‘Hotel Artemis’ Review

Director: Drew Pearce

Writer: Drew Pearce

Cast: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto and Jeff Goldblum

Synopsis: Set in riot-turn, near-future Los Angeles, ‘Hotel Artemis’ follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Hotel Artemis, the directorial debut of Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce, has been on my radar since it was announced. Sure the movie drew comparisons to John Wick right off the bat, so the question was what was the movie going to do to stand out? Well, Hotel Artemis does do enough to make it stand on its own, but unlike its spiritual counterpart – for the lack of a better phrase – Hotel Artemis would rather build up the tension for a grand finale.

Set in Los Angeles in 2028, the city is rioting over the lack of water, but during all of that, two brothers (Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry) pull off a bank heist that doesn’t go as planned. After Henry’s character gets injured, Brown’s character takes him to the Hotel Artemis, a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals to go to get patched up and lay low. There, they met The Nurse (Jodie Foster), who runs the establishment with her head of security, Everest (Dave Bautista). The Nurse gives everyone there nicknames according to their rooms; Brown gets Waikiki, while Henry gets Honolulu.

As Waikiki’s brother gets patched up, we meet other occupants of Hotel Artemis in a loud and foul-mouthed businessman Acapulco (Charlie Day), the French assassin Nice (Sofia Boutella), and a cop played by Jenny Slate. Things look to be going smoothly until The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum) enters the picture, and things go to hell pretty fast from there.

While the trailers and TV spots focus on the action in Hotel Artemis, you’ll be surprised – maybe disappointed if you were absolutely looking for that – that Pearce shows a lot of restraint and keeps the action to a minimal until the very end. What Pearce does instead is build up these characters and world before unleashing the action scenes, which is actually kind of refreshing.

Also, the fact that Pearce was able to get a cast like this on his first feature is quite the coup. Everyone nails their roles to a tee. Jodie Foster, despite being behind-the-camera for years now, reminds us why she was such a great actress. The Nurse is the most fleshed out character out of everyone, reaching every emotion available, and while he’s not as colorful as other characters like Day’s Acapulco, her character doesn’t lend to that anyway.

Sterling K. Brown’s Waikiki is a man with a plan for everything, and more level-head than anyone involved including his mess-up for a brother. Sofia Boutella’s Nice is arguably the most dangerous of them all, and has a history with Waikiki that sadly doesn’t play out the way Pearce probably intended it when he wrote the script. Dave Bautista’s Everest is what you’d expect from a Dave Bautista role by now, and that’s okay in my book. Charlie Day looks to be having some fun with his role, but it doesn’t quite click for me. Finally, Jeff Goldblum’s The Wolf King, the man that runs L.A., is really nothing more, sadly, than a glorified cameo. And while his short time on screen is great, it does lead to some important events for the rest of the movie.

Another thing that sets Hotel Artemis apart from other similar movies – yes it does have some sequel bait/world building – is the impressive production design by Ramsey Avery. We are told by The Nurse, that she has worked for the Artemis for twenty-two years. The halls and rooms look old, but some way they look like a room you’d find in nice hotel. Combine that with the cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung, who did It, and you got yourself a great looking movie.

All in all, Hotel Artemis is a solid action thriller that’s worth your time. What Drew Pearce was able to do with his familiar concept, and what he was able to get from his impressive cast for his first feature is impressive. Despite promotion making you think the movie is a shoot ‘em up action thriller, Hotel Artemis takes you down another road that is actually worth it. With a slow build for a big finale, great character development and fleshed out characters, and great production design and cinematography, Hotel Artemis is something to check it out, and something I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to.

Hotel Artemis

3.5 out of 5

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‘Deadpool 2’ Review

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic, Karan Soni, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgard, Lewis Tan, Shioli Kutsuna, Eddie Marsan, Leslie Uggams and Rob Delaney

Synopsis: Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA, Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy of supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling mutant, Cable.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit bit.*

 

Not only did we get a Deadpool movie, we now have a sequel! After the massive success of the first movie, a movie that many fans have been wanting to see on the big screen, 20th Century Fox had no choice but to make a sequel for the Merc with a Mouth. Of course, some things changed as director Tim Miller was replaced by John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch and the budget was upped to make the sequel more bombastic. So, does the sequel work, or as Deadpool jokes in the trailer, ruin it?

