2017 Version of Stephen King’s “IT” floats to New Heights

Hello there, bloggers! I have returned from a long hiatus from penning my 80’s movie reviews. For my latest critique, I  have chosen the recently released second adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel “It” as a “Pre Halloween Review.” Set in King’s typical imagined town of Derry, Maine, it follows a shape-shifting alien who takes the form of a creepy clown named Pennywise the Dancing Clown or “It” who stalks through the town, luring, tormenting and killing young children.

“It” received a two part miniseries in 1990, which centred on seven misfits known as “The Losers Club” as they bond together to take down Pennywise, and meet up twenty seven years later for the same purpose after the child killings continue. In my opinion,  that movie was alright, but wasn’t particularly scary ,with slightly dated special effects. The story is stronger in the first half then in the second, with the child actors generally delivering solid performances. However, the adult scenes seemed less than impressive, with the actors giving unintentionally funny deliveries. The only true consistently great thing about the miniseries was the always terrific Tim Curry as the clown in question.

The remake only focuses on the characters as kids, and updates the childhood portions  from 1958 to 1989. In the deeply chilling opening scene, little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) goes outside to play with a paper boat his beloved brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) made for him, only to disappear without a trace after an encounter with sinister clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) in the sewers. A few months later, Bill, in denial about his brother’s death, starts to be plagued with eerie visions. He bands up with six other teenage outcasts, consisting of brainy newcomer Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), pretty Beverly (Sophia Lillis), loudmouth joker Richie (Finn Wolfhard),  smothered Mama’s Boy Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), rational Stan (Wyatt Oleff) and homeschooled Mike (Chosen Jacobs), who have also run afoul of Pennywise. They come to realize that all of the killings lead back to the basement of a spooky old house, where Bill vows to take down whatever killed Georgie, once and for all…

Even though I’m mostly indifferent towards the vast majority of horror films, “It” ended up being better than I expected it to be. Under Andy Muschietti’s direction, this adaption manages to actually be unsettling and jumpy. Bill Skarsgard is legitimately frightening as Pennywise. Unlike Curry, who was more of a comical clown than a threatening one, Skarsgard aims for a more subtle approach, which is more effective manner you’d expect of a murderous killing clown.

The child performers especially added to my enjoyment of this movie. I continue to be pleasantly marveled by the sheer caliber of young actors in Hollywood nowadays, thanks to the popularity of “Stranger Things” (incidentically, both of them feature Finn Wolfhard as a cast member). All of the principal cast shared fantastic chemistry together, and it’s easy to tell that they’re close in real life.

Although all the core ensemble cast were excellent, a few of them really stood out in my opinion. These standouts include Sophia Lillis as Bev, who is dealing with some messed up family issues from her horrible home life, Jack Dylan Grazer as the dorky, germ phobic Eddie, and Finn Wolfhard as Richie, the foul mouthed joker of the pack. For those who are used to seeing Wolfhard as the sweet, soft spoken Mike from “Stranger Things”, it can initially seem like something of a culture shock. But many of Richie’s quips made me crack up, particularly one about Bev bearing a resemblance to 80’s teen icon, Molly Ringwald.

Although marketed as a horror film, a core theme of the movie revolves around the kids coming of age, and realizing that their childhoods and their innocence are well and truly over. Pennywise exploits this, as he torments the group by morphing into their greatest fears (a leper for germ hating Eddie, a torrent of blood for Bev, who fears her impending womanhood, while Bill keeps being plagued with visions of Georgie).

If I did have to issue some minor nitpicks, it would have to that some of the jump scares felt a little forced and cliched. Also, some of the bullies harassing the main characters seemed very one dimensional and flat, since their only apparent function was to serve as generic antagonists.

All in all, “It”(2017) earns a rating of 4 out of 5 stars from me. It’s a perfect way to kick off the Halloween season before it arrives, so it’s worth checking out if you love a good scare! I’d also recommend watching  the first series of “Stranger Things” in preparation for its second season, due out next month!Plus, a second chapter of “It” is confirmed to be in the works, set for a 2019 release date.  Happy Watching!

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“The Princess Bride”-An Inconceivable Fairy Tale

Love is in the air, as we have reached one of my favourite holidays of all time- Valentine’s Day! And what better way to mark the occasion than to view a romantic movie? And if the latest “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie doesn’t quite cater to your idea of “romance”, then perhaps “The Princess Bride”, Rob Reiner’s 1987 adaptation of William Goldman’s novel of the same name, can be of some assistance. While some male members of the audience may be instantly turned off as soon as they hear the title, believing it to be a girly “kissing” story, it’s more about more than just “a princess bride”. It’s got elements that will keep young boys satisfied too, such as pirates, adventure and revenge!

We start off with a grandfather (Peter Falk) settling down to tell his sick young grandson (Fred Savage) a bedtime story. The tale he weaves tells of Westley (Cary Elwes), a lowly farmhand who works for the family of Buttercup (Robin Wright), whom he loves. When she realizes that she reciprocates  his feelings, he leaves in order to make his fortune so that they can get married. However, she hears that Westley’s ship has been attacked by by the fearsome Dread Pirate Roberts, with Westley being presumed dead. Resigning herself to the loss of her one true love, Buttercup doesn’t resist when vile Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon) chooses her as his intended bride, with the hidden agenda of murdering her in order to profit from her death.

Buttercup gets kidnapped by a trio of outlaws- Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a Sicilian mastermind who greatly overestimates his own brilliance, gentle giant Fezzik, (Andre the Giant), and dashing Hispanic swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), who wishes to avenge his father’s murder at the hand of six fingered swordsman, Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Shortly afterwards, they encounter a mysterious masked bandit known as the Man in Black, who is determined to rescue Buttercup…

“The Princess Bride” was simply a joy to watch. I hadn’t seen it since I was about 8 years old, and I remember being transfixed by the fantastical elements and sets. The characters themselves are immensely memorable. The villains are entertaining without being too hammy or over the top. The cameo appearances by notable celebrities contained no shortage of jokes. One of my favourites includes  British comedian Peter Cook as the “Impressive Clergyman” who mangles phrases such as “Mawage” and “Twue wuv”. It simply has to be seen to be believed! Plus, Billy Crystal, unrecognisable under make up and prosthetics appears in one short sequence as medicine man, Miracle Max, with Carol Kane as his nagging wife, Valerie.

Another thing I should note about this movie is that it’s incredibly quotable. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s almost  guaranteed that you can recite lines from it at random. Some of these include “as you wish” , “Have fun storming the castle” and “Inconceivable”. But the most famous quote possibly has to be (all together now!): “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”!

One aspect of the story that I didn’t expect to enjoy was the framing device between the grandfather and his grandson. Usually when a movie’s main narrative is depicted as one character telling it to another, it can get a little jarring to be pulled out of the action just to show the character’s reactions to the events at hand (as seen in “The Notebook”, Reiner’s own “Stand by Me” and virtually any episode of “How I Met your Mother”). Not so much in this case.  The cutaways to Savage and Falk flowed naturally, and didn’t attract attention away from the main story. If anything, they only enhanced them.

“The Princess Bride” earns a full distinction of 5 out of 5 stars from me. It’s one of those classic movies that almost everyone can remember being a staple of their childhoods, and I’d definitely recommend showing it to younger kids. (And yes, there is some kissing involved!) Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!