Hustlers tells the true story of a group of women, most of whom worked together at a strip club, that take advantage of past clients who most just happen to be Wall Street big shots post-2008 crash. Desperate to pay bills and keep up their lifestyles, they come up with the plan to drug the men and drain their credit cards. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star as the brains of this crime family. Lorene Scafaria writes and directs this feature based on Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine article about the crime.

The film places its viewers on the wrong side of the law as these women convince themselves and us that their victims deserve what happens to them, since they were the ones that brought down Wall Street. Even as they start the drugging, it still feels deserved, especially as the burn from the crash still shows in our shriveled 401K’s. The story is played out as Wu tells their story to a journalist (Julia Stills).  Scafaria takes into this gritty world, painting it as glamorous as anything from Scorsese or Coppola.

Jennifer Lopez gives a raw and real performance creating Romona, the stripper who had claimed her share of the pre-crash riches but still wants more, and Constance Wu as the up and comer who makes us want to see these women succeed. Taking place years before the “Me Too” movement, these women were making men pay (literally) for their crimes well before the rest of the world had caught on. The film has a great look and feel, and rated R for obvious reasons. It’s about time to see a story that’s not about men getting away with whatever they want. The ladies get their chance at the big payoff even if it ends in disaster.

Swanner: 3 stars


Podcast: SJ 250: Big Brother; So You Think You Can Dance; Songland; Righteous Gemstones; Good Eats; Carnival Row; It: Chapter 2

White Background LogoSwanner and Judd talk about Big Brother; So You Think You Can Dance; Songland; Righteous Gemstones; Good Eats; Carnival Row; It: Chapter 2.

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IT: Chapter 2


Swanner: After 27 years, all the kids, now grown up, get a call from Mike Hanlon, telling them that IT has come back. Yes, Pennywise the clown has started his killing spree again. Mike asks all the members of “Loser Club” to come home and kill the clown once and for all. After 27 years most of the group had forgotten about what had happened earlier, but without hesitation, all return to Derry Maine to face the the fears from their past. Well, almost all.

Andy Muschietti directs this final chapter of Stephan King novel. Two years ago Muschietti brought us the first half of the story proving that a horror film can be epic in scope and story, giving the first installment the largest opening and overall box office for any horror film in history. IT was originally made as a TV miniseries in 1990, and was a big success with Tim Curry starring as Pennywise the clown. The novel was over 1,100 pages so bringing IT to the big screen was going to take at least two movies to do it. This final chapter has a running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes, and Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman make every minute count. It’s never boring, and it’s never slow.

The cast from the first film work in flashback while the grown-up versions tell this final story.  Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader lead the cast. What I find amazing about this adaptation is that it’s complete. From the first film to this current film, it feels like nothing has been cut or removed to make the film shorter for theaters. The whole story is there. Muschietti has done what some of the great directors have not, got Stephan King right. It may take 5 hours to do it, but IT will be looked back as the film the changed the way horror films are thought of.  IT is a Masterpiece.

Swanner: 4 stars

Good Boys


Swanner: Three tween boys try to figure out their lives during that last year of grade school. Max has become girl crazy, while Thor is all about his singing, and Lucas isn’t ready to change yet. When Max is invited to a party with girls and kissing, he gets the other two invited as well. Now the boys have a day to figure out how to be cool and how to kiss girls. This is a common story in boyhood and definitely one we all live. Good Boys tells the story of going from boyhood to manhood. And it does it fucking hilariously.

Judd: Good Boys was written by Gene Stupnitksy and Lee Eisenberg who have teamed up before for Year One and Bad Teacher and both with producer credits for man for many great – and not so great – adult comedies, and this is Stupnitksy first time directing a feature film. The laughs come frequently, but at the end of the day, I’m not sure this is one that I would want to see over and over.

Swanner: Good Boys is this summers Girl Trip or Bad Moms. It’s funny and showcases a group of people who usually don’t get to have this kind of fun in films. The film keeps crossing the line of what’s appropriate for tweens. It’s what I expect from producer Seth Rogan. If you’re going to make a comedy about the angst of being a boy in today’s world, I want Rogan a part of it. The three boys…I’m sorry, the three men playing the leads are all well cast and deliver big laughs. I know people are comparing Super Bad, another Rogan project, to this film and they’d be right to. It’s about a couple days in a crucial time in a boys life. This film can’t get as nasty as Super Bad but they sure kept trying. 

Judd: I hate to write disparagingly about the movie, because I did enjoy it, but the whole movie is a single joke carried throughout. Boys on the cusp of puberty encountering sex-related situations (with some drugs thrown in for good measure) that they’re still too innocent to understand. A little diversity in their encounters would have given Good Boys longevity instead of being a funny, yet disposable, late summer movie. 

Swanner: To us most movies are disposable. The fact that this film is hilarious and under 90 minutes is outrageous. It’s August and you’re being picky…who are you?  The only flaw I can see with the film is that the audience the film is about can’t see the film. Doormen are going to be pulling out a lot of tweens out of the LOL comedy.

Judd: I agree, and this movie is going to be the “naughty movie” that the “cool parents” will rent for boys who still have sleepovers.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars
Judd: 3 stars