The Dark Tower

the-dark-towerSwanner: This is a story of good vs evil. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds all worlds together. Based on a series of novels from Stephen King, The Dark Tower started out as short stories that would later became the novel The Gunslinger. A total of eight books were published in this series. 
This story follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a young boy with the shine, who is being hunted by the Man in Black and his henchmen. The Man in Black thinks Jake’s shine will finally bring down the Dark Tower. Jake meets up with Roland, who realizes he can use the boy as bait to confront the Man in Black. Not having read any of the books, I’m guessing Director/writer Nikolaj Arcel, along with co-writers Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen were trying to create what they thought would be the most marketable story-line. I’m curious as to what other story-lines there were and why they choose this one. I ask because this doesn’t feel like it would have been the first book.
As a stand alone story it works but, without revealing too much, I’m wondering where they can go from here. Taylor and Elba are very likable in their roles; where McConaughey seems out of place. It felt like he was going to try to sell me a Lincoln at any time. His lines were delivered to laughs, but I still don’t get why the audience thought he was funny. I’m hoping there is a future for this franchise because fans of the books have been waiting a long time for it’s theatrical debut, and I don’t think anyone will be happy with this incarnation.  
Swanner: 2 1/2 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