did the movie live down to my expectations? Absolutely. However, I’m almost tempted to see it again, having missed half the lines due to the howling and crow-like cackle of the woman behind me.

Swanner: I really liked the movie. I’m not a huge fan of Hart either, but Ice Cube seemed to find him as irritating as I do, so watching his reactions is fun. Then he started to grow on me, especially during some of his rants. Usually the writing for this type of “action” picture is bad, but I thought it was a pretty tight script for it being that “same old story.” I think what really worked was the chemistry. There actually was some here… probably why part two is already in pre-production. I was missing a lot of the dialog, too, because the entire audience was laughing a lot.

Judd: You mention Kevin Hart’s rants, which I’m assuming were ad-libbed or he wrote himself, because they were very rhythmically similar to his standup – so our viewers who are Hart fans will be familiar with the delivery. I will agree what the Cube/Hart team worked, but there has to be something that sets these kinds of movies apart, and I don’t think Ride Along had it. The potential is definitely there, but the script needs to pop more.

Swanner: I’ll admit I had my January goggles on and anything that doesn’t put me to sleep (see The Nut Job) or pisses me off (see Leap Year) is getting stars from me. Especially one that had me laughing consistently for nearly two hours. I was still laughing in the car. I know it has your standard buddy cop movie clichés, but the two leads kept me interested. In this bleak landscape of Christmas leftovers and studio drudge (see Hercules) Ride Along is worth the trip.

Judd: Ride Along is worth a rent, or maybe a matinee if you’re bored and want to get out of the house. The movie has been done before and brings nothing new to the table; stay home and watch 21 Jump Street again.

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 2 Stars

The Nut Job

The-Nut-Job-post-12Swanner: Last weekend Brian and I went to see the new animated film The Nut Job. It follows a group of rodents that live in a park. After their nut tree is destroyed they decide to rob The Nut Hut – a business right off the park – that will supply them with all the nuts they’ll need for the winter. The conflict comes when we find out the folks that own The Nut Hut are actually planning to rob the bank next door. Hilariousness ensues.

Judd: How would you know if it ensued? You were asleep! Featuring the voice cast of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph and Jeff Dunham, this animated equivalent of Circus of the Stars was only missing Brooke Shields and Bubba from Mama’s Family to round out its B-list cast. Clocking in at only 86 minutes, The Nut Job seemed to entertain the children in our screening audience, but its jarringly non-cohesive script made me think that the movie was written in sections by teams then cobbled together at the last minute.

Swanner: I did see pieces here and there of the movie! But you’re right, I couldn’t tell you if anything ensued. Was my synopsis correct? I was so bored, so quickly, that my slumber was unstoppable. I did notice that the children were quiet through the movie which always makes me think they were enjoying it. I do have my moments occasionally where I might doze for a few seconds – but this one put me out, which I think says more about the movie and less about my advanced age.

Judd: You’re synopsis is right for the most part, but there was a subplot involving bank robbers who are using the nut shop as a front and as a way to break into the vault of the bank next door. Again, the mishmash of script makes it hard to tell why exactly these secondary characters were part of the plot, outside of providing the pug. Now that I’m actually being forced to think about the movie, I think the reason the movie is so awful is a 50/50 split between the script and the sheer number of characters. There were four bad humans, plus a girlfriend and there were no less than 10 major animal characters. Fifteen characters? What is this a Scorsese cartoon?

Swanner: I remember we saw a dead raccoon on the freeway on the drive home from the theater. Not sure why I mention it other than I have nothing more to say about the film. Good news is that January is over and we have the mediocre February films to look forward to.

Judd: … Great. While the movie didn’t make me angry or want to act out in violence, The Nut Job is a terrible, pointless movie that no man, woman or child should waste their time seeing. The humor is flat; the script is a hodgepodge of storylines crammed together; the voices are nothing special. It takes a special kind of bad not to illicit any emotion whatsoever.

Swanner: ZZZZZ
Judd: No Stars

Swanner & Judd: The Lego Movie

the_lego_movie_2014Swanner: With the Oscars just a month away it seems silly to talk about next year’s Oscars but after watching The Lego Movie, I can say with confidence that I have seen an almost guaranteed Oscar nominee for Best Animated film. Of course, the time of its opening is way before anyone even starts thinking about next year’s nominees, but I still feel confident. The film follows a construction worker Lego piece who has been foretold to save the world from an evil Lego tyrant who wants to glue everyone and everything down.

Judd: I completely agree! I went in with high expectations for The Lego Movie knowing that the Lego company has very high standards and very tight control over its brand. Written by Lego animation regulars Dan and Kevin Hageman, the technical, “Lego” feeling is center stage. Directors and cowriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who are responsible for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, bring their trademark absurdist, surreal, yet genuinely emotional brand of humor to this wonderful cartoon.

Swanner: I always liked the way they have used the Lego animation from their commercials to the very funny Rick and Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. I liked the trailers as well but most of the folks I’ve talked to have been hesitant based on the preview. I guess they’ll just have to take our word for it and give the film a try. The cast of voices include Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt and Shaq. The film is so fast paced that I’m sure we missed half the jokes and I still loved it. I also noticed the kids were entertained as well because once the film had started I never heard them again.

Judd: I don’t think Rick and Steve is an official Lego licensed production. I’ve always been a proponent of professional voice actors doing animation work, but I have to say that Chris Pratt, from Parks and Recreation, was absolutely perfect for the role. His man-boy innocence and joy shined through the character. Will Ferrell, as Lord Business, was kept reigned in and showcased his comedic talent as well as his heartfelt side, which has not been properly showcased since Stranger than Fiction.

Swanner: I had hoped that it would be good so I was very pleased with the whole package. I heard today that a sequel has already been green lighted, so they do know they have a hit on their hands. I’ve actually found myself telling people how good the movie was — which is not like me. With all the films that came out during Christmas this is the first film that really wowed me since Frozen. Funny they are both animated but not surprising considering how advanced animation has become. It will be interesting to see if a better animated film will come out this year — if not, The Lego Movie will be the Best Animated film of the 2014.

Swanner 4 Stars
Judd: 4 Stars