It (2017)

Director: Andy Muschietti

Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard

Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman

135 mins. Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language.

 

It seemed like It was never going to get the new adaptation fans have been clamoring for. The project had Cary Joji Fukunaga and Will Poulter originally in place after several unsuccessful attempts, and then Fukunaga left the project and Poulter was replaced. Then, director Andy Muscietti (Mama) surfaced to lead the project, something I was so sure about. I liked Mama, but it was a smaller, more intimate tale, and It is a big booming horror epic. As pics started to drop from the production, I’ll admit that I was unimpressed, and it was only after seeing the film that I realized how wrong I was.

It’s the summer of 1989, and the small town of Derry has been ravaged by a string of disappearances involving children, but Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent, The Book of Henry) isn’t willing to accept that his younger brother Georgie is gone, and he routinely brings his friends, Richie (Finn Wolfhard, Dog Days, TV’s Stranger Things), Eddie, and Stan, down to the Barrens, a marshy area where the sewers empty out, to look for his body. As the summer goes on, the group adds Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor, 42, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween), Beverly (Sophia Lillis, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, TV’s Sharp Objects), and Mike, and each of them is plagued by a strange manifestation they call It, a creature that regularly takes the shape of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård, Deadpool 2, Assassination Nation).

The studio envisioned It as a two-part adaptation of the weighty tome that Stephen King wrote in the 1980s, and this film is an adaption of roughly half of the novel, which jumps back and forth in time seeing the Losers Club as children and adults returning to Derry to finish what they started. For the film, this time as children is the entire focus of the film, a move I actually believe helped the organization of the story much better than jamming the whole book in and trying to do it justice. This is a case of a two-part film that actually needs it.

Each of the kids does a tremendous job in the film at developing a character amidst all the goings on with It, with particular emphasis given to Sophia Lillis as Beverly and Finn Wolfhard as Richie. Lillis gives a nuanced and layered performance as the only female member of the Losers Club, and her collaboration with Muscietti creates a well-dimensioned girl who is dealing with a lot. Beverly was always the best character in the book, too, so it’s great to see her given justice here.

In that same way, I was surprised by how good Finn Wolfhard is as Richie. Wolfhard is of course known for Stranger Things, a series that takes a lot of influence from Stephen King and, at times, It, so I was worried that Wolfhard’s character would be too close to what we see in Stranger Things, but he plays Richie so well as such a different character. Richie is the goofball with the nasty speech and a whole lot of fear, and Finn does him justice.

All that aside, the other tough role to fill here is Pennywise. Coming off the miniseries, Tim Curry’s take on Pennywise the Dancing Clown is the best piece of the puzzle, so finding someone who can give a new take on the creepy clown is a tough sell. I was actually all for Will Poulter, and I was pretty irked when he ended up not getting the part, but Skarsgård just knocks it out of the park. He plays Pennywise with the understanding that this is just one form of It, a very old and very powerful entity, and Pennywise comes across as a favorite form but also as a skin worn by a creature. When he shows his endless rows of teeth, Pennywise’s eyes kind of slough away like they were a snakeskin coming undone. It’s a horrible-looking fantastically-performed boogeyman.

For a lengthy film like this, it’s rather forgotten how smoothly the movie runs. Every time I watch it, I don’t realize the two-hour-plus runtime moving along at a juggernaut pace. There’s so much to cover that it never gets boring. In fact, the screenplay does a solid job at adapting the spirit of the source material instead of just being a carbon-copy of the book set to film. There are major differences about the individual fears that each of the Losers Club have, and the changes are made for a variety of different wholly-understandable reasons. Some of them would’ve been very tough to put to film in a workable way, and others were of the specific time period of the novel (the Losers are in the 50s in the book), and some were cut or rearranged for timing. Now, as much as I loved the werewolf sequences of the book, I understand that the film is not the book, and it’s respectable in that way.

There is a significant flaw for me, though, and it’s this: It wasn’t scary. It pains me to say it, but I wasn’t scared at all. I really thought this would be the one to get me, but it didn’t. There’s some spooky individual moments (watch the librarian in the early scene with Ben), but overall it didn’t give me that shiver-myself-to-sleep vibe I was really hoping for. It’s still more than entertaining for its tale of childhood friendships and monsters and grief, but I just wanted it to be scary.

It is a fantastic adaptation of half of Stephen King’s source material. For a film that had some laughable early production stills, Andy Muschietti really pulled it off and I’m all the more excited for It: Chapter Two. This was a well-constructed story of friendship akin to other classics of the genre like Stand by Me, and apart from lacking in the scares for this writer, it is a wonderfully entertaining thrill-ride.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Melissa McCarthy to Play Ursula in The Little Mermaid?

Variety is reporting that Melissa McCarthy may be turning purple soon to play Ursula, the sea witch of Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid. Mind you, she is still in talks to play the character, but it would be quite the sight.

Disney is deep in preproduction of the next live-action interpretation of their classic animated lineup, and The Little Mermaid is one of the more popular and interesting films to choose. I think it is the perfect film for the live-action treatment now that we have Aquaman showing that films can work in the underwater setting.

I’m very excited for the opportunity to see McCarthy flex her acting chops with a villainous role in The Little Mermaid. It would be a departure in some ways from the animated character, I would assume, but I think it’s something that could fit in her wheelhouse. McCarthy sometimes gets stuck in a rut of bad adult comedies, but one need only look at performances in Bridesmaids, St. Vincent, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? to see some of her more impressive chops.

Director Rob Marshall, recently of Mary Poppins Returns, is set to helm the upcoming film, and it will feature original music from Alan Menken and Lin Manuel Miranda as well as featuring some of the classic songs as well.

The film follows Ariel, a mermaid princess who falls in love with a human on the land and makes a trade with Ursula to meet him.

But what do you think? Should Melissa McCarthy tempt some Poor Unfortunate Souls as Ursula or is there someone more right for the part? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

St. Vincent (2014)

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Director: Theodore Melfi

Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher

Screenplay: Theodore Melfi

102 mins. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language.

 

Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, Dumb and Dumber To) has done a lot of things recently seemingly to piss me off. He has also done a lot of things recently to make me happy. He is an enigma, much more aligned with the assholery of his fellow Saturday Night Live-r Chevy Chase (there, I said it). So when St. Vincent came out, I wasn’t terribly keen to see it. I forgot, though, about Murray’s innate ability to perform the hell out of a movie.

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In St. Vincent, Murray plays…Vincent, an older war vet who seems to hate everything and everyone except his dear Daka (Naomi Watts, King Kong, The Divergent Series: Insurgent), a paid lover who is having his baby. When he is roped into babysitting Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) at the behest of his down-on-her-luck mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy, TV’s Gilmore Girls, Spy), Vincent uses the situation to his benefit, practically extorting the situation to his liking. When he finds that Oliver is in need of a father-figure, Vincent finds himself growing closer to the boy, whether he like it or not.

The performances here are great, especially those from Murray and Watts (who plays Daka so well that I forgot it was her). Even young Lieberher keeps his own with the commanding comedic vet Murray.

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A lot of people have discussed this film’s merits and its possible snub during the Oscars, and while I feel that it has a great many good things about the screenplay and the performances, the film’s technical aspects are nothing of particularly astounding quality. Director Theodore Melfi can make a movie, but a powerhouse award winner perhaps not. For what it is, St. Vincent is a cute little piece of a movie with some great work turned in from the actors. Groundbreaking? No. Funny with a heart? Sure. The acting here is what makes the film.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Big Hero 6 (2014)

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Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

Screenplay: Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird

102 mins. Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

After tragedy strikes and takes everything Hiro (Ryan Potter) thought he’d never lose, he befriends Baymax (Scott Adsit, TV’s 30 Rock, St. Vincent), a robotic caregiver built by his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Last Stand), and the two set out to find an invention of Hiro’s that has been stolen to be used for evil. Along the way, Hiro gets help from a ragtag group of nerdy geniuses that would soon come to be known as Big Hero 6 in the newest Disney animated feature from directors Don Hall and Chris Williams.

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Baymax is 2014’s answer to Frozen’s Olaf. He is a lovable and sweet companion who is challenged in his quest to heal others by Hiro’s wanting of vengeance against those who wronged him. Young Ryan Potter does great work as Hiro, and he gets great help from veteran voice workers like T.J. Miller (How to Train Your Dragon, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Alan Tudyk (TV’s Suburgatory, I,Robot). I do wish the supporting characters weren’t just relegated to minimal development based around the tech they are currently working on, and I hope that if this becomes the first Marvel-Disney franchise that these superheroes are further developed. The world of San Fransokyo is pretty cool though, taking cues from anime masterpieces like Akira.

Big Hero 6 isn’t Frozen even at its best, though I am happy to see a Disney film willing to deal with death. Although I don’t think they should’ve danced around the subject so much, always referring to the deceased as “gone” when they should take the high route and understand that kids can handle it.

The visual style is neat and it presents a pretty great number of action set pieces for our heroes to defend their beloved city, and it just looks good.

