Darke Reviews | The Addams Family (2019)

The family I wish I had when I was a little girl. Yes, I was always this way. I think I may have watched every episode of the series even in color, and the cartoon and of course the Scooby Doo appearance.  I’ve covered both Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) movies in the past (almost 5 years to the day) and have not changed my opinions of them since. But we aren’t here to discuss those films, instead we are here to discuss the 2019 animated film based on the original comics and series. Some interesting trivia for you – the Addams family didn’t even have proper names from their first appearance in 1938 until the TV show in 1964.

Should this movie have gone without name too?

It makes me nervous to say the movie activates my three writers rule, with Erica Rivinoja (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Trolls) and Matt Lieberman (The Christmas Chronicles) on story, and screenplay by Lieberman and Pamela Pettler (9, Corpse Bride). They hit the mark and they didn’t on the story. Like it was amazing to see them go back to the basics and get 1964 style of the characters; while embracing some of the single frame comic panels feel as well; however, they missed on some of the parts that people love about the family. It’s like hitting a 20 on a dart board instead of the bulls-eye though, you got a good score but were just off the best mark. The story trudges through familiar territory for a family comedy drama, with teenage rebellion, the weight of family expectations, and the decisions to protect our children or let them grow. It’s fine I suppose, but doesn’t feel quite the same as the family the adults bringing their kids to this remember from the 90s or what I remember from the syndication of the 60’s show. Again it isn’t bad, it’s just not right like an ill fitting skin, er shirt. What?

The performances more than cover up the gaps with a power cast that is 100% a dream casting. Oscar Isaac (Star Wars, Ex Machina) as Gomez, Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde, Mad Max Fury Road) dropping timbre like a lumberjack (say it out loud) for the always elegant Morticia. Personal favourite actress Chloë Grace Moretz (Let Me In) as fan favourite Wednesday, breakout star Finn Wolfhard (It, Stranger Things) as Pugsley, Nick Kroll ( Secret Life of Pets 2) as Fester, and Bette friggin Midler as Grandma. Woof. It’s perfect. They nail it. I love them all – even Fester. Thanks to the 90’s movies Wednesday gets about a solid third of the movie to herself, and thanks to the original series the writers remembered Pugsley exists so he can get a driving plot. We also get solid and fun performances from Allison Janney (I Tonya, The West Wing) and Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) as Margaux and Parker Needler. I have absolutely no complaint in any of the voice acting or performances. Everything and everyone was 100% on point without a single missed delivery.

Now, let us discuss the directorial and animation choices by Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs Aliens, Shrek 2) and Greg Tiernan (God of War and like all of Thomas the Tank Engine). While I didn’t agree with all of the choices made in the story, they made their choices and stuck to it. There are themes in the movie that they lean so far into they could have fallen over if they weren’t careful – but they were. They blatantly telegraph their opinions on certain matters in a way that makes me giggle. Among the choices is their target – young kids. This movie runs quick at 86 minutes with credits and it feels it. The movie is actually a bit too brisk and there were missed opportunities for dialogue between family members that could and likely should have been in the movie that would have added a few minutes but only barely broken the hour and a half mark to put in. It could have made some of the failings of the movie less impactful and instead turned some of them into absolute hits.

Then there is the animation

Credit: Charles Addams

They went back to the comics. They embraced it. They didn’t flinch and I love them all for it. When I say embraced I mean as I was doing my research for this review I found some scenes from the movie that are absolutely inspired by some of the single pane comics. There are some other great fan service moments that run through the film that will please those who remember like me, and simply amuse those who are only seeing things for the first time.

TL;DR

I’d love to tell you that this movie is an absolute must. Stop reading and go. I couldn’t do that in good conscience. It’s absolutely cute, endearing, and simplistic but I saw that in Abominable a few weeks ago. It again *IS* cute, endearing, and charming but I think I wanted more. I don’t think I realized just how young the target audience was for this based on the trailers and the 90’s movies left a pretty significant bar that it shouldn’t have to hurdle, but by virtue of human psychology does.

The Addams Family is an all together ookey movie that was a great way to introduce a new generation of children to one of the greatest, sweetest, and most loving families to ever hit comics or TV. It certainly won’t be for everyone who loved the 90’s movies and that’s OK too. I don’t agree with every choice that was made here, but I admire that they made a choice and didn’t go middle of the road or safe on some of the elements and symbolism through the movie.

So should I see it?

Yep. Take the kids. Take the whole family.

Would you see it again?

I have no regerts. So yes. Yes I would.

So you’d be buying it then?

Without even a second thought.

Ok but are you being too kind to it because its your aesthetic?

Maybe, but what I can say is we had a half filled theatre on a Thursday evening, most of whom were kids between 4 and 10. When the Addams Family theme kicks in for the credits hearing a row of children snap, clap, and sing a long tells me everything I need to know about the movie and if it delivered.

