Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Swanner: I remember watching Man of Steel. At the end, I was thinking that thousands of people died and who’s going to pay for all the damage. Yes, Superman killed the bad guy, but at what cost? Oddly enough, that’s how Batman vs Superman starts out, with a lot of people loving this new god-like man, and everyone else fearing him. It almost sounds like a GOP candidate, but I digress. So Batman (Ben Afflect) thinks this Superman (Henry Cavill) can’t be trusted, so instead of just talking to each other, they become enemies. Men! Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) wants to rule the world, while the two heroes fight it out. Can Luthor’s stunts actually bring them together or will they end each others lives?

Director Zack Snyder has done better with the filmmaking than he did with Man of Steel. He’s working off a screenplay by two very capable writers David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Chris Terrio (Argo). The Batman origin story is quick and that leads us into the guts of the story. Affleck actually does a good job with Bruce Wayne/Batman. He kept him dark and brooding, while Cavill is pretty, but never too heavy. The film has a great look, it’s solid action that doesn’t push things too far like it’s predecessor. 

I’ve heard of fans unhappy about elements missing or changed from the comics, but not being a comic reader, I can only report, not compare. Still, you’d think you’d make these films for the fans first. I know that’s a ridiculous idea, putting the fans first! There’s a large cast including Amy Adams, Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne, but it’s all about the action, and of that there is plenty. I saw this film on an IMAX screen, and if you have the desire to see this film, I suggest you do too.  

Swanner: 3 stars

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


Swanner: If you’ve been thinking you need more Big Fat Greek Weddings, then you are in luck. Nia Vardalos felt the same way and has written My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 just for the fans of the original film. The storyline follows Toula’s (Vardalos) family again. Her daughter, Elena Kampouris (The Cobbler), is going away to college, her husband (John Corbett) is feeling neglected, and her parents have just realized they were never really married. Enter the wedding. 

Vardalos and producers have brought back the original cast, including Michael Costantine, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin and every Greek with a SAG card. Director Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee) does the best he can corralling all these big personalities together, but there are scenes where I’m sure he said “Just keep filming. We’ll fix it later.” Imagine working with multiple Jim Carrey’s all at once…The Horror…The Horror.

The fact is that all this craziness it why it works. Yes, it feels like TV, but I like TV, and for me, binge watching comes easy. It’s also nice to see these veterans getting the chance to prove they still have it. These characters are big fat stereotypes, and it’s okay to laugh because Vardalos wrote it that way. In closing, if you liked the first film, then you’ll be happy to spend 90 minutes with these folks. I was, and I’d be happy to do it again. 

Swanner: 3 stars

Divergent: Allegiant


Swanner: Keeping it 100, I have to tell you I walked into the screening of Divergent: Allegiant expecting another transitional film that is nothing more than a “Part One”, much like the third film in The Hunger Games series, where nothing happens and then they say we have to wait a year to see the end. I’m happy to say that didn’t happen here. This was a whole movie, granted it’s really not, but it had a beginning, middle, and an end. It felt complete and I liked that. 

Based from a novel by Veronica Roth, director Robert Schwentke (RIPD) and screenwriters Noah Oppenheim (Maze Runner) Adam Cooper, Bill Collage (Exodus: Gods and Kings) actually pull it off here. They made this film about discovering the truth of their dystopian society, while the fourth film is about something else that I won’t reveal — even though anyone following these kind of films knows where it’s going.

Once again, the cast is committed to their roles and their performances are strong. Shailene Woodley and Theo James carry the film as Tris and Four, giving us a super couple to cheer for. Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller also star. Since the film was so surprisingly complete, I find myself reinvested in the series and I’m excited to see where it all ends.

Swanner: 3 stars

Miracles from Heaven


Swanner: In Miracles from Heaven, a Texas family is torn apart when one of their daughters develops stomach problems that can’t be explained; after multiple hospital visits, the doctors find her problem. This finally leads Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) and her daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) to a children’s hospital in Boston, where working with the doctors, Christy gets the news no parent wants to hear.

This is a film about faith. A mother who loses her faith because her child’s life is threatened. It sounds like it could be preachy and heavy, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. In the last few years we’ve see more films with a strong religious message being made. In the past, they stayed in the direct to video arena, but in the past few years the films got better and major stars were making good scripts shine. Some of these films, like this one, are actually very good movies, and secular audiences don’t need to be afraid of these films. There is a strong message here, but good is good. 

As I mentioned earlier, major stars are bringing validity to these films. Actors like Queen Latifah, 

John Carroll Lynch, Eugenio Derbez and Martin Henderson star, but it’s Garner and Roger’s film. Director Patricia Riggen (The 33) had me bawling through this touching film with a script by Randy Brown (Trouble with the Curve), from the novel Christy Beam. If this film had come out in the fall we’d be talking Oscar consideration for Jennifer Garner, who took a solid script and gave us a heartbreaking, beautiful performance.

Swanner: 3 stars