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Big Hero 6 is one of the more enjoyable films of 2014, but it has a lull to it around the second act. Even though it is a Marvel property, it tends to borrow a bit too much from previous Marvel fare like Iron Man instead of drudging a new route. There is a fun post-credits scene, so wait around for that. Big Hero 6 should satisfy parental units as well as kids thought, which is a tough feat to make.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Zack Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts

Screenplay: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

119 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence.

Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Director (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor (Michael Keaton) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound Editing (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound Mixing (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography (Awards Not Yet Announced)

 

Wow. Birdman, like Interstellar, is a movie you just kind of have to let it settle in to get something out. This movie actually kept me in silent thought for hours after leaving the theater, but what an incredible journey.

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Riggan (Michael Keaton, Batman, Need for Speed) is an aging former star, known for his Birdman franchise of superhero films from some time ago. Now, he wants to reignite the flame of his career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” with the help of friend and lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover, Muppets Most Wanted). He has just fixed a casting problem by hiring wild card performer Mike (Edward Norton, Fight Club, The Grand Budapest Hotel) who has complicated production right before preview nights start. Now, Riggan’s entire world is crumbling around him as his career rides the line, his complex relationship with daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone, The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) melts away, and his cracked relationship with actress Laura (Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion, Welcome to the Punch) takes on startling new weight, all while being egged on by his ego in the latest film from visionary storyteller Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Biutiful).

This movie just melts the mind with its constant onslaught of problems for Riggan and his production. I love the cinematography here, playing out as if the entire film is one long sequential shot. It doesn’t let you pause for a moment, and that’s just the way I like it. As Riggan runs out of time to stop, so too do the audience as Inarritu throws issues at the screen. I loved being inside Riggan’s head and what Michael Keaton was able to do with this character who I’m sure he connected with in a big way as the fictional Birdman franchise becomes a critique of the entire superhero genre (of which Keaton should be very familiar with) as well as the entire canon of pop culture franchises that are spewing out of Hollywood right now.

The screenplay, a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece of its own, presents a warped view of fame and personal acceptance (or lack thereof) and sends up a lot of current filmmaking trends while skewering itself for the very same problems. This film has more levels than an onion and I loved the smell it reeked of as I peeled each layer away.

Michael Keaton’s work here is stunningly off-putting. He is a broken man who just wants the world to see him as he does. His interactions with fellow performers Lesley (Naomi Watts, King Kong, St. Vincent) and Laura present the feeling of walking on thousands of eggshells while his confrontations with the complexly inept Mike makes one shudder.

Even the visual effects, though few, add to its own narcissism. I love what this movie says about movies and the entire performing arts as a whole. This is the best parts of Cabin in the Woods and Black Swan rolled up.

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I can’t say enough about this movie but I can say that it sends out a rhythm of sadness and absurdity that I didn’t know Inarritu was capable of. See this movie, even if you don’t believe me. You will soon enough.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Tammy (2014)

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Director: Ben Falcone

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates

Screenplay: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone

97 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references.

 

Melissa McCarthy (TV’s Gilmore Girls, St. Vincent) has the acting chops for both comedy and drama, yet she chooses to write comedies that just aren’t very good. Thus is the case with Tammy, her newest effort from husband-director Ben Falcone.

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In Tammy, McCarthy plays a down-on-her-luck food server who has just lost a car and a job and now decides to just leave town with her elderly grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, The Big Wedding). I know, it doesn’t make much sense. Along the way, she meets Bobby (Mark Duplass, TV’s The League, Mercy) and his father Earl (Gary Cole, Pineapple Express, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) who both take a shine to ladies. Somehow. There isn’t a whole lot of chemistry, but apparently they do. They also meet up with lesbian lovers Lenore (Kathy Bates, TV’s American Horror Story, Titanic) and Susanne (Sandra Oh, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Rabbit Hole) who are also related to Tammy but it doesn’t seem that way. Again, I must say that it isn’t a good plot.

Essentially, this story was terrible. These characters were flat and unlikable. Melissa McCarthy isn’t funny. Susan Sarandon is disappointing. Also, the ages kind of mess with you. How is Susan Sarandon the mother of Allison Janney (TV’s The West Wing, Get On Up) who is also the mother of Melissa McCarthy? Seriously, how?

Then there is the terrible chemistry or lack thereof with Mark Duplass. I mean, c’mon, there wasn’t a single moment when I believed these two.

Let’s not forget the misuse of Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls). That’s right, she is in this movie, but look fast or you’ll miss it. The same is true with Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return).

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All in all, Ben Falcone’s absent directing of a bad screenplay between himself and wife McCarthy does nothing to make this movie anything more than a turd. Yes, I said it, a turd.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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