Welcome to Marwen

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Swanner: Welcome to Marwen follows Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), a victim of a brutal beating by a group of young men. Left for dead, Mark regained his speech and his ability to walk but he has no memory of his life before the attack. Once a talented illustrator now he expresses his art with a camera as he uses dolls and miniature sets to heal.

Based on a true story, Oscar winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) and his co-writer Caroline Thompson (Nightmare Before Christmas) brings Mark’s story to life, both his real world but also the world that Mark has created to cope with the terror that still haunts him. In this special world we meet Hogie, a world war 2 hero, and his band of women that protect him. All the women are based on real life women that have helped Mark through his recovery.

Carell gives a lovely, vulnerable performance of this broken man. The rest of the cast is made up of Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Diane Kruger, and others playing both their real life characters and their animated selves. Welcome to Marwen is a wonderful little film that may be flawed, but it shows us a piece of this man’s life and his unique way of healing.  I hope this sweet film finds it’s audience.

Swanner: 3 stars

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Aquaman

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Swanner: Aquaman follows the origin story of Arthur Curry. A man who’s father was a humble lighthouse keeper and his mother, Atlanna, the queen of Atlantis. He is raised as a human child, but he can live in both worlds. When King Orm decides to unite all the kingdoms of the sea to take on the land people in a war that will destroy all life for both, Aquaman needs to intercept and take his place as king of the seas.

Judd: Directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) and written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Orphan, Red Riding Hood) and Will Beal (Gangster Squad), Aquaman is DC’s next lumbering step toward a Justice League movie, with the hope to rival Marvel’s Avengers. However, like most of the DC movies so far, Warner Bros hasn’t found a winning formula. While Aquaman suffers too many forgettable villains and trials of strength, the audience suffers at the hands of its B-Movie screenwriters, with a horrible script so clichéd that the audience knows exactly what the characters are going to say before they say it.

Swanner: First off, they have already made a Justice League movie. You may have even seen it, but that goes to what you’ve been saying, these films are very forgettable. Wonder Woman was better than most of these films, but if the studio doesn’t figure out how to make these films work, they’ll just be spending money to disappoint. The script was the problem with the film, and when you have an A+ director like Wan that doesn’t say, “This script sucks!” the problem continues.

Judd: Oops, how could I forget the Zach Snyder blockbuster Justice League that everyone loved so much and couldn’t stop talking about? How Beal and Johnson-McGoldrick were even chosen to write this thing is a mystery. Orphan was a schlock-fest and Gangster Squad tanked. I wonder if the whole DC Franchise thing is a “The Producers” like scam to get a Warner Bros a tax break?

Swanner: What does work is Jason Momoa. He has become Aquaman, and he wears it well. The rest of the cast is fine, but when you have quality actors spouting terrible dialogue, even Oscar winner Nicole Kidman looks like she can’t believe what they have her saying. The ending was pretty silly, but not unexpected. I know I say this after just about every DC movie… Let’s hope the next one is better.

Swanner: 1 ½ star
Judd: 1 ½ star

The Favourite

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Swanner: Taking place in the early 18th century, The Favourite follows Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), who has placed herself as right hand man to the ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Whispering in her ear, Sarah advises the Queen on how to deal with the war between England and France, as well has how to deal with the ruling of the country. When Abigail (Emma Stone), a new servant, arrives, she quickly becomes Lady Sarah’s maid, but Abigail has bigger plans for herself. Think All about Eve in the 18th century England.

The film is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) with the screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara They have created this cat and mouse game of King of the Hill, or maybe that should be Queen of the Hill. We are shown the ugly side of the royals. The three women who star here are at the top of their game, moving through Lanthimos’ sometimes hilarious period piece. Colman, with her scene stealing eccentrics, Weisz’s do what it takes approach, and Stone’s power play are all brilliantly played.

The sets and costumes are eye candy for the audience, with some unusual cinematography that I still question, these visuals bring this naturally light story to life. The film moves slowly, but in an era of literally nothing to do for the wealthy, they find ways of entertaining themselves and us.  The film is more comical then dramatic, but the audience I saw the film with was never quite sure. I laughed a lot. One more shout out needs to go to Nicholas Hoult who plays a deviously delicious parliament member with a very large wig and an even bigger agenda.

Swanner: 3 Stars

Ralph Breaks the Internet

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Swanner: Ralph has everything he wants in his world: he’s got a job that he loves and a best friend, but when Vanellope’s game steeling wheel is broken, Ralph and Vanellope must travel into the internet to find a replacement before her game is scrapped. Wreck it Ralph director, Rich Moore, returns with screenwriter Phil Johnston to take us from the video game world to the internet. Johnston, along with Pamela Ribon tell a story of friendship in a place that is ever changing.

The film is just terrific. It teaches us how the internet works while it shows our heroes. Once they are there, they show us a city of all your favorite sites. Facebook, Amazon, Ebay and more. While moving the story along they introduce all the things we hate online with pop up ads, viral videos, and a search engine that constantly tries to guess your next thought. All of these things become characters and places in the film. When Vanellope discovers an online racing game, she finally finds what makes her happy. How can she tell Ralph that what she really wants will take her away from him and what he really wants.

The folks at Disney are always top of the line, creating characters their audiences actually bond to. They also love to poke fun at themselves whenever possible. At one point Vanellope ends up with the Disney princesses in one of the funniest sequences I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. The film is fresh and clever. It’s fast paced and involving. The race for best animated movie just got a front-runner and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ralph Breaks the Internet ends up in the Best Picture race. It’s easily one of the best movies of the year.

Swanner: 4 stars