Colossal A Movie About a Woman and a Toxic Man

Recently I watched Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, and Dan Stevens. The premise of the movie is elegantly unique. Hathaway plays an online writer whose life is spiraling out of control. She’s got a drinking problem, which leads boyfriend Dan Stevens to kick her out. In desperation, she returns to her home town and things go from bad to worse.

This is a kaiju movie, to be sure, but it’s different. First of all, the focus isn’t on the monsters so much as the people in Colossal. Why? Well because the monsters are tied to specific people and to specific places. This approach to the genre is exciting and helps the movie succeed on many levels. What also helps is that Hathaway is as charming as ever, even when she’s a drunk jerk.

The image shows the monster from Colossal on a laptop screen as Anne Hathaway stares out the window.

Hathaway’s character Gloria discovers that she is tied to or controlling the monster that’s attacking Seoul. It manifests in a certain park that she walks through while drunk. Once she does, she makes every effort to stop destroying the South Korean capital. Unfortunately for her, her new boss Oscar is also tied to the destruction in Seoul. Only instead of being a giant monster, Oscar manifests as a giant robot.

From the moment we meet him, the film presents Oscar as a bit of a creep, but generally a decent dude. Of course, appearances are deceiving, and that is especially true in a movie where giant monsters act as avatars for humans. Soon, Oscar, who obviously has a lifelong crush on Gloria, starts to show that he’s not a great guy after all. He delivers furniture and other items to her, saying that they discussed the things the night before. She doesn’t remember, but she accepts the gifts anyway.

Colossal Turns From Fun to Scary In the Blink of an Eye

Soon, however, Oscars affections turn even more sinister, as he reveals his true self. When he learns of his connection to the giant robot menacing Seoul, he decides to use that knowledge to control Gloria. And that is the crux of Colossal; men trying to control women. The film takes care to present Gloria as flawed but generally well meaning. Oscar, on the other hand, is flawed and full of ill-intent.

This dynamic shifts what could have been a fun monster movie into more psychological territory and an exploration of abuse. Gloria threatens to leave her home town and go back to her old life. Oscar says of course she can do that, but he will attack Seoul every day until she returns. This is abuse 101, and adds a real sinister aspect to the proceedings. This element has more power because of how genial and goofy Sudeikis is, even in this film. He’s playing against type here, and it works quite well.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this movie, though at times it was difficult to watch. I am glad that there was no sexual assault because that would have been an easy and lazy trope for the filmmakers to fall into. However, make no mistake, there is plenty of abuse in this movie, both physical and emotional. It’s well worth a watch, IMHO.

Have you seen Colossal? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Invisible Man Review Unseen Chills and Creeps

For the wary, this Invisible Man review will be spoiler-free. Or at least as spoiler free as possible. Nothing like having someone ruin the movie before you even get a chance to see it, right? And trust me, if you like thrills and chills, you’ll want to see this movie.

I’ve heard several people talk about how the trailer showed the whole movie. Now, I will admit the second trailer definitely shows a lot of the film. However, I wouldn’t say these things ruin the film or the suspense. But, I can definitely see why someone would think they do. To that I say, see the movie anyway. There’s enough good stuff that you don’t see in the trailer to make it worthwhile

The image shows the poster of the Invisible Man, which is the subject of this review. The poster is black with a little bit of Elisabeth Moss's face on the edge.

Good, now that bit of business is out of the way, we can move full onto the Invisible Man review. First, I liked this movie a lot. It’s a quiet movie about trauma and gaslighting and disbelief. Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) leaves her controlling fiance and tries to start a new life. This proves to be difficult, though, as her fear and paranoia of him continue to run her life.

Invisible Man Review Social Commentary and Believing Women

What I found interesting about this aspect of the movie is that we don’t see Adrian, the boyfriend, as being controlling. By that I mean we don’t see him do it on the screen. We only hear her telling it. Whether this is a purposeful decision by the filmmakers, or happy accident I don’t know. I do know that it works, though. It helps establish Cecilia as possibly being unreliable. And it further adds to the social commentary the film offers. We should of course believe women when they come to us with tales of abuse. But if we don’t see that abuse, it might be difficult for us to trust or believe. As the movie continues, this trust issue comes up time and time again.

