Dienstag, 19. Dezember 2017


Title: Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
Running Time: 153 min
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher (†), Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Andy Serkis

'Tis that time of the year again. No, not Christmas. Star Wars! There is no need to explain this movie franchise's significance in pop culture. In the night from Wednesday to Thurday many Star Wars fans (myself included) waited in line for the midnight premiere. Gatherings like this have a magical atmosphere, and yet there is this saying "Nobody hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans" and it is somewhat true. The people who debate the quality of these movies most passionately and fiercely with each other are people whose common ground is their love for the original trilogy. "The Force Awakens" was a critical an financial success, but that didn't keep it from starting brisk discussions. The same applies to "Rogue One". So is the eighth episode of this saga the movie to unite the fans?
Probably not. "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi" is a cinematic event that in order to take this franchise in a few completely new directions, takes a few risks. Some might not be pleased by this, others might love it, and some others might be torn. The film can basically be divided into three story-lines that of course cross paths and come together in the end, but stay separate for most of the movie. One revolves around Poe Dameron, Leia and the other members of the resistance fighting (or rather running from) Generl Hux and his ruthless First Order fleet. One sends Finn and a new character, Rose, on a mission to a different part of the galaxy. And the final one follows Rey and Luke on the very same Island on which we last saw them.
The latter story-line could be seen as the main plot, and it is here that the movie works best. Mark Hamill is joyfully excellent as this older version of Luke and his performance was definitely worth the wait. In it, you can see the young Jedi we saw in the original trilogy, but also how he has grown and his worldview has changed. At points it even felt like Hamill was channeling Yoda, another Jedi master whom we met long after he went into exile. Everything concerning him, Rey and also Kylo Ren is absolutely absorbing. It is here where Rian Johnson takes most liberties with the source material, deepens the lore and pushes the boundaries of what is possible in this universe. On the other side is the resistance's story (benefiting from a charismatic performance by Oscar Isaac, as well as Carrie Fisher and Lara Dern as graceful leaders) that cranks up the tension through the entire film. Doom is imminent and Johnson really manages to make you feel like the stakes are high.You also certainly can find shades of  "Rogue One" in this.
The Finn and Rose story-line is the one where the movie stumbles. The place they travel to is something audiences haven't seen before in a Star Wars film. While I respect the film makers for trying something new and expanding the universe, this particular sequence was too close to our own world to me. Instead of being transformed to a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, it felt like I was watching my own planet a hundred years from now, which didn't work for me. In general, that plot thread felt a little disjointed from the film, like it was just tagged on to give characters something to do. As an in-universe short film it would have probably worked much better.
Thematically however, all these three stories fit perfectly together as they all explore the grey areas in this tale about the Dark Side and the Light. In that sense, Rian Johnson deconstructs the Star Wars saga, in which the bad guys have always been all very bad and the good guys all exemplary human beings. Yes, there have always transitions from one side to another, but no one ever stayed in between for long. It's an immensely interesting field to explore and the film dives into it head first. If after "The Force Awakens" you thought this story was going to go in a certain direction, Johnson will surprise you with more then one unexpected turn. On the one hand it makes this movie feel absolutely fresh and it fills it with multiple awesome "Holy Shit!"-character-moments. On the other hand it becomes clear that Rian Johnson wasn't interested in every mystery J.J. Abrahams put out there and cherry picked the parts he thought to be relevant. As a result, some big questions from the previous film stay unanswered and some eager theorists will be left frustrated.
Another thing that might put some people off is the humor. It is the first time that you can feel Disney's influence a little bit, as they have created a formula in which they put in unexpected jokes to break the tension. It doesn't work every time and even feels misplaced at points. But since this film builds up so many strong and emotionally charged moments, these missteps are not nearly big enough to tear them down.
The one big thing that is probably indisputable however is that this is one of the most beautiful Star Wars films ever made. The images are gorgeous. Rian Johnson treats Jedi in this film like the Japanese cinema treated Samurai. Staging them in a heroic and dignified way. The colors, the contrasts - everything works. He opens with one of the best space battles seen on film and then graduates to giving us maybe the best and most creative lightsaber fight in Star Wars history. In the end he tops it of with an action sequence that, thanks to its setting, is worthy of being put on a canvas. He definitely knows what he is doing.
In the end, "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi" might not be without its lows, but its highs are so high that that doesn't really matter. It is a nonconformist blockbuster that subverts expectations and puts twists and turns on a lot of things you thought you knew about this franchise. Controversy between fans is inevitable, but even if you don't agree with Johnson's ideas, this film is worth watching just to explore them and be part of the vivid discussion. And of course for the ass-kicking visuals!