There’s enough for the adults in the audience, but this one is for the kids and they ate it up. Even the kids who were a bit noisy in the movie were noisy WITH the movie and getting excited because of it, not despite it.

That’s saying something and it’s something worth listening to.

 

Also as a treat, here’s the 1964 opening.

 

Darke Reviews | The Joker (2019)

I did not see this movie. I will not see this movie. The point of this “review” is to provide information as to why you shouldn’t go to this movie. The choice as always is yours.

Lets cover the first thing I keep hearing.

“But the acting is/looks so good”

Even based on the trailer, I knew this to be true. Joaquin Phoenix is an amazingly talented and award winning actor who has absolutely won those awards for work like in Gladiator, Her, Walk the Line, and The Master. He is also an eccentric, if you remember that phase where he said he quit acting and grew a beard and went …odd for a bit, but all for the movie “I’m still Here” and was a very long game publicity stunt. His prowess was never in doubt. What I saw on screen in the trailer was also never in doubt. He looked to be playing a complex individual, with hints of being on the autistic spectrum, possibly depressive, and with other mental health issues likely present. The man is a very good actor and there was never any doubt he could do wonders with the role. It also would then seem that this becomes yet another Hollywood picture where an otherwise neurotypical or cis/straight actor plays a non neurotypical, or queer role and gets lauded for his depth and his performance. (Note: I am not saying the Joker is a queer character, only that Hollywood continually casts people in these roles and awards them for it and profits off of it but doesn’t do anything for those who live it or are damaged by the films)

Go screw yourself Hollywood.

Now, let me add to that with this. Multiple news agencies reported he walked out of an interview when asked about this controversial movie. Let’s just use People.com (https://people.com/movies/joaquin-phoenix-leaves-interview-after-being-asked-if-joker-will-inspire-violence-report/)

In an interview with U.K.’s The Telegraph, journalist Robbie Collin asked Phoenix if he was worried the movie might “perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results.”

“Why? Why would you…? No, no,” Phoenix said before leaving the room, according to Collin.

The Telegraph reports Phoenix left the interview for an hour as he talked to a press agent with Warner Bros., the studio behind the Todd Phillips-directed film. The outlet reports the actor returned and explained he panicked because he did not consider the question.

Did not consider the question?

Did not consider the question?

Since the announcement of this movie this has been the narrative in the media. How can you not have considered the question when making a disturbing, ultra violent, just over realistic depiction of The Joker in a country where we have more mass shootings than we do holidays. This reeks of so much privilege there isn’t a check big enough for me to say Check your Privilege you entitled rich boy. The concept that this character who is an abusive, homicidal villain that people look up to is being made into a feature film of his own to show some sympathetic origin story? Yes, movies, games, and comics do not incite violence. People incite violence all on their own. Since the horrific shooting in Aurora during Dark Knight Rises there’s been additional stigma around the character, maybe not rightfully, but it is there.

This is a character who has been around for well over 70 years now and gone through many incarnations, but has been getting progressively darker, meaner, and more twisted as time goes on in comic form, and still people look up to him as something to aspire to. Horrible people true, but when I look at the modern landscape of the US I ask myself this:

“What were you trying to tell with this movie?”

Writer Scott Silver (The Fighter, 8 Mile) and writer/director Todd Phillips (The Hangover series, Starsky and Hutch, Old School), clearly had some ideas in mind. Sadly those ideas are not anything we need.

Look – if you want to watch a white American male who is failed by the system and has mental health issues go on a killing spree – watch the news. It’s only been a few weeks since the last one, sadly, there’s likely another coming soon to someplace bullets should never be. While telling this narrative in the movie – are you portraying him as an abject villain? Are you demonizing those with mental health issues as potential serial killers? Are you doing anything NEW? Todd Phillips may think he is the new Sidney Lumet shooting another Dog Day Afternoon or Sam Peckinpah with Straw Dogs, but he isn’t. Those movies have been done.

The Joker is an absolute villain, he should never be illustrated at something to be pitied. If you remove him from his comic origin or styles then he is a pure sociopath with little difference from John Wayne Gacy except that he exists in an a fictional yet all too real world and wears the clown makeup while committing these horrible acts. If you actually wanted to do something interesting, you show how the system failed and make that the narrative, but you can do that and not have it be the Joker.

Instead though we know the movie that Phillips wanted to make based on his recent interviews.

“That’s the surprising thing to me,” Phillips said. “I thought, isn’t that a good thing, to put real-world implications on violence? Isn’t it a good thing to take away the cartoon element about violence that we’ve become so immune to? I was a little surprised when it turns into that direction, that it’s irresponsible. Because, to me, it’s very responsible to make it feel real and make it have weight and implications.”

