Horrible Bosses 2


Swanner: All year long you’ve heard me complain about sequels. They are rarely as good, the cast walks through, and Brian and i have to sit through another clinker. Horrible Bosses 2 has changed my mind about sequels… at least for this week. The Boys have invented a product that they ultimately get taken on, and now have to get the bad guys back. The plot is similar, but the laughs are bigger. 

Judd: I was not a fan of the original Horrible Bosses. I thought there was too much good stuff that only made it into the blooper reel at the end — especially the brilliant way Colin Farrell worked his combover. I think what I liked about Horrible Bosses 2, is what our peers are complaining about. It’s crass, sexist and inappropriate; and it has a truly vicious mean streak that runs through it that strongly reminded me of another movie most critics hated, Due Date.

Swanner: I love the script. I’m a big fan of bickering and these guys are great at it. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, all in the first film, but better in this one, bicker like they’ve been married for years. Great dialog means a great script from director Sean Anders and co-writer John Morris. This film may be mean but it’s hella funny. 

Judd: Hella? You disgust me.  I agree that it’s the chemistry of the three that make this movie work so well. Charlie Day is toned down a little more here in the second one, and I appreciate that. His “intesity”, for lack of a better word, is quick to grate my nerves. The trio felt to me like the Three Stooges, but instead of slapstick, these guys specialized in verbal gymnastics. Fast lines that run into, over and under each other, and the boys make it seem so easy — and it’s not. Chris Pine fits right in, exploiting their stupidity for all it’s worth. The only person in the cast that I would have like to have seen more of is Christoph Waltz.

Swanner: Toss in Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and you have a very fast paced and funny movie. It reminded me of 22 Jump St, a sequel that works because it learned what worked in the original and make it better here. It’s probably been since 22 Jump St that i was laughing so hard i missed dialog. Those are my favorite comedies and the ones i will see again. 

Swanner : 3 stars
Judd: 3 stars

Penguins of Madagascar


Swanner: After sitting through three Madagascar movies, my one thought was why are they highlighting those four main characters? Sure they have the big named actors voicing them, but it’s always been the supporting characters that have made those movie palatable. The crazy characters in Madagascar and of course the Penguins. So finally, the penguins have their very movie and i was disappointed.

The plot centers around the penguins trying to stop a crazy octopus who wants to kidnap all performing penguins. Penguins have been upstaging this octopus for years and he just won’t take it no more! It sounds pretty simple, but the storyline gets very complicated with a secret organization to stop the octopus. So, the story is very dumb and it feels like they are playing to the under 10 crowd. Screenwriters John Aboud and Michael Colton have both been writing children television, and it felt like it. The direction (Simon J Smith/Eric Darnell) was fine but that script was too involved and too manic. The directors have a great track record but they aren’t miracle workers.

I don’t want to make it sound like this is a lost cause… It’s not. Younger kids will probably love it, even though their parents well be trying to figure out how to check their phones without being noticed; the storyline will be goofy enough the kids won’t care. The best thing about this movie is the penguins. They’re always funny and entertaining… maybe just not for 90 minutes. All four penguins are voiced by the same four actors in all the movies and shorts they have produced. Voice actors, not movie stars, and for that I thank the producers because they took a chance on the actors that voiced the characters from the start.

Swanner: 2 stars

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1


Swanner: If you are a fan of The Hunger Games you will love seeing what has progressed for our favorite characters…but if you’re not a fan, this latest film will drive you crazy. This is a middle film in the series and that makes it a transitional film. Transitional films are made to build the excitement for the final film with not much happening. Katniss becomes fully aware of the resistance that was building while she and Peta were competing in the games.

Judd: “Progressed” is a strong word for this film given the fact that over its two hour runtime nothing happens. Movies are supposed to have a beginning, a middle and an end; Mockingjay Part 1, is all pointless middle. Not only is it pointless middle, the script is clumsy and dull. The first two thirds of the movie, is Katniss is napping, eating dinner or talking with her sister, then being ominously interrupted, “Katniss, the president wants to see you,” and off she’d go to visit some bombed out district. Is this the only exposition they could think of? I kept waiting for them to interrupt her while she was on the can.

Swanner: All of what you’re saying is correct but I still enjoyed the ride. I went in expecting this type of progression in the storyline. It’s like a meal and this is the sherbet to cleanse your palate for the big finale…that you’ll see Thanksgiving 2015. Next year you are going to be so thrilled. Director Francis Lawrence along with writers Peter Craig and Danny Strong move us further in to the world created by Suzanne Collins…just not far enough for you.

Judd: This is a blatant, greedy cash grab by Lionsgate to bilk money out of a willing audience, and nothing more. There is no reason to have split this final story into two movies; it felt just like back in the day when TV shows would make “very special” two part episodes, and they’d fill it with 5 minutes of a limousine ride or a gabby pointless dinner scene. Sophia Coppola movies have more thrilling action.

Swanner: I’m not going to say you’re wrong but believe me the fans don’t care. When they split the last Harry Potter book I was happy because it gave me more time with the characters I love. It’s a win-win for the fans and the studio. It also might have helped if you had seen Catching Fire before seeing this film but I digress. It’s not the best of the series but I was entertained and I can’t wait to see the final installment.

