*NEW* IT REVIEW *NEW*

IT didn’t do much for me.

The highest grossing horror movie in box office history? Really?

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown (Bill Skarsgard), begins hunting children.

For all the hype, I expected something more. Not to say, I didn’t enjoy it.

BUT a horror movie is supposed to scare you, right? Unsettle you, creep you out. Stick in the back of your mind days after viewing. No?

As a kid, I was always creeped out by Tim Curry’s Pennywise. Perhaps if I watched the 1990 TV mini-series now, I’ll probably laugh my arse off.

BUT it didn’t matter how demented Skarsgard’s Pennywise looked, he just did nothing for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was very watchable.

The creepy opening sequence was brilliantly executed. Benjamin Wallfisch’s haunting score. That little yellow rain coat. The familiar feeling of unease rising as Georgie’s boat was engulfed by that infamous sewer drain.

Skarsgard was an excellent Pennyise. He delivered a stellar turn as the iconic movie clown. The make-up and special effects were deliciously gruesome and gory.

In all fairness, I couldn’t fault any of the cast. They were all perfectly chosen for the roles.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) was on scene stealing form at every opportunity as Richie. Throwing in the odd quip or funny insult.

Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) played Bill very well. Nailed the stammer (I don’t know if commending a speech impediment is a great line but you get what I mean, right?).

Jeremy Ray Taylor was very good as Ben, the new kid on the block (Yeah, I meant that reference IT fans). Jack Dylan Grazer was comical as the hypochondriac Eddie. BUT what do you expect with an overbearing mother like that? Sheesh. No spoilers.

The tension was built up perfectly in every scene and actually avoided going for the cheap scare. Unlike the majority of new horror movies or “found footage flicks” of late.

I loved the Stand By Me melancholy. The coming of age tale subtly composed against the darker murder mystery.

Pennywise’s appearance only scraping the surface of this seemingly idyllic town as the kids faced demented bloodthirsty bullies, lecherous pharmacists and freaky apparitions.

The grief theme was delicately handled with Bill. His parents nothing more than depressed shells. Zombies unaware of the horrors that dwell in the sewers.

Nicholas Hamilton (Captain Fantastic) was savage as the head bully Henry Bowers. He unsettled me more than Pennywise. That kid was messed up.

I did like how Pennywise attacked the gang by playing on their worst fears. The diseased leper and headless corpse apparitions were grotesque enough. And a highly unsavoury encounter between Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and her father left me on tenterhooks.

BUT the pace was a bit slow for my liking. There was a lot more humour than I expected. Sometimes a little too much that it killed the atmosphere. Sorry, I like my horrors dark.

I know they’re teenagers but the rock throwing altercation with the bullies with the overbearing 80s jams was a little silly.

If I’m honest, I found my patience running thin, the more Pennywise appeared. The running and screaming got on my nerves. I would have punched that clown in the face. Seriously. Beastly teeth or otherwise.

I don’t think it helped that I find clowns funny. So when Pennywise was delivering his freaky dance in one “creepy” scene, I was in stitches. A moment that has sparked endless (and hilarious) memes.

I mean, come on!

I didn’t jump. All the build up with no payoff. Maybe I was more inclined for the “cheap jump” trick than I thought. I just wasn’t on the edge of my seat or hiding behind my hands.

I felt Chosen Jacobs’ Mike and Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley got lost in the mix. Especially when Bill, Beverly and Ben’s love triangle came into play. BUT with such a mad bunch of eclectic characters, it was due to happen. Shame.

Maybe I expected too much from the hype.

My main qualm (and I know this has bugged people) was that it didn’t creep me out. Normally after I watch a horror movie, I go home and dread turning the lights on. None of that. If it weren’t for this review, I might have already forgot about IT.

Everything floats. Well, so did my interest.

IT wasn’t bad by any means.

IT created tension, delivered characters with depth and told an actual story but the pace tested and it just didn’t scare or unsettle me. The purpose of a horror film.

3/5

*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a religious cult.

I did expect more from Shannon’s performance. He didn’t impress as much as I hoped. Was a leading role a stretch too far after so many iconic supporting roles (Man of Steel/Boardwalk Empire)? He just wasn’t charismatic enough. I wanted to care for the pair. BUT as the film drudged along, my patience was soon tested.

Thankfully Jeff Nichols didn’t explore too much of Sam Shepard’s (Mud) crazy ranch cult. I was happy NOT to be stuck with that dreary subplot. It felt like a pale imitation of Big Love (A show I would highly recommend). The perception that Alton was a gift from God was different BUT it didn’t really go anywhere.

Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) was wasted in her role. Her character was so weak and one dimensional. There was NO connection or chemistry between her and Shannon (or their characters) and by the time the frenetic finale came to a close, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

NOT even Kylo Ren could save the day. Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) initial introduction was annoying and dull. His communication babble and co-ordinate guff put me into a mini-coma.

It probably didn’t help that he looked like Matt from the hilarious Saturday Night Live Star Wars Undercover Boss skit (Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE). However, Driver’s nerdy shtick soon won me over and was a much needed boost in this increasingly drawn out yarn.

The mystery throughout the first half of the film was the only thing keeping me going. The fact we didn’t know why Alton was special. Why did he have to leave? Who was coming for him? Did he even have powers? Was it a hoax? Mere pandemonium from a bunch of deluded zealots?

