Swanner: After the death of his parents, Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) only to find out that his uncle isn’t eccentric, he’s a warlock. Lewis convinces his uncle to teach him magic, but trying to impress a friend, Lewis does a spell that could end the world as they know it. Director Eli Roth brings his horror experience to this family film, giving it a vibe of Goosebumps or The Witches. Eric Kripke scripts from the novel by John Bellairs.
Set in a small town in Michigan in the mid-fifties, we find out the town has a past with a glut of magical people including Florence (Cate Blanchett), the witch next door, and Issac Izard (Kyle Maclachlan), the past owner of the house who happens to be Jonathan’s former magician partner and the warlock who placed the clock in the walls. The clock is a doomsday clock that is ticking away but when will this clock ring?
Roth really does a nice job creating this PG rated film. Making it light enough for kids but still entertaining for adults. It does have moments of silliness but I found myself involved in the story the same way I was with Hocus Pocus. Big stars hamming it up for big laughs and some good scares. At one point the dolls and toys in the house become animated which had me eyeballing my own collectibles once I got home…very creepy. This should find itself as a Halloween annual for year to come.
Swanner: 3 stars
Swanner: Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a Mom vlogger who befriends Emily (Blake Lively), one of the other moms with a same-aged son. Emily is a charismatic, no-filter woman. Stephanie finds this attractive and they become friends. Emily asks Stephanie if she can pick up he son after school because she’s going to be late, and her husband is out of town. Stephanie starts to worry when Emily never comes home. Stephanie goes to the police and uses her vlog for help in finding her new missing friend.
Judd: A Simple Favor is billed as a dramatic thriller and is directed by Paul Feig, known for directing wild female comedies. This combination intrigued me enough to risk viewing a two-hour movie at one of the worst theaters in town. The risk paid off, with A Simple Favor being a soapy good time, with salacious backstories and almost as many twists that went into the never ending martinis.
Swanner: I’m so glad you feel that way. It’s a comedy, it’s a thriller. It was dramatically camp, like Get Out. A very serious story, but written and directed like you would a comedy. The story at times can be a bit familiar, but the fantastic script by Jessica Sharzer and Feig’s comedic history makes A Simple Favor feel like a new take on The Stepford Wives. It really is one of the first surprises of 2018; add in the perfect cast and you have a real Oscar contender.
Judd: Oscar contender is a bit of a stretch, but I agree the cast was perfect. I’m so glad to see Jean Smart get some screen time, even if it was little more than a cameo. The movie had me hooked with the opening credits set to the tune “Music to Watch Girls By” in French. French mid-60s muzak is used throughout the film which, of course, is a bonus. The story, based on a novel by Darcy Bell, is a mix of Jacquline Suzanne, VC Andrews, Sandra Brown and every other pool-side summer delight. And best yet, Blake Lively’s costumes were enough to make me squeal.
Swanner: I loved the way Kendrick’s character got to play to her vlogger. There were times I was expecting her to give a wink to the audience, letting us know she knows were watching. It was a good time and we haven’t had that many this year. Henry Golding does a great job playing Lively’s husband. He’s on a bit of a hot streak with Crazy Rich Asian’s still playing in theatres. I don’t think Oscar contender is a stretch. It’s one of the top five films of the year.
Judd: I agree it is one of the better movies that I’ve seen this year. The script is great, the directions is spot on, and the performances are fantastic. I can’t wait to watch this again, and match Stephanie and Emily drink for drink.
Swanner: 4 Stars
Judd: 4 stars
Swanner: When I first saw the preview for Peppermint I was a bit surprised because Jennifer Garner has become everyones’ mom. It’s no different here, except instead of making kids lunches, she’s kicking bad guys butts. After seeing her husband and daughter gunned down by drug dealers, Riley North (Garner) seeks justice after the legal system gave her none.
I had forgotten that Garner had played Sydney Bristow on Alias for 5 seasons. She already knew how to be a bad ass. That being said, I was still surprised at how good she was and how she handled the action sequences as well as the emotional scenes with ease. Once Riley starts to seek her own justice I was a bit disappointed that we saw the outcome of her justice and not what lead to that body count, but I think that’s just because she had too many people to kill. Before too long she delivered plenty of ass kicking.
The film is all about Garner and she brings it. Director Pierre Morel and screenwriter Chad St. John keep things moving well with plenty of action, but never losing what drives Riley: justice. The rest of the cast is good with John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Juan Pablo Raba, Annie Ilonzeh, Jeff Hephner and Cailey Fleming. Peppermint is the kind of film that has audiences cheering, because everyone loves a good vigilante film. Good guys win and bad guys lose and in Peppermint, the bad guys lose big.
Swanner: 3 stars