Despicable Me 3

Swanner: In this third installment, we find out that Gru has a twin brother. Drew, a more successful, friendly and cheerful version of Gru, wants to be a great villain like his brother. Gru who has just been fired by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) is tempted by his brother’s request. Will Gru convert to the dark side again? Meanwhile, the minions, who are disgusted by Gru’s goodness, get arrested and put in prison. Can they find a way to breakout? If all that isn’t enough, super villain Balthazar Bratt has stolen the largest diamond in the world and the AVL has no one to stop him. Who can get the diamond back?

As you can see there are plenty of storylines going on here. Writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, who penned previous films of the franchise, keep everything funny and exciting. There may have been too much going on because my audience of little kids (5 and under) seemed either bored or not engaged, where the older kids and adults had a good time. While Gru and company weren’t entertaining the little ones, the minions really held their attention (and mine) since their lack of real speech means everything has to be physical (lots of fart jokes). They love it, and so do I.

I have never been a fan of the franchise. That’s not true, I like the minions. Gru and family spend too much time telling their moral story, while the minions are just fun and they make you laugh one way or another (more fart jokes). The cast is pretty much just Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, and those children. The rest of the cast is guest voiceovers doing cameos. The three directors Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and first time director Eric Guillon give us a bright and colorful world where everything (spoiler alert) ends happy, but for me it’s too much Gru and not enough minions.

Swanner: 2 1/2 starss

Baby Driver


Swanner: Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a getaway driver for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), who’s trying to save himself from what looks to be a doomed heist. Baby holds the soundtrack of the film cleverly in his iPod, forced to listen to music to battle his tinnitus, a condition where you hear a constant ringing or buzzing in your ears. Baby Driver rolls in as a unexpected surprise during this drought of a summer movie landscape. 

Judd:  The movie is written and directed by Edgar Wright, who’s famous for his “Cornetto Trilogy” Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End. While Baby Driver pays homage to the troubled youth movies of the 50’s, with Elgort’s smoldering pout fitting right in with Brando, Dean, and Newman, the movie tells a very familiar story in completely new, and original way. All of this is supported by an amazing cast which also includes Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, and Lily James.

Swanner: As I mentioned before, the soundtrack comes from Baby’s iPod and it’s filled with a lot of great music. I love the way he scores the robberies to the second. It’s really hard to describe how unique this element of the film is but it’s just one of the many cool aspects that comes from Wright’s brilliant, and may I say, Oscar worthy script. 

Judd: Not only does Baby drive with a soundtrack, the action sequences, down to dialogue and sound effects, are also choreographed to the music. We’ve all become accustom to music swelling during a dramatic speech, or the soundtrack reaching fortissimo during an explosion, but when raindrops and gunshots are timed to the beat of the music, it becomes something much more tangible. Beyond the music, which features fantastic deep tracks, the action sequences are also brilliant. The driving scenes are fast paced and realistic, reminding me of movies like Drive or Bullitt.

Swanner: I also loved that Wright gave all the characters life. Every one of them is there for a reason and has something to say. Jon Bernthal sets the tone early on how bad the bad guys can be with Spacey, Hamm, Gonzalez and Foxx all playing bad, in a different shade of bad. It was nice seeing Paul Williams in the role of The Butcher. It’s a small role, but he made it memorable with a terrific monologue that I’m sure will be used in theater classes for years. Baby Driver speeds to the top of the list of what films to see this summer.

Swanner: 4 stars
Judd: 4 stars

Transformers: The Last Knight

Swanner: Humans are at war with the Transformers, and Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving the future lies buried in the secrets of the past and the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. Now, it’s up to the unlikely alliance of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, an English lord (Anthony Hopkins), and an Oxford professor (Laura Haddock) to save the world. I used the studios description since I had no idea how to explain the story. 

Judd: The studio description left out the best part… The Transformers helped King Arthur, and Merlin wasn’t really a magician. He was using Transformer technology! Mind BLOWN! That was sarcasm, folks. It all added up to a hodgepodge of a movie that was bloated, overblown, and way too long. Not only did the movie make very little sense, there were blatant inconsistencies and plot holes throughout. I know, I shouldn’t care about a plot for a summer popcorn movie — it’s obvious screenwriters Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan certainly didn’t care. But, when the continuity errors are so glaringly obvious, they become hard to overlook.  

