Swanner: On Halloween 1978, a young man named Michael Myers killed three people and terrorized a town until he was caught and put in a mental institution. After 40 years, Michael Myers escapes and makes his way back to Haddonfield Illinois to find his sister Laurie who still resides there. Laurie Strode does not live, she waits. She waits for Michael’s return so she can kill him once and for all. The Boogieman has no idea what waits for him.

Judd: The movie discards all previous sequels and is directly related to the first movie. The idea that Laurie is Michael’s sister is discarded as a myth, and Michael is nothing more than a brutal killer with a singular fixation.  The movie offers many nods to the original, with some callbacks that are obvious, and some not so obvious. All in all, it met my expectations.

Swanner: It met my expectations too. It was nice that they not only brought back Jamie Lee Curtis, but they also brought back Will Patton who was one of the cops that captured Michael originally. The film also takes a different approach. In the other film Michael is the hunter and everyone else is the prey. Here, Laurie has been waiting 40 years for him to come back and she’s ready. My biggest worry going in was that director David Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley were all part of the team that brought “Your Highness” to the big screen. Thankfully my worries were for nothing.

Judd: Jamie Lee Curtis was fantastic, and I liked the way the movie played with the idea that Laurie is a paranoid agoraphobe. Of course, the audience knows all along that she has every right to be paranoid. I also thought it was interesting that Toby Huss and Judy Greer have major roles in the movie, considering that both of them are known more for their comedic chops and animation voiceover work.

Swanner: I was glad to see they made an R rated slasher film. It’s been sad to see the genre go PG-13 over the years. Let’s hope the success of this film will show studios that horror films should be rated R, you can’t have a guy with a butcher knife, killing people off screen with no blood and expect the genre not to suffer. It was nice to be scared again.

Judd: Agreed. Halloween has the same feel and pace, which may be a little slow for today’s audience’s, but the body count is higher to make up for it. Add its John Carpenter’s themes and trademark synth work, and you have a sequel that is worthy of, and just as good as the original.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars

Judd: 3 ½ stars

Podcast: SJ 212: Survivor; This Is Us; Single Parents; American Housewife; South Park; Murphy Brown; The Cool Kids; Will & Grace; The Venture Bros; Joe Rogan: Strange Times; Astronauts, etc; First Man

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about Survivor; This Is Us; Single Parents; American Housewife; South Park; Murphy Brown; The Cool Kids; Will & Grace; The Venture Bros; Joe Rogan: Strange Times; Astronauts, etc; First Man.

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First Man


Swanner:  First Man follows the life of Neil Armstrong from 1961, where we find him working in the space program, to 1969 when he became the first man to walk on the moon. Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong as a devoted family man till his young daughter dies. After that tragedy we see him pull away from his wife and family to focuses on the Gemini and Apollo missions. Damien Chazelle (La La Land) directs from the script by Josh Singer (Spotlight) based on James R. Hansen’s novel.

I can see that the film wanted to bring focus to how hard it was for the families: with so many astronauts never coming home. Claire Foy plays Armstrong’s wife, Janet. We see her angst, but through most of the movie she’s in a house dress, nervously smoking, with only a few really good scenes. In those scenes she is very good, as is the rest of the supporting cast.

It looks like Chazelle and Singer wanted to show the personal moments for the astronauts, so when it’s time to take off, we’re inside the capsule to see how lonely and frighting it must have been. It was very effective, but for an impatient audience, it caused a lot of stirring in the seats. The film is all about Neil Armstrong and Gosling does a great job with it. I just would have liked to have seen everything just a bit tighter, and bring that 239 minutes down to an edge of your seat 150 minutes.

I do realize that most of the people seeing this film probably weren’t born when the moon landing took place. I remember the day very well. I was barbecuing dinner while my family sat glued to the TV. I grew up in a time where movies and TV were all about space, so it didn’t seem special to me. I do remember the screams of excitement, once Armstrong stepped on to the moon, coming from my house and every other house within shouting distance. I hope the 3rd act of this film gives the same thrill to those young people who only know this story as a chapter in their history books.

Swanner:  3 stars

Goosebumps 2


Swanner: Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Sam (Caleel Harris) find a book in an old abandoned house while collecting junk. After they open the book, a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy shows up.  The dummy turns out to be Slappy, an evil puppet who wants to make Halloween a nightmare for a small town. Once Sam and Sonny realize Slappy’s evil plan they get Sonny’s sister, Sarah (Madison Iseman) to help save the town.

Based on a Goosebumps book by R.L. Stine, director Ari Sandel and screenwriter Rob Lieber keep up the fun and the scares of Stine’s work. Scary enough to give it some Halloween fun but not too scary to give the intended audience nightmares. The cast is mostly made up of kids and monsters, but they do have a few grown ups: including Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jack Black, Ken Jeong, and Chris Parnell.

As I mentioned, this is a movie made for kids. So, you might find things a bit silly, but I still had fun with the film even as an adult. I will warn you that Slappy is very creepy, and for anyone that finds puppets coming to life as terrifying as I do…just keep breathing, it’s just a movie. Finally, with all the horror films that came out, it’s nice to have this kind of kid friendly fare for the family members that still collect candy every Halloween.

Swanner: 3 stars

Podcast: SJ 211: Survivor; This Is Us; Single Parents; American Housewife; Super Store; Fresh Off the Boat; South Park; Murphy Brown; The Cool Kids; Will & Grace; The Venture Bros; The Sisters Brothers; A Star is Born; Venom; and more!

