Category Archives: Movies The Ultimate Escape

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: IT

I’ve read IT twice now. I read it about 5 years ago for the first time, and re read it again earlier this year. It’s one of my top 5 favorite books of all time for sure, right along with 1984, 11/22/63, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Shining. Stephen King is my favorite author, and I have read everyone of his works. So with his movie adaptations, people could say that I am biased either way. I’m either going to be too critical or too lenient. I happen to disagree, I think I’m the perfect person to judge his film adaptations. Maximum Overdrive and The Dark Tower are two of the biggest pieces of shit in cinema history. I do love Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but feel that the ending short sighted it from being one of my all time favorites. I think the miniseries 11/22/63 was ho hum, but Frank Daranbont’s The Shawshank Redemption is in one of my top ten slots of my favorite films of all time, and The Green Mile ain’t too shabby either. So I’m all over the board with Stephen King adaptations. It could go either way, or it could be straight dead mediocre middle. I love the novel IT, and to say that I think this film is the best Stephen King adaptation since The Shawshank Redemption is no easy feat. Saying it is the one horror film that had freaked me out since the original Scream and the U.S. Version of The Ring, I say in confidence. I enjoyed and was frightened from beginning to end of IT, and think it is the perfect companion to the novel. One of the years’ best films.

Is IT perfect? Hell no. No book to film adaptation is. Some things are changed, for better or for worse. The only straight page to page adaptation I have ever seen is the first Harry Potter film. So when a film isn’t a page to page vision, you have to judge it one what it does bring to the table. It brought everything plus the kitchen sink. My heart pounded from beginning to end, even though I knew the fates of most of the characters. There are a couple of jump scares, but the film mainly tries to get into your head on what fear truly is, what a human being fears, what a child fears. This isn’t horror 101 where it is a cheap jump scare a minute, no, this film mostly has the tension of what lurks in the dark, rather than what just pops out of it.

I’m not going to get into novel vs. film specifics, but to say that it didn’t include two controversial scenes including a homosexual child encounter and a gang bang wasn’t surprising. Those two parts in the novel always bothered me, they are unfilmable and if you were to put it to screen, you’d get slapped with an X rating faster than stealing a cookie out of the cookie jar. It doesn’t try to explain the turtle or Dark Tower connection, but it definitely is there and is hinted at. And of course, this is the kid’s story, so we don’t see the adult versions of themselves. That is going to be saved for Chapter 2, and rightfully so. The book intersperses the two, but for film, that won’t work. We get half the novel here, and at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it is the perfect length to get that half of the story correct. And do they get it correct.

Because you see, the novel is really about childhood and adulthood and how the two correlate. So if you don’t cast the right actors for IT, and they don’t work, you movie immediately tumbles. Thankfully, this is the best child actor casting I have seen in decades. Every casting decision in this is perfect. From Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough (yes he does stutter, the trailers just don’t show it, and he does it naturally) to Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, to Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, and the rest of the gang, they are all perfect. They all deliver their lines with grace, humor, and precision. Their chemistry is off the charts fantastic, and they all exemplify the most important aspect: being believable. It’s the best child acting and chemistry since The Goonies. In fact, this film feels like an 80s nostalgia pic, that Super 8 got super close to copying, but didn’t quite get there, this film does. When The Losers are together on screen, it is magic, and yet they still hold their own when it comes to their individual scenes.

Now let’s get to Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Loved it, creepy as fuck, and will make you have clowns dancing in your nightmares. His childlike demeanor and voice are scary and perfect at the same time, really inhabiting what I imagined IT was in the novel. If there is any complaint I have about the film, is that it uses CGI with Pennywise a little two often when practical effects would’ve worked perfectly. It even uses CGI at a point where he is just standing there, which confused me immensely. Maybe they didn’t get a good take and had to redo in post? I don’t know. But while Skarsgard is still fantastic, he would’ve been masterful if not for that damned CGI. I did love though how the movie was brutal and pulled no punches when it came to the horrifying violence. I’m tired of movies making violence off screen when some butthurt punk doesn’t like what he sees on screen when children are being harmed. It’s a fucking movie, deal with it.

