adaptation

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ (2017)– Video Review

The highly-anticipated sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is finally here! How does it compare to the original? Our video review!

What did you all think of ‘The Golden Circle?’ Did it live up to your expectations? Or do you not even care about this franchise? I wanna hear from you so hit me up in the comments below!

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Review: Eerie “IT” will chill your bones and warm your heart

Director: Andy Muschiettie

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Fin Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard 

Year: 2017

Rating: R

IT is arguably one of Stephen King’s most involved and inscrutable works. The book significantly ties into King’s greater literary universe and explores abstract concepts that aren’t always easy to visualize or interpret, especially if you are unfamiliar with many of the author’s other stories.

That in combination with some of the more– ahem– avant-garde material in the novel might explain the lack of attempts at a big screen adaptation since King first published IT back in 1986.

Thankfully, Director Andy Muschiettie (Mama) and his screenwriters Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman accessibly scale back the more confounding, cosmic elements of King’s terrifying tale to focus in on the coming-of-age story at its core. And why not? It’s the strongest, most relatable aspect of the book and so too of the new film.

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Bill Skarsgard as IT, aka Pennywise

By now I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with the iconic scene that sets everything into motion. It’s a rainy autumn afternoon in the small, fictional town of Derry, Maine. A young, sickly boy named Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) sends his baby brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) outside to play with a nifty paper boat. Almost immediately, the S.S. Georgie (as it’s christened) is swallowed up by a storm drain.

Just then, what should appear from the dark, damp abyss but a jovial, dancing clown (Bill Skarsgard). Calling himself Pennywise and claiming to be a friend, the gleaming anomaly offers Georgie his boat back. Paying no attention to the drool running from the clown’s mouth or the accompanying dead-eyed stare, Georgie reaches into the drain and– well– let’s just say Pennywise ain’t exactly runnin’ a charity here.

Sadly, Georgie is just the latest in a long line of children who’ve recently gone missing in Derry. And things might have stayed that way too. You see, nobody in Derry is too keen on actually investigating these disappearances. None of the adults anyways.

Holding out hope that his younger brother is still alive, Bill employs the aid of his closest friends (they call themselves the Losers Club) to investigate the Barrens, a local tract of muddy land where the nearby river meets the city sewage. Here the Losers hunt for George; instead, they discover they’re the ones being hunted.

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One by one, the Losers have their own traumatizing run-in with Pennywise wherein IT terrorizes them by taking the form of their greatest fears. Among these malicious manifestations are a deformed nun; an oozing leper; and the crispy, headless corpse of a dead child. Though we only catch brief glimpses of them, each shape is vividly repulsing and impossible to un-see. That’s the genius of Muschiettie’s approach.

However, the ultimate success or failure of IT hinges on its casting, which is why I’m enthusiastic to report that Muschiettie and company have positively nailed the casting and all the way around too.

Bill Skarsgard is an impressive follow-up to Tim Curry, who had an iconic turn as Pennywise during the IT miniseries back in 1990. Though his performance isn’t as flamboyant as Curry’s, Skarsgard still captures the whimsical spirit of the child-eating clown.

While you may buy a ticket to see Skarsgard as IT, you will walk away remembering the Losers. Spending time with the central group of kids here is a joy and even though there are seven of them, each is allotted a healthy dose of screen time; not just to explain their individual encounters with Pennywise, but also to explore the deeper (and oftentimes scarier) conflicts in their lives.

The chemistry among the young cast is infectious. It’s difficult to resist their shared charm but easy to believe that these kids would actually be friends in real life. Though their story seems otherworldly at times, their earnestness with each other and the audience feels very grounded. Ultimately, I felt scared when they felt scared and happy when they felt happy because I cared.

Grade: A

IT is setting fire to a number of box office records. That means plenty of people are heading out to see it, which means there ought to be plenty of opinions. How did you enjoy IT? Did you opt not to go because you hate clowns? Hit me up in the comments below! I want to know!

IT: Video Review

HIYA, GEORGIE. The highly anticipated big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved IT novel is finally here! Check out our video review below!

What did you all think of IT? Let us know in the comments below!

Review: ‘Tulip Fever’ is a wildly overgrown period drama

Director: Justin Chadwick

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane Dehaan, Holiday Grainger, Jack O'Connell

Year: 2017

Rating: R

Over the past few years, Alicia Vikander has steadily been stepping in on Keira Knightley’s turf as the star of what feels like every other period drama that comes out, even winning an Oscar for her role in The Danish Girl. The following year (last year) she co-starred alongside her real-life boyfriend Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans, which ultimately garnered no recognition from the Academy or box office. This year Vikander has Tulip Fever and judging from the final product, recent history is sure to repeat itself.

Based on the novel of the same name, Tulip Fever explores a forbidden romance set against the backdrop of 17th century Amsterdam where people gathered in frenzies at underground auctions to buy and sell rare Tulip bulbs in hopes of striking it rich in the blossoming flower market. The rest of the setup is sound enough. Vikander is Sophia, a young orphan who is handpicked by a wealthy peppercorn entrepreneur named Cornelis (Christoph Waltz) who’s looking for a wife to bare an heir that can carry on his legacy.

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Sophia understands her role in this new life and tries repaying Cornelis by giving him what he wants. However, after months of nothing (except Waltz creepily referencing his “little soldiers”), Cornelis hires an up-and-coming painter to capture the couple’s likeness. He figures if his legacy cannot live on through blood, then it shall live on through artwork.

That’s where we meet Dane Dehaan, a.k.a. Jan Van Loos, who enters Sophia’s life as said painter. Almost instantly the two strike up a titillating, illicit romance a la Romeo and Juliette that supposedly tears at Sophia, who still feels she owes a debt to Cornelis. Unfortunately, the forbidden relationship plays more like friends with benefits than a strained, bittersweet romance. They hardly speak to each other and even when they do, there’s never any meaningful context.

Of course a lot of that is due to the lack of character development for Jan. Other than being a painter, we learn almost nothing about him. Though Dehaan does fine work here, it’s impossible to buy that Sophia loves him at all. After they finally revealed their feelings for each other, I laugh out loud when I should have been crying and nodding my head in teary affirmation.

The lack of development on the parts of the central affair and Jan’s character can be traced back to the looming issue with Tulip Fever. It’s wildly overgrown. At times it feels like three separate movies clumsily playing over each other, with neither receiving the full span of attention they deserve.

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Outside Jan and Sophia, a secondary romance is taking place between Maria (Holliday Grainger), Sophia and Cornelis’s servant, and her salesman boyfriend, Brok (Jack O’Connell). The film spends a good chunk of time following Brok as he learns to work the underworld of the Tulip trade. Then, out of nowhere, he’s dumped off somewhere and we don’t see him again for most of the rest of the film.

The back half of Tulip Fever follows Jan as he too learns the tricks of the Tulip trade. Of course he only wants to make enough money so he and Sophia can run away together after hatching an ludicrous plan to get away from Cornelis. Unfortunately, we spend more time with Jan as he retraces Brok’s footsteps than we ever do with Jan and Sophia together.

So much is happening in Tulip Fever that the different through lines repeatedly resort to sitcom-style gags in order to explain important plot points. Consequently, the film shifts between its natural, dark tone and an inappropriately comedic one. A character might be dying upstairs in one room while the doctor of all people is downstairs trying to stop other people from going into that room. I could argue that Tulip Fever is as much a dark comedy as it is a straight period drama.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in this film is Waltz’s Cornelis. There are allusions to his troubled past, but now he’s trying to repent for his sins. Automatically he is a more established character than some of the recent villains that Waltz has played. Walking out, I kept wishing that the movie had just been about him instead.

