Swanner & Judd: Sabotage

SabotageSwanner: In Sabotage, Arnold Schwarzenegger leads an elite DEA task force
that takes on the world’s deadliest drug cartels. When the team successfully
executes a high-stakes raid on a cartel safe house, they also take 10
million dollars with them. When the team goes back for the money, it’s gone,
but the Fed’s know they took the money, disgracing the team. Then,
one-by-one, the team members mysteriously start to be eliminated. As the
body count rises, everyone is a suspect. If you look at this film as just an
action thriller, it’s not too bad…lots of blood and violence. The problem
is, you can’t just look at it that way. The characters talk.

The script, which I discovered wasn’t written by two giggling 12-year-old
boys, was actually written by Skip Woods (The A-Team) and David Ayers (The
Fast and the Furious
) and is probably one of the worst scripts I’ve had to
sit through in a long time. This is surprising considering the cast. Sam
Worthington, Terrence Howard, Josh Holloway, Joe Manganiello, and Mireille
Enos who plays one of the craziest bitches in movies since Faye Dunaway
asked for the axe. The dialogue is embarrassing, at best, which actually helped
propel the film to feel campier and yes, more laughable; definitely a
case of laughing at you at and not with you.

David Ayers, who also served as director, manages to keep this train wreck
moving, but he really did himself a disservice with that weak ass script. As
I mentioned before, the film is very violent and whatever blood was missing from
300 and Hercules is here in abundance. If this film is remembered at all,
expect this to do very well at the Razzies.

This should also convince producers that Arnold is done as a leading man. I
did check IMDB and Schwarzenegger has at least 5 movies coming out over the
next three years. So like it or not…He’ll be back.


Swanner: 1 Star

Swanner & Judd: Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most WantedSwanner: The latest Muppet movie comes out this week and it looks like people are hoping for more of the same from the 2011 reboot of the franchise. Of course, once they get that, they’ll complain that there is nothing new and the franchise is as good as dead. The good news is that they didn’t just make this another reunion show; there is a plot, for the most part. Kermit has a master criminal that looks just like him and has switched places with him in order to rob jewel collections and banks all over Europe while the Muppets tour from city to city.

Judd: Written by James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller, also directed by Bobin, Muppets Most Wanted employs the same writer/director team from the reboot – minus Jason Segel. This time, the movie is more Muppet-centric than the last one that, I think, felt the need to use Jason and Amy Adams as a draw for folks who may have forgotten or were unfamiliar with The Muppets. The human cast this time around features Ricky Gervais as Dominic Badguy, Ty Burrell as French inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon, and Tina Fey and gulag warden Nadya.

Swanner: The humans were all quite funny. I always like Tina Fey and, even though she’s over-the-top, she makes me laugh; Ty Burrell is a silly man and practically a Muppet himself. The Siberian prison scenes are my favorite parts of the film. The prison is producing a musical and while Kermit is there, he might as well work. The cameos in the prison with Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo are classic, but the cameos don’t stop there…everyone must have wanted to be in this film. There is actually a scene where the usher is played by Usher. It’s those kinds of jokes and they come fast-and-furiously.

Judd: I didn’t think they came fast-and-furiously enough. Some of my favorite routines the Muppets did back in the original show and in the 1979 movie are the old, bad vaudevillian jokes and the slapstick, physical humor that Henson and gang put the Muppets through. There is nothing funnier to me than to see a Muppet flying through the air, having been tossed by someone off screen. The ragdoll effect is hysterical. Muppets Most Wanted never goes for those silly, awful jokes and the cartoony violence. Maybe that’s not acceptable anymore. I don’t know.

Swanner: It wasn’t as good as the first one, but there’s even a song in the beginning that says sequels are never as good as the original. To me, it’s because the originality is gone, but considering the Muppets have been around for years, I don’t think that excuse works. The Muppets were at their best when they were 30 minutes long. The jokes don’t have time to get stale and Miss Piggy is always better in small portions, if you ask me. Still, it’s the Muppets and I’m always glad to see them.

Judd: Agreed. The songs, just like in The Muppets, were very catchy and I enjoyed all the musical numbers. I only wish the Muppets today were like the Muppets of yore, but that’s just me being old. I guess that kind of thing creeps up on you that way.

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 3 Stars

Swanner & Judd: Divergent

DivergentSwanner: In a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James); together they search to find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it’s too late. This movie is based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth. I went with the studios description because everything else I tried was more confusing than the actual film.

Judd: The five factions are Abnegation, the selfless (Amish); Amity, the peaceful (Hippies); Candor, the honest (Judicious); Erudite, the intelligent (the pigs from Animal Farm); and Dauntless, the brave (meathead warriors). Our heroine is born Abnegation, but on Choosing Day – yes, folks, I cannot make this crap up – after testing Divergent, she chooses Dauntless. Why?  Because it would have been an even more boring movie had she chosen anything else. Running at two and a half hours, one has to be dauntless in order to sit through this movie in its entirety.