It is absolutely responsible to make violence feel real and have implications, yet you can do that with any of a thousand original characters. Why this one? Why take away the cartoon element that is what keeps him as something to be hated and never ever sympathized with. Again the Privilege here is staggering. You might be saying how can I claim it is still irresponsible and privilege…please allow me to give you this quote: (source Huffpost)

“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore — I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ’Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you. It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m out, and you know what? With all my comedies — I think that what comedies in general all have in common — is they’re irreverent. So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but fuck comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from.”

The result was “The Joker,” a dark superhero film with little CGI and a plot that the magazine described as a “critique of Hollywood” that centers around “an alienated white guy whose failure to be funny drives him into a vengeful rage.”

 

I am almost surprised he didn’t just come out and say SJW’s are ruining comedy. He might as well have. If you can’t make people laugh by punching up or punching yourself, you have no business in comedy or trying to entertain. Don’t want to take my word for it? Let me give you George Carlin in 1990 on Larry King Live thats been making the rounds recently, and I found via Forbes.

“Comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power,” he says. “Women and gays and immigrants, to my way of thinking, are underdogs.”

“I think [Clay’s] core audience is young white males who are threatened by these groups,” he continues. “I think a lot of these guys aren’t sure of their manhood, I think that’s often a problem when you’re going through adolescence… and the women who assert themselves and that are competent are a threat to these men, and so are immigrants in terms of jobs.”

Now, I agree with Carlin  – Phillips has every right to want to make this movie. The studio, the actors, everyone involved had a right to want to make it.

I have every right to not want to see it.

I have every right to call him and everyone associated on the BS and hypocrisy of it. I have the right and ability to say “No”. I am tired of seeing men like this put on a pedestal and treated as poor unfortunate souls after they’ve murdered dozens of people. I am tired of this narrative in the world and I have no desire to see this in film. This movie is completely tone deaf at best and viciously demonizing of people with mental health issues at the worst.  No one really asked for this movie. The majority of fans I know prefer a nebulous Joker. No one asked for an origin story. No one asked for a sympathetic origin story. Goddess above no one asked for a visceral disturbing take on the Joker – we have The Killing Joke if we want that.

This isn’t a movie that should be watched. It’s one that shouldn’t have been made, but we have it now and have to make a call for ourselves.

Is this the thing you want to be successful?

Is this the story you want in your life?

Or..

Is this the thing you tell Hollywood – No more. You tell the Incels and Red Pills, you are not misunderstood heroes. You are not anti heroes. You are the villain and you will be treated as such with the scorn and derision you deserve.

 

So I will not be seeing this movie. I would ask you not support it either. I won’t judge you if you do and I hope you find enjoyment if you do, but I know I won’t.

I will see you next week with The Addams Family.

 

Darke Reviews | Ad Astra (2019)

Three movies in three days. Felt I owed my readers something, along with my own curiosity about the movies in question. We know how I felt about the pure sweetness of Abominable, while Rambo Last Blood the less I say at this point the better. That leaves us with Ad Astra. The trailer looks promising with a mystery to be solved, a potential twist or three. It sets up for a Science Fiction or Science Action piece pretty well.

Is it any of those things?

The movie being written and Directed by James Gray (Lost City of Z), with a cowriting credit from Ethan Gross (Fringe), explains much of my issues. Almost every complaint I had with Lost City I have here. There’s no connective tissue in the movie. It thinks it is asking big questions, but it never does. It thinks that giving us a dissassociative Brad Pitt that its touching on the human nature and it doesn’t. It thinks that every idea even briefly introduced then abandoned is something interesting and they end up being more interesting than the whole.

The only interesting of note in the movie is the visuals. I am hard pressed to be impressed though after movies like Interstellar or Gravity. It is pretty, it may even be accurate, but none of that makes it interesting. This movie is not science fiction, this is not science action, nor even science fantasy. It’s a family drama with deep space as a backdrop and not even a good family drama at that.

I am skipping the usual TL;DR on this one because I am just so done with this movie and how pretentious it is.  “The answers we seek may be just out of our reach” that is the tagline. Nothing in this film delivers on it.

No you shouldn’t watch it. I will never watch it again or recommend it be purchased. I was either bored or irritated through this 100 million dollar film. That isn’t a good thing.

You can’t claim to ask the big questions and have absolutely no point to any of it.

