It (2017)

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As stated in my Kingsman review, I have left this li’l blog of mine to gather dust and cobwebs, so a spring clean was due….ahem…in autumn. I’ll try and fill the gaps with reviews of films I saw in the absence of my writing. I’ll kick off with the clown show that is far from that and in fact a brilliantly effective scary flick.

Deservedly breaking box office records, this horror with supernatural elements follows a group of kids calling themselves the ‘Losers Club’ as they realise the town of Derry is being stalked by a shape-shifting menace who feeds on the fear of mostly children. Led by Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) who hopes to find his missing brother, the squad must work together to try and rid It from their lives.

I had never seen the Tim Curry starring series/film as I wanted to go into this with a fresh open mind and see what all the freaky hype was about. It’s well placed hype in my opinion as for once this is a horror film that doesn’t feel like a pointless paranormal spook-fest with ridiculous jump scares. Yes, there are jumpy moments and obviously the idea of a form changing predator gleefully attacking children is ridiculous but it’s handled really well by Andy Muschietti who directs this feature like a creepy ‘Stand by Me’ horror adventure.

What I like most about ‘It’ is the fact it has a wondrous charm about it, which is odd considering the central threat is a murderous thing that happens to enjoy appearing like a sadistic clown. It’s no surprise that after the break out hit of Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ that people are comparing the tone of that to this. I love that series and it’s a fair comparison to make because the kids are the true stars, their acting is perfect, scenes are gifted fun twists such as the rock throwing moment which is awesome. The weird yet fantastic feel you get with this film is one of a coming of age story which works well against a horror backdrop.

Pennywise the dancing clown is the attraction and the evil baby face monster is played with sinister delight by Bill Skarsgard who also brings in this perfectly deranged laugh and smile. There are moments when things can get perhaps too over the top or CGI threatens to ruin sequences or Pennywise himself but on the whole the horror aspect may be weak but gladly the emotional core of the film carried by the lads and lass bonding is where the real strength lies and excites you for the next chapter, which is now confirmed for September 2019!

This is a well constructed horror movie that may not be as scary as expected or wished but it thrives thanks to top notch child actors, a warming coming of age narrative and a nostalgia factor that perfectly lands in this recent comeback of 80’s kitsch.

7.5/10

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La La Land (2017)

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Well, not for a long while have I been eagerly anticipating a movie like the release of this musical drama. Add on top the record-breaking Golden Globes haul then you have a very excited chap. For the most part this film delivers, it’s stylish, fun, heartfelt but I don’t agree with all the souped up hype it’s received.

After a minor amount of road-rage where aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Seb (Ryan Gosling) cross paths, they end up bumping into each other again and again which leads to a romance through the year. As they try following their dreams in LA it becomes a harder challenge to keep the love alive.

I have to say that I absolutely adored the first half or so of this film. It harks back to that classic glitz and glamour of Hollywood old with a neat dose of a modern touch thanks to the musical and confident direction from Damien Chazelle. Just from the sweeping opening on a Los Angeles highway to the delicate changes in lighting, the songs and story begin with a bang.

It helps that we get brilliant performances and a clear chemistry between the two main characters but also the style adds a neat note to the song-sheet that is this feature. There’s times that it looks and sounds like a studio set production and you’d expect Fred Astaire to come tap dancing in. The writing by Chazelle, is for the most part a well handled story that lends a two-sided coin to the LA lifestyle but with an obvious landing on dreams to follow and achieve.

As I sat in my seat I found myself hooked and smiling along to a wonderful series of scenes but then annoyingly, there came a specific moment where I even felt myself disengaging and from then on, the writing becomes very generic and almost cliched. It drifts into a romantic plot you’d expect to find in every other manically churned out rom-com. This frustrated me because I was expecting it to keep going with the gleeful whizz of CinemaScope delight but instead…it wains.

It is almost saved as we get a short burst of style near the end showing a quick run of events. So yes I agree it’s a fantastically well made and enchanting film, it deserved 3 perhaps 4 of the Globes it picked up out of 7. This is obviously, as I realised as they were winning, a case of the voters loving films that celebrate America or the US saving the day -(note Argo winning Best Picture)

Song wise, ‘Another of Day of Sun’ is jolly, sun-drenched and a perfect, literally perfect way to start a film of this genre. ‘City of Stars’ is sung well and has a melancholy yet magical sound but I don’t see how that gets the attention when Stone’s ‘Audition’ song is better performed and has better lyrics. Though it’s naff for jazz and a typical Top 40’s track, John Legend’s performance of ‘Start a Fire’ works well in showcasing the path Seb is taking away from his dream.

I’m not a total grouch because I did enjoy the majority of the film, I just don’t feel it should have broke GG records and I hope the Oscars gives some variety because ‘La La Land’ does swerve into a nearly boring not great second half.

7/10