Posted on 6/03/14 11:53 AM
Swanner: In a not too distant future, the Mutants are being hunted by devices that can change and adapt to the Mutants power. These machines, developed by the government, are creating genocide of the Mutant race. Professor X and Magneto send Wolverine into the past to stop this from happening. As Wolverine arrives in the past we see the younger cast from the last film, First Class, where most of the original cast appears in just cameos...kind of a brilliant twist so fans literally get the best of both worlds. Bryan Singer steps back into the director's chair and you can really feel a difference in the franchise. Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) brings us a solid screenplay if not a bit too talky.
As I mentioned there is a huge cast of actors sharing iconic X-men characters. Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Page, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart just to name a few. Fans of the franchise will love the twist and the producers need to figure out how to bring the past back for the next outing. They have added a few more characters including Dr. Bolivar Trask (played by Peter Dinklage) the man who develops the technology to defeat the Mutants. Personally, if you have Dinklage in your film use him as much as possible. I would have loved a few more juicy scenes from him. He makes everything he touches better for him being there. That can be said about most of the cast. They have some of the best actors working today in this franchise and it pays off.
It's not my favorite of the X-Men but they all tend to be so good it's hard to find fault (The Wolverine being the accepting). I'm hoping Bryan Singer's legal problems don't interfere with the series. He brings back what made these movies work so well. He gives them their purpose for continuing this struggle for acceptance. Most minorities can find solace in the hall of the Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters because like the Mutants we all find ourselves searching for a place to call home. It's what's been missing from some of the more resent films, I think that's something Singer brings in abundance. X-Men fans will cheer this new addition but I would suggest the virgins to the series at least see the original X-Men and First Class before jumping into the franchise.
Posted on 6/03/14 11:52 AM
Judd: Since Wicked, there has been in interest in telling the story from the bad guy's point of view, proving that there is more to the story that we always knew. Disney takes that method and applies it to the Big Baddie from Sleeping Beauty, Malificent. Malificent the movie, tries to prove that out titular character was more than just a jilted party guest who curses a baby. She's actually a scorned lover, brutalized by King Stefan many years ago, and that's not just a crazy hat she's wearing, but actual HORNS!!!
Swanner: It's no wonder she was so stiff in the film with what looked to be very heavy horns. The origin story, the first third of the film, moves pretty well with them not just telling the story but wowing us with fantastic visuals. After the curse is made on the baby the film slows to a snail pace. Maleficent spends years watching over Aurora as she grows, from the bushes, from the trees and even from her window as she sleeps (something Brian was doing during the middle third of the film). The last part of the film picks up for the big climax but that center was deadly.
Judd: You would think her neck would be thick as a tree trunk carrying around those antlers. I'm surprised you're impressed with the visuals, I was not. The 3D was pointless and several times, as Malificent was flying through the air, it was a close-up on her face with digital clouds flying by that I thought looked like something straight out a 1930s serial. I do agree that the story was exhaustingly boring but also a bit disturbing. As soon as the plot deviated from the original cartoon, the whole thing fell apart. I joked with you on the way out of the theatre that it would have been more fun, and creepily appropriate for Malifcent to have stalked Aurora from a windowless van.
Swanner: They we're distracting us from the lack of story with fairies buzzing around and pollen everywhere. I could never live there with my allergies. The film is directed by Academy Award winner Robert Stromberg, a Production designer and special effects artist. He won for Alice in Wonderland and Avatar both for production design. This explains why it was so visual and not much was happening. Maybe they thought that Angelina's cheek bones would hypnotize the audience?
Judd: There are a hundred things they could have done to beef up the plot, and we'll never know why they didn't pursue any of those. I also felt the makeup was too modern. When Prince Philip finally shows up he's sporting a Harry Styles shag, and it was completely distracting. I think this goes to show that Disney had no mind to make this a "timeless" classic. If you want a film to last, you don't dress your cast is fashions of the day. While the advertising makes one think that Disney is trying to create a new franchise, I think this was more a cash-in than anything else.
