The Dressmaker


Swanner: When Tilly (Kate Winslet) returns to her rural Australia home, the town is unaware of who this beautiful woman might be. Once they learn this is the girl they sent away years ago, everyone fears why she might me back. As a young girl Tilly was accused of killing a boy and sent away. After years of traveling she returns with her sewing machine, couture fashion and an eye for revenge.

This looked like a comedy when I first saw the trailer. Even though there is a lot funny here, this is no comedy. When Tilly left, her mother (Judy Davis) basically lost her mind while Sergeant Farret (Hugo Weaving) controlled all that went on. The film felt a lot like To Wong Fu with it’s dramatic themes, fabulous outfits and a small town that gets larger as they need more faces on screen. 

Director/writer Jocelyn Moorhouse, along with PJ Hogan, bring Rosalie Ham’s novel to life, but, not having read the novel, I can only judge what I see on the screen. The story really should have kept the fun of the beginning of the film, and pulled back at the darkness that overtakes it. By the end you’re wondering how things got so ugly as we find out the secrets and lies the town’s turned away from for over 20+ years. 

Winslet and Davis are terrific and Liam Hemsworth serves nicely as Tilly’s love interest. It’s not just Tilly’s secrets that get revealed in the horrific third act, we find no one in town is an innocent. The film is dark and a bit long, coming in just under two hours. It’s not the kind of film for which you need to go to the theatre; all the disapproving head shaking would be distracting to everyone else. 

Swanner 2 stars

Magnificent Seven


Swanner: After the town of Rose Creek is taken over by a ruthless Industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a widow (Haley Bennett) searches for a few brave men who will take on the bad guys. Gathering together a bounty hunter, criminals, gamblers and hired gun, they prepare the town for the blood bath on it’s way.

Judd: A remake of a remake of a remake, everything has to be made bigger, louder and noisier for today’s attention deficient audiences. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the movie starts out as your typical Western, but then turns into a Michael Bay spectacular – but still within the period – ending with a needlessly long 35 minute gunfight.

Swanner: If you’re going to trim something how about all that needless “where are we going to find 7 men crazy enough to help us” part. The gunfight is the fun part. I thought there were some really good performances especially from Denzel Washington, Sarsgaard and Vincent D’Onofrio. Technically, the film is well done with spectacular cinematography. Director Antoine Fuqua brought the same kind of tension he brought to Training Day and brought out another  terrific character for Washington.

Judd: Yes, let’s trim down the plot so we can enjoy more mindless action. That’s what the movie needed. And if you’re willing to cut out plot, why worry about performances? I will agree that Washington, Sarsgaard, D’Onofrio and Haley Bennet gave great performances, and I would have enjoyed more of them acting instead of having my time wasted in a hail of bullets. With a runtime of 2 hours and 13 minutes, there was plenty of excess to be excised. Though, I have to admit between Denzel Washington as the lead, the bean dinner scene, and the dynamite in the trenches — more than once I was expecting Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid to show up.

Swanner: I’m not a big fan of westerns anyway. Trying to understand why people voluntarily lived that way is above me. When I think of westerns, I think bullets flying, not excessive character development. so I really enjoyed the film. I was glad that they finally used the theme from the 1960 film by Elmer Bernstein at the end of the film. They teased it through out, so it made the ending even more satisfying.

Judd: I, also, am not a big fans of Westerns, but the Cohen’s True Grit proved that a Western remake can be a character driven piece. Fuqua’s Magnificent Seven is a Western themed action movie. Had I known that before seeing the movie, my expectations would have been a little different. That is still no excuse for a 35 minute gunfight.

Swanner: 3 stars
Judd: 2 1/2 stars



Swanner: We all grew up with the story of storks delivering babies, but we never knew why they stopped delivering. Storks opens where the birds are still distributing, but now for online retailer Junior (Andy Samberg) has just been promoted to Boss, but as part of his new position he needs to fire Tulip (Katie Crown), a human girl who was never delivered to her parents, and has lived with the storks for 18 years now.

Judd: Oh, if only the story were so simple. Tulip is sent to manage the mailroom in the abandoned baby factory. She accidentally creates a baby based on a letter sent by an only child whose parents are too busy for him. She vows to deliver this baby with the help of a broken-armed Junior. They are being followed by: some bird with a wig (never explained); the original stork that miscarried Tulip; and a pack of wolves that can transform into different things. Meanwhile, the parents of the only child rediscover the joys of parenting when they learn a new baby is on the way. This is a disaster of a script, and I was shocked to learn that Nicholas Stoller wrote it.

Swanner: They did explain Jasper (Danny Trejo), he couldn’t deliver Tulip because he loved her too much. The wolves I don’t remember because I fell asleep. I do agree the script is way too complicated for a movie appealing to kids. What am I saying, I feel asleep and you can’t remember the plot three days later. It’s a mess but it did have some good laughs. Just ask that man that sat behind me. He kept waking me up.

