Film reviews: It and Kingsmen: Golden Circle. And oh yeah, theater etiquette

 

Finally, 2 films worth seeing in the theater.  And I have to take a brief timeout to make the following declarations/observations.  I don’t remember movie theater behavior as bad as it has been in the last 10 years.  When did we regress as a society?  When in doubt, shut the fuck up.  No one who paid 15 bucks wants to hear you or your friends’ “witty” retorts as the film goes on.  You don’t need to repeat the funny lines either.  Just shut up.  You wanna ask someone what they just said, you get a, “one time” for the entire film.  We don’t need a running play by play.  And when it comes to food, chew with your mouth closed.  No one wants to hear you chomp like a cow chewing cud.  And if you are dumb enough to overpay for movie theater candy, open it before the film starts.  Or just RIP it open, don’t try and jiggle it open.  The crinkle sound it makes everyone in the theater want to follow you to your car and slash 3 of your tires.  Isn’t it hilarious how theaters preach silence but sell the loudest food and boxes with the nosiest packaging?  And people wonder why video piracy is on the rise.  You can put lounge chairs and improve the food but until you start screening out retards from talking in the theaters, you can expect lower profits.  You want people coming back into the theater?  Have someone in the theater who will throw you out after one warning.  And any person who works for a theater who sells tickets to parents bringing in a kid under the age of 10 to an R rated film after 9pm should be fired.  Then whipped.  Then set on fire.  And then have DYFUS called on the parents.

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A Stephen King film makes its way back to the cineplex.  And not soon enough as King’s recent string of films made from his novels have been straight up abortions.  His last good film was, “Misery”, which was 1990.  Yeah, the last time he made a good film, the Dallas Cowboys were good.  THAT long.  If you don’t know the story, a group of misfit kids discover a clown by the name of Pennywise (fantastic band) has been terrorizing Derry, Maine for almost 100 years by killing kids every 27 years.  I didn’t read the book (I will now) but I did see the miniseries on ABC from 20 plus years ago.  Obviously, you can get away with a lot more in the theater with an R rating than on channel 7.

Bill Skarsgaard plays said clown while a bunch of nobody actors play the kids.  My favorite kid of the ragtag bunch is the character, Richie Tozier.  He’s a mini Stiffler from American Pie, whipping out literal LOL moments throughout the film.  And he plays Street Fighter in the movie theater arcade?  My kinda guy, you’ll love him.  Here’s why “It” works.  It doesn’t resort to cheap jump cuts with a sound effect to scare you.  The plot itself is legit scary, even the B and C plot lines.  The drama generically builds and you enjoy the ride and even though you may not jump, the horror in itself is also in what these kids go through in their home lives.  The overbearing mother.  The pedophile dad.  The brother of the deceased kid.

Here’s what else I loved about the film, it takes place in 1989.  And you see TONS of nods to the era.  The local theater is playing Batman and Lethal Weapon 2 and later on, Nightmare on Elm Street 5.  The arcade has Street Fighter.  And a few funny callbacks to New Kids on the Block.  Richie Tozier is wearing an Airwolf t-shirt (love that show.  The nostalgia brought a smile to my face when they weren’t being chased or chasing a demonic clown.

Fair warning: you’re not getting the whole story in this film. You’re only getting the kids experience Pennywise as they’re doing a separate film when the adults fight the clown.

This is a smart and well done horror film.  It flows nicely and being the books is longer than most, it was wise to break this into 2 films as it would’ve been too jammed to do it all in one.  I didn’t read the book but I will.  I’ve been told by those who love the book that aside from a few details that had minor impact, this film is very true to the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and look very forward to the 2nd half.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

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Next up, the only other film I looked forward to seeing in the Sept-November timeframe. I loved the first Kingsman film.  The tongue in cheek factor, smart writing, irreverence, and ORIGINAL spy/action hero themes made for a fantastic film.  So when they announced the sequel, I was enthusiastic.  Everyone is back, even Colin Firth who “died” in the first one.  Without spoiling, I felt his explanation of returning from the dead was a bit lazy.  It wasn’t, “That was my twin brother” lazy but still, unremarkable.  Julianne Moore plays a Pollyanna-esque drug lord who created a small city of 50’s themed diners/theaters.  The Kingsmen are nearly completely destroyed sans Eggsy and Merlin.  They discover they have American cohorts, The Frontsmen, and visit them for help against Moore’s poisoning the world through narcotics.