Swanner: I read that the studio made director Michael Bay cut the movie down from over three hours. I’m sure that’s where we learn that the Transformers were the reason the dinosaurs disappeared. After all, the Transformers were the reason we defeated the Nazis! There were so many storylines going, I lost track. One thing I can say is it’s not boring. Between the loudness and the storyline confusion, I had no chance at sleeping through it.

Judd: While I hate to disagree with you, in this instance at least, I thought the movie was confusing and boring. Also, it seemed that Bay and his screenwriters amped up the childishness of the script. I suppose the juvenile dialogue shouldn’t surprise me coming from a franchise that featured giant, robot testicles in the second installment – but there was something that made this fifth feature seem extra immature. Everyone in the cast, including Anthony Hopkins, his 400 year old robot, and the Oxford professor spoke like a 12 year old boy. Honestly, I’m surprised no one used the word “doody”.

Swanner: I get that Michael Bay likes the big payoffs he gets from these films and I’m sure the studio does too, but haven’t we jumped the shark here? I was on Box-Office Mojo and they are showing two more Transformer films coming out next year and the following year. I was looking forward to this film, since this summer has turned out to be pretty crappy, but it just turned out to be another turd on the pile. 

Swanner: 1 star

Judd: 1 star

47 Meters Down

Swanner: Two sisters on vacation in Mexico, escaping their boring lives, decide to climb into a cage, then drop into the ocean to see sharks. Neither of the women are schooled in scuba diving, but throw caution to the wind and plunge into the Great White Shark infested water. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt play the two sisters I’d like to shake until they get their senses back. I mean if they wanted excitement why didn’t they just get kidnapped like Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer did? 

It took me many years, but I have gotten back into the ocean since Jaws. But, I would never do it if there was even the slightest chance of confronting a shark, no less a Great White. Director/writer Johannes Roberts, along with co-writer Ernest Riera, keep everything light and fun till the crane holding the cage snaps, sending the women to the bottom of the ocean floor. After that, it’s just one soiling-myself-scene after another. For what I’m guessing, the film probably didn’t have a huge budget, but they used what they had well. The underwater scenes are darker which help with the suspense. It also makes the shark effects look better, because if you saw The Shallows to know how terrible bad shark effects can be.

I did watch quite a bit of the film covering my eyes. After the first 30 minutes, the film is very intense. The two actresses do give us plenty of terror in their performances, but the screaming and crying did have me cheering for the sharks on occasion. The cinematography is well done, as is the overall production. My question is “Why are people allowing themselves to be dropped into the ocean to hang with sharks?” Whose life is so boring that swimming with sharks sounds like a good idea? Is it just me? 

Swanner: 2 ½ stars

Cars 3

Swanner: In Cars 3, Lightning McQueen does something he’s not used to doing. He loses. With a flock of new and younger cars coming into the race circuit, McQueen must face the fact that he may be done with racing forever. Not the storyline I expected from the Cars franchise. The earlier movies have been geared for the kids, with silly characters and simple storylines, so retirement seems like a big step. Surprisingly, it’s not. 

I had to remember, this is Pixar we’re talking about so there’s always a plan. It’s never been a secret that the Cars movies were all about the merchandising. The first two movies made over 8 billion dollars in overall merchandising, so there had to be more of them. Knowing that, in this new film, not only is McQueen contemplating retirement, but we also get introduced to a new group of characters… Are we talking Cars 4?  Of course we are, keep up.

I’ll admit I walked in ready to dislike this film the way I’ve disliked previous Cars movie, but surprise, this one was talking to me. That’s not to say this isn’t a kids movie. It’s as much of a kids movie as any of the Pixar classic films have been, but they finally found a way to entertain everyone. Director Brian Fee makes sure there are still enough bells and whistles to keep the younger kids distracted, but there’s finally a storyline the adults can relate to. I’m not getting all giddy here, but I’m saying I didn’t hate the film. I actually liked it. Now, I’m not going to be the first person in line to see it again, but if you’re the adult dragged to see this film, it’s going to be okay.