Darke Reviews | Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

I am a fan of the Rambo franchise overall. I think First Blood was overlooked for a very long time as just an early 80’s action film and while it checks a lot of those boxes there is a surprising depth to it. In the past decade with the rise of the Blog and Vlog more and more film critics and film fans have gone back to some of those films and have commented and opined at length about the gravitas that the film holds within it. That isn’t even getting into the once “secret” ending that the movie had which ended in the death of John Rambo. The studio couldn’t have that of course and the ending was altered to what we know today. Then in 1985 we get Rambo First Blood Part II, where in an attempt to capitalize on the character, the Missing in Action franchise and the rise of the action superstar John Rambo goes back to Vietnam to save lost soldiers. This one *is* 80’s action schlock, but not nearly as much as Rambo III in 1988 where he goes to fight our cold war enemies the evil evil Russians with the aid of the *checks notes* Mujahideen Afghani Rebels who would later have a faction become the Taliban.

Awkward.

The franchise remained dormant for 20 years until 2008 with the release of Rambo (or John Rambo in other locales), where we find John having remained in Southeast Asia arguably more home to him than anywhere else in his life at this point. This movie deserves a review of it’s own I may get to at another point, but it is a bit bleak and opens with some intense not for everyone *real* footage of actions being taken in the genocides in Burma/Myanmar. This film, despite its outright darkness, goes back to the roots of Rambo of a man haunted by his past and trying to avoid it even if it keeps pulling him back in. The action is intense, the psychology of the character is explored, and the violence is almost in it’s own genre and rarely seen outside of Horror films.

At this point I have spent 360 words discussing the entire franchise until 2019. Why haven’t I posed my question yet? Why haven’t I talked about the film yet?

Fine. Here you go.

Should John Rambo have stayed in retirement?

This is a movie that has been in development since 2009 with the success of the fourth Rambo film. I have to tell you the wiki on this one took me on an unexpected rollercoaster, including one plot that looks like they forgot how Predator came to be. The Mexican Cartel story has been and out of the plot since that time, with Stallone himself in and out of making the movie since then as well. He even went back to the well as it were with the creator David Morrell to try to bring it back to an emotionally powerful story to capstone the series. The other producers disagreed and we got ..this. Now Morrell has his own opinions on this movie which I haven’t read but will share here for you. All sources indicate it is not flattering.

They aren’t wrong. The story by Stallone himself, as well as Dan Gordon (Wyatt Earp, Passenger 57) and screenplay by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick (Absentia), is a dark thing devoid of any real humanity. It is racist, xenophobic, and dated. It is little more than Taken with John Rambo instead of Liam Neeson with a touch of Saw levels of gore for…flavor? Seriously this movie plays on the worst stereotypes of living on the border and what Mexico is like in a way I haven’t seen in some time – and for good reason. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – girl goes across the border, is kidnapped, drugged, forced into prostitution, big strong white man comes and saves her from the evil brown people? There is nothing redeemable about this movies story. There is nothing of merit to it. Sure it tries to insert a bit of flashbacks at the beginning and some voice over here and there – but it feels tacked on by Stallone more than being designed for the movie itself.

Now the last one is a modern visceral action film right? This one…that energy and kinetcism are gone. Sure 73 year old Stallone can’t be expected to do things he did fourty years ago. Even if you want to say it tries to parallel the type of action from First Blood you’d be wrong because in that there is still a sense of motion and tension in the hunt. There’s nothing here. Nothing. Not even good CG. Oh oh the CG work  is awful. Now I get you can’t dig a quarter mile of tunnels beneath some property, then detonate them …oh wait, you can. Its why some action movies look better than others. This …this did not. Also the movie was so cheap they had to CG the laser pointers on some of the rifles,….but they don’t line up. Like with the gun. Yes. its that bad.

Adrian Grunbergs directing here is nothing short of hamfisted. Granted this is his first major film since Get the Gringo in 2012 as director, but having worked on films like Traffic, Collateral Damage, Man On Fire, and Narcos you’d think he’d have a better idea. Wait…what were those films again. Mexican Cartel. Mexican Cartel. Mexican Cartel. Mexican Cartel. I had this realization as I was typing the movies, so I share it with you now. This is clearly the man Hollywood goes to for pick up shots on Cartel movies and thought we can give him a full movie. They were wrong.

TL;DR

This is a hateful, spiteful movie. There is no joy in it. There is no philosophy to it. There’s no depth to it. It’s just a two hour train of plodding misery, suffering, and racism without a single redeeming quality. This is the movie certain parties would trot out and go “see this is why we need a wall.” I want to actively hate this movie, but that would take more energy than it’s worth.

This review has already gone on longer than this movie is worth.

Should I watch it though?

No. It shouldn’t have been made or released with this story.

Would you watch it again?

Win a significant sized lottery. Give me half tax free. I will consider it.

So thats a no on buying it?

If arson wasn’t a crime I’d destroy the prints before it made it to home and digital release.

Ok, thats a bit intense.