This is a fairly uncomfortable movie to watch. Not because there’s a lot of gore and violence, but rather due to the psychological torture Cecilia suffers. It’s highly reminsent of Sleeping With the Enemy. Plus, I mean invisible people are just fucking creepy anyway. You don’t know if they’re there. How could you? And the quietness of this movie really adds to that paranoia.

The Soundtrack Adds to the Suspense

I know I’ve said the movie is quiet a few times, and it is. But I feel I should clarify and say by quiet I mean there isn’t a lot of explosions and gunfire. The soundtrack, though, is quite loud, oppressive, and quite effective in setting and maintaining the tone. Elisabeth Moss puts in a masterful performance, as do the few supporting characters. But this is her movie, and she carries it with ease.

This isn’t a movie you must see in the theater, but I think seeing it in the cinema adds to the experience. At home you feel maybe a little safer, so you might not be watching the shadows as intently. In the cinema, though you are in unfamiliar surroundings, and someone might be in those shadows, or in that empty seat next to you. It adds a layer of fear to an already creepy situation.

So there’s my review of the Invisible Man. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and I hope you see the movie. If you want to talk about it, hit me up in the comments.

Birds of Prey and Harley Wrestle With Their Past

First I want to say that I greatly enjoyed Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. I also want to say that this review will be as spoiler free as possible. I might let a detail slip here or there, but I have no interest in ruining anyone’s fun. What I will talk about is the movie making, and the themes of the film. Beyond woman power (which is something I wrote about here), there is heavy focus on the personal histories of the characters. Birds of Prey and Harley is about many things, and has a lot of good action, but at it’s heart it is about the characters wrestling with their past.

The picture shows a poster for Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.

Harley’s past is most on display, which makes sense. She’s the biggest character in the film, and she is the POV character. And then of course there is the whole Joker thing. Here’s a mild spoiler: Joker is not in this film, and he and Ms. Quinn are no longer an item. It’s this breakup that sets things in motion, and also establishes the need for Harley to reflect on her actions. She is a product of her past actions, as we all are, and she needs to come to terms with that. As we all do. Here’s another mild spoiler: if you’re worried this means Harley grows up and gains a heart and all that, don’t be.

Detective Renee Montoya is another character in the Birds of Prey and Harley show who is trying to reconcile her present with her past. However, instead of an ex-lover screwing her over, it was her ex-partner. Now, she’s older and gets no respect from anyone. She’s good at her job, but that doesn’t matter. After all, she’s past her prime and an alcoholic.

Birds of Prey and Harley Kick Ass and Forget the Past

The next character to discuss from Birds of Prey and Harley is Black Canary. Here is a woman with a mysterious and violent past. We don’t know much about her, except that she’s suffering. She’s made some poor choices and is now reckoning with them. This connects her to the rest of the characters, but Canary’s story is a little different. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say how it’s different. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

Finally, Huntress. Her whole arc is predicated on a horrific event in her past. She’s not trying to overcome it or process it. No, she desires vengeance.

Even Black Mask, the villain, is defined by his past. He grew up rich, traveled the world. Then his parents cut him off and he made himself a fortune. All of these characters are connected thematically because their actions are made in response to historic moments in their lives. This is the stuff of superheroes and superhero comics. Additionally, it adds dimension to these characters who don’t always feel fully realized on the screen.

Privilege Comes in Many Forms

In a subtle bit of commentary, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn addresses privilege. The first stop is again with Harley. As Joker’s gal, she can pretty much do whatever she wants. This is privilege gained through association and fear but it’s still privilege. In fact, it’s white privilege. Now, the movie doesn’t put it in these terms, but that’s what subtext is for. Furthermore, this idea becomes one of the many plot threads that run through the movie. Harley is positioned as powerful, not because of what she can do, but because of who she knows. Yet another obstacle for her to overcome.

