IT Chapter Two

2019 | dir: Andy Muschietti | 169 m

Following up 2017's IT remake was not going to be an easy task, but I felt confident and yes, even excited for the second chapter. I really adored IT, so it bums me out a touch that I wasn't enthralled with the next installment - although I want to chalk up some of my experience to recent illness and a general burnout on films in general. What's really missing from Chapter Two is all the charm from the first one, and it's a direct result of the story and focusing entirely on the Losers as adults (there is a good amount of childhood stuff thrown in though). As opposed to a horror/coming-of-age story, we are instead given a very defined, mission-based movie that relies on the characters remembering all the events from the first film (which are fresh in our mind) and knowing exactly what they are up against. As a result, the film feels as though it meanders a bit as they search their own childhood while we - the audience - know exactly where this all ends up. The film clocking in at nearly three hours long doesn't help the situation either but I don't feel as though we do without much of what we get and I'm curious if the parallel storytelling of the original would have worked better in this situation - and yes, I still need to see that original miniseries. The stuff I did like: the casting was incredible; the journey the characters take was rewarding, and the imagery was incredible. Chapter Two spills onto screen with absolute demonic and twisted ideas that was a delight to see on the big screen. Without question this was a solid followup but found it lacking - I will definitely be doing a double feature when it hits home screens later on.

Rating: 3 / 5

Carriers

2009 | dir: David Pastor | 84 m

This film has been sitting in my collection for nearly a decade, nearing the top of the watchlist on occasion but nearing the "get rid of" pile more often than not. Every few years I must evaluate some of those bottom films and give it an opportunity to state its case on sticking around a bit longer. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell you what made me keep this film around, although I'm glad I did as putting it on and finishing the film (in one sitting, no less) granted a sense of accomplishment that is altogether uncommon in my habits. The film, Carriers, is merely okay though: it follows two brothers - and their girlfriends - as they navigate the harsh post-apocalyptic disease-ridden country. Their goal is to reach a fondly remember childhood beach town the brothers vacationed at as kids, but they'll come across other survivors and dangers. It's honestly, pretty run of the mill. Chris Pine does turn in a decent performance, but the film teeters too strongly on the genre tropes and is immediately all too familiar. It attempts to build some suspense on occasion but it quicky peters out: the strength of the film resides in building the brothers' relationship.

Rating: 1.5 / 5

Brightburn

2019 | dir: David Yarovesky | 91 m

The premise was simple enough: what if Superman came to Earth but turned out to be a real jerk? It's not exactly new either, but the current superhero-dominated cinema landscape hasn't played around with the idea of these super-powered being letting loose with all their strength. So I was excited, for a short time. The movie came and went without much fanfare, so when I did have an opportunity to check it out, I was expecting pretty poor results. And that's pretty much what I got: there is nothing particularly interesting about this film as it fails to really delve into the character of an "Evil Superman." Instead, it really leans into grotesque horror, which doesn't need to be super-villain fueled - you'll get a lot of nasty body stuff going on in other more competent thrillers. There's much to be said about the child's turn to evil and lack of motivation in doing so, but I might be venturing into spoiler territory and ultimately, it doesn't matter: every character - save for mom played by Elizabeth Banks - is a flat, shallow jerk. While I initially gave it two stars, I'm finding it difficult to justify why now (a couple of weeks later): there is very little redeeming the film (the special effects are good and the runtime is brisk).

Rating: 2 / 5

 

City Slickers

1991 | dir: Ron Underwood112 m

This one hit me a bit harder than I thought it would. Putting City Slickers on having not seen it in upwards of twenty five years, I was was expecting a bit of a light comedy on a Sunday evening to round out the weekend; but it was different than I had remembered it as a child: it was relevant to my age. Indeed, Billy Crystal's character and group of friends are experiencing a pre-middle aged crisis of sorts as they approach 40 and begin questioning their happiness (or contentment may be more appropriate) when he takes a look at his career and what life has amounted to. They find themselves taking a fully immersive ranch vacation: a few weeks working the land and taking a long journey of bringing cattle across country. It's funny as always, and perhaps even moreso now that I'm older (arguably more mature), but notably poignant and entertaining as we watch these characters overcome the odds whilst hitting their own highs and lows. It's a touching adventure and I look forward to seeing the sequel (of which I have no memory of seeing in my childhood).

Rating: 3.5 / 5 

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101587/
Letterboxd: https://boxd.it/28P0

Alice Sweet Alice

1976 | dir: Alfred Sole | 98 m

The stars were aligned for me to watch this movie: it was discussed in some detail on The Evolution of Horror podcast that I've been getting into, and released by Arrow recently on bluray: the timing was too good to pass up so I indulged in this murder mystery film.

Alice is a withdrawn 12-year-old who lives with her mother and her younger sister, Karen, who gets most of the attention from her mother, leaving Alice out of the spotlight. But when Karen is found brutally murdered in a church, suspicions start to turn toward Alice. But could a 12-year-old girl really be capable of such savagery?

