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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Suicide is Painless? My Two Cents on “Thirteen Reasons Why”

Greetings, bloggers! By now, the majority of the world has binged watched the new Netflix show “Thirteen Reasons Why”, based on the 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher. Released on March 31st, and dealing with teenage suicide, the show instantly became popular, but just as quickly, sparked up a ton of controversy. It deals with not just suicide, but also bullying, self harm, sexual harassment, consent, sexuality, grief and rape. I was on the fence as to whether or not I was too late to share my thoughts on the show, but as I have some topics to bring up, I figured that I might as well jump on the bandwagon. As always, if you disagree with me on any of the topics, it’s perfectly fine, as it’s just a case of differing personal opinions. Also, I’ll be discussing some plot points in detail, so spoilers abound!

The show focuses on amicable high school student, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), as he tries to deal with his feelings following the aftermath of the suicide of his classmate and crush, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Before she passed, she recorded a series of 13 cassette tapes . Each tape chronicles the 13 people who triggered Hannah’s decision to take her own life. And Clay is one of them.

The tapes are passed from person to person, in a chain letter format. As Clay listens from Tape 1, Side A to Tape 7, Side A, and follows Hannah’s clues, he soon uncovers dark secrets about the students in his school, and the sinister lengths they will go to keep him quiet…

First, let’s mention the positive elements of the show. I enjoyed many of the flashback scenes, as they really fleshed out the characters, and explained the motivations behind many of their actions. The best flashbacks featured Clay and Hannah together, as their interactions were typically sweet and genuine. Hannah and Clay’s friendship is expanded more here than it was in the original novel, where they were distant acquaintances. They are depicted as having a closer banter here. Although Clay liked her, he held back admitting his feelings for her due to her exaggerated rumours about her alleged promiscuous reputation. In the present day scenes, Clay tries to seek out justice for Hannah, as he grows more unhinged while listening to the tapes.

Another positive that I wish to mention is the addition of story lines. As the book takes place over the course of one day, we really only get to hear Clay’s and a few other’s reactions to the tapes, and don’t get to see  how events play out afterwards. Here, we get to see Hannah’s distraught parents (Kate Walsh and Brian D’arcy James) come to terms with their daughter’s death, as they bring up a lawsuit against the school for not doing anything to help her when she was alive, and the many of the kids featured on the tapes trying to stop Clay from releasing the information to the public to save their own skins. These reactions helped to project the story with a dose of realism, and helped to embrace the repercussions behind their actions.

Now onto the negatives! As you can probably guess from a show about suicide, the mood is somber and bleak throughout, with melodrama added for additional angst factor. Many of the “subjects” of the tapes are downright awful people, adamant that they did nothing to warrant the blame. However, a select few do feel genuinely remorseful or try to atone for their actions. In fact, one culprit feels so overcome by their role in Hannah’s death that they end up attempting suicide themselves, with their fate left ambiguous by series’ end.

In one of the last episodes, viewers find out what Clay did to end up on the tapes. It transpires that unlike many of the others, his reason didn’t plunge her deeper into suicidal notions, but she still feels she owes him an explanation for acting weird at a party they attended. His only “crime”, so to speak, was exiting the bedroom when Hannah suddenly freaked out during a make out session, and she yelled at him to leave, as she recalled other traumas that had happened beforehand. Clay feels that had he stayed, Hannah might have lived. In my opinion, there was nothing that he could have done to help her, since she was so far past the point of saving. In a realistic sense, nobody in that situation would have stayed, and although Clay tried his best to console her, it was ultimately no use.

One thing that bugged me was Hannah’s motivations behind sending out the tapes. Yes, they were designed to make the subjects regret the way they treated her, but at the end of the day, suicide is a decision that a person makes themselves. No matter how despicable some of the “reasons” may have been, it did seem rather extreme to have many of these characters blame themselves for a choice someone else chose to make. Suicide is never anyone else’s fault, and it is never a way to get revenge on those who have wronged you. The show does a good job in demonstrating the affects of suicide on the victim’s friends and loved ones, and how there’s usually more questions than answers.