Swanner: I thought it actually moved very well. I’ll admit much of the beginning feels like every other young adult story of a young girl who will ultimately save the world. With that being said, it’s the characters that make or break a show like this. I liked most of the characters, especially Four. He’s the dreamy tortured character. What are his secrets and why is he helping Tris? I found myself wondering which faction would I belong to…I figured I wouldn’t fit in and I’d become one of the homeless trading sex for food. I’d starve.

Judd: If there was a Brown-nose faction, that’s where you would end up. Movies like this, Hunger Games or Twilight, made from trilogies, always feel overly long and incomplete to me. It’s like whenever ‘80s shows did a two-parter, or a mini-series; they fill the time with needless scenes. I would rather get to the meat of the story than to watch Tris train for endless hours. And why do they all have to have “cool” names like Tris and Katniss? Bah. Nancy Drew didn’t need a fancy name. I want to see a Warrior Goddess named Brenda or Janet.

Swanner: Technically, her name is Beatrice and you can’t get much dowdier than that. I did notice that her hair was well…fabulous, even after being beaten up. Also, would it have killed her to put a little color on her lips? If you don’t like the first books, you’re really going to hate the second. The second books are always just filler to the end. I guess I’ll be seeing that one alone. As these kinds of movies go, I was entertained. I wasn’t even yawning or falling asleep, like the man behind Sean was. At first, I thought it was you snoring, Judd. Will you at least acknowledge that the cast was attractive? Will I watch this again? Probably not. Will I re-watch parts of it again…yes. I’m hoping for a poster of Four so I can put it up on my bedroom wall. Hehehehe!

Judd: Yes, you will be seeing the later installments alone. These movies are all boring and formulaic. You would think that a movie about a teenager who feels “different” wouldn’t be the same old recycled crap over and over again. I will admit that Ansel Elgort is cherubic, Theo James is hot in a not-stoned James Franco kind of way, and I would surrender to Jai Courtney on any day of the week. But Miles Teller has a face like a potato and Shailene Woodley is a strong female lead, so it’s not PC to objectify her by appearance.

Swanner: 3 Stars
Judd: 1 ½ Stars

Swanner & Judd: Need for Speed

Need for SpeedSwanner: Need for Speed is the kind of film that makes me sound and feel old. Here we have a film about street racing and, even with all the amazing stunts and cinematography, all that ran through my mind was how dangerous all of this is. After being released from prison from a fatal street racing incident, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) seeks revenge against Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), the third driver who left his friend to die during a race. This overly long movie was directed by Scott Waugh, whose past as a stuntman comes in handy for an action picture, but the film comes across cold and emotionless. Script by first time writer George Gatins is based on some videogame.

Judd: Some videogame? How about the videogame of the same name, gramps?! One of the most successful videogame franchises ever. I actually can’t argue with you too much here, because I also felt that the movie was a bit irresponsible with its depictions of street racing and the movie was entirely too long, crossing the finish line at 2 hours and 10 minutes. However, as a gearhead myself, the race scenes are phenomenal and very realistic, as compared to the horrible Fast and Furious franchise, and the drives are the most exciting since the chase movies of the 60s and 70s.

Swanner: Oh my… that is embarrassing, considering I sell videogames during the day. Grand Theft Auto I know, but not Need for Speed. As you can tell, I was bored big time. I was either cringing at the recklessness or yawning at the incredible lack of caring. I did find it amusing that everyone in the film was as tall as or shorter than Aaron Paul. According to IMDB, he’s 5’8”, so we’ll call him 5’6”. I thought we were watching the last of the Hobbit movies. I can’t really comment on the acting because there was only ever two emotions, cheering because you’re winning or grimacing because you caused a fatal accident.

Judd: Following in the tradition of the great car movies, Need for Speed has a horrible, barebones script with countless plot holes, but the movie isn’t about the story; it’s about the cars. The first portion of the movie features some great, old Detroit steel and the star of the movie is not Aaron Paul, but his heavily modified 2014 Mustang. You already mentioned the amazing cinematography, but the sound design also needs kudos. The aural detail was fantastic; the whine of the Mustang’s supercharger, the rumble of his buddy’s diesel truck, even the thunk of a closing door. The movie was obviously made by car people for car people.

Swanner: I understood very little of what you just said, so I’ll just agree with you. This is a movie for people who like cars, especially racing cars. I only ask for a radio and air conditioning, so this film has too many extras for me. My favorite part of the film was making fun of it on the way home. This is definitely a wait-for-video movie for anyone that isn’t a car person. It was great seeing Aaron Paul post Breaking Bad, but he’s a much better actor than this action fare allows.

