Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales


Swanner: In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is trying the save his father Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) from the curse of The Flying Dutchman. They meet Carina (Kaya Scodelario), a young woman who claims she has a map to the trident of Poseidon, the only thing to break the curse of the sea; unfortunately, Henry and Carina find out that they’ll need Captain Jack Sparrow to get them there. While all of this is going on, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a ghost captain who is after Jack Sparrow for cursing him to Devil’s Triangle, escapes the triangle to seek his revenge.

As you can see there is a lot of cursing going on in this, the fifth, and what they say the last, of the series. IMDb shows Pirates 6 coming out in 2019/2020. Either way, directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg keep the action sequences big and fun, while screenwriter Jeff Nathanson tells more story than I think this film needs, but at leasts it’s complete. We get new characters and closure with old characters. It feels like the end of the franchise but of course, if the box office is big, a sequel will be made. 

If you’re a fan of the Pirate films then you should enjoy it. It has all the usual suspects and the action is never ending. Bardem makes a great new bad guy, and Geoffrey Rush is back as Captain Barbossa, always in the way of our heroes. For someone looking for something different… You won’t find it here. It’s just another episode of “What’s Jack up to now.” As summer movies go, it’s a much better choice than most of the current selection. The film has a 3D option and, although it’s really good at times, the film is dark and dark does not make for the best 3D effects. 

Swanner: 3 stars

Alien: Covenant

White-proto-alien-PrometheusSwanner: A colony transport heading towards a distant planet answers a distress call that leads to a disastrous outcome. Taking place 10 years after Prometheus, Ridley Scott directs this latest entry to the Alien franchise that feels more like a slasher film than any of the previous films. Barely introducing us to any characters and then jumping straight into the action.  When I look back at the first two films, they were very much character driven. I cared for the people and it made the carnage personal.  As characters are killed off in the current film, I didn’t care since neither the director nor the writers thought there was any reason to build a relationship with the audience and the “victims” of this film.
You might think I’m being hard here but I have been a fan of the Alien films since the original debuted in 1979. I even remember seeing Aliens on my birthday and thinking it was a really cool gift. I’m not saying the film isn’t well made. You can see every dollar on the screen. It’s amazing to look at, but it’s like biting into a jelly donut and discovering the center is empty. In the first really big action sequence on the planet, multiple characters are killed and I couldn’t have cared less.
This makes me angry; not because I actually had to pay to see the first showing (because I’m weird like that), but because these films have meant something to me both as a film lover and a fan. I’m okay with the creators changing the mood of the film. Alien was a horror film where Aliens was an action film and they both worked because we cared. The film does have it’s scares and can be quite intense. The cast is good but obviously not memorable. I also didn’t like the ending because it leaves us without hope. Will there be another Alien film? If this film does well, there probably will be; but I won’t be first in line on opening day because Alien: Covenant taught me not to care.
Swanner: 2 Stars


snatched-amy-schumer.pngSwanner: In this latest girl comedy, Emily (Amy Schumer) gets dumped by her boyfriend (Randall Park) the week of their South American vacation. With non-refundable tickets, Emily talks her polar opposite mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn), into joining her on the trip with disastrous results. Emily, wanting to have an adventure, gets herself and her mother kidnapped and pursued by a drug lord with a grudge.
This sounds like every other comedy that has folks vacationing any where between Mexico and Argentina. It makes me wonder why Schumer would take on the project. I can see where working with Goldie Hawn would probably be reason enough, but is it really? Katie Dippold’s screenplay delivers a plot as cookie cutter as one might find in a first year screenplay writing class; but the dialog and the bits in this comedy is the real saving grace. Director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) does a good job at giving this mother and daughter chemistry amid a terrible storyline. He also gives Schumer the space to be her gross self, which supplies some of the biggest laughs I’ve had in the theater for a long time.
The film is overall pretty awful, but if you let the lame storyline go and just enjoy Hawn and Schumer playing on screen, you’ll have a pretty good time. There are also some fun supporting performances from Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz, Bashir Salahuddin, and Christopher Meloni. If you’re on the fence about the film, you should probably wait for it’s video release; but if you need some big laughs, find a theater with a packed audience, buy a ticket, sit back, and prepare to laugh.
Swanner: 2 Stars