Swanner: Disney is trying to take ownership to these live action remakes like Alice in Wonderland. After the Snow White disaster from a couple years ago they ran with this and a Cinderella which is in production. I don't have a problem with the hairstyle of a bit part, I have a problem with the middle of this film being boring.
Posted on 6/03/14 11:51 AM
Judd: Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) is an Arizona sheep farmer in the late 1800s. He's not happy to be there, discontent with violence, disease and nature's indifference. When his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) leaves him for the perfectly mustachioed Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) Albert teams up with Anna (Charlize Theron) a newcomer to town to win Louise back.
Swanner: That is your basic plot to A Million Way to Die in the West. Director MacFarlane tries his hand at cowboy comedy. A Blazing Saddles for a new generation. Well, it's not Blazing Saddles but it is a very funny take of the western. One thing the description didn't mention is that Stark, besides being a sheep farmer, is the coward of the town. He's constantly getting called out for a shot out but always finds a way to get out of it. Anna,by the way, is married to Clinch (Liam Neeson) who is the fastest and meanest gun in the west.
Judd: I wouldn't call Albert a coward, I would say he's aware that there is a better way of living than to threaten death to anyone who offends you. Like Blazing Saddles, it takes a fish-out-of-water character and puts him smack dab in the middle of a town who hates him. Though unlike Blazing Saddles, I don't think A Million Ways was as well written or well thought out. However, like MacFarlane's last movie, Ted, I think he does better when he has the opportunity to stretch out a bit and get away from his cartoons and work with real life. The humor in A Million Ways is undoubtedly MacFarlane but doesn't feel as spastic as his animated works.
Swanner: I really enjoyed this film. I liked the screenplay and really like the chemistry between MacFarlane and Theron. I liked how the script has funny lines but also gave the more seasoned actors to develop some very funny characters. Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi and Neil Patrick Harris bring more to the characters then what just scripted. The film is rated R and the "F" word is used constantly. People who saw Ted and liked it will definitely like this film.
Judd: While I thought the script was very funny, and MacFarlane fans will enjoy the film, I wish the script had been developed a little more and had more to say. When recapping the movie in the review like this, it becomes apparent that very little actually happened on screen. Boy loses girl; boy meets girl with complications; complications are resolved. The script doesn't deviate much more than that, and as you said, thank goodness for the caliber of the cast, because I think they saved what could have been a flat movie. Funny, but flat.
Swanner: I totally agree with you. I was noticing that myself. I think that's how MacFarlane thinks because all his other work is barebones with funny throughout. The movie works no matter how you look at it. It will be one I'll want to see again when it comes to home video. This is the other kind of popcorn movie. Lots of laughs for adults too enjoy.
Posted on 6/03/14 11:50 AM
Swanner: I love how every year there are little movies that show up and give me hope that summers are more than just superheroes, special effects, animated features and a Cameron Diaz sex comedy. Chef is that movie for me this year. Directed, written and staring Jon Favreau, the film tells the story of and LA chef, who gets caught in a twitter war with a food critic, looses his job and opens a food trick to keep his sanity. I've given you a bare bones description of this delicious comedy but there is so much more to the film. It needs to be devoured to be appreciated.
Judd: Boy, am I glad hammy puns and cheesy play on words aren't your bread and butter. (Boom! That's how it done, son!) You saw Chef before I did and you came back ranting and raving about how touching and wonderful it was, so I went in prepared for the worst and ready to make the movie bleed. However, this time your judgment wasn't clouded by the food and the leading man's moobs. I agree that Chef is a delightful, touching, sentimental-without-being-syrupy comedy that reminded me a lot of 2011's The Descendants in its strong script and deft direction. It's only until the very end that Chef turns sickeningly sweet.
Swanner: That's because most people like happy endings. I like The Descendants reference; both are smart movies that leave you hungry for more with good casts that have child actors that can act. I was going to use Juno and Little Miss Sunshine but I didn't want to lose what little good will I was getting from you. I remember being surprised when I realized Favreau had directed Iron Man and Elf, this really shows that he can do it all. The biggest problem I had with the film was it made me hungry. I had to hit KFC for a Double Down before I passed out from hunger.