I loved how Pennywise is used sparingly though, like he is in the novels, only when he is meant to be there. The kids still see what they fear, it isn’t always just Pennywise. We get the leper and eerie woman painting, and Pennywise shows up to just add to the flavor. You only really get to see him at the very beginning, a minor showdown in the middle, and at the very climax. Speaking of the climax, Pennywise’s lair has to be my favorite set piece of the year. I won’t go into spoilers but I completely and utterly dug what they did and how they relate it to certain things Pennywise says. Magnificent set decoration, design, the whole she bang, I could watch that set piece for hours trying to decipher everything that is in it.

One more complaint, while I loved loved loved loved loved the musical score, it overwhelmed the film at times where it just needed to be silent. Benjamin Wallfisch made a creepy, eerie, yet magical soundtrack, it’s just used in the wrong places in the film, where silence would’ve been golden. You don’t need musical cues to tell you when to be afraid sometimes, you need the silence of the unknown. If the soundtrack was cut off at certain moments, it definitely would’ve elevated the film a lot.

But for my two complaints, I still love this version of IT, and it kicks the shit out of the mini-series back in 1990, great Tim Curry performance and all. I could re watch this multiple times and still enjoy every wonder that pours out on the screen. My heart pounded nearly the entire time and by the time the credits rolled, I was exhausted. Speaking of credits, the credits did something that made me just want to stand up a cheer, you’ll know it when you see it. People that have read this book, don’t have reservations, the film is great, so go and see it. Those who don’t, and find the movie interesting, or love horror films, etc. go check it out, you’ll have a hell of a time. I could float all day in the glory of IT. I could float in the cinematography, the directions, the shots, the acting, for hours on end. And of course you knew I would end with this, if you see it, you’ll float too.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: TULIP FEVER

So being the movie fanatic that I am, and momma and my new son Grayson tucked in for the night, I decided to celebrate my son’s birth by seeing a movie in the theater anyway. I went to see TULIP FEVER, the only new film out this week. Out of my joyous day, this film was the only really really stupid thing about it. Tulip Fever is mind stakingly dumb, treats the audience as if they were idiots, has the worst acting coming out of some of the best actors working today, has an unearned ending, all surrounded by a stupid plot of love triangles, pregnancy deceptions, dumb tulip bulbs, and has dialogue that makes William Shakespeare spin in his grave.

The film centers around a time in Victorian past where tulip bulbs were like Funk Pop Vinyls and Beanie Babies, people obsessed and paying way too much for them. An old rich dude, played by Christoph Waltz, is looking to make an heir to his fortune, since his wife and children died during child birth. He purchases a woman out of poverty, played by recent Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander, to make him an heir, and they try for years without her getting pregnant. To distract his disappointment, he hires a painter, played by Dane Dehane, to paint a portrait of the married couple, which takes some time. Soon, the wife is having an affair with the painter, who gets interested in tulip bulbs to try and get rich quick and get out of that life. Add to that a love story involving the housekeeper and a fish seller, deceiving a fake pregnancy, and a dumb drunk Zach Gilifinakis, and you have one of the silliest and cheesiest movies of the year, and not in a good way.

This movie is basically Casanova starring Heath Ledger, but on a shit ton of steroids. While Casanova was fun and embraced its silly tone, Tulip Fever doesn’t know what tone to take, goes from silly, to serious, to silly, rinse, and repeat, and it doesn’t transition well at all. The plot is unbelievably predictable and bad, with no true antagonist to sneer at, and unlivable protagonists that you don’t want to cheer for. The dialogue is so bad it makes all the actors terrible in this, and strike two for Mr. Dehane, who is not having a good acting year with this and Valerian. And Alicia Vikander must really like taking off her clothes, I’ve now seen her naked more times than I did Kate Winslet back in the late 90’s. she’s not good here either, no one is.

The ending is unearned and insanely dumb, Zach Gilifinakis is truly out of place here, and Judi Dench being there screams paycheck. This film feels like a Lifetime channel film that Lifetime even rejected. It’s laughably bad and will be in a $2 bin somewhere by Christmas. This serves me right for seeing a film right after the birth of my son. Thank goodness it wasn’t IT right? Seeing Tulip Fever won’t make you obsessed with anything this film provides, and it will sure give you a headache that makes you wish you stayed home sick.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: PATTI CAKE$

Out of the two films that you have never heard of that I saw this weekend PATTI CAKE$ is the one I recommend, but maybe wait for a rental. You probably have heard of this movie just forgot what it was called. It is about that plus sized blonde white trash girl that wants to make it with a rapping career. She is a bartender that does catering on the side and on the side of that tries to make good rap music with her pharmaseutical Indian friend and a really nice, kind black guy that also happens to worship the anti-Christ. While it falls into a lot of the tropes and cliches you’ve seen time and time again in a story like this (fairly close to 8 Mile), the movie is very enjoyable, inspirational, funny, heartfelt, that manages a few surprises kept out of the trailers.

