It (2017) Review

This did not turn out anything like I thought it would, and I came at this movie with two entirely different ways of thinking. One side of me retained the cynicism I had developed from the trailers, none of which managed to convince me this was going to be anything other than a standard haunted house extravaganza lacking in any real substance or coherency. Another side was coming from a place of optimism, having heard that reviews were actually calling this one a masterful Stephen King adaptation as well as a great horror movie in it’s own right. It’s never ideal to come into a movie with any preconceived notion of quality, but in this case what I saw conformed to neither. It is a movie of highs and lows competently thrown together in a manner that works, fleetingly.

I see this film as itself, not as a remake or an adaptation of a novel. I also don’t really have any attachment to Stephen King as an author, so I am viewing this purely as an effective horror experience. In many ways It is more than that, but it also feels shackled by striving for that jump scare mass appeal that makes for a fun popcorn flick. Pennywise the Clown is the chosen monster here, a being that is much more terrifying than it may initially appear on paper. Bill Skarsgård — as the clown — seems to balance horror and comedy with surprising grace, he does not play it safe. I feel the character is not going to be received positively across the board, but I was pleasantly surprised to find he did it for me. Actually, I’d say he was a superbly shocking and disturbing presence in general, one where the mere sight of him induces anxiety. I shan’t give anything away, but the way Skarsgård’s performance and modern CGI blend to create this creature was excellent, and this is speaking as someone who can be found mourning the dying art of practical effects on a semi-regular basis.

Andy Muschietti, who previously directed the creepy yet somewhat disappointing Mama, seems to know he struck gold with Pennywise. We then see the natural progression from there, which is to hammer down the main characters of the story, of which we have an ensemble cast. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Olef and Chosen Jacobs all make up the rag tag group of foul mouthed kids that are working to solve the mystery of the disappearances occurring around Derry, Maine. Bill (Jaeden) is searching for his brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) and serves as the main spur for the group to face their fears and solve this mystery. Each of the child actors here give convincing performances and they do swiftly have well established chemistry. They all felt like their own characters, with their own individual issues, even though the film could only touch on some of these issues lightly. Extra emphasis is given to the relationship between Beverly (Sophia) and her Father (Stephen Bogaert) which I think was the right decision.

Overall Muschietti does create in this film a town that feels real and kids that feel somewhat authentic. I’m something of a fan of the realism that can come from children swearing amongst each other in movies. It’s part of what makes films like E.T. remain fondly in our memories to this day. These kids seem to be going a little far though and it doesn’t offend me but it just doesn’t exactly feel natural. Also Richie (Finn) spent most of the movie just sort of annoying me with his loud mouth, but I suppose on some level it is part of the character.

Unfortunately the first act of the film is far too long, and just features Pennywise scaring each of these kids individually until they finally all sit and talk about what they are going to do about it. Whilst the design of Pennywise is creative, and I enjoyed seeing him, there is something to be said for reeling him in a bit. By the half way point we have seen Pennywise countless times and whilst it is impressive that he is still unsettling until the conclusion, I can’t help but feel he becomes somewhat stale in the middle section of the film. Also despite characters defying logic to wander off alone is a common horror trope, I have never noticed it as much as I did here. I felt like I was going to blow a gasket if I had to watch one more character run away from the group. This happens even after they verbally confirm with one another that being alone is what gets them killed, maddening.

The bottom line is that the movie is scary, in a creepy sort of way. It establishes early on that it isn’t going to pull any punches just because the main cast are children. I felt a true sense of danger throughout which is important in creating a good horror film. The jump scares weren’t as obvious as in some movies though I can’t say they were exactly hard to spot either. I had fun while the movie was getting me on a pure popcorn basis. The attempt to juggle multiple story lines is what holds this one back. Muschietti has done it considerably better than many could, but it still prevents an efficient scare fest from being just that.

There is so much potential here, and because of that I look forward to the next installment which is no doubt coming. This is an improvement on Mama but it is so tonally messy that the great beats are dragged way down by the general messiness of it all. It’s a shame, but it stays afloat.



The Emoji Movie (2017) Review

Those who know me, will likely think I saw this for a laugh. The Emoji Movie is being unanimously slammed by every critic currently living, potentially a few more, and I did know this before going in. I expected it to be bad but that doesn’t mean I wanted it to be. I am totally comfortable with liking a movie everyone else dislikes, why wouldn’t I be? I’m comfortable with my own opinions and don’t require validation, as satisfying as that can be. I like all of the Matrix movies, I enjoy Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes remake and I even think the World of Warcraft movie was pretty decent! Seek out hate and you’ll find it, so I sat down in the emoji movie aware of public opinion, but quietly and internally hoping for a satisfying experience. I put more effort into making this movie good than anyone involved in production did.

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Baby Driver (2017) Review

Baby Driver is a film of absolute purity. While leaving I tried to think of a witty way to describe it. I settled on cocaine, thought it was good enough, wrote it down, posted it, moved on. I told my friends that I loved it, but I wouldn’t be able to watch it again any time soon. There was just something about it that stunk of a one-and-done affair, call it the come down? The next day I felt it calling in the back of my head as I told my family about it and discussed it with friends. The day after, I was longing for it even more. Watching the first five or so minutes online, trailer after trailer, seeking that same buzz again.

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) Review

I think ‘Resident Evil’ is a fair assessment of the situation at this point. The sixth live-action film in this franchise since 2002 which hasn’t actually been able to achieve a modicum of quality since that first installment – and that’s being generous – ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter promises to sever all ties with a franchise that feels as though it has just sort of always lingered in the background. Or at least I thought it did.

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The Mummy (1999) Review

I don’t think anyone is actually trying to convince me that Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy, a soft reboot of the 1932 flick with Boris Karloff as the titular Mummy, is a tightly crafted high-quality production. In fact I doubt many people even went into this expecting that, the trailer’s from back in the day evoke the tone of the film well, minus the constant banter between the cast. Growing up I was never a fan because I took a childish dislike to Brendan Fraser that meant I denounced these movies before I even took a peak. I don’t know why — I think it was his hair — God I hated him.

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Wonder Woman (2017) Review

Wonder Woman is the movie fans of DC comics have been waiting for since Christopher Nolan departed from the Batman Franchise in 2012. It also feels different enough from other superhero films to feel enjoyable without being truly refreshing. Logan has been and gone, and if you wan’t a superhero movie that actually has something new to offer, then see that. Wonder Woman works as a welcome refinement of tropes we know and sometimes love, and the addition of a female lead for the first time on the big screen from DC or Marvel is very much welcome, though rather than feeling revolutionary feels like a natural progression. That said, it is hard to not revel in sheer joy that someone finally had the balls to take the helm and show that Women can be just as heroic as men (and in this case, significantly more so).

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

There’s only so long you can stare at a screen before something has to appear on it, so I’ll open with what comes to mind then build from there. Scale, widespread. Sets, tangible. length, overt. effects… effective. characters, mixed bag. Overall what we get from director Gore Verbinski’s first “Pirates” film is an effective adventure that struggles to justify it’s length but undeniably tries admirably to do so, in the end being a truly satisfying experience.

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