Friday, September 15, 2017

"It" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "It" as well as DVDs "Gemma Bovery" and "Mississippi Grind"  The Book of the Week is "We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays" by Samantha Irby.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "La Jetee")




 
It


A group of bullied kids living in a small town band together to fight off a killer demon clown.

The small town of Derry, Maine, has a history of missing children and it becomes personal when Bill's little brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) mysteriously disappears.

Bill and his friends are bullied and labeled as losers in their school.  Bill has a stutter, which of course is fodder for the bullies and much like "The Goonies" and "Stand By Me," or any movie starring a group of kids labeled as losers, this motley crew has to include a fat kid, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), who is the new kid in town, and a wise-cracking, bespectacled smart aleck (Richie played by Finn Wolfhard). There is also a hypochondriac mama's boy (Eddie played by Jack Dylan Grazer); a black orphaned homeschooler (Mike played by Chosen Jacobs);  Stan (Wyatt Oleff), the local rabbi's son who is stressing out about his upcoming bar mitzvah and, of course, Bill, the serious kid who is the ostensible leader ably played by Jaeden Lieberher.  But unlike past kid groups, we also have a girl, Beverly (Sophia Lillis), who has a bad reputation at school and is shunned by the other girls but who adds a quiet intelligence to our little band of losers.

They know they are outsiders and considered losers, so they dub themselves "The Losers Club."

When each of these kids starts to see visions of a menacing clown (Bill Skarsgard) who shape-shifts into their worst nightmares, they decide that they have to face their fears and defeat him. And to make matters worse, these kids are not just fighting the forces of supernatural evil, they are fighting real- life evil bullies led by the crazy-eyed, mullet-wearing Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his goons and also parents who either don't understand them or are pervy, weird and abusing them. Whew! Who knew childhood could be so scary?!

Considering how I feel about child actors, you would think I would love a movie where a murderous clown is killing off little kids, but actually, this film is kind of a mess when it comes to that part of the film.  For a horror film that is breaking all kinds of records, it was kind of disappointing.  I don't usually go to horror films but the previews and all of the hype made me want to see it so I guess I was set up to be a bit disappointed.

That doesn't mean I hated the movie but if you are a true horror fan, you might also be disappointed.  This film is more about the horrors of childhood, real and imagined, than what's really under the bed.  "It" is a metaphor for whatever "it" is that you are afraid of.  But in this film the adults and the bullies were far more scary than the clown and the various ghouls that make an appearance.  And I think that's the point.  The film comments on coming of age, friendship, standing up to your fears, loyalty and love - all good messages but those messages were just too obvious.  I like a little sublety with my horror.  And actually, I'd like a little horror with my horror.

However, the usual over-used horror clichés abound:

  • Set in a charming small town where nothing bad could ever happen, right?
  • Dark basements where the lights don't work
  • A creaky, cob-web infested old house
  • Useless adults
  • Scampering shapes in the background
  • Drippy sewers
  • A quiet scene with a sudden jolt of noise meant TO MAKE YOU JUMP
  • The victim falls down while running from the attacker
  • A bad guy who just won't die no matter how many times you hit him over the head with a shovel or stab him or push him down a well - he just keeps coming
  • and, of course, clowns.

I have to say that with my bias toward child actors, these kids were great, despite the stereotypes, especially Lillis, who is spunky and looks like a real girl. Also Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is one of the scariest clowns ever.  His mouth was perfect for the make-up.  What made him scariest was the benign, kid-like quality he had until he didn't and some very, scary teeth appeared.

Adapted from the Stephen King novel by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga (he directed the wonderful "Beasts of No Nations") and Gary Dauberman (known for the Annabelle movies) and directed by Andy Muschietti, this film takes advantage of the popularity of the TV show "Stranger Things (and Wolfhard also stars in that)," and has broken all kinds of records in its opening weekend (Best opening day ever for a horror title as well as highest three-day weekend, highest grossing Stephen King movie ever, second highest opening day ever for an R-rated film and best September opening for any genre movie), but for me it was just OK as a horror film. 

I enjoyed the first half, getting to know the kids and enjoying the camaraderie and the film was tense leading up to the finale.  I will admit that I did have my hands over my eyes several times. But then it all kind of fell apart at the end. It just wasn't that scary.  It was more of an unexplained muddled mess. For example, why were all those children floating around in the air?

But despite the ending, I mostly liked the film but what I liked, and I can't believe I am saying this, was the kid ensemble.  They were all wonderful young actors and it was their stories that I was interested in.  Their trash-talking interactions were funny and real.  So for me, this was less a horror film and more of a coming of age film like "Stand By Me," so if you are expecting a full-out, edge of your seat, screaming your head off horror film, even if you are afraid of clowns, this might be a disappointment for you. And I never did figure out what the red balloons were for.

The marketing for this film was exceptional.  After seeing the trailer, I wanted to see it and I don't usually go to the theatre to see a horror film.  But the film didn't live up to the intensity of the trailer.  I had not read the book, so as far as the story itself goes, I didn't know what to expect and I can't comment on whether or not the film was true to the book.  But I have never been one to dislike a movie because it wasn't faithful to the book.  Books and movies are two different art forms.  Likewise, I didn't see the TV miniseries that appeared several years ago either, so perhaps those of you who already know all about the book and/or miniseries won't have the expectations I had.

Oh, and you know how much I love sequels...  The film ends with "Chapter One."  So we know we haven't seen the last of that damn clown.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are afraid of clowns, this would probably be scary for you but for the rest of us this is a perfectly fine coming of age tale that just happens to have a scary clown in it. 




***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

On DVD






Gemma Bovery (2014)

A baker who is obsessed with the book "Madame Bovary" also becomes obsessed with his new neighbor whose life seems to be replicating the book.

Life imitates art in this story of Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini), an ex-Parisian who has moved to a small French village to become a baker. Martin is a bit of a sad sack obsessed with literature.  At dinner one night, he says to his son who he thinks is a bit of a dummy, "I'd rather you took drugs than talk crap!"  Martin
is particularly obsessed with French literature, especially the novel "Madame Bovary," so he is intrigued by his new neighbors - Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and Charlie (Jason Flemyng) Bovery. 
So intrigued in fact, that he also becomes obsessed with Gemma and starts to stalk her. 

Charlie and Gemma have moved from London to Martin's quaint village.  They have moved in right across the road from Martin, which gives him a bird's eye view of the comings and goings. When he finds similarities in the marriage of Gemma and Charlie to that of Emma Bovary's, the heroine in "Madame Bovary," he lets his imagination run wild. Gemma does not disappoint when she meets Herve (Niels Schneider), a handsome young man who saves her from an allergic reaction to a bee sting and the two embark upon an affair. When Martin finds Charlie burning Gemma's personal effects, Martin is able to abscond with Gemma's diary, and as he reads the diary, the story unfolds through flashbacks.

Martin is a sort of narrator and observer of Charlie's and Gemma's life together.  He quotes from "Madame Bovary" throughout the film. You've heard of "Madame Bovary," right?  That book most of us had to read in school at some time or other. But you don't need to have read the book to enjoy the film.  It's the age-old story of a bored housewife who embarks on an affair that is doomed to bring sadness and tragedy to everyone involved.

Well, now we have Gemma Bovery, spelling is a bit different but the same sort of woman.  A beautiful woman bored with her marriage.  However, the irony here is that it is Martin who is the Madame Bovary character - he is the one bored with his life, looking for something more, lusting after Gemma and insinuating himself into her life.

Gemma frequents Martin's bakery, and as he gets to know Gemma, they become friends and he offers to show her how to bake bread in a funny little scene that is reminiscent of the pottery scene in "Ghost," except they are kneading dough instead of clay. 

As Gemma pursues an affair with Herve, Martin insinuates himself into the affair and really screws things up.

Directed by Anne Fontaine with a screenplay by Fontaine and Pascal Bonitzer adapted from Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, this is a romantic comedy but a little different from the usual romantic comedies we Americans are used to.  French comedies have a different more subtle kind of humor than many American rom-coms - think Woody Allen meets Rene Clair.

Gemma Arterton is a lovely and talented actress and when comparing this to her tour de force in "The Disappearance of Alice Creed," a movie I loved, one can see her versatility as an actress. Luchini has a fantastic face.  His expressionless face and deadpan reactions are priceless and his eyes speak a thousand words.

What I love about foreign films is that because many are subsidized by their governments, filmmakers are able to explore unusual subjects like this, and unless you live near an art house, we Americans don't usually get to see these kinds of movies and that's too bad.  So many of them are sweet, human stories like this one. The film also captures the gorgeous French countryside and lovely French village and because it's a French film there is lots of sex, some bare butts and subtitles.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like lovely romantic comedies with a twist, you will enjoy this.
(In English and French with English subtitles)






Mississippi Grind (2015)

 

Gambler Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is down on his luck and needs some money fast, so he teams up with another gambler, Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), and the two go on a road trip to make that one big score.

I've come up with a new term - country noir.  That's what this movie reminded me of - two country good old boys treading into the darkness of film noir.  These two down home guys are losers and you just know something bad is going to happen.

Written and directed by Anna Baden and Ryan Fleck, the film starts out in a casino in Iowa where Gerry is gambling - and yes, Dubuque, Iowa could be considered the country.  Curtis shows up and ingratiates himself with the locals, and it also becomes clear that Curtis is a bit of a shyster.  He is charming but he's a shyster, nevertheless.  It also becomes clear that Gerry is a bit of a sad sack with a gambling problem.  He is a real estate agent and he is not a happy guy, mostly because he owes people money and they are getting anxious for him to pay up.  Gerry likes Curtis and sees him as a light at the end of his tunnel, especially as Curtis pulls Gerry into all kinds of games of chance and he starts winning.

After a night of gambling and winning, Curtis announces that he is moving on, but when Sam (Alfre Woodard in such a small role that if you blink you will miss her) starts tightening the screws on Gerry to get the money he owes her, Gerry decides to accompany Curtis and get the hell out of Dodge, er, I mean Dubuque. Curtis proposes a trip down the Mississippi River, gambling in cities along the way with the ultimate goal of a poker game in New Orleans with a $25,000 buy-in.  Curtis agrees to stake Gerry with $2,000, provided that Gerry takes them with his car and off these guys go on the classic road trip.

This is one of those "last big score" films - Gerry just needs one last big score so that he can pay off his debts and go on to live a happy life.  As he says to Curtis, this deal with either solve all of his problems or he will go to hell.

Gee, where do you think he ends up? Well, actually, there is a bit of a twist.

But in the meantime, things are looking up for Gerry and his boring life becomes exciting because of Curtis.  First stop, prostitutes.

They stop at a brothel in St. Louis and meet up with Simone (Sienna Miller).  She is also in a dead end life so she joins them.  Gerry hooks up with a young prostitute who woos him with magic tricks, and he plays the piano for her in a sweet scene that is almost jarring it is so sweet.  When there is a scene like that in a movie like this it is almost always a harbinger of bad things to come.

Next stop, Gerry's ex-wife.  He gets a yen to make amends but just can't help himself and gets kicked out when she catches him trying to steal some cash from her sock drawer.  Did I say that Gerry is a loser?

Despite one frustrating scene after another, you keep watching because you can't imagine Gerry becoming even more of a loser than he already is, and you hope he will have some sort of epiphany and get his act together.  Will he? 

And will he finally make that big score?

Ryan Reynolds has been on a roll ever since "Deadpool."  But before that he languished in romantic comedies and made some strange film choices before his super powers came out. I liked him in the romantic comedies and thought he was really handsome but of late his teeth have been bothering me.

But this movie is actually more about Gerry than Curtis, and Ben Mendelssohn, who has since starred in the TV show "Bloodline" and the last Star Wars movie "Rogue One," shines as Gerry.  The fact that I was shouting at the TV when he made bad decision after bad decision says something about the quality of his acting.

I have always liked Sienna Miller.  She is a bit of a chameleon.  Here she sports red hair and I almost didn't recognize her.  She is a beautiful actress who should be up in the echelon with a Charlize or a Sharon or a Julia.  Not sure why she isn't.  Like "American Idol," it's all about choosing the right song and I just think that Sienna hasn't had the right "song" yet.

Speaking of songs, the blues soundtrack is wonderful.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an engrossing and smart buddy picture with two really great performances.


 
 
 

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project"


216 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




La Jetee (1962)
(The Pier)


Told through a series of photos with a voice-over narration, this is a post apocalyptic story of life after WW III where the survivors experiment with time travel. 

This short film (only 28 minutes) directed by Chris Marker uses a montage of still images and voice-over narration to tell the story of a man in post WW III Paris.  He is being experimented upon. His experimenters try to send him back in time before the war to do something to avert it.  As he mentally travels back in time he becomes obsessed with some recurring images from his childhood - a man being shot on the jetway (or jetee in French) at Orly Airport and the image of a beautiful woman.  By the time he realizes the connection between the two images, it is too late to avert what is soon to happen.

The film plays dramatic religious music as the still images flash before you.  There is also a benevolent British narrator whose voice got on my nerves after awhile, and I also kept waiting for the film to get to the point which in my view it never did, but it had a strangely affecting mood that reminded me a bit of old "Twilight Zone" episodes.  Doo-do-do-do, doo-do-do-do.

However, didn't get it but apparently Terry Gilliam did because his "12 Monkeys" in 1995 was a sort of remake of this film.

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is short..., but Marker still manages to generate more of an impact than many films three times as long.  That his intentionally cold montage achieves any sort of emotional resonance validates his creativity and ingenuity, and helps explain why such an unconventional cinematic work is revered as an influential science-fiction masterpiece."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...did not get this one AT ALL!





***The Book of the Week***






We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby (2017)



Funny and sometimes jaw-droppingly honest essays about life as an urban millennial woman.

Irby is funny, poignant and sometimes way out there.  If you are squeamish about sex or bodily functions, there are some observations that might make you uncomfortable but that's the point here. She is unfiltered and unafraid to share everything about her life, and in some ways her life has a been a disaster.  She herself will admit that. So what do you do when everything goes wrong?  Why you laugh.  And she wants you to laugh along with her.

Irby is a blogger (www.bitchesgottaeat.com), humorist, and skilled essayist who reminded me of a rougher version of Roxane Gay.  Some of her essays are, how shall I say this?  A bit raunchy but she doesn't care and I have to remind myself that she is in her thirties and I am not.

I say Irby is a millennial but she is right on the cusp and probably wouldn't like me calling her that. I only bring that up to show our age gap. I could be Irby's mother.  I have children her age but for some things there is no generation gap, and she and I are very sympatico in many ways.

For example, we both can't help watching "The Bachelorette."

In, fact we get to know Irby through her filling out a questionnaire to get on the show.

We are both NOT outdoor types.

In one essay, she makes "A Case For Remaining Indoors," and I couldn't help but nod my head as she made her points.

  • "My boyfriend, the television, is inside." 
         Well we all know how I feel about TV.
  
  • "Are there enough blazers in my closet?"
        Last count, I had almost 100.
  
  • "Food just tastes better inside"
       Growing up we had a picnic table in our driveway in the back of the house and whenever the weather was nice, my mother made us drag all of the food and plates and utensils outside to sit at that picnic table to eat dinner.  Likewise, every Sunday after church it was off to a nearby lake to eat on yet another picnic table or to the beach where we would BBQ and I had to pick sand out of my hotdog buns so yes, Samantha, food tastes much better to me too, INSIDE!
   
  • "Your space, your rules."
        When you are inside, you can control things better.


We are also similar when it comes to dieting.

She says: "Dieting is crazy and turns most of us jerks into insufferable babies.  Either (1) you're a crabby asshole on the verge of tears because you are desperate for a handful of Cheetos, or (2) you are perched atop a high horse made of fewer than twelve hundred daily calories, glaring down your nose at me and pointing out how much saturated fat is in my sweetened iced tea.  Man, don't you hate a fat-skinny bitch more than anything else on the planet?  You know who I mean -- your friend who used to eat mayonnaise straight from the jar but who recently lost twenty pounds doing Whole30 because she was going through a midlife crisis and is now suddenly an expert on health and nutrition, totally qualified to rip the corn dog out of your greasy little clutches."

Yes, Samantha, I know just what you mean. I have been both of those people!

There are even more similarities between us.

Being from Chicago, Irby is a city girl but she fantasizes on whether or not she could make it in a small town in an essay titled "The Real Housewife of Kalamazoo."

Once again our TV watching tastes coincide, and as you know, I also fantasized about being a real housewife ("Retirement as a Real Housewife").  Add that to the fact that I lived several years in Kalamazoo (I am from Michigan), once again, despite our age gap, our similarities become apparent.  She lists the pros and cons of living in Kalamazoo - Pros: cheaper, people are nicer, it's pretty and life would be simpler.  Cons: could be boring, nature terrifies her and she can't be sure someone wouldn't call her the "N-word."

However, I can't necessarily reassure her about her pros and cons, but I have to correct her that Kalamazoo is hardly a small town but I guess compared to Chicago it is.

Irby also comments on love, sex, Civil War reenactments, babies and babysitting, important questions to ask yourself before getting married, applying for a customer service job and, as per the title, spending time on the computer talking to strangers rather than endure the anxiety of human interaction.

"I spent too much time trying to mold myself to fit the romantic ideals of humans who proved themselves unworthy of that effort...Never again will I be with someone who is unwilling to accept me as I am, or who has any desire to mold me into something that makes me uncomfortable."

You go, girl!

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like Roxanne Gay or just really funny and open observations from a hip young woman about pop culture, dating, sex and life itself, you will enjoy this book.


Thanks for reading!

 

See you next Friday 



for my review of  


"Home Again"  


and


The Week in Reviews

(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project."

  

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 



No comments :

Post a Comment