Black Mask is uber-privileged as well. He’s a rich kid turned gangster. He has money and control. Again, his power comes from fear, but a whole lot of cash money doesn’t hurt either. In Black Mask we see white male privilege. He sees something he wants and takes it. If he can’t have something he wants, he throws a fit and kills people. Oh my god, he’s Donald Trump!

Interestingly, Renee Montoya is a victim of privilege as well. Her ex-partner, a man, stole her glory. Now, her partner was black, so this isn’t white privilege. But, he is a man, so this is male privilege.

All of this portrayal of privilege embiggens the story, and helps make the movie feel a little important. Granted, there’s not a deep dive into these issues, but they’re there. And I think Birds of Prey and Harley is better for the inclusion.

The Review Type Stuff

The Good: he performances. Yes, we all knew Margot Robbie could play Harley Quinn, but the rest of the Birds of Prey were great, too. Rosie Perez as Montoya was fun. Jurnee Smollet-Bell was a breath of fresh air as Black Canary. Mary Elizabeth Winestead was a great Huntress, even if she had a diminished role.

But the real scene stealer was Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. He was at turns funny, smooth, manic, and always terrifying. McGregor brought menace to the role that really made the character feel scary and gross. Because Black Mask is scary and gross. McGregor was an inspired choice here.

Beyond the performances, the character interactions were amazing. Everyone had excellent chemistry with one another, which made the movie a joy to watch.

Speaking of joy, the action was fun as hell. There’s lots of punching and kicking and other martial art moves. And it’s all well choreographed, easy to see, and fun to watch. If you like to see sexy women beat the hell out of sexy and unsexy men, then this movie is for you.

Also, the whole look of the film from the lighting, the costumes, and everything else pleased me. I loved the look. I understand it may not be for everyone, but it was definitely for this kid.

The Bad: While I did like this movie a lot, there were some things that bugged me. Mostly, the parts that didn’t make a lot of sense. There was one scene near the end that was especially egregious. I have an issue with nonsensical things in movies because they can so easily break the illusion. And that’s what happened in the scene I’m talking about. It didn’t ruin the movie, but it did sour me for a minute.

Harley Gets Development but the Other Birds Of Prey Feel Lacking Sometimes

I know I said I liked the characters, and this whole post has been about how the filmmakers fleshed them out. However, I still take some issue with everyone not named Harley Quinn or Black Mask. These two get the most screen time and the biggest character arcs. That’s understandable as they are protagonist and antagonist. However, Canary, and Huntress especially get the short shrift. As does Montoya, but her character is so familiar to viewers that we don’t require much development of her character.

Some might say that the shortened running time is responsible for the lack of depth in some of the characters. However, I don’t know if that’s it. I think the movie used the characters how they wanted, and would have probably done the same even if they had more time. The lack of depth in some of the characters was not a deal breaker for me, but I did notice it.

Overall Verdict: I liked this movie. It’s not the best movie ever, but it was quite enjoyable. It’s got action, humor, drama, and more. A note on the humor: there’s lots of jokes, but they don’t often undercut the dramatic tension. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they enhance it. It’s really a well-made film.

If you liked Robbie as Harley in Suicide Squad, see this movie. If you love the Birds of Prey comic, see this movie. It’s true the versions of the characters are different, but they are worthy. Does the idea of watching good looking women beat up on people and form a bond of friendship appeal to you? See this movie.

Have you seen Birds of Prey and Harley Quinn? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Gretel & Hansel Power of Women

I first became aware of the new film Gretel and Hansel in the pages of Fangoria. Yes, I live under a rock and don’t always know what’s new and cool. Anyway, the discussion in the interview between star Sophia Lillis (Gretel) and director Oz Perkins intrigued me enough that I wanted to see the film upon release. I was especially interested in the idea of presenting the power of women through Hansel and Gretel. To be fair, the Fangoria conversation only contained a few snippets of ideas concerning gender roles in the movie.

