Podcast: SJ 210: Big Brother; Survivor; New Amsterdam; Kidding; This Is Us; Single Parents; Murphy Brown; Modern Family; American Housewife; South Park; Murder Party; Shannon and The Clams Onion; Night School

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about Big Brother; Survivor; New Amsterdam; Kidding; This Is Us; Single Parents; Murphy Brown; Modern Family; American Housewife; South Park; Murder Party; Shannon and The Clams: Onion; Night School.

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Night School

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Swanner: Teddy (Kevin Hart) has been just getting by his whole life because he never graduated from High School. After he loses his sales job, he’s given the chance for a great “real job,” but he needs his GED. Teddy goes to register for night school only to find the kid he picked on in high school is the principal (Taren Killam), and the woman (Tiffany Haddish) he just made fun of is the teacher.

Judd: Written by Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller and John Hamburg, directed by Malcom D Lee, Night School suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen. The script is seemingly divided up into parts amongst the writers, with none of them knowing what the other is writing. With a runtime of 1 hour and 51 minutes, every writer gets his 22 minutes of story to tell, when some portions should have been cut altogether.

Swanner: You think that with such a talented cast no script could be that bad, but this is. Some scenes felt improvised. Unfinished. Written by someone that doesn’t know how to write a film. I did notice that three of the writers write for Kevin Hart, one writer is Kevin Hart and the other two I can’t believe wrote any of this script. My other big grip is that Tiffany Haddish is a secondary character in the film and that’s a big mistake, because the scenes that she was in are the scenes that worked the best.  

Judd: The acting was fine, but I don’t think either of us can really get to the bottom of how bad the script is. Everything feels like a setup without a punchline. Teddy works at a fast food restaurant called Christian Chicken that operates across the street from a strip club – no payoff. Teddy has a super smart twin sister – no payoff. Teddy’s girlfriend hates Teddy – no payoff. Teddy has a friend that’s going to get him a job in the financial sector – no payoff. At the end Teddy tells Haddish that he thinks they have chemistry (they don’t) in front of his girlfriend, which understandably upsets his girlfriend. When Haddish tells him she’s a lesbian, the girlfriend no longer sees it as an issue. What?

Swanner: The supporting cast, Rob Riggle, Romany Malco, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Al Magrigal and Anne Winters play the other Night School students. They are all lead characters and they do their best with what terrible script they’re given. Is the film funny? Yes, there are funny scenes but with the talent and even the simple storyline this could have been hilarious. #disappointed.

Judd: I was worried with the PG-13 Rating, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so bad. This movie could have been so much funnier, had someone taken control of the writers’ room and put them all on the same track. Hart produced Night School; he should have been the one to wrangle this mess. Definitely ditch Night School.

Swanner: 2 Stars
Judd: ½ star

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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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

A Simple Favor

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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