Well, that about sets the stage properly for the film, doesn't it? But it doesn't prepare you for the true horror of this movie: the disgusting adults. It almost bears a disclaimer that the actress playing young Alice was nineteen at the time of filming, although that doesn't make things much easier to watch. You'll be uncomfortable as characters make incredibly bad comments about Alice's body, to a point wherein it seems the filmmakers are intent on giving you sympathy for the girl while at the same time having her serve as the primary suspect of the brutal murder of her sister and some other violent attacks on others. Things felt a bit off for me throughout the film, and I found it difficult to invest myself fully as the film explores themes of religion, innocence and guilt around a decidedly scary and distinctive looking murderer in a bright yellow raincoat. It most certainly holds more to appreciate, as I read other, smarter reviews of the film, but I would be hard-pressed to revisit the film again without a purpose.

Rating: 3.5 / 5  | IMDB | Letterboxd

The Dawn Wall

2017 | dir: Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer | 101 m

A little while ago Cale coerced me into watching Free Solo; it had been on my watchlist/radar for a bit but sometimes you just need that little encouragement to take the plunge. It's not that i dislike documentaries, it's just that I *rarely* watch them. And the film did not disappoint; so when it came time to watch a movie with my parents and we were browsing Netflix, I had to jump on The Dawn Wall: the ingredients were similar to Free Solo and it looked to be well regarded. Dawn does not disappoint. The documentary follows Tommy Caldwell's incredible story in his journey to not just climb El Capitan, but to strike out a new route up what would have been considered an impossible obstacle. It's an interesting lifestory, harrowing to watch and incredibly fascinating. It also makes me quite happy to be content on the ground my entire life, yet respect those that strive for the ascent. This is a must watch for anyone with the slightest tingle of adventure in them.

Rating: 4 / 5 | IMDB | Letterboxd

Next

2007 | dir: Lee Tamahori | 1h 6m

Did I see this movie once before, over a decade ago, or am I seeing it for the first time now? Was it that forgettable? Yet it's hardly forgettable as it seems like a bit of a meme-factory or at the very least, a production floor of Nic Cage gifs for quick internet consumption. The plot is straightforward enough that I question why Cage has to be so odd yet I recognize it's part of what he does. Everyone else (Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel) just kind of show up for the movie while Cage hams it up as a character who can see two minutes into the future, unless he's around Biel's character. The logistics aren't really explained: it seems to be a superpower in that he can play out the next two minutes in infinite ways before allowing time to progress as normal. While I could see an interesting story here about our hero who is struggling with reality (perhaps he sees the next two minutes and the present simultaneously), instead we have Cage testing out dozens of pickup lines to seduce a woman who seems adamant about rejecting his advances; but he finds a way through - which feels manipulative - I would have been happier if he just found a way to become this woman's friend for the sole reason of enhancing his abilities. We could have even had more greatness if maybe she had her own abilities that were also enhanced around Cage. Alas, the film plays things safe yet weird. It's not a terrible film but it's far from great.

1.5 / 5 | IMDB | Letterboxd

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2019 | dir: Quentin Tarantino | 2h 41m

To be perfectly upfront: I don't necessarily get excited for Tarantino films, but I do make a point of seeing them in the theatre. I can appreciate his approach to cinema but I don't often find myself revisiting like I used to. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs were Top Films of my youth and perhaps saturated my appetite for a long time to come. That being said, I love the attention to detail Tarantino puts into his films, and the originality of which he brings life to the big screen. I really enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Where his previous - The Hateful Eight - was an exercise in tension, Hollywood is on the surface, a slower, lighter, more escapist film that (of course) dabs into the brutal violence he's known for. Being somewhat unaware of the general plot beforehand certainly lent itself to my enjoyment of the film, but I would have to say I was fully invested throughout the (lengthy) run-time. The acting is incredible and the characters were vibrant and full of depth. Maybe I don't give Tarantino enough credit; at the very least I need to revisit his filmography as I truly appreciate the content he puts out there.

Score: 4 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd

A Bay of Blood

1971 | dir: Mario Bava | 1h 25m

Inspired by my latest project to follow along with a horror podcast focusing on the history of slasher films, I ended up watching A Bay of Blood on a Sunday evening with popcorn in hand and an eagerness to focus on a foreign film; with subtitles, I find the temptation to look at my phone significantly reduced and I swear the forced focus enhances my experience (akin to watching a film in the theatre, really). With a slew of Argento films under my belt by now, I was excited that I would be watching my first Mario Bava film, but I left a bit disappointed. This is a good movie, without a doubt, but the pacing feels inconsistent, and I honestly found things a bit confusing. When the slashing starts, it really rolls, but there are long periods of inactivity, with the climax of the film petering out with an extraordinary amount of exposition. I'm sure the foreign names don't help as I tried to make sense of the explanation on what just happened (that is, the conclusion to who killed the heiress) but was pretty happy the film didn't overstay its welcome.

Score: 2.5 / 5 | IMDB Letterboxd