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.

6/10

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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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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) Review

If “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns” have taught me anything, it is not to sneer at young adult fiction. There is some genuinely sappy and seemingly toe-curling stuff written every day and it is indeed eaten up by teenage girls. Though if John Greene’s novel adaptations are anything to go by, maybe that is a fault on the boys.

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Frankenstein (1994) Review

“Thrilling horror… One to make the reader dread to turn around… To curdle the blood… And quicken the beatings of the heart.” 

This is what is spoken during the opening credits of “Frankenstein”. A quote from Mary Shelley herself, the author of what is perhaps the most famous of novels. Never before have I considered how disturbing a tale “Frankenstein” really was until I began to read the novel recently. We are filled with images of the square headed lug’s bolted head, and this image is forever engrained, but this version of the novel brings the creature back to its roots.  Kenneth Branagh stars and directs this new adaptation of one of the greatest Gothic novels to surface since the genres inception, and he does so faithfully. Much of the imagery is carried over and so are the themes and motifs, but the inconsistent narrative holds “Frankenstein” back from greatness.

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Dr. No (1962) Review

It’s been a long time, and James Bond has evolved yet stayed recognisably Bond even to this day. “Dr. No” holds the distinction of being the first James Bond film ever brought to the big screen. Any journey starts with turbulence and it ends with it too. Fortunately James Bond doesn’t look to be ending any time soon, but it had to start somewhere, and I found “Dr. No” to be slightly rocky but a promising effort nonetheless.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

What can I say? People know by this point that “The Hobbit” trilogy isn’t my cup of tea. Yeah they’re OK, but people want more than that, and they get upset when I have less to give them — which I most certainly do. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the end of the cinematic universe of Tolkien for the foreseeable future due to issues with the Tolkien estate in securing rights to Tolkien’s other works (Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.’s son, hates these films unequivocally). I’ll say this to accommodate Hobbit lovers as well as people more akin to my taste. “The Battle of the Five Armies” is again over padded — even though it is the shortest of the six Peter Jackson films — and it still oozes CGI where it isn’t always need, even more so actually. However, it is the best of the Hobbit trilogy so if you enjoyed those, best start emptying your wallets.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) Review

It is good to be back, I’ll say that much. The opening scenes of Peter Jackson’s first entry into the prequel trilogy of “The Lord of the Rings” — “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” — evokes that now decade old trilogy. It is a welcoming feeling, but “The Hobbit” novel released in 1937 was never as dark as “The Lord of the Rings” and was intended for an entirely different audience, namely children. This adaptation isn’t bad by any means, but it loses steam in the latter half due to its overlong run time and evident padding.

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