Judd: Only you would watch a movie about good food and culinary art then head to a KFC; you're revealing more about more about yourself. The thing about Chef that I really liked, and I think exposes the wanton capriciousness of the MPAA, is the language of the film made the script very real. F Bombs were flying around the kitchen, just like it would in a real restaurant. Because of that, a very good movie about a man finding himself and reconnecting with his son, gets an R rating. Of course, this is the same problem that we had with The King's Speech. Regardless, the supporting case featured the always wonderful, and underworked Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara (this generation's Charo). There are also appearances by Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr., Russell Peters and a spot-on Amy Sedaris.
Swanner: I really liked that no one is really the bad guy here. Favreau has a bad day and looks like a schmuck...it happens. Platt writes food reviews, Hoffman is thinking about his restaurant. I'm so tired of films where someone has to be the hero and someone has to be the bad guy. People are constantly evolving and life gets in the way. I loved this movie. I call it a little film but in reality it's got huge stars and it's beautifully made. It looks like the studio thinks it is an art house film...I hope an audience finds it because this is a treat not to be missed. Best Movie of the Year.
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Judd: I agree. Overall the movie is very good. Touching without being needy or cloying - as food critic Ramsey Michel would have said. The only time the movie stumbles is at the very end, in what feels like a throwback to the Hays Code; an ending tacked on at the last minute to appease some studio hack. For me, it's hard to overlook.
Judd: *** 1/2
Posted on 6/03/14 11:49 AM
Judd: For some reason the studios don't want us to see the highly anticipated X-Men: Days of Future Past, but they are more than happy to send us to the new Adam Sandler "comedy" Blended. Starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Blended tells the story of a lovely lady who was bringing up two very lively boys and a story of a man named Jim who was busy with three girls of his own. Then the one day when the lady met this fellow... you know the rest, except it all takes place on an AFRICAN SAFARI!!!! Wait. What?
Swanner: The comparison to The Brady Bunch is obvious and if still on the air I'm sure they'd go on safari. The only thing missing was Alice. While anticipating seeing this film I had lowered my expectations so low that I almost, sort of, kind of...liked it. It was nice to see Sandler toned down and let Barrymore be funny. I did notice that with the focus on the blending of the family, the dialogue was less douchey. It wasn't trying to make 12 year old boys giggle, at was trying to sound like real 12 year boys talking and reacting to real life and not the goofy, foulmouthed world usually supplied (poorly) by Sandler and his buddies.
Judd: Grant you, Blended is not your typical Adults Behaving Badly Sandler comedy, but it is once again a shallow and poorly concealed maneuver to fund a Sandler vacation. The set was the luxury resort Sun City in South Africa. It's not as if there was a reason for them to be there, and it's not like we learned anything about the area. And while it may not have been goofy and foulmouthed, the movie was still as hackneyed as anything he's done with the children being exploited to their fullest for manufactured "Awwww..." moments.
Swanner: I didn't notice that but you're right, there was no reason to go to Africa. They could have film at Lion Country Safari and no one would know the different. The film did make Africa more interesting than just heat and snakes, but you're still not getting me there. I did notice that the writers have never worked with Sandler before which has got to help. I know there are a lot of kids moments her but you have to admit the kids were good and the emotions were real. Again, Sandler looks as out of place as ever but at least he's surrounding himself with people more talented which is something new for him.
Judd: The emotions were real?!?!? Oh Please! The only thing missing was the little girl hugging Sandler around the knees and saying, "Daddy, I wuv you!" The direction by Sandler alumnus Frank Coraci had the kids mugging and spazing like some '70s Saturday morning breakfast cereal commercial. Young Mason Reese would have fit right in.
Swanner: I know Brian is very negative about this title. He's confused because he didn't have the regular anger issues he always has after an Adam Sandler movie. I know where he's coming from, I thought I'd hate it...I wanted to hate it but I can't. Sure it's not a great movie by any means but I enjoyed myself. It's a scary thing but every once in a while it happens...Adam Sandler makes an okay movie. When I say okay, I mean it probably won't win any Razzies this year and for Sandler it's an honor just not getting nominated.