Everything, Everything

hqdefaultSwanner: With all the films I have to see I always try to get into the mindset for whom the film was made. In this case, I had to channel the 14 year old girl inside of me to truly identify with the story. Maddy (Amandla Stenberg) is a teenage girl who has spent her entire life locked in an airtight house because she has SCID, a disorder which leaves her with a weakened immune system. Enter Olly (Nick Robinson), a boy who has just moved in next door. With their bedroom windows facing each other, the two become friends even though they can never be in the same room together…or can they?
At first glance Everything Everything comes across as just this year’s summer teenage angst offering. It has all the boxes checked: overbearing mother; daughter with a major illness; new boy moves next door; and even a montage with cue cards. Still, If you look past the usual suspects you’ll find there is something more. Based on the book by Nicola Yoon, screenwriter J. Mills Goodloe takes this claustrophobic story and opens it up with fantasy sequences and a shakespearian romance that teaches Maddy that being alive doesn’t mean you’ve actually lived. The 14 year old girl in me is holding back the tears.
First time director, Stella Meghie, does well creating this world, although in a more experienced hand the film would had a more consistent feel. The film does have moments that feel more like an after school movie than a major motion picture, but Goodloe’s script gets the story back on track. I will admit, I was sure I’d be rolling my eyes all though film as I have done for the last few years of angsty teenage dramas, but with the performances from Stenberg, Robinson and overbearing Mom, Anika Noni Rose, the film becomes a sweet distraction on a hot summer afternoon.
Swanner: 3 Stars

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Swanner: In this latest version of the King Arthur story, Director Guy Ritchie gives us a new take in this prequel. Following Arthur as he’s left orphaned after his father Uther (Eric Bana) is assassinated by his brother Vortigern ( Jude Law) in order to take the crown. I was having flashbacks of The Lion King. On becoming an adult, Arthur must reclaim Excalibur to avenge his father and reclaim the crown that belongs to him.  

Judd: I like Guy Ritchie, but I hate medieval period movies. Kings, dragons, and wizards hold absolutely no interest for me, so I went into this not knowing what to expect. The first 30 minutes of the movie features Ritchie’s signature editing and quick dialogue, with Arthur being a smarmy peasant. Just when I was starting to like the movie, Ritchie abandoned all that makes his movies fun, and goes forth to make another boring, obnoxiously long Castle Caper.

Swanner: At least you like Ritchie’s movies. He’s not one of my favorites for all the reasons you like him. I also don’t care much for the Camelot story no matter what form it takes. I’m not a fan of the musical, the animated film or any of the endless reimaginings of the story. I did like the look of the film, even though it’s dreary as can be. The cinematography, production design, costumes and editing are great. Even though the audience seemed to like like the film, I could never really commit.  

Judd: The whole movie has a very bland grey palette, which goes with the current trend of making “serious” movies boring to look at. Much like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Arthur fails when Ritchie is trying to be serious. I don’t understand why he can’t embrace his style and evolve it, much like Tarantino, Burton, or Del Toro have done, for better or worse. If he thinks he can be a Jack-of-All-Trades like Danny Boyle, he is seriously mistaken. Audiences like Guy Ritchie movies for their Ritchie-ness; take away that element, and his movies become bland and undistinguishable. 

Swanner: I totally agree with you on how audiences like the Ritchie-ness his smaller films possess. If you look at the Sherlock Holmes films as well, you see the same over-done, special effects oriented, big budget mess. As I said, I’m not a fan of his films, but the when you look at his films like Snatched, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and even Rock n Rolla you see true, raw filmmaking, where here, you see some guy trying to make a big budget summer movie. Ritchie doesn’t wear that so well. With another Sherlock Holmes movie and a live version of Aladdin as his next two projects, don’t expect to see that Richie-ness anytime soon.