So was this movie and without point. Who was it for? Which audience? Who was asking for this in the public? When First Blood came out in 82 the war in Vietnam hadn’t even been over a decade. By the time the last of that set came out, the Cold War wasn’t over. What was happening in Burma was nightmarish to say the least, but the country is it’s own now and the character had a solid ending. All of the psychology and depth to him, the soul searching and trauma? Who is that for now?

This movie was made for one reason to line someone’s pocket books. Not for any sense of creativity or good story to entertain. Sure big studio movies are always made to line someone’s pocket, but usually there’s something entertaining intended.

Not here.

When I get to the best and worst, this one is inching close to the top of that list.

 

I am hoping after the PRIDE parade tomorrow Ad Astra is worth something.

Darke Reviews | Abominable (2019)

Sorry folks, I know its been a few weeks. There was nothing out one week and then on the week where I get two releases I was on vacation. I promise you there’s no video evidence of anything that happened on the vacation. A vampire has to keep her secrets after all. Now I haven’t had a chance yet to get to see Ad Astra, Rambo, or Hustlers, but may this weekend. We’ll see. So instead of any of the movies you’d likely expect from me I am giving you an animated movie for kids. I can’t ignore the fact the trailer has a violin added to Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your own Way. The trailer house reached out to AlloyTracks for it and it, plus the animation and the heart the movie seemed to promise sold me.

So with that in mind – what did your Vampire Princess and her Dark Court think of this one?

Was Abominable abominable?

The movie was written by Jill Culton who was an original writer on Monsters Inc back in 2001, and having worked in the animation department for Disney Pixar it’s clear she has turned on the house of Mouse as this is a Dreamworks production. Not only did Jill write this, but she directed as well with Co-director Todd Wilderman who worked on the sequel to Culton’s other movie Open Season back in 2008. Culton makes a choice to keep the story basic here and honestly I think it’s a good choice. You will get everything the trailer promises (except Fleetwood Mac) in the story and a level of sincerity that really only comes with this level of simplicity to the story. The script and its progress is truly sweet and well pure. My Dark Court and I debated another movie (Hustlers) after this, but we were just so engrossed in the emotion the movie brought that we didn’t want to ruin it. It’s THAT kind of film. One key thing I noticed is the co-production of the movie by Pearl Studio making this another Chinese-American co-financed movie in an ever growing market where China is almost as important as the US in box office dollars.

From a casting and character perspective it’s *very* important within the US audiences that the central characters are all Chinese. I have said it before and will continue to say it until someone drives a wooden stake through my heart, #RepresentationMatters. With Chloe Bennet (aka Chloe Wang) of Agents of Shield lending her voice to the main character Yi, Albert Tsai (Dr. Ken) as Peng, and Tenzing Norgay Trainor voicing Jin all of the main roles are by Asian American actors. Again this is important not just that the character is represented by the actors are also getting the work as well; which can be problematic in Hollywood unless you only want certain roles. There’s a reason Chloe Bennet goes by that name instead of Wang. Back on point though, all three deliver here giving excellent and nuanced voice work that the animation compliments.

On the topic of animation its beautiful. It doesn’t really break new ground, but it doesn’t have to. Each movie coming out doesn’t have to be bigger and better than the last piece of animation; what matters is how you use what was done before. They use it well from the movement and texture of Everest’s fur, to the light effects of the magic as it moves through the fur and air. Even little things like subtle camera motions you see in major live action productions are used to deliver additional impact to the work.

TL:DR?

Yeah TL;DR already. The movie is simple so there’s not a lot to dissect here. That’s ok. This is as I mentioned before everything that was promised in the trailer. Its a heartwarming, sweet, basic kids adventure movie. It avoids 99% of the problems with kids studio productions with only two low brow jokes, the rest is focused on the overall characters and delivery of the premise. This is the fun adventure film that I wanted and needed and honestly is a good palette cleanser after *too serious* movies all summer. Yes Lion King counts as Too Serious, its friggin Hamlet.

Every now and again you need something just pure and this movie delivers on that front.

Should I watch it?

Yeah, its what I wanted it to be. If this is something you wanna take your kids to or just go on your own as an adult (or whatever I classify as) then yeah yeah you should.

Would you watch it again?

Without a doubt.

How about buying it?

Absolutely.

This is so not your genre…

True, but in the next two months I will be seeing two other animated movies at a minimum with Addams Family and Frozen 2 so …oh well?

Fair. Anything else to share on this one?

So Tenzing Norgay Trainor is an important and cool casting for another reason. His grandfather (Tenzing Norgay Sherpa) was one of the first two men to summit the real Mount Everest in 1953. Sir Edmund Hillary was there too. And now for another more you know. Sherpa isn’t just a job or surname, its the name of of the people themselves. It’s an Nepalese ethnicity. They are also kinda superhuman as they are adapted to the high altitude climate. So I am not sure if the casting director knew he was related or not, but if they didn’t awesome coincidence. If they did, even more awesome for him (and his grandfather)

 

 

Darke Reviews | It: Chapter Two (2019)

It’s no secret how much I loved IT 2017 as that review attests. I didn’t go back and read the book to see what was different and a thousand people did their videos on what was different between that movie, the mini series, and the book. Even now as I write this I know there are a thousand people writing their scripts for the differences between the book and the movie. As I mentioned in the original review, I don’t care. This review won’t compare the original series or the book as all three are different styles of creation which would be unfair to compare against one another. King can spend a hundred words or more for a single description, both series and movie can do it with a single frame, held for two seconds. King has the luxury to explore the depths of psyche and depravity in a way that no Made for Network TV could conceive of, especially in the wake of the 80s and early 90s. Even now such material would be found on streaming content, cable, or premium cable to really go there. So thus book and mini series cannot truly and fairly be considered rivals, just as the mini series is a product of its time and capabilities this movie is a product of its and needs to be judged appropriately.

Does it continue the story of IT Chapter 1? Are questions answered? Are the required plot beats hit from the original material to progress the story? Is it scary? Is it visually interesting? Do the actors feel like they are the grown up versions of the children they had been? Does the ending feel like a good conclusion?

Or…should IT have not come back?

Certain credits remain in place, which might seem obvious considering the $700 million global haul it took on a $35 million budget, but Hollywood does stupid things all the time. Look at Dark Phoenix bringing back the writer of the most maligned X-men movie to write…the same movie. Gary Dauberman comes back as the writer to finish out the story, with a brief stint putting out the Nun, Swamp Thing for DC, and Annabelle comes Home in the meanwhile. Thanks to maintaining that same writer, the movie has a consistency with the 2017 release that keeps the flow going, and with it being an adaptation much of the material is there. Dauberman has perhaps one of the more unenviable tasks in this production as he has to adapt the unadaptable with some significant deep lore from the book that the series couldn’t touch and he has to decide what if anything to keep from that lore. I don’t disagree with most of his decisions. Point in fact some decisions made are so well done they almost make me overlook some of the flaws in that script (possibly editing, hard to tell). Which does mean there are flaws. The movie needs a few trigger warnings and while…thematically accurate I am not sure it was needed or could have been altered to not be as rough. I will discuss more on that in the TL;DR section. Some of the jokes could have been toned back or removed and left only for the villains to tell; mostly weight based ones for the record. I’m also not 100% on a beat from the end, but I will let it ride for now. Overall the screenplay does everything it needs to and shines where it must.

Which brings us to director Andy Muschietti, who has done nothing between the movies which is probably a good thing for the man directing this. He makes plenty of brilliant choices here and absolutely nails drawing the performances from the cast; but the flaws that might be in Daubermans script or in the editing must land on him. You can’t make certain references to objects, places, or phrases if you never set them up successfully. The movies near three hour running time does as well. There are at least two full scenes which could be struck from the movie and it wouldn’t have an effect on the overall plot for all that they did. While they may be canonical and something folks would like, it added nothing with some of the changes made to accommodate them. The trick to superior editing is removing a scene and if it doesn’t change the flow or narrative in any significant or character driven/growth way then it could be cut. It may seem I am being harsh on him, but I am really pleased with the overall product, but the parts that detract fall on him.

What doesn’t detract is the acting.

McAvoy and Chastain are well known and more than capable of playing the adult versions of Bill and Bev and they nail it. Bev is missing something I think, but that might be screenplay or editing failing not Chastain. This also marks their third appearance together in a movie as near as I can tell. Jay Ryan is hard to tear your eyes away from as the adult Ben Hanscom, meanwhile James Ransone (Sinister) brings it as an adult Eddie Kaspbrak. Andy Bean (Swamp Thing) nails the adult performance of Stanley Uris ridiculously well, you feel like you are really looking as if he grew up and looked the same just taller. Isiah Mustafa (Shadowhunters) gets the Mike Hanlon as an adult and brings all the desperation and depth he needs to bring everyone back to Derry after 27 years. All of them are good, if not great, they brought their A games and no one phoned it in in the slightest, but we need to talk about Bill Hader (SNL, Superbad). His Richie, his performance is absolutely next level. Some might say he wasn’t particularly funny and I would say they missed the point because those jokes were meant to fall flat. This mans acting is just through the roof and continues to bring the film back together in a way that makes the stakes seem so real for these adults. The same comes for the kids who are back to reprise their own roles for different angles on scenes we know and scenes we never saw, Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie), Sophia Lillis (Bev), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), and Finn Wolfhard (Ritchie) get the most shining moments with Wolfhard getting an absolutely powerful scene that will surely be overlooked by most.