Judd: Just because this isn't the worst of Adam Sandler doesn't make this a worthy movie. The emotional moments are hammy and saccharine; the jokes are immature and the combination of sitcom writing with broad direction is about as subtle as an old vaudeville act. Playing to the back row doesn't work on a 30' screen. Not to mention the movie is about 20 minutes too long; I don't want to spend two hours looking at Adam Sandler's vacation photos.
Swanner: No Stars
Posted on 6/03/14 11:49 AM
Swanner: Godzilla first hit the movie screens in 1954. It was a Japanese film that had Godzilla rising from the radioactive waters off the coast of Japan . Two years later Raymond Burr starred in the same movie where they had added scenes of Burr playing a journalist watching the destruction of Tokyo . American studio reps figured the US audiences needed an American actor (Burr is actually Canadian) to make the film work. Oddly enough Godzilla has never become the hit it was in Japan but they keep trying. This is something like the 28th time Godzilla has roared across movies screens...will it finally work for American audiences?
Judd: Godzilla, being low-budget and foreign, has always suffered from the stigma of being a Creature Feature made for the drive-ins. Foam costumes, miniature cities, and giant moths dangling from wires have made Godzilla more of a campy, guilty pleasure than anything else. Having not seen the 1998 debacle, I think this iteration of Godzilla gives the big guy the respect he deserves, but also plays to his creature feature past.
Swanner: I was always a fan of the genre. When I was a kid these movies would play Saturday nights on Bob Wilkin's Creature Feature. The movies were even funnier with Bob tossing out barbs about the film before and after commercials. Personalities like Bob created fans for these movies so many of the older folks seeing this new Godzilla became fans of the genre the same way. I really liked what they did with the film. The modernized it without taking out too much of the camp. Godzilla still looks like a man in a monster suit and it still works. I don't want to give away too much about the film because I was pleasantly surprised with what was left out of the trailers.
Judd: I agree. Director, and relative newcomer Gareth Edwards knows that the movie is about the monsters. While I think the beginning of the movie, the setup, could have been trimmed back a bit, when Godzilla shows up on screen the movie becomes all about him - as it should be. The camerawork was steady and the images were clear. Much like last year's Pacific Rim , these guys know that when people pay to see giant monsters and robots, we want to see monsters and robots. Michael Bay and JJ Abrams take note. The supporting cast was also good, featuring Ken Wantabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Swanner: It does have a stellar cast but it's the franchise they are selling here. It's going to be interesting to see if younger audiences are going to warm up to the camp that is Godzilla. I'm hoping they do because I'd love to see Mothra back on the big screen or maybe a remake of Destroy All Monsters. I don't want to get my hopes up because they have been dashed too many times. I know in a few days we'll know if all these monsters will be accepted. But if not, I still have the originals and many of them are available on Blu-ray. A little trivia, the original Godzilla was nominated for Best Picture but lost to The Seven Samurai. Godzilla won't be a nominee for Best Picture but it is one big loud Popcorn Movie. Only regret is not seeing it at the IMAX.
Posted on 6/03/14 11:48 AM
Judd: In Million Dollar Arm, Jon Hamm plays JB Bernstein, an sports agent who, after working for "the big guys", strikes out on his own. He's got it all. A big house, a Porsche, pretty women - all, but an important client to pay the bills. About to lose his office and in a moment of desperation, JB figures out the next big untapped market is India and decides to scout cricket players to make into the next big American baseball star. Supporting cast includes Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Aasif Mandvi, Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma.
Swanner: Disney has really tried to capture the feel good sports movie genre in the last few years with Remember the Titans, Miracle, Secretariat and Invincible just to name a few. Million Dollar Arm tells a good story of a guy just trying to break out on his own and the young athletes he inspirers. It's been very successful movie model for Disney. The movies are all very well received by the audiences and this one should fit in there nicely.