Judd: The movie is written by Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, and Joby Harold. Ritchie and Wigram have been writing together since Holmes. Joby Harold wrote and directed Awake starring Hayden Chistensen and Jessica Alba. (I know what I’m hate-watching this weekend!) In addition to the lack of visual panache, the all-too-serious script is an additional drag on the movie. It’s too bad that something that could have been fun and fresh ended up being “just another” King Arthur movie.

Swanner: 1 ½ stars

Judd: 1 ½ stars


colossal-horizontal.pngSwanner: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is down on her luck. She’s been out of work for a year; has just lost her boyfriend and her home because she’s a drunk. She’s forced to go home and live in her parent’s house — an empty house where her parents no longer live. After she gets home she runs into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old friend from school who owns a bar, and has always been smitten by Gloria. Gloria, doing what she does best, uses Oscar to continue her blackout drunk nights, free of charge. Gloria is flawed, and she has really irritating hair. I had to mention the hair, and when you see, it try to look past it.

Now on the other side of the world, a giant monster is attacking Seoul Korea; a creature that hasn’t attacked Korea in 25 years. So what does one storyline have to do with the other? Well, that’s kind of the movie, and I’m not giving it away. I will say that I walked into this film not knowing what I was going to see past the poster; thinking they were going to have to do some real creative things to grab my attention, because all I see is a monster standing behind Anne Hathaway. It’s not a great poster, but it did still get me curious. Anne Hathaway in a monster movie?

Writer-Director Nacho Vigalondo creates a world where the monster destroys Seoul while Hathaway destroys her liver, and believe me, they do have a connection. I really need you, dear reader, to have blind trust and see the film. I started the movie expecting the worst, and ended it cheering in my seat. If I explained anymore, you’d either roll your eyes, or I’d ruin the fun. Vigalondo makes this silliness very watchable, and also very addicting. Hathaway gets an opportunity to break out of her ingenue roles, and creates a complicated, interesting character. Sudeikis, who always takes regular characters and gives them some edge, gets to play something different, as less of a friend and more of a stalker. He is sensational, and I just hope more people head out to the theatre and see his performance. 

I like judging movies by the genre. Director Vigalondo creates something new and original. It grabbed me and made stay to see how this fun, crazy movie was going to end… and it ends well.

Swanner: 4 stars

The Dinner

tff17_the_dinner_-6237729d-2609-48a8-82ab-5efc12a5f4b6.jpgSwanner:  The tagline to The Dinner is, “What would you do to protect your children?” Most parents would say they would do anything to protect their child. What if your child did something unforgivable? That is one of the questions asked in this new drama from The Orchard studio.  What appears to be two brothers having dinner at an exclusive restaurant, turns out to be a trial of morality. Stan Lohman (Richard Gere), a politician running for governor, and his second wife, Katelyn, (Rebecca Hall) force themselves to deal along with Stan’s troubled brother (Steven Coogan), and his wife, Claire, (Laura Linney) on what their children have done.

When I was watching the film I thought it was based on a play. It’s very talky, and monologues are handed out like candy — good candy, but for the average American viewer with the attention span of a dog in a yard full of squirrels, The Dinner demands your complete attention. Based on a novel by Herman Koch, it unveils secrets throughout the film, teasing us all the way. What could these kids have done that was so bad? That question drives the film, and keeps us at the table for this dinner. 

Oren Moverman directed and wrote the screenplay in a very stagey way. There are scenes all around the restaurant, inside and out, with flashbacks to bare witness. The cast is terrific, as they chew up Moverman’s dialog, with the characters changing on a dime when provoked. As good as Gere is, Coogan, Linney, and Hall have better roles, which they take full advantage of in the film. Still, Gere ends up being the moral pulse, which seems ironic given he’s a politician.

If you’re a fan of films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, or Night Mother, films that depend on sharp dialog, and ugly family secrets then you should enjoy (“enjoy” might not be the word for it) this film. I would suggest to see the film at the theatre because I think watching it at home will leave the viewer plagued with distractions. There is a lot to learn in it’s two hours running time, and it’s worth making the reservations.

Swanner: 3 stars