Deadpool 2 follows Wade/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) as he takes a protector role of sorts for a young troubled mutant, Russell (Julian Dennison), who finds himself in the crosshairs of the time-traveling Cable (Josh Brolin), who wants to kill him. Seeing that he can’t protect Russell by himself, Deadpool puts a team together called X-Force that consists of the “lucky” Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard) and Peter (Rob Delaney). What follows is what you’d expect from a Deadpool movie: F-bombs, pop culture references, slight gore and hilarity.

Deadpool 2 is interesting. On one hand, it’s like I previously mentioned, it’s what you expect from a Deadpool sequel. On the other, it brings a storyline you probably wouldn’t expect from a Deadpool movie. That storyline is what really kicks off the movie, and is threaded throughout all the jokes and actions. For the most part is works, but there are times when we cut back to it that it feels a lot like tonal whiplash. It’s not a complete negative, but it wouldn’t be fair to not bring it up. To big fair, the first movie did it too, but I found the actual storyline worked far better here than in part one.

That being said, the movie has a lot, and I mean a lot, of surprises that I truly did not see coming. All I will say is keep your eyes out because the movie is filled with Easter Eggs to the brim.

When it comes to the new characters, the big one is obviously Cable. Brolin already has a long-awaited character out in theaters in another movie, and now he’s bringing the very complicated history character Cable to the big screen. Brolin definitely has the look for Cable – yes, the make fun of the height for you comic book purist – and the attitude. Cable is a no nonsense, tough-as-nails badass who is determined to get to Russell by any means necessary. It’s a great introduction to the character, but he doesn’t get a ton of screen time, it is called Deadpool 2 not Deadpool and Cable.

The other characters don’t have a ton of development, especially when it comes to the X-Force members. The only expectation would be Zazie Beetz’ Domino, whose powers are constantly being doubted by Deadpool, even as she uses them at one point. I personally don’t know too much about Domino from the comics, but her personality in the movie is rather laid back, which Beetz does to perfection here. That leaves us with Russell, played by Hunt for the Wilderpeople standout Julian Dennison. Russell plays an important part to both Deadpool and Cable, and we get a descent understanding on why he does what he does, and why Cable would be after him.

The returning X-Men characters, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) are now joined by Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna). Colossus does have a little more to do this time around, but they’re really just there for Deadpool to make more jokes about the X-Men.

One thing I will say I’m just a tad bit disappointed by is the action. Don’t get me wrong, the action is good, but it’s not to the level of John Wick or Atomic Blonde, which again, were directed by David Leitch. There’s one scene in the beginning of the movie that is a little to choppy, which is a shame, because it could have been really cool if we saw what was going on a little more clearly. Again, the action isn’t bad, the later action sequences are great the watch, but that would be my nitpicky pick.

All in all, Deadpool 2 is a hell of a lot of fun. Jam-packed with jokes, action, surprises and tons of Easter Eggs, the sequel does indeed surpass the previous movie in a lot of ways.

Deadpool 2

4 out of 5

‘Rampage’ Review

Director: Brad Peyton

Writers: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal and Adam Sztykiel

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, P.J. Byrne and Joe Manganiello

Synopsis: When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Loosely based off the popular 1986 video game, Rampage is another team-up movie for director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, San Andres) and Dwayne Johnson, which just like San Andreas, is a dumb fun action movie that gives you enough to be entertained, but not enough to be an extremely great movie.

Rampage follows primatologist Davis Okoye (Johnson), who has a friendship with an albino gorilla named George, who he’s looked after since George was young. Unfortunately, George gets accidently infected by an experiential, and illegal, toxin that makes George grow in size, and increases his aggression. This puts the two of them on the radar of disgraced geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), who knows exactly what’s going on with George, and an unnamed government division lead by Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Problem is they soon discover that George isn’t the only animal that got affected by the toxin.

