Steve Jobs


Swanner: I walked in to see Steve Jobs with very little knowledge of the man. I knew what his job was, and that he was one of the genius tech guys. I didn’t even know who Steve Wozniak ‘til he dated Kathy Griffen. I had seen the trailer, but didn’t really pay attention. The point is, I went in blind. The film follows three Apple presentations. We see Jobs trying to prepare while life demands more from him. Michael Fassbender plays Job, and he’s sensational. I’m not sure if he’s acting like Jobs, but he is Acting the shit of the role. Everyone is outstanding in the film, Seth Rogan, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet make up the leads, but everyone was great.

Once I heard the dialogue, I knew it was Aaron Sorkin’s script (West Wing, Newsroom). If you’re a fan of Sorkin you know how he writes, and so much of why this film works comes from his brilliant script. I love the way he takes a moment in history and tells you all the other stories surrounding it and many a time never even hitting that historical moment. The film is based on the book by Walter Isaacson. Then you have Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) who brings a raw energy to what he directs and it makes the viewer mesmerized. He makes movies that you’ve never seen before. Go back and watch Trainspotting, Millions, 28 Days Later… and 127 Hours. All original and unforgettable. 

If you’re a fan of biographies, or a fan of Sorkin or Boyle, you need to see this film. The film has no real action to it other than the thrilling dialogue and crazy good acting. It’s easily a Best Picture nominee with Fassbender, Boyle and Sorkin in tow. If you love great filmmaking then Steve Jobs should be at the top of your list.

Swanner: 4 stars

Rock the Kasbah


Swanner: I miss the old Bill Murray… Wait, I miss the young Bill Murray. Whether it was Carl in Caddyshack; Tripper in Meatballs; Frank Cross in Scrooged; or Peter from Ghostbusters, we got a funny, clever, memorable character. It didn’t matter how good or bad the script, Bill Murray made it a classic. Rock the Kasbah is like that. Murray plays Richie Lance, a music promoter who has lost his mojo. He finds himself in Afghanistan without a client, and without a passport. 

The rest of the film has to do with getting a teenage girl on Afghan Star (think American Idol). The script isn’t the best, but it was such a pleasure to see the Murray I remember as a child. The script is by Mitch Glazer (Scrooged) and is so all-over-the-place, it’s not even worth bullying, or calling it names. Director Barry Levinson must have went in thinking he had another Wag the Dog on his hands. And, when he realized he didn’t, he took Murray off the leash, hoping he might be able to save it. 

That’s almost true here; but, Murray can only make this watchable — not good. So, if you’re a Bill Murray fan, it’s worth seeing with a bunch of Bill Murray fans. But if you’re hoping Levinson has created another Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam, or Diner… No need to stop here. Should you see this film? My suggestion is to follow the wise words of Tripper from Meatballs. “It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!”

Swanner: 2 stars

Crimson Peak


Swanner: After the tragic death of her father, a young woman falls for the wrong man. A man that would take her away to a mysterious house where he and his sister have lived since their parents died. A house of many secrets and far too many ghosts. This the new film from Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), a Director that sees life and death much differently than most.

Judd: You make this movie sound much more thrilling than it is. I wanted to see this because I like Del Toro’s work. I like his ornate imagery; not only does Crimson Peak lack his signature level of detail, the script, written by Del Toro and Matthew Robbins, is a sloppy, boring mess. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston Crimson Peak has it’s feet stuck in slimy, red mud.

Swanner: I’m thinking you’re forgetting del Toro’s direction and writing style. He makes creepy uncomfortable scary movies. He’s not a big scare director. I thought his production design was gorgeous and gothic. I will admit that the preview over sells the horror aspect but I was clinching my teeth and veering my eyes from the screen a lot. I would have liked the ghosts in the story to be more helpful to our heroine but that’s me nitpicking. 

Judd: I’m familiar with his writing style, thank you very much. I enjoyed Hellboy and Pacific Rim. I know that he’s longwinded and slow paced. I love Pan’s Labyrinth, and just re-watched it a few weeks ago, so I noticed many similarities between it and Crimson Peak. However, Crimson Peak was not creepy, nor uncomfortable. No, I take that back; it was definitely uncomfortable sitting that long with nothing happening. The biggest problem is that the audience knows exactly where the movie is going, but it takes the movie 45 minutes to catch up with them. And don’t give me that, “Enjoy the ride,” cop out. If Del Toro wanted us to slow down with the movie he wouldn’t have projected the second and third acts fifteen minutes into the first!

Swanner: I will agree that the audience knows where this is going right away but that’s the joy of watching a scary movie…we’re smarter than the characters. I’m not saying this is one of del Toro’s finer films but it’s not mess you’re describing. It’s been a few days since the screening and I’m still reliving moments from the film. I also appreciated the humor in the film which I’m sure you completely missed. Why don’t you just finish your tea and rest… you’re obviously not well.

Swanner: 3 stars
Judd: 1 ½ stars

Bridge of Spies

FILM STILL - BRIDGE OF SPIES - Tom Hanks as James Donovan, Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel and Billy Magnusson as Douglas Forrester in BRIDGE OF SPIES, a dramatic thriller directed by Steven Spielberg.