The image shows a photo of Fangoria where I first heard of Gretel & Hansel and the power of women theme the movie has

Of course, it’s not surprising that the power of women would be a focus in this update of the classic story, and even the title Gretel and Hansel indicate that. Gretel’s name comes first, positioning her as the most important character. This aspect plays out from the very beginning. Gretel is older, and her parents expect her to always look after her brother. In many ways, this is the fairy tale in all its glory. In the story, Gretel does the saving, and the hard work. Why would it be any different in the film?

To get even more explicit about the gifts women wield in this movie, there is a fairy tale within the fairy tale. The inner one, the girl with the pink hat, tells of a little girl who could see the future, and who the villagers loved. This story is Gretel’s favorite. There are probably several reasons for this, but the main one is empathy. Gretel feels she too has special powers, and finds comfort in the tale of the girl with the pink hat.

Gretel & Hansel Power of Women is Awareness

Yes, there is a witch in this movie. And yes, Alice Krige plays her superbly. Of course, it is rare to find a Krige performance that isn’t superb. However, even without the witches, power in this movie exists. It exists in Gretel’s determination and level headed-ness. She is a practical girl, and steadfast, which she demonstrates early in the film. In that instance, she may not have been even keeled, but she was steadfast. These two character traits define her, and set up the central conflict.

The image shows the poster for Gretel & Hansel and only has the witch and gretel to showcase the power of women
Not a Hansel in sight

There can be no discussion of power without conflict. If there was no conflict, there’d be no need for power. It’s quite simple, really. Gretel and Hansel plays with the idea of power, women, and the multitude of possible conflicts in an interesting way. The witch and Gretel are in a struggle, as are Hansel and Gretel, and finally, Hansel and the witch. It’s not as twisty as I’m making it sound, but it all intertwines heavily.

In addition to innate power of women, Gretel & Hansel also explores the forces at work against them. In Gretel’s case there are her parents, her brother, and the attitude about girls in general. The Huntsman sums it up best when he says something like, “They’ll put you to work rather than use you for more obvious purposes.” It’s a grimy line, but it hits hard.

And the witch tells Gretel that Hansel has poisoned her and will continue to do so as long as he’s around. This is another good example of the challenges women face, specifically men. There are men who will hurt and use you, and there are men who will hold you back. Sometimes, they are one in the same. Most times, in fact.

What’s the Verdict? Is It Any Good?

While I really enjoyed the tension between Gretel, Hansel, and the witch, as well as the exploration of the power of women, I can’t say if this was a good film. Did I enjoy it? I think so. It has good cinematography that helps tell the story. The performances are excellent, an important aspect considering the minimal amount of characters.

However, there’s not a lot of story there. Yes, the filmmakers do a fantastic job with what they have, but it feels padded at times. Maybe padded is the wrong word; maybe wandering is better And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, the movie is all about quiet introspection. It’s not a modern day special effects extravaganza. Hell, the whole budget was 5 million dollars. A fair representation would be that this feels very much like a theatrical play put into movie form. That is not a criticism, merely an observation.

Final Thoughts

So, while I cannot say if I liked it or if it was a good movie, I can say I am glad I watched it. It’s a small movie, and it will get small audiences. There were three people in my theater. Yes, it was at 1 pm on a weekday, but it was also discount Tuesdays. That mean’s you get matinee prices all day! But, small movies need support. They need to earn back what they spent. If they can do that, then studios can make more of them. Talk about the power of the consumer vs the power of THE MAN!

If you’re looking for a different take on the classic fairy tale, Gretel & Hansel is a good one because of how it presents and explores the idea of the power of women. Beyond that, it’s a nice change from superheroes, explosions, and snarky quips.

Have you seen it? What did you think? Comment below.

Rise of Skywalker Review: Overstuffed With Fun

So, I saw Rise of Skywalker and here is my review. Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but that isn’t to say it didn’t have its problems. In fact, it had tons of problems. However, I felt they were fun problems to have, rather than dumb or uninteresting ones. I do think, though, that the ideas presented in The Last Jedi were more interesting in total, but that’s okay. This is a different movie.

For the curious, I will try to keep my Rise of Skywalker review as spoiler free as possible. If you’re reading this its presumably because you want to see the movie. To that end, I don’t want to spoil things for you.