Like I mentioned, Rampage is just a dumb fun action movie that slowly makes its way to the third act where giant animals beat the holy hell out of each other. And let’s face it, the original game wasn’t all the groundbreaking with a story. It had humans being turned into the giant animals and destroying cities. Here, they took the more grounded (?) approach and had them already be animals, that just turn big, which isn’t the worst move to make in a movie based off a video game. But, more importantly, the movie knows what it is by the end. I mean, Johnson’s Davis at point says, in the most deadpan way Johnson can deliver a line, “of course the wolf flies.”

That being said though, Rampage does have some tonal changes throughout that would otherwise make me deduct points from other movies. The relationship between Davis and George feels real, and while the joke around – as seen in the trailers – the rest of it is pretty serious with Davis really worried about his friend. There are also moments of real danger that are truly frightening, which makes sense given we have giant aggressive animals, and then we cut or remember a comedy beat that almost gives you whiplash. One of those scenes frightening scenes involves Joe Manganiello’s character Burke and a unit of soldiers hunting down the wolf (named Ralph).

Rampage though all falls onto the hands of the human cast. We got Dwayne Johnson doing his usual Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson things, and while they try to get an emotional story going, it happens a little too far into the movie to really attach to it. Naomie Harris is a tad bit wasted here, who has a backstory that is teased, but isn’t brought up until way later in the movie. Then you have Jeffrey Dean Morgan playing southern Negan agent Harvey Russell, who just chews up every scene he’s in, to a great effort. Also, if you can get more Johnson and Morgan team ups in future movies that would be great.

Unfortunately, the human villains lack a lot. Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy play siblings Claire and Brett Wyden, who run the company that created the toxin. Lacy’s Brett plays the annoying, cowardly businessman who doesn’t want to go to jail, while Akerman is the more serious and conniving one of the two – too bad her acting is too wooden. The problem is they’re just evil, at least Akerman’s Claire, for the sake of being evil and making money – innocent victims be damned. My biggest grip with the duo is that they aren’t memorable at all. Akerman, however, is part of one of the most ridiculous and tonal whiplash scenes in the movie.

All in all, Rampage is one of those movies you just got to have fun with. It’s not a movie you should expect to have an amazing story, Oscar worthy performances or deep psychological thoughts, especially since it’s based off a video game from the 80s about giant animals attack each other and destroying cities. At the end of the day, Rampage is silly fun, albeit sometimes it gets pretty gruesome, with a pretty good final act.

Rampage

3.5 out of 5

‘A Quiet Place’ Review

Director: John Krasinski

Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski

Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and John Krasinski

Synopsis: A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

Silence in horror films is always used in two ways. One, it’s used before a jump scare to scare the crap out of you, but since we’ve seen so many horror films we can predict those most of the time. Two, a way to set something up – most likely before a jump scare right before the killer or monster pulls a character out of their hiding place. But, what John Krasinski has done for A Quiet Place, his first directed horror film mind you, is something special. Not only the movie mostly a silent film, but silence almost feels like its own character.

A Quiet Place follows a small family of father Lee (John Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their two children, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) – although their names are never said during the movie, only in the credits – as they try to survive after creatures have destroyed, what seems like most of the country. What makes matters worse, is the creatures are attracted to sound, so staying silent is key to surviving this new world. However, staying silent isn’t as easy as you think.

I’ll start off by saying, if you are not a fan of slow-burning horror, you probably won’t enjoy most of A Quiet Place, especially since most of the movie is silent, and most of the dialogue is said through sign language. It also takes a while to become a full-blown monster movie. That being said, that’s one of the reasons why I loved the film. A Quiet Place also works as a drama, and an effective one, because we get to know the characters from the very beginning and we care about them enough until the credits roll.

However, credit where credit is due to John Krasinski, who has only directed two feature films. Both have fallen into drama and comedy, but watching this, you would assume Krasinski has directed more than that. Not only that, you would think he’d directed some horror movies. His decision to make this a nearly silent movie is both ambitious and a risk, and one that completely pays off in the end. Even some of the decisions he makes his characters take, like creating a system with light bulbs to let others know the monsters are nearby, or even creating a sound suppressing box for the baby. Of course, there’s more, but that’s getting into spoiler territory.

Top that off with the cast he was able to get. Krasinski’s father figure tries his best to protect his family and even teaches his young son how to catch fish, which isn’t even the most touching scene in the movie. Emily Blunt as the mother is absolutely fantastic in this, and pretty much gets the most out of the movie, as her character is pregnant for most of the movie (not really a spoiler guys). Newcomer, Millicent Simmonds, as the daughter has a very prominent role that thankfully wasn’t spoiled in the trailers, so I won’t even hint at it here either. Unfortunately, Noah Jupe doesn’t get enough development, but out of everyone, he does have the best fear face (is that a thing?).

When it comes to the monsters, it takes a long while before we get a get look at what they look like. The design is rather interesting, especially once you realize that Krasinski actually changed the design at the last minute, and while the monsters probably aren’t ground-breaking new they are extremely vicious.

All in all, A Quiet Place is an effective horror thriller, and even a drama. Using silence as a key element has been done before, but I’ve personally never seen it the way Krasinski used it here in the film. The film only has a few minor missteps, but nothing that really takes away from the film. Personally, I loved A Quiet Place, and this is how horror thrillers should be done in my book.

A Quiet Place

4.5 out of 5

Mini-Reviews – Justice League, Lady Bird, Coco & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I’ve been slacking on my movie reviews, so please forgive me for that, I have been watching movies but I haven’t had a real chance to sit down and write full reviews. So this is going to make up for it, with some of the big movies I’ve watched. Movies not included are Daddy’s Home 2, Roman J. Israel Esq., Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please, bare with me. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Odeya Rush, Timothee Chalamet, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott and Tracy Letts.

Synopsis: In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.

 

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial effort, Lady Bird is a great coming-of-age story following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who wants out of her town but is not financially able to go to a big college. It also doesn’t help that her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is working non-stop and thinks she should think more logically about college. During all of this, we follow Lady Bird, which is what she wants to be called, go through her final year at school, love and thinking what her future holds for her.

I had heard a lot about Lady Bird during its film festival run, and when I finally got the chance to see it, I can see why people really loved it. Gerwig’s writing was fantastical, nothing ever felt forced and Ronan is simply amazing as Lady Bird. The main thing for me about the movie is, despite the movie being set in 2002, it doesn’t really feel that way. Sure we have flip-phones and the whole, “the government is going to put trackers on us” mentally by one of the characters Lady Bird interacts with, and the news of attacks overseas by our government, but the time period isn’t really that important – at least from my point of view of watching.

The thing that makes Lady Bird work for me is the chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf. Any time they are on the screen together it makes the film pop, and it’s both fun and hard to watch as you see them argue and fight one minute and then suddenly have a heart-to-heart the next. It would be really hard to imagine if none of these ladies including Gerwig, are not nominated for the major award shows.

All in all, Lady Bird is a greatly acted film with top notch writing and humor that feels real. While I did feel it loses only a slightly bit of steam near the end, the cast and the script really make Lady Bird worth the while.

Lady Bird

4 out of 5

 

 

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Joe Morton, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane, Henry Cavill and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

Justice League has had a long and hard road to get to the big screen. From the scarped George Miller-directed movie, to the DCEU’s battle to get fans and critics to go all in for their movies, the movie has finally arrived and it’s just okay. If you didn’t know, Zack Snyder directed the movie at first, but had to step down for the reshoots because of the death of a loved, and Joss Whedon – who had done some script work – came in to take over.

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this. I still had the bad taste of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with me, but I was willing to really give Justice League a chance. Unfortunately, Justice League was a huge misstep for me. The CGI was really off in places – I’m looking at you Henry Cavill mustache removal!

Justice League has a rather simple plot; Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) gathers together the team of the Amazon, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the speedster Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to stop the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an intergalactic threat that comes to Earth to find the Mother Boxes, cubes with massive power. It’s up to them to stop him and save the world.

The problem with Justice League is, besides some of the terrible CGI, is it doesn’t really take the time to get to know the new characters. We know Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, but we get the cliff notes of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, which doesn’t help considering we’re suppose to care for these characters, and they’re the new big characters we’re going to follow. Miller’s Barry is too jokey; Stone’s Cyborg is a bit too stoic – although he does loosen up at the end – and Momoa’s Curry/Aquaman is a bit too “bro” for me, which is fine for a new approach, but I didn’t really get into it.

All in all, despite all that, yes, Justice League does have some fun and cool moments, but a lot of the negatives and drawbacks of the movie – some I didn’t even mention – really make it hard to enjoy the moments entirely. Justice League does take the DCEU into the right direction of more hopeful and fun, instead dark gritty. Hopefully, the DCEU continues down this route, otherwise the franchise is in a lot of trouble.

Justice League

2.5 out of 5

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Samara Weaving, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Clarke Peters, Sandy Martin, Zeljko Ivanek, Abbie Cornish, and Peter Dinklage

Synopsis: In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder, when they fail to catch the culprit.

 

Martin McDonagh, who directed In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, is a director that I will also keep a look out for now. When I found out about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the cast, it immediately jumped into my “Must Watch” list, and I’m glad I did, because this was a film that really stuck with me.

The film follows Mildred (Frances McDormand), who has recently lost her daughter in a brutal way, and after the police have seemed to give up on the case, she decides to buy three billboards that target the police for not doing their jobs. The billboards get the attention of the police, more specifically Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the townspeople who are heavily against them. The film then follows Mildred as she deals with everyone seemingly against her, and Dixon and Willoughby trying to finally figure out the case.

There is a lot more going on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that I won’t even hint at here, mainly because this film really does lend itself on knowing the least amount of information possible to thoroughly enjoy it and really get into the world that this movie takes place in. I will say it’s a dark comedy, so prepare yourself for that, and if you seen McDonagh’s other films, then you’d know what to expect.

I will say Frances McDormand is great as always, but I’d argue that this movie belongs to Sam Rockwell. He’s absolutely fantastic in this, and dare I say, this is one of his best performances he’s ever done.

All in all, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a wonderfully entertaining dark comedy with great performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Seriously do yourself a favor and try to avoid anything about the movie, and go watch it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4.5 out of 5

 

 

Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Edward James Olmos and Benjamin Bratt

Synopsis: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

 

I am willing to admit that I had serious doubts about Coco. I knew that Pixar had been working on a Dia de los Muertos movie for a while now, but I was a huge fan of another Dia de los Muertos film called The Book of Life. However, Coco completely blew me away. The movie follows Miguel, who is banned from playing, listening or even thinking about music, but like all kids, he doesn’t follow his family’s rule. Miguel is inspired by a deceased musician from the town, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and through magic, enters the Land of the Dead on The Day of the Dead to find de la Cruz and find his place in the world.

Along his journey there, he meets his deceased family and a con man named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). But, Miguel finds out that he has to get back to the living world before he’s stuck in the Land in the Dead forever.

Like any Pixar movie, the movie has a great story, great characters and amazing visuals. The beautiful and bright colors of The Land of the Dead really pop and I kind of wish we could see more of it as a whole, and not just sections. I also liked that they really dug into the actual culture of everything, and it’s cool to see that represented in a movie like this.

More importantly, and the thing that will put any movie on my list of anything, this tugged on every emotional string that I had. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of tears A LOT. The characters actions and even some of the music, more specifically “Remember Me” started up the waterworks.

All in all, Coco is a great film with eye-popping visuals and an amazing soundtrack. I will admit, something in the final act was a little jarring, especially for a kids and Pixar movie but I guess it worked out at the end of it all.

Coco

4.5 out of 5

 

‘It’ Review

Director: Andy Muschietti

Writers: Gary Dauberman, Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga

Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Stephen Bogaert, Jackson Robert Scott and Bill Skarsgard

Synopsis: A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based off the novel by Stephen King, at least the first half, Pennywise the Clown is back to make us afraid of clowns again. Of course, most of us know the two-part TV movie with Tim Curry playing Pennywise, but while that version may have scared us with some uneasy visuals and Curry’s performances, this new version of It is here to be a little more faithful to the original source material. and add the real horror that was written by Stephen King himself.

To be fair, I hadn’t watched the TV movie in a long time, and I ended up watching some clips online. While some of it sticks, for the most part I didn’t end up remembering half of the things in it. Seeing that – and that this film was going to be more faithful – my judgment and now broken bias was going to be left at home. Granted, the trailers proved this version of It was going to crack up the horror to eleven, and this was going to have a movie budget, against a early 90s TV movie budget. Either way, do yourself the favor, and try not to compare the two versions since they are very, very different, but more importantly, you’ll miss out on a great movie.

Set in Derry, Maine in 1989, people – most kids – have gone missing by the dozens. The film starts off by showing us the much promoted disappearance of Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott), the younger brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher). It is also were we are introduced to Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) for the first time. We then jump forward a year, Bill holds on to hope that his younger brother is still alive, but we are now introduced to his closest friends; the always joking Richie (Finn Wolfhard), the germophobe Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff). The three eventually become friends with the new kid, whose obsessed with Derry’s history, Ben (Ray Taylor), the home-schooled Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and Beverly (Sophia Lillis).

They forge a friendship and call themselves The Losers Club. However, before they can try to enjoy their summer, they deal with bullies, lead by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), but also have to face their fears when Pennywise puts all of them on his radar. It then becomes a race against time for The Losers Club to defeat “It” before one of them disappears. Because everyone floats down there.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m sure we all know someone that has seen the original It, or maybe even read the novel. Either way, Pennywise and The Losers Club have a following so this new version of It had a lot of eyes on it. Thankfully, it turned out great, because not only is It a great horror movie, it’s a great coming-of-age story with humor and heart to back it all up. That said, I applaud director Andy Muschietti and the writers in Gary Dauberman and Chase Palmer – Cary Fukunaga is also credited, since he was the original director and writer of the film, but dropped out due to creative difference – for being able to balance all the tones in the film and make it work for the film instead of making them work against it.

Next to the balancing act working, it’s the young cast that really makes It shine. Each of them having their moments to shine, and face their respected fears, but it’s the fact that we get to know them that makes us not only root for them, but also worry for them. Lieberher gets to shine the most as Bill, who is determined to find out what happened to Georgie and holding on faith that he’s still alive despite what people think. Lillis’ Beverly, personally, gets the more complicated and emotional arc as she seen as the town’s slut, but also the fact that she has to deal with her father, played by Stephen Bogaert, who makes uncomfortable advances toward her. Jeremy Ray Taylor’s Ben has probably one of the most realest arcs for a kid his age that involves Beverly.

Not everyone has the opportunity of being fleshed out unfortunately. Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley doesn’t really have too much going on other than being the Jewish kid who is about to have his bar mitzvah and wants to ignore everything. Finn Wolfhard’s Richie can sometimes come off as annoying and has a fear of clowns, but that fear doesn’t come up until after the group acknowledges that Pennywise exists. Jacobs’ Mike, obviously the only person of color, has his own problems especially with bully Henry Bowers. Finally, Jack Dylan Grazer does have his moments, but for me, his big moment comes near the end and has nothing to do with Pennywise.

However, the biggest drawn here is Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Bill, the youngest of the Skarsgard family, will probably become a household name with his performance here. We don’t see a hell of a lot of Pennywise, but just enough to know when he pops up, you better be scared – or at least unnerved. His introduction scenes with Georgie is disturbing from the get go as we can see him salivating which just adds that creepy layer to Pennywise that was, arguably missing from the previous version. Yes, Tim Curry’s Pennywise was creepy, but he was creepy when the character had to be, Skarsgard’s version is always creepy.

All in all, It is like I noted earlier, not only a great horror movie, but a great coming-of-age film. The young cast is great, and the best part is they actually act like kids, so when they’re put into a fearful and dangerous situation we want them to make it through and we see can the genuine fear they have. Not only that, their chemistry is top notch, I can believe they’re friends and they have a bond, and when they face Pennywise, it is something special.

Whether you prefer the 90s It or this version of It, there is no denying that Stephen King’s story has touched everyone. Everyone has their fears, and the question becomes will you face them head-on yourself? Or have someone there to face them down with you? This version does lend itself to be horror especially considering this has a movie budget opposed to a TV movie budget – and R-rating which they take full advantage of. Whatever the case, the cast – including Skarsgard’s Pennywise – and their chemistry together make It not only a worthy adaptation of Stephen King’s stories, but a great film.

It

4.5 out of 5

‘Dunkirk’ Review

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the real event during World War II, and one of the most disastrous military missions in British history, Dunkirk is told through the perspective of three different viewpoints with imagined characters director Christopher Nolan made up, and a few characters that were based off real people. However, that doesn’t make Dunkirk any less of an important history film. I personally didn’t know anything about the real event at Dunkirk, and held off reading anything about the event until after the movie. This isn’t also your typical Nolan movie either, which makes the experience so much better. So let’s not waste any more space and get to what makes Dunkirk so damn good.

Nolan does do some experimenting with this film as it jumps across three different timelines that weave together in a slow fashion – all of them dealing with the British evacuation of Dunkirk. There’s the shoreline nicknamed The Mole, which takes place over the course of a week and follows British soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and a fellow soldier he comes across played by Damien Bonnard, as they try to get out of Dunkirk. There’s “The Sea” that takes place over a day and follows Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and George (Barry Keoghan) who sail to Dunkirk as a rescue party and pick up a soldier (Cillian Murphy) along the way. Finally, “The Air” which takes place over the course of an hour and follows British pilots Collins (Jack Lowden) and Farrier (Tom Hardy) who provide air support for the ships.

One of the things you obviously notice right away about the film, despite big names like Hardy, Murphy, Rylance, James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh appearing, they are nothing more than supporting roles. Although, I’d make the argument that Rylance is one of the leads of the film, but I’ll leave that up to you. Also, considering this is a war film, you’re probably expecting buckets of blood and a hardcore brutal look at war like Saving Pirate Ryan right? Well, you don’t get that. However, you did get something better, for the lack of a better word – a cold, relentless and unforgiving look at war.

There never is a real safe place in their film, which adds to the tension every time we get what could be a moment of peace. Combine that with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score with a ticking clock that is both unnerving, but blends right into the scenes perfectly. Considering that, I was surprised like most people were that Dunkirk’s runtime is only an hour and forty-six minutes. Not that war films have to be long, but even with that “short” runtime, Dunkirk tells the story it is trying to tell.

I don’t know if people will see this as a negative, but Nolan doesn’t really get into any back stories of the characters. Everything is very in the moment, despite the non-linear narrative Nolan is putting on. You get a sense on who the characters might be by their actions, but Nolan doesn’t really give anyone an exposition dump to tell their story. The only real person that gets a ton of dialogue is Branagh’s Commander Bolton who is trying to get everyone out of Dunkirk. The other characters like Whitehead’s Tommy, who opens the film, can be seen as the lead of the film, but since the film jumps around I was okay that he wasn’t the central focus – but again that could be me

That said, the cast is great with everyone holding their own and not stealing the spotlight from anyone. Whitehead spends the majority of the film with Harry Styles, who surprisingly is not that bad. This could easily be seen as stunt casting, but the singer isn’t bad in his acting debut. Cillian Murphy is terrific as the soldier pleading with Mark Rylance’s character to turn back and go home. Speaking of Rylance, he does fine job as Mr. Dawson and his two main co-stars Barry Keoghan as George and Tom Glynn-Carney’s Peter. Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy as the pilots are only involved in the dogfights, which are great and enthralling to watch.

Even with the great cast, this movie belongs to Nolan and the crew. Specifically, the already mentioned Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who gives us the massive scope, but captures the intense dread and desperation of the characters, especially the ones on The Mole as they hear the German planes fly over them dropping bombs on them.

All in all, Dunkirk is an intense film that doesn’t let you go until the very end. Christopher Nolan was able to do something different in the war genre that I hope people appreciate and find the nuances with the great cinematography and score.

Dunkirk

4.5 out of 5