Judd: As the owner of a 470 horsepower muscle car, I liked the car scenes, but I couldn’t help feel that the movie is irresponsible. Street racing is dangerous and the realness of the scenes almost seemed designed to inspire shenanigans by younger viewers. Our “hero” caused accidents too numerous to count and never considered his actions. At least in the old days, the Bandit and Kowalski were causing grief to the fuzz, not your Everyday Joe on the road; there was no collateral damage. Add to the irresponsible message a horrible script and bloated runtime, and Need for Speed isn’t a very good movie, but dammit those driving scenes are awesome!


Swanner: 1 ½ Stars
Judd: 2 Stars

Swanner & Judd: Odd Thomas

Odd ThomasSwanner: In a small California desert town, a short order cook/clairvoyant works with the police force to solve crimes, but when a mysterious man comes to town, he brings trouble from out of this world. The main character’s name is Odd (Anton Yelchin), claiming his mom wrote down Todd, but the birth certificate read Odd. Odd has been working with a very liberal police chief (Willem Dafoe) that believes he’s the real thing (so rare in these kinds of stories). If you saw the movie The Frighteners, this film has a very similar feel to it.

Based on a series of “Odd” books by Dean R. Koontz, writer/director Stephen Sommers keeps things moving without ever losing its pacing by getting caught up with too many special effects. He made it work with the Mummy movies and he makes it work here. This movie isn’t going to blow you away, but it will certainly entertain you. I sat down at home to screen it, thinking I could do other things at the same time, but before I knew it, I was fully invested in the story and characters. I sat and watched the film without interruption.

The film is getting a very limited run in theatres this month, but will be coming to home video on March 25th. This is a must-see for anyone who enjoys all the paranormal TV, as well as the books and movies of Stephan King or Dean Koontz. Probably didn’t go wide in theatres because (spoiler alert) there is an attack on a mall in the film. Even though it’s a movie, no studio wants to pay for a big theatrical release only to have the audiences stay away because we live in crazy times. It is scary having these kinds of scenes in films, but considering all the violence that’s a part of almost every videogame, this is nowhere near as scary. This is a definite renter, so watch for it and enjoy.

Swanner: 3 Stars

Swanner & Judd: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr Peabody and ShermanJudd: In the late 50s and early 60s, part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, there was a segment called Peabody’s Improbable History. The plot revolved around the world’s smartest dog, Mr. Peabody, an inventor, politico, scientist, Nobel Prize awardee, etc. and his adopted boy, Sherman. They would go back in time and witness various events in history. Do I remember these cartoons? No. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not that old. This leaves me to question, what is the appeal of this movie? A largely forgotten cartoon, remembered only by the grandparents of its target audience, why remake it now?

Whatever the reason, the results are spectacular; featuring a voice cast of Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody, Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann as Paul and Patty Peterson, plus Allison Janney, Stanley Tucci, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, Mel Brooks, and a wealth of others. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an extremely smart, clever and entertaining cartoon suitable for children and adults. While the plot is rather involved, it’s not that hard to follow. After an incident at school with class bully Penny Peterson, Ms. Grunion of Child Protective Services threatens to remove Sherman from his home. Mr. Peabody attempts to smooth things over with the Petersons by hosting a dinner party. While Mr. Peabody is entertaining, the children end up taking the WABAC (pronounced “way back”) machine to the past. Mr. Peabody has to save both children, hilarity ensues.

What I really enjoyed about the movie is that, like 1998’s Saturday morning cartoon Histeria!, a cartoon for my generation, the movie is both funny and educational. Mr. Peabody & Sherman introduces children to historical personalities while making jokes that adults, already familiar with people like Leonardo da Vinci and Marie Antoinette, are going to understand. I respect anyone who can work an Oedipus Rex joke into a children’s cartoon. I also have a soft-spot for vaudevillian type puns and one-liners, which pretty much make up the majority of Mr. Peabody’s dialogue, expertly delivered by Burrell.

I’m surprised, given the film’s production troubles, at how good the movie was. Between casting issues and having its release date moved umpteen times, there is absolutely no evidence of these issues in the final product. Mr. Peabody & Sherman will rank up there with Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon as one of DreamWorks’ masterpieces.


Judd: 3 ½ Stars

Swanner & Judd: 300 Rise of an Empire

300Judd: In 2006, Zack Snyder and Frank Miller gave audiences 300, the tale of King Leonidas and 300 men fighting off the Persian army and their seven foot tall (drag) king. The movie was a hit. While not the first All-CGI affair, after 2004’s awful Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and 2005’s limited-appeal Sin City; 300 was the first movie of its kind to capture the attention of audiences worldwide. Eight years later, after the All-CGI effect has lost its novelty, Zack Snyder adapts Frank Miller’s “Xerxes” and Noam Murro directs 300: Rise of an Empire. The story is an alternate tale of Persia’s march into Athens. While Leonidas is fighting on land, naval commander Themistocles is heading up a Grecian naval fleet to take the battle to the Aegean Sea. Sullivan Stapleton is Themistocles and Eva Green is Artemisia, Persia’s greatest military strategist.

