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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2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) Review

I left “The Fast and the Furious” eager for more, which surprised me enough. I now leave “2 Fast 2 Furious”, the sequel to that brainless gem, with remorse and indignation. My wrongdoing was apparently to allow myself to be filled with optimism again which I haven’t done since I saw “Godzilla” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” over a year ago. The indignation spawns from how unfair it is that John Singleton, the director of “Boyz n the Hood” which bought him an Oscar nod for best director and best screenplay, fails so spectacularly at a formula that seems so simple. It is mind numbing to think that a movie so similar to its predecessor could be so much worse. Fast cars I can find anywhere, the job of the Director is to convince me that cars smaller than my hand travelling from one end of my screen to another are really going very, very fast. The cars are fake and so they feel fake and any sense of speed that would be derived from the use of an actual real life vehicle (shock! horror!) is left in the CGI dust.

 
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The Fast and the Furious (2001) Review

“The Fast and the Furious” is a whirlwind of simplistic virtues. With the release of the seventh movie of the franchise I decided to undertake the task of watching the previous six movies. I am a longtime sufferer of sequel syndrome and refuse to watch a movie without having seen the previous, it’s an incurable affliction. So here I am, starting at first base and just now realising that this analogy will only apply to a quadrilogy, but I digress. As simple as it is, “The Fast and the Furious” is sufficiently stylish and vibrant enough that it becomes easy to appreciate how Rob Cohen brings these elements together. There is nothing new here of course, but these cars go really, really fast.

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Cinderella (2015) Review

I’ve watched the previews; seen the trailers and read the reviews. Many of them say the same thing in their own unique order: ‘I had absolutely no desire to see “Cinderella” when it first came to my attention’. Who can blame them? There’s an inescapable cast iron ball of assumption attached to the ankle of “Cinderella” that can be directly attributed to recent attempts such as like “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”, “Mirror Mirror” and “Alice in Wonderland”. My opinions aside, the general reception of the modern movie adaptation of the classic Disney fairy tale is fairly mute. Then comes “Cinderella”, somewhat unannounced in the years first quarter, to show those movies how its done. Buy your ticket online so that you aren’t dissuaded by the “G” rating, the glitter and — In what will be your most trying test — the little girls dressed in frilly blue dresses that threaten to make you think better of yourself. “Cinderella” is a light but nonetheless enjoyable film that may be somewhat forgettable for playing it safe but is a great deal of fun without a talking rat in sight.

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Cast Away (2000) Review

“Cast Away” is in some ways a pseudo-bottleneck movie, it removes something that would usually be considered crucial to the smooth operation of any movie, characters. Or at least for the most part, before our protagonist washes up on the unnamed island we see him propose to his fiancé whilst furiously trying to rearrange work schedules to be there for her. It is the island though, that is the soul of “Cast Away” and I have huge respect for Robert Zemeckis who has managed to create a lengthy and consistently engaging movie using almost just the dedication to acting demonstrated by Tom Hanks and his heartfelt method of film making.

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Casino (1995) Review

The Mafia is the most interesting crime organisation out there, and Martin Scorsese understands this as well as the Mafia itself all too well. He knows that the inner workings of the Italian crime family is fascinating to those who avidly pursue the knowledge of what goes on under the surface and even more so to those who blissfully ignore its ethereal presence. It is completely inappropriate that I am reminded of the vampire council in “Blade”, but regardless, I am. An organisation that is everywhere but never seen, and have their blood soaked tendrils in everything. The vampire council requires money to get blood, but the Mafia require blood to get money.

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District 9 (2009) Review

It’s nice to visit an old friend again. I’ve been telling people to watch “District 9” for years now, ever since I watched it with my uncle at the ripe old age of 14 or so. It was nice to pick it up again and finally visit what I’ve been telling people is one of my all time favourite science fiction films. I’ve watched a lot more since then, and I can now recognise that “District 9” isn’t as great as I perhaps made it out to be, but for the most part the intriguing plot and the lack of concrete information we receive about the ‘prawns’ keeps the film engaging until we reach the film’s slightly weaker final act. In essence, I still feel there is a lot to like about Neil Blomkamp’s “District 9”, despite it’s diminishing returns upon my second viewing.

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