No Escape


Swanner: The Dwyer family is moving to an unnamed Asian country where the father, Jack, played by Owen Wilson, has been hired by the government of this unnamed country to help with the water supply. Unbeknownst to him or his family, the Government has been over thrown and the new guys in charge just want to kill foreigners. Now Jack and his wife Annie (Lake Bell) have to get their two young daughters to safety.

There are plenty of reasons to hate this movie, but more than anything its the fact that they have these two young girls placed in realistic danger. They don’t add to the film; if anything, they distract. Parents don’t need to worry about potty time when they’re being fired on by a tank. These children also don’t need to see their parents killing people. Sure, they are being pursued by killers but memories of mommy and daddy crushing skulls will haunt them forever. Had the kids been older this wouldn’t be a problem. Shame on the producers. 

The rest of the time the film goes out of it’s way to earn it’s R rating, with one grueling massacre after another. My favorite was the guys with the machetes. To say the movie is horrible is an understatement. I’m not even going to mention the Writers or Director. I wouldn’t want give them any more notoriety then they’ve already gotten. The acting is good, for the most part, and as awful as the script is the movie does keep you on the edge of your seat, but at what cost? If you listen to me, there will be no cost to you. This film doesn’t need to be seen, and more than that, it shouldn’t be.

Swanner: 0 stars

We Are Your Friends


Swanner: Zac Efron and his three loser friends are still trying to find their thing. One wants to be an actor, one a DJ, and the other two… I’m not really sure. They live in the San Fernando Valley. Their only means of making money is to get Efron booked as a DJ and then bring enough people in to get a cut of the door. All four live in the same neighborhood, in their parents’ house and, yes, they are in their mid-twenties. It was as painful to watch as you might think.

The storyline is very close to Saturday Night Fever where Efron in playing the Travolta role, just swopping out dance for music, and New York for LA. Efron meets a famous DJ (Wes Bentley) who takes Efron under his wing to groom him in the exciting world of music manipulation on a laptop. This film is as terrible as it’s title. Like Saturday Night Fever, we see our hero fall in love with the wrong people and screw over the right ones. There is even a death late in the film that gives Efron’s character the will he needs to win that dance contest… I mean DJ the big show. 

Besides the similar Saturday Nigh Fever plot, this film also shares good music. It’s no Oscar winning score, but it’s the best thing they have to offer. One gripe I have is that why have Efron in the film if we’re not going to have multiple scene of Efron shirtless? When he is shirtless, the lighting is poor or it’s all too fast. The Efron fans deserve at least that. At one point Efron asks the crowd “Will it ever get better than this? The answer is no. Wait for home video on this movie. These people are not your friends.

Swanner: 1 star

The End of the Tour


Swanner: End of the Tour follows Rolling Stones Magazine writer David Lipsky in 1996 while he interviews David Foster Wallace. Wallace is just finishing his book tour of Infinite Jest, his novel that critics are praising as one of the great novels of his generation. Lipsky convinces Rolling Stone to do an article on Wallace and the story begins. I have no idea who Wallace was and have never heard of Infinite Jest, but if the story is interesting and the characters are engaging, then I’ll learn more about him. 

Over the next hour and 45 minutes, I learned that Wallace is not a very interesting guy. Lipsky wasn’t very interesting either… Why’d they make this film? I don’t want to discount the performances of the two leads. Jason Segel (Wallace) and Jesse Eisenberg (Lipsky) are very good at playing these two not very interesting people. Most of the film takes place sitting in a car or across from each other at a table talking about Wallace’s life which, again, isn’t that interesting. 

I don’t want to sound like the guy who doesn’t like independent films. I can sit through a movie like Locke and be glued to my seat while all the action takes place in the front seat of a moving car. Here, watching the guys buy snacks and then discuss said said snacks just didn’t do it for me. Director James Ponsoldt and writer Donald Margulies have been getting praise for producing such a interesting film… I’d still like to see “that” film because The End of the Tour honestly couldn’t be it. I’m sure other critics are calling it My Dinner with Andre for a new generation but I’m calling it a cure for insomnia.

Swanner: 1 star

American Ultra


Swanner: I never thought I’d be writing one Jesse Eisenberg film review after another, yet here I am doing just that. American Ultra follows Mike Howell (Eisenberg), a stoner that works in convenience store in a little who cares town, who is also a sleeper cell for the CIA. Yes, this is very much a comical take on movies like The Bourne Identity. The difference here is Mike doesn’t want to know what’s hidden in his brain because he’s too stoned to care. The CIA doesn’t understand it and decides he’s too dangerous to have around and sends in the big guys to take him out. 

