Swanner: Bertrand Zorbrist (Ben Foster) is a billionaire-inventor who thinks overpopulation is destroying the planet; his plan to cure this problem exterminate half of it. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a strange hospital with no memories of the last 48 hours, but comes to realize he’s some how assisted Zorbrist in getting closer to fulfilling his goal of a global pandemic. 

Ron Howard is back at the helm for this third installment of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code series of novels, and David Koepp (Jurassic Park) comes back for his second installment. First off, I have to mention that they have changed the haircut of Hank’s character. I can tell you it was very distracting and worthy of the mention. I like these kind of films. Thrillers that take the characters through mazes, with twists you never see coming, all while our hero has to solve puzzles to save the world. 
If you look at it, this is Indiana Jones meets Nation Treasure with James Bond villains, and I’m alright with that. These are popcorn movies. They have a lot of action, with chases through fantastic locations. They’re fun to watch if you just let them flow over you. I think people forget that because Howard and Hanks admire their Oscars went they get home… Sometimes people want to play. 
The cast is all very good, including Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Sidse Babett Knudsen and a very furry Ben Foster. Special notice to Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi). He creates a frighteningly hilarious character that I’m still unsure if he was a good guy or a bad guy, and personally I don’t care. This isn’t the best picture of the year, but it was a enjoyable two hours.   
Swanner: 3 stars

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back


Swanner: While visiting a military contact, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) learns that she has been arrested for giving away government secrets. But when Reacher looks below the surface, he finds himself on the run. Based on the novel Never Go Back by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is the ultimate good guy in the action genre. Well, good guy in the sense that he’s a killer when he needs to – but only if you’re one of the bad guys.

I like the Reacher character because you know he does what he does for the sake of justice… just don’t get in his way. Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) writes and directs with fellow screenwriters Richard Wenk (The Equalizer) and Marshall Herskovitz (The Last Samurai). They deliver a solid story, but the action grinds to a halt every time the writers decide it’s time to talk. It’s great for character development, but awful for pacing.

Outside of the film being a bit talkie, there is a solid cast. I was really impressed with Cruise and Cobie Smulders; they had real chemistry on screen. They never became lovers, but it was working. I appreciate that while being chased by a killer they never found time to “do it”. Jack Reacher is a good old fashion action movie with a hero worth cheering on. If you liked the original you’ll be happy with the sequel.

Swanner: 2 ½ stars

Ouija: Origin on Evil


In 1967, Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) is a widowed fortune teller who lives with her two daughters, Paulina (Annalise Basso) and Doris (Lulu Wilson). Looking to add a little pizzaz to her readings, Alice buys a new fangled thing called a Ouija board which unleashes demons living within the house. Ouija: Origin of Evil is written by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard, directed by Flanagan.

The movie starts with Universal’s old opening graphic from the 60s, and the title credit is done in a very low-budget, retro style. This set up expectations that the movie would have a retro feel throughout, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t expecting full-on Tarantino Grindhouse effects, but a little of it would have been nice. I will give the movie kudos for some very creative and visually entertaining camera work in the first half the movie. Cinematographer Michael Fimognari used some great old techniques that you don’t see anymore, in addition to some interesting staging. In order to avoid expensive music licensing, the sound department used old radio spots, which I thought was a brilliant way of keeping the feel of a specific time period without breaking the bank. The location, costumes and production design were also creative and better exceeded expectations.

Unfortunately, all the creativity is abandoned once the demon shows up, and the movie becomes a by the books PG-13; horror-lite; haunted house/little girl possessed movie. The script is full of setups that never pan out the way you expect. The titular Ouija board is used throughout, but the little possessed girl is the character that sustains the terror. There is a Catholic priest, which is an obvious setup for an exorcism, but he only mentions that there are people at the Vatican who study possession. No one even breaks out the holy water!