I will say that the movie starts off in frantic fashion and never really slows down. Director JJ Abrams has a lot of ground to cover, and it shows. The first quarter of the movie just feels like a bunch of jump cuts and table setting. Not that there aren’t some cool things there: good action, humor, exotic locales.

Unfortunately all of this kinetic screen time kept me from investing in the film. At least right away. While the pace doesn’t really slow down much, it does offer a few points to catch your breath. And those are important beats. Star Wars, at its core, has always been about character and heart. Sure, epic space battles and laser swords are great, but it’s character that matters. This movie seems to forget that at first, but remembers in time. Or at least, it remembers enough in time.

Rise of Skywalker Review: Not Quite a Nostalgia Factory

Surprisingly, this is not the nostalgia engine I expected it to be. Yes, it has a lot of nostalgic elements in it. And yes, it makes callbacks to itself, to other movies in this trilogy, and to the other movies in the saga. However, I rarely felt annoyed by the callbacks. That might change after subsequent viewings, but this time all was good.

The image shows a First Order Stormtrooper, the bad guys in Rise of Skywalker, which this blog post offers review of
First Order Stormtrooper Statue in the theater here in China

Aside from the pacing, I have a few other complaints, but they verge on spoiler territory, so I won’t mention them.

I will mention, that John Williams’ score was fantastic, as always. And there were a few twists and turns I enjoyed. I think the main conceit of the movie is a little silly, but that’s okay. Star Wars has always been a little silly, so it’s only fitting that the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga follows suit.

While this isn’t my favorite Star Wars movie of the new ones (hello Rogue One), I did like it. There are some things I wish hadn’t happened. And there are some pacing issues. Still, it felt like a Star Wars movie, and that’s a argument for it.

Your mileage may vary, but if you check it out, I hope you like it. And let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading my Rise of Skywalker review.

I Hate How The Mist Ends Movie Version

I hate how The Mist ends so much. Why? Because it’s unearned cheap manipulation. It tells the audience how to feel, and it shoves bleakness in their face. Granted, it’s been a long time since I saw the movie, but I remember nothing in it foreshadowing that ending. It’s there to shock. To that end, it succeeds. But it’s cynical nonsense.

How could the ending have been effective or earned. First, set up the choice earlier. Second, have the final shot be of the Jeep. We hear gunshots and see muzzle flashes. Fade to black. We wouldn’t know who lived and who died. It’s still bleak, but it leaves us wondering. Or don’t even have the gunshots, just the Jeep.

The image shows the movie poster for the Mist, and I hate how the Mist ends.

I hate how the Mist ends: it’s cheap emotional manipulation. It says, if he would have just waited, things would have been okay. Moreover, it says, if they had left in the beginning with Carol from the Walking Dead, everything would have been okay. Having the Mist dissipate is dumb to me.

I don’t mind dark and bleak endings. I especially didn’t mind them when this movie came out. But, I feel they need to be earned. They need to mean something. They can’t just be bleak for bleakness’s sake. Cynicism is not thought provoking or powerful. It’s cheap.

I know King says he wishes he would have written that ending, and fine. I prefer the ending he did write. That one is just as bleak, but it’s not as cynical. Sure, people are still alive, but it’s not a happy ending. The Mist is there. It’s everywhere. It ends on the chance at hope: maybe we’ll find a safe place, but don’t bet on it. Lots of people like it, but I do not. What are your thoughts?

Alien Nation Ahead of Its Time and Of Its Time

I re-watched Alien Nation last night, and that movie was ahead of its time. Well, maybe that’s not quite the right way of looking or thinking about it. Maybe it is better to say that for as much progress we as a society have made, we haven’t moved much beyond a lot of the issues the movie addresses. So, in that sense, it was very much of its time, and that time is still now. Or something. I don’t feel great today, but I wanted to write this while thoughts are still fresh.

The picture shows a poster of Alien Nation, a movie that still resonates with its message welcoming immigrants.