Swanner: When you hear there is a new Steven Spielberg movie being released, you realize it must be Oscar season. When you hear the Coen Brothers have a new movie out, you’re ready for some great writing, and when you hear Tom Hanks is staring in Spielberg’s new film that was written by the Coen Brothers, it’s hard to keep your head from exploding. (breath) Hanks plays an American lawyer, during the Cold War, asked to negotiate the trade of an American pilot for a Soviet spy. That’s the most basic way I can explain the plot of this film because it’s so much more involving and I don’t have that much writing space. 

There is so much to love here. Spielberg and crew always do such good work on period pieces, cinematography, editing, music and production design. Everything is perfect and in it’s place. The dialogue was beautiful. (Acting classes will be reading from this script for many years) Matt Charman is also listed as a screenwriter with the Coen Brothers, with only a few TV credits so the jury’s out on whether Charman is a huge talent or one lucky dog. When you step back and look at this big picture it’s all about Spielberg. The way it’s filmed, to the actors reciting dialogue, the Spielberg way of filmmaking still works after 40 years with no signs of stopping. 

I know you’re thinking how can you go wrong with this team. It makes writing reviews like this easy, but boring. As much as I gush over the folks behind the camera you’d have nothing without this incredible cast. Watching Tom Hanks is such a joy, there is never moment on screen that doesn’t have a thought behind it and he’d never let you see it but it’s there. After Captain Phillips and now here, Tom Hanks doesn’t need a big character to big on screen. Anyone he plays is more interesting because he plays it. The entire cast is terrific but Mark Rylance is fantastic and his scenes with Hanks are brilliant. 

Swanner: 4 Stars



Swanner: Whenever a classic movie gets a reboot, reimagining, sequel, prequel or a remake, I always have two questions. Number one is WHY? Does something need to be explained or was something important missed? And number two, will this be better than the original(s)? This time around we get to see where Peter Pan started and how he ended up in Neverland. I guess the idea of his past has crossed my mind if only for a brief second, but is that enough to make a movie about?

No, it’s not. 

No matter how well the film was made, it still has no real reason to be made. To add insult to injury, the movie ends with a wink and a promise for more films. The film starts during WWII in London where Peter lives in a home for boys run by mean nuns. Peter notices that some of the other children are disappearing so one night during a blitz, Peter sees why, a flying ship is floating over the house stealing boys in the night to work the mines in Neverland for Blackbeard.

I can’t go on. 

Lets just say we all know how this is going to end, so any bit of excitement is gone and I found myself wishing I was watching that horrible NBC Peter Pan musical because at least it was bad enough to laugh at, where this just one predictable scene (yawn) after another. Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Jason Fuchs have done nothing more than creating a way of wasting a good two hours on a Saturday afternoon. When I mentioned the film is well made, I mean the production design and the cinematography. The film is lovely to look at, but no fun to watch, and isn’t that what Peter Pan is all about? I’m officially Panning Pan and praying that there will be no more films following this one.

Swanner: 1 star



Swanner: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. That’s how the studio describes the plot. I mean, that is basically what the movies starts out to be, but it then goes in to deeper and darker places. Emily Blunt stars as that idealistic FBI agent, also the moral compass of the film. The problem is she’s working with people who don’t follow the rules.

The film really felt conflicted. Is doing the right thing at any cost worth doing? Director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan don’t seem to have a problem with that question. It’s Blunt’s character Kate and her partner Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya) that make us feel bad about how the task force gets things done. The main problem for me was why am I finding these two FBI agents the problem here? How bitter and angry am I? How can I allow this behavior?

I love a good thinking movie. The rest of the cast is great with special kudos to Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro reminded me of Javier Bardem from the brilliant No Country for Old Men. He’s determined and unstoppable, fortunately he’s on our side this time. Sicario reminds us that the world is an scary place and sometimes the good guys have to do the unthinkable to make things better if not right. The film is very violent and conflicting so it’s maybe not the best first date movie.

Swanner: 3 stars

The Walk


Swanner: In 1974, Philippe Petit walked a wire from one tower of the World Trade Center to the next with the help of his friends and a dream to do something amazing. The first portion of the film shows us how Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) first started his love of wire walking. It shows how he met the right people who helped train him and guide him towards his dream. The film is actually very light and funny at times which helps with the fact that some crazy man wants to walk between the towers.

Director Robert Zemeckis has devoted most of his directorial years proving that there are no barriers he can’t overcome. His films live out of the box, and that’s why we love him. Back To The Future and Forrest Gump just prove the man doesn’t take no for an answer. How do you show a man walk a wire from one tower of the World Trade Center to the next when there are no towers to shoot from? As with the movie Gravity, which was filmed on a sound stage, there are no more limitations. Filmmakers are only limited by their own doubts. When Petit starts his walk, I was there witnessing it. I had come back from the future.

Zemeckis and co-screenwriter Christopher Browne introduce us to this charismatic French man who wants to show us something incredible and from there its non-stop ‘til the big walk. The last hour of the film is the set up for the walk and the walk itself.  I can tell you I had sweaty palms that last hour as if I was there on the side lines. With the incredible cinematography from Dariusz Wolski and Zemeckis’ imagination, anything became possible. The film is based on Petit’s book “To Reach the Clouds” and the Academy Award winning documentary “Man On Wire” from 2008 (which is available of Netflix). It’s opening at the IMAX theaters, where I screened it, and I can’t think of a better way to see it the first time… Just don’t look down.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars