Film: IT [2017]

ItBILL SKARSGÅRD as Pennywise Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema

Bill Skarsgård as It / Pennywise the Clown

How does one cram a 1,138 page, 284500 word* mammoth novel into a 2:15 film? Not very easily. Even allowing for the fact this film deals with only one half of the source story. Noting the average screenplay is 100-125 pages, all we can really hope for is that the movie captures the essence or spirit of the source material. And I think writer Chase Palmer and his team have done this. They have had to take plenty of liberties though, including re-arranging the story line and some characters quite significantly. And here I implore hardcore IT fans not to be too critical of this. You are not watching the novel on screen. You are watching an interpretation, which in my mind works well. All of the ‘losers gang’ are there albeit it some of their roles have been switched around. Henry Bowers is present and here might be my only criticism – this character is huge in the novel yet the screen play relegates him to a side show. Bower’s pals also did not get developed as much as I would have liked. Nevertheless I need not fall into the trap of being tied up in knots over perceived lack of faithfulness to the book. The film is tight and perhaps is one of the best adaptations of King’s work. In reality we all came to see Pennywise. The dancing clown played by Bill Skarsgård met all my expectations. The clown is just as I imagined him to be. The horror scenes are quite satisfactory. Even for someone as desensitized as myself, they worked well. I appreciated the lack of jump scares [an over done trope of horror genre]. The impending sense of doom felt by the kids never lets up. Personally I hate clowns and possibly I have a coulrophobia. The two + hours I spent in Derry last night at Roxy Cinema was enough to last a lifetime. Also, I’m dreading a resurgence in the creepy clown craze thanks to IT’s resurrection.  Yes Halloween is on the way. One final thing – anyone who criticizes the film for it’s ‘Stand By Me’ look and feel can go jump in a lake. They obviously havn’t read the book. So what’s my verdict? Go float in your local cinema and enjoy this coming of age horror film. I loved it and it’s best to see IT on the big screen for big screams. Highly recommended.

*Calculated by average word count of 250 pp. Does anyone know the actual word count for the novel?

Film review: IT  Duration:  Genre: Horror Director: Andy Muschietti Writers: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman Main Cast: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård,  Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, and Jackson Robert Scott Novel: IT by Stephen King

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The Losers Club

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Film: Luv [2012]

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Michael Rainey Jr. as Woody and Common as Vincent

I’m here to tell you not to listen to the critics. And don’t get sucked in by folk calling this a crime drama. Listen to me when I say this is a really good film exploring the bad influence an uncle just out of jail has on his clean cut nephew. Yes – its about the corrupting influences our kids face daily by drug and crime culture. As well as inter-generational poverty, gang membership and dependence on drugs. It’s set in Baltimore over a 48 hour period. Former gang member Vincent played by Common pulls young Woody into his seedy world, seeking to give him lessons in ‘business’. It goes to hell quickly and a traumatized Woody played by Michael Rainey Junior makes some decisions no child should have to. It’s heart rending and the uncle has a warped sense of right and wrong. Common is one of my favorite actors and his portrayal is convincing – I’ve known guys like the character he plays. Michael is also great as the traumatized kid – I felt upset and have seen first hand what happens when children get pulled into a life of crime by older members of families. Keep an eye out for this film – I promise you will not be disappointed by it. It feels real.

Film Review: Luv       Directed by directed by Sheldon Candis.

Documentary: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

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Norman Lear – Father of Sitcom

Cue the auto laugh. Cue the applause. Oh what a find! We have been blessed with quality docos these last few years and I was pleased to finally catch up on the father of sitcoms known as Norman Lear. Possibly a name some of you have not heard of. He was responsible for writing some of the most memorable TV shows of the 70s and 80s. Think Archie Bunker in All In The Family. And remember Schneider the superintendent in One Day at a Time? Norman wrote them all. And some were quite controversial in their day. What we take for granted now as socially acceptable societal values have some of their roots in these break through screen plays from the golden era of TV. TV as a medium for social change is well understood. You can do courses on the stuff so I’ll not bore you here. But if you loved situation comedy in the 70s/80s then give this doco a go. It’s entertaining like the man himself and his wonderful body of work. Highly recommended.