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about Survivor; This Is Us; Single Parents; American Housewife; Super Store; Fresh Off the Boat; South Park; Murphy Brown; The Cool Kids; Will & Grace; The Venture Bros; The Sisters Brothers; A Star is Born; Venom; and more!.

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Swanner: After his life has fallen apart, journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), follows a lead and  finds himself accidentally becoming the host of an alien symbiote that gives him a violent super alter-ego: Venom. Now he needs his newfound powers to protect humanity from crazy billionaire looking to create a new race of human/symbiote hybrids.

Judd: Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Super Store, Santa Clarita Diet) and written by Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinker, and Will Beall, Venom plays like Deadpool-lite. The dark villainous hero with zingy one-liners; except Venom plays it safely in the PG-13 world, with very little bloodshed – especially for a monster known for biting off people’s heads.

Swanner: Yes, there was a huge body count with no blood. This was pretty tame with where it could have gone, and probably should have. Tom Hardy was good, but at times I thought he was channeling Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, with his shaggy loser beginning. Once he meets Venom, things got fun. I also didn’t hate Michelle Williams. I find her very forgettable but here, she was acceptable. It was also nice seeing Jenny Slate break into the Marvel world. 

Judd: I also thought there was something a little off about Hardy’s performance, and I place the blame for that squarely on Fleischer. It would be almost acceptable if we were accusing Hardy of phoning it in, but his performance seemed to be exactly what Fleischer wanted, and that’s where it went wrong. I enjoyed the movie, and I had fun, but it is definitely incomplete.

Swanner: That’s what I meant about Hoffman. Hardy added too much to a character that turns into creature that bites off heads. In my book Hardy can’t do much wrong, so yes, it was Fleischer’s fault. Get a better director in for part two, and that should fix everything. Venom was a lot of fun even with it’s problems. Maybe the 40 minutes cut from the film would have made a difference. I guess we wait for bluray to see.

Swanner: 3 stars
Judd: 2 ½ stars

The Sisters Brothers



Judd: Eli and Charlie Sisters (John C Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) are brothers. They are also hitmen during the Gold Rush on the West Coast. They are tasked with hunting down a prospector by the name of Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has discovered a chemical concoction capable of divining gold. Warm has befriended John Morris (Jake Gyllenhall) whom, as of the writing of this review, I can’t remember why he was a character; the movie was that good. The Sisters Brothers was written and directed by Jacques Audiard, and based on the novel of the same name.

Audiard has a long career in French cinema and is a name only recognized in America by movie buffs and critics. That is all you need to know about this movie. If you recognize the name, you will be calling The Sisters Brothers a “twist on the western genre” and an “engrossing character study of two men and their fraternal bond.” Everybody else, including this reviewer, will call the movie a grueling waste of time that uses the Western motif as a gimmick for a movie that could have taken place at any time – past, present, or future. Clocking in at just under two hours, which feels like three, the first two-thirds of the movie follow the bothers as they hunt down Warm. The last third is when we finally see something happen, and, by that time, I had completely lost interest.

I will say that while I was being bored to tears and assaulted by the grating score by the typically brilliant Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, I kept myself awake by looking at the detail in the costumes. They seemed to be extremely authentic of the period and were amazingly detailed. I will not be surprised to see an Academy nomination for Best Costume Design. However, when a viewer has to focus on the irrelevant details to escape the tedium of the plot the movie is not worth watching.

Once or twice a year, some critical darling releases a movie that causes cinephiles to line up, loosen their jaws, and prepare to to fellate (or cunnilingue, if we’re talking about Sofia Coppola) said individual, while the rest of the world is left scratching their collective heads. The Sisters Brothers is such a movie. If you fancy yourself a pretentious cinephile, you’ll take joy in calling me a plebeian brute who shouldn’t be allowed to slander “art” in such a vulgar manner; meanwhile everyone else will be thanking me for saving them $12.

Judd: 1 star

A Star is Born


Swanner: An aging rock star, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), meets a talented unknown singer, Ally (Lady Gaga), and falls in love with her. Trying to advance her career, he adds her to his shows. In the day of social media, she literally becomes an over night success.  As Ally’s fame builds, Jackson’s life spirals from pills and drugs. He’s also suffering from hearing loss and depression from watching Ally go from being all his to a star.

Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut while Cooper, Eric Roth, and Will Fetters pen the screenplay. The script is beautifully written, creating what felt like a real love story, and keeping this tragic tale true to it’s past incarnations. The music is good, but I wasn’t humming any of the songs on the way out of the theater. I know the soundtrack will grow on me.

Yes, the direction, script, music, and cinematography are all great, but it’s the acting of the leads that make this work. Cooper changes his voice and sings in the film, making him sexy and shaggy even as his fallen down drunk. Lady Gaga becomes the star in the film but also shines in her first feature film lead. Her performance isn’t just Oscar worthy it’s amazing. I expected her to play a toned down Lady Gaga till she blooms at the end. She was real and honest in her performance, which I’m sure she can thank director Cooper for. Sam Elliot pays Cooper’s brother, and could get his first Oscar nod.

I know people are saying that they can’t think of anyone but Streisand in the role, but there was a generation before that who thought that no one but Judy Garland could play the role. The film seems to be made every time you have a great actress/singer. Gaga fits that description with all the grace and talent of the women who came before her. As we enter award season, expect A Star is Born to be mentioned a lot.

Swanner: 4 stars