The look of the movie is exactly the same as the first; however, I remember there being more abdominals in the original. 300: Rise of an Empire seemed to have toned down the overt sexuality of their soldiers and with no benefit coming from it. I have a feeling that was Noam’s effort to make the movie more “serious”; however, in toning down the campy beefcake, you would expect him to make up for it with a more involved story. If I’m not getting my jollies from flexing torsos, I better get a decent story to entertain me. Unfortunately, the plot is paper thin with the dialogue being rather meaningless. The whole movie was jabber then boats crashing into each other, more jabber and more boats crashing into each other. I will say that after suffering through the aggravatingly bloodless Pompeii and Hercules, it was refreshing to see some splattering.

The acting is nondescript and the roles could have been filled by anyone with a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Oil and a set of six-pack abs to slather; dramatic talent is not the name of the game here, though Eva Green does her best, and the movie is at its most entertaining when she’s on the screen.

One scene that is going to get the target audience covering their laps with a bucket of popcorn happens in the middle of the movie when Themistocles meets Artemisia to discuss surrender. The discussion devolves into animalistic grudge-f___ing that left the audience in heaving silence. I was impressed. The only other sex scene I’ve seen that primal – outside of adult entertainment – was between Kristinna Loken and Matthew Davis in Uwe Boll’s Bloodrayne. Well done, Noam Murro. Well done.

Other than morbid curiosity, there is no reason to see 300: Rise of an Empire. While the original wasn’t much better, at least it had the credit of being original – as long as you ignore Sky Captain and Sin City. This sequel feels like a cash grab aimed at 13-year-old boys who want to see breasts and explosions, all delivered by half naked men that are slightly less threateningly perfect this time around. After all, you don’t want to get caught looking in the locker room.

Judd: 1 ½ Stars


non_stop_poster-620x356Swanner: On a transatlantic flight from New York to London, an air marshal (Liam Neeson) is receiving threatening text messages about the safety of all people on board. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan) keeps the action moving while the writers, John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, and Ryan Engle introduce what seems like hundreds of different characters, all with motive to kill… mostly based on the camera profiling them for the audience. There were too many Red Herrings, so I gave up on trying to figure out who done it.

Judd: I liked the amount of potential killers and the fact that the movie played with the fact that Liam could have been the killer himself. The script, however, I found completely disturbing in its Fascist, by-any-means-necessary, message the movie portrays. At only one point do the passengers think that Air Marshal Bill might be taking his duties a little too far, and when he placates them with a promise of free air travel, they settle down and take his abuse. This, combined with the overall message that all airport security is nothing more than theatrics and we need take-charge men like Bill, left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Swanner: It felt like an Agatha Christie novel, but this time Miss Marple is a down-on-his-luck, divorcee, alcoholic, chain-smoking, childless, hot tempered air marshal who basically accuses everyone on board of being the “killer”. In the end, he can look back and say he thought it was that person. I love the way he manhandles everyone and it takes forever before anyone thinks he might be a little off. Also, no one turns on a TV until the tension is thick in the cabin and, of course, the news is on calling Bill a hijacker. Really?! And it took three people to write this?!

Judd: I will say the performances were OK, with Julianne Moore providing a leveling subtlety compared to the rest of the cast. The action was well directed, however, the gimmick of Air Marshall Bill reading his texts became old, fast. I know that texting is the way we communicate now, but it does not make for compelling viewing, especially when all the dialogue between the good guy and bad guy is, literally, being spelled out on the screen.

Swanner: It was entertaining for the most part. If I can say Pompeii was a fun disaster movie, then I can’t give this film too much crap. The script is most of the problem here. Bill’s monologue-ing is a mess to all the passengers, even coming off as goofy and, as you mentioned, the offer of free international air travel can calm even the most unruly mob. Fortunately, the director moves the action fast enough that you don’t have time to question the silliness till you’re in the car. What they should have done was change the title to Airport 2014 and all would have been forgiven and expected.

Judd: The icky message of Ends Justifying the Means really turned me off this movie. In this modern time when the NSA is spying on U.S. citizens and high-school dropouts can look at us naked and give us a grope before boarding a plane, the last thing we need is a “hero” grinding innocent faces into the carpet to protect us from “terrists”. However, I’m sure that it will be well received in Texas.

Swanner: 2 Stars

Judd: 1 Star