[Documentary review: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You].

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Archie Bunker in All in the Family

Film: Four Lions [2010]

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Nigel Lindsay as Barry, Kayvan Novak as Waj, Riz Ahmed as Omar

If Benedict Cumberbatch is in a film, it’s legit right? Even if his part is less than 60 seconds in total? I’ve digressed and I haven’t even properly started this. From the beginning, I think I just watched an extremely ‘Un-PC’ film about extremists. Four hapless, homegrown terrorists, go about training up and then enacting Jihad against the unsuspecting public of Britain. So this is got to put off a lot of people right from the get-go. And I wavered on the delete button myself. But I was curious and and found I was laughing nervously start to finish. Because it is a comedy, albeit, a very dark one. It’s offensive. Depending on your point of view – perhaps. The victims of actual terrorist events will not find this film amusing at all. Like bad taste jokes – some might ask – is it too soon? Seven years have elapsed since the film’s broad release but I find myself thinking it’s still too soon for this. There is still bad shit happening on all sides. Here I go again – wavering. Four Lions is actually an excellent situation comedy, with convincing acting and some authentic looking shaky-cam to give it a ‘found-footage genre’ feel to it. I say give this flick a go. But don’t blame me if your flat mates get up and leave.

Film: Kajaki Kilo Two Bravo

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Kajaki

Film review: Kajaki. Let me begin by saying fucking hell! And to reiterate the characters in the film: for fuck sake! Yes the language is salty but we are talking about young lads in that theater of war known as Afghanistan. A hell hole no one should ever have had to go through. Based on a true story it follows a group of soldiers in a lonely outpost looking after the Kajaki dam in Helmand province. They send out a patrol to deal with some local Taliban but quickly get caught in a mine field. Things go from bad to worse as the situation gets quickly out of control. The tension build in this film is immense and several times I almost jumped out of my skin. Mines are such a cruel weapon of war that take and take long after war factions move on. Kajaki: Kilo Two Bravo is about as perfect as you might get for a war movie. Faithful in it’s capture of the real drama you might find on the front line – there is no fluff – it is brutal and honest. Soldiers do not get up again when hit. They cry for the mothers and scream. It’s numbing. A round of applause for all the cast and crew. Quality acting, screen play and overall production. This is a must see film.

Film: Wind River

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Elizabeth Olsen as Jane Banner and Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert

Film Review: Wind River. I’d been looking forward to this one for a while. Set in a First Nation ‘reservation’ it is part police procedural but mostly a murder mystery. A US Fish and Wildlife Service tracker [Renner] assists an FBI agent [Olsen] as they figure out who brutally murdered a teenage girl from the reservation. Set in Wyoming, the film is gritty, dark, and disturbing. It touches on many themes including the plight of disaffected youth growing up on tribal lands in the US. I would have liked to see this developed more in the screen play. The folk on the reservation were ultimately assigned a small role in the scheme of things which is a shame. There was some important character development unfulfilled and I’ll single out Gil Birmingham as Martin Hanson, Gerald Tokala Clifford as Sam Littlefeather and Martin Sensmeier as Chip Hanson. They had a crucial role in the story yet were assigned to the fringe. The film glossed over the role of drugs, crime and domestic violence. Perhaps I’m being a tad too hard on this movie? Maybe. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and it worked well enough, but these days I am expecting a lot more. At 1 hour and 47 minutes it was too short. It needed to be longer to fit in all the subplots and back story I demand. But don’t let me put you off. I say see this on the big screen – it’s worthy of the effort to leave the house and have a night out. Final note: all the actors were great and can feel proud of their performances. High quality production.