Since I had a hard time writing this review while pussyfooting around potential spoilers, you will find a Spoiler-Review on this blog soon.

For Fans Of:
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Looper (2013)
Hero (2002)
Films by Akira Kurosawa

Samstag, 16. Dezember 2017


Title: In the Fade (orig.: Aus dem Nichts)
Running Time: 106 min
Director: Fatih Akin
Writer: Fatih Akin, Hark Bohm
Starring: Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Numan Acar, Samia Muriel Chancrin, Johannes Krisch, Hanna Hilsdorf, Ulrich Brandhoff

Fatih Akin is one of the most renowned directors in Germany. The award-winning film maker of Turkish parentage is known for being the cinematic voice of people with a migration background as he has often put their reality of life on screen. Thus, it comes to no surprise that a series of murders of nine immigrants committed by the far-right German terrorist group NSU (National Socialist Underground) inspired the story of his latest project. Especially when you take into consideration that the investigation and trial let to the conclusion that the NSU's network spans into government authorities.
"In the Fade" is a fantastic blend of personal drama, trial film and revenge thriller. It tells the story of Katja Sekerci whose Kurdish husband and son are killed in a racially motivated bombing. Akin starts his story with Katja and Nuri marrying... in prison. It's somewhat cute, but first and foremost a clear statement by the director. You should empathize with these victims, even if you don't sympathize with them. Nobody deserves this. The protagonist is imperfect and Akin refuses to manipulate the audiences through dramatic music cues or other similar cinematic tricks. As a result the movie has a coldness to it at points. This, as well as the fact that this is a rather quietly told film, add to its somber atmosphere.
But Akin's directorial voice is loud and clear. Because he has perfectly internalized the famous rule "Show, don't tell".  His images hold more explanatory power than any piece of dialogue could. Katja crying her lungs out in the brightly colored bed in her deceased son's bedroom, says everything about the deepness of her mourning in a single frame. Her getting a tattoo in an incredibly painful spot without even flinching, expresses her emotional numbness better than any variation of the phrase "I feel so empty." would. A courtroom with Katja sitting in the background, fighting the urge to burst into tears while a medical specialist quotes the autopsy report with brittle professional detachment, chokes you up. And then there is a particular tracking shot through a bathroom that will chill you to the bone. It is excellent craftsmanship.
Of course, leading lady Diane Kruger is the pivotal element in all of these shots. While I have found her acting a little superficial in the past, she is a revelation in this movie. Displaying unbridled raw emotions and embracing her characters flaws, she gives one of the strongest and authentic performances of this year, as well as the best of her career. She and Akin are a fantastic pairing.
However, the film is not exempt from possible criticism. If you were looking for a nuanced exploration of the NSU's structure and a differentiated look at their place within the system of government, you'll come away empty-handed. Akin has no interest in making this a film with documentary qualities. Nor does he want to provide moral guidance. It seems that primarily he wanted to vent his anger and express how infuriating such a mindless and hateful act of violence is. In that sense, it is not a rationally designed movie, but one driven by emotion. As a result, one could argue that in the third act, the film undercuts its own message. But it is likely that Akin wants to present chaos rather than order, and thus, doesn't care for making sense of it all. To show the senselessness of such an atrocity is the message itself.
So even though "In the Fade" is not the investigative movie some had hoped for, it is not one bit less powerful. On the contrary, it is one of the most thrilling films of the year that will captivate you from its first minute to the last. This ingeniously constructed piece of cinema surely leaves an impression and will stick with you long after you've left the theater. A movie that is most definitely worth your time and money.

For Fans Of:
Taxi Driver (1976)
Prisoners (2013)
Léon: The Professional (1994)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Head On (2004) [orig.: Gegen die Wand]

Montag, 11. Dezember 2017


Title: Justice League
Running Time: 120 min
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons

Here we are. After four years of establishing their cinematic universe, DC is finally bringing their big superhero team-up to the silver screen. It's been a weird and rocky road so far. "Man of Steel" was deemed 'okay' by most people. Despite a small and vocal fan-base, "Batman V Superman" and "Suicide Squad" were shred to pieces by the media. "Wonder Woman" on the other hand was a critical and commercial smash hit. Then, "Justice League" was produced. Just before filming was finished, Zack Snyder dropped out due to his daughter's tragic death. Joss Whedon took over to direct the rest of the film and Warner Bros. Studios ordered extensive reshoots to match the final product with the lighter tone of "Wonder Woman" rather than Snyder's much darker vision. So with all this trouble in the forefront, how did this movie turn out?
The short version would be: Fine. The long version is a little more complex. A lot of the movie going experience depends on ones expectations. If you were afraid to see a "Batman V Superman" level clusterfuck, you will be pleasantly surprised. If you've loved all of the DC movies so far, you'll probably love this too. If you were expecting something completely innovative in superhero movies, you will not find it here. There is some stuff that works and some that doesn't.
The whole "getting-the-team-together" part actually works quite well. The reason these heroes come together certainly seems dynamic, and it is always fun to see a recruitment dialogue. In general there are some cool exchanges between characters. Wonder Woman making clear to Cyborg that she outsmarted him. Batman telling a self-doubting Flash, that he should just save one person. Aquaman being involuntarily vulnerable. It's like an extension of the one good piece of dialogue we saw in "Batman V Superman", where Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent have a conversation in which they both insinuate to know each others secret identity. The conversations especially work because of the great cast. Each one of the actors fits their role well and gives a more than convincing performance. Especially Jason Momoa managed to get quite a lot out of one of the most laughed at superheros. And then there are some incredibly cool shots that look like they are taken straight out of the comic book panels. Flash's use of the speed force is great and when Superman fights him despite of it, it makes for a pretty memorable sequence.
But the movie certainly has flaws. A minor gripe is that it kind of ignores some of the things that were presented in"Batman V Superman". Although it is understanable that the film makers wanted to distance themselves from that disaster, it is odd to see believes or character traits contradicting what came before. Most noticable is the lack of care for secret identities (Aquaman for example casually identifies Bruce Wayne as Batman in front of an entire village). Other than that, though the film brings up a lot of intriguing plot threats and themes, it doesn't take the time to explore those thoroughly. A two hour run time for a superhero film might be refreshingly short, but when a movie has to set up so much, it is not enough. Another big issue is the way the film handles its female team member. Gal Gadot is once again fantastic in the role. But next to the unpleasant feeling that her skirt got a little shorter, there are too many low angle camera shots that very obviously only there to showcase her butt. And a quick Flash-fell-inot-her-cleavage joke wasn't missing either. In the wake of the #MeToo-debate it is especially painful to witness this recent cinematic female icon become sexualized after all. Too me, this was more upsetting than the final battle being so CGI-heavy.
But in the end, there is fun to be had with "Justice League". While other DC outings have almost been offensively bad, this one is not worth having strong feelings about. It's fine. Imperfect and yet showing some good approaches to steer this cinematic universe in a better direction, you should watch this if you've loved DC so far; if you want understand upcoming continuity; or if you want to see some superheros do some bad-ass superhero fighting.

For Fans Of:
Man of Steel (2013)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Batman Forever (1995)
Superman III (1983)
Transformers (2007)
Suicide Squad (2016)

Mittwoch, 29. November 2017


Title: Murder on the Orient Express
Running Time: 114 min
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman

After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had retired his famous Sherlock Holmes novels, there was another writer to seize the mantel and please the public with murder mysteries and detective stories. Agatha Christie's classic whodunits have inspired film makers multiple times before. This time, Shakesperean director and Gilderoy Lockhart himself, Kenneth Branagh has taken it upon himself to bring one of her novels to the big screen. And while the same story had already been adapted in 1974, it looks like Branagh spiced up his version with 21st century visuals.
"Murder on the Orient Express" is a solid piece of film making, that might not quite live up to its full potential, but will entertain you nonetheless. Branagh is a master in self-staging. His arrogant and slightly quirky Hercule Poirot takes the spotlight, while the rest of the stellar cast takes a back seat. It makes sense of course, because in murder mysteries it is typical that the suspects are merely chess peaces to serve the story. And having almost every character being played by a renowned actor prevents a premature casting-based solving of the mystery. But if you were expecting an ensemble acting tour de force, you will not find it here. Branagh's One-Man-Show however is so enjoyable that it makes up for that. Every time he directs himself, he takes the opportunity to pick out the role he really wants to play. Thus, he puts a lot of heart and enthusiasm in his performances, that perfectly translates to the screen. It's an absolute blast to see him act.
His directing is similarly joyful. Next to his trademark Dutch tilt, he uses some other lesser used camera angles every now and again. Things like the God's view shot and the POV shot combined with long takes add to the mysterious atmosphere of the film. Furthermore, this film simply looks great. The colors are vibrant; the contrasts are strong; the sets, costumes and props look cool; and of course Branagh's moustache is magnificent. The whole movie is visually slick.
But while the film doesn't have any problem in that area, it is the script that misses some opportunities to have a greater impact. The film's emotional punchline is that Poirot's believe system is challenged to an extent that he struggles to hold on to it. However, the set up of this believe system isn't strong enough. Poirot mentions it ones or twice in the first third of the film, but it isn't really reinforced. Even when it starts to crumble, the film doesn't take its time to show Poirot in solitude, doubting himself and the values that he stands for. He's constantly busy solving the case. It is only in the finale that he pours his heart out. And though Branagh's acting is terrific in that moment, it would have been more effective if we saw more cracks in his faҫade before it breaks.
Secondly, the film does not give the viewer the complete satisfaction of piecing things together themselves, even retrospectively. Poirot jumps to a lot of conclusions off-screen and so the audience is often presented with the solution without knowing how exactly we got there. The story also focuses on motive rather than the exact details and the timeline of the crime and so the events are not entirely reconstructable for the viewer either. 
In general however, this is a perfectly enjoyable film. If you have the spare time and money, watch it in the theater to enjoy its visual style. Otherwise, you can easily pop it in on a DVD night with some friends, preferably on a big TV.  Rewatchable for Branagh's performance alone and certainly arousing interest for possible sequels, this solid murder mystery is definitely good fun. 

For Fans Of:
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Montag, 6. November 2017

THOR: RAGNAROK - Movie Review

 Title: Thor: Ragnarok
Running Time: 130 min
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins,

Although Marvel has never released a truly terrible movie, there have been some missfires in the past. "Thor: The Dark World" was one of them. In fact, with the exception of Captain America, none of the other Marvel solo movies have managed to equal the critical success of their first installment. But with Kiwi director Taika Waititi at the helm and the addition of The Hulk, the trailer for the Norse god's third outing looked promising. So can this sequel deliver?
Yes and no. "Thor: Ragnarok" is a fun and flashy blockbuster that will entertain you for its entire two hour run time. Not more and not less. Taika Waititi surely steered the ship in a new direction. This Thor is much more comedic and much more colorful than its predecessors. Visually, this movie is closer to the "Guardians of the Galaxy" than to previous films about the god of thunder. And yet it makes sense. Asgard still looks like the fantasy realm we came to know. When Thor accidentally strands on the garbage planet Sakaar however, he has obviously landed in that weird edge region of the galaxy, where Peter Quill and his gang easily could go about their business. But Waititi doesn't rest on the shoulders of what James Gunn already created. Instead he lets out his own unbridled creativity and gives us some awesome set pieces that suck you into this crazy, iridescent world. Despite all the flashiness, Waititi manages to shoot the action sequences in a way that they don't feel agitated, but you can fully enjoy their grand scale. He also seemed to have created a positive atmosphere on set, as all the actors seem to be enjoying themselves. Tessa Thompson is a great new addition as this bad-ass warrior, although her introduction entails that the film completely ignores the existence of Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif (Is a movie only allowed to have one heroine?). Also, Jeff Goldblum shines as a character that is basically a heighten space-version of himself. The real scene-stealer, however, is Mark Ruffalo. His gentle performance of both, The Hulk and Bruce Banner, elevates the material and it is the scenes when he is on screen that are the movie's best.
As I mentioned before, the humor was also an element that was really amped up in this movie. Unfortunately, this is where it runs into its biggest problem. Although the larger amount of the jokes do work, the immensely unserious tone of the film robs it of carrying any emotional weight. Everything becomes a knee-slapper. Yes, Thor is funnier than ever, but he has also never been so indifferent. The betrayal, the lies and even the deaths of the people around him, seem to effect him not one bit. He keeps his cool no matter what. As if abnegation and minimisation replaced all of his healthy coping mechanisms. When your main character constantly goofs around like that, it's hard to really feel the threat of pending doom that the movie presents. For a film about the complete annihilation of our hero's home, the stakes feel astonishingly low. But not only Thor has become a sitcom-version of himself. Loki, who was first introduced as a maliciously scheming, complex and intelligent villain, has become a walking punchline. The ease with which he can be overpowered is Marvel's latest running gag. He is a character deprived of real personal growth, doomed to run in circles. Inevitably, the two brother's relationship changed as well. Once a tragedy of Shakespearean caliber, it has now transformed into a "Dumb-and-Dumber"-esque routine. Even the resolution of Bruce Banner's personal struggle is played as a joke in the film's finale. "Sharknado 5" had more emotional moments than this (I'm not even kidding).
The other problems with the film (what exactly was Karl Urban's purpose in this movie?) are forgivable, but when everyone becomes the comic relief, there is no tension left to be relieved from.
It is a shame, really, because within the story of "Thor: Ragnarok" lies great dramatic potential and even the possibility to make a statement about postcolonialism (a thanks to B.A. for pointing that out). But it all gets lost in the laughs. The cool new characters and the zany visuals can't help over the fact that this is ultimately a frothy live action cartoon. Artistically great, yet emotionally empty, this film is good for a DVD night with friends in order to have some fun or catch up with the cinematic universe. If you've never had a problem with Marvel's joke quantity or even enjoyed it, you might even love this film. But if, like me, you need at least a little bit of pathos in your superhero movies, this film might disappoint you.

For Fans Of:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017)
2 Fast 2 Furious (2005)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Suicide Squad (2016)

Donnerstag, 26. Oktober 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049 - Movie Review

 Title: Blade Runner 2049
Running Time: 164 min
Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Writers: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Sylvia Hoecks

Late sequels to old classics are a mixed bag at best. While some film makers manage to reinvigorate a series like Ryan Coogler did with "Creed", too often we get lifeless rehashs that fail to capture the original's spirit (think "Indiana Jones 4", "Die Hard 5" or whatever the hell Ridley Scott is doing with his Alien franchise). 1982's "Blade Runner" was one of the few old gems that had stayed untouched. Then however, a sequel was announced with none other than up-and-coming director Dennis Villeneuve attached. So has the creative mind behind critically acclaimed films like "Sicario", "Prisoners" and "Arrival" managed to give us a worthy continuation of this beloved sci-fi classic?
"Blade Runner 2049" is indeed an excellent piece of film making that can be enjoyed by fans of the original and newbies alike. Although a knowledge of the first movie certainly enhances the experience, Villeneuve managed to create a film that completely stands on its own. Including an omission of Hollywood's bad habit of setting up a possible franchise. Instead, he trusts the material he was given and displays his thorough appreciation for the original. This truly feels like the same dystopian version of 2019 that Harrison Ford wandered through, with the only exception that technology has advanced over the past three decades. But Villeneuve and his team don't only develop the concepts of the original further. They also broaden this world by going beyond the gloomy neo(n)-noir urban core of Los Angeles, and they explore new and never before seen aspects of it. As a result, many different sci-fi ideas, themes and elements are touched upon. Our relationship with technology, the ethics of our scientific evolution and the question of what makes us human.
Guiding us through it all is Ryan Gosling's short-named protagonist "K". Though this Blade Runner is much less cynical than Rick Deckard, he is just as efficient at his job as a detective/assassin. Gosling is perfectly cast, since he has proven time and again that he especially shines when playing ass-kicking introverts. We follow K‘s path as he tries to solve a mystery that leads him deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. It is a puzzle that seems to get bigger with every piece he finds. It is only at a much later stage that Harrison Ford steps into the picture. And although this might be his best performance in the past decade, the movie is wise to focus mostly on Gosling’s character. Because in true Blade Runner fashion, our protagonist‘s journey is not only a search for the truth, but also a road to self-discovery. 
This series stays ‘the thinking man’s science-fiction‘. And Villeneuve stages it with poetic beauty. Just as he previously did with „Arrival“, he puts you in awe as you marvel at everything that unfolds on screen. His cinematographer Roger Deakins delivers breathtaking shots. Long, wide, and each of them distinctly colored. You could put this movie on mute and it would still be an absolute joy to watch. Then however, you would be missing the grandiose score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. Reusing the synth sounds from the '80s and adding Zimmer‘s trademark drums creates a soundtrack that goes from meditative to vibrant whenever the story demands it.
Everyone involved is contributing to make this movie the artistically precious blockbuster that it is. The set- and costume designers, the lighting technicians, and of course the stellar supporting cast. Thanks to "House of Cards", Robin Wright has become the go-to actress for strong female leaders and so she seems to be playing her part with the greatest of ease. Ana de Armas shows that she is ready to get her big break in Hollywood, and even former wrestler Dave Bautista gives a performance that is unexpectedly vulnerable.
All this makes "Blade Runner 2049" one of the best movies of the year. Although it has a considerable length of two hours and 45 minutes, the masterful execution makes this film worth while. A magnificent piece of intellectual sci-fi that is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking. Watch it on the largest screen you can get your hands on to be fully engulfed by its elegancy. If (like me) you can't get enough after watching it in theaters the first time, watch it again (seriously, it is criminally underperforming), or fill in the gaps between 2019 and 2049 with the three in-universe short films that Warner Bros. Pictures released on YouTube.

For Fans Of:
Blade Runner (1982)
Children of Men (2006)
Inception (2010)
Her (2013)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Minority Report (2002)
Ex Machina (2014)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Macbeth (2015)
Arrival (2016)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

Mittwoch, 18. Oktober 2017

IT - Movie Review

 Title: IT
Running Time: 135 min
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writer: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton

Stephen King's books have been the source material for many film makers for a long time. Just two month ago, I reviewed the cinematic attempt to bring his "The Dark Tower" novels to the big screen. This time one of his most famous characters, Pennywise the endlessly creepy clown, makes a comeback in this 21st century update of an old horror classic.
2017's "IT" isn't a shot-for-shot remake of the original, but rather approaches the story from a few different angles. Firstly, the story is set in the late 1980's, updating the film for younger audiences and riding on the current nostalgia wave of that particular time-period. Secondly, the adults take a back seat and the movie focusses solely on the kids' perspective.
As a result, the success of the film rests on the shoulders of an incredibly young ensemble. Fortunately, this group of child actors seems to have had a lot of fun on set, because their chemistry translates to the big screen. Additionally, each of them (with maybe the exception of Wyatt Oleff's character) is essential to some part of the film, be it thematically, story-wise or concerning the atmosphere. Finn Wolfhard (hot of "Stranger Things") shines as the comic relief guy, while Jaeden Lieberher and Sophia Lillis carry the more dramatic parts of the film. But also Jeremy Ray Taylor and Jack Dylan Grazer bring a sincere genuinity to the Losers' Club. These guys seem like a real group of friends and at a few points in the film we can see them simply hanging out. It gives the movie a coming-of-age/adventure film vibe.
Don't be fooled, however. "IT" does earn its R-rating for 'violence, bloody images, and language'. On the one hand, the kids cuss and swear, which doesn't only add to the authenticity, but is also good for some laughs. On the other hand, we have, of course, the stuff that every horror fan came for. Because 'It' turns into everything that you fear, and so you get everything from torn-off limbs to waves of blood, plaque-infested hobos, and creepy little kids. It all unfolds in traditional horror movie fashion. And of course, there is the creature's favorite form: The gruesome clown Pennywise, played excellently by Bill Skarsgård. His portrayal is in no way inferior to Tim Curry's. And although some old-school film buffs might enjoy the 90's practical effects over the CGI touch-ups this new version gets at points, there's absolutely no denying that Skarsgård nails the the part when it's just him in make-up. His smile is super creepy, his eyes are insanely big and he barely ever blinks. It's a genius performance. 
Some of the main character's parents also come in as secondary villains, filling up the small town of Derry with threats left and right. Nicholas Hamilton joins in as well as the violent bully Henry. While he already had the most punchable face in the "Captain Fantastic" cast, here it is complemented through a mullet in such a way that it gives Jack "Joffrey" Gleeson a run for his money*.
The only real problem with the film is that it goes on for a little too long. Once the kids have forged out a plan of how to overcome the blood-thirsty antagonist, the viewer gets the idea of how things will play out. The script however throws in a few obstacles and complications here and there, that don't really add to the experience as a whole. Instead of creating extra tension, it makes the finale drag a tiny little bit.
But apart from that, "IT" is a really entertaining ride that proves once again, that horror works best when it is paired with elements of other genres. The fun sequences in which you get to know the gang, make it all the more impactful when the tide turns and their lifes are in danger. Stepping into the territory of an 80's coming-of-age drama and yet being more brutal than its predecessor, 2017's "IT" will leave you curious about what's next. And since the movie hasn't touched on the grown-up portion of the story yet, you can be damn sure that you will find out...

For Fans Of:
IT (1990)
Stranger Things (TV Series 2016- )
Stand By Me (1986)
Super 8 (2012)
E.T. (1982)
Gremlins (1984)
Scream (1996)
Krampus (2015)
The Goonies (1985)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

*Fun Fact: Game of Thrones actor Jack Gleeson and my humble self actually share the same date of birth!