Judd: Sports movies are all the same to me, and Million Dollar Arm is no different. You've got the underdog, the struggling athlete and then a secondary story where the struggling athlete has to overcome some personal drama; Million Dollar Arm doesn't deviate from this formula, and I felt it a bit tiresome. There was one point where I excused myself to visit the facilities because I knew exactly what would happen in the scene, and when I got back everything that I expected transpired. I understand there are some devices that a screenwriter can't escape, but Million Dollar Arm adhered to them seemingly afraid to deviate.
Swanner: You may be right on this but if it works it works. I mentioned it was a successful movie model for Disney. People like this kind of film because no matter how it ends it's going to be happy (even if they don't win) because we've all grown and learned something. This does give us a new world to explore as India has become the new place to set movies these days. The acting was good and the sights are new. I do know after watching this movie that will never vacation in India. The food is probably wonderful but it doesn't look like air conditioning has arrived and until it does I won't.
Judd: ** 1/2
Posted on 6/03/14 11:47 AM
Swanner: Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a happy couple with a sweet baby and their whole lives in front of them 'til a fraternity house moves in next door. Trying to get a head of the game, they introduce themselves as the cool couple on the block but get much more than they expected. Headed up by Zac Efron and Dave Franco the boys do everything they can think of after the cool couple calls the police on one of their parties.
Judd: Directed by Nick Stoller, who directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, as well as wrote the last two Muppet movies - my, isn't he prolific -- Neighbors takes the frat boy comedy and collides it with a CBS-style family sitcom. The fat dude, his gorgeous wife and their new baby. The mixing of formulas works surprisingly well. Why? Because after we meet the baby, she's tossed in the closet and only brought back at the end of the movie.
Swanner: The only problem I had with the movie was that we really weren't told who the bad guys are. I know they wanted us to side with the family but then don't make the frat guys so loveable/hot. In Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds we knew right away who the good guys were and without that things get conflicted. I know that if I lived next door to a frat house I'd hate the noise but somehow I think I'd see past that and on the other hand I hate Neighbors who complain about anything and everything you do. Other than that I had a blast.
Judd: Seriously? Are you that shallow you couldn't tell that a bunch of immature, brain-dead party boys were the bad guys? And you think you could live next to a frat house? Actually, you probably could seeing that you're practically a shut in and the only time you see great outdoors is when you're shuffling to and from your car. Anyway, I thought the script was very well-balanced between the destructive-but-funny Animal House shenanigans and the neighbors not only plotting to get rid of the frat house, but also dealing with their new life, or lack thereof, as parents.
Swanner: Right, the script was very well balanced between the two groups. I think if they made one or the other nastier I think it would have given it more focus. I'm not saying I didn't like the movie. What's not to like? Nearly naked Efron and Rogan, drugs, booze and even some fireworks...it's like your Memorial Day party but where people show up. It's definitely a movie to see again. Its box office will suffer though because kids are going to want to see this movie and have to sneak in after buying tickets to that god awful Oz movie.
Judd: The movie hits a sweet spot. It appeals to the college kids still partying and having fun, but it's also relatable to people in my age group who are starting a family and putting all those wild times behind them. There's a point in the movie where Byrne and Rogen are talking about how awesome brunch is, along with fresh ground coffee and scented soaps and I totally understood. My conversations with college friends now about lame things like mortgage rates and retirement investments. And I like it that way.
Judd: *** 1/2
Posted on 6/03/14 11:46 AM
Swanner: As the official start of summer, The Amazing Spider-Man opens promising to be the biggest movie of the summer. It is the same weekend that Iron Man and The Avengers opened, which both made over a billion dollars worldwide. So does this sequel hold up? Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) is still going through growing pains. Does he protect Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) by pushing her away or does he throw caution to the wind and just hope for the best. Not to mention, Spider-Man is getting a bad rap in the press and social media as not a hero but as a vigilante. Oh what's a boy to do?
Judd: I enjoyed the first The Amazing Spider-Man, I thought the action was great and the direction was good, but the script stunk to high heaven. The script from the first movie was full of holes and illogical plot devices that were far-fetched even for a comic book movie. This sequel keeps director Marc Webb at the helm, but replaces the screenwriters, and delivers a story that was much heavier and darker than expected, but still carries that trademark Spider-Man flippant levity.