This is where Muschietti shines everyone. These performances require actors who are above the par, but it also requires a director who knows all of his stuff to get the performances I saw. Now I didn’t mention Skarsgard in th acting section relegating him to the technicals, but this isn’t his story this is theirs. He’s there. He does his thing. He is legitimately scary at times, but Chapter Two is all about the kids, the adults, trauma, and coming home again. While most of the work around Pennywise this time is good, some of the forms and threats just don’t look as clean as they could and another pass, another rendering effort could have taken them a step in the right direction towards ideal completeness. Of course, that doesn’t stop this movie from having raw nightmare fuel left, right, and center that was generated in a computer. There’s enough to keep some folks up at night that doesn’t involve clowns trust me.

TL;DR?

It: Chapter Two does everything it set out to do. It completes and concludes the story of The Losers Club and Pennywise the dancing clown. There are laughs to be had, there are jumps, and there are tears. There is real and imagined horror through this movie from the opening scene to the bruises on adult Bev’s arm that never go away during the length of the film. Growing up in a small town not too dissimilar from Derry, I can see coming back to town and walking through it to see what changed and what hasn’t and sometimes that’s terrifying in its own right.  Facing your past can be its own fear and making your own future as well. The movie is able to successfully hit all of these beats, plus never ceases to have a level of tension and did I just see that moments through it.

Knowing that Dauberman and Muschietti deviated from both the book and the original mini-series adds its own level of tension. If you know either of those incarnations you know things that will happen, but as proven they are willing to change things. So when the title credits begin with a WB logo surrounded by the deadlights, you can’t be sure *how* they will interpret scenes. What will their take on the Chinese Restaurant look like? The library? The final form? Who lives, who dies? It’s all up in the air and that is a magic all its own.

Should I see it though?

Yes. Absolutely Yes. Why aren’t you watching it yet? Go home. Watch it.

That said…I need to dip into spoiler(ish) territory out of respect for all of my readers needs for some potentially unexpected triggers.

  • Trigger Warning: Abuse of LGBT persons in the opening scene. Its a bit hard to watch, even harder thinking some people might be cheering it on.
  • Trigger Warning: Suicide. It is done as well as you can do that scene, but much as I didn’t know about the one in A Star Is Born, I must give my readers the warning if they have never seen the mini series or read the book.

Would you watch it again?

Even with the three hour running time? Yes. Yes I would. Lets go. Big screen. Big sound system.

You’re going to buy it aren’t you?

I am curious to what the box set will look like on my shelf. Yes.

Is it as scary as the first? 

Hmm I don’t think so. Sorry to say, part of the fear of the first is the initial shock value of what they did and the kids in peril. This focus on the adults and us knowing Pennywise, does take away some of the terror. That’s more or less like Alien vs Aliens. You will never be as afraid of the Xenomorph as you were in the original, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s own level of terror.

Any parting thoughts?

It does run a bit long and hits a Return of the King type ending sequence, but beyond all of that this will be and should be a very well received film in my opinion. I do think that Mike isn’t treated particularly well by the script or the film and there’s some opportunity there; some of the CG could be cleaned up – but again this is about as good as you can do with the amount of material needing to be adapted.

Also three of the cast (McAvoy, Chastain, and Hader) were in Disappearance of Elanor Rigby together…the hell?

Darke Reviews | Ready or Not (2019)

Hey everyone, it’s been a few weeks since there’s been a review. I’ve had a lot of real space issues recently, from the AC going out in my house in Arizona on the night I saw Hobbs and Shaw, to the death of a family member the night I saw Scary Stories to tell in the Dark. Short reviews on both of them right now. Hobbs and Shaw was ridiculous in concept, execution, acting and was everything the trailer said it would be. If you saw the trailer and went ‘thats my kinda movie’ then you should have seen it by now. For Scary Stories, it too delivered what it promised, a teenager (no younger) appropriate horror film directed by the man who did Autopsy of Jane Doe and produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Again if this wasn’t enough to get you there it may not be for you, but I enjoyed it for what it is. That of course brings us to Ready or Not.

 

NOTE: This is the R Rated trailer, its NSFW.

 

Ready or Not? Should you come?

This is a Fox Searchlight picture, which is 20th Century Foxes indy arm of production, but also the one that gave us most of their award winners such as The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Black Swan, 12 Years a Slave, and Birdman. This is not those movies. This is one where a director and writer with an idea went “can you fund us please?” and someone in this arm went “yeah ok sure”. Writers Ryan Murphy and Guy Busick (Urge  – not the Purge), put their past experiences together and delivered the story of a young woman marrying into a ultra rich family with strange rituals and a penchant for taking a game a bit too far. This is a movie that if it did not take inspiration from the great You’re Next I would be surprised, but easily will sit on the shelf next to it. Giving us an ultra rich family, psychopathic tendencies, and a final girl who is all too human. In the production notes for the movie I found this bit pleasing

Screenwriter R. Christopher Murphy muses that “with Grace we are turning on its head the horror genre trope of the ‘final girl;’ where in many horror films, you have a cast of innocents stalked by one psycho and one final girl remaining to challenge the killer. But in READY OR NOT Grace is the only intended victim, one whom several people are hunting.”