And by surprises I mean the Indian friend and the really nice black guy that worships the anti-Christ. I think without those two characters, this movie wouldn’t have been so enjoyable. When they get together (and add Patti Cake$ grandma with a one word hilarious background drop) and form their rap group PBNJ, it feels like a real group coming together. And while the plot does go into a couple of cliches, I am glad it didn’t go the route of “she wants to break up from the group because she is more successfully individually.” The cliched parts come in the form of their rise, fall, and rise, and Patti Cake$’ mother being a has been washed up drunk as a skunk singer.

The acting does really bring the movie together. Everyone is excellent here, especially our main character. Without a top notch performance by her, everything could’ve been an epic fail, but Danielle MacDonald is wonderful in this. Her two friends and grandmother are good two, and even though the mother thing didn’t really work, Amy Shumer frequent collaborator Bridget Everett brought us a side to her we haven’t seen before, and pulled it off in spades.

The music is good, the characters are good, the story is good, so why am I not recommend seeing this in a theater? Well, theatrically, it isn’t worth your box office money. I would say this is THE perfect rental of 2017, but as for direction, shots, what have you, this really doesn’t need to be seen in a theater. Which is a little sad because everything else is there. Stylistically it copies 8 Mile, with some shaky cam work. The movie tries to dab it up with a few dream sequences, but honestly they could’ve been cut out and made the movie a bit tighter. I would totally watch this again, but wait to watch it on a smaller screen, because even though with the main character size doesn’t matter, smaller screen size = saving you more $.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BIRTH OF THE DRAGON

I did see two movies over the weekend, but these reviews will be short and sweet since none of you will ever probably check out these movies let alone have heard of them before. Let’s start with the one I can’t get myself to recommend: BIRTH OF THE DRAGON. What is funny about this film is that it is a “fictional” account of the fight that “supposedly” took place between martial arts legend Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man in 1965 in San Francisco. The problem with this movie is that it is cheesy as fuck, the main character isn’t even Bruce Lee or Wong Jack Man, and the fictionalized account is way too fictionalized for me to even care about anything to do with plot.

The movie should have been more serious. I would’ve loved a very serious, semi-fictionalized account of Lee and Wong’s fight. With them being both main characters and NOTHING else. I did not want a white guy learning Kung Fu from Lee to be the main character, nor did I want his love story with a Chinese slave girl. I mean, if the studio insisted on keeping that stupid plot line in the story, they didn’t need to white wash it all to hell. Make the main character Chinese as well, I don’t need a white guy to identify with him. I don’t need English speaking characters either, Chinese subtitles would’ve been fine. I don’t want to give anything away, but the climax of the plot line with the slave girl is so over the top, dumb, and stupid, I was laughing at the screen the whole time.

This is a perfect made for TNT, TBS, USA or hell, even crap Netflix film. The only good thing in this movie are the fight scenes. The fight scenes are fantastic and in the script, I am guessing this is literally all they had, and writers on set had to fill in 60 minutes of bullshit plot and inane dialogue. So if we are counting, it’s a 95 minute movie, with 35 minutes devoted to Lee and Wong Jack Man’s storyline, and 60 minutes of whitewashing crap. That isn’t good. No one can tell me there can’t be a 2 hour great epic tale about the fight between these two legends, with no B subplot with a white guy who can’t act. We could’ve started the movie early in both of their careers, switch back and forth until we got to San Francisco and then till the fight. Seriously, imagine that film in your head? Could be pretty epic right?

All of the acting in this film is crap too. The guy that plays Bruce Lee does it a little too over the top. I heard Bruce Lee was a over the top personality in general, but there is a way to do that with good acting, look at any character in any Tarantino film. The only good acting is the guy that plays Wong Man Jack. He is the only character that feels fully fleshed out, with the acting complimenting it every step of the way. Keep that guy, throw away the script and start from scratch, and recast everything else, and you may have had a great film. Not to say the film isn’t unwatchable, but if you have a cheeseburger in front of you, and wanted more cheese on it, this film is the equivalent of opening one of those nasty ass cheddar nacho cheese tub buckets from your local movie theater, and just pouring it everywhere. Just….everywhere.