Here’s what I liked: the way Firth needs to remember how he was a Kingsman was pretty slick.  The action is fine and of course, more dirty humor makes this different than most spy films.  They definitely try to zag with the script when you think a zig is going to happen.  I also appreciated the Frontsmen and Jeff Bridges as their boss works great.  They set it up nicely for future collaborations.

But here’s where the film misses.  The victim stance on drug users is overly propagandistic and at times, a bit much to swallow for a film that you just want to sit back and shut off most of your brain.  And Moore’s villain backstory, I’m not buying it.  I get that it’s hard to be original when it comes to the origin story or reasoning with super villains trying to blackmail the USA.  Which is why I loved the theme in the first film where Samuel L gave away free phone access via a chip implanted into peoples’ heads which in turn made them violent zombies.  That was a more fun take on society, showing how we are almost helpless without our phones.  But in the sequel, poisoning the drug supply felt like an easy way out.  And this film clocks in at just under 2.5 hours but it DRAAAAAGS.  They could’ve whittled 15-20 minutes off of this and not spoiled the end product.  Lastly, the Elton John cameos were a bit much.  They have him fighting off bad guys in the end?  He’s a flamboyant piano player, I just didn’t feel it fit and become a tired act after seeing him in more than 2 scenes.

Did I like it?  It’s fine but definitely not better than the first.  You’ll want to see if you liked the first but you’re not walking out with the same warm feelings that the first one gave you either.  I think if they make a third; it’s going to be REALLY bad, despite the nice setup the Frontsmen gives another film  Cash those chips in and move on, Matthew Vaughn.

I give it a 6.5 out of 10

Summer 2016 films? No thank you-America

I remember like it was yesterday.  I was 12 year old back in the summer of 1989 and seeing the onslaught of summer previews made me giddy.  When you’re 12 and your social options are highly limited, (playing outside, sports, video games), the cinema is usually hangout number 1.  Being I was (still am) a HUGE film nerd/snob/afficionado, I had no problem spending a ton of time in the multiplexes.  And when we had to write one of our final essays for our 6th grade English class, I chose to write about what summer films I was most excited to see:  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 (I was 12, cut me some slack on some of these), Uncle Buck, Karate Kid 3, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, License to Kill (James Bond), as well as everyone’s crown jewel that summer…BATMAN.  Jesus christ, I counted the days down for that one like kids counted down until Christmas.  It came out on June 23rd (happy birthday to my then 6 year old sister, Jill) and boy, did America go all-in with this film.  24-7 showings in NYC, breaking box office records.  And look what else came out that summer that I learned to appreciate a little bit later in life: Field of Dreams (ok, it came out in late April.  Also, tied with Major League as my favorite baseball movie) Lethal Weapon 2 (Diplomatic Immnity!  Has just been revoked!), Do the Right Thing, Parenthood (still holds up), Road House, Dead Poet’s Society, and the Abyss.  I mean, wow.  I dare say probably the best summer slate I’ve ever or will ever see.

Fast forward to present day.  Every April, I still enjoy looking for that summer release schedule to see what the biggest films of the year are going to be.  And every year, I have about 3-5  I truly am excited for.  This year, Captain America 3 was my biggest anticipation and it didn’t let down.  X-Men: Apocalypse was a CLOSE second but unfortunately, this was a letdown and Singer’s first swing and a miss in this franchise.  The new Star Trek looks ok and Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne so I was pretty sure I’d be giving my 15 bucks to see Bourne yet again.  But after that, the list went bleak.  Bleaker than Yankees playoff hopes.  Yeah, didn’t think I’d be writing that sentence in awhile but here I am.  I’m a movie reviewer for a radio station in NY but I haven’t been fully doing my job as I refuse to pay money to see crap in the theater.  I’m mainly reviewing new to DVD films, that’s how bad it is.