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (Southbound, Devil’s Due) and Tyler Gillett (Southbound, Devil’s Due) despite being relatively new to the game show some good decision making behind the camera. They effectively take some very very horrible people and bring out the charm in them so that while yes, you want them to die its not because you just want them off camera. Many slasher films of the late 80s to today have forgotten that where yes, you look forward to horribly people dying, but usually its just to get them to shut up. Here the near buffoonery of the performances keeps the wretchedness of the people from being completely overwhelming to the point of distraction. The humor that punctuates the movie is entirely within character and keeps the tone light enough to breathe between some of the more intense scenes. The directors also brilliantly remember that unlike many horror and action movies injuries matter and simply putting a bandage on it does not stop the pain.

Granted they may give the direction, but the actors need to sell it. Samara Weaving (The Babysitter, Mayhem), niece to the incredible Hugo Weaving, is a heavy weight in the film and can deliver. Every reaction felt naturalistic and held its continuity to the story, the experience and her character Grace. You might be saying “Yeah that’s acting”. To that I point you at the last abomination they called a Die Hard movie and compare it to the original. What is expected of Weaving here is not exactly a small feat to pull off for 96 minutes but she does it.  Not only that she had a voice and made sure the directors were true to the character.

Co-director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin remarks, “Sam made it important to herself, and to all of us, that the movie not get repetitive and that there be an arc for Grace. We were so grateful for her attention to detail from moment to moment.”

Adam Brody (The OC, Shazam!), as the brother in law Daniel takes what otherwise what would be a one note character and gives it a few layers; mostly through alcohol and dry wit, that keeps you watching him when he’s on the screen. The rest of the cast, which is the rest of the family is absolutely fine. Every last one of them has a distinct personality; but is more than their personality trait – another lost lesson in film-making within the genre. I have to believe Melanie Scrofano (Wynonna Earp) made her character Emilie’s weapon of choice the pistol for pure humor value, or the directors did and she ran with it.

From a technical perspective, there’s some nice use of camera techniques that help tell you what is going on as much as whats within the frame; though some of the musical cues are a bit too on the nose for my tastes. This may be been a de-constructive attempt by filmmakers, but it didn’t quite stick as well as everything else did. There’s a lovely mix of practical and CG gore through the movie, but the practical as expected reigns supreme. With the previously mentioned 96 minute running time, including credits, the movie moves are a brisk but not a wasted pace that keeps advancing the plot without the need for anyone to have their IQ drop to do so.

TL;DR?

I enjoyed this movie. Like a lot. I am hard pressed to tell you its a horror movie, but I am jaded in that space. There’s gore, there’s the hunting of a person, but this is more like the cool aunt to the action movie genre. Slightly less action, but willing to go the extra on the violence, the language, but not sacrificing story to do so. I mean sure there’s other horror elements to the movie, but to me horror is something intended to scare – and this just doesn’t have it. It has a good plot, decent tension, great acting and solid directing.

I mentioned You’re Next earlier and it would fit well there, or perhaps with something like No One Lives or Even Lambs Have Teeth. Not quite scary enough for me to call Horror nor actiony enough to fit in that genre, its solidly between the two and it belongs there as the directors and writers knew what they wanted, released a trailer promising that thing, and finally delivered on it and even had a bit of restraint in doing so.

Should I see it though?

Like I said, I enjoyed this. My Dark Court enjoyed it and neither of them are into the genre – so that’s saying something. If the trailer looked remotely entertaining to you throw the dice and play the game

Would you see it again?

Yeah. You buying?

Uh…no, but will you buy it?

Oh totally. This will get played a few times a year when I am in the mood for a solid Final Girl type movie.

Parting thoughts on this one?

Go to a theatre with an alcohol license, while you don’t need it to have a good time – it somehow fits. Or maybe a nice glass of Chianti.

Was that a spoiler?

No; but if I hate myself enough I will watch Angel has Fallen later this week and write a review on that. Though if it’s as bad as London has Fallen it probably won’t be worth a review.

You didn’t write a review for London has Fallen because it was so dull.

You understand my point then.

For now, I leave you with the fact that THIS despite it’s midweek release in August is one of the more fun movies I’ve had this year and definitely one of the more entertaining in the genre, and a note from Costume Designer Avery Plewes

When making a genre movie, “Don’t send things to dry cleaners. It never goes over well; they will get freaked out, no matter how well you know them.”