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Jeremy Renner and Gil Birmingham

Book: The Exorcist

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The Exorcist by William Blatty

There are some novels best not read late at night. And this is one of them. The Exorcist created quite a stir when it was published along with the follow up film. More than 40 years have passed and it continues to be as popular as ever. Although the book is relatively short, the writing is sophisticated and I’ll go as far as to say it is quite literary. It ain’t no pulp fiction. Blatty brings an attention to detail and character development that sadly lacks with many modern horror authors today. The writing is crisp and the pacing is excellent. The premise of the book is quite simple. Regan plays with her mother’s Ouija board and makes an ‘invisible friend’. Thus begins a downward spiral with Blatty writing some of the most shocking horror scenes of all time. It is well researched in terms of Catholic mysticism and I took an immediate liking to Father Damien Karras. The recent TV adaptation staring Geena Davis references the back story in this book alot. If you are a fan of the miniseries then track down a copy of this novel if you haven’t already done so. Just remember – read it in the day time only. More than once I got up in the middle of the night, walked past The Exorcist in the night stand and had to cover it up with a towel or another book. Yep – it’s scary.

Film: Shelter [2014]

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Jennifer Connelly as Hannah and Anthony Mackie as Tahir

Never judge a book by it’s cover. But how often do we do this as we walk past the homeless folk on our city streets each day? They smell, they swear, they are scary. Well yes there are a lot of damaged people out there struggling with mental illness, drugs, and perhaps a dose of bad luck. Don’t be too judgmental. Everyone is capable of making poor choices. This is a wonderful film by written and directed by Paul Bettany. An illegal immigrant befriends a heroin addict. They support each other and fall in love. While their situation improves somewhat, the good times do not not last long and a cruel city exacts it’s toll on them eventually. The acting by Connelly and Mackie is superb. I highly rate this movie and if you get a chance to see it make sure you have tissues close by. Look for on Rialto channel.

Comic: My Friend Dahmer

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by John Backderf

Let me start by saying recently I watched the film this graphic novel is based on. I loved the flick so much it was only a matter of time before I picked up a copy of the source material in the book known as My Friend Dahmer, authored & illustrated by ‘Derf’. For those who are dazed and confused, this ‘comic book’ charts John Backderf’s friendship with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer – during the teenage years. I use the term friendship loosely. Dahmer was really a play thing for Derf and a wider group of teens. I need to acknowledge the honesty in which the author has tackled this. Teens can be brutal but please don’t be too hard on Backderf and classmates of the era. Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know of the horrific crimes Dahmer committed but not much was really known or understood of his formative years. And I don’t wish to delve into Dahmer’s crimes – there are a wealth of books and interviews out there already. But this graphical presentation by Derf is perhaps the most insightful of the lot. Dahmer was that misfit on the fringes of his high school classes. With a proclivity for dead animals, struggles with sexuality and identity, he never fit in. And fellow students only showed interest in him from a purely entertainment stand point. Teens are like that. One needs to be very careful before casting blame around. Derf talks about the ‘missing adults’ in Dahmers life and I agree with a lot of what he says. However, Dahmer was ill and everyone missed it. And here I need to stop. There is a danger that, like arm chair quarterbacks, polite society likes to play at pop psychology. Getting quickly drawn into debates around nature versus nurture etc. This graphic novel is not entertaining. I pity folk who find the serial killer genre in general titillating [they are out there in spades]. But the pages contained within this biographical are powerful. And very sad. I’ll put my neck on the line and say My Friend Dahmer is firmly in my top 20 graphic novels – all time. Highly recommended.

Film: Logan Lucky

Film Review Logan Lucky

Seth MacFarlane as Max Chilblain plus Adam Driver as Clyde Logan

Billed as a heist comedy, Lucky Logan follows the story of two hapless brothers who embark on a robbery of Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is not the usual film I’d go to but there was nothing else on so why not? An ensemble cast, it also includes Daniel Craig as Joe Bang and Channing Tatum as Jimmy Logan. But for my money, MacFarlane and Driver are the standouts of the film. With both their acting and comedy routines bordering on slapstick. [I like slapstick]. And what’s not to love about a one armed barman? The scene pictured above is the best in the entire movie. I laughed my guts out. Now I know Daniel Craig aka James Bond has received some criticism for his attempt at a southern US accent. However, I proclaim he pulled it off and it was refreshing to see him in this role. Tatum was adequate but nothing special – perhaps that’s unfair. He plays the more serious of the Logan brothers. Overall this film is solid in the heist genre. Your call on whether to see on big screen or wait for it on TV. It is slim pickings at the moment.

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Daniel Craig as Joe Bang