Here’s a list of the most likely money makers along with their budgets (domestic grosses)

Secret Life of Pets: week 1 take over 100 million, budget 75 million.  Verdict: Winner  Most cartoon films do pretty well in the summer time.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Legend of Tarzan YTD 81 million, budget 180 million.  Verdict: BOMB  How many times do we have to tell Hollywood that no one cares about Tarzan since 1960?

Finding Dory: YTD over 400 million. Budget N/A Verdict: HUGE winner.  Pixar RARELY misses (The Good Dinosaur is the lone exception)

Independence Day: Resurgence YTD 91 million, budget 165 million Verdict: BOMB (Should’ve paid Will Smith what he wanted, probably could’ve saved this)

Warcraft YTD 46 million, budget 160 million. Verdict: COLOSSAL BOMB.  Even the gamers turned their backs on this one.

Xmen: Apocalypse YTD 158 million, budget 178 million.  Verdict: It will break even, especially with DVD and overseas but this was not supposed to be a break even or slightly profitable, it had higher expectations.  Are poor reviews to blame (yes and it wasn’t that good) or over saturation of superhero films?

BFG YTD 38 million, budget 140.  Verdict: Colossal Bomb.  Spielberg doesn’t eat shit but in this case and Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull, he sure did.  No one gave a shit about the 3rd most popular Roald Dahl story.

Ninja Turtles 2:YTD 80 million, budget 135 million.  Verdict: BOMBS AWAY.  Again, world box office receipts may get it to even but how do you fuck up a Ninja Turtles movie?  Answer: Keep Michael Bay in charge.

Alice Through the Looking Glass: YTD 76 million, budget 170 million.  Verdict: Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined.  No one gives a shit about the Looking Glass story anyway, why make this a live action film?

 

Next week is probably one of the most negatively discussed film that has yet to be released, the Ghostbusters film.  I hate reboots because 9 times out of 10, there’s no need to reboot a solid film.  And there’s no need to reboot a film just to force-feed us political correctness.  I loved Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars.  Why?  It was organic and not contrived about this.  I love Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft for the same reasons.  The new Ghostbusters has the dubious honor of being the most negatively reviewed trailer on youtube.  Even Target put the action figures in the clearance bin (target clearance) before the movie comes out!? Yeesh, not a good sign.

And what else do we have to look forward to?

The new Ice Age film comes out soon and not one has grossed under 160 million yet.  Will America burn out on this franchise?  Maybe but I doubt it

The new Star Trek film.  Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious) takes over JJ Abrams director’s chair so we’ll see.

Jason Bourne.  Should be fine

Suicide Squad-DC’s answer to the Avengers.  Massive reshoots were ordered after the success of Deadpool because they felt more humor needed to be injected.  The real question will be how does Jared Leto handle the Joker after Heath Ledger put that character in the stratosphere with his performance.

Pete’s Dragon (live action) The Jungle Book live action was a smash but I don’t think this will be near as successful.  I never saw the original Pete’s Dragon and don’t recall anyone else looking back fondly on it.  Hell, did or do they even have a ride at Disneyworld for this film?

Ben Hur-historical reboot.  No thank you

Sausage Party-animated Seth Rogen film.  I’ll pass.

Here’s the bottom line: A lot of these tentpole films bit the big one.  Why? America is getting smarter and not dropping $15 a ticket.  And god forbid if you go see a film in 3D or even 4D where you could shell out as much as $30 a ticket for a mediocre film.  Audiences are saying no thanks, I’ll wait for Netflix or illegally stream it.  And can you blame them?  You run the risk of sitting next to assholes who are talking and chewing their food loudly.  The guy 5 rows in front of you is on his cell phone every 2.5 minutes and the light keeps distracting you.

The reason you see so many reboots is because a lot of the good ideas have been done and the knockoffs of those good ideas are mediocre at best.  Long gone are the days where an entire summer offers a variety of quality movies.  I wish they weren’t but it sure does seem that way.  And good for you, America.  Keep your wallet in your pockets and don’t pay top dollar for less than acceptable quality films.  I know I’m not…