Hotel Transylvania 2

Dracula (Adam Sandler), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Murray the Mummy, Frank (Kevin James), Mavis (Selena Gomez), Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and Johnny (Andy Samberg) in Columbia Pictures' HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2.

Swanner: In Hotel Transylvania 2, when Dracula’s daughter marries and has a child with a human, the wait is to see whether it he will be a vampire like his mother, or human like his dad. Dracula takes the grandson on an All-Monster weekend, hoping to pull the vampire out him. That’s right, the gang is back at the hotel and ready for fun. Let me start by saying I did sleep through a lot of the first film. There was a lot of character development and i got sleepy. That being said i didn’t start drifting ‘til almost the end of this sequel and i think it’s because we jump right into the story.

There is a secondary storyline that has Dracula’s daughter and son-in-law visiting his family in Santa Cruz to see if they should move there if the kid is all human. They’re giving Drac even more incentive to have a vampire grandson. The rest of the film is just funny (for the most part) bits that make up these films. It’s clearly still a fish out of water story, so nothing too exciting, but nothing too offensive either. This is an easy film to recommend that kids will enjoy.

It may be a different story for adults. Even with a mostly talented cast, the movie is likable at best. Nothing great is happening here. The script (Adam Sandler and Robert Spiegel) isn’t terrible although it felt like we were really stretching to pull this plot out of nowhere. It moves well, thanks to returning director Genndy Tartakovsky, who knows how to take a lot of jokes and throw them all out at once… One will work. If you enjoyed the first HT then you’ll probably like this one better, I did. The secondary characters are what work best here, but like all Sandler movies, it’s all about him.

Swanner: 2 stars

The Intern


Swanner: Everyone thinks the job of a movie reviewer is just endless screenings of all the best films in the world. It’s not. The top ten list we love to make at year’s end is something hard to complete. Most films fall into that not good/not bad gray area, and the bad films outweigh the great films. I’m happy to tell you that The Intern is one of those great films. It’s a comedy from Director Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated) about a rising star company that starts a program bringing senior citizens in as interns. Owner Jules (Anne Hathaway) is assigned the new intern, Ben (Robert De Niro), who she immediately tries to dismiss because she’s far too busy to babysit. Of course Jules comes to discover that older folks have talents she needs, and the rest of the film validates that.

This is a wonderful comedy that shows the strength of women and the validity of an older work force. The characters are rich and likable and the entire cast is perfectly cast. Unlike previous Meyer films, this film works on all levels. The script (written by Meyers) is smart and very funny. It also gives wonderful moments to the supporting cast so no one feels like window dressing. There is even a bit of silliness with an e-mail that, normally would have made me cringe, had me bonding with the characters just as Meyers had written it.

One lovely thing this film does, is it shows us, like the character of Ben, De Niro is still a reason to go to the theatre. He’s funny and charming, and plays off of Hathaway skillfully. I also compliment Meyers for not trying to force any romance between these characters. If they had gone there the film would have been ruined. I can’t tell you where The Intern will fall on my top ten list but I can tell you it will be there. It’s one of my favorite films of the year. I didn’t want it to end.

Swanner: 4 stars

Black Mass


Swanner: I’m not a big fan of gangster films. I didn’t like the Godfather movies, and Scorsese movies aren’t my favorites. That being said, I can still appreciate them for what’s usually a great script and equally good acting. Johnny Depp plays Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. Right away the story grabs you, because the FBI is cleaning house for him without him really lifting a finger. It’s a win-win for Whitey, but he’s no hero. He’s a character you don’t want to meet, and definitely don’t want to piss off.

The Director Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) and writers Mark Malouk and Jez Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow) have bought together a great ensemble of actors, and have given most of them terrific moments on screen. The problem with the movie, for me, was that the film isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Bad guys working with the good guys ’til ultimately bad guys get their day. I know this is based on a real story of Whitey Bulger, so how do you make it more exciting or different from every other gangster movie?… I have no idea but I can tell you this film felt too familiar.

What was amazing was the acting. Depp just has fun with this character, making him truly frightening. As good as the other actors are — Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon and Dakota Johnson, it was the secondary characters that really wowed me. Jesse Plamons, Rory Cochrane and David Harbour stood up to these stars, and on occasion, outshone them. The production design was also top notch, down to the beer cans. See it for the acting, because this one could be an Oscar contender.

Swanner: 3 stars

The Visit


Swanner: The Visit is M. Night Shyamalan’s new film about a single mother who sends her children to meet her parents, the grandparents they’ve never met. After getting involved with a married man, Paula (Kathryn Hahn) says goodbye to her judging parents and hasn’t been in contact for 15 years. Wanting her children to know their grandparents and taking a needed vacation, she sends the kids to her parents in the woods. 

First let me tell you, this is a handheld filmed movie. (The kids are documenting meeting their grandparents). That being said, the cinematography is pretty good and the overall filmmaking is better than most. A movie like this might get Brian back to the theaters. The film is a funny horror film. Not just fun because people laugh after a scare… actually funny. There are post scare giggles as well, but like many of Shyamalan’s films, they have a sense of humor. 

This film should give studios faith in M. Night again not just for the clever script and direction, but more so that he made a film for 5 million dollars. This film should make some good money. The cast is talented and sparse since most of the film is in the woods with the folks. What I liked about it most is how he pulled me along, like dragging you into a fun house. You know something’s going to happen, but it’s probably not behind the first corner, unless he knows you’ll think that way, but then something grabs your leg. I was’t sure where to look, and by the end I was just afraid to look. Welcome back Mr. Shyamalan.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars