Posts Tagged ‘it’

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It: Chapter Two (2019)

September 6, 2019

It: Chapter Two (2019)

Director: Andy Muschietti (It, Mama)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Bill Skarsgard

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It? Honestly, the only thing that kept my anticipation level below epic levels was the initial reactions of the critics. A 71% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t what I was hoping for. Still, I absolutely adored the first movie and while It (2017) may not be the horror classic I initially made it out to be, it at least deserves to be mentioned with the best genre flicks of the last several years.

The audiences seem to be loving Chapter Two and Twitter is going pretty crazy over this movie – especially over Bill Hader’s performance – but I’m going to make a prediction right now: in 2-3 years, everyone is going to realize this movie wasn’t very good. Think about Avengers: Age of Ultron. Most people liked it when it first came out. I even gave it a favorable review. Nowadays, it’s rare to find anyone that liked it and most agree it’s one of the weakest installments in the MCU. I have a feeling It: Chapter Two is going to follow a similar path. Everyone is overreacting now, maybe because they are in denial, and in a few years, this movie will be universally regarded as a dud.

Because… it’s a serious slog. I can’t imagine someone being genuinely entertained by this for three straight hours. It’s soooooo long and the running time seems to be born more out of ego than out of necessity – like director Andy Muschietti and the studio think they can get away with making this some horror epic because the first movie was so successful. I mean… they are probably right. Chapter Two will probably do big business, but I think the length and drop in quality will hurt its legs over the long run and I’d be surprised if it outgrosses the first movie.

I think the biggest problem with this movie is the source material. When I revisited the novel in 2017, I was surprised at how weak the story gets when I got to the adult portion of the book as I’ve always regarded It as one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It’s just not good. I actually think the filmmakers did a laudable job of adapting King’s work in Chapter Two and I like some of the changes they made – it’s funnier and the characters are way less annoying than in the novel. For instance, I couldn’t stand the adult Richie Tozier but Bill Hader makes him the highlight of the film in Chapter Two. Actually, the casting of the adult characters is pretty solid overall. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy seemed like perfect casting, but honestly, no one is going to remember the adult versions of Beverly or Bill in this movie. Hader and James Ransone (as adult Eddie) are great though. If it weren’t for them, this movie would be completely forgettable. They arguably save the whole thing and make it worth watching.

The biggest problem with Chapter Two is that the kids made the book and the kids made the movie in the 2017 film. The adult story just isn’t nearly as good. Muschietti seems to understand that and I think that’s why we get a three hour movie here: the kids get a lot of screen time and it doesn’t really help the movie… it just makes it unnecessarily longer. With that said, any time young Eddie or young Richie are on screen it is usually a good thing. Those two characters and actors are the heart and soul of these movies.

When it comes down it, I just didn’t enjoy this movie. I guess it was okay. Maybe it will even grow on me over time because I’m so dissatisfied right now. I think it would have been a tough watch as a two hour movie and it’s an hour longer than that! I was pretty forgiving of some of the questionable CGI in the first film – mostly because the actual movie was so good – but it’s harder to ignore here. I just don’t have a lot of good things to say about Chapter Two other than praising the performances of Bill Hader and James Ransone.

Obviously, everyone is still going to go see this… especially if they loved the first one like I did. So I won’t tell you not to watch it, but don’t be surprised if you walk out feeling disappointed.

Replay Value: I’m a horror buff, so I’ll still be adding this to my movie collection… and I’ll watch it again… I’ve seen a lot of bad horror movies multiple times… but none that are three hours long!

Sequel Potential: If this movie crushed, I wouldn’t put it past Hollywood to write a sequel that doesn’t exist as a novel.

Oscar Potential: BILL HADER FOR BEST ACTOR! Yeah right. He has NO chance. I thought he was great in this, but that is crazy talk.

5/10 (Decent)

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It (2017): A Horror Masterpiece?

September 8, 2017

Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer
Director: Andy Muschietti (Mama, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: I loved It. Seriously. During the first half I wanted to stand up and yell out how much I was enjoying the movie. That’s how deliriously giddy I was. Basically all my critiques about the novel are completely absent from this adaptation and all the things I hated about the miniseries are fixed (you can read my spoiler filled reviews of those by clicking here). It’s like director Andy Muschietti and his team of writers took a nice looking statue and chiseled away until it was perfection. Okay, It isn’t quite a perfect film but it’s about as good as you can expect a horror movie to be.

The cast in this movie is borderline unbelievable. It’s one of the film’s biggest strengths. I thought the character of loud mouth Richie Tozier was frequently annoying in the book – and maybe he was supposed to be – but Finn Wolfhard (from “Stranger Things“) absolutely crushes this role, with a solid assist from the writers with some hilarious dialogue writing. Seriously, he is going to make people laugh the entire movie. And while the spirit of the character is Stephen King’s creation, Richie Tozier is a highlight of this movie because of someone else’s writing and Finn’s fantastic delivery. Hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak is another one of the weaker characters in the book and Jack Dylan Grazer makes him quite enjoyable in this movie. I was also happy with the casting of Stuttering Bill, Beverly Marsh, and Ben Hanscom, and the kids playing Bill and Bev do a good job of carrying the film. The final two kids in The Loser’s Club, Stan Uris and Mike Hanlon, sort of get reduced roles in this movie and I was pretty indifferent about it.

Can Tim Curry’s “tour-de-force” performance in the 1990 version ever be topped? Of course it can. It was brutally campy and the construction of the Pennywise scenes were horrible. Unless you have an irrational fear of clowns there was nothing scary about Tim Curry as Pennywise. Now I’m not one that scares easily and I’m more apt to find glee in a well done horror sequence than jump out of my seat in fear, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is scary as shit. If you’ve seen the trailers for this movie, you can probably already guess that though. Skarsgard is great and while there is some playfulness to his take on Pennywise, there’s nothing campy about it – it’s more along the lines of a child molester trying to lure a kid into his van with a piece of candy playful and he can switch to purely terrifying in a second. In addition to Skarsgard doing a wonderful job, he also looks great and Muschietti gives Pennywise’s presence the gravity that it deserves. This isn’t a deranged Ronald McDonald spouting one-liners on a bender, it’s pure evil personified and pretty much every scene involving the clown form of It are extremely well done.

I have basically no complaints about this movie. There were some things that were left out that I would have liked to have seen, like It taking the forms of the werewolf and the spider, or the scene with the leeches, but I think most of the changes that were made from the source material and the miniseries were huge improvements.

This is a movie about a group of kids squaring off against the town monster, but it’s also a great story about friendship, coming of age, and facing less supernatural terrors like bullies and abusive parents. I would have no problem with someone saying It is basically Stand By Me or The Goonies meets A Nightmare On Elm Street. That’s an apt description, but to label It an A Nightmare On Elm Street rip off would not only be a disservice, it would be misguided since Stephen King was likely writing his novel around the same time Wes Craven was writing the original Freddy Krueger movie.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you’re a horror fan, it’s a must watch. It might go down as a genre classic. If you enjoyed the novel or, somehow, the miniseries, I can almost guarantee this movie will make you incredibly happy. Fast-paced, totally scary, and plenty funny, It is easily one of the best times I’ve had at the movies this year.

Also, if you happen to own the 1990 miniseries, you can go ahead and toss it in the trash. There is no reason to ever watch it again now. Seriously.

Replay Value: I can’t wait to see it again. I might go again opening weekend and I will definitely add this to my movie collection.
Sequel Potential: Spoiler alert: this is Chapter One. It is a monster that reappears in Derry every 27 years and it’s no secret that these kids all come back as adults to face off again when It returns. Chapter One is a great stand alone film that pretty much wraps everything up. There is no need for a Chapter Two and the kid portion of Stephen King’s book is significantly better than the adult portion. Still, if they cast well and Andy Muschietti is involved, I will be ecstatic to see Chapter Two.
Oscar Potential: Horror movies historically get zero Oscar attention. I’m not sure It has any obvious candidates.

Grade: 8 (Must See)

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September Movie preview

September 7, 2017

A little late with this preview as I was in Hawaii for the past week.

Anticipation Meter – 5 (Very High)

It (September 8th, theaters) – It has always been one of my favorite Stephen King books and I’ve always hated the 1990 miniseries. I revisited both earlier this year in preparation for this film and you can read my review here. This is the story of a group of kids in the small town of Derry, Maine that take on an ancient evil, a shape-shifting monster that frequently takes the form of Pennywise the clown, that appears every 27 years and murders children. The book is plenty scary and the characters, particularly as kids, are a lot of fun. This film will focus on the kids and the trailers have looked fantastic. After 123 reviews, It currently has a fresh rating of 89%, which is extremely strong for a remake in the horror genre. Possibly my most anticipated film of the year – it checks all my boxes. I might even go see it tonight by myself if I have to.

Anticipation Meter – 4 (Strong)

Wind River (August, theaters) – I think this movie came out in August, but I didn’t include it in my preview, so I’ll include it here. This is a thriller set in a remote Native American Reservation, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, and written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario. Wind River has a 86% fresh rating, the trailer looked great, and one of my friends already went out of his way to message me and say it’s the best film of 2017. What’s not to love?

mother! (September 15th, theaters) – This movie snuck up on me and I’m not sure how. It’s written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, the guy responsible for Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan – all of which made my top 10 films in their respective years of release. mother! also stars my current favorite actress Jennifer Lawrence and another great actor in Javier Bardem. I don’t really know what this movie is about but I don’t care too much. The trailer is perfectly chilling and minimalist, giving an idea of the film’s tone while revealing nothing. Aronofsky does weird really well and this film looks tailor made for another Jennifer Lawrence Oscar campaign. Count me in.

Anticipation Meter – 3 (Moderate)

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Remembers Cambodia (September 15th, theaters, Netflix) – Directed by Angelina Jolie about a human rights activist trying to survive in Cambodia during an oppressive dictatorship. My wife is Cambodian and I don’t know too much about her family’s culture so I have extra interest in this film.

Battle of the Sexes (September 22nd, theaters) – Emma Stone stars as former #1 women’s tennis star Billie Jean King and Steve Carell stars as ex-men’s champ Bobby Riggs in this film about the high profile tennis match between the two players. From the directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire this movie could have some serious Oscar pedigree.

Stronger (September 22nd, theaters) – Based on a true story, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jeff Bauman, a man that lost both his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Trailer is solid and looks like a very strong role for Gyllenhaal.

American Made (September 29th, theaters) – Tom Cruise plays a TWA pilot that gets recruited by the CIA to fly for one of the biggest covert CIA operations in American history, one that reaches all the way to the Medillin drug cartel and Pablo Escobar. Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), this movie looks like a lot of fun.

Anticipation Meter – 2 (Low)

American Assassin (September 15th, theaters) – CIA thriller starring Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. Looks decent.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 22nd, theaters) – The original was better than I expected it to be. Maybe this one will be too. I’ve seen the trailer about ten times already and I can’t say I really want to see the movie.

Flatliners (September 29th, theaters) – Ellen Page and Diego Luna star in this remake about five medical students trying to uncover the secrets of life after death. Honestly, the trailer doesn’t look very good.

Anticipation Meter – 1 (Nonexistent)

Home Again (September 8th, theaters) – Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.

The Lego Ninjago Movie (September 22nd, theaters) – This would have to get pretty stellar reviews for me to go see it.

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IT by Stephen King: the 1986 novel and the 1990 miniseries

April 8, 2017

In anticipation of the upcoming film adaption of Stephen King’s classic horror novel It, I decided to revisit both the book and the 1990 made-for-TV miniseries.

WARNING!! While I usually avoid SPOILERS in all my blog posts, I am going to discuss It freely since the novel was published over 30 years ago.

I read the novel in my early teens, which was one of my greatest reading accomplishments as a kid since the book clocks in at over 1100 pages – quite a task for a young teenager. My recall of the book was pretty limited – I remembered a werewolf, a spider, the house on Nieboldt Street, Stuttering Bill, and that the book was way scarier than the miniseries, which I had already seen prior to reading It for the first time. I also remember thinking that It was my favorite book for a very long time – probably up until I majored in English in college and read a number of expertly written pieces of fiction and my overall range of literature tastes drastically increased.

Amazingly, what I did not remember was that Beverly Marsh, the lone girl in the Loser’s Club, has sex with all the boys, one after the other, thinking that doing so will somehow enable them to escape the sewers below Derry, Maine. This happens when they are in elementary school. How a teenager reading this book forgets a scene like that, I have no idea. How does Stephen King even write a scene like that? How does his publisher let him?

Revisiting the novel as an adult was much like the experience the Loser’s Club have when they grow up and move away from Derry: they all forget the terrible things that happened to them when they were kids. Aside from the few things I mentioned above, reading this book again was like reading it for the first time. The characters all felt familiar as I was introduced to them, as did a number of sequences, but a lot of it I didn’t remember at all.

I guess I should summarize the plot for those that might not know. It is the story of a group of kids that come together to square off against an ancient evil that frequently takes the form of Pennywise the clown, but can shape shift into whatever it is Its target fears the most, all while systematically picking off the children (and sometimes the adults) of Derry, Maine. This is something that happens every 27 years or so in Derry, so after an epic battle with It in the summer of 1958, the Loser’s Club, as they call themselves, all vow to return if It ever comes back to Derry. And It does, in 1985, when the kids have all grown up and become exceptionally successful adults, aside from Mike Hanlon, who stayed behind in Derry to keep watch. So they all come back to face off with their childhood monster and vanquish It once and for all.

While I adored this novel as a kid, I really liked it as an adult, but some of the flaws are way more apparent. Stephen King’s work is often criticized for not trimming the fat off his stories and that’s evident while reading It. King will frequently introduce a character, dive into a long and deep backstory, and then immediately kill that character off, all in the same chapter. While the backstories can sometimes be fun and do help develop a feel for the characters, one has to wonder if including said character is even necessary at all when King’s only plans for these people are to die. It’s like watching a bad horror movie where all these random people are picked off by our favorite masked killer, but having to watch a half hour of exposition before each murder scene.

Also, Mike Hanlon does a lot of investigating into the history of It in Derry and while this stuff is interesting and does pertain to the main story (that, historically, It haunts Derry every 27 years), a mention of why he’s looking into things and what he discovers would have sufficed just fine, but instead King dedicates what feels like at least a hundred pages to both the actual investigating sequences and to tragic events that happened in Derry in the distant past. I listened to It on Audible and I frequently tuned out for lengthy periods of time during these sequences. I just didn’t care.

I also found most of the story that occurs when the Loser’s Club are adults to be kind of grating. While the kids are incredibly likable and their story is enthralling and feels authentic, things feel way more forced for the adult group. While loudmouth Richie Tozier comes across as endearingly annoying as a kid, carrying over that exact same persona to an adult version is just plain obnoxious. With the exception of Ben Hanscom, who sheds all his excess weight and seems to have confidence as an adult, it seems like the rest of The Loser’s Club experience almost no maturity or emotional growth in the 27 years since they left Derry. Likewise, the encounters with It as kids are way more scary and fun than the ones they have as adults, although Beverly Marsh’s first adult confrontation is pretty chilling.

Finally, I am not a fan of King’s handling of where It came from. I’m talking about The Turtle and all that weird stuff that happens at the end of the book. What has been a taut, terrifying tale about a monster that terrorizes kids in a small town suddenly zooms way out and becomes a story about multiple planes of existent and ancient overlords (Gods?). Say what? If King gave no explanation of what It is or where It came from, I think the novel would still be plenty enjoyable. Probably better.

Still, It is plenty fun and these problems don’t ruin the book, they just make it clear that it isn’t quite the masterpiece I made it out to be when I was thirteen years old. It’s easy for me to point out all the things that kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but I still think It is one of the best horror stories I’ve ever read and ranks up there with The Stand as my favorite King book.

Before I move on to the miniseries, I feel I should note that Steven Weber (from the early 90’s television show “Wings”) does an AMAZING job reading this book. I was blown away really, particularly with how he handled Stuttering Bill – it’s a great performance and it really enhanced my listening experience.

Okay, so the 1990 miniseries. I hated it. I still hate it. It’s TERRIBLE. I’ve seen it three times now: before I ever read the book and immediately after reading it as a teenager and listening to it as an adult. The first time I saw it, I didn’t realize how bad it sucked, but I did after reading the book and I still do now.

Tim Curry has earned a heap of praise for his portrayal of Pennywise, and while I enjoy his work here just fine, it reminds me of Jack Nicholson as The Joker in the 1989 version of Batman: it’s a bit over-the-top and grossly overrated. When I read or hear people say that no one will be able to Pennywise justice after Curry’s portrayal, I can’t help but smirk. Of course they can. It’s not difficult to imagine a capable actor doing a better job. Curry gives a very mischievous, somewhat hokey performance that isn’t particularly scary and I think Pennywise is supposed to be way more terrifying. I think a lot of people are simply afraid of clowns and that phobia makes Curry’s Pennywise seem scarier than It actually is.

Still, Curry was pretty good casting for Pennywise and gives what is probably the best and clearly the most memorable performance of the miniseries. Everyone else is far more questionable. While John Ritter, Seth Green and Annette O’Toole have had respectable careers and don’t embarrass themselves here, the rest of the cast is filled with mostly unknowns and none of them elevated their careers with their acting in this miniseries. Almost universally, everyone is giving a cheesy performance and thus, it’s hard to take anything that happens on screen too seriously and it definitely lowers the scare factor substantially. Jonathon Brandis looks good as Stuttering Bill, but the poor kid’s ability to produce a natural-sounding stutter is nonexistent. Young Ben Hanscom actually does a good job, but he’s far more trim and confident than he’s supposed to be. I couldn’t stand the adult version of Bill Denbrough and his ridiculous ponytail. I could go on, but there is very little to like about the look of the characters or the acting in this adaptation and it really took away from my enjoyment.

Also, it’s weird that a miniseries that runs at almost three hours can feel so rushed. While the writers and editors were wise to trim off a lot of King’s fat, there is very little weight to the story. It just jumps from one scene to the next with basically no development. The ongoing feud with Henry Bowers feels like more of an afterthought than the epic battle it is in the novel. Henry isn’t all that imposing. He looks and acts more like a posturing greaser than a kid that actually becomes capable of murder. And when he returns as an adult, it’s even worse – all I could think of was Martin Short as Jack Frost. Get out of here with that.

Most of the encounters with Pennywise are brief and not scary. The miniseries fails to highlight how personal the battle between the kids and the monster is. It’s young Bill Denbrough and his group of ragtag friends against the evil spirit that haunts Derry, Maine. In the miniseries, it’s a bunch of random kids played by average actors against Tim Curry in clown makeup. And, to me, that’s the gist of why the miniseries was an incredible fail – it just feels so unbearably empty and the overall cheese factor only makes it worse.

Because I really enjoyed the book and absolutely loathed the miniseries, It has long been at the top of my list of properties in desperate need of a remake – ever since that trend has become rampant in Hollywood. With modern technology and evidence that breaking a single story into multiple movies is a viable business plan, it’s pretty clear someone can finally do Stephen King’s epic novel justice – and if the first trailer is any indication it looks like they have.

As far as I know, the film being released this September focuses on the kids and their battle with Pennywise, taking place in the 1980s – and you know what, that should be the only movie they make. As I’ve noted above, the story doesn’t work nearly as well when they are all grown up and I can only imagine a second movie dedicated to the adults will pale in comparison. I imagine the filmmakers are going to leave the weird children’s sex scene on the cutting room floor and I HOPE they don’t include the turtle and all that multiple planes of existence stuff. The trailer looks great: the tone looks serious, scary, haunting… the kids look well cast… I have high hopes for Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. There’s nothing funny or “clownish” about that trailer…

…and because of that… It (2017) is my most anticipated movie of the year!