Podcast: SJ 164: So You Think You Can Dance; American Gothic; Difficult People; Big Brother; The Oroville; Marc Maron: Too Real; American Assassin

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about So You Think You Can Dance; American Gothic; Difficult People; Big Brother; The Oroville; Marc Maron: Too Real; American Assassin.

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American Assassin


Swanner: Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) and his fiance are vacationing at a lovely seaside resort when there is a terrorist attack on the beach. Mitch’s fiance is killed and Rapp loses it. He becomes obsessed with seeking revenge on the people who attacked that beach. While trying to break into the terrorist cell, Rapp is caught by the Americans. Using his rage to their advantage,  he is trained to be an assassin by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a CIA Black Ops team leader. Once on the team, Hurley and his team are sent to the middle east to stop Iran from getting plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

The film is well directed by Michael Cuesta who keeps a quick pace going; so much so that when there are plot holes, we’ve already moved past them. I liked the script for the fact that I always knew what was happening all the time; except for the times they were heading for a twist.  Keaton actually pulls off this tough guy role by kicking Rapp’s ass early on in the film. O’Brien does a good job as the hell bent, revenge seeking assassin. I wouldn’t say they had a good chemistry, but they had something that pulled me into the story. Overall, the film has a very good cast with standouts Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, and Taylor Kitsch.

Recently, all the action films coming out have been over the top and almost campy, which works for me most of the time. American Assasin is more of a by-the-book thriller. I forgot how a good action thriller can be. The film is rated R, mostly for the violence which gets extreme and very scary at times. If the film does well, I think we could see sequels to this film like we did with the Bourne films and I’m good with that.

Swanner: 3 stars



Swanner: Based on a Stephen King novel, It follows a group of teenagers who are trying to find out why the kids in their town are disappearing. After they have all had the vision of a menacing clown that tries to lure them to the sewers where it lives, they look further at the history of their town to realize that this happens every 27 years, and has been happening for centuries. First made as a mini series in 1990, director Andy Muschietti does not hold back on bringing the scare to this big screen adaptation.

Judd: It stars Jaeden Lieberher (St Vincent, Midnight Special), Bill Denbrough, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Eddie Kasbrak as our Losers and Bill Skarsgard as the iconic Pennywise. The movie plays like an R-rated Stand By Me. A much longer, louder, less engaging Stand By Me.

Swanner: It’s not surprising since Stand By Me was another King story. If you were better versed in King you would have noticed a lot of different pieces from other novels easter egged in the film. This is about summers really. When you didn’t have the distractions kids have today. Where a whole summer was looking for monsters. The difference for these kids is the monsters are real. The character development is wonderful because most people will finds themselves as one of the characters. So, when something happens to your character, it’s double scary. By the way, Stand By Me was rated R.

Judd: Well thank you for correcting me and publicly discrediting me, which renders any further point I try to make moot. The movie was too long, too loud, and Pennywise wasn’t scary.

Swanner: This has always been one of my favorite King stories. I like that the kids realize it takes all of them concurring their fear to fight a monster. A lesson everyone should learn today. I think the writers and the director knew what they were doing and how to handle Kind’s work. Pennywise was terrifying to everyone but you, Brian. As good as the kids are in the film, Bill Skarsgard is the real hero. He took an iconic character and made him different but kept the clown true to the book. This is definitely one of the best Stephen King adaptations and will hopefully spawn more.

Swanner: 4 Stars

Judd: 2 ½ stars

The Villainess


Swanner: The film starts from a first shooter position: as someone is trying to either find their way in or out of this building. Leaving a long trail of bodies along the way, we finally see that Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim) is the assassin. In flashbacks, after seeing her father killed in front of her face we see that she has been trained as an assassin from childhood. Now, she has been placed as a sleeper cell, but as her world starts to normalize, two men enter her life that change everything. Byung-gil Jung both wrote and directed this amazing film, along with co-writer Byeong-sik Jung.

Right away I’m reminded of my favorite female badass, Emma Peel from 1960’s The Avengers. She was beautiful and deadly and dressed the part. Sook-hee has the same look and swagger. Although Peel didn’t have the baggage that Sook-hee carries, both can get the job done, while barely breaking a sweat. I’ve always been a fan of the female action protagonist especially in the past few years with Uma Thurman, Charlize Theron, and Sigourney Weaver paving the way. They made a female hero or villain a more common thing.

I also noticed that I found the film visually stimulating. I wanted more. The first sequence I mentioned earlier, actually had me reminding myself to breath. If there was a moment of quiet conversation, I found myself craving the next mass killing. There are moments where the film blurs the line on who’s good or who’s bad. These characters are all pretty much bad people, but Director Jung reminds us that Sook-hee, although flawed, is our hero. In this revenge film, we know everyone she kills deserves it because they’re keeping her from finding the one who killed her father. For anyone who loved Kill Bill, John Wick, or Atomic Blonde you will love The Villainess. Just don’t do her wrong.

Swanner: 4 stars

Goon: Last of the Enforcers


Swanner: The definition of a goon is a hired thug. In hockey, he’s the guy that spends a lot of time in the penalty box. He’s not the best player, but he will certainly try to take out the best player on the opposing team. Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a goon. After years of hard fought hockey though, he meets his match when he’s beaten up by Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), an up and coming player. After that beating, Doug’s pregnant wife asks him to stop playing hockey: now that he’s got a wife and child to consider. Now Doug has to decide between family and team.

Based on the book Goon by Adam Frattasio and Douglas Smith, and the 2012 film of the same name, this sequel continues to follow the characters from the original film bringing back the original cast. Director Jay Baruchel and co-writer Jesse Chabot keep things light and funny even though the film can be heavy and very violent at times. The film feels like a labor of love. It must have been a fun set to work on. That really comes across on screen. The film is a bit awkward and clunking, but that’s actually part of the charm.

The film opens this week in limited theatrical release and also on pay per view. You’ll be able to rent this film on iTunes or Vudu and watch it on your smart TV, Pad, or phone. There have been many films opening this way, but with the success of the original film in the rental market, Goon 2 could have easily handled a larger theatrical release.  Whether in theaters or at home, fans of the original will enjoy this second chance to visit old friends. The rest of the cast is terrific including Alison Pill, Elisha Cuthbert, Liev Schreiber, Kim Coates and T.J. Miller. The film is rated R for language and violence.

Swanner: 2 1/2 stars