Swanner: I don't remember the first one being so funny. It really breaks up the tons of action in the film. It's very big. The opening scenes of him swinging through Manhattan that leads into the chase. I was non-stop and seeing it on an IMAX screen doesn't hurt either. This genre was made for the big screen and superior sound. I really like the casting for the film. Garfield and Stone are excellent together and they pick the bad guys very well. The only character that bugged me was the German scientist who must have walked off some reboot of Hogan's Heroes.
Judd: The German scientist reminded me of Peter Seller's Dr. Strangelove, but he was only a minor character and not in the movie very much. I think the one problem that I had with the movie, is that I think they were trying to keep up with the multi-faceted plots of the other Marvel movies and here it was a bit much. For instance, Paul Giamatti was a totally pointless as Rhino. Electro and The Green Goblin were enough; Rhino felt tacked on and took time away from what could have gone to The Green Goblin who, unfortunately, also felt a bit extraneous.
Swanner: Yes, there was a lot going on. The multiple villains were a bit much but I think most of that was set up for the next installment. I thought the movie made me wanting more which is a good thing for this type of franchise. Will it be as big of a hit as the other films that have opened this weekend? Probably not, but it will probably be the biggest of this lackluster summer.
Judd: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is better than the Thor movies, and I think it ranks up there with Captain America in terms of quality and script. I hope that when the third installment comes they give the villains their due and add a little depth to their characters.
Posted on 6/03/14 11:46 AM
Swanner: Last night Brian and I had one of those great experiences. That's where I like the movie and Brian hates it. I know it's cruel to like such events but if I can hear Brian in pain for a couple hours...it's a good thing. The film we saw was The Other Woman. This is your standard chick flick where the wife and the mistresses all find out about each other a make the man in question pay. Think of it as a First Wives Club wannabe.
Judd: I can tell you this much, John Cassavetes, the godfather of indie cinema, is rolling in his gravel; his son Nick is responsible for this atrocity. It's obvious from the flat, hammy sitcom direction that Nick was only in for the paycheck. The intolerable Leslie Mann finds out her husband is having an affair with Cameron Diaz. They become best friends and stalk the husband, only to find out he has a third mistress. The whole time I understood why he was cheating.
Swanner: I was surprised that the director was Nick Cassavetes. I thought he was directing more art houses pieces but after checking out his filmology he's directed movies like John Q, Alpha Dog and The Notebook. So add this and you have a very mixed bag of films but all good. I'll agree it's kind of a mess but it was still plenty funny and a very attractive cast. If you watched Game of Thrones you'd understand why it was so much fun seeing Nikolaj Coster-Waldau doing comedy. He's even dreamier in modern day.
Judd: All good? Attractive cast? What the hell movie where you seeing? I already mentioned the horrible direction, but let me delve a little deeper into the cast. Leslie Mann is fine as a supporting actress. She plays the nagging wife very well, but that voice of hers is like nails on a chalkboard. After seeing Cameron Diaz stink it up in The Counselor and using her ladybits like an aquarium suckerfish on the windshield of a Ferrari, I'll never look at her the same way again. As far as attractiveness goes, the only one worth a damn was Taylor Kinney.
Swanner: Well I still liked the movie flaws and all. The women worked really well together and yes, I'd have wanted to leave Leslie Mann too if I had to hear her voice all the time. Her husband director Judd Apatow has got to be the most patient man in the world...or deaf. I think the folks that like cheesy chick flicks like me are going to like this movie. It's no 27 dresses but it is a lot of laughs and a predictable but satisfying ending.
Judd: The Other Woman is a PG-13 version of the equally abhorrent The Sweetest Thing. It's unfortunate that women-led raunchcoms are so few and far between that movies like these are even made. It's even more unfortunate that my comparison to The Sweetest Thing is going to be viewed as a good thing by some people. Women deserve better than dreck like this.
Swanner: ** 1/2
Judd: No stars