The movie is a buddy-cop in the 1980s tradition with aliens as the twist. Matthey Sykes (James Caan) is a grizzled detective who loses his long time partner and friend during a shootout with some Newcomers (aliens). In one of the most movie things ever, he’s on the job the next day and volunteers to work with the LAPD’s first plain clothes Newcomer detective: Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). Sykes laughs at that name, refuses to call him Sam, instead naming him George. So far, except for the aliens, things are pretty standard.

Alien Nation Poses Questions About Immigration We’re Still Answering

But, that’s the thing that makes Alien Nation both ahead of its time and a product of its time. The film makers present the Newcomers, and humans’ reactions to them as multi-faceted. Yes, there is a lot of bigotry and fear of the aliens. Sykes identifies himself as a bigot. And in a movie trope that has gone by the wayside–the man on the street exposition interview–a college student laments having to compete with Newcomers, who are smarter and generally more talented than humans. To some degree, this fear is understandable. The Newcomers aren’t just from another country; they’re from another world. It’s hard not to miss the immigration allegory because it’s not really an allegory.

What amazed me as I watched it this time (I’ve seen the movie quite a few times) is how similar its language is to today’s conversation concerning immigration. You’d think that in the 31 years since this movie hit theaters , we’d have found a way to move the conversation forward. However, the difference is, the movie makes a statement that while there may be some bad apples, overall we should welcome the aliens.

One of the most interesting statements concerning immigration the movie makes is that we all have things in our past we are ashamed of. Before coming to Earth, the Newcomers lived as slaves. To keep them strong and productive, their masters gave them a drug called Jabroka. Jabroka is analogous to PCP, and it is bad news. All of the Newcomers were on the drug, and it is their secret shame.

More Commentary on Immigrants and Immigration

George expresses this when he tells Sykes about the drug, which a cadre of rich and powerful Newcomers, are now attempting to produce on Earth. George tells Sykes that if humans knew about the drug and what it does to Newcomers, they would be afraid and turn against their planet’s new inhabitants.

I like that it’s the rich and powerful Newcomers–the best and brightest of the bunch–who are the criminals. This isn’t a street gang operation with thugs. This is methodically planned and requires resources. Plus, Terrance Stamp plays the main villain, and he’s always a treat.

Something else that struck me about how Alien Nation was both ahead of its time as well as of its time was this speech from George to Sykes:

“You humans are very curious to us. You invite us to live among you in an atmosphere of equality that we’ve never known before. You give us ownership of our own lives for the first time, and you ask no more of us than you do of yourselves.I hope you understand how special your world is; how unique a people you humans are. Which is why it is all the more painful and confusing to us that so few of you seem capable of living up to the ideals you set for yourselves.”

That right there says it all, and makes this movie as relevant to today’s conversation concerning immigrants as it was in 1988.

So, there’s some of my thoughts about Alien Nation. I hope you enjoyed reading them. Let me know what you think of the movie, its message, or this post in the comments.

It: Chapter 2 has Scares and Heart

I wasn’t a big fan of It, part one, and I was wary of whether or not It: Chapter 2 has scares and heart. Well, I went and saw it today, and I have to say I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I might be. Did I like the movie? Short answer: mostly. I will explore the longer answer in this post. There won’t be many spoilers in this post, but there will be some. I have warned you.

The image shows a poster for It: Chapter 2, a movie that has scares and heart

I am a huge fan of the novel, but as I wrote in my reaction to the trailer, I understand separating book from film. They are two different mediums, and the novel is so large, there is no way any movie could cram everything in. In that vein, It: Chapter 2 succeeds because it has scares and heart in equal measure.

Things start off strong with a quick flashback to the end of the first film, then we move to 2019, and things never really slow down.We begin at the Derry Canal Days festival, and follow the homosexual couple of Adrian Mellon and Don Hagarty. Don is from Derry and therefore knows the town is mean and nasty. He tries to impress this knowledge on Adrian, but his lover ignores him. Then, some small town bigots jump them and beat Adrian to a bloody pulp.