Grade: C

What did you all think of Tulip Fever? Did you check it out during this slow Labor Day weekend? Or did you catch something else? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: ‘The Dark Tower’ flimsily stands atop solid foundation

Hollywood has been looking to Stephen King for adaptable source material for decades now. Some projects have become classic works of cinema, such as The Shawshank Redemption or The Shining. Others have been cast aside and forgotten like many of the restless spirits in King’s works.

Despite widely varying results, there is an obvious hunger for seeing King’s nightmarish imagination play out on the silver screen. Still, many have opted out of adapting The Dark Tower series, which is largely considered King’s magnum opus.

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Fast forward to 2017. Not only do we have a live-action retelling of Stephen King’s iconic novel, but it features two of the biggest stars on the planet in Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. And while the collision of so much talent may seem like the cosmic workings of a greater power (a turtle, perhaps?), I’m afraid this iteration of The Dark Tower is doomed to the limbo of forgotten Stephen King movies.

That isn’t to say The Dark Tower is an outright mess. It isn’t. It’s actually pretty fun throughout thanks to occasional flashes of inspired world building and a strong outing by Elba as the heralded gunslinger, the last in a long line of badass cowboys who guard The Dark Tower from forces that would do it harm.

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Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black is one of those forces. He’s a powerful sorcerer who causes people to stop breathing or hate their own mother (no, really) by simply waving his hand. However, the Man in Black does more damage to the actual movie he’s in than anything.

Whereas the gunslinger seeks revenge for the death of those closest to him, no such motivation is given to the Man in Black. He wants to raise The Dark Tower and destroy the universe because he’s evil and that’s the type of thing evil characters in these types of stories do. It comes off as if no attention was spared to his development. Not even the Academy Award winning  McConaughey sparks any excitement from the one note writing. He delivers each eye-rolling line with spectacular boredom.

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But the Man in Black is only one convention inside an overly conventional film. Oozing from the mind of Stephen King, The Dark Tower movie should at least feel like a singular experience. Nobody tells the types of stories he tells and his creative influences are felt even during the most lackluster of his adaptations.

I knew where this movie was headed the moment Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) had his doodling pad ripped from his hands by the school bully, right down to the laughable final showdown. And I was right. You don’t have to possess any Shine to be able to predict each next step in this fantastical journey.

Grade: C+

What did you all think about The Dark Tower? Did you have fun with it? And what did you think about Matthew McConaughey in this role? Let us know in the comments section below!

Ghost in the Shell (2017)- Review

Director: Rupert Sanders

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt

Synopsis: In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals (source: IMDb). 

Rating: PG-13

There’s more tension surrounding the live-action Ghost in the Shell than there is in the actual movie. In fact, a documentary centered on the film’s impenetrable marketing, controversial casting, and box office bombing would probably make for a more compelling narrative.

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To his credit, Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) has adapted the surface world of the Ghost in the Shell anime into live-action with hair-raising accuracy. His film is gorgeous, glossing intricately detailed sets with cyber punk aesthetics for a neo-noir varnish. It’s as if Sanders scanned the pages of the anime directly onto the screen.

That said, the film is more shell than ghost. The profound source material has been stripped of its less conventional elements in favor of a final product that’s much more agreeable by Hollywood’s standards, which in this day and age equates to a superhero origin story minus the exhilarating fight choreography and exuberance that comes with discovering you have superpowers. Instead, there is an abundance of somber dialogue accompanied by long, gloomy gazes out windows.

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Thankfully, the talented cast does what it can to carry the slack of the lackluster action and dull, repetitive themes. Controversy aside, Johansson delivers a solid performance as Major. I (mostly) bought into her two most prominent relationships. And living up to his nickname, Japanese star “Beat” Takeshi Kitano highlights the film with a couple of legitimate badass beat downs.

Still, if you’re watching Ghost in the Shell and you get the feeling you’ve been here before, don’t worry. It’s not a glitch in the Matrix. It’s just your inner moviegoer telling you you’ve seen this all before in better movies.

Grade: C

What did you think about the new Ghost in the Shell flick? How did you feel about the casting? And who wants to make that documentary? Let us know in the comments below!