Now, Mike and his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) are on the run from the thugs coming to terminate him. I really loved the film, probably because I’m not a fan of the sleeper cell genre. (Yes, this is a genre… I just made it up.) All the things that make me roll my eyes in those other films made me laugh here. Director Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) and Max Landis (Chronicle) prove that they are better than their filmographies by creating a fast paced, funny, action film and just let it go crazy. They took the genre and made the same movie, but campy and over the top. (Am I the only one shaking my head as Bourne bounced from rooftop to rooftop?) The rest of the cast, Connie Britton, Tony Hale, Topher Grace, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman are all just as good as the two leads… and yes, I mean Kristen Stewart. 

It’s seems odd to be saying this, but, American Ultra has found it’s way to my top ten list of the year and with my dislike of the very genre it belongs, I doubt it falling off that list. So I feel confident in saying this is not only one of my favorite films this year, but it’s also one of the best.

Swanner: 4 stars

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Swanner: I know this will surprise you, I actually saw the original The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series in the 60’s this film was based on. This was one of my mom’s favorite shows. I was excited to see what they would do with the series. When I looked further and realized Guy Ritchie was the director, I expected the worst.

Judd: I was debating myself if I wanted to see the movie, and when I saw Ritchie was the director, I decided to go; I like his style. I think the areas of U.N.C.L.E. that his trademark flair work the best, but where the movie fails is when Ritchie tries to be too serious — which, unfortunately, seemed to be all the big chase sequences.

Swanner: I had no problem with the action. I didn’t like the leads. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer were mediocre at best. Cavill plays Napoleon Solo and, yes, he’s handsome, but the role needs a bit less Bond charm and more Bond spy. Hammer plays Russian Illya Kuryakin, he’s terrible. His accent was MIA through most of the film, and why do people think he can act? Outside of that, the film moves well as an action picture but if they think they can franchise this film they better recast.

Judd: I liked Cavill in his role. I thought he was doing his best Robert Vaughn impression, but I agree there was no chemistry between Cavill and Hammer. Every “Odd Couple” moment they had together fell flat. The scene with them bickering over fashion was particularly unfunny. I also disagree with you that the movie needed less charm and more spy; I think it needed more campy charm and less action — and that’s the real issue here. You and I wanted two different movies, and what we got satisfied neither.

Swanner: You’re right. I wanted action like we got in Kingsman and you wanted camp charm like they had in Spy. I guess it comes down to the fact in a year with all these spy movies this isn’t the best or even second. I’m glad I can say I liked a Guy Ritchie movie, but as you mentioned, neither of us got the movie we were hoping to see.

Swanner: ** ½
Judd: ** ½

Ricki and The Flash


Swanner: Meryl Streep plays Ricki, a woman who decided to ditch the family for the dream of rock ’n’ roll. Even though her dreams of the big time maybe over, now older, she regularly plays a watering hole in Tarzana California. Life is good for Ricki ’til she gets a call from her ex-husband telling of their daughter’s painful divorce, and asking Ricki to come back and help pick up the pieces. Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald and Mamie Gummer (Streep’s real life daughter) star.

The film is directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) and written by Diablo Cody (Juno). The film is based on Cody’s own experience with her mother-in-law who followed her dream of rock ’n’ roll. In the film, Streep comes off like a Stevie Nicks/Joan Jett wannabe with braids and leather, so when she’s back in Indiana, with the family, she’s a fish out of water. But, Ricki knows no shame. Demme obviously wanted to show Streep as musical performer by having her perform constantly. I realize all the performances were performed live but enough is enough. This is where the film loses me. It’s not a musical, its a dreamy story about a family trying to heal from heartbreak; a mother’s abandonment and another broken marriage. Had the songs spoke more to the situation, more songs may have been appropriate, but full numbers throughout the film had me longing for Cody’s snappy dialog.

When the film is following the story, its a nice film about how shitty life can turn out, no matter how much money one might have; life sometimes just sucks. Still, there can and are great moments in life, if people leave themselves open to it. and that’s when Ricki and the Flash shines. The last 30 minutes are worth all the Springsteen and Dobie Gray we had to sit through. 

Swanner: 2 1/2 stars