It: Chapter 2 Has Scares and Heart Thanks to Humans

Sure, monsters are scary and thanks to modern technology, they look good, too. However, I’ve always found the people to be the scariest part of horror films. By that, I mean horror is at its best when it has a human element. Most of the time, that element is the heroes fighting monsters. However, humans acting like monsters is terrifying. Just think about it. We know monsters aren’t real. Unfortunately, human monsters are all too real. All we have to do to see them is to look at the world around us. Humans behaving terribly is relatable, and is something so true we can’t ignore it.

Soon after the brutal business with Adrian and the local yokels, Mike Hanlon makes his phone calls to the rest of the Losers. These calls bring them back to Derry to face the clown once and for all.

All of the adult actors put in fine performances, but three stand above the rest. Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James Ransone do a lot of heavy lifting, and carry large portions of It: Chapter 2, providing heart in the face of scares.

It’s difficult to discuss the movie without giving things away. Instead, I will just say that there were some highly effective scenes in this film. There were a few good creepy moments, some humor, and a surprising amount of feeling. I was worried the film was just going go through the events of the book like a checklist, which wouldn’t be any good. But, they didn’t go that route, and the movie was better for the choice.

Strange Choices Hobble It: Chapter 2

While it is safe to say that I enjoyed this movie overall, I have some gripes about it. Gripe number one is the character changes. As I stated before, changes happen in adaptations. That is a simple fact. Sometimes, the changes work well, and other times they don’t work at all. In the case of It: Chapter 2, the changes hamper the scares and heart found in the film.

What changes? You ask. The first big one is Mike Hanlon. In the novel, and the original mini-series, Mike was well-spoken and well-grounded. In the newest version, however, he is neither of those things. Could the direction the filmmakers took his character have been interesting? Of course, and to an extent it was. But, those changes also opened the door for character inconsistencies from all the Losers. The movie makers made an interesting choice with Mike, but it didn’t fully work for me.

Another odd choice they made for this film was the Henry Bower’s story line. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with it. But, if I think deeper about it, I have to say it felt rushed. Again, there’s just not enough time to fit everything in and give it room to breathe. I accept that. Still, a little more focus on Bowers would have benefited the flick.

There were other choices and changes that irked me at the time, but were so small that I can’t remember them now. I did like the running joke about Bill and his endings. That was a small, and welcome, change.

Final Thoughts

Overall, It: Chapter 2 has scares and heart and is entertaining. It tries to do too much sometimes, and gets muddled with mythology. Additionally, it relies heavily on CGI and doesn’t always give its players time to breathe and grow. Still, the acting is serviceable to excellent, even if adult Ben looks like some free spirit d-bag and doesn’t have much of a personality.

Have you seen It: Chapter 2? What did you think of it? What do you think of this review? Let me know in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading.

Ready Or Not Review: A Great Horror Comedy

This Ready or Not review will be as spoiler free as possible. If you’ve seen the previews, you know the premise of the movie. If you haven’t seen the preview, or movie, why are you reading this? The premise is simple: there is a rich family that upholds a special tradition whenever someone marries into the family. Of course, as this is a horror movie, that tradition is quite sinister.

Even if you know nothing about the flick when you enter the theater, the first few minutes shows you everything you need to know before flashing thirty years later and telling the story.

The image shows the poster of Ready or Not, the subject of this review, with Samara Weaving wearing a wedding dress and carrying a big gun.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers in this review of Ready or Not, I will focus mostly on the themes, performances, and overall atmosphere. Samara Weaving plays Grace, the target of the sinister family tradition, and her character’s evolution is a sight to behold. She starts off as funny and confident, and is clearly a good and genuine person. She is not the manic pixie dream girl, nor is she a hard case. In the first few minutes we spend with her, she feels like a real person. As the movie progresses, that realness never goes away, even as events continue to take a turn for the insane.

Whether the film is exploring what family means to us, or how far we will go for our loved ones, family is a major theme. The Le Domas family believes in the necessity of upholding tradition because if they don’t, bad things will happen to them. The filmmakers make a smart choice by tying the familial themes to the horrific events of the movie. If they had not done so, the character’s motivations would feel weaker.