As much as I feel that the movie is ultimately disposable, I have to admit that I was entertained and had fun, which is more than I can say for other low-budget Halloween movies. Ouija: Origin perfect choice for someone who wants to see a horror movie with Mom; Tom would have loved it.

Judd: 2 ½ stars

The Accountant



Swanner: Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a math savant who works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. With the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), starting to close in, Christian’s new client is a robotics company where an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars.

The film starts off dramatic. We see Christian’s family dealing with his autism, or rather not deal with it as his mother leaves the family because his father has decided to handle it his way. Christian was raised by his father who taught him and his brother to fight and, if necessary, kill. The rest of the film focuses on a functioning adult Christian and the business he has carved out for himself. Once you get in the film you get a feeling of where the story is going and how they are telling this story. Director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) and screenwriter Bill Dubuque (The Judge) tell a familiar story but in a whole new way. Is he a good guy or a bad guy?

The movie deals well with Christian’s autism, showing how someone can turn his limitations into very big advantages. Affleck comes across believable, which could make or break the film; his performance is very thoughtful and true. The film has a great cast with Affleck, Simmons and Kendrick… But wait theres more, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Jon Bernthal and Cynthia Addal-Robinson round out the leads and give some really good performances. The script has a lot of humor to it which surprised me, These kind of films are usually so busy being action thrillers that they forget the audience needs a break from all the drama. It’s a film worth seeing and hero long over due.

Swanner: 3 stars

The Girl on the Train


Swanner: Coming to theaters this week is the film adaptation of Paula Hawkins novel that sold over 15 million copies. The story follows three women who live or have lived in a wealthy community along railroad tracks. Rachel (Emily Blunt) used to live there, and sees her old home every day as she travels on the commuter train to Manhattan. Anna (Haley Bennet) is now married to Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), and started out as his mistress. Megan (Rebecca Ferguson) lives down the street from Anna, and married to semi-exhibitionist Scott (Luke Evans).

Judd: Rachel is a barren alcoholic with extremely poor decision making skills. She is obsessed with her ex-husband, his mistress and their new baby. Rachel is also obsessed with her old neighbors, and watches their displays of affection as the train goes by (obviously not a bullet train) fantasizing about their deep, true love. Things get sticky for Rachel when she drunkenly decides to pay her ex a visit on the same night Anna, who looks like Megan, goes missing. Fortunately, the script is not nearly this confusing as the story unfolds; unfortunately, it’s not nearly as interesting, either.

Swanner: I can see where the book was probably very involving with the narrative changing between the three women but on screen it made the film slow. That and the title treatment telling us where the story was from years ago to last week Friday. When films jump timelines they tend to get confusing. Director Tate Taylor (The Help) has a tendency to make thoughtfully paced films, and when you throw in screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Men Women and Children), it’s snail time.

Judd: The three women all carried a Poor Little Rich Girl feeling about them, caught up in drama of their own making, and by the time the twist came – revealing that things aren’t what they seem, it was too late and my apathy had completely set in. Worse yet, the talents of Lisa Kudrow, Alison Janney, and Laura Prepon are completely wasted on either unnecessary or expositional characters.

Swanner: Totally agree with the wasted Kudrow, Janney and Prepon comment. The story was a lot of fun with all the twists, and the film does have a great ending, but the execution was bad. The film runs 1:52 but it felt like 2:30+, made worse with some guy loudly yawning through it. I’m not sure how they could have made it tighter but that was the main problem with the film. By the time we get to the great ending it’s too late to make you forget and forgive the journey.

Judd: All I can say is the movie prepped me for a good night’s sleep. Taylor directed the movie with staid seriousness; if he would have amped it up a bit, the movie could have been a cult classic. The characters were ripe for it –  a drunken mess, a clenched upstate WASP, a nymphomaniac, and a hardened cop. Instead, Taylor played it safe with a script that needed a little danger, and delivered a big-budget Lifetime movie.

Swanner: 2 stars
Judd: 2 stars