Judd: I can’t remember the plot because there wasn’t one, and Danny Trejo wasn’t the bird with the wig, Pops! There were a handful of funny gags, but that can be said about almost any terrible movie – anything starring Rob Schneider would be an exception. The script and direction felt very much Samberg’s brand of absurd and unfunny humor — see Hot Rod for a perfect example. This is Doug Sweetland’s first time directing a feature film, and it was obvious, though again, I would have thought co-director Stoller would have had tighter reins on this mess. Even the Lego short that came before the movie was terribly unfunny.

Swanner: The Lego short before was very funny. It set the bar too high so when Storks started if couldn’t hold up. What we’ve established is the script was too complicated and just plain terrible, the voiceovers added nothing to the film and the direction sucked. This coming out in September probably should have told us to expect awful. Sometimes I wish we weren’t such positive thinking people.

Judd: The Lego short that came before the movie was terrible, and I’m surprised that Lego would let the movie go out with their name on it, given their standards for quality. It should have been branded Kre-O. I wasn’t expecting good, but I wasn’t expecting heinous. Storks is an albatross.

Swanner: *
Judd: No stars

Podcast: SJ 120: So You Think You Can Dance; American Gothic; Drag Race; Big Brother; Finding Prince Charming; Son of Zorn; South Park; Star Trek: Animated; Prince of Pennsylvania; Blair Witch

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about So You Think You Can Dance; American Gothic; Drag Race; Big Brother; Finding Prince Charming; Son of Zorn; South Park; Star Trek: Animated; Prince of Pennsylvania; Blair Witch

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Blair Witch


Swanner: Blair Witch follows James and his friends as they go searching for his sister Heather, who had disappeared 16 years ago. Heather, of course, was the character from the first film that we last saw hitting the floor at the end. Now, 16 years later, James sees Heather’s face in a piece of online video, so he and his friends are going camping in hope of finding her.

This is very much a sequel. The reason I mention this is because the studio had originally called the film The Woods. When they announced it was really called Blair Witch, the horror community totally freaked out because the writer (Simon Barrett) and director (Adam Winged) are the same folks that wrote and directed the classic You’re Next. I hoped this new look at the Blair Witch was going to be a much fun as it would be terrifying. It was definitely fun and they had no problem with the terrifying portion.

If you remember the original film, the shaky camera was actually making audiences nauseous. They handle the shaking camera by making the flash lights the focus. They also created paranoia amongst the audience as we wait for something to pop out there in the darkness. I did like the way the script drags us back to the woods. Once in the woods, the scares start right away and basically don’t stop ’til the last frame.

The cast is made up basically of unknown actors, but they do a good job and can all scream on cue. There were some folks laughing at the scary parts in the film but we know its the way they hide the fact that they are close to crapping themselves. The second half of the film is terrifying. I know I was clenching my teeth so not to reveal my horror. Now I’m going to stand in the corner.

Swanner: Three stars

The Wild Life


Swanner: The Wild Life is an animated film based on the story of Robinson Crusoe. Well, loosely based, as told by a parrot named Tuesday. Crusoe gets shipwrecked on a small island that is ruled by animals. The animals have never seen a human before, and it takes some time for animal and man to live together. The rest of the story deals with angry cats and pirates. 

I’m not going to be able to give you a long list of movie stars who voiced the characters. There are none. No top animation director or writers. Just some new folks trying to make it in the animation industry. What I can tell you is this is a sweet little movie that may be ultimately forgettable, but for 97 minutes was entertaining. So for preteens, this could be a easy distraction, and I’m sure the parent that got stuck taking their child to the film will probably have a good time. 

The directors are Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen, neither with much of an interesting filmology. The same can be said for the writers Domonic Paris, Lee Christopher and Graham Welldon. The good news is next time they do a film, they’ll have The Wild Life on their list of previous work. Finally, I’m glad that the film exposes just how mean cats can be. 

Swanner: 2 stars



Swanner: On Thursday, January 15th, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain Chesley Sullenberger, nicknamed “Sully” (Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.

I used Warner Brothers promotional blurb because they said it better than I could, but reviewing it is my job so…This is a great film. Best Picture type of great films. Directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komaninki, the film is as close to perfect as a film can get. The script jumps back and forth showing the landing from different points of view, never boring us with repetition, but giving a totally different emotion with each perspective. All ending with the “We didn’t die!” moment. I dare you not to get emotional.

The script also follows Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) as they have to take bows in the public eye while behind close doors they have to prove there was no way to land the plane anywhere other than the Hudson. Most everyone knows the story but have no idea the red tape that came after. Eastwood proves again he’s one of the finest directors working today, and Hanks, Eckhart, and the rest of the cast are brilliant. Todd Komaninki can expect an Oscar nomination for his beautifully crafted script. That’s not to say it will be their only nomination. This film should be a frontrunner for every qualified category.

Swanner: 4 stars

Podcast: SJ 118: So You Think You Can Dance; Spike Jonez perfume commercial; American Gothic; Big Brother; The Fosters; Difficult People; Gene Wilder; Juan Gabriel; 10cc; Prince Charming; Jerry Lewis Telethon

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about So You Think You Can Dance; Spike Jonez perfume commercial; American Gothic; Big Brother; The Fosters; Difficult People; Gene Wilder; Juan Gabriel; 10cc; Prince Charming; Jerry Lewis Telethon.

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