Review: Ready Or Not Emphasizes Tradition and Comedy

Supplementing the theme of family is the importance of tradition. If tradition isn’t followed, the family will suffer. It is clear that the members of the Le Domas clan are into their traditions, even if they don’t always seem to grasp the gravity of their actions.

While I didn’t find too much of this movie to be actually scary, the premise is horrifying. Also, there are a few moments of terror, but mostly, this film is lighthearted horror. It’s more like Evil Dead 2 or Shaun of the Dead than Nightmare on Elm Street. It may seem weird to hear that this is a lighthearted movie, and maybe that’s not the right word. Still, I think it fits. There’s a fair amount of action, some tension, and a lot of comedic moments. The elderly Aunt Helene is my favorite character after Grace. She is a wicked old lady with some great lines, and has one of the best scenes in the movie.

I really liked this movie and would have no trouble watching it again. It’s clever, and filled with good performances. Also, it has enough twists and turns to remain refreshing. I think people will consider it a classic horror comedy quite soon.

So, there’s my Ready or Not review. Have you seen the movie? Did you like it as much as I did? Did you hate it? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark Thrills With Chills

I saw Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark yesterday, and I liked it. Similar to many of my generation, I grew up with these books. They were required reading for playground discussion. We all loved them. We loved the grotesque artwork and the creepy stories. They weren’t terribly terrifying, but they hit that horror sweet spot for tweens that often lacks development. I suppose that area is improving; it’s been a while since I was a kid.

The image shows the red movie poster for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

As much as I loved the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books growing up, I forgot about them. Not because I felt that I outgrew them, but rather because life got in the way, which is often the case. So, when I heard they were making a movie out of the book, I was excited to revisit and rekindle those memories.

The film tells some of the stories from the books, and references many others. The only two I really remembered were ‘Harold’ and “The Big Toe,’ and I was pleased to see them on the screen.

The movie, unlike the books, uses a framing device. It starts on Halloween in 1968 and introduces us to the four main characters: Ramon, Stella, Augie, and Chuck. Ramon is a hispanic who is not from the town of Milner Valley, but the other three are friends and have been for a long time. Stella, Auggie, and Chuck have decided to take revenge on the local bully, Tommy, by egging his car and hitting him with a flaming bag of dog poop.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Frames Its Story With Human Horror

Beginning the film in this fashion is a good choice because it introduces the characters and provides the audience with a near instant connection to them. Also, such a framing device is not to be unexpected in an anthology. After all, audiences are suckers for over-arching narrative. For the film, that narrative is about Sarah Bellows. Sarah is a local legend, known for scaring, and possibly killing, children. Of course, there is more to her story than that, and the movie does a fine job of telling it.

I don’t want to get too deep into spoilers, so I will turn my focus to other things. The creature design in this flick are amazing. The filmmakers did a damn fine job following the illustrations and making these things come to life. They are visceral and well-realized, even when they look somewhat plain. I am sure the special effects team employed a fair amount of CGI, but there also seemed to be a fair bit of practical effects, too. The combination works quite well. In horror, audience immersion is key. It’s difficult to scare people if they don’t believe what’s on the screen.

The acting is top-notch as well. When dealing with child actors, there is always the chance that they won’t be able to put in a good performance. Fortunately, that is not the case in Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark. All of the kids put in strong, believable, performances.

PG 13 Horror At Its Finest

For the most part, the film succeeds. It provides some jump scares, and has an overall atmosphere of fear. Additionally, it uses one of my favorite horror tropes: the evil of humans is scarier than any monster. Stephen King often employs this trope, and he is one of my favorites. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

Why do I love this trope? Simple: creature monsters are imaginary. Sure, they might be bloody and misshapen and look scary, but they aren’t real. Humans, on the other hand, are all too real. As is the damage we inflict on one another. Exploring that aspect of the human condition through monster stories is one of horror’s best tricks. Used here, it enhances every aspect of the film quite nicely.

This is a good scary movie for the younger crowd. It’s not too gory, but it does have some disturbing images. It also has enough creepiness to appeal to older teens as well as adults.

Have you seen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? If so, what did you think. Let me know in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading.