The Sandman audio drama adaptation is a few weeks away on Audible and we get our first trailer featuring actor James McAvoy as Morpheus.
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They say you can’t run from your past. To ignore it is to repeat it. They also say that the past is a mistress past shared. But I beg to differ. If the past is a mistress that is a terrifying long-limbed clown with yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and a red balloon then (by all means) leave that past behind you. Or better yet, just kill the damn thing. Clowns are creepy as hell!
If you have not guessed by now, I am referring to the second installment, the final chapter of the It movie. A movie I found to be surprisingly heartfelt and emotional when, of course, Pennywise the Dancing Clown was not drooling and about to tear into some young unsuspecting flesh.
Granted, and you many find this shocking; I DID NOT READ THE BOOK. Yet from what I read online this sequel was a faithful adaption to the novel with some minor changes. The start of the movie was brutal and jarring. If you read the book, you will know exactly what I’m referring to. The scene at the carnival was a gut punch to my soul; a still relevant reminder to what marginalized people deal with today. The irrational “need” to attack those who are different than you, those who do not fit, those who do not conform is still being perpetrated by monsters in 2019. And the scary thing about it they look just like you and me. Yes, my heart broke, but it would not be the first time during the course of this movie.
But let me slow down. And focus on the bigger cast— the Losers Club. I found myself thoroughly touched by the bond between them all grown up, collectively successful, but united by a shared history drenched in blood, terror, and red balloons. Each and every actor has brought this authenticity to their respective characters. And can I say that the casting was top notch?!
Actually, I found myself smiling when they all met up at (slight spoiler) the Jade of the Orient. The passage of time was stamped out as these grown friends laughed and reminisced about the good times shared in that fateful summer of 1989. Sure, there were not many, but enough to forge a bond borne of commitment, sacrifice, unity, and, well, blood. Literally. They consecrated a pact that fateful summer which led to them reuniting 27 years later once Pennywise emerged from his deep slumber to terrorize Derry, Maine once more.
As stated before, I found each character of the ensemble cast to be enjoyable. None without their flaws to balance their inherent strengths. The adults building on what their younger counterparts began in the first movie that was released in 2017.
Bill Denbrough played by James McAvoy was still very much the leader of this ragtag team of muta… er… misfits in 2019 as eh was in 1989. I love how he was willing to lend an open ear and open heart once the truth emerged behind the reason for their reunion. I was waiting for the stutter and was not disappointed. McAvoy played the hell out of the role and I loved when he got distressed which made him even more determined to do what was right. And, guys, that Funhouse scene with the mirrors will give you a nightmare.
Beverly Marsh played by Jessica Chastain continues to be the enigmatic, flame-haired siren. Broken by her father, but still very much a survivor which you see early on in the movie. I love Jessica. She always brings a vulnerability and softness to her roles. Yes, even kinda in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. But the less said about that movie the better. “Your hair is winter fire, January embers.” This line suddenly reminds me of Jean Grey. Jessica would have been great… Malachi, focus!
Mike Hanlon played by Isaiah Mustafa was easily the heart and soul of the group. At least to me. As expected with him being the librarian, he was also their memory and purpose. Having lost his family early on to a fire, it was no surprise that he bonded so deeply with the other Losers. He was fierce, determined, and relentless in the pursuit of knowledge necessary to calling back his family not borne of his flesh to combat an evil so alien and corrosive. He had that—wait for it— “Old Spice” about him. Lol.
Ben Hanscom played by Jay Ryan, to me, was great casting on so many levels. For starters, I love how the “ugly duckling” (ugh, I hate that term) became this swan with, well, abs. If you are at all familiar with what I am talking about then you already know. If not, check out CW’s “Beauty & the Beast”. You’ll thank me later. But just like his younger counterpart, Ben was the sweetest, most adorable, and sensitive Loser of them all. Content to remain on sidelines even as shown with his introduction into the movie. He remained the same at heart even though he transformed everything else about his life. He is the poster boy for the “Glow Up”. I am envious.
Eddie Kaspbrak played by James Ransone intrigued me. He was another one who was cast perfectly. For his entire life fear restricted him. Sterile environments kept him imprisoned. But you see his character start to evolve throughout the course of the movie which was a beautiful sight. His one-liners were on par with Richie Tozier’s. I am always here for some good banter. But yes, he turned out to be the bravest one. Go figure.
Richie Tozier played by Bill Hader was such a treat! His introduction made me turn my face, but the follow up had me laughing hysterically. And this is something I would do throughout the movie whenever he opened his mouth to say anything. Levity in such a dark situation is needed. “Gallows humor” is what they call it, right? His humor hid a certain truth which was acknowledged in this movie. Fans of the book have already discussed this online. The memes are amazing. Look them up!
Stanley Uris played by Andy Bean was easily the most fragile of the Losers Club then and now. Oh, and also great casting yet again! I admit I was shocked at a revelation (again, I did not read the book), but he showed that he was the true visionary and perhaps the most in touch with himself. But what do we do to visionaries in fiction? What do we do to them so that others enjoy life more? I will give you a moment.
It/Pennywise the Dancing Clown by Alexander Skarsgård was AMAZING. Alexander is easily the creepiest of the famous Skarsgård brothers. If you’ve seen Netflix’s Hemlock Grove you’ll know what I’m talking about. Already super tall at 6’4 and in that tattered attire, Skarsgård truly set himself apart from Tim Curry’s iconic Pennywise. Bone-chilling with the wine-colored eyes promising death, this is not one clown you want to make a balloon animal for you. I foresee a plethora of Pennywises this Halloween. I am prepared for the Ritual of Chud if need be.
Before I bring this to a close, I want to tell you about a scene that has been shown in the trailers. A scene meant to scare us, but instead, it had me literally lol’ing in the theater. THE OLD WOMAN. Omigawd. The blank stare, her peeking from around the corner, and her lil naked shimmy while having a seizure, gave me life! I see her dance being all the rage at cookouts.
I recommend that you go see It: Chapter Two. You will jump at parts of the movie. You will even laugh. But you will definitely see the genuine hard work breathed into this film by the cast and crew. It sheds light on past childhood trauma and how it can echo throughout our adult lives. But like that old woman said “nothing ever stays dead ”.
Anyone who expected better as a follow-up to Split, well, you get what you deserve. While Glass isn’t quite as terrible as that garbage, this is the proof of the adage that you can add as much mayonnaise as you want to chicken crap, but you’re never going to make chicken salad out of it.
Glass tries to borrow from the good will we have from Shyamalan’s Unbreakable by pitting its protagonist David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and antagonist Elijah “Mr. Glass” (Samuel L. Jackson) against The Horde/The Beast (James McAvoy). At the center of all of this is psychiatrist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) whose name couldn’t be any more indicative of her place in the movie– to staple the disparate elements together. Shyamalan no doubt thinks that this is “symbolic.” It’s about as deep as the film goes in its symbolism.
On the plus side, the film does have both Willis and Jackson. The film even lifts entire scenes from Unbreakable and puts them in this movie. Unfortunately, we get too little of them– Jackson plays catatonic for fully two-thirds of the movie. Willis just isn’t given that much to do, except to play hero.
They’re also joined by David’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) and Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) reprising their roles from the original cast of Unbreakable, and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) returning from Split. These five actually do their best and are mostly watchable. And that is where the good will for this film ends.
For a movie with so many women in it (and Shyamalan pointing out how he oh-so-progressively gender swapped Staple’s character. . . ugh), it’s amazing that the film still fails to pass the Bechdel test. Every single female character in this movie only serves as an adjunct to male characters.
Those who thought McAvoy was good in Split were and still are wrong. Shyamalan learned nothing from the criticisms of that film and, indeed, doubled down on some of the more problematic elements. Since Shyamalan lifted pieces of Unbreakable and Split into this film, I’m going to do the same with quoting my review of Split and McAvoy’s acting, because nothing has changed:
McAvoy’s performance is also. . . just. . . not good. A lot of what he does makes the audience laugh– and not in a good way. Because we are not laughing at a joke or a funny person. We are laughing at a person suffering from a serious mental disorder. That is not ok. And even if it was, so much of what McAvoy is doing is jarring and borrows from the “Master Thespian” school of scenery-chewing “ACT-ING!!!” McAvoy is better than this. And him as a goat-footed faun or a guy who can bend the path of bullets are more believable. At least X-Men doesn’t pretend its superpowers are anything but myth and fantasy.
He does, however, go hard AF in this movie. Some of the scenes where he becomes The Beast, shot in full daylight instead of being obscured by the darkness of Split, are actually kind of cool. If only this movie made a lick of sense on a narrative or thematic level.
Unbreakable was a good movie. It was a love letter to comic books and posits that our stories of super-heroism are based in reality. Glass adds literally nothing to that except to repeat the conceit several times. I also have a hard time taking any film seriously that wants to talk about comics on the meta level who keeps saying “limited edition” in their dialogue when they mean “limited series.” Unbreakable worked, partially, because the superhero explosion hadn’t happened yet. It was a novelty. Glass plays like no one has touched a comic book since 2000 or the world hasn’t changed. Your insights aren’t new or interesting or unique.
Add to that numerous plot holes and a “twist” ending that isn’t really a twist because you see it coming miles away, and this is just unsatisfying. The movie also teases an ending (with a not-so-subtle Die Hard homage) that it then doesn’t do at all. It’s not misdirection. It’s an excuse to do a smaller-scale finale. And actually, the final showdown is one of the parts of the film that works best, but the tease of something else entirely is just annoying.
It’s clear there’s a market for this schlock because so many people went to see (and apparently enjoyed?!?) Split, and those people deserve this movie the same way people who enjoy eating fast food deserve it too. But it’s objectively terrible and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. The nicest thing I can say about Glass is at least it wasn’t as bad as Split.
1 out of 5 stars
Mix source material graphic novel The Coldest City with classic thrillers like The French Connection, add in some modern Hong Kong-inspired action sequences and killer-thrillers like John Wick, and set it to the soundtrack of a 1989 Berlin discotheque, and you have Atomic Blonde.
It’s a perfect cocktail of fun, sexy, cool, and brutal as MI-6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) combs through Berlin on assignment to find a secret dossier that details all the identities and dirty laundry of secret agents around the world on all sides of the Cold War. It’s literally the weeks before the Berlin Wall is about to fall, making it even more dangerous as both sides are playing as though they have nothing left to lose.
Complicating matters is Britain’s station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) who has gone native, engaging in smuggling and information brokering beyond his normal job duties. Lorraine is also tasked with using the hunt for the list to uncover a mole within the agency who has been passing information to the Soviets. Further complicating things is French agent Delphine LaSalle (Sofia Boutella), with whom things get too close, and too personal, for Lorraine.
The film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Scenes are framed like comic book panels, and the cold blue and grey color palate — punctuated by the occasional stark neon — help evoke the specific time and place of the film’s setting.
What helps set this even more in late 80’s Cold War Berlin is the film’s soundtrack. A heavy industrial synth backbone of Depeche Mode, Ministry, and New Order are offset by the tenderness of Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry,” which takes on an added emotional resonance as a sort of love theme in the film. Depeche Mode reminds us “Sweet little girl/I’d prefer/ you behind the wheel/ and me the passenger” which becomes a sort of feminist anthem as we recognize that songs is now about Lorraine and Percival– and also gets us amped for a cool action sequence. Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” is used perfectly in an eye-popping, jaw-dropping chase scene, and David Bowie makes not one, but two appearances on the soundtrack, giving the film its sort of ethos of “putting out fires with gasoline.”
As amazing and perfect as the soundtracks to Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were, this is the soundtrack of the year.
One of the other most fun elements in the film is how it’s told– completely in flashback, with a beat-up, post-mission Lorraine being debriefed by her MI-6 handler (a perpetually uncomfortable-looking Toby Jones) and a senior official from the CIA (an incredibly annoyed John Goodman). The interplay between Theron, Jones, and Goodman is masterful and is the apotheosis of the beautiful character work that prevents this film from being simply a bloody spy thriller. We also see Lorraine holding back key details, letting us know she isn’t exactly the most reliable of narrators. This draws heavily from other great thrillers that use this device like The Usual Suspects, but also manages to be its own film.
One of the things that makes this so unique is its portrayal of a completely bisexual protagonist. And unlike James Bond who seems to hold little sentiment for his various romantic conquests who end up dead, Lorraine is motivated by her feelings for those she has fallen for. But, she’s still a kickass spy who puts her business first– we just also see a very human emotional toll this takes.
So much of the credit for this film need to go to director David Leitch. Best known as a stunt and second unit director who also cut his teeth on John Wick, Leitch is able to bring a dazzling and unique visual style sorely lacking in so many blockbusters. He also puts together a hell of a fight scene, one where we as the audience feel the weight of every blow and crunch of every bone and sinew. It helps that he’s drawing from The Coldest City graphic novel, whose authors get a script credit, to bring such a great story to life. But he does it with such great visual and auditory panache that this becomes one of the best movies of 2017, and a super cool way to chill out during the dog days of summer.
Go see this, then spend hours with your friends coming up with slash/fiction where Lorraine, John Wick, and the characters from Kingsman all meet up and fight each other.
4 out of 5 stars
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of comic book-based films. New stories are optioned often, and the wait usually isn’t more than a couple of months for the next theatrical release. Part of the fun of following these adaptations is witnessing the choices made in transferring the bold costumes of the printed page to the silver screen. In any adaptation of material from one medium to another, changes are bound to happen, and sometimes for the better. Of course, it can also be disappointing when the choices unnecessarily stray from the established lore. Let’s take a look at a few of the most drastic examples of unfaithful costume choices in comic book films, and whether those changes were appropriate, or way off base.
In writing this article, I made a few rules to help keep things focused: 1) No animation, only live-action projects. 2) Nothing before Superman: The Movie in 1978, just to keep the comparisons relatively similar. 3) Any cases where the alter-ego of a comic character was introduced but not exhibiting powers (such as Dr. Curt Conners in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy; he never became The Lizard) was not eligible. 4) Characters created with heavy CGI (like The Hulk) were also in a different category, so they were out.
1) Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher, The Punisher (1989): A cornerstone of most iconic superheroes is a symbol that sums up their mission and their persona. In the case of The Punisher, this is especially true. The skull emblazoned on his costume is a harbinger of death. And yet, in the first feature adaptation of The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren, his black tactical gear featured no skull at all. There were tiny skulls on the knives that he used as weapons, but that was all. While this film debuted at a time when comic book films (especially those few licensed by Marvel) were not even a shadow of what they have become, it still doesn’t excuse the omission. Beyond the skull, the other parts of the costume are negotiable and variable, but the skull really ties it all together (to paraphrase The Dude). Whatever you may think of the 2004 and 2008 versions of the character, the filmmakers at least had the good sense to include the skull.
2) The Main Cast of X-Men, X-Men (2000): After Blade became a surprise hit in 1998, Marvel upped the stakes by adapting the much-beloved X-Men. Under Bryan Singer’s guidance, the key word was realism, and that extended to the costumes. For the X-Men team, Singer decided on black leather uniforms with hints of color. While the idea of coordinated battle uniforms remained from the earliest comics, otherwise they were quite different from anything seen on the characters before. While at first it seemed that Singer’s choices unnecessarily toned down the bold world of the X-Men, it proved to be a wise choice in the bigger picture. X-Men was a pivotal film in legitimizing the comic book film to worldwide audiences. While Blade may have cracked the door, X-Men pushed it further so that 2002’s Spider-Man could kick it open. Viewing it through that perspective, the care that Bryan Singer and his team took in creating an X-Men film for the masses seems downright prophetic. A film that completely tackled all the outrageousness of the X-Men comics could have alienated some viewers, perhaps causing a much different comic movie landscape.
3) Yancy Butler as Det. Sara Pezzini/Witchblade, Witchblade (2001 – 2002): Of all properties to be adapted to basic cable television, Witchblade must have been far down most people’s list. But it was adapted for TNT, where it aired for two seasons. While the show had a decent share of fans, the realization of the Witchblade itself left a bit to be desired. While in the comics a self-aware organic gauntlet/armor, the Witchblade of the show took on the look of a medieval knight’s armor. Perhaps it was inevitable on a television budget, yet the result was still disappointing. The subsequent anime adaptation presented a truer version of the Witchblade, though it wasn’t Sara Pezzini wearing it in that series. Plans for a feature film reboot have been floated, but nothing has yet landed.
4) Ashley Scott as The Huntress, Birds of Prey (2002 – 2003): Smallville debuted in 2001, and proved to be a decade-long success for the WB network (which became the CW). In response to the success of that show, Birds of Prey came along one season later. While some aspects were very faithful to the comic book series (Dina Meyer as Oracle, formerly Batgirl), others were wildly divergent (Dinah Lance as a psychic teenager rather than martial artist Black Canary). In the latter column was Ashley Scott’s Huntress, a curious mixture of old and new versions of the character. Her costume, however, favored neither version. A strange mix of club wear that included no mask or other source of identity concealment, this Huntress looked like she had just finished crime-fighting and was headed downtown to blow off some steam. While on the show Batman was her biological father, he obviously never instructed her in the importance of anonymity.
5) Dominic Purcell as Dracula/Drake, Blade: Trinity (2004): When the third Blade film rolled around, he had already battled and defeated Deacon Frost and a horde of mutant bloodsuckers. So what could up the stakes? How about Dracula? Yes, I know Dracula isn’t originally a comic book character, but he was published by Marvel in Tomb of Dracula in the 1970s, and that comic was where Blade debuted (he didn’t headline his own book until after the original Blade film became a hit). Marvel’s version of Bram Stoker’s big bad took a page from Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and even Jack Palance, whom his facial features were based upon. He also had a jaunty mustache. But in David Goyer’s take on him, Dracula (here using the name “Drake” as an alias) wore no cape, nor evening wear, nor even a mustache. Instead, he settled for a silk shirt and leather pants like he was shooting a 90’s R&B video in the desert. He did have another, more demonic-looking form that was cooler, but it was underused. Couldn’t they at least have kept the mustache?
6) Halle Berry as Catwoman, Catwoman (2004): It felt weird typing “Halle Berry as Catwoman”, because this film is a concrete example of using a familiar name to sell an unfamiliar character. Berry’s character in this film, Patience Price, has no affiliation to Batman or any previous version of Catwoman. And then there’s the costume. A goofy mask that sits too high like a trucker hat, a bikini top with mismatched straps, and ripped leather pants create a look that doesn’t make sense even in the weird pocket universe of the film. At least there is a whip involved; as much a trademark of any Catwoman as of Indiana Jones. A creative misfire added to the list of misfires that comprise this deeply misguided film.
7) Famke Janssen as Dark Phoenix, X-Men: The Last Stand (2006): After the exciting tease for The Dark Phoenix Saga at the end of X2, fans were piqued to see Jean Grey take a walk on the wild side. Unfortunately, the combination of two major plotlines in X-Men: The Last Stand left only half the space for the Phoenix story, and so her debut wasn’t all it could’ve been. That included to her costume as well. The comic story featured a maroon and gold bodysuit complete with a gold sash and a flamebird emblem. For the film, Famke was outfitted with a red dress that alluded to the comic costume, but without the gold, sash or emblem. A choice that paid a bit of service to the look, but minus any of the detail. Would something a bit more bold have worked better to sell her character as a being of incredible power? It couldn’t have hurt.
8) James Franco as New Goblin, Spider-Man 3 (2007): The film costumes of the Green Goblin have always been offbeat choices, from Willem Dafoe’s shiny lime-green armor to Dane DeHaan’s grotesque cyborg combination. But perhaps the most off-the-wall was James Franco as the New Goblin. Harry Osborn’s turn to super-villainy had been progressing for two movies, and by the third film the idea was ripe. If only the execution had been better. The New Goblin opted for a suit based on extreme sports, including a flying snowboard-like glider and a modified paintball mask. While Dafoe’s suit was on the goofy side, it did possess elements of intimidation. But the New Goblin simply came off as the drunken creation of a pissed-off ski patrol douche. Hopefully in the future a more traditional route may be attempted.
9) James McAvoy as Wesley Gibson, Wanted (2008): Now this choice runs perilously close to breaking my rule of “no alter-ego characters”. In the original Wanted comic series, Wesley was outfitted with a very tactical costume that looked like a high-tech cross between Snake Eyes and SWAT team. Because of the change from super-villains to assassins for the film, he never wears anything other than street clothes. However, since he uses and exhibits his skills in those street clothes, he is in full “super” mode. It is definitely the most unfaithful costume choice on this list, since there was no particular attempt made to replicate the comic’s costume. It’s a shame, too, as that costume would’ve looked slick onscreen.
10) Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009): I feel much the same way about Deadpool in this film as I do about Halle’s Catwoman – i.e., I just wish they were named something else. In my opinion, the Wade Wilson scenes in this film were good – funny, while also showcasing the character’s powers. But then there’s that troublesome climax, with the eyebeams, the teleportation and the absence of a mouth. It isn’t enough to awkwardly suggest the look of Deadpool’s comic costume. If it’s only half-Deadpool, then it’s not Deadpool. Thankfully, it really does look like Fox is correcting their mistakes with the upcoming solo film. Ryan Reynolds is great casting, but there has to be commitment to the character.
It’s got to be a tricky assignment for costume designers to create the film version of characters with such striking ensembles. You have to pay homage to the source material to please the fans, but you can’t make beloved characters look goofy for their mass-audience debuts. The most successful projects seem to walk the thin line of heightened reality leavened by common sense and real-world input. But make no mistake, it doesn’t take much more than a misstep to lose that line. Still, much of the outside wrappings can be forgiven if the structural integrity of the characters’ personalities are intact. When both are missing, you have Catwoman or the first attempt at Deadpool. When both are present, you have Iron Man or Hellboy. We can only hope that as comic book-based films continue to evolve, more filmmakers will find ways to exhibit both in a satisfying way.
Director Bryan Singer Tweeted out a photo of actor James McAvoy who will finally be losing his hair to portray Professor X in next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
I went into X-Men: First Class skeptical, even with the loads of positive buzz leading into it. I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a period movie that may or may not be a reboot or is it a prequel? After seeing the movie, I came out pleasantly surprised and think the movie works pretty well as a prequel to the original trilogy. The movie’s main focus is on the early relationship between Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (a stand out performance by Michael Fassbender). This is all with the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis which is being pushed by the mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon).
The movie is a mix of previous X-Men movies with a 60’s James Bond vibe about it. It embraces the 60’s, in it’s attitude and how the characters act, which is great. It owns that it’s a period piece movie. The story itself has it’s minor issues here and there, but overall it’s solid. The action comes quickly and the characters themselves are entertaining. McAvoy and Fassbender especially stand out. McAvoy’s Professor X has the cocky arrogance you’d expect a younger version of the character to have. He loves the ladies and attempts smooth lines showing off his intelligence and using his gifts. Fassbender’s Magneto on the other hand is haunted by the horrors of the past and surviving the Holocaust. He’s a man on the mission of vengeance to hunt down the people who inflicted horrors upon him and his family and in doing so crosses path with Xavier.
The movie’s heart is these two and if possible, I’d love to have seen the movie focused solely on them. Instead what could of been a great philosophical debate on humanity, evolution and strength with get glimpses and a lot of action. But it’s entertaining and fun. The rest of the cast is decent with some minor exceptions, but overall they’re there to look good, taking away screen time of the focus on Xavier and Magneto.
As I said, there’s minor issues, some characters I could of done without and some scenes we’ve seen before and some glossing over of basic explanations of things. Overall though, X-Men: First Class lives up to it’s name as a first class movie, perfect popcorn fun for the summer.