All we knew was that he had to wear goggles during the day and stay out of the sunlight. BUT the second half of this sci-fi snooze-fest threw that out of the window with Alton blazing light out of his eyes like Cyclops from X-Men. Pulling satellites out of the sky and babbling in radio frequencies.

Don’t get me wrong, when it (finally) kicked off, there were moments to be had. The special effects were brilliantly executed and the chase sequences soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

BUT I think it would have worked much better if Nichols had played out whether Alton was an alien or not up to the very end. The sci-fi stuff was revealed far too early. Killing a lot of the tension and suspense for me.

I loved the Close Encounters of Third Kind vibe to the piece BUT it was far too patchy. There were only so many sweeping shots from Adam Stone’s beautiful cinematography and brooding scores (from regular Nichols stalwart David Wingo) to keep my interest.

The finale was frantic and baffling BUT ultimately by the closing credits, predictable and disappointing. A bizarre set design, that was supposed to be breathtaking and captivating, looked like something from Tomorrowland.

Nichols left it on a strange climax with more questions. I could see what he was trying to do BUT by the end I really didn’t care. For all the mystery and tension, it couldn’t hide what was a rather weak and tame alien road movie that (despite all the promise) lacked in depth or originality.

It was watchable BUT far too patchy and overhyped. Personally, Mud is still my favourite out of Nichols’ works.

2.5/5

TOP 20 BEST FILMS OF 2014 * PART TWO

SO HERE WE ARE . . . AT LAST. The second month into 2015.

I know, terrible. For those who are still interested, we have the SECOND PART of my best films of 2014. The top 11-20!

Feel free to search through my posts for my top 10. If you want, I can provide them.

The best (or better) ones of that mediocre movie year. My criteria mainly focused on the ones that surprised, intrigued and entertained me. And boy, it was tough. Many have been watchable. Okay at best. What was harder was condensing my 20 WORST films of 2014 (Which will be following shortly).

BUT there were diamonds in the rough sea of bilge that polluted the movie screens last year.

I have had to endure endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue and to be honest, it’s killed my enthusiasm a little bit.

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument was films I saw in that year at the cinema. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January 2014.

BUT that sums up my argument if they are in here.

I won’t go on too much about each film. That’s what the other posts are for but a quick two cents if you like. Some I hope you will nod in approval. Others you may scroll back and forth hoping that this is a joke. BUT my criteria is based on surprise, entertainment and engagement. So God knows what lies in store.

11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker installment made up for the lumbering opener that was An Unexpected Journey. The pace may still have been a little long at the tooth BUT was certainly the best in Jackson’s second trilogy.

12. Captain America: Winter Soldier

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A Marvel sequel that wasn’t needed but surprised me in surpassing the stuttery original. I felt the first Captain America was rushed to introduce the Cap in time for the Avengers and didn’t really cover as much of the WW2 elements as I had hoped. A superhero fighting in the war had a lot more promise for me. BUT the sequel had a decent story, good action pieces and added depth to the ‘Cap. Plus it gave a lot more screen time to the Black Widow and the legendary Nick Fury (At last!)

13. The Raid 2

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Fast and furious . . . after an hour of droll exposition. BUT it was still the most intense action film I saw that year. The final 45 minutes surpassed the original in suspense and action. Worth the wait. It may not have beat the original overall BUT other films need to use this as the next “How To Make An Action Movie” textbook.

14. St Vincent

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Bill Murray at his best in this easy going indie dramedy. It was funny, well acted with some cracking one liners and an impressive debut from young wunderkid Jaeden Lieberher.

15. Before I Go To Sleep

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A tense, slowburning but well crafted psychological thriller. Memento meets While You Were Sleeping. Even if I had sussed the big twist. The unveiling still took me by surprise. I thought the cast were fantastic. Kidman was on fine form and the last 15 minutes were brilliant.

16. The Maze Runner

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You read that, right? We had numerous teen book bestseller franchises flooding the screens. Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver and . . . The Maze Runner. I went in, really expecting the worst and for the majority of the film, I was hooked. It’s hardly original but it zipped along and stopped me grumbling.

17. Nightcrawler

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A superb performance from Gyllenhaal. Deservedly earning a BAFTA nomination. Somehow managing to out-Bale Bale in this dark take on the American dream. Satirical, grim and engrossing. If a little predictable with an abrupt ending BUT still worth a gander.

18. The Guest

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Mr Crawley has left the Abbey and he’s kicking ass and taking names. A cracking and charismatic performance in this strange but riveting indie action flick. It felt like a film of two halves. Some may not like how it pans out BUT it certainly took me by surprise. Badass film of 2014? Hell yeah!

19. What If

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What if Harry Potter did an indie chick flick? It would be an easygoing and entertaining affair. That’s what. Radcliffe and Kazan had great chemistry and were a normal and believable couple. I actually cared what happened to them unlike the other umpteen romantic comedies that have wasted my time.

20. Blended

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I told you that I was going to think outside the box. I said surprised or entertained me. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a Sandler movie. And this says a lot from a die hard fan. Hardly die hard BUT I’ve endured them all. Blended certainly isn’t perfect but it felt like a return of sorts. It was certainly a return for Drew Barrymore. The plot is stupid and some gags fall flat on their backside.

BUT when it was funny, it had me in stitches. The family dynamic was dealt with well. The handling with the grief issues was done nicely and was unexpected. I enjoyed it. There’s still hope for the Sandler. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. A good comedy. Hallelujah. Has the Mad Movie Ranter lost his marbles?