In summary, my general consensus about the show is that it offers a realistic look, if extremely pessimistic view of high school life. With a topical subject as suicide at the helm of the show, it was inevitable even before it was released  that it would receive some backlash for some of its more harrowing content, no matter how the show runners chose to present it. While some of these scenes, most notably Hannah’s infamously graphic suicide, are deliberately intended to be hard to watch, I feel that it was ultimately the right decision to show them front and centre. It was important that these issues be addressed,as just because it’s an uncomfortable subject to talk about, doesn’t mean that it needs to be ignored entirely.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” rates as 3 and half stars out five. It bravely tackles difficult topics, but may upset more sensitive viewers. Finally, I’ll close out this review by stating that if you or anyone you know have suicidal thoughts, tell someone you trust, or contact the “Samaritans” suicide prevention website. It’s important to note that no matter how lost or alone you may feel, that suicide is not the only opinion, and that things do get better in time!

“Fatal Attraction” isn’t a Thriller to be Ignored…

Greetings, bloggers! I’ve been watching a fair few thrillers as of late. Among these thrillers is the 1987 Adrian Lyne film, “Fatal  Attraction”.  As usual, I’ll be critiquing the plot of the movie, as well as the actors’ performances, my favourite and least favourite scenes, and whether or not it’s worth checking out. Without further delay, here’s “Fatal Attraction”!

The Plot in a Nutshell: Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a happily married lawyer based in New York City with his loving wife Beth (Anne Archer) and cute daughter Ellen (Ellen Hamilton Latzen). He should have little to no reason to engage in a meaningless one night stand, right? This isn’t the case, as his head is soon turned by Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), a comely publishing editor when Beth and Ellen are out of town, which leads to them sleeping together.  However, Dan instantly regrets his impromptu fling, and lets down Alex brusquely, who wishes for it to continue.

This turns out to be something that he’ll regret in retrospect, since Alex turns out to be scarily psychotic, even going as far to attempt suicide when Dan reveals his intentions to put their whole one night stand behind him. She soon begins stalking Dan and his family , becoming chummy with Beth and threatening to unveil the affair. This leaves Dan fearful over what lengths Alex will go to snag her man, including kidnapping Ellen,  but it soon transpires that not even Ellen’s pet bunny is safe from Alex’s wrath…

Character/Actor Observations: In my opinion, the main cast members absolutely nail their respective characters, especially Glenn Close, who is utterly compelling as the insane, scorned Alex. She has a superb foil in Anne Archer, who portrays the cuckolded, unsuspecting wife to a tee. Meanwhile, Michael Douglas delivers as a man who made a reckless decision in the spur of the moment, and must repent for his actions.

My Favourite Scene(s) in “Fatal Attraction”: The scene which comes to my mind when envisaging this film is the infamous “Bunny Boiler” scene, where Beth finds a nasty surprise awaiting her on the stove, courtesy of Alex. It helps to show us, the viewer, that things have just gotten really serious. It’s because of this scene that the term “Bunny Boiler” has gone down in history to be synonymous in pop culture with a cheating spouse, or a stalker.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in “Fatal Attraction”: There wasn’t many scenes which I detested in the film. However, the sequence in which Alex kidnaps Ellen from her school is chilling. While it’s not bad by any means, the scene can really hit home to any parents in the audience, in that the idea of a child going off with a stranger just because they appeared to be nice could happen at any moment. Granted, Ellen doesn’t even realize that she’s being kidnapped, but it’s still a chilling, realistic sequence.

Actors Before they were Famous: This one’s for fans for the NBC sitcom, “30 Rock”. At the opening of the movie, we briefly see a teenage girl babysitting for the Gallaghers. This is Jane Krakowski, who would later be known for her role as diva Jenna Maroney on the sketch comedy.

Miscellaneous Trivia: It’s speculated that Alex has Borderline Personality Disorder, as many of the traits associated with that disorder are symptoms she exhibits throughout the movie, which include the common traits of fear of abandonment, mood swings and self harm. However, according to Glenn Close, when she read the script, she didn’t feel as though Alex had any known psychological disorder that she knew of. Close also states that to this day, passersby approach her on the street and remark “Thank you, you saved my marriage”!

My Take on “Fatal Attraction”: “Fatal Attraction” is a movie which still has the capacity to be genuinely shocking and suspenseful, even after almost 30 following the movie’s initial release. I present it with 3 and a half stars out of five, as it’s riveting and fast-paced, and you care about what happens to the characters, despite the fact that they make rash decisions at times.

Recommendations: If you enjoyed “Fatal Attraction” and wish to view other titles similar to it, then I’d suggest the gripping “Gone Girl”, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. For a version of “Fatal Attraction” set in high school, check out 2002’s “Swimfan”, with Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen and Shiri Appleby.