Judd: Having missed Catching Fire only meant that I was able to spare myself 141 minutes because it was completely recapped in the first five minutes of Mockingjay. The performances in this movie are fine and the technical aspects of the film are well-executed; however it is, literally, only half a movie and there is no way this can be construed as acceptable. I understand that this is meant to be taken as a part of a package, but that doesn’t forgive it for being overly long and dull.

Swanner: 3 stars
Judd: 2 stars

Dumb and Dumber To


Swanner: Where do you start with a movie like Dumb and Dumber To? You obviously lower your standards after all  we know this isn’t an over hyped Oscar darling. Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are off to find Harry’s daughter, which never knew he had, now that he’s in desperate need of a kidney. Yes, this is actually the storyline. Directed by the Farrelly Brothers and written by Sean Anders.

Judd: I had never seen the original until a week before we screened the sequel. For me, the Farrelly Brothers are hit and miss, with more misses than hits. Given that, and the fact that I do not like Jim Carrey, I wasn’t expecting much from this sequel, and that’s pretty much what it delivered. Explaining their 20 year absence by putting Lloyd in a nuthouse, the boys pick up where they left off, without adding much to the formula. This was the equivalent a Greatest Hits compilation.

Swanner: I never liked these movies. They always reminded me of grown up Beavis and Butthead. One bad joke or sexual innuendo after another, then they laugh at the their own jokes. This is a bad ten minute skit on Saturday Night Live. That being said, I wasn’t in as much pain as i thought i would be. There are some funny jokes, mostly including women or children in pain, and of course there is a very husky Kathleen Turner. 

Judd: Kathleen Turner made the movie for me. She’s always been very funny, and she always allowed herself to be part of the joke. I wish she were in more of the film. I agree with your assessment, and I wasn’t as miserable as I expected. At best, it can be said that this is better than any Adam Sandler film, and at worst it’s a bad Farrlley Brother’s film.

Swanner: If you’ve liked the past incarnations of the film series then you’ll probably enjoy the film. If you’ve never seen one of the Dumb and Dumber movies before, there is no need to start now. Just say no.

Swanner: 2 stars
Judd: 1 ½ stars



Swanner: Rosewater is based on The New York Times best-selling memoir “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival,” written by Maziar Bahari. The film marks the directorial debut of “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, and stars Gael García Bernal. Rosewater follows the Tehran-born Bahari, a broadcast journalist with Canadian citizenship. In June 2009, Bahari endured personal risk by sending footage of the street riots to the BBC. Bahari was arrested by police, led by a man identifying himself only as “Rosewater,” who tortured and interrogated him over the next 118 days. Stewart also wrote the script.

The reason I mention The Daily Show is because a segment of the show from 2009 included Bahari. In that segment Jason Jones, a Daily Show regular, was pretending to be a spy trying to get Bahari to admit he was a spy as well. The reason I mention this is because that footage, along with the BBC footage, is what landed him in jail. It seems only appropriate to have Stewart tell the story. I liked the film, for the most part, with its wonderful performances and it many poignant and touching moments. Where the film fails is with Stewart. I’m not sure it’s the script or the direction, but I never feared for Bahari’s life. Sure, they tortured him…it’s an Iranian jail, but I knew he survived. It was Stewart’s job to make me forget that and keep me on the edge of my seat. My thoughts turn to Midnight Express and how, even though I knew Billy Hayes survived, there wasn’t a moment I wasn’t in fear of his life.

The third act of the film finally shows what was happening outside of Iran with Bahari’s wife campaigning for his release. Getting the western press involved to finally secure the release… The only problem was this took just a few minutes of the film’s time, giving us more time to watch more torture. Kim Bodina and Shohreh Aghdashloo along with Bernal were all outstanding.  I’m not saying this isn’t a good film. It tells a story that needed to be told. This is a good first effort by Stewart and what better story to tell than one his show created. The symmetry is our moment of zen.

Swanner: 3 stars



Swanner: If you remember Alan Parker’s 1980 film Fame, which went on to become a series, you’ll remember the relationship between Lydia (Debbie Allen) and Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray). Lydia’s want to mold and perfect Leroy’s raw talent into a star dancer. That is something very similar to the storyline of Backlash… but in this case it’s much more destructive.

Andrew (Miles Teller) has just enrolled in a prestigious music academy hoping to become a world class drummer. The best way to do that is to get into Terrence Fletcher’s (J.K. Simmons) jazz band. Andrew gets himself noticed by Fletcher and the games begin. Fletcher has a take no prisoner teaching style where everything has to be perfect because there is no alternative.

This is a harder film to watch than one might think. The scenes between Simmons and Teller in rehearsal are as hard to watch as the whipping scenes from 12 Years a Slave. Still, far worse are the scenes where Andrew, rehearsing alone, rehearses till his hands are bleeding and his will is all but gone, which makes us ask how much is too much? Is Fletcher the villain here or is it Andrew’s ambition?

Damian Chazelle writes and directs this dark story of people trying to be the best at any cost. Andrew wants to be the best and is willing to work for it. But, what if it’s something he can never achieve? Is this the result of parents telling their children they can be anything they want to be? Fletcher understands perfection and only until Andrew understands perfection instead of trying to just to reach it will he find nirvana.

As you can see this is a thinking movie. If you ever wanted to be an actor, singer, football player or a drummer, your goal is to be the best, to reach for that fame. What are you willing to give up for something that illusive? The performances are Oscar worthy and the film is mesmerizing.

Swanner: 4 stars