Swanner: 2 1/2 stars

Rough Night


Swanner: When five college friends meet in Miami for a bridesmaid’s weekend, anything that can go wrong does. Scarlett Johansson Plays Jess, the bride-to-be who is hoping for a low energy weekend gets that idea vetoed by her friends looking to escape their not-so-wonderful lives. They ultimately find themselves trying to hide the body of the stripper they accidentally killed. Broad City director, Lucia Aniello, makes her big screen directorial debut with this girl power comedy.

Judd: There is nothing fresh about the story, so I went into the movie with the expectation of seeing a familiar plot told from a new perspective. The fact that it is rated R, plus the cast of very funny young women including Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street, Workaholics), Kate McKinnon, (SNL), Zoe Bell (Big Little Lies, Mad Max), and Ilanda Glazer (Broad City) gave me very high expectations that, unfortunately, the movie was unable to meet.

Swanner: I didn’t go in with high expectations at all. This is the same storyline as Very Bad Things from nearly 20 years ago, and I didn’t like the plot then, so all I hoped for was that the ladies could pull enough together to make it fun. The movie didn’t live up to my low expectations. I did think there were some very funny moments and Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as the neighbors were just creepy enough to be memorable.

Judd: The two biggest problems was that the movie ran out of steam by the second act, and there was a maudlin shift where the women confessed that their lives weren’t as rosy as they first let on. There was also an ineffective element of danger introduced late in the second act that only made the movie drag even more. Also, for being rated R, there wasn’t nearly as much sex and gross-out humor as there should have been. What little there was, especially with Moore and Burell, was very funny, but the movie hardly went balls to the wall. I was about to write labia to the wall, to keep with the feminist theme, but the term “balls to the wall” is actually an aviation term and has nothing to do with genitalia. You’re welcome.

Swanner: If the film would have been none stop funny, so much could have been forgiven. It was nice that they didn’t fall into the trap so many chick flicks fall into; There weren’t any music montages, no pillow fights, no one was a virgin, or sleeping with the husband of a friend. They were just unhappy people looking to rekindle moment from their past. This was a guy movie with chicks. We’ve been deceived.

Judd: It was a bad guy movie with chicks. The sad thing is, a couple more duds like this and studios are going to see as evidence that no one likes female-lead comedies. Progress made by movie like Bridesmaids and Sisters is going to be forgotten, and funny women will be stuck doing crappy romcoms for the rest of our lives.

Swanner: 2 stars
Judd: 2 stars

The Mummy


Swanner: In this reboot of The Mummy, Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a grave robber who stumbles onto a hidden crypt. It’s where an ancient princess had been buried alive after a murderous rampage where she killed all her family to secure her place on the throne. Now released from her sarcophagus, she has chosen Nick to be the human vessel she needs to release the devil onto the world. The Mummy is the first release of Universal’s new franchise called Dark Universe. A reboot of all the old monster movies from the 30’s and 40’s.

I was very intrigued by the trailers for The Mummy, and the film did not let me down. It’s a big summer popcorn movie with a $125 million dollar budget, a big movie star, a scary villain, and over the top special effects. Director Alex Kurtzman, along with writers David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dylan Kussman, create a rollercoaster ride of thrills and chills. It’s non-stop action and non-stop fun. The film never pauses to catch it’s breath, and that’s a good thing. When you’re dealing with familiar territory, you need to keep things moving so the audience has no time to compare it with it’s earlier incarnations. 

The film also stars Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, and Jake Johnson, but it’s very much Cruise’s film. I really liked the fact he was playing a different character than his standard Tom Cruise Hero. Cruise, who is turning 55 this year, is still a major action star because he knows how to choose projects that work for him, and this film is no exception. I think The Mummy was the perfect film to star Universal’s new franchise, and if this is any indication of what to expect… I say bring it on. 

Swanner: 3 stars